Characters: Jack, Nosy, Tosh, Gwen, Owen, Mickey, Andy, Ianto.
Summary: Nosy has a problem, but getting help from one of its friends turns out to be a lot harder than it should be.
Word Count: 1775
Content Notes: None necessary.
Written For: Challenge 57: Scratch at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Jack was sitting at his desk, unenthusiastically working his way through a large pile of paperwork, when he felt something rubbing against his leg. Tearing his eyes away from the Owen’s gripping medical report on his latest autopsy subject, most of which he could barely decipher, never mind understand, he looked down at Nosy and smiled, scritching the top of the Fluff’s head and getting an appreciative hum for his troubles.
It was nice to be wanted, even if only for a head scratch. Ianto had labelled himself out of bounds until Jack finished signing off on the backlog of reports that was overflowing his in-box, and since everyone else was currently busy with their own work, Jack had been starting to feel a bit like he was surplus to requirements. At least there was somebody who still cared about him. Sadly, as nice as it was, he couldn’t afford to take too much time away from the task at hand.
“Sorry, pal, but that’s all you’re getting for now. If I don’t clear my desk by the end of the day, I’ve got a feeling I’ll be sleeping on the sofa tonight,” Jack told the Fluff apologetically. Nosy sighed heavily and as it mooched away, Jack turned back to his stack of files, feeling a little more cheerful than he had. There was nothing better than petting something soft and fluffy to lift a person’s spirits. Even after just a few shorts weeks he found it hard to recall how the team had ever managed without the comfort their furry friend provided. Nosy loved them all unconditionally, and asked for nothing more in return than food and drink, a comfy place to sleep, and a bit of affection. As pets went, it was incredibly low-maintenance; it mostly took care of itself and probably needed them a lot less than they needed it.
If only he knew how wrong he was…
Leaving Jack’s office, Nosy slithered down to Tosh’s workstation and rested its head on her lap, humming querulously. Absentmindedly, without looking away from her screens, she took one hand off her keyboard to idly run her fingers through the Fluff’s long, thick fur. All the while, she continued to search the lines of code scrolling in front of her for the error that was keeping her new programme from working properly. Spotting something, she abandoned Nosy and went back to typing, quickly fixing the mistake, then continuing to scroll down, checking that there weren’t any other obvious typos. With a resigned sigh, Nosy slumped back onto the floor and slithered away. Tosh was kind and caring, but she was so focussed when she was working with her computers that getting her attention was almost impossible.
Approaching the autopsy bay, Nosy poked its head through the railings to see what was going on in the pit below; maybe Owen had some time to spare. But no, the medic was thoroughly absorbed in studying all the horrible gooey bits he’d collected from the last dead alien he’d examined, so the Fluff decided that disturbing its friend wouldn’t be a good idea at all. Gooey things weren’t at all nice and were best avoided. It slunk away to see Gwen instead, but she was on the phone, probably talking to her nice man, and was completely oblivious to anything or anyone else. When Nosy paused beside her, she didn’t even so much as glance in its direction.
Squiggling uncomfortably, Nosy tried in vain to rub against Gwen’s workstation, but the substance it was made of proved much too smooth to be of any use. Slithering over to the battered old sofa, Nosy tried rubbing against that instead, but though the fabric felt nice and rough, it couldn’t seem to get the angle right. With yet another sigh, it abandoned that idea too. What should it do now? Giving a convulsive shudder that started at its head and travelled right down to the tip of its tail, it slinked away to see who else it could find.
It tracked Mickey to the underground garage, where he was servicing the SUV; Torchwood’s official vehicle had been worked as hard recently as the rest of the team and was long overdue some routine maintenance. Mickey’s hands were greasy with oil, and there were streaks of it on his face too from where he’d wiped away drops of sweat without thinking. Nosy wrinkled its snout in distaste; Mickey was clearly too dirty at the moment to be an acceptable option unless there was no other, better choice. Squiggling into an impressively tight u-turn, a manoeuvre that Fluffs were ideally suited to, it zoomed off in the opposite direction as quickly as it could, not wanting to chance winding up a mucky Fluff. Motor oil was difficult enough to remove from human skin; it would surely be even harder to get out of thick fur.
Finding a patch of rough concrete, Nosy rolled onto its back, wriggling and squiggling. Andy, who happened to be passing by at the time, laughed and bent down to vigorously rub the Fluff’s belly. That felt surprisingly nice, and was definitely something to explore some more at a later date, but right now it wasn’t what Nosy was after. It rolled right side up again, humming hopefully, but Andy just continued on his way, sticking his head through the door to Jack’s office to tell him, “I’m off to run a few errands, I’ll be back in about an hour, but I’ll keep my phone on in case I’m needed.”
Jack glanced up briefly from his paperwork. “Fine, see you in a bit. Pick us up something for lunch on your way back?”
“Will do. Any preferences?”
“Something that won’t go cold. Maybe sandwiches from the deli?”
“Right you are.” Then before Nosy could think of moving, Andy was striding towards the cogwheel door, which opened with its usual blaring alarms. Even after nearly two months, Nosy still found the racket it made a bit startling; someone really ought to fix it so it would be nice and quiet like the rest of the Hub usually was. It boggled briefly but disapprovingly at the noisy door before slinking off in search of the only one of its friends it hadn’t tried yet; Ianto.
Nosy knew it wasn’t really supposed to go down to the archives, especially not alone; Ianto had said there were a lot of things down there that it must not touch because it might get hurt, so the access door leading to the stairs was usually kept firmly closed. This time though, the door had been left ajar and since Ianto was not in any of his usual places in the main area of the Hub, he had to be either up in the Tourist Office, which Nosy couldn’t get to because the noisy door wouldn’t open for it, or more likely downstairs in what everyone considered to be his domain. Making up its mind, Nosy prised the door open carefully with its snout, just enough so that it could slither through.
Slinking its way down the long flights of stairs, the Fluff took every opportunity to rub itself on one rough stone wall or the other, weaving from side to side across the steps, but its discomfort persisted unabated. It huffed to itself, mildly annoyed with the situation, but kept going. Surely it could rely on Ianto to lend a hand.
Ianto wasn’t too hard to find; even if Nosy’s sharp hearing hadn’t picked up the sounds of him pottering about, the Fluff could easily have sniffed him out. Each of its human friends had their own unique aroma; Ianto smelled mostly of coffee and Jack, but with a hint of several other distinct but as yet unidentified scents in the background. Nosy thought some of them probably came from the stuff Ianto washed himself with; they were sweet, spicy aromas that were quite pleasant to its nose. It didn’t really matter to Nosy what the scents were though, because added all together they were unmistakeably Ianto.
The Fluff slithered through the maze of corridors until it came to an area full of filing cabinets, where the one it considered the cleverest of its friends was currently working. Without hesitation, it made straight for Ianto and rubbed up against his legs, peppering his trousers with the dust that had been picked up by its fur on its way down the stairs.
“Nosy, what are you doing down here? You know you’re supposed to stay up in the main Hub,” Ianto chided gently. “Did someone leave the door open again?”
“HUMMM!” Nosy kept rubbing, back and forth, so hard it almost knocked Ianto off his feet.
“Steady on! What’s up with you? You’re getting my suit all dusty.”
Ianto pushed Nosy away gently and crouched down, frowning as the Fluff wriggled, squiggled, and squirmed on the concrete floor. The penny dropped. Putting aside the folders he’d been filing, he ran both hands over Nosy’s head and front end until he found the right spot, digging his fingers into the thick fur. Nosy sagged on the floor, going limp, eyes closing in bliss as Ianto scratched and scratched and scratched.
“Does that feel better? There’s nothing worse than having an itch you can’t reach, is there?”
“Hummmmmmm,” Nosy agreed feelingly.
Ianto smiled ruefully. It had been a busy week and poor Nosy had perhaps not been getting quite as much care and attention as it should have.
With Nosy’s itch finally soothed, Ianto patted the Fluff. “I suppose you can stay down here with me while I finish the filing as long as you don’t touch anything. Let me know if that itch starts up again, okay?”
“Hum.” Nosy slinked over to a corner where it wouldn’t be in the way and coiled itself up, just watching Ianto work.
Ianto picked up his folders again. “As soon as I’ve put these away, we’ll go back upstairs and get your brushes; a good grooming should help to keep the itches away.” He felt a bit guilty that nobody had found the time recently to brush their pet. No wonder it had got so itchy.
In its corner, Nosy sighed once more, this time with contentment; it had been right, Ianto was very smart, he just seemed to know things and could always be counted on to provide what was needed. Out of all its human friends, Ianto was the one who was most like a Fluff. Next time it needed a helping hand, Nosy decided instead of wasting time, it would go to Ianto first.