Christmas was fast approaching, and the team were trying their best to get themselves into the festive spirit in between rift alerts — no easy task when Cardiff was suffering infestations of everything from tiny neon pink, glow-in-the-dark armour-plated hedgehogs that burst the tyres of any car unlucky enough to encounter them, to metre-long grey slugs that exploded messily at the slightest vibration, turning everything in range bright yellow. Right now, they were thankfully between alerts and enjoying a little downtime and the chance to catch up with paperwork while doing a sneaky bit of online Christmas shopping.
Ianto would have been quite happy if not for one thing.
“Has anyone seen Nosy?”
“I think it’s over at the sofa,” Tosh told him as she headed up to Jack’s office with some reports for signing.
Ianto made his way in that direction.
“Oh, there you are, what are you doing under the sofa?”
Worried by the faint squeaks coming from Nosy, Ianto crouched down and peered under the sofa. Nosy was wedged tightly underneath it, half-strangled by something wrapped around it behind its head. Quickly lifting one end of the sofa, he untangled Nosy and pulled it free.
“Who the Hell strapped reindeer antlers on Nosy?” he bellowed, unbuckling the offending items from around the poor Fluff.
Nosy sagged limply on the floor, panting.
“That was me,” said Gwen brightly, bounding up from the autopsy bay where she’d been assisting Owen. “I saw loads of dogs wearing them this morning and they looked so cute, I bought some for Nosy. Don’t you think it looks adorable?”
“It looks a lot less adorable when it’s stuck under the sofa, half-strangled!” Ianto said angrily, carefully examining Nosy to make sure that no permanent damage had been done to it. Nosy looked very relieved at being rescued.
“Oh no!” Gwen’s eyes widened in horror and she went quite pale; she really hadn’t meant any harm. “I’m so sorry, Ianto, I just thought it would be a bit of Christmassy fun.” She dropped to her knees beside Nosy, stroking it apologetically. “Is it okay?”
“I think so, but I’ll have Owen check it over, just to be sure. Gwen, it’s a living creature, not a dress-up doll, it could have been seriously hurt! You know it slinks under things instead of going around them. What if we’d all been out on an alert when it got stuck?”
“I really am sorry, Ianto, I just didn’t think. You know I’d never intentionally harm Nosy.”
Ianto sighed. “I know, Gwen, but no more strapping things on Nosy, okay? No matter how cute it looks. That goes for the rest of you too,” Ianto added, looking up at the rest of team who had gathered around, all looking concerned.
Everyone promised, and Owen fetched the Bekaran scanner to check Nosy for damage. Thankfully, it had suffered nothing more serious than a bit of bruising and was soon slinking happily around the Hub again, though it stayed close to Ianto for the rest of the day.
Gwen took the reindeer antlers down to the incinerator and threw them in. She never wanted to see the horrible things again.
The next few days passed quickly, with only one major alert (a party of Thaluvian tourists who’d taken a wrong turning), but a lot of small, random and often bizarre items coming through the rift, including three sets of false teeth, the Christmas issue of Playgirl from 2035 and a fridge door covered in fridge magnets featuring images from the Kama Sutra. Ianto idly wondered if they were the Rift’s idea of Christmas presents.
Finally, a week before Christmas, the Rift settled down enough for the team to take a break and decorate the Hub. Mickey and Andy took Mickey’s van and bought three Christmas trees — a small one for the Tourist Office, a big one for the boardroom where it would be beyond Myfanwy’s reach, and another large but scruffy one for the main Hub, which Myfanwy could shred to her heart’s content since the only decorations would be a few chocolate baubles as treats for her.
Gwen and Tosh went shopping for decorations and came back with several bulging bags full of baubles, tinsel and fairy lights. Knowing Ianto’s dislike of anything too gaudy, they picked a red, silver and green colour scheme for the Tourist Office, with purple, blue and gold for the boardroom.
Leaving the Tourist Office decorations in Jack’s office (Ianto said he would decorate later, during opening hours, since he’d have to be up there anyway), the entire team piled into the boardroom, emptied the bags onto the boardroom table and set about decorating the eight foot tall tree. Chatting and laughing happily as they worked, they didn’t notice that Nosy, ever curious about the strange things its friends got up to, had slithered into the boardroom to watch.
Silently observing from under the table, Nosy could see that everyone was very busy, putting sparkly things on a big tree and while it didn’t understand why, it decided it should try to help as the task seemed to be very important to them.
Nosy slunk out from under the table, being careful not to get under anyone’s feet. Reaching up, it took hold of a dangling end of the twinkly, fluffy stuff its friends were draping over the tree and tugged gently. There was a soft slithering sound and every bit of tinsel left on the table slid off, taking the fairy lights with it and landing right on top of poor Nosy. It tried to get away, but only succeeded in getting tangled up, and trying to untangle itself just made things worse, so it gave up and slumped on the ground, looking rather like a Christmas tree itself, just rather more horizontal than the average tree. It needed help.
Everyone stopped what they were doing, turned and stared… and started laughing.
“Oh, Nosy, you’re not supposed to decorate yourself!” Tosh knelt down beside Nosy and started trying to unravel the tangled tinsel. It wasn’t going to be easy.
“Looks like we won’t be able to finish decorating the tree until we’ve un-decorated the Fluff,” Ianto said wryly, kneeling down opposite Tosh and starting to untangle a string of fairy lights.
Even with the whole team helping, it took nearly half an hour to untangle Nosy and even then it still had bits of tinsel sparkling in its fur. Andy started singing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Fluff’ making the words up as he went along.
“Twinkle twinkle little fluff,
You don’t twinkle quite enough.
Slinking through the Hub at night.
You won’t twinkle very bright.
Twinkle twinkle little fluff.
You don’t twinkle quite enough!”
That set Gwen and Tosh off giggling again and even Owen snorted with laughter. Ianto and Mickey just rolled their eyes at each other, grinning.
Jack smiled, watching his team and their pet. This was already proving a better Christmas than usual. Ever since Nosy had arrived, the team had become closer; they were more of a family now than they had ever been and Jack was sure it was largely due to the friendly, inquisitive Fluff.
Once Nosy was un-decorated, Jack decided they should all take a break before putting up the rest of the decorations. Ianto made coffee for everyone and Nosy pushed its little cart to the boardroom, loaded with cakes and biscuits for everyone. They spent their break deciding what to do with the rest of the decorations, then, after the empty cups and plates were cleared away, they put the finishing touches on the tree and strung up the remaining lights and tinsel around the boardroom walls. After its earlier experience, Nosy decided it was safer to stay under the table, watching and learning. Perhaps next time it would know enough to be helpful.
The day before Christmas Eve, Tosh came into work wearing purple sparkly deely bobbers on her head. Her predictor programme said the Rift would be quiet for the next four days, so everyone was in high spirits and looking forward to a few days off (barring unforeseen circumstances). They all had plans for Christmas, so as this would be their last working day they were having a small office party — with soft drinks rather than alcohol as Mickey, Owen and Tosh would be travelling the following day and no one wanted to start their Christmas with a hangover. Ending Christmas with a hangover was a much better idea, in Owen’s opinion!
Ianto had just set out several plates of nibbles on the trestle table Andy and Mickey had set up, and was heading back to the kitchen to collect more, when he spotted Nosy slithering past, purple sparkly bobbles bouncing about above its head.
“I thought I said no more strapping things on Nosy!” he yelled.
“It’s okay, Ianto,” Tosh reassured him, “they’re not strapped on, it’s just a headband.”
As if to prove her point, Nosy slithered under the coffee table and the deely bobbers got knocked off. It slunk back, picked them up and slithered over to Tosh to have them put back on again. Settling them back in place, Tosh grinned up at Ianto.
“Nosy saw me wearing them and couldn’t take its eyes off them, it really likes them.”
Nosy hummed loudly in agreement, then slithered over to where it could see its reflection in the water tower, turning its head back and forth to admire its headgear and nodding to make the sparkly pompoms bounce.
“And people say I’m vain,” Jack commented as he set several more plates of food on the table.
“You are. Never known anyone spend as much time on their hair as you do,” Ianto teased.
“Hey, I have an image to maintain!” Jack slipped his arms around Ianto from behind and leaned to kiss him on the cheek. “Besides, I have to look good for you.”
Ianto rolled his eyes. “Come on, let’s get the rest of the food laid out. Our guests will be here soon!”
The party was a great success. Martha bought her family and her fiancé Tom up from London to visit, Rhys had arrived with Gwen, laden with food, and Kathy Swanson was there too. It was the first time Martha’s family had met Nosy, though Martha had told them all about it, and they were as enchanted by it as everyone else. Nosy, of course, basked in all the attention. The only moment of discord was when Owen discovered the twiglets had vanished, stolen by Nosy — well, Jack had told everyone to help themselves. Nosy could hardly be faulted for doing just that! Peace was restored when Ianto produced a fresh family sized bag of twiglets just for Owen. If anyone noticed Owen occasionally slipping Nosy a few twiglets later on, they wisely didn’t say anything.
The party finally came to an end, their guests heading home or to their hotel for the night. The Torchwood team cleared away the leftover food, loaded the dishwasher and put the accumulated rubbish in a couple of black bags, which Gwen and Rhys carted out to the dustbins on their way home.
Mickey was on night duty, so he retired to the night room. He’d be leaving for London with Martha and her family in the morning, going to visit friends. Tosh and Owen said their goodnights — they had an early flight to Japan where they would be visiting Tosh’s family until the New Year. Andy followed them out — he would be staying in Cardiff with his family. Gwen’s parents were staying with her and Rhys, as Rhys’ parents had decided to go on a Christmas cruise.
Finally it was just Jack and Ianto, and Nosy of course. Jack disappeared for a few minutes while Ianto was emptying the dishwasher and putting on the second load (from the looks of things, they must have used every plate, cup and glass in the Hub, not to mention all the cutlery!). He returned carrying four colourful Christmas stockings, each with a name written around the top. Ianto’s was red with a reindeer on it, Jack’s was blue with a snowman, Nosy’s was green with a jolly, fat Santa on it and Myfanwy’s was yellow with a Christmas tree.
“Now,” said Jack, crouching down beside Nosy, “We hang these up, and then if you’re good and go to bed, and stay there until morning, Santa will come in the night and fill our stockings with toys and goodies. But no peeking; if you peek, Santa won’t come.” They hung their stockings from the railing outside Jack’s office, then escorted Nosy to the night duty room, tucking it into the top bunk. After saying goodnight to it and to Mickey, they headed off to their own bed.
“So,” said Jack, turning to Ianto, “have you been a good boy this year?”
“Of course,” Ianto replied and kissed Jack hard. “But right now, I plan on being very wicked.”
“Oh yeah,” Jack smirked, “That works for me!”
Ianto grinned and turned out the light…
A/N2: For anyone unfamiliar with deely bobbers, here's a helpful definition:
A deely bobber (also deeley bobber) is a novelty item of headgear comprising a headband to which are affixed two springy protrusions resembling the antennae of insects or of stereotypical little green men. These "antennae" may be topped with simple plastic shapes or more elaborate and fanciful decorations, such as mini pom poms or light emitting diodes.