Ianto hunched his shoulders to push his scarf further up around his ears and shoved his gloved hands deeper into the pockets of his coat. It was bitterly cold and their breath was steaming in the weak early morning sunlight as he trudged along beside Jack across sand made crisp by frost. It really wasn’t the kind of weather he associated with spending time at the beach, but that was Torchwood for you; it didn’t really do normal.
Aside from the cold, it was beautiful; the sun hadn’t been up long and the breeze off the water tasted fresh and clean, laden with the familiar tang of salt. Rock pools were edged with delicate frills of ice, and waves lapped gently against frosted mounds of seaweed, shimmering with a million pinpricks of reflected light. Even so, Ianto wished he was still tucked up in his cosy bed instead of freezing his… ears off.
“Do you even know what we’re looking for?” he asked Jack, voice slightly muffled by his scarf.
“Not specifically, but the Rift spike was in this area, so whatever came through is around here somewhere.”
“Great. Needle in a haystack time, what fun.”
“What’s got you so grumpy? Get out of bed the wrong side?”
“Wouldn’t have made any difference which side I got out on, it’s enough that you made me leave my nice warm bed to go trekking across a beach at the crack of dawn in sub-zero temperatures, looking for a mystery object. I have every reason to be grumpy. Don’t you feel the cold?”
“Sure I do, but I’m well wrapped up.” Jack grinned back at Ianto. “You should’ve worn a hat.”
That earned Jack a withering glare. “I would have, but one of mine is in my locker at work and you borrowed the last one I had left at home last week and still haven’t returned it. Or any of the others you ‘borrowed’ before that.”
“Oh. Sorry. Here, take mine.” Jack pulled the woolly hat off his head and put it on Ianto, making sure it covered his ears. “Better?”
“A bit. Thank you.” Ianto chose not to mention that the hat Jack had just loaned him was actually one of his own. Jack borrowed a lot of things but the only way Ianto could ever get them back was to retrieve them from Jack’s bunker himself. Ianto’s belongings were gradually migrating out of his apartment and into the Hub because of Jack’s sudden desire to borrow everything he owned.
Jack turned slowly in a circle, studying the screen of the PDA he was holding. “That way, I think.” He pointed further along the beach and a little inland, towards the cliffs. Ianto was just thankful that the tide was on its way out.
Scrambling over rocks made slick by frost, they kept their eyes on the ground, searching for anything out of the ordinary. They didn’t even know if the object they were seeking was big or small, it could literally be anything. Several times they found things, and Ianto reluctantly pulled his hands out of his pockets each time in order to run his scanner over the finds, but there was never so much as a flicker of Rift energy beyond the residual traces everything picked up through proximity. It was starting to feel more and more like a wild goose chase.
“Ten more minutes, then I’m going back to the SUV before I freeze to death,” Ianto declared at last.
“Where’s your sense of adventure?”
“You probably borrowed it along with everything else and forgot to bring it back.”
When ten more minutes had become fifteen and they’d still failed to find anything, Ianto set off back towards the road, keeping close to the cliffs for the slight shelter they afforded from the wind and picking his way carefully over rocks and boulders worn smooth by the sea. He was several hundred yards from Jack when he spotted it, wedged between two rocks and glittering in a way that had nothing to do with the sunlight. It was egg-shaped, smooth, and seemed to be lit from within with a shifting, flickering light that made the dark surface shimmer like an opal. According to his scanner, it was soaked with Rift energy, meaning that it must have arrived in the last few hours. The energy attached to Rift arrivals gradually dissipated over time until after a month or so, they registered the same as everything else existing in the vicinity of the Rift.
“Jack! I’ve found it!”
Jack looked up, waved and started to scramble as fast as he could over the rocks to join his lover. He was out of breath by the time he arrived and bent over, hands on knees, panting, as he studied the object. “Ooh, pretty!”
Ianto rolled his eyes. “Any idea what it is?”
Jack nodded. “It’s… how do I explain it? Kind of a meditation device, I guess, or a therapy device. You stare into it and it helps to calm your mind and sort your thoughts and emotions out. Sort of a brain de-clutterer, gets rid of all the rubbish and puts the rest in order.”
“Gets rid of the rubbish?”
“You know; lies you’ve been telling yourself, petty jealousies and resentments, that kind of stuff. Helps you see them for what they are and let go of them. We’d probably all benefit from it if it’s operational. I’ll have Tosh check it out once we get it back to the Hub.” Carefully, Jack eased it out of the crevice it was lodged in and settled it into the containment box he’d been carrying. “Right, come along, Mr Jones, back to the Hub for a shower and a hot drink, get you warmed up.”
“Finally!” Ianto set off again purposefully, shivering but a lot more cheerful now they were on their way back. As he reached the sand, Jack came up alongside him.
“About, you know, me ‘borrowing’ your stuff?”
“What about it?”
“I think… I guess I hoped if I moved enough of your stuff you’d eventually stop taking it back to your place and just stay at the Hub with it. I mean. I knocked through some walls to make the place bigger, got a proper bed and stuff…” he trailed off.
“You want me to move in with you?”
“Why didn’t you just ask?”
“I thought you might say no.”
“Idiot. If I move into the Hub, will you stop borrowing my stuff?”
“I might. Some of it anyway. I do like your woolly hats though.”
“Well, I guess we could share them.”
“Is that a yes?”
“Only if you help me move the rest of my stuff. All at once; not a few bits at a time.”
“I think that can be arranged.”
“Wonderful! Now can we go home?”
“Home. I like the way that sounds.”
“I’ll like it even better when I’m finally thawed out.”
“Come on then Frosty. I’ll even scrub your back for you. And look on the bright side, living in the Hub, you’ll get to stay in bed longer in the morning.”
“Now that’s what I call an incentive. Race you back to the SUV!” And with that, Ianto took off, stumbling and floundering through the sand, with Jack in hot pursuit.