Reports from a group of hikers who claimed to have seen mysterious lights over the Brecon Beacons had led to Torchwood taking a jaunt out into the country. Unsurprisingly, Owen had spent the whole drive complaining, while the rest of the team had been a bit subdued, no doubt remembering their last outing to the National Park. As beautiful as the area was, discovering the existence of cannibals who had been preying on their fellow humans for generations had cast a pall over it. Some experiences aren’t easily forgotten.
They left the SUV at the end of a dirt track and continued on foot, making their way up towards the ridge where the hikers had been when the sightings had occurred, and then dividing into pairs to cover more ground. With orders to meet back on the ridge in two hours, Owen and Gwen set off in one direction, Ianto and Tosh in another, and Jack strode away on his own, with only his coat for company.
It was a sunny day and before long, all the searchers were hot, sticky, and tired. The fact that they saw nothing to explain the lights and none of their instruments were picking up anything out of the ordinary did nothing to improve their increasingly black moods. By the time they returned to the ridge, Owen and Gwen were arguing continuously about everything, Tosh was cranky and frustrated, and Ianto was swearing to himself in Welsh every time he tripped or stumbled on the uneven ground.
Jack was already there when they reached their rendezvous at the base of a distinctive rock formation. Despite his heavy coat, he looked as fresh as a daisy, which only served to make the others even more bad tempered than they already were.
“We’ve been traipsing up and down hills for hours, looking for God knows what, with no success,” Owen groused, “and ‘ere you are looking like you’re out for a Sunday stroll. Did you even bother to search or ‘ave you just been sitting there in the shade letting us do all the work for you?”
“I searched,” Jack assured his team.
“Find the source of the lights, by any chance?” Ianto asked wearily, slumping down in the shade beside Jack and sipping from a bottle of lukewarm water.
Jack shook his head. “Whatever those hikers saw is probably long gone by now, but we still had to check it out, just to be certain.”
“So we just wasted a whole bloody morning melting out here when we could have been relaxing back at the Hub where it’s nice and cool?” Gwen threw herself down of the ground, wiping her face with the sleeve of her blouse.
“Depends on your point of view,” Jack said with a shrug. He studied his team. “You look hot.”
“No kidding!” Owen snapped. “Observant today, aren’t you?”
“Shut up, Owen,” Tosh muttered. “All I want is to go home and have a nice, cool shower.”
“Because another hike and an hour in the oven known as the SUV is such a tempting thought,” Gwen grumbled. “I already feel like I could be wrung out.”
“If anyone’s interested, I know a way you could all cool off before we head back,” Jack commented idly.
“What’re you on about?” sprawled on the grass, Ianto cracked one eye open and peered at Jack.
“I didn’t solve the mystery of the lights, but my search at least wasn’t completely fruitless.”
“So?” Tosh had borrowed a hair tie from Gwen and was trying to gather her hair into a ponytail.
“So, I found this waterfall…”
Ianto sat up and stared at Jack, one eyebrow raised. “A waterfall?”
Jack nodded. “A nice, big waterfall, perfect for cooling off on a hot day. It’s down that valley, maybe half a mile. Who fancies going skinny dipping?”
“I’m in!” Ianto scrambled to his feet, grinning, energy restored by the thought of a dip in cool water.
“Me too.” Tosh dusted off the legs of her jeans as she stood. “Lead the way.”
“Sounds too good to be true,” Gwen sighed, levering herself to her feet, “but I’m game for anything at this point.”
“Oh what the hell, why not?” Owen shrugged. “Beats the alternative.”
The waterfall was everything Jack had claimed, big enough for all of them to stand underneath it without crowding each other, the water chill against their heated skin, and falling into a pool that was just about wide and deep enough to swim in, although mostly they didn’t bother, content to just splash about. Everyone except Jack opted to keep their underwear on, just in case any other hikers happened along. Jack laughed at that, but didn’t comment, just stripping naked and stepping under the waterfall, Ianto right behind him.
“Oh, God, this is heaven!” Ianto gasped. “Come on in, the water’s fine!”
“Are you sure it’s safe?” Gwen asked. “I mean, you hear about rivers being polluted and everything…”
Tosh used her scanner to set Gwen’s mind at rest, taking a few readings then setting it aside. “The sea is more polluted than most British rivers these days,” she pointed out, taking her place beside Ianto beneath the cascade.
“Stop dithering,” Owen told Gwen, giving her a shove. “Either that or let me past.” The path leading to the waterfall was too narrow for him to get around her.
“Okay, I’m going.” Gwen picked her way along the narrow ledge to join the others, who shuffled along to make room, and Owen brought up the rear, gasping as the water hit him.
After a few minutes of cooling off in the waterfall, Jack jumped into the pool, pulling Ianto with him. As Ianto tried to fend him off, Jack dived beneath the surface, intent on pulling his lover’s shorts down. Giggling, Tosh slid into the water to join her friends, splashing them both. Owen and Gwen looked at each other, shrugged, and jumped in too.
They spent half the afternoon splashing around in the water, but finally, as a few fluffy clouds started to appear in the clear blue of the sky, they hauled themselves out to sit in the shade and let the warm air dry them off a bit before pulling their clothes back on. It was a much happier team that set off on the trek back to the SUV, their bad moods of that morning completely forgotten, and though they were hot and sweaty again by the time they reached the car for the drive home, it didn’t seem to matter as much. They felt as though all their cares had been washed away and their spirits refreshed by the cool water. Even Owen was actually smiling for once.
As team-building exercises went, Jack mused, this trip to the Beacons had been far more successful that the last one. “Who wants to stop for ice cream on the way back?” he asked as they settled into their seats.
The show of hands was unanimous.
“Okay kids, belt up!”
They did as instructed, fastening their seat belts, and starting the engine, Jack steered the SUV back down the track to the narrow country road, turning in the direction of the village they’d passed through that morning. He was sure he’d spotted a shop there selling ice cream.
Listening to the rest of the team chatting among themselves, Jack felt a sense of satisfaction. Even though they hadn’t found what they’d been looking for, all things considered, it had tuned out to be a pretty good day.