Jack stood on the roof of one of Cardiff’s tallest buildings, feet apart, arms folded across his chest, his Coat flapping dramatically around his legs. There wasn’t so much as a hint of a breeze, but that didn’t bother Coat, it was in a boisterous mood thanks to the warm sunshine after days of being out in pouring rain, soaked through and still expected to make its wearer look suitably impressive. Jack had an image to maintain, and Coat understood its responsibilities. Flapping and flaring while wet, however, was quite a strain because of the extra weight added by the rainwater soaked into its fibres.
Thanks to Ianto’s meticulous care, it was thoroughly dry this morning, and judging by the weather, likely to stay that way. In these conditions, flapping was an absolute joy, even when carried out without assistance from a pleasant breeze, so it whipped about, enjoying the freedom of movement and the complete lack of outside influences.
Sadly, the pleasant idyll couldn’t last all day; there was always work to be done, so when Jack headed back to ground level, and thence to the invisible lift which transported him down into the bowels of Torchwood’s Hub, Coat had no choice but to go with him. It’s capacity for movement was limited to flapping and fluttering; left by itself it had no satisfactory method of locomotion beyond inching along the ground, unless a strong enough wind helped it along, and that was seldom a pleasant experience because it couldn’t choose which way to go and never had any say in where it ended up.
Back in the Hub, with its artificial light and its antiquated air conditioning, Jack removed Coat and handed it to Ianto, who settled it on a hanger and hooked it on the coat stand in the corner of Jack’s office, smoothing its folds and picking a bit of lint off its sleeve. Coat luxuriated in the familiar touch of its main carer. On top of Jack’s filing cabinet, Fern waved a greeting at Coat, and Coat waved back, just a brief flick of one sleeve, but that was sufficient. Fern wasn’t the best company in the world, but it was still better than nothing.
Being a Coat could be deathly boring. Left to its own devices, all it could really do was hang there and observe the comings and goings of the team, listening in to conversations and waiting to be needed. Jack seldom went on missions, or really anywhere outside the Hub, without it, but then Cardiff, with its changeable weather, meant that coats of all kind were a necessity. Coat itself was much more versatile than most, able to keep out the cold and the cutting bite of the wind, as well as providing good protection against rain and even snow, despite not caring much for that kind of weather. Wales saw a lot of rain.
Jack sat down at his desk, and reluctantly got on with his paperwork. What heavy rain was to Coat, paperwork was to Jack, something unavoidable, to be endured rather than enjoyed. ‘We all have our crosses to bear,’ thought Coat philosophically. ‘It can’t always be sunshine and breezes.’
With nothing better to do, Coat drowsed, still feeling the warmth of the sun that had permeated its fibres earlier. Like all the members of Torchwood, it knew the importance of taking Coat naps when the opportunity allowed. Later, it might need to be alert and ready at a moment’s notice to flare behind Jack as he ran to save the world. Just as Jack had his duties, so did Coat, and it took them as seriously as its wearer. Jack had an image to maintain, and he couldn’t do it without Coat’s support and cooperation. In many ways, their relationship could be described as symbiotic; they both made each other look good.
The morning passed in long periods of silence as Jack read reports, interspersed with the quiet scritch of his pen as he signed his name to the bottom of each page. Dreamily, Coat mused on what it might be like to be Jack’s pen, held and guided by his strong, steady hand, but then dismissed the thought. How boring it would be to never leave the Hub and venture into the world above. No, being a Coat was so much better; it had far more freedom than most things.
As noon approached, Ianto brought coffee for Jack and gave coat a nice brush down; just what it needed. Perhaps that meant they were going out soon. Fully awake and alert, Coat waited, trying to gather clues. There hadn’t been a Rift alert, it would have heard, and besides, the team would be bustling about instead of getting on with their own paperwork at their desks. Not a Weevil hunt either, because again it would have heard alarms. Something else then.
Half an hour later, Jack put the last of his paperwork in his ‘Out’ basket and stood up, stretching the kinks out of his back. On its hanger, Coat stretched too; it looked like this might be what it had been patiently waiting for. Ianto appeared as if by magic, slipping Coat from its hanger and holding it for Jack to put on, lifting it to settle on the Captain’s shoulders. Coat twitched a little, adjusting itself to the contours of its wearer’s body for maximum comfort. Where to now?
The whole team joined Jack and Ianto, but they didn’t go to the garage where the SUV was kept. Instead they left the Hub on foot by the tourist office entrance, strolling unhurriedly across the Plas in the warm spring sunshine. The still air was full of birdsong and the faint scent of flowers. Coat fluttered gently around Jack’s legs, flaring out just a little for effect and allowing itself to preen just a bit at the admiring glances thrown their way. They looked good and they both knew it, but Coat was the more modest of the two, though that’s not to say it didn’t show off from time to time.
Turning up a side street, they crossed the road and approached a restaurant. Ah, that’s what this jaunt was about; they were going out for lunch! Not the excitement Coat had been hoping for, especially since it would mean a stint in the cloakroom, hung among lesser coats, but it wasn’t all bad, at least the walk had been pleasant and it had the return trip to look forward to. Just for show, it made sure to swirl around Jack’s legs as he passed through the door into the shadowy interior.
As expected, Jack paused at the cloakroom and passed Coat to the attendant in charge. It was somewhat mollified by the young man’s words.
“Wow! Is this original World War Two vintage? It’s in beautiful condition, Sir; you’ve obviously taken very good care of it.”
Jack admitted that Coat was indeed a vintage air force original, worn during the war, though he neglected to mention that he’d been the man wearing it. Coat and Jack had been together a very long time, the longest relationship Jack had ever had.
‘Standards of care have really improved since Ianto came along; his attention to detail is the main reason I look as good as I do,’ Coat thought modestly. Unsurprisingly, the cloakroom attendant didn’t hear. Nonetheless, he handled Coat respectfully, settling in on a padded hanger and hooking it on the rail carefully, making sure it didn’t drag on the floor and wouldn’t be harmed. The rest of the team’s coats soon joined it; Ianto’s black wool overcoat, Owen and Gwen’s leather jackets, and Tosh’s pretty purple knee-length. Coat surreptitiously flipped its collar straight and settled itself to wait, remaining alert and aware of its surroundings, as it always did when not in the safety of either the Hub or Ianto’s apartment.
Time passed as Jack and the team enjoyed a leisurely lunch, and then the attendant slipped out of the cloakroom. He hadn’t been gone a minute before someone else stepped in. At first, Coat thought it must be another member of staff taking over while the young man went on his break, or perhaps he’d finished work for the day while this one had just arrived. But then the newcomer started to move among the racks, rifling pockets and transferring their contents to the shoulder bag he wore under his jacket.
Coat was incensed at this blatant attack on coats that could defend neither themselves nor their wearer’s other possessions. It wasn’t about to stand for this! Just wait until the criminal got within reach. It hung there, completely still, tense and waiting, giving the illusion of being just another run-of-the-mill coat, albeit a much nicer one than most. The thief approached, bent slightly to reach deep into Coat’s pocket, and Coat made its move, clamping its pocket closed on the thief’s hand and at the same time, flipping one sleeve around the man’s neck and squeezing.
It had remarkable strength for a Coat, infused as it was with a mix of Vortex energy and Rift energy, not to mention the attributes it had gained from being repeatedly drenched in the blood of a very unique immortal. As the thief tried to pull away, Coat just gripped tighter, causing its captive to panic.
“Let me go! Help!” he shrieked, apparently forgetting all about his stealthy crime spree. His cries for help didn’t go unheard and in moments the maitre d’ and two waiters burst into the room, followed by the cloakroom attendant who, unbeknown to Coat, had been helping clear dishes from empty tables because one of the busboys had called in sick. Coat let its sleeve drop limply, but held on with its pocket until the thief was surrounded, at which point it released him and the man jerked his hand free, rubbing at his wrist to restore circulation.
“Who are you and what are you doing in here?” the maitre d’ demanded to know. “You don’t work here and this area is employees only!”
The terrified man ignored the question, instead gibbering, “It attacked me! It grabbed my hand and tried to strangle me!”
“What grabbed you? And you haven’t answered my question.”
“That coat! It wouldn’t let me take my hand out if its pocket and then it tried to strangle me with its sleeve!”
“Coats don’t attack people, and what were you doing with your hand in its pocket anyway?” the cloakroom attendant snapped. “I know for a fact that’s not your coat, you’ve got no business going through its pockets, or anyone else’s for that matter!”
“Carlo,” the maitre d’ said to one of the waiters, “call the police. It seems we’ve caught a pickpocket.” The one called Carlo nodded and hurried out. “As for you, you’re coming with me to the manager’s office. I’m making a citizen’s arrest.”
The thief made no effort to resist. “Anything, just keep that thing away from me!” He was frogmarched out of the cloakroom by the maitre d’ and the other waiter, leaving only the attendant behind.
Instantly, the nice young man unhooked Coat from the rail and hung it on the end of the rack, checking it over for damage, especially the edge of the pocket. “Idiot must have got his watch or something caught, and panicked,” he muttered to himself. “Hope he didn’t tear anything.”
‘I’m fine, just a bit ruffled, that’s all, but thank you for your concern,’ Coat thought, continuing to act like any ordinary coat would in such circumstances. It didn’t want this kind and thoughtful person to panic. Humans had a tendency to overreact.
Brushing Coat down carefully, in a manner not unlike Ianto’s, the young man returned Coat to its place on the coat-rail beside Ianto’s coat and began to check the others for damage, fretting over the fact that someone had tried to steal from the restaurant’s patrons on his watch.
It wasn’t long before the police arrived, questioned the thief, and retrieved the bag of loot from under his coat before visiting the actual scene of the crime.
“You’re in charge here?” DI Swanson asked the attendant.
“Yes, Ma’am, Harry Brown. I’m the cloakroom attendant on duty, I work weekdays from eight in the morning until five at night; someone else takes over for the evenings.”
“Why weren’t you in the cloakroom at the time of the thefts?”
“The restaurant was really busy; one of the busboys is on holiday and another’s off sick so I was helping clear tables. The door to the cloakroom was locked though, and I have the key.” He pulled the key on its chain from inside his shirt.
“Looks like our thief is into picking locks as well as pockets,” PC Davidson commented. “He said one of the coats attacked him. What was that about?”
“I have a theory,” Harry said thoughtfully. “Was he wearing a watch or anything on his right wrist?”
Davidson nodded. “A big one on a thick, heavy, studded leather strap.”
“Well, I reckon when he stuck his hand in the pocket of one of the coats, this one,” he indicated Coat, “he must’ve got it caught, then when he couldn’t get his hand free he panicked, started struggling, and got tangled in the other coats.”
“Sounds like a more plausible explanation than a coat attacking him,” DI Swanson nodded. “That’s Captain Harkness’s coat, isn’t it? I’m sure I’m right; there can’t be another like it in Cardiff.”
“I don’t know the gentleman’s name, Ma’am, but he’s tall, dark-haired, American accent… he’s here for lunch with four other people, two men and two women.”
“Yes, that’s the Captain and his team, I know them all quite well. Thank you for your help, Mr Brown. I’ll be in touch if I have any other questions.”
“Thank you, Ma’am, always happy to help the Hedlu.”
It was quite some time before Jack and the team returned to collect their coats, and Coat was quite content to wait, silently congratulating itself over a job well done. All by itself, it had apprehended a thief, and that was surely something the majority of coats couldn’t claim. It was a most satisfactory result.
Harry spent the intervening time returning coats to their owners, apologising to each person for the unfortunate incident, and when the team arrived, he took special care with Coat, telling Jack that he’d checked it over and couldn’t find any obvious damage, but that he should examine the left-hand pocket in particular very carefully as that seemed to be where the thief had snagged his wristwatch, and that if any damage should be found, the restaurant would of course pay for any necessary repairs.
“I don’t think you need to worry about that,” Jack assured him. “Ianto here takes care of any repairs; he can work miracles.” Then, with Ianto’s assistance, Coat was restored to Jack’s shoulders. As they turned to leave, Coat, feeling in high spirits, performed a very dramatic and quite complicated rippling swirl that had nothing whatsoever to do with the restaurant’s air conditioning, and moments later, they were once more out on Cardiff’s sunlit streets.
Jack smoothed Coat’s lapels. “Nice work back there catching the thief single handed,” he said.
“Who are you talking to, Jack?” Gwen asked.
“My Coat,” Jack replied, and at Gwen’s puzzled expression, added, “What? You don’t still think this is just an ordinary, everyday coat, do you? There’s not another one like it in existence, never has been and probably never will be.”
‘Too true,’ thought Coat. ‘I’m Super-Coat, righter of wrongs! Let pickpockets beware.’ It flared and fluttered dramatically, without any help from the nonexistent breeze. ‘Hero coats come and go, but I’m eternal, one of a kind, just like my wearer. We’re inseparable,’ and it streamed out behind Jack as he strode away down the street.
Behind it on the street, Ianto rolled his eyes. “That Coat is as big a show-off as Jack is,” he muttered, picking up his pace to catch up with his lover.
“Jack’s not serious is he?” Gwen asked. “I mean, a coat’s just a coat, right? It’s not like it’s alive or anything.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Tosh said thoughtfully, watching the fluttering coattails ahead of her. “We work on a Rift through time and space, with an immortal whose blood must have soaked into that coat hundreds of times. Who knows what effect that might have had on it?”
“Tosh is right. Jack’s been shot, stabbed, gored, and God knows what else while wearin’ that coat. By rights it should be a pile of rags by now, but I bet if you checked you wouldn’t find a trace of damage anywhere on it.”
If Coat could have smirked, it would have.