Team Torchwood never really knew what to expect when retrieving objects dropped off by the Rift. They could be inanimate tech or living creatures, bits of junk or priceless antiquities, deadly weapons or harmless playthings, but whatever they were, it was rare that they could be identified at first sight. This one was a case in point.
“It’s not alive,” Tosh affirmed after scanning the object. “As far as I can tell, it never was.”
“But it’s fluffy!” Gwen objected.
“Maybe it’s the alien equivalent of a soft toy on whatever planet it’s from,” Ianto suggested.
Jack nodded. “That’s a possibility. It’s quite cute, I can easily imagine people, especially kids, wanting to pick it up and cuddle it.”
“Could just as easily be a weapon.” Owen scowled at the light blue, fluffy thing. It was about the size of a large cat, shaped vaguely like a duck, but with long, floppy ears and tail, and four legs that would be underneath it if it weren’t currently lying on its side. It seemed to have an eye on the side of its head that was uppermost, so there was probably a matching one on the other side of its head, but the one they could see was shut.
“A weapon? Seriously?” Gwen giggled.
“Think about it, it’s been done before; seemingly innocuous object, cute enough to get someone to pick it up, then it explodes. Booby trapped.”
“There’s circuitry inside, but nothing to indicate explosives, poisons, sharp blades, projectiles, or anything else that might be harmful.” Tosh looked up from running a deeper scan. “It appears to be harmless, but we should probably still treat it with caution. I can do more thorough tests when we get it back to the Hub.”
“Usual precautions then. Gwen, fetch a containment unit and tongs.” Jack smiled easily. “Let’s take our new toy home and find out what it is!”
Fetching the necessary items, Gwen manoeuvred the metal tongs around the thing’s ‘body’ and closed them carefully, seeking a grip that wouldn’t damage it; despite the fact that it wasn’t alive, it still seemed vulnerable. Just as she started to lift it, there was a muted click, a faint buzzing sound almost beyond audible range, and the whatever-it-was stirred, lifting its head and opening its eyes. Gwen was so startled she dropped the tongs and jumped back, bumping into Owen so that both of them fell to the ground in a tangle of limbs, with Gwen on top. Tosh immediately turned around to help untangle them, so none of them were witnesses to what happened next, but…
Jack and Ianto, right in front of it, watched as it stood up, stretching. The moment its eyes fell on them, it trilled happily, scampering towards them, its bright blue eyes staring directly into their own.
The words simply popped into their heads and they smiled. What could be better? The sun was shining, the grass was green and soft, and they had a new companion to play with. They were going to have a wonderful time! Their new friend frolicked around them, then scampered away across the grass. Grinning at each other, they grabbed each other’s hand and followed, skipping across the meadow, oblivious to everything but the warm spring weather, the little animated device bounding along ahead of them, and the thought of having fun together.
As the other three scrambled back to their feet, they were just in time to see Jack and Ianto disappear over the brow of the hill.
“Is it just me, or did they look like they were skipping?” asked Tosh.
“It wasn’t just you.” Owen glared after them. “What the bloody fuck are they up to now?”
“The thing’s gone!” Gwen was staring at the abandoned tongs.
“Maybe it ran off and Jack and Ianto went after it.”
Owen looked dubiously at Tosh. “Skipping? Anyway, you said yourself, it’s not alive.”
“With all the circuits inside it, it could be a sort of mechanical toy. I can’t explain the skipping though.”
“It zapped them or something.” Owen drew his gun and checked it. “They’re under its control somehow. What if it’s luring them away to kill them? Divide and conquer. Next thing you know it’ll be back for us! I’m goin’ after them.”
“Owen, you can’t shoot it!” Tosh grabbed his arm.
“Why, because it’s cute?”
“No, because if you damage it we probably won’t be able to reverse whatever it’s done to our friends.”
Owen frowned; Tosh had a point. “Fine, I’ll only shoot it if there’s no other way to stop it.”
Gwen grabbed up the containment box and tongs. “We might need these when we catch it.”
“Good thinking.” Together, they ran up the hill in pursuit of their colleagues.
They found Jack and Ianto halfway down the long slope on the other side, rolling in the grass, the blue fur of the alien thing occasionally visible even at this distance, bouncing over and around them. The pair were laughing and shrieking with delight. Before Owen, Tosh and Gwen could reach them, they were on their feet again, spinning each other around while the toy danced about their feet like a puppy. Jack picked something up and threw it, the toy bounding away in pursuit as he and Ianto gave chase once more. They were holding hands again.
“Looks like they’re enjoying themselves,” Tosh smiled.
“It’s not natural,” Owen grumbled. “They’re acting like kids instead of adults.”
“Yeah.” Tosh sounded wistful. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d just had fun for the sake of it. Being an adult meant being weighed down with responsibilities, and Torchwood agents carried a heavier burden than most. Breaking into a run again, she raced flat-out down the hill, feeling the wind in her hair. She hadn’t run like this since forever; it wasn’t like chasing a Weevil or running from danger, it was just running for the sheer joy of it. She’d taken off so suddenly that she’d left Gwen and Owen standing, open-mouthed.
“What does she think she’s doing?”
“I don’t know, but we should probably try to catch up.” Gwen broke into a run, and shaking his head in resignation, Owen followed.
“They’ve all gone nuts.”
Because of her head start, Tosh reached Jack and Ianto first, and by the time Gwen and Owen arrived, she was playing leapfrog with her friends.
Gwen grinned. “Haven’t done that since I was about ten.” She dumped what she was carrying and raced across, shouting, “My turn!”
“Oh God,” Owen groaned. “The insanity’s spreading!” Something trilled down by his feet and looking towards the sound, he met a merry pair of bright blue eyes.
“Come and play!” a happy voice in his head urged.
“Oh what the hell. Why not?” Dumping his gun in the containment unit, he charged down the hill yelling “Geronimo!” at the top of his voice, launching himself at Jack and Ianto, and joining in their playful tussle.
How long they played together was anybody’s guess, but it was somewhere around mid-afternoon when they finally flopped on their backs in the grass, catching their breath.
“I haven’t felt this good in years,” Jack said. “It’s like a heavy weight I didn’t know I was carrying has gone.”
“I know what you mean,” Ianto sighed. “I feel young again.”
“You are young,” Tosh reminded him.
“I know, but usually I don’t feel like I am.”
The little blue creature settled down among them.
“Therapy session successful,” a happy voice in their heads declared. With a faint click, it turned itself off and flopped onto its side.
“It’s a therapy device?” Tosh sat up, looking at their playmate, eyes shining with curiosity. Owen had never stopped to notice before how beautiful she was.
“Apparently so.” Jack sat up too, dusting himself off and looking around for his coat, which he’d shed some time ago. He spotted it a few metres away, lying beside Ianto’s jacket and tie, and made his way over to retrieve them.
Ianto got to his feet and stretched, then stooped to scoop up the bundle of blue fur, placing it carefully into the containment box after removing Owen’s gun. “We’d better take good care of this,” he said with a smile. “Might need its services again someday.” He passed the gun to Owen, who returned it to its holster.
“Yeah, it was fun; no cares or worries, no stress, just enjoying the moment.”
“But now we have to get back to our regular lives.” Jack tossed Ianto his jacket but rolled up the tie and put it in his own pocket. “Still, at least we know who to turn to when the stress starts piling up again; our new buddy here.” He picked up the box containing the Rift’s latest gift to them. “Better than a long vacation and an army of psychiatrists! Okay gang; let’s go home. Last one to the SUV buys dinner!” Tucking the box under one arm, Jack took off up the slope, the rest of the team racing after him, laughing and shouting “Cheater!”
The unknown wasn’t always bad; sometimes, it could turn out to be the greatest gift of all.