“Good God, that’s loud,” muttered Owen, covering his ears with both hands.
“What was that? I can’t hear you!” Ianto bellowed.
“I said it’s loud!” Owen yelled back.
“I noticed! It’s just a baby though; it’s probably cold, scared, lost, and hungry! With any luck it’ll quieten down a bit if you can just figure out what it eats!”
“I’m trying! Hold it still so I can examine it!”
“HOLD IT STILL!”
Ianto was doing his best, but the squirming alien had so many legs and other appendages, and was so distressed, that he kept losing his grip, whereupon it immediately tried to crawl inside his jacket. It was like trying to juggle a plate of furry noodles. Six fuzzy legs with multiple joints, and a dozen hairy, writhing tentacles, stuck out in various directions from a furry body shaped like a football-sized onion with a light bulb crammed on top for a head. Four blue eyes on mobile stalks jutted out of the head, and kept twisting this way and that, blinking at random, as if it was looking for something, most likely its parent. And all the time, it kept up a wailing noise like an air raid siren crossed with a foghorn and then broadcast through a loudspeaker with the volume as high as it would go. It was unbelievable that so much noise could come out of something so small.
Turning his head away, trying to escape the piercing sound, Ianto spotted Myfanwy circling agitatedly overhead. He thought she was probably screeching her displeasure, but there was no way to hear her over the deafening racket the alien was making.
Owen paused in his examination just long enough to tear hunks of cotton wool off a roll and cram it in his ears, but it only muffled the noise fractionally. Ianto grabbed some himself, in between attempting to wrangle the ‘patient’. Even a slight reduction in volume would be a blessing; he was beginning to think his head might explode from the din. It was probably a good thing that the rest of the team were out rounding up a pair of rogue weevils right at that moment; there’d be fewer casualties that way.
Jack, Tosh, and Gwen were the lucky ones; battling Weevils would be a picnic compared to having their ears blasted off. He and Owen would deserve medals for going above and beyond the call of duty on this one. Ianto had known hungry infants could be noisy, but this was ridiculous! Even his sister’s kids hadn’t been this loud when they were babies.
Owen’s lips were moving, and Ianto correctly surmised that the medic was trying to tell him something.
“Speak up, Owen!”
“I said, according to my tests, it’s primarily a fruit eater!” Owen yelled. Even so, Ianto could barely make out his words.
“There’s some blueberries in the fridge! Can you get them? I’ve got my hands full!” The alien’s tentacles were tangled around both of Ianto’s arms, practically immobilising him. A thumbs up from Owen was the only reply Ianto got before the medic turned tail and fled the autopsy bay. He was back moments later with the berries, but they didn’t go down well in spite of junior’s eagerness, since the poor thing was too young and toothless to chew its food. The disappointment seemed to result in even louder wails.
Somehow, Ianto managed to gather the alien into his arms, trying to comfort it as he trudged up to the kitchen area to see what else might satisfy the youngster’s hunger.
‘Baby fruit-eater, baby fruit-eater,’ he though over and over as he rummaged around in the cupboards, seeking inspiration. ‘Fruit puree? Baby food?’ Not that he had either to hand. Then he caught sight of something towards the back of the fridge, and thankfully it was still well before its use-by date. Snagging it, Ianto fetched a spoon and sat down at the kitchen table. ‘Hope this won’t harm you!’ he yelled at the alien before offering it a spoonful. Seconds later, silence fell, or at least Ianto assumed it had. All he could make out was a loud ringing in his ears, but he was pretty sure the strident wailing had stopped, as the alien was too busy greedily slurping down spoonfuls of strawberry yoghurt to make any other sound.
Fed and sleepy at last, the fuzzy creature let Ianto settle it in a box lined with an old towel. It looked a lot cuter now as it snuggled under the blanket he spread over it and started sucking on one of its tentacles, its eyestalks drooping wearily. Ianto smiled. Maybe they’d have a bit of peace and quiet until junior got hungry again; he’d need to get more yoghurt before that happened. He wished his ears would stop ringing though.
When the rest of the team arrived back, Owen and Ianto didn’t so much as glance in the direction of the blaring cog door alarms. In fact, Ianto nearly leapt out of his skin when Jack put a hand on his shoulder, spinning around and going for his gun, only to let out a sigh of relief when he saw who it was.
“Jack! Don’t creep up on me like that; you scared me! When did you get back?”
“Just now. And there’s no need to yell.”
Ianto peered at his lover. “What was that? Sorry, can’t hear you!”
Wincing at the volume of Ianto’s voice, Jack reached out and tugged a big wad of cotton wool out of his lover’s ear. “Can you hear me now?”
Ianto frowned. “What? Don’t mumble!”
“I wasn’t mumbling!” Jack raised his voice to a shout. “Are you okay?”
“Bit deaf,” Ianto replied, pointing at his ears. “Had some trouble with our latest visitor.” If he thought he was speaking at a normal volume, he was sadly mistaken. Jack was tempted to stuff the cotton wool he’d just taken out of Ianto’s ears into his own.
“What visitor?” he wanted to know, then since Ianto didn’t seem to have heard him, Jack tried shouting again. “What visitor?”
“A baby alien!” Ianto bellowed, grinning. “A very hungry, very noisy, bundle of fuzzy tentacled joy! It’s okay though, I gave it some yoghurt, it went to sleep, and then its mother showed up and took it away! Just as well, otherwise our hearing might have suffered permanent damage! Owen thinks we should be back to normal in a few days though, once the ringing stops!” He pointed at his ears again.
A few days? Jack sighed, too quietly for Ianto to register, practically deaf as he currently was. Looked like he’d have to put up with the team yelling at each other for the time being; Ianto and Owen because they couldn’t tell how loudly they were speaking, and the rest of them in an effort to make themselves understood by their hearing-impaired colleagues.
He supposed he should be grateful that at least Torchwood was no longer responsible for the alien that had caused Ianto and Owen’s hearing problems, but in all honesty, that wasn’t much of a consolation.
“Would you like a coffee? I was just about to make some!” Ianto bellowed cheerfully, right in Jack’s face.
Jack contented himself with smiling and nodding. Never in a million years would he have imagined he’d ever find himself wishing that Ianto would be a bit quieter.