Ianto stared in bemusement at what the Rift had brought them this time. “Is that a blanket?”
“It does look that way, doesn’t it?” Jack stood beside him, staring at the large, fuzzy blue blanket. It looked surprising clean considering it was jammed underneath a clump of Rhododendrons in Bute park. “It’s a nice blanket though, a pretty colour, and it looks cosy.”
“Since when did the Rift send us nice warm blankets? Odd socks, yes, and odd mittens, the occasional hat or boot, even a few scarves, but never blankets.”
“Not until now anyway. Maybe it thought we could use one, what with the bad weather forecast to last the rest of the month.”
Ianto raised an eyebrow. “Aren’t you the one who keeps telling me the Rift isn’t sentient?”
Jack shrugged. “There’s always a chance I could be wrong.”
“Never thought I’d hear you admit that.”
“Yes, well, don’t tell anyone else.” Jack fell silent for a moment, then, “So; blanket.”
“So it would seem,” Ianto agreed.
“Or then again, maybe not. Maybe what came through the Rift is underneath it and the blanket just got blown under here after?”
“One little flaw in your theory; there’s no wind.” Ianto was right; as well as being freezing cold the air was also completely still. There wasn’t so much as the tiniest breath of a breeze, never mind a wind strong enough to blow a large blanket across the grass and wedge it firmly in under the bushes. “Why does the Rift always insist of dropping things in weird places? They’re almost always up trees, or in lakes, or half-buried in the sand, or wedged behind dumpsters, or somewhere equally ridiculous.”
“Where things show up is completely random.”
Ianto turned to give Jack a look. “Didn’t you just get through saying you might be wrong about the Rift not being sentient?”
“Darn. I did, didn’t I? Doesn’t rule anything out though. Even if the Rift does happen to be sentient, that doesn’t necessarily mean it gets to pick where it leaves things. Maybe it’s involuntary, like a sneeze.”
“I suppose that’s as good a theory as any.” Ianto looked back at the bright blue blanket. “Right, instead of just standing here freezing our arses off, I suggest we get under there, grab the blanket, and head back to the Hub before conditions out here get any worse. From the looks of the clouds we could be in for a heavy snowfall before long.”
Jack glanced up at the lowering clouds and nodded before gesturing towards the bushes. “After you.”
“Why do I have to…? Oh, never mind. If I ruin my coat, you’re buying me a new one.” Ianto ducked down and pushed his way beneath the tangled branches, feeling twigs tugging at his clothes and his hair. If Jack was hoping for a good view of his arse, he was in for a disappointment because his coat covered it.
The blanket was scrunched up in a small gap between stems about four feet inside the thicket, so Ianto only had to squeeze his way through the sparsely leaved Rhododendron bushes for a short distance. Even so, he nearly got poked in the eye a couple of times, and one small twig almost went up his nose. This wasn’t nearly as much fun as it had been when he was a kid. Back then he hadn’t cared about getting scratched or dirty; funny how things changed as you got older.
One final push, and the blanket was just about within his reach. Stretching his arm as far as he could, the tips of his gloved fingers just brushed against the blanket. Which shrank away from him until it was beyond his reach. What the hell?
“Jack, did the blanket just move?” Ianto peered through the dimness beneath the bushes. Odd how suddenly the blanket looked less like it was scrunched up and more like it was huddling there. He also got the peculiar impression that it was trembling.
“Ah,” said Jack.
“What d’you mean, ‘ah’?”
“Well, somewhere around the thirty-seventh century, some bright spark thought ‘wouldn’t it be great if clothes could take care of themselves?’ and invented semi-sentient fabric; self-cleaning, shapes itself into whatever you want, whenever you want. Seemed like a great idea, except the fabric turned out to be a bit too sentient; some of it developed neurotic tendencies and didn’t like being left alone so the idea was abandoned. I suppose it was only a matter of time before a piece found its way though the Rift.”
Ianto tried to turn his head to look at Jack, unsure whether the Captain was joking or not, and yelped as a twig jabbed him in the ear. “Are you serious?”
“Perfectly serious, cross my heart,” Jack promised.
When Ianto thought about it, maybe it wasn’t so peculiar. Through proximity to Jack and the Rift, Jack’s Coat had developed a degree of sentience as well as self-healing abilities. Why shouldn’t there be other sentient fabric around? “Wonderful. So now we have a semi-sentient blanket to add to our collection. I suppose at least it’ll be company for your Coat.”
“It doesn’t have to be a blanket,” Jack pointed out. “It probably took that form in an effort to keep warm. And possibly to comfort itself.”
“Okay, scared, cold blanket. Got it.” Ianto turned his attention back to the blanket, and tried to appear as non-threatening as possible. “It’s okay, nobody wants to hurt you, you’re safe now. If you come with me I promise I’ll take you somewhere dry and warm.” Did semi-sentient blankets understand English? Ianto repeated what he’d just said in Galactic Standard, adding, “You don’t want to stay out here; it’ll be getting dark soon and a lot colder.”
Slowly the blanket inched its way closer and Ianto kept still, not trying to grab it or anything. He didn’t want to startle it and drive it further beneath the bushes. When it at last came within reach, he gently stroked its folds. “There, you see? Everything will be fine if you come with me. You can trust me. I’ll take good care of you, I promise.”
As if suddenly making up its mind, the blanket reached out and wrapped itself around Ianto’s arm, clinging on as he backed out of the bushes. It weighed a lot less than he would have expected.
“Nicely done,” Jack said approvingly, reaching out a hand to pet the blanket. It quivered, but didn’t pull away.
“Okay, let’s get you back to base and check you over for damage,” Ianto told the blanket as he started back across the park to where they’d left the SUV, Jack falling into step beside him. “I think you’ll have to drive; I’ve got my hands full with our new friend here.” The blanket had snuggled itself against Ianto’s chest, still shivering from the cold. He dug awkwardly in his pocket one-handed and passed Jack the keys. “No speeding; the roads are icy.”
“I do know how to drive in bad weather,” Jack pouted.
“So you keep telling me, but the dent in the front bumper didn’t get there by itself.”
“That tree totally jumped out in front of me.”
“Of course it did.” Shaking his head, Ianto picked up the pace, wanting to reach the Hub before the snow started falling. The temperature was dropping fast as the sun sank towards the horizon.
Once in the SUV with the engine running and the heater on, the blanket started to relax a bit, unwinding itself from Ianto’s arm and settling in his lap, basking in the warmth, its colour slowly changing from deep blue to a soft lavender shade. Ianto stroked it idly; it was very soft, like a baby rabbit.
As Bute Park wasn’t all that far from Roald Dahl Plas, the drive back to the Hub didn’t take long and Jack was soon pulling the SUV into its spot inside Torchwood’s underground garage. Sliding out of the passenger seat, Ianto carried the blanket into the Hub, making his way straight to the boardroom where he put it down on the table and carefully spread it out, examining first one side and then the other.
“How is it?” Jack asked.
“A few small snags, but I think it’ll be okay once it’s warmed through.” A thought struck him. “Does sentient fabric need to be fed?”
“Not that I’m aware of.”
“That’s good, I wouldn’t even know where to start looking for blanket food. I’ll take it down to the medical bay and run it through the scanner. After that…” Ianto trailed off and turned to Jack. “I’ll tell you right now I’m not putting it down in the archives, or in one of the cells. Just because it’s only semi-sentient doesn’t make it any less deserving of proper treatment. I know we’re not supposed to take alien objects out of the Hub, but I really think we should make an exception in this case. It would be much happier at home with us. The poor thing has been through a very traumatic experience, ripped away from everything that was familiar and dumped out in the cold, all alone.” Ianto folded the blanket neatly and picked it up.
“You’re probably right. Fine, it can go home with us, as long as it behaves and stays out of trouble.”
“It can always come with us to work and go home with us at night if it doesn’t want to be left on its own. It can hang out with your Coat.”
“I think Coat would like that.”
“That’s settled then. I think I’m going to call it Snuggles,” Ianto decided, carrying the blanket down into Owen’s domain for a quick health check. He smiled to himself as he ran the scanner over Snuggles, reassured by the results; aside from still being a bit cold, it appeared to be in remarkably good health. For a blanket. He wondered what Owen would have to say if he got called back into work to treat an ailing semi-sentient blanket. Nothing safe for delicate ears, that was for sure!
Jack was putting the Hub into night mode; the Rift predictor had indicated that things should be quiet overnight, so he had sent the others home before he and Ianto had left on the last retrieval of the day. Leaving Snuggles on the sofa, cuddled up with Jack’s Coat, Ianto went to feed the inmates and Myfanwy. When that was done, it would be home to the little house he shared with Jack for a shower and a hot meal, and then the three of them could spend the evening relaxing in front of the TV. Let other people keep their dogs and cats; he bet nobody else on earth had a semi-sentient blanket as a pet.