Ianto backed slowly away, not wanting to give the creature any reason to attack him. From the looks of its teeth and claws it would shred him in seconds if it got hold of him. His escape seemed to be going quite well, the monster more interested in the chicken carcase someone must have thrown out for the foxes, but then he came up against a problem, or more accurately, a hedge.
He glanced quickly from side to side, not wanting to take his eyes off Torchwood’s latest alien visitor for more than a split second; it looked like a cross between an oversized hyena and one of those giant sloths he’d seen once on a documentary about prehistoric mammals, only less friendly. Ianto wanted to be out of its sight before it finished with the remains of the chicken, but as far as he could tell, the only way out of this suburban backyard meant going past the slavering beast, and he was pretty sure it would notice him if he tried that.
Still trying to find an alternative means of escaping with his hide intact, Ianto was startled by Jack’s voice, a tense whisper coming from somewhere behind him. “Don’t worry, I’m going to get you out of there.”
Before Ianto could even open his mouth to ask exactly how Jack intended to do that, strong hands grabbed him from behind and yanked. He almost bit his tongue trying not to yelp as twigs of privet and Hawthorne clawed at his skin and caught on his clothes, and his teeth clacked together painfully.
As he came out the other side, his ankles became tangled in ivy and Ianto felt himself toppling backwards to land in a heap at Jack’s feet. He stared up at his lover. “What was that?” he asked, keeping his voice low.
“I rescued you.” The corners of Jack’s mouth turned upwards in a smirk of amusement. “You look…”
“Don’t you dare say it,” Ianto warned.
“…like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards.”
Ianto gave a faint groan and let his head fall back onto the lawn. “You said it.”
“Well it’s true; you do.”
“That’s because I was.” Picking himself up, with a helping hand from Jack, Ianto scrambled to his feet. “Now what do we do about that… thing.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve got everything under control. Owen’s fetching the gun and tranquilliser darts, so all we have to do is keep track of our friend until he gets back. Then we’ll knock it out, and with any luck we can return to sender. Tosh is back at the Hub, looking into that.”
Ianto peered through the hedge; the creature, the size of a bull, was snuffling up bits of gristle and bone from next-door’s lawn. “And if we can’t send it back where it came from? I’m not sure sticking that thing in one of the cells back at the Hub would be a good idea, even if we had any way of transporting something that size, which we don’t unless we hire a Harwoods lorry, and if we sent it out to the reservation it would probably eat all the other inhabitants.”
“Hopefully it won’t come to that.”
Ianto turned to Jack, raising an eyebrow. “Hopefully?”
“I’ve never seen anything like that before.” Jack gestured to the hedge and the creature beyond. “I don’t know what it is, where it’s come from, or how dangerous it might be. I’m flying blind.”
As if the alien had heard their whispered conversation, heavy footfalls started moving in their direction and then a massive head pushed its way through the gap in the hedge Jack had made when he’d dragged Ianto to temporary safety. Large yellow eyes blinked at them and the creature made a rumbling sound deep in its throat. It took both men a moment to realise it wasn’t growling threateningly at them but speaking.
“I say; you wouldn’t happen to have any more of that rather tasty stuff lying around would you? I do love something well cooked and with a bit of a crunch to it.”
“Chicken,” said Ianto, at a loss for anything more sensible to say.
“Is that what it’s called?” the creature rumbled in an oddly cultured voice. It was speaking Galactic Standard.
“Er, yes, roast chicken to be exact,” Ianto replied in the same language.
“A bit on the cold side, but splendid stuff.”
“I’m rather partial to it myself,” Jack agreed. “It’s even better hot. We can certainly get you some more if you’d like, but it might be best if we go someplace else; you’re a bit conspicuous and it wouldn’t do to scare the locals.”
“Excellent idea.” The creature forced its way through what was left of the hedge, uprooting some of it in the process, and looked around. “I’m not entirely sure where I am, seem to have got myself a bit lost. Not to worry though; those Rifts can be unpredictable, never too sure where I’ll come out. Which way?”
“Uh…” Ianto pointed up the path that led alongside the house whose back garden they were all now in. “That way to start with.”
“Righto. Well, hop on up, point the way, and we’ll get going. No point just standing around here.”
Ianto and Jack looked at each other, shrugged, scrambled up onto the broad back, and off they went.
“Good thing there aren’t many people about at three in the morning,” Ianto murmured. “Better contact Owen and tell him we won’t need the tranquillisers after all, just a few roast chickens instead.”
Pulling out his phone, Jack made the call, wondering where they were going to get roast chickens at this hour. Perhaps he could interest their guest in cold pizza instead.