Ianto had spent most of the morning thoroughly cleaning his and Jack’s new flat, the top floor of what used to be a Torchwood owned warehouse in the Cardiff docklands area. They’d only moved in a month ago and hadn’t bothered with a housewarming party because they worked every day alongside most of the people they would have wanted to invite, and anyway, the Rift had been keeping everyone busy since the day after the move. Rhiannon, however, had been badgering her brother ever since he’d moved, wanting to see his new home; she could be very persistent when she wanted something and he’d known he could only put her off for so long.
Ever since the day she’d unexpectedly shown up on his doorstep and been confronted by the unforgettable sight of Jack wearing nothing but a kitchen apron, Rhi and Ianto had become much closer. Over the intervening year and a half she’d gradually learned about Torchwood, and met the rest of the team, although she’d only visited the Hub a couple of times, right at the very beginning, because being so far underground had creeped her out. Not many people knew, but she was a bit claustrophobic, and she hadn’t been happy when Ianto had put his little house on the market and moved into the Hub with Jack, saying that living underground all the time, away from fresh air and daylight, couldn’t possibly be good for him. Ianto had explained that it was only temporary, just until he and Jack found somewhere big enough for the two of them and closer to work than his house was. Commuting from Grangetown had never been ideal, especially when, as was often the case, there was an emergency in the middle of the night.
At the time, Ianto hadn’t known that Jack was having the warehouse converted into their new living quarters. His lover had wanted to surprise him, and had definitely succeeded in his goal. Now, although there was still a lot of work to be done on the rooftop garden, and a few other things had yet to be fiished, he and Jack were settling in nicely and as he had the day off Ianto had decided this would be a good time to invite his sister over for lunch and a look around.
Jack had offered to stay home and help with preparations for the visit, but Ianto, knowing he’d get everything done a lot faster by himself, had sent his lover to the Hub, insisting that since the Rift was still unsettled at least one of them should be there. Not that Owen, as second in command, wasn’t competent enough to handle most things, but the team was already a man down because Mickey was currently restricted to the Hub while his foot healed. He’d accidentally trodden on a rusty nail a couple of days earlier while chasing a Weevil through a derelict building and was hobbling around with the help of crutches, his foot still too painful to walk on.
Putting the last of the cleaning supplies away, Ianto looked around, making sure everything was in order, and smiled in satisfaction. The place looked immaculate; all he had left to do was prepare lunch.
Rhiannon arrived right on time and Ianto was waiting outside the building to direct her into the ground level parking area. It was a bit of a mess in there, still cluttered with building materials, but there was plenty of room for her car alongside his Audi.
“You really live here?” she asked, getting out and looking uncertainly at all the clutter.
“This part still needs some work,” Ianto admitted, looking around and trying to see the space as his sister did and not as it would look once the work was completed. “Decorating and furnishing the living areas took priority. Come on; let me show you. We’ll take the lift up.”
He led the way into the old freight elevator, sliding the gate closed and pressing the button for the top floor, and they rode up to the hallway outside the flat. That was a lot more impressive than downstairs had been, with a big window at one end and skylights overhead letting in plenty of natural daylight. The floor was tiled in Welsh slate and the brick walls smoothly plastered and painted a soft blue. Plants in tubs made the area look more homely and there was even a welcome mat outside the flat’s varnished hardwood front door, and an umbrella stand to one side of the lift.
Rhi took it all in at a glance and smiled approvingly. “Well, this is more like it. Now, are we just going to stand out here all day or do I get to see inside?”
Ianto rolled his eyes in affectionate exasperation. “And I thought Jack was impatient!” Nevertheless, he unlocked the front door and ushered his sister into the small foyer, taking her coat and hanging it in the closet before leading the way into the open-plan living area.
Rhi stopped dead at the top of the steps. “Oh my God, it’s huge!” The whole ground floor of Ianto’s little terraced house could have easily fitted into the living room. Off to the right was a spacious kitchen, divided from the rest of the apartment by a long breakfast bar. At the far end of the kitchen was a dining area with a table that looked big enough to seat eight. Aside from the kitchen, which again was tiled with Welsh slate, the floors throughout were polished hardwood, scattered here and there with tasteful rugs.
A wall at the far end on the lounge had several archways cut into it, leading to the rear of the flat where the bedrooms and bathrooms were located, while a staircase led up to a mezzanine level, a wide balcony beyond which lay the master bedroom and bathroom, and a smaller room that at present was a home office but would hopefully one day become the nursery.
The left-hand wall of the living room was mostly wide windows and French doors. Ianto gestured towards them. “Outside we’re going to build a roof garden, with decking, flower beds, a greenhouse, lawns, and eventually vegetable and fruit gardens. That’s going to take a while though. What do you think?”
“It’s bloody amazing, that’s what I think! When you said a flat, I had no idea…” Rhiannon trailed off, eyes wide as saucers as she took in her surroundings. “I know you said you wanted more space, but…” Words failed her again and she fell silent. Ianto smirked to himself; it wasn’t often his bossy big sister could be rendered speechless.
“Why don’t you make yourself comfortable?” Ianto gestured towards the sofas and armchairs arrayed around a state-of-the-art entertainment centre. “I’ll get our lunch and then after we eat I’ll give you the grand tour.”
That suited Rhi just fine; the place was so overwhelming she was going to need a little time just to process what she was seeing. She took a seat on one of the big, comfy sofas and picked up a cushion, just to have something to do with her hands while her brother slipped around the breakfast bar into the kitchen.
Ianto was back in a few minutes, setting the lunch tray, laden with steaming mugs, and plates of homemade quiche and salad, on the coffee table. There was cake too, but Rhiannon barely glanced at any of it; her attention was focused on something she was holding in her hands, a puzzled expression on her face.
“Where’s this from?” She held up several long, glossy green strands of something that looked like hair. There was nothing green in the flat, as far as she could see, aside from a few houseplants on windowsills. The furnishings were mostly deep red and black and cream, so the green strands had stood out starkly when she’d found them stuck to the back of the cushion she’d picked up.
“Oh, those are… um… pet hairs.”
“Pet hairs? Pull the other one, Ianto! I’m not stupid; you can’t get green dogs or cats, not unless you dye them…” A thought occurred to her. “You didn’t, did you?”
“Of course not!” Just the idea of doing something so cruel to a defenceless animal horrified Ianto.
“Then why say it came from an animal? Why not tell me the truth? Is it from some sort of gay sex toy?”
Ianto started to laugh. “No, Rhi, nothing like that, and I wasn’t lying. It does come from an animal, just not an earth animal. It’s an alien.”
Rhi stared at her brother, her mind whirling. “Wait a minute, you’re telling me you have an alien for a pet?”
“Yes, although pet is probably the wrong word. I think Nosy is more a member of the family than anything else.”
“You have a pet alien, and you didn’t tell me about this because…?”
Sitting down beside his sister, Ianto picked up his coffee mug and took a sip. “First of all, we only found Nosy just over four months ago and it’s had a lot to get used to; all the members of the team, a whole new environment… It needed time to adjust. Secondly, it’s an alien. If anyone found out about it, well, our first duty is to protect it from anyone who might try to exploit it in any way so we’re not going around telling people about it. Thirdly, I know what you’re like around anything bigger than a cat. You’ll cross the street just to avoid walking past big dogs.”
That was the truth; Rhiannon had felt nervous around big dogs since a Doberman had jumped up at her when she was little, and she preferred to avoid them. She felt the same way about sheep, cows, and horses, not having grown up around them; their size and strength intimidated her.
“So your pet’s like a big green alien dog, is it?”
“Um, no, actually it’s more like a big furry alien snake.”
“A snake?” Rhi’s eyes went wide with horror. She wasn’t fond of reptiles either.
“It’s not a snake, Rhi, just roughly shaped like one. Remember the draught excluder gran used to have? Sort of like that but bigger. A lot bigger.”
Rhi narrowed her eyes at her brother. “How much bigger?”
“Oh, a little over five and a half metres long.”
“Metres?” Rhi’s voice came out as a squeak. “And it lives with you? Aren’t you scared it’ll eat you while you’re asleep?”
“Relax, Rhi. Nosy wouldn’t harm a fly; it’s a vegetarian, and very friendly. It loves everyone.”
“Is it here somewhere?” Rhiannon peered anxiously around the room as if expecting the huge, hairy monster to appear from behind the furniture.
“Downstairs. We built it a sort of jungle gym in the other half of the ground floor so it can get plenty of exercise, because obviously we can’t really take it out for walks; it’s a bit conspicuous. It’s playing down there at the moment. Usually it goes to work with us, it likes helping out around the Hub, but Jack left this morning while Nosy was still asleep, so I sent it to play before you arrived.”
“Well, alright, just as long as it doesn’t come near me.” Reassured, Rhiannon relaxed and picked up her plate, settling down to eat.
As promised, after the lunch dishes were cleared away, Ianto gave Rhi the grand tour. Aside from the master suite most of the bedrooms weren’t finished yet, but Rhiannon was puzzled.
“Why so many bedrooms?”
“Mainly for visitors at the moment,” Ianto said. “We have friends in London who come to Cardiff occasionally, and there didn’t seem much point making them get a hotel room when they can say with us instead. Plus we thought it would be a good idea to have somewhere for Mica and David to sleep whenever they spend the night.” He smiled slightly. “But also, Jack and I would like to have kids of our own someday, so he made sure there’ll be plenty of room for a growing family. This one is Nosy’s room.” Ianto pushed open the door into a fair sized room with windows overlooking the roof garden. It was carpeted and contained a wooden chest, shelves full of toys, and a set of bunk beds against the wall. An open door led into a small bathroom.
“Your pet has its own bedroom and bathroom?”
Ianto shrugged. “Nosy is fastidiously clean, and quite a lot smarter than the average dog.”
“Talk about spoiling your pets! Won’t it chew up all the toys?”
“Of course not! Nosy is far too well mannered to chew things.”
They returned to the living room, Ianto intending to show Rhi the roof garden next; even though it had barely been started he could point out what would be going where and show her the plans he and Jack had drawn up. They didn’t get that far though, because just at that moment the door opened and Jack came in; he wasn’t alone.
“Just stopped in to fetch Nosy and thought I’d say hi before we went back to the Hub.” Jack strode across the living room to give Ianto a kiss before turning to greet Rhi, but Ianto’s sister was staring right past him at the green fluffy monster that had followed Jack into the flat, a horrified expression on her face.
Nosy stopped in its tracks, raising the front part of its body off the floor, blinking huge green eyes and giving a questioning hum.
“Nosy, this is my sister, Rhiannon,” Ianto told it, walking over to give the Fluff a scritch on the head.
Rhi took a step back, and Nosy slithered backwards too, unsuccessfully attempting to hide behind Jack’s legs and cautiously peeping out at the strange woman. “It’s scared of me?” Rhiannon said. That didn’t make sense; it was so much bigger than she was.
“Just a bit shy,” Ianto said. “It doesn’t know you, and after it found itself stranded on earth… Well, lets just say people weren’t very nice to it. They chased it, threw rocks at it, shot at it…”
“Oh, the poor thing.” Rhi took a hesitant step forward and crouched down. “Hello there. It’s okay, I won’t hurt you.”
“You’re very green and fluffy, aren’t you?”
Nosy poked its head out a bit further, slithering forwards a few inches and sniffing the air.
Jack and Ianto just waited, knowing that Nosy wasn’t as nervous as it seemed to be; it was just reacting to what Rhiannon was feeling and letting her be the brave one. When it finally slunk close enough, Rhi let Nosy sniff her fingers before reaching out to touch its luxuriant grass green fur.
“It’s so soft!” she exclaimed.
“There’s nothing softer or fluffier in the universe than a Fluff,” Jack said. “Right, Nosy?”
“HUM!” Nosy agreed.
Rhiannon giggled. “I can’t believe I’m stroking a gigantic furry alien snake!”
“Not so fearsome, is it?” Ianto grinned at his sister. “Just a great big bundle of fluff. Speaking of which…” Ianto addressed Nosy. “I thought you’d stopped shedding. Rhi found some of your fluff on the sofa cushions.”
Nosy gave an apologetic hum.
“My fault,” Jack admitted. “Nosy didn’t get vacuumed last night. It was late.”
“You vacuum your… Fluff?” Rhi’s eyebrows went up.
“Nosy likes it,” Ianto assured her. “Gets rid of all the itchy loose hairs.”
“HUMMM!” Nosy agreed enthusiastically.
“It’s almost like it understands what you’re saying.”
“It does. Like I told you, Nosy is very smart, it picks things up fast.”
“Amazing.” Kneeling on the floor Rhiannon shook her head, her fingers still idly combing through Nosy’s fur. “You live such a weird life, Ianto; dating an immortal man from the future, working for an organisation that protects humans from aliens…”
“And the other way around when necessary,” Jack pointed out.
“Keeping aliens for pets…”
“Only one alien,” Ianto corrected. “Technically Myfanwy is an earth native, just from far in the past.”
“Honestly, sometimes I think I must be dreaming all this.”
A wry smile tugged at Ianto’s lips. “How d’you think I feel?”
“You’re happy though, aren’t you, Ianto?” Rhi studied her brother carefully.
“Very happy. It might be a weird life, but it’s my life and I wouldn’t change it even if I could. At least it’s never boring.”
Rhiannon laughed. “I can believe that!”