“Would you look at my suit?” Ianto exclaimed, holding out his arms and looking down in dismay at the remains of what he’d been wearing, now hanging in tatters so that he resembled nothing so much as a particularly ragged scarecrow. “It’s completely ruined! Do you have any idea what a suit like this one costs? It’s tailor made, not off the rack! If I’d known what we’d be facing I would’ve changed into something… else.” He didn’t want to say ‘more expendable’ since he had no idea where the clothes in the TARDIS’s wardrobe had originally come from or how much they’d cost. There was no way for him to know whether or not they mattered less than his own, and the last thing he wanted was to insult his hosts, but still, he ruined enough suits at work without getting another one trashed on what was suppose to be a sort of vacation.
When the Doctor had invited him and Jack to the Sugar Lump Festival on Bindlesneeth, Ianto had jumped at the chance of taking a trip, thinking it would be good to get away from the Hub for a week or two, relax, and enjoy a bit of alien culture. Only they’d been travelling for over a week now and hadn’t even made it to the festival yet because the TARDIS had picked up a distress call shortly after they left earth and had detoured, with a note of apology in her telepathic voice directed at Ianto for delaying his once in a lifetime trip so the Doctor could render assistance.
Naturally, when they’d arrived on the planet, a colony world named Coumiam, Jack had refused to stay behind in the TARDIS. Ianto could hardly let his lover go into potential danger without him, knowing full well the kinds of trouble Jack tended to get himself into, so he’d tagged along. After all, he was Torchwood; this was hardly the first time he’d gone to the aid of aliens in distress. Of course, all those other times had been on earth, where he understood the dangers of the environment, and the weather, and the natives… This time he’d been completely out of his depth, quite literally, floundering in thick pink mud almost up to his hips, struggling to pull the agricultural colony’s livestock out of a mudslide caused by a worse than anticipated rainy season. The panicked animals had proven less than cooperative, flailing with sharp-clawed feet, lashing out with their teeth, opening long tears in the fabric of one of Ianto’s favourite bespoke pinstripes to leave him looking like he’d just battled a gang of knife-wielding maniacs in a swamp, and lost. The phrase ‘No good deed goes unpunished’ came unbidden to his mind.
“Not to worry,” the Doctor said airily. “We can stop off at Zooosenapp on our way to Bindlesneeth; just a quick detour, won’t take long at all.”
“Why would we want to do that?” Ianto was curious despite having no wish to take a detour to anywhere in his current state.
“You’ve never heard of Zooosenapp?” the Doctor asked, a picture of incredulity. “How is that possible? Everybody’s heard of Zooosenapp! The Zooosenappians are the most celebrated, not to mention exclusive, tailors in this sector of the Milky Way, by Royal Appointment no less. They’re the top outfitters to the rich, the famous, the nobility, and the royalty of several hundred races.” The way he beamed at Ianto and bounced on the balls of his feet seemed to indicate that he expected Ianto to be impressed. Well, the Doctor was his host, or one of them, so it behoved Ianto to show good manners. He always tried to be polite, regardless of the circumstances.
“That’s… very impressive.”
“Isn’t it?” If anything, the Doctor’s grin grew even wider. “They’ll soon kit you out with a new suit or two to replace the one you’re…” He’d obviously intended to say ‘wearing’ but after taking in the shredded garments had apparently thought better of it, which Ianto thought was quite tactful of him. “Anyway, my treat, since…” He waved vaguely in Ianto’s general direction. “This is sort of my fault. Now, why don’t you hop in the shower and sluice the mud off? Leave the suit on though; the Zooosenappian designer we’re going to visit will want to see it on you before trying to piece it together. They’ll need some sort of template to help them design a replacement. Run along now!” He made shooing motions with both hands, making sure not to get too close and risk contamination.
Ianto thought it was quite remarkable the way the Doctor had managed to avoid most of the mud himself. Leaving Ianto and Jack to help the colonists save their livestock, he’d focused on using his sonic screwdriver to alter the course of the mudslide, preventing it from engulfing the small settlement where all their supplies and equipment were stored, so aside from a few small splatters on his shoes and lower legs, his clothing was still almost spotless. It made Ianto’s current appearance seem even worse in comparison, which in turn only made him feel gloomier still.
All he could really do was obediently shamble through the door into the shower cubicle the TARDIS had opened off the console room and stand under the soothing, grass-scented spray, blobs of the glutinous pink mud sliding off him to vanish down the plughole. He felt terrible about the trails and pools of mud he’d left behind him on the TARDIS’s pristine floors though, and sent her a promise that he’d clean her again as soon as he could do so without making a worse mess. Far from being put out, he felt his mind filled with a warm sense of reassurance; she didn’t blame him and he got the impression that she felt guilty for dragging him into this situation and getting his clothes ruined.
“Not your fault, dear lady. I could have stayed with you, and maybe I should have, but you know Jack; someone had to make sure he stayed out of trouble, even if I didn’t do too good a job of it this time around.”
Wry amusement brushed his mind, along with fond exasperation. Obviously the TARDIS knew Jack as well as Ianto did, but like Ianto, despite Jack’s penchant for landing himself in messes of various kinds, she loved him anyway.
Moments later Jack joined Ianto in the shower, since he was also liberally coated in mud although his clothes didn’t seem as badly damaged as Ianto’s suit. Presumably he’d had a better grasp of which bits of the creatures to avoid. It might have been nice if he’d thought to share that knowledge. Thankfully Jack had left his beloved coat hanging in the console room when they’d arrived on Coumiam, realising it would only get in his way. Ianto didn’t even want to think about the mess it would be in now if he hadn’t
By the time they came out of the shower, mostly clean and air-dried, the TARDIS had already touched down on Zooosenapp, and to Ianto’s relief, rather than parking on the street, when they opened her door they stepped straight out into what appeared to be a very exclusive boutique, where rails full of garments in bizarre styles and every colour imaginable stood about between comfortable seats, and small tables laden with tempting refreshments. The whole place radiated a sense of peace and harmony, a soothing balm to the senses; Ianto could have done without the numerous mirrors though, and did his best to avoid catching sight of his reflection in them. It wasn’t easy.
The Doctor was already deep in conversation with a being Ianto took to be the proprietor, a slender person of indeterminate gender, with wild strawberry-red hair, pointed ears, and a long, almost noseless face, dominated by huge silver eyes. He quickly beckoned them over. “Ianto, Jack, meet Zarlie Queeg, one of the top designers on Zooosenapp. Zarlie owes me a few favours for rescuing him when a rival had him abducted by Bilgerren slavers a while back.”
“Dreadful business,” Zarlie agreed in a startlingly deep, resonant voice. “The Bilgerrens have no sense of style whatsoever. They wear fur!” The designer studied Ianto critically. “Oh my, I see what the Doctor means; you have been in the wars, haven’t you? Now, I’m given to understand your outfit isn’t supposed to be in quite so many pieces?”
“It wasn’t when I put it on,” Ianto agreed dryly.
“Please come with me.” Zarlie loped across the polished floor, long legs taking huge strides, and moved aside one of the tall mirrors, which turned out to be a door leading into a work area. Ianto dutifully followed the designer inside, the door sliding soundlessly closed behind him.
“Now, let me see.” The Zooosenappian walked right around Ianto, tapping notes into a handheld device pulled from one of their many pockets. “Ah, I believe the design has similarities to the Doctor’s garments, but the fabric appears to be of a somewhat higher and finer quality.”
“It’s a wool and silk blend,” Ianto said. “At least it was.”
“Hm, yes, I’ve come across such fabric before; elegant, attractive, and pleasant to wear, but much too easy to damage. I’m sure I can improve on durability without sacrificing comfort or elegance. If you’d be so good as to stand here?” Ianto was directed to a small, circular platform, raised several inches above the floor. Stepping up onto it, he allowed himself to be manhandled into what the designer considered a suitable position, then stood as still as he could while the platform revolved slowly and a scanner beam traversed his body from neck to feet and back again. When he was instructed to step down, his image remained, frozen in place and accurate down to the smallest detail.
Ianto watched in fascination as Zarlie tapped away at his handheld computer; gradually the clothing on the holographic image pieced itself together and was removed in layers to hang unsupported in the air. Surplus to requirements now, the image of Ianto’s body faded away as the designer tweaked the clothing, asking questions about comfort and fit, and creating several very stylish suits and shirts for his approval. When both Zarlie and Ianto were comfortable with the designs, they were placed back on Ianto’s scanned image one at a time and adjustments were made to improve the fit.
“There. I believe these should suffice,” Zarlie stated in a satisfied tone.
“Uh, which one? Do I choose?”
Zarlie regarded Ianto as if astonishment at the very thought. “Great Goddess no! I am the designer, I have designed, and now I will create! But first we must select fabrics and colours!” Clapping their long-fingered hands together in a remarkably human gesture, Zarlie led Ianto over to where countless books of fabric swatches were stored on shelves, pulled out several, and laid them on a wide table, flipping them open and flicking through their contents so fast they were a blur. Ianto wasn’t given much say in the type of fabric to be used, but he couldn’t complain about the ones Zarlie selected. They felt very similar to high quality wool/silk blends, but he was assured they were much more durable, would expand to fit should he happen to gain weight, and would keep his body at a comfortable temperature whatever the weather. “And to clean, all that is required is to rinse with warm water every week or two and allow to air dry.”
“Amazing!” That was all Ianto could manage to say.
“Our textile creators are second to none,” Zarlie assured him. “You would not find better in the entire galaxy.” The Zooosenappian didn’t appear to be bragging, merely stating a well-known fact.
Zarlie would have preferred to use brighter colours and more dramatic patterns, such as the gold and silver swirls that ran through the turquoise of their own garments, but Ianto explained that while certainly very attractive, he required something more subtle and restrained, so the suits were to be in slate grey, black, or navy, with fine pinstripes or either pale grey, light blue, or red. All were to be three-piece, and each would come with several contrasting shirts and ties, which would allow Zarlie to be a bit more colourful. As the designer explained, he would have outfits suitable for any occasion!
Ianto was more than a little stunned; he’d been expecting a single suit, shirt, and tie to replace the ruined outfit, but judging by everything he’d been shown, it looked like there would be at least ten, and probably three times that many shirts and ties. Zarlie was nothing if not thorough.
Leaving the designer in their workroom so they could get to work on creating Ianto’s new wardrobe, the Welshman rejoined Jack and the Doctor in the TARDIS. After he’d cleaned the dried mud off the console room floor, a task he insisted on completing first, Jack helped him to find something to wear while he awaited delivery of his new suits. They wouldn’t be ready for a few days, so the Doctor suggested they make the most of their visit, see some of the sights, and recover from battling the elements and the livestock back on Coumiam.
“We might as well, since we’re already here. There’s a lot more to Zooosenapp than just the fashion industry, you know.”
For the next five days they visited fashion museums, viewing costumes from all over the galaxy, shopped in vast bazaars, and wandered through splendid gardens. Their evenings were spent in the entertainment quarter where they marvelled at acrobats and illusionists, watched strange and wonderful performances by dancers dressed in swirling veils that seemed to move of their own volition, listened to strangely beautiful symphonies, and dined in exclusive little eateries where the foods were so alien Ianto didn’t have a clue what he was eating, which was possibly just as well. Most of it was delicious, and the drinks made him feel happy and floaty without leaving him battling a hangover the following day.
At last, on the sixth day, they returned to Zarlie’s establishment, where Ianto tried on no less than fourteen new suits, that apparently being Zarlie’s favourite number. Each and every one was splendid, fitting him like a glove, and the shirts were a veritable rainbow or colours and shades. There were even several pairs of shiny shoes and ankle boots, made of a material that was indistinguishable from leather, but would never require polishing and was guaranteed to be a hundred percent waterproof. Zooosenappians clearly thought of everything.
“I took the liberty of making this also.” With a grand gesture, Zarlie unveiled an overcoat in soft, black… Well, not wool but something very similar. It looked quite a lot like Jack’s coat, but a bit shorter and without the epaulettes and belt; it really didn’t need either.
“Thank you, that’s… incredibly generous. It’s beautiful.” Ianto didn’t know what else to say.
“Gratitude is not required; it has been my great honour to serve as outfitter to the ruler of the noblest house of Earth.” Zarlie bowed deeply. “A most prestigious and gracious patron indeed. I am unworthy.”
“Nonsense,” the Doctor said firmly. “You’ve done a splendid job, Zarlie. Ianto is quite speechless.”
That at least was true enough.
“Well, we should get going; we were supposed to be at Bindlesneeth weeks ago for the Sugar Lump Festival, just got a tiny bit distracted en route.”
Ianto held his tongue until they were back in the TARDIS and on their way to Bindlesneeth once more, before finally asking the Doctor, “Just who exactly did you tell Zarlie I was?”
“Me? I merely said you were a very good friend from the principality of Wales, on Earth,” the Doctor replied. “If you want to blame anyone, perhaps you should blame Jack.”
“Why would he blame me?” Jack asked incredulously. “What did I do?”
“I distinctly recall you mentioning when we were offered refreshments while we were waiting, that Ianto is the undisputed King of Coffee.”
Ianto sighed; trust Jack to open his mouth and put his foot in it. “Of course he did.”
“Well it’s true; you are!”
“Perhaps, but now Zarlie thinks I’m royalty.”
“What does that matter? A good twenty percent of the people who patronise Zoosenappian designers are from one royal family or another,” the Doctor pointed out.
“Yes but I’m not! I’ve been given all these suits because your friend thinks I’m someone I’m not!”
“Pish!” said the Doctor. “Thanks to you, Zarlie now has a whole new and no doubt very lucrative line of designs to offer their distinguished patrons. Three-piece suits could be the next big fashion trend in this sector of the galaxy; everyone will want them. Now, why don’t you put on one of your new suits? We’ll be at Bindlesneeth before you know it.”
Realising he’d already lost the argument before it even started, Ianto went to do just that, reflecting that at least now he wouldn’t need to worry so much about his clothes getting ruined.