The sand feels rough and gritty beneath Ianto’s feet as he slips and slithers his way down the dune towards the wide, deserted swathe of beach. It’s the perfect weather for being by the sea, sunny and dry but not too hot, with a pleasantly refreshing breeze coming from off the water; it’s just a shame he’s here on business rather than pleasure. On the other hand, the Rift could have chosen to dump whatever it’s brought them this time anywhere in Cardiff or the surrounding areas; that it picked this remote stretch of beach rather than dropping the item off in the heart of Splott was quite considerate of it. Jack says the Rift isn’t sentient, but at times like this, Ianto has to wonder.
The last few days the weather’s been too hot for a three-piece suit, which is fortunate because suits and beaches don’t mix too well. Shorts and a t-shirt are much more sensible attire for this kind of jaunt. Before setting out, Ianto sensibly left his trainers in the car so they wouldn’t end up full of sand; it’s easier to walk on the shifting surface without them anyway. Bare toes can grip better.
He’s got a scanner in one hand and a standard containment box in the other; Tosh says whatever came through is inanimate and smaller than a breadbox, but that was all she could tell him. There’s no CCTV to tap into way out here. Ianto does have the arrival coordinates though, so with any luck he won’t have to scour the entire beach searching for what he’s come for.
The sand slides out from under his feet abruptly, dumping him on his arse, and he toboggans the rest of the way down, feeling the coarse grains chafing at the backs of his legs. That’s one way of negotiating the steep-sided sandbanks, but now it means sand has wormed its way inside not only his shorts but his underwear too and he spends a couple of minutes getting as much of it out as he can without stripping naked, dusting the clinging grains from sweat-dampened skin. One of the things he likes least about being at the beach is the propensity of the tiny, gritty grains to get into the most awkward and uncomfortable places possible. He’ll have to take a shower when he gets back to the Hub and Jack will no doubt want to help him, which is an appealing prospect. It’s almost a shame he’s not here now to lend a hand, but he was stuck in the middle of a phone conference with the Home Office when the Rift alert came in, so Ianto’s on his own for this one. It’s really only a one-person job anyway.
Dragging his mind back to the task at hand, Ianto gives up on the sand grains and decides he’d better get a move on. The tide is coming in and in the event what he’s looking for has been dropped close to the waterline, if he delays much longer it might get washed away before he can get to it. Following it into the sea isn’t on his to do list; he doesn’t intend to get wet if he can avoid it. While paddling in the invitingly cool water might be pleasant, it would just encourage more sand to stick to him on his way back up the beach to his car, and it’s already digging in between his toes to the extent that he’ll need to clean his feet thoroughly before putting his trainers back on. They’re a new pair and if he gets sand in them he’ll never get it out, he’ll just keep finding more every time he puts them on, which is not a pleasant thought. No matter what anybody else might think, sand is by no means soft. The fact that people use sandpaper to smooth wood should be a clue.
Reaching the damp sand near the water’s edge is a relief. Ianto skirts it though, keeping to where it’s firmer but still mostly dry as he follows his scanner, approaching the coordinates Tosh gave him. Glancing up from the screen he spots something maybe twenty feet away, half-buried in the sand and figures that must be it. He’s a little disappointed that he found it so easily because it’ll mean he has to return to the Hub and despite the sand, it might have been nice to spend a little longer enjoying the breeze. It’s been a bus week and there hasn’t been much time to relax.
When he reaches the object, his scanner confirms his suspicions, it’s definitely what he’s looking for; whatever the thing is, it’s soaked in Rift energy. It must have hit the sand with some force though, it’s wedged in hard, meaning Ianto has to kneel down alongside it and dig it out with his bare hands, feeling sharp grains of sand digging in painfully beneath his fingernails. They feel like tiny rocks, which he supposes they are in a way. He should have thought to bring a trowel.
It takes several minutes to dig the thing free, and when he finally levers it out of the hole he’s dug, using a handy bit of driftwood in order to avoid touching it… well, it’s a bit of an anticlimax, nothing but junk from the look of it, just a twisted piece of dull grey metal. Pulling a pair of gloves from the back pocket, of his shorts, Ianto picks his find up and stows it in the containment box, dropping the gloves in with it and slamming the lid on. Now all he has to do is carry it back to where he left his car.
That part of the retrieval isn’t particularly enjoyable; the new arrival weighs a fair bit, making his feet sink deeper into the loose sand on his way back. He’s already sweating from the heat and it’s not long before he’s breathing hard from exertion, his earlier feelings of contentment evaporating. He skirts the steep dunes until he finds an easier way through them than the direct route he’d taken on his arrival. It’s a considerably longer walk, but he would have struggled to get his burden up and over the tallest dunes so it’s still preferable. His arms are starting to feel like they’re being wrenched from their sockets so he stops several times, putting the containment box down on the sand while he flexes and massages his shoulders. Why couldn’t the Rift have dropped off something nice and light? Instead he gets stuck with what’s probably a bit of a spaceship. Typical. He should have known the trip to the beach would end up being hard work rather than an enjoyable pleasure jaunt.
Back at his car, Ianto gets a towel out of the boot and dusts the containment box off first before getting it loaded. Then he sets about wiping as much sand off his hands, arms, and legs as he can before sitting on the passenger side seat to clean his feet off. He takes his time because there’s no rush now and he’d rather have sand-free feet; it feels like he has half the beach stuck between his toes.
Pulling his trainers on and lacing them, Ianto shakes the towel off and puts it in a carrier bag, which he drops in the boot; time to head back to the Hub for that well-deserved shower to get rid of any grains he missed, particularly the ones he can still feel inside his shorts. Yes, he’ll definitely have to enlist Jack’s help to deal with those, so at least something good will come out of getting sand in uncomfortable places. Smiling at that thought, Ianto starts the car and pulls out into the road, homeward bound.
Next time there’s a beach retrieval, maybe he’ll leave it to someone else.