Ianto glanced towards Jack, frowning as he spoke. “You’re doing it again, Jack. Stop it.”
As expected, Jack put on his best innocent look, like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, a look Ianto had long since become familiar with and knew to be completely fake. ‘Innocent’ was one word that could never be used to describe his lover.
“What d’you mean? I’m doing a lot of things; thinking, breathing, walking, talking… you’ll have to be more specific.”
Rolling his eyes, Ianto turned a withering glare on Jack, who predictably refused to be withered. Some days Ianto couldn’t win no matter how hard he tried, but that didn’t mean he was about to stop trying.
“Oh, don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about! Keep it up and you’ll be drinking decaf for the next week. You know precisely what I mean; you’re imagining me naked again when you should be keeping your mind on trying to find this Weevil.”
Jack leered, not even trying to deny it now. “I can’t help myself! Looking good, gorgeous!”
“Must be all the exercise I get chasing Weevils and cleaning up after you,” Ianto muttered in a tone as dry as dust. Never let it be said that his job, not to mention his relationship with Jack, didn’t keep him in good shape.
“Personally, I credit our nightly workout sessions,” Jack said with a smirk, winking lasciviously. “Keeps the muscles toned.”
“I should’ve known you’d say that. Only you would consider sex as an exercise regime. Most people go jogging, do aerobics, take up yoga, or go to the gym to keep fit.”
The disgusted sound Jack made told Ianto exactly what Jack thought of that. “Lifting weights and hitting a punching bag is boring; what we do is much more fun. I bet other people don’t…”
“Quiet, I think I heard something!” Ianto hissed, practically slapping his hand over Jack’s mouth to shut him up.
Jack fell silent, suddenly all business, listening intently, his fifty-first century hearing able to pick up more than Ianto could hope to.
Rustling noises were coming from further down the alley they were in and the two men glanced at each other uncertainly. The sounds weren’t like any a Weevil would make. Without a word, Jack gestured to himself and pointed one way, then to Ianto, indicating for him to go around and approach from the opposite direction. Ianto responded with a quick nod; this was a strategy they’d used countless times, both on Weevil hunts and while tracking down other forms of alien life.
They split up, converging on the source of the mysterious noises from two sides, hoping to prevent whatever was making them from escaping. Then, as they got close enough, using the barrel of his Webley Jack cautiously flipped a crumpled newspaper out of the way, revealing what was hiding underneath. Almost immediately, vivid yellow tentacles burst forth, waving around, clutching at any bits of litter within reach and dragging them close as the creature desperately tried to conceal itself again.
Ianto stopped in his tracks, staring with horrified fascination at the squirming, wriggling thing, a disgusted expression on his face. He’d never seen anything like it. “What the hell is that?”
Jack raised his eyebrows, surprised. “Xenophobia, Ianto? After all the aliens you’ve encountered, I would’ve expected better from you. But to answer your question, it’s a Yoffel; they’re considered quite a delicacy in some parts of the galaxy, which is unfortunate since they happen to be sentient.”
“You have got to be joking!” The words burst from Ianto as a shocked exclamation, and he studied Jack’s expression in horrified disbelief. “Isn’t eating sentient species a serious crime?” His face fell as he realised that Jack was completely serious.
“It is, there’s zero tolerance for that kind of thing in the more civilised areas, which is how it should be, but things like laws and customs tend to get a bit murky out of the fringes of known space.”
“Aliens are as bad as humans sometimes; anything that isn’t like them gets picked on and exploited,” Ianto muttered.
“No sentient race is completely perfect all the time; we all have our faults. Alright, looks like we’d better get our friend here back to the Hub as quickly as possible; they’re aquatic and don’t fare too well in dry conditions,” Jack explained, holstering his gun and scooping up the squirming bundle.
Carrying the creature proved somewhat tricky; it was rather like juggling an armful of spaghetti. Not only did the Yoffel keep wriggling in Jack’s grasp, not understanding yet that he was trying to help it, but it was also rather slippery, and Jack was relieved when they finally reached the SUV and he could put it down. He dumped it unceremoniously into a containment unit Ianto had dragged from the SUV’s boot, and the Yoffel squiggled around until it was comfortable then grew still, looking a bit like a tangled ball of wet, acid yellow string.
Curious now, Ianto leaned forward to study the new alien by the light of the streetlamps; it really was quite an extraordinary being.
“You know, every time I think my job can’t get any weirder, it does. I suppose now I’ll have to take care of this one as well as the Weevils, the kneebles, and Yuk. You don’t happen to know what it eats, do you?” He glanced up at Jack.
“Food?” Jack suggested, rather unhelpfully; at Ianto’s glare he added, “Just because I know what it is doesn’t mean I know anything about its dietary requirements. I’m not some kind of galactic encyclopaedia, I can’t know everything; that’s your job.”
“Great, trial and error it is then; I just hope I don’t manage to kill out new guest before I figure out what it needs to survive. Maybe Owen will have some ideas. I’ll ask him first thing in the morning, assuming he’s not hung over.”
“Hey, don’t sound so gloomy; you’ll figure it out. I have faith in you,” Jack told him, loading the containment unit into the back of the SUV and slamming the boot closed. Taking Ianto by the elbow, he steered his lover towards the passenger side as he added, “You’re just tired. Get in and I’ll drive you home; everything will look brighter in the morning.”
“I can only hope,” Ianto said with a weary sigh. The work of a General Support Officer was never done.