Nosy was sniffing curiously around the heap of shopping bags when Ianto returned to the sofa, leaving the team to help themselves to their own coffee mugs. He’d had enough of being on his feet; he was tired and sore, and he intended to sit for what was left of the day, barring any emergencies requiring his personal attention.
Maybe the marathon shopping trip hadn’t been his best idea ever, not with a sprained knee, but there hadn’t been much choice; they’d needed to at least get the basics for their new alien pet, and there’d seemed little point leaving the bulk of the shopping until a later date when they were already at the shopping centre. Why make two or more trips when one would do? Besides, it was done now so he could put his feet up and rest his injured leg as much as he wanted without feeling guilty about it.
Jack had already taken care of all the hard work, fetching the rest of their purchases from the car, minus the hula hoops for Tosh as Ianto wanted to give those to her in private later. He wasn’t the most patient person, however, and he was obviously itching to start unpacking and see what Nosy thought of its new toys. Ianto could only hope that there might be a few items amongst everything they’d picked out that would serve to amuse the Fluff; it would be too disheartening if all their efforts turned out to be for nothing.
“Whose is that big cream and brown mug?” Tosh asked, returning from the kitchenette with coffee for herself and Owen. She sounded puzzled.
“Oh, I got that for Nosy,” Ianto replied. “In the hopes it wouldn’t go around stealing everybody else’s coffee if it had its own mug.”
The Fluff looked around at the mention of its name; it had learned that much already, further confirming Ianto’s suspicions about its level of intelligence being higher than that of the average dog.
“Where’s my coffee?” Jack suddenly seemed to realise the rest of the team already had their drinks, including Ianto, who’d managed to carry both his mug, and the bag of cookies, despite needing one hand free for his cane.
“Still in the kitchen if you haven’t already fetched it,” Ianto told him. “You’ll have to get it yourself, and you should probably bring Nosy’s while you’re at it. I had my hands full.”
“But I’ve been working hard all day! All that shopping…”
“Everyone else has been working hard too.” Tosh slid into the space Owen had saved for her on the second sofa, passing him his mug. “But none of us are complaining about fetching our own drinks.”
With a put-upon sigh, Jack traipsed off to the kitchen, muttering about how hard it was being the boss when nobody gave him the respect he deserved. Ianto just smirked across at Tosh over the rim of his mug and rolled his eyes, making his friend giggle.
Coming back, Jack set Nosy’s mug on the coffee table, telling the Fluff to be careful because it was hot. Nosy hummed eagerly but didn’t drink right away. Instead, it copied Jack by blowing gently on the surface of its coffee to cool it before taking a cautious slurp. As far as Ianto could see, there was little difference between man and alien; they both had a lot of unruly hair, and both slurped their drinks. It took no effort at all to picture Jack as a Fluff, and he had to focus on his own drink to keep from laughing out loud at the thought, ducking his head slightly to hide the glint of amusement in his eyes.
When he’d composed himself, Ianto picked up the bag of cookies from the sofa beside him and passed it around. “There’s one each, and one for Nosy,” he said firmly. “So no taking more than your share.”
Predictably Jack pouted at that, but there was little he could do as by the time the bag got to him there were only three giant chocolate chip cookies left: one for him, and one each for Ianto and Nosy.
“No,” Ianto said, reading his mind. “You’re not having Nosy’s as well as your own.” He plucked the bag from Jack’s hand, gave his lover the biggest of the three remaining cookies, set the next biggest on the table for Nosy, and kept the smallest for himself. Nobody needed to know he’d already had a cookie while he was out; he’d bought an extra one and eaten it while sitting down for a few minutes to rest his aching leg.
Ianto waited until everyone had finished their late-afternoon snack before turning his attention to the shopping bags stacked around the sofa.
“I’ve been thinking; we probably shouldn’t give Nosy everything at once. Might be better to space things out over the next few days; we don’t want it getting overwhelmed.”
“I don’t think that would happen,” Tosh said. “It’s already handled a lot of newness today, what with the bunk beds, and all the different foods Owen tried it with.”
“I’m workin’ out a meal plan for it,” Owen put in. “Three small meals a day, with a good mix of veg, fruit, nuts, and seeds, not too much of any one thing. We don’t want to overfeed it. What I bought is probably a lot more nutritious than what it eats in the wild, so I want to keep an eye on its weight, once I get something I can weigh it on. Doesn’t really fit the scales I use for the rest of you.”
“I don’t imagine it would,” Ianto said with a chuckle, imagining Owen trying to fold the Fluff up to get it all on the small platform of his scales. Then to Tosh, “Still, giving Nosy everything at once would mean it doesn’t have time to try things out and see what it likes. If we space them out there’ll be new things every day to keep in amused and we might get a better idea about what kinds of things it prefers. Some of what we bought won’t be delivered for a day or two anyway.” He almost wished he’d brought some of the wooden blocks home with him, he was curious to see what the Fluff would make of them, but he’d had more than enough to carry from shops that didn’t offer a delivery option.
“I guess that makes sense,” Tosh agreed.
“Where d’you want to start?” Jack looked enquiringly at his lover.
“Not sure; we got so many things. Um, nothing too energetic to start with; we all just ate, and I don’t know if Fluffs can get indigestion. The Frisbees and balls and stuff can wait. So can the brushes and the feeding bowls. We can switch to the new ones when we feed Nosy its evening meal.”
“I hardly think any of us, especially Nosy, would get indigestion from a single chocolate chip cookie and a cup of coffee,” Jack protested. “You just don’t want to move.”
“Of course I don’t,” Ianto agreed. “I’m tired, not to mention injured.”
“Oh. Okay then, how about we start with something simple?” Jack rummaged in his bags and came up with the jingle ball, shaking it gently so the bells inside it made a noise. “What d’you think of this, Nosy?”
The Fluff slunk its way under the coffee table and raised the front metre of its body so it could get a good look at the ball in Jack’s hand. “Hum?” it queried.
Jack shook the ball again, then offered it to Nosy. “Here; you try it.” He leaned over to set it on the floor.
Nosy nudged it gently with its snout, making it roll across the uneven concrete, jingling musically. Following it, the Fluff nudged it again, rolling it back and forth across the ground, seeming to enjoy the sounds it made.
“Sometimes the simple pleasures are the best,” Jack grinned.
“Well, if anyone would know that it would be you,” Ianto remarked with a smile.
Jack gave him a look, frowning slightly, unsure whether or not he’d just been insulted, then shrugged it off; there were more interesting things to think about.
“That’s not all we’ve got for you to play with,” he called to Nosy.
“Hum?” The Fluff tore its attention away from the jingling ball, then picked it up in its mouth, with some difficulty because of its size, and slithered back to its friends, tucking its new toy under the sofa where it wouldn’t get in anyone’s way. Ianto smiled to himself, sure now that the toybox and shelves he’d ordered would see plenty of use.
“I got you this too.” Jack pulled the plastic alien out of its box. “It’s called BeatBo,” he said, grinning at the alien’s cheerful face. “Looks a lot friendlier than some of the aliens we get around here.”
“Mm,” Ianto agreed. “Somehow I don’t think a toy designed to look like a Weevil would sell too well. I hope you bought batteries for that.”
“Aren’t they included?” At Jack’s helpless look, Ianto sighed. “Owen, there should be some in the kitchen drawer.”
“Why do I have to get them?” Owen grouched. He was sitting right up against Tosh and didn’t want to move.
“Because you’re the closest and won’t have to climb over anyone to get them.”
“I’ll go,” Tosh volunteered.
“Nah, Ianto’s right, I’m closest.” If Tosh moved, Owen was worried she might not come back to the same place, so getting up he fetched several packs of batteries from the kitchenette. Dropping back into his seat and shifting until he was comfy, he showed the batteries to Nosy. “Never touch these, they could hurt you. Understand?”
“Humm,” Nosy replied. Owen could only hope that meant yes. At this point, after only a day in its company, it was hard to say just how much the alien really understood, although in his expert opinion it did appear to be a lot more intelligent than most earth creatures. He wondered how it would compare to say a dolphin, or a chimpanzee in that respect; it would be interesting to find out what its learning capabilities were.
Taking the batteries from Owen, Jack found the correct size, pulled out his Swiss army knife, which had a screwdriver as one of its tools, and opened the battery cover, Nosy watching in apparent fascination. “Soon have this working for you!”
He was as good as his word, and a couple of minutes later he switched the BeatBo on and set it on the floor in front of the Fluff.
Nothing happened. Nosy sniffed it curiously a d gave it a gentle nudge, the way it had with the jingle ball. Still nothing.
“Here, you have to press these.” Jack pressed one of the buttons on the alien’s tummy and music started to play, while the alien jiggled about.
“HUM!” Nosy declared enthusiastically, jiggling to the music too, and making everyone laugh.
“Look at that!” Tosh said. “Fluffs can dance!”
“It has a pretty good sense of rhythm too,” Mickey agreed. “Not sure about its taste in music though.”
“It might never have heard music before,” Tosh pointed out. “We don’t know whether it lived in the wild or was someone’s pet. We’ll probably never know for sure.”
“And what passes for music varies a lot from planet to planet,” Jack added. “I’ve been places where the ‘music’ would set your teeth on edge and cause bleeding from the ears.”
“I’ve been places right here on earth where what passes for music does that,” Owen said dryly, getting murmurs of agreement from most of the team.
Jack and Ianto went back to rummaging through their shopping bags and the next item to be offered to Nosy was the giant skittles that Ianto had bought. Andy volunteered to set them up and showed Nosy how to roll the ball to knock them down. Despite not having any hands, Nosy was easily able to use its mouth to stand the skittles up again after they were bowled over, and quickly got the knack of rolling the ball just right to knock all of them down in one go.
“Shame we can’t take Nosy tenpin bowling,” Andy said. “With aim that good I bet it would win every game.”
“It’s not got any fingers for picking up the ball,” Mickey pointed out.
Andy frowned. “Oh yeah, hadn’t thought of that. Poor Nosy; so many things it won’t get to try. Tenpin bowling, snooker, arcade games, darts, rugby…”
“But still lots of things it can do,” Tosh reminded them. She didn’t think there was any reason to feel sorry for the Fluff.
When Ianto called Nosy to look at something else, it carefully put its skittles and ball back in their box, which it pushed under the sofa to join the jingle ball.
This time, Ianto presented Nosy with the giant dominoes, showing it how to match two ends with the same number of spots. It took a few tries for Nosy to get the idea, but it was soon laying the dominoes out in different patterns, matching the spots. Owen found it fascinating how quickly Nosy had grasped the concept of what matched and what didn’t, and he immediately volunteered to try to teach Nosy to play the game properly. It would be a great way of studying the Fluff’s learning processes, and he wondered if he might even be able to teach Nosy to count.
“Be my guest.” Ianto had no intention of hogging all the fun; he’d teach Nosy noughts and crosses when he gave the Fluff the game, perhaps tomorrow, or on second thoughts, maybe he’d leave that to Jack since it would involve getting down on the floor, which wouldn’t be easy with his bad knee. There were still the wooden jigsaws and building blocks to come, and those would be more fun to teach the Fluff about. “What else should we try it with today?” he asked Jack.
“Um, how about these?”
Jack pulled the set of bells out of a bag and gave them to Nosy, who seemed to think they were ideal for getting the attention of its friends when it wanted something. “I should’ve bought the xylophone I saw; I’m sure Nosy would be able to make tunes on that.”
“Make a note of it for a later date,” Ianto advised. “We’ll both probably come up with other ideas for Fluff amusements as we find out what it can do. We’ve got as much to learn as Nosy does. Maybe that’s enough excitement for now though.” He reached for the bag holding the stuffed toys he’d bought, and Jack, not wanting to be outdone, hurriedly dug out the teddy bear from his own bags.
“Nosy, meet Fred the bear.”
“Hummmmmmmm!” Abandoning the bells on the coffee table, Nosy prodded the cuddly toy with its snout before gently taking it from Jack and wrapping its body around it. The same was done a few minutes later with both Shaun the toy sheep and Sid the snake, and Nosy settled itself down beside the sofa, ‘cuddling’ its newest friends. It had been a very exciting day, full of wonderful new things to play with, but a bit of a rest now seemed like a very good idea; there was so much to think about and Nosy was quite sure these wouldn’t be the last new things it got to explore in this amazing place.
“Right, looks like the fun’s over for now! Back to work, everybody.” Jack stood up and started collecting the remaining bags to put down in his and Ianto’s quarters, where they’d be out of the way until their contents were given to Nosy. Tomorrow, if things weren’t too busy, he’d enlist Andy and Mickey’s help to clear the area he planned on turning into Nosy’s playroom. The part he intended to use for the ball pit would need a good clean, and he’d have to discuss with Ianto the best way of lining it, but that could wait for the moment.
“I’ll put the mugs in the dishwasher for you, so you don’t have to get up,” Tosh told Ianto.
“Thanks, Tosh.” Ianto reached for his laptop, which he’d left on the coffee table when he and Jack had set out on their shopping trip, and turned it on; he had paperwork he could be getting on with.
Gradually the gathering broke up as everyone headed back to their workstations; it had been fun watching Nosy with its new toys, but this was Torchwood and there was never a shortage of things to do.
Soon only two of the team remained in the break area. Ianto was sitting on the sofa tapping away at his computer, his feet up on the footstool Jack had produced from somewhere, and fresh icepacks arranged around his injured knee, also courtesy of Jack. Nosy was laying beside the footstool, coiled around its stuffed animals, and humming faintly, uncannily like Mica when she was younger, telling secrets and stories to the toys she confided in. It made Ianto smile; he had a feeling finding things to amuse their new pet was going to be a lot easier than he’d initially thought. He might have to revise his estimate of the friendly alien’s intelligence too; judging by its reaction to its new playthings, and how quickly it had learned what to do with them, he had a feeling Nosy was a lot smarter than any of them had thought.
The End (For now…)