“After it!” Jack bellowed, thundering past Ianto in hot pursuit. “Don’t let it get away!”
Ianto blinked at Jack’s retreating figure, shrugged, and took off after him. It wasn’t like he had anything else all that pressing to do. Besides, a large part of his job consisted of chasing things through the streets and parks of Cardiff, so despite this technically being his day off, which he’d intended to spend running a few overdue errands, if Jack needed a hand then Ianto was perfectly willing to do the other kind of running too. It was fortunate that working for Torchwood kept the whole team in such good shape.
He caught up with Jack a few minutes later, mainly because Jack had stopped on the path and was standing there, breathing hard from the exertion, and looking around him, a frown creasing his forehead.
“Which way did it go?”
Before Ianto could reply that he had no idea, since Jack had been ahead of him and would have had a better chance of keeping track of his quarry, he realised that Jack was speaking not to him but to the rest of the team over their Bluetooth earpieces. Ianto dug his own out of his pocket; like all Torchwood personnel, he kept it with him even on his days off. In their line of work, they never knew when it might be needed. Fitting it into his ear, he turned it on just in time to hear Owen saying, “… down towards that stone circle thing.”
“You mean the Gorsedd Stones?” he put in.
“Teaboy? Where’d you come from? Thought you had the day off.” He didn’t give Ianto a chance to reply. “Never mind. Yeah, what you just said. Never could pronounce that right so I gave up trying. Not like there’s another stone circle around here.”
“Fair point,” Ianto agreed, breaking into a run once more, following Jack who was already heading in the direction Owen had indicated. It belatedly occurred to him that he still had no idea just what exactly it was they were chasing, but it didn’t seem like the ideal time to ask. No doubt he’d be able to figure that out for himself by the time they caught up to it.
Racing past the Regimental Museum, and over the bridge, Ianto came alongside Jack as they ran across the grass towards the Gorsedd stones, his eyes scanning the area for any sign of the alien they were after. There were a few people scattered around on the grass, enjoying the fine spring weather, and they glanced up curiously as the two men sped past, clearly wondering what was going on and whether it was worth following to see. Curiosity was a trait most humans shared with cats, and in Ianto’s opinion, it probably accounted for a greater number of unfortunate accidents than anything else, since being overly curious in Cardiff usually turned out to be a very bad idea indeed.
As far as Ianto could see, which was quite a long way thanks to his excellent eyesight, anything resembling any kind of alien was conspicuous by its absence. Maybe what they were after was very small, or well camouflaged, or hiding behind one of the stones. Aside from people, the only living creature in sight was dog. Then again, maybe the dog was actually an alien. Shapeshifters were a fact of life for Torchwood, and just because something looked like an ordinary mongrel didn’t necessarily mean it was one.
“Shapeshifter?” he asked Jack as they ran.
“What? No!” Jack threw him a confused look.
“Then what’re we chasing?”
“That bloody dog!”
Huh, Ianto wasn’t expecting that. Since when did Torchwood take over as dogcatchers?
“Oh. Right. Okay then.” Matching strides with Jack, Ianto kept going for a few more paces, then… “Why are we chasing it?”
“Because it’s got the keys to the SUV!”
Ianto stumbled and staggered a few steps before regaining his footing; running flat out while laughing his head off wasn’t easy. “How did that happen?” he gasped out through his laughter.
“I threw them to Owen, but the dog was there, and it jumped up, grabbed them in midair, then took off like a bat out of hell!”
Oh, how Ianto wished he’d been there to see that!
They slowed down as they got close to the dog; it was crouched in playful pose, head down and rear end sticking up in the air, tail wagging like mad, thoroughly enjoying the game. The team had it surrounded, each of them approaching from a different direction, but because there were only five of them, the gaps between them still allowed more than enough room for it to slip through if it decided to make a break for it, which it very well might if they rushed at it.
Ianto stopped, tugging Jack to a halt beside him, and dug in his pocket, pulling out a bag of dog treats. Never let it be said that he wasn’t prepared for every eventuality. Okay, so old Mrs Henderson on the ground floor had asked him if he could pick some up for Polly, her miniature Schnauzer, while he was out, and he’d shoved them in his jacket pocket so he wouldn’t have to dig through bags of shopping when he got home. He’d just have to get her another packet; right now, his need of dog treats was more urgent than his neighbour’s.
He crouched down, shaking treats into his hand and the dog, not averse to being bribed with food, trotted eagerly over, dropping the car keys in order to accept the tasty treats it was being offered.
“Good boy!” Ianto quickly pocketed the somewhat gooey, saliva coated keys, stroked the dog’s silky head, and grabbed it by the collar.
The rest of the team wandered over to join them. “Blimey,” Owen commented, staring at Ianto with grudging respect. “You really do think of everything, don’t you?”
Ianto decided not to tell Owen it was just a lucky coincidence that he happened to have dog treats with him. It would shatter the medic’s illusions, and anyway, he did have a reputation for always being prepared to maintain.
“I know everything, Owen. Jack, if you wouldn’t mind taking your belt off, I need to borrow it.”
“What?” Jack frowned at him.
“Your belt. I’d use my own, but I’m not wearing one.” Ianto glanced up at his lover. “It’s not as if your trousers will fall down without it,” he pointed out. “You still have your braces.”
Grumbling, Jack did as he was told, removing his belt and handing it to Ianto, who threaded it through the dog’s collar, buckling it to make a makeshift lead.
“What’re you doing that for?” Jack asked incredulously. “We’ve got the keys now, so we don’t need the dog.”
Rolling his eyes, Ianto sighed; Jack could be so obtuse. “We can’t leave a stray dog wandering around. It’s wearing a collar, so it belongs to somebody, and its owners are probably worried. If it gets out on the road it could get hit by a car or cause an accident. You wouldn’t want that on your conscience, would you?”
“I suppose not,” Jack huffed. “Fine, the dog goes back with us, we can drop it off at the police station, or the animal shelter.”
“Or we could just call the phone number on its name tag, find out where it lives, and take it home.” Ianto checked the tag and snorted. “That figures; you’re a trouble magnet, just like your namesake. Good dog, Jack.” He patted the dog, causing its tail to wag even harder, then pulled out his phone, dialling the number on the dog’s tag one-handed.
“It’s called Jack?” Jack asked indignantly.
“Yep!” Ianto held up one finger for quiet as the phone was answered. “Hello? Do you happen to own a dog named Jack? You do? Good, I just found him wandering down by the Gorsedd Stones. No, that’s quite alright; I can bring him to you. Whereabouts are you? Quay Street? Great, that’s near where I’m parked. Give me twenty minutes, it’s a bit of a walk. No, it’s no trouble at all.” Hanging up, he returned his phone to his pocket, gave Jack the dog a couple more treats and straightened up. Knowing there were treats to be had should keep at least one Jack behaving nicely. He handed his Jack the SUV keys. “Think you can get back to the Hub alright now?”
Jack just pouted at him, took the keys, and glared at dog Jack. “How could someone give him a dog my name?”
“You don’t own the name, Jack. Technically it wasn’t yours to start with, you stole it from someone else.”
“That’s not the point! It’s insulting! He’s nothing like me!”
“Oh, I don’t know; you’re both playful troublemakers, like running, and will do anything for treats.” Ianto smirked at his lover and tugged lightly on the belt in his hand. “Come on, Jack; let’s get you home.” With that he walked away, Jack the dog trotting obediently beside him, leaving the rest of the team to make their way back to wherever they’d left the SUV.
For once, Captain Jack Harkness, fearless immortal leader of Torchwood Three, was left completely speechless.