Ianto didn’t get out to the reservation anywhere near as often as he’d have liked; there was always so much to do around the Hub, and at this time of year the days were too short. Night set in so early that it was pointless making the trek out to the enclosed stretch of the Welsh countryside where alien herbivores roamed free.
However, this morning had dawned cold but sunny, and since the Rift was quiet he’d decided to drive out and give Sparkle, his purple flying unicorn, some exercise.
Most of the year, she spent her time in a large paddock, grazing on the sweet grass, or galloping and flying about, but in winter it was too cold and there wasn’t enough for her to eat, so she’d been moved into a large, purpose-built box stall in one of the large barns, where she’d be dry and comfortable.
It was big enough for her to flutter around in, but didn’t allow her to really exercise her wings, so every day the Magravoores released her into the barn’s main area to fly, while on dry days, she was allowed into her paddock for a few hours, the door to the heated barn left open so she could go back inside if she got cold.
Ianto pulled up outside the barn bright and early, while frost still lay on the grass, and was greeted by Hurgan, the grizzled matriarch of the Magravoores. He’d called her first thing to let her know he was coming, and she gave him a quick report on the residents, all of whom were in good health, before ushering him into the barn.
Sparkle put her head over her stall door, whistling a greeting as Ianto approached. He’d brought her an apple, which she crunched up eagerly, her velvet-soft lips lightly brushing his palm. She looked well, her sparkly coat rougher than in summer but still sleek and glossy. One of Hurgan’s girls must have groomed her.
Fetching Sparkle’s tack, Ianto entered the stall, slipping the bridle over her head, then setting the saddle on her back, adjusting the girth and the additional straps necessary to keep everything from slipping. Flying unicorns weren’t like regular horses.
Leading his prancing mount out into the crisp, sunny morning, Ianto mounted and clipped his safety straps to the saddle, glad that Jack had thought to get him a proper riding harness when he’d bought Sparkle. He was a better rider than he had been, but it was always wise to take precautions against falling off.
Sparkle cantered lightly across the paddock, spread her wings, and in moments she and her rider were airborne, soaring across the reservation, hidden from outside view by the perception filters that encompassed Torchwood’s property.
It was with great reluctance that Ianto returned Sparkle to her stall after their ride, but he couldn’t spend all day having fun. Removing her tack, he groomed her and patted her neck. Come spring, maybe he could ride more often.