It was a perfect, sunny day in Cardiff - one of those rare times when it looked like aliens across time and space had collectively decided to give a rain check on invading Cardiff in favour of attending a popular intergalactic yoga class - but Ianto Jones was already counting down the minutes until it was socially and professionally acceptable to drink a copious amount of alcohol. The reason for that had to do with Jack Harkness, the leader of Torchwood Three and the man who was currently laying stomach-down on the pavement in order to be face-level with a corgi.
Ianto was standing outside Tesco, holding in his hand a plastic bag with McVities’ chocolate digestives and a litre of milk, patiently but exasperatingly waiting for Jack to finish his inspection of a seemingly stray corgi that they had immediately seen after leaving the shop. It had been ten minutes since Jack had first begun his inquiry, and every passing second increased Ianto’s intense need to walk back into Tesco to purchase the six bottles of prosecco for six pounds deal that the shop was currently promoting.
He was feeling strongly convinced that he could walk all the way back to the Hub, convince Owen or Gwen to take impromptu, mid-afternoon shots with him, and return back to Tesco without Jack noticing his absence when his mobile rang. Without even looking at the screen to check the caller id, he raised it to his ear to answer: “Hello?”
“Hey, Ianto!” Gwen said. “You haven’t gotten picked up by the Rift on the way to Tesco, have you? Only asking ‘cause it’s been a while and you know how Owen gets when there aren’t any biscuits in arms-reach of him…”
“No unexpected trips through the Rift here,” Ianto assured her. “But…”
“Oh, no,” Gwen said, and the disappointment and apprehension that leaked through in those two words made Ianto feel closer than ever with her.
“Yeah,” Ianto sadly confirmed. “It’s the corgi thing again.” He looked at Jack, who was now making soft barking and purring noises at the corgi. “Give us another ten minutes. I think that should do unless another corgi decides to show.”
“Alright,” Gwen said. “I’ll tell Owen not to expect his digestives any time soon. And when you do get back, we can start planning another intervention. Tosh is thinking that we do this one with a banner to really emphasize the intervention part of it. She’s not sure the first one got through.” The click of the phone signalled the departure of Gwen, and Ianto slid his mobile back into his pocket, returning the majority of his focus to Jack, and also unfortunately, the corgi.
In the past week, there had been a massive influx of corgis in Cardiff, mainly due to the first annual corgi convention that was being held in one of the city’s parks. As a result, this had meant that Cardiff’s population of corgis had increased a hundredfold and that Jack essentially became convinced that a pack of korhis, an alien species that looked virtually identical to corgis, had been thrown out of the Rift and were hiding in the streets of Cardiff.
The Torchwood team had no idea where and why Jack had become convinced of this, and each member had tried explaining to the captain that the influx of corgis in Cardiff was due to the upcoming corgi convention, but after Jack found one korhi wandering on the street, there was nothing they could do to convince him that every corgi he crossed didn’t need to be thoroughly investigated. And in the end, the members of Torchwood not named Jack Harkness had conceded the argument on the point that korhis, while completely harmless, were technically aliens and thus required Torchwood’s involvement and oversight.
So now Ianto was stuck awkwardly smiling at shoppers leaving Tesco and other random pedestrians, trying to convey with his eyes that no, my boyfriend is not crazy, and yes, he really does dress like that. It was moments like these when Ianto forgot that Jack was an immortal time-traveller and not a kid who never got to have candy growing up. Though given all the things Jack had ever implied about his childhood on the Boeshane Peninsula, it was quite entirely possible that candy shops weren’t really a thing that existed there.
“So,” Ianto said, trying to covertly speed up Jack’s corgi examination. “Reached a verdict yet?”
“Not yet,” Jack said from the ground. “He’s being deliberately elusive.”
“Oh, is he now?”
“Just take at a look at his smug face,” Jack said, missing the sarcasm in Ianto’s voice. “It’s exactly like a korhi to play with us like this.”
Ianto took a look at the dog, taking in its big, round eyes and tongue hanging out its mouth, understanding that he and Jack were definitely seeing different things. “Looks like a standard Welsh corgi to me, sir.”
Jack turned his head away from the corgi to look up Ianto. “It’s like you didn’t even pay attention to my presentation last week,” Jack said, outraged.
Indeed, just the week before, Jack had carefully and meticulously made a twenty slide long powerpoint presentation for the entire Torchwood team on the difference between a corgi and a korhi. He had even devoted a section of the presentation to a “corgi versus korhi” quiz and another section denoting the difference between the two and a kurghei, another identical-looking species that was apparently nowhere near related to either. Gwen had snorted water out her nose when the slide that had a picture of a korhi with the caption “good boy” was directly followed by a slide showing a picture of a kurghei with the caption “not a good boy” to emphasize how dangerous the latter species was.
“I...recall....from the presentation,” Ianto said, trying to remember the words on the slides rather than Tosh’s attempts at tossing pieces of biscuits into Gwen’s mouth whenever Jack turned his back to the table, “that the fur on the underbelly of a korhi will change colours.”
“Exactly,” Jack said proudly, his attention back to the dog in front of him. “But only under certain circumstances. Like extreme happiness. And after ingesting chocolate.” He turned to look up at Ianto again, his eyes asking a silent question.
Ianto instinctively clutched the Tesco bag holding chocolate digestives and milk closer to him, his body already knowing the terrible idea the man had before his brain could even comprehend such a disastrous proposition. “Jack,” Ianto hissed, trying not to raise the attention of passing pedestrians. “You absolutely cannot feed the dog chocolate.”
“Korhis love chocolate!”
“And if you’re wrong,” Ianto said slowly, “and that is a regular twenty-first century corgi and not a space dog-”
“-then giving chocolate will kill it.”
“That’s why we don’t give him chocolate; we very politely offer some chocolate!”
Jack heaved himself on his palms and knees, standing up. “Look at him,” he said, gesturing to the dog with both hands. “He’s clearly a korhi!”
Ianto looked at the dog, sitting on the road looking like every other Earth-born corgi to exist, looked at Jack, looked back at the dog, and then back at Jack, unimpressed. He took a deep breath, pulling himself together with everything he had. “Jack,” he said slowly, trying both to find the words and resist the urge to ask the man why he was the way that he was. “Jack, can we talk about your track record on corgis and korhis?”
“Exactly, Ianto,” Jack said earnestly, stepping closer to Ianto and wrapping his hands around Ianto’s waist. “Remember the first korhi five days ago? I knew as soon as I saw her, and nobody believed me until we were waist deep in sewage.”
“Remember the corgi two days ago?” Ianto pointed out in response. “The reason Tosh, Owen, Gwen, and I sat you down for an intervention?”
Jack frowned. “That was an intervention? I thought it was a party. There was cake and colourful hats out.”
Ianto stared at the man, regretting more than ever that he didn’t take advantage of Tesco’s wine sale when he had the chance. “Jack. The cake was three week-old banana bread I was tossing in the bin, and the colourful hats were plastic cones Tosh was using for an experiment.”
“Huh,” Jack said, looking pensive. “Interesting. Well-” Jack cut off as he turned to look back at the corgi, only to find the place it had been sitting empty. “He’s gone!” Jack turned back to face Ianto, the look of distress marring his usually easy-going features. “We have to find him.” He pulled away from Ianto, turning swiftly away to search for the missing corgi.
“It hasn’t been more than thirty seconds,” Ianto said. “He couldn’t have gotten that far.”
“The average footspeed of a korhi is fifteen kilometres an hour,” Jack called out as he made his way down the road. “Which means he could be anywhere.”
“If he’s even a korhi,” Ianto muttered underneath his breath. With a sigh, Ianto mournfully dropped the bag with the biscuits and milk to the ground before jogging after Jack, who was lingering at the end of the road where it intersected with another street.
“That slippery bastard,” Jack said when Ianto caught up. His eyes were narrowed as he craned his head along the road to search for the runaway corgi.
Ianto pulled out his mobile, prepared to text Gwen that another half hour or so was probably needed on top of the extra time he had originally told her. But before he could do so, Jack grabbed his phone out of his hand and pressed the speed dial for Tosh.
“Tosh,” Jack said before she could say anything. “I need you to pull up the satellites.”
“On it,” she said from the other end. “Did something just come out of the Rift? We didn’t get an alert from mainframe.”
“It’s not that. We have a fugitive on the loose,” Jack said seriously, which made Ianto roll his eyes. “He’s clever, extremely agile, thirty centimers tall, and sable in colour.”
There was a long pause over the phone.
“Tosh,” Jack said, frowning. “Are you still there?”
“Yeah,” she said. “Just, um, you’re not asking me to track another corgi again, are you?”
Owen’s faint but distant voice could be heard somewhere behind her: “Is Harkness still on that? It’s a dog, for Christ sake! Tell ‘em to stop that and come back with the biscuits!”
“This is different!” Jack said, indignantly. “I’m fairly certain this one is a korhi, which is different from a corgi and did anyone pay attention during my presentation because if you did you would know that.”
“I know, I know,” Tosh said, indulgently. “But you said that last time, too. And the time before that.”
“Torchwood has a duty to-”
“-protect Cardiff from alien races and that includes aliens of all shape, size, and fur; yeah, yeah, I get it.” She sighed. “Well, I see something too small to be a car and moving too fast to be a person. Hold on, let me just pull up the CCTV in the area…” The faint sound of clattering on the keyboard came through the phone before she responded again: “Got it. Take a left from where you are, then a right.”
Jack tossed the phone back to Ianto and took off down the street, raising his hand as he ran to turn on the bluetooth by his ear.
“Tosh,” Ianto said as he ran after Jack, turning on his own bluetooth to talk. “Where are we headed? Also, tell Owen if he wants his biscuits ,it’s on the curb outside Tesco in the same bag as the milk.”
“I’ll let him know,” Tosh said. “Also, you’re going to take the next right from where you are. Then it looks like… yeah, a left turn after that.”
A few turns and a couple of false sightings later, Jack and Ianto were left walking down a long stretch of road lined with trees and grass, but no corgis.
“Tosh?” Ianto said. “We need your help again. We lost it.”
“According to this, it should still be ahead of you,” she said before pausing. “Oh. There looks to be a slight complication.”
Ianto, seeing just then what was up ahead of him and Jack, internally sighed at the news he knew Tosh had for him. “We’re in Hamadryad Park, aren’t we?”
“Yeah,” Tosh said, her voice full of apologies. “Sorry.”
Jack just looked confused. “Is there something I should know about Hamadryad Park?”
Instead of replying, Ianto just pointed to a large banner up ahead of them that was strung on multiple trees. Welcome to Corgiff! it read. Farther ahead of that, the two men could see the beginning of a crowd of people and multiple corgis frolicking among the trees.
“Cardiff’s first annual corgi con,” Ianto said, looking at Jack. “We talked about this, remember? Corgi owners across all of Wales are converging on this one spot to celebrate the apparent uniqueness of owning a corgi. I hear they’re even giving out prizes.”
“Oh, that clever little bastard,” Jack said, knowingly nodding his head while also completely missing the dryness in Ianto’s tone. “He knows he can’t outrun us forever so he’s hiding in plain sight instead.”
Ianto opened his mouth to disagree with Jack but then changed his mind. “Well then,” he said instead, “guess there’s only one thing left to do.”
Jack grinned. “Let’s go.”
The problem with searching for a korhi that may or not be a korhi in a sea of corgis was that it was much like trying to find a needle in a haystack, except that the needle was potentially of alien origin that also walked itself into a sewing kit instead of a barn. Which was to say, Ianto and Jack were having a difficult time navigating around the sheer amount of corgis present.
“That one, maybe?” Ianto said, pointing to a corgi up ahead of them that he thought looked like the same dog they had first seen outside of Tesco.
Jack took one glance at the corgi Ianto was pointing to before shaking his head and scoffing. “No,” he disagreed. “Not even close. That’s just some common bitch.”
Much of the search was like that - Ianto pointing out potential suspects and Jack shooting them down. After the second granny threw her false teeth at Ianto, he stopped suggesting corgis that had people standing next to them.
So it was a bit of relief when Jack pointed towards a corgi sitting away from the crowd of people and exclaimed: “There he is!”
To Ianto, the corgi Jack had pointed out looked like every other corgi in the park. But he trusted Jack’s judgement, as dubious as it could be sometimes, and so didn’t protest when the man walked over and scooped up the dog in his arms. Though he would be lying if he didn’t admit that for just a few seconds as Jack did that, he thought a Welsh granny was going to manifest nearby completely ready to take on Jack with a walking stick.
That didn’t happen, thankfully, which meant Jack stood happily in the park, smiling down at the pup in his arms. “See?” he said. “Korhis. They have a sense of humour but in the end, they always own up to their fun.”
Ianto took a few steps closer to Jack, reaching out to pet the dog in Jack’s arms that he was still convinced was a regular Earth-born corgi. The dog seemed to visibly brighten, making a soft rumbling sound to indicate its happiness.
“All it did was find other dogs,” Ianto pointed out. “Not exactly the height of comedy.”
Jack shrugged, neither conceding or arguing the point. “Who said their sense of humour was the same as humans?” Jack said. “And besides, I know korhis enough to spot one when I see one. Even when they try their best to blend in.”
“So, what you’re saying is that before Torchwood, you used to be a time-travelling dog walker?”
Jack chuckled softly. “No, I just had one as a kid.”
Ianto stayed silent, wanting to know more but knowing Jack enough to understand that pushing him right this second would only make the man clam up and change the topic. Indeed, a few seconds later, Ianto’s patience was rewarded.
“His name was Cheddar,” Jack said, softly. “A little smaller than this guy here, but same colour.” He looked up at Ianto, a small smile on his lips. “Korhis are native to the Boeshane Peninsula, you know. They pretty much had free range of the entire planet as the only indigenous species left by the time our colony settled.”
Ianto smiled, his mind envisioning an entire planet overrun by corgis. “So what made you name him Cheddar?”
The smile on Jack’s face grew, the expression on his face turning into the one always reserved for those rare moments of unrestrained nostalgia. “It was a joke. My br-” he cut off abruptly, looking down at the dog in his arms before looking back up at Ianto, the nostalgic expression on his face now replaced by one more intentionally nonchalant. “The only cheese we ever got on Boeshane was the soy kind. Never the real stuff. So it became kind of a joke in the family, saying that the only real cheddar we had was the dog.”
“Yeah?” Ianto said, prodding at Jack, though conscious that he was nearing uneasy territory.
“We taught him how to swim, too,” Jack said, and the memories of Boeshane seemed to slowly restore his nostalgic mood. “Cheddar got so good that sometimes he would swim out to the boats at sea, and they would end up bringing him back with the fish.”
There was a faraway look in Jack’s eyes as he gazed past Ianto, seeing not the man in the suit and the backdrop of trees in front of him but the image of him and his brother chasing Cheddar the korhi across the sand dunes of Boeshane Peninsula. Ianto, though he couldn’t see what Jack saw, could tell from the look in Jack’s eyes that he was lost in his memory of a place completely unreachable.
The distant expression on Jack’s face tugged at the strings of Ianto’s heart as he could only imagine all the people and places that Jack had been forced to leave behind. And so he leaned forward, ignoring the dog in Jack’s arms, and captured his lover’s lips with his to draw Jack back into the present. Ianto did everything he could to convey with one kiss, one soft touch of the lips, that he wasn’t going anywhere soon, no matter how impermanent things in the world may seem for an immortal man.
Drawing back, Ianto opened his eyes, seeing first the brightness in Jack’s eyes and, secondly, the changing colours of the dog’s fur, going from green to red to orange.
Jack laughed loudly at the sight, declaring with a dramatic flair: “Vindication!”
Ianto, on the other hand, widened his eyes at the sight, drawing closer to the officially-confirmed korhi. “It’s like a doggie disco ball.”
Taking advantage of the distance and opportunity, the korhi licked Ianto’s face, making him awkwardly step back in order to wipe the slobber off his face.
“He likes you!” Jack said. “He has good taste.”
“Or an extremely bad one,” Owen’s voice said, startling Ianto again and making him reach up to his ear for his bluetooth, only to remember that the line to the Hub had been disconnected earlier. He turned around to see Gwen and Tosh grinning at him while Owen held the plastic bag with chocolate digestives and milk that Ianto had abandoned outside Tesco earlier.
“Impossible,” Jack said in response, turning around to face the arrival of the rest of Torchwood. “Korhis have impeccable taste.”
As if on cue, the korhi jumped out of Jack’s arm, trotting towards Owen and leaping at the plastic bag that he was holding.
“Oi!” Owen yelped, abandoning the bag and backing away while Gwen and Tosh laughed at him.
The members of Torchwood watched as the korhi ignored the milk in favour of pawing at the chocolate digestives and biting at the packaging with its teeth. After a few tugs, the korhi managed to split the wrapping open, eagerly snapping at the chocolate biscuits inside.
“See!” Jack exclaimed at Ianto. “I told you korhis love chocolate!”
Sharing a fond but exasperated look with Gwen and Tosh, Ianto made a mental note to start planning Jack’s second intervention as soon as the team returned to the Hub. He thought Tosh’s banner idea for the intervention sounded brilliant. Maybe he would even create a presentation for it, too.
“So,” Ianto said, an idea popping into his head. “I overheard earlier that first place in the upcoming relay race gets a hundred quid.” He gazed around at the rest of the group, who were starting to get the same idea as him. “Want to see if a korhi is really smarter than a corgi?”
Jack grinned, clapping his hands in agreement. “Ianto Jones, there’s no way you’ll be disappointed.”
The five members of the Torchwood team made their way over to the relay race sign-up table, expecting a good time and easy win, but unbeknownst to them, there was already another korhi entered in the race. Or maybe it was a kurghei. Either way, it was really Torchwood’s problem to figure out while the people and corgis of Cardiff alike remained blissfully unaware. Though as you might have guessed, that didn’t really end up happening.