Title: Just a Hop to the Left
Characters: Team Icicle: Ianto, Owen, Andy, Tosh, and The Doctor (10th); Donna, Jack, Alice, Peter Cottontail, others.
Special Guests: Santa Claus, King Bran of the Leprechauns, and Mother Nature
Summary: After their adventures on Christmas (The Star of Seren Glen) and St. Patrick's Day (Tripping the Rainbow), Team Icicle, the Holiday Assurance Elves, have a new mission: train and prepare Peter Cottontail's new Cottontail Corps, and ensure that Easter goes off without a hitch. Meanwhile, a long lost friend of Peter's plots from his perch on Crooked Crow Peak, determined to destroy the holiday forever.
A/N: There are names of fictional rabbits and bunnies used throughout this story. I wrote this for Easter, but didn't have a chance to post until now.
April Valley – Bavarian Alps
Cottontail Corps Training Grounds
Team Icicle had been on the ground for a month and the Cottontail Corps were shaping up nicely. The bunnies' natural ability to work together had helped them learn many of the tactics that had served the elves so well over the centuries with ease. With one week to go, Ianto was putting the troops through their paces before he started on the final portion of their training: aerial deployment.
"Ears up and alert Hodge-Podge!" he scolded the lieutenant as he started the stealth test a second time and the stunt Doberman knocked him off the course. "Gently Dandelion," he advised as he passed the firing range and saw her latest round of practice eggs crack open and slime the target. "We're delivering eggs not omelets! Go for a toss not a throw!"
"How are they doing Toddy?" Owen asked as he left stealth and surveillance to check in with his leader.
"They're sloppy and trigger happy," Ianto replied, watching as another bunny fired Tosh's modified egg launcher and the eggs splattered across the intended target on impact. As he came closer to his teammate he dropped his voice so that only he could hear. "And they remind me a lot of a team of elves I know that played outside the rules and still managed to get the job done," he added with a grin.
Owen smiled and shook his head before turning to watch as Tosh set up another group and reset the targets on the firing range. He'd been watching Peter Cottontail, The Chief Easter Bunny himself cater to her all month, giving her the largest guest room at Warren Manor, making sure that she always had fresh jelly beans at her bedside each morning, and even providing her with her own personal bunny assistant named Luna that seemed to hang on her every word. He'd been trying to spend time with her all week and get up the nerve to ask her to the Easter Parade, but each time he managed to get a moment alone, Luna would interrupt, flipping back her ears and tapping her PDA to remind Tosh of some meeting or event that she couldn't miss. It was starting to drive him mad, and he was certain that Cottontail was behind it.
"Any word from Nog and Fruitcake?" Ianto asked. Owen glanced behind him to where Andy and Doc were working with the first group of bunnies trying out aerial deployment, showing them how to jump from the open barn silo and float down via the parachutes housed inside their pointed elf hats. While Andy landed dead center on the target and encouraged the bunnies from the ground; Doc positioned them at the jump point, checking the fit of each aviator cap, parachute, and pair of goggles, before giving them a few last pointers on wind velocity and air currents before they took the plunge.
Doc noticed the others watching and tapped his comm. "We're ready for the first trial run," he announced. "Brittle, you might want to get the medics on standby. I've got a lot of twitchy whiskers up here."
Owen cursed and jogged over to the make-shift medical tent alongside the far end of the course. While the training course had taken over the far side of the valley floor on what had once been an open meadow, it was still surrounded by craggy peaks and the silver branches of the Gum Drop Forest. One wrong move by one of the bunnies about to parachute out of the silo, and they could end up stuck inside the branches of the forest, or worse yet, sail right over the side of the valley into the thick clouds below, taking days to make their way back up the trail to the hidden door that lead back home.
"Alright Fruity, my boys are in place. Let 'er rip!" Owen called out over the comm. as he made his way to the side of the course with a small contingent of medics in tow.
Doc waved down and flashing his trademark grin, checked the parachute, aviator cap, and goggles of the first bunny in line, looked down at Andy who gave him a thumbs up and pushed him out the door, certain that he would make it no problem, and that the basket of stunt eggs he held in his shaking hands would make it in one piece.
He was wrong.
When yet another bunny missed the drop target and sailed overhead into the Gum Drop Forest, Ianto called out for a halt, and told Doc to bring the rest of the bunnies down until they could analyze what was going on.
As he jogged past the firing range and down the field to where Owen was busy pulling brambles and stickers out of the fur of the poor bunny who had landed in the briar patch, he decided they had suffered enough for one day.
"Snowdrop, have you had a chance to analyze any of the data from the flights so far?" Ianto asked as he made his way over to where Doc was helping a traumatized bunny pry his fingers off of his basket so that he could remove his parachute.
"That would be a no," Tosh replied, cringing as one of the egg launchers backfired and coated the current group on the course in rainbow colored egg yolk. Flinging the mess off her arm, she ordered the bunnies to hit the showers and made her way over to join the others.
"Let's call it a day," Ianto ordered with a sigh. "Dismiss your troops and meet me at manor in one hour." He saw Doc salute and help the last of the bunnies out of his gear, only mildly surprised when the bunny scampered off on four legs instead of two, wanting to get away from the aerial course as quickly as possible.
"I'm due for a shower myself," Tosh said shaking her head as she joined them.
Owen glanced up as he finished bandaging the last of the injuries for the day and sent his team back to the medical tent to check on any stragglers. "That makes two of us," he said, flicking his own share of broken yolk off his arm and onto the ground. Tosh stared back at him wide-eyed and Owen realized what he had said. "Er- what I mean is," he hastened to explain. "We're both dirty and need to take a shower and…garlands! Those launchers really do release a lot of egg don't they?" he rambled.
Tosh blushed and Owen mentally smacked himself for looking like an idiot in front of Tosh again.
"Part of the job I suppose," she answered with a half-grin as she reached over to pluck a piece of eggshell out of Owen's hair.
Owen stared back at her and was about to compliment her on how the blue of the eggshell on her cheek offset her eyes when Luna interrupted them.
"Miss Sato, if you'll follow me I have a bath prepared in your suite so that you have time to wash and change before the afternoon meeting," she said, smiling sweetly as she tapped away on her PDA.
Owen bit back a scowl as Tosh nodded and turned to follow her back to Warren Manor. "I'll see you lot back at the boardroom," she said over her shoulder, her gaze lingering on Owen for a moment before she left.
Owen watched her go. So intent was he on watching her, he didn't realize Andy had come up alongside him until the elf let out a low whistle of sympathy.
"Wow," Andy said as Owen turned towards him. "Have you got it bad."
Owen frowned and scooped up a pile of yolk and threw it at the other elf, missing and hitting Doc instead who had been talking to Ianto beside the equipment shed behind them.
Some of the younger bunnies who were tending the tulip fields nearby giggled as the four elves launched into a yolk fight that left the four of them covered in muck and laughing all the way back to the manor.
Office of the Chief Easter Bunny, Peter J. Cottontail Esq.
Peter glanced at the clock and noticed that it was nearly time for the team's daily check in. Swiveling to glance outside, he spied Toshiko Sato leaving the training grounds and sighed. When he had been a young bunny, little more than a kit, his father had received a calendar from Santa Claus as part of their monthly update about the comings and goings at the North Pole. The calendar had been a promotional piece, showcasing the various departments within Santa's workshop, and one image in particular had caught his eye; that of Miss Gift Wrap 1859, Toshiko Sato.
She'd been wearing nothing risqué, just a plain red dress with white fur trim and green and white striped stockings; standard elf attire. But what had made the picture stand out was the bright red bow that had been perched in her hair with the loops resembling a rather fetching pair of bunny ears.
He'd hidden the picture inside his treasure box, and spent many a night gazing into her almond shaped eyes, wondering if she was just as beautiful in person as she appeared in her photo. His cousin Benjamin had teased him mercilessly when he found it, and during the ensuing scuffle, it had been ripped in two. Peter had pretended not to care, and tossed the pieces in the garbage; but he had snuck down later that night and retrieved the two crumpled halves, slipping them inside his copy of War and Peace, knowing that Benjamin would never be able to sit still long enough to read it, and it was safe from harm.
Reaching inside his desk drawer, he pulled out the picture frame that housed the same picture, now lovingly taped back together and glanced at it before making his way to the balcony to where the lady herself was within view. She saw him standing there and smiled up at him, giving him a small wave that he quickly returned before she disappeared inside.
Peter felt his heart race. He had been in love with Toshiko Sato for so long, having her so close, yet so far away from him was maddening. He glanced over to the bouquet of daffodils that he had picked that morning and checked his reflection in the mirror beside his office door, making sure that his tie was straight, his jacket and waistcoat uncreased, and his collar clean of the chocolate egg he had just nibbled. Checking his pocket watch, he saw that he had about thirty minutes before the daily debriefing in the manor boardroom. A noise from outside caught his attention and he glanced out to where the remaining members of Team Icicle were returning, somewhat worse for wear. He caught Dr. Harper's eye and the two men held each other's gaze. Luna had told him of Dr. Harper's shoddy attempts to get Miss Sato's attention, and his heart soared with every tidbit about how she seemed immune to his charms. Knowing that he had to time his courtship just right; he hesitated and left the bouquet in the vase.
"Tomorrow," he whispered to himself. "Tomorrow I will ask her on that date I have wanted for so long. I only hope that she finds me worthy of her affection."
Checking his appearance one last time, he gathered up his notes and made his way to the boardroom with a spring in his step, determined that tomorrow would be that day that Miss Sato would agree to a date at last.
Smith's Telegraph and Radio Diagnostic Inspection Shoppe
Seren Glen- Wales
"More tea, King Bran?" Alice Harkness asked the leprechaun as she held up the teapot.
"Thank you kindly, Miss Alice," he replied, holding out his cup. "And it's just Bran lassie. If you please."
Alice grinned back at him. "So you never told me," she asked as she carefully poured tea into the fey sized tea cup. "What made the great Leprechaun King decide to pay me a visit?"
Bran smiled at the little girl and looked around. After Doc had left, she had cleaned out much of the second story and repainted it, filling it with a variety of doll-sized furniture, just the right size for any fey that might stop by for a visit. He had been surprised at the number of wards on the building, and surmised that Doc had left her well protected when he gave the little girl the deed to his former abode.
"Word reached me of a girl and her father who were friendly with the fey folk," he explained as he sipped his tea. "You must know that in this century our friends have become few and far between," he added watching as she nodded. "So naturally I had to come and meet you for myself."
Alice smiled at him and raised her teacup, taking a dainty sip. "And this would have nothing to do with the fact that I still have my four-leaf clover would it?" she asked, biting back a grin.
Bran blinked. Did the girl know the power that the clover possessed?
"I may not be fey," she continued no longer able to contain her mirth. "But I do know a bit about magic."
Bran chuckled. "Aye lassie, it would appear you do."
Alice laughed and pulled a locket from inside her shirt. "I've been keeping it safe," she explained. "I didn't want it to fall into the wrong hands."
Bran nodded and watched as she opened the locket to where the clover was pressed inside alongside a picture of her mother.
"And the wish my dear?" he prompted bracing himself. He knew what she had whispered on the wind as she picked it, and had seen its magic at work since, but needed her to repeat it once more for the wish to be fixed.
"For my father to find true love again, and for us to have a family," she said, the words hanging in the air like a promise.
Bran felt the ancient magic swell within him and he held out his hand.
Alice took the clover from the locket and placed it in his palm, watching transfixed as a swirl of golden light danced across his open palm, turning the clover from green to gold.
"As the first wish was made on the whisper of a winter wind, so will the fulfillment be," said Bran, magic weaving his words into truth. "Before the sun sets on Christmas Day, your wish will be fulfilled."
Bran closed his hand and the light disappeared. Opening it once more, the clover remained, only now it was a golden pendant, hanging from a fine gold chain. He held it out to the girl, watching as she reached for it and then pulled her hand back, not sure if it was hers to take.
"Go on girl," he said with a grin. "It's not every day that someone gets their wish granted. You should at least have something to cling to while the magic runs its course."
Alice lifted the chain and settled it around her neck alongside the locket. Clutching both of them in her hand she looked up at the Leprechaun King with tears in her eyes.
"You really mean it?" she asked, "It will really come true?"
Bran reached over and pat her other hand in reassurance. "We leprechauns might have our share of fun with humans now and then," he admitted. "But when it comes to wishes and magic, we never lie."
Alice nodded and Bran smiled. "Now if you would be so kind, do you happen to have any more of those biscuits?
Warren Manor Boardroom
After the less than spectacular exercise that afternoon, Team Icicle was trying to find a new approach to aerial deployment.
"We only have a week left," Owen groused. "How in the name of all that's jolly are we ever going to teach these bunnies how to jump safely by then?"
Doc, Andy, and Tosh each chimed in with their ideas and complaints about their performance, not noticing that Peter Cottontail himself had joined them until Owen started cracking jokes about the troops' whiskers being too tight.
"Mr. Cottontail," Ianto interrupted him, giving Owen a disapproving look. "So nice of you to join us."
Peter's whiskers twitched in annoyance as he sat down to join the team.
"I take it you overheard some of the evaluations of today's exercise?" Ianto began, trying to break the Corps' lack of aerial skills to their leader gently.
"I did," Peter replied with a scowl, "and I think there is one fundamental thing that you elves are forgetting."
Ianto raised an eyebrow. "By all means," he said gesturing for him to continue. "Enlighten us."
Peter looked over the assembled group of elves and flicked the tuft of fur betwixt his ears back as his started to speak. "The Easter Bunnies of April Valley have been delivering eggs for just as long as you elves have been helping Santa deliver gifts on Christmas," he said with pride. "The only difference is that we have always done it with cunning and skill, while you lot rely on fancy gadgets and gear to get you through."
Owen scowled and Tosh looked offended. Doc on the other hand looked thoughtful.
"Are you saying we're going about this all wrong?" he asked, tapping his finger against his chin as he thought through what the Chief Easter Bunny was saying.
"I am indeed," replied Peter. "Bunnies on a whole are a pack species, unlike elves; we perform best when we work as a group." The elves exchanged glances, and Peter pressed on. "Take your aerialists for example; have you tried sending them down to the target in pairs?" He pulled out a sketch he had done of two bunnies, the one on the back with the parachute, while the one in the front held onto the basket for deployment. "One can check the wind currents while the other keeps an eye on the target. Have them go in tandem and I guarantee you they will hit the target every time."
Andy and Doc exchanged a look. "They did seem rather preoccupied with the wind over the target," Doc conceded. "Do you really think this will work?"
Peter smiled. "If there is one thing I know it's how to manage a group of my own kind," he said with a grin. "Bunnies are competitive by nature and grouping them together for a common goal is the best way to get them to succeed."
Ianto smiled back at him, realizing that this might be the change in approach they needed. Looking over the rest of his ideas, he decided that as busy as Peter was, he could no longer be a spectator. If the Cottontail Corps were to be ready on time, they would need his insight to get the job done.
"Do you have a second in command?" he asked. "Someone who could possibly take over the daily operations while you help us put your plans into action?"
Peter looked thoughtful. "Well, Harvey is pretty capable," he mused. "As long as I can check in with him on the daily quotas and Miffy keeps the egg decorating on schedule, I should be able to manage it."
"Well then," Ianto said standing up to shake his hand, "I think the Cottontail Corps just might be ready in time after all."
Peter rose to shake the elf leader's hand and the two of them resumed their seats to join the team in planning out the next rounding of training.
Cottontail Corps Training Grounds – The Following Morning
"Keep your ears up and your baskets at the ready!" Owen hollered as he made a final equipment check and sent the next team of bunnies down. "Incoming," he said over to comm. to Andy, who was watching from just outside the target to ensure that they landed safely.
"Buster!" Doc called out from his vantage point in a hot air balloon above into the bright blue comm. now worn by the Cottontail Corps. "I'm seeing a slight deviation in the northwest current, pull up on the control lines, or you'll miss the target."
"Copy that," answered the bunny as he made the adjustment and landed on the target with ease.
The entire training group let out a whoop of celebration as Buster and his teammate Lucky gave each other a high five and held their unharmed basket aloft in victory.
"Well done!" Peter said as he shook their hands. Picking up a megaphone and with a nod from Ianto he started to speak. "This is a big step towards reaching our goal of becoming the best delivery team Easter has ever seen," he began. "Team Icicle and I have revised the training to be more group orientated, and you will be working alongside your burrow mates to form cohesive teams, able to handle any problem that might arise." He glanced over to the side of the grounds where Toshiko gave him a thumbs up, and at his nod she lit up a pink, green, and blue reader board that showed a list of burrows. "Each team will be rated according to their performance over the next week. The top performing team will be honored at the Easter parade, receive a year's supply of chocolate, and an all expense paid trip to Bermuda for a little relaxation after the big day."
As the bunnies celebrated, Andy switched comms. and contacted his teammates. "So Brittle, care to pick a team and finish that wager?" he asked as Doc glanced down at him with a grin.
"Oh it's so on Nog," Owen responded. "My laundry is crying out for you as we speak. Fruity? Toddy? You in?"
"I'm staying out of this one boys," Ianto replied shaking his head.
"That's ditto for me as well," Doc answered. "I need to inspire these teams and stay impartial."
"What the holly berries are you on about?" Tosh asked, having been absent for the St. Patrick's Day wager. Owen started to stutter out an explanation, but was interrupted when Peter, who had been given access to their comms. with the call sign of Heff (by his own choice) during the exercise was heard on the line.
"I'm sure it's just a bit of healthy competition," Peter replied sagely. "But if you have a minute Snowdrop, I have a most urgent matter which I would like to discuss with you."
As Peter made his way over to join Tosh at the reader board, his and Tosh's comms. fell silent. Owen watched through narrowed eyes as Peter drew a bouquet from beneath his coat and presented it to Tosh who laughed and smelled the blooms with a happy grin.
A gravelly noise could be heard over the remaining comms. and after a moment Ianto realized what it was. "Brittle, stop grinding your teeth," Ianto called out rolling his eyes. "Snowdrop is perfectly capable of handling herself."
"I think he's more worried about what "Heff" will handle," Andy observed as he came to stand alongside Ianto, watching Owen emerge from the silo and stride across the green towards where Tosh and Peter were speaking.
As the bunnies geared up for the next drop, Ianto kept an eye on where Tosh was speaking to the elf and the bunny, both of whom eventually turned to face one another and glared before shaking hands and going their separate ways. Tosh caught his eye and shook her head before turning back to make a few final tweaks to the reader board.
Owen made his way back over to Andy and Ianto, who raised an eyebrow as he approached.
"Not a word," Owen said as he picked up a water bottle and gulped it down. When Ianto and Andy continued to stare at him, Owen finally relented, and double checked to make sure his comm. was off before he spoke.
"Chief Hoppy-Twat asked Tosh to be his date to the Easter Parade," Owen explained. "As I had already asked her this morning and she was still contemplating her answer, we decided to make a wager of it."
Andy and Ianto exchanged a glance knowing this would not end well. Owen was a gambling man by nature and had a hard time turning even a losing bet down.
"Do I even want to know?" Ianto finally asked.
Owen sighed. "Apparently in bunny-ville, disputes are only handled one way; by a decorating contest."
Andy blinked and bit his lip, trying his best not to laugh. Ianto did the same and Owen glared at them both.
"Hardy-Hoppy-Friggen-Har," Owen replied sitting down on the bench beside them dejectedly. "We each have until Easter morning to make an artistic presentation using only Easter candy to show her what we like about her and why she should choose us as her date."
Ianto chuckled to himself and Andy started laughing hard enough to tear up.
"Artistic? You?" he asked wiping the tears from his eyes. "You failed toy design, and can't paint to save your life, why did you even agree to it?"
Owen sighed, and Ianto patted him on the shoulder, already knowing the answer.
"Pride got the better of you didn't it Brittle?" he asked gently. Owen nodded glumly.
"Forget the competition Andy," he said dropping his head in his hands. "I'm going to need to dedicate what little spare time I have to making this perfect. I need Tosh to understand why…" he trailed off and sighed again.
"Before I was in Prep & Landing, I did a short stint in cookie and candy décor," Andy replied taking pity on him. "Maybe I could give you a few pointers?"
Owen looked up at him hopefully. "Really?" Andy nodded. "Thanks mate," Owen said with a smile.
"If you ladies are about done," interrupted Doc over the comm. "We still have bunnies to train. Just because they seem to have finally gotten the hang of landing on target, doesn't mean they won't misfire the egg launchers and splatter the countryside."
Owen and Andy scrambled to their feet and gave Ianto a quick salute before heading over to set up the firing range for the next exercise.
"Oh and Owen," Ianto called after him. "Word of advice, don't compare her backside to a pair of hot-crossed buns; that will just get you slapped." Owen turned red, remembering how he was ogling said backside when they had gone out for a morning run and singing 'Hot Tosh Buns' in his head, he'd been whistling it ever since. Scowling back at Ianto's smug smirk, he clicked his comm. back on and let Tosh know they were starting on the egg launchers again in thirty.
Crooked Crow Peak
In a crumbling tower, on a lonely mountain, on the outskirts of April Valley, a bitter bunny without a tail watched the proceedings through his telescope, plotting his revenge.
"Soon Peter Cottontail, soon," Barnaby March, the Mad March Hare, cackled to himself as he turned from the window to watch the latest batch of his magically altered chocolate eggs leave the assembly line. "I'll make sure you and all the world's children pay!"