Characters: Owen, Ianto, Jack.
Summary: Lurking late in the Hub, Owen overhears a snatch of conversation between Jack and Ianto that gives him some strange ideas.
Word Count: 1249
Written For: m_findlow’s prompt ‘Any, any, “I’ve never needed a hot shower and coffee so much in my entire life”,’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
Owen wasn’t supposed to be at the Hub at this time of night; it was getting on for one in the morning and he’d left work several hours ago, heading out on the town for a few drinks and to hopefully find some company for the night. Things hadn’t quite worked out the way he’d planned though; the girl he’d been getting cosy with had turned out to have a jealous ex who’d waylaid them as they’d left the bar and slashed at him with a broken bottle, cutting his arm. So here he was at the Hub, assessing the damage and patching himself up. It was a smallish cut and not too deep, really no big deal; wasn’t the first one he’d dealt with and probably wouldn’t be the last. Good thing he was able to stitch a wound one-handed because there was no one around to help him, even if he’d wanted someone else’s assistance, which he didn’t. He’d rather the rest of the team never found out about this little incident
Nevertheless, he wasn’t particularly surprised when a little while later, just as he was putting in the last of five stitches, he heard the access door from the underground garage opening. Jack and Ianto’s voices carried faintly across the expanse of the Hub as they came in.
“Bloody Rift,” Ianto was muttering. “Dumps stuff in the stupidest places. Look at the mess I’m in! I’ve got dead fleas all over me; they’re even in my hair!”
Owen blinked. Fleas? Good thing they were dead; they didn’t need the Hub infested with the little buggers. He listened in more intently as Jack replied.
“It’s not like you’re the only one. I’m smothered in them too.”
“I noticed; I’ll have to vacuum the inside of the SUV as soon as we’ve cleaned ourselves up. Can’t leave it in a mess. So much for getting an early night.”
“You can have a lie in tomorrow if you want. Come on, we can pick them off each other and then take a relaxing shower.”
“God, yes. I’ve never needed a shower in hot coffee so much in my entire life!” Ianto’s voice faded away as the door to Jack’s office closed.
Owen remained where he was, in silence, frowning in thought. Shower in hot coffee? What was that about? He’d always known those two were weird, but… Was coffee good against fleas, just in case there were still some live ones? That was something he’d never heard of before. Maybe it was one of those old wives’ tales that sounded daft but had a grain of truth to it. If anyone would know it would be Ianto; probably wasn’t anything he didn’t know about coffee. Then again, perhaps Owen should do his own research on the subject. Not with Ianto’s good coffee of course, that would be a waste, but maybe he could get a jar of cheap instant and see what other potential benefits it had. Maybe it worked on bugs other than fleas. He could try it on the plants in the hothouse; he’d been having trouble with red spider mite on some of them, and so far nothing was working to eradicate the problem.
Slipping his jacket back on, Owen crept quietly out via the garage entrance, not wanting Jack and Ianto to know he’d been inadvertently eavesdropping on them and their dead fleas. All the way home he wondered exactly where the dead fleas had come from. The Rift dropped a lot of bizarre things on them, but a load of dead insects was a new one. Maybe they’d been on the latest Rift gift, some new sort of alien, although if that had been the case wouldn’t Ianto or Jack have taken the new arrival straight down to the cells? Then again, it might have been as dead as its fleas, in which case they would have taken it to the incinerator or left it down in the autopsy bay for Owen to study. Possibly the fleas had come from wherever the Rift had dropped whatever junk it had brought them… That was Torchwood all over though, always another mystery to unravel.
The next morning, Owen arrived at the Hub early with his jar of cheap instant coffee and made a beeline for the kitchen, putting the kettle on. He’d need to make the coffee with hot water to dissolve the powder properly, then dilute it and allow it to cool before spraying the plants. He’d spray half with the weak coffee solution and half with the stuff he’d been using, and compare the results after a week.
“What on earth is that doing here?” Ianto’s tone was filled with disgust.
Owen nearly jumped out of his skin; he hadn’t heard the other man approach. Damn Teaboy could be as quiet as a mouse when he wanted. “Keep yer knickers on; it’s not for human consumption, it’s for the plants.”
“Instant coffee for plants? Are you trying to wake them up?”
“Har bloody har. It’s an experiment, alright? I’ve got a spider mite problem with some of them and nothing’s working to get rid of the pesky little blighters so I figured this was worth a try.”
Ianto raised an eyebrow. “You just randomly thought you’d try spraying the affected plants with instant coffee?”
“Well, no, but I figured if it worked on fleas it had to be worth a try.”
“Does it?” Ianto’s other eyebrow joined the first at his hairline.
“Does it what?” Owen was beginning to get confused.
“Does instant coffee get rid of fleas?”
“Why’re you asking me? Or is it only the stuff you make that’s effective?”
“You’ve lost me,” Ianto admitted, hands on hips and giving Owen a baffled look.
“Last night, when you and Jack came back from a retrieval. I was down in the medical bay; didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but it was hard not to with the Hub’s weird acoustics and the place being so quiet. You were talking about being covered in dead fleas and needing a coffee shower to get rid of them. Where’d the fleas come from anyway? That part’s been bugging me all… What?”
Ianto was shaking with silent laughter. “Leaves, Owen,” he chuckled. “Dead leaves, not fleas! The Rift dropped a bit of alien tech off in the middle of the Rhododendron thicket in Cathays Park; we had to crawl underneath in the dark to find it and got covered in dead leaves and twigs. Took ages to get them all out or our hair.”
“Oh.” That actually made a lot more sense than dead fleas now Owen thought about it. “So what was all that about showering in coffee?”
“I remember saying I needed a shower AND a coffee, but as much as I enjoy a good blend, I’ve never tried bathing in it.” Ianto looked at Owen speculatively. “Maybe you should think about getting your hearing checked.” He moved over to the coffee machine, still chuckling.
“You mean to say I bought this stuff for nothing?” Owen asked, scowling at the jar of instant.
“Not necessarily; you could still try it on your plants. What d’you have to lose? I’ve long believed coffee can fix just about anything.”
Owen gave that some thought and decided Ianto was right; coffee might be just the thing to cure alien plants of possibly alien mites, so he wasn’t losing much by trying. But perhaps he’d better get his ears checked anyway.