Characters: Jack, Ianto, TARDIS, Eleventh Doctor.
Summary: While on the way somewhere else, the TARDIS makes a detour to the Hub looking for a bit of special attention.
Word Count: 1996
Content Notes: None needed.
Written For: Challenge 100: Shine at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
When the grinding sound of the TARDIS materialising filled the Hub late one evening, after most of the team had already left for the night, Jack darted out of his office, surprised but not displeased by the unexpected visitor. However badly the Tenth version of the Doctor had treated him at times, Jack still considered the Time Lord, whichever regeneration he might currently be inhabiting, as a close friend and was therefore always happy to see him. He reached the area by the Rift pool just as the TARDIS solidified; her door swung inwards and the Eleventh Doctor’s mop-haired head popped out.
“Doctor, good to see you! To what do we owe the pleasure?”
The Doctor squinted a bit in the dim nighttime lighting. “Jack? What are you doing here? ” He emerged slowly, looking curiously around himself. “Wait a minute, this isn’t Bindlesneeth!”
“No, it’s the Hub.”
“But I was going to Bindlesneeth for the Sugar Lump Festival!”
Jack wondered if he’d heard that right. “Sugar Lump Festival?”
“Yes, the Bindlesneethans build the most amazing creations entirely out of sugar lumps, and they sparkle and shine like diamonds in the sunlight, but the festival only happens once every ten years, in their dry season, because if they try to build their exhibits in the rainy season everything dissolves. It’s ages since I last went; I was really looking forward to it.” The Doctor looked thoroughly disappointed.
“But you have a time machine,” Jack reminded him. “Even with the unintended detour you can still get to Bindlesneeth for the start of any festival you choose; it’s not as if you’re going to miss it.”
“That may be true, but it’s hardly the point,” the Doctor grumbled. “I was going to Bindlesneeth, but I ended up here instead. Did you call me for help with something?”
“You’d know if I had. Still, you’re here now so why don’t we go up to my office and you can fill me in on what’s been happening since the last time you visited.”
“I suppose I could, since I’m already here. Ah, Mr Jones, there wouldn’t possibly be any chance of a cup of your excellent tea, would there?” the Doctor asked as Ianto appeared out of nowhere, seeming to practically materialise out of thin air at Jack’s side, much the way the TARDIS just had.
“Of course, Doctor. I just this moment put the kettle on; I’ll bring your tea up to Jack’s office as soon as it’s ready.”
“Splendid, and perhaps a biscuit or two?” The Doctor had Jack’s innocently hopeful look down pat, making Ianto wonder if he’d learned it from Jack, or the other way around.
“Jammy Dodgers or Jaffa Cakes?”
“Oh…” The Doctor hesitated, torn between the two choices, and Ianto smiled.
“Why don’t I just bring both?”
“Well, if you’re sure you don’t mind… I wouldn’t want to put you to any trouble.”
“Not at all; I always make sure the Hub is well stocked with essentials. Never know when we might get visitors.”
“Excellent! After you, Jack!” The Doctor gestured for Jack to precede him up to the office, following his old friend up the steps and disappearing inside as Ianto made his way back to the area of the Hub which served as the kitchen, small and sparsely equipped though it was.
As soon as the tea was brewing, Ianto loaded his tray with the teapot and all necessary accoutrements, coffee for Jack, and the two kinds of sweet snacks arranged neatly on a plate. Carrying it up to Jack’s office, he set the tray on Jack’s desk and left the two old friends to chat in private. There were still a few small jobs that needed doing before he called it a day, and he wouldn’t be far away if they required anything else. He didn’t begrudge Jack spending time with the Doctor; he rather liked this version himself, he was a lot more tolerant than his Tenth incarnation had been, and besides, he didn’t visit often so when he did it was only fair that he should have Jack’s undivided attention. Jack never complained when Ianto wanted to have the occasional night out with some of his old friends.
Making his way back into the main Hub, Ianto noticed the TARDIS door was open. That was odd; he was positive the Doctor had closed it firmly before following Jack. The Hub could be draughty though, so perhaps the door hadn’t latched properly and it had been blown open again by a random gust of air. He detoured towards it, thinking he’d better shut it, just in case something got in there that shouldn’t; that was always a possibility, there were at least two small aliens loose in the Hub that had so far managed to avoid being recaptured.
Ianto was reaching through the open doorway, fumbling for the handle of the door in order to pull it closed, when something brushed against his mind, feather soft, and instead he found himself stepping through the open door as if he’d just been invited inside by some unheard voice. He’d never been in the TARDIS before, although the last time he’d visited, the Doctor had invited him to take a trip. He would have liked to accept, but it had been a case of bad timing since he’d promised Rhi he’d look after Mica and David while she and Johnny had a night out. From Jack’s stories, Ianto knew only too well what the Doctor’s timekeeping could be like and he hadn’t wanted to risk getting returned a week late, so he’d declined the offer and the Doctor had left. Now, for the first time, he was getting a proper look inside, and he wasn’t terribly impressed.
The TARDIS herself was magnificent, as befitted a living, sentient piece of organic technology, but the state she was in was simply deplorable! There was sand and dirt all over her floor, and scattered bits of rubbish everywhere. Something sticky had been spilled and was smeared on the steps leading up to her central console, collecting dust so it looked like the steps were going mouldy. Her fittings were dull, and flocks of huge dust bunnies lurked in every corner. In short, the console room looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in months!
“Well, this won’t do at all!” he exclaimed, appalled.
Again something brushed his mind, apologetic.
“Oh no, it’s not your fault, dear lady, it’s your travelling companion who’s to blame, letting you down like this. I could soon have you looking spick and span if you’d like.”
This time he sensed gratitude.
“Right then, I’ll go and fetch my cleaning supplies. I’ll be right back.”
“No, no trouble at all, I’m happy to help. Can’t leave you in this state.”
Ianto was as good as his word, returning five minutes later with rolled up shirtsleeves, rubber gloves, and buckets full of cleaning equipment, which he took inside before going back for the vacuum cleaner. Plugging it in at a socket outside the TARDIS, he carried it through the doorway, and set to work on the floors and other surfaces, vacuuming up all the sand, muck, and an impressive horde of dust bunnies. When that was done, he filled a pail with warm water and detergent, and set to work cleaning up the sticky spill. It smelled like some kind of fruit juice, and at least some of the fluff sprouting from it really did seem to be mould.
He worked quickly, with his usual efficiency and attention to detail, dusting, wiping down, polishing the console, being careful not to touch any of the controls, and generally making everything shine. By the time he was done, he had two bags full of sweet wrappers, disposable cups, and takeaway cartons from various shops and fast food emporiums across the galaxy, which he tied at the tops and deposited outside the TARDIS. Standing back, he studied the results of his efforts; the entire console room, not to mention the corridors beyond, was spotless, gleaming, and as neat as the proverbial new pin.
“There, how does that feel?”
The warmth and happiness that flooded his mind made Ianto smile with delight.
“You’re very welcome, any time at all, dear lady.”
“Yes, very beautiful. Shall I give your outside a good clean as well?”
That was a considerably quicker job, the outside being so much smaller than the inside, and in short order her blue walls looked as if they’d been newly painted. Even the light on the top was polished and shiny; a job well done, though Ianto did say so himself. He wasn’t the only one who thought so either; he could feel the TARDIS’s approval in his mind. She was delighted.
“Right, I’ll just clear this lot away.” Ianto put the vacuum cleaner away first, then the rest of his cleaning supplies, and lastly gathered the bags of rubbish, taking them down to the furnace and tossing them in. As he returned to the main Hub once more, he heard the Doctor’s voice, astonished and perplexed.
“Great Gallifrey, what happened to you? You’re all shiny!”
Even at this distance, Ianto could feel the TARDIS’s smugness.
“She wanted to look her best for the festival,” he said, emerging from the corridor, unrolling his shirtsleeves.
“You cleaned my TARDIS?”
“I did; inside as well as out, and before you start in about my trespassing, I only did it because she asked me to. How could I possibly refuse to assist a beautiful lady in distress?” Ianto frowned at the Doctor. “You should be ashamed of yourself, letting her get into such a dreadful state. Do you have any idea how uncomfortable she was?”
“I’ve been busy,” the Doctor said, a touch lamely.
“You have all the time in the universe, Doctor. You can’t spare half an hour now and then to keep on top of things?”
The Doctor shuffled his feet guiltily. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s not me you should be apologising to; it’s your lady. How do you think she would have felt standing among all the sugar creations at the festival, looking all dull and dirty?”
“I didn’t think…” Avoiding Ianto’s eyes, the Doctor ducked inside the TARDIS.
“I have the same problem with Jack and the others,” Ianto sighed to his back. “They don’t think either. I’m always having to clean up after them because it never occurs to them to do it themselves.”
Now Jack shuffled his feet. “Sorry, Ianto. I’ll make sure we all do better in future, I promise.”
“I’d appreciate that. I do have more important things to do with my time than keeping you all from drowning in your own mess.”
“Well!” The Doctor re-emerged from inside the TARDIS. “You’ve done a splendid job, Mr Jones, absolutely splendid! How would you and Jack like to accompany me… um, us, to the Sugar Lump Festival? Our way of thanking you for services rendered. The two of you can spend a few weeks enjoying the festival’s delights and we can have you back here before tomorrow morning. How about it?”
That was an offer far too tempting to refuse; the Rift monitor said it would be a quiet night, and Ianto’s other remaining tasks could easily wait until morning. He raised an enquiring eyebrow in Jack’s direction. “Could we?”
“Well, I’ve never been to Bindlesneeth, so why not?” Jack grinned.
“That’s settled then. All aboard!” The Doctor darted back inside again.
“Wait! Do we need to bring anything with us? Clothes and things?” Ianto would have hated to show up at the festival inappropriately attired.
“Not at all, you’ll find whatever you need in the TARDIS’s wardrobe.”
“In that case…” With Jack right on his heels, Ianto followed the Doctor into the TARDIS, feeling the warmth of her welcome surrounding him like a hug. He couldn’t keep from smiling; this would be the adventure of a lifetime!
Sequel: 'Out Of Place'