Characters: Ianto, Jack, Tosh, Gwen, Owen.
Summary: When various items around the Hub start to spontaneously sprout tentacles, the team have to find out why its happening and how to stop them spreading before the problem gets completely out of hand.
Word Count: 2185
Written For: My own prompt ‘Torchwood, Jack/Ianto, You know it's time to worry when everything starts sprouting tentacles,’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
Looking up from his computer screen, where he’d been watching tourists enjoying the sunny weather up on the Plas, Jack saw Ianto standing in the doorway to his office, a pensive frown on his face.
“Ianto! What can I do for you on this fine day?”
“This is most likely a daft question, but did anything… odd happen around here while I was out doing the supermarket run?”
Jack thought back over the extremely uneventful morning and shook his head. “Nope, not that I can think of.”
“Huh.” Ianto didn’t seem reassured by his answer. If anything, his frown deepened.
“Was there a reason you asked?” A rhetorical question really, because Ianto wasn’t much of a talker, not given to idle chitchat for the sake of it, so there was always a good reason for every word he spoke.
“Mm. I think we may have a problem.”
Now Jack was frowning; that kind of news was never good, especially coming from Ianto. “What makes you say that?”
“I’m fairly certain the coffee machine didn’t used to have tentacles. I would think I’d remember something like that.” With those words, Ianto turned away, hands in his pockets, and sauntered off in the direction of what passed for the Hub’s kitchen.
Jack all but fell over his desk in his rush to follow his lover but just managed to avoid faceplanting into the concrete floor. “Tentacles?” he called after Ianto’s back as he burst out of his office. “Did you just say the coffee machine has tentacles?” There was always a chance he’d misheard, and an even slimmer chance that Ianto might be pulling his leg. He had a rather strange sense of humour at times.
“Eight of them,” Ianto confirmed as Jack caught up with him. “If they can figure out how to operate the machine by themselves I might be out of a job.”
Now that last bit was almost certainly a joke. Coffee making wasn’t Ianto’s only duty around the Hub; in fact technically it wasn’t a duty at all, rather a voluntary service he generously provided. In the unlikely event that the coffee machine was now capable of brewing coffee by itself, Ianto would still have plenty to do. He wasn’t going to be drawing unemployment anytime soon.
Falling into step with Torchwood’s archivist and general support officer, Jack accompanied him to the coffee machine. Sure enough, it had eight pale yellow, sinuous tentacles writhing around it, sprouting in pairs from various parts.
“Well, that’s not normal.” It was a bit of a redundant statement, but Jack felt he ought to say something, if only to break the silence that had fallen as he and Ianto stared at the bizarre sight. It was impossible not to.
“What around here ever is?” Ianto gave a wry smile. “Normal around here wouldn’t be normal.”
Jack knew what Ianto meant, and as usual the young Welshman was right, but even so this was a bit out there. Machines didn’t just spontaneously sprout tentacles for no reason, not even in Torchwood. Something must have caused it. He was just about to suggest checking the CCTV for the last hour and a half when there was a shriek that sounded like it came from Tosh. Abandoning the coffee machine to its own devices, whatever they might be, the pair ran from the kitchen to see what was wrong.
“Tosh?” Ianto called. “Are you okay? What happened?”
“I was just sitting here working and it grabbed me!” Tosh said, backing away from her chair. There were four silvery purple tentacles sprouting from the backrest.
“Not just the coffee machine then,” Jack said, studying Tosh’s chair with fascination.
“So it would seem,” Ianto agreed. “The question is, why are things that shouldn’t have tentacles suddenly sprouting them?”
“An excellent question, I just don’t have an answer for you; I’ve never come across anything like this before.” Jack wrangled the tentacled chair away from Tosh’s workstation, batting at the tentacles when they tried to resist, and borrowed Gwen’s chair for the team’s tech expert to sit on instead. “Pull up the CCTC for the last ninety minutes. Focus on the coffee machine and your chair,” he instructed.
Slipping past Jack and into the borrowed chair, Tosh started tapping away at her keyboard, opening several windows on her screens, each one showing a different angle in the requested areas of the Hub.
Ianto politely cleared his throat. “You might want to include the railings on the stairs leading to the hothouse as well,” he suggested.
“Why?” Tosh glanced in that direction. “No, never mind, I can see why.” The railings were sporting several pairs of dark grey tentacles, lazily waving about.
Jack wandered over to look at them. They merged so seamlessly with the metal that anyone unfamiliar with the Hub might have assumed they’d always been there. “Interesting.”
“I was leaning more towards ‘disturbing’ myself,” Ianto said mildly from behind him.
“I thought you liked tentacles!” Up until that moment, Jack had been fairly certain he’d managed to convince Ianto of the many benefits the versatility of tentacles could provide in certain intimate situations.
“I have nothing against them, under the right circumstances they can be quite stimulating, but chairs and railings and coffee machines are definitely not the proper places for them.”
Jack could scarcely argue with that.
“No, I suppose not…”
“What is it, Gwen?” Jack didn’t bother turning around, too busy watching the railing tentacles and wondering if they could somehow be incorporated into a game of naked hide and seek. At least then they’d serve a useful purpose instead of just waving about aimlessly.
“The photocopier… Is that someone’s idea of a weird practical joke? Only I’ve got a whole stack of reports Ianto asked me to copy and… it won’t let me.”
“Don’t tell me,” Jack said, finally turning to look at Gwen. “It’s sprouted tentacles, hasn’t it?”
“Ten of them. How did you know?”
“Seems to be a lot of that going around.” Jack gestured to the railings and their new accoutrements. “Exhibit C.”
“Sorry about that, Gwen,” Ianto apologised. “The photocopying will have to wait until we sort this out. First it was the coffee machine, then Tosh’s chair, the railings, and now the photocopier.” He shook his head. “I’m not sure I want to know what’s going to be next.”
“I’d like to put my desk and chair forward for consideration.”
Ianto gave a very impressive eye roll before turning his gaze on Jack. “Of course you would. You being surrounded by tentacles wouldn’t be a good idea though; the last thing you need is something else to distract you from your paperwork. Unless you were hoping you could train the tentacles to do it for you.”
“That’s a brilliant idea!”
“I can see it now,” Ianto said, a faint smile tugging at one corner of his mouth. “You just sitting there while your team of trained tentacles do all the work. We still don’t know what’s causing them to pop all over the place though.”
“Yes we do,” said Tosh. While the others had been talking, she’d been running through the CCTV footage covering all the affected items, and she’d discovered one thing they all had in common.
“What is it?” Jack made his way back towards Tosh’s workstation.
“Excuse me?” Ianto’s eyebrows did a little dance, distracting Jack momentarily. “Owen is making tentacles grow all over the Hub?”
“Why would he do that?” Jack demanded. Maybe Gwen was right and it really was just an elaborate practical joke. Owen could be quite inventive when he put his mind to it.
“I don’t think he’s doing it on purpose, but about ten minutes after he touches something, it grows tentacles.”
“Wait a minute… Owen was touching my coffee machine? After all the times I’ve told him to keep his hands off it?” Ianto sounded scandalised.
“The more you tell him not to, the more he does it,” Gwen said sheepishly. “I thought you knew. He only does it to annoy you.”
“Which it would have if I’d known.” Ianto folded his arms across his chest, scowling murderously at nothing in particular, probably imagining what he was going to do to Owen when he got his hands in him.
“Tosh, where exactly IS Owen right now?” Jack asked.
“Um, I don’t know yet…” Tosh started flicking through the feeds from the CCTV cameras around the Hub, but before she could locate him, the man himself burst through the door from the staircase leading to cold storage.
“Jack, we’re under attack! I don’t know how they got in but there’s these weird tentacle things--”
Jack cut him off mid-sentence. “We know.” He gestured at the nearest tentacles, the ones on Tosh’s chair.
“Owen, just… don’t touch anything else, alright? I mean it,” Ianto said firmly.
“What?” Torchwood’s medic narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Why?”
“Because everything you touch sprouts tentacles.”
“You haven’t sprouted any yourself, have you?” Jack asked, sounding almost hopeful.
Owen suddenly went pale. “Uh, I don’t think so, I would’ve noticed, wouldn’t I?” He looked down at himself warily, as though he expected to see previously unnoticed tentacles poking through his clothes. There weren’t any, although he didn’t seem to find that fact particularly reassuring. Just because there weren’t any yet…
“Don’t worry, you probably won’t,” Tosh told him kindly. Now that the catalyst had been identified via the CCTV she was busy scanning the various sets of tentacles. “I think you’re sort of a carrier, spreading the infection but not affected by it yourself. From the readings I’m getting, it looks like only inanimate objects are susceptible.”
“Sorry, Jack, looks like you won’t be getting any shiny new tentacles after all,” Ianto smirked.
“Bummer.” Jack pouted.
“Poor Jack, so many tentacles but none of your own.”
“It’s tragic,” Jack agreed woefully.
“Why me? And how do we stop this?” Owen wanted to know. “I don’t want to leave a trail of tentacles everywhere I go!”
“That thing you autopsied yesterday. You know, the dead thing that came through the Rift?”
“Yes, Gwen, I remember.” Owen threw a withering look her way. “I’m not senile.”
“Says you,” she muttered, adding in a louder voice, “Didn’t you say it had little tentacles?”
“Vestigial ones, yes. I took samples and incinerated the rest.” Owen snapped his fingers. “I was running tests on my samples earlier and I got a tear in one of my gloves. I must have got something on my finger without realising!” He held up the digit in question. “This one.”
Ianto nodded. “And now every time your finger comes in contact with something inanimate, you spread the spores or whatever and tentacles grow. Have you washed your hands since then?”
“Um, no. I was wearing gloves and it was only a tiny tear. Sorry.”
“We don’t know that would have prevented the problem. Washing might just have spread it faster and further,” Ianto pointed out.
“Good point. Okay, first things first. We should try and get a look at what we’re dealing with,” Owen decided. “Tosh, I could use a hand or two. I daren’t touch anything myself.”
“Of course. What do you need me to do?”
With Tosh operating Owen’s microscope, they were all able to see, magnified and displayed on the wall screen, the small patch of cells on Owen’s fingertip that were responsible for the proliferation of tentacles around the Hub. It took over an hour of careful research, but through trial and error, Tosh and Owen finally managed to come up with something that would counteract the problem, although not before a dozen more tentacles had sprouted on various items they used as test subjects to see what worked and what didn’t.
Once Owen was declared free of infection, Ianto took a spray bottle of the ‘cure’ and went around the Hub squirting at tentacles until they shrivelled up and fell off whatever they were growing on, then sweeping up the remnants and taking them to the incinerator for disposal. It took quite a while, since he had to retrace Owen’s steps that day to make sure he didn’t miss a single one, but at long last the final pair was eradicated.
“There, tentacle free once more,” he said in satisfaction, setting his spray down.
“Shame we couldn’t have kept just a few,” Jack said with a sigh.
“Not a good idea, Jack, some tentacles are just too invasive, they would have taken over the entire Hub if they’d been left long enough to start releasing spores of their own, and then where would we have been?”
“I suppose you’re right.”
“Still, if you’re feeling a pressing need for tentacles, you’ve got your toy with the wiggly bits, haven’t you?”
Jack brightened immediately. “That’s true.”
“So tonight, my place; you, me, your little friend?”
“It’s a date!”
“Right, best get back to work; lots to do.” Ianto strode away to make coffee, smiling in anticipation. After all, not all tentacles were a problem; some could be a lot of fun.