Characters: Ianto, Martha, Jack, Andy, Owen, Team Torchwood
Summary: Everything had been quiet and tidy when Ianto had left the Hub, but this was Torchwood where things could change in the blink of an eye.
Word Count: 1121
Content Notes: None needed.
Written For: Challenge 163: Asylum at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
“Good Lord!” groaned Ianto as he stepped into the Hub through the cog door, Martha just a step behind. He stopped dead, staring in horrified fascination at the scene before him. “Looks like the inmates have finally taken over the asylum! What on earth are they up to this time?” The members of team Torchwood were running around like demented maniacs suffering from a bad case of St Vitus’s dance, and the Hub looked like a bomb had hit it. Which, this being Torchwood, wasn’t entirely beyond the realms of possibility.
This wasn’t the impression he’d hoped his teammates would make on their visitor, especially since Jack was hoping to convince Martha to leave UNIT and come to work for Torchwood instead, as part of their new medical and forensic science department.
Martha stopped beside him, giggling. “I gather it wasn’t like this when you left to pick me up at the station.”
“No it was not!” And wasn’t that just typical? An hour ago the Hub had been as tidy as Ianto could make what amounted to an enormous underground concrete bunker. Now, however… There were splatters of something yellowish that both looked and smelled disgusting all over the floor and furnishings, not to mention the team, who were also liberally spattered.
“Never a boring moment around here, is there?” Martha teased, taking it all in with a broad grin on her face.
“You have no idea.” There were days Ianto yearned for boring. “What the flaming hell have you lot been up to while I was out?” he bellowed, trying to make himself heard over the racket his colleagues were making. “I cleaned the Hub this morning specially and now look at it!” Sometimes he wondered why he bothered.
Jack’s head suddenly popped up, peering at him over the top of Gwen’s workstation, reminding Ianto of the meercats they’d seen on a nature documentary the other night.
“Ianto! You’re back!” Jack beamed through the muck on his face. “I see you found Martha! Good to see you, Nightingale!”
Martha waved. “Hi, Jack. Um, you have something…” She gestured at her own forehead.
“Oh, thanks.” Jack used his shirtsleeve to wipe away the offending blob, then pulled a disgusted face. “It’s gross. It went everywhere.”
“Exactly WHAT went everywhere, Jack?” Ianto stood glaring across at his lover, hands on his hips and a ‘do not mess with me in you value your coffee’ expression on his face.
Jack gave a sheepish grimace. “Sorry about this. It was an accident. Honest.”
“WHAT was an accident?”
“Um, after you left, Alun and Andy went out on a retrieval. They thought the thing was dead, and it certainly looked that way…”
“It WAS dead,” Andy yelled indignantly. “We were carrying it to the autopsy bay when it… sort of exploded. Living creatures don’t spontaneously explode.” He frowned uncertainly. “Do they?”
“Anyway,” Jack continued, ignoring Andy’s interruption, “apparently it was mostly made of slime and when it exploded bits went everywhere, so…”
“Ah!” Now that he knew what had happened, the way everyone seemed to be running back and forth at random was beginning to made sense. “Kneebles?”
“They seemed the best bet to clean up the mess. I was hoping we’d be done by the time you got back, but… I think they’re a bit overexcited.”
That wasn’t surprising; the little aliens hadn’t had a slime feast on this scale in months. They ate other things, but slime of all kinds was their absolute favourite. No matter how repulsive it might look and smell to a human, to a Kneeble it was the nectar of the gods.
Now he knew what to look for, Ianto could see that every member of the team had two or three Kneebles on leashes, running around with them from one patch of slime to another. What had seemed at first sight like wild, uncoordinated dance moves was actually the result of people trying to control several Kneebles at once, each of them intent on going in a different direction at the same time.
Martha nudged Ianto’s elbow. “What’s a Kneeble?”
“Ah, they’re small alien creatures, a bit like duckbilled platypuses, except they have sticky feet and can climb just about anything.” Ianto pointed to where Owen looked to be in serious danger of being dragged bodily up the wall of the Hub as his Kneebles fought to be first to reach a big patch of slime several metres up the wall. In the end he was forced to let go of their leashes for his own safety.
“They’re so cute!” Martha exclaimed, watching the Kneebles swarm up the wall and begin lapping at the slime with their rough little tongues. “How come you never told me about them?”
“Didn’t I?” Ianto asked distractedly. “I thought I had.”
“No, you definitely didn’t; I would’ve remembered something like that.”
“Well, you know Torchwood; always something new.” Ianto gave an apologetic shrug. “Must have slipped my mind.” Gazing around the Hub with a resigned sigh, he added, “I suppose I’d better don my overalls and lend a hand with the cleanup. Three excited Kneebles is more than anyone should have to handle at once.”
“I can help too,” Martha said firmly. “No sense me just standing around getting in everyone’s way. What do I need to know?”
Ianto wasn’t about to reject Martha’s offer. “There’s only one important rule when handling Kneebles; don’t loop the leashes around your wrists, or wrap them around your hands. You can easily lose a few fingers that way. Kneebles are a lot stronger than they look, and very determined when there’s slime to be had. While Owen does have a nifty new device that can regenerate lost fingers for you, it takes several days and the process is not especially comfortable, or pleasant to watch.”
“I’ll bear than in mind.”
Ianto smiled down at her. “You do know Jack wants you to join this madhouse, right?”
“I suspected as much.” Martha grinned back at him, unfazed.
“Just thought I’d better warn you. So, shall we join the rest of the inmates?”
“Why not? If I’m going to be working with you lot I should probably start getting used to the insanity right away. Besides, compared to what I was doing at UNIT, this looks like fun!”
“Jack was right,” Ianto told her as he led her away to be kitted out with overalls.
“He said if you accepted his offer he was sure you’d fit right in. Here, put these on, and then I’ll give you a crash course in Kneeble wrangling.”
Martha flashed him a smile that made her look every bit as excited as the Kneebles. “I can hardly wait!”