Characters: Jack, Ianto, Tosh, Owen, Gwen, DI Swanson, OC.
Word Count: 1498
Summary: DI Kathy Swanson calls Torchwood in to deal with a problem at the local supermarket.
Written For: Challenge 307: Jam at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Ianto had been hoping for a quiet afternoon down in the archives, catching up with the backlog of cataloguing that had piled up over the last couple of weeks, but alas it wasn’t to be. Shortly after lunch an SOS had come in from DI Swanson; the local ASDA was under attack by… something. Customers were abandoning their shopping and fleeing in a mad panic, barely escaping with their lives according to witnesses, and shouldn’t Torchwood be there by now, dealing with the problem?
Well, of course they should be, that was their job, but there hadn’t been a Rift alert, so the team hadn’t been aware of any problem prior to Kathy’s phone call. Jack promised her they’d be there as soon as possible and ordered the team to gear up.
“It’s got to be whatever came through night before last,” he said as he let Ianto help him into his coat. “It was bound to turn up again sooner or later.”
The team had spent almost eight hours out in the cold and dark trying to track some kind of creature that had proved so elusive they’d eventually had to admit defeat and go home.
“And here I was hoping it had just crawled off somewhere and died,” Owen grouched. “Would’ve saved us the trouble of dealing with it.”
“Can’t always get what you want, Owen; it’s still our responsibility so we’d better go round it up before it causes any more trouble.” Jack spun on his heel, coat flaring around his legs, and strode towards the garage.
Ianto fell into step beside his lover. “Let’s just hope we can catch it this time. We can do without spending the rest of the day chasing it around Cardiff.”
“We should try to get a tracker on it,” Tosh said. “Then if it does get away again, we’ll still be able to trace its movements.”
Jack nodded. “If we can do that without putting anyone in danger we will. At least it’s in a confined space this time; with any luck we can lock the doors behind us and keep it from getting out.”
“Yeah, it’s about time we had some good luck.” Owen stomped along in the rear, his medical bag slung over his shoulder. “Just hope we’ve got enough Retcon for all the shoppers.”
By the time the team arrived at the supermarket all the staff had been accounted for and as far as Kathy and her people could tell the shoppers had been evacuated. It was always possible a few hadn’t made it out, but Jack had told Kathy not to let anyone enter to search the premises since no one knew exactly what they might be up against. All entrance points had been sealed and guards posted outside each one. There’d apparently been a lot of noise from inside at first, crashing and smashing, but everything had gone quiet by now.
“Whether or not that’s a good thing is anyone’s guess, but I wouldn’t want to be the one going in there,” Kathy said.
“You sure? We can always use another pair of hands.” Jack flashed his signature grin.
“Our loss, but we’ll just have to live with it. Ianto, better move the SUV closer. Don’t want to have to march our guest right across the car park.”
“Sir.” Taking the keys from Jack, Ianto went to fetch the vehicle from where it had been left. Backing it up as close as he could get to the main entrance he opened the rear door and dropped the tailgate so that with any luck, as soon as they captured the alien it could be hustled into the rear compartment without any of the bystanders clustered behind the police cordon getting a good look at it. While he was doing that Jack spoke to the manager and got the keys from him. He let the team in and locked the doors behind them.
The place looked like the scene of a riot, with shopping trolleys and baskets scattered everywhere, some of them overturned and their contents strewn across the floor. Displays had been knocked over and many of the shelves were half empty, torn boxes and dented tins joining the other detritus on the ground.
Here and there, they could see sticky smears of red and black on the floor tiles, the edges of shelves, the checkouts, and the abandoned trolleys.
“Looks like there’s been a massacre,” Owen said quietly, viewing the carnage. “Wonder how many bodies we’ll find. Poor bastards must have been ripped to shreds.”
Ianto bent down beside the nearest trolley and swiped a gloved finger through a patch of red, then held it close to his nose, sniffing at it. “Hopefully none; this isn’t blood and gore, it’s jam. Raspberry, I think.” He rummaged through the jumbled groceries and picked up a jar; the lid was gone and most of the contents had been scooped out. “See? Raspberry: I was right.”
“Doesn’t mean there won’t be any bodies.” Owen seemed unwilling to give up on his massacre theory. “Some of it could still be blood.”
“Or ketchup, or chocolate sauce.” Ianto gave Owen a look. “Anyone would think you wanted a dead body or two.”
Owen shrugged. “It’s been a slow week, nothing to autopsy. Got to keep my hand in.”
“You’re a ghoul.”
“Enough talk,” Jack cut in. “Let’s find this thing and deal with it.”
“Finding it shouldn’t be hard; the place isn’t that big.” Ianto held up two more empty jam jars, plucked from another overturned trolley, strawberry and blackcurrant. “The preserves section seems like a good place to start.”
The team split into two groups, Owen, Tosh, and Gwen walking cautiously up the aisle near the checkouts while Jack and Ianto nipped through the dairy section to the other side of the shop and made their way along the aisle there. Sure enough, when they reached the section where the jams and preserves were displayed, there was the alien, sitting among a litter of empty jars.
It was large and shaggy, about the size of a gorilla, but with thick, yellowish brown fur, a vaguely bear-like snout, and furry yet surprisingly human hands, the long fingers tipped with hard claws instead of fingernails. It had an open jar in one hand.
“Hold it right there!” Jack aimed his Webley at it, ready to fire at the first hint of danger.
“Jam!” the creature intoned happily in a deep, booming voice. Plunging the fingers of its other hand into the jar it scooped out some of the contents then stuck its fingers in its mouth and slurped them clean. “Yum!”
Ianto sighed. “Well, at least we know what it likes to eat.”
“Yeah.” Jack put his gun away. “Now we just have to persuade it to come with us back to the Hub. Own, did you bring the tranquilliser gun?”
“Let’s not resort to that if we don’t have to.” Picking up a discarded basket, Ianto piled it high with jars of jam. “Come along, you jammy devil; you can have these if you come with us.”
Tosh and Gwen quickly filled more baskets. “See? Lots of lovely jam!”
The alien looked at the dwindling rows of jam jars on the shelves, then back at the baskets. Lumbering to its feet, it scooped up an armload of jars itself, licked its snout with a long, black tongue, and began to follow the team back down the shop.
“Can’t argue with you there,” Ianto agreed. “You have a favourite brand or flavour?”
“I’m partial to blackcurrant myself, nice and tart. Very good on toast.”
“Toast? Oh, it’s bread that’s been grilled. I’ll show you when we get back to the Hub. Jack? Grab a couple of loaves of bread, would you?”
“Isn’t that theft? You’re always telling me I should pay for things.”
“So we’ll pay. We can go through the self-service checkouts.”
Which was what they did, complete with the curious alien in tow. Ianto ran the jam and the bread through, swiped the Torchwood credit card to pay for their purchases, and then the lot of them trooped back to entrance doors.
“Try not to get everything sticky,” Ianto told the alien as it followed the jars of jam into the boot. “I’m the one who has to clean it.”
Whether that meant ‘yes’ or ‘no’ Ianto had no idea, so he just raised the tailgate and lowered the door before climbing into the front passenger seat.
“Okay, we’re all set. Just don’t drive too fast,” he told Jack. “Don’t want our friend back there bouncing about and putting dents in the roof.”
“I do know how to drive!”
“You just keep telling yourself that.”
Ianto heard the sound of a jam jar being opened and sighed. He’d better look into buying jam in bulk; he had a feeling they were going to be needing a lot of it.