Characters: Ianto, Jack, Owen, Tosh, Gwen, Rhys, OC
Word Count: 4274
Summary: After moving into his new house, Ianto starts to suffer from a strange tiredness and lack of energy.
Written For: spook_me 2016, using Torchwood, Plant, and this pic.
Disclaimer: Sadly, I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. Think of the fun I could have with them…
Moving into a new house required a housewarming party, or so Jack insisted. Ianto really didn’t see the point; about the only people he could invite were the ones he worked with every day, because he definitely didn’t want his family socialising with his work colleagues, especially if alcohol was involved. Which, if Owen deigned to make an appearance, was a given.
Besides, the small two-bedroom detached property was going to need a lot of work before it was really presentable. He’d had it re-wired, re-plastered, the plumbing overhauled, new kitchen and bathroom fitted, and double gazing throughout, but he still needed to redecorate, get hardwood flooring and carpets fitted, and finish furnishing the place. The only reason he was moving in before all that had been sorted was because the lease on his apartment was up. No sense paying for another three months in advance when he was also paying the mortgage on his new home.
Then Jack had been hit with what even Ianto had to admit was a truly brilliant idea. Instead of an ordinary housewarming party, it could be a house decorating party. Food, some booze but not too much, rolls of wallpaper, tins of paint, brushes and rollers, and overalls to keep their clothes clean. At the very least they might get the open plan lounge and dining area done, and maybe the hall and staircase too.
The rest of the team seemed enthusiastic, and Gwen even offered to bring Rhys, who was apparently a dab hand at decorating. Tosh consulted the Rift predictor, picked a Saturday when things looked likely to be quiet, and they decided to make it an all-day affair, with any alcohol saved for the evening. Drunken people in charge of paintbrushes would not be a good idea.
In the grand tradition of housewarming parties, everybody brought gifts with them; a case of beer from Gwen and Rhys, wine and chocolates from Tosh, silk sheets from Jack, and a plant from Owen. This last was a rather exotic looking specimen, and Owen simply shoved it at Ianto with a terse, “Saw this on the market, thought it might brighten the place up a bit.”
Ianto had a general knowledge of plant species, but this one wasn’t familiar. It was pretty though, with its lightly furred stem, delicately veined, translucent pale green leaves, and a graceful pale yellow flower with bright orange stamens. Deciding it must be some kind of orchid he took it upstairs and set it on the windowsill in his bedroom, where it would get plenty of daylight but no direct sunlight. As the soil seemed a bit too dry, he gave it some water then went back downstairs to join his friends
The party was a huge success; by the time the sun set just after eight that evening, the entire downstairs had been decorated, as well as the hall and landing, the guest bedroom, and the bathroom. The only thing left to do was the master bedroom, which Ianto had decided to take care of himself the next time he had a day off, so that for now he could at least sleep in a room that didn’t smell strongly of paint.
Ianto ordered takeaway and they all sat around on the bare floor of the lounge, admiring their handiwork while they ate, with the windows and doors wide open to air the place out. After dinner there was music and dancing, everybody being careful not to touch any of the new paintwork. Drinks were poured and the team let their hair down, celebrating a job well done, the party finally winding down around midnight.
After everyone had left, including Jack who as the only completely sober member of the team needed to return to the Hub and keep an eye on things, Ianto threw out the trash, washed the glasses and mugs, shut the downstairs windows, and locked up for the night. By the time he was done it was almost two in the morning, but Jack had told them all not to bother coming in to work until lunchtime, so he planned on sleeping late. He moved his new plant off the windowsill for the night and shut the curtains before gratefully falling into bed at last. Turning out the bedside light, he closed his eyes and quickly fell asleep.
His alarm clock went off at ten, waking Ianto from a deep sleep, but although he’d had a good eight hours, more than he usually got, he felt like he’d barely slept at all. He couldn’t even remember dreaming, which was unusual. Blaming it on paint fumes and too much beer and wine the night before, he had breakfast and a couple of cups of strong coffee to wake himself up, showered and dressed, and headed in to work.
“Morning, sunshine!” Jack greeted Ianto as he trudged into the Hub. “You look a bit rough. Hangover?”
“Not really, just a bit of a headache. I slept well enough, but I still feel done in. Most likely the paint fumes.”
“Probably,” Jack agreed. “Tell you what, why don’t you sleep here tonight? A night away from the smell of paint should help.”
Ianto gave Jack a quick kiss. “Yeah, thanks, I think I’ll do that. Fresh paint looks great, but I always forget how long it takes to get rid of the smell.”
Ianto dragged himself through the next few hours, but by evening he was feeling brighter and more alert. Even his headache had subsided, and a night with Jack, despite the physical exertion it inevitably involved, seemed to complete the cure. He awoke the next morning, bright and early, feeling refreshed and ready for whatever the day held.
“Why don’t you come back to mine tonight?” he suggested to Jack as they finished getting dressed. “I’ll cook dinner. We haven’t tested out the new bed yet,” he added with a wink.
“Now there’s an offer I’m not about to refuse!” Jack flashed his film star smile.
“Good, because it’s not an offer I make to just anybody.” Ianto tugged Jack in by his braces and kissed him, long and slow, pulling back and leaving the other man breathless. “You’ll get the rest tonight.”
“I can’t wait!”
In the end, Jack did have to wait. They managed to get through dinner, both the main course and the dessert, undisturbed, but halfway through putting the dishes in the dishwasher, his wrist strap started to beep, signalling a Rift alert.
“Damnit! Sorry, Ianto, gotta go.”
“I could come with you…”
“No, you stay here. I’ll call if it’s something I can’t handle alone, and I’ll be back later if I can. Keep the bed warm for me.” Jack pulled on his boots, let Ianto help him with his coat, then after a quick kiss goodbye, he was out the door in a swirl of coattails, disappearing into the dark.
Sighing, Ianto went back to the kitchen to finish loading the dishwasher, started it, then wandered into the sparsely furnished lounge to watch TV for a while, keeping his phone close by just in case Jack called. He didn’t, so just before eleven, since there was nothing all that good on the TV, he gave up and turned in. Might as well sleep now so he’d be rested if Jack showed up later.
As he had a couple of nights earlier, Ianto moved his new plant off the windowsill, setting it instead on one of the nightstands set either side of the bed. It seemed quite delicate and he didn’t want to damage it by catching it on the curtains as he closed them. It seemed to have grown, and the leaves were a deeper green; clearly he’d chosen the right spot for it.
Curtains shut against the light from the streetlamps, Ianto got undressed, brushed his teeth, and climbed into bed, setting his alarm clock for six-thirty. He was asleep in moments.
It seemed more like thirty seconds than over seven hours later when he was awoken by the strident ringing of his alarm. Dragging himself from his bed, he cursed quietly. The smell of paint wasn’t as strong now, but the fumes were obviously lingering, he’d have to leave his bedroom window open a bit more tonight, and the curtains too, so that fresh air could circulate. Still, at least the orchid was thriving, he thought, as he set the pot back in its place on the windowsill, catching a honey-sweet scent from its flower as he did so. Perhaps he should do some research on orchids; autumn wasn’t far off and his plant would probably require a different level of care during the colder months.
By lunchtime, the effects of the paint fumes had worn off again, and although Ianto still felt a bit tired, aside from that he was fine. Nevertheless, he did have a word with Owen about it, just to be on the safe side.
The medic didn’t seem concerned, since the tiredness and lethargy came and went, and Ianto wasn’t experiencing any other symptoms. “You could be a bit anaemic, hardly surprising considering the way you overwork yourself. I’ll put you on iron supplements for a couple of weeks, see if that helps, but come back and see me if you start feelin’ any worse and I’ll run some tests. Now get outta here, I’ve got real work to do.”
So things went along for a few more days, with Ianto feeling drained and headachy every morning but usually recovering by sometime in the afternoon, although the effects seemed to take longer to wear off every day. The iron tablets weren’t having any discernible effect either, but there was no time to see Owen about it; the Rift had kicked into high gear, as it did occasionally, meaning the whole team was run off their feet. By the start of the following week things had calmed down again enough that Ianto and Jack decided to have another try at a romantic evening for two. This time, they ate out at their favourite restaurant before driving back to Ianto’s house, but just as last time, before they could get to the main event, Jack’s Vortex Manipulator started beeping insistently.
Disentangling himself from Ianto and getting to his feet, Jack tugged the rest of his clothes back on. At least they hadn’t been completely undressed, not that it was much consolation. Leaning over the bed, Jack kissed Ianto briefly. “Hold that thought, I’ll be back as soon as I can and we can pick up where we left off.”
“I’ll believe that when I see it,” Ianto replied in a resigned tone. “You stood me up last time. Just so you know, I’m not waiting up for you.”
“Perish the thought! I’ll wake you when I get back.”
“Good luck with that, the way I’ve been sleeping.”
“The paint smell’s nearly gone so you should be back to normal soon.”
“God I hope so, I’ve had more than enough of feeling exhausted every morning.”
“You should talk to Owen about it.”
“I did; he gave me iron supplements, for all the good they’re doing.”
“Maybe you’re walking in your sleep or something,” Jack teased. “See you later. Sweet dreams.”
Jack was out the door before Ianto could reply, so he just flopped back against the pillows with a sigh. “As if. Can’t remember the last time I dreamed.” Turning out the light, he rolled onto his side and went to sleep.
It was after two in the morning when Jack arrived back at Ianto’s house after a busy night Weevil hunting. The errant Weevil, a wiry and surprisingly agile youngster, had given him the run-around, and it had taken far longer than it should have to corner the alien, subdue it, tag it, and return it to the sewers. He’d swung by the Hub for a quick shower afterwards, not wanting to arrive smelling of Weevil, hardly the most seductive aroma in the world and definitely not appropriate for a late-night tryst.
Letting himself in with his key, he hung up his coat, left his boots on the doormat, and crept almost noiselessly up the stairs, thinking that if Ianto was asleep he’d just snuggle in beside his lover and let him rest. Although it was dark inside the house, Jack had excellent night vision, one of the perks of his 51st century genes, so he didn’t bother to turn on any lights, making his way unerringly to the front bedroom.
Ianto had left the door ajar and as he reached the top of the stairs and stepped onto the landing, Jack could see there was light from the streetlamps outside coming through the gap Ianto had left between the curtains when he’d closed them earlier. It provided more than enough illumination for Jack to see everything with crystal clarity as he pushed the door open wider and stepped inside. Even so, it took him several seconds to fully register what he was seeing.
Ianto was lying flat on his back, unnaturally still, eyes wide-open but unseeing. Crouching beside him on the bed was a creature straight out of a nightmare. Although it was hard to be sure because of the way it was hunched over, Jack estimated it to be roughly a metre tall. It was mostly humanoid, having two sinewy arms ending in sharp-clawed, four-fingered hands, and two thin, lightly furred legs. Its body was extraordinarily flexible, the spine curving in a way that would be impossible for a human, and there was an odd, heavily veined, transparent greenish crest running down its back, which was turned towards him. It seemed completely unaware of Jack’s presence; too intent on whatever it was doing to Ianto to register his unexpected arrival.
One of its hands was resting on Ianto’s scalp, clawed fingers buried in his hair, the other was gripping the bedcovers, which it had pulled down to Ianto’s hips. Jack couldn’t see the creature’s head, which was dipped down low in the vicinity of Ianto’s belly, but from the distressed whimpering sounds Ianto was making, he could guess that whatever it was up to wasn’t pleasant. Part of him wanted to leap across the room and tear the thing away from his lover, but he held back, afraid that the wrong move could cost Ianto his life.
Silently he edged around the bed, keeping close to the wall where the shadows were deepest, hoping to avoid being noticed too soon. Gradually the creature’s head came into view, a grotesque, frilled monstrosity resembling a flower, complete with stamens, orange anthers bobbing on hair thin filaments. The stigma of the flower was elongated and mobile, flicking in and out of a small opening in the lower part of its face, like a tongue in a mouth. It took Jack a moment to realise that was exactly what it was, and the tongue was lapping almost delicately at Ianto’s blood, where a small pool had gathered in his navel.
The sight of this monster feeding from his lover was more than Jack could bear. He stepped forward into the shaft of light from the streetlamps, his hands clenched into fists at his sides, silently cursing himself for leaving his Webley downstairs with his coat. It was too late to go back for it now, even though nothing would have given him more satisfaction than blowing this thing’s head off. At the back of his mind, he knew Ianto would probably throw a fit if he started shooting in here, messing up the freshly plastered walls before they were even decorated, and disturbing the neighbours into the bargain, but still...
Whatever it was, the creature didn’t appear to have any eyes, but it must have registered his movement in some way, because the head lifted and turned towards him, the creature giving out a sound somewhere between the hiss of high-pressure steam escaping, and the rattle of a rattlesnake about to strike. If it was a warning, Jack ignored it, drawing himself up to his full height and continuing towards the bed.
“Get away from him,” he growled in a low, menacing tone.
The monstrous plant hissed again, tongue flickering in and out, its body tensing and coiling tighter, but it made no move to release Ianto.
Jack took another step forwards. “I said get your hands off him and back off!” His voice was louder this time, and so was the plant’s hiss; that was all the warning Jack had before the thing uncoiled, lunging at him faster than his eyes could follow. Even small and light as it was, the attack was so sudden that the plant creature caught him off guard, hitting him with more than enough force to send him over backwards. On his way down, his head struck the corner of Ianto’s chest of drawers, the impact almost knocking him senseless.
Wiry, surprisingly strong fingers dug into Jack’s head and he felt the sharp-tipped claws pierce his skin as the creature straddled his body, intent on pinning him down. Despite being stunned, Jack retaliated, gripping the creature’s wrists and wrenching at them, trying to force its hands away while simultaneously rolling onto his side, causing his attacker to lose its balance. He’d intended to reverse their positions, coming out on top, but it didn’t work, the creature broke free, its waxy limbs sliding from Jack’s grasp, and it scrabbled away into the shadows.
Realising he needed more light, Jack lunged towards Ianto’s nightstand and the lamp that sat on it, fumbling for the switch and clicking it on, nearly dazzling himself in the process. Catching movement from the corner of his eye, he turned just in time to see the plant coming towards him again, and reaching down he grabbed the edge on the rug and yanked, pulling it out from under root-like feet. The plant, alien, whatever it was, fell backwards, hitting the floor with a thud and tearing the leafy ridge down its back in the process, but it was on its feet again in seconds, hunched over, glaring malevolently at him. Despite not seeming to have any eyes, Jack felt sure it could see him clearly.
He fumbled blindly at the cabinet behind him, seeking something he could use as a weapon against this monster, but finding nothing. He didn’t dare take his eyes off his opponent, knowing it would take advantage of any opening he gave it. Cautiously he edged away from the bed again, keeping the wall at his back, making for the chest of drawers, hoping to find something helpful among the uncharacteristic clutter on its surface.
Before he got even halfway there, the creature suddenly spat at him, a viscous fluid that would have hit him full in the face if he hadn’t managed to block most of it with his arms. Even so, some got through, burning and then numbing his bare skin. He started to feel a bit lethargic; maybe this was the substance the thing had been using on Ianto, the cause of his recent exhaustion. Jack shook off the effects as best he could, but the momentary distraction had been all the creature needed and before he could move, it was on him again, slamming him into the wall and practically climbing up him, the tendrils of its feet digging painfully into his legs even as its hands clamped once more onto his head, claws sinking deep. Jack could feel threadlike filaments from the creature’s palms slipping into his skull. He reached around behind its back, tearing at the leafy crest, grabbing handfuls and pulling, causing the creature to arch backwards, hissing and rattling, but its grip on him didn’t loosen at all.
On the bed, Ianto stirred, roused from his drugged stupor by a cacophony of sounds, like a catfight mixed in with a hailstorm. He blinked, surprised by the amount of light in the room, but it took him several minutes before he could manage to turn his head towards the source of the noise. What he saw was like a vision out of a nightmare, and his first coherent thought was that he must be dreaming, but as his blurred surroundings came into better focus, he took another look. No, this was no dream; some kind of weird alien creature had Jack pinned to the wall and was… He couldn’t quite make out what it was doing, but from the expression of horror on Jack’s face, it couldn’t be anything good.
Jack needed help, but Ianto’s body felt as heavy as lead and it took him precious moments to lever himself upright. Tearing his eyes away from Jack, Ianto reached for the nightstand on his side of the big bed, the side away from the battle and closest to the bedroom door. He pulled open the drawer, reaching inside, fingers brushing the cold metal of his Torchwood Special, but he rejected that. He couldn’t shoot the alien without shooting Jack, and besides, he didn’t want the neighbours calling the police, not if it could be avoided.
Instead, his hand closed around the comfortingly familiar butt of his other Torchwood-issue weapon, his trusty stun gun. Flicking it onto its highest setting, he crawled painfully slowly across the bed, sliding his feet to the bare floorboards and pushing himself shakily upright. Even that slight effort seemed to take every bit of strength he had, he didn’t think he’d ever felt so tired in his life, but he knew he had to keep going.
The creature was so focussed on Jack that it didn’t seem aware of Ianto shuffling across the few feet of floor between them. Just as well, since he doubted he’d have the strength or energy to fend it off if it attacked him the way it was currently attacking Jack. The stun gun in hiss hand seemed to weigh a ton, but Ianto raised it anyway, pointing it at the alien’s back.
There was something oddly familiar about the creature, like he’d seen it somewhere before. Frowning, he stared at the now shredded leafy back, the fluffy legs, the frilled head, barely visible because of the way the thing’s shoulders hunched forwards. Recognition dawned; it looked an awful lot like the plant Owen had given him, but nowhere near as pleasing to look at. A brief glance at the nightstand on this side of the bed revealed an empty plant pot. Oh. How typically Torchwood.
Returning his attention to the creature formerly known as his new houseplant, Ianto shuffled the last couple of feet towards it, jammed the stun gun as hard as he could against the back of what passed for its neck, and pulled the trigger.
The creature threw its head back, making a sound like somebody tipping a sack-full of marbles down a long flight of stairs, and its whole body convulsed. So did Jack, and Ianto sent him a silent apology but didn’t let up for an instant, pouring everything his stun gun had into the alien until it started to smoke and shrivel, falling away from Jack and onto the floor. Released, Jack slid down the wall, landing in a twisted heap. Ianto’s legs decided that looked like a good idea and dumped him on the floor too.
He was still sitting there staring at what remained of his plant when Jack revived five minutes later.
“Hey, Jack.” Ianto gestured at the body between them. “Would I be correct in assuming that’s what was responsible for the way I’ve been feeling lately?”
“I’d say that’s a pretty safe assumption. When I came in, it had its claws digging into your head and it was drinking your blood.”
Ianto pulled a disgusted face. “Huh! That’s the thanks I get for looking after it. You know, I really liked that plant,” he huffed, poking at the shrivelled remains of the creature on his bedroom floor with the business end of his stun gun. “It was different, exotic.”
“It was different alright,” Jack agreed, “but it liked you a bit too much for comfort. How about I get you a new plant to replace it? Something a bit safer, a nice cactus maybe.”
Ianto gave the idea some consideration. “Well, okay, as long as I get to choose; I don’t want just any old plant. And we should probably investigate the market stall where Owen got that one, make sure they don’t have any others like it in stock.”
“Good thinking, but first I’m taking the remains of this one back to the Hub for incineration. I won’t be happy until I’m sure it’s gone for good. I want Owen to give you a thorough examination too, make sure it didn’t leave any nasty little surprises behind. We have no idea how that thing reproduces, and I can’t help thinking that it’s abdomen looks a lot like a swelling seed pod.”
Ianto shuddered. “You won’t get any argument from me.”
“Are you okay?”
“I feel like a limp lettuce leaf, my head aches, and I’d like to sleep for about a week, but other than that I’m fine. You might have to help me up though, my legs are doing a scarily good impression of wet noodles.”
“I think I can manage that.” Climbing to his feet, Jack helped Ianto up and sat him on the edge of his bed. “There you go.” He sat down beside Ianto, staring at the remains on the floor, and sighed. “I hope Owen kept his receipt.”
Ianto snorted softly. “Somehow I don’t think he’ll be getting his money back.”