Characters: Ianto, Jack, Tosh, Gwen, Owen, Kathy Swanson, Myfanwy.
Summary: Torchwood never knows what the Rift will send them next, and even when they find it, that still doesn’t mean they’ll know what it is or what to do with it.
Word Count: 2520 words
Written For: hexgirl20’s prompt ‘Ice cold lemonade/lemonade stand,’ at torchwood_fest.
Beta: My lovely friend milady_dragon. You’re awesome! Thanks so much for being my beta!
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
Why he said it, Ianto wasn’t too sure afterwards. Well, maybe that’s not quite accurate; he said it because he meant it, but why he said it at that precise moment was another matter.
He and Jack had just arrived back at the Hub following a Rift retrieval that had netted them one of those random bits of alien technology that got dumped on Cardiff so often. It didn’t look like anything either of them had ever seen before, so they hadn’t the faintest idea what it was supposed to do, or even if it was in working order, but that was okay because Tosh always enjoyed trying to figure such things out. What they did know was that it was bulky, heavy, and not at all the sort of thing they wanted to be lugging about during a heatwave.
Getting it into the SUV had just about broken their backs, and carting it into the Hub from the underground garage left both men sweaty, hotter than ever, and out of breath; unsurprising since it was about the size of an old-fashioned jukebox. They hauled it over to Tosh’s workstation and set it down as carefully as they could, but it still hit the concrete floor with a heavy thud. Ianto leant wearily against the large, blue-veneered, rectangular device, with all of its buttons, levers, dials, slots, lights, and the peculiar hatch halfway up, and wiped the sweat from his forehead with his shirtsleeve. He’d abandoned his suit jacket hours ago and was now seriously thinking about trading shirt and trousers for t-shirt and shorts. He felt about done in from the heat and his recent exertions.
“I need a drink; something cool. Should’ve picked up some lemons at that shop we passed while we were looking for this thing,” he sighed, thumping the top of the whatever-it-was. “I could really go for some ice-cold, homemade lemonade right now. My mam had a great recipe; she used to make it for us every summer when we were kids, and I’ve got everything I need to make it in the kitchen, I just need lemons.”
Despite his exhaustion, Ianto somehow managed to conjure up the energy to leap back away from the machine as it abruptly started to rumble, clank, and rattle, rocking slightly against the concrete.
“Jack, what’s it doing?”
“Search me!” Jack quickly put himself between the bulky contraption and Ianto, for whatever protection he might afford his lover. Tosh hunkered down behind her desk, peering cautiously over the top but ready to duck if necessary, but the device didn’t explode. Instead, after no more than three or four minutes, it gave one final rumble, the hatch in the middle of the device popped open, and out poured what looked a lot like lemons. A LOT of lemons. They piled up in front of the machine, and then as more were added, started to roll across the floor until Jack and Ianto were knee deep in them.
Tearing himself out of his stunned stupor, Ianto squeezed his way past Jack, wading through the tide of lemons, and thumped the machine again. “Oi! That’s enough!”
Amazingly, it worked. The machine gave a little shudder, a hiccup, another three or four lemons rolled out, and then the hatch shut with a snap.
“Well,” Jack said lamely, “you did say you wanted lemons.”
“But are they? Lemons, that is. I mean, I know they look like lemons, but…” Ianto picked up a lemon and studied it. Yellow, roughly oval, more or less pointed at one end, with waxy, slightly pitted skin, and a distinctly lemony smell… if it wasn’t an actual lemon, it was a very good fake.
“Only one way to find out if they’re the genuine article!” Owen stomped over, grabbed a couple of lemons at random, and took them down to the autopsy bay for dissection and study. Well, it wasn’t like he had anything better to do.
While the team’s medic was busy determining whether they’d been inundated with real lemons or not, the rest of the team started collecting the remarkably lemon-like objects, and putting them in boxes. All seven hundred and ninety-four of them. By the time they’d gathered the last half-dozen or so from where they’d rolled under the sofa, Owen was back with the good news.
“They’re lemons. I’ve run every test I can think of, and right down to the last molecule they’re completely indistinguishable from any other lemon I’ve ever met; no added extras.” He looked at Ianto. “So, now that’s sorted, how about makin’ some of that lemonade you were talkin’ about before,” he waved vaguely at the boxes full of lemons, “this? I could do with a cold drink too.”
“That’s a lot of lemons,” Jack commented.
“Yep,” Ianto agreed. “If I’m going to make them into lemonade, I think I’m going to need more sugar and mint leaves.” He glared quickly at the machine, sitting silently beside Tosh’s workstation. “Just to be clear, that was NOT a request!”
The machine gave a small, almost apologetic blip, and one final lemon dropped out of its hatch, along with a few sprigs of what looked a lot like mint. Ianto stared at it balefully until he was sure it wasn’t going to do anything else. “Humph.”
Jack clapped his hands together. “Okay, Operation Lemonade! Gwen, shopping trip, we need mint leaves, lots of sugar, and see if you can get some glass jugs from the pound shop. Catch!” He tossed her the Torchwood credit card.
“On it!” Grabbing her bag, Gwen started for the garage and her car.
“And no side trips to buy shoes,” Jack teased. “I know what you’re like!”
“No shoes, I swear, just sugar, mint leaves, and glass jugs.” She waved back over her shoulder as she disappeared through the garage entrance.
“Ice cold lemonade,” Jack grinned. “Just what we need in this weather!”
Ianto rolled his eyes. “Do you have any idea how much lemonade this many lemons will make? If I use them all, we’ll probably have enough to swim in!”
Jack pulled a face. “Wouldn’t that be a bit sticky?”
“I’m not suggesting we actually try swimming in it, Jack, I was just… Oh, forget it.”
“We could set up our own lemonade stand and sell the surplus,” Tosh said.
Jack’s expression brightened. “Why not? I’ll check with Kathy, see if we need a licence to sell lemonade and raise money for charity.” He turned towards his office.
“For charity? Now that,” Ianto said approvingly, “is an excellent idea!”
A quick phone call to Detective Swanson got the team the authorisation they needed to set up a lemonade stand on the Plas, with the understanding that they’d save some for her. With that sorted, Ianto set to work, assisted by Jack and Tosh, making lemonade with the ingredients he already had to hand.
Owen lounged about nearby, ready to sample the first batch. “Got to make sure it’s fit for human consumption, don’t I? It’s my responsibility as a doctor.”
“Right,” Ianto drawled sarcastically. “Your motives are completely selfless.”
“I didn’t say that!” Owen grinned cheekily. “Can’t help it if I’m parched; it’s the weather!”
“You’re not the only one, Owen,” Tosh reminded him. “I’m sure Ianto needs a drink more than you do after being out in the sun collecting the…” she gestured vaguely at the big, blue rectangle squatting by her desk. “That, whatever you want to call it.”
“The Provider,” Ianto joked. “Provides whatever it decides you want, whether you actually want it or not.”
“Maybe it’s a sort of vending machine,” Tosh suggested.
“Could be,” Ianto replied, turning his attention to preparing the lemons as Tosh got on with chopping mint.
Arriving back with her purchases half an hour later, Gwen quickly rolled up her sleeves to help, washing the new jugs ready to be filled with lemonade. Soon the first batch was chilling in the refrigerator and Gwen took over measuring out the sugar while Jack roped Owen into helping take a couple of trestle tables up to the Plas. They set them up not far from the water tower and covered them with clean white tablecloths. Jack fetched several packs of disposable plastic cups from a nearby shop, stood a bin at the end of the tables for the used cups, and put up a sign he’d made, which read: Homemade Lemonade, 50p a cup. Proceeds to the RSPCA.’ They’d decided between them that it made sense in view of the heatwave to donate whatever they made from selling the lemonade to the people who would be making sure animals weren’t suffering in the hot weather. With that in mind, Jack also put a bowl of water out so that any thirsty dogs could get a drink too.
The lemonade stand hadn’t been in place for more than ten minutes before a queue started to form. Jack tapped his Bluetooth earpiece.
“Ianto? We’ve got customers! How’s the lemonade coming?”
Down in the Hub, Ianto raised an eyebrow at Owen, who was taste-testing the first batch, and got a nod of approval. “Sending the first jugs up now.”
Gwen and Tosh headed up the invisible lift with the lemonade, and Ianto took a sip from his own glass, smiling at the memories the familiar taste elicited, before getting on with slicing more lemons.
Before long, even Owen had been roped in to help with production. When mint supplies got low, Ianto hesitated a moment, making up his mind, then thumped the machine.
“Oi! Mint leaves, please. Just fill this.” He put an empty containment box that had formerly been full of lemons beneath the hatch, and watched as green leaves poured out. “That’ll do for now. I’ll let you know if we need any more.”
Obediently, the machine spat out a final few leaves and stopped.
And that was how the rest of the day went; making lemonade, helping themselves to a drop now and then, and sending the rest up to Jack on the Plas, where he was doing a roaring trade. Word must have been getting around, because the people just kept coming, tourists and locals alike. Twice Jack had to send Gwen off in search of more disposable cups to keep up with demand.
Kathy showed up on her break to collect the bottles of lemonade Ianto had set aside for her. “Looks like you’re doing well!”
“Of course!” Jack flashed that same cocky grin at her. “Who doesn’t love cold lemonade on a hot day? We have two varieties now; lemon and mint, and plain lemon, something for everyone!”
“Should I ask where you’re getting it all?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
Jack lowered his voice. “A machine we found this morning started spontaneously producing lemons, and we didn’t want to waste them, so Ianto’s using an old recipe handed down by his mum. What’s the old saying? If life gives you lemons…”
“You make lemonade,” Kathy finished. She looked at him and shook her head. “I’m never sure whether you’re joking or telling the truth,” she admitted.
“Of course you’re not; that’s all part of my air of mystery,” Jack teased.
Doing a passable eye-roll, Kathy graced him with the kind of withering look Ianto was so good at. “You get worse; I don’t know how Ianto puts up with you. Thanks for these.” She held up the bottles. “At least this new business venture of yours is keeping you out of trouble for now.” Kathy dropped some coins in the collection bucket. “Keep up the good work.”
“We’ll do our best, for as long as our lemon supply holds out. Which could be quite a while.”
Finally, as the afternoon turned to evening, the last customers drifted away in search of dinner. Jack poured himself the last of the lemonade from one of the jugs on the table and drank it down. It really was very good. Tapping his Bluetooth again, he spoke to Ianto.
“I’m closing up shop; whatever lemonade we have left we can drink ourselves.”
“Thank God for that. My hands are getting sore from cutting up lemons. Whose brilliant idea was this anyway?”
“Um, mine, I think.”
“Should’ve known. When we hauled that machine back here this morning, all I wanted to do was sit down and relax. Instead I’ve spent most of the day making lemonade. I hope it was worth it.”
“We’ll find out in a bit.”
After packing away the lemonade stand and taking everything back down to the Hub, Jack sent the rest of the team home for the night and set about adding up their takings. He gave a low whistle when he saw the total. Between lemonade sales and outright donations, they’d raised £583.27.
“Impressive!” Ianto said, flopping beside Jack on the sofa below the Torchwood sign.
Jack beamed. “Your lemonade was a big hit!” He gestured at the neat stacks of coins and bank notes. “We’ll use this for petty cash and I’ll write a cheque for the RSPCA.”
“Sensible. We can drop it in to them tomorrow morning,” Ianto said through a yawn. “All I want right now is something to eat, followed by a quiet, relaxing evening doing as little as possible.”
“No argument from me! Any preferences for dinner?”
“How about steak and a salad?”
“I could go for that.”
Before either of them could say anything else, or even move, the Rift alarms started blaring.
“Oh, that’s just typical!” With a groan, Ianto wearily dragged himself off the sofa, stretching the kinks out of his back. “Looks like dinner will have to wait until later. Suppose we’d best go see what we got this time.”
“Looks that way,” Jack agreed, standing up too and scooping the money back into the bucket to leave in his office.
Smiling wryly at each other, the two men made their way towards the garage.
Behind them, unseen and unheard by either of them, the machine rattled, clanked, and two steaming, rare steaks dropped into the containment unit Ianto had left standing beneath its hatch. They were followed an assortment of salad leaves, tomatoes, sliced peppers, mushrooms… The hatch snapped shut again, the machine whirred for a minute, running a self-cleaning protocol, then all was silent once more.
Minutes ticked slowly past, then with a flapping of wings Myfanwy, alerted by a delicious aroma, fluttered down to investigate. She circled the machine warily and cocked her head to one side, peering though one eye at the hunks of meat. They were a bit hot, and not covered with her special sauce, but nobody else was around so surely there was no harm in helping herself, was there? Waste not want not. Snatching up the first steak, she waved it around a bit to cool it before gulping it down, and then did the same with the second. Ignoring the leafy stuff, she flapped her way back up to her aerie for an after-dinner nap.
Alone on the concrete, the machine burbled quietly. At least someone appreciated its efforts.