Gwen arrived at the Hub one morning chewing bubblegum and blowing big bubbles. Putting the open pack of gum on her desk, she slipped her jacket off and hung it over the back of her chair before heading to the kitchen area to see if there was coffee available.
“Oi, don’t leave your gum where Nosy can get it,” Owen called after her.
Gwen laughed. “Why would Nosy steal my gum?”
“Because it likes to copy what we do, and anyway, you remember what happened when you left your coffee unattended last week.”
Shrugging, Gwen replied, “Well, everyone knows Nosy’s a bit of a coffee addict.”
“Aren’t we all? Fine, don’t listen to me, but if Nosy gets into your gum it’s your problem, not mine.” Owen sauntered off to get on with his own work while Gwen continued to the kitchen for her morning caffeine fix. Soon, all thoughts of bubblegum and thieving Fluffs were pushed to the back of her mind as she went over her agenda for the day in her head.
As it turned out, Gwen really should have listened to Owen.
Later that day, she glanced up from her paperwork on hearing a strange sound and froze.
“Oh my God!”
“What’s up?” Owen wandered over, bored and looking for entertainment. Then he saw what Gwen was staring at. “Whoa! That’s a seriously impressive bubble,” he agreed.
As Owen had warned, Nosy had found the bubblegum and had apparently decided to try it out.
Seeing Gwen and Owen staring fixedly at something, the rest of the team wandered over to see what was so interesting and stared in horror at the sight that met their eyes.
Nosy, oblivious to its audience, just kept huffing and puffing, the bubble it was blowing getting bigger and bigger…
No one moved; they all seemed to be holding their breath. Each of them could see what was about to happen, but there was nothing anyone could do to stop it and so they simply watched in horrified fascination as the bubble expanded to gigantic proportions and finally burst with a loud ‘POP’, collapsing and encasing most of Nosy’s head in the sticky pink substance.
The deathly silence that followed was eventually broken by Ianto, who opened and closed his mouth a few times before finally managing to utter a strangled “Ack!”
Owen turned to Gwen with a smirk.
“Have fun cleaning that up! I’m so glad I don’t have to do it.”
“What?” Gwen squeaked. “What are you talking about?”
“It’s your gum Cooper, that means you have the honour of getting it out of Nosy’s fluff.”
“But how? I wouldn’t even know where to start!”
“Like I said earlier, not my problem.” Owen swaggered off, whistling cheerfully, leaving Gwen staring hopelessly at the gummy Fluff.
Nosy seemed too surprised by what had happened to even move. It just lay there if a fluffy heap, looking rather bewildered.
Slowly Gwen approached Nosy and knelt down beside it. She looked beseechingly up at Ianto, who was hovering nearby as if itching to clean something, but was being gently restrained by Jack.
“What do I do?”
“How do you get bubblegum out of your own hair?” Jack asked in return, when it became clear that Ianto was still having trouble forming coherent words.
“I usually cut it out,” Gwen admitted sheepishly.
“You’re not cutting out clumps of Nosy’s fluff!” Apparently Ianto had now managed to find his voice.
“Guys, guys!” Tosh’s voice broke in quickly, “I’ve been researching methods online. You can use cooking oil…”
“Haven’t got any of that here,” Ianto replied.
“Peanut butter is good too,” Gwen started to perk up at that, “but it should be smooth and with a high oil content.”
Gwen slumped again. “Damn, I know for a fact that we’ve only got crunchy here.”
“Okay, how about Vaseline? We must have some of that. Owen?” she called out.
“What now?” Owen’s voice drifted up from the autopsy bay.
“Have we got any Vaseline?”
“Hang on.” There were sounds of rummaging and then, “Here, catch!” A large tub of Vaseline flew over the railing in Tosh’s general direction. She scrambled to catch it and carried it over to Gwen.
“Here you go. According to these instructions, you spread the Vaseline all around where the gum is, then use a wide toothed comb to comb it out. You can use mine,” she added, taking a comb out of her bag, “I was going to get myself a new one anyway, since Owen sat on it yesterday and broke a couple of the teeth.”
“Thanks, Tosh,” Gwen smiled gratefully.
“Then,” Tosh continued, “once the gum is gone, you just wash your, or in this case Nosy’s, hair.”
“Right, I can do that.” Gwen pulled the lid off the plastic tub, dipped her fingers in the Vaseline and started smearing it thickly all over Nosy’s gummy head.
“Oh, hang on a minute,” Tosh said suddenly, frowning at her monitor.
Gwen’s hand paused in mid smear and she looked up, suddenly worried again. “What is it?”
“It says here, ‘Wash your hair with shampoo,’ and then, ‘see How to Get Vaseline out of Your Hair’.”
Gwen stared at her hand, then at Nosy’s gummy, heavily Vaselined head and for a moment Jack thought she might actually faint.
Tosh was still busy at her computer.
“Ah, here we go. Cornstarch works. Or baby powder, or… Oh, I think this is your best bet. Mix a teaspoon of baking soda with baby shampoo, and wash the affected area using warm or hot water. Repeat multiple times if necessary.” She looked up at Ianto. “I know we have baby shampoo, but have we got any baking soda?”
“Plenty, it’s useful for cleaning all kinds of things. I’ll go and get it.” Ianto sounded relieved at finally having something he could do.
Reassured, Gwen got back to applying the Vaseline, making sure every gummy bit had a thorough coating.
Sitting back on her heels, she studied the now very greasy as well as gummy Fluff critically. “Do you think that’s enough?”
Tosh took a look. “Should be, I think. Here,” she held out her comb, “try combing it out.”
Gwen wiped excess Vaseline off her hands with one of the old rags Ianto had brought for her when he’d fetched the baking soda and baby shampoo, then reached for the comb. “Here goes.” Starting at the edge of the gummy area, she tentatively ran the comb through the greasy fluff, careful not to pull, and was relieved to see the gum coming away fairly easily. Throwing a quick grin at Tosh, she wiped the comb clean on the rag and moved on to the next bit.
The process took quite a while as she had to be careful, especially around Nosy’s eyes - which it kept tightly closed — and its nostrils and mouth, but eventually she wiped the last bits of bubblegum off the comb and got stiffly to her feet, wincing a bit as she straightened her legs.
“Thank goodness that part’s done, the concrete floor’s too bloody hard for sitting on,” she grumbled as she gathered up the messy rags and dropped them in the nearest bin.
“That’s why we have chairs,” Ianto told her from where he and Jack were sitting on the battered old couch.
“Haha, very funny. Okay, now I just have to wash Nosy, but I can’t do that here.” She frowned. “Do you think it would lay on the draining board in the kitchen with its head in the sink?”
“You can try, but I think Nosy might be a bit long to fit.” Ianto sounded amused; it seemed he’d got over his shock now that the bubblegum had been removed and disposed of, even though Nosy now looked decidedly slimy, lying there with its head on an old towel put down to keep the Vaseline off the concrete.
“You’re right,” Gwen sighed, “Maybe if I push the table up against the cupboards…”
“You do that, we’ll bring Nosy,” Ianto decided. “We’ll have to lift it, I don’t want to be cleaning greasy trails off the floor next.” He raised his voice. “Owen, we could use another pair of hands here.”
Owen grumbled, but stopped what he was doing long enough to help lug Nosy into the kitchen, where after a bit of a struggle, they managed to drape it along the worktop and over the table with the last couple of metres dangling on the floor.
“Comfy, pet?” Gwen asked. Nosy just looked at her; she thought it would probably have rolled its eyes if it were capable of doing so. “Right, let’s get you cleaned up, shall we?”
Mixing baking soda and baby shampoo in a bowl, she scooped some of the mixture out with one hand and started rubbing it into the greasy fur. It took several minutes to get Nosy’s whole head lathered up and as before, the Fluff kept its eyes tightly closed. Gwen sympathised; she doubted she’d enjoy this treatment either. Still, at least it seemed to be working, albeit slowly.
She ended up having to shampoo and rinse Nosy five times before its natural fluffiness was finally restored. Determined to finish the job properly, she grabbed a towel as soon as the final rinse was finished and set about rubbing Nosy dry. Ianto thought Nosy suffered this final indignity more patiently than he would have done, but even so, before Gwen was finished it decided it’d had more than enough, slithered out of her grasp onto the floor and finally sought refuge under the couch. Well, technically only its head was under the couch because the rest of it wouldn’t fit, but Nosy seemed to think that was good enough.
Gwen looked tempted to try dragging Nosy out so she could finish drying it, but Jack, being surprisingly diplomatic for once, managed to persuade her that she’d done enough to make up for leaving her bubblegum lying around.
Meanwhile, Tosh, being her usual sensitive self, crawled half under the sofa with Nosy, petting it and feeding it grapes until at last she was able to persuade the frazzled Fluff that it was safe to leave its sanctuary.
It was hard not to laugh at the sight of their freshly washed pet with its still damp fur sticking up in all directions as if styled by a demented punk hairdresser, but aside from a few sniggers from Owen, they managed to restrain themselves and by the time Nosy had been given a thorough grooming, it seemed to have mostly recovered from its traumatic experience.
Ruefully, Ianto reflected that the ordeal probably hadn’t curbed Nosy’s natural curiosity. He sighed heavily.
“I’d ask if you’ve learned your lesson, but I suspect this won’t be the last time you get in a mess from sticking your nose somewhere you shouldn’t,” he said sternly.
With an apologetic hum, Nosy put its head on his lap, doing its best to look cute and innocent. Ianto rolled his eyes.
“Alright, you’re forgiven, but no stealing bubblegum in future, understood?”
No one was really sure just how much human language the alien could actually understand, especially as it had been living among them for less than a month. However, when it came to Nosy, Ianto appeared to be the eternal optimist, choosing to believe that even if it didn’t understand him yet it was capable of learning to. At times like this though, he had to wonder if he was talking to himself. He looked at Nosy and Nosy looked back. It was even better at making puppy dog eyes than Jack, and that was saying something.
Pulling himself out of his thoughts, Ianto gently shoved Nosy off his lap and stood up.
“After all that, I really need a coffee. Anyone else?”
It was rather a stupid question really. Ianto could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times any of the Torchwood team had said no to his coffee, so when his question was greeted by a chorus of yeses, with the occasional please thrown in for good measure, he wasn’t surprised. Even Nosy sat up, ‘begging’.
Ianto smiled wryly to himself as he headed towards the kitchen. Somehow it figured that the only word he could be completely certain Nosy understood would be ‘Coffee’.