Ianto was sticky, and he definitely wasn’t happy about it. As it had expired, apparently unable to cope with earth’s atmosphere, the unidentified alien had squirted something all over him and while he preferred not to dwell on exactly what the pinkish fluid might have been, one thing was certain; it didn’t wash off with water. As a result, all his exposed skin was now tacky and he stuck to everything he touched.
As soon as he and Jack had returned to the Hub from their ‘outing’, Ianto had stripped, with some difficulty since whatever he touched adhered to his hands, and consigned his clothes to the incinerator, proclaiming them to be unsalvageable. Just as well he’d been dressed in his scruffs at the time because he’d been at home clearing out the garage when Jack had called him for assistance. The thought of ruining yet another suit would have been too much to bear.
The shower that had followed his impromptu striptease had proved an exercise in futility. Water, soap, and even Ianto’s industrial strength cleansing wash, formulated to remove even the most noxious substances from human skin, had no effect whatsoever on the substance now coating his arms, hands, neck, face, and even his hair, which was mostly plastered to his head but sticking up here and there in random tufts.
“What am I going to do?” he asked Jack as he tried and failed to put down the takeaway coffee cup that Jack had given him. Jack thoughtfully pried it out of Ianto’s sticky hand for him.
“I don’t know, Ianto. I’m sorry.” Jack tried for an apologetic smile but it looked more like a pained grimace. No doubt he was considering how Ianto’s situation would adversely affect their sex life, which was doomed if a solution couldn’t be found. Even kissing would stick them together at the lips. “On the bright side, the stickiness doesn’t seem to be transferable,” he added, testing the outer surface of the cup and finding it wasn’t sticky at all.
“That’s not much consolation, Jack,” Ianto replied testily. “I can’t touch anything without sticking to it. You even had to detach me from the soap and my towel. As long as I’m like this, I won’t be able to do paperwork, or use a computer, or drive… Hell, I can’t even dress myself without help, and if I try to eat I’ll probably get stuck to my food, just like with the coffee cup.” He’d had to wrestle the cup away from his lips after every sip.
“You could wear gloves,” Jack suggested, somewhat lamely.
Ianto closed his eyes and sighed. “Give me strength,” he muttered.
“Look, Owen’s analysing the stuff, he’ll figure out what it is…”
“I’m not at all sure I want to know what it is,” Ianto interrupted.
“And I’m sure he’ll come up with a way of neutralising it,” Jack finished.
“I hope you’re right.” Ianto slumped down onto the old sofa, leant back against the cushions, and promptly got the back of his head stuck to the wall. “This just keeps getting better and better,” he groaned as Jack helped him get unstuck. “What if I stick to something permanently?”
“It won’t come to that.” Jack wished he could feel as confident as he sounded.
“You’ll be happy to know, that stuff you got sprayed with isn’t alien piss. Seems to be that thing’s way of catching its prey. Spray whatever it’s hunting so it’s stuck in place then eat it. Ingenious really.”
“Wonderful. How do I get it off me?”
“Ah. That I don’t know.”
“Sorry, mate; I’ve tried everything I can think of, but nothing has any effect. As far as I can tell, it’s completely insoluble.”
“You mean I’m stuck like this permanently?” Ianto was so distraught that the unintentional pun went right over his head, despite Owen’s snigger.
“Maybe it’ll wear off over time.”
Ianto buried his head in his hands, then really wished he hadn’t when it took both Jack and Owen to pull his hands off his face, accompanied by an unpleasant sucking sound. A number of hairs got wrenched from his head in the process, leaving him with hairy palms. Scrambling to his feet without touching anything, Ianto fled to the vaults to escape Owen’s laughter.
Picking up on Ianto’s distress, Janet moaned sympathetically, while the resident Hoix clamoured for food then sulked in the back of its cell when none was forthcoming. Ianto carefully avoided looking at the rubbery thing from a few weeks back, but he could still hear it making muted squelching sounds as it shifted restlessly.
He continued to wander aimlessly until he reached the area housing the Kneeble colony. The small creatures started squeaking excitedly the moment he entered the short corridor near their cell so he slouched over to check on them. The closer he got, the more excited they became.
“What’s up, kids?” he asked, poking a finger through an air hole without thinking. The nearest Kneeble immediately latched on to his finger, sucking at it with a happy purr. The Kneebles were friendly and even affectionate creatures, but this was new and puzzling behaviour. When the Kneeble released his finger, Ianto pulled it back and looked at it closely; the faint pinkish glaze that covered the rest of his exposed skin was gone and to his amazement, his finger was no longer sticky.
Using his one clean finger, he keyed in the code to open the door, quickly slipping inside. Immediately, Kneebles swarmed around him, jostling each other, all trying to reach his hands, so he sat down on the floor and let them get on with it, Kneebles sucking his fingers and licking his arms with their rasping tongues. A couple climbed his back and started grooming his hair, while Momma Kneeble claimed his face for herself, starting at his chin and licking her way upwards in a surprisingly delicate fashion, leaving not a millimetre of skin untended. Ianto kept his eyes and mouth closed, feeling her little tongue steadily scouring away the sticky residue.
When he returned to the main Hub an hour later, freshly showered again and without the slightest trace of stickiness left, Jack and Owen gaped at him in amazement.
“How’d you manage to clean that gunk off?” Owen wanted to know,
“Kneeble power. Seems there’s no slime in existence that can withstand a bunch of hungry Kneebles. Must be something in their saliva,” Ianto smirked, his mood much improved. “I don’t think I’ve ever been cleaner, it was quite invigorating!”
“I’ll have to think of a way to reward them,” Jack said, wrapping his arms around Ianto and kissing him soundly.
Ianto just smiled. It was worth remembering that no matter how sticky the problem, a solution could always be found. You just had to know where to look.