Ianto had quickly discovered that Nosy enjoyed helping him around the Hub. It would happily fetch empty coffee mugs, carrying them carefully to the kitchen to be washed and had also been observed collecting rubbish and depositing it in the nearest bin. Despite not having hands, the snakelike, furry alien seemed able to do quite a bit, it simply used its mouth instead, and so whenever Ianto was cleaning in the Hub, he always knew exactly who to turn to for assistance.
Nosy was happy to oblige, retrieving lost things from under desks and cabinets and placing them in a dish to be sorted, then fetching the pink feather duster Ianto had given it. It would busily slither around the Hub, flicking its duster over whatever surfaces needed cleaning and generally keeping everything spick and span.
But as much as Nosy enjoyed wielding its feather duster, its favourite part of cleaning was using the vacuum cleaner; it would grab the nozzle in its mouth and vanish under the furniture to vacuum up any dirt and crumbs. Meanwhile, Ianto would busy himself with tidying and polishing the desks and other work surfaces, secure in the knowledge that as always, Nosy would follow any instructions it was given to the letter.
In hindsight, Ianto felt he should have guessed what might result from Nosy’s willingness to follow orders; it did, after all, take such instructions rather literally. He almost wished he’d given the fateful order sooner, just to see the looks on the faces of his teammates…
It had been a busy couple of weeks, with everyone so run off their feet that little time had been left for chores, so despite Nosy’s best efforts, the Hub was far from spotless by the time the Rift let up enough for Ianto to turn his attention to his domestic duties. With a put-upon sigh, he gloomily contemplated the amount of cleaning that needed to be done; it wasn’t an appealing thought. Naturally, that was the moment disaster struck in the form of an unfortunate incident with an unknown species of alien which unexpectedly exploded into dust, further adding to the mess.
Hands on hips and a despairing expression on his face, Ianto surveyed the vision of devastation that his normally relatively tidy Hub had become.
“Look at this mess! It’s going to take hours, if not days, to put right! Everything needs cleaning. And don’t any of you lot even think about trying to sneak out! This mess didn’t happen spontaneously, I’m holding you all equally responsible, so you’re all helping to clean it up.”
“What?” Owen squeaked in a very un-manly way. “This isn’t my fault!”
“Oh, so you’re saying it was someone else who just happened to look exactly like you who poked that alien with a needle and made it explode?”
“I didn’t know it would do that!”
“That’s not the point. There’s powdered alien all over everything! If you ever want to drink coffee again, you’ll take this dustpan and brush and start sweeping it up.” Ianto thrust the cleaning tools at the medic with a stern look on his face.
“Fine,” Owen huffed, snatching them and stomping back down the steps. “Slave driver.”
“Won’t a brush just stir the dust up more?” asked Tosh.
“Probably, but I don’t trust Owen with one of the hand-held vacuum cleaners, he’s likely to suck up something important. Besides, we only have four, one each for you, Gwen, Andy and Mickey.”
“What about you and Jack?”
“Jack’s no better than Owen with a vacuum cleaner, he gets to collect and bag up all the other rubbish. Trust me, it’s safer that way. Nosy and I will use the big industrial Hoovers on the floors and under the furniture.”
Tosh smiled. “Sounds like you’ve got it all planned! It’s going to take quite a while so I guess we should get on with it.”
“Thanks, Tosh, I knew I could count on you.”
Before long, Tosh and Ianto had everyone armed with the necessary cleaning appliances. Ianto assigned them each an area of the Hub to clean and they set to work.
Ianto turned to Nosy. “Come on then, we’ve got a lot of cleaning to do. Everything is dirty, so Hoover anything that’s too big to get sucked into the cleaner, okay?”
Nosy hummed in reply, picked up the nozzle of its vacuum cleaner and waited for Ianto to turn the machine on so it could get to work.
It was a long, slow job, the bits of alien had settled on every surface, and what with all the other accumulated dust and grime, everyone had to empty their cleaners several times, being careful not to spill the contents and make more work for themselves.
From down in the autopsy bay, where the alien had exploded, Ianto could hear Owen grumbling as he swept up manually, dumping each dustpan full of powdered alien into a bucket. The only good thing about the stuff was that its gritty texture made it easier to sweep up than fine dust would have been, because it was too heavy to float into the air. Owen had been at ground zero when the alien exploded, so he was already liberally sprinkled with the stuff, which was another reason Ianto had ordered him to sweep up in his own domain; at least he wasn’t spreading the mess further.
By the time Owen wearily trudged up the steps from his work area, having swept up the worst of the mess, the rest of the team had more or less finished. Ianto still intended to do some polishing, but that could wait until later. First he’d need to take his Hoover down into the autopsy bay to give everything a final going over. The heavy-duty cleaners he and Nosy had been using had extremely powerful suction and would be able to collect anything Owen’s sweeping had missed. Trailing the long power cord behind him, he started hauling the heavy machine down, telling Owen not to move from the top of the steps.
“I’ll fetch you something clean to change into in a few minutes; I don’t want you shedding dirt everywhere on your way to the showers, not when we’ve only just cleaned up.”
Owen looked down at his open shirt and the t-shirt underneath; they were filthy, and even his jeans looked more grey than blue. Shrugging his shoulders and sending little puffs of dust into the air with the movement, he slumped down to sit on the top step, his feet several stairs down, resigned to waiting. He was too tired by now to bother with complaining and besides, it felt good to sit down for a few minutes.
Nosy finished Hoovering around the break area, under the sofas and the coffee table, and was slithering towards the kitchen to see if that still needed doing when it spotted Owen and paused, remembering Ianto’s instructions: Everything is dirty, so Hoover anything that’s too big to get sucked into the cleaner. Changing direction, it slunk across and aimed the nozzle of its vacuum cleaner at Owen’s dust-spattered back. The loose fabric of Owen’s shirt was immediately sucked into the cleaner and with a loud ripping sound, most of it was torn off to vanish inside the machine. It was followed moments later by the back of his t-shirt, which, being made of stronger fabric, didn’t tear but stretched, pulling tighter and tighter across Owen’s chest.
Nosy froze, big green eyes wide and goggling in surprise. This wasn’t what was supposed to happen!
“Argh! Gerrof me!” Owen had grabbed onto the railings and was trying unsuccessfully to pull himself free, only managing to drag Nosy across the floor in his wake.
The rest of the team turned towards the commotion, staring with eyes almost as wide as Nosy’s before bursting into gales of laughter at the bizarre sight.
“It’s not funny! Help!” protested Owen, his voice a little weak because it was hard to get enough breath into his lungs. His t-shirt was so tight across his chest it could’ve been painted on.
Giggling helplessly, Tosh went to the rescue, switching off Nosy’s vacuum cleaner and helping Owen to extract what was left of his now vastly stretched and misshapen t-shirt from the nozzle.
Ianto abandoned his own cleaner at the bottom of the steps and went to reassure a rather traumatised Nosy, who was still frozen in shock. “No harm done,” he told the Fluff, gently taking the nozzle of the Hoover from Nosy’s mouth. “Owen’s fine, but it’s probably best not to Hoover people in future, no matter how dirty they look. That’s what we have showers for.”
Nosy swivelled its eyes to look at Ianto, humming apologetically, then turned its gaze back to Owen, who was pulling off a shirt now big enough to fit someone at least four times his size.
Owen looked at the baggy garment, bemused, then held it up. “Anyone need a tent?”
“Are you okay?” Jack asked, trying to look appropriately concerned but failing miserably.
“I’ll live. Suppose I should be thankful Nosy didn’t start with my hair; I’d probably be bald by now.” He looked down at himself. “At least most of the dirt’s come off. Anyone object if I go and shower now?” He looked pointedly at Ianto.
“Sure you wouldn’t rather have Nosy finish vacuuming you first?” Ianto arched an eyebrow, his face a gravely polite mask.
“Sod off.” Owen bit back his own smile as Tosh started giggling again and glared at her. “Aren’t you supposed to be on my side?”
“I am! Honest! It’s just… you should’ve seen yourself!”
“I’m sure someone will save the CCTV footage for you,” Jack smirked. “Wouldn’t want you to miss out!”
Getting to his feet, Owen muttered something deeply uncomplimentary about Jack as he headed for the showers to wash away the remaining dirt. Back in the main Hub, Ianto set about cleaning up the last remaining traces of exploded alien, and things gradually returned to Torchwood’s version of normality.
Nosy slithered under one of the sofas to think. There was so much it didn’t know yet about its friends, and it was discovering new things every day. Vacuuming itself had never had that strange effect; it just got rid of loose hairs. Humans could be surprisingly delicate; perhaps it should have just used the feather duster on Owen like last time, even though Owen hadn’t seemed to enjoy being dusted either. He seemed to be rather fussy. Ah well, another good lesson had been learned, Nosy decided. It would know better next time.