It was late, the rest of the team having already left for the night, and Jack had been under the impression he was alone in the Hub. He was mistaken.
“Mmph?” Jack replied, mouth too full to manage anything more coherent.
“Where exactly did you get those grapes you’re eating?”
Jack hurriedly swallowed his mouthful. “Um…”
“Because I know I didn’t buy them, and I’m equally sure there weren’t any in the Hub yesterday, and the Rift has been keeping us far too busy for anyone to go shopping recently. In fact the only time we’ve been anywhere near a shop in the past week was the incident at ASDA last night that Detective Inspector Swanson called us in to deal with.” Ianto stood by Jack’s desk, hands on his hips, glaring stonily down at his lover.
“Um…” Jack said again. His brain seemed to have stalled.
“I know we had to clear out all the damaged items, including a few things in the produce section, but these grapes don’t appear to have suffered any damage. In fact, as far as I can see they look perfect.”
“Ummm… I already ate the damaged ones?” Jack ventured.
Ianto gave him a withering look. “Not buying it. Try again.”
“They fell into my pocket by accident and I didn’t know they were there until we got back here?” Jack’s innocent expression looked a trifle strained, in Ianto’s opinion. Also, despite the size of Jack’s coat pockets, it wouldn’t have been easy fitting such a big bunch of grapes into one, so Jack’s whole explanation didn’t wash.
“Like I’m going to believe that. You just saw the grapes and thought, ‘I fancy some of those, I’ll just help myself’, didn’t you?”
A sudden thought crossed Ianto’s mind and his frown deepened. “How many sticks of rhubarb did you make off with?”
Jack sat up straighter in his chair. “None! I swear!”
Ianto kept staring at him, disbelief evident in his expression, and Jack sagged.
“I was still trying to figure out where I could hide some when you caught me. I was thinking of shoving a few stalks up my sleeves,” he admitted.
There was only so much Ianto could take; he burst out laughing. “Up your sleeves? You didn’t think I might notice if you couldn’t bend your arms? And how exactly would you have kept the rhubarb from falling out?”
“Exactly, that was my whole problem! I suppose rubber bands might have worked but I didn’t have any with me so…” Jack trailed off again.
“Up your sleeves my arse. Twpsyn,” Ianto snorted. “Don’t go thinking you’re off the hook, because you’re not. You stole those grapes and you will be paying for them. Is that clear?”
“Yes, Ianto.” Jack hung his head, trying to look contrite but not doing a particularly good job of it. He kept glancing hungrily at the purloined grapes.
Ianto reached out and plucked one, shoving it in his mouth, biting down, feeling it pop between his teeth and flood his mouth with sweet juice.
“Hey!” Jack stared up at his lover, indignant.
“What’s wrong?” Ianto’s expression of innocence was far more successful than Jack’s. “You weren’t planning to eat them all yourself, were you?”
He had been, but Jack was smart enough to know admitting it wouldn’t improve his situation.
“Well, you didn’t give me a chance to offer you any. Plus, should you really be eating stolen goods?”
“Yes, but… I’m the one who stole them.”
“Hah! So you admit it!”
“Yes, fine! I admit I stole them! But you don’t understand; they were just sitting there, looking at me, all of them begging, ‘Eat me! Eat me!’ I couldn’t refuse, that would’ve been unkind!”
“Really. Maybe I should have Owen check you over.” Ianto casually ate another grape.
“Because hearing grapes talking to you isn’t normal, even for Torchwood. Maybe you’re hallucinating. Are they still talking to you?” Ianto held out a grape. “What’s this one saying?”
Leaning forward, Jack ate it right out of Ianto’s fingers. “Eat me. That’s all they ever say.”
“Hm, not very communicative are they? I didn’t hear a thing.” Helping himself to several grapes, Ianto perched himself on the edge of Jack’s desk, tossed a grape into the air and caught it neatly in his mouth, biting into it with relish. “Now, about your punishment.”
Jack froze, eyes wide, a grape halfway to his mouth. “Punishment?”
“You stole a bunch of grapes, Jack. Now, I realise in the realm of thefts it’s a fairly minor one, especially compared to all the damaged goods we had to take away last night, although I did at least succeed in convincing the manager that donating food to the homeless was his idea, paid for out of his own pocket.” The suggestibility caused by Retcon had its advantages. “Nevertheless, theft is theft, so first thing tomorrow we will go back to the store, pick up a few groceries, and another bunch of grapes, go through one of the automated checkouts, and swipe the grapes twice. That way they’ll be paid for.”
“That’s it? I just have to pay for them?”
“Of course not! You’re not getting off that lightly. Instant decaf for a week…”
Jack sagged. “No! Please! Anything but that!” he begged, his lower lip trembling.
“Don’t interrupt; I haven’t finished.”
“No chocolate for a week, and that includes cookies.”
If anything, Jack looked even more horrified at that. “But it was only a bunch of grapes!”
“Which you stole and tried to hide from me. Are you going to complain about your punishment? Because I can just as easily increase it to two weeks.”
“No, please don’t do that! I won’t complain, honest!”
“Well, alright, I’ll be lenient. This time. One other thing.”
Jack gulped. “What would that be?”
“Tomorrow night, you will bake a rhubarb pie, because ever since you mentioned it I’ve barely been able to think of anything else.”
“Now that is one punishment I can get behind one hundred percent,” Jack said, breaking into a relieved smile. He held the grapes out to Ianto. “Care to share?”
“Don’t mind if I do.” Ianto broke a fair-sized sprig off the bunch, settling himself more comfortably on Jack’s desk and popping another grape into his mouth. “These really are good; we should eat more fruit around here.”
“I was just thinking the same thing. Maybe my impulse theft wasn’t such a terrible thing after all.”
“Perhaps not entirely,” Ianto allowed. “Don’t go thinking that changes your punishment though.”
“Perish the thought.”
“And I will be checking your sleeves and pockets tomorrow for hidden booty.”
Jack sighed. “Whatever you say.”
Despite the dreaded punishments hanging over him, Jack still couldn’t quite regret taking the grapes. They tasted so sweet and delicious, and watching Ianto eating them was an unexpected and very enjoyable bonus. He dragged his mind back to the present.
“I hope you’re learned your lesson,” Ianto was saying.
“Oh, I have! Definitely!” Jack nodded solemnly. Next time he’d make absolutely certain he didn’t get caught.