A lot of things, Ianto reflected, were good in theory but less so in actual practice. Occasionally things worked out exactly as planned, but he considered those to be flukes, the exceptions that proved the rule, since the majority, no matter how good they initially sounded, generally turned out to be complete and utter disasters. Must be some kind of Torchwood law; if anything can go wrong, it will, spectacularly and usually messily. Unfortunately, most of Jack’s brilliant ideas fell into the latter category. He had a knack for causing chaos.
“Why do I even bother listening to you anymore?” Ianto asked in exasperation as he picked bits of alien out of his hair.
“Hey, this wasn’t my fault! How was I supposed to know that would happen? Theoretically, dousing it with water should have kept it from spontaneously combusting. Wet things aren’t supposed to be capable of burning, it goes completely against known science!” Jack glared at the charred remains as if the alien was somehow at fault, which might be the case in a roundabout sort of way, although as it was a species Torchwood had never encountered before it was impossible to say whether exploding on contact with water was normal for its kind or not.
Despite looking nothing like them, it kind of reminded Ianto of the alien lobsters from a couple of years earlier; they’d not reacted well to being put in water either. Maybe both the lobsters and this… thing, whatever it had been, hailed from the same planet, although the lobsters hadn’t started smoking when exposed to sunlight. Literal smoking, not the kind that involved cigarettes.
Things had started out as normally as was possible for Torchwood. Jack and Ianto had arrived at the coordinates of the latest Rift spike to find their unfamiliar alien visitor squatting forlornly in the middle of a patch of wasteland. It hadn’t rained for over a week so everywhere was bone dry, which made a change from traipsing through muddy puddles to get to the new arrival.
Jack had tried talking to it in Galactic Standard, and several other alien languages, but there’d been no response; it had just sat there, staring at them, so they’d reasoned it was probably an animal rather than a sentient being. It didn’t look scared or hostile, more resigned than anything, but before either man could make any attempt to capture it, the sun had come out from behind a cloud, shining right down on the alien, which was when the situation had started to go downhill rather rapidly.
The small, scaly creature had tilted its head slightly, casting a baleful glare at the sun, before hunkering down further, the skin of its back starting to give off wisps of smoke.
“The sun’s burning it!” Ianto had exclaimed, looking around for something he could use to shelter the creature from the weak winter sunlight. “We have to protect it! Do something!”
“Looks like an amphibian, sort of toadlike,” Jack had replied, pulling a bottle of water from his coat pocket. “Its skin’s probably too dry; maybe if we just wet it down that’ll help.” He’d opened the bottle, poured the contents over the alien, making sure to wet it all over, then stepped back, smiling. “Problem solved, see? It’s stopped smoking!”
Perhaps Ianto should have known it wouldn’t be that easy.
The alien had given Jack a reproachful look.
Five seconds later it had exploded all over them both.
So now here they stood, dripping with bits of exploded alien. Ianto brushed a lump off his sleeve; it hit the ground, sizzled in the sunlight, and crumbled into dust.
“Maybe it was some sort of alien vampire,” Jack said lamely. “They don’t do well with sunlight or water either.”
“It’s usually holy water that kills vampires, Jack, not Evian.”
“Maybe it was the non-religious kind of vampire.”
Ianto rolled his eyes. “I was going to just find something to keep the sun off it, but you had to go and douse it with water.”
“At the time it seemed like the right thing to do! Besides, it was burning anyway; if you think about it, I just gave it a quicker and less painful death.”
“How would you know that exploding is less painful that burning to death? No, forget I asked that; you’ve probably experienced both, haven’t you?” Ianto sighed and brushed some more bits of alien off him. “You know, it might not have died at all if we’d just shielded it from the sun.”
“And it probably would’ve exploded anyway if we’d taken it back to the Hub and given it a drink of water.”
True as that might be, Ianto wasn’t quite ready to let Jack off the hook for this fiasco. “We can theorise all we like but we’ll never know for sure because it exploded, and now all the bits are burning up in the sun; there’s nothing left for Owen to analyse. And on top of that, now I’ve got alien stains all over my clothes and I only just had this suit cleaned!”
“Well I’m sorry, it wasn’t intentional. I didn’t suddenly think, ‘Oh, I know, I’ll explode this alien all over Ianto’s clean suit.’ I thought I was helping!” Jack said, pouting at the unfairness of it all. “They don’t make aliens like they used to. If they’re going to explode on contact with water, they should come with a warning label attached; dangerous when wet!”
Ianto sighed. “Well, at least if we ever come across another one, we’ll have some idea of what not to do. I’ll make an entry in the alien database when we get back to the Hub. After I change into a clean suit. I just hope the drycleaner can get these stains out.” Shaking his head, Ianto turned and set off across the rough ground towards where they’d left the SUV, Jack trailing along behind him.
“On the plus side, that’s one less alien for you to look after,” he pointed out.
“I suppose it’s better that it exploded out here rather than in the Hub,” Ianto conceded. “At least this way there’s no clean-up to do.”
“See? There’s always an upside.” Jack beamed at his lover. “You just have to know how to look for it.”
Ianto shot a look back over his shoulder. “I doubt that’s any comfort at all to the alien.”
“At this point I’m pretty sure it’s past caring. Are you ever gonna forgive me for making a mistake?”
“I’ll let you know.”