Characters: Ianto, Jack, Tosh.
Summary: Jack has been messing about with improperly identified alien tech again, and Ianto is not impressed.
Word Count: 1692
Written For: Challenge 1: Beatles songs at ficlet_zone, using “I Feel Fine”
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
“Jack, will you stop fussing? I feel fine!” While Ianto appreciated that his lover cared about him, there were times Jack was like the proverbial mother hen, clucking around him.
“You don’t look fine.”
“Yes, well whose fault is that?”
“Mine, I know, and I’m sorry, really I am!”
“I know you are, but honestly, does the term ‘practice what you preach’ ring any bells? You’re always telling the rest of us not to touch anything until it’s been properly identified, but then something comes through the Rift and you’re all ‘I know what that is’, which would be all very well if you were right. But nine times out of ten you’re completely wrong and half the time I wind up paying the price. Not everything that’s dropped in Torchwood’s lap is a sex toy; I’d have thought even you would’ve figured that out by now.”
“I said I’m sorry, what else can I do?”
“If you’d stop making assumptions about Rift gifts, that would be a good start. Please don’t hover. And don’t pout either.”
Perversely that just made Jack pout harder. “At least let Owen take a look at you.”
“Why? He’d only tell he what I already know; I’ve gone prematurely grey which, considering my job and who I’m involved with, I’m only surprised it didn’t happen sooner.”
“Yes, but it’s not just your hair, is it? You’ve gone grey all over!” Which was the literal truth; aside from his red shirt, Ianto looked like he’d stepped out of an old black and white movie.
“I’m aware of that; now instead of fluttering around me like a demented chicken, how about you take your ‘sex toy’ and see if Tosh can figure out what it really is. I’ll be down in the archives, where at least I won’t look so out of place.” Torchwood’s archivist stomped away towards the stairs and Jack drooped disconsolately. He hated Ianto being mad at him.
Once Ianto was out of sight, Jack shambled over to Tosh’s workstation. “Um, Tosh?”
“I saw. What did you do to him this time, Jack?”
With a gusty sigh, Jack set his latest acquisition, safely ensconced in a containment box, on her workstation. “There was a Rift alert last night. We found this and I thought… Well, turns out it’s not what I thought it was and now Ianto is all… Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against neutral colours, but…” Jack trailed off again with a sad sigh. “It’s not exactly natural, is it?”
“You never learn, do you? One of these days you’re going to cause something weird to happen to Ianto that nobody will be able to fix, and he’ll have to go through the rest of his life with two heads, or no toes, or oversized ears, or grey all over,” Tosh grumbled, pulling the box containing the mystery device towards her and reaching for a scanner. “Now, I need you to tell me exactly what you did with it.”
Jack told her, at length and in great detail, making Tosh’s face go bright red. “But I guess it’s not what I thought it was,” he concluded. “Because this morning when we woke up, Ianto was grey from head to toe, and it doesn’t wash off. We tried.”
“Obviously. Alright, leave it with me and I’ll see if I can figure it out. And the next time you find something you think you recognise, let me check it out before you start playing with it, okay?”
“I will, I promise. Thank you, Tosh.”
“Don’t thank me yet; I have no idea whether I’ll be able to fix what you’ve done this time. Now go; I’ve got work to do, and I’m sure you do to.”
Tosh had never spoken to Jack in such a stern tone of voice before; it made him feel like he used to centuries ago and far into the future whenever his mother had told him off for doing something careless or dangerous. He didn’t like that feeling; now two of his favourite people were cross with him. He hadn’t meant any harm!
Slinking away to his office, he slumped at his desk with his head in his hands until it occurred to him that sitting there wallowing in misery instead of getting on with the pile of paperwork waiting to be done would only annoy Ianto further.
The day crept past with glacial slowness. Several times Jack had to go out and fetch coffee or food for himself and the team, since Ianto flatly refused to come out of the archives. Each time, Jack took a cup and some small treat down to his boyfriend, lurking greyly among the shelves and filing cabinets. He kept apologising, but it didn’t make any noticeable difference. Ianto’s mood remained as grey and gloomy as his skin, hair, eyes, and everything else about him. Even when he got a paper cut he bled grey.
Meanwhile, up in the main Hub, Tosh continued her study of the piece of tech responsible for her best friend’s monochrome appearance. Finally, as evening approached, she went up to Jack’s office to present her findings.
“I know what it does, it removes pigment, just sucks all the colour out of things, but I have no idea why anyone would want a device that does that.”
“Why doesn’t matter. What I want to know is can you reverse the effect?”
“I think so, but I can’t guarantee that Ianto will be exactly the same colour as he was before.”
That was a horrifying thought. “You mean he could end up a different colour altogether? Green, or blue, or orange?”
Tosh shook her head, laughing softly. “Nothing that extreme, Jack, but skin tone, hair, and eye colour might not be exactly the same shade as before.”
“I can live with that,” Ianto said, coming into Jack’s office. Tosh had contacted him to come upstairs and join them before reporting to her boss. “Almost anything would be better than being permanently grey.”
“There’s just one thing; I’ve recalibrated the device, but you’ll have to take all your clothes off and then the rod part will have to be… um…” Tosh turned scarlet again, studiously avoiding making eye contact with either man. “…inserted.”
“I can do that!” Jack said eagerly, jumping up and reaching for the device, but Ianto slapped his lover’s hand away.
“I think not, you might accidentally alter Tosh’s calibrations, I think I’d better take care of this myself.” He smiled at Tosh. “Just explain the settings to me and tell me which bits I should avoid touching.” Briefly he turned his attention back to Jack. “I’ll use your bunker, but you can stay up here, out of the way.”
“No buts, Jack, I’m not taking any chances. You’re the reason I’m grey; I don’t want to wind up some other even less flattering colour because you can’t keep your hands to yourself!” Ignoring Jack’s pout, Ianto gave Tosh his full attention as she explained how to operate the device. A few minutes later, he picked up the containment box and disappeared into Jack’s bunker, closing the hatch firmly behind him.
“Shouldn’t someone be with him in case anything goes wrong?” Jack asked worriedly.
“I’m sure Ianto can manage by himself,” Tosh replied. “He knows what to do.”
Jack didn’t look entirely convinced, but he subsided, slumping morosely into his chair again.
Once again, the time passed much more slowly than Jack would have liked. It was well over half an hour before the hatch finally opened again and Ianto emerged. Jack breathed a sigh of relief at the sight as his lover, no longer looking washed out and grey. Instead, he looked the picture of health, although as he came closer, Jack realised there were slight but noticeable differences. Ianto’s hair, usually such a dark brown as to be almost black was maybe a touch lighter, the blue of his eyes seemed brighter, and his normally pale Welsh skin now sported a light golden tan.
“You look like you just got back from your holidays,” Tosh told her friend.
“And it’s all over,” Ianto agreed. “Anyone would think I’ve been sunbathing on a nudist beach. I never usually tan so well, and all I had to do to get it was spend a day looking dull and grey. It’s quite a relief; I was half worried I might end up blond, or a redhead.”
“I calibrated it as close to how you looked before as I could manage, but absolute accuracy would have been practically impossible since everybody sees colours slightly differently.”
“Well, I’m not complaining about the result,” Ianto assured her. “I can live with a permanent light tan. Makes me look disgustingly healthy. This, however…” He held up the device, now back in its containment box again. “I think the best thing to do with it is store it in the secure archives, where nobody can fiddle with it.”
“So how do you feel now you’re back to normal?” Jack asked just to be absolutely certain.
“I feel fine; never better, in fact.” Ianto fixed Jack with a stony glare. “That doesn’t mean I’ve forgiven you, though. Just because no permanent harm was done this time, that doesn’t mean we’ll be that lucky the next time, and knowing you, there’ll always be a next time.”
Jack shook his head. “Not anymore, I’ve learned my lesson. Besides, I promised Tosh; even if I think I know what something is, from now on everything goes straight to her for study first. We can always play later, once things have been positively identified, and if they do turn out to be what I think they are, declared safe for use.”
Ianto raised an eyebrow. “Really? I wonder how long that resolution will last.”
“I mean it this time!”
“You always mean it; that’s half the problem.” Ianto swept out of Jack’s office, taking the device with him for cataloguing, leaving Jack gaping after him. Jack’s shoulders sagged; looked like he still had quite a lot of making up to do before he could consider himself forgiven.