Characters: Jack, Ianto, Owen, Tosh.
Summary: Jack thought that once Ianto was back in human form he’d stay that way, but apparently that’s not the case.
Word Count: 2057
Written For: Challenge 93 – Technique at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Pulling on the clothes Jack had thoughtfully brought with him, Ianto frowned at his lover. “So, I turned into a crow and flew away, leaving my clothes behind?” He wasn’t entirely certain he believed Jack, who could just be having a bit of fun at his expense, but it would explain how and why he’d wound up miles outside Cardiff, completely naked.
“So I was told. Well, what Gwen actually said was ‘big black bird’, but she was understandably a bit freaked out at the time. When I asked what sort of bird, she looked at a few pictures and picked out a crow, so that’s the theory at present.”
“Huh.” Ianto sat on a rock while he tied his trainers. “That’s a new one. Shame I don’t actually remember any of it.” He turned his eyes to the sky. “Might be nice to remember flying.”
“You could always give it another go,” Jack suggested. “Maybe if you knew it was going to happen you’d be able to retain your memory, you just have to learn the correct technique.”
Ianto laughed at that. “Practice makes perfect?”
Jack shrugged casually. “Something like that.” Looking Ianto up and down, he added, “I’m sure you were a splendid crow; big, black, glossy…”
“So now you have a crow fetish?”
“I appreciate beauty of all kinds, and crows are very handsome birds. Besides, you’d be gorgeous in any form.”
“Flatterer. How about if I turned into a…” Ianto tried to think of the most disgusting form possible. “A slug?”
“Slugs are much maligned; they’re really quite graceful, the way they glide across the ground.”
“Okay then, how about a leech?”
“You can suck my blood anytime,” Jack smirked, waggling his eyebrows. “Or anything else, come to that.”
Ianto shook his head in despair. “Sometimes I worry about you.”
“No, you’re right; I worry about you all the time. Come on, we’d best get back to the Hub and see if Tosh has managed to figure out the device yet.”
“We already know what it is; it’s a transforming device, just like so many others we’ve found over the years.”
“I suppose.” Ianto stood up and looked around. “Where did you park?”
“Beside the road. It’s a couple of miles that way.” Picking up his backpack, Jack twined his fingers through Ianto’s and led the way back through the bushes and trees, out onto a hillside. If it wasn’t for Jack’s greatcoat, they might have looked like any couple making the most of the good weather by going hiking.
When they arrived back at the Hub, Tosh couldn’t tell them much more about the device than they already knew; it was very similar to several others in the archives that caused controlled shape-shifting.
“I’ll store it with the others then, shall I?” Ianto asked, reaching to pick up the containment box it was in.
“Aren’t you going to try it again, see if you can change without losing your memory?”
“I thought you were joking about that.”
“Why would you think that? I wanted to see you as a crow,” Jack pouted.
“Tough. Try it yourself if you’re so eager.”
“It wouldn’t be the same.”
Shaking his head, Ianto picked up the box and disappeared through the door to the archives.
Cataloguing an item was usually a quick job, so when Ianto still hadn’t returned after an hour, Jack went looking for him. The closed containment box was sitting on Ianto’s desk, but Ianto himself was nowhere to be seen.
“CAW!” There was a flapping of wings and a large back bird flew down to land on Jack’s shoulder, where it started preening his hair.
“Oh, this is not good.” Jack looked around a bit and found Ianto’s clothes lying on the floor behind the desk. Empty. “I think we might have a slight problem.” If the device was still in the closed containment unit, obviously Ianto couldn’t have touched it, and yet there was no denying that he was a crow. Again. “Now what are we going to do? How did this even happen?”
Fluttering off Jack’s shoulder to a nearby shelf, Ianto the crow cawed again. Jack started towards him, but he fluttered further away, looking back at him from on top of the next set of shelves.
“You want me to follow you?”
There didn’t seem to be much choice, so Jack followed the crow through the archives until he came to a section of shelving that seemed to have given way, dumping its contents onto the ground. It had probably made quite a crash.
“You got startled and turned into a crow again?”
“I think we’d better go talk to Tosh.” Returning to Ianto’s desk, Jack tucked the device in its box under one arm. Ianto landed on Jack’s shoulder again and they went upstairs.
“Tosh, I need you to take another look at this device.” Jack set the box back on her workstation. “See if you can figure out how to reverse what it’s done to Ianto. I thought once he was himself again that was it, but…” He shrugged, making Ianto flutter. “Apparently I was wrong.”
Tosh stared at the crow. “Oh dear! I’ll get right on that.”
“Thanks.” Jack smiled gratefully at her then made his way down into the autopsy bay. “Owen, you need to run some tests on Ianto.” He pointed to the crow on his shoulder.
“He’s a bird?”
“At the moment. Some shelves collapsed in the archives, the noise must have startled him, and he changed shape again. I have no idea how long he’ll stay this way, but I want tests done while he’s in this form, and then again once he’s back to normal. I want to know how the device can still be affecting him even though he didn’t touch it this time. I’ll be back in a bit.” With that, Jack headed for the steps, leaving Ianto perched on the autopsy table.
“Oh, this is going to be fun,” Owen grumbled sarcastically.
“CAW!” Ianto replied.
It took Ianto a couple of hours to regain his human form, and by that time he was in Jack’s office. His clothes, which Jack had fetched from the archives while Owen was scanning and running tests on Ianto’s crow form, were neatly folded on a chair. Thankfully, Ianto wasn’t perched on Jack’s shoulder when he changed; instead he was stalking about on the floor, looking impatient.
“You know, you could just try to change back instead of waiting for it to happen naturally,” Jack suggested. “There has to be a way; you just have to find it.”
The crow stopped pacing and cocked its head to one side, thinking, then hunched down in the middle of the floor, closed its eyes, and tried to will itself human. Nothing happened.
Ianto fluffed up his feathers in irritation, gave himself a shake, and tried again. Still nothing.
On the third attempt, Jack heard a muted popping sound, and there was Ianto. Mostly. He was sitting on the floor, naked, but his arms were still wings, and he had feathers on his head. He growled, annoyed, and tried again. After a couple of minutes of intense concentration, the wings and feathers shimmered, turning into arms and hair.
“Your technique could use some work,” Jack commented.
“Now now, if you’re going to be like that I think I preferred you as a crow. I was right; you’re a very handsome specimen.”
Glaring at Jack, Ianto stood up and pulled his clothes on.
“So tell me; do you remember being a crow this time?” Jack asked.
Ianto paused in the process of buttoning his shirt. “Sort of. Some of it’s a bit hazy, but I remember Owen poking me with needles, and I remember… um, sitting on your shoulder? I still don’t remember flying though. Did I?”
“You did, very well in fact.”
“Oh. That’s nice.”
“Now you should go and see Owen; I want him to run another set of tests and compare the results to the ones he took while you were… transformed.”
“Right. Of course. Owen must be loving this.”
“Not really.” Jack grinned. “You pecked him. Several times.”
“Why can’t I remember that part?” Ianto grumbled as he left Jack’s office, stomping down to the autopsy bay.
“Sit down, bird boy.” Owen gestured towards the autopsy table. He had several sticking plasters on his hands and the sight of them made Ianto feel a bit better about his situation. At least he’d got a bit of advance revenge for all the poking and prodding he was about to endure. Owen’s bedside manner was appalling at the best of times.
As soon as Owen had taken all the scans and samples he needed, Ianto went to make coffee, handed it around, pausing to have a brief word with Tosh, then retreated to Jack’s office again to await the results of the tests.
Waiting was boring and frustrating. Still, after what seemed like forever but was probably less than an hour, Owen came in and slumped into the chair in front of Jack’s desk.
Jack didn’t beat around the bush. “What did you find out?”
“Quite a bit, but I don’t think you’re going to like it.”
“Just tell me,” Ianto snapped impatiently.
“Well, for starters your DNA has changed. You used to be one hundred percent human, and in a way you still are, you just have extra DNA strands that are… mostly crow, I think; I’d have to make a comparison with the DNA of a real crow to be sure. There’s some other stuff in there too, it’s probably what allows you to turn from human to crow and back again.”
“Can you get rid of it?”
“No, there’s no way so disentangle everything without killing you. It’s still your DNA, even if some of it has changed.”
“I’m stuck like this?”
“I don’t know. Maybe the device that caused the alterations can reverse what it’s done, but I can’t. Sorry, mate.”
“Wonderful. So I’m going to turn into a crow every time I’m startled? What kind of life can I have like that? I’ll be useless!” Ianto paced back and forth across the concrete floor until Jack got up and stopped him by wrapping his arms around him in a comforting hug.
“It’ll be okay.”
“No, it won’t. How can I even go outside if I’m liable to shape-shift every time there’s an unexpected loud noise?”
“You’ll just have to work on getting control of your shape-changing abilities, at least until Tosh can figure out how to fix you. Learning some relaxation techniques might help. Let’s go see how our resident genius is coming with the device.”
Ianto sighed disconsolately. “Might as well.”
The three of them trooped down to Tosh’s workstation, but her news wasn’t any better than Owen’s.
“As far as I’ve been able to determine, it’s designed to instil shape-changing abilities into someone who doesn’t have them, but it only works one way. If there’s a device that can reverse the effects of this one, we don’t have it.” She gave Ianto a sad, apologetic smile. “I’m sorry.”
“Not your fault, Tosh. Thanks for trying.” Ianto’s shoulders slumped. “So I’m stuck with being a were-crow.”
“Look on the bright side; once you perfect your shape-shifting technique you’ll be able to switch back and forth at will, and your crow memory should improve with practice too. Think how useful it will be if you can fly over the city, pinpoint what’s come through the Rift, then come back and tell us what and where it is. You could even retrieve small items on your own! Turning into a crow will only be a handicap if you let it.”
“But I’ll still wind up naked every time I change back,” Ianto pointed out. “Even with all the practice in the world I doubt I could learn to make my clothes change with me.”
“Superhero abilities always come with a downside,” Jack told him. “Once you get the shifting under control, you can undress and fold your clothes before changing form, and not change back until you’ve returned to where you left them.”
“That’s true.” Ianto smiled faintly. “Well, I suppose I’d better get practising then.”
Jack kissed him soundly. “That’s the spirit!”
Sequel: 'The Best Thing'