Characters: Ianto, Gwen, Tosh, Jack.
Summary: Alien tech has landed Jack in trouble again, but this time Tosh isn’t there to help out. Ianto might have to interrupt his friend’s holiday.
Word Count: 1559
Written For: My own prompt ‘Torchwood, Any, “Where'd that starfish come from?”,’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
“Where'd that starfish come from?” Gwen asked, peering into the tank on Jack’s desk. She’d come in here to ask Jack a question about something she was working on, but Jack wasn’t here; Ianto was sitting behind the desk instead.
Ianto glanced up from his laptop. “Jack,” he said with a sigh.
“Why did Jack give you a starfish?” Jack did a lot of things that might be classed as a bit odd, but gifting people with starfish… That was a new one. Then again, maybe it was some kind of tradition from his home planet. Perhaps they gave starfish the way people on earth gave flowers. She remembered Jack saying he came from a desert plant where he’d lived by the sea…
“No, Jack didn’t GIVE me the starfish, Jack IS the starfish, or the starfish is Jack. Same thing really.” Ianto pinched the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger. “I’ve spent the last two hours researching the device that did this to him and trying to figure out how to reverse the effects, but no luck so far. Of all the times for this to happen, what with Tosh being in Japan…” He trailed off with another long-suffering sigh.
“Maybe if you talked to her on skype she might be able to help,” Gwen suggested.
“I plan to, but we’re eight hours ahead of Japan, and somehow I don’t think she’d appreciate being dragged out of bed at five in the morning in the middle of the first real holiday she’s had in five years.”
“No, probably not,” Gwen agreed. “Jack looks like he’s okay though. Aside from being a starfish, I mean. He should be alright like that for a bit longer, right?”
“I hope so. I did some research on starfish after this happened and got him into seawater as quickly as I could. Once he’s back to normal he’ll probably be annoyed to find out he got turned into a Common Starfish instead of one of the flashier species, but at least it means he’s relatively easy to care for. I got him some shellfish at the docks, clams and oysters. Hopefully the latter won’t make him frisky.” He gave a rueful smile. “I’m open-minded, but I have to draw the line somewhere.”
Gwen laughed. “Yes, an amorous starfish might be a bit of a handful.” She peered into the tank again; Ianto had put sand and rocks on the bottom to give it a homey feel and she watched starfish Jack slowly creeping along the glass side of the tank towards a clam.
At the other side of the tank, elbow on the desk and his chin resting on the heel of his hand, Ianto watched too. “Fearsome hunters, starfish,” he intoned. “Not very fast, mind, but I wouldn’t want to be that clam. Good thing Jack likes seafood.”
“He’s sort of cute.”
“I suppose he is, in a marine creature kind of way.” Ianto snapped out of his reverie and sat up straight. “I’m sorry, Gwen, I’m sure you didn’t come in here just to stare at a starfish. Was there something you needed?”
“No, that’s okay, Ianto; it’s not important, it can wait. You’ve got enough to deal with trying to fix Jack. Just let me know if there’s anything I can do to help, yeah? I mean, I’m not a tech genius or anything, but I can run errands and stuff.”
“Thanks, Gwen, I appreciate the offer. Actually, there is something you could do. It’s getting on for lunchtime…”
“Say no more, I’ll go and pick up something for the three of us. Any preferences?”
“Sandwiches or those filled rolls from the deli? That way I won’t have to worry about it going cold while I’m working.”
“I can pick up coffee from the shop across the Plas too if you like. Not as good as yours but it would save you having to stop working on Jack’s… cure.”
Ianto nodded. “I could do with a coffee, I just didn’t want to leave Jack on his own while I made some in case he tried to climb out of the tank while I wasn’t here. It’s too big and heavy to take down to the kitchen with me.”
“I’ll be back with some before you know it.” Gwen left and Ianto turned his attention back to the computer screen. So far he hadn’t come up with any useful information, not a single reference to anything even remotely resembling the device that had caused Jack’s transformation, so all he could do was read up on all the other devices that had altered members of the team one way or another over the years. It wasn’t helping.
Gwen returned with lunch and Ianto ate his at Jack’s desk, left hand holding his sandwich while his right tapped away at the computer keys, but he was still none the wiser when his watch alarm went off, alerting him to the fact that it was nine o’clock in the morning in Japan and Tosh should be awake by now. He put through a skype call to her.
“Ianto!” She smiled brightly out of the screen at him. “What a surprise!” She took in the expression on his face. “Is everything aright?”
“Not really. Sorry to call you, Tosh, but I’m stuck with a problem I can’t seen to find a solution for.”
“What is it?” Just like that, despite being disturbed in the middle of her holiday, Tosh was all business.
Ianto turned his laptop so the webcam was centred on the tank. “Say hi to Jack.”
In the tank, starfish Jack carried on with the business of stalking an oyster, oblivious of the attention focused on him.
“Oh dear!” Tosh exclaimed.
Turning the computer back around so he could see his friend, Ianto nodded glumly. “As far as I can tell he’s perfectly healthy, but obviously being a starfish isn’t ideal.”
“Any idea what did this to him?”
“Yes. I have it right here.” Ianto tilted the containment box holding the device so that Tosh could see it.
“Can you email me some pictures?”
“No problem.” Ianto did as he was asked, having already taken pictures of the device from all sides when he’d first brought it back to the Hub, anticipating Tosh’s request.
The two friends spent the next couple of hours discussing the problem, Tosh coming up with ideas and Ianto following her instructions, until at last they thought they had a fairly good idea of how to operate the device.
“Ready?” Tosh asked.
“Not quite yet. If this works… Well, I think Jack might find the tank a bit cramped.”
“Oh! I hadn’t thought of that.”
“I think alternate accommodations might be in order.
Ianto fetched a shallow plastic tray, set it on the office floor and filled it with water from the starfish tank before scooping starfish Jack up and placing him carefully in the shallow water. “Right, Jack and I are ready. I hope this works, because if I get turned into a starfish too, we’ll really be in trouble.
“If that happens, I promise I’ll catch the next plane home,” Tosh assured him.
“Hopefully it won’t come to that; I don’t want to disrupt your holiday any more than I have to.”
Ianto called Gwen and had her stand well out of the way in the doorway to Jack’s office, just in case it became necessary to quickly pop two starfish back into the tank. Then he positioned the device on the floor beside the tray, set it as Tosh instructed, and pushed the button, immediately taking a couple of steps back out of the line of fire.
On the tray the starfish shimmered, twitched, and then began to expand. Ianto’s heart was in his mouth; what if all that happened was that they wound up with a Jack-sized starfish? Torchwood didn’t have a tank anywhere near big enough! Thankfully, as soon as the starfish reached Jack’s approximate dimensions, its five limbs began to change shape, four of them lengthening to become arms and legs, while the fifth grew shorter and gradually turned into a head. Several more minutes passed as the starfish spines smoothed out into human skin and the head sprouted Jack’s hair and features, but at last he looked like himself again. He shifted and stirred, opening his eyes to stare blearily up at Ianto.
“Jack? Are you okay?”
“I’m not sure. I just had the oddest dream about…” Jack frowned and shook his head. “No, I can’t remember now. Er, Ianto? Why am I naked and lying on a tray of water? Were we trying out a kinky game or something?” Jack being Jack, he sounded almost hopeful.
“No, not this time.” Ianto looked at the laptop and saw Tosh had already closed down the skype connection. He switched off the computer, and then the device, which he stowed safely in its containment box. “Come on, I’ll explain everything while you dry off and get dressed.” He held out his hand and helped Jack to his feet.
“Thanks.” Jack started towards the manhole leading to his bunker, but paused at the top of the ladder. “Huh.”
“Mm, I’m fine, but…” Jack looked puzzled.
“I don’t know, it’s just… For some reason I have a weird craving for oysters.”