Characters: Gwen, Owen, Jack, Ianto, Rhys, Tosh.
Summary: Owen inadvertently causes a minor catastrophe that spoils Rhys’ birthday plans.
Word Count: 3115
Content Notes: Some swearing.
Written For: Challenge 119: Small at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
A/N: Expanded version of my drabble ‘It’s Not Unusual – For Torchwood’, for epsentinel and MorganRose.
“We’d best get the containment box from the SUV,” Gwen said, looking down at the object that had fallen through the Rift. It was small, and obviously technology of some kind
“You can do that; you’re closest. Here, catch!”
At her colleague’s words, Gwen spun around to see a bunch of keys flying in her general direction. Bloody Owen! As she reached to catch them, she slipped on something squashy and rotten, and her feet shot out from underneath her. The keys went sailing on past to land with a clatter against the wall of the filthy alley while Gwen landed hard and painfully on her arse. Her whole body started to tingle oddly, and then…
“Owen, what the bloody hell have you done?” Gwen’s voice rose to a small high-pitched squeak and Owen stared in shock.
“Fuck!” Then he bit his lip to keep from laughing, knowing that was unlikely to go down well. “Oops?”
“Don’t just stand there looking like a twat! Do something!”
“Yeah, suppose I’d better get the containment box myself. Might as well get you back to the SUV while I’m at it. Looks like you could use a hand.”
“This isn’t funny!”
“Depends on your point of view…” Owen sniggered as Gwen glared up at him, and she decided this time she was going to kill him, no matter what Jack said about needing him in one piece.
When they arrived back at the Hub though, Jack practically exploded, unfairly directing his disapproval at the victim rather than the guilty party. “What the hell did you do this time, Gwen?”
“It wasn’t my fault, honest!” Gwen gave Jack the full force of her widest, most innocent eyes. Not that they had much impact given her current lack of stature, and to make matters worse, her voice was so tiny Jack had to lean in close in order to hear her. “It was Owen!”
Jack turned to scowl at Owen. “Is that true? Are you responsible for this?”
“Yeah.” Owen shrugged casually. “It was an accident; I’m a twat, alright?”
“No news there,” Ianto said mildly. “Although I’d be interested to know just how that fact equates to Gwen’s… situation.” He held out his hand for Gwen, and Owen willing handed her over, already tired of her constant complaining.
“Sod off, Teaboy, and take her with you! I’ve had to put up with her sniping all the way back; her voice might be as small as she is right now, but she doesn’t ‘alf go on!”
“I can’t imagine why.” Ianto set his colleague carefully down on her desk. “There you go, Gwen. Try not to fall off; it’s a long way down. You don’t want to wind up breaking something. Owen’s done enough damage for one day; I don’t think you want him trying to patch you up while you’re like this.”
“Thanks, Ianto,” Gwen squeaked. “It’s not so bad really, just inconvenient.”
“Right, out with it; what happened?” Jack folded his arms across his chest and glared stonily at Owen, ignoring Gwen.
Owen raised his hands in mock surrender. “Like I said, it was an accident; I didn’t do it on purpose!”
“You never do,” Jack growled. “You and Gwen are as bad as each other some days. What exactly did you do?”
“We went out to the coordinates of the Rift spike, found the new arrival, I tossed Gwen the keys to the SUV so she could fetch the containment box, but my aim was a bit off. She lost her balance trying to catch them and sort of… sat on the device. Next thing I knew she was…” he pointed at Gwen’s workstation. “Like that.”
“And it hurt! Now I’ve got bruises the size of Cardiff on my arse!” Gwen piped up. Nobody seemed to be listening to her, so she sat down awkwardly beside her computer keyboard and tried to get comfy, which wasn’t easy on the hard surface of her desktop.
“Gods preserve us from idiots,” Jack groaned. “At least tell me you brought the device back with you.”
“Course I did. I’m not a complete idiot.”
“That’s debatable. Where is it then?”
“Left it in the boot; figured I’d best bring Gwen in first.”
“What, you couldn’t manage to carry both at the same time?”
“Well, I didn’t want to risk dropping or squashing her. Accidentally shrinking Gwen’s one thing, but breaking ‘er would be harder to explain.”
“Go get it and give it to Tosh to look at. Hopefully she can figure out how to reverse this, or Gwen could be stuck like that permanently.”
Something suddenly occurred to Gwen and she leapt to her feet, jumping up and down on her desk and waving her arms, trying to get someone’s attention. Ianto was the only one who noticed.
“What’s up, Gwen?” He sat down in her chair and leaned his elbow on the desk, chin on his hand, the better to hear her.
“Rhys and I are supposed to be going out for dinner tonight!” Gwen wailed.
“Ah, well that could be a bit of a problem. I think you might have to postpone your night out.”
“But I promised him! It’s his birthday; I can’t just phone him and tell him ‘Sorry, I have to work late’! What am I going to do?”
“Technically, you can’t phone him at all. I don’t think he’d hear you even if I dialled for you and held the phone. Hang on a sec. Jack?”
“What is it, Ianto?”
“Okay if I call Rhys and have him come over? It’s his birthday; he and Gwen were going out to celebrate this evening, but under the circumstances I think Gwen should probably stay here until she’s back to normal again. It might not be the celebration they had planned, but I’m sure Rhys would rather spend his birthday here with Gwen than at home on his own.”
“I don’t know, do you think that would be wise? It’ll just worry him for no good reason; it’s not like he can do anything to help.”
“Please, Jack?” squeaked Gwen. “Rhys can help, honest; he can look after me so the rest of you won’t have to.”
Jack gave a resigned sigh. “Alright, I suppose it is about time he was initiated into what it means to work for Torchwood, but if he freaks out he’s your problem,” he told Gwen before turning to Ianto. “Fine, go ahead.”
Ianto made the call himself, trying to keep things low-key, explaining that something had come up and Gwen was going to have to stay at the Hub indefinitely.
“Why are you callin’ me instead of Gwen?” There was a definite note of suspicion in Rhys’ voice.
“She’s… um… slightly indisposed at present. Nothing to worry about, but we just thought since it’s your birthday you might prefer to have your dinner date here at the Hub instead of cancelling completely.”
“I want to speak to her.”
“You can when you get here; she’s having a bit of trouble making herself heard at the moment.”
“Why? She lost ‘er voice or something?”
“It’s not lost exactly, just very… small. It’s a bit difficult to explain over the phone, but I’ll tell you everything when you get here.”
“You’d better.” Rhys hung up.
“He didn’t sound too happy, but he’s on his way,” Ianto told Gwen. “I’m sure he’ll understand once he sees you for himself.”
Gwen gave a brave little smile and sat down on her desk again, shifting uncomfortably and wincing.
“Why don’t I find you something more comfy to sit on?” Ianto suggested.
“That would be lovely, pet. Thanks.”
“No problem.” Ianto left in search of something that would make a suitable seat for a tiny person.
Twenty minutes later, Rhys arrived at the tourist office entrance, where he found Ianto waiting for him.
“Where’s Gwen?” he demanded as soon as he entered.
“Downstairs; I’ll take you to her. If you’d just come with me; this way.” Ianto pressed the red button beneath the counter and led Rhys along the secret passage to the lift.
“Is Gwen hurt?”
“No, nothing like that, or nothing serious; just a few bruises. It’s just… well, you know how it is; accidents happen to all of us, but when you work for Torchwood… Let’s just say that Torchwood agents tend to experience rather more unconventional accidents than most people.”
“What happened to her?”
“She lost her balance and fell on something, that’s all.”
“What does it take to get a straight answer around here?” Rhys was building up a fine head of steam. “Fell on what exactly?”
“I’d give you a straight answer if I had one, but we honestly don’t know what it is, which isn’t unusual. We don’t know what we’re dealing with more often than we do. Tosh hasn’t figured this item out quite yet, but she’s working on it, and I’ve never come across a problem with a piece of alien tech that she couldn’t sort out. I’m sure Gwen will be back to normal before you know it.”
“What d’you mean, ‘back to normal?’ What’s wrong with her?” Far from being reassured by Ianto’s explanations, Rhys was getting more and more worked up.
“You’ll see for yourself in a minute. Here we are.” Ianto directed Rhys through the cog door and over to Gwen’s workstation.
Gwen, who’d been lounging on the new sponge Ianto had dug out for her to sit on, jumped to her feet. “Rhys! Hi, sweetheart, sorry about this! It’s just been one of those days,” she shouted up at her boyfriend.
“See, what did I tell you?” Ianto said brightly. “Nothing to worry about; she’s fine, just one of the hazards of working for Torchwood, that’s all. You get used to it.”
Rhys stared at his miniature girlfriend in stunned disbelief. “One of the hazards?” he asked faintly. “This sort of thing happens a lot, does it?” He sounded more than a little dazed and Ianto hoped he wasn’t going to pass out from shock or something. Still, if he did Owen could take care of him. After all, Gwen’s accident was his fault so if anyone deserved to deal with the consequences it was Dr. Owen Harper.
He addressed Gwen’s stricken boyfriend in a soothing tone. “This exactly? No, not to my knowledge, but similar things happen all the time. We’ve all had our fair share of them. I’m sure you understand now why I didn’t try to explain over the phone. Some things are just difficult to believe unless you see them with your own eyes.”
Rhys kept staring at Gwen, unable to look away, struggling to accept what he was seeing. Gwen gave him a little wave, smiling up at him with slightly forced brightness, but managing to appear relatively unconcerned with the situation.
“Could be worse,” Ianto pointed out, patting Rhys comfortingly on the shoulder. “Jack once spent almost two weeks as a rabbit, I gained an extra pair of eyes one time, and had my hands turn into bananas a few weeks ago, not a pleasant experience, and Owen… Well, let’s just say orange really doesn’t suit him. Gwen’s fine, no real harm done, she’s just a little shorter than usual.”
“A little? She’s barely five inches tall!”
“Five and a half, actually. Now why don’t you just sit here and keep Gwen company while we try to work out how to make her life-sized again?” Ianto pulled out Gwen’s desk chair and pushed Rhys down into it. “Let me know if either of you need anything, and don’t worry; Tosh will fix everything. On the bright side, at least Gwen’s clothes shrunk with her. It would’ve been much worse for her if they hadn’t. It can get a bit chilly down here.”
Rhys shook his head, his eyes glazing over. “Bloody Torchwood!”
Gwen rested her little hand on Rhys’ finger where his hand was resting on her desk. “I’m fine,” she squeaked.
“You’re all shrunk!”
“It’s not permanent.”
“I bloody hope not!” He ran his hands agitatedly through his hair. “This isn’t normal!” he groaned, totally confounded. When Ianto had called, Rhys had thought Gwen might be hurt, or ill; he’d expected to find her looking more or less herself, and in a way she did, but she was so little!
“It’s Torchwood, love,” Gwen cooed sympathetically. “Around here, normal is relative. I’ve seen things that would make your hair stand on end; this is tame by comparison.”
Rhys dropped his arms heavily back onto the desktop, narrowly missing Gwen, who had to jump back out of the way. “I don’t think I want to know. How d’you live with this kind of weirdness?”
Gwen hugged her boyfriend’s thumb. “It’s like Ianto said; you get used to it. The first few times I saw weird stuff it freaked me out, but now it’s just…” She gave a small shrug. “There’s nothing I can do about it except wait to be fixed. Tosh is really clever though. I’m sure I’ll be okay.”
Afternoon became evening, and Ianto ordered Chinese takeaway. Rhys ate with Gwen at her desk. Ianto had thoughtfully served up a selection of tiny morsels in the lid of a milk container, and spooned a drop of coffee into his thimble, the only thing he could find that was small enough for Gwen to drink from.
Rhys shovelled food into his mouth mechanically; at least eating gave him something to do. “So much for my birthday dinner,” he muttered gloomily.
“Oh, I don’t know, this is nice, and Ianto ordered all your favourites.”
“How’d he even know what I like?”
Gwen shrugged. “That’s the way he is; he just knows stuff.”
“He an alien or something?”
“I don’t think so, just observant and he has a good memory. He would’ve made a really good copper.”
“Huh.” Rhys picked up his coffee mug, took a swig, and stopped dead, savouring the burst of flavour before swallowing. “Bloody hell! This is the best coffee I’ve ever tasted!”
“Ooh, I forgot you’ve never tried Ianto’s coffee before.” Gwen grinned gappily at her boyfriend. “You should feel honoured; it’s always really good, but he only uses his very best beans for special occasions.”
Glancing across at where the other four members of the team sat around the coffee table eating, Rhys raised his mug in a toast to Ianto, who raised his own in response before going back to chatting with his friends.
A short while later, when everyone had finished eating, Ianto cleared away the remains of the meal while Tosh got back to work on the device. It had been damaged when Gwen sat on it, but having studied it carefully she had a pretty good idea of how it worked; it was just a case of doing some delicate soldering to reconnect wires that had been jarred loose, and re-setting the lens, which had slipped out of place due to Gwen’s weight being dropped on the device and cracking the frame that held it. It was fiddly work, which was why it was taking her so long, but stopping for dinner had given the solder and other repairs time to set. Now she put all the pieces back together and powered the device up, checking energy levels and making small adjustments, over and over until all the readings she was taking were satisfactory.
“Alright, I think that should do it.”
“Good work, Tosh,” Jack praised her. “Gwen, are you ready to get back to normal?”
“Yes please!” Gwen replied her voice going a bit shrill in her eagerness to be regular sized again.
“Wait,” said Rhys. ”Are you sure this is going to work?”
“It’s alien tech; we can never be completely certain, but if Tosh says she’s fixed it then that’s good enough for me,” Jack said firmly.
“But what if it goes wrong and my Gwennie’s stuck like this for the rest of her life. Or worse?”
“We’ll cross that bridge when and if we come to it. Go ahead, Tosh.”
“Don’t I get any say in this?” Rhys asked.
“No.” Jack pulled himself up to his full height and stared challengingly at the other man. “Leaving Gwen miniaturised isn’t an option, so stand back while we see if we can fix her. You don’t want to get caught; you might end up bigger than you are now, and the last thing Cardiff needs is a giant Rhys Williams wandering around.”
“It’s alright, love. Just stand over there with Ianto. But first you should probably put me on the floor. I wouldn’t want to fall off my desk.”
Reluctantly, Rhys picked Gwen up and set her on the concrete floor before moving out of the way, wringing his hands and muttering threats about what he’d do to Jack if anything bad happened to Gwen. Fortunately, retribution turned out to be unnecessary.
Following Tosh’s instructions, Gwen climbed onto the device and flicked a series of switches into the on position. As the final one clicked into place, there was a faint humming noise and Gwen started to tingle all over. She only just jumped off the device in time, before her body started to grow. It wouldn’t help matters if she broke it again through standing on it.
To Rhys, it was like watching a bizarre version of Jack and the beanstalk, with Gwen in both roles. His girlfriend began to grow from the feet upwards, her legs, torso, arms, and finally her head, swelling back into their normal dimensions until with the muted click, the device switched itself off. Tosh hurriedly retrieved it, powering it down and placing it in its box.
Gwen checked herself over as Rhys stared at her, grinning goofily. “How do I look?”
“Exactly how you should, love.” The relief on Rhys’ face was plain to see.
“Didn’t I tell you there was nothing to worry about?” Ianto said, smiling calmly.
“You did.” Rhys hugged Gwen tightly, relieved that she seemed none the worse for her ordeal.
“Always listen to Ianto,” Jack advised. “He knows everything.
Rhys nodded. “I’ll bear that in mind. Come on, Gwennie, let’s go home.” Nobody tried to stop them as they headed for the cog door. Once they were gone, Owen sauntered over to his workstation and flopped down into his chair. “All’s well that ends well!”
“If you think you’ve got away with it, just you wait until tomorrow when Gwen remembers who got her into that predicament in the first place,” Ianto smirked. “You’d better hope she doesn’t tell Rhys.”
The colour drained from Owen’s face. “Fuck!” he groaned. “I should’ve Retconned them both!”