Characters: Ianto, Jack, Owen
Summary: Ianto is slowly getting the hang of being a were-crow.
Word Count: 1361
Written For: Challenge 122 – Quote at beattheblackdog. Also for Challenge 17: Characters As Animals at whatif_au.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
It was almost a week since the alien tech had restructured Ianto’s DNA and gaining control of his new abilities was proving easily as difficult as he’d anticipated. Anything that startled him caused him to immediately change into a crow, and because of that, he’d had to confine himself to the Hub, worried that he might end up in the middle of nowhere again if he took fright while outside, and flew off. It had been bad enough the first time and he didn’t particularly want to go through that again, especially since the weather had turned wet and windy with thunderstorms. Just the mere thought of winding up naked miles from anyway in those conditions made him shiver.
His frequent accidental transformations did, however, give him ample opportunity to practice turning back into a human, and he found himself having to do that several times a day. He hadn’t realised just how startling the cog door alarms were, not to mention the Rift alert, his teammates dropping things, and Owen sneaking up behind him and shouting, “Boo!” Apparently the crow side of him was far more sensitive to sudden noises than Ianto himself was. He was working on that though, determined to get a grip on himself, because until he did he’d be of no use to the team. He was a crow, and a Torchwood agent to boot, not a mouse to be frightened by every little thing!
Finding himself buried in a pile of clothes yet again, Ianto-crow scrabbled free and fluffed up his feathers to straighten them, letting them flatten out nice and smooth and glossy. “Bugger!” he said succinctly, reaching with his beak to tidy a few feathers that weren’t lying quite right. He probably needn’t have bothered since he had no intention of remaining in crow form for more than the few minutes it would take Jack to carry his clothes up to the office so he could change back and dress in private, but he had his standards. Just because he was a bird didn’t mean he shouldn’t bother with his appearance.
He supposed it could’ve been worse, he might have been turned into a were-sparrow, or a were-insect of some description, and then he would have been all but defenceless. Being a crow wasn’t so bad; they were quite formidable birds, as well as being highly intelligent and blessed with the ability to learn human speech. As he was technically a human who could turn into a crow, he already had an impressive vocabulary. Once he’d become accustomed enough to his alternate shape, he’d found himself better able to remember being a human when in crow form and vice versa. He now had access to all his human memories even when he wasn’t a human, and teaching his crow form to speak had proved easier than learning to switch back to what he still considered his natural shape.
Of course it worked both ways; when he was human Ianto now remembered being a crow, which was mostly a good thing, except for the rather disturbing realisation one night that he was trying to preen Jack’s hair with his teeth, and the potentially disastrous moment when he’d momentarily forgotten he wasn’t a crow and tried to fly. Luckily Jack had stopped him in time, so he hadn’t injured himself, and it had only happened once, but it was something he needed to watch out for.
“What was it this time?” Jack asked, gathering Ianto’s discarded clothing. “Owen again?”
“Who else?” Ianto cawed. “Instant decaf, Owen! Instant decaf!”
“Hey! I’m just trying to help and that’s the thanks I get? How else d’you think you’ll learn to control your shape-shifting if you don’t practice?”
“Bastard!” Ianto fluttered up onto Jack’s shoulder and let himself be carried to Jack’s office, where the blinds were already closed. This time, he was changed back and fully dressed inside five minutes; he was getting the hang of switching from crow to human; the next stage was learning to change from human into crow, and after that he just had to refine the ability so that he only changed when he chose to. That was going to be the hard part.
Ianto was no quitter though, and by the end of the second week he was able to switch back and forth at will. He was still making at least one accidental change a day, but those were mainly being triggered by Rift alerts. The cog door no longer bothered him, and he’d learned to sense when Owen or anyone else was trying to sneak up in him. Crow senses, especially sight, hearing, and smell, he discovered, were much more acute than human ones, an unexpected bonus to his new nature as a were-creature. Ianto was starting to quite enjoy certain aspects of being a shape-shifter, which was fortunate since there was no way to turn him back into a regular human.
After three weeks, Ianto decided it was safe to venture out into the world again. He was secure enough in his were-crowness that he wasn’t worried about flying away and getting lost, and while there was still a chance of him transforming accidentally, it was probably lower than five percent, something he deemed an acceptable level of risk. Besides, despite the size of the Hub, he was becoming claustrophobic, and longed for the feel of wind in his feathers… er, hair.
He wasn’t quite ready to go out alone though, it made more sense to be with someone who could pick up his clothes if the worst happened. His suits weren’t cheap off the rack affairs, they were custom tailored for him and he had no intention of losing one if it could be avoided. Nor did he intend to wear casuals to work on the off chance that he and his cloths might become separated. That would be unprofessional.
His first time out, with Jack behind the wheel of the SUV, a backfiring car meant Jack had to pull over and toss Ianto’s clothes into the backseat so he could get dressed again, but that wasn’t so bad; at least nobody saw him change, thanks to the SUV’s tinted windows.
A few days later, on the way to a Rift retrieval, a similar thing happened, but this time Ianto opted to remain a crow and ride on Jack’s shoulder into Bute Park before taking to the air and using his sharp crow eyesight to locate what they were looking for in the long grass. Having found the small device, Ianto landed near it and waited for Jack to catch up, then flew above him, soaring, gliding, and swooping, all the way back to where they’d parked.
“You have no idea what it’s like to be able to fly like a bird,” he told Jack when they were back in the SUV and he was human again. “To quote the late, great Townes Van Zandt, ‘to live is to fly!’ Even if I could turn back into an ordinary human I wouldn’t want to.”
“A case of ‘Quoth the raven, “Nevermore”,’ is it?” Jack joked.
“I’m a crow, not a raven,” Ianto huffed. “And anyway, that’s not what the raven was talking about. You should try reading Poe instead of just quoting familiar lines out of context. I have a volume of his complete works at home if you want to borrow it.”
“I stand corrected, just thought I’d join in with the quoting. You really like being a crow?”
“I do. I thought at first that, short of getting killed, being a were-crow was about the worst thing that could happen to me, but I was wrong; it’s the best. I wouldn’t want to be a crow all the time, there are certain advantages to being a human, but flying is the closest thing to complete freedom I’ve ever experienced, and crows are really good at it.”
Jack smiled; he was glad to see his lover was adjusting so well to his new reality. “I’m happy for you. Just make sure you always come back to me, alright?”
Ianto relaxed back into his seat. “Count on it.”