Will Ianto be able to rescue his team mates?
Little Big Man
The tunnel was one of the larger ones in the base and Ianto was pleased to be his reduced size as he could walk rather than crawl, only having to duck slightly. He was grateful for that memorable game of hide and seek – he felt hot just thinking about it – when he had found it. In an idle moment the following day, he had accessed the schematics of the Hub and traced the opening, wondering where it led. It was an old air duct - one of the few parts of the original Victorian base unaffected by the 1906 earthquake - and he had been amazed to see where it had led, doing a physical check to make sure. Little did he imagine then that one day he would be walking through it to rescue his team mates.
The tunnel narrowed suddenly and he was obliged to get on his hands and knees and crawl forward for three metres. Another couple of metres and he had arrived. The grating in front of him was large and unwieldy but when he had been here before he had opened it so it was sufficiently loose for him to push it out, falling into the room on the other side. He slid through and stood up, brushing down his bare knees. He felt a bit of a prat standing in his underpants and a loose shirt but that was better than ruining the hired suit. He smiled as he walked through the room; not far to go now, provided he had enough strength in his four year old arms to open the hatch.
Toshiko was continuing to pull at the wire that bound Jack's hands. His blood was smeared over her lips and lower face and tasted of iron and … something she did not recognise. It was certainly different to her own blood which she had tasted when sucking a cut finger. His unique healing qualities, she decided, using her tongue to help ease the wire loose. The hands jerked and she was left grabbing at fresh air.
"Sorry," muttered Jack, "that tickled." He brought his hands back round before her, twisting awkwardly again, shoved hard against the wooden arm of the sofa and pressed against Gwen.
"Keep still." Toshiko went back to work.
The being was standing stationary between the two desks, sniffing. Owen watched intently, wondering what that meant and hoping that it was not Ianto that it smelt. The being's body was becoming more solid, areas were now opaque that had not been before. He was so intent on the creature that he was taken by surprise when the door to Jack's office opened fully – it had been just ajar before – and a woman appeared.
"Shit!" he said. The others turned to follow his gaze and Jack stifled a gasp of recognition.
"Who is it? Do you know her, Jack?" demanded Gwen.
"Yeah. That's Emily Holroyd." He could not fail to recognise the short rather squat figure not made any slimmer by the tweed plus-four suit she always wore. Had always worn, he amended; Emily had be dead for over ninety years. Her fair hair was tied up in the bun he remembered so well and she was looking at the being in front of them with a kindly smile, an expression Jack had rarely seen.
"Who's she?" asked Owen, straining forward to look round Gwen.
"Head of Torchwood Three."
"I thought you were," said Gwen.
"I am. She died in 1912." Gwen made to say something more but Jack hushed her. "Shhh," he hissed.
"Herbert," said Emily in a calm voice, taking a step towards the being to stand just outside the office, "how lovely to see you again."
"Mmmly," came from the being. It seemed to pulsate towards her. "Mmmly!"
"That's right, Herbert, it's Emily. You really shouldn't have come back, Herbert. I thought we agreed that you would stay away." Her face took on a forlorn expression, like a mother disappointed in a child.
"Wan Mmmly." The being slid forward a little more.
"What's going on, Jack?" asked Toshiko. She was still on her knees beside him at the end of the sofa but she had pressed herself closer to the wall, feeling exposed as the being moved past her.
"I don't know. Emily's dead, went down with the Titanic. And anyway, she never spoke with a Welsh accent."
"Ianto?" queried Gwen from beside him, hope rising.
"I think so. Be quiet, let's watch and no one move 'cos I have no idea how he's doing this."
Toshiko looked around into the far reaches of the Hub. "The CCTV. He's using the CCTV cameras," she said softly, seeing they had been adjusted to align on the spot where Emily, or a facsimile of her, was standing. "Oh well done, Ianto," she murmured.
"Come here, Herbert, come and be with Emily." The woman opened her arms and smiled more broadly, inviting the being to come forward.
Jack and the others watched, fascinated, as the being slowly slid forward and reached the woman, slipping into an embrace … that did not happen. The being went through the holographic image and bellowed in rage and frustration, making the team duck and try to close their ears or bury their heads against one other or the back of the sofa, anything to deaden the noise. Lost in the maelstrom of sound, the plasma blast went unheard but it caught the being full in the chest and its ionised particles mixed with those of the being causing it to shake and shudder and writhe. It was still occupying the same space as the holographic Emily which was locked into position with arms outstretched and the watchers could not clearly see what was happening. But after three minutes of continuous plasma bombardment, the being slowly disintegrated and faded away leaving Emily standing there alone, unmoving.
"Ianto!" called Jack, looking to the office where the blast had originated. "Ianto, are you okay?" He struggled even more desperately against the wire that bound him and could feel some give there but not enough for him to get loose. "Ianto!!" he yelled.
In the office, Ianto could hear his boss but could not answer. At eleven fifty eight precisely, moments after the creature had disintegrated, Ianto's body had started the transformation back into its normal adult size and he was lying on the floor, writhing and gasping as sensations rippled through him. All he could think about was how lucky it was that the process had not started a few minutes earlier or his plan to eliminate Herbert would have been ruined.
"Ianto!" yelled Jack even more desperately. He had been yelling for two or three minutes but it felt like hours. He was yanking at the wire bindings oblivious of the pain and the blood that was dripping from the wounds. "Ianto!"
"I'm all right," came a weary voice from the office.
Everyone in the work area heaved a sigh of relief and Jack relaxed his efforts as he caught his breath, a grin on his face and his eyes closed. He was even more reassured when, a moment or two later, he heard scrabbling noises of someone standing up. The hologram of Emily Holroyd, still standing where Ianto had placed it with arms outstretched and the false grin on its face, so unlike the woman Jack had known, was starting to get on his nerves as well as blocking his view into the office. He couldn't think what was keeping the Welshman.
"Ianto, what are you doing in there?"
Jack frowned then grinned delightedly, realising what that meant. "You're back to normal?" he asked hopefully.
"Yeah." The man himself appeared in the doorway, barefoot with a part-fastened shirt hanging outside his suit trousers.
"Ianto, it's lovely to see you," grinned Gwen.
"Absolutely," agreed Toshiko, smiling up from her place on the floor. She looked as if she was a vampire with the blood caked around her mouth and on her chin.
"Yeah, yeah, very nice and all that. Just get cracking and get us loose." Owen was not one for sentimental outpourings.
In the next few minutes, Ianto helped Toshiko to her feet and sat her on a chair before going down into the medical bay and getting a sharp knife used for cutting muscle and tendon. He used this to free Toshiko then moved on to Gwen, Jack and Owen, drawing in a hiss of breath when he saw the state of Jack's wrists. With his colleagues released, he went back to the office PC to turn off the holographic display he had used to create Emily and she disappeared, much to Jack's relief. The others were standing, banging circulation back into their feet and stretching.
"Okay, Owen see to Gwen and Tosh's wrists and then give Ianto a once over to make sure he's okay," said Jack, standing stretching his abused back muscles. His wrists hurt but they would be healed within the next half an hour or so. "Then we'll work out what the hell happened here."
"Over lunch," interjected Gwen. "I'm starving."
"Good idea. Ianto, can you order something?" Jack turned to see Ianto standing in the office doorway again. He looked wonderful, quite good enough to eat, especially with his hairy chest peeping through the open shirt front.
"Pizzas?" he asked.
"Sounds good. And so do you, it's good to hear those deep Welsh vowels again." He grinned and stepped forward, wrapping his arms round the other man.
"That's harassment, sir," said Ianto automatically, standing stiffly in Jack's arms. The others were smirking as they filed down into the medical bay. Only when they were out of sight did Ianto relax and rest his head on his boss's shoulder. They stayed like that for a couple of minutes before Ianto realised Jack's hands were on his back. "Jack, are you getting blood on my clean, white shirt?" he asked, pulling away.
"Uh … no …well, not intentionally."
"You have," Ianto complained, twisting the shirt round to see. "I'm going to get a clean shirt and finish getting dressed." He shifted uncomfortably, not liking to be without underpants. "You order the lunch." With that he turned on his heel, took the suit bag from the office and walked off to the bathroom where his spare clothes were kept.
They gathered in the Boardroom for lunch just under an hour later. Owen had tended to their wounds and given Ianto a quick scan. The samples he had taken were being analysed but he was confident that all was now well with the Welshman. His reversion to his true age had followed exactly the same route as the rats and they were fine. With mugs of coffee and the pizzas they settled comfortably around the table, only Owen looking ill at ease. He was trying not to look at the others eating and drinking.
"Right," said Jack around a mouthful of pizza, "time to sort out what happened. Owen, first things first, is Ianto okay?"
"I'm running a few tests to be sure but, yeah, he's normal again. Well," he paused, "normal as he ever is." He grinned maliciously. "And no one else was hurt, just a few minor abrasions from being tied up." He glanced over at Jack who had no evidence of the deep wounds on his wrists and marvelled anew at the man's healing qualities.
"Good. So, we know this thing appeared out of nowhere at," he glanced at his notes, "eleven twelve. It knocked us all out - "
"No, Owen knocked himself out," grinned Gwen, remembering the doctor sailing into the railing.
"Ha bloody ha," sneered Owen, shifting in his chair to avoid seeing Jack stuff another slice of pizza in his mouth. "How was I to know it was a ghost?"
"It wasn't a ghost, it was an Izmof," put in Ianto, nibbling at some pizza. He was now fully and correctly dressed in his suit and tie and enjoying being his proper size again.
Jack ignored them and continued. "Knocked us out and tied us up. So, Ianto, saviour of the day," he smirked, "I think you'd better fill us in on the rest." He took a swig of his coffee and looked across at the Welshman, feasting his eyes on the neat figure but with a pang of regret for the loss of the small boy he had been.
Ianto took a sip of coffee and cleared his throat. "I didn't know what had happened to you. It was only when I wondered why you hadn't demanded coffee that I checked the internal scanners and saw you all trussed up on the sofa." A small smile played about his lips, it had been quite amusing to see them humbled in that way. "An analysis of the creature identified it as an Izmof, specifically one that had been captured by Torchwood a hundred years ago."
Toshiko was tapping at the keyboard in front of her. "This is its profile," she said, bringing up the details on the plasma screen. "It's amazing. It starts out as a gas – methane and nitrogen mainly – but by drawing on the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere it can become a solid. Takes about four hours and once it's reached the half way point it's permanent."
Jack was leaning forward to look at the screen. "I've never heard of it."
"But I thought you were here a hundred years ago," put in Gwen, frowning slightly.
"Not in 1908," said Ianto. "You were in India."
"Oh yes," said Jack, remembering serving in the Indian Army during a period of unrest. He had gone there to get away from Torchwood, returning a couple of years later.
"What were you doing there?" asked Gwen, always willing to listen to Jack's stories though never quite sure whether to believe them.
"I was in the Army, keeping down a lot of revolting natives." He opened his mouth to say more but decided against it, they needed to stay focussed. "But that's beside the point. Ianto, the Izmof."
"From the case file I learnt it had appeared, ghost like, in the Hub exactly one hundred years ago. Speculation after the event was that it had been drawn to the Rift Manipulator but no one was ever sure."
"It appeared right by it today," said Gwen, remembering its sudden materialisation.
"Emily Holroyd, then leader of Torchwood Three, and Charles Gaskell, an operative, were on the ball. Even with the limited amount of equipment available to them back then, they saw the danger if it was allowed to become solid – Izmofs can absorb and utilise any technology they come across and the Hub was stuffed with it – and devised a containment field that deprived it of the carbon dioxide." He paused to sip his coffee, his first for thirty six hours, and take another slice of pizza. "Emily appears to have been a bit of a sadist. She kept the Izmof contained for weeks, experimenting on it more often than not."
"Sounds like Emily," said Jack disgustedly, remembering the torture he had undergone in the cells. He chewed on his last slice of pizza.
"Despite the treatment it got, the Izmof formed an attachment to Emily and eventually broke free of the field and ran amok in the Hub trying to find her. They finally overpowered it by flooding the base with cooled acetylene which, according to the report, 'transmogrified' it."
"So how did it come back?" asked Gwen.
"Because they only dispersed the gases that formed it," explained Toshiko, "not destroyed them."
"Right," agreed Ianto. "There's an addition to the file from someone called Marie in 1942. She saw what she thought was a ghost near where the water tower is now. She and a colleague, Brian, analysed it and decided it was an Izmof, or a shadow of one. They predicted that it would continue to coalesce and eventually reform into the original creature. It just did."
"Can't imagine anything being so enamoured of Emily it would hang around that long," commented Jack, finishing his coffee. "So you decided to create a holographic Emily to lure it to the office?" he asked Ianto.
"It was attracted to her and her image was in the database. Seemed appropriate."
"Why the office? And how did you get there?" Jack sat back in his chair, pleased with Ianto's logical approach to dealing with the being. He was a great asset to this team.
"After sending the message to Tosh's PC … You did get that?"
"Well, after that I used one of the old tunnels, an air duct actually, which links up with your quarters. I was able to get up into the office and use the PC in there to project the hologram. I also knew that there was a plasma gun in the secure archives that I could use to kill the Izmof." He looked at Jack, "Sorry I had to do that. Couldn't think of a way to contain it."
"Amazing, Ianto, just amazing. And all this when you were knee high to a grasshopper." He was grinning proudly. The one time receptionist and general support had developed into something so much more.
Gwen and Toshiko echoed Jack's praises and Ianto felt embarrassed. He had done what he could to save his friends, just as they would do for him. It was also rather patronising of them to be quite so surprised when he showed he had a brain and could use it. He admitted to himself, however, that that was probably his own fault as he rarely put himself forward.
"That woman, Emily, called the Izmof 'Herbert'," said Owen when he considered Ianto had been praised for long enough. "Why?"
"That's the name she gave it, after the Prime Minister of the time, Herbert Asquith." Ianto decided he had eaten enough and pushed his pizza box away from him. "Anything else, Jack? I have a day and half's work to catch up."
"Hey, there's no need to do that. Take time to enjoy being your correct size again," protested Jack, laughing.
"I'll enjoy it best by sorting out the mess around here. But," he hesitated, "but thanks, all of you, for looking after me while I was … indisposed."
"It was a pleasure," beamed Gwen. "You were so cute as a little boy." Ianto cringed.
"That is so right," agreed Jack, recognising Ianto's embarrassment and not caring in the least. It was just more proof that he was back to normal. "Cute as a button."
"I don't think we looked after you, Ianto, you still looked after us." Toshiko smiled at her colleague and Ianto smiled back, relieved someone could talk sense. He rose to his feet and started to collect the pizza boxes and mugs.
"God, this is sickening," was the only comment from Owen who shoved back his chair and scurried away quickly, back to the medical bay to check on the tests he had running. Gwen and Jack wandered off, discussing the time he was India. Only Toshiko stayed to help tidy up.
"Are you really okay, Ianto? It must have been weird for you to be four years old again."
"I'm fine, thanks." He paused in what he was doing and smiled at her. "And thanks for your support. It meant to lot to me."
"Any time," she replied, smiling back, "though I hope it never happens again."
"Me too." They carried the rubbish and mugs between them and left the Boardroom heading for the work area. "But maybe it wasn't all bad," he said, smiling at the memory of sitting on Jack's knee and the feeling of security it had given him.
"I'm glad. Because you really were a cute little boy." She skipped sideways to avoid his playful nudge and the pair were laughing when they finally got to the kitchen.
For the rest of the afternoon, Ianto was true to his word and went over all the jobs that had been neglected in his time as a child. Even those supposedly completed by the other members of the team were revisited and re-done to Ianto's satisfaction. He put aside the small hired suit which he would return to the shop the following day and placed the other children's clothes in the store cupboard. All the time he was working, he went over all that happened to him in the previous thirty six hours in an effort to come to terms with it. He still resented being the butt of John Hart's prank and while he was thankful that the man had not done anything worse the humiliation still rankled.
This was still in his mind when he went round with the late afternoon coffees. "Jack," he began, putting the coffee down on his boss's desk, "can I ask you something?"
"'Cos you can. What's up?" Jack leant back in his chair and smiled up at the Welshman.
"Your wrist strap thingy. Can it send a message to John Hart like he sent to you?" Ianto stood in front of the desk, his hands in his trouser pockets.
"In theory." Jack waited to see why Ianto wanted to know that little fact. Did he want to send a rude message to John? Some lengthy harangue about not picking on him again? Jack hoped not, it would be unlike the cool and contained man he had come to know very well.
"One of those little holograms?" Ianto persisted.
"Yes." Ianto smiled, a wicked little smile that indicated to Jack that the Welshman had thought of something particularly dastardly. "What have you got in mind?"
"Tonight, when you've sent everyone home, I intend to show you how much I appreciate you." Ianto continued to smile wickedly.
"And?" Jack was leaning forward on his desk, eyes fixed on Ianto. He liked the idea of being appreciated and was already wondering how quickly he could get rid of the others. Gwen would go as soon as he gave the word but Toshiko and Owen tended to linger. Perhaps if he had a word with Toshiko, told her he needed some private time with Ianto, she would get Owen to leave.
"I want to send edited highlights of the CCTV footage to John bloody Hart."
Laughter exploding from Jack's office when Ianto was with him was nothing new but this had a special quality that made the rest of the team look over. They saw the two men fall into one another's arms and kiss passionately. Gwen started closing down her PC and packing her bag ready for the instruction to go home. Toshiko sighed, set the program she was working on to continue automatically and resigned herself to leaving early. Owen pulled a face and grabbed his jacket, determined not to stay around to watch his boss and the teaboy get some when he couldn't any more.
Thirty minutes later, all three had been given their marching orders and had left the Hub leaving Jack and Ianto to put the latter's plan for revenge into action.
And that's the end. Thanks to all of you for your supportive comments and reviews. And special thanks to Rachel Gonzales for the original idea. Jay :D