No one was ever sure afterwards exactly who it was that pressed the button, or indeed if any of them had. The tech had been knocked to the floor in a mad scramble for the ball, during a rather insane game of basketball in which there were no teams because of the odd number of players and everyone was trying to score points for themselves.
Whoever was responsible though, everyone had to admit that the results were amusing. Mostly.
Ianto strolled through the Hub, collecting files to return to the archives and observing his colleagues as they tried to continue their day-to-day tasks, despite the current distractions.
As Tosh approached her workstation, her chair slid out from her desk of its own accord to allow her to sit down, sliding in again once she was seated. It looked for all the world as if an invisible gentleman was seating his date at the dining table. Ianto smiled to see how graciously his friend accepted the assistance, a delighted smile on her face, then headed for the autopsy bay to see if Owen had anything for filing.
As he approached, there was a strangled scream from Owen’s domain.
“Get it off me! Get it off me!”
Ianto made his way down the steps to find Owen being strangled by his stethoscope. While he was trying to decide whether or not he should lend a hand — after all, he wouldn’t want to interfere in a personal dispute - Owen managed to tear the stethoscope from around his neck and fling it across the autopsy bay, where it hit the wall and slid to the floor. Ianto made his way down the steps and carefully picked it up, petting it absently. It coiled around his forearm, resting its microphone end in the crook of his elbow.
“The bloody thing hates me!” Owen exclaimed.
“That’s hardly surprising, the way you treat it, tossing it onto chairs and tables, or in the sink, leaving it hanging from the railings for hours or just stuffing it in your pocket instead of coiling it properly,” Ianto told him in a disapproving voice. “It’s about time you learned to take better care of your equipment.” He pulled out a clean, white handkerchief and gave the stethoscope a polish with the soft cloth. It seemed to gaze up at him adoringly.
Ianto went to set the stethoscope down on Owen’s desk, but it wouldn’t let go of his arm.
“I don’t want that thing anywhere near me until whatever this is wears off!”
“Fine,” said Ianto, turning on his heel, “it can stay with me.”
The stethoscope stuck its ear pieces up at Owen as Ianto started up the steps.
“Good riddance,” muttered Owen as he rubbed his neck.
Jack looked up as Ianto entered his office with a small stack of files, which he added to the pile in Jack’s ‘out’ tray in preparation for filing.
“What’ve you got there?”
“Owen’s stethoscope. It tried to strangle him, so now he won’t have it anywhere near him.”
“Ah. Understandable I guess.”
On the coat rack, Jack’s coat was reaching out its arms to Ianto.
“If he treated it better, it wouldn’t be a problem,” Ianto told Jack as he walked over to pet the coat. The coat wrapped its arms around Ianto and hugged him.
“My coat doesn’t seem to be mad at me for all the times I’ve got it muddy or damaged,” Jack replied, joining Ianto at the coat rack. The coat unwrapped one of its arms from Ianto and wrapped it around Jack, happy in the presence of its two favourite people.
“Of course it isn’t mad at you. It’s a hero coat, it knows you’re not damaging it deliberately; things happen when the two of you are saving the world. Anyway, most of the time you get the worst damage, and you always make sure it’s properly cared for afterwards. You appreciate it. Owen just tosses things aside when he’s not using them and hardly ever cleans them properly.”
“And you’re the one who ends up cleaning them, so they all like you.”
“Something like that, I suppose.”
The end of Ianto’s tie reached up to caress Jack’s face and Jack turned his head to kiss it lightly. It practically quivered with delight.
“Always did love this tie on you,” Jack smiled, leaning in to kiss Ianto. The tie reached around the back of Jack’s neck, pulling him closer, and the two men melted into the kiss, only to break apart at a cry of frustration coming from the main Hub.
Ianto rolled his eyes. “Now what?”
After disentangling themselves from the coat and from each other, they stepped out of Jack’s office to find Gwen standing at her workstation, hands on hips, looking like she wanted to scream.
“Problem, Gwen?” Jack asked mildly.
“It’s my bag,” she replied with a frustrated growl, “it won’t let me pick it up! Every time I reach for the strap, it whisks it out of reach!”
“Judging by the behaviour of other things around here, it’s either fed up with being dumped on your desk, or it wants to play,” Ianto observed.
“Play?” Gwen sounded incredulous. “It’s a handbag!”
“And now it’s alive. Sort of. You don’t have that many options; try apologising for mistreating it, or try playing with it.”
“How do I play with a handbag?”
“Use you imagination,” suggested Jack.
“At least it’s not trying to strangle you,” Owen muttered darkly as he sauntered past, hands in pockets, heading for his workstation. He went to sit down only to find himself flat on his back when his chair slid to one side.
Jack threw back his head and laughed. Owen just glared at him.
“Bloody stupid chair,” he yelled, taking a swipe at it and missing. He started to push himself up off the floor and the chair stood on his hand. “Get off!” He slapped at it with his free hand and it skittered away. “How much longer do we have to put up with this insanity?”
Tosh peered at him over her glasses, trying not to laugh. “Judging by the rate at which the energy seems to be dissipating, probably only a day or so.”
“Give or take a couple of hours.”
Owen put his head in his hands. “I’m in Hell!”
“I prefer to think of it as karma,” smirked Ianto.
“You would,” Owen groused, “Everything’s treating you like its best buddy. Teacher’s pet!”
Gwen startled everyone by giving a sudden and most unladylike snort of laughter. “Sorry, sorry,” she giggled as Owen glared daggers at her, “It’s just… those jars on your desk, whatever’s in them keeps making rude gestures behind your back.” She doubled over, laughing.
Owen made a rude gesture of his own, which only made Gwen laugh harder, then scrambled to his feet and snatched up the offending specimen jars, carrying them quickly down to the autopsy bay and shoving them to the back of a shelf there, out of sight and hopefully out of mind. He was rapidly developing a headache.
Gwen finally managed to stop laughing and was busy dabbing her eyes with a tissue, trying not to smudge her mascara, when something suddenly tapped her on the back, making her nearly jump out of her skin.
Whirling around, she saw only her handbag, sitting quietly on her desk, its shoulder strap dangling over the edge.
“Oh, don’t play the innocent with me, I know that was you! What do you have to say for yourself?” Gwen tried to sound stern, but in her head she was muttering, ‘Oh God, I’m talking to a bag! This is insane!’
The bag shuffled closer and held up its strap, so she picked it up. Maybe it just wanted attention. It snuggled into her arms and unzipped itself, offering the bar of chocolate she’d bought herself earlier in a conciliatory way.
“Thank you.” Gwen accepted the chocolate, wondering if the day could possibly get any weirder then mentally berating herself for tempting fate. “Okay, I forgive you, just try to behave yourself.”
The bag zipped itself back up and wrapped its strap around her arm as she took a bite of the chocolate. She consoled herself with the thought that at least none of the food had taken on a life of its own. That would have been beyond weird!
Ianto’s voice broke into her thoughts.
“Want some coffee to go with that?”
“Ooh, yes please!”
Tosh said yes with a warm smile, Owen muttered a grudging, “As long as it’s not alive,” and Jack just beamed his thousand watt smile at Ianto and kissed him soundly.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Ianto told him with a smirk and a wink, and headed for the small kitchen area.
The coffee machine hummed cheerfully as he got everything ready. Cupboards and drawers opened themselves for him to get what he needed, the mugs shuffled themselves into line and Ianto had a quiet word with Owen’s, asking it to please behave as Owen was having a very bad day and he didn’t think it would do the mug much good to get on the wrong side of him. He polished the coffee machine with a soft cloth as it brewed the team’s favourite blend, and it sent out little heart-shaped puffs of steam in response, overjoyed at his attention.
Coffee brewed and poured, Ianto set about distributing the drinks to his colleagues. Owen was first, having taken refuge on the battered couch, which had remained mercifully inanimate, providing a small oasis of normality amidst the chaos. He grunted his thanks as he accepted his mug. Ianto was pleased to see that the mug had heeded his warning and was playing the role of an inanimate object perfectly.
As far as Ianto could tell, the items that had been affected were completely random. Tosh and Owen’s chairs were ‘alive’, but not Gwen’s. The cupboards and coffee maker in the kitchen were, but not the fridge; mugs, but not spoons. They were all still discovering things that had seemingly developed minds of their own. For a while, Ianto had been concerned that Jack’s hair had been affected, but it turned out that the fern on his filing cabinet had taken to running its fronds through it. That was a relief, though a little disturbing. Ianto idly wondered if the fern was mistaking Jack’s hair for another, rather shorter fern. Or maybe it just liked his hair gel.
Gwen accepted her mug with a cheery grin and a “Ta, Ianto,” before turning her attention back to her bag, which had a pencil gripped in its strap and was scribbling happily on a sheet of paper. Ianto tilted his head to one side. It seemed to be quite artistic — for a handbag.
He moved on to where Tosh was busy at her workstation, studying the alien tech that had caused their current situation. As he set her coffee down beside her, she smiled gratefully and thanked him, picking up the steaming mug and taking a careful sip. Instantly, her glasses fogged up, so the little rat screen cleaner that Owen had given her a couple of weeks earlier, hopped up on her shoulder and obligingly wiped them clear for her. She gave it a kiss on its little ratty nose as a reward. It really was quite charming. Job done, it hopped back down on her desk and set about scaling the heights of her bank of monitors, intent on keeping them as clean as possible.
‘One job less for me tonight,’ Ianto chuckled to himself as he took the remaining two mugs up to Jack’s office, where he found Jack leaning back in his chair against the filing cabinet, fern fronds running through his hair.
Jack grinned up at him. “You should try this, it gives excellent scalp massages. Very relaxing.” He accepted his coffee from Ianto and took a long sip, sighing in appreciation. “Just what I needed.” Ianto was unsure whether he was referring to the coffee or the scalp massage, so he didn’t say anything, just pulled up the other chair and settled down to drink his own coffee.
“Anything out there causing problems?” Jack asked, sipping his coffee. “Aside from Owen’s stethoscope.”
“Not that I’ve noticed. The basketball seems to be trying to win our game all by itself. It’s not having a lot of luck though, the hoop keeps moving. Gwen’s trying art therapy with her handbag. It’s quite talented. Tosh has charmed all her animated equipment so completely, things are practically falling over each other trying to be helpful and Owen’s just trying to stay out of the way in case anything else decides to attack him. Fortunately for him, none of his scalpels were animated. How about in here?”
“My stapler stapled all my paperwork to my desk. I think it was bored. It ran out of staples a while ago, so now it’s just sitting there brooding. I keep expecting it to throw itself off.” They looked over at where the stapler was teetering precariously on the edge of Jack’s desk.
“It’s bluffing,” Ianto decided. “It knows the fall won’t harm it anyway. Probably hoping you’ll give in and refill it.”
“Not going to happen,” Jack stated firmly. “I’m going to have a difficult enough time prising all the staples out of the wood as it is, without giving it the ammunition to add more.”
Hearing that, the stapler slunk further onto the desk, looking defeated.
They drank their coffee in silence for a while, relaxing and enjoying the momentary peace and quiet. Naturally, it didn’t last long.
A howl of pain came from the main Hub, startling Myfanwy into taking flight and adding her own screeches of displeasure to the commotion.
Jack strode from his office, Ianto following more slowly.
“Can’t we have five minutes of peace around here?” he bellowed, effectively silencing everyone else. “What the hell was all the noise about?” He turned to Toshiko, knowing he was more likely to get a straight answer from her. “Tosh? Care to enlighten me?”
The pretty tech expert blushed. “It’s sort of indirectly my fault,” she admitted. “I was examining the tech that did all this,” she waved vaguely around the Hub, “and Owen wanted to know if I’d figured out how to reverse the effects. I told him I hadn’t even worked out yet if what it’s done is what it’s meant to do or if it’s just an accidental side effect of the tech being dropped, and…”
Gwen butted in, “Owen was rude and insulting, and he deserved everything he got!”
Jack looked enquiringly at Tosh.
“My shoes kicked him in the shins and stamped on his feet with their heels,” Tosh admitted, looking faintly ashamed.
“Those bloody things are sharp!” Owen whined, “I could have permanent damage!”
“Serves you right,” Gwen snapped. “Just because you’re having a bad day doesn’t mean you can take it out on everyone else.”
“Fine! I’m outta here,” Owen snapped, grabbing his car keys and looking around for his jacket. It was nowhere in sight, having hurriedly slithered under Tosh’s desk. Giving up, Owen limped towards the cog door. He had his car keys and wallet, he really didn’t need anything else. All he wanted was to get drunk and forget today had ever happened. Maybe by morning the insanity would be over and things could go back to what passed for normal at Torchwood.
“Owen,” Jack called.
He spun around as he neared the door, “What?”
“I want you back in tomorrow at eight sharp, preferably in a better mood. You’ve been cranky all day. Crankier than usual, anyway.”
Owen deflated somewhat. “Yeah, okay. Just been one hell of a day.”
“I know. You do seem to have been getting the worst of it,” Jack agreed, smirking slightly. “Go on, get out of here, it’ll probably be safer for the rest of us. More peaceful, anyway.”
“Bye, Owen,” called Tosh, never one to hold a grudge for long. She did feel a bit bad about the way her shoes had behaved, even if they were just defending her honour.
Owen waved vaguely in her general direction as the door rolled shut behind him.
“And then there were four,” Ianto said with a sigh as he started to gather up the empty coffee mugs for washing. He placed them in a sink full of hot, soapy water and, after warning them to be careful not to chip each other, left them splashing about happily.
Tosh crouched down by her desk. “You can come out now, he’s gone.”
The battered leather jacket slithered out cautiously and Tosh picked it up, dusted it off and draped it over the back of her chair before sitting down. The jacket wrapped its arms around her in a brief, grateful hug and she smiled. Jack was right, it was much more peaceful now that Owen had left. She turned her attention back to figuring out whether or not the tech had been designed to animate things, though she wasn’t at all sure that she wanted to turn the effects off. If she could work out how to use it to animate specific objects, instead of the random ones that had been affected, it might even be quite useful. Soon she was completely immersed in her work.
The Rift was thankfully quiet and nothing was really happening. Ianto had cleared away the washed mugs, drying each one carefully. They seemed sleepy after their bath and quite happy to be put away in the cupboard. Jack was busy in his office, carefully prising staples out of his desk and reorganising his paperwork. The stapler had been refilled and was now busy stapling Jack’s papers together properly as he detached them from the desk and sorted them.
Gwen thought about asking Jack if she could leave early too, but then realised here was no way he would allow any of the animated objects out of the Hub, so she’d have to leave her bag behind. Somehow it seemed cruel to just abandon it. In its animated state it sort of had feelings and seemed to enjoy being with her. Besides, it was quite fun, so she decided to try teaching it to write. Maybe it could learn to communicate. She could be the first person to have a conversation with her handbag. Well, the first sane person, anyway. It was a bizarre but intriguing thought. What did animated handbags think about?
The rest of the day passed peacefully enough. Jack eventually agreed to let the girls take their animated personal possessions home with them on the condition that they both went straight home with no detours, something they were both happy to agree to. Tosh didn’t want to chance her shoes taking offence and kicking someone else, while Gwen didn’t even want to think about how people might react if they saw her bag unzip itself and hand her purse to her.
“Our things won’t become inanimate again when we leave the Hub, will they?” Gwen asked Tosh as she picked up her handbag, “Only I was looking forward to seeing Rhys’ reaction.”
“No, I don’t think so. They absorbed the energy that was given off when the tech was activated, they should remain animated until it wears off.”
“Good.” Gwen grinned in anticipation, called out a hasty “’Night, everyone, see you tomorrow,” and hurried out the cog door.
Tosh shut down her computers and other equipment, tucked her screen cleaner into her own (inanimate) bag, patted Owen’s jacket goodbye and turned to leave, giving a startled squeak as the jacket took the opportunity to grope her. She paused for a moment, chewing her bottom lip thoughtfully then made up her mind. “Come on, I’m taking you home.” Grabbing the jacket, she slipped it on; it was much too large, but she didn’t care. The jacket would be better off with her tonight, Owen need never know! She left quickly, even forgetting to say goodnight to Jack and Ianto. After all, she had other things on her mind.
Jack chuckled. “Alone at last. Looks like Tosh is going to have fun tonight! Apparently she has a kinky side I never suspected.” He slipped his arms around Ianto and kissed the back of his neck.
“It’s always the quiet ones you have to look out for. I would’ve thought you’d figured that out by now,” Ianto smirked, tilting his head to one side to give Jack more room.
“Oh, I have,” Jack agreed, nipping Ianto’s ear lightly. “In fact, what do you say — you, me, your tie, my coat…”
Ianto turned in Jack’s arms. “Sounds like a plan.”
They made their way up to Jack’s office, collecting the coat before vanishing down into Jack’s private quarters, closing the hatch firmly behind them. Tonight was certainly going to be interesting!