Ianto was busily working away in the archives, because there was never a shortage of things to do down there, when Tosh appeared, almost tripping on one of the boxes that were now half blocking the doorway to the small side room he was attempting to sort out.
“Oh, there you are!” she gasped with obvious relief. “I’ve been searching everywhere for you. I was starting to think I’d get lost; it’s like a maze down here.”
Ianto smiled at his friend. “You could have just called me on my bluetooth. I always wear it when I’m down here in case I’m needed for anything.”
Tosh grinned sheepishly. “I never even thought of that. Anyway, it’s probably better that I came in person.”
Putting down the item he’d been cataloguing, Ianto turned to give Tosh his full attention. “Right, so now you’re here, what can I do for you?”
“Jack sent me to ask you for any and all information you can dig up on the Scaffronians and their devices. I looked on the database before coming down, but there’s very little on there. He thinks one of the agents back in the forties did a thorough study of Scaffronian technology though.”
Ianto rolled his eyes. He and Jack had got into kind of an argument earlier that morning. He’d thought they’d put it behind them, but apparently he’d been wrong. Jack could be such a child at times. “Of all the… How old is he again? We have a silly little fight and suddenly he decides he’s not talking to me and has to send you instead of asking me himself, is that it?” He glared at Tosh, hands on his hips.
Tosh took a step back. “Hey, don’t shoot the messenger! You two had a fight?” she asked, surprised. “I didn’t know that.” Then her brain caught up. “Anyway, that’s not why he sent me. He would’ve come himself, except he can’t.” She blushed slightly. “He’s in a bit of a predicament; he just got back from a retrieval and he’s pretty sure what he found is one of those Scaffronian joke devices. You know the kind, the ones you have to press the coloured buttons in the right order to switch them off? Only this one is on, and you know how unpredictable they can be. I don’t want to fiddle with it in case I make Jack’s situation worse…” Tosh trailed off, biting her lip.
Closing his eyes, Ianto drew a steadying breath. “What exactly has it done to him that he can’t come down here himself?” He wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to know, but it was probably best if he did so he’d have a better idea of what he was looking for. The joke toys Tosh was talking about came in at least a dozen different varieties, and each kind worked differently.
“Well, he can’t actually speak right now, he had to write me a note…” She held out a piece of paper with Jack’s scrawl on it. “Or perhaps I should say he can speak, but not in English. Every time he opens his mouth, bird noises come out.”
“Not chicken again is it?” Ianto asked, a pained expression on his face.
“Again?” Tosh looked puzzled, the shrugged; she could ask him about that later, after Jack was fixed. “No, I’d say more owl than anything.”
“Oh. What kind of owl? No, never mind, that’s not important right now. Making owl noises doesn’t sound too bad, and it still doesn’t explain why he couldn’t come down here and give me the note himself,” Ianto pointed out.
“That’s the other thing, he’s… sort of swelled up a bit.”
“Swelled up? What do you mean?”
“Um, his uh backside has inflated so much that he can’t actually get out of his chair. He’s completely stuck,” Tosh giggled.
“Oh, that would not make him happy at all. He’s very proud of his arse, won ‘Rear of the Year’ with it more than once.” Ianto eyed Tosh uncertainly. “Exactly how big are we talking?”
“You remember those giant beach balls that were on sale over summer?” When Ianto nodded, Tosh continued, “At least that big, and possibly a bit bigger.”
“That’s… big. Really big.” Ianto’s eyes glazed over as he thought about Jack’s oversized arse, then he snapped out of it. “Okay, sorry to lumber you with messenger duties again, I’m sure you have better things to do, but tell him I’ll get on that right away. The research that is, not his…” Ianto’s ears went pink. “Yes, research.” He turned away quickly.
“Ianto? Before you start that, can you show me how to get out of here? I’m not sure I can find my way back.”
“The way out?” Tosh asked beseechingly.
“Right, of course, sorry. Just follow me.” He led Tosh back to the stairs before going in search of the information Jack wanted.
An hour later, Ianto was sitting at his desk poring over the contents of a stack of files he’d collected from various parts of the archives, trying to gather the relevant information on Scaffronian practical joke toys together. What he needed was deactivation codes for two different kinds of device: The ones that affected speech, and the ones that, for want of a better term, caused inflation. He thought he could fix Jack’s speech; that kind of device was fairly common and the relevant information was easily found, but the swelling was a bigger issue, no pun intended.
Turning on his laptop, he used the Hub’s internal IM system to send Tosh a message.
‘Can’t find any mention of a device that expands, but there’s one that shrinks. Might reversing the deactivation code for that work?’
Moments later, his computer pinged to indicate an incoming message, Tosh’s reply.
‘No idea, but I guess it’s worth a try. Whatever you do you’d better hurry up though; Jack’s getting very restless and hooting a lot.’
‘On my way up.’
Closing his laptop, Ianto gathered his notes and hurried upstairs.
He could hear Jack as soon as he reached the main Hub; low, distressed hoots were issuing from his office. With Tosh beside him, Ianto made his way up there.
Jack was sitting behind his desk, his oversized bottom crammed uncomfortably into his chair and bulging out beneath the arm rests. The device he’d collected earlier was resting in front of him in the middle of his desk blotter. Seeing Tosh and Ianto come through the door, he hooted urgently.
“Relax, Jack, we’ll do what we can,” Ianto promised, “and if this doesn’t work I’ll see if I can dismantle your chair. I bought my tools with me.” He set the toolbox down beside the desk and shuffled through his notes. “Okay, you have to press the buttons yourself. If you make a mistake, press the black button twice to clear what you’ve done and then start again. Got it?”
“T’wit t’woo!” Jack replied, which Ianto took as a yes.
Jack hooted again and nodded.
Ianto found the correct line. “Right, here goes. Blue, blue, yellow, blue, purple, green, purple, blue, red, red, purple, white, purple, blue, green,” he recited, slowly and steadily so that Jack could keep up.
As Ianto spoke, Jack carefully poked at the buttons with the tip of his index finger, making absolutely certain not to catch any of the other buttons in the process. They were quite small and rather too close together for human hands, the Scaffronians being a lot smaller. As soon as he’d finished, Jack looked down at his still swollen behind, then helplessly back up at Ianto, who shook his head.
“That one was for your speech. I don’t actually have one specifically for reversing your other problem.”
Jack looked horrified. “But I’ve had five cups of coffee this morning, Ianto! YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!”
“Well, at least you’re not hooting any more, which is a step in the right direction,” Ianto replied mildly.
“GET ME OUT OF THIS CHAIR!”
“I’m working on that.” Ianto said, remaining remarkably calm despite Jack’s yelling. He shuffled through his notes again. “Okay, try this.” He started reading a line of code backwards. “Purple, yellow, purple, yellow, pink, pink, pink, yellow, pink, purple, pink, green, green, yellow, blue, pink.”
Gritting his teeth, Jack followed the instructions. Nothing happened. “Iantoooooo!”
Ianto frowned at the paper in his hands, his lips moving as he silently went over the instructions again. “Oh, wait, I think I missed a pink. Let’s try again. Purple, yellow, purple, yellow, pink, pink, pink, pink, yellow, pink, purple, pink, green, green, yellow, blue, pink.”
Once again, Jack poked delicately at the buttons, and this time, much to his relief, it started to work. Gradually he began to deflate, his trousers shrinking along with his body. The moment he’d shrunk enough to escape the confines of his chair, he was on his feet and down to his quarters and private bathroom in double quick time, getting wedged momentarily in the manhole on the way, but soon slipping through as he continued to deflate.
Ianto grinned at Tosh. “Looks like the problem’s solved.”
“Good thing too,” Tosh giggled. “Now perhaps I can get on with my own work.” She hurried out of the office, returning to her desk and leaving Ianto to deal with any further problems Jack might have.
“Maybe that will teach you not to go around pressing tempting buttons,” Ianto smirked when Jack finally re-emerged from his quarters, looking much more comfortable, not to mention normal sized.
Jack gave him a withering glare. “I didn’t; I’m not that much of an idiot. It must have been on when I found it, with the timer setting enabled.”
That was entirely possible; the Scaffronians seemed to relish playing practical jokes on each other, like it was some kind of national pastime. They’d leave the devices all over the place, ready to prank the first person who touched them, whether deliberately or by chance, the effects making themselves known after a randomly selected period of time.
Most Scaffronians carried a deactivating device around with them, which would reverse the effects of any device they encountered, but some preferred the far more challenging task of locating the device that affected them and deactivating it themselves using the correct code, which was what the members of Torchwood had to do. They had yet to get their hands on a working remote deactivation device; the only one that had ever fallen through the Rift was so badly damaged that even now, after more than a year, Tosh still hadn’t managed to figure out how it was supposed to work, its internal components having all been fused together, possibly in a fire.
“You got lucky then.” Using Jack’s ruler, Ianto carefully nudged the device into a containment box, then wrote out the deactivation codes on a sheet of paper, dropped that in the box too, just in case it should happen to accidentally get activated again, and put the lid on. “Feel better now?”
“Much, thanks, but I think I have bruises.” Jack poked at his hips where the chair had dug into his inflated flesh.
“Shouldn’t worry too much about that; they’ll be gone in an hour at most. Is there anything else you need before I go back downstairs? A cup of coffee perhaps?” Ianto arched one eyebrow at Jack, who scowled back at him.
“Haha, very funny. No, for once I think I can safely say I’ve had enough coffee for the time being. Ask me again after lunch. There is just one thing before you go though.”
“Oh? What’s that?”
“This.” Jack pulled Ianto into his arms and kissed him; not a quick peck, but a long, slow, and very thorough smooch that left Ianto more than a little breathless.
“Wow! What was that for?”
“Just wanted to say I’m sorry about this morning. I know I can be an ass sometimes.”
“I noticed.” Ianto grabbed Jack’s arse in both hands and gave it a good squeeze. “Biggest I’ve ever come across. I prefer you regular sized though.”
“Me too. So, are we okay?”
“We always were, Jack. Everyone fights from time to time; none of us are perfect.”
“Oh, I don’t know, I think you come pretty close.”
“Flatterer.” Ianto gave Jack’s arse another squeeze, pecked him on the lips, and pulled away. “I’ll go put this out of harm’s way, shall I?” He picked up the containment box and turned to leave the office.
“What about your tool kit?” Jack asked.
Ianto glanced back over his shoulder and winked. “I’ll collect that later.”
Jack watched Ianto leave and smiled. “Later.” Returning to his desk, he sank into his seat and picked up his pen. He should probably get all this paperwork done and out of the way; it would save time, just in case ‘later’ they happened to need a nice clear desk. You never could tell.