It had been a while, for the Doctor at least, since he’d last visited Torchwood, and he’d been looking forward to catching up with his friends, thinking it would be a pleasant, relaxing vacation from chasing around space and time sorting out other people’s problems. He’d eat chips with Jack on the Plas, give Ianto a hand identifying stuff in the archives, have long chats with Tosh… She really was quite brilliant; maybe he could talk her into taking a trip with him!
Unfortunately, his dreams of a quiet few days evaporated the moment he opened the door of his TARDIS just in time for his ears to be assaulted by the screams of what appeared to be a horde of children. His eyes widened at the sight of three children, approximately seven-years-old if he was any judge, which of course he was, hurtling past him. They looked disturbingly familiar.
The one in the lead was a small dark-haired girl in jeans and a leather jacket, a gap between her front teeth. Hard on her heels was a handsome boy with a mop of thick, brown hair flopping in his eyes, and bringing up the rear was a scrawny boy, all knees and elbows, with a slightly pinched face and a sour expression.
“Give it back!” he screamed, trying to run faster and nearly tripping over his own feet.
“Come and get it!” the girl shouted back, waving something she had clutched in her hand.
“But it’s mine!” the scrawny boy yelled.
“Not any more it isn’t!” the girl laughed, scampering up some steps.
“Don’t be so mean, Gwen!” another girl shouted, smaller than the others, a delicate, pretty child. “Give Owen his stethoscope back.”
“Why should I?” the taller girl, Gwen, taunted, looking down from the catwalk.
“Because it belongs to him and you took it without asking. That’s stealing.”
“You’re such a goodie two shoes,” Gwen sneered. “Finders keepers, losers weepers. Isn’t that right, Jack?”
“You’ve had your fun, Gwen; give it back before he starts crying. There’s other things to play with.” Jack shoved his hands in his pockets and looked up at Gwen.
“You’re taking that cry baby’s side? I thought you were my friend.”
“I am, but I’m his friend too. You always push things too far and then people get hurt. Why d’you want that silly thing anyway? I thought we were gonna play kiss chase.”
Gwen pouted. “That’s no fun, you always wanna kiss Ianto.”
“Why wouldn’t I? Ianto’s pretty.”
“Aren’t I pretty too?”
“I guess, but he’s prettier.”
Gwen huffed but she dropped the stethoscope over the railing. “Here, keep your stupid toy. I didn’t want it anyway.”
Owen snatched it up and scuttled away, clutching it to his chest.
The Doctor had watched everything from the TARDIS doorway, but now he stepped out. Something was very wrong here; how had the Torchwood team been turned into young children? And where was Ianto?
“Hello, Doctor,” a small, weary voice said. The Doctor turned to see the missing member of the team sitting on the bottom step of the spiral staircase leading up to Jack’s office. The small boy was immaculate in his equally small three-piece suit and tie; he gave the Doctor a little wave and a long-suffering smile.
“Well, young Master Jones, you’re looking a bit different from the last time I saw you.”
“I know,” Ianto sighed. “We all are.”
“Do you know what happened?”
Ianto shrugged thin shoulders. “We got littled.”
“I can see that. Do you know how?”
“I think so; there was this thing, nobody knew what it was and they were all arguing about it, and then it went ping and…” Ianto shrugged again. “Poof.”
“When was this?”
Ianto pulled out a little pocket watch and frowned at it, his lips moving as he silently worked out the time. He looked up at the Doctor. “This morning, just before lunchtime. Maybe four hours ago and a little bit. We didn’t get any lunch. I’m hungry. Jack drank all the milk, and Gwen hid the biscuit tin. She won’t tell anybody where she put it, not even when Jack promised to kiss her if she told him.”
“Do you know where this thing that went ping is now?”
“Yep! I put it somewhere safe. I’ll show you.” Ianto got up, dusted off the seat of his trousers and took the Doctor’s hand, leading him over to the coffee machine. Pulling a stool across, he climbed up on it and from there onto the counter top. “Promise you won’t tell anyone about this? It’s a secret.”
“You have my word.”
Checking that nobody else was watching, Ianto opened a secret panel in the wall and reached into the cavity behind it, bringing out a small device, which he handed to the Doctor. He quickly closed the panel, slid to the floor, and dragged the stool back to where it had been before.
The Doctor studied the device in his hand. “Oh! I think I know what this is!”
“You do? Does that mean you can make us big again?” Serious blue eyes looked up at the Doctor.
“It’s as good as done already,” the Doctor assured Ianto, pulling out his sonic screwdriver. “I just have to re-set this. Can you gather everybody together for me?”
“I’ll try. Tosh is easy, and she’ll know where Owen is. Jack will come if I let him chase me, but I don’t know about Gwen. She gets jealous because Jack likes me better than her.”
“How about if you had some sweeties? Would that work?”
“I’m sure it would.”
“Right, let’s see what I’ve got.” The Doctor rummaged in his pocket, pulling out a bag. “Peppermints? No.” He shoved them back and dug around a bit more. “Brussels sprouts? Definitely not, I don’t even know what they’re doing in there.” He dumped them on the kitchen table and went back to his search. “Where are my jelly babies? I’m sure I had some. Oh! Wait a minute, how about this?” He produced a huge bar of chocolate.
Ianto beamed at him, taking the bar and breaking off a quarter, which he hid in the cutlery drawer. “That’s for Myfanwy, she can have it when we’re all big again,” he explained before tugging the Doctor by the sleeve and leading him over to the battered old sofa.
Tosh immediately slid down from the chair at her workstation, where she’d been playing on her computer, and joined them, plunking herself down on the tattered cushions, her short legs sticking out. “Hello, Doctor. I didn’t hear you arrive.”
“Ah, that’s probably because there was so much screaming going on when I got here.”
“Oh, yes, they get a bit loud.”
Ianto was busy breaking the rest of the bar of chocolate into pieces and sharing them out into five piles. He handed one small pile to Tosh. “Do you know where Owen is?”
Tosh nodded. “I’ll get him.” Sliding off the sofa and leaving her chocolate where it was, she trotted down to the autopsy bay, peering under the desk down there. “Owen, the Doctor’s here and he’s brought chocolate! Come and get your share.”
Owen perked up. “Chocolate?” Scrabbling out from under the desk, still clutching his stethoscope, he followed Tosh back to the sofa. Ianto pushed five pieces of chocolate towards him and Owen stuffed one in his mouth, sucking on in. “Ta,” he said to the Doctor, remembering the manners his mother had drummed into him.
Raising his voice, Ianto shouted, “Jack? Gwen? You want some chocolate or shall Tosh and Owen and me eat it all?”
Jack appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. “Chocolate? Great! I’m starving!” He planted a big kiss on Ianto’s cheek, making the smaller boy’s ears go pink. “Thanks, Ianto.”
“Where’s mine?” Gwen demanded, flouncing up in her little leather jacket. “You didn’t eat it, did you?” She glared suspiciously at the rest of the team.
“This is your share, Gwen.” Ianto pointed to the last small pile.
“I shared it equally, we all got the same and there’s two pieces left over for the Doctor.”
“Why should he get any?”
“Because it’s his chocolate of course,” Ianto said, sitting beside Tosh and Owen on the sofa and popping one of his squares of chocolate in his mouth. Jack squeezed onto the edge of the sofa beside him. There wasn’t really enough room, but he didn’t mind being squished against Ianto.
Gwen ate her chocolate quickly, before the others could pinch it, then started eyeing everyone else’s.
“Don’t be greedy, Gwen,” the Doctor chided. He was still working on the device responsible for de-aging the team, poking at it here and there with his sonic screwdriver, which was whirring away. “You wouldn’t want to get fat and spotty, would you?”
Gwen bit her lip. “No, but I’m still hungry.”
“I don’t know why. You took all the biscuits,” Jack reminded her.
The Doctor dug in his pockets again and produced an apple. “Eat this them. Much better for you than chocolate. Of course, a banana would be even better, excellent source of potassium, but I already ate them all. I must remember to get some more.”
Gwen took the apple and bit into it, grinning triumphantly at the others. Ianto and Tosh exchanged a look.
“That should do it!” the Doctor said suddenly, tucking his sonic screwdriver back in his inside pocket. “Right, Team Torchwood, let’s get you back to normal again, shall we? Then Ianto can order you all a late lunch.” Pressing a few buttons, the Doctor aimed the device at the team. It went ‘ping’ and… Poof, just like that everyone was back to normal size and age. Jack fell off the sofa, suddenly too big to fit, and Ianto rolled his eyes.
“I’ll go order pizza, shall I?”
“God, yes, and hurry up about it,” Owen said. “I’m starving!”
“You’re not the only one, Owen.” Jack picked himself up off the floor. “Doctor! Good to see you. Any particular reason you stopped by?”
“Oh, you know, just thought it would be nice to take a break from running around the universe for a bit.” The Doctor sat on the sofa where Ianto had been sitting a moment earlier. He looked at the device in his hand, pulled out his sonic screwdriver, and ran it over the de-ager again, disabling it. “There, that should keep it from causing you any more problems.” He hesitated a moment, then shoved it in his pocket. “Perhaps I’d better take it with me though, just to be sure.”
“You’re welcome to it,” Jack said. “I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t relish accidentally ending up as a seven-year-old for the rest of my immortal life. It would seriously cramp my style!”