Ianto slumped down on a nearby tree stump at the side of the path and put his head in his hands, the very image of silent despair. Could today possibly get any worse? He sincerely hoped not. It was bad enough that the SUV was currently completely useless; it had been put out of action by a localised electromagnetic pulse when a nosy squirrel triggered the device he’d been looking for before he could get to it. Not that he could have driven it now anyway.
He swung his little feet idly as he wondered what he was going to do. Here he was, all alone, six and a half miles outside of Cardiff, with no usable transportation. Worse, both his phone and Bluetooth headset were as useless as the SUV so he couldn’t even call the team for help, it would be getting dark soon, and oh yes, he was only two feet tall.
What was it with aliens and shrinking devices? This wasn’t the first time he’d fallen foul of one and he supposed he should be thankful that this time he hadn’t been reduced to the size of an action figure, but it was hard to be grateful for being shrunk to a third of his usual height. On the other hand, it could be worse; if his clothes hadn’t shrunk with him he’d be faced with walking home barefoot and completely naked instead of just miniaturised. It still wasn’t an appealing thought though.
Darkness would bring out the native predators; admittedly nothing worse than owls, foxes, badgers, and maybe a few stray dogs and cats, but at two feet tall defending himself might not be easy. His Torchwood automatic was in the glove compartment of the SUV and therefore still full sized, and his trusty miniaturised stun gun was as dead as his other equipment…
Still, sitting here and moping about his situation wasn’t going to do him any good.
Sliding down from the tree stump, Ianto dusted off the seat of his trousers and went over to the device responsible for the current state of affairs. It was about the size of a box of tissues, matt black, and with a number of buttons and dials on its surface, all helpfully labelled in Galactic Standard, a language he’d learned from Jack. It was switched off now, as it probably had been when it had arrived, before the squirrel had stuck its inquisitive little nose where it didn’t belong. Thinking of which… Somewhere in the woods behind him was a four-inch long squirrel, tail included; he didn’t much fancy its chances of survival.
The device turned out to be heavier than it looked and picking it up took quite an effort; Ianto quickly realised there was no way he could carry it back to Cardiff, but neither could he just leave it out in the open like this, where it might shrink other curious and unsuspecting creatures. Hefting it in both arms, Ianto trudged back down the path to the SUV and set the device down, then rolled a convenient log alongside the car to stand on while he opened the door, thankful he hadn’t bothered to lock it. The keys were still in the ignition, for all the good they’d do anyone, but he plucked them out anyway, just to be on the safe side, and put them in the door lock. He’d have to remember to take them with him when he left. Then, straining every miniature muscle, he heaved the alien device up and shoved it into the driver’s side foot-well before sinking onto the log to catch his breath. Being so small was exhausting.
As soon as he felt up to it, he stood up again, slammed the door, and reaching above his head, locked the SUV securely. At least it should be okay until he and the team could come back for it, and hopefully get it working again. He shoved the oversized keys into his small jacket pocket and sighed heavily; there was a long walk ahead on him on his short little legs, so he’d best get moving.
Six and a half miles was nothing when he was his regular size, he could jog that easily, but at his current size it would be more like running a marathon, and he wasn’t exactly dressed for it in his smart suit and shiny shoes. He probably should’ve changed before driving out here, but the weather had been fine recently, no risk of getting muddy, so he’d thought he could get away with it. Nevertheless, he set out along the road at a steady jog, hoping to at least make it back to the village he’d passed through on his outward journey before it got dark. Then he might be able to find a public phone; he was sure he'd spotted one earlier. If he was right, as he usually was, and if it wasn’t out of order, he’d be able to put through a collect call to Jack at the Hub. That would probably be his best bet.
He’d gone maybe a mile along otherwise deserted narrow country lanes, relying on his memory of the route he’d taken to get here, when something big passed by overhead. It was dusk, so at first he thought it was just an owl and that it only looked so huge because he was so small, but then he heard a familiar screech and the creature swooped past him again, even lower this time, banking sharply to land on the road ahead of him. It was Myfanwy.
Ianto froze; he had no fear of the Pteranodon when he was his regular size, but would she recognise him now or think he was a convenient snack? He rummaged in his jacket pockets, hoping he had some chocolate, but there was nothing but the SUV keys, his miniaturised wallet, phone, Bluetooth, and house keys, some change, a handkerchief, and a handy pack of wet wipes. He highly doubted Myf would appreciate any of that.
As it turned out, he needn’t have worried; Myfanwy waddled towards him, making the purring sound that was her usual greeting to him, and butted him in the chest hard enough to knock him on his arse. Her reaction made sense in a way; she had excellent eyesight, but also relied a great deal on a keen sense of smell, and despite his current small stature, both senses were clearly telling her who he was, her trusted friend. He let out a sigh of relief as he scrambled back to his feet, and scratched around the crest on her lowered head, getting more contented purring in response.
After a minute, Myf raised her head and gently nudged him with her beak. She was a smart old girl, but maybe his intellect had been shrunk along with his body because he didn’t understand what she wanted.
“Sorry, old girl, I don’t have any chocolate on me.”
She turned sideways on to him and used her beak again, nudging him closer and dropping her nearside wing. Ianto looked at her, frowning a little frown; surely she couldn’t intend for him to mount her. Could she? He was small enough to, but… Well, it would be a bit precarious.
Thinking quickly, he pulled off his belt and tie, fastening them around her neck to give himself a secure handhold, then using her wing as a mounting block, he settled himself on her shoulders, his short legs hanging down a little way in front of her wings. He gripped tightly with his knees, as if he was riding a horse, and clutched at his belt. Myf turned her head, peering at him out of one eye. Seemingly satisfied that he was as ready as he could be, she sat back on her haunches, spread her wings, and with a mighty wing-beat and a thrust of her strong legs, they were airborne.
Ianto wasn’t scared of heights, but he still shut his eyes, not particularly wanting to experience a bird’s eye view of the countryside, but a few minutes later he cautiously cracked one open, then opened the other. They were above the treetops and then some, but nowhere near as high as he’d been expecting, probably due to his weight on Myfanwy’s back. She wasn’t used to carrying passengers any more than he was used to being one.
Myfanwy’s flight was surprisingly smooth, and as long as Ianto sat still and held on tight he didn’t think he was in any danger of falling off. One advantage of flying back to the Hub was that they could take the most direct route instead of following the winding lanes; it took a good two miles off the journey, and before he knew it they were gliding over Cardiff itself in the eerie not quite darkness, avoiding the areas where the buildings were tallest and aiming for the Millennium Centre, which Ianto could see directly ahead of them, all lit up. Myf took them lower, making a beeline for her entrance to the Hub, landing smoothly and letting him slide off before she waddled inside, with Ianto waddling stiffly along behind her. Saddle sore from riding a Pteranodon; that was a new one!
Inside, he patted his friend, promising her the biggest bar of chocolate he could find, and made his way carefully down from her aerie.
“Jack?” he called as he made his way up the steps to the catwalk.
“Ianto!” Jack burst out of his office. “Where are you? I’ve been trying to call you for over an hour but I keep getting informed that your phone is out of range or turned off. Ianto?” Jack looked around, puzzled.
Jack looked down, jaw dropping and eyebrows shooting up.
Ianto smiled and gave his lover a little wave. “Hi.”
“Ianto? What happened? You’re all little!”
“I noticed. Pour me a drink and I’ll tell you all about it.” Ianto plodded wearily past his lover, and climbed up onto Jack’s office sofa, groaning with relief at the softness of the cushions. He loved Myfanwy, and he was more than grateful for her assistance, but she was a bit on the bony side.
Jack followed him. “Why are you walking funny?”
“I hitched a lift from Myfanwy. Don’t let me forget to give her a bar of chocolate; she’s earned it.”
“You actually rode Myf?” Jack sounded envious.
“It was her idea. She found me when I was on my way back here. On foot,” Ianto added.
“I think you’d better start from the beginning,” Jack said, setting a small glass of Scotch in front of his miniaturised boyfriend.
Ianto picked up the glass in both hands, took a small gulp, because everything was necessarily small in his shrunken state, and began to tell his story.
“So,” Jack said when Ianto finished talking, “the SUV and the device are still out there?”
“Yep. The SUV isn’t going anywhere until it’s fixed, but the device is switched off and safely locked inside. I have the keys.” He dug them out of his pocket and dropped them into Jack’s hand.
“Right. I’ll get a tow truck out there first thing in the morning. Meanwhile, I’ll drive out, collect the device, and bring it back for Tosh to study. Hopefully she’ll be able to reverse the effects.”
“Just be careful you don’t accidentally turn it on. Don’t want you to get stranded out there, miniaturised as well. I’m hardly in a position to mount a rescue mission.”
“I think I’m more careful than the average squirrel,” Jack said.
“I should hope so. Speaking of squirrels, if you happen to come across a miniature one, try and catch it.”
Jack gave Ianto a flat stare. “I don’t like squirrels; they’re evil.”
Ianto rolled his eyes. “It’s four inches long, Jack, hardly something to be feared.”
“I didn’t say I was scared of them,” Jack corrected, “just that I don’t like them. They have beady eyes. It can stay four inches long as far as I’m concerned.”
Ianto gave up on trying to convince Jack. It wasn’t like he’d be able to catch the mini rodent anyway. Squirrels climbed a lot better than Jack did. “Have it your way.”
Before leaving, Jack stooped and kissed Ianto on the top of his head. “I won’t be gone long.”
“If you’re not back in an hour I’m calling the rest of the team back in and sending out a search party.”
“Fair enough.” Jack pocketed the SUV’s keys, snatched up the ones to his personal car, and left.
Kicking off his shoes, Ianto stretched out on the sofa; it was almost like lying on a king-sized bed. Being a bit shrunk actually wasn’t too bad, he decided, as long as he didn’t have to stay that way permanently. After all, how many other people could say they’d travelled by Pteranodon?