It had started out as a perfectly normal afternoon, by Torchwood standards; Ianto had been sorting and attempting to identify the contents of one of the archives’ many side rooms when Jack, bored because there was nothing but paperwork to do, wandered in to see if he could distract his Welshman, maybe persuade him to take an unscheduled break.
“Ooh, what have you got there?”
“I have no idea.” Ianto turned the weird object over and over in his hands. “I can’t even work out which way up it’s supposed to be, never mind what it’s for. Any ideas?”
Jack looked at the peculiar twisted thing from various angles, but drew a blank. He’d seen a lot of strange things in his travels, but this one was new to him. “No, sorry. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Maybe it’s some kind of musical instrument,” Ianto mused.
“For something with three mouths and nine hands?”
“You never know. You’re always telling us stories of the strange looking aliens you’ve… um… encountered.”
“They’re only strange by human standards; we look just as odd to them.” Jack moved past Ianto, further into the room, spotting something. “I might not know what that is, but I do recognise this!” He picked up a flat, oval device in a pleasing silvery blue colour.
“You do? What is it then?”
“It’s like the alien version of an iPod.” Jack was grinning all over his face as he checked it and found its power source was intact; this was perfect, just what he needed to seduce Ianto away from working. All he needed was to turn it on, find some music they could dance to, and then it should take no effort at all to persuade Ianto into indulging in a different kind of dancing… “Come on!” He grabbed his lover by the arm and tugged him towards the door. “There’s not enough room in here.”
“Jack, cut it out; I’m working!”
“Don’t you want to see how this works? Hear some genuine extraterrestrial melodies?”
Ianto hesitated, torn, as his willpower started to crumble. “Well, when you put it like that…”
“I’ll put it any way that works for you,” Jack promised, waggling his eyebrows and earning himself an eye roll.
“Okay, I suppose I can take a break for a few minutes.” Ianto followed Jack into a more open area of the archives. “So how does it work? Are their earbuds or something?”
“Doesn’t need them; it feeds the music directly to the audio centres of the brain. It’s really very clever, it can be set for any number of people, all you have to do is touch this plate here to key it to you and only the people it’s keyed to can hear it.” Jack offered it to Ianto, who pressed one finger to the plate.
“Just like that; now it’s tuned in to your brain… and mine.” Jack pressed a finger to the plate too. “Not only that, it stores thousands of hours of music, and you can set it to play for however long you choose.” He began to adjust various controls. “How about fifteen minutes?” He turned a dial until the number 15 in galactic standard appeared in a little window. “Now I just have to select the kind of music, let’s say something slow and romantic, then press start…”
As Jack pressed the button Ianto slammed his hands over his ears but it did no good; the music, if you could call it that, was inside his head, a deafening screech like a million fingernails being dragged with excruciating slowness down a blackboard. It made him feel like his brain was going to explode, and he wished it would hurry up and get it over with. Head whirling like there was a tornado trapped in his brain, Ianto staggered, his knees turning to water. Abruptly the awful cacophony cut off, but Ianto’s head was still ringing, not to mention spinning, until everything went mercifully black and silence fell.
“Ianto? Ianto? Are you alright?” The voice seemed to come from a long way off, oddly muffled as if he was hearing it through layer after layer of cotton wool.
He cracked his eyes open and realised he was lying on the floor, cradled tenderly in Jack’s arms. “What happened?” he asked, his voice slightly slurred and sounding oddly distorted to his ears. The ringing was back with a vengeance and his head was throbbing.
“You passed out. I’m so sorry, Ianto, this is all my fault! I was so sure that was the timer dial but I must have misremembered and turned up the volume to almost full blast instead.”
“Oh.” Closing his eyes, Ianto waited in vain for his head to stop ringing. Finally he managed, “I didn’t think much of your choice of music.”
“Mm, I didn’t either; the previous owner’s idea of romantic music leaves a lot to be desired. Don’t worry though, we’re no longer connected to it.”
“You’re sure about that? Because I think my brain is still vibrating.”
“Positive this time. I turned the volume to zero and switched the whole thing off.”
“Good. Do me a favour?”
“The next time you think you know what something is and how it works, let Tosh take a look at if first. I’m rather fond of my brain and I’d rather not have it liquefied by sound waves, thank you.”
Jack nodded. “I promise. Come on, better have Owen check you out and then you can lie down in my bunker until you’re feeling better.”
As soon as he could, he was going to take the power source out of the damned thing and lock it in the secure archives, just to be safe. If he wanted to dance with Ianto in future, he’d stick with something safe and familiar, like Glen Miller.