Hearing Jack’s bellow, Ianto hurried up the stairs from the locker room, where he’d been cleaning up after the team. Sometimes he wondered why he bothered since it would no doubt be a mess again before he had time to blink.
“What’s up now, Jack? Was the supermarket out of doughnuts?”
Jack had nipped out to get something for the team’s mid-afternoon snack since a busier than usual morning had meant they’d had to skip lunch.
“No, I got apple doughnuts as well as the ones filled with raspberry jam, but I just got back and…” Jack glanced over his shoulder and pointed. “There’s a horse in the Hub and it wasn’t there when I left; I think I would’ve noticed.”
Ianto shouldered his way past his lover, eyes already searching for the unexpected guest. “Are you sure it’s a horse?”
“I do know what a horse looks like!” Jack exclaimed indignantly. “Furry, four legs, hooves, mane and tail--”
“That’s not what I meant; it’s just, when I went downstairs ten minutes ago, Owen was up here fiddling about with that new medical scanner thingy.” Ianto came to a halt and just stood, hands on hips, assessing the sight before him. “Technically, I’d say that’s more of a pony than a horse. Can’t be more than thirteen hands.”
The horse, or pony, was a bay; glossy reddish brown body, black mane and tail, black stockings going halfway up its legs, with white socks on its hind feet. Owen had been wearing white socks earlier; Ianto knew because the medic had been complaining about having to wear his emergency backup pair.
The pony tossed its head and snorted, stamping a forefoot. As far as Ianto was concerned, that confirmed his suspicions. He rolled his eyes; why was it the team couldn’t seem to manage to get through a single week without some kind of weird mishap? They were supposed to be reasonably intelligent, although he had his doubts about some of them.
“What did you do?”
He took the twitch of the pony’s withers as the equine equivalent of a shrug.
“You don’t know, do you?”
Owen gave another snort and a vigorous shake of his head.
“Well for your sake, I hope Tosh and Gwen get back soon.” The two girls had gone to Tremorfa to investigate reports of a talking cat. “Just don’t touch anything. In fact, you should probably just stay right where you are.” He hoped Owen wouldn’t need to use the bathroom before Tosh could figure out what the team’s medic had done and how to reverse it; cleaning up after ponies wasn’t in his job description, no matter what anyone else might say. Weevils were bad enough. “And no drinking from the Rift pool; the water’s filthy.”
Having said that, Ianto stalked off to the Hub’s kitchenette to make himself a soothing cup of coffee.
Just over ten minutes later, Gwen and Tosh came in through the door to the underground garage. “False alarm, Jack,” Gwen called. “A couple of kids had fixed a miniature transmitter to their… Oh my God! There’s a horse in the Hub!”
“We know,” Ianto said, appearing out of nowhere the way he so often seemed to. “It’s Owen, or at least it was.”
Owen gave an annoyed snort and stamped his right front hoof.
Ianto glared back at him. “Fine, you’re still you, just a different shape. Better?”
The pony nodded its head and whinnied.
“He’s adorable!” Gwen gushed. “Just like the pony I used to ride when I was little!”
“Yeah? Well I wouldn’t try to ride Owen if I were you,” Ianto warned. “He already threw Jack off. Not that Jack didn’t deserve it; I told him it was a bad idea.”
“How did he wind up like this?” Tosh wanted to know, busily running one of her scanners over Owen and frowning at its screen.
“He claims he doesn’t know, but he was fiddling with that new medical device the last time I saw him as himself, so I’d imagine this,” he pointed at Owen the pony, “has something to do with that.”
“I’d better take a look at it,” Tosh sighed, making her way over to Owen’s workstation where the piece of tech was still sitting on his desk. Owen clip-clopped along behind her and rested his chin on her shoulder as she examined the device. “Stop that, Owen! I don’t want horse slobber all over my top. It’s new.”
Owen gave an indignant snort, but stopped using Tosh as a headrest.
“Any idea yet what happened?” Jack asked, joining the rest of the team, but keeping well clear of Owen’s hind feet, just in case he was still annoyed about Jack’s attempt to ride him. “I’d like him back the way he was as soon as possible; it’s not very practical to have a four-legged medic.”
“On the other hand, if anyone needs a horse doctor we’re set,” Ianto quipped.
Jack laughed, but Owen seemed less amused, drawing his lips back from large yellow teeth.
Ianto stood his ground. “Can’t you take a joke? Where’s your sense of humour? You’re always the first to make fun of the rest of us; if you can’t take it then don’t dish it out. And just for the record, you come at me with those gnashers and you’ll find yourself drinking cheap instant decaf for the next six months. Minimum.”
Sensibly, Owen subsided and put his teeth away.
Tosh glanced up from her examination of the tech. “Looks like Owen’s somehow managed to get several of the buttons jammed. Really it’s a miracle all he’s managed to do is turn himself into a horse. He might just as easily have made his bones vanish, or turned himself inside out. This device is a lot more than just a simple medical scanner. Unless I’m mistaken, it can be used to repair whatever injury or illness any kind of organism is suffering from.”
“That doesn’t explain why Owen’s a horse,” Ianto pointed out.
“Didn’t you get this one from that tabletop sale at the riding stables?” Tosh looked across at her friend.
“Well, maybe it got some equine DNA scanned into it by accident.”
“As good an explanation as any, I suppose.”
Jack leaned his hip on the edge of Owen’s workstation. “What I want to know is can you fix him?”
Tosh smiled up at her boss. “I think so; I just need some of Owen’s original pre-horse DNA.”
This being Torchwood, samples from everyone were kept on hand, just in case they might be needed for a situation like this. It took Tosh a couple of hours to un-jam and repair the device; then it was just a case of programming it, scanning in Owen’s DNA, pointing it at the pony, and voila!
Owen coughed and cleared his throat. “Thank God! I need a drink after that; preferably a stiff one!”
Ianto smirked. “What’s the matter, Owen? Feeling a little horse?”
The medic threw a withering glare at Ianto. “Think you’re so funny, don’t you?”
“Whatever gave you that idea?” Ianto headed towards the kitchenette. “Who wants coffee with their doughnuts?”
Even Owen raised his hand at that.
Ianto strode off smiling to himself, and just like that, everything was back to normal again, or as normal as Torchwood was ever likely to get.