Gwen burst into Jack’s office without knocking. As usual. “Jack, I’ve finished that report on the disappearing handbags you wanted me to…” She ground to a halt, her eyes widening as she took in the sight before her. Even for Torchwood it was a bit… off. “Why have you got a fluffy pink duck on your desk?”
Jack gave a long-suffering sigh. “I asked for that report over a week ago, Gwen. It’s no use now; the handbags have already been found, and there was nothing alien behind their disappearance, just some guy with a handbag fetish. Told the police he was a serious collector. And this isn’t a duck; it’s Ianto.”
“Quack,” the duck agreed forlornly, fluffing up its downy pink feathers even more as it sat in the middle of Jack’s blotter, looking like a fancy paperweight.
“You’re having me on!” Gwen stared at the duck.
The duck rolled its eyes. “Quack!”
“I wish.” Jack gently petted the duck. “Poor Ianto can’t seem to catch a break lately; if it’s not one thing it’s another. Anyone would think the Rift had it in for him.”
Ianto duck nibbled at Jack’s fingers with his bright pink bill, drawing a sad smile from the immortal.
“Well… maybe it’s not so bad,” Gwen said. “I mean, he’s had worse things happen to him. I’m sure Tosh will be able to fix him. Right? She always does.”
“I hope so, but the tech that did this,” Jack gestured towards the fluffy pink lump on his desk, “is pretty badly damaged and we don’t even know if this is what it’s supposed to do, or just an accidental side-effect. Who’d invent a device that turns people into pink fluffy ducks?”
“It could be sort of a practical joke, couldn’t it? Like that black box that gave us weird ears, noses and stuff a few months back.”
“I suppose it could.” Jack sighed again. “Just… leave your report in my in-tray and I’ll look at it later.” Throughout the conversation, he hadn’t once looked away from Ianto duck and now he sprinkled some grain into a dish of water and watched his transformed lover dabble for it.
Gwen waited for a few moments longer, but when Jack didn’t say anything else she dropped the report on his desk, left his office and made her way over to Tosh’s workstation, where the tech genius was bent over a magnifier, working on the delicate components of a small and very alien device. “How’s it going, Tosh?”
“Very slowly; I think there might be some parts missing.” Tosh looked up, peering at Gwen over the tops of her glasses. “Gwen, are you busy?”
“No, not right now.”
“Good. I need you and Owen to go back to the alley where Jack and Ianto found this and bring back everything you find there.”
“Okay, sure. We can do that. Whereabouts was it found?”
Tosh told her and Gwen noted it down, then went to get Owen.
Fifteen minutes later, they were rooting around in the alley behind Argos, where bits of old catalogues fluttered around amid the other trash. Gwen started picking them up.
Owen paused in his search to scowl at her. “What d’you think you're doing?”
“Tosh said to bring everything we found back to the Hub.”
“She didn’t mean the rubbish as well,” Owen sneered, carefully collecting up several small components he’d found on the ground beside a dumpster and placing them in a box. The device had probably been flung out of the Rift into the solid metal side of the dumpster and broken on impact.
“She said everything, so that’s what I’m doing,” Gwen insisted. “How are we supposed to know what might be important?”
“She only meant anything that looked like alien tech, not scraps of paper! You want to take the dumpster back too?”
“Don’t be an idiot. Oh!”
“Now what?” Owen grumbled, seeing Gwen studying a catalogue page. “See a pair of shoes you want?”
“No, it’s just… doesn’t this look a lot like Ianto? I mean, like he is at the moment, not when he’s himself.” Gwen showed the page to Owen; there were pictures of several soft toys, the largest and most noticeable being a fluffy pink duck.
Owen stared at it. “I suppose it does sort of look similar, except Tea-duck is alive and that’s just a kid’s toy.” He went back to scanning the alley, collecting a few more bits that might belong to the device as Gwen folded the picture of the cuddly duck and put it in her pocket. Finally he straightened up. “Okay, that seems to be everything; let’s get back and see if Tosh can do anything with these.”
Back at the Hub, Tosh examined the broken bits Owen had bought her, repairing a couple, and fitting several back into the device.
Gwen showed her the picture. “I found this in the alley, but I don’t know if it means anything.”
Jack leaned over her shoulder, looking from the picture to Ianto duck, now cradled in his arms. “The resemblance is uncanny!”
“Quack,” said Ianto, stretching his pink neck out and studying the picture.
Tosh studied it too, her mind racing, then she examined the device again. Now she had all the pieces she could see the inner workings had some similarities to several items she’d seen in the archives. “That might be it!” She sounded excited.
“What d’you mean? Can you fix Ianto?” Jack asked hopefully.
“Well, I’m not a hundred percent certain yet, but I think so. Assuming I can get this working. Just give me a couple of hours.”
“Take however long you need.” Clutching his fluffy pink boyfriend, Jack returned to his office, leaving Tosh to get on with her work. The delicacy of the device she was trying to repair meant it would need her full attention; the last thing he wanted was to distract her.
An hour and a half later, Tosh knocked on the door and entered Jack’s office. He was sitting staring into space, Ianto duck on his lap, snoozing, his head tucked under a fluffy pink wing. He stirred and fluffed himself up as Jack spoke.
“Tosh! Done already?”
“Yes, I think so, but before we can try reversing the effects, I need to ask you for something. I just hope you’ve got it.”
“What d’you need?”
“A high quality, full length colour photo of Ianto.” Tosh blushed. “Preferably naked.”
“Tosh, you minx!” Jack grinned at her. “I’m shocked!”
She ducked her head. “Not for me! It’s just that if we use one with Ianto fully dressed, I can’t be sure if his clothes will be detachable.” Tosh chewed her bottom lip.
“Mm, would be a bit awkward if they weren’t. Good thing I happen to have a few rather tasteful nude shots of him, among the other, more personal ones,” Jack said with a smirk.
Ianto duck made a strangled, squeaky sound and stuck his head back under his wing. Jack couldn’t be completely certain, but it seemed to him that his lover had turned a deeper shade of pink.
“I’ll go and fetch those pictures.”
“Come down to my desk when you’re ready.” Tosh hurriedly left the office, and Jack set Ianto duck on his desk.
“Wait there; I’ll be right back.”
A muffled quack came from beneath the mortified duck’s wing.
Trying not to laugh, Jack disappeared down the ladder leading to his quarters. He returned a few minutes later with a box of photos, which he set on the desk beside Ianto, flicking through them and picking out a handful that weren’t too raunchy. He spread them out in front of his lover. “Which d’you think?”
Reluctantly extracting his head from under his wing, Ianto duck studied the photos one at a time. “Quack,” he said at last, jabbing his beak towards one.
Jack picked it up and nodded. “Good choice; it even shows your toes. Maybe we should have a back view as well though, just to be safe.” Setting the photo aside, he selected a second one, shuffled the others together, and placed them back in the box. Then, with Ianto nestled safely in the crook of his arm, he took the snapshots they’d chosen down to Tosh.
She smiled up at them. “Perfect timing; I think I’m just about ready. Put Ianto on the sofa, would you?”
Jack did as requested, making sure his fluffy lover was comfy. Ianto duck nibbled Jack’s hand by way of thanks.
“Just try not to worry. I’m sure everything will be fine.”
Laying the photos of Ianto on the coffee table, Tosh scanned them with the device, then waited until a small panel on the side cleared to show the images had been successfully copied. “Stand away from Ianto now.”
Jack gave the duck one final stroke, smoothing the fluffy feathers, and stepped back.
“Here goes.” Tosh punched a sequence of buttons. A beam of light bathed the duck on the sofa, and it began to shimmer, growing in size and assuming human shape. It was still fluffy and pink at first, but gradually the downy feathers were absorbed, the colour changed to flesh tones, the hair on his head, and elsewhere, darkened, and Ianto was Ianto once more. Just very, very naked.
Tosh politely turned away.
Stripping out of his coat, Jack wrapped it around his lover, then picked up the nude photos.
“You’re welcome.” Tosh was blushing again, and so was Ianto, although he wasn’t quite as pink as he had been a few minutes earlier.
He cleared his throat. “Well, I seem to be a bit under-dressed; I should probably go and find some clothes.”
“Say no more.” Jack hustled Ianto towards his office, letting the door swing shut behind them. “How d’you feel?” he asked as he closed the blinds.
“Embarrassed, but relieved not to be a fluffy duck anymore. That was not an experience I’d care to repeat.” Ianto turned to Jack, the coat still wrapped tightly around him. “When you told me I’d be glad one day that you’d taken nude photos of me, I didn’t believe you, but it looks like you were right.”
“Does that mean you’ll let me take some more?”
A reluctant smile curved Ianto’s lips as he made his way over to the manhole leading to Jack’s quarters. He glanced back over his shoulder. “I’ll think about it.”