“On the plus side,” said Jack, trying to help Ianto see the glass half full instead of half empty, “at least now you don’t have to worry about choosing a costume for Halloween. You look very authentic!”
The sleek black tomcat hissed and swatted at him with one paw, claws unsheathed.
“Hey, there’s no need to get snippy with me! It’s not like this is my fault.”
The cat glared at Jack from startlingly bright blue eyes, somehow managing to make him feel about an inch tall, which was so unfair! He got the distinct impression that Ianto would find a way of making this his fault even though he genuinely wasn’t to blame for his lover’s current predicament. He responded to the accusing stare in the only way possible; he pouted.
“Stop looking at me like that, Ianto.”
“I get that you’re in a bad mood, I know you don’t particularly want to be a cat, but you are so you’ll just have to make the best of it for the time being. It could be worse; you’re indoors where it’s dry and warm, you have a comfy sofa to nap on…”
“Okay, a not too uncomfy sofa to nap on. I’ll fetch you one of my pillows in a bit; that should be nice and soft. You’ve got a bowl of water to drink, tinned tuna fish to eat, and I’ve put a litter tray in the corner for your convenience.”
Ianto gave him a haughty look and turned his back on Jack with a dismissive flick of his tail.
“You say that now, but you’ll thank me later.”
The long black tail swished from side to side, telegraphing Ianto’s displeasure with the current state of affairs.
“Look, I’m sorry you’re a cat, I’m not overjoyed about it either, but it’s hardly the end of the world…” Jack trailed off as Ianto leapt neatly off the desk and stalked out of his office, nose and tail in the air, the very picture of injured dignity. He was definitely a feline with cattitude.
Sighing, Jack slumped into his desk chair, rested his elbows on his blotter, and put his head in his hands. It was bad enough that Ianto had accidentally been turned into a cat the day before Halloween, but to make matters worse, he was taking his annoyance out on the one person who deserved it least, namely Jack himself.
“I don’t know why I’m getting the blame when I wasn’t even there!” Jack lamented.
Maybe that was half the problem, although even if he had been present there would have been little he could have done to prevent his lover’s cattification. This was Torchwood; unwanted transformations happened all the time. Every member of the term got temporarily turned into another species at least once a year. There were far worse things to wind up as than a cat though; Ianto should be grateful. He might have been turned into a penguin, or a lobster, or one of those mudskipper fish things they saw on that nature documentary the other night. What was so terrible about being a cat for an hour or two?
“Why is he taking it out on me? Owen’s the one who dropped the thing!”
According to Gwen, Owen had scrambled over a wall to retrieve the latest Rift gift from the bottom of a ditch on the other side. He’d just picked it up and Ianto was leaning over the wall, holding a containment box for the medic to put his find in when Owen, reaching up, had lost his footing, dropping the device. As it had hit the bottom of the containment box, there’d been a bright flash of golden light, the box had fallen practically on top of Owen, and up on the wall, right where Ianto had been a split second before, a rather annoyed black cat was sitting, its tail lashing angrily.
Gwen had gone to pick the cat up, but one slash from a paw full of claws had changed her mind and Ianto had stalked back to the SUV ahead of his teammates, only to realise when he got there that none of them could get in. Ianto had driven them out there, the keys were in his suit pocket, and his clothes had changed along with the rest of him. They’d had to wait for Jack to drive out in his personal car to rescue them, and while they were waiting it had started to rain heavily, forcing a certain cat who had previously been a man to take shelter underneath the vehicle.
When Jack had arrived twenty minutes later with the spare keys to the SUV, Ianto had jumped straight into the front passenger seat of Jack’s car, where he’d sat stiffly all the way back to the Hub, damp and muddy but unwilling to clean himself up in the usual cat fashion.
Jack couldn’t blame him, licking mud off his paws wasn’t something he would have wanted to do either, but it had meant putting Ianto through the additional indignity of a shower once they were back at base, and it had turned out that as a cat, Ianto really didn’t like getting wet. Never mind that the water was nice and warm, or that it got all the nasty mud and other stuff out of his fur, Ianto had hissed and spat the entire time, becoming only slightly less irritated when Jack, after getting the worst of the water out of Ianto’s fur with a warm, fluffy towel, fetched his hairdryer and gave him a thorough blow dry. Even grooming him afterwards hadn’t improved his mood by much.
Shoving his hands through his hair, Jack got to his feet and went out into the main Hub to see how Tosh was getting on with the device that had turned Torchwood’s archivist into a cat.
“Any luck yet?” he asked, leaning against the tech expert’s workstation.
“Um, yes and no.” Tosh threw Jack an apologetic look. “This is definitely what transformed Ianto, but it only works one way.”
Jack’s eyes widened in horror. “What, you mean Ianto’s stuck as a cat permanently?” That didn’t bear thinking about.
“No, I don’t think so. From what I can tell there’s a set time limit; when that’s reached, he should automatically revert to his normal self.”
“Well that’s good news at least. Any idea when that will be?”
“If I’m translating this right, he should be back to normal in approximately eight days.”
That wasn’t going to please Ianto. “He’s going to have to stay this way for over a week?”
Tosh smiled up at Jack sympathetically. “It looks that way. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, Tosh; not even you can make a device like that do something it’s not designed to do. Does Ianto know yet?”
“Isn’t he up in your office?”
“No. He’s mad at me for some reason and stalked off a few minutes ago; I don’t know where he went. He’s acting like it’s my fault he’s a cat.”
“I’m sure he’ll come around. He’s probably just cross about getting wet and muddy.”
“Yeah,” Jack sighed. “He did suggest a while ago that we should all have a set of keys for the SUV, but I didn’t think it would be a good idea to have five sets floating around; what if someone lost theirs, or they were stolen? But maybe he was right; if Gwen or Owen had been carrying a spare set today the three of them could have come straight back here without getting rained on. Maybe he has good reason to be mad at me after all. I’d better see if I can find him; perhaps if I apologise and promise to get more keys made, he’ll forgive me.”
Jack mooched off, looking for his furry lover, but a black cat was a lot harder to find in the Hub than a six-foot tall Welshmen. For one thing, in his natural form Ianto couldn’t hide under the furniture.
In the end, all Jack had to do was follow Owen’s pained yell. Leaning over the railings above the sunken area housing the medical bay, he looked down at Owen, who was nursing a shredded hand.
Spotting his boss, Owen scowled up at Jack. “Your bloody boyfriend scratched me!”
“What did you do?”
“Nothing! I just came down here to do some work, he was sitting on my desk, and when I told him to shift, he slashed at me! What did I ever do to him?”
“Shall I write you a list?” Even as the words left Jack’s lips he wondered when he’d started channelling his lover; that was such a Ianto thing to say. But it was true nonetheless; Ianto probably had a list of grievances against his colleague a mile long. “We could start with the fact that you’re to blame for him being turned into a cat.”
“Mrowr!” Ianto agreed from Owen’s desk.
“It was an accident! I was reaching up to put that weird device in the containment box and my foot slipped! If I hadn’t let go of it I’d have gone headfirst into the wall! I didn’t know that would happen!” Owen pointed his good hand at Ianto. “Okay, so it was clumsy, but it wasn’t like I did it on purpose.”
“He does have a point, Ianto. Accidents happen, often with unfortunate consequences for other people. Maybe you could cut him some slack. And while we’re on the subject, I’m sorry you got muddy and had to take a shower. I will see to it that from now on we all have keys for the SUV. Okay?”
The cat looked thoughtful for a moment, then leapt gracefully from the desk onto the floor, trotted up the steps, and twined sinuously around Jack’s legs, purring approval.
“Thank you. I’m sorry it took something like this to prove you were right. I promise not to ignore your recommendations in future. In the meantime, we need to talk about something else. Perhaps we should go up to my office?”
Ianto trotted ahead of Jack, taking the spiral staircase to enter the office from the back. By the time Jack got there, his lover was settled comfortably in the middle of the blotter, paws tucked under him, and tail curled neatly around his body.
Jack sat and looked into the cat’s blue eyes, wondering how he was going to break the unwelcome news.
“I though it would be better if I told you rather than having Tosh do it. I mean you’re already mad at me, and it’s not like any of this is her fault…” Jack lowered his eyes, unable to meet that steady blue gaze any longer.
A soft black paw patted his hand. “Mrow!”
“Okay, fine, Tosh says you’ll change back eventually, but you’re going to be stuck as a cat for another eight days or so. Sorry, I wish it was better news.”
Ianto threw his head back and yowled forlornly. “MEOWLLLLL!”
“I know, I know, but look, it’s not going to be so bad. I’ll take very good care of you; I’ll pamper you like you won’t believe. You’ll have the very best food, the real thing, not cat food. Chicken, cooked fish, tinned salmon. I’ll take you home every night so you can sleep on your own bed, and I’ll stay with you, so you have someone warm to curl up next to. It’ll do you the world of good! Just think; you can catch up on lost sleep. By the time you’re yourself again you’ll be well rested. Think of it as a paid vacation.”
“Meooooow!” Ianto stood up and patted at Jack’s laptop with a paw.
“You want me to turn it on?”
“Okay.” Jack booted the laptop up and Ianto dropped into his lap, turning around to face the screen and putting his front paws on the edge of the desk. He dabbed at the keys with one paw, opening a blank document. Jack watched in amazement. Who knew cats could type? Then again, this was Ianto, so maybe it shouldn’t surprise him so much.
Painstakingly, Ianto typed out: HALLOWEEN PARTY?
“Ah, yes, that.” Ianto and Jack were supposed to be going to Rhiannon’s Halloween party the following night. They’d been debating costume choices for weeks and still hadn’t decided what to go as. Not that Ianto could really put on fancy dress in his current state. “We’ll just have to tell her… you’re not well and I’m staying home to look after you.”
NO GOOD. WOULD BRING SOPIP.
One paw quickly tapped the backspace key a few times and Ianto tried again.
Jack hid a smirk; Ianto was so fussy about spelling mistakes. Even as a cat he had to correct them.
“Okay, what d’you suggest? I mean we could still go, your sister would understand, sort of, but the kids and Johnny don’t know about Torchwood, and it would be hard to explain why I showed up with a cat instead of their uncle.”
Ianto started slowly patting keys again, being more careful this time not to hit two at once. Paws weren’t quite as dexterous as fingers.
“She’ll be mad at you if you use that excuse for skipping the party.”
USED TO THAT.
“I suppose you are, but lying to her?”
NOT FIRST TIME. TELL HER TRUTH AFTER.
“We could tell her the truth before and ask her to tell the kids you’re not well and will visit when you’re better.”
WOULDN’T BELIEVE. WOULD WANT TO SEE.
“Rhiannon would want to see you like this? What’s wrong with that?”
NOT A CAT!
Jack frowned at the cat in his lap. “I hate to say this, but actually you sort of are.”
“SSSSSSSSSS!” Ianto hissed indignantly.
“Well you are! I’m sorry if it offends you, but… furry, four legs, pointy ears, tail, whiskers, says meow… Ergo, cat!”
“Temper, temper! What’re you so worried about anyway? Oh, wait; you don’t want her treating you like a cute kitty, is that it?”
“Okay, sure, that would be annoying, but you know I wouldn’t let her, right? And just telling her the truth straight off… That doesn’t mean she’ll actually have to see you; I can make excuses for why she can’t. I don’t even have to tell her the details; I can just call her, tell her that there was a work-related incident, that you’re okay but not quite yourself, and that you’ll call her as soon as you can. No problem. After you’re you again we’ll look back on this and laugh…”
NOT FUNNY. WORK TO DO!
“You have no sense of humour. Just relax and stop worrying; the rest of the team can take care of the residents and the cleaning while you’re not able to. Take my advice and enjoy your time off; we get little enough of that. Don’t waste your time worrying about the things you can’t do. Now, shall I fetch you a pillow to nap on?”
Ianto turned around on Jack’s lap a few times, kneading with his paws, then curled up, purring. Risking life and limb, Jack stroked the sleek black body from the top of Ianto’s head to the base of his tail and the purr increased in volume. One blue eye opened briefly.
“I’ll get on with some work in a minute, I promise,” Jack assured his lover, and went back to stroking him. There were worse ways to spend a rainy afternoon than doing paperwork with a cat napping on his lap.