It had been bound to happen eventually. Ever since an accident with alien tech had resulted in Ianto becoming a were-crow he’d been avoiding his sister, hoping to get his new shape-shifting abilities fully under control before spending any time with her. The only time he’d seen her since the mishap he’d been in crow form, riding on Jack’s shoulder as they’d headed back to the SUV after a retrieval, and Rhiannon had seemed more than a little nervous when she’d caught sight of him.
Nevertheless, the encounter had reminded him his nephew’s birthday was less than a week away. Rhi would not be happy if he tried to make excuses about why he couldn’t be there, and anyway, he didn’t want to disappoint David. Turning eleven was a big deal.
“You’ll be fine,” Jack assured him. “You haven’t accidentally turned into a crow once in the last three weeks, not even when that fire engine blasted past us with its sirens blaring a couple of days ago. I was so proud of you!”
“Thanks. I think.” Ianto managed a wry smile. “At least Rhi only expects me to be there for the birthday dinner. Instead of a party Johnny’s taking David and a few friends go-karting at the weekend.”
“Am I invited?” Jack had that hopeful puppy look on his face.
“To the birthday dinner or the go-karting?”
“The dinner. Although…”
“Don’t even think about it, Jack! And yes, you are invited to David’s birthday dinner. Now Rhi knows we’re together she’d hardly invite me on my own. We’ll be having spaghetti and meatballs, the birthday boy’s choice; apparently it’s David’s favourite.”
“Ooooh, meatballs, yum! Will there be cake too?”
“Of course there will; it wouldn’t be a birthday dinner without cake.” Ianto smiled; it didn’t take much to keep Jack happy.
The birthday celebrations started out wonderfully. Jack and Ianto arrived early in order to give David his present before they sat down to eat. They’d decided on a new bicycle because he was growing so fast his old one was getting too small for him.
David was thrilled with his gift, and naturally had to try it out right away, racing up and down the street several times before skidding to a halt in front of his uncle.
“It’s awesome, Uncle Ianto! Thanks!”
“You’re welcome. If your parents agree, you might be able to ride it to school and back, when the weather allows.” David would be starting at the local comprehensive after the summer holidays.
“Could I, mum? I passed my cycling proficiency test!”
“We’ll see. If you promise to wear the helmet your uncles bought you, and if you prove you can ride carefully and safely, not tearing about like you did just now.”
“I will, I promise! It would be so cool, me and Richie could cycle to school together!”
“You’ll have all summer to practice,” Johnny said, “so like your mum says, we’ll see.”
“Right!” Rhi clapped her hands together. “Back inside, everybody. Dinner’s almost ready.”
Wheeling his bike into the hall, David propped it against the wall and went to wash his hands.
“Uncle Ianto,” Mica asked, tugging on her uncle’s sleeve, “will I get a new bike for my birthday?”
“I don’t know, that’ll depend on whether a new bike is what you want. I thought you liked the one you’ve got though.”
“I do.” It was purple with a basket on the front. “I think I’d rather have a kitten. Or a Nintendo. David and his friends always hog the X-Box. I almost never get to play.”
They were on their way into the lounge when there was an almighty crash from behind them in the hallway as the new bike toppled over, and all Ianto could think as he transformed was ‘Bugger! Not now!’
He heard Mica give a squeal, and then Rhiannon’s shriek of shock as she came running out if the kitchen just in time to see her brother’s clothes collapse into a heap on the floor.
Ianto Crow struggled free with an exasperated huff of, “Not again! Caw!”
David stood there gaping, eyes wide. “Wow!” he breathed. “That was so cool!”
Brushing past everyone, Jack crouched down to help Ianto untangle one clawed foot. “Oops.”
Fluffing up his feathers and allowing them to settle, Ianto looked around at the people staring at him in varying degrees of shock; the only one who was completely unfazed was Jack, who was gathering Ianto’s clothes together and folding them as if this kind of thing happened all the time. Which it sort of did, except that Ianto had hoped he was past this stage. He sighed; this was going to take a bit of explaining, but first he’d have to change back into himself and get dressed, which he wasn’t about to do in front of everybody. It was embarrassing enough that he’d changed in the first place!
“Bloody Hell!” Johnny exclaimed. “What the fuck just happened?”
“Daddy!” Mica gasped, more shocked by her father’s bad language than by her uncle suddenly turning into a bird. “You used bad words, twice! Now you’ll have to put two pounds in the swear jar!”
Rhiannon still hadn’t said anything, just staring in disbelief at the massive crow that had inexplicably taken her brother’s place.
Shrugging his shoulders as best he could in crow form, Ianto threw a sheepish look his sister’s way. “Sorry, Rhi.” His crow voice was a bit on the harsh side but still perfectly understandable, and once again Ianto was thankful that crows were such talented mimics, otherwise he might not have been able to teach himself to communicate.
“It can talk!” Rhi gasped.
“Of course Ianto can talk.” Jack straightened up and tucked Ianto’s clothes under one arm. “Coming? We’ll take your clothes to the bathroom; you can change back there.”
Nodding, Ianto spread his wings, preparing to fly up onto Jack’s shoulder, but something caught his eye as the sun came out from behind the clouds, brightening the interior of the house and reflecting off a small, shiny object. Just like many ordinary crows and other corvids, Ianto Crow was irresistibly attracted to anything shiny; folding his wings again, he stalked across the carpet, Rhiannon hurriedly getting out of his way, and into the kitchen towards the tiny glint of gold, barely visible under the bottom edge of the cooker.
Crow beaks might look large and clunky but they’re actually surprisingly dextrous. Tilting his head to the side and leaning forwards, Ianto Crow poked the tip of his beak under the cooker and after a few moments’ careful manipulation succeeded in extracting his find.
“What’ve you found this time, eagle eyes?” Jack asked, grinning.
Ianto Crow half hopped, half walked back into the lounge where he spread his wings and soared up to Jack’s shoulder, landing with extraordinary grace, folding his wings again, and leaning forward to drop the small object into his lover’s hand.
“What’s it look like? Caw!”
Jack studied it then held it out to Rhiannon. “Earring; I think it’s probably yours, unless one of your friends dropped it.”
Rhi shook herself out of her stupor.
“How can you be so calm? My brother just turned into a crow!”
“I know, that happens sometimes when he’s startled by unexpected noises, but don’t worry about it; he’ll change back in a few minutes.”
“Don’t worry? How can you tell me not to worry? My brother’s a blinking great bird!”
“Only sometimes; you’ll get used to it.” Handing Mica the earring to give to her mother, since Rhiannon obviously had no intention of getting close enough to take it from him, Jack accompanied Ianto to the bathroom, leaving him there to change back into human form and dress. He returned a few minutes later, looking like himself again.
“Sorry about that,” he apologised. “I suppose I should explain.”
“You’d better!” Rhi glared at her brother. “Turning into a bird’s not bloody normal!”
“I’m aware of that, but if you think it’s weird to see, imagine being the one it keeps happening to.” Ianto sighed; he quite liked being a were-crow, it had some definite advantages, but why did his life have to be so complicated? He really hoped he wouldn’t have to retcon his family.