Spoilers: Through TW Season 3 but not really.
Summary: One morning, Ianto Jones wakes up and finds himself cursed, doomed to live as a swan during the day for the rest of his life. There’s no chance of breaking the spell—unless Ianto receives a kiss from his one true love under the full moon. It sounds easy enough...if only Jack knew that Ianto was still alive. Will Ianto ever be fully human again, and does anything in Torchwood ever end “happily ever after”?
Author’s Notes: Written for reel_torchwood. Plot adapted from “The Swan Princess” (1994). Beta’ed with great awesomeness by gingerbreadlass. Many thanks for everything, Ginger!
Once upon a time, not so long ago and not very far away, a young man awoke to find that something very strange had happened to him during the night...
Ianto Jones awoke with a start, secure in the knowledge that he could not possibly be in his own flat unless Jack had moved their bed onto the roof in the middle of the night. While Jack was indeed a bit of a voyeur when it came to their sex life, waking up to rain from an unpredictable Cardiff shower was something neither of them wished to experience.
Ianto kept his eyes closed, feeling the morning sun pulse through his eyelids as he tried to remember what had happened the night before. Oddly enough, there wasn’t much. He knew there was a Rift spike in the area of Tretower Castle sometime around midnight, shortly after Jack had gone for a Weevil sighting. Since Gwen was still home on maternity leave, Ianto was the only one left to go and investigate. He’d scribbled a note for Jack and left it near the lift, saying that he’d gone to check on some unusual Rift activity, please don’t wait up, will be back soon. The spike location was quite a ways from the Plass and the newly-rebuilt Hub, but it had been so huge and so sudden that Ianto couldn’t just let it sit until morning.
He remembered the drive to Brecon Beacons (it wasn’t the same area where they’d encountered the cannibals, back when Owen and Tosh were still alive, but it was close enough that Ianto became a little misty-eyed thinking about it), the winding road practically deserted as he made his way north. He remembered pulling over to the side of the road for a short nap, then waking up again to find the full moon shining through the windscreen—
And after that, nothing.
Ianto opened his eyes slowly, wincing as he adjusted to the bright light around him. His initial assumption had been correct: he was lying on the ground outside, surrounded by the branches of a drooping willow overhead and what looked like a small lake to his left. He sat up with great difficulty (having had to roll over to his side in order to prop himself upright) in order to get a better glimpse of his surroundings. But Ianto quickly forgot about looking around once he’d had the chance to look down.
He had no legs. No human legs to speak of, but rather skinny little blue-black webbed feet that looked like they were attached to his body by sticks. And his body—it was no longer a human’s body, it couldn’t possibly be a human’s body, but it was the body of a bird, round and squat and complete with white downy feathers, not at all what should have been the lower half of his torso.
Ianto tried to scream, but he was capable of nothing more than a hoarse grunt. His hands flew to his throat, and he realized then that he no longer had hands to speak of: like the rest of him, his arms had been transformed into gigantic white wings extending at least four feet outwards.
He was a bird. A bloody swan, from the looks of it and making a guess based on his wingspan. And being made of equal parts practical Welsh and unfazed Torchwood, the only thought running through Ianto’s mind at the moment was, Looks like I won’t be able to make Jack’s coffee this morning...
* * * * * * * * * *
“What do you mean, Ianto’s gone missing?”
Jack could almost hear Gwen wince on the other end of the phone, but he really couldn’t care less. He had come back to the Hub at three in the morning with a drugged Weevil in tow, only to find Ianto gone and the place deserted. The note Ianto had left behind mentioned an unusual Rift spike, and Jack placed the occurrence at just before midnight in Brecon Beacons by going back through the Rift monitor records. When Ianto never came back, Jack figured Ianto had decided to go home instead of back to the Hub, and he spent the rest of the night working on paperwork backlog in his office.
By the time Ianto’s usual arrival time had come and gone, Jack was starting to get worried. He’d called Ianto repeatedly, both at home and on his mobile, only to reach the voicemail on either line. That was when he’d called Gwen, only to find her half-frantic with worry herself.
“I don’t know, Jack,” she was saying now. “I tried to reach him earlier this morning, but he never answered his phone. And Rhys just checked Ianto’s flat, he says no one’s home, his car isn’t there. I was about to put out a broadcast for the SUV, see if the police can find it—”
“Do that. Have them check Tretower Castle first,” Jack ordered. “Ianto said he was going there to check on a Rift spike.”
“Tretower Castle? Isn’t that in Brecon Beacons?” Jack could hear Gwen’s fingers flying over the keyboard of her laptop; she wasn’t Tosh, but she’d picked up enough hacking tricks from their old computer technician to get by. “You don’t think there are cannibals still there, do you?”
Jack grit his teeth together. Gwen had just given him an image he would have preferred to live without. “As long as cannibals don’t have Ianto, I don’t care if they all decided to move to London,” he retorted, then hung up the phone a bit more viciously than necessary.
Glancing up at the clock, Jack groaned and let his head fall to the desk with a loud thunk. It was already well past ten o’clock, and he was starting to feel the sharp pangs of caffeine withdrawal. As much as he worried for the safety of his missing lover, Jack was just as concerned over the lack of any proper coffee in the Hub.
* * * * * * * * * *
It was really quite difficult to move around in his new body, Ianto discovered.
After several botched attempts to walk, all of which ended up with him losing balance and falling on his face to get a mouthful—well, more accurately, a beakful of grass, Ianto finally adjusted to his new center of gravity and managed to waddle over to the shore of the nearby lake. The white sand lining the water’s edge felt cool and refreshing to his bare webbed feet, and Ianto reveled in the feeling for a moment without a care in the world (though he found the presence of white beach sand in the middle of Wales quite odd) before peering in to see his reflection in the water.
He didn’t mean to preen—oh, bloody good pun—but he really was quite a good-looking swan. He was pure white, with the exception of a crown of black feathers on the top of his head, and every feather was in perfect place. His neck was long and graceful, and Ianto arched it back in what he thought was a proper swan posture as he posed for his own reflection.
Well, good morning, handsome!
Ianto squawked and jumped nearly a foot in the air from surprise, his wings automatically flapping out to catch his fall and stirring up the water as he hovered in the air for a brief moment. Once he’d landed safely back on the sand, he waddled around in an awkward circle in order to find the source of the disembodied female voice that had scared him so—and then he froze when he discovered the speaker right behind him.
Staring at him, not five feet away and half-hidden by the swaying grass, sat a large black panther, her green eyes shining like precious emeralds against her ebony coat. The cat slowly grinned at Ianto, revealing a row of sharp white fangs that glittered in the morning sun.
Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you, the panther continued. Her mouth wasn’t moving, so Ianto had to assume that they were communicating by some form of telepathy. Look, I know I’m technically supposed to hunt your species, but I know you’re human, too, so can we skip right to the introductions? It’s not every day we get someone new around here, you know.
Um, right, Ianto managed, still trying to get over his body’s initial run-the-hell-away-from-the-predator-with-t
It’s nice to meet you, Ianto. The panther extended a forepaw, then thought better of it and merely bobbed her head in greeting. I’m Catherine Dalton, but everyone I know calls me Cat. She snorted, her whiskers trembling violently. No pun intended, obviously.
Of course not, Ianto agreed. He watched (not without a small measure of concern for his safety) as the giant feline padded her way down to the lake, stopping at the edge and bending down to delicately lap up the water with a long red tongue. Look, I don’t mean to be rude or anything, Ianto began while Cat continued to drink, but I really do need to get back to where I came from. Do you know if—how do I get out of this—animal? Body. Thing. I’m expected at work, I have to get back before they start looking for me—
“I am afraid that will not be happening any time soon, Ianto Jones.”
Ianto’s rambling was cut short by another voice, this time male and spoken in human English. Ianto spun around again (nearly toppling over due to his new balance issues, were it not for Cat taking a step closer and steadying him with her shoulder) to find a figure dressed like a Franciscan monk in a coarse linen outfit. The newcomer’s face was hidden from view by his hood, pulled low over his face and shadowing it completely so that only his chin and the movement of his lips were visible.
“No, Ianto Jones,” the man repeated slowly, his voice gravelly and deep. “Those who are Chosen and Changed do not so easily return to the world outside. Those who are Chosen and Changed are here to stay.”
Ianto felt something heavy drop into his stomach at the newcomer’s tone. He tried to reply, but of course no words came out; he could only hiss and flap his wings about wildly, much to Cat’s apparent displeasure. Who are you? he finally asked, using mental English and hoping that the man would understand him. Who are you, and what do you mean, I’m here to stay?
The man chuckled softly, and the sound sent chills up Ianto’s spine. “You will never leave this forest or this lake in your human form again, Ianto Jones,” he replied. “I am the Guardian of this place, and it is my duty to ensure that you remain here in my domain.” His voice hardened. “And after your actions from last night, my friend, this life is more than you deserve.”
* * * * * * * * * *
When the phone rang, Jack jerked awake from his brief nap at his desk and blindly grabbed for the handset. He managed to knock it off the table and fumbled to pick it up for several moments before answering with a groggy “Hello?”
“Jack, it’s Gwen.” At her tone, Jack snapped to full wakefulness. “We found the Torchwood SUV, it was abandoned on the side of the road in Brecon Beacons. You’re right, it wasn’t more than five miles from Tretower Castle. Police said the car was unlocked, no signs of a struggle, but Ianto’s nowhere to be found. There were footprints going into the woods surrounding the road, but after a point they just—stopped, disappeared into thin air.”
Jack was gripping the edge of his table so hard that he could feel splinters digging under his fingernails. “Find him,” he growled. “Have them comb through every inch of that place, I don’t care if they have to cut down every tree to do it—just find Ianto!”
“Already on it.” Gwen was typing on her laptop again. “Oh, and they did find someone already, but it wasn’t Ianto. Some poor lad, mauled half to death—that area’s had a jump in wild animal attacks in the last six months or so. He was still breathing when they got to him, but died before medics could come.” Gwen hesitated. “They said he was repeating the same thing over and over again, before he died, but no one could make heads or tails of it.”
“What was it? What did he say?” Jack demanded.
“I think it was, ‘It’s not what it seems,’” Gwen said slowly. “Yes, that’s right. Does that mean anything to you, Jack?”
“No, it doesn’t.” Jack sighed, running his fingers through his hair and tugging hard in frustration. “Other than the fact that it’s absolutely true. Nothing’s ever as it seems, is it?”
* * * * * * * * * *
I beg your pardon? Ianto blinked. What I did last—look, I don’t remember what happened or how I came to be here, but I’m certain whatever it was, I didn’t do anything illegal. You must be mistaken, or—
“If you do not remember, Ianto Jones, how can you insist that you are innocent?” The Guardian spread his hands out in front of him. “But come, tell me. Perhaps speaking of it will help you remember. What did you do last night that brought you to this place?”
Ianto thought for a long moment before answering the question. I drove here, he began. I drove here from Cardiff. I was tired, it was almost two or three in the morning, so I pulled over for a bit of a kip, and then…
With sudden clarity, he remembered. He remembered everything.
Ianto had started awake from his nap in the SUV to find the full moon glaring down at him through the windscreen, but that hadn’t been what had woken him. He’d heard something—there, there it was again, a faint yet distinct wild wolf’s howl that had made Ianto shiver, even though the autumn weather hadn’t yet turned chilly that night.
This second howl had been followed by a bloodcurdling human scream, cut short the first time, only to be repeated several times in quick succession with a frantic intensity.
Ianto had fumbled for the car door latch, stumbling out of the SUV and into the night before he was even fully awake. The screams had continued, now sobbing and interspersed with muffled cries for help; Ianto had ducked into the forest lining either side of the road without a moment’s hesitation, following the voice to its origin as best as he could. It had been darker in the woods where there was barely any moonlight to help him, and Ianto had fallen down many times, tripping over the tree roots and low brambles that he couldn’t see. But somehow, he’d managed to pick his way through the forest, using the screams for help ahead of him as his guide until he half-fell into a clearing where a huge dog or wolf-like creature was tearing a young hiker to bloody pieces.
Without hesitation, Ianto had drawn his handgun and fired several shots at the creature. The first had struck home, and the others had missed when the wolf reared up on its hind legs, screaming in agony and tearing at the gunshot wound in its neck with bloodied claws. Before Ianto could finish it off, the animal had dropped on all fours and lumbered off deeper into the forest, leaving a dripping blood trail in its wake. Ianto had paused only to check on the condition of the hiker, reassuring the young man that he’d bring help as soon as he could, before taking off after the injured wolf. He had tried to dial 999 as he ran, but there had been barely any working reception in that part of the woods; none of his calls had succeeded in getting through to an operator.
Ianto had skidded to a halt, mobile in one hand and handgun still in the other, as the tree line suddenly ended, revealing the small lake where he had found himself the next morning. The wolf was already there, lapping up water from the lake and seeming to rinse out its wound with both paws. Ianto had approached from behind as softly as he could while raising his gun and taking careful aim. There was something wrong about this creature. It was too large for an average wolf, and the intelligence it displayed as it cleaned out its neck injury in the lake was surprising. Could it possibly be—
The werewolf (for that was what this animal had to be) had suddenly raised its head and bayed loudly to the skies in a tone of despair, anger, and pure animal hatred. Ianto had followed its line of vision, until he too had been staring straight into the full moon above them.
Ianto had screamed as an explosion of pain ricocheted through him from his legs upwards, and then he remembered the grass coming up to meet him just before he passed out…
“Well?” The Guardian’s raspy voice broke into Ianto’s memory. “What do you remember, Ianto Jones?”
I shot—I shot at a werewolf, I think, Ianto said slowly. It was trying to eat someone—I shot it, chased it here—and then the moon, I saw the moon over the lake, that’s the last thing I can remember—
“You wounded the Master Creature of this forest, Ianto Jones,” the Guardian interrupted, his voice grating against Ianto’s sensitive animal ears. “The powers that be do not take it kindly when their own is harmed. You are very fortunate indeed that we did not decide to kill you outright. Instead, as a punishment for your crime, you are doomed to spend the rest of your life in your animal form, here with us in this place.”
Ianto choked out a squawk of protest, but the Guardian ignored him. “You will be allowed to return to your human shape, of course,” he continued calmly, “but only at night, when the moon reflects on the waters of this lake. When the moon sets, no matter where you are, you will become a swan once again. And so it will be for the rest of your natural life.”
No, Ianto said faintly, trying to fight off the gnawing fear growing in his gut. No, it can’t—I can’t stay like this forever! There has to be a way out of this—there has to be!
The Guardian laughed harshly. “I see you are a fighter, Ianto Jones,” he said, “but you need not waste your time. There is only one way to break your curse, a kiss from your true love under the light of a full moon. But it has never yet succeeded and never will, for only those who are guided through the forest by one of our creatures will ever find my domain.”
With those words, to Ianto’s great shock, the Guardian began to disappear feet first, his entire body slowly dissolving into mist right in front of Ianto’s eyes. Ianto lunged forward to stop the man from leaving, but the Guardian faded from sight with a small quirk of his lower lip in farewell.
Wait! Ianto shouted, beating the air with his wings in frustration. You can’t just leave me here! What am I supposed to do like this?! You can’t—I have to—
Ianto, he’s gone. Cat interrupted Ianto’s rant in midsentence, her mental voice gentle. He’s not coming back, he probably won’t until someone else joins us or something. She purred and stretched her front legs out in front of her in the timeless manner of all cats. You’re going to be here for a while, Ianto. Best get used to the idea.
No—no, I won’t! I can’t! Ianto clicked his beak frantically. I know they’ll find me—Jack will find me, I’m sure of it! He’ll get me out of here as soon as he can, I know he will.
And with that, Ianto plopped down on the grassy shore of the lake and buried his head in his feathers to calm himself down while a disbelieving Cat could only shake her head at his naïveté.
* * * * * * * * * *
Many miles away, in his office in the basement of the Hub under the Plass, Jack pored over a terrain map of Brecon Beacons while barking out orders over the comm link to the UNIT search teams he had organized on the other end.
Hang in there, Ianto, he thought as he worked frantically to find his lover. I’m not losing you again—I’ll find you and get you out of there, wherever you are, I promise!
If only Fate hadn’t had other ideas, Jack might have been able to keep his promise, and Ianto’s assurance might have been justified. But alas, such was not to be...
Part One | Part Two