Owen was still not fond of this whole being in charge thing. He’d have thought he’d have had more fun ordering people around and making decisions (especially since he’d been convinced that Jack was doing everything completely wrong for all of this time), but it had turned out to be more work and bother than it was worth.
It had taken a few weeks after Jack’s disappearance, but he finally developed a system whereby he had to do the least bit of actual ordering anyone while still seeing results. Take now, for instance. He’d told the group that, as they all knew, they needed to dispose of Mr. Sullivan’s body (wouldn’t do, the man turning up dead–he’d been missing for twenty years, and still looked the same as he had in the photo from the missing person’s report), they needed more readings from the area of the rift that Mr. Sullivan had magically appeared through, a workup of the odd fungus that appeared to have followed him through, and someone to look into the original reports of Harry Sullivan’s disappearance.
Standing at the head of the table in the conference room, he picked up the folder with the details of the fungus and announced that’d probably be the best place to spend his time then waited around in the uncomfortable silence for volunteers.
Eventually Tosh said she’d return to the site of Sullivan’s appearance and take readings, since she was the one who would have to process them anyway. Gwen said she could pull the police file and be through it before anyone else made sense of it.
He figured they’d have to flip a coin for dealing with Sullivan’s remains, but Ianto simply asked what locker the body was in, and explained he had a few things to do around the office, so it’d be no trouble.
That had been this morning. He’d left before lunch to meet with an expert about twenty-five miles away (might as well have been on another planet, for all the driving he’d had to do) and returned well into the evening. Toshiko was still gone, taking readings. There was a note on Owen’s monitor from Gwen that she was off buttering up the detective in charge of the original investigation for details, since the original paper record of Sullivan’s disappearance seemed to have been damaged in a freak fire sprinkler flood in 1999 and she needed more information.
Where was Ianto?
Throwing his keys on his desk, Owen slid out of his leather jacket and tossed it on his chair, looking around. The hub was spotless. The pizza boxes that had been left out from the night before were cleared away, the dirt and fur the pterodactyl had cleaned from it’s talons that had ended up floating down from the rafters at about nine thirty was long gone, next quarter’s supply order was on Owen’s desk, with a note that Jack had approved everything already, and it simply required the senior-most member’s signature, was on his desk, and the glorious smell of coffee was drifting his way from the kitchenette.
God, he loved having a teaboy. No wonder Jack kept Ianto around. Secretaries were beautiful things, granted they didn’t overstep their bounds and do stuff like start giving orders and shooting more senior staff members. Ianto was that effing good that’d he’d overlook those few minor flaws.
Flipping open the portfolio containing the supply order, Owen turned past the first page baring the grand total and signature line, looking at the contents. Paperclips, body bags, various sundry electronics, bla bla bla, supplies for proper care and maintenance of an allegedly extinct flying dinosaur, new equipment for the car…how many fifty-gallon barrels of sulphuric acid?
“Ianto!” Looking around the hub, he grabbed the portfolio and began scouring the space for the ‘personal assistant.’ What the hell did anyone need with that much acid? Maybe Jack had an electro-plating addiction he needed to come clean with.
He heard a muffled sound from the upper tier. “Just a moment, sir!”
Looking over the remainder of the pages (fifty-seven in all–they sure used a lot of crap in three months), Owen couldn’t find anything else he found questionable. He climbed the metal stairs, his boots clanging as he went. Coming to the door he’d heard Ianto behind, he turned the knob–it was locked.
It was just storage. No reason anyone should lock themselves in there. Of course, Ianto had also hid his half-cyberised girlfriend in the basement for the better part of a year, so maybe the teaboy was a tad on the paranoid side. It wasn’t like Owen trusted him or anything. “I found something odd on the budget. I was just wondering if you could tell me what this is?”
He heard something scraping against cement, it sounded heavy and plastic. “There’s bundt cake next to the coffee machine!” Ianto called out.
Oh like that would distract him. “Get out here and explain this.” He had no real reason to be impatient, other than Ianto, and Ianto’s secrecy that made him that way. He grabbed the dented brass knob and began throttling it mercilessly, jarring the over-painted wooden door in the frame.
The door opened and Ianto pulled a gas mask from his face. Something smelled horrifically putrid behind him and Owen tried to look over the other man’s shoulder, but Ianto just closed the door quickly behind him, then tore off his rubber gloves and rubber apron. “Just taking care of some things. There’s a German chocolate bundt cake in the kitchenette, it’s only just come out of the oven.”
Owen held up the red portfolio. “Don’t try to distract me. What’s this sulphuric acid for?” He was a smart guy, he could venture a guess, but that many drums of it?
Folding the apron around the gloves, Ianto placed everything on an old wooden kitchen chair sitting next to the door. He carefully placed the gas mask on top of the bundle. “Bodies don’t dissolve themselves, sir. Nor does a vat of Coke do the job, contrary to the popular urban legend. The coffee’s about twelve minutes old and should be quite nice with the bundt cake. I just need to take it out of the pan and top it.”
Without further explanation, Ianto walked past his team mate, around the upper catwalk and into the kitchen area. Opening a small cupboard, he began pulling out plates. “I told you the budget and the purchase requisitions were already approved. There’s nothing to worry about.”
Owen tossed the portfolio on the table and looked at the white ceramic pan with the chocolatey cakey goodness a bit longingly. “Uhh…just what the hell do we need thirty-nine drums of acid for?” Picking up a knife from the clean dishes next to the sink, he prepared to perform surgery on the cake.
That was, until Ianto gave him a look of extreme vexedness. If there was such a word. Whatever–Ianto’s crystalline blue eyes were practically shooting red-hot laser beams, which was an interesting trick.
Defensively, Owen raised his hands in the air. “Ok, I’ll let you take it outta the pan. Like it matters. It’s all going in my stomach anyway, icing or no.”
Pulling out a rubber scraper, Ianto grabbed the pan away from his leader. “This bundt pan is an original bundt pan and is nearly identical to one recently put on display in the Smithsonian. If you use a metal knife on it, you will find out what I do with thirty-nine barrels of acid in a quarter.”
The two men stared at each other, frozen in a moment that seemed to go on forever.
Finally, they broke, each involving themselves in some mundane task as the glass door to the kitchen area swung open. “Do I smell cake?”
Gwen was smiling brightly at them, wide-eyed and hungry. Owen simply picked up the purchase orders and walked around the table, grabbing the woman’s arm and dragged her with him. “Ianto has to top it. Lets leave him to that.”
Yanking her outside the kitchenette, he let the door close before turning his back to the glass and whispering in Gwen’s ear, “Lets make a pact never to piss Ianto off.”
Eyebrows arched, Gwen looked at him like he was crazy, yanking the folder from his grasp, expecting it to have some answers. “What’s going on now?”
Owen licked his lips before beginning a tug of war for the papers. “Lets just put it this way–don’t piss Ianto off. Unless you want to find out what he does with almost eight thousand gallons of sulphuric acid annually.”
Eyes wide with shock, Gwen let go of the papers suddenly, and Owen almost fell backwards as she marched right past him, to the steps. “I’ve got paperwork, or something.”
She got to the top of the steps but stopped there. She and Owen turned simultaneously, hearing the kitchen door open behind them. Ianto stood there cheerfully, not a hair out of place or a piece of lint on his suit, holding a white ceramic plate with a work of food-art in its middle. “Who’s for cake?”
Glancing to Gwen quickly, Owen tried to think up an answer. He was afraid of heavy metals poisoning if he said yes. He was also afraid of saying no. “I’d love a piece,” he managed finally, hoping to God that Jack would get back soon.
Gwen seconded his sentiment and Ianto grinned, flashing those pearly, homicidal whites. “Fantastic. I’ll get a knife.”
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