Ianto couldn’t really say that he loved paperwork, but he recognised its importance to the smooth running of any organisation. Bureaucracy required that records be kept, whether for the purposes of filling in tax returns, for keeping track of finances, or simply for future reference; without paperwork, the entire world, especially the business and financial sectors, would probably grind to a halt.
Torchwood was no exception. Despite having the most advanced computer system in Britain, and quite possibly the world, having everything written down on actual paper remained an unavoidable necessity.
All agents were expected to type both their mission reports and any findings from their various individual fields of study into their computer terminals, to be saved in Mainframe’s extensive databases; having everything online made it easier and quicker to search for necessary information. However, copies of everything also had to be printed out and filed, just in case of computer problems or power outages. There’d be nothing worse than needing vital information on something dangerous that had come through the Rift and being unable to access it because of a power cut. Having backup generators lessened the likelihood of that happening, but even they could break down at inopportune moments.
Jack complained the loudest about paperwork, even drowning out Owen, and yet he didn’t really have all that much of it to do. Yes, he had to write up his own report on every incident he was involved in, which as the boss, meant practically all of them, and yes, he was expected to read through and sign off on everyone else’s reports, making sure they hadn’t forgotten to include anything important. He also had to keep up to date on everybody’s personal projects, authorise requisitions and expenses, keep various government departments apprised of Torchwood’s activities, and so forth, but it was mostly a case of just reading, and then signing his name. Ianto was the one who bore the brunt of the workload.
Not only did he have to make sure Jack completed essential paperwork in a timely fashion, which often meant doing some of it himself, there were also his own mission reports to be written and printed out. Then, because he couldn’t trust the others to remember, he usually had to print out and sort everyone else’s reports, and after he’d done that, the whole lot had to be filed in the correct places. That in itself was no small task.
There was a folder for each mission, collecting together reports from all those involved, along with any other salient information, including witness statements, names and addresses, autopsy findings, medical notes on injuries received and treatment given… Copies of the latter also had to be made and placed in the injured agent’s medical file. Then copies of any information on a new or previously encountered alien species had to be filed under the species’ name or designation.
Similarly, copies of information on any new or already known pieces of alien technology, or other items dropped off by the Rift, had to be filed under a number of different categories… It was a complex system, but it worked reasonably well, even if it meant Ianto often had to make as many as a dozen copies of a single report in order to file them in a dozen different places under a dozen different categories. They got through an awful lot of printer paper, so it was fortunate that was one thing that worked out cheaper when bought in bulk.
Even then, that was far from the end of Ianto’s dutiess when it came to Torchwood’s paperwork. Deep in the archives, there existed room after room of filing cabinets and metal boxes, crammed with the reports written by past teams, going back to when Queen Victoria had first set up the Torchwood Institute. Every scrap of information they contained needed to be scanned into the computer, converted from often nearly illegible handwriting into a readable typeface, something Tosh had invented a computer programme to handle, then checked over, and any errors arising from mistranslation corrected. After that, copies had to be printed out, one to be filed with the original document, and the rest added to any files where the information might be deemed pertinent to their existing contents. Ianto was nothing if not thorough.
It could be a long and tedious process, and Ianto was well aware that it would probably take more than his lifetime to complete, short as that was likely to be due to the unavoidable hazards of his profession, but it wasn’t without its perks, as many of the files made for fascinating reading. Ianto learned a great deal about the people who had given their lives policing the Rift across the decades, and he absorbed facts about alien flora, fauna, and technology like a sponge. Sometimes he would come across sketches or descriptions that would allow him to identify an unknown piece of tech, or some other mystery item he recognised. That could be quite enlightening, not to mention helpful. He’d already spent countless hours sorting and cataloguing the contents of the archives’ various storage rooms and shelves, but there were still a lot of items whose only classification was ‘unknown’.
Best of all though was reading through reports of missions Jack had taken part in over the years, some written by the man himself, and others the work of his then colleagues and superiors. They provided Ianto with insight into his lover as both a person and an agent of the crown, deepening his understanding of the complex and often mysterious man he’d come to love with all his heart.
Not all of the files involving Jack made for comforting reading though; there was a whole cabinet devoted to the scientific tests and experiments carried out by Mrs Emily Holroyd and her associate, Alice Guppy, on subject Harkness, Captain J., suspected immortal. They detailed all the ways the two women had killed Jack, how long it had taken him to revive from each one, and also catalogued an exhaustive list of injuries inflicted, and surgical procedures carried out, along with methods of treatment and recovery times. The two women wrote everything up as important research to advance medical science and understanding of the human body, but as far as Ianto was concerned, they were sadistic bitches who enjoyed inflicting suffering on others. Nevertheless, Ianto made himself read each and every one, feeling that at least one person other than Jack should know what he’d been put through during more than a century of service.
Just like all the other old files he processed, Ianto dutifully copied all of Alice and Emily’s reports onto the computer, but those files he encrypted, hiding the passwords among the original files and locking the lot of them back inside their cabinet, which he tucked away in a hard to find little room he designated the Jack Harkness Collection. There were some things that should remain private and not get dredged up by others out of curiosity or nosiness. Into the room he also placed copies of every other report that had anything to do with Jack. Maybe one day his successor would find it all and come to understand Jack better by seeing him through the eyes of the many men and women who had known and cared for him, as well as those for whom he’d been nothing more than a glorified lab rat. His experiences, for good and ill, had shaped him, and Jack deserved to be understood as the complex person he was rather than dismissed as some kind of charming but shallow lothario.
Until that time, aside from whatever pieces of information about himself he chose to share with others, Jack’s secrets would remain his own, all knowledge of them safely hidden away, buried in a mountain of paperwork. It seemed fitting; after all, that was where Ianto had found them in the first place.