With a resigned sigh, Ianto sat down on the least damaged crate he could find; this really wasn’t the way he’d planned to spend the weekend. Resting his elbows on his knees and his chin on his good hand, he thought back through the events that had led him here.
With the Rift quiet for once, Jack had given everyone a forty-eight hour pass to catch up with their real lives, so Ianto had decided to spend his time off with his sister and her family. Rhi and Johnny had rented a cottage up the coast for two weeks, and with this being the middle weekend of their holiday, he’d thought it might be fun to drive up and surprise them. Rhi was always complaining she didn’t see him often enough.
Jack would have to stay behind in Cardiff of course, because someone had to be close at hand in case of emergencies, but a weekend apart wouldn’t do either of them any harm. Besides, Jack had said he wanted to re-paint the kitchen, which had been in a bit of a mess since the incident with the exploding ketchup bottle. That stuff really stained.
Ianto had packed what he needed for a weekend away, kissed Jack goodbye, and driven to the Hub to feed the residents before heading out of Cardiff. Leaving his car in the underground garage, he’d sped through his morning chores, knowing Jack would deal with that evening’s feedings as well as the following day’s; he’d left a detailed list of instructions for his lover to follow since several of the residents were a bit finicky about their food.
With everyone fed and happy, he’d been on his way out when he noticed a big, red exclamation mark flashing on one of Tosh’s screens, so he’d gone over to check what that was all about. It had proved to be a minor alert, reporting an unexplained temperature change in one of the archive storage rooms. Pulling up the CCTV hadn’t helped. Coverage was spotty at best in the area concerned, with cameras in the corridors but not in the storage rooms themselves. Nothing had looked out of the ordinary as far as he’d been able to see; not that he’d really expected it to.
It was probably nothing, temperatures in the lower levels tended to fluctuate anyway, often because vents got blocked with cobwebs and dust. Some of those rooms hadn’t been touched in decades and though he was working his way through sorting and cataloguing their contents, it was a long, slow task. Sighing, he’d decided he’d best check it out anyway, just to be on the safe side. It was always a bad idea to ignore warnings. Grabbing a torch, and a scanner so he could check for contaminants, he’d headed down to the archives, pausing to collect one of the self-contained breathing units Tosh had invented. If there had been anything potentially harmful in the air, alarms should have sounded and the affected section should have automatically been locked down, but there probably weren’t any sensors in those rooms either, so better safe than sorry.
Reaching the room, Ianto had slipped the mask of the breather over his mouth and nose before unlocking the heavy wooden door and cracking it open. Sticking the hand holding the scanner through the gap, he took readings, then pulled back, closing the door again, to check the results. The scanner hadn’t picked up anything dangerous, no toxins, gasses, biological agents or any other kind of contaminant, so it didn’t appear that anything stored in there was leaking. The temperature was five degrees above that of the surrounding areas though, which was a lot higher than he’d been expecting. Not wanting to call Jack in for nothing, he’d decided to check the vents first and make sure that air was circulating properly. He’d left the breather on, because otherwise he’d have had to put it down somewhere, probably on the dirty floor; it was too big to fit in his pockets.
Opening the door once more, he’d propped it open with the wedge-shaped piece of wood that was kept just inside each room for that purpose. One of these days he was going to have to replace them with something a bit more durable since many of them were getting a bit worn after countless years of use. Stepping inside, he’d played his torch around the walls and shelves, looking for the ventilation grilles. They were in different places in every room, some high up, some low down, and some even in the ceilings or floors. Whoever had designed the Hub seemed to have tunnelled through wherever the rock was softest rather than having any kind of set plans.
The vents, when he’d eventually located them, had both turned out to be low on the walls in this particular room. The only way he’d been able to check them had been to lie flat on the floor and peer through the foot high space under the lowest shelves. The first vent had been fine, but he’d found the second had some webbing across half of it, which he’d been clearing using a stick when… something weird had happened.
The first thing he’d been aware of had been a slight trembling in the ground beneath him. He’d turned his head to one side, searching for any possible cause, and seen a crate on the floor a few feet away, one of several that were too big to fit on the selves. It had been vibrating in a very disturbing manner, but before he’d been able to move any further, either to investigate it or to make a hasty retreat, the whole thing had suddenly exploded with a deafening bang, setting everything in the room, the floor included, to rocking. The last thing Ianto remembered was trying to cover his head with his arms as the shelves above him started to fall, spilling their contents on top of him.
He had no idea how long he’d been unconscious. He’d woken up to darkness, bruised and aching all over, and dug his way out of the artefacts piled on top of him, before quickly checking his scanner. It was fine, having been under the shelf at the time of the explosion, and by the light of his torch, which had been under there too so he could see what he was doing, he found it still wasn’t registering anything harmful. So, that was good, as was the fact that despite the explosion, nothing seemed to be on fire. What wasn’t so good was that the wedge holding the door open appeared to have been jolted out of place by the shockwaves from the blast, with the inevitable result that the door had slammed shut and locked. Of course there was no handle on the inside, and even if there had been, he’d left the keys in the lock on the outside, where he couldn’t get at them.
So, now here he was, trapped, with no one knowing he was here and nobody likely to enter the archives while he was away. Worse, he’d left his phone in his car, so he couldn’t even call for help. On the bright side, as far as he could tell he wasn’t seriously injured. A bump on the head, a few cuts and scrapes, lots of bruises, and a possible sprained wrist, but no broken bones. Things could be a lot worse. All he could do now was sit here in the dark, conserving his torch batteries, and hope Jack would come looking for him when he didn’t show up on Sunday evening. The next thirty-six hours or so were going to be very boring indeed. And to think he could have been relaxing on the beach, or playing Frisbee with the kids. He was starting to think he must be jinxed.
Jack had tried phoning Ianto to find out if he’d arrived safely at the cottage, but he hadn’t answered. That had seemed a bit odd, but maybe there wasn’t any cell reception out there. Even though Torchwood issue mobile phones could get a signal in places other phones couldn’t, there were still a few reception black spots Tosh hadn’t managed to overcome yet. Still, he’d tried phoning several times over the next few hours, whenever he took a break from painting, and by late afternoon he was starting to get a bit worried. He decided that if he couldn’t get through to Ianto on his next try, he’d call Rhiannon’s number, which Ianto had given him strictly for emergencies, but first he’d finish his chores for the evening. After all, Ianto might simply have left his phone in the cottage and be out enjoying himself on the beach.
Packing away his painting gear, having finished the first coat, Jack showered, changed, and then drove to the Hub to do the evening feeding. That was when he found Ianto’s car parked in Torchwood’s garage. Okay, so that was definitely worrying. He ran into the main Hub, calling Ianto’s name, but getting no answer. Making a beeline for Tosh’s workstation, he pulled up the CCTV from that morning and started tracing Ianto’s movements.
It didn’t take Jack long to find his lover on the footage from earlier that day, bustling about doing his usual morning chores. Speeding up the video, Jack watched Ianto zoom about, coming and going from the main Hub until, apparently on his way to the garage, he halted and went back to look at something on the computers Jack was using. Jack slowed the CCTV down to normal speed and saw Ianto check something on one of the screens, then fetch a scanner and a torch before vanishing in the direction of the stairs leading to the archives. Jumping to another set of cameras, and then another, he followed Ianto’s progress through the maze of tunnels that made up the archives, finally seeing him open the door to one of the storage rooms and run a few tests before wedging the door open and entering. Not five minutes later, there appeared to be an explosion of some sort, and the door to the room slammed shut.
Not waiting to see anything else, Jack took off at a run for the room Ianto had been investigating, dreading what he might find when he got there. Why hadn’t he come to the Hub with his lover this morning?
When Jack reached the corridor, it looked completely normal; there was nothing immediately visible to indicate that a disaster of some description had taken place, just a rough wedge of wood lying against the wall opposite the door to room 5-15-4, and a bunch of keys helpfully dangling from the lock. Jack didn’t hesitate, turning the key and pulling on the handle. The frame must have become a bit warped in the explosion because it took him three tries, pulling with all his strength, to shift it, and when he succeeded, it opened so fast it took him right off his feet and slammed him into the wall, knocking the breath out of him. He didn’t let go of the handle though, just clung on to it, wheezing, until he was able to peel himself off the wall.
With nothing better to do with his time, Ianto had been napping, propped against the wall in a corner of the storage room he’d cleared of debris. It wasn’t comfortable, the floor was hard and cold, but he’d tried dozing on his crate only to fall off it, giving a whole new meaning to falling asleep, so the floor had seemed the safer option. He wasn’t sure what had woken him, only that he thought he might have heard a sound of some kind, and he was debating whether or not to turn on his torch when he realised he could see his surroundings; he was no longer in pitch darkness. He looked towards the doorway just in time to see a familiar figure stagger into the opening, one hand firmly gripping the edge of the door to keep it open.
“Ianto!” Jack sounded out of breath and seemed to be wheezing. He also looked frantic as he scanned the room in the dim light from the corridor; clearly he hadn’t thought to bring a torch. Not that Ianto cared. He turned his own on as he responded to the greeting.
“Jack! Whatever you do, do NOT let go of that door! There’s no handle this side, and if it shuts again we’ll both be trapped in here!” Even before he’d finished speaking, Ianto was scrabbling his way out of his corner and over the rubble of broken crates, bits of shelving, and who knew what else, towards the open door and freedom.
“Are you alright?” Jack asked, lending a hand, the one that didn’t have hold of the door in a white-knuckled grip, and helping Ianto squeeze through the remains of a shelf unit that had fallen so it blocked half of the doorway.
“Better for being out of there!” Ianto gasped, straightening up in the corridor. “You can let go of the door no…OOOF.”
The door slammed shut again and Ianto found himself engulfed in a painfully tight bear hug that squeezed most of the air from his lungs.
“I was so worried!”
“Eeep!” Ianto squeaked, the only sound his constricted lungs could manage, and he flailed weakly until Jack loosened his grip enough that he could draw air into his lungs. After catching his breath a bit, Ianto added in a more normal voice, “Would you mind not squeezing quite so hard? My bruises are getting bruises of their own. It’s quite painful.”
“Sorry!” Jack let go so suddenly Ianto staggered.
“You didn’t have to let go completely,” he grumbled, already missing the warm and comforting embrace.
Arms returned, wrapping around him more gently. “Sorry,” Jack murmured again, close to his ear.
“Quite alright, you’re forgiven.” Ianto drank in the scent of his lover, nose buried against Jack’s neck. “Thank you. Nice rescue; I thought I’d be stuck in there all weekend.”
“What happened?” Jack obviously had no intention of letting go again.
Ianto thought back, trying to make sense of the slightly blurry sequence of events. “I don’t really know,” he said at last. “Mainframe detected a temperature increase in that room, I went to investigate, couldn’t see anything that could cause it, and I was checking the vents when one of the crates just exploded, bringing all the shelves down on top of me and knocking me out. When I came to, the door was shut and I couldn’t get out.”
“You didn’t think to phone me for help?” Jack drew back just enough to look Ianto in the eyes, although as they were almost nose-to-nose it made him look cross-eyed.
“Phone’s in my car,” Ianto admitted. “Didn’t think I’d need it, I expected to be in and out inside forty minutes.” He gave a tired sigh. “The universe doesn’t want me to have a holiday,” he added mournfully. “Every time I get a few days off, something stupid happens and I end up at work anyway. I’m jinxed.”
“Not jinxed; just unlucky.” Jack kissed Ianto’s forehead. “Or very lucky, depending on how you look at it. You survived an explosion in a confined space, and you seem to be more or less in one piece. What’s the damage?”
“Bump on the head, sprained wrist I think, minor cuts and a lot of bruising; nothing serious. You’re right; I was lucky. I was even wearing a breather so I didn’t inhale all the dust that was flying around.” He glanced towards the door. “It’s still in there though. I took it off because there was nothing to do but sleep and conserve energy, and I was too uncomfortable trying to sleep with it on.”
Jack shrugged. “It’s not going anywhere, I’ll fetch it later. Right now I’m going to take you upstairs, patch you up, and get you something to drink.”
“I could do with that; I’m about parched, and I’ve only been trapped in there since about seven-thirty this morning. It is still today, isn’t it?” Keeping track of time in the dark wasn’t easy, especially since he’d spent most of it either unconscious or asleep.
“Still Saturday, yes, just before seven in the evening. You were in there almost twelve hours.”
“Really? That’s all? Felt like longer. It was very boring. Too dark to do anything without using my torch, and I wasn’t sure how long the batteries would last so I didn’t want to waste them in case I needed them later.” Ianto frowned. “I’m hungry. Breakfast was a long time ago and I missed lunch.”
“I can imagine. Come on then.” Jack steered Ianto in the direction of the stairs. “Soon as I’ve checked you over I’ll take you home and get you something to eat. Then I’ll come back and feed the residents.”
“That seems a bit silly, going home and then coming back. I can help you do the evening feeding, then we can go home together, maybe pick up fish and chips on the way?” Ianto asked hopefully.
“Fish and chips? I think that’s doable, but you can sit and have a cup of tea and a couple of biscuits while I’m doing the feeding; you’ve more than earned a break. I may not make very good coffee, but my tea is excellent.”
“Can’t argue with that,” Ianto grinned. He’d had Jack’s tea before.
“And then tomorrow, if you feel up to it, you can drive up to the cottage and spend some time with your family.”
Ianto shook his head slightly. “Hardly worth it for one day.”
“Who said anything about one day? Drive up tomorrow and come back on… Oh, how does Wednesday night sound? I do kinda need you here on Thursday morning for the phone conference with General Brock; he’s so much more cooperative when you’re present, doesn’t keep going off on tangents.”
“Oh, I’ll definitely be here for that, I wouldn’t leave you to face the General alone. Are you sure you don’t mind me taking a few days off?”
“You need to recover from your injuries,” Jack said firmly. “You’re going to be sore in the morning.”
“I already am.”
“There, see? Rest and recuperation, Captain’s orders!”
“Yes, Sir, whatever you say,” Ianto said with a smirk.
“I should think so to.”
Jack was as good as his word, running Owen’s medical scanners over Ianto to check there was no hidden damage, cleaning cuts and applying plasters, bandaging Ianto’s wrist, which had a slight sprain, and then making him a lovely pot of tea, which he drank sitting on the sofa beneath the Torchwood sign, nibbling biscuits to tide him over until dinner.
Back at Ianto’s little house an hour and a half later, they sat on the sofa in the lounge, eating fish and chips, and watching a movie on TV. Considering Ianto had expected to be locked in the storage room all weekend, things had turned out pretty well, and he still had a few days with his family to look forward to. He smiled contentedly and popped another chip in his mouth. It had been a pretty horrible day, all things considered, but the end was just about perfect!