The archives, more than any other part of the Hub, were Ianto’s domain. It had been that way practically since he’d come to work for Torchwood Three, mostly because the warren of underground rooms were such a mess when he arrived, and nobody else on the team had either the time or the inclination to sort them out.
At first, bringing order and a consistent filing system to the insane jumble of files and artefacts had been a means to an end, a way of accounting for his frequent absences from the main Hub so that no one thought twice when he disappeared into the lower levels. That had been when he’d still had Lisa to care for, but somewhere along the way what had initially been more about misdirection had become a labour of love.
That wouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone who knew Ianto Jones personally. His highly refined sense of orderliness and abhorrence of mess, combined with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, made Torchwood’s varied collection of weird and wonderful objects irresistible to him. Since Lisa’s ‘death’, he’d thrown himself into the task with a will, clearly determined to make Torchwood’s archives live up to their designation, no matter how long it took him.
The other Torchwood members had been happy to leave him to it. They all had their own areas of expertise, and quite frankly, having everything properly sorted and catalogued made their jobs a lot easier. What was the point of having collected all that information on aliens and their technology, not to mention an impressive array of genuine alien devices, if you could never find what you needed when you needed it?
Over time, everyone learned to keep out of the archives and ask Ianto for anything they needed; it was preferable to being served decaf for days as punishment for messing up what he’d come to see as his personal space. Nowadays, the only person other than Ianto who ventured down into the labyrinth was Jack, either when he wanted Ianto’s company (or Ianto specifically) or when he decided his lover had been working down there too long and had probably become so involved with whatever he was doing that he’d lost track of time. Today, it was the latter.
Ianto had vanished into the archives early that morning, telling Jack he had a lot to get done while the Rift was quiet and was not to be disturbed for anything less than potentially world-ending catastrophe. When morning coffee time arrived, Ianto failed to appear, but as Jack found he’d left flasks of hot coffee in the kitchen for them, that was okay. But when lunchtime came and Ianto didn’t emerge to eat with the rest of the team, Jack started to feel the first twinges of concern. Ianto had been down there for almost seven hours. Was he okay?
Jack was kept busy for the next couple of hours by the other members of his team, all of whom seemed to have decided today was the perfect opportunity to update him on their current projects, so it was after four in the afternoon by the time Jack could go in search of his missing lover.
Trekking down several flights of stairs, he reached the main archive access door, only to find a neat handwritten sign taped to the outside of it:
FILE SORTING IN PROGRESS.
THAT MEANS YOU TOO, JACK!
TRESPASSERS WILL BE DECAFFEINATED — OR WORSE!
Jack smiled fondly. How like Ianto! In a way, he was surprised his lover had never put a sign up before, but he supposed by now the others were used to the archives being out of bounds, and it wasn’t like a sign was ever going to stop Jack himself. Trying the handle, he found the door locked, which wasn’t unusual, so with a shrug he punched his access code into the keypad on the wall. A muted click sounded, and he turned the handle, pushing the door back far enough that the automatic doorstop engaged, holding it wide open. Tosh had helped Ianto design that so it would be easier for him to get in and out with his arms full. Stepping on the floor lever in the archives, or the one in the corridor outside, would disengage the doorstop and allow the door to close and lock again, maintaining security.
Stepping through the door, Jack left it open and ambled along the main passageway, hands in his pockets, but when he reached Ianto’s work area he stopped dead; there were neat stacks of files and papers laid out on every available surface, including the floor, and Ianto was busy with one pile, putting it into some kind or order that probably only made sense to him. It looked to Jack like these were some of the older files, the ones not yet scanned into Mainframe.
Ianto was so intent on his task that he didn’t notice Jack, who decided to see how long it would take his lover to realise he had company. Unfortunately, a couple of minutes later, the Hub’s ventilation system kicked in.
The archives themselves were ventilated individually, since different sections required different environmental conditions depending on what was stored in them, but because the weather had been quite hot lately, the main Hub’s air circulation system had been turned up, and as it clicked into action, a blast of air was funnelled through the open door, along the passageway, and…
The carefully sorted papers blew everywhere, fluttering high into the air, skittering along the floor, and being carried away among the ranks of shelves. Ianto made an inarticulate sound as he tried to hold down as many as possible, and as soon as the ventilation system stopped again, he got slowly to his feet and turned to pin Jack with his gaze.
The worst part for Jack was that Ianto didn’t yell at him; he seemed to have been rendered speechless. He didn’t need to say a word anyway; the ice cold fury in his glare spoke volumes, as did the manner in which he picked his way carefully between the scattered papers, grabbed Jack by the wrist, and towed him back along the corridor. In a kind of shock himself, Jack made no effort to resist. Reaching the entrance, Ianto shoved Jack out into the corridor, pointing at the sign on the door before slamming it in his face.
Jack winced, looking at the words: Decaffeinated or worse… After this, if he got served cold cheap instant decaf he’d consider himself lucky. He wondered if maybe he should have offered to help Ianto collect his scattered papers and sort them again, then realised he’d probably only get in the way. One thing was for sure; Ianto wasn’t going to be speaking to him for quite some time, and as for the archives and any part of Ianto’s person… the words Access Denied came to mind. What if Ianto never forgave him? He was doomed.