Characters: Owen, Tosh, Ianto, OCs.
Summary: Owen has a scary experience when he gets himself lost in the archives.
Word Count: 1848
Written For: My own prompt ‘Any, any, NOT alone in the dark,’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
“What?” Torchwood’s medic didn’t even bother looking up from his computer game.
Glaring at the back of his head, Tosh wondered how she’d ever found him attractive. He was so rude; sometimes she just wanted to slap him, but that kind of behaviour was beneath her dignity so instead she simply ignored her colleague’s customary surliness. “If you can spare a few minutes, Ianto could use you help down in the archives.”
Now Owen looked at her; he was losing his game anyway. “What’s up, Teaboy get a splinter or something?” he smirked.
Tosh didn’t dignify that comment with an answer. “We’ve been looking over some of the unidentified pieces of tech down there and one of them looks like it could be a medical diagnostic tool of some description so he’d like to get your input on it.”
Owen scowled. “Why do I have to go all the way down there to look at it?” He didn’t like the archives; it was too dark, quiet, and creepy down there, and so vast it was easy to get lost in the maze of passages and rooms that covered several levels below the main Hub. “Why didn’t you just bring it up here with you?”
“Because it’s too big and bulky for me to carry. Besides, Ianto didn’t think there was any point lugging it all the way up here on the off chance. If it turns out not to be a medical device then he would have wasted a lot of time and effort for no reason and he’d have to take it back downstairs again.”
“He just wants an excuse to drag me down there. Fine, suppose I’ll have to go take a look at this thing. Where’s Teaboy lurking?”
“Level seven. Turn left from the staircase and follow the tunnel. He’s in one of the side rooms near the far end.”
“Not goin’ to offer to escort me?”
“Unlike some of us, I’ve got work to do.” Tosh stared pointedly at Owen’s computer screen before taking a seat at her own workstation and waking her computers.
“Figures.” Owen reluctantly got to his feet and sauntered towards the stairs to the lower levels. He was in no particular hurry; it wouldn’t hurt Teaboy to wait a while.
Ambling down one flight of stairs after another, counting them off in his head as he went, Owen came to the floor he wanted, turned left out of the stairwell, and bravely started off along the dimly lit corridor. It curved a little to the right and it wasn’t long before he was out of sight of the stairs. The corridor seemed to go on forever; he passed several side passages and was starting to wonder how much farther he’d have to walk when the light overhead suddenly started to flicker, made a fizzling noise, and went out, taking all the other lights in that section with it and plunging him into pitch-blackness.
Owen stopped in his tracks. “Shit!” Why hadn’t he thought to bring a torch? “Oi! Teaboy! A little help here?” he bellowed, his voice echoing off the tunnel walls only to be swallowed up in the darkness.
There was no reply. Owen stood stock still, unable to see anything at all, the hairs on the back of his neck prickling. “Oi, Ianto! Stop playing silly buggers! I’m not in the mood to deal with your pathetic excuse for a joke.”
Again all he heard was silence. Owen dithered, shifting from foot to foot. Now what was he supposed to do? Turn around and go back? Or keep going forward? It was a long way back to the stairs, and he’d passed so many side turnings… It would be all too easy to go the wrong way. Ianto was bound to have a torch though; he was like a boy scout, always prepared. Okay, so forward it was. Owen shuffled sideways until his outstretched hand found the wall of the tunnel then he started inching his way forwards again. The darkness seemed so thick he could have cut it with a knife. He called out for Ianto again, still not getting a reply. Bloody Teaboy probably thought this was hilarious.
As he shuffled his way along a sibilant rustling sound reached Owen’s ears and he stopped dead, the sound fading away to nothing as well. He wished he could believe he’d somehow been making the sound himself, but he was certain he hadn’t heard it until the lights went out. His breathing speeded up and his palms went clammy as he strained his ears, listening in silence. Where had the rustling been coming from, ahead of him or behind? The echoes in the tunnel had made it impossible to tell. He took a couple more hesitant steps and the rustling sound came again. It was just the ventilation system, wasn’t it? What else could it be? His mind shied away from that thought; the last thing he needed right now was to start imagining what might be down here with him.
Taking a deep breath, he pushed on, trying to walk a bit faster and leave the weird noise behind. For a brief instant he thought he’d succeeded, but suddenly it was back again. “Who’s there?” Owen hated how nervous he sounded; Ianto was bound to take the mickey out if him for that. It was probably Ianto making the noise anyway, trying to spook him. Well, he was going to be very disappointed because it wasn’t going to work. “You’re wastin’ your time, Teaboy, you’re not gonna scare me.”
Then something brushed against his ankle and Owen stifled a shriek. “Ohgodohgodohgod…” If being alone in the dark was bad, NOT being alone was even worse! He tried to tell himself it was rats, only he knew it couldn’t be because Torchwood didn’t have a rodent problem. But if it wasn’t rats, then what the fuck was it? Anything could be down here!
Owen fought the urge to break into a run; it wouldn’t help his situation if he slammed headlong into one of walls, or fell and broke his neck. How long had he been down here anyway? And where the Hell was Ianto? Surely he should have found Torchwood’s archivist by now.
Stumbling onwards, those slithery rustling sounds all around him now, Owen came to a sudden halt when the wall disappeared from beneath his fingers. Was it another side passage or one of the rooms Tosh had mentioned? He inched his way forwards again, feeling around blindly for the continuation of the wall, but there was nothing there. Enough was enough; all Owen wanted now was to get out of here so he turned around to head back, but for some reason he couldn’t find the wall again, and still those rustling sounds surrounded him.
Suddenly something huge loomed up right in front of him, surrounded by a blaze of light and Owen screamed like a girl.
“What the fuck are you doing way down here, Owen? Who taught you to count?”
Slowly Owen lowered the arms he’d thrown up in front of his face to protect himself. Ianto was standing a few feet away from him, looking thoroughly pissed off, his torch now pointing down at the ground. Owen blinked, trying to clear his vision. “What?”
“Level seven, Owen! This is level eight! What on earth were you thinking? You could’ve been lost down here for days; it’s a maze of tunnels and there’s no CCTV this far down. You’re lucky I found you.”
A chill went through Owen at the thought of wandering around down here in the dark for who knew how long with only whatever was making those rustling sounds for company. He might never have been found… With an effort he pulled himself together. “How did you find me?”
“There’s camera coverage of the staircase. When you didn’t show up, I called Tosh to see whether you were coming or not, then checked the footage from the stairs. Obviously the foot-high numbers on the walls weren’t big enough for you. Why were you blundering around in the dark anyway?”
“Why? Because the bloody lights went out, that’s why!”
“I can see that, but only an idiot comes down into the archives without a torch.”
“I forgot, alright? I wasn’t expecting every bloody light bulb to go out at the same time. I mean I can see the occasional bulb blowing, but not every single one at the exact same moment.”
Ianto shrugged casually, as if it was nothing. “They do that a lot in this section; never been quite sure why. The electrics are fine, I’ve checked every connection more than once, and there’s nothing wrong with the bulbs either, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be working. They just all go out and then at some point they all come back on again; how and why is a complete mystery, although I do have my suspicions.”
“Fascinating, I’m sure, but can we please just get out of here?”
Ianto raised an eyebrow. “What’s the hurry?”
“There’s something down here.” Owen looked around nervously. “Something alive!”
“You know?” That wasn’t the response Owen had been expecting.
“Of course I do. I spend a lot of time down here remember? I’ve never really seen them, they seem to prefer the dark, or dimly lit areas; in fact I suspect they might be responsible for turning the lights out, and back on again.”
“Shouldn’t you do something about… whatever they are?”
“Why? I don’t bother them, and they don’t bother me. They’ve been here for at least a hundred years, Owen. This is their home; we’re the intruders. Come on, let’s leave them in peace.” One hand on Owen’s shoulder, Ianto steered the medic back towards the stairs.
“Does Jack know? About the… things that live down here?”
“Why wouldn’t he? Jack’s been here almost as long as they have, but he’s never seen them either.” Ianto glanced at Owen and raised that infuriating eyebrow again. “You weren’t scared were you?”
“Course not!” It was a lie, and Owen was pretty sure Ianto knew that, but… well, he had to at least try to save face.
“Of course,” Ianto agreed. “They wouldn’t have hurt you.”
“Sure of that, are you?”
How Ianto could be so calm, not to mention certain, was beyond Owen.
The two of them walked on in silence for a few more minutes until they reached the stairs, then Ianto stopped and pointed his torch at the wall where a large red number was painted on the rough stone. “Eight, see? You went down one flight too far.”
Owen blushed, feeling stupid; he really should have seen that and couldn’t imagine why he hadn’t. It was certainly big enough. As Ianto started up the stairs to the level above, Owen gave a heavy sigh and followed, traipsing up the rough-hewn steps and along the corridor to look at the possible medical device. He just knew the bloody Teaboy would be laughing about this for weeks!