Characters: Tosh, Ianto, Jack, OC.
Word Count: 2100
Summary: When Ianto doesn’t answer his comm. one day, Tosh decides she’d better go down to the lower levels and check that her friend is okay.
Content Notes: None needed.
Written For: Challenge 232: On Top at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Ianto had been down in the lower levels for quite a while, which wasn’t particularly unusual; a lot of his duties lay in that direction. What was unusual was that he wasn’t answering his Bluetooth, which he always wore when down there in case anyone needed him for anything. Gwen and Owen had gone out on a retrieval beyond Cardiff city limits a couple of hours ago, they wouldn’t be back for a while yet, and Jack was… out somewhere else, Tosh wasn’t sure exactly where. She hadn’t seen him for a while though; the last she remembered, he’d been heading towards the garage entrance, calling back over his shoulder to her that he had a couple of quick errands to run and wouldn’t be long. Jack being Jack, that meant he was probably up on the roof of one of Cardiff’s taller buildings and wouldn’t show up again until evening, or later, unless someone called him to say there was some kind of an emergency they couldn’t handle without him. His absence did at least rule him out as the reason she couldn’t get in touch with Ianto.
She skimmed through the CCTV for the lower levels without finding her friend. There were still large areas of the archives and other underground tunnels that weren’t covered by the internal camera system, which was still a work in progress, so the fact that she couldn’t see him didn’t rule out the possibility that something might be wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time that a mishap in the archives had left Ianto incapacitated. There were a lot of dangers down there, and not just from the various unidentified items stored down there. Shelves could collapse, and stairs could be fallen down…
Anyway, Tosh really did need to take another look at one of the devices that had come through the Rift last week. She’d had an idea about what it might be and wanted to check it out. Since she couldn’t get in contact with Torchwood’s archivist, it only made sense for her to go down there to get it herself, and while she was down there she might as well check up on Ianto in the process, just to set her mind at rest.
It was easy enough to trace Ianto’s location using the GPS in his Bluetooth earpiece, which worked even when the small communication units were switched off, as Ianto’s must be. Locating his exact coordinates on her computer, Tosh fed the data into her PDA, and decided to head down and make sure her friend was okay before going to collect the device. If Ianto wasn’t too busy she knew he’d be happy to find it for her, saving her the trouble of searching for it. Ianto always knew where everything was stored in the archives; the sections he’d already sorted and catalogued at least. There was still plenty he hadn’t got around to yet, but knowing Ianto, he’d just keep plugging away at the task until it was done to his satisfaction.
According to the coordinates, Ianto was down in one of the corridors beyond the new habitats he and Jack had constructed for some of the permanent alien residents. Maybe he was busy building more accommodations; it was an ongoing project of his to provide the various creatures with more space as well as more natural living conditions. Ianto could often be found working on improvements whenever he could make time in his busy schedule, so Tosh set out to find him. Maybe he could use an extra pair of hands; checking her idea about the piece of alien tech wasn’t urgent; it could wait if there was something more important she could help with.
It was quite a long way, down stairs, along corridors, down more stairs, and trough a maze of yet more corridors which, this far down, were more like tunnels carved out of the bedrock… Just as her PDA told her that Ianto was somewhere down the passage that branched off to her right about a dozen meters ahead of her, Tosh heard voices, echoing off the tunnel walls.
“You know, this would work a lot better if I was on top!”
She blinked; that was Jack’s voice! He must have returned to the Hub without her noticing, perhaps when she nipped to the loo… Tosh paused; should she keep going or turn back? It sounded like they might be… otherwise occupied.
“Shut up!” Ianto snapped in reply to Jack. “We already tried it with you on top; it was no good and you almost crippled me!”
“You’re exaggerating,” Jack gasped breathlessly.
“My back says otherwise. If you think you’re better at this than I am, you’re sadly mistaken.” Ianto was breathing hard too. “For a start, you’re too heavy.”
That didn’t go down well with Jack. “Heavy? Is that another way of telling me I’m fat?” The words came out in a hurt tone of voice. Tosh could picture Jack pouting; she’d never met anyone as vain as her boss.
“I didn’t say that,” Ianto snapped. “Stop putting words in my mouth! Now will you please put your back into it? Otherwise we’ll be at this all day, and I’m in an awkward position here. It’s not exactly comfortable.”
“Fine.” There was a grunt of effort. “How’s that?”
“Not far enough. Come on, you can do better than that!”
To say Tosh’s curiosity was aroused would have been an understatement. Maybe she should have just left them to their ‘activities’ but she knew full well they were aware that she downloaded their finest moments to disc for her own enjoyment. Surely they wouldn’t begrudge her a quick peek. Creeping along the dimly lit passage, Tosh peeped around the corner and…
She wasn’t sure whether to feel disappointed or amused; both men were still dressed, though Jack had taken off his coat and Ianto had removed his shoes. Jack was standing mostly upright, with Ianto precariously balanced on his shoulders, Jack’s hands gripping his lower legs tightly enough to cause bruises.
“Just another inch, Jack,” Ianto gasped out. “I’ve almost got him!”
“I’m not made of elastic!” Jack straightened a bit more, pushing upwards, practically on tiptoes.
“Stop complaining! You’re the one who said we didn’t need to fetch a ladder! Ah! Got him!”
“Hang on a mo, he’s wedged in a bit tight.”
“Just hurry up before my legs give out!”
“I’m working as fast as I can! Anyway, it’s your fault we’re in this position. What on earth possessed you to let Pat off his leash in the first place?”
Ah, now Tosh was beginning to understand; they were having trouble with a runaway Kneeble.
“I didn’t! He’s getting sneaky, he slipped out of his harness.”
“You probably didn’t fasten it tightly enough. You know what he’s like, holding his breath, and he gets into everything given half a chance. Doesn’t seem to have cottoned on to the fact that he no longer fits in all the places he used to hide now he’s almost fully grown.” There was a sort of popping noise like a cork being pulled from a bottle as Ianto managed to extract Pat from the hole he’d got stuck in up at the top of the wall. “There, gotcha. Oh…”
“What’s wrong now?” Jack sounded strained.
“Not sure how I’m going to get down with my hands full of wriggly Kneeble.”
“Need some help, boys?” Tosh came around the corner, grinning up at Ianto.
“Tosh! Perfect timing!” Ianto smiled down at his friend. “If I drop Pat down to you, can you hang on to him while I figure out how to get down off Jack’s shoulders?”
“No problem,” Tosh assured him, reaching up for the Kneeble as Ianto lowered him by his scruff. Pat trilled and wriggled as Tosh caught his chubby, fuzzy body and held on tight. Kneebles were notorious for being able to squirm out of practically anything, a legacy of being preyed on by larger creatures on their home planet. They were quite muscular for their small size.
With an undignified scramble and slither, Ianto made it to the ground, just managing to avoid falling on his arse. Groaning, Jack rubbed at his back and shoulders, attempting to straighten up as Ianto pulled his shoes on and relieved Tosh of her armful of squirming alien.
“Come here, troublemaker!” He tucked the Kneeble firmly under his arm. “The scrapes you get yourself into! Thanks, I don’t know what we’d have done it you hadn’t shown up,” he added to Tosh.
“You’re welcome; any time.”
“Come on, you,” Ianto addressed Pat. “Adventure time’s over for today. Next time you get yourself stuck in a hole I might just leave you there.”
“You wouldn’t!” Jack sounded shocked.
“No, probably not, but I might be tempted. I’d best put him back with the others before he gets into any more trouble. Tosh, was there something you needed?”
“Yes, actually I was hoping to take another look at the little blue device you found last week, I think I might know what it is, but it can wait until Pat’s back where he belongs.”
“If nobody needs me anymore, I’m going to just crawl back upstairs. I think you’ve put my back out with all that scrambling about.”
“Don’t be so melodramatic, Jack; you’ll be fine. Maybe next time I say we need a ladder you won’t be so determined to prove we can manage without.”
Jack pouted forlornly. “That’s the thanks I get? You’re a cold, cruel man, Ianto Jones.”
“If you’re good I might give to a massage later. Here, why don’t you put Pat back in the Kneeble habitat while I fetch the device Tosh wants?”
“You’re not worried I’ll lose him again?”
“Should I be?” Ianto ached an enquiring eyebrow.
“No! Of course not! I can handle one little Kneeble.”
“Glad to hear it.” Ianto held the squirming bundle out to Jack. “Here you go. If he tries to wriggle away, just grab him by the scruff.”
“Got him.” Jack clasped Pat against his chest and started towards the Kneeble house while Ianto led Tosh along a different tunnel.
She didn’t bother asking if he was sure this was the right way; she sometimes thought Ianto could find his way around the archives and lower levels blindfolded and in the dark. “What was Pat doing out of his pen anyway?” she asked instead.
“He’s a greedy little Kneeble and he’s getting a bit on the chubby side. I thought some vigorous daily exercise might help to keep his weight down. You know how much he loves exploring.” The other Kneebles could take it or leave it, but Pat was always the inquisitive one. “So much for trying to keep on top of things.”
“Maybe Jack’s the wrong choice for a Kneeble walker.”
“I was thinking exactly the same thing, but it’s hard for me to fit Kneeble exercise time into my busy schedule.”
“I could walk him for you. It would probably do me good to have a regular daily break from staring at my computers.”
“You’re sure you wouldn’t mind?”
“Not at all. I think it would be fun.”
“Thanks, Tosh, I’d appreciate it. That would be one thing less for me to worry about.”
“You work too hard. You should ask Jack to give you some time off.”
“Last time I did that, I came back to complete chaos. I’ve come to the unavoidable conclusion that it’s less work if I come in every day.” Ianto smiled wryly. “Not everybody can be relied on to pick up after themselves and not leave a mess. People can be harder to wrangle than a whole herd of Kneebles.”
Tosh smiled sympathetically. “I know what you mean. Perhaps instead you should ask Jack for an assistant, someone to keep on top of the cleaning and repairs while you concentrate on your other jobs.”
“That idea has definite merit; not sure Jack would go for it though.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Tosh said archly. “He might if he thought it would leave you free for… other things.” She winked at him.
“Ooooh, sneaky! You might be right, I’ll just have to pick my moment to broach the subject.” Ianto smiled and started up a flight of stairs Tosh didn’t think she’d ever seen before, a new spring in his step. She followed him, thinking; helping out with Pat would be fun, and if Ianto could persuade Jack that he needed an assistant… maybe things were looking up for both of them!