Characters: Ianto, Jack, Gwen, Tosh, and a very special guest.
Summary: Jack stands unjustly accused and must find a way to prove his innocence.
Word Count: 2548
Written For: Challenge 17: Proof at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
“Prove it!” Ianto snapped, hands on hips and glaring stonily at Jack.
“Not my problem.” Turning on his heel, Ianto stalked off to the archives, leaving Jack standing outside his office, a helpless expression on his face, his mouth opening and closing wordlessly as he tried to come up with something to say.
“What was that about?” Gwen asked, wandering over to stand beside her boss. She never could resist sticking her nose into other people’s affairs.
Jack sighed heavily. “You know when Ianto treated us all to a cupcake this morning?”
Gwen nodded. “They were delicious; I must find out where he got them.”
“Well, he took his down to his desk in the archives, he wanted to clean out the residents before he sat down to enjoy it, only when he went back to his desk it was gone and now he thinks I ate it! I told him it wasn’t me, but he doesn’t believe me. He wants me to prove I didn’t take it. How can anyone prove that they didn’t do something?” The volume of Jack’s voice had been steadily rising as he got more and more frustrated. “It’s ridiculous!”
“No it’s not,” Tosh cut in, wanting to help her friends. She hated it when Ianto and Jack had a falling out.
Jack sounded as hurt as he looked. “You’re taking Ianto’s side?”
“No, I’m just saying that if you want to prove it wasn’t you who took Ianto’s cupcake, then you need to find out who did.”
“How am I supposed to do that?”
“Can’t you check the CCTV?” Gwen asked.
Jack shook his head. “There isn’t any in that section of the archives.”
“What d’you mean? I know there are cameras; I’ve seen them!” Gwen protested.
“You’ve been down in Ianto’s domain?” Jack stared disapprovingly at Gwen. Everyone knew that the archives were out of bounds without permission from the archivist.
“Not recently, but I did go down there not long after I started working here, and I know I saw CCTV cameras. They’re all over the archives.” She gave a sheepish grin. “I was down there for quite a while because I got lost and Ianto had to show me the way back to the main Hub. I haven’t been back there since. It’s a bit creepy.”
“The CCTV system covers all the main areas of the base for security reasons,” Tosh agreed. “It’s just that for some reason, it doesn’t work in that area of the archives. Every time I get it up and running, it goes offline again within a couple of hours. I’m still trying to isolate the cause, whenever I have time or inspiration, but nothing seems to work. It’s a mystery.”
“That’s that then,” Gwen sighed. “Whoever took the cupcake must have known they wouldn’t get caught. Sorry, Jack. I don’t know what else to suggest.”
“That’s okay, Gwen, at least you tried.” Jack gave her a wan smile.
“Hold on a second,” Tosh cut in, “don’t give up so easily; using the CCTV network is still a good idea. There’s no way of viewing the area around Ianto’s desk, but there are cameras covering all the approaches to that section.” Tosh started tapping away at her keyboard, opening four windows on her screens and bringing up the CCTV feeds from the four cameras that had the clearest views of the corridors and aisles leading to the office area Ianto had set up for himself in his domain. It was little more than an open space just inside the entrance to one of the larger archive rooms, but Ianto liked it because it was easily accessible from three corridors, not too far from the stairs, and big enough to hold a bank of filing cabinets, several shelf units, a computer station, and a long work table, as well as an old but sturdy desk and a sofa. “What time did Ianto take his cupcake down there?”
“Just after nine this morning,” Jack replied.
“And when did he find it was missing?”
“I’m not sure.” Jack looked at his watch. “Can’t have been more than half an hour ago.”
“That gives the thief a window of just under two hours.” Tosh’s fingers tapped away at her keyboard again for a few seconds, locating the stored footage from the four cameras covering the relevant time period and setting it to run at normal speed. “Right, there’s Ianto approaching his office.”
One of the camera feeds showed Ianto striding along the main corridor from the stairs, a smile on his face and a cupcake box in his hands. There was nobody else visible on any of the other cameras. Ianto disappeared from view, and then reappeared a minute later, heading away from his office, his hands empty.
Tosh entered a new set of instructions into her computers and the camera footage on the screens sped up. A few more commands set a motion detection program running to pick up any movement caught by the selected cameras. The three of them watched the speeded up footage until Ianto reappeared in one of the windows again, approaching his office smiling, and then heading away from it once more, this time with a face like thunder.
“Nothing!” Tosh frowned at her screens. “No one passed within view of any of these cameras between the time Ianto took his cupcake to his office and the time he returned to eat it.”
“Maybe whoever took it was already hiding down there before Ianto arrived with his cupcake, and left after he came back,” Gwen suggested.
“Maybe.” Tosh went back and checked the footage starting from the previous evening, but apart from picking up Ianto a couple of times the night before, nothing and nobody showed up. She looked thoughtful. “Jack, has food gone missing from Ianto’s office before?”
“Just the beginnings of an idea…”
”Yeah, a couple of weeks ago he accused me of taking his cookies.”
“Well, yeah, I had a couple. They were really good too. But now I think about it, he said all his cookies, but there were still plenty left in the box after I helped myself. And then there were the last mince pies just after Christmas, but we figured we must have mislaid those. Oh, and a chocolate bar, but Ianto wasn’t sure whether he’d even left it in his office or not.” Jack eyed Tosh suspiciously. “What are you thinking?”
Tosh smiled. “I think we need to bait a trap. Anyone got something sweet and tempting we could use?”
Jack bit his lip, then sighed. “Well, if there’s a chance it might prove my innocence, I’ve got a bag of giant chocolate chip cookies and a packet of marshmallows in my desk.”
“Go get them while I get everything else we’ll need,” Tosh told him.
A little reluctantly, Jack did as he was told.
Fifteen minutes later, they converged on Ianto’s office. The man in question glared at Jack. “What do you want now? I don’t have anything edible here, if that’s what you’re looking for,” he grumbled.
“You wanted me to prove I didn’t take your cupcake,” Jack replied with an awkward shrug, hands deep in his trouser pockets so Ianto could see he wasn’t going to touch anything. “Tosh thinks she might have a way to do that.”
Ianto raised an eyebrow. “You mean you really didn’t take it?”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you, but you wouldn’t believe me. If Tosh’s plan works, you’ll have proof. It might explain all the other food that’s vanished from here too.”
“Your cookies, the mince pies, that chocolate bar you couldn’t find…”
“I checked the CCTV,” Tosh explained. “You’re the only person who’s passed through the tunnels leading to this area between last night and now. There are only four known entrances to your office, which means whoever took your cupcake must have found another way in, so we’re going to bait a trap and try to catch them in the act.”
“How do you propose to do that?” Ianto was intrigued. “The CCTV doesn’t work in here.”
“But your computer does, and it connects to the rest of the system. Give me five minutes, and I could use a hand with these.” Tosh gestured to the box she’d brought with her. Inside it were a half a dozen tiny, wireless, motion-activated cameras, and a few other sensors. “Set these out so they’re inconspicuous but have a good view of your desk and as much of your office as possible. Jack, put the bait in the middle of the desk, in plain sight. We want the cameras focussed on it.”
Jack did as he was told, gazing wistfully at his snacks. “The sacrifices I’m willing to make for you,” he sighed, glancing at Ianto, who was busy setting up the cameras while Tosh worked at the computer, tying all the sensors into its webcam. “I hope you appreciate this.”
When everything was set up, Jack drew a final item from his pocket, the portable cell, which he set on the desk just out of sight under the cookie bag. Tosh had developed an interface that enabled it to be activated remotely, meaning that if their plan worked, they’d literally be able to capture the cupcake thief in the act.
Leaving the webcam running, Tosh powered down Ianto’s computer, letting the screensaver come on, just the way Ianto left it when he was out of his office during the day.
“You’ll have to do your work elsewhere,” she told Ianto. “Unless there’s an emergency, you won’t be able to come back down here again until the thief takes the bait, and there’s no way of knowing how long that might take. After all, whoever it was already got a cupcake. It might be a while before they’re hungry again.”
“I’ll commandeer Jack’s desk,” Ianto smirked, scooping up a stack of files. “It’s not like he uses it.”
“Hey! I do so use my desk!” Jack pouted.
“I’m sure you can find something else to use as a footrest for a bit,” Ianto replied blithely, making Tosh and Gwen giggle. “Right, let’s vacate the premises. Jack, can you bring the box from my worktable?”
With a long-suffering sight, Jack picked up the box of items Ianto had collected for cataloguing, tucked it under his arm, and with a final glance back at the sweet treats he was leaving behind, followed the others out into the corridor.
As soon as they were back in the main Hub, Tosh made for her workstation and linked her computers to Ianto’s downstairs, bringing up the program monitoring both Ianto’s webcam and all the various cameras and sensors focussed on his desk. There on the screen, in living colour, sitting on Ianto’s blotter, were Jack’s snacks, still exactly where they’d been left.
“We’ll be alerted if anything moves down there,” she told the others. “For now, all we can do is get on with other things while we wait.”
The rest of the morning passed slowly, with Jack making frequent detours to Tosh’s workstation, gazing longingly at his bag of cookies on the screen. Lunchtime came, and Ianto went out briefly to fetch their food, returning with everybody’s order, plus a replacement cupcake for himself and a fresh bag of chocolate chip cookies for Jack, as an apology for accusing him of cupcake theft.
The afternoon brought a couple of minor Rift alerts, which Gwen and Owen were sent to deal with, but it wasn’t until just after six that they heard the sound they’d all been unconsciously waiting for. The team converged on Tosh’s workstation, jostling each other to get a better view of the screens; something was happening.
By chance, Ianto’s webcam was positioned so that it had a clear view across his desk, where the bait still sat, to the old sofa.
“Uh…” Jack blinked. “Is that what I think it is?”
Tosh ran a few checks. “There’s a portal opening through the sofa.”
“How is that possible?” Ianto looked troubled. “I take naps on that sofa!”
“Not any more you don’t! Where did you find it anyway?” Jack wrapped an arm around Ianto as if afraid the expanding portal might suck his lover through, even though they were only watching it on a computer screen.
“It was buried under a pile on junk in one of the disused storage rooms. I thought it was probably part of the Hub furnishings back in the fifties; it looked about right for that era.”
“Didn’t you scan it?” Tosh asked.
“Um, no, it looked like a perfectly ordinary sofa…”
“With an inter-dimensional portal in it, according to these readings,” Tosh pointed out.
“Okay, so not as ordinary as it looks.”
Gwen tugged at Ianto’s sleeve. “Something’s coming through it!”
All eyes turned back to the screen as a long, hairy, ginger arm emerged from the portal, followed by the rest of the creature.
Ianto’s eyebrows went up and he stared at the image on the screen in disbelief. “There’s an orang-utan in my office.”
“I know; I can see it,” Jack agreed.
The huge ape reached out and picked up the bag of cookies, examined it, then picked up the small object that had been lying underneath it, and stuck it in his mouth.
Gwen gaped at the screen. “It’s eating the portable cell!”
“Maybe not,” said Tosh, but she didn’t sound too hopeful.
After rolling the cell around in his mouth for a bit, the orang-utan spat it out as inedible, dropping it back on Ianto’s blotter.
“Why didn’t the cell work?” Ianto wanted to know.
“I don’t know; it should have.” Tosh typed something into her computer. “The interface is being jammed, it must be interference from the portal. In fact, the portal might be the reason the CCTV in your office keeps breaking down, it affects anything that utilises frequencies within a certain range.”
On the screen, the orang-utan turned to stare lugubriously into the nearest camera and smiled, showing large yellow teeth. He held up the bag of cookies. “Ooook, ook ook.” Turning away, he scooped up the marshmallows in a leathery hand, sauntered upright back to the sofa, squeezed through the portal, and somehow pulled it closed behind him. In the absence of further movement, everything except the computer webcam switched itself off.
Ianto shook his head. “That’s it; I’m getting a new sofa for my office. That one’s going back where I found it, and I’m locking the door. I don’t need a large primate wandering around my archives eating everything.”
“Ikea has some very comfortable sofas,” Jack said. “We can go shopping for one tomorrow, Rift permitting.”
“Great. In the meantime, can you give me a hand putting that one back in the storage room?”
Jack nodded and moved to follow Ianto down to the archives.
“What is it, Tosh?” Jack looked enquiringly at his computer expert.
“I had the translator programme running in the background. Just before the ape left, it said ‘Thank you for the snacks, they make a nice change from bananas’.”
Jack looked at Ianto and shrugged. “If that’s not proof of my innocence then I don’t know what is.”