Characters: Ianto, Jack, Tosh, a Crack.
Word Count: 3031
Summary: Ianto has a peculiar problem; he seems to have attracted a rather unlikely stalker.
Content Notes: Crack and silliness. What else would you expect for a Crack challenge?
Written For: Challenge #160: Crack at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: Sadly, I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. Think of the fun I could have with them…
One morning when Ianto got up, he noticed a crack in his bathroom wall. It wasn’t a big crack, but it was still worrying. He was almost positive it hadn’t been there the night before, although he couldn’t be completely sure; he’d been very tired, but surely a crack in the wall was the sort of thing you couldn’t overlook, especially if, like this one, it was practically staring you in the face.
He didn’t have time to do anything about the crack right away though; his car was in for its annual service and he knew that if he didn’t leave for work right away he’d miss the bus. Grabbing his coat and keys, he hurried out the door, deciding he’d have someone look into the crack on his next day off. It was too small at the moment to cause any real problems, but it would probably be best to get it dealt with before it got any bigger.
Ignoring the lift, because waiting for it to reach his floor would just be a waste of time he couldn’t really spare if he didn’t want to be late to work, Ianto jogged down four flights of stairs and almost ran down the street to the bus stop. Naturally, when he came to a halt beside it, slightly out of breath, there was no sign of the bus at all. Looking around, wondering why he’d bothered to rush, he saw that there was a small crack in the brand new bus shelter. That was odd; it had only been put up a couple of days ago and apart from the crack, it was still in immaculate condition. Even the local vandals hadn’t got around to defacing it yet. Ianto was puzzled; had Cardiff been hit by a minor earthquake without him noticing? It didn’t seem very likely, but you could never discount stuff like that when you lived on top of a Rift through time and space.
Seven minutes later, the bus finally showed up, jolting to a stop in front of Ianto. He boarded, paid for his ticket, and dropped heavily into an empty seat as the driver slammed his foot of the accelerator. Ianto barely paid any attention to the rough ride; it bore an uncanny resemblance to Jack’s driving style. Idly staring through the window, he gradually became aware that there was a small, jaggedy crack in it. He gave a half shrug; things happened in threes, it was one of those weird rules that was particularly true around the Rift and he thought no more about it, instead using the time the journey took to compile a mental list of his tasks for the day.
When the bus pulled in at his stop, Ianto hopped off and strode across the Plas, making his way down the long, sloping ramp onto Mermaid Quay where the Tourist Office entrance to the Hub was located. As he went to unlock the door, his was a bit taken aback to realise that there was a crack in it, a small, jagged, strangely familiar looking crack. He shook his head, dismissing the thought that was starting to take shape. It couldn’t be… Pushing the door open and stepping inside, he shut it firmly behind him and leant against it, closing his eyes and taking slow, deep breaths to calm himself. He was being silly, it was just a coincidence; nothing weird was going on. He’d almost managed to convince himself by the time he reached the counter and pressed the button that opened the secret door, but as the false wall swung aside to reveal the hidden passageway behind it, Ianto couldn’t fail to see that there was a crack in it.
‘Okay, just act natural,’ he told himself. Keeping his gaze fixed on the far end or the corridor and looking neither to the left nor to the right, Ianto concentrated on counting his steps until he arrived at the door of the lift that would carry him down to the main Hub. He was slightly alarmed, but not particularly surprised, to see that there was a crack in it. He kept his eyes on the crack for as long as he could, but as he crossed the threshold into the lift, he lost sight of it. Not that it mattered. There it was, in the wall of the lift.
“What are you?” Ianto asked the crack. It didn’t answer, just stayed where it was, all the way down, unmoving and never changing; the same small crack that had been in his bathroom wall an hour ago.
The moment he stepped out of the lift at the bottom, he looked for the crack. There it was, in the cog door, and when the heavy metal disc rolled aside to let him though, with the usual blaring of alarms, a quick check of his surroundings revealed the crack now in the concrete floor ahead of him. He skirted around it carefully, but despite the fact that he never actually saw it move, it somehow managed to keep pace with him, appearing in the metal gratings, the wall, the catwalk outside Jack’s office, the glass door…
Feeling harassed, maybe even persecuted, Ianto marched over to Jack’s desk and came to a stop in front of it. Jack looked up from playing solitaire on his computer.
“Morning, Ianto!” Jack’s smile was bright, cheery, warmly familiar and welcoming, but for once Ianto didn’t return it.
“I seem to have a bit of a problem, Jack,” he said, frowning. He felt bad about dumping his problems on Jack, who had more than enough of his own, but this one could possibly constitute a security breach so it was his duty to say something.
“What sort of problem?” Jack’s smile faded and he turned serious.
“I’m being followed. Sort of. Sometimes it’s behind me, sometimes ahead or to one side…” He trailed off, aware that this was going to sound ludicrous.
“Followed by what?”
Closing his eyes, Ianto took a deep breath. Better get this part over with quickly, like pulling off a plaster. “A crack.”
“A what?” Ianto opened his eyes to see a bemused expression on Jack’s face. Not really an unexpected reaction to the news, all things considered; Ianto’s predicament was a bit out there even for Torchwood. Jack poked a finger in his ear and wiggled it around. “Sorry, would you mind repeating that? I think I must’ve misheard, it sounded like you said you’re being followed by a crack?”
“Yes, that’s what I said. There’s a crack, and I keep seeing it everywhere I go. At first I thought it was a coincidence, but it’s not. I’m not just seeing random cracks everywhere; it’s the same crack each time, identical in size and shape. Either I’m been stalked by a crack or I’m losing my mind, and right now, I honestly don’t know which explanation I’d prefer!”
“Ooookay.” Jack stood up and moved around his desk to stand beside Ianto. “Can you see this crack now?”
Ianto glanced around cautiously. “Yes, it’s in the window behind you desk.”
Jack looked at the window. There was a small, jagged crack in it. “I see it.”
“So I’m not imagining it?” Ianto wasn’t sure whether to feel relieved by that or not.
“No, there’s definitely a crack in my window, and I don’t recall seeing it there earlier. Alright, I want you to walk over to the door, as naturally as you can.”
“Right, okay.” Ianto did as he was told while Jack watched the crack. He kept staring fixedly at it, but it didn’t move. Finally he had to blink, and although his eyes were only closed for a fraction of a second, when they opened again, the crack was gone.
“Damnit, I blinked and now I’ve lost it!”
“It’s here, in the door,” Ianto said quietly.
Jack walked over to join him, tilting his head to look at the crack. “Huh. Weird.”
Just then, the cog door opened again and Tosh entered the Hub, spotting them in the doorway to Jack’s office and calling out a cheery greeting.
“Tosh!” Jack smiled down at her. “You’re just the person we need! Grab your scanner and come up here, would you? Something weird’s going on.”
“I’ll be right there.” Leaving her coat and bag on her chair, Tosh took her scanner from her desk drawer and walked up the steps to join her friends.
“What’s the problem?”
“Do you see that?” Jack pointed at the crack in his door. Tosh looked where he was pointing.
“The glass has cracked. The way your door gets slammed sometimes, I’m surprised it’s never happened before.”
“It’s toughened safety glass, Tosh, like all the windows in the Hub,” Ianto told her quietly. “It can’t crack.”
“But it is cracked.” Tosh indicated the incontrovertible evidence.
“No,” said Jack. “Ianto’s right, the glass isn’t cracked, the crack is… on the glass or something. It keeps moving.”
“It’s been following me since I got up this morning,” Ianto told her, sounding peeved.
“Wait a minute.” Tosh looked from Ianto to Jack, then back again; her friends didn’t seem to be joking. “Let me get this straight; Ianto, you really think a crack is following you?”
Ianto shook his head. “Not just any crack, that precise one, and I know it’s following me. Here, I’ll prove it.” He walked away down the steps.
Tosh looked at the door; there was no sign that there’d ever been a crack there. Scanning where it had been, she picked up faint traces of Rift energy. “Odd.” She sounded fascinated and intrigued.
“Where’s the crack now, Ianto?” Jack asked.
“Coffee table,” Ianto replied shortly, gesturing at the stained wooden surface. Tosh and Jack hurried down the steps and joined him where he stood staring at it.
“Cracks don’t move.” Jack glared his best intimidating glare at the crack, but it was unmoved. It just sat there on the table.
“This one does,” Ianto pointed out gloomily.
“Maybe it likes you,” Jack suggested.
Ianto turned an alarmed look Jack’s way. “That’s a scary thought.”
Tosh ran her scanner over the crack. “Cracks don’t usually emit Rift energy either, but this one is, and it’s steady, hardly fluctuating at all.”
“Is it alive?” Jack asked, growing curious.
“Not in the conventional sense. I mean, it’s not a biological entity; it doesn’t really even have any substance to it, I’m not detecting mass or density. It’s more like a very narrow tear in the wall of reality between here and somewhere else.”
“A dimensional breach of some sort?” Ianto suggested.
“Something like that, maybe.”
“Which would make it a lot like the Rift, wouldn’t it?”
“That’s a logical assumption…”
“So, what? There’s a baby Rift that’s taken a shine to my Ianto?” Jack asked, eyes going wide. He wrapped his arms possessively around his lover, getting between Ianto and the coffee table. “He’s mine; you can’t have him!” he told the crack. It winked out from the table and reappeared in the floor behind Ianto. Jack spun the pair of them so he was between Ianto and the crack again. “Listen, buddy, I can keep this up all day. You’re not having my Ianto and that’s final.”
“Jack, if it wanted to snatch me, it could’ve done so in my flat, or in the lift coming down here,” Ianto pointed out.
“Maybe it’s not big enough yet.” Jack continued to glare suspiciously at the crack. “It’s only about six inches long, there’s no way you’d fit through it.”
“Ianto, you said you first saw it this morning?” Tosh cut in.
“Yes, in my bathroom wall.”
“Could it have been following you before and you just didn’t notice?”
“It’s possible. I was really tired last night, you know what yesterday was like, and I didn’t get home until nearly three this morning. I went straight to bed without even turning the lights on.”
“So it could have followed you home last night without you knowing?”
Ianto nodded. “I guess so.”
“Okay, so why were you so late home? The rest of us left at eight-thirty.”
“I had to clean up and feed the residents, then Jack and I had dinner around ten. We were planning to go to my place after, but just as we were getting ready to leave, there was a Rift alert.”
“So you went with Jack to investigate.”
“I was already here so it made sense for the two of us to take care of it instead of calling anyone else in. We were on our way back to the SUV when we ran into a trio of Weevils and had to deal with them, and by the time we’d rounded them up, brought them back here and got them settled, it was two-thirty and all I wanted was to go home and sleep.”
“What did you find?”
“What was it that came through the Rift?”
Ianto’s eyes went comically wide and he wriggled out of Jack’s arms. Jack let him go, albeit reluctantly. “I’d forgotten all about that, it was so uninteresting!” Ianto dug in his coat pocket, pulling out a plastic bag containing what looked like a featureless, greyish green, oval stone, perhaps three inches long and half that wide. “Not the most thrilling discovery ever.” He offered the bag to Tosh, who accepted it and scanned the contents.
“It might look boring, but from what I can tell, it’s a mechanical device with an internal power source, and it’s switched on. The power source is almost depleted though; it needs recharging.” She frowned. “You know, I think the crack might be following you around because you’ve been carrying this everywhere you go.” She handed the bag back to Ianto, smiling.
Ianto took the bag back and looked at the stone, or whatever it was. “It’s been in my coat pocket since I found it, and I didn’t have my coat in the bathroom with me.”
“No, but it probably wasn’t far away, your flat isn’t very big.”
That was certainly true. It was getting a bit cramped for two; Ianto and Jack had been discussing getting a bigger place together but they hadn’t had time to look for anywhere yet. Ianto thought hard, trying to remember. “I’d left it on my bedroom chair, which is just outside the bathroom door.”
“What’re you saying, that the crack wants that device back?” Jack folded his arms over his chest and glanced towards the crack, which was back on the coffee table.
“It’s more likely to be the device that’s generating the crack.”
Jack blinked at Tosh. “What?”
“Suppose it’s something similar to your wrist strap, a device that can open portals, a kind of Rift generator.”
“Why would anyone want something that opens tiny cracks in space?” Jack was still confused, but Ianto started to smile, nodding, as things began to make sense to him.
“They wouldn’t, but it’s almost out of power. Maybe it can only open tiny portals now; I might have accidentally switched it on when I picked it up, or it might have already been on when it fell through the Rift. Whatever the case, it’s on, and a portal is open; it’s a small one because the device doesn’t have enough power for anything bigger, and there’s probably a limit to how much distance there can be between the device and the portal it creates, so as I move, it moves with me.”
Tosh nodded agreement. “Yes, that makes sense, because if you used the device to create a portal, you’d want it to open nearby, not miles away.”
“So if we switch it off, or if it runs out of power, the crack should disappear.”
“In theory, anyway.”
“Any idea how to switch it off then? There aren’t any visible controls.”
Jack peered over Ianto’s shoulder. “Maybe it’s controlled by thought.”
“Worth a try.” Ianto reached into the bag, closed his hand around the oval object, and thought firmly, ‘Off.’ He let the device fall back into the bottom of the bag. “How will we know if it worked? It might not even understand English.”
Tosh ran her scanner over it again. “It’s still on. Sorry.”
“Or course it is.” Ianto sighed. “That would’ve been too easy. If at first you don’t succeed…” With a wry smile, he picked up the stone again, pressing here and there. The tiny panel opened so suddenly it startled him and he almost dropped everything. When he’d calmed his pounding heart, Ianto looked inside. There were two little grey buttons, along with a small, steady yellow light and what seemed to be a power gauge, the indicator almost at the bottom.
“It doesn’t look very complicated,” Jack decided. “One button turns it on, the other turns it off.”
“Or one is the on/off switch and the other’s for opening a portal or something.”
“Either way, you can’t really lose. Press them both.”
“I hope you’re right and one of them isn’t a self-destruct,” Ianto commented, pressing both buttons. The yellow light went out and the three of them held their breath.
Nothing else happened. So Tosh tried another scan. “It’s off.”
Ianto let out his breath. “Good. What about the crack? Has it closed?”
They all looked around.
“I don’t see it,” Jack, said, checking under the coffee table as well, just to be sure.
“Me neither.” Ianto smiled.
“Looks like we were right!” Tosh switched off her scanner. “It was just a portal created by the device.”
“Speaking of which, I think I’d better put this in the secure archives.” Bag in hand, Ianto started up the steps to Jack’s office.
‘Bugger!’ the crack thought as it was snatched away to rejoin the rest of the Rift, like it was attached to a length of over-stretched elastic and someone had just let go of the end. ‘Back to the same old dull routine.’ Following Yantoe had been fun while it lasted, but all good things had to come to an end, even for sentient Rift fragments. It was disappointed though; it really had enjoyed spending time with pretty Yantoe.