Characters: Ianto, Tosh, OCs.
Summary: Ianto spends a great deal of time down in the archives, but he’s well aware that he’s never completely alone.
Word Count: 1333
Written For: My own prompt ‘Torchwood, Ianto, Archive monsters,’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
Ever since Ianto started work at Torchwood Three, he’s been engaged in what some might call the unenviable task of putting the archives into some sort of workable order. It’s not a task for the faint of heart; the lower levels of the Hub have long been given over to the storage of mission reports dating back over a century, as well as an incredible variety of artefacts, of both alien and earth origin, from the past, present, and future.
The archives are cavernous, comprising vast open areas, winding corridors, and dozens of smaller rooms, spread over several levels. In some sections, haphazard attempts have been made, at some unknown point in the past, to store items tidily on built-in shelves. Other areas are full of boxes and crates, while yet more contain random items that have simply been left in heaps on the cold stone floors.
The job of sorting it all out was never going to be quick or simple, but Ianto had never minded. At first that had been more because it gave him a valid excuse to spend a lot of time in the lower levels while he was caring for Lisa, but after her final death, the archives had become his refuge, a place he could escape to where he could grieve in private, or gather his thoughts, or distract himself with busy-work.
These days, his attitude towards the task has shifted once more; he finds it a fascinating and absorbing challenge, and can happily spend all day trying to identify the strange things that have fallen through the Rift, or sorting old reports to be digitised, or continuing the ongoing task of giving the entire filing system a thorough overhaul so that information can be found when it’s needed. He never gets bored at work because he always has plenty to keep him occupied.
As much as he enjoys being down in the archives though, he’s been aware from the beginning that he’s not as alone down there as he might have expected to be. There are creepy crawlies of course, beetles and spiders mostly, but those are nothing unusual; it would be more surprising if they weren’t there. He would have thought there’d be mice and even rats down there as well, but if there are, he’s never seen any sign of them. Maybe it’s because of the other things that lurk in the poorly lit places, concealing themselves in shadows.
Ianto calls them the Archive Monsters; he’s never seen them clearly, only ever catches glimpses of them, a flicker of movement in the corner of his eye, a strange shadow cast against the wall, a long, spindly leg here, the flash of a tentacle there, tracks in the dust… It’s not enough for him to form a clear picture of what they look like, but it’s sufficient for him to be relatively certain that whatever they are, they’re not native to earth. Still, they don’t bother him, so he doesn’t bother them. Live and let live. If they’re responsible for keeping rodents at bay and thereby preventing files from being chewed up, then they’re welcome to stay.
Today, Tosh is down in the archives, helping Ianto with a stack of so far unidentified artefacts from the nineteen-forties. Her tech expertise is invaluable for trying to figure out what things are. Normally, Ianto would take things upstairs to the main Hub for her to study, but all these items are too big and bulky for easy transportation, so it makes more sense this time for her to come to them. Ianto leaves her looking them over while he’s taking care of some overdue filing, and he’s on his way back when he hears her scream.
Breaking into a run, he’s by her side in less than a minute. “What’s wrong, Tosh? Are you okay?”
“Yes, fine. Sorry, Ianto, I’m just being silly; it gets a bit spooky down here alone; I don’t know how you stand it.” She points to the far side of the room. “I thought I saw something moving over there, but it was probably just a shadow, or maybe a rat.”
Ianto laughs soft and easy. “There are no rats down here, Tosh; it was most likely one of the Archive Monsters. They won’t hurt you, they’re probably just curious.”
“What do you mean, Archive Monsters?”
“That’s what I call them. I don’t know what they are, but they’ve lived down here since before I came along. I asked Jack about them once, and he told me he’s caught glimpses of something down here for decades, but he doesn’t know any more than I do. They’re alien, harmless as far as we can tell, and they’re good at hiding. They keep to the shadows; all you ever see is an occasional flicker of movement, or a glimpse of a leg. I think I saw a sort of feathery antenna once, although I suppose it could just as easily have been a tail.”
“Doesn’t it bother you that there are unknown creatures down here with you?”
“No,” Ianto replies honestly. “They’re no trouble, they keep to themselves, and I sort of like knowing they’re there. They’re the best kind of company to have; quiet, unobtrusive, they don’t interrupt me when I’m working, or get underfoot the way Jack does. Probably sounds weird, but I find their presence comforting; they make me feel safe.”
That makes Tosh laugh. “Well, you’ve always been a bit odd.”
Ianto winks. “I know. All the best people are; me, you, Jack, even Owen, the doctor who wants to heal people but hates having to treat patients.”
“I guess you’re right, you have to be a bit odd to work for Torchwood.”
“Who’d want to be normal anyway? Normal is boring.”
“True,” Tosh says with a smile. She looks at Ianto curiously. “Have you ever tried to track your monsters, get a better look at them?”
Ianto shakes his head. “They’re shy and I don’t want to scare them away. They probably came through the Rift and got stuck here, but they seem to have adapted well to their environment. Jack never mentioned them to anyone he worked with in the past because he knew if he did, they’d be hunted down and captured for study, or killed. He didn’t want that to happen, told me they have a right to be left in peace and I agree. Just think; they’re probably the only creatures of their kind on earth, a small colony that nobody but us even knows about, hidden away far beneath Cardiff’s streets. Maybe someday they’ll trust us enough to show themselves, but until then, let them remain a mystery. Everyone needs a bit of mystery in their lives.”
“Alright, I promise not to go looking for your monsters.” Tosh agrees, turning back to the device she’s studying. “Now, I’ve been thinking about this one…” She and Ianto get back to work trying to identify it.
Deep in the shadows, hidden from view, three strange creatures quietly observe the two humans. They rub feathery antennae together, communicating at a pitch and frequency beyond the range detectable by human ears. Satisfied that they’re safe, two of the monsters slip away on their spindly, crablike legs, soft, padded feet making almost no noise on the stone floor. One remains behind to watch, ensuring the safety of both the colony and the humans; there are a lot of things in the archives that could cause harm if mishandled, but both of these tall, two-legged creatures appear competent; there’s no cause for concern, they’re cautious in their examination of things they don’t understand, and clearly quite intelligent too, for bipeds.
Squatting down comfortably and wrapping its tentacles around its folded legs, the archive monster continues to study the curious beings, learning as much about them as it can. Until recently, its kind has seldom had such excellent opportunities to study the natives of this world. They really are quite fascinating.