Rating: PG-13 (for being sexually suggestive)
Genre: Romance / Cotton Candy Fluff, set just after "To the Last Man"
Disclaimer: Torchwood's characters, concepts, and events belong to their respective owners, including but not limited to Russell T Davies and the BBC. This is a work of fan-appreciation and no profit is being made.
Summary: When the rift is quiet for three straight days, the whole team find themselves filling time. Left to his own devices in the archives with a hundred years worth of Torchwood 3 personnel files, Ianto Jones starts to question the permanence of the things he holds dear in the world. Especially disconcerting is the conundrum of his precarious relationship with Captain Jack Harkness . . . that is, until he comes to a novel solution.
A/N: Inspired by baba_o_reily's amazing (and thorough) personnel file for Jack Harkness. Beta'd by _lullabelle_, who slaps my run-ons into submission. MAYBE I AM PROVING TO MYSELF THAT I CAN WRITE HAPPY THINGS TOO.
The Bureaucrat’s Love Story Ends at Six Sharp
(Because who would pay him overtime?)
There are times when Ianto Jones feels that the universe actively pities Toshiko Sato. If the universe is at all capable of pity, or of having will, or of acting out that will upon events, that is. Probably not, but one doesn’t go fifteen formative years (give-or-take) living under one’s parents’ Christian worldview without the concept of the bearded father figure gently guiding events taking some hold, regardless of how much that worldview is eventually shifted. You know, through normal life experiences like rebelling against parental authority, exploring religious and philosophical alternatives, and talking to the resurrected dead who tell you in completely unequivocal terms that one of the founding tenets of your childhood religion is a fairy tale. Those sorts of things.
Even so, if there is anyone deserving of such pity, it is Toshiko Sato, who seems to go through her life giving up everything and taking nothing, without becoming bitter, self-righteous, broken and desperate, or whatever the hell Jack Harkness has wound up as. It has been three days since Tommy went back to his own time, since Torchwood sent him to his predestined execution in the name of the greater good. In that time, the rift has been, for lack of a better word, quiet.
Quiet, n.: one loose Weevil apprehended in the early morning hours without injury or incident; one negative rift-spike leading to the disappearance of a twenty-three year old girl, case immediately closed by orders of Captain Jack Harkness.
For three days, they have been left pretty much up to their own devices.
For Tosh, this has meant a chance to mentally and emotionally recuperate. (Thus his assumptions about pity and benevolent father figures). Which, of course, translates directly to her propped up in front of her computer for endless hours, completely engrossed in safe, predictable, logical and, most importantly, completely emotionally detached maths. When he sets down her coffee, she barely even acknowledges him; out of character, for her, who even in the early days was quick to smile, to thank, to be very, very unbearably pleasant. Eventually he will come round again and the mug will be empty, the rim touched with her lipgloss. Eating and drinking, at least, so not so far gone. He leaves her to her equations.
For Gwen, the three days have meant taking advantage of Jack’s constant pleading that she not lose touch with her normal life. Namely by taking lunches with Rhys and charging the hours to internal time. When she ducks back in again at half-one, looking a little sheepish and ducking her eyes under her fringe, Ianto can’t help but wonder what the payroll sheet for that looks like. Two-point-five hours, internal: making up for countless missed suppers in two-and-a-half-hours in a half-arsed attempt at work-life balance.
Owen sticks to the lab and the autopsy room, and Ianto doesn’t bother him, and that’s for the best, really.
Jack, well, Jack spends the three days doing whatever he does locked up in his office with the door closed, looking harassed, with his hair mussed up from running his hands through it frequently. He does make an effort at one of those bright smiles of his whenever Ianto intrudes, and even protests once or twice that Ianto really doesn’t need to knock anymore and it’s just paperwork, anyway. Ianto pointedly doesn’t ask questions about the nature of the paperwork, just brings him coffee twice a day or more, and at six o’clock insists that they find at least enough time for a trip to the chipper, or a shared take-out if nothing else. He tries very hard not to lecture, but it takes an unusual amount of willpower not to add in “because you’ve been cooped up in here all day and you need to see sunlight sometimes, and I’d like to spend some time with you during this downtime if the paperwork isn’t a priority, because this is all the time we’re going to get.” Instead, it all comes out in what is probably a very tight, awkward smile, and a too-long touch of Jack’s fingers when he retrieves an empty mug. Everything back to normal, apparently.
Ianto himself spends his three days catching up on the work he’s been neglecting since he took more responsibility in the field, remnants of his old position at Torchwood, yes, but jobs that still sorely need doing and there’s nobody else who sees them. He scrubs down the kitchenette top to bottom, leaving a slightly passive aggressive note for Owen about using their food fridge to store alien specimens when he has a perfectly adequate lab, thank you. He makes coffee over and over and over again: Gwen’s extra sweet, Tosh’s with half the cream, Owen’s with one of each no-muss-no-fuss (and occasionally, Ianto suspects, a glug of Bailey’s under his desk). Jack takes his black, because of course a man like him would take it black. He sorts out the tourist office after about ten minutes of procrastination poking around behind the desk, picking things up and putting them down again. He throws out some trash. He makes coffee again. Somehow he winds up obsessively scrubbing down every sheet of glass he can find in the hub after a casual tidying of the boardroom turns up a set of four very familiar handprints smudged into the glass, one pair sandwiching the other. After that he wanders around aimlessly, trying to look busy and wondering how many of them saw the prints before he did. Eventually he resorts to hiding in one of the many filing rooms of the archives until the heat goes out of his face and ears. When he emerges, he retrieves empty mugs.
When he reaches Tosh’s desk, he’s expecting her to go on with her work as she’s been doing, but she rather surprises him when she spins suddenly in her chair to face him.
“Ianto!” she greets with I-have-a-task-for-you cheer. He bristles a little at her demeanour, still a little taken-aback by the unexpected change, but manages a smile, mostly for her benefit.
“Yes?” he asks, dipping in beside her to retrieve the mug, hooking it around his first finger so that it clinks against Owen’s gently.
“You’re not busy, are you?” she asks, still talking sweet. “I mean, you are, but not with anything terribly important, right?” She looks a bit bashful at saying such a thing aloud, but he waves his hand dismissively before she can get a chance to get really flustered about it. “Anyway, I have this project I could use your help with.” She turns to the computer, shifting her seat so that he can come to stand beside her and look at the computer screen over her shoulder. He rests a hand on the back of her seat, her hair brushing his knuckles as she turns her head.
She taps a few keys with firm purpose, and several windows open on the desktop. “You see, we only started really digitally keeping records here at Torchwood in the early seventies. I was thinking you and I could team up, start digitizing the records from the eighteen hundreds on. I just think, personally, that that’s a lot of information to have lying around in hard-copy without a backup, you know? In case something happens.”
She looks at him expectantly over the top of her glasses. Wanting his input, he assumes. “Very practical,” he congratulates her. That seems to satisfy her, because she beams a smile at him.
“Of course, all the files are in the archives alphabetically, so I’ll need you to sort through them name-by-name to figure out which ones are already in the computer—anything after 1973 seems to already be in our system.” She clicks through her data absently, as though to double-check her statement. “You find the files, tag them for incomplete or possibly incorrect information, and I’ll do the data entry. Sound fair?”
He’d been planning on spending the rest of the day organizing the petty cash and sorting out all the various receipts for their frequent take-out lunches and suppers and pizzas. “Sounds fine,” he tells her.
So that’s how he finds himself down in the archives, where it’s cool and quiet, flicking through personnel files that nick at the tips of his fingers in a painful, familiar rhythm. It’s a time consuming task: not only are they filed alphabetically, but their dates of service are only written inside the file itself, not on the folder’s label, so he has to painstakingly remove, open, and scan each folder individually to determine whether it needs to be included in the data entry or not. One at a time.
He starts with Gwyneth Aarons, 1933-1957, active in Torchwood from 1955 to 1957 as a field officer. Died in the line of duty. The photo paperclipped to her file shows her to be skinny, dark-haired, a bit androgynous, and with a smirk like she’s keeping a secret. He wonders if Jack . . . but no, if he goes down that road this task is going to be one of the worst jobs he’s ever done here, and he’s cleaned Weevil cells. He claps the folder shut and sets it aside on one of the work tables at his back. Michael Anderson, 1922-1951, died in the line of duty after four years of service as a medical officer. Curly-haired and sullen looking. His file goes on top of Aarons’. Harry Anwyl, ret-conned in 1969 after five years of service; he was pale, but very pleasant-faced, the kind of person who looked like he would always say hello to his neighbours. He died in 1993 of rectal cancer. Doctor Matilda Brennan, former leader, executed in 1941 by Captain Jack Harkness. This gives him pause, and he spends a few minutes staring down at the woman’s hard eyes. It’s a little freaky, honestly, imagining that the woman in this antique photograph was once Jack’s contemporary. He knows, intellectually, how old Jack is, but things like this, physical reminders of that, still seem to shake some foundation in him, some fundamental assumption about the world. He closes the folder and sets it aside.
“Find mine yet?”
He turns, a little jolted, toward the voice. Jack is standing at the end of the long row of filing cabinets, leaning against one casually, arms and ankles crossed, smiling. Ianto can’t help but stiffen a little under his gaze. He’d been quite comfortable for awhile there, alone with all these dead people and their particulars.
“No,” he replies, drawing the word out in order to bite back a reflexive ‘sir’. “No,” he repeats, with finality. “Still slogging through the ‘B’s.”
Jack pushes himself away from the cabinets, sauntering over to where Ianto’s standing. Ianto immediately looks away, busying himself with the files. He runs his fingers over the sharp tops of folders, stuffed in tight. Jack is directly in his personal space, he can feel it, although they aren’t touching, not yet. He’s just standing slightly to Ianto’s side, his chest inches away from Ianto’s back, close enough that Ianto could lean into him, if he wanted. Jack reaches forward, fingering the files one by one, flicking their raised labels absently.
“Probably for the best,” he muses, a hint of flirtation in his tone. “You wouldn’t like what you saw.” The files go tic-tic-tic under that one finger, and the sound makes Ianto’s spine crawl; he’s not sure if he hates it or loves it.
“Oh wouldn’t I?” Ianto asks, trying to match him by sounding pithy and disinterested. In fact, he’s somewhat eager. It’s taken an admirable amount of self-control not to immediately dive for the ‘H’ drawer right away. “Are you afraid I’ll find out you’re too old for me? Because I think your secret’s out.”
The files go tic-tic-tic and Ianto can feel the body heat radiating off of his chest, feel a brush of him against the fabric of his jacket when he breathes deeply. Can hear his breathing in the quiet of the archives, the slow exhalation through his nose, the ease of a man who is never rushed for time. The hand on the files lingers so close to Ianto’s own, but never touches. Jack snaps one brace.
“What gave me away?” he moans dramatically. “It was the clothes, wasn’t it? They told me to get with the times and buy a pair of jeans, but would I listen?”
Ianto smiles to himself, and it is for himself, because Jack is behind him, can’t see the expression.
“No but really. You won’t like what you see, Ianto.” It sounds ominous. “It’s an utter mess. They kept crossing my birthdate out and writing a new one, so that with each ‘changing of the guard’, or so to speak, I started out thirty-five again. There must be seven D.O.B.’s on there.”
Ianto scoffs. “Thirty-five?”
“Hey now, I’m your boss,” Jack replies. “You’re not allowed to make comments like that.”
Ianto plucks Keith Brown’s file from the drawer and brushes past Jack as if to be dismissive, secretly relishing the moment when, as he turns, his shoulder draws across Jack’s body with the shush of fabric.
“If you’re my boss,” he chides, “then you should know that I am, in fact, very busy. With work. That you’re paying me for.” He slaps Brown’s file onto the table, opening it under the light. He hears Jack coming up behind him, and watches out of his peripheral vision as he peers at the stacks of files, the post-it notes, the half-drunk coffee.
“Tilda Brennan!” he says. He seems surprisingly cheerful to recognize the name of a woman he executed. Ianto feels an eyebrow quirk up in disbelief. “I remember her. That’s an interesting story, actually. How about I tell it to you, say tonight? At dinner?”
Ianto steadies his expression, not about to let on how pleased he is. There’s something delightful in the way that every time Jack asks him on a date, it’s like it’s the very first time and he’s still nervous and still worried about rejection. It should be Ianto who’s worried about rejection. Well, he is worried about rejection, and with good reason.
“A proper dinner?” he asks, rounding on him suddenly, so that they are nose-to-nose and toe-to-toe, their chests brushing. “At a restaurant with cloth napkins and menus you hold? In your hands?”
Jack nods dumbly. Is Ianto coming across a little intense right now? Must be all the cold takeout he’s eaten the past few days and weeks over Jack’s desk, the two of them barely speaking. Instead of a fortune cookie with your Chinese you just get a helping of disappointment and resentment for dessert.
He understands that things can’t ever be stable, not with Jack. They’re not about to get a flat together, and when Ianto moved a few favourite suits and a toothbrush into the hub he made sure to do so without making any sort of a fuss. And he’s fine with that, he thinks. But he doesn’t like things running hot and cold, either, grand gestures like that speech after Tommy followed up by cold chow mein and stolen glances and awkward touches passing mugs back and forth.
He takes a step forward. Jack takes a step back. He grabs Jack by the shirt in both hands, twisting the fabric up in his fists. Pushes him. Hears the filing cabinet slam shut as Jack’s body hits it. The two of them tumble against it and each other. But they don’t kiss. They just stand there, Jack looking, well, harassed and bemused, and Ianto with his fists balled up in Jack’s shirt, their bodies pressed up against one another, chests shoving together as they breathe.
Jack reaches up tentatively, straightening Ianto’s tie at his throat. Tightens it a little. Gives a sort of contrite, diffident smile, shrugging his shoulders. That’s when Ianto kisses him, pushing their mouths together almost defiantly. He feels Jack smile, feels Jack’s hands reaching around to his lower back, to the nape of his neck, to gather him in. It crushes his arms up against Jack’s chest, but he doesn’t care. The kiss is quick and breathless, good-humoured on Jack’s part and more than a little angry on Ianto’s. Their bodies are so close, and the archives are so quiet and so cold around them, but Jack seems to fill up every inch in Ianto’s conscious conceptualization of space, warm and breathy. Jack is big. Not just physically, but oh God, that too, and he hears Jack chuckle at the ferocious little moan that escapes their mouths. How can he know the strength of his own force of gravity, the way every moment he enters a room Ianto seems to plunge toward him even when he’s standing still?
He feels Jack’s hips grinding up against him, not a demand but a question, a plea.
This is what he has to do.
He gives a firm, jerking push with his fists, breaking off the kiss. The filing cabinet rattles, and Jack flashes him an amazing dazed bruised-mouth drunken I-want-you-so-bad smile.
“Six o’clock,” Ianto says, swallowing back his panting breath. “You will be ready at the lift at six o’clock and not a minute late.”
“Yes, yes,” Jack agrees, in a ‘shut-up-and-get-on-with-it’ tone. He spins them with a crash, and now Ianto’s got his back to the filing cabinet, a handle jabbing him painfully between the shoulder blades. Jack leans forward. Ianto leans back.
“Six-oh-one, Jack, sir, and I will be gone. Do we have an understanding?” He gives him a level look.
“Yes,” Jack says. This time he means it.
“Good. Now it’s time for you to go.” He pulls a hand from Jack’s chest, managing to twist it so that he can see the watch on his wrist despite still being crushed against Jack’s body. “It’s ten past four now, so if I’m quick I should be able to get through at least the ‘D’s by then.”
“But—” Jack protests.
“Six o’clock,” Ianto reminds him. Oh God it hurts to say it.
Jack pulls back, dejected; starts to slink away to the exit of the archives. As he’s at the door, he lingers, hands in pockets, clearly expecting Ianto to call him back. Smug bastard.
“Oh and sir?” Ianto asks, and sees him perk up in the shoulders. “I’d appreciate it if I wasn’t always the one to have to find and clean up the evidence of our sex life around the hub.”
Jack’s head turns so that he is looking at Ianto sidelong over his shoulder. Ianto arches an eyebrow at him. Jack walks on.
He gets neck deep into the ‘C’s after that, discovering that the entire staff of Torchwood in 1918 seemed to have last names starting with ‘C’, for some bizarre reason. He finds Gwen Cooper’s and Suzie Costello’s files, both written in his own handwriting. He sits with Suzie’s file sitting limply in his hands awhile, staring at the line where he’d written “Death by Torchwood” with a nervous flourish. He can see his emotions in his handwriting, the way the loop on the ‘d’ is huge and disconnected. The memory of that day sits heavy in the bottom of his stomach. How does he feel about it, now? He still carries the stopwatch in his pocket just in case. So, with a certain amount of fondness, then. There’s also, yes, a lingering sense of warm pleasure, appreciation. Jack had waited for him to make the first move, had been surprised and then pleased when the realization of what Ianto’d suggested had dawned on him. With sheer force of personality like that, Jack never used it unfairly to his advantage. He gave Ianto all the time in the world. Maybe not such a generous gesture, considering Jack’s circumstances, but he could still be a surprisingly impatient man.
He re-files Suzie’s folder, tapping it down into drawer neat and straight. Glides the ‘C’ drawer closed with a knock of his hip. Reaches with greedy, clasping hands for the ‘H’s. He thumbs through until he finds the one he’s looking for: worn and crinkled, thicker than the rest. “Harkness, Jack”. He plucks it out and takes a seat at the table, studying it.
It’s sealed shut all around the edges with red tape, stamped “For Your Eyes Only”. “To be read by Torchwood 3 leaders only” is scrawled underneath the stamp in a tight black script Ianto doesn’t recognize. Ianto purses his lips a moment and then shrugs. Whoever it was who wrote that warning is long dead now, anyway. And Jack did basically give his blessing. He picks up a letter opener from the table and slices into the tape. The folder falls open, frail paper spilling out over the table in front of him. He shuffles through the papers, smiling at the various photos tucked throughout of Jack from different time periods. The one labelled “1918” on the back has him frowning, and there’s a frustration knitting his brow if you know what to look for. In the 1940s he looks handsome and dashing, his jaw very prominent and his hair slicked into a part. In the 1970s he just looks sort of awkward, but Ianto assumes everyone looked awkward then.
He picks up the topmost sheet in his hands, stained and crinkled and as thin as a page torn from a bible. There they are, his birthdates, crowding the top of the sheet. Crossed out and rewritten. The most recent one, reading “1974”, is the same one listed on the file in the computer, the file they’d all accessed together, him and Tosh and Owen, back in the days when they didn’t know, when they’d futilely needled Gwen, of all people, for information. He can’t help but laugh at the “imperviousness to death” written beside “Known Diseases”, imagining the faceless bureaucrat who’d had to come up with that one. Some poor overwhelmed sod just like him, he imagines. He strokes the face of Jack’s photo with the pad of his thumb, looking across the table at the sprawl of papers, the stack of files, all Jack’s former team members.
He leans back in his chair, the two front legs lifting off of the floor. Belatedly, he realizes he’s assessing . . . something.
No wonder, he thinks. No wonder he doesn’t understand how huge he seems to all us little people. He wouldn’t be the same man if he did. But even then. The universe and time are so huge to him, and he occupies all of it as a matter of fact. The universe and time are huge to Ianto, too, but he is so small and, by necessity, as a pure survival mechanism, he can barely comprehend them. Of course someone like Jack, who has walked from 1918 through to 2008 in one recognizable piece, seems huge. He isn’t physically big, he occupies sheer temporal space. Well, that’s Ianto’s theory anyway. Better than thinking he has some kind of schoolgirl crush and is one good date or dizzying kiss away from scribbling Mrs. Ianto Harkness on his notebooks. He scrunches up his nose.
He tosses the personnel file sheet down onto the table, and it lands light as a feather. And all these people, all Jack’s former team members, and he’s only into the ‘C’s! Gwyneth Aarons, who like it or lump it he knows was Jack’s type once upon a time. An image of them in these same archives pops into Ianto’s mind: the personnel files more sparse, her back to the cabinets. He pictures her with long fingers, elegant hands, smirking that knowing smirk when Jack runs kisses over the skin of her neck. His mouth twists sideways at the thought.
Dr. Matilda Brennan, whom Jack still fondly called “Tilda”. The woman he executed for treason. Like he could have done to Ianto. Could have but didn’t.
All these people he’s known and lost, that he still remembers with fondness and familiarity. People who died after two years of service, three years of service, seven years of service, barely any of them making it past Jack’s mystical age thirty-five. No wonder he won’t or can’t get close to Ianto. No wonder moments of passionate intensity are followed up by moments of cold rejection. He’s not being inconsiderate, he’s exercising self-restraint. For Ianto’s sake. For his own. Ianto starts to gather up the spilled papers into a stack and raps them once on the table to straighten them. He returns them to the folder, looking over the top sheet one last time.
Next to “Next of Kin”, someone has written “Not Applicable”. Overwhelmed bureaucrat speak for “Jack Harkness is not capable of having the sorts of stable family relationships necessary to call anyone such a thing.” Maybe that nameless sod was more like him than he initially thought. He smiles wistfully, about to close the folder when the thought comes to him.
The computer personnel file on Harkness lists only one birthdate, the most recent one written here. This file seems to be a permanent record of changes made to the “public” dossier of Captain Jack Harkness, meant for the eyes of Torchwood leaders only. Anyone who looked at the computer would never know that Jack had worked for Torchwood in the 1950s, and that during that time they had listed his birthdate as 1934, but the person who had this file always would, even if that 1934 was scratched out.
He picks up a pen, nods to himself once in affirmation, and scratches out the “Not Applicable” with a flourish. With purpose, he writes down “Ianto Jones” in the space. It wasn’t all of time and space or immortality, but it was a permanent mark nonetheless. Leave the grand but fleeting gestures to Jack: Ianto Jones would create himself by leaving a million tiny marks. He closes the file, checks his watch. Five-forty-five. Time to go, he supposes. Jack will be ready early, today. He smiles to himself, for himself, as he returns Jack’s folder to the cabinet and flicks off the lights.
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