PG, 1300 words
Summary: There's nothing about Torchwood Ianto doesn't know; that's the deal.
Notes: Set sometime before the events of 'Adrift', spoilers for the episode.
Just going out to check out that hospital report Tosh found, might be a while. Don't wait up!
Ianto filed the email away - physically, into "Jack: work-related"; mentally, into "lies Jack's much less good at telling than he thinks". He brought up a list of scheduled departures of small boats from the harbour, saw one headed for Flat Holm island in the Bristol Channel, and as he heard the lift soaring up to the Plaza, headed out through the reception exit, hoping to catch Jack before he drove off.
Jack was getting into the SUV when Ianto got there, so he hastened his steps and climbed into the passenger seat.
"Uh, hi?" Jack gave Ianto a bemused look.
Ianto turned in his seat to look at Jack, face set. "What's on Flat Holm?"
"I don't know what you--"
Jack sighed. "How'd you find it?"
"You know, you should take it as a courtesy I've left it alone this long. It's Torchwood-related, isn't it?'
"Yes it is."
"Then let's go, and you can explain it to me on the way."
Jack hesitated, and from his expression Ianto realised that it was serious, and that he'd been invested in it for some time. All the more reason for Ianto to go along, then. Some of this determination must have shown on his face, because Jack said nothing more, just started the engine with an odd sort of smile on his face.
"Most of the time," Jack began, "the Rift washes things up on our side. Sometimes, though, it doesn't. Sometimes it takes things, takes people, and sometimes it sends them back again. Flat Holm is where we deal with the wreckage."
Jack's hands were tight on the steering wheel as he continued, and Ianto felt uneasy as they reached the harbour. A sailor nodded in recognition as Jack approached, and they made the crossing mostly in silence, the high wind blowing out over the channel whipping away any attempts at conversation Ianto had. Then the boat gently bumped against a landing, and Jack walked out, not looking at Ianto as he hurried after him.
The island had a windswept kind of beauty, a lighthouse gleaming brilliant white in the dying light of the day. Ianto barely had time to take it all in as Jack swept along the hillside towards a group of low, roughly constructed buildings.
"You don't have to come in, you know," Jack said.
"Of course I do."
Jack grunted and led him down into a dim passageway, strange echoes of their footsteps bouncing all around them. Jack reached up and pressed a buzzer as Ianto drew his jacket a little tighter around himself, suddenly cold.
"Who is this?"
"Hi there, Helen, it's Jack."
"Jack!" the voice on the other end said warmly. "Come on in."
The door slid back to reveal a woman in nurse's uniform, who nodded at them both. "And who's this?"
"This is my colleague, Ianto Jones - Ianto, this is Helen, she's the good soul who keeps this place together."
"I do my best." Helen stepped back, and they entered the complex.
She opened the door to a small TV lounge and they walked inside, Jack nodding to the nurses who sat inside, drinking tea with bright smiles at the newcomers, but lost hope in their eyes.
"How's Caroline doing?" Jack asked.
Helen nodded. "A little better. She's sleeping easier, at least. There's not much we can do for her injuries, I don't think - Jack, I've never seen anything like it, if you could just tell me a little more about what happened."
"No, I'm sorry. That's not part of the deal."
"Well, all right." She got up and walked over to a cabinet. "I've got some reports here for you and a review of our budget."
She started going through folders, and as she did so Ianto heard a sound behind him. He craned his neck to peer behind the sofa he sat on, and nearly leapt in shock as he was confronted with a little girl crouched in a corner, knees clutched tightly against her chest and wide eyes staring at him. "Hello?" Ianto said tentatively, leaning over the arm of his seat. The girl didn't say anything, but she smiled at him.
"Ah, I see you've met Evelyn," came Jack's voice, and Ianto stood up, discomfited by the child's continuing gaze.
"Well, that's everything," Helen was saying, and the conversation continued, but Ianto wasn't listening.
Evelyn's eyes were still on him, but she didn't seem to be paying attention to anything in the room any more. Her hands were scrabbling against the worn carpet, fingers forming intricate, twisting patterns, winding in and out of themselves. One foot tapped erratically against the skirting board, and her face tensed, teeth biting into her bottom lip. Ianto thought he recognised her expression, as if by these motions alone she could keep the monsters of the world at bay.
There was a hand on his shoulder, and Ianto let out a breath he didn't know he was holding.
"Shall we take a walk?"
Ianto turned to Jack, and nodded tightly.
Out in the open air, it was easier to pull himself together, to shake off the strange atmosphere of the place and to address things rationally again. "What's Evelyn's story, then?"
"She was taken by the Rift over fifty years ago," Jack said heavily. "We're not sure exactly how old she is now, but she came back to Cardiff about six months back. She doesn't speak, not yet anyway, but the nurses think she would have been old enough to know how before she was taken, and they're hopeful she might be one of the lucky ones that's able to leave this place one day."
"So, this is a care home, then. The casualties of space."
Jack nodded. "The nurses here do a phenomenal job - you can see they've got limited resources, and they know there's very little outside help they can appeal to. I do what I can."
Ianto wondered, then, how long this institution had been here for, how many years before Ianto had arrived here at all Jack had made this trip, bringing lost and broken souls to this windswept place, knowing they couldn't be fixed. He wondered, too, if there was someone Jack was waiting for, or even someone he hoped he'd never find, not like this. But that wasn't anything to do with Torchwood, and Ianto didn't ask, just touched Jack's arm and pointed at the boat returning to the landing to meet them.
"I hope I can count on you not to tell the others about this," Jack said as they walked down, all business.
"Yes, model of discretion as always, sir."
"Good. Now, just forget about this, all right?" Jack continued, suddenly fierce. "And I don't want you coming out here again."
They walked onto the boat, and Jack strode off to the other side of the deck while Ianto spoke to the sailor, waiting until they were underway before moving round to join him. Jack was leaning out over the side of the boat, hands clenched together beneath his chin. There was a time Ianto would have left him alone, taken that hostile front at face value. Things were different now.
He stood beside Jack, looked out over the crashing waves as they raced through, back to the mainland and away from all the despair of Flat Holm. Ianto reached out, took one of Jack's hands between his own. "You don't have to do these things alone," was all he said, and kissed Jack's palm once, and twice.