captgreatcoat: (Earnest)
It's been a long day already, not helped by the early-morning wake-up call. He's spent most of it at St Helen's, cross-checking data and talking to the doctors and nurses and Jane. But he knew after just a few minutes with her what had happened. All it took to confirm was a call to Ianto to ask him to check the Rift monitor for the time and place she was found. Which yielded exactly the result he expected. Then, of course, once she could be released into his care, he had to make sure things were ready out on the island for her.

This is the second time he's been here today, and the bright sunshine and the cool breeze blowing in off the channel do little to lighten his mood. Whatever he may tell Gwen or Ianto about there being nothing they can do stop this happening, he can't help feeling that every person this happens to is another failure. He tells himself that what he does is make Cardiff a better place to live, after all.

Some days he can't kid himself that he's done any such thing.

His day just gets worse when he descends into the facility and hears the sound of footsteps down the corridor. There's the low, gentle voice of Helen, the nurse in charge of this place, and, in response, Gwen, her tone sharp, accusatory.

If she's going to go throwing any accusations around, they ought to be thrown at him.

"I'll take it from here, Helen," he says as he steps around the corner and comes face-to-face with Gwen. This explains why Ianto didn't want to talk to him about all this last night. Ianto, apparently, already made his decision and acted without him. And told Gwen about this place. "It was Ianto, wasn't it?"

Gwen doesn't answer, but stares at him, eyes wide.

"What are you doing?" There's an edge in her tone that says this is going to be just as unpleasant as he thought. He can understand what she must be thinking. If he found this place, looking as run-down as it does, full of people who've gone missing off the streets, what would he think?

"I can explain."

She backs away, shaking her head.

"Stay away from me!" The betrayal, the hurt, the accusation in her eyes might be deserved, but they sting no less for that. Especially when she adds, her voice growing ever higher, ever more frantic, "These are the people taken by the Rift! What are they doing here? What have you done?"

"Gwen, listen to me," he says, but it's too late. Her eyes have fallen on the door marked 'Jonah's room'. Jack closes his eyes for a moment and prepares for the onslaught. Helen doesn't know what to think; she's standing with her hands clasped in front of her looking nervously from Gwen to Jack and back again.

"He's here. He's been here all along."

He shakes his head, steps forward again, his voice low, conciliatory, as he speaks.

"It's not that simple."

"Open it."

"Gwen, before I ..." There are so many things she needs to know, so many things she doesn't understand, but the line of her jaw is set and he can't remember the time he last saw that much anger on her face.

"NOW!" He stares at her, and his lips thin as his teeth clench in anger. He'd hoped to spare her this, to spare Jonah this. To spare himself this. He owes her an explanation. But she doesn't deserve what she's about to see. He walks past her, around her. Their eyes meet for a moment before he reaches into his pocket for his key card and swipes it through the lock. He watches Gwen enter the room and waits for a moment.

There's nothing more he can do here. He turns back to Helen.

"Tell her I'll be outside when she wants to talk to me."

What Gwen's about to see will raise more questions than it answers. Jonah's a man of fifty now, scarred and traumatised by what's happened to him. Jack doesn't want to face this now; perhaps a little time in the sun will make it all seem a little more bearable.

When she comes outside, there are tears sparkling in her eyes, though she obviously doesn't want to show it. He's not sure if she sees him as she goes to sit on the grass at the edge of the cliff. She doesn't speak as he walks up to her and sits beside her.

Now that she's seen it all, there's no need to hold back. So he tells her, his voice much quieter than usual, the story. How when he took over Torchwood, there were two people in the vaults, two people who'd come through the Rift and been ravaged, physically and emotionally, by what they'd seen. They'd been locked up and forgotten by Torchwood, but they deserved so much better. How he'd set up this place to house them, to look after them, to make sure they got the care they needed and deserved. He looks into her eyes as he speaks, willing her to believe him, to understand that whatever she might think, he only meant the best.

It mightn't look like much, but there's been a lot of time and effort gone into this place, and without a budget, he's had to spend a great deal of his own money and time to establish a facility out here, on an island in the Bristol Channel, where they will be safe.

"How many are there?"

"Seventeen, last count." Gwen lets out a disbelieving sound and shakes her head as she stares across the waves. "It's increased over the last year. Like the Rift is trying to correct its mistakes." His voice breaks and he looks away again. That's what all this is about, isn't it? Mistakes.

"But not all the missing return."

"No."

"You can't keep them hidden. They have families who deserve to know ..."

"Gwen," he turns back to her, in the vain hope that she can be made to understand what she's asking. "They're sick. In ways you could never imagine. We can't fix them. We just care for them."

It's not a surprise when she asks him to bring Jonah's mother here to see him. Even though it's an impossibility, even though it's against every rule governing the secrecy of Torchwood, she still believes that somehow this can be made right.

"She has a right to know. She said not knowing is the worst part."

"How are you going to tell her," he asks, gesticulating with one hand in his passion, "her child has aged 40 years in the last seven months? That he's scarred, that he cannot look after himself..." What would that do to the poor woman? It would be like having all his own personal nightmares come true. He won't inflict that on someone.

But she's determined. She wants to bring Jonah's mother here, to show her what's happened to her son. To tell her about Torchwood and the Rift and the work they do.

"What if she doesn't believe you?"

In a way, he always knew this would happen.

"I have to try. We owe her the truth. Jack, if you'd lost someone, wouldn't you want to know?"

He has to turn away before she sees the emotion on his face. He can't hide it from her. Because she has no way of knowing that he did lose someone, the one person who meant the most to him. And that ever since, he's berated himself for what happened. For the fact that he never found out what happened.

Her hand closes on his and he knows he's going to tell her she can do it, against all his better judgement. Wasn't that the one thing he always told himself?

That all he wanted was to know?
captgreatcoat: (Cardiff night)
He's been expecting Ianto to want to talk more about what happened today all night. Especially after Gwen burst in on them - and wasn't that an interesting experience? - and demanded to be able to take Jonah's disappearances on as her own special project. He told her, again, that it wasn't going to happen, and he didn't stick around to hear what Ianto had to say to her.

But Ianto's been unusually subdued since then, as though he's got something on his mind. They've worked late tonight and Ianto's not the only one who's got a lot to think about. This issue is one that's sensitive to Jack, for reasons that he prefers not to share with anyone. Every time he thinks of the people stolen by the Rift, the people who just vanish without a trace, he remembers that day that Gray was taken. Every time he sees the people the Rift returns, injured and aged and broken by what they've seen, he imagines all the things that might have happened to him.

He couldn't face that today. And he didn't have to tonight, and that's a mercy. Now, he dozes, in a blissful state of half-sleep, with Ianto curled up beside him, the reassuring weight of his head on Jack's shoulder. It's a precious moment, his worries suspended just for a while.

And that's rare enough.

When his mobile rings, its tone shrill in the silence of the early hours, the moment's shattered. He groans and stumbles out of bed, fumbling in the darkness for his coat. Ianto lets out a grumble of protest as Jack snatches up the phone.

"Jack Harkness."

"Captain Harkness? It's Dr Connolly from St Helen's Hospital. I'm sorry to call you so late, but ... well, I didn't know who else to call."

"What's up, Doctor?" He rubs a hand over his eyes. He's dealt with her before. She was the one who brought the first person who came back through the Rift to him.

"We've had a woman come in, a psychiatric case. Her name and description match up with a missing person from six months ago, but ... well, she's older. And some of the things she's saying, Captain. It's obvious she's been through some severe trauma."

Just like the others.

He runs a hand through his hair and reaches for his shirt.

"I'll be there as soon as I can." He hangs up the phone and shrugs into his shirt.

"What's up, Jack?" Ianto asks, voice quiet, as Jack finishes dressing and grabs his gear.

"Sounds like another one for the island."

"Will you be okay?" Ianto sits up, rubbing his eyes. Jack nods.

"I can handle it."

He never likes Ianto to see this. Hell, he never likes to see it himself. And it never gets any easier, because each time, it's another life destroyed. Each person who goes to Flat Holm is another person whose future has been stolen.

His fingers tap irritably on the steering wheel all the way to St Helen's, even though there's little traffic in the dead of the night. This is - and always has been - one of the most unpleasant aspects of his job. He wanted to help people, yet here he's faced with a problem that has no solution, no fix.

He pulls into the hospital carpark and strides into the building, coat flapping around his ankles. Dr Connolly's there to greet him, and she leads him into the familiar room where he's done far, far too many of these interviews. The woman sitting at the table in the middle of the room is hunched over, muttering, tugging at her hair.

"Jane?"

The eyes that look up to meet his are wild.

"Can't wait, can't talk, all burning."

"Jane, it's all right." He sits down opposite her, hands clasped on the table. "Jane. My name's Jack. I'm here to help you."
captgreatcoat: (Glare)
Call it intuition, call it knowing Gwen, call it whatever the hell you want, but Jack's had a feeling that Gwen's not going to be able to let this Jonah Bevan thing rest. After all, that's why he hired her. She doesn't let go of things. She has that deep compassion, that ability to see the small picture, that she often accuses him of lacking. But the thing she doesn't see is the big picture.

So it's with no small amount of trepidation that he takes the briefing notes Tosh is handing out, that he looks at the plasma screen showing the negative Rift spikes, looks at the faces of the missing people staring at him from the computer screen.

This isn't going to be pretty.

He can feel Ianto's eyes on him as Gwen and Tosh explain what they've found: that what they thought was just a normal anomaly actually represents the Rift opening up and taking something. That the abnormally high number of missing persons in Cardiff reflects people to whom just that has happened. That there are dozens of people out there whose lives have been ruined.

That's exactly what happened to Jonah Bevan.

All things he knows. All things he can't change.

"What do we think happens to them?" Owen asks, his voice unusually subdued.

"Scattered through time and space, I guess," Jack replies, trying not to think of just what that means. He's tormented enough by that thought every time he goes out to the island. "This is good work." It is, undeniably so, and if it weren't for the fact that what she's opened is an impossible problem with absolutely no solution, if it weren't for the fact that he's already told her to let this go, he'd be proud of her. "But I don't know what you want us to do."

"Find a way to prevent it," Gwen says, as though doing that would be easy. As though they'd find a way if they just put their minds to it. As though he hasn't spent long hours trying to figure out how to do just that and failing.

"Toshiko, can we predict when the spikes are gonna happen?" he asks, even though he knows what the answer will be.

"Er, no. And they're gone in a matter of seconds."

"Then I don't know how we combat them." He sighs and looks down at the table as Gwen starts to lecture him about duty. As if he didn't know what his duty was. As if he were abandoning his responsibilities here. As if solving this were as simple as treating someone who's been mauled by a Weevil. "Weevils we can catch." He spreads his hands, helplessly, and looks her in the eye across the length of the conference table. "If there’re victims, we fix their wounds, but this, we don't know when it's gonna happen, we don't know where they end up. Seriously, Gwen." He pauses for a moment, watches her, shakes his head. "Practically. Tell me what we should do."

"We help those left behind."

He looks down at his papers, shaking his head.

"It's nothing to do with us. Move on."

"Jack, you should see these people ..."

"Some things we can't fix." They can't prevent it, there's no risk factors, it's totally random. They can't warn anyone, and even if they could, it wouldn't do any good. And as for telling the families ... well, what would happen if word of this got out, which it surely would?

Chaos and panic. And preventing that from happening, that's what his duty is.

"Look, Jack's right," says Owen. He's not usually known for being a voice of reason, but he's a doctor. He has some understanding of this sort of thing, even if he's no psychiatrist. "They need counselling. Support. That is not us."

"We are the only ones who know the truth," Gwen says, painfully sincere. "We can help them." He looks down at the table again, hands clasped in front of him. He recognises the signs. She's got it into her head that they have got to do something about this. Regardless of the actual possibilities of the situation. What does she expect him to do, work miracles?

"We don't have to be this hard." The words hit him like a slap across the face. After everything they've been through together, after everything he's done, does she, can she, honestly think that this is a matter of his lack of compassion? That he doesn't know full well just how much these people are hurting? That he wouldn't help them if he could? "It's not a badge of honour!"

Of any of them, it's Jack who knows what those people are going through. He's the one who's lived with the guilt, the uncertainty, of having someone he loves just vanish.

He does not have to put up with this from her.

"Close this down." He pushes up from the table and storms out of the room. He hears her call his name, but he keeps walking. He only stops when he hears Ianto call out to him. He turns, hands on his hips. He knows what Ianto's going to say from the look on his face, so he preempts him.

"I am not going to tell her."

"Jack, she's not going to let it go. Maybe by telling her about the people who've come back, by showing her what's happened, you can give her some idea of just how impossible this all is."

"She is gonna want to start telling people. She's gonna want to fix it. You've seen it, Ianto. There is no fix for this. We can't do anything more than we already do."

Ianto's silent for a moment, but the look on his face is troubled.

"Are you about to start lecturing me on my lack of compassion?" Because he's had enough of it for one day. It's bad enough from his best friend. He doesn't need it from his lover as well.

"Of course not. But -"

"If we start telling people about this, there is gonna be mass panic as a result. That is what we're here to prevent. We can't just -"

They break apart, falling silent as Tosh walks past them. Jack shakes his head and looks back into the conference room where Gwen's sitting, alone, at the head of the table. Their eyes meet for a long, long moment before he turns away. Her eyes are full of accusation. He turns back to Ianto and takes a deep breath.

"I'm the boss. This is my call," he says, and because he can't deal with any more of this, he turns and heads off down the corridor. After a step, remorse hits; it's not Ianto's fault, any of this.

He doesn't stop, but he does manage to smile back over his shoulder to Ianto as he walks away.
captgreatcoat: (Heart on his sleeve)
It's remarkable how easy it is to just slip back into the rhythm of life at Torchwood. This time, there's no apologies to be made, no broken relationships to mend. No betrayal to seek forgiveness for. The only one who knows he's been gone is Ianto, and Ianto above all know that it wasn't his choice. And he's been understanding, to say the least.

Not having anyone else question him has meant he can just go straight back to normal. Which, right now, involves reverse-engineering some alien technology with scavenged computer parts. That's not going too well, so he's moved on to cleaning and oiling his wrist-strap and holster in preparation for the evening's activities. He'll be headed out soon with Ianto. Weevil-hunting. It's a pastime he's kind of missed at the Outpost.

There's a tapping sound at the door. He glances up to see Gwen standing there, and grins at her.

"Hi, Jack. Do you have a moment?"

He sets down his holster.

"Sure. Always for you. How's Andy?" She often comes back in a bad mood from talking to her former partner. Which he can kind of understand. All the Cardiff police are pains, and Andy's no exception.

She smiles and steps through the doorway.

"Actually, I wanted to ask you something. Andy thinks you were out on the Barrage the same night something strange happened."

"And when did that become Andy's business?" See, that's the problem with the cops. They always go sticking their noses into things they really don't understand. And really can't cope with.

"I know, I know, but I told him I'd look into it. See if anything strange was going on, you know?"

He rolls his eyes and stands up. Really, what Andy needs is to be reminded that Torchwood is, after all, a secret organisation. And that there's a reason he doesn't know what they do. But ... he'll humour Gwen. She understands. She'll know what to tell him.

"Okay." He reaches down and picks up gun and holster. "When did you say this was?"

"About seven months back. Were you on the Barrage that night?"

Seven months. He pauses for a moment's thought as he slips the gun into his holster and unbuckles his belt. His fingers pause in looping his belt through the hostler for a moment.

No. No, she can't mean that. She can't.

"They have this cute little coffee shack," he says, with a smirk to cover the shocked little moment. "I sometimes stop by there."

"A boy went missing. Just under an hour before you were there."

Damn. Damn damn damn. This ... this is something nobody but he and Ianto know about. For very, very good reason.

He glances down at his desk, unsure what to say for a moment. But then he nods and looks up at her.

"Okay."

"Jonah Bevan, 15 years old. I thought maybe you were out there because of him."

He was. Of course he was. He was there as soon as he recognised the little negative spike on their equipment that meant the Rift had been open. That meant it could have taken someone. And it had.

It's the stuff of nightmares. Worse, it's the stuff of Time Agency horror stories. And worse, this is something they can't fix. No matter how much he wants to. There's nothing that can be done. And Gwen, Gwen will want to find some magic cure. He knows her. That compassion, that humanity, is why she's such a valuable member of his team.

The fact that there is no solution will break her heart.

He hates to lie to her, he really does. But what choice does he have?

"Maybe if we'd registered Rift activity." He turns away from her, picks up his wrist-strap, grabs his coat off its hook.

"No." She shakes her head, looking uncertain about his answer. "I just checked with Tosh. It was all clear."

"Sorry. Can't help." He drapes the coat over his shoulder and pushes past her. Gwen's just about the closest friend he has. He hates having to keep things from her. But that's who he is. It's what he does.

And this? This is for her own good. Whatever she may think. And yet, he can't quite leave it at that. He turns to her, meets her eyes for a moment. "Want me to look into it for you?”

"No, it's fine. So it was just a coincidence then?"

She doesn't believe it. He can tell. But God, she can't know. She can't.

Jonah disappeared when he was just a kid. He came back a broken, beaten shell of a man, decades older than he should be. Jonah's seen the worst of what time and space can throw at you. And it destroyed him.

This is something Jack wants Gwen a long, long way away from. It's hard enough for him to deal with. It takes all his strength, and he's seen it before. But Gwen ... well, she's still got some shreds of idealism about this job. He won't see that taken away from her.

He still feels it's far from his finest moment as he makes his excuses and heads the hell out of there.

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captgreatcoat: (Default)
Captain Jack Harkness

July 2014

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