Adina (adina_atl) wrote,

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Fic: Administrative Details (Torchwood)

Title: Administrative Details
Fandom: Torchwood
Pairing: None
Rating: If you're old enough to watch Torchwood, you're old enough to read this (Teen)
Spoilers: End of Days, S2E11
Summary: When the boss disappears, someone has to keep the wheels turning.

ETA: There's sequel, Flotsam and Jetsam. Jack comes back and discovering what Ianto was up to while he was gone, among other things.


To: Jack
Subject: Elizabeth
Date: January 2, 2008

Can you come out here early? Elizabeth is very much worse, I'm afraid.


The blue letters on white background didn't change no matter how long Ianto stared at them. UNIT was easy enough to deal with, at least as long as they didn't insist on speaking to Jack on the phone. Bland reassurances, situation under control, cover story in place, blah, blah, blah. Even the PM could be fobbed off with hallucinogens in the water supply. Again.

But this. Helen. Elizabeth. It sounded personal, but at the same time, Touchwood? The name couldn't be coincidence.

Whois was singularly unhelpful, providing a name and address that looked promising until he found a death record for the putative owner dating back to 1982--age one year, eight months, and three days. Discounting an extraordinarily precocious, time-travelling toddler, someone was taking their aliases from the churchyard again.

Jack's email archive was more helpful, disgorging when asked twenty-seven emails from and twelve replies to her. Jack apparently didn't initiate emails to her, didn't even always respond.

"How's it going?" Gwen asked from the doorway, hanging back as if she weren't ready to intrude into Jack's office.

"I've replied to all the urgent messages," Ianto said, "though a Major Smythe of UNIT may require an actual phone call." She grimaced. "I forwarded the message to Owen; have him make the call. The phrase 'misogynistic troglodyte' may have passed Jack's lips a time or two after speaking with him."

Her mouth twitched and she almost smiled; it was the closest she'd come since Jack's disappearance. "Good thing you know Jack so well. And his passwords."

Jack's password was easy, he never changed it, used none of the tricks of spelling or punctuation that made guessing harder. The world Jack came from, wherever and whatever that was, didn't use alphanumeric nonsense words for computer security, he suspected. But that only emphasized how little he knew. His mouth still burned from Jack's last kiss, his heart still ached from how easily he walked away, but that was all he really knew of Jack. "I don't know any administrative assistant who doesn't know the boss's password. Nor one who can't sign his name."

"Good thing." Her face was crumpling; he tapped the side of the monitor firmly to distract her.

"Got a bit of an odd one here, though: Helen H. from Touchwood dot org."

"Touchwood?" He nodded, but she only shook her head. He smiled at her blandly until she decided to go away.

The thirty-nine message to and from Helen were spread over the last three years, though more than half were from the last eleven months. The first three messages called Jack "Mr. Harkness," the rest "Jack." None used Helen's full name. Four names were mentioned in addition to Elizabeth: two female, one male, and one that could be either. Seventeen messages asked Jack to call, though no phone number was given. Twenty made reference to a visit, and five of those gave enough information that Ianto could identify the day and time of the visit.

Jack hadn't used the SUV to get to wherever this place was, or at least he hadn't signed it out. Not that that meant anything, of course, since Jack was capable of ignoring or even falsifying the log on a whim. But Ianto had had the SUV signed out during one of Jack's mysterious visits--body dumping, apparently--so it was unlikely.

Financial records were more promising: each of the five visits were preceded by a fifty-quid cash withdrawal from Jack's Torchwood account, as well as ten to twenty quid of purchases on his personal cash card, usually at Tesco. A search on fifty-pound withdrawals found one about every week, going back almost eight years. It was too small for a bribe, too irregular for a payoff. Eight years, though, and Jack and Helen only corresponded for three. Another search of email turned up Maureen S and Chester E, both at Chester mentioned "the island," but Maureen, oh Maureen was the jackpot.

Flat Holm.

From: Harkness, Jack
Subject: Re: Elizabeth
Date: January 2, 2008

I can't come out now because

Ianto watched the cursor blink for a few moments. Captain Jack Harkness. Never apologize, never explain.

I can't come visit now, but I'm sending my assistant, Ianto Jones, in my place. Look for a cute Welshman in a nice suit.


Nice. Jack wouldn't say "nice." Sharp suit, that was it. And assistant? He didn't know what he was to Jack, how he would describe Ianto's place in Jack's life. Assistant would have to do.

To: Jack
Subject: Re: Elizabeth
Date: January 2, 2008

Can you ask him to bring chocolate? We're out and it's the only thing that seems to help anymore.


From: Jones, Ianto
Subject: Re: Elizabeth
Date: January 2, 2008

> Can you ask him to bring chocolate? We're out and
> it's the only thing that seems to help anymore.

Dairy or plain?

Ianto Jones

To: Jones, Ianto
Subject: Re: Elizabeth
Date: January 2, 2008

Plain. I think it's the theobromine.


Helen was a heavy-set black woman, wearing a long brown coat thrown over dull blue scrubs. She caught the line the boat pilot tossed her, wrapping it around a stanchion and holding it until Ianto was safe and dry on the concrete quay, and then threw it back to him. The boat nosed back out to open water and he could only hope Helen had a way to call it back when Ianto was ready to leave.

"A cute Welshman in a sharp suit," she said with a smile and a shake of her head.

He chuckled, rolling his eyes slightly. "That's Jack for you." He offered his hand. "Ianto Jones." She took it, her hand warm despite the cold wind, sturdy and surprisingly gentle.

"Helen Hardwick."

He lifted the white carrier bag in his left hand suggestively, passing it over to her when she reached for it. She peered inside, relief and something like sadness showing in her eyes at the kilogram of chocolate inside. "I don't think she's going to last that long," she admitted, turning to lead the way up a dirt track into the centre of the island. "I'm glad you could come, I only wish--"

"Jack would be here if he could," he assured her. "It's just--just not possible."

"I know." She said it easily, like it was safe to trust Jack.

The path led to an underground bunker and an ancient-looking keypad. She entered a code without any care to keep him from seeing; a part of him recorded it automatically. Not even a swipe card as backup. Still, no one would get this far without being seen.

Inside, the bunker could use some paint, but it was clean, the air fresh and free of the damp and mould Ianto battled in the Hub. A group of people were watching television in one room, the screen protected by wire. Most of them were old or scarred or both. Patients. Patients in a strange sort of hospital, and Helen was their nurse.

"What--" His question was cut off as a sharp-faced young man of twenty or so advanced from behind Helen to stand in front of him. "Hello?"

"Hello." The man--barely more than a boy--cocked his head. "Do you want to play with me?" It wasn't exactly an invitation, and the intonation was anything but childlike. Behind the man's head Helen was wide-eyed, shaking her head urgently.

"No, I don't think so," Ianto answered accordingly. The man nodded and turned to go. Helen stopped him with a light touch, one finger only, on his shoulder.

"Trent." The man gave her his full attention, disconcertingly direct. "Go ask Susan to take you outside. It's cold but sunny." The man nodded again, silently, and left. Ianto let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. Helen sighed. "Sorry about that."

She led the way further into the bunker, past rows of doors, grim as cell doors except for chalkboards holding the names of the occupants. The last door read "Elizabeth" and was decorated with little purple flowers. Helen used a swipe card to open it, reinforcing the resemblance to a cell. Ianto swallowed painfully.

The room inside was...purple, or at least that was his first impression. The walls were white, but so covered with drawings of lavender flowers, purple cats, and violet houses that they were almost impossible to see. No dinosaurs, he was happy to note. The sheets on the bed dominating the room were purple as well, though with yellow flowers for a change. The person in the bed wasn't purple at all.

His first thought was child. His second, old woman. His third was to wonder if she was some kind of alien, more benign than most that came through the Rift. Her hair was white and thin, her face a mass of wrinkles, but she was so tiny, barely four feet tall and slight as a child. An IV stand stood next to her bed, the line running to the back of one shrivelled hand. Her eyes on him were bright and clear, however.

"You're not Cap'n Jack," she complained. Her voice was childish, as was her lack of tact. The tension and pain in her face was not, and the wariness in her eyes was old.

"No, I'm not," he agreed easily. "I'm Ianto Jones; Captain Jack sent me to keep you company for a while."

"Oh." The sound was devoid of emotion.

"Mr. Ianto brought chocolate for you," Helen said, offering the bag back to Ianto. He took a bar and put it on the bed by her hands. She fumbled with it, but her hands, twisted with age and tethered by the IV, couldn't manage the wrapper. He took it back, unwrapping it and breaking off a careful square. She opened her mouth and he popped it inside.

She smiled and it was a child's smile, no matter her white hair or wrinkles. Some of the tension left her frame and she breathed deeper and slower. He broke off another piece and held it out, popping in her mouth as soon as she finished the first. After the fourth piece she smiled and shook her head.

"Tell me a story?"

He didn't know any stories that were appropriate for little girls, or little old ladies either for that matter, but the expectation in her eyes was impossible to resist. What had Jack told her? His stories could make a grown man blush; Ianto couldn't imagine him telling ones suitable for mixed company. "Do you know 'The house that Jack built?'?" She shook her head solemnly. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Helen turn towards the door. "Helen, wait." He held up a finger for Elizabeth to give him a moment, and fished a vial out of his pocket. "I don't know if this will work," he said, passing the vial to Helen.

She angled the label to the light. "Cute and clever. I'll go see if I can crib up a dosage."

He sat down at a chair drawn up to Elizabeth's bedside. "This is the house that Jack built...."


Helen came back while he was in the middle of "Jack Be Nimble" and injected the purified theobromine into her IV bag. Remembering the obscene use Jack made of the rhyme, he stuttered over "candlestick."


Elizabeth fell asleep while he was telling her of visiting his grandparents: making scones with his grandmother, helping his grandfather finding lost lambs, picking blackberries. She liked stories of ordinary things, ordinary people. He kept talking, telling her of the farmyard cats and his grandfather's three-legged dog until Helen came in to check on her. She listened to her heart and breathing and then straightened up.

"You can leave if you want," she said, putting her stethoscope back into her pocket. "It won't be long now."

"Jack would stay, wouldn't he." It wasn't a question, but she nodded wearily. "This seems to be my week to be a down-market replacement. Penance for my sins, perhaps." She pulled another chair up beside his and they sat in silence for a few minutes, watching Elizabeth breathe. "What happened to her?" he asked at last. "To all of them?"

She gave him a long look. "You'd know that better than I, Mr. Jones."

Torchwood happened to her. Or Torchwood failed her. It was much the same thing. "I don't know what you mean."

Her laugh was utterly without humour. "I'm willing to call it a failed experiment if that makes you happier, but if this was an experiment it's the sort that would give Mengele nightmares." She gave another snort of not-laughter, reaching down to smooth out the sheet covering Elizabeth. "Jack found her. In Splott from the sounds of it, but I've never asked. Before that she remembers being somewhere dark, with things pulling at her. And before that, she remembers leaving Reception with her mother and seeing a bright light."

Reception. So she was human, from Earth, now. The Rift took, and the Rift gave back. "I see."

Elizabeth's breathing slowed, each breath exhaled as a long sigh, each inhale shallower than the one before. He found himself willing her to breathe, willing her to stop.

She stopped.
Tags: fiction, torchwood
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