Hearts

Chapter 7

Chapter 7

The TARDIS didn't come back. Not the next day, nor the next, nor even the one after that. On the third day Jack had to finally admit to himself that Kate didn't know how to get home. There was no way of telling where she had ended up, or to contact her. She was lost to them; probably drifting in space somewhere in a damaged time machine she didn't even know how to control.

He tried to console himself that at least she was alive and probably safe. That was more than he had done for Grey. The ancient evil they had faced had been beyond Torchwood's ability to fight. All they could do was send her away from the monster's claws.

This was even less consolation for Janice than it was for Jack or the rest of Torchwood. It was a bitter thing to lose first her husband, and now her child, to forces beyond her control.

She kept herself together. No tears, not bitter raging against the universe. She ate, she slept, she bathed, she even spoke when spoken to, but she did little else. There was something empty in her eyes. Jack had seen that look before. He knew where it led.

Despite her protests he made sure she was never on her own. A member of Torchwood always sat vigil with her on rotation. They each offered their own sort of comfort, most of which she rejected. She paid no mind to Gwen's overly sweet kindness, Tosh's awkward sympathy, or Owen's brash cynicism. She did however accept Ianto's coffee, and Jack's companionable silence.

Jack was dozing on her couch late on the fourth night when she woke him up with a gentle shake. He blinked his sleepy eyes awake. Janice was in her nightgown, a slight garment made of loose black silk. She was draped partly by an open blue bathrobe. Her hair was a mane of swirling chaos, tangled from restless slumber. Her eyes shone in the moonlight.

He really hoped this wasn't a late night grief-induced come on. He was all for the healing power of sex, but their relationship was strained enough as it was, and that could only complicate it for the worse. One thing he had learned through more than one bad experience was that it was not a good idea to sleep with a woman who secretly blamed you for something. In this case losing her daughter.

Fortunately Ms. Caylan did not have amorous intentions. Once she saw that Jack was awake she sat back on her heels. "I had a dream."

Jack sat up pushing off his greatcoat, which he had been using as a blanket. "A bad one?"

"I'm not sure."

"Then I think we need tea." Jack stood and stretched awkwardly, trying to get the kink out of his back. The sofa was old, and had a dip in it. He led the way through to dark and silent house to the kitchen, where he flipped the kettle on without turning on the light. That would have been to jarring against the peaceful summer night.

Janice sat in one of the mismatched wooden chair and pulled her robe tightly around herself.

The kettle clicked and Jack poured the hot water into the teapot. Her brought it and the cups over to the table.

"So what did you dream?"

"I saw Kate. At least I think it was her. It was all a little out of focus, like I was watching a television with bad reception. Somehow I knew it was her though, it felt like her. She was in some kind of city. It's hard to describe, it was a place of spires, and smoke, and lights. She was walking alone on the street. I think it was cold because she had a coat wrapped tightly around her. I think she was looking for something. I don't know what though, that was when I woke up."

"Do you think it was some kind of message from her?" Jack filled her teacup. She took it and cradled it in her hands like a flame.

"I…I don't know. Maybe it's just wishful thinking, wanting to know she's alive and well. It felt so real though, I could hear the sound of her steps, that squeaky echo of rubber against cobblestone. She was still wearing those rubbish rain boots she liked so much."

Jack fiddled with the cup in his hand, sloshing it and hardly noticing the burn of the warm liquid against his skin. He could feel how much Janice needed to believe in her dream, and he had no right to tell her otherwise. Hell, for all he knew Kate was sending her mother psychic communications across time and space. She was a resourceful girl.

"Well it sounds like she's doing all right for herself if she's got a coat and boots."

"Is that the old soldier in you talking? Putting all your stock in staying warm and dry?"

Jack paused, "How do you know I've ever been a soldier?"

"The coat's a bit of a tip off."

"It's a World War two coat."

"I was married to a time traveler, remember. I can tell when someone is out of place."

Jack sipped thoughtfully, "I suppose you would."

"You don't recognize the city I described, do you?"

Jack drained his cup and set it down. He dug through his memory, but nowhere in it was a city of cobblestones and spires. "I'm afraid not. If you have more dreams though, write them down and I'll take a look."

Janice took his hand and held it in hers for a moment, looking earnestly into Jack's sky blue eyes with her own murky green. "Thank you."

She released him and stood, walking wearily back to her bedroom. Jack watched her go and then leaned his chair back against the kitchen counter, putting his bare feet up on the table. Forlorn hope skirted about his subconscious, a candle in a distant window. Sleep did not come to him that night.

The dreams continued almost every night. Janice dreamed her daughter reading in a field of blue swirl-shaped plants and green flowers. She dreamed Kate swimming in the water of orange waves, surrounded by silver fish with wavy, wing-like fins. She saw her running and laughing with a creature that looked like a blue fox with porcupine spines, and the voice of a songbird.

She saw her in a great library searching through tome after tome of history, seeking any mention of Time Lords, time travel, or Earth. She saw her crying in the TARDIS curled up in the bed that was once her father's.

She saw her hiding terribly frightened and hiding in the cargo hold of a transport ship from pirates. She saw her running from some sort of shadow monster in the ruins of a once great city. She saw her helping to tend the wounded on the battlefield of some great and distant war.

Always though, in joy and sorrow, she saw that she was alone. Janice told Jack of all her dreams, in as much detail as she could, but her could never recognize anything. Perhaps Kate was too far away in space, or to far in the future, for Jacks knowledge to stretch to where she was, or perhaps it all truly just a mother's dreams.

After that first night, Jack didn't keep Janice under constant observation anymore. He knew she had come to some sort of peace within herself. She began to write again. As she told Jack, "My daughter's gone, but my deadlines aren't going anywhere. I might as well keep earning a living."

Jack had read some of Janice's books in order to make sure she didn't disclose anything about the greater universe she had learned from her husband. She didn't, not exactly. There were shadows, or distorted images of real places and species, but things were twisted enough through he lens of fiction for nothing to be completely recognizable.

For the sort of serial science fiction paperback Janice wrote, her work was unusually good. Not exactly Tolkein level, but fantastical enough to incite dreams and true enough to the human heart to touch at something deep. Her characters were brave and cowardly in their own turns. They faced down their challenges with human fear in their hearts, but an equal share of courage. There was humor in dark moments, and shadows in the joy. Jack found himself reading more of her books when he found the time.

Life moved on in the hub. A bit more quiet and sad, but it moved on. The Torchwood team was used to loss. The fact that this time didn't involve a clear death made it all the easier to get back to saving the world.

Kate had been gone a week when Stephanie wandered into the tourist office. It was late in the afternoon, nearly six o'clock. She walked in with the sort of dazed expression someone struggling to retrieve memories through the fog of retcon. She glanced about the office, picking up a city guide and setting it down again.

"Can I help you?" Ianto asked from behind the desk. She narrowed her eyes and looking at him thoughtfully.

"Do I know you?"

Ianto fought to keep his face blank. "No." What lie had the girl been told about Kate's disappearance? Did she believe it? Probably not if she was here looking for Kate.

She tilted her head to the side. "Oh, I'm sorry. You just look very familiar." She gazed past him to the door that led to the rest of the hub blinking uncertainly. Looking at her closer now Ianto could see that her eyes were puffy from recently shed tears. Her face was shadowed as if sleep had been evading her. Her dark hair hung lank and untended about her shoulders. She was the very image of young heartbreak.

As if sleepwalking she moved towards the door. Ianto sprang to his feet and blocked her way. "You can't go back there, miss."

Something finally clicked behind her dark eyes. She froze in her step. "Oh god, I do know you. Your name is Ianto."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

She pointed accusingly at him, "No, I remember now. You and Jack brought Kate and me here after the weevil attack. I do know this place. It's the hub." Her eyes went wide, "What did you do to me to make me forget? What have you done to Kate?"

Normally a thirteen-year-old girl can't shove a grown man out of her way. But Ianto was stunned and it didn't take much to push him off balance. Stephanie bolted past him through the wooden door.

The heavy cog door rolled back automatically, and she was in. Jack just had to time to manage an undignified "What?" before the angry girl crashed into him kicking and clawing.

"Where is she? Did you kill her, you bastard!" Jack managed to get a grip on her shoulders and lift her off her feet, holding the angry girl at arms length. She struggled and cursed, but couldn't get at him. Jack nearly dropped her as he recognized her.

"Stephanie?"

Ianto dashed into the hub. "I'm sorry sir she managed to get by me. I think she broke through the retcon."

Jack looked at Ianto and the angry girl in his arms. She glared back at him. "Put me down."

"If you calm down and stop trying to hit me, I will." She stop struggling and he set her back on her feet, taking a quick step back in case she decided to take another swing at him. She didn't.

"Where is Kate?"

"Gone, far away."

"How?"

"There was a creature that came out of the rift. It was hunting her and we couldn't stop it. The only thing she could do was run. She had a time machine left by her father. She was able to leave in it, but we don't think she knows how to pilot it. The monster is gone, but we don't have any way to bring her back"

Stephanie watched him carefully. After a moment her shoulders slumped. "You're telling the truth, aren't you. She's gone forever."

"I'm afraid so."

Silent tears began to pour from her eyes. Jack caught her as she began to slump to the ground. She sobbed earnestly then, hard painful undignified sobs. She buried her face in Jack's coat, soaking the wool with tears and snot. Jack stroked her unwashed hair, so much emotion for one so young. She was just old enough to get her heart broken, but not old enough to know how to handle grief. At last the tears ran out and she just clung to the damp fabric.

"You really loved her didn't you?"

"Yes," her voice was hoarse.

"There's a pill I could give you that would make you forget her."

"No."

"You wouldn't hurt anymore."

"I said no!" Stephanie released her death grip on the lapels and glared up with red-rimmed eyes. "How can you even suggest that? Haven't you ever been in love?"

"More times than you would believe, kid."

"You won't force me to forget will you?"

Jack shook his head slowly. "Not as long as you keep all of this a secret." He caught her gaze with deadly seriousness. "Listen. You have to promise not to tell anyone about this place or who Kate really was. If you do, I'll have to wipe your memory again, and make you forget Kate completely."

"I promise." Stephanie straitened up wiping her eyes. "Is it alright if I go home now?"

"Go ahead, do you think you can get back on your own? I could have Gwen drive you if you want."

"No, I'm fine." Stephanie turned and left as quickly as she had come.

With a weary sigh, Jack leaned against the railing, looking down into the empty hub. After a moment he sensed Ianto at his side.

"Do you really think that was wise, sir?"

"Not really, but I don't have the heart to retcon her again. Kate will never forgive us if she comes home and Stephanie doesn't remember her at all."

"Do you really think she'll come back, sir?"

"We have to hope. We owe her that much."


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