Mhalachai\'s Writing
"Mirror'd Across the Rift"
Story Information
Summary:
Sometimes, it seems as if the dark-haired girls named Gwen will always be the ones to save Cardiff...
Author's Notes:
Disclaimer: Russell T. Davis and the BBC own it all.
Setting/Spoilers: Set early in series two of Torchwood, some vague spoilers for episodes aired so far, and from the Ninth Doctor's "The Unquiet Dead".
Notes: I know the folks at the BBC say it was nothing but coincidental casting, but I can't leave it alone: same actress, two characters, both named Gwen, in Cardiff, on Dr. Who and Torchwood. I had to find a way to make it logical.
- Text Size +
Taking a deep breath, Gwen steeled herself. She could do this. It was just a question, and Jack had no reason to say no. Keeping that thought in mind, she pushed open the door to Jack's office.

Jack was nowhere to be seen.

"Of bloody course," Gwen muttered.

Then, as if he'd planned it, Jack popped out of the closet. "Something I can do for you?" he asked, eyebrows up.

Gwen contemplated making the comment, but it was far too obvious. "I need next Saturday off."

"No." Jack wrestled a old-fashioned puce taffeta dress onto his desk. "No way."

"But I haven't even told you why!"

"Fine." Jack crossed his arms over his chest, ignoring the dress slithering under its own power to the ground. "Tell me why, and I'll give it to you."

"Give me the day off, and I'll tell you why I need it," Gwen countered.

"Tell me first."

"Give it to me first!"

Toshiko, who had just pushed her way into Jack's office, raised her eyebrows and backed away slowly.

"Damn it!" Gwen gave Jack the glare he deserved. "Why are you being so difficult?"

"Because I'm the boss, and I can be," Jack reminded her. "I'm also the boss who can keep you working cleaning up the Bog on Saturday if I want."

"Jack--" She didn't know why she was arguing. Honestly, it wasn't as if it was an odd request. "Fine. You win."

He grinned at her. "I like it when I win."

Gwen sighed. "I need Saturday off because it's Mam's sixty-third birthday and she wants a whole big family gathering, sort of a pre-wedding party."

"Why was that so hard?" Jack slumped down into his chair. "Have fun."

"Thank you," Gwen said with exaggerated gratitude.

She had just turned to leave his office when he asked, "You're not that old."

"Excuse me?"

"You don't look old enough to have a mother who's turning sixty-three."

"Is that supposed to be a compliment?"

"Not really." Jack motioned Gwen to the chair across his desk. "It's supposed to be a opening for you to tell me all about your childhood, seeing as how you haven't done so before now."

Knowing when she was beaten, Gwen sat down. "What about my childhood?"

Jack shrugged. "You know, how you were on the honor role in primary school, how you're the baby of the family..."

Finally, Gwen figured out where Jack was going. "How I was adopted?" she suggested, unable to keep the cold, familiar inflections of authority from her voice. We need a description of the perpetrator, sir. "You've probably got all that in my personnel files, why do you care?"

The joking manner bled off Jack's face, leaving a very serious expression. It was disconcerting to see when they were working and downright unsettling now. "I have the brief outline from your paperwork, but there was a fire in the Cardiff children's agency in 1988 and most of your records burned."

When Jack had been gone, Gwen had looked through all of his files, had seen the boxes of information he had dug up on her life. She had burned off her anger in the firing range, but know how much Jack knew about her, when she knew almost nothing about him, still stung.

"What exactly do you want to know?" Gwen demanded. "How a man walking his dog found me wandering amongst the winter hedges when I was just a wee thing? How I wouldn't stop crying for days? Is that what you want to hear?" She clenched her fists against the memory of abandonment, the cold and the panic and the faintest remembrances of blue lightening.

Jack was staring at her in the way he stared at the alien artifacts in the safe. Like she was a puzzle he would solve. "I know that you were found wandering around in the country, abandoned, when you were two years old. The man who found you told the police that you were only wearing a cotton nightshirt, no shoes, no coat, on the verge of hypothermia and frostbite."

Gwen buried her head in her hands, only for a moment. The last time she'd gone over this had been with a police psychiatrist before she left the academy, and it always left her with the same sense of panic and of gaping, consuming loss.

"The only word I said for months was 'Gwen'," she heard herself saying. "They didn't know if it was my name or not, but I responded when anyone said it, so that's what they called me."

"And when the authorities couldn't find any record of a missing child of your description in the entire United Kingdom, they put you up for adoption and the Coopers took you in," Jack finished.

Gwen took a deep breath and sat up straight. She wasn't going to let the sudden blow of memory bend her spine in front of her teammates. "That's so," she said. She forced a smile on her face. "No trace of my real parents ever popped up. I used to think that I went into the police because of the police detective that kept coming 'round the house when I was a child, come to see if I remembered anything, if anyone had tried to make contact with me. Billy Wryn, Mam used to call him. He died five years ago."

"And no one from your real family ever tried to contact you," Jack asked.

"No, no one ever did!" Gwen frowned at him. "What's put this bee in your bonnet?"

Jack licked his lower lip, still staring. It was a moment before he answered. "Just trying to get a better understanding of my team."

"Well, there's nothing to understand," Gwen said as she got to her feet. "I'm just plain old Gwen Cooper."

A sharp rap on the glass made Jack look away. Ianto stuck his head into the room apologetically. "Owen wanted me to tell you the results are ready on the blue ooze from the schoolyard rubbish bins."

Jack sighed. "Gotta love you some blue ooze." He stood up, feet catching on the taffeta dress. "To the lab, Pinky!"

After Jack cleared the door, Ianto looked at Gwen. "Are you Pinky or am I?"

"I'm sure I don't want to know," Gwen said.

Ianto held the door for her. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," Gwen said automatically. "Yes. It's just Jack being Jack."

"Ah." Ianto walked beside Gwen down the stairs. "Good Jack or bad Jack?"

Gwen chanced a glance at Jack, bent over the microscope in the morgue. "I'll get back to you on that one."

~~~


"Have you seen my belt?" Rhys asked, rushing around the living room. "I'm going to be late for work and I can't find my belt!"

"Under the television," Gwen called absently. An article in the morning paper on a spate of property damage by the docks (probably Weevils, if the description of the damage was accurate) held most of her attention as she crammed toast into her mouth. "Is your good suit back from the cleaners?"

"What'd you say?"

With a mouthful of coffee, Gwen managed to swallow. "Your suit? Back from the cleaners? For the weekend?"

"I'll pick it up on the way home!" Rhys grabbed his bag from the couch. "Will I see you at dinner?"

"I might have to put in a few extra hours tonight, but I'm all yours on the weekend."

"Me and your whole family," Rhys grumbled, but he smiled as he kissed her on the cheek. "Take care. If I'm not here when you get in, I'll have gone with Dab to the pub."

"Have fun!"

The door slammed behind him. Glancing at clock, Gwen swore under her breath. She was also going to be late for work. So intent on getting down the stairs and to her car, Gwen didn't notice anything out of the ordinary until someone coughed right beside her.

Gwen spun, hand reaching for her gun before she realized that it was Jack. "Jesus Christ, Jack!" Gwen's hand dropped. "What are you doing here?"

He had the same expression as he had the day before, the sense of puzzlement and intensity. He waited a beat, then he said, "I came to give a lift to work."

"I have a car."

"I know." He smiled. "I thought we'd carpool."

"You live at the Hub. You don't need to carpool." She made no move towards him. He was acting oddly, and with Jack Harkness, that was never a good sign. "What are you doing here?"

Jack glanced down the street. "I need to talk to you, off the grid," he said, not looking at her. "About something I found."

"What can't you tell me at the office?"

Jack didn't answer.

"Jack!"

He turned towards the SUV. "Come on, Gwen."

Slowly, she followed him to the car. "Is everyone okay?" she asked. "Nothing's happened?"

"Everyone's fine." Jack waited until she was strapped into the car before starting the engine.

Gwen shifted in her seat to better see Jack. "So what do you want? What's wrong?"

Jack kept his eyes on the road. It took a minute before he spoke. "What's wrong is that I can't leave well enough alone."

"You got me alone in a car to tell me about your character flaws? Sorry to break it to you, but we already know about those."

"Cute," Jack muttered. "Real cute."

"So what is it?"

Jack reached the end of the lane and turned left.

Gwen's hand involuntarily curled around the door handle. "The Hub's the other way."

"I know. We're not going to the Hub yet."

"So where are we going?"

"You'll see."

"Damn it, Jack! Tell me where we're going! What is wrong with you?"

"Nothing's wrong." Jack reached the freeway and headed out onto the road down the coast.

"Jack--"

"I found you," Jack interrupted loudly.

Gwen blinked stupidly at him. "What are you talking about? You know where I live, of course you found me."

Never taking his eyes off the road, Jack pulled an envelope from his coat pocket and laid it on his knee. "That's not what I mean. I didn't find you now, I found you then."

"Are you ever going to start making any sense?"

Jack tapped at the steering wheel. "I found out who you are. Who you really are."

It took Gwen a moment to realize that the car hadn't been struck, that the heart-stopping wretch was only in her head. "What-- what are you talking about?" Her voice was faint in her ears. "There were no records, none, how could you--"

"The police didn't know what to look for," Jack said. "They did as good a job as they could, but they didn't look back."

"Back? What do you mean, back?" This all had to make sense in some world, right? She looked in the back seat. No one appeared to be hiding to jump out and say, 'Gotcha'. She wasn't sure if that made it better or worse.

Jack kept driving. "In 1847, twin girls were born to a miller and his wife in Dinas Powys. Two years later, the miller's wife was doing some washing outside their house while the girls napped inside. As she was hanging the wet clothes on the line, she saw what was later described by many eye-witnesses as a storm of blue lightening in the air over the woods. She ran back into the house, and when she got there, one twin was screaming and the other was gone."

Gwen wretched her eyes off Jack and forced herself to stare at the road. The panic and loss was back, along with the faint memory of blue lightening. I'm being suggestible, that's all, she told herself. That's all.

"They searched high and low in the woods and the paths, even dragged the mill pond, but they never found the missing girl. They looked for her until they died, ten years later." A crinkle of paper, and the envelope appeared in Gwen's line of vision. Her hand rose to take the paper. "In Cardiff in 1869, an alien species named the Gelth tried to force their way through the Rift, by manipulating the servant girl of a Cardiff undertaker. Even though the Gelth manipulated and later killed the girl, she managed to hold out long enough to destroy the Gelth and stem the hole in the Rift."

The car slowed and stopped by a small sea-side park. Jack turned off the engine. The faint ticking of the engine made Gwen's skin crawl. "You're telling me two separate stories," she managed to say as her fingers slowly opened the blank envelope. A small, old-fashioned photograph fell out into her hand.

"No, I'm not." Jack pulled the keys from the ignition. "The servant girl who saved the city was the surviving twin of the miller and his wife."

Gwen turned the photograph over the right way. What she saw made no sense.

It was a picture of herself.

"The girl's name was Gwyneth."

The world was going grey around the edges.

"That's why you kept saying 'Gwen' when they found you," Jack went on. "It was your sister's name. You were scared and wanted your twin sister."

"You're mad." Gwen dropped the photograph back into the envelope. "That was well over a hundred years ago. That can't have been me."

"It was you," Jack pressed, soft and relentless. "The place where you were found, it's notorious for Rift activity. You must have wandered out of the house while your sister was napping and gotten into the woods, where you fell through a crack in the Rift. You weren't telling the adults your name when they found you, you were calling for your twin sister, Gwyneth."

The morning's coffee and toast churning in her stomach, Gwen wrestled her way free of the seatbelt and out of the car. The brisk Welsh coast air tasted of salt and rotting things. She stumbled to the edge of the grass, where green things gave way to stony shore. All so real, all so normal.

This wasn't possible. Jack had to have made a mistake. She didn't have a twin, she wasn't from the past, she hadn't fallen through the Rift.

Boots crunched on the path. Jack knelt down, and Gwen realized that at some point she had fallen to her knees. "See, I'm thinking that if I was wrong, you wouldn't be falling apart," Jack spoke in the direction of the sea.

"You're mad," Gwen stuttered, her hands burning with the phantom weight of the photograph. "This is all a mistake."

"I don't think it is." Jack dug something else from his pocket and handed it to her. "In the medical tests Owen ran on you when you started at Torchwood, there were traces of antibodies to diseases that haven't been seen in the Western Hemisphere since before the First World War. Like you'd been exposed as a child to diseases that you couldn't possibly have been near."

Gwen stared at the paper, uncomprehending.

"Owen couldn't figure it out, but I told him to drop it at the time. We had bigger problems."

"And now?"

"And now, you're the problem."

"Jack--"

"If you fell through the Rift as a child, we need to know. Just in case."

"In case what?" The morning dew was seeping through Gwen's jeans, a discomfort drawing her back from the noise in her head. Focus, girl, she told herself. You need to focus.

"In case something happens," Jack said. "And in case..."

Gwen was tired of prompting Jack to speak, to divulge the myriad of secrets he held about her life. She watched the gulls dive and fall towards the sea.

Jack took a deep breath. "The servant girl Gwyneth, she was clairvoyant, what most people call Second Sight. The ability to see into the minds of those around her, to see the future. Living on top of the Rift for ten years probably pushed the ability to develop more than it would have if she lived elsewhere."

"I've lived here all my life," Gwen said, eyes going up to follow a bird into the clouds. "I can't see the future, Jack. Don't you go thinking that just because you told me all this, it's going to start now."

"We just need to make sure. You do have a tendency to be able to empathize with people."

Gwen felt a familiar jab of impatience. "That's not a supernatural gift, Jack. I realize it may be foreign to you, but it's a common part of being human."

"It's not as common as you think." Jack took the medical report from Gwen's hand. "And that thing with Eugene Jones -- you told me that it was like you could hear his ghost. That's certainly not normal." He stood. "Come on, I need Owen to run some tests on you back at the office."

"Are you going to tell them?"

Even though she was expecting it, his answer made her flinch when he said, "Yes. I don't really have a choice on this one, Gwen."

She wanted to argue that yes, he did have a choice, but it wouldn't have done any good.

Some days, it felt that nothing she did made any difference.

"What was her name?" Gwen asked suddenly. "That little girl who went missing."

Jack held out his hand to help Gwen stand. "Bronwyn," he said. "Her name was Bronwyn."

Gwen repeated the name over and over in her head as Jack drove them back to the Hub.

Bronwyn.

~~~


"What's wrong?" Rhys asked. He set a pint next to Gwen's hand on the table.

"Nothing's wrong," Gwen said automatically. She tried to smile, but Rhys obviously wasn't buying it.

"You've been quiet for days," he pointed out. "Is it something from work?" When Gwen hesitated, he added, "Look, I know you can't talk about it, but if there's anything I can do..."

Gwen curled her hand over Rhys's, his palm large and cool from holding the glasses. Good old Rhys. "It's just..." She took a long swallow of her pint. "I was thinking. About my family."

"We'll see them tomorrow, won't we?"

"No, not that," Gwen said. "I don't mean my family, I mean my real parents. Who I was, you know. Before."

Rhys's face darkened. "They're not your real parents," he said. His voice was low with anger. Not at her, Gwen knew, but at what had happened to her when she was young. The first time she had seem him furious was when she'd finally told him about her origins, he'd gotten so very angry at what she'd been through.

That had been when she'd first realized she was in love with him, and the memory, so far from where she was now, startled her.

She quirked up the corner of her mouth in a smile. "I'm just curious if there's anything I need to know about them."

Rhys's anger thawed a little. "You mean like medical history, stuff like that?"

"Sort of." Gwen toyed with her glass as she tried to figure out what she could possibly say to Rhys. I was born in 1847? I had a twin sister who saved the world from an alien species called the Gelth?

"No need for any of that," Rhys assured her. "You're healthy as a horse."

Gwen punched Rhys in the arm. "Aren't you the romantic?" she said, laughing. As she picked up her glass again, her mobile pinged with a message.

Rhys set his glass down a little too hard. "You're not going into work tonight?"

"Don't you start," Gwen retorted, happy feelings vanishing. She opened her phone to read the message.

Exhumed body of Gwyneth. DNA matches. Congratulations, Bronwyn. See you at work tomorrow AM.

Jack Harkness was the only person Gwen knew who would use a word like "congratulations" in a text message. She closed her phone with a shaking hand.

"Something wrong?" Rhys asked.

Gwen shook her head. "They just wanted me to be in at work a little early tomorrow morning," she lied. "Nothing to concern us now."

"Are you sure? You're white as a sheet."

"I'm fine, really." Gwen slid her phone back into her pocket. "Can you go get me some crisps?"

"Sure, I'll be right back."

While Rhys worked his way across the pub, Gwen pressed her hands flat to the sticky tabletop, and tried to remember how to breathe.

Jack hadn't mentioned any exhumation, but he had said they knew where the body of Gwyneth had been interred. He must have taken one of Gwen's countless blood samples and had Owen compare it with the DNA from the skeleton. DNA had to survive after one hundred and forty years, right?

One hundred and forty years since Gwyneth had died. Over one hundred and sixty years since Gwyneth and Bronwyn were born in a small Welsh town, to the miller and his wife. Before telephones, before automobiles, before vaccinations and disposable nappies and triple mocha frappuchinos.

She dragged a finger through a circle of condensation on the table. This whole thing was crazy. Even if she had been an accidental time traveling toddler, what did it matter now? She hadn't faded out in any of the Rift fluctuations, hadn't been abnormally affected by anything coming out of the Rift over the years. She certainly didn't have the Second Sight, no matter how much Jack prodded her to 'try it out'.

Did it even matter?

She picked up her glass again and drained the liquid. Who was she trying to kid? Of course it mattered. If she'd had a twin sister, it mattered. If she had a twin sister who had died saving Cardiff from invading aliens, then it really mattered.

If Jack had dug up her twin sister's body to do a DNA comparison, then it mattered. If Jack thought for an instant that what he'd done was okay, he was sorely mistaken.

Before she thought too hard about it, Gwen pulled out her mobile phone and sent replied to Jack's text message.

Put her back in her grave. Don't you DARE store her in the bog.

His reply message came in at three in the morning, dragging Gwen from a fitful nightmare of blue lightening and laughing skeletons in maid's outfits.

She's back in her resting place, Bronwyn.

Gwen wiped sleep from her eyes. Rhys was still asleep, as outside, the rain began to tap against the window glass.

Don't ever call me that again.

She stared at the dim windows for hours, unable to sleep.

In the morning, after Rhys got up, Gwen finally stumbled out of bed, passed the washroom where Rhys was singing in the shower, and was at the coffee pot before she could focus on what had happened the night before.

Everything had changed and nothing had changed. She hadn't been abandoned by her parents; Jack had said they searched for her their whole lives.

She hadn't been thrown away by the people who were supposed to love her. She'd been stolen, and they had loved her.

But it didn't matter. Because they were dead. Her mother, her father, her sister. She was the only one left alive, one hundred and forty years later. And what did that mean, in the long run?

~~~


"Anyone doing anything fun tonight?" Owen asked as he wrestled a video game cartridge out of his pocket.

"Strictly Come Dancing is filming in Cardiff tonight," Ianto said, helping Tosh into her coat.

Owen paused. "Can you possibly get any more sterotypical?"

Tosh glared at Owen. "It was my idea."

Ianto held up a set of tickets. "And we have two extra seats," he remarked. "Want to come?"

Without hesitation, Owen slung his bag over his shoulder. "Let's go."

Gwen smiled as she shut down her computer. Things never really changed in Torchwood.

Tosh glanced over at Gwen. "Do you want to come with us?"

"No, thanks. I think I'll stick around here for a while doing paperwork." Not exactly the truth, but as close as Gwen wanted to get at the moment.

"What about you, Jack?"

Jack, sprawled out on the couch, didn't look up from his files. "Treating dancing as a spectator sport is like watching porn in public," he said absently. "I'll pass, thanks."

"Don't work too hard," Tosh called as the door rolled open.

Ianto held the elevator door for the others. The sound of their voices was abruptly cut off as the elevator closed and the blast door rolled closed.

"So," Jack said into the silence. "Couldn't wait to have me to yourself?"

Gwen turned in her chair to face Jack. "I've gone over all those newspaper articles and police reports from 1869."

"Uh huh." Jack scrawled something across a page.

"And what you said the other day at the park, about Gwyneth saving the world from the Gelth?"

"Yeah?"

"It's not in any of the reports."

"Why would it be in any of the reports?" Jack asked, sounding honestly confused. "You think that the police in 1869 Cardiff would actually believe anything about aliens? No, they were much happier with the gas leak story."

"So if the police didn't know about it, and there's no record of it, how did you know?"

Jack hesitated a moment, then moved the papers off his lap and swung around. "I just did."

"Jack!"

"What?"

"You don't get to do this! Not now! It might be difficult for you to grasp, but knowing what happened matters to me." Gwen got to her feet, arms crossed over her chest. "How did you know about the Gelth?"

Jack tossed his pen onto the table. "Do you really want to know?"

"Yes."

"You want me to describe to me how your sister died?"

She had been halfway expecting the dig, and she didn't react. "It's the only thing of her I'll ever have."

Jack rubbed his hand across his face. "Fine," he muttered. "So before I came here, I met this girl, Rose, who'd been there, in Cardiff in 1869. She was in the house when the Gelth started to invade, and she saw what Gwyneth did. She told me..."

Gwen listened to Jack tell a fantastical story, of things so improbable and yet true, and it was the same as all of his other stories and yet completely different, because it was a story about Gwyneth and about her, and it was all she would ever have of her real family.

end
 
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and fandoms are the property of their respective owners (see stories for details). I am not profitting from my writing, and no copyright infringement is intended.

Site generated with eFiction v. 2. Shuriken skin by Sally Anderson (Lazuli) and Marohi.