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The Rising

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Disclaimer:  Captain Jack Harkness, Rex Matheson, Esther Drummond and her family, and the concept of Torchwood don’t belong to me.  Carlyon, Priscilla, Octavia and Natalie Tregarth, as well as the rest of their family, do.  I don’t mind if you borrow any of them (it’s been known to happen, don’t laugh), just please ask first, and return them to me alive, in one piece and as close to unscathed as humanly possible.

 

Warnings:  Some violence and language, mainly on the part of Rex whose potty-mouth is almost as bad as Owen’s.  Sexual situations may crop up, but that’s far in the future.    There are original characters; oh yes, and the Families are back, making trouble.    

 The Rising   

Chapter One   

Voices Thought Silenced     

 

Minutes after the end of the Blessing

Buenos Aires, Argentina

  

It was over.  They ended the Miracle.  The world would start creeping back to normal, and that made the price worth it.

 

For her own part, she would die with the cool breeze on her face.  It wasn’t such a bad way to go, she thought with a faint smile. . .dying with the sun and the wind, and after saving the world.  No, not a bad way to die, at all.  If only she thought to say good-bye to Jack.  Did he know how much she cared for him, how glad she was to have known him?  And far more troubling, would he blame himself for her death?  She heard the bone-deep weariness in his voice when he told Rex that he didn’t know what to do. . .but she also knew that he was lying.  He knew exactly what needed to be done, but for his own reasons, whatever they might be, he couldn’t tell Rex.

 

She thought back to the first time he allowed her to take care of him, while Rex and Gwen were poring over the information Gwen retrieved from Jillian Kitzinger’s office.  Jack wasn’t feeling well. . .said it was the aftereffects of his hangover, but Esther hadn’t believed him.  She was right. . .the young analyst found him in his room, face somewhat pale and pinched with pain.  That was before she saw the bruises covering his torso.  He admitted (after a great deal of hemming and hawing) that he’d been beaten up, but nothing more was said, though Esther had a sneaking suspicion it had to do with the way he reacted to Oswald Danes.  She said nothing. . .had too many years of taking care of her sister to do anything else, and instead helped him into the bathroom where she tended to his bruises and he admitted that he’d been an idiot.  Maybe that was where their friendship truly began, in that filthy bathroom.

 

That friendship deepened as they traveled across country from Washington DC to California, even after her stupidity nearly got him and Gwen. . .well, not killed, but endangered both of their lives.  Yet, he comforted her and reassured her, never saying that she was right to do what she did, but encouraging her to learn from her mistakes.  And then, he was shot.  Even now, two months later, two months of taking care of him and changing his bandages and comforting him through the fever that ravaged him, even now, Esther regretted how she reacted.  She never truly forgave herself for simply standing there with her hands in the air, crying out his name.  She should have caught him, should have eased him to the ground, should have done so many things that her stunned brain simply never. . .

 

Would have, could have, should have.  Would Sarah be all right?  What about Alys and Melanie?  Did they end the Miracle in time to save her beautiful nieces?  After she raced away from the Colasanto compound, Jack bleeding and barely conscious in the back seat, she had no way of keeping track of Sarah and the girls, although there was apparently quite a long line of people for Category Zero.  That gave her hope.  No matter what happened to her, as long as her sister and nieces were all right, she was happy.  The world began to gray for Esther Drummond, and as it did, a single image flashed through her mind:  a handsome, dark-haired man with a young face and ancient eyes, smiling at her as he said, “Captain Jack Harkness. . .pleasure to meet you.”

 

And then there was nothing.

  

TWTWTWTWTW

   

A small town just south of Roswell, New Mexico

Three months later

 

One a scale of one to ten, this qualified as a fifteen in terms of ‘not too bright things I’ve done.’  Still, there was a woman who was being imprisoned by the lowlifes who nearly destroyed civilization and if there was one thing that Natalie Tregarth despised, it was bullies who insisted on ruining things for everyone else.  She hated them when she was a child being punished in elementary school for the sins of others, and she hated them even more as an adult.

 

Honestly, she still wasn’t sure how her grandfather managed to infiltrate the Families.  Just from what she learned during his briefing with her and her mother, they were incredibly, insanely paranoid, not trusting anyone except each other and even that was iffy.  Then again, she was more of a peasant, to their way of thinking.  That made it easier to slip under the radar. . . but in a way, that made it more critical that she maintain her low profile.  At least until it was time for her to blow this hot dog stand.

 

In the months since the world returned to normal, the entire Tregarth family began work to take down the Families.  Natalie’s grandfather wouldn’t specify why he was so determined to see them destroyed or how he knew that they even existed. . .only that they benefitted from hurting a dear friend of his, and he wasn’t inclined to forget or forgive.  Really, that was the only explanation that Natalie could have bought. . .with such a vengeful attitude, the Families had to have done something really nasty to her grandfather’s friend. Even more telling, her mother (who decried meeting violence with violence) actually encouraged his desire for vengeance.  Nat kinda hoped she’d have the chance to meet this person, if her mother didn’t have a problem with violence this time.

 

For now, however, her focus had to be on the woman she came here to help.  Her mother and grandfather were making arrangements to spring them both.  And that would be soon.  She hoped.  But she pasted a smile on her face as she entered the room where the poor girl lay unconscious for so long.  She nearly died. . .she should have died, but the Families still had a use for her.  Damn them.  It wasn’t that Natalie wanted her to die, but the Families had a habit of interfering where they shouldn’t.  And that was something of an understatement.

 

“G’morning, Tal,” the girl in the bed mumbled as Natalie drew closer.  The ‘drudge’ cringed, just a little.  ‘Tal.’  Ew.  She hated it when people called her that.  But, it was hardly her patient’s fault. . .that was the name on her tag.  Grandfather didn’t want to run the risk that someone would figure out that the drudge who cleaned the floors was in fact Natalie Tregarth, which made her wonder just what the hell her grandfather did in his previous life, before he moved to the States before Natalie was born.

 

“Good morning, Esther. . .did you sleep well?” Natalie inquired.  The girl hummed sleepily, and not for the first time, Nat wondered just why Esther Drummond was so damn important.  It didn’t matter, because she was important, but the question remained in her mind.  She was a pretty girl, even with her matted hair and a moony expression on her face. . .and given that she was about ten years younger than Nat, who would be thirty-five in October, yes, she was a girl.  And there were times, like this morning, when the would-be rescuer felt every minute of those ten years.

 

“Had dreams.  Strange dreams,” Esther murmured dreamily, and Nat shuddered a little.  She couldn’t prove it, but she was beginning to suspect that the Families were messing with the girl’s memories.  There was someone she called to occasionally. . .someone named ‘Jack.’  Sometimes, there was tenderness and affection in her voice when she spoke to/spoke of him.  Other times, especially when she first woke up, there was rage, and Nat feared that the Families were trying to turn Esther against this man.  All the more reason to get her out of this hellhole.  Sooner, rather than later.

 

“You’ll have to tell me about those dreams one of these days, sweetheart,” Nat said lightly, trying to keep her anxiety out of her voice.  God, her life had been one insane mess after another, ever since the Earth was removed from its orbit and the children began speaking in unison.  Her own daughter was too young to be affected, at least by the speaking in unison part (thank God), but the Tregarth family prevented any children from being rounded up for that so-called vaccination.  Then there were the missing hours or days, it was hard to be sure. . .

 

Regardless, during the last few years, Natalie’s life was one crisis after another.  Ever since she was a child, Natalie’s mother and grandfather told her that she had to be ready, but never explained what she needed to be ready for.  Although, given the way things went over the last two and a half years, she supposed it didn’t really matter.  She and her aunt Octavia, who was only fifteen years older than she was, found themselves in leadership positions during most of those crises she mentally named, because they were prepared for things to go to shit.  Still, Nat had a feeling that wasn’t what her grandfather meant by being ready.  And that?  That scared the living hell out of her.

 

“Tal. . .aren’t you here a little early?” Esther asked, sounding more awake than she did a few minutes earlier and her voice stronger than it was since Nat first started cleaning her room.  Two very promising signs.  Natalie looked at the younger woman, and then withdrew the fob watch around her neck.  A quick glance at the timepiece assured her that yes, she was here somewhat earlier than usual.  She looked around, wondering what clued Esther into that, aside from the welcome sign of the drugs wearing off.  Esther added, sounding almost apologetic, “The light isn’t as strong as it usually is.”

 

“You are a clever girl!  I am here a little early. . .couldn’t sleep,” Nat lied, not even giving it a second thought.  Well, not a first thought, much less a second thought.  She was undercover, playing a role, so she was already lying.  On the other hand, it was hardly Esther’s fault, and she did feel badly about lying to the blonde girl.  Natalie reasoned that there was a good chance the Families listened in on their conversations, so she was really lying to them, rather than Esther.  Whatever helped her to deal with this mess.  She supposed she could have been angry with her grandfather, but she chose to be angry with the Families.  They created the mess. 

 

“I don’t know about that, Tal.  I don’t remember what happened to me.  The last thing I remember. . .there’s a man.  He’s about your age, maybe a little older. . .dark hair and blue eyes, really hot. . .and he has this smile that. . .wow,” Esther replied.  Natalie felt her hands shake, just for a minute.  There was something about that description that sounded so familiar.  Maybe someone she heard Grandfather and Mom talking about?  Either way, it sounded like more of Esther’s memories were coming back.  It was almost time to go, then, and it couldn’t come soon enough for Natalie.  She couldn’t wait to get Esther out of here and go home to Oklahoma, hold her daughter again.

 

She was saved from answering by the arrival of one of the Family doctors.  Natalie lowered her head, and silently prayed that Esther didn’t share her thoughts with the doctor.  If that happened. . .but it didn’t.  Esther answered the questions posed to her, not sharing anything that she shared with Natalie.  Good girl, she thought, keep that up and we’ll both get out of this alive and intact.  She quietly slipped from the room and wheeled her bucket back to the restroom.  And then, she had a text to send to her family.  It consisted of two words.  ‘Game on.’

  

TWTWTWTW

  

An abandoned farmhouse a few miles away

  

Game on.  Or so the text ran.  The old man sitting in front of the computer smiled coldly, reading the text repeatedly.  Well, well.  Things were moving at a much faster clip than he anticipated, but that was all right.  His former colleagues in Torchwood always used to say that he was excellent at modifying plans.  It was one of the things that made him so good at his job, and so feared by those who hated him.  You could attack him, yes. . .but he would find a way to overcome the obstacle and then he would make you pay.  Dearly.  There was just one time when his ability to modify failed him. . .and those he loved most suffered for it.  Not again.  Never again.

 

When the Families abducted young Esther Drummond and tricked her friends into believing she was dead, they inadvertently gave him a way of making amends for his grievous mistakes.  No doubt they would regret that, but that was their problem.  For now, Carlyon Tregarth called over his shoulder, “Priscilla, I just received word from Natalie.  Young Miss Drummond is awake enough to realize something is terribly wrong.  Inform Octavia that it’s time.”

 

“You bet I will!” his oldest daughter retorted and Carlyon smiled faintly.  He and Sophia did well with their daughters.  Priscilla was a resourceful, determined teacher who raised two bright, strong-willed women.  He didn’t like thinking about the fact that Priscilla was almost sixty. . .hated what that said about him.  And Octavia, now approaching fifty, was a former cop who raised her own boys to be guardians in a different way.  She probably would still be a cop, if it weren’t for the mission that nearly ended her life eighteen years earlier.  Carlyon had never forgiven himself for that.  He wouldn’t blame Octavia if she still couldn’t forgive him. Fortunately, his girls were better people than he was.

 

His next call was to Octavia’s oldest son, twenty-five year old Jason.  Where he and Sophia gave their children Latin-based names, Octavia and her late husband chose names with Greek roots.  Carlyon said a silent prayer for the peaceful rest of his son-in-law David, a police officer who perished in the terrible attacks of September 11.  Jason and his younger brother, twenty-two year old Lucas, quietly honored their father. . .Jason by joining the military and Lucas by becoming an EMT.  He was sure that his late son-in-law was proud of those boys. . .Carlyon certainly was.  Once Jason was on the line, he said only, “The pawn will be freed.”

 

Jason hissed, but responded, “I’ll send the message.  It’s a good thing Angelo Colasanto was comatose during the Miracle.  I don’t think he’d be very pleased with his granddaughter.”  Carlyon smiled without any humor.  No, he was quite sure that his occasional nemesis and just as occasional ally wouldn’t have pleased with the way his granddaughter arranged the necessary meeting with Carlyon and Angelo’s mutual friend.  Stupid bitch.  Didn’t she know that curiosity would have done the trick?  Not that she was the only guilty party in that situation.  Stupid, stupid bitches, both of them.

 

“Indeed, my dear boy.  If all works as it’s meant to work, that young woman will be safely back with those who care for her sooner than she thinks, and Natalie will be home, safe and sound,” Carlyon told his oldest grandson.  He just hoped that the poor girl remembered whom her friends were.  Natalie shared her fear that the girl was being brainwashed, and Carlyon had to admit, it was entirely likely.  He doubted if that was originally in the plans, but they took an opportunity where they found it.  If they didn’t have a habit of hurting the people who mattered to Carlyon, he’d admire them for that.  He continued after a moment, “Once the message is sent, I need you boys to be ready with both vans. . .after the girls are free, we have to ride hell-bent for leather.”

 

“Understood, Grandfather,” the boy replied, very carefully avoiding the final phrase that Carlyon used and the oddity of a proper Englishman using such a blatantly American West term.  Good boy.  David and Octavia raised him properly.  There was a slight hesitation, and then Jason asked quietly, “Grandfather, I know that this entire organization needs to go down, and that this is just the first blow against them, but why is Esther Drummond so important that Natalie is risking her life to save her?”  Unspoken was Jason’s true question. . .why was this girl’s life more important than Natalie’s.  Carlyon wasn’t entirely sure how to answer, especially since Natalie’s life was more important to Carlyon than his own.

 

At last, he said, “Because she’s one of us, Jason.  She’s a guardian, a protector, even though her way is different from yours.  It was she who took care of her older sister and young nieces, when it was her sister’s responsibility to take care of her.  And Natalie is risking her life because the Families want to use Esther as a weapon against another ally of ours.”  There was another long silence while Jason processed his answer.  Carlyon knew his grandson knew this already, and had his own reasons for asking.

 

Finally, Jason replied, “I see.  The message has been sent.  I just hope he fulfills your faith in him, Grandfather.”  Carlyon smiled in spite of himself.  He knew he couldn’t expect Jason or Lucas or Adriane to understand.  He couldn’t even expect Natalie to understand.  He, Sophia, Priscilla and Octavia were the only ones who knew the man, who wasn’t Superman but who was quite extraordinary in his own right.

 

However, all he said was, “Your aunt is alive because of him, Jason.  He is the only reason she’s alive.”  Because he made the sacrifices that Carlyon refused to make, body and soul.  There was another long silence from Jason as his grandson worked out things in his mind, and Carlyon smiled.  The boy knew he didn’t mean Priscilla, but the hidden child, the child whom Sophia was carrying when she was infected with the alien influenza in 1965, the child whom he could not claim for her own safety.

 

Jason answered, “Understood.  I’ve received a message back from him. . .he wants to know why he should trust us.  I told him that there was a Families operative among the soldiers who rescued Miss Drummond and Agent Matheson in Buenos Aires, who was able to trick Agent Matheson into believing that Miss Drummond was dead, using a particularly strong sedative.  I also reminded him that Agent Matheson was himself injured quite badly.  He repeated his question of trusting us.  He’s a very suspicious man, Grandfather. . .and he was one of your operatives?”

 

“In a manner of speaking, Jason, he was.  Tell him, the boy whom he rescued from the 1927 Tsinghai earthquake seeks to repay his debts.  He’ll understand that better than anything else,” Carlyon replied.  Yes, he could have made reference to the events of 1965, but considering what the man lost due to Carlyon’s cowardice, that wouldn’t be a wise idea.  He didn’t address the ‘suspicious’ charge that Jason leveled.  The man’s trust was betrayed more than once. . .Carlyon would have been worried if he simply believed what they told him.

 

There was a brief silence while his grandson sent the message, and then Jason breathed, “Message received.  He wants the coordinates of the hospital.  I don’t think he believes us, Grandfather.”  Again, Carlyon would be worried if his old friend simply accepted what he was told, especially when it came to the Families.  Or Carlyon himself.  So many betrayals, too many betrayals, too much asked from the man and not enough given to him.  This was a good start, but it was only a start.  It was Carlyon’s hope that they would continue to make things right with him. . .that they would be given that chance.

 

“He has excellent reasons to have trust issues, Jason, believe me on that.  Give him what he asks for and send him a photo of Natalie, let him know that she’s already inside the hospital and keeping an eye on Esther.  No.  No, don’t word it like that.  Tell him that she’s caring for Esther,” Carlyon responded.  The wording was very important, because of the implications.  If he said that Nat was keeping an eye on Esther, it could be misinterpreted.  Carlyon always chose his words very carefully, something his old friend knew well.  It was always Carlyon’s most potent weapon.

 

This time, Jason laughed at the response and said, “His response is funny.  ‘Okay, now I believe you.  She looks like Carlyon, only prettier.’  When we get Nat out of there, we should tell her that. . .she’s not inclined to think she is pretty.”  Carlyon bit back a smile at the rejoinder and sighed quietly at Jason’s observation.  Yes, that was something Carlyon knew entirely too well.  The girl tended to compare herself unfavorably to Priscilla, Octavia and Sophia.  Jason continued, “Apparently, he’s still in the States, didn’t return to Cardiff.  Wonder what he’s been up to.”

 

“Truly, Jason, the best idea is not to ask.  He’s always been slightly unpredictable.  Does he give an anticipated time of arrival?” Carlyon asked, carefully not mentioning just how unpredictable their ally could be.  Instead, he focused on the mission.  The sooner Natalie was out of that place, the happier he would be.  He didn’t want any member of his family anywhere near the Families, but in this case, it couldn’t be helped.  There were certain people who knew Priscilla and Octavia. . .if not by name, then by face, and they knew that they were his daughters.  As for Adriane, she was too young, too rebellious, too fiery to pull this off.  And he needed Jason and Lucas on the outside, Jason for his military experience and Lucas for his medic training.  Much as he hated to put Natalie in danger, she had the best chance of getting herself and that girl out of the hospital safely.

 

“He’s saying that he’ll meet us at zero five hundred local time,” Jason reported.  Whether those words were used or not was up for debate.  There was a brief silence, before Jason laughed again, adding, “He also says that he expects you to provide some of the weaponry you took when you left Cardiff, Grandfather.  Do I even want to know the story behind that comment?”  No, dear boy, Carlyon thought, you most assuredly do not.  He took a great deal with him when he left Cardiff nearly forty years earlier:   his two daughters, his wife’s body, and modified weaponry.  He didn’t bother asking how his friend knew about those weapons.  He had a way of learning these things.

 

However, he said only, “Reassure him that we’ll have everything we need, and then some.”  He thought briefly about instructing his grandson to inform his old friend that he had a business proposition, but decided against it.  No, he wanted to be face to face when that happened.  After what he did to Jack Harkness forty-five years earlier, the absolute least he owed the man was a chance to deck him or spit in his face if he so chose when Carlyon made that offer.  Too much rode on this rescue. . .far more than the lives of two young women.

  

TWTWTWTWTW

  

Denver, Colorado

  

Carlyon Tregarth.  Well, there was a name from the past.

 

Captain Jack Harkness sat back after the final missive came through from a person who claimed to represent Carlyon Tregarth.  First Angelo, now Carlyon.  Except this time, his past was seeking to help him.  Esther was alive; she was alive and being held by the Families.  He couldn’t claim to be surprised that they were still around and still causing trouble, but they had Esther.  It was his own fault, he knew.  As soon as they knew she was important to him, she became a target.  He hoped she could forgive him for that.

 

“You okay there, World War Two?” Rex Matheson asked, taking the seat beside his own.  After the Miracle ended and Esther’s memorial service was held, Jack stayed in the US just long enough to be reassured that the CIA agent was not immortal.  He returned to Britain to check on his daughter (carefully staying out of sight), while he met with the head of Torchwood Two in Scotland to decide what came next.  The Rift was closed, at least in Cardiff, and Jack was concerned it would be opened again.  He hoped not.  If the Rift opened elsewhere, it made Ianto’s final sacrifice null and void.  But about two weeks earlier, Rex came across something that troubled him, and he did the unthinkable:  he asked Jack for help.  This time, Jack stayed well away from New York, California and DC.  That was fine with Rex, who was conducting his investigation in Colorado. 

 

“What if I told you that Esther was still alive?” Jack asked, folding his arms over his chest and staring at the other man.  Rex blinked in astonishment and Jack explained, “I received word from an old friend of mine.  He confirmed his identity by mentioning how we met back in 1927, just before I came to the States and met Angelo Colasanto.  According to Carlyon, the Families had an operative in the unit that rescued you and Esther after the Blessing was ended.”

 

Rex swore quietly, confirming Jack’s suspicion that Rex had the same niggling doubt he experienced.   But Esther’s sister Sarah insisted upon a closed casket.  They could smile at the beautiful picture, and remember her that way, Sarah decided, and not the cold husk of the body that they were burying.  Rex asked, “How much do you wanna bet we coulda rescued Esther right then and there?  Goddamn son of a bitch, I should have known!  Too many things didn’t add up!”

 

“We know now, and if we’d tried to do anything at the time, more than just Charlotte Wills would have died.  And I don’t think Esther would have forgiven us if our attempt to rescue her would have resulted in her nieces being killed,” Jack reminded him sharply.  Rex closed his eyes and nodded.  Jack repeated, “We know now.  I have coordinates in New Mexico.  If we leave now, we can be at the rendezvous point by five am tomorrow morning.  Carlyon’s got a person on the inside, a family member of his own, and he wants her out as well.”

 

“So the question is, Jack. . .do you trust him?” Rex questioned.  Jack sighed and slumped back in his chair, rubbing his eyes.  Trust.  That was a really funny word when it came to his past.  Rex added, “Okay, maybe that was the wrong way of putting it.  Let me ask you this. . .what was he to you?  Former lover, old friend, something else?”  That was slightly better, but still covered a lot of ground.  At various times in Carlyon’s life, he was many things to Jack.  It was one reason he hated labels so much, one of many.

 

“I first met him when he was hardly more than a baby. . .he was five years old, one of the victims of the 1927 Tsinghai earthquake.  I was meeting with his parents, who found a rather frightening alien artifact, and they didn’t trust Torchwood London with it.  They were turning it over to Torchwood Cardiff instead,” Jack explained.  Rex nodded his understanding and Jack continued, “They left the room to retrieve the object, leaving their small son with me.  That’s when the earthquake hit.  I grabbed Carlyon and we were trapped together for about thirty hours.”

 

Rex, demonstrating that flash of insight which occasionally annoyed Jack, asked, “How many times did you die during those thirty hours, and did he realize what was happening?”  Jack shook his head.  No, he made sure that the little boy had no clue that Jack was dying and reviving.  He convinced the youngster that every time he gasped for breath, he was regaining consciousness.  It wasn’t until years later, after Jack died in Carlyon’s arms during World War II that the young man realized the truth of what happened in that small space.  Rex shook his head, murmuring, “Damn, World War II, every time I think I have you figured out, you go and shock me.  So.  What are we gonna do about Esther?”

 

“Well, I know that Carlyon is behind the contact, and that one of his female relatives is in the hospital, caring for Esther.  Do we trust him?  For all we know, this girl Natalie could also be a hostage and Carlyon might want to trade me for her.  If that happens, and we both know it’s entirely possible, I need you to remain in reserve.  I can’t stay dead, Rex, but that doesn’t mean I like dying, and I might need you to come in after us,” Jack outlined.  Rex’s dark eyes narrowed and Jack braced himself for the argument he knew would result.  And it did.  Just not the one he was expecting.

 

“Not happening, Harkness. . .I’m goin’ in with you.  Esther is in this situation because of me, and I’m not letting you do this alone!” Rex answered fiercely.  Jack started to protest, started to remind Rex of how close the former CIA agent himself came to dying, but Rex cut him off with a swift hand motion, repeating, “You’re not going in by yourself, and you can leave me behind, but I will not stay put.  Esther was my responsibility while we were in Buenos Aires, since I’m the senior agent, and I let her get shot.”

 

“That’s more my fault, Rex.  I let them know when I threatened them that she was important to me, and that’s why she was targeted.  One reason why my daughter never wanted me around, even before the 456 returned to Earth. . .she, and her mother, thought I was dangerous to be around, and they were right,” Jack replied.  Rex snorted and shook his head.  There were times when Matheson reminded him of Owen Harper, with his prickly demeanor and his exasperation with Jack’s innuendos. . .and there were times when Jack couldn’t put his finger on whom Rex was like.

 

This was one of the latter times as the former agent snorted, “That is such a cop-out, Harkness.  Life’s dangerous, Jack.  Esther chose to come with me, but that bastard chose to shoot her.  If we wanna blame someone, we blame him, not ourselves.  But I’m still not letting you go by yourself.  You get yourself killed, you’ll need someone to save your sorry ass.  Again.”  This was said with a smirk and Jack rolled his eyes.  Rex continued more seriously, “So, let’s get packed and on the road, and no, you’re not driving.  You scared the hell out of me the last time I let you drive.” 

 

“Knock yourself out.  On second thought, don’t, that would mean I’d be carrying your ass all over the country, and I have better things to do with. . .my time,” Jack concluded, seeing Rex’s eyes narrow in a threatening manner at the implied innuendo.  Honestly, he was entirely too easy to wind up sometimes!  The other man still growled at him, but Jack simply smirked at him, continuing, “You pack first, I’ll get a few other routes, just in case.  And the Families are getting sloppy.  The closest city to their little set-up?  None other than Roswell, New Mexico.”  Now Rex’s brows merged with his hairline.

 

“Seriously?  Roswell?  How clichéd is that?” he asked incredulously and Jack simply laughed.  Rex shook his head, muttering, “Roswell, New Mexico and Area 51.  Damn, World War II, you attract the strangest enemies.  What time did you tell this guy we’d meet with him?  It’s six thirty right now, and I’m guessing you wanna be on the road within the next half hour or so.” 

 

“Five am tomorrow morning.  I want to leave as soon as possible.  Get us there, give us the opportunity to do some recon of our own.  Tomorrow morning, we go in hard, we go in fast, and we don’t let them hurt either of those girls.  I’m getting really sick of people using family members as pawns, as leverage,” Jack said and Rex nodded his agreement, rising to his feet.  He turned to leave the room, and Jack added, “Oh, and when we get there, we’ll have access to more toys.  When Carlyon left Torchwood Cardiff years ago, he confiscated some weapons that he didn’t trust the new director with.  So if you hear any explosions, don’t worry too much.”

 

Rex shook his head again, muttering under his breath about Jack’s insanity.  The immortal leaned back, devoting his attention to finding new routes to the coordinates given to him.  He made sure his attention was on that, rather than on his worries for Esther.  And he was worried for her.  He was worried about what the Families had done to her since the end of the Miracle, and he was worried about the Tregarth factor in this entire mess.  Things could play out two ways, and that worried him most of all.

  

TWTWTWTWTW

  

Jason Martinelli sat back, scrubbing his hand over his face.  Not for the first time, he wished that his mother’s family wasn’t so damn strange.  And when he said his mother’s family, he primarily meant his grandfather.  Yeah, he loved the old man, but Carlyon Tregarth defined ‘eccentric.’  All right, yeah, Aunt Priscilla was a little bit on the strange side, too, but it was cool, the way she did it.  But his grandfather?  He was a whole ‘nother kind of strange.

 

Take this newest mission.  Sure, he got that his grandfather wronged this guy, Jack Harkness, years earlier.  He even got that his grandfather, mother, and aunt wanted to help him, to make amends.  And he certainly understood that this guy saved his grandfather.  Never mind that the dude had to be at least a hundred years old, because between the Earth being taken out of its orbit, the kids speaking in unison, and then the so-called Miracle Day, Jason’s perception of reality took one helluva beating.  But what Jason didn’t get was why Natalie was undercover at the hospital, when she was never trained and she wasn’t very good at lying.  Who was this Esther Drummond chick and why was Natalie risking her life for her?

 

Really, it made no sense.  Okay, if Esther Drummond was important to Harkness, he could understand why they were getting her out of that hospital.  But it still didn’t explain why someone who was untrained and whose personality totally unsuited to undercover was doing the job.  His mom explained that Natalie was the best choice if they wanted to avoid scrutiny.  Again, why Natalie?  He or Lucas should have been sent in her place.  He was a soldier and Lucas was a medic.

 

Their mom simply smiled and answered that Natalie was far better at deception than they realized.  She added more seriously that Nat checked in with her or Aunt Priscilla every night, and that none of her safe words were used.  Jason still didn’t like it.  He didn’t like anything dealing with the Families, he didn’t like that a member of his own family was risking her life for a stranger.  He didn’t even like it when a member of his family risked their lives for someone he knew.  That wasn’t their job.  But apparently, this was Natalie’s choice. . .and that trumped everything else.

 

So, the message was sent and the distractions were planned.  If Harkness was worth anything, he’d be there early to scout the perimeter himself.  Again, that was assuming that his grandfather was right about this dude, and Jason had his doubts about that.  No one was like that, no one could be, not even this man whom his grandfather described in such glowing terms.  Jason heard it said that time poured honey on the memory, and that was probably what happened.  Aunt Priscilla and Mom were both little kids the last time they saw him, and from what his grandfather, Harkness saved Grandmother Sophia’s life.  So it was naturally they put him on a pedestal like some big hero.  But real life didn’t work that way.

 

Jason wanted to blame Harkness for the fall he could see coming for his grandfather, aunt, and mother, but when all was said and done, it wasn’t the man’s fault.  They chose to put him on that pedestal, chose to exalt him as someone who was superhuman.  Jason had no doubt that the man was good. . .even very good.  But he was still just a human being.  And much as it would hurt his family, it would be their own fault when Harkness couldn’t be what they needed or wanted him to be.  Jason would prepare himself, though, to pick up the pieces.  He just hoped that Natalie (or the girl whom she was protecting) didn’t pay the price for their unrealistic expectations. 

 

He told Lucas that they would leave around zero one hundred hours, while their mother, aunt, and grandfather were all asleep.  He had no idea what Adriane would be doing at that time of the night, or if she even had a part in the upcoming rescue.  Half the time, he wasn’t sure if she knew.  Lucas would drive, while Jason planted the charges in strategic locations around the perimeter.  There would be lots of smoke and flash, but very little in the way of destruction. . .at least, not until the girls were safely away.  Then Jason would really party.  Of course, after that happened, the Families would come after them full throttle.  Let them.  The Tregarth family was ready.

 

Of course, Jason thought with a small smirk, they’ll have to find us first.  And the last place the Families would think to look for them was Oklahoma.  More than likely, that was why his grandfather chose the southwestern state when he stopped wandering about the United States and Canada so many years earlier.  Oh, the Families would eventually find the Tregarths, Jason knew that.  But his own family would use the time they had, re-building his grandfather’s organization, decimated over the last five years by disasters, both natural and otherwise.

 

He might not have been so blasé about his family’s ability to remain hidden, had he known that when the rift in Cardiff closed, it was inevitable that it would reopen elsewhere. . .somewhere much closer to the Tregarth homestead.

   

TWTWTWTWTWTW

   

Her name was Esther Drummond.  She was twenty-six years old.  Both of her parents were dead.  She had one older sister Sarah and two nieces, Alys and Melanie, who were the great loves of her life.  When this nightmare first began, nearly five months earlier, she had something of a crush on her immediate boss, Rex Matheson.  And she was terrified that she was losing her mind. 

 

When she was awake, it was easy to remember the truth about her life.  She was in the CIA until the Miracle, when the Families’ manipulation drove her into the arms of Torchwood (almost literally).  She met an amazing, beautiful, extraordinary man who, even though he was the only person who could die, still worked to protect others.  For two months after he was shot, she took care of him, helped him heal and if she fell more than a little bit in love with him, no one could really blame her.

 

It was when she fell asleep that she became vulnerable to the manipulations of the Families.  She realized not long after she woke up in this hospital that she was in the custody of the Families, and she could make a pretty good guess why.  They intended to use her against Jack.  She wouldn’t fall into their trap, not a second time.  She should have listened to Jack at the Colasanto compound when she noticed the discrepancy in the floor, but she didn’t.  She didn’t, she told Director Shapiro about what she noticed, and Jack ended up paying the price for that betrayal with a bullet to his gut.  She wouldn’t do that to him, not again.  But oh, they were making it so hard to keep to her word!

 

Each time she woke up, she heard whispers that Jack knew she was here and left her to die, that he never truly cared for her.  Esther knew better.  She heard the pain in his voice, heard the terror in Rex’s voice as she fought for her life in Buenos Aires.  They cared for her.  And that was why Natalie’s visits meant so much to her.  Oh, her name tag said ‘Tal,’ but it had to be short for ‘Natalie’ or ‘Natalia,’ and Esther believed that if it was ‘Natalia,’ her nickname would be ‘Talia,’ rather than ‘Tal.’  Silly thing to focus on, but it helped her to stay Esther.  Tal or Natalie or whatever her name was. . .she was Esther’s touchstone with her sanity, even if Esther couldn’t be completely honest with her yet.

 

That morning when Tal was early, Esther noticed something else.  Over and above how early Tal was, for the first time, Esther noticed the watch that hung around Tal’s neck.  And she remembered. . .remembered stories Jack told her while she was caring for him, changing his bandages, soothing his fever and his nightmares.  There were stories about his Ianto, dead now for nearly two years, and about Ianto’s stopwatch.  About the fob watch which contained the essence of a Time Lord who nearly wiped out humanity and the Earth itself.  And the final thing she noticed?  Tal’s expression when Esther noted the change in the time.  As if it was something she was waiting for.

 

Thus, she was more conscious than normal of the answers she gave to the doctor provided by the Families.  She was conscious that she was Esther Drummond and she would not let these mundane monsters win.  She was conscious also of Tal’s quiet approval, which could mean only one thing.  If she wasn’t here to get Esther out, she knew someone who was.  And that was fine with Esther.  She began thinking of ways she could make the Families’ life harder, as they tried to turn her against those who mattered to her.  And once she was free again, she would seek out Jack and rejoin the fight.

 

Her name was Esther Drummond.  She was twenty-six years old.  Both of her parents were dead.  She had one older sister Sarah and two nieces, Alys and Melanie, who were the great loves of her life.  When this nightmare first began, nearly five months earlier, she had something of a crush on her immediate boss, Rex Matheson.  But those were dreams of a girl, and Esther was a woman now.  And she would not go down this time without a fight.

  

TBC