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When Everything Changes
Author's note: Yeah, I know I'm a little late to the party, but I only recently figured out how to summit works to this sight, so as far as this fanfic is concerned, I'm inorging s4 for now.
Lutte Pour L’anneau, France, 1949
It was a dark, cool summer night as a young, petite, dainty girl with cocoa-dark skin, sparkling emerald colored eyes set into a face with high cheekbones and long, strait black hair done back into a braided bun, walked down the dusty country road, the skirt of her faded blue dress blowing in the wind. She was clearly afraid, looking back and forth, clutching the object she held in her hand tightly, and spinning it in her hands. It seemed strange, she pondered to herself, that so much fuss was being made over a silly little ring, even one like this one. “It’s not much further,” She thought to herself, “I just need to get to the rendezvous point, then I can hand this thing off, and this whole thing will be over.” But in the silence of the still night air she saw something that make scared her, something that made her run, run as fast as she could. She ran for her life, knowing if the man behind her caught her he would kill her, and take the ring. So she ran. But then she tripped over a rock and fell to the ground. As she turned around, a muscle hand grabbed her throat and squeezed it, raising her up in the air as he did so. She struggled, horrible gasping noises coming from her throat, but to no avail. The ring she had been charged with protecting, shaped like a swan, with a diamond eye, fell to the ground, as she took her last breath.
Lutte Pour L’anneau, France, 2012
Neal Caffrey walked down the dusty country road, trying to clear his head, not sure where he was going, just wanting to go somewhere. He had to get out of that inn room. The air was so hot and humid it was suffocating, he hadn’t a night’s rest in over 73 hours, and Mozzie was being a dick. They had gotten into a fight that morning over-everything. What had started over a torn sheet spilled over to a full out shouting match over the botched escaped, over everything going wrong since then, over Neal’s guilt, and the nightmares.
“You gotta get over this!” Mozzie had shouted so loud Neal was afraid someone would hear, “It’s been two weeks; you should have dealt with it by now! But still every night, I hear you calling out the name of one of them or all of them in your sleep!”
“You think I want to have these dreams, Moz?!” Neal yelled back, not caring who heard, “You think I like to beg them for forgiveness, for mercy, for my LIFE every night?! If I could turn this off I would!”
You see, whenever he called out the name of someone from New York, it was usually fallowed by, “Please don’t kill me.” Ever since they had ran, Neal had this dream every night, where he had been caught. He didn’t know how, the dream never got into that, it would always start with him in a courtroom before a judge, about to be sentenced, all the people who use to be his friends shooting daggers at him from the gallery. Then the judge saids, “For the charge of fleeing from a prison sentence and arrest, the traitor will be delivered into the arms of those he betrayed. “ At that point those he betrayed, -i.e. Jones, Dianna, Elizabeth, Sara and Peter-decided the sentence Neal deserved was the death penalty. It was always a different way. One time it would be a firing squad with Peter giving the order to fire, the next stoning with Jones throwing the first stone. Or lethal injection delivered by Dianna, or electric chair with Elizabeth throwing the switch. One time it he was even burned at the stake with Sara lighting the fire.
Neal needed out that room. “You know what; I can’t talk you when you’re like this. I’m just gonna leave,” he put on his suit jacket as he continued to talk, “And come back when you’re being more reasonable.” Then he walked out, slamming the door behind him.
This is what led to Neal being on that road, on that day. As he continued to walk he noticed something strange coming up the road. At first it just appeared to be six little dots on the side of the road, then as he got the closer the dots formed into five people and a black van, then as he got ever closer he could make out details of the people. There was man who appeared to be in his early thirties, wearing a 1940s military coat, walking ahead of the rest of the group. Fallowing after him was a woman with long black hair, and large brown eyes. Standing beside the van were the other three people. There was dark skinned woman with her raven hair tied up on her head, for whatever reason talking the pulse of rather scared looking dark skinned man wearing black pants, a buttoned up white shirt, and a jacket. Then there was the young girl standing beside them, who couldn’t have been more than nineteen years old. She was wearing a black leather miniskirt and matching corset that fit her as if they were custom made just her body, which was thin but wiry, black leather fingerless gloves, fish net stockings and spiked black heels. She had on a plastic black cross necklace. She was wearing dark makeup, dark purple eye shadow, black nail polish, and dark violet lipstick. She had long black hair, but her roots were growing in blonde. In a group of people who were clearly professionals in whatever they were doing, this Goth girl stood out even with the man in the old-fashioned military coat.
“Bring it over here.” The man in coat called out in an American accent.
The Goth girl picked up a thin sliver-colored metal poll with some kind of red reflector on it, and walked over to where the man in the coat and the other dark-haired woman was standing. They all stood there for a minute staring at each other and then finally, the man said, “Stick it in the ground.”
The girl stood the stick firmly in the ground. They all stood there as if they were waiting for something to happen. “You feel anything, Rex?” The man in the coat asked, to someone.
“No,” The man whose pulse was being taken answered, “Sorry, Jack, nothing.” He too had an American accent.
“Are we sure this is the right the spot?” The other black haired woman asked in a Welsh accent.
“Gwen, do you know what this town’s name means?” The man who was apparently named Jack asked.
“No,” The woman who was apparently named Gwen said, “I figured it was French for middle of nowhere or something…”
“Lutte pour l’anneau translates into struggle for the ring,” Jack explained.
Neal had no idea what was going on but he knew for the strange group was so absorbed in whatever they were doing that they hadn’t noticed him, so he could back away slowly and get the heck out of there, which is exactly what he had started to do when the reflector on the stick started to gently glow. That made him stop dead in his tracks due to shock and a hit of curiosity. “Looks like your theory was right.” The woman who had been taking the man who was apparently named Rex’s pulse said in an English accent, as she and Rex walked up to Jack, Gwen, and the Goth girl.
“It’s not exactly here,” Jack said, “But it’s bright enough that it’s got to be nearby.” Then Jack started to walk away, and said, “Let’s try again up here.”
The group got into the van and drove away, kicking up a heavy cloud of dust behind them. Neal couch furiously and tried to shield his eyes from the flying dirt. It in that haze of bust that he saw something even more disturbing that stopped him right then and there. In the haze of dust there was an image that appeared part hologram, part ghost, of a frail young woman being lifted up into the air by an unseen force making horrible choking and gasping, she barely gasped the words, “Help me,” and then the light left her sparkling emerald colored eyes, and they closed and her body went limp. Then the image disappeared.
Neal blinked, not believing what he had just witnessed. Then he ran down the road, as fast and filled with as much terror as that girl was, so many years ago.
The road seemed much longer now.
Jack turned into a spot in the road where it diverged into a different path. He drove until they were deep in the trees, then he parked the car. He opened up his door and got out, followed by Gwen, Rex, Martha, and Violet. As Violet got out of the car, one of her heels shrunk into a weak patch of dirt. “Gwen,” She called out, as she pulled at her leg, “A little help here!”
Gwen quickly walked over to Violet and helped her pull her leg out of the grown, reprimanding her as she did, “I told you not to wear those shoes out here!”
Jack couldn’t help but laugh. He also felt sorry for Violet. After all, she was only nineteen. He remembered vanity getting in the way of common sense when he was that age. In fact, vanity sometimes got in the way of common sense for him now. He walked over to the girls, leaned down and shook the heel lose from the grown. Violet then took the shoes off and held them in her hands as she walked with the rest of the team. “So,” She asked, “What are you doing here?”
“This is obviously going to take more than one day,” Jack began, “So this seems like a nice, private spot to set up a campsite.”
Everyone looked exasperated for a moment than Martha said, “I’ll go get the tents.”
“I’ll help you,” Gwen said, fallowing her.
“Me too, I know more about camping than both of you, and I need to set these shoes somewhere anyway,” Violet said, joining the two. This left Rex alone with Jack, something Jack dreaded more than anything else in the universe, at least at the moment. Things had been awkward between them ever since Esther’s funeral when Charlotte shot Rex and he didn’t die. First they had tracked down Jilly to an apartment in –you guessed it-D.C, and a fight broke out and someone, they could never figured out who, for all they knew it could have been a group effort, so many bullets were flying, shot her dead, which wasn’t necessarily a good thing, considering now there was no one left to explain what “Plan B” was and all they could find was a bunch of papers in various languages. And since with the exception of Rex and Jack people went on dying, things went back to business as unusual. They set up another hub but not at the tower so they could keep an eye on the riff without getting blown up by any government, since no one knew where they were, the Martha joined up, convincing Mickey that this way they’d have money coming in when they couldn’t find freelance jobs and they could actually buy a house, then they got Violet when they busted that slavery ring in New York. Andy was even sometimes invited in, although he was still in his somewhat in-somewhat not in state, which was why he wasn’t with them here, in France. But things on the “Miracle” front were at a complete standstill, which did nothing to help Jack’s growing feelings for Rex. They did have a lot in common, well not a lot in common, but they certainly have the not dying thing in common, which was very tempting to Jack, since just would never lose Rex the way he lost Ianto, or Estelle for that matter, or any other lover he had ever had. So what’s the problem, one may ask. Well, the problem is that if they find what they’re looking for Rex WILL die, or at the very least might. They finally translated those papers and discovered that plan B had consisted of several artifacts and more vials of Jack’s immortal blood. They promptly destroyed those vials and tracked down and destroyed or locked away the artifacts and now all that was left was the ring, and the ring is most likely what’s keeping Rex alive.
Just then Jack heard a rustling in the bushes, and then a heavy thump. He turned around to see a man in his early or mid 30s with dark brown hair lying on the ground. He looked up and his eyes met the eyes of the entire team for a moment and then he quickly got to his feet, turned around, and ran in the other direction.
Jack pulled his gun, just in case, and ran after the stranger fallowed by the rest of the team. It was diffidently back to business as usual.
The as the team ran through the dense forest, they quickly lost the man in the forest. They looked back and forth. “Jack, who was that?” Gwen asked urgently.
“I don’t know,” Jack said, “That’s why we need to find him.”
“And what do we do if he turns out just to be a regular guy who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Martha began, “Then we chased him across a forest with guns?”
“Then we’re be very apologetic,” Jack said.
The awkward silence that fallowed told Jack that if Martha’s sanerio was the case, being very apologetic wouldn’t be enough. “And we got a thing of amnesia pills back on the van.”
There were several sighs and nods, and then Rex said, “I think I see him.”
They all turned to see a black suit jacket running through the trees. They ran after the fleeing figure, and then, just as quickly as they had found him, they lost him again. “Does anybody have eyes on him?!” Jack yelled.
There was a minute of silence and then Violet said, barely audible, “I do.” And then she took off to the left.
“Violet,” Jack called out, “Violet!”
Oh yeah, it was diffidently business as usual.
Neal ran through the woods, ignoring the thorns and braches tearing at him. He couldn’t believe he had gotten himself into this, and he wasn’t even sure what he had gotten himself into! After he ran away from the ghost girl he caught up with the van again, just in time to see it go now a right side if the road he didn’t even know existed and his curiosity had gotten the better of him, so he took advantage of the trees and bushes and hid in them to fallow the van. When the van parked he knelt down in some bushes, and watched as they parked, got out of the car, the young woman he found himself calling Goth Girl getting stuck in the dirt, Gwen and Jack helping her get free, Jack declaring he wanted to set up camp because this-whatever the this was-was going to take longer than one day. The fact that they opted for camping rather finding a motel or inn was a clear sign that whatever they were doing wasn’t on the up and up. At that point he lost his balance and fell. And then they started chasing him through the woods with their guns drawn. He was rather certain he was going to die.
Certain he had lost his pursuers, Neal walked more slowly through the woods, realizing her had another problem: he was hopelessly lost. He was too scared to go back, having a pretty good idea of what was there, but he knew that if he kept going deeper into the woods said woods would eventually devour him. Yes, he figured, if the armed band who was doing who-knows-what didn’t shoot him dead, possibly after torturing him to know why he was spying on them, he’d die of exposure or dehydration or attacked by some wild animal.
Neal stumbled over a rock, but was able to catch on to a tree branch before he fell. Despite being rather fit, he was not made for the woods. He had sent the majority of his life in a cosmopolitan setting, and the only experience he had with forests were drawing or painting landscapes of them. He hopped the people chasing him were just as bad at navigating through the great outdoors as he was, then he might have a fighting chance. Certainly Goth Girl couldn’t be, otherwise she wouldn’t have wore those spiked heels. As he continued through the woods he felt a sang on his shoulder. He tried to continue but he couldn’t move. He turned around to see his jacket had caught on a tree. Deciding trying to get it off wasn’t worth the time, he took his arms out of the sleeves and ran.
Violet ran through the woods, ignoring the members of her team calling her name behind her, looking ahead at the trail her quarry was leaving. There were probably going to consequences for ignoring them, but she didn’t care and it wasn’t even her fault she didn’t care or had run off in the first place, when she saw the trail the guy had left she had edmitly zoned in, which was what she called it when she went into a trace-like state while hunting, where all she saw or heard or smelled or noticed whatsoever was her prey and/or the trail it left. It didn’t matter rather weather she was hunting a buck or tracking a potential spy, the trance was just the same. She took a piece of broken branch in her hand, and sighed. “’Unbelievable.” She thought to herself, “This must’ve put his full weight on this branch. What would possessed him to-“ She didn’t have to look far for the answer. She looked down to see the rock he must have stumbled over. This guy was not made for the woods. “Then again,” Violet thought to herself, as she picked up the tattered black suit jacket the man had shed on another tree, “The preppy clothes kind of gave that away. I mean, I know I’m not exactly dressed for the area either, but I’m a having an identity crisis, what’s his excuse?” Her mental rant was interrupted by a rusluling to her right. She turned around and, sure enough, there were the tracks she had been fallowing. She walked over to the tree and saw the guy was now in her sights. She thought about trying to shoot him, but then realized that she could probly get close enough she could bring him back without having to hurt him, so she tied the jacket around her waist-just dropping might make noise-started to sneak towards the man who was now standing still, trying to figure out where to go.
Neal couldn’t believe it. Not only was Goth Girl good at navigating through the woods, she was right on his trail! By the way she examined the trail he could tell she was tracking him, her gun ready to shoot, she looked like a seasoned huntress. Add that with the tense movements of her body, the intense look in her, the dirt that covered her stocking feet, she looked feral. He looked around trying to find a somewhat clear trail to run down when he heard the click of a gun behind him and cold, female, American accented voice saying, “Turn around.”
Neal turned around, his hands raised, though she hadn’t told him to, it was more out of habit really. He saw Goth Girl had her hand gun heal right at his chest, her finger on the trigger.
“I’m unarmed.” Neal said, calmly as he could manage.
Goth Girl looked at him intensely and said, “You’ll forgive me if I don’t take your word for it.” She walked to the side, her gun still trained on him, and then walked up to his back and put the barrel of the gun on his side. When Neal flinched Goth Girl said, “You move, you die.” Then she stuck her hand into Neal right pants pocket. Then she stuck her hand into his other pants pocket. Then she untucked part of his shirt, stuck her hand in his shirt, and started feeling his abdomen, startling him. “Hey!” He cried.
“Don’t hey me,” Goth Girl said, “If you didn’t want to be searched you shouldn’t have been spying on us.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve had searches done when I’ve been arrested that were less invasive than this.” She was feeling the side of his chest now.
“What you arrested for?”
Neal stopped talking. He wasn’t sure if he should tell her. He wouldn’t know how to even begin explaining so he decided to keep his mouth shut.
“You’re not gonna tell me?” She had finished with his torso, and had moved on his legs, kneeling down and feeling them from the outside of his pants. “You were so talkative a minute ago.” The she stood up, keeping her gun trained to him and said, “Walk.”
They started walking in lock step. Neal caught a whiff of something on the breeze. Like roses, mixed with frankincense and sweet almonds. It had to be some sort of perfume Goth Girl was wearing. Not a bad sent to smell before one died, he decided. As they turned back to the way they had come her eyes turn to look Neal. “What’s your name?” She asked, the edge in her voice lost.
“I guess the interrogation’s already started,” Neal thought to himself, but said nothing out loud.
“My name’s Violet,” Her voice now softened.
Neal wasn’t expecting that but it calmed him a bit. “Neal,” He responded, “My name’s Neal.”
Just then, the sound of crunching of leaves and twigs filled the forest and the team came into view. Neal and Violet took another lock step forward. “Look who I found,” Violet said, pushing a Neal a little further with her hand, “He told his name was Neal. He seems kinda scared, so Martha’s innocent guy, wrong place, wrong time theory’s looking better and better, but for full disclosure he’s very good at controlling his emotions, so he’s obviously a pro at something or other, and he emitted to being arrested once but not for what.”
“Let’s get him back to the camp and sort this thing out.” Jack said. Then all turned around and started walk back to the camp, Violet with her gun still trained on Neal. “Oh, and Violet,” Jack added.
“Yes, Jack?” Violet replied.
When they got back to the camp sight, orders started flying out of Jack’s mouth. “Violet, put him in the tent, make sure to secure him, rest of the team with me. Someone pull out the computers.”
Violet dragged Neal over to a large tan tent with a smaller tent attected to each side. As she unzipped the flap on the biggest part of the tent, Violet asked, “How exactly am I sapost to secure him? This thing opens from both ways.”
“Here,” Gwen said, tossing something shinny through the air. Violet caught a the object, that turned out to be a pair of hand cuffs. Neal felt a glimmer of hope. His captors apparently didn’t realize their prisoner was a wiz at picking a lock.
“I’m gonna need the keys,” Violet pointed out.
“Oh,” Gwen added, thumbing through her black leather hip purse and finally pulling out a set of keys. She tossed those to Violet as well, and once again the girl caught them. Then she unzipped the tent flap, and walked inside, dragging Neal behind him by the crook of his arm, they both had to duct down to get in.
The tent was completely empty, with a high ceiling, but both Neal and Violet squat once they got inside. “Over there,” Violet commanded, gesturing with her right hand, the one holding a gun, to the right corner of the tent. Neal walked over to the spot, putting his hands out in front of him. Violet raised her right eyebrow, which now Neal noticed was also died black as well as the left one. “Exactly how many times have you been arrested?”
“Enough to know the position.”
“Well, can you assume the position from the back? I wanna make sure you don’t bash your head in to try to break the cuffs or something.”
Neal suppressed a laugh. He thought it was cute that this girl thought that a set of metal handcuffs could be broken by someone banging their head against them like some sort of wooden board in a karate class. Still, he did as he was told, putting his hands behind his back. Violet knelt down even more, and slapped the cuffs on his wrist,Volet stepped away and looked at him oddly, her head cocked to one side. Then she said, “I’ll be back in one second,” then ran out of the tent.
“Like I’m gonna go anywhere,” Neal murmured under his breath once Violet was gone. Then he felt the seat of his pants only to remember he had no pockets. “Okay,” Neal thought to himself, “ Ever since that day at the airport I’ve made sure to keep a set of lock picks on me just in case, so I have to have some, so where…” His heart sank as he realized where they were. His jacket, which now Violet was wearing, tied around her waist like some sort of trophy. Just then Violet walked back into the tent with a long coil of rope. Without a word, she walked over to where Neal was, grabbed his feet, and started rapping the coil around his ankles. “Is this really necessary?” Neal protested.
“Just being careful,” Violet replied as she pulled out a long piece of oddly designed wood. It was yellowish white wood with bits of dark brown wood, probly the part of the tree the wood had come from, with complete dark brown surrounding the yellowish whit center, all polished so that it looked very smooth and a bit shinny. She put her thumb on the top and a long sliver blade came out. Neal jutted back in fright, and stammered “No, don’t-“Then Violet did something he didn’t expect for the second time that day. “Hey, hey,” She whispered, extending her hand that wasn’t holding the knife, and brushing Neal’s temple. Her leather glove felt cool against his skin. “It’s alright. Look, I’m just gonna cut the rope, okay?” Then she held up the coil and her switch bale knife and sawed the piece of the rope. After she finished cutting off the length of rope, which she did surprisingly quickly considering what she was working with, she dropped the knife and said, “See?” And as she tied the rope rather tightly around his ankles added, back to her regular tone, “You know, this would go a lot faster if you told or last name,” After a minute of thought she added, “And how you spell your first name actually.”
“And how would that help?” Neal asked, stalling for time, as he was sure Violet would press the last name issue, and was also thinking of way to get her to take off his jacket.
“Well, Neal can be spelled a couple of different ways.” Violet answered, “You got Neil spelled N-e-i-l, the Scottish version, and then you got N-e-a-l, the Irish version, and then you got this one guy I once knew who spelt it N-e-e-l. I have no idea where that came from.”
“Well, it’s not spelled like that,” Neal said, actually chuckling a little at the odd name, “It’s the Irish version.”
“You got an Irish surname to go with it?”
“What is your obsession with my name?”
“It would make things go a lot easier if we knew it, a lot whole lot easier than looking through half the Neal’s in the world. Just because you have an American accent doesn’t mean you’re an American native. I mean Jack sounds like he’s from the states, but he’s about as not from the states at you can get.” Her eyes moved across the tent. “I shouldn’t have told you that. Look, the point is, the sooner we get this striated out, the sooner we can cut you lose, because I’m liking that wrong time, wrong place theory more by the minute.”
“After everything I’ve seen you really think I’m going to believe that you’re just going to let me go?”
“We have ways to deal with that.”
“Caffrey,” Neal finally gave in, “My last name is Caffrey.”
Violet gave him a skeptical look and asked, “Are you serious?”
“Yes,” Neal answered flatly, “Why?”
“Because that’s only the most ridiculous last name in the history of last names. It sounds like someone just threw a bunch of syllables together and played around until they made something that was pronounceable. I mean what origin is that from?”
“I don’t know. Like you said, maybe it’s Irish.”
“Likely story.” Violet started to remove Neal’s tie. He opened his mouth to ask what she was doing, but before he say anything she put part of the tie in his mouth, and tied it behind the back of his head sufficiently gagging him. Then as she turned back to leave the tent, the lose knot she had put into the jacket came undone and it fell from her waist to the tent floor, unnoticed by her as she left the tent, zipping the tent up behind her. Neal started to try to soot over to the jacket, at this point his only hope of escape.
Meanwhile Violet walked over to the van where the rest of the team had gathered around the computers attached to the inside. “Where you able to get anything else from him?” Jack asked.
“His name’s Neal Caffrey, I couldn’t get anything else. Actually I didn’t think to, the way things went in there.” Violet answered as she got into the van.
“What do you mean the way things went in there?” Gwen asked, turning her head from the computer screen she was looking at.
“I pulled at my switchblade to cut the rope I had tied around his ankles and he-in this case understandably so-thought I meant to hurt him and he panicked, trying to back away and starting to beg.” Violet answered, “I’m liking the innocent bystander theory, but- there is something…” She trailed off, somewhat afraid to say what she was thinking.
“Like the fact that he was spying on us?” Rex suggested.
“Well there’s that too,” Violet emitted, “But there was something else,” Violet turned to face Jack as she continued, “In his eyes. There was pain and guilt there. I don’t know over what, but it was there.”
“And what do eyes like that look like?” Rex asked.
Gwen and Martha didn’t say anything because they knew, they’d seen it before. And Jack and Violet didn’t answer, because they both knew as well.
Jack and Violet’s eyes. His eyes looked like theirs.
Meanwhile back in the tent, Neal finally scooted over to the jacket, but now was face with the problem of searching the inside pockets because with his hands cuffed behind his back, he couldn’t exactly pick it up. He turned his back to the garment and felt for the side. He tried to flip it over, but while doing so lost his balance and fell flat on his back. He heard the clan of glass and he realized the tent was not empty as he had previously thought. His eyes moved to find what he had knocked over and was surprised to see what appeared to be a hand-sewed black flannel purse. “Violet’s no doubt,” He thought to himself. The purse was opened and the contents had spilled out: A rectangle glass bottle with a long neck that was filled with some kind of oil, a blue glass bottle of the same design that also appeared to have oil in it, and a purplish bottle of the same kind that, as you probly have already guessed, appeared to have oil in it. That was odd enough as it was, but the weirdest thing of all was a large round mason jar that had a bizarre concoction in it. It appeared to be a mixture of Ivory liquid foundation, a powder bronzer of some sort, the white stuff woman use to smear on their skin to make themselves look pale during medieval times, the powder stuff woman sometimes use to finish out makeup that’s either clear, translucent, of white, some sort of gold powder, Hearty Peach powder blush, Moon Roses cream blush and carmine, all mixed until it was so well blended together it looked like human skin in a jar. Right by the jar was a well-used foundation brush, its bristles thin and falling out. Neal did wonder what the strange mixture was for, but didn’t dwell on it because he noticed that a few feet away from him was a leather case small enough to fit in the palm of one hand. Neal’s lips started to form a smile but was stopped by the gag in his mouth. The set of lock picks he had been searching for had fallen out of the jacket pocket during the crash! The only problem now was they were just above his head, which he threw back in frustration. Using lock picks to get out of locked rooms was much easier than using lock picks to undo bonds, especially when one was the one bound.
As this was going on , Gwen had made a discovery about the mysterious man in the tent.“Uh, guys,” Gwen said as she stood over the computer, “I think I know what that pain and guilt was about. Come see what I found.”
The team gathered around the lap top and read the information that Gwen said out loud. “Neal caffrey, thirty four, convicted of bond forging in 2005, sentenced to four years in prison, then sentenced to four more years in prison after breaking out of a maximum security prison in 2009, five days before his first sentence was up.”
“Are we quite certain that tent can hold him?” Rex asked.
“I cuffed him, tied his feet as tightly as humanly possible, and gagged him,” Violet said. They all stared at her a minute, wondering what Violet possibly could have used to gag him. “I used his tie,” She explained.
“I think we’re overlooking an important question here,” Martha added, “Why would he break out when he just had five days left on his sentence?”
“That’s good question Martha but it doesn’t say,” Gwen said, “If anyone knows, it doesn’t say, but then again these documents rarely say anything about motives. And there’s something else, because then things get really weird.”
Meanwhile, back in the tent, Neal was once again trying to make an escape. Seeing no other option, he started flopping like a fish out of water, until he had gotten high enough up that his hands could reach the set of lock picks. He flipped the leather flap open and felt around with his finger to get out a lock pick, right now anyone would do. He pulled on out, holding it between two of his fingers and inserted it in the lock of the cuff. He moved the lock pick back and forth for a least a minute until heard the click of the cuff unlocking. He shook the handcuffs off, and tried to right himself and sit up, but felt the ropes cutting into his ankles. He managed to right himself, and sit up, then started to work at the tight ropes around his feet. He quickly discovered that Violet was exceptionally good at tying knots. No matter what part of it he pulled, he only succeed in making the knot on the side of the ropes tighter, as well as the entire bonds that held him, as well as giving his fingers a bad case of rope burn, eventually to the point of bleeding. Then it dawn on him that he had never saw Violet put her knife back on her person, and it might still be in the tent. He looked around and sure enough, the knife was there, just were Violet had dropped it. Using his hands as to help him move this time, he scooted over to the knife, picked it up, and started to work on cutting the ropes. Soon, they were fully cut and fell to the floor. He unwrapped the gag and pulled it out of his mouth, throwing it to the floor. He tucked the knife in his belt, in case he had to fight his way out, and started to craw towards the tent flap. Being very careful to make as little noise as possible, he unzipped the flap just enough so he could see out and peaked out. Seeing that the whole team were facing away from them, absorbed in something inside their van that Neal couldn’t see, probably that computer Jack had mentioned, he unzipped the rest of the flap and stepped out without making a sound, then started to walk as fast as he dared, for fear of making a sound and drawing the team’s attention, back towards the road and to safety. He could hear the team’s discussion, which he hadn’t been paying attention to before.
“Well, that must’ve been awkward.” Violet said.
“ I wouldn’t doubt it, but somehow it worked. “ Gwen said, “Or at least it did until three weeks ago.”
Neal stopped momentarily as he realized they were talking about his time as a criminal consultant. “Well, now they who I am.” He thought to himself.
“What happened then?” Jack , Violet, and Rex all asked at the same time. They all looked at each other for a minute and then turned away, embarrassed.
“Well, turns it’s possible for things to get even weirder,” Gwen said.
Neal started to sneak away again. He didn’t want to hear what she had to say. He was there, he didn’t want to relieve it.
“He escaped again, and is still on the lamb. The really weird thing is, he was given a shot of a commutation. Could’ve been release. In fact he ran on the day his handler spoke at the hearing and the guy said Caffrey should be released, literally five seconds before he got the news the Caffrey had gone and cut his anklet.”
Neal had to stop again in surprise. That last thing was news to him. He had distinctively heard Peter tell Karmer that he was going to say the complete opposite of what Gwen just said he said. What had changed his mind?
“How do you know all that?” Violet asked.
“I have the transcripts right here,” Gwen explained.
That got Neal moving again, this time faster. He knew those transcripts were public record, but they probly were hard to get to in a foreign country, and due to his escape was probably in evidence storage right now.
“Why’d he run just when he could be getting out?” Violet asked.
“I don’t know,” Gwen said, “But I’m guessing these new slew of charges filed against him probably have something to do with it. Public endangerment, resisting arrest, we even got a jaywalking charge here.”
“But all of this still doesn’t explain why he was spying on us,” Rex pointed out.
“Why don’t we ask him,” Jack said, turning to face where Neal was, “He’s been here for the past few minutes, after all.”
Neal froze in his tracks. “It’s okay,” Jack said, “Turn around. We’re not gonna do anything. Yet.”
Neal turned around, defeated, and fairly certain he was about to meet his maker. Or worst, the French authorities. “So, Neal,” Jack began, “Why were you spying on us?”
“Look, I just walking down the road trying to clear my head. Me and ah-the guy I escaped had gotten into a huge fight, and-“
“Wait,” Gwen said, “I didn’t find anything about another guy.”
“Because they probably don’t know about him,” Neal said, “Anyway, while I was walking down the road I noticed you guys by the side of it. You were, ah, kind of hard to miss, especially Violet.”
“I told you , you shouldn’t have wore that.” Gwen whispered.
“Let the man talk,” Violet snapped back, also in a whispered.
“So I saw you do that whole weird thing with the reflector on the stick, and decided to back away and get out of there, but then when you guys drove off and the dust cloud your van kicked up made me stop for a minute and in said dust cloud I saw-“ Neal’s voice trailed off, “Look this is going to sound completely insane, and maybe I am insane, but I swear I saw this-apparition of this young girl, she was, being murdered. It looked like see was being chocked by some kind of invisible forced.”
The whole team looked very concerned, and somewhat knowing. “Jack…” Gwen whispered.
“Let him finish.” Jack said flatly.
“That freaked me out so I ran and wound up running down the road towards you instead of away, in when I saw you driving down that bend which I didn’t even know was there until you went down it my curiosity got the better of me, that’s all. There was no big conspiracy around it, just a me getting a little too curious. Look, it’s not like I’m in a position to tell the cops about you guys so…” His voice trailed off but then he found it again, this time sounding desperate. “Just let me go. Please. I won’t tell anyone. “
“You know what,” Jack said, looking thoughtful, “I think I have a better idea. You see, I think having a thief on the team could come in handy.”
Neal was somewhat confused, “Are you making me a job offer?”
“Yeah, I am,” Jack gestured for Neal to come over to the van, “Get over here, we’ll talk about the finer details later. Right now, we need to get you up to speed.”
Neal walked over to the van and started to sit next to Jack. “No,” Violet protested, waving her hand in the air and pointing, “Jack’s bi and your handsome, you’ll never hear the end of it. Come sit by me.”
“And I won’t have the same problem with you?” Neal asked as he sat down by the young girl. His raw fingers stung as they rubbed against the seat, but he decided to hide the pain for now.
“I’m nineteen, you’re thirty four. I do not do May-December relationships.”
“Okay, now that we’ve got that established,” Neal looked around, somewhat neverous about what he might have gotten himself into, but trying to appear nonchalant, “Could you clue in on what I’ve gotten myself into? What exactly does this team do?”
“Well, basically,” Gwen said, rather apprehensive herself, “We catch aliens.”
“Excuse me?” Neal said, surprised.
“We’re a group called Torchwood,” Jack began to explained, “It was originally started by Queen Victoria in 1879, after she had an encounter with a man called the Doctor, and a werewolf.”
“I’m sorry, a werewolf?” Neal asked, thinking this was some kind of joke. This had to be some kind of joke.
“Yeah, I don’t know all the details because I myself wasn’t there,” Jack said, “But anyway, the main purpose of Torchwood was to protect the British Empire from alien attack and use any alien technology to benefit said empire, but over the years its expanded to protect the whole world, and we only use any alien tech for ourselves. We’re basically the planet’s last line of defense.”
“This is some kind of joke, right?” Neal asked, hoping that was the case, “Hassling the new guy?”
“Nope,” Jack said casually.
“No,” Gwen said.
“No,” Martha said, somewhat apologetically.
“Nope,” Violet said, “It’s the gospel truth.”
“No,” Rex said, “I’m sorry, I know it’s a lot to take in.”
“So aliens are real?” Neal half said-half asked, “All the stuff that’s been going on over the past few years is real?”
“Hallelujah,” Jack said, raising his hands to the sky, “Finally someone gets it.”
“We can prove it if you want,” Violet said, “We have some alien tech with us.” She then but her whole torso behind the seat, maneuvered around for a few minutes then came back up holding an oval-shaped object that was deep gray on the left side, a creamy grayish white color on the right side, and several electrodes spewing out of both sides.
“What does that do?” Neal asked, half weary, half intrigued.
“Well, the simple version,” Violet began, “It allows someone to see someone else’s memories. It can show you if you want,” She flipped the thing around saying, “You put the electrodes on this side on, and I’ll guide you through a couple of my memories.”
“Violet, you don’t have to do it,” Gwen said, “Me or Martha or Rex can do it.”
“Actually, nobody has to do it,” Neal said, leaning away from the device, letting his discomfort show on his face, “I officially believe you guys now. Although, how many of you guys are there exactly?”
“In its prime Torchwood had four offices.” Jack explained, “But then Torchwood Four disappeared, but we’ll find it one day, then Torchwood One fell at the Battle of Cannery Warf, actually, Torchwood One was Cannery Warf. We were Torchwood Three, after the Battle of Cannery Warf I rebuilt Torchwood and became the official guy running thing, but then-“ Jack paused a minute, and looked guilty, regretful, even a bit mournful, after a minute he finally said, “Over half of the team died, the British government blew up the hub, Gwen got pregnant, and I flew the coop. Then, sometime after my said-coop flying, Torchwood Two, which was an office in Glasgow with only one guy working there basically went inactive. Then,” Jack sighed, then continued, “Came Miracle Day. You know what I’m talking about, right?”
“Of course,” Neal said. How could he forget? How could anyone forget? Everyone stopped dying, and the world was thrown into chaos. People where in permanent suffering, criminals became indestructible, the threat of super-viruses running rampant loomed, the cult of the "soulless" and it was said that food shortages would start in five months and then the government started categorizing life and it was discovered that those made "Category One," were being burned alive. He remembered on day it all began Peter showed up at Neal’s place with Elizabeth and their dog in toe, completely freaked out, and told Neal to get in the car. Which turned out to be the best thing to do, because they got out before the Typhus and Hemorrhagic Fever hit. They spent the next two months held up in cabin listening to the world fall about on a radio. And then weirdly enough, when everyone started dying again, and the people deemed responsible for the horrific deeds that were done were punished, things went completely back to normal as if nothing has happened. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“ Just checking. Anyway, Rex worked with the CIA back then, and thought we might have something to do with it, and tracked down Gwen, who was-“ He looked over to Gwen, asking permission to continue.
“I was trying to live a quiet life with my husband Rhys, and our baby daughter, Anew.” Gwen explained, “Anyway, after Rex tracked us down me and Jack were reunited when my house exploded, and long story short Torchwood was reborn once again, only now the only people are just what you see here, plus my friend Andy back in Cardiff, more or less.”
“Cardiff?” Neal asked.
“It’s built on top of a riff in time and space,” Jack explained, “We built the new hub in a different stop disguised as shop, so we could still monitor the riff with less of a risk to getting blown up again.”
“That makes sense.” Neal said.
“Now that we’ve got that explained,” Jack said, extending his hand for Neal to shake, “I’m Captain Jack Harkness, this guy behind me is Rex Matheson. That beautiful young lady beside you,” He gestured towards Violet, “Is Violet Hall.”
“Hey,” Violet said, then she looked down, and as if noticing it for the first time said, “Oh, my ga. What happened to you hands?”
“ Neal looked down at his hands, which were still bleeding from the rope, “ They got a bit chewed up trying to undo your knot.”
“A bit?” Violet said, then turned to Martha and said rather urgently, “Martha, you need to get up with the first aid kit. We got blood poisoning waiting to happen up here.”
Martha crawled up to the front of the van, and started to look for a first aid kit in the glove box. “And that’s Dr. Martha Jones.” Jack said, “And lastly, but certainly not least, my second in command, Gwen Cooper.”
“So what are we doing here?” Neal asked.
Before Jack could answer Martha came back armed with a small, square first-aid kit. “Okay,” She saids, “Let’s see what we have. Show me your hands. Neal held up his hands, palms facing out. “Well, you were right about one thing Violet,” Martha said, as she pulled out some ointment, “This could’ve got infected, but compared to what rope can do, these are really minor injuries.”
“So since he’s gonna live, can I go on?” Jack asked.
“Certainly,” Martha said, as she started to apply the ointment to Neal’s hands. He winced at the stinging.
“ As you can guess, we fixed the , um, Miracle but some of the people who would benefit from it had a plan B. For starters, Rex is still immortal, though we’re not entirely sure how that fits in because when we confronted said people, they died, but we did figure out the plan B also involved a string of alien artifacts. We found and either destroyed or contained all of them except one, a ring.” Jack paused a minute than said, “Which brings me to something I have to ask you, Neal. This girl you saw, was she dark skinned but had sparkling emerald green eyes?”
“Yes,” Neal said, “How did you know?”
“Because I know who she is,” Jack said, “Her name was Colette Dedeaux, and she was murdered in 1949 for the ring."
“She was the daughter of Frenchwoman and a man from a planet called Green Star,” Jack explained, “We’re not sure how, she never told the same story twice, she wanted to keep it secret, but he got stranded here. And we couldn’t asked him, because by the time we approached her to work for us he had died. She had his eyes.” Jack went silent for a moment as he drifted back to first time he had met her. It was in a smoke-filled bar in Paris, a week after World War Two had ended. It took him a minute to spot her, then he found her standing at the bar facing out, a half-drunk glass of sherry at her lips, her gorgeous, sparkling, emerald colored eyes darting back and for looking for him as well. She was wearing a white shift and her raven hair was done back and what he would find was her signature braided bun. Jack sat down at the bar and the bar tender walked over to him. Jack pointed at Colette at said, “I’ll have whatever she’s having.”
When the bar tender left, Colette walked over to Jack, sat down beside him and said, “So, I take eet you are Captain Jack Harkness,” In a thick French accent.
“And I take you Are Miss. Colette Dedeaux.” Jack replied.
“Yes,” She answered.
“So?” Jack asked.
After a moment, Colette said, “Two nights ago, an unknown craft crashed just outside of Pari, and the military had surrounded eet. I found a weak spot in zee fence they have around eet. I will take you there tonight at midnight, when zee guard is changing.”
“It’s nine thirty now,” Jack said, then smiled mischievously, and said, “That’s mean we have a couple of hours to kill.”
“Forget it, Captain,” Colette said flatly, “They warned me about your-appetite.”
Jack chuckled. “You don’t beat around the bush, do you?”
“No,” Colette said, “And I’m sorry, if my honesty makes you uncomfortable, but I don’t care.”
“Actually, I, ah, fine your canter rather refreshing.”
At midnight, they set out for the fenced off area and made it there a little there after. The fenced off area was about two miles, roped off with two cords of barbed-wire. They approached it from the right side. Jack stayed back while Colette walked up to the fence, pulled a pair of pliers out of her grey wool coat, and cut the wire. She climbed over the cut wire, then Jack fallowed her. “We have two minutes before the next shift arrives.” Colette said. They walked to the center of the fenced off area, where a blue spear about the size of a volleyball lay. “What ees it ?” Colette asked as Jack picked the spear up. “I’m not sure,” Jack said as he put the spear in his coat to hide it, “That’s what we hope to find out.”
“Come on,” Colette said, as she walked back the way they had came, “Let’s go.”
She was the first to step over the fallen wire fallowed by Jack, as he was going over the wire the next shift of guards showed up. “Arreter!” The two men shouted pulling their guns.
Arreter is French for halt, but Jack and Colette the exact opposite. Colette grabbed Jack’s risk and the pair ran as bullets filled the air. After running servel feet, Collette jumped into a ditch, taking Jack, who wasn’t expecting that move, with her. The gunfire died down, and guards went looking for the two intruders, but she made them stay in that ditch all night, just to be safe.
“She was a very brave young woman,” Jack said, back in the here and now, “She was our French connection for four years when we found out about the ring. It wasn’t just any ring, it could do –things. And yes, I mean things as in plural. It was reported that things that touched the diamond could break down into different parts sometimes to the molecular level, it could also bring things back to a previous state, for example say, someone had cooked a steak, well done, all the wearer would have to do was will it to be raw again while wearing the ring the ring and sixty second latter the stake would be bloody. We think we can use it to bring Rex back to his mortal state. You don’t have be near the person or object you’re reverting, you just have to-will it. “ Jack went quiet for a moment then said, “It could do something else too. Sometime an event is so strong that leaves –an image, we call them ghosts. This thing could record ghosts and hold onto them. I think that’s what you saw in the dust cloud. Colette’s death-to call it very violent is an understatement. She was strangled so hard that it left bruises, crushed her lungs and broke her neck. She was dainty looking, and very petite, it was completely unnecessary to use that amount of force. Not to say that she would ever give them the ring but-“Jack trailed off for a minute, and then found his voice again, “They didn’t need to kill her like that. She died afraid, in pain and alone. I think that could leave a ghost, don’t you?”
No one answered.
Jack spoke again, “Obviously we never found the ring, but since nothing ever happened the search died down and then it was largely forgotten until two days ago, when we translated the final paper from the apartment and discovered it was about the ring. This is why we came to look for it. That thing you saw we call the Lamp Guide, because it can detect alien technology and activity and point us in the right direction. From what you’re telling us it obviously pointed us in the wrong direction.”
“So what are we going to do about it?” Gwen asked.
“We go back to the spot where Neal saw the ghost.” Jack answered, “Then hopefully we’ll find more to go on from there.”
“And until we have more to go on?” Gwen asked.
Jack paused a second. “I don’t know.”
“So, what are we waiting for?” Neal asked, sounding egger, “Let’s go.”
Jack smiled. “That’s what I like to hear.”
Twenty-five minutes later the team had drove back to the spot where Neal saw Colette’s ghost. As they got out of the van Violet pulled out the Lamp Guide again. “So where exactly did you see Colette?” She asked as she headed out into the middle of the road.
“There was a lot of dust, so I can’t say for sure,” Neal said, as she fallowed Violet into the road, “But I think it was about right here.” He stood in the spot where he saw her. Violet walked over a stuck the Lamp Guide into the ground. Almost emeditly it started glowing , not the gentle glow it had before but bright, shining out like a laser beam. It was rather amazing. “It’s here.” Jack said, walking over to the right side of the road, “Gwen, Martha, Rex, You search the left side of the road. Violet, Neal, with me on the right.”
The two groups searched their sides of the road, going up and down the road for a little over two hours. Just when they were about to give up hope Gwen noticed of all thing a small, light brown wooden book on the side of the road. She walked over to the side of the road and picked it up, holding it in both her hands. It was rather light, but that didn’t mean there was nothing inside. She opened it up and inside, nestled in a cut of evergreen velvet cloth, was a ring shaped like a swan, but still flat, wrapped around so that the beak was toughing the tail, with a diamond eye. “Jack!” Gwen called out, waving the ring in the air, “Over here!”
Jack, Violet, Neal, Rex, and Martha ran over to Gwen. They all gather around her, and in turn she held up the ring for all of them to see. “Here it is.” She said, holding the ring between her fingers.
“That’s it,” Jack said, somewhat surprised. He hadn’t been sure what would come of this lead. “Where did you find it?”
“Oddly enough, in this,” Gwen answered holding up the box. Jack took the box from her and examined it. “Looks oraniary enough.” He finally declared. He then got a look on his face as if the gears were turning in his mind, than he said, “Let’s see what the new guy makes of it.”
All eyes went to Neal. “Me?” Neal asked, pointing at himself.
“Yeah, you,” Jack answered, “Come on, come get take a gander at this box and start really earning you keep.”
Neal walked up to Jack, and took the box from him. He flipped it over a couple of times in his hands, examining it, and then said, “I agree with Jack. It’s just a regular box.” He then handed it back to Jack.
“Thank you,” Jack said, sounding rather satisfied.
“You’re welcome,” Neal replied, somewhat nervously, and then after a second said, “I gotta go.” Then he ran into the van and shut the door behind.
Everyone exchanged glances then Martha said, “Well that was weird.”
“Yeah, what was that about?” Rex added.
“Should we be worried he’s gonna take off in that?” Gwen put in.
Just then they hear someone who was not part of their group calling out for Neal. They turned around to see a small bald man with glasses hurriedly walking down the road screaming out for Neal, sounding somewhat desperate. The exchanged looks the group shared let everybody know they were thinking the exact same thing: There’s that other guy Neal told them about.
When the man saw the group he ran over to them. “Hey, I’m looking for someone a friend of mine, maybe you’ve seen him.”
Jack stepped forward, “Why are you looking for him?”
“We had a huge fight and he ran off, and he never came back and it’s been hours and the sun is setting and he’s in a foreign country and anything could happen to him! Look, he’s about as tall as you, dark brown hair, blue eyes; he was wearing a black suit. Have you seen anyone who looks like that? “
“No,” Jack answered casually, “Sorry.”
The man but his hand to his forehead and started to look around aimlessly. “Oh, I’ll never forgive myself,”
Now Jack kind of felt sorry for the guy so he decided to say, “Come on, it’s not like it’s your fault your friend ran off.”
“No, it is, he was completely right to say I was being unreasonable, because that what I am.” The man said, getting more upset by the second, “I tore the bed sheet, I over reacted when he said something about it, I was the one that brought up the other stuff, if he dies it’s my fault!”
Jack sympathized with the feeling of being responsible for someone, but he wasn’t sure what to say, for they couldn’t let the guy know Neal was with them. Gwen spoke up, saying the only thing she could think of, “I’m sure he’ll come back when he gets hungry.”
“Well, thanks anyway. “ He said as he started to walk away, “I’d better get going just in case he doesn’t show up.” Then walked away, continuing to call out for Neal as we went down the road. Violet looked over at Gwen and whispered “He’ll come back when he gets hungry? For Christ sake Gwen, he’s not a dog!”
“I panicked!” Gwen whispered back, “It was just so desperate and pathetic, like the time I thought I lost Anew at the grocery store.”
“When did lose Anew at the grocery store?” Martha asked.
“Last week,” Gwen emitted, “I turned to pick up a few cans of corn, turned back around and couldn’t see the cart anymore. I went into a complete panic until I realize Rhys had it and Anew and I didn’t hear him say he was gonna take it by the meat section. Not my proudest parenting moment.”
Jack walked back over to the van, and knocked on the door. “Neal, he’s gone, you can come out now.”
The door slid open Neal stepped out. “Thanks.”
“Let me guess,” Jack said, with his hand on the door, standing beside Neal, “That was the other guy.”
“Yeah,” Neal said flatly, “That was him.”
“What’s this about a bed sheet?” Jack inquired, stepping closer to Neal almost seductively. Neal suddenly remembered Violet’s comment about Jack being bi.
“It’s not what you think,” Neal said quickly, “I just noticed a tore sheet, asked what happened, and things just kinda exploded. There wasn’t anything – nothing was going on, not like what you’re thinking.”
“Well, he did seem pretty concerned to be-just a friend,” Jack said, wrapping on arm around Neal who was clearly uncomfortable with the situation.
“Oh, he is. In fact I had girlfriend back in New York,” Neal responded, backing away only to run into Jack’s hand on his back. He backed back up until Jack hand wasn’t touching his back anymore, but now he and Jack were mere inches away from each other. He did not like this at all.
“Stop it !” Violet screamed suddenly, “Can’t you seen he doesn’t like it?!”
And just like that, Jack backed away. “I’m sorry Neal,” He said, sincerely, “I don’t know what came over me.”
Neal didn’t say, anything, but instead ran over to Violet as fast as he could and stood behind her, as if for protection. Violet took the role automatically, moving so that she was positioned between Neal and Jack. Violet looked over at Rex and wondered if she should be worried about what Rex would do, his eyes now shifting back between Neal and Jack, the whole time shooting daggers.
“Okay,” Jack said, trying to change the subject, “Now that we’ve got that over with, let’s get back to the box.”
“What about it?” Martha asked, “You said yourself it was just an ordinary box.”
“Yes,” Jack agreed, “But doesn’t it seem kind of weird to you, that after sixty-one years, we find the ring on the side of the road in a box? At the time of Colette’s murder we believe whoever did couldn’t find the ring after they did it. This made her slaying even more senseless but more importantly right now it meant it should be lost forever, yet here it is, what’s more, nestled in velvet and little wooden box, as if someone left it here for us. Now, the question is, who?”
They all stood there in silence contemplating the question. Finally Jack said, “Well, I don’t think we’ll find out now. It’s getting late, so we should probly head back and-do what needs to be done.” He looked at Rex somberly.
“Yes,” Rex said, just as somber as Jack had, but also as if he was consigned to something, “I guess we have to do that now.”
Jack walked over to the left side of the van and got in the driver’s seat. Rex got into the front passenger seat. Then other started walking towards the van and getting in. “Hey,” Neal said, grabbing Violet’s arm and pulling her back, “Violet, what did Jack mean, ‘what needs to be done’?”
“Rex died, remember?” Violent said, as if that should explain everything, but fortunately went on, “On Miracle Day he was fatally wounded but same as everyone else that day, didn’t die, but unlike everyone else he didn’t die when the blessing was fixed, which I know if his injures had healed is just what should have happened, and yes, he had healed, but during the process of fixing it, loss all the blood in his body, which they probly should’ve noticed when he didn’t die then, but for whatever reason they didn’t and at his friend Ester’s funeral-“ She paused minute, trying to find a way to explain what happened quickly, “Long story short, someone shot him in the head, but he didn’t die. And that’s because of-“
“The ring.” Neal finished her sentence for her, “So they’re gonna use it to return Rex to his mortal state, right?”
Violet nodded, “And then he’ll probly die.”
Neal was stunned to hear that. “But, he healed from his injury. Even once he’s made mortal again, shouldn’t that keep him from dying, at least until the next thing that kills him kills him?”
“That’s what we’re hoping for,” Violet said, “But there’s always that chance-“
“Violet! Neal!” Jack called out, “Are you guys coming or not?!”
“Coming!” Violet shouted, and then she turned around started walking towards the van with Neal trailing behind her.
The pair got into the van, shut the door, but Jack didn’t start to drive. Instead he looked over at Rex and said, “Are you ready, Rex?”
“Yeah, Jack,” Rex said, then breathed out and added, “As ready as I’ll ever be.”
And then Jack stepped on the accelerator and drove off into the unknown, even though they were going back to where they had come from.
As Jack drove down the road, he couldn’t bring himself to look at Rex, it made him too miserable. Miserable, and heartbroken, and scared and guilty. Guilty, because this whole thing was his fault on so many levels. It was his blood inside the blessing that caused the Miracle, not only his blood, but his actions hundreds of years before that set the events into motion, and if that had never happen Rex wouldn’t be going to his death right now. And then to make things worse, then he had to go and start having romantic feelings for the guy, something he should know better than to do by now. Everyone he ever loved or cared about would eventually die and he might as well get use to it. In a way he was. And then he had to go pull that stunt with Neal. “Why did I do that?” He thought to himself, “It didn’t accomplish anything. All it did was scare Neal half to death, and hurt Rex.” He too had seen the daggers in Rex’s eyes after the unpleasant incident. Unexpectedly, without even realizing he was doing at first, Jack shifted his eyes to Rex and said, “I’m sorry.”
That got Rex’s attention. “Excuse me?”
“I’m sorry. About what I did earlier.”
“Well you should be.” Then Rex shimmied down into his seat like a sulking kid and turned to look out the window.
“I meant it when I said I didn’t know what came over me,” Jack said, desperate for Res to hear him out, “ I mean, I like Neal, but not like the way I acted like I liked him. “ After a moment of silence they looked at each again, and Jack added, “I do like you that way.”
“Uh, Jack,” Gwen piped up, “You know we can hear you back here, right?”
Jack and Rex turned away from each other, then Jack coughed awkwardly and said, “Hey guys, forgot you were back there.”
“Yeah,” Martha said, laughing a bit as he said it, ”That much is obvious.”
“Well,” Jack coughed again, “Oh look, we’re here.” Jack turned down the curve in the road where they had out up the tent. He parked the van and got out without a word, followed by everyone else, or at least, everyone except Rex. Rex just sat there, completing his possible death. He looked out the window and thought just one thing. “I’m not ready to go.” Rex knew that once he stepped out of the van, he’d be heading to his possible execution because they didn’t how far back the ring would revert him. It could just remove his immortality, and only remove his immortality, which if that was the case Rex would be glad, because he’d seen the down side of living for ever and it was a huge down side. On the other hand, it could also restore any or all of the fatal injuries he had received over the past few months, killing him, and as Joe Diffie once put it, he wanted to go Heaven, but he didn’t want to go tonight. But he knew had to do it, because until this last step was taken, it would never be over. The world would always be in danger of Miracle happening again. Rex took one last look at the window, enjoying what might be his last look at the beauty of nature. It then accrued to him that this wasn’t such a bad place for this to happen. The grass was still green and the trees were tall and full of green leaves, some of them turning to the colors of autumn, it was the perfect example of the beauty of the outside world, so perfect it could be in a picture. “If I have to die today,” He thought, “This isn’t a bad place to do it. In fact, it’s a rather nice place to do it, surrounded by beauty and friends. Even if you know, one of them still holds a grudge about the time I arrested them, but I kinds have that coming." With that last, sentimental, semi-comforting thought, he got out of the van.
They stood there in silence for a minute and then Rex said, “So, how do we do this?”
“We put the ring on you somewhere,” Jack began, “And Then whoever’s holding it focuses on you as you when you were mortal.”
“Oh,” Rex said, “Well that seems pretty simple.”
“Who do you want to do it?” Jack asked, “You have the right to pick who it is.”
Res thought a minute, then said, “I want you to do it, Jack.”
Jack was stunned. After what had just happened in the van, Jack would’ve thought he was the last person Rex would want to do this. “Me?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes,” Rex said, “I want you to do this. I mean, in all fairness I did almost get you killed once."
“Gwen,” Jack said, still looking at Rex, even though Gwen and everyone else was behind him and Rex was in front of him, “Give me the ring.”
Gwen walked up to Jack and put the ring and his hand. Holding the ring in his left hand, Jack walked up to Rex and placed the ring in the center of the man’s chest. Jack closed his eyes and focused on Rex as mortal, focused on him dying.
“Jack,” Rex said.
“Yeah?” Jack replied.
“I forgive you.” He said earnestly.
Jack gave him a small smile. “Thank you.”
Then as Jack continued to focus on making Rex mortal, Rex did something no one expected: He started to recite the Lord ’s Prayer. “Thou Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven-“
Then the prayer was interrupted by Rex being thrown back in a sudden blast of green light. “Rex!” Jack called out as he and the rest of the team rushed to Rex’s side. Martha grabbed on to Rex’s pulse as he sat up. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Rex answered, then he turned to Martha and asked, “What happened?”
“I think-I think you were revert back to your mortal state.” Martha answered.
“Well-why aren’t I dead then?” Rex asked, not complaining but just-confused.
Now, Violet spoke up, “I have an idea, if anyone wants to hear it.”
“Let’s hear it,” Rex said.
“I think that,” Violet began, “That even though he’s mortal again, since his wounds healed before hand, he won’t die this time, but the next time he receives a fatal injury, he’ll buy the farm just like the rest of us.” When no one spoke she added, “I’m sorry, was that insensitive?”
“Only slightly,” Rex said, “But what got is, that if she’s right that’s means-I’m not going to die, at least, not today.”
“No,” Jack said, sitting down beside Rex, “You’re gonna be just find. We all are.” Jack put his hand on top of Rex’s. Rex pulled his hand away. It wasn’t that he was still mad at Jack for what happened earlier with Neal, he just wasn’t sure he like Jack like that yet ,because like he told Danny the flight attendant on that very faithful flight, he's not gay, and this was very confusing for him, and it was something he wanted to be sure about. He gave Jack a look of apology and hoped he would understand. “It’s okay,” Jack said, “We have some time now. Though you might want to decide fast, because who knows how much time we have?”
Neal leaved over to Violet and whispered in her ear, “What was that all about?”
“Let’s put it this way,” Violet whispered back, “Love is complicated, and so is death. But them together and you have bedlam.”
After that there was a lot of cheering, backslapping, and happiness that Rex was going to be okay. Then Gwen pulled out a bottle of whiskey and they started to have a regular celebration. “Got it from that bloke who’s
car we helped fix, just out of town,” She explained, “ Mind if we past it around, Jack? I know we still have to figure out how the ring got to the side of the road, but special occasion and all.”
“It’s okay with me, but,” He turned his gaze to Violet, “I’m not the only one need ask here.”
Gwen looked ashamed as she turned to Violet and said, “Oh, Violet, I’m so sorry, I’ll put it back.”
“No, don’t,” Violet said,looking a little embarrassed at all the attention, “Just because one person can’t handle their liquor doesn’t mean it should spoil everyone’s else’s fun. Just no one past the bottle to me.”
“Why can’t she have a drink?” Neal asked, “She’s legal here.”
“It’s not that,” Violet said, looking down, “Being legally old enough to buy it never stopped me before. Maybe that was part of the problem. I’m a recovering alcoholic.”
Neal suddenly felt ashamed. It was a feeling he had been feeling a lot lately, but making this girl revel her deepest darkest demon in front of all these people-granted they probly already knew, Gwen and Jack did-seemed to be a different kind of shame. “I’m so sorry.”
“It’s alright,” Violet said sincerely, “You couldn’t have known.”
Then, without further adieu, Gwen handed the bottle to Rex, who sat beside her on the opening of the back of the van, and he cracked open the bottle took the first swig. Then he handed it over to Jack, who took a long gulp, Jack then stretched his arms across Rex to hand it to Gwen, who took a swig, and then handed it to Martha, who was sitting beside her. Martha took a swig from the bottle and then handed it to Neal. Neal took the bottle, put it to his lips and gulped, throwing it head back. The liquid burned at the back of his throat, causing him to caught most of it up. “Figures,” Gwen said, baiting him, “Mister White collar can’t kept his whiskey down.”
“I can,” Neal said defensively, “Just as good as you can.” And to drive the point home Neal took another, smaller, swig. At that point Jack reached across the line of people and took the bottle. “You probly shouldn’t get too drunk anyway. We-“ Jack took a swing of the whiskey himself, “Have some things we need to talk about.”
“Like that?” Neal asked, unsure of where this was going.
“Like about the future,” Jack answered, “Obviously we can’t have a wanted man working for us. Well, we could, because being outside the government and beyond the police, we’re not obligated to turn you into anyone. However, if you were to get arrested, things could get pretty complicated, pretty fast. “
“Oh,” Neal said, still not sure where this was going, but sure it probly wasn’t good, “I see.”
“But fortunately,” Jack handed the bottle back to Rex, “Despite falling apart, Torchwood still has some very good connections. Connections I can use to get you a full pardon.”
Neal let out a small laugh, “A pardon for escaping from jail and evading arrest?”
“It won’t be the easiest thing in the world I grant you,” Jack said, “Give me a few a few phone calls and a couple of days, a week tops, and you’ll be in the clear.”
This actually scared Neal a bit, “How is it even possible for you to do that? I mean what kind of connections could you possibly have that could do that?”
“A couple of governors, senator or two,” Jack answered, “Plus the British connections and the rest of the globe, obviously, but all you need to focus on is the governors. More speficly, the one from New York State.”
“Oh,” Neal said, “I see. Why are you telling me all this?”
“Because,” Jack began, then he paused, his eyes moving back and forth, thinking, “You know, that’s actually a good question.”
“Maybe you’re just concerned that he didn’t ask how this was gonna work earlier.” Violet suggested, from her spot standing by the side of the van.
“I was too busy trying to play catch up to even think about that,” Neal said, somewhat defensively, “Plus, I figured I’d probly use an alias for the rest of my life.”
“Yeah, we could do that,” Jack said in a way that made it known he thought it was a bad idea, “But for security reason we would have to fake your death most likely viva a hail of gunfire from one law enforcement agency or another, and then have you spend the remainder of your left wearing a perception filter to make sure you’re not recognized.”
Neal didn’t like the sound of that. “Yeah, I like your original plan better.”
“I thought you would,” Jack said.
“Well, now that we’ve got that squared away,” Gwen began, “Can we please focus on the reason for the celebration, i.e. Rex’s official return to living.” She took another swig from the bottle, which was now a little less than half full. “Although, there is one problem with this little set up.”
“What’s that?” Rex asked.
“The yanks now outnumber me and Martha four to two!” Gwen answered.
“Well,” Martha began, “Are you sure that Jack count as an American since he’s really from another planet?”
“Ah, well,” Gwen relented, “I see your point there, but they still outnumber us three to two.”
“Jack’s from another planet?!” Neal cried out.
“After everything else you’ve heard and seen does that really surprised you?” Rex challenged.
Neal thought a minute than said, “No.” Martha then held out the bottle to him, and he quickly took it and took a large swig, managing to keep it all down this time. He had a feeling he was going to need every last drop.
After the bottle was finished, the sun had set, and they were exhausted from the day, so everyone decided to go into the tent. Jack and Rex slipped off to one of the smaller tents attached to side, Martha went into the other side-tent, leaving Gwen, Neal and Violet to sleep in the main tent. Neal laid down, threw his jacket over himself like a blanket, and closed his eyes, then opened them again when he heard someone whispering in the corner. He opened his eyes and saw Violet, lying on top of a white blanket. “Come down and watch me where I lie, and keep me safe ‘till morning light, Amen.”
Just when Neal thought nothing else could possible surprise them, something did. Rex saying the Lord’s Prayer a few seconds away from dying made sense but Neal didn’t expect this seemingly tough-as-nails, recovering alcoholic, feral, Goth girl to be religious. What’s more she appeared to saying a prayer usually said by small children. She was still a child herself, but still.
Just then Violet caught him staring, “What?”
“Nothing, it’s just-“Neal began, “I didn’t expect that you are the praying type.”
“Not usually,” Violet explained, not bothering to sit up, “It’s more of a force of habit, my little sister prays, I pray do it with her every night.”
“You have a little sister?” Neal asked, somewhat intrigued, “What’s her name?”
Violet paused for a minute, thinking, and then finally said, “Rose.”
Neal smiled at the common theme in the girls’ names. “Violet and Rose. Your parents like the flowers names apparently.”
Violet seemed to crouch into the fetal possion.
Neal grew concerned. “Violet, did I say something to upset you? I didn’t mean to intrude.”
“It’s not that,” Violet reassured him, “Well, I guess it’s kinda that, to a certain extent. I’m not usually this open with people. My parents are just kind of a touchy subject for me. They’re dead. They’ve-been dead for five years now. I’ve been raising Rose ever since.”
The left Neal a bit confused. “Raising? How old is she?”
Neal did the math in his head. What he deduced made his heart sink. “That would’ve made you fourteen when your parents died.”
“Yeah,” Rose said, impatiently, “ Can we go to sleep now?”
“Sure,” Neal said, all thought he wasn’t looking forward to trying to sleep, knowing that the nightmares still awaited him, as always.
Neal was right. Almost the moment he fell asleep he found himself in the throes of another nightmare. As usual, it began the same, courtroom, sentencing, and finally the traitor being delivered to the arms of those he betrayed. That was, the point, as usual, things differed. They surrounded Neal, forming a semi-circle around him. He stood there, trembling as they gazed down at him, hatred in their eyes. “So, boss,” Dianna said her voice clam and smooth but with a hit of malice in it, “What should we do with him?”
“The judge said we could do anything we wanted to him,” Peter said, “So what does everybody want to do?”
“I think we should kill him.” Sara said abruptly.
Everyone turned to look at her. Neal wanted to open his mouth and say something, to protest, to beg, but he couldn’t. His mouth felt dry and heavy, like it was filled with sand.
“You want to run that by us again?” Jones asked.
“We should kill him.” Sara said again, as if she couldn’t believe no one else was fallowing her logic, “Look, like Peter said, the judge said we could do anything, there’s nothing really else we can do and-“Sara turned to face Neal directly, her face fill with hatred and fire and rage, “And he deserves it.”
“Don’t,” Neal thought, looking up at the group, his eyes terrified and pleading, “Don’t agree to this. Please.”
After a moment of silence, the group thinking about this, Peter look around and said, “Anyone else want to kill him?”
Several of them nodded and there was a chorus of “Yeah,” “Yes,” “I’m okay with it,” and even a “Fine by me.”
Peter was the only one who had yet to consent. That gave Neal a glimmer of hope. Peter had always been the rational one. Maybe he would see the madness in this act.
All hope of that happening was that was dashed when Peter said, “So, let’s do it.The thing now is how do we do it?”
“We could shoot him.” Jones suggested, “We all have guns.”
“No,” Peter said, “This is an execution; we should use an execution method.”
“How about the electric chair?” Sara recommended.
“How are we going to get access to one of those?” Diana pointed out.
“What about lethal injection?” Elizabeth asked.
“If we can’t get access to the chair, we won’t be able to get access to a lethal injection chamber?” Sara snapped.
“We could drown him, “Diana said, “I think drowning use to be an old time execution method. Or a trail method, I’m not sure.”
“Good enough for me,” Peter said coldly.
Then all five sets of hands in the group reached out and grabbed Neal. Jones and Dianna grabbed his arms. Sara and Elizabeth grabbed his legs. Peter took a hold of the collar of Neal’s shirt. Neal started kicking and thrashing, fighting for his life, as they carried him to the lake that had suddenly appeared. Then he found his voice again. “ Please, don’t do this! I’m begging you! Please!”
“You really should have thought about this before you ran,” Jones said.
“Yeah,” Dianna added, “You betrayed all of us. Again. “
“Do you realize what a fool I looked like, Neal?” Peter demanded, “Do you?”
“I didn’t know you going to do that!” Neal argued, “I’m sorry, if I had only know-“
At that point they had him over the still lake water, and for a moment everything was still, even Neal ceased in his struggling, but he made one last ditch effort to save his life. He made eye contact with each and every one of them, and whisper pleadingly, “Please don’t kill me.”
Put his plea for mercy fell on deaf ears. Together all four of them dropped him into the water and held him down. In a panic, he struggled against the hands holding him down to no avail as his lungs filled up with water. The pressure built on lungs and it felt as if they were about to explode. Suddenly he hear a frantic female voice calling, “Neal! Neal! Wake up!” And another female voice with a welsh accent also saying “ Neal! Wake up! It’s alright, you’re just dreaming!”
Neal snapped back to reality. Violet had him almost up right with her hands on both his upper arms. Gwen was kneeling beside her, concerned. And with good reason. Neal had broken out into a cold sweat, there were tears streaming down his face and he was breathing heavily. “It’s alright,” Violet said, “You had a bad dream, that’s all.” But he was still terrified, Violet could tell. She wasn’t sure what to do, so she turned to Gwen and clearly she was at a lost as well. Then Violet remembered what she always did with Rose. She wasn’t sure if it would work, because Rose was a 10-year-old girl and Neal was grown man, but it was worth a shot. She took Neal in her arms, started rocking back forth, and started to sing:
Go up to the mountain of mercy,
To the crimson perpetual tide.
Kneel down on the shore,
Be thirsty no more,
Go under and be purified.
Follow Christ to the Holy Mountain,
Sinner, sorry and wrecked by the fall,
Cleanse your heart and soul.
In the fountain that flows,
for you and for me and for all.
At the wonderful tragic mysterious tree,
On that beautiful scandalous night you and me,
Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white,
On that beautiful scandalous night.
Neal’s muscles lost their tension and his breathing had slowed to its regular pace. His body was still covered with sweat, but he had stopped actually perspiring, and there were no tears, it seemed as though he had calmed down. She didn’t even have to get to the second verse. She let go and leaned back to look at him. “Are you okay now?”
“Yeah,” Neal answered.
“What was that?” Gwen asked, clearly freaked out.
“Like Violet said, bad dream,” Neal answered, trying to shrug it off.
“Yeah, but that was more like a full-blown night terror,” Gwen said, “You, were screaming, and begging and carrying on like somebody was trying to kill ya.”
Neal paused for a minute, to figure out how to response, then finally said,” It wasn’t a night terror. Can we try to get back to sleep now?”
“Ah, Certainly,” Gwen said. She turned around and went back to where she had placed her sleeping bag. “Good night.”
“Good night,” Violet and Neal said simultaneously. Violet crawled back over to her blanket, this time getting under it, but she reassumed the fetal position. “You want to leave the lantern on?”
“What?” Neal asked, “No. I’m not a child.”
“Okay, just asking,” Violet said, starting to get back up, “Adults need to leave the light on sometimes too you know.”
“Don ‘t get up,” Neal said, getting up himself, “I’ll turn it off it.” Then he walked over to the dark green electric lantern and hit the off button once again filling the room with darkness. He then walked back over to his spot on the floor, and curled up in the fetal position.
Neal never got back to sleep. And it was about five A.M that he started hearing the sounds from inside the tent. First, it was the unzipping of the something, and the tumbling around for something in the dark.For a few minutes after that, there was no noise, but then there was the sound of bottle clamoring to the floor, and Violet whispering, “S***,” under her breath. That made Neal peak his eyes open to see what was going on, though he knew he wouldn’t be able see in the darkness. Forcunely at that point Violet found a flash light, turned it on and faced towards her and her makeup bag, inivertly giving Neal much more than her bargained for.
She was completely necked.
As she pulled out one of the bottles of oil, Neal started to turn away, but some unusual marks on her body caught his eye. What drew Neal’s attention was not the usual parts that would draw a man’s attention when a nineteen-year-old girl is necked, but instead, her arms and legs. Her whole body told a story but they told the biggest part of the story, and it was a gruesome one. She had a tattoo on her chest that said Trust Me in fancy black ink, and one on right shoulder blade that said, "Mother forgive me," in the same lettering, and another one on the bottom of her right wrist, this one an eye. But the first thing he noticed was the scars. Starting at the beginning of her forearms and ending somewhere in her upper arms, there were hundreds of them, some thin or faded with age, other raised from scar tissue built up from multiple reopening, others just there, unchanged by time, but there were also strange little dots, as if a needle had been inserted in those spots several time until they left permanent marks. On her legs the scars covered almost every piece of skin, only stopping where her legs met her torso. While the ones higher up on her legs weren’t very defined, most of the lower ones had that repeatedly opened look about them, and he could see the little dots between her toes. Neal now realized what the foundation mixture was for: she was using it to cover up the scars. It also dawned on Neal what had caused those scars.
At some point in her life, Violet had been a drug addict and a cutter.
At point Violet looked up from rubbing the oil into her skin and saw Neal staring at her. She shrieked and jumped back, grabbing the blanket and putting it over her body, and Neal turned around and cried out, “I wasn’t staring! Well, I was but not for the reasons you think!”
“I know exactly why you were staring!” Violet screamed, “You staring at my scars! Everyone does, that’s why I cover them up!” Then she looked down, ashamed. “I suppose I shouldn’t complain, “Violet said, now at a regular speaking volume, “I put them there myself.”
That one really threw Neal. “You want to run that by me again?”
Violet looked up at him, her brown eyes full of sadness and remorse and pain and guilt. “I said I put them there myself.”
“Yeah, I figured that, but…why?” Neal asked, astounded, and somewhat concerned, “Why would you do this to yourself?”
Violet looked down a moment, staring at her arms. Then she looked back at him and said, “Do you really want to know?”
“Yes.” Neal said, without even thinking about it.
After another minute of thinking, Violet said, “Wait here, give me time to get some clothes on and think about this. Then I’ll come back and give you my answer.”
“Where are you gonna go?” Neal asked.
“Outside,” Violet said, already getting up wrapped in the blanket, “I brought a change of clothes and hid it under the floorboard of the van."
“What about her?” Neal whispered, nodding to a somehow still sleeping Gwen.
“If she slept through everything that just happened, nothing else we do to will wake her up,” Violet said confidently, “Heck, an atomic bomb going off probly wouldn’t wake her up if she slept through all that.” Then unzipped the tent flap, and got out leaving Neal alone with his thoughts, and a mountain of used makeup remover wipes.
After Violet stepped outside she wrapped the blanket around her body and tied it like a makeshift sarong, and rezipped the flap. She walked over to the van with her head in her right hand, desperately trying to figure out what she was going to do. “I can’t tell him,” She thought to herself, “I can’t let him know what I’ve done.” It wasn’t that Neal was anything special, it was that she couldn’t tell anyone what she had done. It was bad enough the whole team knew, did everyone else have to, too?! “Well,” Violet thought, as she pulled out the clothes she had brought, “He is a member of the team. He’s probly gonna find out eventually. Maybe he’ll understand. He’s done bad things, too.” But even as she thought that, she didn’t believe it. The thing was, she couldn’t believe Neal was as bad as everyone said he was, he seemed so clean cut. Then again, to him, she must look like, simply, a girl. Young, innocent, maybe sweet, even. He would never guess that she was a murderess.
As she slipped on a fresh brief, it occurred to her what she could do. Neal kept his past close to the chest as well. And what was with the nightmare earlier? If she was going to explain her scars, shouldn’t he have to explain that?
And that’s how Violet decided that, she was going to have to bare all, so would Neal.
With that decision made, Violet pulled on her pants, put on her shirt, and marched back to the tent.
Neal had been inspecting the spot when Violet had been. The bottles were toss about and the floor was strode with used wipes, covering in the mixture. He picked one up and sniffed and smelt the sharp sent of makeup remover. He picked up the bottle she had been using, the purplish on, and smelt the contents. It smelt like roses. In fact, the whole tent smelt like roses because Violet hadn’t put the cap back on when she left and it split onto the floor. He screwed the lid back on and picked up the blue bottle. He unscrewed the lid and put the bottle to his nose and, just as he suspected, it smelt like frankincense and sweet almonds. “That explains the sent.” He thought, “It was from these oils.” He reached out for the clear bottle that was filled with some kind of brown oil, when the tent started to unzip. He quickly backed away, convinced that if Violet caught him messing with her things she’d kill him for sure. Violet stepped into the tent wearing a long-sleeved, black leather shirt, the black leather fingerless gloves from before, black cloth pants, and black leather boots.
“You sure like your black,” Neal commented.
“I do.” Violet replied, “Now get out here.” Then she turned around and walked out of the tent.
Neal fallow her and when he stepped out of the tent she saw Violet standing out in the middle of the field, her arms crossed, hugging herself. She stayed exactly where she was, not even looking at Neal when she said, “I’ll make you a deal.”
“Okay,” Neal said, “What’s the deal?”
“You tell me everything that got you here, and I’ll tell you everything that me here.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
Violet exhaled then said quickly and somewhat impatiently, “ I mean you tell about that dream, who that friend was and why you ran and in return I’ll let you look inside me, through the stains and through the cracks.”
Neal said nothing. Violet turned around, looking rather desperate and sad, and said, “Look, to explain why I made these scars I have to tell you things I don’t tell anyone, things I try to hide deep down, but am still convinced that everyone knows. Horrible things that I’ve done.” Tears started to roll down her face, and face and she covered her mouth with her hand. “Oh Neal,” She sobbed, “I’ve done such terrible things, unspeakable things!” She said nothing after that, just sobbed. Neal walked up to her, took her in his arms, and held her tight. “Hey,” He whispered to the side of head, “Whatever you did it couldn’t be all that bad. Look, if it upsets you that much, I’ll either drop it, or take your deal, it seems fair, all things considered, anyway. Your choice.”
Violet was quiet for a minute, considering what she wanted to do. Finally, not looking up, just staring off into the distance, she said, numbly, “You were probly going to find out eventually, you might as well find out now. “But try not to judge me, ‘cause we’ve walked down different paths.”
“I’m no saint either, remember?” Neal pointed out, “I’m in no position to judge anyone. Would you mind extending me the same curtuostsy, though?”
“Yeah,” Violet answered. Then the embrace broke and the pair went over to van, and sat on the side of it. “I guess to began I should really start when I was a kid,” Violet began, “I’m not using my so-called childhood to justify anything I did, it just explains how I got to this point. You see I didn’t just start raising Rose I when I fourteen, I practically raised her since she was born. My dad was an abusive drunk and was too preoccupied getting hammered and beating Ma to bloody pulp to go work most days or take care of us, he wouldn’t let ma et a job, and she was too busy trying to survive and, I guess in a way protect us from him, to actually take care of us most days. I fed her, changed her, hunted to get meat, and even did odd jobs for some of the people who lived by us, thought they usually didn’t have cash themselves and paid me in food. Our town wasn’t even actually a town, you see, just a cluster of about five run-down shacks just outside of Pigeon Forge, so everyone was flat broke. Somehow I managed to survive and protect Rose until-that day. I had just turned fourteen and Rose had just turned six, and Magot sick, really sick, like she was coughing up blood, that’s how sick she was, and Dad wouldn’t let her see a doctor. I begged him to let her see one, but he still wouldn’t and somehow, I don’t know how this happened, but somehow my frustration with Dad turned into anger at my mom for letting him treat her that way, and then I just starting screaming asking her how could she let this happen, how come she never did anything, even when he started pounding on me. I called her weak, and useless,” Violet looked as if she might cry again, “I even said I hated her. And then, I took Rose, and ran off into the woods without a thought about what might happen to Masince I ticked Dad, off. “ She let a bitter laugh, “I sure thought about it two days later when I came back out to find the shack surrounded by police cars, Dad in one of them banging against the glass, screaming his head off, and threatening every cop on scene, and an ambulance with a body covered up with a sheet in it. As a cop walked up to ask and asked if we were Violet and Rose, I put two and two together.” Violet stopped talking, looking down. She didn’t need to say what had happened.
Her father had murdered her mother.
“Oh, my God, Violet,” Neal breathed, “I’m so sorry.”
“My mother died thinking I hated her,” Violet said, her voice full of self-loathing, “Of all the things I’m done that’s at the top of the list of things I’ll never forgive myself for.”
“And that’s when you started cutting yourself,” Neal said, hopping to spare the girl from having to say it herself.
“No, that’s just the prelude to what happened next,” Violet responded” So me and Rose wound up in a foster home in a small town sixteen miles away. It wasn’t the foster parents that were the problem, they weren’t the kind you hear about on the news, in fact, they were right nice. Their only flaw was they were majorly in denial about some the obvious problems some of the foster kids had. Case in point, William, the worst of the lot. He was 16 and a half, already did one stint in juvie, and was on the fast track to another stint, or worst doing something he could get tried as an adult for, or even worst, Hell. We had been there for two weeks when he walks into the room me and Rose and another girl, Georgia, shared, and started talking to me in a way that you shouldn’t talk to fourteen year olds. Then when I try to get him to go away, he grabs me, and holds me down, but luckily before he could anything else I grabbed a letter opener, don’t ask me why it was there I don’t know, and slash his arms open. I ran out of the room, he’s trying to stop the bleeding and screaming every derogatory thing you can call a female, our foster mom, Lorena rushes in to see what’s going on, and I’m grabbing Rose and running out a door something left open. After that, honestly, for a while it’s kind of a blur, I was in shock, I had probly just killed a kid, then, like I said, it was a blur so I don’t know how much time have past, but I’m standing on a street corner, covered with blood cutting off the circulation to Rose’s hand, I’m gripping it so tight, and this guy I’ve never seen before walks to me and saids my name. I look up to him, and I guess it show how surprised, or scared I was, because saids he heard about what happened, and informed me William almost lost the arm. I started freaking out because I was afraid I’d be the one heading to juvie now, but the guy clams me down, says his name is Rupert Bobbitt, and said, that there’s potential in me, and offers to take me to a special school. A school for warriors. Like I said I was afraid of getting in trouble, to afraid to even go back to the foster home, so I said yes, but ask we can get Roses things, the dress our foster parents had bought her because the only clothes we had were rags and her toys which were hand-me-downs of mine and toys I either bought or made her. We did, but he said we had to hurry. I think I can guess why, ‘cause technically he was kidnapping us. You see this “school” was really a training center for a secret organization called the Emerald Eye.”
“Wait a minute,” Neal interrupted, “Secret organization?”
“Yeah,” Violet said, “ I know it’s hard to believe but it’s true.”
“What was this secret organization about?” Neal asked, sounding somewhat scared.
“Basically,” Violet began, “They were alien hunters when alien hunting wasn’t cool. They were basically a group of people who got tired of everyone denying we were getting attack by aliens and took matters into their own hands. It was nationwide, but the training facility was in town much like the one I grew up in, just a cluster of shacks in the backwoods, except this place had name, Pine Hallow. Every year gather twenty-four kids from ages twelve to twenty-one with potential like mine, and trained them for one year in combat, and then they had what they called the Finial, where they put them in a control forest area filled with captured aliens, and they tried to kill as many as possible in two weeks, and during those two weeks the instructors observed them, and if they did well, they were made official alien hunters and given the mark of the Emerald Eye. “ Violet held out her wrist for Neal to see the tattoo on it, a simple eye made with black ink. As she pulled it back she continued to speak, “They’re given seventy-five dollars a week to live on and not allowed to get jobs, so they can focus on their training. This is also a kind of training in itself, because the students have use their minds and be resourceful to make ends meet, and get all the necessities in life, like food and shelter. So Mr. Bobbitt took me to Pine Hallow, and I became a member of the Training Center class of 08 through 09. And that’s where I met Declan and Michael.” She paused a minute, looked down, and said, “I’m not really sure how to explain what happened next.” Then she looked as if she was about to be sick, as she said, “Yeah I do.” Then she turned around, crawled into the van and rummaged around. After about a minute or so of rummaging, she crawled back out, holding the device she had earlier said could show someone’s another person’s memory.
“Are you sure?” Neal asked.
“Yes,” Violet said. She started to stick the electrodes attached to the gray side onto her head. “You need help putting yours on?”
“Do I put them in the same spots you do?” Neal asked.
“Yeah,” Violet answered.
“Then I think I can handle it,” Neal started to put the electrodes on his head, exactly where Violet put hers, “So, how does this work?”
“We’re not entirely sure how it works, but what will happens is I’ll guide you through my memories to show you what I want you to see. Only you’ll see it from the third person. You’ll still feel some of the things I was feeling, maybe get a thought or two, but you’ll also see me. Got everything on your side?”
“I think so,” Neal said.
“Then ready, set, here we go. Now just close your eyes clear your mind, and I’ll do the rest.”
Neal did exactly as he told and seconds later the darkness of the inside of his eyelids was replace by a brightly lit red, black and grey room. There were several mats and stations, surrounding a platform consisting of a large circle with a smaller circle on top of it. Standing on top of the platform dark-skinned woman who looked to be in her forties, with short black hair wearing a black uniform with gray and red lines running down the sides of the arms and legs. The platform was surrounded by twenty-four children, all in the same uniform as the woman was, except theirs were short sleeve, and hers was long sleeve. He saw that one of the children was Violet. She was in the center of the crown, looking around at her fellow students, as she listen to the woman talked. At fourteen, she was even smaller with than she was in the present, and her hair was her natural color, her skin sun burnt and peeling, with blisters on her callusing hands, one of them the size of a cherry. She turn to look at a boy who looked to be in his twenties, maybe even hitting the twenty-one year age limit, with sandy blonde hair. He turned to look at her too, with the darkest chocolate brown eyes she had ever seen. He gave her a very charming smile, but she turned away because that smile couldn’t hide what she saw in his eyes. There something-not quite normal about him. Something wrong.
Then the image blurred and reformed, and it was the same building, only a different part of it. Violet looked to be the same age, except her hair was cropped. Not merely cut sort, as if done by a professional or a friend, but cropped off, each side of it stopping at the top of her neck, as if she had done it herself with a razor blade, which was very real possibility, considering what she was doing. She was standing in front of target shaped like the outline of a human, and she was holding a large knife in her hand. She took the knife in both her hands, centering it between her eyes, then she threw it at the target, hitting it right in the head. “That’s some good aim.” A voice said from behind her said.
She turned around to see a boy of about sixteen, with cornslik blonde hair cut very neat, and gray eyes. “Hi, I’m Michael.”
“I’m Violet,” she replied, brushing a strand of hair out of her face.
“I know, I saw you in bang stick class,” Michael replied, “I think Robin’s gonna be out for a while.”
Robin was the instructor who taught bang stick class.
“Yeah,” Violet said sheepishly, “I got a bit into it.”
“A bit?” The sandy blonde boy in his twenties said as he walked up to the them and stood beside Michael.
“Oh,” Violet said, backing away a step, “You two know each other?”
“Yeah,” the sandy blonde boy said, putting his arm around Michael, “We figured two heads were better than one to figure out a way to survive.” He stuck out his hand to shake, “I’m Declan.”
Violet shook Declan’s hand, but one could tell by the awkward look on her face that it was just to be polite. “I’m Violet.”
“I know, I saw the performance today in band stick class, too,” Declan said.
“All right, everybody, line up!” A booming voice called out. The three ran over to the co merging band of teens and lined up.
The image blurred than reformed, this time it began the outside of the old abandoned castle Violet had found, and she and Rose had been living with. She was wearing the leather corset and mini-skirt which she found inside said castle, standing over an old metal pot, stirring a soup she had made out things she had found in the forest-edible moss, greens, tubers, and edible mushrooms-and red, orange and yellow bell peppers. She looked over to Rose, a skinny little girl, somewhat small for her age, with long golden hair that fell to either side of her face, who was playing in the grass with the little maple wood bird Violet had whittled for her. She then turned back to look at the soup. She was stirring the soup when she heard a familiar voice say, “Hey, what you go there, little girl?”
She turned around and found, to her horror, Declan and Michael standing over Rose, her chatting them up like she knew them for years. “Hey!” Violet called out, angry, marching over to them. When the only thing between her and the boys was Rose, Violet said, “What are you doing here?”
“Wondering around, trying to find shelter and maybe something to eat,” Declan explained, “Because well, basically we haven’t eaten in two days, and the foxes that wee the actually owner of that den we were staying in, came back, and, well, to make a long story short, foxes may be small, but, um, they sure are feisty.” He held up his arm and Violet saw how starched up it was. Michael wasn’t in great shape either.
“Ah, that’s a crying shame,” Violet said, sounding like she didn’t really care.
“Hey,” I got an idea, “Declan replied, ignoring her comment, “Maybe you could give us some of that soup you got there, and we could bunk with you guys for a night. “
“And why should I do that?” Violet asked, sounding annoyed that he would even suggest such a thing.
“Because we’re your brothers,” Declan answered, “Isn’t that they say? You know, we’re all brothers and sisters in the order.”
“What order?” Rose asked, looking up at the boys.
“There’s no order, sweetie,” Violet said, quickly, “Declan, Michael, can I talk to you over by the pot for a minute?”
“Sure,” Declan answered for both boys, and they all walked over to the soup pot.
“You stay over there Rose, alright?” Violet called.
“All right, Violet.” Rose called back, and then went back to playing with her bird.
When they reach the pot, Violet hissed in a whisper, “I haven’t told Rose about the Emerald Hand, alright? As for as she knows, it’s really a special school, nothing more nothing less, and I intend to keep it that way. And on that note, I don’t know if you noticed but I got a real, ganedicly related to me, sister to worry about. And we haven’t had a decent meal in a while, too, and if I can keep this thing from spoiling we can make it into tomorrow.”
“What if I had something to trade?” Declan asked.
“Like what?” Violet asked.
“That soup might last you two days, you said.” Declan said, more statement than question.
“Yeah,” Violet replied, “So?”
“So, that’s only gonna last you two days maybe not even that,” Declan began, “And then you’re back to starving. You and, as you said, that sister you have to worry about.” Declan paused, perhaps for dramatic effect, or empathies. “What if I had a way to keep you from ever being hungry again? Better yet, a way to get other supplies like soap, and maybe even clean clothes, so you wouldn’t have to live like animals anymore?”
“And how can you manage that when you’re in the same position I’m in?” Violet asked, not buying what he was selling, but listening now.
“You know that guy with the bomb shelter, and stockpile of supplies?” Declan asked.
“Yeah, Doomsday Guy.” Violet replied.
“And that woman with the flock of ducks and geese?” Declan asked.
“Yeah, Bird Lady.” Violet answered.
“Me and Michael have a plan,” Declan began, “We think that if we combined our money for the week, we can buy a couple of ducks or geese off Bird Lady. The eggs from their can get us through to next week, and then we combined the money from next week’s cash, and trade that money and the birds to Doomsday Guy for some supplies.” After another pause he said, “You know, we might be able to get more if we added another seventy-five dollars to the pot and maybe some stuff you found inside that castle over there.”
Violet paused for a moment, looking skeptical, and said, “And this is a sure thing?”
“As sure as it can get.” Declan said.
“Find,” Violet said, “You have some soup and stay tonight, but if this deal doesn’t come through you’re out on your ear. Now, come inside with me so we can get the crocks, this thing's done."
Then the image blurred and when it reformed Neal was in complete darkness. He was wondering what this could possibly be when he heard Violet’s voice say, “You can open your eyes down. I’ve shown you what you need to see.”
He opened his eyes and started to take off the electrodes, just as Violet was doing. “So you let them stay?”
“Yeah,” Violet said, “And Michael’s twin sister Gracie, for the rest of training. We weren’t really friends, it was more of a-symbiosis of sort. I let them stay at my place, which everyone in the Eye agreed was one of the best spots in town, a castle made by the town's eccentric founder, and they included me in whatever plan they had worked up to keep stocked in supplies. And it was one of the biggest mistakes of my life.”
“Why?” Neal asked, “What happened?”
“I’ll get to that,” Violet said, “But first I have to tell another one of those unspeakable thing’s I’ve done. And it’s something you don’t need to see.” She grabbed the rest of the electrodes on her head, and threw them to the ground in anger.
“What did you do?” Neal asked, slightly scared.
“Remember what I said about the Final?”
“Yeah, that the instructors placed the students in a controlled forest area when they hunt-“ Neal voice trailed off as he realized where this was going, “Oh.”
“Oh?” Violet said in a voice that sounded like an angry laugh, “ I tell you I murdered beings in cold blood and all you can say it ‘Oh’?”
“Are you can call it murder?” Neal asked, “I mean they weren’t human.”
Before he knew what was happening, Neal felt the hot sting of a blur of Violet's hand across his face and heard her screaming, “They had human intelligence, they had emotions, and they could fight or beg for their lives, even if it wasn’t in English!” Violet reeled back and crouched on her hands and knees, looking feral as she continued her tirade, now sounding mournful and self-loathing, as well as furious, “Sure, the first one was an animal, a small dragon about the size of a cat, but the rest were murders. I wound up crushing the poor little guy under my foot, it must’ve been terrified, when I looked at what I done, it reminded me of something my father, so I ran off and hid in a tree for the first three days. Then, on the fourth day, I heard someone being hit, and cut and Declan screaming questions about where the others were, and the most pathetic voice I’ve ever begging for mercy, so I creeped through the trees find out what was going on. When I got a good view I saw Declan, with the help of Michael and Gracie, torturing a Zipasour, an alien that’s basically, a talking dinosaur, for information about where the other aliens were hiding. Michael was kicking him, the Gracie would pistol whip him with the butt of her gun, and Declan was cutting him with a pocket knife, all the while the poor creature begging for mercy, for freedom, for death. So I decided to give it to him.” Violet had to stop for a minute, looking as if she was gonna be stick. “I had acquired a bow and arrow, and I made the arrow I used count. I hit in right in the neck, killing him instantly. Declan look up in the tree and saw me. I ran off but he tracked me down and when he did he was furious, but for the rest of the Final I stuck with them, and in that time I killed three more aliens, and those weren’t mercy killings.” She casted her eyes downward in a show of deep shame and remorse. “Fortunately I didn’t get the chance to do it again, because a week after we got our eye tats, UNIT with the help of the CIA and local authorizes brought the Emerald Eye down. Only the real high ups got any jail time, but the rest they let go, because they saw that we just kids, angry at the world, a lot of us with good reason to, who had been taken advantage of by adults with an axe to grind. And after I got away from them, I started to see the truth, that this wasn’t some noble cause, and that what I did was cold-blooded murder. That was the first time I went numb, and that’s when I started cutting myself, just to feel something, but I got a handle on it and was able to stop for a while. But then another problem presented itself.”
“What?” Neal asked, up until this point too absorbed to ask a question.
After UNIT broke up the Eye I had nothing. I mean, I didn’t have so much as a high school degree-heck; I hadn’t even gone to high school, no references, and no useable job skills. Sure, I was good with a switch blade and other weapons. But you can’t put that on a resume, it puts people off.”
“You didn’t exactly have nothing,” Neal pointed out, “I mean, you had Rose.”
“Yeah, but when all you have is a little sister and no way to take care of her that doesn’t seem like much.” Violet retorted.
“Well-what did the other kids do?” Neal asked, not really sure if he wanted to know.
“Some of the older ones wrangled jobs as private security, some of various ages became in forcers for less-than-up-and-up types, some went to the Mart, this alien black market up in New York, some fixed their relationships at home, one of the youngest kids in our class, a girl name Aquila, became the lead singer of Queen tribute band, most of them I just don’t know,” Violet said, “As for me, I went back to doing odd jobs for the locals in exchange for food and a bit of money if they had the cash to spare, and heading up to the next town and pawning things I found in the castle, including that cameo you saw, this went on for about two months until Declan, Michael, and Gracie showed up one day with another scheme. This had happened after Torchwood officially fell, so there was no one guarding the Riff at the time, and they had been at the Mart, and had got their hands on a teleport they used to get from New York to Cardiff, back to New York with their hall, as well a device that could somehow manipulate the Riff and get it to draw stuff in and dump it in Cardiff. The Riff did this before , but never on command. You could tell Declan felt like a God.” Violet pause for a minute looking angry, and then she looked right at Neal for the first time since she started telling her story and said, “There’s something you need to know about Declan Jones. He could talk anybody into anything. I don’t mean just like talking people into things, he was a baby cult leader. He could make anything sound good, and knew how to control people. He could find a person’s weak point and exploit it. And that’s exactly what he did to me. I didn’t like the idea of messing with nature like that and they were very vague on what exactly came through the Riff that we would be selling, but he made it sound so good, and then pointed that I had no other way of adetqitly supporting a child, and even made promises of being able to return to school. He had me, hook line and sinker,” Violet let out a breathy, bitter laugh, then continued, “I shoulda said no. Hell, I should’ve known something was up when he said my only two jobs would be helping get the mercindise back to New York, and appraising it. For the first two times it was just exotic food, jewelry, animals even. Then when an my third gathering, at we called it, the hall contained two male Grays, a female Silurian, a male human from 17th century Brittan, and a baby Braconiafabiltorian. That’s when I found out what they had another big part of the business.”
“Slavery,” Neal said.
“That’s right. Even the humans that came through,” Violet confirmed, “I was angry at first but eventually, as per usual, Declan talked me down from the wall, and I agreed to keep on as the appraiser, on the condition that I got the chance to arrange black-market adoptions for any children that might came through, the guys agree to this and honored our agreement, but I found I still felt horrible about what we were doing, what we were, what I had become. A smuggler, slave trader, mass murder. And Gracie hated it, too but she was an alcoholic even before I was and needed cash for that, plus was scared of Declan. Another thing about Declan was he was prone of rages that were usually taken out on Gracie, who aside from being Michael ‘s twin brother was Declan’s boyfriend.”
“B-but,” Neal stammered, “Gracie was sixteen, and he was twenty-one.”
“Didn’t stop them,” Violet said, “Like I said earlier we were all screwed up kids and Declan was a full-blown psychopath. A year after it all began Gracie finely got the courage to leave, but the day after she said she leaving; Declan and Michael woke me up and told me she had died of an overdose.” Violet looked down as she said, “I knew that was a lie.”
“What do you mean?” Neal asked.
“I mean I think they killed her.” Violet said, “Declan and Michael.”
“W-why would Michael help Declan kill his own sister?” Neal asked, even more horrified than he was five minutes ago.
“Michael was devoted to Declan,” Violet explained, “Me and Gracie was merely terrified of him, but Michael had slurped down the kool-aid. After that I was too afraid to leave, plus even if I wasn’t the money was too good to walk away from. One hall,could make more than you made at the FBI in a year.”
“They weren’t paying me.” Neal said.
“Oh,” Violet said, “Were they paying you partner?”
“Yeah,” Neal said, “Of course they were.”
“Well, then one hall could make more than he makes at the FBI in a year.”Violet said. “Hell, the more expensive halls, animal, vegetable or mineral, could make more than some stock brokers do in a year.”
“Then why’d you have to keep doing it?” Neal asked.
“Because once the money was divided it up, and we spent it one food, rent and our various-habits the money got used up.” Violet somewhat snapped.
“What do you mean ‘habits?’ “ Neal asked.
“Well, for starters, my cutting, which I started back doing just a few weeks after everything started. Like I said, Gracie had a drinking problem and Declan liked his drink too, and then he started getting into drugs and Michael dived right on in with him, and so I did. I suppose that one’s all on me. One day, some crystal slide, this space drug, came through and we were able to convince Declan that selling it was a bad idea, because of the randomness of what all came through. I mean, the last thing we needed was some angry junkie on our hands. So we divided it amongst ourselves. The minute the crystal touched my tongue my senses heightened and I became stronger, faster-it’s almost impossible to descried, but what you really needed to know is that I didn’t feel guilty, I wasn’t racked with pain, everything that was happening, the terrified faces of our captives, the sink and suffering of the storage unit we kept them in until we sold them, their broken bodies, Declan’s abuses, the feeling of being trapped, the worry of keeping Rose in the dark about what was going on, it all faded away, and for the first time in a long time I felt good. After that I started using anything I could get my hands on-alcohol, drugs, legal, illegal, alien, teresial, you name it, to deal with the guilt of what we were doing, then I kept doing it to support the habit, then vice versa again, and then- I think you get the picture.”
“Yeah,” Neal said solemnly, “I got it. It began a vicious cycle.”
Yeah,” Violet said, “That’s exactly it. And next thing you know, Torchwood was busting us, and I’m dropping Rose off at the neighbors, then locking myself in my room and swallowing a bunch of pills, washing them down with anything I could find with alcohol in it, and sticking a needle in my arm. And then Jack’s pulling the needle out of my arm, yelling ‘what did you take?’ and forcing serum of epicact and detox solution down my throat.”
Neal’s heart sank into his stomach, “You tried to kill yourself?”
“I was scared if what Torchwood might do to me,” Violet said, “I would’ve never imaged that they would not only save my life but get me clean and take care of my sister while I was getting clean. Gwen and Rhys told her I was sick and babysat while I was chained to a cot throwing up food, pissing my pants, crying and screaming and begging asking why they were doing this. When I did that Jack always say it was because he understood. And I guess he does, ‘cause he’s done horrendous things, too. After I got clean, that’s when Jack offered me a spot on the team, I was wanting to make up for what I did, and this seemed as good a way as any, so I took his offer and moved to Europe with Rose.”
“What happened to Michael and Declan?” Neal asked.
“Jack killed Declan, and Michael had a breakdown and as we speak is in a mental insinuation.” Violet paused a minute then looked up at Neal and said, “So, I told my story, now it your turn.”
“Can I asked you a couple of things first?” Neal asked.
Violet looked scared as she asked, “What ?”
“Well, for one thing, what’s the oil for?”
Violet looked relieved, “Those types of oils fade scars, I put them on to try to ease mine. I also use a cream and Mebaderma. Anymore questions?”
“Just one. Why are letting your roots grow out?”
“I’m thinking about drooping the Goth look, I never really liked it anyway, it was really just a way I thought I could reinvent myself at 15. The problem is-I don’t have enough money for a whole new wardrobe.”
Neal laughed. “Well, are most of your clothes like that number from yesterday, or are they more like your wearing now?”
“More like I’m wearing now.”
“Well, you can make that work. You look prettier with you natural color anyway.”
“Thanks,” Violet said, “ Now if you don’t have any more questions-start talking.”
“Give me a minute,” Neal requested, “You’re a tough act to follow.” In truth, in comparison with Violet, Neal seemed- insignificant. Arbitrary even. And hey, at least she had to help to get to here. Neal had no one to blame but himself. “Well, I guess I should start with the nightmares. This wasn’t the first time it happened, in fact, I’ve had them every night since I ran. It always began the same, somehow I got caught, I’m not sure how that’s never explained, and I’m about to be sentenced, and the judge saids, ‘The traitor should be the delivered into the arms of those he betrayed’ and those I’ve betrayed decide I deserve a death sentence. That’s where it changes, one time it was a firing squad, one time I was hung, one time I stoned, one time beheaded with a guillotine, the next lethal injection-I think you get the point.”
“What was it tonight?” Violet asked.
“Drowning.” Neal answered.
“So,” Violet said, I guess you feel guilt-ridden about things too.”
“Yeah,” Neal said, “Now, about my friend,” Neal said, “Where do want to start? What do you want to know?”
“A name would be nice, for starters.” Violet answered.
“Well, I don’t think this is his actual name, but all he ever gave me to call him by was Mozzie.” Neal responded.
“Seriously?” Violet laughed, “Boy, all you guys have bad luck in the name department. How long have you known this guy?”
“And he still hasn’t given you his real, proper name?!” She was one the floor laughing now. This was one of the funniest things she had ever heard.
“Well, one else knows either. He’s a very eccentric guy.”
Violet managed to stop laughing long enough to ask, “You mean eccentric like a few little oddities or-“ She put her finger to the side of her head and started spinning it around in the symbol for crazy, and went, “Woo, woo, woo?”
Now Neal laughed, “More like-“ He twirled his finger around the side of his head.
“So what was that fight about?” Violet asked.
“ We bth told you,” Neal said, “He tore a bed sheet, I asked about it, and things got out of hand.”
“Neal, who are you trying to kid?” Violet said, “We both know that a conversation over a torn piece of napery doesn’t escalate to the point where one person can’t tolerate being in the same room with the other anymore and storms out, and is gone so long that other person goes looking for them without there being some pint up animosity.”
“The truth is,” Neal began, “It all started the day we ran when the plane took a wrong turn, the pilot was new, and made an emergency stop in France. After the plane landed two –well I’m not sure what agency they were with but they were looking for us, they had left the door open so we made a break for it, but I left the duffle bag with our fake papers inside, you know, ids, passports, birth certificates, on the plane. From time to time Moz has accused me of propusely sabotaging us on several occasions, including yesterday, but then he lets it go, and we forget about it until he brings it up again. Since that day we’ve basically been living hands to mouth, the tension’s high, and the fact that I can’t get my head out of New York doesn’t help matters, all subjects that came up today. I don’t I guess it worked out in a way, because if I hadn’t been out there today, I wouldn’t have met you guys.”
Violet smiled, “You like us then?”
“Yeah,” Neal said, “I like you guys. I like you.” Neal turned his head, looking outside, as if contemplating something, “You know, Peter wouldn’t believe this.”
“Who’s he?” Violet asked.
“He’s well-he was my partner,” Neal said, “He doesn’t believe in aliens, I mean, he’s certain of it.”
“How do you know that?” Violet asked.
“It came up one day,” Neal explained, “I think it was some article about the aniversy of the Battle of Canary Whorf that started it. I don’t remember how they started talking about it, but before I knew what was happening he and Jones were fighting over the issue, it wasn’t a fight really, more like a spirited debate, Jones said hallucinations didn’t leave body counts and Peter said, that whatever caused the hallucinations could cause the deaths.” After that, Neal was just silent for a minute.
“You miss them, don’t you?” Violet asked, already knowing the answer.
“Yes,” Neal answered, not looking at her.
“Then why did you run away?” Violet asked.
“Sort answer,” Neal said turning back to her, “Peter gave me the signal to run.”
“You wanna run that by me again?” Violet asked.
“ This one time when things started getting really –intense, for lack of a better word, I got drunk one night and showed up on Peter’s doorstep rambling about having no choice but to run,” Neal explained, “At least that what he told me I said, I don’t remember any of it, and I don’t even know why I would say it, running was the furest thing for my mine at the time and even if it wasn’t, why would I tell Peter?”
“People say and do crazy things when they’re black out drunk,” Violet suggested.
“Well, that’s a good theory,” Neal said, “But whatever caused me to say it, of course after I sobered up we had to talk about it, and-“He paused, as if trying to recall the event, “Something weird happened. I mean, so weird I got bruise from pitching myself so hard to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating or dreaming. Peter looked me right in the face, and said as serious as you and I are right now maybe more, that if it comes to that, he’ll give me signal. He wouldn’t answer any of my question or even tell me what the signal was, said I’d know when I see it. And that day, in front of the building Kramer lying in wait to arrest me, me looking directly at Peter, I knew. I just knew.”
“Then why do you feel so guilty that you’re having nightmares in which he is one of your executioners?” Violet asked.
“What if I was wrong?” Neal responded, “He wouldn’t tell me so how can I be sure? He could be back taking flack for what I did, being made into a complete fool all because I misinterpreted him. And then there’s the others who have no clue, who must hate me now, I know including that girlfriend I mentioned earlier.” He put his head in his hand.
Seeing that he had finished Violet said, “Oh.” It was all he could think of.
“So,” Neal began, “What do you think?”
“I think that yeah, you’re right, that was bad,” Violet began, “But it pales in comparison to me. And besides with some of that stuff could come in handy on the job.”
“Like what?” Neal asked.
“For crying out loud man, you jumped off a building, and off of one weird floating cable card thingy onto another,” Violet said, “You’re either very brave or very stupid or a little of both, whichever way it is it works, plus you’re athletic, physical fit, smart, and good with a gun. These are all job requirements for our line of work.”
“Well, that’s good,” Was all Neal could think to say. Then after a minute he said, “So knowing everything you know now, do you still like me? You know, if you ever liked me to begin with.”
“I did,” Violet said, “And I still do. When you said you liked me-did you mean it?”
“Yeah,” Neal said, taking her hand, “I meant it.” After a moment of silence, Neal added, “The others will probly be getting up soon, we better get back in there before they notice we’re gone.”
“Yeah,” Violet replied, jumping off the side of the van to the ground, “We probly should.”
It was then, as Violet shut the door of the van, it happened. Out of nowhere a voice yelled, “Vous avez mon anneau!” Nearly hitting Neal with a macete, but Neal surved. That’s when the saw what they were dealing with : A wild-looking man in his early 40s, a little less than six with feet tall, with long, wild black hair that went down to his legs, and a crazy look in his dark brown, almost black eyes. Violet pulled out her knife, and threw it at him, hitting his right shoulder. While this was going on the tent unzipped and the team stepped out, guns in hand.
A moment later chaos erupted.
“Freeze!” Jack yelled at the man, “s’areter!”
Instead of freezing, the man turned to face Jack.
“Jack, he knows we have the ring!” Neal called out from behind the manic man.
“You speak French?” Violet whispered, handing Neal her gun.
“Yeah eal answered, taking the gun and holding it up at the wild man. Violet had her switch blade pointed at him as well.
“Is this true?” Jack asked.
“Je veux l’anneau!” The man screamed angrily.
“Jack, I don’t think he speaks English.” Gwen said.
“Yeah, I figured that out,” Jack said flatly, “Ce qui est votre nom?” This meant “What is your name?”
“Mon nom I’moete pas!” The man bellowed, “Ce qui imortees, vous ont vole ce qui est le mien!”
“Jack, what’s he saying?!” Gwen asked.
“He’s saying his name doesn’t matter, but what does matter is we’ve stolen what is his,” Jack explained, “Ce qui nous ont voles de toi?” This meant, “What have we stolen from you?”
“Mon anneau!” The man cried out, “Ma transmission da famile, mon merite des ance tres! Mon fere na eu aucun droit de le prendreet de te le donner!”
Everyone went silent for a moment. “’I guess that explains who left it on the side of the road.” Neal said in a hushed voice.
“What?” Martha demanded, “What did he say?”
“He said that the ring is family inheritance, his birthright,” Jack explained, “And that his brother had no right to give it to us. Comment vous savez vortre frère mous l’a dorne?” That meant “How do you know your brother gave it to us?”
“Cess ez de parler et donnez moi mon anneau!” The man snapped. This meant, “Stop talking and give me my ring!”
That made Jack snap. “Ce n’est pas votre anneau!” He screamed, “C’etait un anneau eau pris dine jeune femme au-desdus de sixty-one ill yades annees! Quel qu lun l’a vole outrede son corps mort froid!”
“What’s he saying?” Violet whispered.
“He’s saying the ring was never yours. The ring was stolen from a young woman over sixty ones years ago. She was brutally murdered for it. And whoever did that murdered a good woman, a beautiful woman, a brave woman-“
“-une femme que j’ai aimee!” Jack stopped and breathed in and out deeply, unable to believe he had just said that.
Neal was stunned into silence. “What did he say?” Violet whispered.
“A woman I loved,” Neal said, “He called her a woman he loved.”
“Si vaus he me le dnner ez pas,” The man said pulling a gun from his belt and raising his machete in the air, “Alorsie le prendra I par la force!” Then he stated shooting and swinging his machete around.
“I guess that means if we we’re not gonna give it to him he’s gonna kill us all to get to it.” Violet said, swinging her knife around.
“Something like that,” Neal said, firing at the man. They were all firing at him, but somehow, he deflated the bullets with his machete. Martha cried out in pain. She was shot in the shoulder. “Jack, Martha’s been shot!” Gwen cried.
“Martha, get back,” Jack yelled.
Martha stepped out of the of most of the bullets but kept firing. The man twirled his machete around, and hit Gwen in the arm. She quickly grabbed the wound with the arm she wasn’t shooting with and kept firing only now her aim was exceedingly off, endangering the rest of the team even more. Finally Rex lunged at the guy and the guy fell to the grown, put not before firing off several more shots, most of them hitting Jack in the chest, and Jack fell to the ground, dead. “Jack!” Violet called out , and the team ran over to their fallen leader. Martha crouched down and checked his pulse. “Is he-“Rex began.
“He’s dead.” Martha said.
Neal was stunned. “Guys I’m-I’m sorry.”
“So,” Gwen said “What should we do with this one?” She gestured towards the crazy man with her shoulders.
Neal was taken aback. Their leader and good friend of many of them had just died they were acting like it was nothing!
“Maybe we should wait until Jack comes to,” Violet suggested, “He’ll probly know what to do.”
“Violet,” Neal said gently, “Jack’s not gonna come to. He’s dead.” Neal figured she must be in shock or denial, maybe both.
“Gwen,” Violet said looking to the older woman, “Do you wanna tell him or should I?”
“I don’t think we have to,” Gwen said, “He’ll see in a few seconds.”
“See what?” Neal asked, confused.
Just then Jack gasped, coming to life again, jutting forward.
“What the Hell is that?!” Neal cried, jumping back, “He was dead five seconds ago, he was riddled with bullets, and now-now he’s not!”
“Oh,” Jack said, getting to his feet, “We didn’t explain this to you, did we?”
“No, whatever this is no one has explained it to me!” Neal cried
“I’m a fixed point in time and space,” Jack explained, “Basically, this means I can’t’ die.”
“Fixed point in time and space, that’s different with what happened with the Miracle?” Neal asked.
“Yeah,” Jack confirmed, “This is different from the Miracle. And was going on years before the Miracle. Over a hundred years to be exact.”
“You’re o-over a h-hundred years old?” Neal stammered.
“Yeah,” Jack said than chuckled, “I know, I don’t look a day over twenty-nine.”
“Jack,” Rex spoke up, “Do you think we should tell him?”
“Probly,” Jack said turning to Rex. Then he turned back to Neal and said, “In the spirit of full disclosure, there’s something else you should know. About me and the Miracle.” Jack paused a minute, with a look on his face that let it show this was difficult for him to say. “The Miracle was caused by my blood being poured into something called the Blessing. When that happened it had the oposisite effect on me, making me mortal. We destroyed all samples of my immortal blood, did a blood transfer with Rex so he had mortal blood as well, and poured that into the Blessing, fixing the Miracle. But now I’m stuck with the whole not dying thing once again.”
“Why don’t you use the ring to reverse it?” Neal asked.
“Because with me it’s not that simple,” Jack explained, “Like I said, I’m a fixed point in time and space, at least that what my Doctor said, the point is even thought I wasn’t sapost to exist if we try to reverse it, at least with the ring I’m afraid we might-break time.”
“Break time?” Neal asked skeptically.
“Yeah, it’s a very fragile thing.” Jack said, as if that was obvious. Which it was for him, an over-hundred year old former time agent from the 50th century it was. For Neal, a thirty-four year old con man/thief/forger from this century, not so much.
But before Neal could question this logic, the unconscious man who had attacked them arose, screaming, his machete raised.
“Neal, get down!” Gwen yelled, for the attacker was right behind him.
Neal ducked, but not before the attacker sliced into his shoulder. He grabbed the part he had cut and cried out in pain.
The team fired on the man again and him them, but this time a blur flew up out of nowhere screaming “No!”, and tackled the man to the ground. The team kept their guns aimed at the pair struggling on the grown, but Jack said “Hold your fire.”
As the pair wrestled on the ground, they could see that the blur was really a man who was about the same age as the first, but his black hair was cut short and neat, and he was wearing glasses. The wild man kept screaming and rambling and the other was screaming, “No! Vous devez s’arreter! Vous derez arreter cei ! Vous devez arreter cette Jean-Luc!” At that point the man who was apparently called Jean-Luc stopped struggling. The man on top looked up at the group that surrounded him.
“Vous parlez anglais?” Jack asked.
“Yes,” The man on top said.
“What’s your name? Jack asked.
“Jean-Pierre Blanchfleur ,” The man replied.
“Are you Jean-Luc’s brother?”
“Are you the one that left the ring for us?”
Jean-Pierre didn’t answer for a moment, looking at a man that knew the meaning of tarma all too well. At last he said, “To try to right a great wrong and save my family.
Jean-Pierre got off his brother’s semi-conscious body. Martha began to treat Gwen and Neal’s wounds as well as her own while Jean- Pierre told his story.
“Zee story begins a very long time ago,” Jean-Pierre began, “Back when zee ring was first discovered. We had this great uncle. His name was Francois, and he was unusually large and strong, as ef he was on steroids, but he was not. Even though he wasn’t on steroids, he was married to the bottle, and would do anything to make money for his habit. One day this man approached him at zee local bar, and said that ef he could get a ring for him, a ring that looked like a swan wrapped around zee finger, with a diamond eye. He described the woman who would be carrying the ring, a peitie, beautiful young woman with high cheekbones a thin body, coca-dark skin, and sparkling emerald colored eyes. The man told Francois when he thought the girl was coming to town. That night, today is the day it happened in fact, my great uncle waited for that young woman on the stench road that runs through town. He stood there until she came by. She saw him and she ran for her life, but then she tripped and Francois picked her up by the throat and, and,” He looked like he was gonna be stick, “And choked her to death. He it was brutal. He lifted that little girl up in the air and squeezed the life out of her. It was- horrendous.” He had to stop a minute, and hung his whole head down in such deep shame and remorse one would’ve thought he had murdered Collette. He gulped, couched and then finally continued, “ My grandfather, Philippe, knew that his brother was up to no good that night, but had not known what he was going to do, so when he never returned to zee family estate that night, he went looking for him. He found zee woman’s body, and because how bad she had been injured, he guess what had happened. He saw zee ring, and remembering Francois telling him something about a ring, and Grandpapa was somewhat of an enabler, that and he was afraid of what zee person who wanted the ring might do, so he took eet. He was racked after and decided to turn eet into the police zee next day, but then the man who hired Francois in zee first place turned up dead, and Grandpapa was frightened for his lift and never turned zee dammed thing in, but he didn’t get rid of eet either. I suppose he should have.” He a paused a minute, and then elaborated on his last comment, “ Just because Francois didn’t get justice in a courtroom, does not mean he did not get what was coming to him. Two weeks after he killed the young woman, he started to go mad. He would hallucinate that birds were attacking him, he would see zee young woman everywhere, he would hear voices that weren’t there. He drunk more than he ever had before, which, from what I’ve been told is saying something. No one could figure out what was wrong with him. Within a year he died of organ failure. But it did not end there. Grandpapa also had younger sister, Marie. Even though she was the youngest, at nineteen she was the first to get married, the same year the Francois died. The next year she and her husband, Jean-Paul, had baby, a little girl named Jeanette. They brought Jeanette to zee family estate to show her off. Grandpapa girlfriend at the time, the woman who would one day be his wife and my grandmother, Lynette, offered to take zee baby for an hour, so Marie could have some time to rest. Marie went searching for her old bedroom, but went into Grandpapa bedroom by mistake, and round zee ring. When she touched it, she accidently activated something, and apparition of the poor woman being murdered, and Marie ran in fright. Right off the balcony. Jean-Paul raised the Jeanette on his home with help from the family. Then it just kept getting worse. After Grandpapa married Grandmamma, they had three children. My father, Amador, his brother, my uncle, Jean-Baptiste, and his sister, my aunt, Josephine. I never got to meet her. When she was sixteen, she started having hallucinations, much like Francois did, except zhis time they had a name to the problem. Paranoid sizophrenia. She had terrible hallucinations, and even though zhis time they knew eet was something else, the hallucinations seemed hauntingly familiar to grandpapa. They were exactly like Francois’. She was sixteen years old when one day, in one of her fits, she walked up on zee roof and jumped off. Grandpapa knew the ring had caused it, somehow. The moment he found her crumpled body he realized that an evil had somehow attached itself to that ring, and it had spread throughout the family and would continue to, and there was nothing to be done about it.”
“Why didn’t he just get rid of the ring?” Gwen asked as Martha stitched up her arm.
“He thought of that,” Jean-Pierre explained, “But he feared that would do no good, and the evil would just continue. Or worst, that someone else would find it and it was transfer to them. He would never wish what had happened to his family on anyone, even his worst enemy, so he kept it. And the horror continued. Two years after Josephine killed herself, Jean-Baptiste was involved in an industrial accident on zee construction site where he was, as you say in English, zee foreman. A metal beam fell on his head. After that, he was never right again, he never regained full control of his muscles, and then, once again, the hallucinations started. They weren’t exactly like Francois, but similar, birds attacking, voices no one else could hear, and there was this strange chanting. Unlike Francois and Josephine, Jean-Baptiste’s suffering was not ended by an untimely demise, he lived until zee age of 86. At least he outlived Grandpapa who surname to a brain tumor two years before, but not before telling my father, about, zee ring and what Francois had done, and what eet had one to our family. On that day my father vowed to find a way to put an end to it, that it may have taken his uncle, his aunt, his little sister, his older brother, but it would take no more.” Jean-Pierre sighed, “But it did take more, it took, in a way, anyway. My father became consumed with finding a way to redeem zee family, to zee point where nothing else mattered. In fact, that is how Jean-Luc and I found out about it. When we were twelve, we were playing in zee study, and accidently knocked zee wooden box eet was kept in, the very one I left for you, off zee desk, and eet fell out. When eet hit zee carpet, eet must have activated, because zee the carpet dissolved from right under our feet. We were so shocked and terrified that we jumped up emeditly, throwing the ring to the ground, where it rolled over to the desk and turned it back into unpolished wood. And then, worst of all the girl appeared, chocking and gasping for breath, she looked at us and begged for help as best she could. We were so scared we ran out of the room screaming, and crying. Our parents ran out emeditly to see what was wrong. We somehow managed to get our story out, and my mother was confused but our father took us back into zee study. There he told us what his father had told him in all zee gory details. Before that, me and Jean-Luc were very close, after that, we slowly grew apart. I switched back and forth between trying to forget zee cursed thing even exist, to joining my father in trying to redeem zee family. Jean-Luc, on zee other hand, became obsessed with zee ring, with eets power. I’ve spent my life running interference, trying to keep him from doing something crazy. My parents helped, too, but my mother died in car accident zee year after we found out about the ring. Then my father died two years ago, and I’ve been on my own with this ever since. Jean-Luc’s madness was getting worst and worst and then you came, like a miracle. You see, when I discovered you were here, I heard that you were looking for the ring, and I came to zee conclusion that you were zee ones zee girl was carrying zee ring for. I knew I had to give eet to you, eet was zee only way to end all this. When Jean-Luc discovered what I was going to do, he attacked me and tried to take zee ring from me. I was able to fend him off, lock in a room, I’m not sure which one, and go to leave the ring for you. I figured it would be best for us not to meet. But when I came back to zee family estate after making sure you found the ring, I discovered Jean-Luc had broke down the door and ran off. I went looking for, but when I found him, eet was too late. He was I heard people talking and found you with my brother uncurious, then my brother rose up and attacked that man.” Jean-Pierre pointed at Neal. Then Jean-Pierre looked down, ashamed. “I don’t know what else to say. You have-you have no idea how sorry I am for all of this.” Tears started to roll down Jean-Pierre’s face. Tears of pain and grief, and guilt, and remorse so deep it could fill a canon. Remorse he shouldn’t have felt, that shouldn’t have belonged to him, because he had committed no crime.
“Hey,” Martha said, sitting down beside Jean-Pierre, “It’s not your fault. None of this is your fault. You can’t be blamed for the terrible decision making of people over sixty years ago. In fact, of all the people in your story, you’re the one who’s done the most to try to right the wrong that was done.” Martha thought for a minute then added. “And now you can get on with your life.”
Jean-Pierre looked up, “What?”
“The ring’s where it can’t hurt anyone else and what’s done is done. You don’t have to redeem your family anymore. It’s time for you to live.”
“But what about Jean-Luc?”
Martha didn’t say anything. She hadn’t thought about that. “Maybe you could get him some professional help, from a doctor…”
“There are some wounds you just can’t heal.” Jean-Pierre said, in the voice of someone who had given up.
They all looked at Jean-Pierre and figured he ought to know.
As Jack looked down at Pierre, he couldn’t help but think about his own brother Gray, and what had happened with them. He, like Jean-Pierre, and Philippe, knew how it felt to have the guilt of failing his brother on his shoulders, and the guilt of what his brother had done because of that. Francois had killed Colette for money; Gray had killed Owen and Toshiko in revenge. But unlike Jean-Luc, Gray was dead. He had died when the hub exploded, because Jack had put him in staitas, because he couldn’t bear to kill him for what he had done. So Jack knew exactly how Jean-Pierre was feeling right now.
“I had an idea.” Jack said, “About what to do with Jean-Luc.”
Everyone turned to look at Jack. Rex was the first to speak. “What?” Was all he said.
“I know what should happen to Jean-Luc,” Jack began, “Jean-Pierre’s been doing a good job so far, but, I think what happened this morning proves he’s too dangerous to not be properly secured.”
“What do you suppose I do?” Jean-Pierre asked, a hint of insult and apprehension in his voice.
“There’s an insane asylum two towns over,” Jack explained, “It’s a good place, not like one of those insane asylums you read about in 19th-century novels, and security is tight. There hasn’t been an escape in twenty years, he’ll be perfectly safe and everyone else will be safe from him.”
Jean-Pierre looked up at Jack in disbelief, “You want me to put my brother-in an insane asylum?”
“Well,” Rex said, “He is insane, and that’s where you send insane people.”
Jean-Pierre looked over to Rex with hatred in his eyes.
“Yeah, I don’t think that’s gonna help, Rex,” Jack said. Jack walked over to Jean-Pierre and sat down beside him. “Look, believe or not I know what you’re going through right now. I had a brother, and-“ Jack sighed, “Long story short, there came a time when I had to decide what to do with him.” Jack paused “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do and ever will have to do.” Jack had to paused again and look away, and then when he looked back at Jean-Pierre, he said, “Look, we were lucky tonight that no one was killed, but people did get hurt. Martha was shot, Gwen took a machete swing to the arm and Neal took one to the shoulder. You gotta do something.”
“I know,” Jean-Pierre emitted. He looked up at Jack and asked, “Do you really think this is the best thing to do?”
“Yes,” Jack said sincerely and with certainty, “I do.”
Three hours later Pierre was sitting down at the desk of the dead of the Saint Paul Institution for the Mentally Insane, surrounded by the team, as he signed the paper to have Jean-Luc committed. “And you’ll take good care of him?” He asked the dean as he signed the paper.
“Yes, Missuer Blanchfleur.” The dean, a rather muscular man with a brunette crew cut, “And we have visiting days every weekend, so you can see for yourself.”
Jean-Pierre looked up at Jack. “Are you sure this is the right thing?”
“Yes,” Jack answered.
Jean-Pierre looked back down at the paper and handed it back to the dean. “Can I see him before we go?”
“Certainly,” the dean said, standing up, “I’ll take you him.”
Jean-Pierre got up, and fallowed the dean out of the room. When the team started to fallow them as well, Jack raised a hand to stop them. “He needs to do this on his own.”
The dean and Jean-Pierre walked down the brightly lit halls of the asylum, lined with locked doors on both sides, filled with the cries of people’s miseries and insanity. “Believe eet or not, eet’s the screaming’s not the worst thing,” The dean said, ruefully and with some sorrow, “eet’s when it’s quiet that is the worst.” He stopped at one of the doors and pulled out a large set of keys from his lab coat. “He’s in zhis one.” He opened the door. “He attacked zee staff and we had to sedate him. I’ll be right outside when you’re ready to leave.” Then he left the room leaving the door open just a crack.
The room was white and covered with white padding, with a padded cot attached to the wall. Jean-Luc was lying on that cot, knocked out cold. Jean-Pierre cautiously bent down and whispered, “Jean-Luc?”
Jean-Luc’s eyes opened a bit. “Oh…” Was all he said.
“Are you alright?” Jean-Pierre asked, “How are you feeling?”
“Like my brother just betrayed me. “ Jean-Luc answered, his voice filled with malice.
“I had to put you in here; eet was for your own good.”
“That’s not what I meant.” Jean-Luc spat out.
“I had no choice with that either,” Jean-Pierre said, “I had to give eet back to them. Look what it’s done. Look what eet’s done to our father, to our family…to you.”
“What it did was give us unstoppable power!” Jean-Luc screamed, “Think of what we could have done!”
“You never did anything!” Jean-Pierre shouted back, “All you did was hold eet in your hands, rambling nonsense, attacking anyone you thought was a threat! Don’t you think that maybe...maybe… things might get better now?”
“Things will never be better!” Jean-Luc screamed, “Nothing will ever be good again!”
Then dean walked back into the room. “I think you should leave now.”
Jean-Pierre started to walk out of the room but before he left turned back with tears in his eyes and said, “I’m sorry, Jean-Luc, but I have to do this, because I love you. I just hope one day you can see that.” Then he walked out of the room, letting the tears roll down his face.
Three and half more hours later the team pulled up at the Blanchfleur family, estate, and Jack helped a still-sobbing Jean-Pierre out of the van and walked him to the doorway. “Are you gonna be okay?” Jack asked, putting a hand on the man’s shoulder.
“I think so,” Jean-Pierre answered, “Thank you-for all your help.” Then Jean-Pierre unlocked the front door, and went inside shutting it behind him. He walked to the wooden, peppermint stripped chair by the window, sat down, peaked out the window, and watched as Jack solemnly trudged back to the van.
Jack opened the left side and got in without a word. As he pulled on his seatbelt Gwen looked over to him and asked, “Is Jean-Pierre going to be okay?”
“I don’t know Gwen,” Jack said, staring straight ahead, “I honestly don’t know.”
“Are you going to be okay?” Gwen asked gently.
Jack looked over to Gwen and asked, “What do you think?”
Gwen didn’t respond, just turned her head back to the front, and then said, “Right.”
Then without another word, Jack backed out of the driveway and they left.
The drive back to the campsite was complete silence. When the van came to a stop Violet said what was on everybody’s mind. “So what happens now?”
“There’s nothing else to be done here,” Jack answered, not looking at anyone, “We pack up; take the ring and head back to Cardiff.”
So they got up and started packing. Everybody did their part. They all took down and wrapped up the tent, moving in lock step, with perfect symmetry, from peeling the fabric off the stakes to wrapping up the trap, one unit in perfect sink. Then Jack and Neal took the wrapped up tent and put it in the back of the car. “Jack,” Neal whispered as they loaded it in, “There’s something I should probly tell you.”
“What is it?” Jack whispered back, rather playfully, walking away from the van.
“I don’t have a passport,” Neal said, fallowing Jack, “ I lost the one I used to get on the flight, and that was the only one I had.”
“Well,” Jack said, rubbing a finger along his chin in mock puzzlement, “I can see how that would be a problem. Oh well, you weren’t gonna be able to come with us anyway.”
“What do you mean?” Neal asked, thinking that he had just been tricked.
“ I mean that getting you safe to travel without getting arrested is going to take a little, at least week, maybe three,” Jack explained, “So I need to lay low for a little bit longer. When we’re ready I’ll send you a passport.”
“But will you know where I am?”
Jack pulled a piece of paper from somewhere in his jacket, then a pen, wrote something down, then turned around to face Neal. Jack placed the piece of paper in Neal’s hand. “This is the address for an apartment complex in Paris. There’s a part of it that no one used for over forty years, but there’s still a guy who runs the place. Just tell him Captain Jack Harkness sent you, and he’ll let you stay for a couple of weeks, no questions asked. “
All Neal could think to say was, “Thanks Jack.” Then as Jack walked away Neal thought of something else she had to ask. “What do I about my-“
“Your friend.” Jack finished the sentence for him.
“I know I can’t tell him about this, but I can’t let him-well, you saw what happened yesterday. So, what can I do?”
Jack turned to face Neal, and said, “Go back to wherever you were staying, get your things, say goodbye, but don’t tell him where you’re going. After that, the only contact you can have is postcards. You got that?”
“Got it.” Neal answered, but as he began to walk away he turned around and added, “What if I wanted to contact someone else?”
Jack turned around again in surprise, “What to run that by me again?”
“If I wanted to contact someone, just once, could I do that? Make a call, or send a letter, or something. Look, I won’t tell them anything, there’s just someone I have to…someone I just wanna tell them I’m sorry.”
Jack looked at him for moment with knowing eyes. Jack knew what it was like to want to apologize to someone you couldn’t; he was way too familiar with that feeling. He wanted to apologize to Gray for letting go of his hand, and to their mother for that very same reason, to Owen and Tosh for letting them get killed. To Ianto for letting him get killed. To Alice for killing Steven. To Steven for killing him, and ever letting things get that far in the first place even thought things had started years before Steven was born. To Gwen for leaving her, twice. To Ester for his part in The “Miracle” that had lead to her death. But he couldn’t because all those people were dead, and Alice had disappeared.
“One letter,” Jack said, “No one return address, nothing about us. Just, say what you need to say, and end it, alright?”
“Alright,” Neal responded, “Thank you.”
Then the two went their separate Jack going off the right, and Neal turning left. As Neal walked away, he heard Violet’s voice say, “You want me to go with you?”
Neal turned around to see Violet leaning on the side of the van. Had she heard the whole conversation?
“I didn’t mean to,” Violet said, answering the question he hadn’t even asked, “I just walked by and heard you two talking then-couldn’t tear myself away. Sorry.”
“That’s okay,” Neal said, then paused a minute thinking about what Violet had asked. Did he want Violet to go with him? It might be necessary to have someone to pull him when the time came. Violet might be just the person to do it. “Come on then.”
And together they walked off and down the road.
The hour it took to walk to the inn was actually rather pleasant. They, talked, even laughed a little. Neal let Violet look at his lock picks and Violet let Neal look at her knife, she told him more about her sister, and he told her about some of his misadventures, he confided in her that his father was a dirty cop, she confined in him that she had found out a few years ago that her father couldn’t be her father, nor Rose’s because he was impotent, is probably why he hated her mother, Rose and herself, and he tried to convince her that was no excuse for what he did, which it isn’t. But as they approached the inn they fell into an eerie silence. The inn was small house made of red brinks with a brown shingled roof. “Is that place?” Violet asked, sounding rather ominous.
“Yeah,” Neal said, almost numbly, “That’s the place.”
They walked together up the smooth grey paving stones that lead up to the front door in silence. “This is it.” Neal thought to himself. He hadn’t thought about actually saying goodbye until just now and there was something just so-final about it. Like he was completely losing the life he had come to know. “But then again,” He thought, “I lost that about three weeks ago. I did something good once, maybe I can do something good again.” He turned his head to face Violet and gave her a weak smile as he knocked on the door.
“They didn’t give you a key?” Violet asked.
“Yeah, but I left it when I left yesterday.” Neal answered, sounding a bit anxious.
The door opened in an older man with gray streaked brown hair poked his head out. He stared at the pair for a moment then said, “We?”
“Yeah, I and my friend were renting a room here,” Neal began, in English, “I left my key.”
“Yes, I remember you,” The man said, gesturing for them to come in, “Come in.”
“Can my, um, new friend come in, too?” Neal asked, gesturing towards Violet.
“Certainly,” The man answered.
Neal walked through the door with Violet quickly on his heels looking around. “My friend, not this one, the one I came with,” Neal began, “He went off looking for me yesterday. Did he ever come back?”
“Yes, actually he just came back,” The man said pointing towards the common room. Neal was perplexed for a minute, but then realized what the man meant and rushed into the common room, a concerned Violet sprinting behind him.
They stopped in the common room and, sure enough, Mozzie was passed out, face down, on the faded purple carpet. “Wow,” Violet said, ”He must’ve looked for you all night.”
“Yeah,” Neal said, with an almost inaudible twinge of mournfulness in his voice, as he picked the unconous man up, “I guess he did.”
“Aren’t you going to wake him up?” Violet asked.
“It’s probly better this way,” Neal answered.
“You’re probly right,” Violet emitted, walking to the other side and grabbing Mozzie’s feet, “The guy spent all night looking for you, there is no way he’s gonna let you, at least without some answers. Especially with you looking like you’ve just been hit by a semi truck.”
Neal let out a nervous chuckle, “Seriously? I look that bad?” The he cringed in pain after moving his wounded shoulder the wrong way. “Yeah, I probly look that bad.”
They walked out of the common room, back into the white and green kitchen and up the stairs, all the time carrying Mozzie like a couch. “Man, this guy’s out like a light,” Violet commented as they walked down the hall, ignoring the stares of curious guests, “Is he always this sound a sleeper?”
“No,” Neal emitted, “But then these are unusual circumstances.”
When they finely made to the room at the end of the hall, the room the Neal and Mozzie had rented, they turned in. In the room, there were two small beds, with an end table in between them. Neal led Violet over to the left bed, and they gently placed Mozzie on it. As she backed off, Violet noticed a bit of a white bed sheet sticking out from the top of the bed. A white bed sheet with a tear in it. She took the part of the sheet, picked it up, and said while examing it, “I take it this is the infamous torn bed sheet.”
“Yep,” Neal said, trying to sound casual about the whole thing, “That’s it.”
“It’s funny,” Violet thought as she thumbed the cloth, “What chain of events chance can set off.” It occurred to her that if the sheet had tore the day before, or the day after today, and they had had that knock down drag out the day before or the day after, the team wouldn’t have been there. They would have been coming or had left to look for the ring somewhere else. And Neal would never had met them, and never told them about Colette’s ghost. And then not only would they might have not found the ring, Neal wouldn’t be part of the team now. The difference of a day could’ve changed everything. It occurred to Violet now that somehow, call it destiny, call it fate, call it grand design, call it whatever you want, but maybe, just maybe, there was a bigger plan at work here.
Violet looked up to fine Neal staring at her. “We should probly get going,” She said, walking away, shaking off her musings.
“Just give me a minute,” Neal said, grabbing a notepad and pen from a door inside the end table, “I want to leave him a note.”
“Okay,” Violet said, walking out of the room, “I’ll give you some privacy.”
When Violet was gone Neal picked up the pin and started to think of what to write. When he finely thought of how to begin he wrote, Moz. Then he couldn’t think of anything else. He scratched his head with the pin. He had to emit, one advantage to running was he didn’t have to find a way to say goodbye. But this…this was torture. “How do you tell someone goodbye forever, actually tell it to them, with words?” Then another thought occurred to Neal: He didn’t have to say it was forever. He could say he has to go somewhere and he just never come back. Mozzie would eventually either assume Neal was dead, or had abandoned him. “Either way, he’ll hate me. Then again, so does everyone else.” Neal brought his hand back down to the paper and wrote: Got a job, you weren’t invented. Sorry. He made a small line under that statement and wrote by it, Neal. He put the note down on the bedside table, and then put the pin on top of it, so it wouldn’t blow away. He looked over to his old friend one last time, and whispered, “Goodbye, Moz.” Then he walked away. He had almost made it out the doorway when he heard the sound of a person startling awake, and Mozzie’s voice behind him saying, “Neal?”
Neal, closed his eyes, let out a pain breath and turned around. “Hey, Moz.”
“Neal,” Mozzie said again, getting to his feet, “Where were you? I was so worried. I thought something-oh, my God! What happened to you?!”
“What do you mean what happened to me?” Neal asked.
“What do mean what do I mean?! I mean-Neal, should I get a mirror?”
“I’ll just use the one on the wall,” Neal replied. He hadn’t been near a mirror since the day before and between Violet’s comment that he looked like he been run over by a semi truck and Mozzie’s reaction, he wanted to see what the damage was. So he looked in the mirror. It was worst than he had imagined. The first thing he noticed was the angry red welt in the shape of Violet’s gloved hand on his right cheek, lack of sleep was finally taking its toll and bags were starting to form under his eyes, his hair was tousled mess that was ten times worst then when he usually got out bed in the morning. His clothes were ridiculously wrinkled, and his suit jacket was falling off the left side, showing where Jean-Luc’s machete had penetrated the shirt, and that cut was showing where the machete had penetrated the flesh, as well as Martha’s stitchwort. Then of course there were bandages covering the rope burn on his hands, bandages that were now coming off, reviling raw and sometimes bleeding flesh. Yes, when Violet said he looked like he had been hit by a semi truck, she was not exaggerating. In fact she might have been being kind. “I had a really rough night last night, that’s all.” Then he turned back to Mozzie and said, “Look, Moz, there’s something I need to talk to you about.”
But the paper on the bedside table had already caught Mozzie’s eye. “What’s that?” He walked over to the table, picked up the note, and read it aloud, “Moz, got a job you weren’t invited, Neal.” He put the note down, stunned. “Neal, what is this?”
“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” Neal said. He rubbed his eyes and forehead with his hand before saying, “Look, there’s this team and they offered me a job and I took it.”
“And from this note I take it they didn’t want me,” Mozzie concluded, “And this is how you decided to tell me? With some Dear John note left by the bed, I just wake up to find you vanished into thin air, gone off with some mysterious group.”
“I had already left,” Neal defended himself, “That’s actually how I met them. I came back to say goodbye, and you were pasted out, and thought it might be easier if I just left a note explaining what happened and avoid-this!”
“Well, good job with that one!” Mozzie exclaimed flinging an arm in the air, “Who are these people anyway?! Why do they only want you?!”
“They wanted to keep the number of people down to a minimum, and I can steal and forge,” Neal lied. Well, it wasn’t completely a lie; they would need him for those things.
“Did they do this to you?” Mozzie demanded.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, among other things that welt on your face looks suspiciously like a handprint. Like somebody slapped you so hard it left a mark! I mean-“ Mozzie walked up to Neal and grabbed both his arms. “Are you being forced into this? Are you being threatened? Did they beat you, because that’s what it looks like.”
Neal grabbed a hold of Mozzie’s arms and forcibly removed the man’s hands. “Moz, nobody beat me, although to be honest someone did get a little crazy with a machete, hence the-“ He gestured to his shoulder wound, “As for the welt, yes one of them did hit me, but I deserved it I was completely out of line, and frankly, what I said to evoke the slap was a bit callused in a whole lot wrong.” Neal had regretted saying that killing aliens wasn’t murder nearly the instant after he said, so that was the truth.
“Well, what exactly did you say that made this person so angry?” Mozzie demanded, “At least tell me that.”
“I can’t,” Neal said.
“Why?! Because it would violate some policy on not telling anything, a policy made by people you barely know?!”
“No, well, yes, but also because to explain what I said that aren’t mine to tell.” Neal paused for a very long moment then let out a heavy sigh and said, “Look, I came here to say goodbye, so here it goes. Goodbye, Mozzie. I try to send you a postcard.”
As Neal started to walk away felt some tug on his hand. He turned around to Mozzie had grabbed his arm. “Mozzie,” Neal said gently, “You’re making this harder than it has to be.”
“You’re running off to somewhere you can’t or won’t tell me, which people you can’t or won’t tell me about, you’re implying this might be forever, and you’re telling me I’m making this harder than it has to be?!” Mozzie exclaimed. Tears started to stream down his face. “Don’t go, Neal. Just don’t go. Please.”
Neal let his arm fall to the ground. He took put a hand one each of Mozzie’s shoulder’s looked him in the face and said, “Look, maybe this is for the best. At this point, I’m only holding you down. Hey, no one knows anything about you, so once you don’t have a fugitive traveling with you, you’ll be able to move around a lot more freely.”
“I don’t care about that,” Mozzie said,” Neal, if you walk out that doorway now I swear I will track you down wherever you are, whatever it takes, ‘till the day I die!”
Neal didn’t talk for a minute, trying to think of what to say. Then, at last, words came. “Look, here’s what I want you do. I want to leave here, and go anywhere else and forget about me. Do that, and we should be fine.” Then he let go of Mozzie’s arms, backed away and said, “Goodbye.” Then he walked out the door way, never looking way.
Neal noticed Violet wasn’t outside. He looked around the hall for the girl until he heard her voice call, “Hello, over here.”
Neal looked into the direction of the voice to see Violet standing at the end of the hallway, next to the stairs. “I figured you could use some privacy,” Violet said, “So, how’d it go?”
“Well, it could’ve gone better,” Neal answered, walking towards her.
“You didn’t get anything that was yours?” Violet asked, cocking her head to the right.
“We lost everything on the plane, remember?” Neal responded “There was nothing to get.”
“Sorry,” Violet said, “Forgot. So does that mean you’re ready to go?”
“Yeah,” Neal said, “I’m ready.”
They walked down the stairs in silence and walked out of the inn in silence. When they were outside, standing on the gray paving stones, Violet asked, “Can you find your way back on your own? I need to look into something.”
“Sure, “Neal answered, “But I’m not going strait there with you guys. Didn’t you hear that?”
“Yeah,” Violet said, “But you don’t have to set out right now. Besides if you both disappear for too long the others will get worried. This a job where doesn’t take long for things to go haywire, in case you hadn’t noticed.”
“I noticed.” Neal said, “I’ll let them know you’ll be back in a little bit.”
“Thanks.” Violet said. Then she headed west, to wherever she needed to do, and Neal headed east back to the rest of the team.
When Neal got back to the campsite, he was surprised to see the rest of the team huddled over Jack who was lying on his stomach on the ground, fiddling with the ring.
“What’s going on?” Neal asked, thoroughly confused.
“That’s actually a very good question.” Gwen said, sounding rather perturbed.
“I feel I missed something important.” Neal said, walking over to the group.
“Well, it all started when I found Jack looking at the ring,” Gwen began, “The way he was acting kinda worried me, so I asked if he was alright. And he said it didn’t make sense, so I asked him what didn’t make sense, and he said Collette’s ghost and started rambling about her looking at Jean-Luc and Pierre, and just appearing on the road, and said something about the image adapting and then he ran off, grabbed the ring, and had been fiddling it like that ever since.”
“Do you think he’s snapped?” Neal asked.
“What?” Gwen said, not knowing what Neal was getting at.
“The guy’s over a hundred years old, we know from the relation of him declaring his love from Colette he has known lost and I doubt she’s the only person he’s ever lost, add to that the job, it’s probly enough to drive a guy insane eventually.”Neal answered.
“Yeah, maybe.” Gwen said.
Just then Jack said, “There we go,” and dropped the ring to the ground. The instant after he did the image of Collette appeared, still being chocked, still struggling for her life.
“Jack,” Gwen said, “Why are you doing this to yourself?”
“Because it’s not just a ghost, Gwen,” Jack said, “It has knowledge of things around it, it saw the Jean-Luc and Jean-Pierre when they were kids, it saw Neal on that road, Hell, I think it might have activated itself on that road!”
“Yeah, that’s not ghost behavior,” Gwen said, recalling her own encounters with ghosts after she join Torchwood. That was not a pleasant incident.
“So what are you saying,” Neal asked, “That the ring caught her soul or something?”
“Yeah, something like that,” Jack responded, “And whatever it it’s, is stuck in her death, trying to get help from whoever it sees, but never getting it.” Jack looked at Collette mournfully. “But that’s about to change.” He stepped closer to the Collette’s image and said, “Collette? Collette, its Jack.”
“Jack,” Collette gasped, sounding more like she was desperately calling for him rather the responding to his statement.
“I’m here, Collette.” Jack said.
“Jack,” Collette gasped again, “Where were you? I needed you. I…”
“I know, I know,” Jack said, gently and sadly, almost ruefully, “I promised you I’d be there you needed me and I wasn’t. And you don’t know how long that’s haunted me. But I’m here now,” He stroked her arm, “I’m here.” Then he up a hand on either side of here and did something no one could quite believe: he pulled her to the ground. You see, before she had always been up in the air, as she had when she died, now her feet were on the solid ground.
“How are you doing that?” Martha asked, incredulous.
“I’m not entirely sure,” Jack answered, “Likewise, I’m not sure what to do now.”
“Save me,” Collette begged, still gasping, “Free me.”
“How?”Jack asked, at a complete loss.
She didn’t answer, just kept gasping for air. “Oh, Collette,” Jack said with a miserable, horrified, guilt-ridden voice. Suddenly he grabbed her, pushed her face close to his and moved his face close to hers and kissed her, passionately, as passionately as the first kiss they ever shared. Jack found himself transported back in time, to the French coastline in 1947,back to a peer, where after an operation, they were talking and out of nowhere, he kisses her, presses his lips on her, and then, he didn’t take them off, not for a long time, but she didn’t either.
A tingling on his lips brought him back to the here and now. Collette’s form had dissolved into tiny particles of light. “Collette, no!” Jack screamed. But then Collette’s voice came from all around them saying, “It’s alright, Jack. I’m free now. I’m no longer in pain. I can go now. Thank you. “And then as the last the bits of light flew up into the sky, her voice whispered, “Goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” Jack whispered back, looking as if he was about to cry.
“What-was-that?” Martha asked, in shock.
Jack didn’t answer. At that moment Violet came running down the road going, “Guys, guys, guys!” She stopped just in front of the group and asked in an out of breath voice, “Did you those light?! What were those? Should we do something about it-“
“There’s nothing to be done,” Jack said numbly, “There’s nothing to be done.”
An hour later, the team was gathered around Jack as he tried to explain what happened. “Like I told you earlier a part of Collette, her soul or consciousness or something, was trapped inside the ring. That’s why she asked the people who saw her for help, like she did Neal, and Jean-Luc, and Jean-Pierre. I thought that if I could activate it, maybe I could free her, but then when I had done and she was just standing there, gasping for air and I couldn’t think of anything else to do-next thing you know I was kissing her. I not sure how it worked, my biogenomic signature that I applied to her in life or what, but apparently it did. She’s gone now.”
“At least she’s not in pain anymore,” Gwen said, trying to console her friend.
Jack tried to change the subject. “Well, now that that’s out of the way,” He leaned in a bit closer to Violet, “What was our little shrinking Violet up to while this was going on.”
“I told you not to call me that,” Violet said thought gritted teeth, “And to answer your question I’ve been in need of some new stationary for a while and I notice some on our way through that was kind of pretty. So I figured since we were about done here,” She rummaged through the bad she had brought with her, “I decided to go off and buy some.” She pulled out a pad of colored paper. There several layers of different colors, on the top of the stack was a layer of pink paper, then a layer of yellow, then of a green, the green stood out because it was deeper than all the other colors, and finally, a layer of blue.
“Stationary? Seriously Violet?” Jack asked, clearly no believing her, “You really expect us to believe that?”
“Why not?” Violet asked, doing a poor job at fanning disbelief.
“Ah, I don’t know, maybe ‘cause you’re not the kind of girl that cares about things like nice paper,” Jack said, “I know fairly well, and when get to doing something nothing distracts you save something to do with your sister, so I know paper’s not gonna cut it.”
“He has a point,” Neal put in, “You don’t seem that flaky or vain.”
“Shame on you, Neal Caffrey,” Violet scolded, hitting Neal’s arm good-naturedly, “Thinking that you know me after one night. I can be put in charge of big things, and still care about silly little things like paper. But whatever my reasons for I bought way too much. Would you like some? It comes with matching envelopes.”
Neal couldn’t help but smile. Violet tried her best to appear like she didn’t know why he was smiling. She wasn’t a girl who cared about things like paper, but she also didn’t like to wear her heart on her seelve. Plus, the whole story wasn’t exactly made up. She had stopped the paper on the way through at the same time they were helping the guy who gave them the whiskey’s car. She just hadn’t thought about until Neal was searching for paper back at the inn. Which gave her an idea which she then acted on which was also her style.
“Sure,” Neal said casually, “Who knows, I might have to do some writing soon.”
New York City, New York State, Two Weeks Later
Peter Burke was sitting as his desk, filling out some paper work from a recent case, when Jones knocked on the side of the door way to get his attention. “Can I come in?” Jones asked, “There’s something I have to tell and you’re gonna want to see the proof.”
“Sure,” Peter answered, looking up, “What is it?”
“You’ll never gonna believe this but somehow,” Jones began slapping a folder down on Peter’s desk, “Caffrey got a full pardon for both the sentence he was serving and the charges of escaping he would be facing if we ever caught him.”
“What?” Peter asked, tremendously shocked, picking the folder up from his desk.
“Yeah, I couldn’t believe it myself,” Jones said, “But there it is, in black and write. Plus, full grants of immunity for-well, basically everything we ever suspected of, and some things we didn’t suspect him of.”
“How did this happen?” Peter said, looking over the documents, “I mean, the case has been cold for weeks. How does he get two pardons and full grants of immunity when we can’t even find him?”
“I have no clue,” Jones said, “My guess is, Caffrey’s got some powerful friends somewhere.”
Just then Dianna walked into the doorway, looking rather perplexed and holding a green envelope in her hand. “Hey Boss, a blonde girl in a Friday The 13th T-shirt just walked up to me and told me to give this to you. Said it was urgent, but wouldn’t tell me who it was from.”
Peter started to get up from his desk, but Dianna walked over and handed the envelope to him. “We’ll leave you alone.” Dianna said, then grabbed a hold of Jones’ wrist and led him out of Peter’s office.
Peter took the note and both hands and examined it. Except for the color it was just an average envelope. He looked where the return address would be to find there was none. In there was no address at all, not even a sending address. The girl must’ve been told directly where to send it. Without further thought he pulled out a letter opener and ripped the envelope open. He took letter out of the envelope to find it was the paper used to write the letter was the same green as the envelope. He unfolded the paper and his heart jumped into this throat because he almost edmedietely recognized the hand writing. It was Neal’s. He got his bearings again and began to read.
This is the millionth time I’ve started this letter. I can’t figure out an even halfway decent way to begin, so, here goes. First I wouldn’t blame you if you just ripped this up right now and threw it out, thinking I have some gall writing to you, and cursing my name, if the roles were reversed that’s what I probly do. But there are a few things I want to know. I have to tell you why I ran. This isn’t an excuse, this is an explanation. You deserve at least that. That day in front of the building when I looked at you, I thought you were giving me the signal to run. You told me I would know if the time came and I knew it was that look you gave me.
There’s also something else I’ve been thinking about, Peter. That day you asked me who Ellen was and I promised you that when it was over I’d tell you everything, and obviously we never got to that. I guess I haven’t thought of it before because, well, you never mention it in my nightly dreams where you try to kill me. I think I’ve put off telling you long enough, though. Like I told you before my father was a dirty cop. He killed a man. I wish I could tell you more but that’s all I know about what happened. After he was arrested, my mother checked out, so Ellen took care of me, we went into the witness protection program with her. I was three when the Marshalls took us away, they put in St. Louis and I became Danny Brooks. That might have been the end of it, but when I was eighteen, Ellen told me the truth, about who I was, who my father was. That was the day I ran away from home. I see to make a habit of doing that, running away. That was also when I started going my actually name, well, more or less, I don’t have to tell you what I mean. I couldn’t go by his last name, thought. Caffrey is my mother’s maiden name. So, now you know everything.
Before I end this, there’s one more thing I have to say. I keep thinking about what might be happening to you now because of what I did, especially now that I know in the process I made you look like a fool. And then there are the others, Dianna, Jones, Sara, but this is mainly about you. You have no idea how sorry I am that I did this to all of you. And I know that doesn’t mean much, but I am. Peter, you can’t tell anyone else about this letter, and I know I have some nerve asking anything of you, but if you could somehow tell her without bringing up this letter, let Sara know that I’m sorry and I love her, and try to let Ellen know I'm okay if you can. This is the last time you’re ever going to hear from me, Peter, probably from the rest of your life. Eventually you’ll probly forget about me, and if somebody ever mentions my name again you’ll need a minute to try to remember who I am. If you forget everything else just remember one thing: I never meant to hurt you, and when I tell you I’m sorry, I mean it. I hope someday you can forgive me.
Peter leaned back in his chair, staring at the letter, taking it all in. He wanted to laugh, cry, and punch the wall all at the same time. Instead he broke into a smile. Neal was safe. Just like Peter had wanted. But at the same time Neal wanted forgiveness. “I think I can manage that,” Peter thought to himself. Then he put the letter back into the envelope and then, standing up, put it into his jacket. He decide to put it in the safe when he got home that night, no one else would see it. It was all his. He picked up the file from his desk and walked out of his office. As he walked by Dianna desk he said, “I’ll be right back but if Huges asks where I am, tell him I have a situation to deal and we’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“Sure Boss,” Dianna said, then looking up adding, “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” Peter said confidently. He walked into the elevator. The way he figured it, somebody had to tell Sara about this crazy pardon business, it might as well be him.
Neal was starting to wonder if the train would ever get to Cardiff. The train had been going for five hours surely it had to get there soon. He looked out the window then looked back at the list in his hand. He had written it on the back of a yellow envelope, one of the many leftovers from the rough drafts of the letter. It was a list everything he had to do when he got to Cardiff. First off, he had to check in with Jack. Jack had told him he wanted to know when he got there. Then he had to find some place to stay at least for the night. There were dozens of hostels in Cardiff he could at least come up with a temporary solution. It’s either that or spend the night on the street. He picked up the pen and added to the list, Figure out what I’m doing here. Neal had been having doubts about joining Torchwood ever since he and the rest of the team parted in Lutte Pour L’anneau. What was he doing defending the planet from aliens? What could he possibly contribute to the team with his skill set? Obviously Jack saw something in him that the team could use, but Neal couldn’t figure it out. Just then the train skidded to a stop. A voice came from over the loudspeakers, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have now reached Cardiff. Please exit the cars in an orderly manner. Thank you.”
Neal got up from his sear and fallowed a line of people out of the car. He walked out of the train, into the train station, and looked around at his new surroundings. The lights were dim, and the concrete floor was gray. The terminal was bustling with activity, just like in New York. Out of nowhere, a familiar voice called out, “Neal!” He turned around to see Violet, her hair her natural blonde color, her tresses going a little pass her shoulders, wearing a strapless black dress covered with white skulls with a black ribbon around her waist, holding the hand of a ten-year-old girl a little small for her age, with thin cheeks and long blond hair.
Neal quickly walked over to them. “Hey,” He said.
“Hey,” Violet said back.
“Didn’t expect to see you here.” Neal said.
“Somebody had make sure you got here safe,” Violet said, cracking into a small grin, “Why not me?”
“And this little lady here,” Neal said, looking down at the little girl, “Must be Rose.”
“Yeah,” Violet answered. She looked over at and Rose and said, “Rose, this is my friend Neal.”
Rose looked up a Neal. “Hi.”
“Hi, Rose.” Neal answered.
“Come on, I’ll show you where the hub it.” Violet said, and then the three walked off.
Friend. She has called him her friend. Neal liked the way it sounded. It made him fell liked he belonged there.
And as time went on, Neal would realize he belonged there. In the time to come he with the rest of the team would take on a raptor, an alien-human hybrid, save a young woman, and hunt for a lizard man. He would fight for his life, be tortured, reunite with an old love, make a stupid bet while drunk, find solace in a new best friend, and nearly lose his mind. In addition to all that, all our characters would rearrange themselves to sit in the changes to their universe.
But that's another story for another day.