Title: Four Days in the Desert.
Rating: PG-13. Dark themes.
Characters/Pairing: Gwen Cooper (TW); The Monster (Lost).
Disclaimer: Bad Robot and the Beeb own the goods. Just visiting.
Summary: The Word in the desert is most attacked by voices of temptation.
Word Count: 1040.
A/N: Spoilers to Torchwood “Children of Earth” and Lost 6x05 “Lighthouse”. Summary courtesy of T. S. Eliot’s Burnt Norton; Matthew 4:8 puts in an appearance.
On the first day, it was Owen.
“You’re dead,” she told him.
“You always were a sharp one, PC Cooper,” he said. “But you know I’ve never let that cramp my style. You’ve redecorated the Hub again, I see.”
“I had to,” she replied. “There was a bomb. It’s just me, now.”
“I know,” he said. “But it isn’t meant to be that way. You can fix this, Gwen.”
“How?” she asked.
“By opening a door. A door that can only be opened from here.”
“I’m still Torchwood,” she said, “even if Torchwood is only me. What I think you’re asking... it wouldn’t be right.”
“Gwen, sweetheart, you wouldn’t know Right if it bit you on your pert Welsh arse. You’ve never held on to a principle in your life. All you’ve got is instinct, and desire, and the knowledge that there are burdens you just aren’t up to carrying alone. I’m proof enough of that.”
“Why should I trust you?” she asked.
“Some things are supposed to happen, Gwen. And sometimes you just have to make a leap of faith.”
“‘Supposed to happen’”, she repeated. “‘Leap of faith.’ Thank you. You just told me something very important.”
“I always aim to please.”
“You told me that you’re not Owen Harper. Go back to where you came from. Now.”
She was rather surprised that he did.
On the second day, it was Toshiko.
“What are you selling this time, then?” she asked. “All the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them? Go right ahead. Get New Testament on me.”
“You don’t desire kingdoms, Gwen. I wouldn’t insult you by offering them. But I can give you what you want.”
“And what would that be?”
“Your friends. Returned as if they had never gone. Because if you do this for me, they never went.”
“You could bring them back to me?”
Tosh’s small, shy smile of pleasure in her own accomplishment, so much missed. “Of course.”
“All I have to do is open your door?”
“And nothing bad would happen if I did?”
“Nothing at all.”
“Then what made you think you would have to bribe me to do it?”
“Tosh never thought that she was more important than the world. That’s why she was. You’re not Toshiko.” She turned back to her terminal. “Go away.”
On the third day, it was Ianto.
“Nice suit,” she said.
“Thank you. You don’t think the maroon shirt is a touch outré?”
“I wasn’t talking about the threads.” She put down a file on her desk. “I know who you are, now. Your energy signature is quite distinctive; I did some reading. Our archives go back a long way. Does Jacob know you’re playing truant, old ghost? Maybe I should write him an absence note.”
“Save yourself the trouble. He’s not on e-mail.”
“I’m curious, though. Our understanding was that you don’t get to leave the Island.”
A shrug. “Your Rift is a place where the Rules can be bent. And, if you open that door for me, broken.”
“I see. Your door would let you leave the Island for good, even if Jacob is still alive.”
“Yes. He can stay on duty, guarding a place that doesn’t need guarding against its imaginary enemies. Just like you. Well, not quite the same as you. Jacob has sunlight on the water. Fresh fish. The Lighthouse, to bring him company. You have a diet of cold pizza down a shattered hole in the ground, alone.”
“I think I liked you better when you were bribing me,” she said.
“It’s not a bribe. That’s what I’ve been trying to make you understand. It’s your opportunity to put things right. There’s a reason I left Ianto for last, Gwen. I’m giving you the chance to embrace the knowledge you’ve been hiding from, down here, in the dark, all these months.”
Her throat was dry. “What knowledge is that, then?”
“That you’re the one who was meant to die, not him. Jack Harkness’s right-hand woman – of course you should have been at your Captain’s side to face the 456. How differently would things have gone, if Ianto had survived? He was the one who gave the deathless man something to live for. Despite all your vanities, Gwen, that was never you. It isn’t a bribe I’m offering here, Gwen Cooper. It’s redemption.”
She lifted her bowed head to look him in the face. “Perhaps you’re right. But redemption isn’t a fruit that travels well. I’d rather buy mine local, ta very much.”
His lips tightened. “Flippant. Small-minded. You don’t change, Gwen.”
“Maybe. But I’m not the one peddling half-truths from a dead man’s mouth. You’re not Ianto Jones, old ghost. Go away.”
On the fourth day, he dispensed with the pleasantries.
The roiling bank of smoke was upon her quicker than thought or hope or fear. Light seared her vision, and then.... the smoke was frescoed with her failures. She watched herself drugging Rhys in one panel, while she abandoned Andy on a quayside in another, while she let John kiss her, while she let Rupesh guile her, while she buried Ianto, while she cradled Tosh.
She closed her eyes for a moment, and drew a breath.
“I get it. No, really, I do. Smoke.... mirrors... obvious combination. You think that because of all the times – and there are so many – that I’ve been stupid or thoughtless or weak, that that’s the only thing I can ever be. Because you don’t believe that people can change. Just one problem...”
She fingered the control in her pocket, and pressed a button.
“...you’re not me.”
She raised her voice, to make it audible above the pulse of the tech and what she hoped was a shriek of pain.
“Modified sonic projectors. I did my homework, see? Now that there’s no one else to do it for me. Go back to your Island, old ghost, and stay there. Because this is the last time I ask nicely.”
A final pulse of lightning through the smoke, and it was gone. She left the projectors to run for several minutes, just in case. Then silence descended once again, as the Hub relearned the ways of solitude.