Back at the Hub

“Told you we'd make it back before them,” Owen said blithely as Jack, Ianto, Bobby and Alex climbed out of the SUV in the Torchwood garage. “Ianto drives like my grandmother.”

“Excuse me for wanting to ensure that we got here safely, given that Jack had to nurse Eleya on his lap,” Ianto retorted. “And since you were driving your own car this time, if you got photographed by any speed cameras, you can deal with it yourself. Not to mention that you can make your own coffee. I'm sure Gwen will be happy to let you use her instant coffee maker.”

“Testy bastard, aren't you?” Owen snorted. Jack smirked as he lifted Eleya out of the SUV, and settled her against his hip.

“Language, Dr Harper. We want Eleya to learn English, but not that sort.”

“I apologise,” Owen said in a saccharine sweet tone. “Now, would you please bring our guest downstairs so that I can start running tests?”

“You're not going to do anything that'll hurt her, will you?” Bobby asked, and Owen responded with a gruff shake of his head.

“No, just a few standard tests. It's nothing to worry about, and it won't hurt her a bit.” He paused, and then added snarkily; “As long as the good Captain stays with her, she should be fine.”

Jack nodded in acquiescence.

“I can do that.”

“Jack,” Alex asked as they made their way back into the Hub, “why did we leave the body behind at the mall? Shouldn't we have brought it back with us?”

“Ordinarily, yes,” Jack answered. “But in this instance, our best evidence is right here, in this little one.”

“Plus,” Owen added, “there’s nothing that the local coppers are going to get from the body that will help them.”

“And we’ll keep an eye on their computer system just in case,” Tosh concluded.

“Okay with that, Alex?” Jack asked, watching her pointedly. Alex smiled ruefully.

“I have to stop thinking NYPD, and start thinking Torchwood.”

Jack’s expression relaxed visibly, and he favoured her with a warm, genuine smile.

“You’ll get there, gorgeous. Don’t worry.”

And with that, he swung around and headed off to the autopsy bay with Eleya still in his arms. After a long moment, the others finally seemed to accept that as a dismissal and began to disperse to their individual workstations. Bobby, after a moment’s consideration, turned and followed in Jack’s wake to the autopsy bay to see if he could be of assistance. Alex was about to rejoin Tosh at her workstation when she felt movement behind her.

“Congratulations,” Ianto murmured in her ear, and she looked around at him, startled.

“For what?”

His smile was equally as genuine as Jack’s had been as he urged her to follow him over to the coffee machine.

“For passing the test.”

Alex blinked at him, thoroughly baffled. After a moment, Ianto took pity on her, and explained himself.

“Twice today, Alex. Earlier, you could easily have gotten into an argument with Bobby, but you chose to take the higher road, and avoid a fight, which was in everyone’s best interests. And just now, you didn’t fall into the trap of apologising. That was well done, and greatly appreciated by Jack.”

She couldn’t help herself, and her eyes strayed oh-so-briefly to Gwen. Ianto chuckled softly.

“Don’t misunderstand me. Jack loves her every bit as much as Owen and Toshiko. But she does have a tendency to drive him up the wall. For example, there was this case that we had just before we had to come to New York. We discovered a truckload of alien meat that was headed for the manufacturing plants.”

Alex couldn’t stop herself from shuddering.

“Alien meat? Seriously?”

“Oh yes. The trouble was that the trucking firm that was transporting it is managed by Rhys Williams, Gwen’s fiancée. He got suspicious over Gwen’s involvement in the investigation, and decided to do some investigating of his own, and he ended up right in the middle of it.”

“And it was...?”

“Extremely unpleasant when we got to the bottom of it,” Ianto replied grimly. “It turned out that there was a group of young men who had come across an alien... like a manatee. They locked it up in a warehouse and began their own private meat supply business.”

“Oh god,” Alex muttered.

“It gets worse,” Ianto told her apologetically. “The alien was still alive. It had a regenerative ability, not unlike Jack’s, and it was able to survive while they literally cut huge pieces out of it. It was bloody awful, absolutely sickening. Jack had hoped to save it, but it was the size of a ruddy whale by the time we got there. In the end, Owen had to kill it. There was nothing else we could do. Jack was devastated...”

“Because of what happened to him?” Alex broke in, and Ianto looked startled.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean during that year,” she said with a slight frown, wondering if the comparison really hadn’t yet occurred to the young Welshman. “When Jack was held prisoner by the Master. He must have been able to sympathise from that. Being hung up like a slab of meat, and having someone come and take a piece of him whenever they felt like it. I don’t blame him for being devastated. It sounds to me like he wanted to save it, because no one was there to save him when he was in that situation.”

Ianto stared down at her, amazed by her insight. The truth was that in the stress of everything that had happened, that line of thought had not occurred to him at all. And then, with what had happened after the fact, he had been so angry and hurt, that he hadn’t stopped to consider that he might have been utterly wrong about why Jack appeared so depressed.

“Fuck,” he muttered, yanking his hand back as the steam threatened to scald him. Alex stared up at him, confused by his distraction.

“Ianto? What is it?”

“Nothing,” he murmured, and then thought twice about that reply. “Sorry, it’s not nothing. I’m just a little thrown. In all honesty, I’d never considered that. I got into a fight with the bloke who was running the operation, and I probably would have been killed if his gun hadn’t jammed. And then Jack sent me after him like nothing had happened! I was pissed off about that, even though he was right. I was the only one in a position to go after the bastard. But then, afterwards...”

“Afterwards?” Alex pressed. Ianto let his breath out in a faint sigh.

“Jack told Gwen to retcon Rhys. He said that Rhys couldn’t be allowed to remember, for his sake and ours. Gwen begged Jack to let her do it, but then she came back later and told Jack to his face that she wouldn’t do it, and wouldn’t allow anyone else to do it. She gave him a nice long speech about how none of us could possibly understand how she felt, because we didn’t have partners on the outside, and that Rhys was all she had, and if Jack was going to retcon him, then he’d have to wipe her memory, too.”

“She used emotional blackmail on him?” Alex asked in shock, and Ianto nodded, visibly agitated.

“Yes, although I don’t think she really understood the full impact of what she was doing. I don’t believe she stopped to think about all the people Jack has lost over the years, and that if she walked away like that, he’d effectively be losing her, too.”

“What did he do?” Alex asked, although she wasn’t entirely sure that she wanted to know. Ianto smiled sadly.

“He gave in to her. He let Rhys keep his memories. Turned out to be a sound choice in the end, because Rhys has proven to be reliable. He’s not talked to anyone about what he knows about us, which is ultimately for his own safety, anyway.”

“But you were angry about Jack giving in,” Alex murmured, peering at him intently. Ianto regarded her with curiosity.

“I think Jack may have been right. I think you might have some degree of empathic ability. We’ll have to get him to test you.”

Alex scoffed.

“That’s Bobby. Not me.”

He laid a hand on her shoulder and squeezed gently, silencing her protests.

“We already know that Bobby has strong empathic talent. I’m not just saying this, Alex. I really think you do, too.”

She looked suddenly like she wanted to be anywhere but there, and Ianto decided to be kind, and switch back to their original subject.

“Yes, I was angry, and I’m afraid that I let that rule me. Of course, Jack seemed fine the next morning... but then, he always does. He would never have told me if he wasn’t. And then Gwen came in, acting like nothing was wrong in the world... I honestly could have throttled her that morning, Alex. Part of me is still wondering why I didn’t.”

Alex laughed softly.

“Is she really that frustrating? Because from what I heard and saw back home in New York, she seems to be very capable, and extremely smart.”

“Oh, she is,” Ianto agreed firmly. “I would never dispute that. But she is also stubborn, headstrong and, at times, utterly short-sighted. She defies Jack regularly, and often in front of the rest of us. If she thinks she’s right about something, she’ll stick to that conviction, no matter what. I feel like she lives inside a little box, where the world is the way she wants it to be, and she’ll fight tooth and nail to keep it that way. Sometimes it has to take a larger consequence for her to be able to see outside that box, if you know what I mean.”

Alex nodded wryly.

“Yes, I know exactly what you mean. All too often, I’ve watched Bobby back himself into a corner because he’s gotten himself onto a single track and couldn’t get off again. Nicole Wallace is a perfect example of that.”

Ianto raised an eyebrow, sensing an intriguing story behind the venom in Alex’s tone when she spoke the woman’s name.

“Not a friend, I take it?”

Alex snorted derisively.

“Not by a long shot. She first came to our attention about six years ago, and she fixated on Bobby... probably because Bobby was the only one who managed to suss out who she really was. Only problem was, she was almost as smart as him. She bolted the first time, and when she showed up again, she wove an elaborate scheme to discredit Bobby. It nearly worked, too. She not only discredited him to the media and our superiors, but she also managed to crush him emotionally. She’s turned up a number of times since then... Always manages to escape jail, and always comes back to torment Bobby.”

“You know you have the advantage now, if she turns up again?” Ianto told her with a small, knowing smile. Alex chuckled.

“I know, and I honestly can’t say whether I want her to show up or not. Part of me would be happy if I never saw her again, and part of me hopes she does make an appearance, because she’ll get one hell of a shock if she does.”

“Decisions, decisions,” Ianto said theatrically, and Alex laughed.

“You’re a gem. You know that, don’t you?”

“So Jack keeps telling me,” Ianto said dryly. “Among other things, which you’ll forgive me if I don’t repeat here and now.”

Alex laughed openly at that.

“I really do like you, Ianto.”

Despite the pink tinge to his cheeks, Ianto smiled widely at his new colleague. Before he had a chance to respond in kind, though, there was a childish scream from the direction of the autopsy bay, followed by a tremendous crash that nearly had all of them jumping out of their skins in fright.

“What the hell was that?” Gwen burst out, and without waiting for anyone else to speculate, she scrambled to her feet and bolted towards the autopsy bay. Toshiko, Ianto and Alex were right behind her, all anxious to see what had gone wrong.

In the autopsy bay, they were met with a startling sight. Jack was by the table, his arms around Eleya and murmuring soothing words to her as she cried loudly into his shoulder. Bobby was standing nearby, his eyes wide with shock, while Owen...

Toshiko uttered a slightly undignified cry and rushed over to where Owen lay, on the other side of the room, in the middle of a slew of medical equipment, looking more than a little dazed.

“Jack?” Gwen spoke when no one else did. “What on earth happened?”

“Eleya happened,” Bobby answered softly when Jack ignored the question. “Owen was trying to take a blood sample. He got as far as placing the needle against her skin when she screamed, and the next thing, he’s lying over there.”

“Oh my god,” Tosh whispered with a mixture of horror and amazement. “She’s telekinetic. Jack, you know what that means, don’t you?”

He shot her a warning look.

“I know it means that she’s most likely not human, not from Earth, and she’s going to need a lot of care in order to learn how to control what she does.”
Tosh clamped her mouth shut, recognising the growing tension in Jack’s expression and demeanour only too well. Owen, however, had no compunctions about speaking out.

“She’s bloody dangerous, Jack! We’ve got to...”

“Got to what, Owen?” Jack demanded, looking angrily at his medic. “Lock her up?”

“For God’s sake, Owen, she’s just a little girl!” Gwen burst out. Owen glowered unappreciatively at her as he got awkwardly to his feet.

“I am so glad you didn’t add ‘helpless’ into that sentence, Miss Cooper.”

“Seriously, Owen, what should we do?” Jack asked. “Tell me, please, since you seem to know, and I don’t.”

Owen shook his head.

“No. No way. I am not going to go butting heads with you when you’re in a mood like this, Jack.”

Jack’s expression darkened.

“What mood?”

“Look at you, Jack,” Owen snapped. “You’re in total daddy mode! Next thing we know, you’ll be playing house and happy families with Ianto!”

Jack took a long, steadying breath, and studiously ignored the smiles that were shared around his team.

“Do you actually need a blood sample from her, Owen?”

“Yes, I actually do. Are you offering to get it from her?”

Jack frowned, and when he spoke it was with audible forced calm.

“Whatever you need, you take from me first.”

Owen blinked in surprise. It was obvious he hadn’t expected to hear that.

“Sorry? Let me get this straight. You’re actually telling me to take blood from you? You’re going to let me take blood from you?”

Jack pointed a finger at him threateningly.

“Yes, and if you do anything to make me regret it, I’ll let Ianto shoot you again.”

Owen looked up to where Ianto stood at the railing with Alex, Tosh and Gwen, smirking down at him. Groaning, Owen sighed as he collected a syringe with which to draw blood.

“All right, Harkness. Sit up there next to the kid, and roll up your sleeve.”

Struggling to stop glaring for Eleya’s sake, Jack slipped his coat off and passed it up into Ianto’s waiting hands, and then boosted himself up onto the table beside her and rolled up his sleeve.

“Dada?” Eleya asked softly, and he smiled down at her in what he hoped was a reassuring manner.

“It’s okay, sweetheart. Uncle Owen is just going to take a bit of blood from me, so you can see that there isn’t anything to worry about.”

“Uncle Owen?” Owen retorted as he walked over and began to wrap a blood pressure cuff around Jack’s arm. “You can’t be serious.”

Jack merely smirked and raised his eyebrows, as though daring Owen to challenge him. Owen scowled as he swabbed a spot on Jack’s forearm with a sterilisation wipe, and then slid the needle into Jack’s arm.

Eleya watched with a distinctly suspicious expression that was gradually calmed by the lack of reaction from Jack. He smiled down at her, his face betraying no fear or pain. When Owen finally withdrew the syringe, Jack showed her the pinprick mark that the needle had left in his flesh.

“See, gorgeous? Nothing to worry about.”

Eleya reached over and touched the mark nervously, and then looked up quizzically at Jack. He winked at her, and then held his arm up for Owen to tape a small patch over the needle mark. Once he’d done that, he turned to look at Eleya.

“What about you, then? You going to be as brave as Daddy here?”

“Owen,” Jack growled softly, but Owen was utterly unapologetic.

“Careful, Jack. You don’t want to upset her.”

Eleya looked from one to the other before abruptly extended her arm towards Owen, and screwing her little face up as she braced herself. Grinning to himself, Owen took the blood as quickly and carefully as he could, both surprised and grateful when all that happened in reaction to the needle was a tiny whimper from the little girl – a sound that was quickly soothed when Jack wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pressed a kiss to the top of her head.

“There, all done,” Owen announced. “And for the brave little trooper...”

He turned away and rummaged through a desk drawer for a long minute before shouting in triumph. When he turned back to them, he was holding a lollipop. Whether she knew exactly what it was, they didn’t know, but she certainly seemed to understand that it was a treat. She reached out and took the lollipop from Owen, and smiled shyly at him.


“I think she just said thankyou,” Ianto pointed out, and Owen glanced at him in annoyance.

“I think I got that, thankyou very much.” When he looked back, though, he was puzzled to find Jack watching him with a visible pout. “What?”

“Where’s mine?” he asked, much to Owen’s incredulity.

“Your...? Bloody hell, Harkness.” He retrieved a second lollipop from the desk, and shoved it into the Captain’s hand, who visibly perked up at the treat. “If I’d known two years ago that all it took to shut you up was a lollipop, I’d have kept a stash here for you.”

“Trust me, Owen,” Ianto remarked dryly. “It takes much more than a lollipop to shut him up.”

“Hey!” Jack growled, but Ianto only smiled serenely at him in response.

“Okay,” Alex called out, eager to get the conversation back on track. “We still haven’t decided what we’re going to do about the little girl.”

“We can’t lock her up,” Bobby said firmly. “It wouldn’t be moral.”

Jack smiled grimly.

“Sometimes what’s right and what’s moral don’t always equate in this job, Bobby. You need to understand that there are going to be times when you’ll have to do something that you don’t always agree with in order to save other lives.”

“Like when we get bloody blowfish invasions,” Gwen said ruefully. Jack nodded.

“That’s on example.”

“I understand that,” Bobby said quietly. “I get it. But each time Eleya has done something, it’s been out of self-defence. You can’t punish her for trying to protect herself.”

“This isn’t about punishment,” Jack assured him. “It’s about making sure we make decisions that don’t result in anyone getting hurt.” He paused, looking down at Eleya, who was happily sucking on her lollipop. “Anyone else getting hurt.”

“So what do we do?” Tosh asked, looking distinctly worried. They all knew full well that Jack was easily capable of making ruthless decisions based on the greater good, and not one of them doubted that Jack might make a decision that they would all consider reprehensible. After all, it was not the first time he had sacrificed a child, and the sad story of Jasmine Pierce still lingered in all their memories.

Jack looked around at his team slowly, taking in their apprehensive expressions and feeling a sharp pang. He could guess what they were thinking, and he couldn’t deny that it hurt. Did they really think he would so willingly sacrifice Eleya? He wondered exactly what they were expecting him to do, and just as quickly decided that he really did not want to know.

Reaching around, he lifted Eleya up and settled her back on his lap. She grinned up at him around the lollipop, and he couldn’t help but smile back in return. Every time she looked at him, he felt his insides twist, although he honestly didn’t understand why.

“Okay, sweetheart, how about we start by getting you cleaned up? You looked like you crawled through the bowels of a Sontaran cruiser.”

She giggled, even though he was fairly certain that she didn’t understand what he’d just said. Jack smiled tenderly at her, and slid off the table, with the little girl held protectively in his arms.

“Ianto, we’re going to need clean clothes for her.”

Ianto raised an eyebrow at the Captain in bemusement.

“And you think I have a stash of children’s clothes somewhere in the Hub?”

“We can go shopping!” Gwen burst out suddenly. “It's after nine, the shops will be open by now. Tosh, Alex and I can go and buy some things for her.”

Alex blinked in surprise.

“We can...?”

Jack bit back a smirk at her reaction.

“Why don’t you and Tosh go, Gwen? I need Alex here to help with Eleya.”

For a brief moment, Alex looked taken aback, only to quickly recover and nod her acquiescence. Gwen looked slightly put-out, for reasons that were beyond Jack’s comprehension, but she conceded and hurried off with Tosh to go and buy the needed supplies.

“I’m not sure whether to thank you or not,” Alex said wryly. Jack chuckled.

“Wait and see how we go with bath time. You might wish you had gone with Gwen and Tosh.”

Alex smirked as she followed him up from the autopsy bay.

“Believe me, it’d take a hell of a lot to make me wish that.”

Jack paused at the top of the steps, and looked back to Bobby.

“Bobby, would you be able to help Owen out with whatever tests he needs to run on that blood sample?”

Bobby nodded, happy to have something practical to do.

“And get Ianto to bring her clothes back here when you’ve got them off her!” Owen shouted after them. “I want to run tests on them, too.”

Jack merely waved in response and kept walking. Owen rolled his eyes and looked back at Bobby.

“All right, Bobby. Let’s get started.”

Bobby followed Owen over to one of his work benches.

“Do you really think that Jack might actually be her father?”

Owen shrugged.

“I don’t know. But the kid seemed pretty certain of it, didn’t she?”

Bobby glanced towards the upper level, half expecting Jack to reappear and reprimand them for gossiping.

“I know he’s been alive for a long time, but surely he’d know if he’d fathered a child...?”

Owen looked back at Bobby in open amusement.

“You used to be a detective, Bobby. Seriously, mate, think about what you’re saying. How many times have you dealt with blokes who didn’t know they had a kid? And this is Jack that we’re talking about. The man probably shagged half the bloody galaxy before he landed on Earth. Probably at least a dozen more kids out there with the Harkness genes running rampant through them.”

Bobby chuckled softly.

“I guess so. But he does seem pretty certain that she’s just made a mistake. Maybe he’s right, and he just looks like her father.”

Owen paused, staring at the two vials of blood on the tray in front of him, and an idea began to form in his head. Jack would probably kill him, but once it was done...

“You’re plotting something,” Bobby said, watching him carefully. “What are you plotting, Dr Harper?”

Owen looked around at Bobby, and a wicked grin spread across his face.

“I’m thinking, what if I got a little mixed up? Couldn’t remember whose blood is whose? Well, then we’d have to run both samples, wouldn’t we? Just so I can eliminate which blood is Jack’s. And if we happened to run a little comparison on the blood in the meantime...”

“You’re devious,” Bobby accused him, but the smile on his face took any sting out of the accusation. “And Jack is going to have our hides, you know.”

The medic laughed, and rubbed his hands together in glee.

“Fantastic. Let’s get to work, before our dear Captain comes back.”

It took less time to get Eleya into the bath than Jack had fully expected. She seemed eager enough, and helped him and Alex out by wriggling out of her grubby clothes as fast as she could, and then clambering into the warm water. Exchanging a wry smile with Alex, Jack rolled up his sleeves and sat carefully on the edge of the tub.

“Did you ask for my help because you really needed my help,” Alex asked as she handed him a bar of soap, “or just to give me an out from going shopping with Gwen and Tosh?”

Jack smiled faintly.

“A bit of both, I suppose. You didn’t seem too thrilled with the idea of shopping for kid’s clothes.”

Alex reached out and scooped up a handful of water, which she poured carefully over Eleya’s hair in preparation for washing.

“I normally wouldn’t mind. Like I told you, I have a nephew, and I absolutely dote on him. I just... As much as I like Gwen, I’m just not sure I could cope with that sort of team bonding yet.”

Jack laughed out loud at that.

“Team bonding, I like that. No, Alex, I actually did ask you because I thought you’d be able to help. I love kids, but I really don’t have much experience with them. Definitely not in this respect, either, and the last thing I need is to be mocked by Owen because I can’t bathe a little girl.”

A wry smile flickered across Alex’s face as she looked fondly down at Eleya.

“It’s just a bath. The most that can go wrong is that you’ll get soaked.”

“Just what I need,” Jack moaned theatrically. “Ianto angry at me for giving him more work to do.”

Alex’s eyebrows shot up.

“He does your laundry for you?”

The Captain eyed her with a slight frown.

“As a matter of fact, he does. Why?”

“Nothing,” Alex retorted, rolling her eyes in a gesture eerily reminiscent of Ianto. “Nothing at all.”

Suspicion flickered across Jack’s face, mixed with a wry smile, before turning his attention back to Eleya. The dirt and grime was melting away, revealing a slightly emaciated figure with china doll features.

“You are beautiful,” Alex murmured. She paused, thinking she could see subtle similarities to Jack in the child’s face. The eye colour was different, but she had the same expressive eyes, and her mouth was the same, too. It took some effort not to say anything, though. Jack seemed so determined that Eleya was mistaken, and she had no wish to anger him, especially in front of the little girl. Jack, however, caught sight of the look on her face.

“What is it? What are you thinking, Alex?”

Alex chewed briefly on her lower lip as she considered what to say.

“Bobby and I have dealt with a lot of cases over the last several years where fathers found out about a son or daughter that they never knew existed. You might not like hearing it, Jack, but she might just be yours.”

Jack stared down at Eleya as she splashed happily in the water. He was silent for so long that Alex began to wonder if he’d just dismissed her presence altogether. She was just about to get up and quietly leave when he spoke in a heavily subdued voice.

“I’m missing two years from my memories. There was a whole two years that were stolen from me by the Time Agency. I don’t know what I did to warrant that kind of punishment... and believe me, getting your memory wiped like that was just one step below execution. Two entire years, gone. I still don’t have any clue what I did in those two years, and it’s what triggered the whole sequence of events that led me to this time and place. It’s because of what the Time Agency did to me that I went rogue, and wound up in London in 1941, where I met the Doctor and Rose for the first time. It’s because of the Agency that I eventually wound up immortal. And I do not know what I did.”

“You could have fathered her in those two years,” Alex murmured.

“She came through the rift. She came from the future. From my future. The language she’s speaking is a hybrid of 51st century dialect and another language that I don’t recognise...”

“Or remember,” Alex added quietly. Jack grimaced.

“The point is, I don’t know what scares me more. That I fathered her and didn’t know about it... or that I fathered her and don’t remember it.”

Alex could hear the thinly veiled distress in his voice, but before she could do or say anything to comfort him, Eleya beat her to it. She took hold of his hand and kissed it in a sweetly childish gesture, before speaking once more in a slightly broken English.

“Love you, Dada.”

Tears stung Jack’s eyes, and he stroked the little girl’s cheek lovingly.

“She can’t be mine. I couldn’t possibly have produced anything this beautiful.”

“Maybe you should let Owen run a DNA comparison,” Alex suggested quietly. Jack considered it before shaking his head.

“Not a good idea.”

Alex blinked in astonishment.

“It’s not a good idea to find out whether she really is yours or not? C’mon, Jack...”

“Can you grab the shampoo over there, Alex? The watermelon scented one.”

Shaking her head, Alex got up and collected the bottle. Again, her eyebrows rose as she looked at it properly.

“Whose is this? Gwen or Tosh’s?”

Jack looked slightly uncomfortable as he took the bottle from her.

“It’s mine, as a matter of fact.”

Alex snorted with ill-suppressed laugher, and Jack frowned with indignation.


“Nothing,” she said, trying not to laugh openly. Eleya reached back and patted Alex’s hand.


“Illy?” Alex echoed, and then it was Jack’s turn to laugh.

“She just called you silly.”

Alex laughed out loud, then, and nodded in agreement.

“I suppose I am. Nothing wrong with a bit of silliness, though.”

Jack smirked and turned his attention back to washing the little girl’s hair. He was just in the process of rinsing the shampoo from it when Alex spoke softly.

“I think you should let Owen do the test, Jack. At least you’d know for sure, and if it turns out that she is, then we can all help you deal with it.”

Jack paused in putting Eleya through a second rinsing.

“I don’t know what to do about it, Alex. Part of me wants to know, and part of me doesn’t.”

Alex considered that for a long moment before speaking again.

“Bobby has a brother, Frank. They’re estranged. Bobby’s never really gotten along with him, and Frank... Well, he’s a lot different to Bobby. He’s a selfish bastard, basically. He has a son, though, a son that Bobby never found out about until a couple of months ago. Bobby was devastated that Frank never told him. The way Bobby saw it, it was another member of the family that he’d missed out on being able to form a relationship with because of Frank’s selfishness.”

“You think I should find out for sure, and not waste any more time,” Jack interpreted. Alex regarded him seriously.

“If she is yours, Jack, do you really want to lose even another day?”

Jack laughed bitterly.

“If she is mine, the best thing for her would probably be to be as far away from me as possible, Alex.”

“You don’t mean that...”

“Yes, I do, and I can’t even begin to list the reasons for it, not the least of which is that I am going to outlive her. When she’s old and dying, I’ll still look exactly as I do now. Do you realise how horrible that thought feels?”

“Don’t use cowardice as a way out of this, Jack,” Alex warned him. “If she is yours, and you do go down that path, I guarantee you’ll always hate yourself for it.”

He smiled, then, but it was far from a pleasant sight.

“Alex, I have so many reasons to hate myself right now that I wouldn’t know where to start.”

She reached over and briefly grasped his hand.

“Well, don’t add this to the list.”

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