Title: Outside the Hourglass

Author: Aeshna

Spoilers: TW 2.05 Adam

Disclaimer: Not mine, no matter how many DVDs and toys I buy! Everything here belongs to RTD and to Auntie Beeb, who already has my licence fee.

Notes: This was actually written back when the episode first aired but got lost somewhere in the fic file. Then it sat around for a bit awaiting a title. I think it's finally time to kick it off the hard drive... Many thanks to Mimarie and Jwaneeta for looking this over for me. Feedback of any variety is very much appreciated but not compulsory I'll post anyway! I've suffered for my art, now it's your turn...

"Jack? Jack, that you?"

"Rhys!" Jack forced the cheer into his voice and leaned back in his chair, abandoning his futile attempt to sweep the last of the sand from his desk there hadn't been much in the box but the damned stuff always got everywhere, regardless of situation... "What can I do for you?"

"Jack, it's about Gwen." The voice at the other end of the phone line sounded exasperated. "First she doesn't remember who I am, then it's like she doesn't remember not remembering who I am! What's going on, man? Is it always like this with you lot? You said you didn't have anything to do with it last time but "

"Whoa, whoa, Rhys!" Jack sat up sharply, switching the handset to his other ear. "You remember what happened over the past two days?"

"Of course I bloody do, man! It's not something I'm likely to flamin' well forget, now is it?" There was a pause. "You don't remember it either?"

"No."

"Really?"

"Really."

"What about the others?"

"Them too."

"Bloody hell... What happened?"

"I don't know," Jack said patiently. "I can't remember."

"Right. No, guess you wouldn't. Sorry." Another pause. "Does this sort of thing happen a lot?"

"You'd be surprised."

"Great. Just... great." There was a quiet rasping sound from the other end, the noise swiftly lost beneath the rumbling growl of traffic, and Jack could picture Rhys running his hand down over his face as he stood outside, trying to keep his conversation from Gwen's ears. "So, what should I do?"

Jack hesitated a moment, his instinctive desire to know tempered by a bone-deep sense that this was something best left alone. "Gwen forgot you?" he asked cautiously.

"Aye! Got back the other day and went into one, freaked right out. Waving knives and guns at me bloody terrifying, it was!" A shaky breath crackled over the line. "She called you and you came here with that other bloke, waving your guns at me... I was bloody glad that you knew who I was, let me tell you "

"'Other bloke'?"

"One of your lot oh, I don't remember who. I was more worried about Gwen and you're the one with all the answers. Usually. So I was hardly paying attention to the tag-along, was I?"

Owen or Ianto probably Ianto, who was remarkably skilled at fading into the background. "Okay... But everything's all right now?"

"Like nothing ever happened! She's just looking at me funny when I ask her how she is, all, 'I'm fine, why wouldn't I be?' Thought you might be able to help, after all that stuff with the video camera an' all, but you're as bloody bad as she is!"

Jack pinched the bridge of his nose and decided to go with his gut... and with the faint taste of retcon that lingered on the back of his tongue. Whatever had happened here had been erased from the Hub's electronics as well as from the memories of his team, an internal wipe carried out from within the Institute's security protocols. Hell, he had probably done it himself, given that he had been the last to awaken. Technically, he supposed he should retcon Rhys as well, but if the man had been left out of the first round, it must have been for a reason.

Besides, he could just imagine Gwen's reaction if he slipped anything into Rhys's coffee...

"Rhys, it's okay," he said reassuringly. "Really. Just get on with your life and if Gwen asks you about those two days, don't tell her anything specific. The second amnesia seems to have cancelled the effects of the first."

"That's like a double negative, Jack." Rhys didn't sound overly impressed. "Look, what if it happens again?"

"Then you call me, okay?"

"Provided she hasn't shot me first..."

"If she didn't shoot you this time, I doubt she'll do it next," Jack told him calmly. "Now get back inside and have dinner and watch television and get your lives back to normal "

"Normal as it ever bloody gets with you around..."

"Rhys..."

"Yeah, yeah." A sigh. "It's just... you really think it'll be all right? Really?"

"Yes. Really."

"Right. Well, better get back to it, then! Thanks, Jack."

"You're welcome, Rhys."

There was a click and then the familiar purring trill of the dial tone. Jack frowned and closed his phone, wondering at this new piece of information even as he set both it and the mobile aside. Some mysteries were probably best left buried and besides, he had other things to worry about right now.

Like who the hell made an intricately ornate puzzle box and then placed nothing inside it but a handful of sand...

fin