A/N: Torchwood/Doctor Who Crossover. What if Donna wasn't the only companion to have had her memories wiped? Also inspired by a Torchwood episode I won't name, as it would sort of give the story away.
Shari was sure a man had been standing in front of the water tower only seconds earlier. She'd just seen him out of the corner of her eye. She only turned to look because she thought she recognised him. When she did, he was gone. Staring at the space where he'd been, - or rather he hadn't been - she shook her head. She was imagining things again. She had a habit of doing that.
Well according to her brother, Tom, she did. Like when she thought she'd seen aliens flying over Newport that time, and Tom said it had all been a dream. She didn't tell him, but her hairdresser had the same dream.
"Big ugly bloody things they were, Shari," Linda had said. "Then that Doctor blokey saved us all."
"What, Hilary Jones?"
"No, not that doctor! My brother's seen this website about this man called The Doctor, who comes along and helps us when we're in trouble."
"Yea. But I don't think he wears his underpants outside his trousers."
"Why not? It would probably frighten the aliens off quicker," said Shari. They both giggled, and went on to talking about other things.
Shari took one last look at the water tower, then turned away. As she did, the man seemed to appear again. She spun around, but he was gone again. Tom was probably right, she thought, walking away. I do imagine things.
Jack knew he shouldn't have followed her. She'd be able to see him once he was off the Torchwood slab lift. It was dangerous, especially if she recognised him. But follow her he did. She made her way to one of the many conference buildings in the Millennium Square, and in the busy foyer, where he pretended to be very interested in a stand full of leaflets, he heard her introduce herself as the lecturer in employment law. On a billboard on the wall, Jack saw an advertisement for her seminar.
"Way to go, Shari," he muttered. "You did good."
When the receptionist directed Shari to Room 7 on the 7th Floor, Jack caught his breath. As she entered the lift, she turned and looked back at him.
It was him! Even without having seen him properly near the water tower, Shari knew it was the same man. She looked at him expectantly, but he turned away and started reading the leaflets in the stand. She should have known better. A man who looked like that wouldn't be looking at her. But there was something about him. Strange yet familiar. Shari didn't know how that could be. She'd never seen him before in her life. Whenever she pointed out people to her brother and said, 'I'm sure I know them," he'd say,
"Oh they've just got one of those faces."
Like the man who'd moved in down the road from them. Shari could have sworn she'd seen him before. She once had a dream about him being sucked into a laptop computer, then trying to take over the world, before someone stopped him. Shari awoke with the odd feeling that she'd been one of the people who stopped him. But when she'd seen him on the street the next day it was clear that he didn't know her and she didn't know him.
She shrugged, and got into the lift. Mr Wonderful at the leaflet stand would have to wait. She had a class to teach.
"You shouldn't have followed her, Jack," said Gwen, back at Torchwood.
"I know. I know, Gwen. I just wanted to see if she was okay."
"You've managed to stay away from her for seven years," said Ianto, glowering a little.
"That's just it," said Jack. "I think I'm meant to see her today. When we first met her, the Doctor, and me it was seven years after Rose went to the other dimension. Not only that, but it was the seventh day of the seventh month."
"Don't tell me, Shari was seven," said Ianto.
"No, she was thirty. I don't think the Doctor would travel with someone in Primary School. He'd have too much trouble getting a letter from the parents. Anyway, today, which also happens to be the seventh of the seventh, she was teaching in Room Seven on the seventh floor. I was meant to see her today."
"Why?" asked Gwen.
"Because she's going to need me."
"Very romantic," said Ianto.
Jack ignored him. Ianto knew how Jack worked. They were a couple, but Jack wasn't into exclusivity. Besides, Shari was … had been … his friend. "I think I'll call the Doctor," he said.
A short time later, the Doctor appeared on Jack's monitor. "Bit busy at the moment, Jack," he said, as the Tardis seemed to rock behind him. He looked down at his console, banging it, and turning knobs. "Can I call you back? Say in about seven hundred years?"
"Funny you should use that number." Jack's spine tingled. "I've seen Shari today."
People unused to the Doctor might not have noticed the pause, but Jack knew him very well. It was only a heartbeat – or two heartbeats in the Doctor's case – but it was there. "Well … there was always a chance of that, what with her living in Newport. It's practically next-door. As long as she didn't see you."
"She did, and not in Newport, she's in Cardiff. But she saw me when she shouldn't have. When I was standing on the slab lift."
"That would be the slab lift with the perception filter. Right?"
"That's the one. I'm going to follow her for a while…"
"No! You can't! Jack, you can't! You know what will happen if she remembers. We can't risk it."
"Yes, it's because I know what will happen if she remembers that I'm going to follow her. She'll need someone there, Doctor, and as you're … wherever it is you are … I guess it will have to be me."
"Keep away from her, Jack."
"Jealous? Because I've seen her and you haven't?"
Another pause. "Terrified is a better word. Her brother already wants to kill me."
"He's a jerk."
"No, he's someone who's as frightened for her as we are."
"He's still a jerk."
"Well … perhaps. If I tell you not to go near her, you'll just ignore me, won't you?"
"Then please, just be careful." The Doctor finally looked up from his console and straight into Jack's eyes. "If anything happens to her, I'll hold you responsible."
"Maybe you should escape from whatever aliens are chasing you before you start making threats."
"Oh, I never make threats, Jack. Keep me informed. Must go."
"Tom, I'm just staying for one night, that's all. Yes I know that Newport is hardly the other side of the world, but I fancy a night in a nice hotel in Cardiff. Tom, don't be awkward, love. I deserve a treat, don't I?"
Before he could answer, Shari switched her phone off, and threw herself on the bed in the hotel room. Honestly, she thought, sighing, she knew that they'd had to cope alone since their parents died when Tom was eighteen and Shari ten, but sometimes he forgot that she'd grown up since then. It was all she could do to persuade him to let her move out at the age of thirty. Then she'd had her breakdown and … Life had been pretty much a blur after that, until she'd moved back in with Tom. Since then he'd watched her every move. One day she got so fed up, she'd yelled at him,
"People talk you know. They think we're not normal brother and sister, because of the way you boss me around."
"People have filthy minds," he'd said. "I'd cut my arm off before I even thought about you in that way." The moment he said it, Tom went pale, and muttered that he had to get some work done. At the time, Shari had been afraid she'd unearthed some secret in her brother's psyche. Then that night she'd had the strange dream about a hand in a jar. Not the actual hand, but of someone telling her about a hand in a jar and how it had grown into a person. Who'd told her that story? He'd been laughing as he told her and someone else had warned him to shut up, but not in a nasty way. In that playfully annoyed way that trusted friends always used.
Lying on the bed in the Cardiff hotel room, Shari saw the storyteller's face clearly for the first time since the dream. It was the man she'd seen that morning, she was sure of it. And the other person… Another man. Who was he?
She struggled to remember, but as always a shutter came down on her mind.
Shari told herself that she wasn't looking for the man in black, as she walked around Cardiff Bay later that evening. She was just getting some fresh air. If she happened to see him, well, that was all well and good, but in a city of this size, the chances of meeting the same person again were slim. So she didn't really mean to keep walking past the water tower. It's just that once you did one lap around the bay, you could only do another. Then another.
Feeling foolish, she gave up and went into one of the bars, and ordered a beer. She'd been there about five minutes when he turned up and stood at the other end of the bar. Trying not to look at him too much, she sipped her drink, wondering what to do next. Should she speak to him? Should she run away? Her mind and her heart seemed to be telling her to do both. Something deep down told her she was in dangerous territory, yet when she looked at him, she felt that she could trust him with anything. So why did he strike such fear in her heart.
Then she looked in the mirror behind the bar and the vision came. A mass of nothingness staring at her, and at the centre something calling her to return. She felt sick and dizzy. She felt like screaming for all eternity.
"Hey, buy you a drink?" he said. He'd put his hand on her elbow and within seconds she felt safe.
"Who are you?" she asked. "I feel I should know, but …"
"Jack. My name is Jack. What are you having? Baileys with ice, yes?"
"How did you know that?"
"Oh, I've got special powers. I can tell what a person drinks just by looking at them."
"Liar. You know me don't you? When was it? During what I like to call my black period? Did we sleep together? That's my biggest worry you see, that I slept with all these people when I was depressed and can't remember them now. Though I don't think I slept with the man down the road who was swallowed by the laptop. In my dream that is. I mean, laptops don't really swallow people, do they. Anyway, he's really old, like sixty or something..." She knew she was babbling but she had to get rid of the image she'd seen in the mirror.
"Shari…" Jack's voice softened, but his grip on her arm became firmer. "Please don't."
He led her to a table in the corner, and after he'd settled her in her seat, he sat opposite her. When she put her hand on the table, he put his over it, and she felt immediately calm. Odd how she could feel that way with a man she'd only seen for the first time that day. But she knew that wasn't even true. It wasn't just that he clearly knew her. He was so familiar to her, like a school friend she'd lost touch with. A waiter brought their drinks. Shari raised her glass at him and said 'Thanks, Captain."
"You do remember," he said, his voice still gentle.
"I don't know. My life is a weird mixture of memories and darkness. Sometimes I think I see something in my peripheral vision, both physically and psychologically speaking, then when I look, or when I try to remember, it's gone. Then I saw you today and the feeling was stronger than ever. I wasn't supposed to see you, was I? You were standing on a place with a perception filter…" She paused. "I don't think I've ever used those words in my life. Where did they come from?"
Jack was silent. He looked helpless, as though something were happening over which he had no control.
"Perhaps you'd like to come back to my hotel and help me remember," said Shari, surprised by her own boldness. She thought she'd very much like to kiss him. "Did we sleep together?"
"No, which I consider to be a real failing on my part. I'm what's known as a sure thing." He smiled, but Shari had the feeling he wasn't really joking.
"Who was the other man? The one I remember with you?" An image came to her then disappeared. It was a manic vision of a man running around the … what? She knew the word but it faded just as she tried to grasp it.
"I can't tell you. Shari, you have to forget again. It's for the best."
"Was I so awful to know that everyone prefers that I forget them? I mean, you can't really be my friends, because you'd have stuck around, like my brother Tom, to see if I was okay. So I'm guessing I was pretty vile, right?" Her voice was harsh and bitter. Why had they abandoned her? She had very few friends from the time of her blackout. What had she done that was so dreadful? She wished she could remember.
"You weren't vile. You were great. Neither me or the Doctor thought of getting the old guy out of the recycle bin after we'd deleted the virus that swallowed him…" He stopped, as if realising he'd said too much.
"The Doctor … the man with the hand that grew into a person…" Shari felt the scream rising up in her throat again.
"Come on," said Jack, grabbing her hand. "I'll take you back to your hotel room."
"Promises, promises," said Shari. Had he slipped her something? Rohypnol maybe. After all, she didn't really know if she knew him. But he wouldn't do that to her, not Captain Jack.
"Captain Jack," she said, when they got to her hotel room and he unlocked the door. "Captain Jack. I think I remember." She reached up and kissed him.
Jack knew he was being stupid. He couldn't make love to her, she was too vulnerable, yet he found himself responding to her kiss like a man who'd travelled seven days in the desert without water. Only when she fell against him, starting to lose consciousness did he come to his senses. Jack may be many things, but he wasn't a rapist and he wouldn't take advantage of an incapacitated woman.
He carried Shari and lay her on the bed.
"Please tell me," she murmured. "I've done so few things in my life. Please tell me that I did something good."
"You did something better than good. You did amazing things."
"In just seven days," she said. She was remembering.
"Well according to some people that's how long it took God to build the Earth. And it wasn't really seven days. That was just how long it took in this time. If you remember, we were fighting the Daleks for over two weeks."
"Tell me what I did. That the things I'm remembering aren't just dreams."
"You met the Ood, and Michael De Montaigne in Medieval France – Boy that man went on about his gallstones, then you got kidnapped by pirates in the year seven million, but we managed to save you before you walked the plank … then the Daleks. Then…"
"What? No, it's okay, I remember now why I have to forget. Davros forced me to look into the heart of a dark star and … Oh God, Jack. It's so beautiful. It's so horrible. So … like looking into nothing but seeing everything; knowing everything. I can't bear it. I want to scream, but I know I mustn't, because I won't stop will I?" Shari trembled all over.
"The Doctor had to take your memories to save you from it," said Jack, with tears in his eyes. "I've seen the results when people look into dark stars. We couldn't bear to think of you spending your life like that. I'm so sorry, but you have to forget again."
"What have you given me?"
"It's called Ret-Con. If I can make you forget today, then maybe you'll forget that you remembered the rest."
"And if I can't?"
"Then I promise you I'll take care of you for as long as it takes. I'm sorry you saw me today and I'm sorry I followed you." She was fading out, near to unconsciousness when Jack whispered against her ear, "We loved you."
Shari's brother, Tom, arrived about an hour later. Jack explained what he'd done.
"You'd better take her home so she wakes up in her own bed. It should work, but I can't guarantee it. Let me know if…"
"If she hadn't seen you, it wouldn't be necessary," said Tom. He looked angry, as he always did when he saw Jack or the Doctor.
"There was always a chance I'd see her," Jack snapped. "Newport isn't a million miles away."
"You and the Doctor, you never think about what you're doing to peoples' lives."
"Shari chose to come with us, because she wanted to do something else with her life. If it were down to you, Tom, she'd never do anything, go anywhere."
"She's my little sister and I'll take care of her for as long as necessary."
"Maybe if you let her live a little, instead of stalking her every move, she'd make some new memories and the ones she has of us won't need to resurface," said Jack.
"Just get out, Harkness."
Jack moved to the door, fighting the urge to punch Tom in the face.
"Oh and you don't need to worry," said Tom, as a parting shot. "I'll make sure I get her out of Wales altogether. Then you'll never see her again."
Jack slammed to door behind him. In the corridor, he whispered, "I wouldn't count on it."