Disclaimer: Jack Harkness, Ianto Jones and Gwen Cooper belong entirely to Russell T Davies. Even if he does mistreat them.

Author note: I'm going down a completely different track with this fanfic. Come join me for the ride? I promise Jack and the diminished team (as this is set some time twixt series two and Children of Earth) will pop up eventually.


One

It all started with a coat.

Aderyn Stephens first saw the coat draped over a chair in the cafe in which she worked. She flicked her red hair from her face and thought, funny, not like someone to just forget a coat like that. She picked it up, feeling the heavy woollen weight. Looking around, Aderyn asked the dwindling customers, "This belong to anyone?"

There were a few murmurs of "No", "Not mine" and "Wish it did" before she gave up. Aderyn tucked the large coat into the lost property box hidden beneath the coffee bar and turned her mind to more caffeine-related matters.

-T-

"Aderyn?"

Rolling her eyes at the milk frother, Aderyn took a deep breath and braced herself the sight of Phillip Turner, boss and sleaze extraordinaire. "Yes, sir?"

"What's this?"

Aderyn followed Turner's bad suit encased arm to where he pointed. "That, sir? That's what we call a 'coat', sir."

Turner glared at her with washed out eyes, his over gelled hair having wilted during the course of the day; he looked for all the world like he had a pile of soggy leaves on his head. "But what is it doing down there?" he asked.

Try as she may to avoid it, Aderyn's gaze kept settling on Turner's hair. She bit her lips in an attempt not to snicker. The man looked ridiculous.

"Someone left it behind. I put it in the lost property box, though, yes," Aderyn said, bending a little to look under the bar, "I can see it's fallen out; it's still technically in the box. It's in a state of box-ish-ness that is not yet visible to our mere mortal eyes."

Turner's brows creased and he said, wearily, "Aderyn?"

"Sir?"

"How much of that new triple strength have you had?"

"None."

"That may be the problem then." Turner brushed some imaginary dust off his sleeve and continued, "Get yourself home, alright? You've been looking a bit out of it today. Oh, you said you'd cover for Janine tomorrow?"

"What?"

"You said you would. Don't you remember?"

Blast, Aderyn thought. Her memory was all over the place lately. "Yeah," she said, confused but giving in. "I did."

"Alright. See you bright and early, then?"

Aderyn blanched. Had she agreed to do a morning shift? Double blast! "Yeah, sure. Bright and early and wincing in the daylight, sir."

"That's the spirit!" Turner gave her what he probably thought was a friendly pat on the shoulder; Aderyn walked away resisting the urge to disinfect her jacket.

-T-

Nathan grabbed her the moment she walked through the door to their poky flat. "Hello, my sweet," he said, crushing her to his chest. "How was life as a commoner?"

"Oh, you know," Aderyn replied, trying to breathe, "common." She peered up at him and his short brown curls. "Say, do you ever get lonely on your upper-class pedestal?"

"Not really. As long as I manage to keep you captive, all is good."

Aderyn pushed away from him, picking her bag back up and climbing over the sofa to get into their bedroom. Some time ago, Aderyn and Nathan had been persuaded to purchase a rather impressive black leather sofa. Once they'd gotten it home, they realised that the only way it could fit in their tiny living room-cum-dining room-cum-kitchen was lengthways, meaning it blocked the doorway to their bedroom.

Sometimes Aderyn found herself wishing life could be easier. "Your sweet talking hasn't improved much, Nate."

"What, since this morning?" he called after her. "Give me a chance, Adie. I do try."

"I'm sure you do," Aderyn told her bag. She stopped paying attention to the scuffles of Nathan trying to rearrange furniture next door and peered closer at the suede of her shoulder bag. What were those, burn marks? How had she burnt it? And some sort of... stuff. Gloop. Brownish gloop smeared in the burn marks. She hadn't noticed before, it blended in with the material so well. Aderyn was about to go and ask Nathan if he had any idea when he stuck his head around the door and grinned at her.

"What have you done?" Aderyn couldn't help it. She knew that smile. It was the smile of 'I am completely innocent and utterly charming, fall for me while I distract you?' and she had fallen for it, once upon a time. But not now. It wasn't going to work now. Not two years, five months and twenty seven days in. She wouldn't let him.

"Why do you assume I've done anything?" Nathan asked, his thick eyebrows rising in faux-hurt.

Aderyn tapped her foot.

"Yes, well, fine." Nathan vaulted lightly over the over-large couch so as to stand before her. "I just thought you might like to know I picked up a little something."

"You have, have you?"

He took her hand in his. Aderyn felt a small piece of cool metal touch her palm. "So I promised, and so I shall deliver. I hope it fits."

Aderyn looked down at their entwined hands and turned hers over to reveal the small ring.

Her lungs failed her for a long moment. "Is this— Are you— Oh my god—" Aderyn forced herself to be calm, meeting Nathan's concerned eyes. "You're asking me to marry you?" she squeaked.

Nathan smiled a confused smile. "Either you are much better at acting than I give you credit for, or you've managed to forget. I asked you two days ago, love. You said yes?"

Aderyn felt her world crash about her.

"What— what day is it?"

"Thursday." Nathan cradled her cheek in one of his hands. "Are you alright, Adie?"

"You sure it isn't Monday?" Aderyn could feel her breathing begin to stutter as panic set in.

"Quite positive. My diary would never lie to me. At least not intentionally—"

"Then no, cariad. I'm not alright." Nathan stroked her hair, asking without words. "I can't— I can't remember. Any of it."