Author note: It's the last chapter, people! (or at least I think it is...) and I'd like to thank everyone who has stuck with this story however trippy it got. Cookies for you all. Please review, I'd love to know what you think. Oh, and if anyone's interested, I've done a drawing of Aderyn. Link to my deviantArt (and the drawing) is on my profile.
"You're taking this amazingly well," remarked Jack as the SUV drove off the road and into the low shrubbery surrounding it. "No shock on your face or anything, it's quite refreshing."
Aderyn laughed. "There's no reason not to believe it, though. I can see where the Light came from, I looked into its memories just as much as it looked into mine."
Jack asked, "What else did you see?"
"It was on the run," said Aderyn. "The Light, it was running away. It escaped to here, through the White— sorry, the Rift."
"You caught all that?"
"I didn't have much else to do, trapped inside," Aderyn said wryly.
The GPS on the dashboard bleeped. "We're here," said Jack. He hit the brakes, the tyres stopped, throwing up a short shower of mud.
"Delightful," said Aderyn.
Jack got out of the car, walked around to help Aderyn totter out then went to the boot, heaving out the padlocked box. "Hey, it's your country," he said.
"Don't remind me."
"Remind me of the plan again?"
"We'll take you back home, you swallow that little pill and wake up sometime this afternoon, free as a bird."
Aderyn followed Jack through the Hub's cogwheel. For a moment she thought she caught a flash of movement near the roof high above. A screech echoed.
"Er, what was that?"
Aderyn blinked at him. From the main body of the Hub, hidden behind a bank of computers, Ianto said, "Technically it's a pteranodon."
Jack rolled his eyes. Aderyn couldn't help the grin that tugged at her lips. A thought occurred to her as she listened to Jack and Ianto's banter...
"You can't take me home."
Jack turned on her, the lift door open. "What?"
"Nathan's there, I don't want to know what he'd think about all of this—" Aderyn gestured around her "—or what it would look like. And anyway I have to work today."
"You're thinking about work now?" Jack's expression was disbelieving. He hit a button on the side of the wall and the lift began to ascend with a faint whirr.
"Why shouldn't I? I want to feel normal again."
"Hmm." They stepped out of the lift. Jack asked, "What time does your cafe open?"
"And what time is it now?"
Aderyn perched on an mossy log, watching the sun rise through the trees and early morning rain. "I haven't seen six in the morning for a while," she said conversationally.
Jack continued to pace around, wrist strap bleeping, like he was looking for something. "I think I see it too often."
"This job not come with regular sleeping patterns, then?"
"No," said Jack, laughing a little, "it doesn't. Not that I sleep that well anyway."
"Make a habit of chasing after girls in the moonlight, do we, Jack Harkness?"
Jack quirked an eyebrow. "Who said anything about girls?"
"Laughing at me?"
Aderyn watched him traipse through the bracken, then Jack let out a whoop, tapping at his wrist strap and spinning in circles.
"What?" said Aderyn.
"Nearly time. Come on, let's have a closer look at Light's ship-pod-thing." Jack bent down, unlocked the box and pulled out something that made Aderyn's eyes bug wide.
"It's beautiful," she whispered.
The pod looked to be made of clear glass, metal and pieces of ore ran through it, sparkling oddly in the dawn's light. Without thinking, Aderyn reached out a hand to touch it. A sharp shock jolted through her chest and the Light inside reared.
Jack blinked. "What just happened?"
"Give it to us," commanded the Light. Aderyn shook her head. "Get it away!"
Aderyn glared at Jack's turned back as he fiddled with various intricate pieces of metal. "But you can't!"
"I can," said Jack, voice muffled because of the precision tool in his mouth, "and I am."
"I'm going to call Nathan."
"And tell him what?" Jack rounded on her. "What will you tell him?"
"Just that I was out drinking." Aderyn shrugged and said, "I could say I stayed the night at Janine's."
"Janine," repeated Jack.
"A friend," said Aderyn, scrolling through her phone for Nathan's number. She sent him a text, not wanting him to hear the wobble in her voice and Jack returned to the lock, giving it a final twiddle before slowly pushing the door open. Aderyn frowned at him. "What about the alarm?"
"You have an alarm?"
Aderyn raised a palm to her face while Jack hastily fiddled with the buttons on his wrist strap. "Sorted," he said. "Now let's get you inside."
Aderyn took Jack into the back room, seating herself on a tattered chair. Jack paced. Aderyn counted to thirty then took out the small pill they had given her.
"You have to take it," said Jack, holding the pod out the glass creation to her as she backed away. "Force the Light back into it!"
"I can't, Jack!"
The realisation hit her then. There was no way out; there was never going to be a way out.
Aderyn was stuck with the Light, losing control inch by inch.
But she couldn't let it end like this.
"Give me the pod," said Aderyn. Jack passed it to her, feeling more than seeing the jolt that ran through her body. Aderyn trembled like she'd been stuck with frayed wiring. "When did you say that Rift spike or whatever was going to be?"
"Soon," said Jack. "A few minutes."
There could only be two outcomes: kill or be killed. No way out.
"I'm ready," said Aderyn.
She couldn't let the Light take over, not again.
They were one and the same.
Aderyn watched the rain fall from branch to branch, tree to ground, and wondered where her life had gone.
"Can you tell Nathan?" Aderyn asked. "Can you tell him what happened to me?"
Jack fixed her with a confused expression. "You can tell him yourself."
"Of course, yeah, sorry." Aderyn brought her hand up and kissed the tiny band of metal around her finger, feeling its coolness as it brushed her lip had her resolve trembled. "Silly of me."
"Ready for this?"
"Ready as I'll ever be."
Jack smiled wryly, reaching to pat her shoulder. His touch burned. "You'll be fine. Get the Light back into its pod-thing, and this will all be over."
"What did you call it?"
"It's a catchy name, I'll give it that," said Aderyn, fingering the white tablet. "Forget all your troubles, eh?"
"Something like that," Jack said wryly. He sat opposite her, handed her a glass. Aderyn took it and swallowed the pill, draining the water.
As Jack began to rise, Aderyn grabbed at his sleeve. "How much will I lose? How much time?"
"It's Thursday now. This strength Retcon will wipe about three days."
Aderyn nodded. She clutched her head, feeling a wave of nausea rise.
"It's going to be like that, sorry," said Jack. He propped her back up in the seat. "With any luck, you won't ever see me again, and I really hate to say that."
Aderyn gave a breathless laugh.
Jack left, locking the doors behind him. Later on, when Turner arrived, he found Aderyn snoring in the back room and, with a tenderness that would have shocked Aderyn, he let her rest.
All over. All over. "All over," she whispered. "Good." Finally.
A golden mist flared amidst the trees, serenaded by the insistent bleeping of Jack's wrist strap. The Light flickered deep within Aderyn, a lash across her mind and vision, searing her consciousness to the bone. She grunted, doubling over onto her knees, pod clutched tight to her chest.
"Now," she gasped. "Now, get me closer, I— ahgod!" Aderyn's breath caught in her throat, curling and conspiring. She couldn't draw air into her lungs: they weren't her lungs anymore. "You will not do this," came the harsh voice of the Light. "We will not be vanquished so easily!" Aderyn forced the Light down, taking control as much as she could. "Jack, god, please, Jack, don't let it, please you can't— cannot do this! We will defeat you! We will rise! We will— won't let you, can't let you, Jack, please! Make it stop!"
Solemn, serious and businesslike, Jack stood Aderyn up, looked her firmly in the eye till she calmed.
A moment passed between them, and Aderyn realised Jack knew as well; he knew it would always end like this, he'd just tried his best to prolong the outcome. Wreathing between Aderyn's ribs, the Light shuddered and shook, trying to tear a way out through her heart.
Too late, thought Aderyn. My heart is long broken.
"Thank you," she murmured, tears streaking her cheeks as Jack slowly walked her backward.
"I'm sure that's my line."
Aderyn hitched a laugh. She turned, staring into the heart of the Rift flare, golden and bright and somehow warmer than the Light had ever made her feel, and Aderyn smiled.
Jack watched her fade away, tendrils of Light still searching for some refuge, some vestige of escape. They brushed his skin and dissipated long with the Rift flare. The gold shimmer faded. Jack bent down to pick up the strongbox that had held the Light's pod, and he paused, eyes catching a tiny object discarded in the leaf mould.
It was an engagement ring.