Sometimes a Strange Longing
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“Does this skirt make my butt look big?” Bilis asked.
Foreman crossed his arms. “You’re pretending to be Cuddy--as loathe as I am to say something House would say, it’s supposed to make your butt look big.”
Bilis frowned and continued to strike poses in front of the mirror. It was a precarious situation, as he was doing so while balanced atop three-inch high heels, and Gwen was certain Bilis had never cross-dressed in his life. After a year with Torchwood, one learned to judge these things; at the least, Bilis lacked the natural flair and poise to pull off heels. He was much too stiff.
“I don’t understand why Tracy can’t pretend to be Cuddy,” she told them. “That’d at least make sense.”
“Um,” Foreman said.
Bilis put a hand on his hip and jutted his butt out. “Tracy is indisposed right now.”
“Did you kill her?” Gwen asked sharply.
“Of course not, dear. I fear Miss Kindle far too much to make an attempt on her life, even if I wanted to, and I do not. I am a reformed man. Love can do that to someone, you know.”
“No, no, no.” Gwen shook a finger at him. “I don’t believe you for a second.”
“You made out with him!” Foreman said.
“I was loaded with morphine after surgery!”
“Thus lowering your inhibitions and revealing your true feelings.”
“For once, I agree with the perpetually disgruntled medical professional,” Bilis said.
“That’s not me, that’s House!” Foreman replied.
“You do seem grumpy much of the time,” Gwen pointed out.
“Have you seen the state of this hospital? Not everyone could be unconscious while aliens rampaged through the hospital and tried to kill us.”
“Just stuck in a corpse locker,” Bilis muttered under his breath.
“Once I’m out of this bed, I’ll try to help you organize the staff,” Gwen promised.
Foreman rolled his eyes.
“What? It’s the best I can offer!”
“I know,” Foreman said. “But if that’s all you can offer, maybe you shouldn’t say anything at all.”
“Please, would you two stop fighting and focus on what’s important?” Bilis flourished with his hands, ending with them pointed at himself. “Me. Mr. Foreman, this brassiere is unacceptable. The paper we’ve stuffed it with is rustling every time I move. I insist on receiving breast implants.”
“I am not going to approve plastic surgery for you. Even if I wanted to, there isn’t enough time!”
As it stood, the situation was this: Gwen woke about six days after the two Doctors departed with their respective teams of Torchwood members and Princeton-Plainsboro doctors. Foreman discovered two additional tumors after they left and operated to remove them from one of her kidneys, leading to the aforementioned making-out-with-Bilis episode while she recovered. Thankfully, Nurse Brenda had kicked him out before matters could progress much further, and for that, Gwen was grateful. In fact, she wasn’t certain how Brenda had gotten such a terrible reputation as the Evil Nurse. She’d been nothing but kind and protective to Gwen, and even when others crossed her, she wasn’t particularly harsh in ejecting them from Gwen’s presence--Gwen did not equate forceful with vindictive, not when someone was clearly acting out of concern for a fellow human being.
Of late, she’d taken to having odd dreams, thoughts of what life would be like if she miraculously got better. Fantasies about Jack returning like a prince in shining armor, and darker fears about what would become of her if the teams failed. She knew she should be grateful to have as famous and powerful a being as the Doctor on an interstellar mission to save her, but the dreams were getting to her, despite her awareness that they were simply her mind trying to work through and discard her fears.
Foreman and Tracy had explained the events after her initial illness, and they’d settled in to wait for the Doctor’s return, expected at any time considering he was a time traveler. Their attempts to establish a routine had been foiled when, three days after Gwen’s return to lucidity, they received a letter addressed to Lisa Cuddy from Umberto Snyder, New Jersey’s senior United States senator, announcing his intention to visit the hospital in support of its reconstruction after the unfortunate escalation of events by the state National Guard in response to a terror threat.
News reports indicated the government was passing off the events as a terrorist attack. The Republican National Committee headquarters was a bombing, as was the blast in the Princeton Plainsboro parking garage. The National Guard, according to the government, attempted to defuse the bomb, but the terrorists went into the hospital and took hostages. During the rescue attempt, parts of the hospital were significantly damaged. As for the death of the New Jersey governor, well, that was clearly totally unrelated violence due to organized crime, explaining why his wife, his aide, and the attorney general were killed as well, and the DC botanical gardens explosion was pent up swamp gas.
True, it was an eventful two days but not entirely implausible. That Britain still believed three successive alien invasions were mass hallucinations made this cover-up look brilliant in comparison.
Rather than attempt to explain Cuddy’s sudden disappearance, Foreman and Bilis decided to impersonate her on the basis that the senator was 87 years old and had a reputation for operating alone. Having requested a personal meeting, there was a good chance Bilis would need to fool no one but a senile, near-sighted politician who saw this as nothing more than a goodwill stop. Even so, Gwen thought the plan was beyond stupid, but they’d proceeded without consulting her and now it was too late to change course. In any case, when it came to her caretakers, Gwen found being bedridden was equivalent to being disenfranchised, which annoyed her to no small degree.
As though he knew her thoughts, Foreman turned to her, arms still crossed. “I don’t like the plan either, but how are we supposed to account for Cuddy? The media’s making her a hero for surviving a hostage situation and a bombing; we’re lucky they haven’t discovered she’s missing yet, and that’s thanks to the senator getting the state legislature to order the hospital off limits.”
“Tell him she’s ill.”
“She’ll have to show up eventually, and an illness will only inflame curiosity.”
“Maybe she’ll be back by then.”
“And maybe she won’t.”
“It’ll be worse if you get caught.”
“I’ll tell the senator I’m a big, bad wolf.” Bilis clawed the air at her. “Rawr. The better to eat your deans of medicine with.”
“That is not a pleasant image in my head,” said Foreman.
A sharp rap came from the door, and by now, Gwen had an almost Pavlovian response to it. Sitting up straighter, she put on her best smile as Nurse Brenda entered. “Senator Snyder is waiting in the lobby.”
“Drat!” Foreman said. “He’s early!”
Brenda raised an eyebrow. “I can chase him out with a broom if you prefer.”
“How unusually helpful of you.”
“I aim to please,” she said, and only her voice was capable of making a statement sound sardonic and sultry at the same time.
“It is all right,” Bilis said, dismissing their concerns with a flick of his wrist.
“Cuddy does not act like that,” Gwen informed him.
“Very well, I shall remember instead to yell at the senator, kill him with an item of clothing, and throw him out the window.”
“Fine, do whatever you want. He hasn’t met her, has he?”
“I don’t think so,” Foreman replied.
Bilis sauntered past Brenda. “Bring the good man to Cuddy’s office. I will wait for him there.”
Senator Snyder looked younger than his actual age. Not young enough to be wrinkle-free, but wrinkles told their own stories. Like the erosion of canyons, wrinkles deepened with age, though whether weathered by sweat and tears or designed to do so by a god morbidly fascinated with all forms of torture, great and small, Bilis was not certain. In any case, Bilis was a veteran of wrinkles, both in time and skin, and he felt Snyder’s “real age,” to use a modern term, could be no more than an incredibly youthful 75.
The senator fixed him with an intense stare the moment he stepped into the room. This was an exceptional accomplishment considering he sat with his back facing the door, but the new windows were rather reflective, and no one had bothered to reinstall the blinds. “Ooooooooohhh,” Bilis said seductively, running his hands over his chest and waist. The senator’s eyebrows shot up, which was exactly what would’ve happened had he met the real Lisa Cuddy--of that Bilis was certain. I am a perfect imitation! he thought to himself.
“Is there something wrong?” Snyder asked.
There was. In his overenthusiastic groping of himself, he’d crushed some of the paper that formed his right breast, and now it looked like he’d given himself a mastectomy. “Um...” He turned away and stuck a hand into his blouse, trying to re-arrange its contents. Only too late did he realize the office windows acted as mirrors as well, reflecting his actions onto the windows overlooking the outside and back to the senator.
“Oh dear, are there fleas?” The senator shifted in his chair. “I must say, the place is in even worse condition than the reports suggested, through no fault of yours, of course. I suppose an image is indeed worth a thousand words.”
The bra strap snapped, causing paper to slide down his belly. Deciding it was a lost cause, Bilis rushed to the desk and sat with arms firmly crossed. The senator extended a hand, and Bilis stared at it. “I’m sorry, I can’t shake your hand.” Bilis pressed his arms even harder against his chest. “I, uh, just performed a disembowelment.”
Snyder peered at him over massive, perfectly circular gold glasses. “I was not aware hospitals did that.”
“Autopsy!” Bilis said.
Cuddy would never have gotten this flustered. Bilis slid a foot across the floor and up the senator’s leg. “I’m so grateful you took time to visit our humble hospital.” It was quite hard to lean suggestively over the desk with his arms crossed, but Bilis managed. At the same time, his foot caught on Snyder’s pant leg. The senator frowned, and Bilis pushed harder. The cloth parted with a soft ripping sound.
Snyder pushed away from the table with the speed of a 65 year old. Doubtless, Cuddy would have found his rapid de-aging incredibly arousing. “Rowr!” Bilis cried, throwing himself across the table onto the man. The chair collapsed under their combined weight, and they crashed onto the floor. Outside, several nurses paused to stare.
“All right, let’s end this farce,” Snyder said, grabbing him with firm hands and setting him aside. The senator stood, brushing himself off, his left pant leg drooping sadly. “We both know you’re not Lisa Cuddy. At least, I hope we both know.”
Bilis’ jaw dropped. But he’d done such a good impression of her!
“Fortunately for you, I know that Cuddy is traveling with the Doctor.”
Bilis’ jaw couldn’t drop any further.
“Are any members of Torchwood present?” Snyder asked. “One Owen Harper, perchance?”
Bilis shook his head as the senator lifted him off the ground and set him on his feet.
“No, my good man. They are traveling with the Doctor as well.”
“Curious.” Snyder stroked his chin. “They added another member recently, didn’t they? Gwen Cooper?”
“She is very ill.” Bilis didn’t like telling Snyder about Gwen, but the man clearly had connections. Besides, he still wasn’t sure what the fallout would be over his impersonation of Lisa Cuddy.
“Regarding your impersonation of Lisa Cuddy,” the senator said--Of course, Bilis thought-- “Please find a better actor, preferably one of similar gender and appearance. And relay this message to Ms. Cooper, along with my sincerest wish that she get well soon: The aliens are still here. In fact, they have infiltrated Congress and the highest levels of government. They are not from the rift, though the technology you tracked through the rift does originate from them. The ones you defeated were low-level scouts. Please be careful. Have a good day.”
Before Bilis could respond, the senator swept out of the room with the serene agility of a fifty-three-and-a-half year old.
Roald Dahl Plass was empty, as it was wont to be whenever a character involved with Torchwood was present. Today, that character was Tracy Kindle, and while her involvement with Torchwood was minimal, there wasn’t really any other character to spare. Her mission was to rescue Rhys Williams from the frenzied, passionate Torchwood pterodactyl, Myfanwy, something Bilis Manger had declined to do when he appeared to deliver his message of somewhat less animalistic love from Gwen. Instead, Bilis had appeared out of nowhere to the sight of Rhys screaming and trying to beat back the pterodactyl with a lead pipe.
As the pterodactyl carried him off to her nest, Bilis yelled “Gwen says, ‘In case I die, I want you to know I’ve always loved you!’” To this, Rhys replied, rather ungratefully in Bilis’ opinion, ‘BUGGER THIS!” Of course, that might have been in response to being carried away by a pterodactyl, and Bilis wasn’t sure he’d even heard him, but he’d performed his duty to Gwen and as much as he doubted this rather average and clearly un-resourceful bloke was a legitimate rival to himself, Bilis saw no reason to complicate the situation by encouraging a fellow suitor. Therefore, he’d returned to the hospital and stupidly mentioned the situation to Tracy a few days later. She then took it upon herself to take the first trans-Atlantic cruise she could book (the ocean air is great for the constitution! Unlike those crowded airplane cabins...) to head for Wales to rescue Gwen’s unfortunate boyfriend.
“One, two, three...” she counted the blocks in the sidewalk to find the location of the invisible elevator entrance Bilis had told her about. “Ah, here it is!” Opening an umbrella she’d brought with her, she stepped onto the stone and plummeted through. After the first few feet, the air caught her umbrella, and she began a slow drift down.
Before she had time to take in the base, a squawk came from her left. Darting out of the shadows, a slim shape rushed at her. She cried out as the pterodactyl grabbed her arm with its feet. The rush of wind from her sudden change in direction caused the umbrella to rip out of her grip, and she was left dangling from the pterodactyl with no recourse but to let it take her where it desired. Thankfully, the trip was brief, though it ended on a pile of branches and some sticky, slimy material she didn’t want to identify. She struck the nest after a ten feet drop, but the sticks were moldy enough that they didn’t scratch her and, in fact, provided a decent cushion.
Looking over, she found a man lying facedown beside her. He groaned when she poked his shoulder but was otherwise insensate. “Oh, that’s not good,” she said. The flapping of pterodactyl wings sent gusts of cold air in their direction, and she screamed as Myfanwy descended upon them.
Paperwork was no one’s friend. Trees certainly didn’t appreciate it. Pens and printers bled to make it, only for people to lock their labor away in dark cabinets or shred it and send it to the landfill. The humans filling them out wished to be somewhere else, and yet, life couldn’t seem to run without an extensive paper trail. That was why Foreman realized, now that he was running the hospital, that he faced a dilemma: if he didn’t do the paperwork, the hospital wouldn’t run, but if he did the paperwork, he didn’t have time to run the hospital, for paperwork was but a small portion of the demands the facility and its staff made upon him--it just happened to be the most time-consuming portion. There was no longer any doubt in his mind that Cuddy had used her formidable powers of intimidation to make the paperwork write itself.
As a result, loathe though he was to admit it, he needed to delegate the work to someone else. To Foreman, this smacked of all those times he wrote up House’s paperwork for him because his boss never, ever did that sort of thing. He was too busy downing Vicodin and insulting patients, which clearly took precedence.
A tap on the glass made him look up. Well, he thought of it as glass, but it was really a sheet of plastic over the space where the glass had been. Since Cuddy’s office was presumably still occupied by Cuddy, Foreman had resorted to working in House’s office. The broken pipes and other damages from the bomb blast had been repaired, but since the interior windows weren’t critical to making the office useable again, they remained shattered. None of this helped his psyche, as it seemed to him that he was taking up House’s old position more than Cuddy’s and doing so in a second-rate third-world environment. There were still goo stains on the walls from the not-slug aliens.
As if these problems weren’t enough, it was only a matter of time before the hospital resumed taking the strange cases no one else could solve, and when that happened, Foreman would be leading the diagnostic team, resulting in an even greater time drain.
“Come in,” he said, trying to keep the exasperation out of his voice. Nurse Brenda burst through the doorway, looking like an angry valkyrie, and this was another problem Foreman did not need--after all, valkyries were usually concerned with dead men. “What’s wrong now?”
“Two more doctors and five nurses have called in with pulmonary illnesses from all the dust. We’re severely understaffed.” Somehow, over the past week, Brenda had inserted herself into every aspect of hospital business. In addition to providing him with constant staff updates in the form of admonishing complaints, she had forced him to give nurses the authority to act as doctors--an authority masked from the public by extensive paperwork but authority nonetheless--due to the number of MDs who had been injured or sickened by the events of the alien invasion. In a way, she was now running the hospital, and he was reduced to being her puppet secretary.
“I’ve put up job postings everywhere,” Foreman replied, “but no one’s applying, for obvious reasons.”
“We could steal them from charities. We’re pretty much working in a war zone anyway.”
“Doctors Without Borders isn’t talking about a hospital without walls.”
“Well, it’s your job to keep this hospital running, Mr. Administrator!” she snapped.
“Seems you’re doing a fine job by yourself,” he replied.
Rather than snarl back, Brenda raised an eyebrow and looked pleased. “I’m glad you’ve noticed.”
“Were you trying to be subtle?”
She took a seat across the desk from him. “You probably haven’t noticed or I wouldn’t have to say it, but nurses are rather underappreciated.” There was an odd softness to her voice, rather like whenever she spoke to Gwen. He recalled Gwen defending her and for the first time, didn’t dismiss it as the mad ramblings of someone who liked to see the best in everyone, even if that best didn’t exist.
He let his pen fall from his hand and rubbed his eyes. “You know, maybe you’re right. I’m sorry if I’ve been impatient with you.”
“Your response is understandable.” She smiled, and Foreman found the sight rather unsettling, so much so that he nearly pulled away when she reached toward him, but he kept his hand where it was as she put her hand on his. “You have so much on your plate.”
As they touched, Foreman got a brief image in his mind of putting Brenda’s helpfulness to better use. He smiled back at her, and she put her hand back in her lap. “Could I ask an immense favor of you?” he said.
“If you get our staff back up and running.”
“The problem is that I don’t have the time with all this paperwork. Backlogged patient files, lawsuits over the attack, insurance claims for the damage, government reports, it’s ridiculous how much work there is to do.”
“You’re asking me to do your paperwork for you?”
He felt a stab of fear that he’d squandered her brief good will toward him and rushed to qualify his request: “It’d simply be if you were willing. This is in no way an official request, but I’m in over my head--”
“I’ll do it.”
Resisting the urge to leap over the desk and hug her, he settled for sitting primly and saying, “Thank you.”
She nodded. “Perhaps you should check your inbox again. Maybe some candidates have applied.”
“I just checked an hour ago.”
“Yes, but clearly your luck is changing.”
Foreman logged onto the computer and found fifteen applications from prestigious medical schools across the country, all sent within the last minute.
“Hmm,” Brenda said, leaning over the desk. “That’s a bit coincidental.”
“Maybe it was a server backlog,” Foreman replied.
Two days later, Foreman had called every candidate and invited them to Princeton-Plainsboro for a final interview. The first interviewee was Selina Freeman, a hematologist from John Hopkins who’d graduated with honors and gave him a two-inch thick packet of recommendation letters.
“That’s a bit excessive,” he said, taking the packet.
“I had a hard time narrowing it down to my most relevant recommenders,” Freeman replied. “But I managed to get it down to the top one percent.”
“Should I expect a letter from the President?”
“No, I took out his letter on the basis that he’s not a medical professional.”
Talbot Kemp followed her, and he was a cardiologist from UCLA. “I love what you’ve done with the place,” he said the moment he stepped through the door. “The cranes are so avant-garde.”
“We’re rebuilding from a terrorist attack.”
“My mother always said the best part of an explosion is rebuilding.”
Foreman scribbled down “Mental health?” followed by several more question marks on the profile. “What did your mother do? You don’t have to answer that.”
“It’s quite relevant to my job performance, actually,” Kemp replied. “You see, she was part of the LA bomb squad. Her getting blown to bits is what convinced me to become a doctor.”
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
“She’s not dead. We rebuilt her.”
“The doctors stitched her back up. I mean, they had to give her a couple prosthetic limbs and an experimental mechanical heart, along with new kidneys, liver, lungs, appendices, eyeball--”
“The hospital had a few extra on hand and figured they wouldn’t hurt.”
A pediatrician named Vivek Pandit came next.
“Tell me something strange about yourself,” Foreman said sarcastically.
“I collect marbles and give them to my patients.”
“Marble collecting is the weirdest thing about yourself?”
“Some of the marbles are the size of a small dog.”
Foreman shrugged. “You’re hired.”
Jinx Culver was a walking good luck charm, which she demonstrated by dropping buttered toast on the floor of the office, but she graduated top of her class at Harvard and promised not to bring food to work. Eve Feldman liked to sing everything she said, but Foreman was hard-pressed to find a reason why singing operas about the dangers of obesity was a bad thing to happen in the clinic. By the time he reached the last interview with Stellan Millikan, he was sure he’d gone over his hiring quota, but since Cuddy wasn’t here and the hospital’s budget was in limbo, he decided he could hire as many people as he felt necessary. Besides, there was no telling how many sick doctors and nurses would be willing to return once they felt better.
Everyone he interviewed was amazingly qualified and viewed the opportunity to work at the hospital as a challenge that other locations could not provide. When they passed all his checks with flying colors, he put them to work the next day and found himself with a curious lack of things to do. With Brenda taking care of all his paperwork, including the employment verifications and hiring documents, and new doctors taking care of the patients, Foreman found himself with an excessive amount of free time. Each time he consulted the construction workers, they were on time and following the blueprints exactly. It was like clockwork: disturbingly regular and accurate.
“I think you deserve a few things finally going right,” Bilis commented as they loitered in the cafeteria, picking at the remnants of their salads. “Although if you’re really bored, you could try to tackle the aliens on Capitol Hill.”
Foreman dropped his fork. “What are you talking about?”
“Gwen didn’t tell you?”
“Gwen’s always hanging out with Brenda now!”
“Oh. I told her and assumed she would tell you.”
“Tell me what?”
“The senator, he knew about us, and he warned us the aliens we defeated were merely low-level minions. The true threat still lurks in the shadows.”
Foreman pushed his seat back and stormed out of the cafeteria. “Wait! Where are you going?” Bilis called after him. He threw open the door of Gwen’s room.
“When were you going to tell me there’s aliens on our doorstep?” he yelled at Gwen, ignoring Brenda’s startled disapproval as she glared at him from the chair at Gwen’s bedside.
“Quite frankly, I didn’t think you needed to know,” Gwen replied, picking at her blanket.
“Well, pardon me, but you seemed happy. Things in the hospital are running smoothly and you never liked the aliens. It’s Bilis’ and my opinions that they do not pose an imminent threat, so I saw no reason to concern you.”
“You don’t get to make decisions for me. I am running this hospital, and since those aliens blew it up last time they were around, I think it does concern me!”
“Since you have so much free time, perhaps you’d like your paperwork back?” Brenda said.
“No!” Foreman replied, perhaps a little too vehemently. “I’m trying to put together a new diagnostics team.”
“So you’re returning to your old position?” Gwen asked in a tone that sounded a little too happy.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’ve heard you’re very good at what you do,” Gwen said. “Almost as good as House. Maybe you’re happier now because you prefer being a diagnostician to being an administrator.”
Foreman stared, and the two women returned his gaze with smiles and concerned looks.
“Foreman, there you are!” Bilis said, running up to the room. “Really, you mustn’t blame Gwen. She needs her rest.” Taking him by the shoulder, the old man tried to guide him out of the room, but Foreman shook him off.
“Dr. Kemp worked under Dr. Fritz at UCLA,” Brenda said. “I believe Fritz is one of the best diagnosticians in the country. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better candidate for your team.”
“Then perhaps you can appoint him as lead diagnostician.”
Brenda’s brows came together. “I don’t understand.”
Foreman believed her words, but whether she intended to or not, it was clear Brenda had usurped his position as hospital administrator. Somehow, she’d maintained her network of nurses despite having all the paperwork to deal with, and he’d found himself consulting her during the interview process. He could recognize superior talent when he saw it, and he conceded she was doing a better job than himself. Now that the hospital was up and running, there was little for him to do that she couldn’t do better. Beyond that, Gwen was right. He really didn’t like aliens, and the thought of them being still around unnerved him.
There was only one conclusion to his train of thought. He felt trapped in his position, pushed around by Brenda and babied by Gwen and Bilis. Taking up residence in House’s office as lead diagnostician would just turn him into another House, and he didn’t want to be a substitute, trying to fill shoes that didn’t fit while he waited for House and Cuddy to return, if they ever did. If the events at the factory proved anything, it was that the universe was a dangerous place, but that was their choice. It was not the choice he made, and as a result, he had to make a clean break with everything. The aliens, the hospital, House’s questionable methodology, he would leave it all behind.
“I think you should be in charge, Brenda,” Foreman said. “You deserve it. And since you’re in charge, consider this my two weeks’ notice.”
Her jaw dropped. “You’re leaving?”
“This isn’t the life I want. Now that everything’s settled, I think it’s time I move on.”
“But what about Gwen?” Bilis protested.
“Her condition’s stable. She’ll be fine.”
Gwen nodded. “If this is what you want, I fully support your decision. Thank you for all you’ve done, Foreman.”
“It was my pleasure, Gwen. Goodbye.”
“I wish I could leave,” Gwen said once Foreman was gone. Bilis shut the door behind him.
“Everyone wants things they can’t have,” Bilis said, trying his best not to leer and only succeeding in looking like a bulldog with a twitch.
“I don’t.” Brenda crossed her arms. “I’m quite happy where I am.”
“I didn’t know you could feel happiness.”
Brenda stood. “We should go. You were right that Gwen needs her rest.”
Gwen grabbed Brenda’s arm as she left. “Can you increase the drip?”
“You’re getting addicted.”
“I’m having trouble sleeping.” Which was strange considering her dreams were her escape. In her dreams, she wasn’t sick, wasn’t crippled. She looked forward to them, perhaps too much, yet the more she wanted to go to that other world where everything was better, the harder she found the actual process of falling asleep.
Brenda sighed but complied, increasing her dosage. “I’m going to have to get more bags.”
“Whatever you need...” Gwen said, her eyelids drooping as the sedatives entered her bloodstream. She barely registered the lights going out as she drifted off.
All of a sudden, lucidity hit her, and her eyes snapped back open. She sat up, feeling more awake than ever. The first rays of the morning sun broke through the blinds, and her heart dropped. Where were the dreams? she thought.
On the off chance that this was a dream, she tried to climb out of bed and could barely move, pain shooting up from her abdomen. “Damn it!” she whispered.
At that moment, the windows shattered, and the blinds tore apart like trees in a hurricane. Gwen threw her arm over her eyes, partly to block the flying glass and partly to shade them from the glaring sun.
“Don’t be afraid,” a deep voice said, and as though the words were a command from her mind, she lowered her arm, staring directly into the sun. Instead, she found a shadowed figure blocking the sun, its rays forming a halo around his body. Yet, it wasn’t shadows that obscured his features. He was a shadow, a monochrome figure of dark grey, shaped like a man but without any form beyond his outline.
“Who are you?” she demanded. Her hand inched toward the gun she’d placed beneath her pillow.
The figure stepped forward, and she snatched the gun. In one fluid motion, she loaded the ammo from her pocket, released the safety, and fired three rounds. He ignored her and instead, reached into her chest. His hand passed right through her, and she gasped. Warmth burst from the point of contact, flooding her body, washing away the slightest amount of pain or weakness. When she felt so full of energy that she might explode, he pulled back, then grabbed her hand and pulled her out of bed. She staggered, but her feet hit the ground and her legs didn’t buckle. Standing straight, she marveled at the sense of euphoria that filled her.
“I’m cured!” she gasped. And then, she realized what that meant. “This is a dream.”
“Of course it is,” the figure replied. He leaned toward her. “But that doesn’t mean it can’t be real.”
“A dream is by definition a fantasy of my mind.”
“Then don’t call it a dream. I have plans for you, Gwen Cooper. Grand plans. For you to do your part, you must be well.”
“Jack?” she asked.
He laughed, but it was a kindly laugh, the chortle of an uncle rather than the taunt of an enemy. “I am so much more than Jack Harkness could ever hope to be. If you don’t believe me, take this.” Out of the darkness of his hand, a necklace emerged, its pendant a spiral overlaid against a star. When she didn’t reach for it, he fastened it around her neck for her. “Wake.”
Against her will, she sank back into the bed even though she stood still. It was as though the entire room rotated and moved around them until the bed was pressed against her back. Light began to fade so that the darkness of the figure expanded to fill the room.
“Who are you?” she demanded.
Even though he had no face, she could sense he was smiling. “I’m God.”
Gwen Cooper woke. After the intensity of her dream, the pain seemed all the more present, throbbing, stabbing, reminding her of what she’d lost. Hoping against hope, she moved her hand to her throat and gasped.
Her fingers shook so hard she found it hard to undo the latch, but she managed, and the golden chain quivered as she held the necklace before her face. The pendant spun, reflecting the light of LEDs. On the back, two words etched in metal seemed to burst with hope: “I promise.”
Though she didn’t know what he promised, that blank seemed filled more with opportunity than emptiness. She believed him. No, she believed in him, and that was enough. God would heal her, and she would serve him.
To Chapter 26: Sparkling Tuna Parrots
Back to Chapter 24: The Water's Edge
Summary: We return to Gwen and Foreman because we eventually must. Turns out, a dark threat still lingers, and it’s not just Myfanwy come to take everyone to her love nest.