Marion stepped out of the taxi and unfolded Rodan’s pushchair. She settled the little girl in it as the taxi driver placed her bags of shopping on the pavement outside the Chinese restaurant in Upper Duke Street. As she paid the driver he asked if she needed help to carry the bags inside.

“No, it’s quite all right,” she said. “Thank you, all the same.”

When he had driven away she almost wished she had asked him to help her. She had gone a bit overboard - as was per usual when she went shopping in Liverpool. She managed to hook the Mothercare bags onto the pushchair handlebar, but one of the Tesco bags split as she lifted it. There was a distressing sound of glass smashing and three jars of Robinsons marmalade became a sticky mess on the pavement. She groaned in frustration and tried to recover the rest of the shopping. The biscuits would probably be crumbs, but at least the tea wouldn’t be harmed.

“Here, ma’am, let me help you with that,” said a polite voice. Marion watched a tall, good looking man bend to pick up those of her groceries still fit to eat. The fact that he was good looking struck her immediately, and when he stood upright she noticed that he was at least six foot tall. The phrase ‘matinee idol’ came to mind. She wondered, briefly, if he was some kind of Hollywood actor who happened to be sightseeing in Liverpool.

“Thank you,” she said, taking the rescued groceries from him and dropping them into an unbroken bag.

“No problem, Marion,” he answered.

She froze. She stared at him. He reached and put a hand on the pushchair handle. He wasn’t exactly restraining her. But there was an almost unspoken suggestion that he didn’t want her to move just yet.

“How… do you know my name?” she asked. “Who are you?”

“My name is Jack Harkness,” he said. “Captain Jack Harkness. I’m… from Torchwood.”

“No!” Marion cried out as he uttered that sinister word. “No, get away from us. Get away!”

She shoved the pushchair forward. He gripped the handlebar more tightly and stopped it from moving. She looked at him fearfully. He was strong enough to overpower her if he chose. For the moment, he seemed to be choosing not to. But that might easily change in an instant.

“Please, Marion,” he begged. “I just want a chance to talk to you. I don’t want to hurt you. And I don’t want to… what happened that time…. It was wrong. And if nothing else, I wish I could have the chance to offer an apology for it…. But…”

“I know the manager of that restaurant,” Marion told him. “He’s a friend. And he’s… he’s a Triad. If I were to scream…”

Captain Harkness laughed softly.

“Triad? Hardly,” he said. “I’ve done my homework. That’s why I knew I’d find you here, eventually. Marion de Leon… That’s the name on the deeds to the flat up there. Your married name… Marion Horsely that was… who disappeared off the face of this planet along with her husband…”

“I mean it, I’ll scream,” she warned him.

“I can’t stop you,” he admitted. “All I can do is beg you not to.” He glanced at the restaurant. It was open for lunch business. “Look… I want to talk to you. Will you let me do it in there…. Where your ‘Triad’ friends can watch me? I can’t do you any harm under their protection, can I? Please… give me ten minutes, at least. Fifteen…”

She hesitated. He had a point. Inside, in the restaurant, there would be witnesses. The manager and staff all knew her. They would put him out of the building if he tried to do anything she didn’t like.

She nodded and pushed the pushchair towards the door. He strode ahead and opened it for her. There was that to be said for him. He had an old fashioned kind of politeness about him.

The manager himself greeted her and asked if the gentleman was with her. She said he was and they were shown to a table next to a subtly lit water feature with a fountain running into a shallow basin of coloured pebbles. Rodan gurgled as she watched it from the high chair that one of the waiters brought for her. Marion ordered from the lunch menu, choosing for her guest as well as for herself and Rodan. When the waiter asked what they wanted to drink he asked for iced water. She asked for coke, simply because it was something she rarely drank on Gallifrey, and milk for Rodan.

“Li said that all the files Torchwood had were destroyed,” she said, before he had a chance to open the conversation. “So how did you trace me?”

“The files were destroyed,” Captain Harkness assured her. “I burned the last paper copies, myself. But… I’ve got a really good memory. I remembered your name. And… curiosity got the better of me. I looked you up. The deeds… council tax register… you’re not exactly hidden. That flat isn’t your home, though. I know. I’ve been watching for about a month. My boss is not happy about me being AWOL. I almost had to give it up. Then I saw you…”

“That is creepy,” Marion told him. “Watching out for me. WHY?”

“Because… I wanted to meet you, Marion de Leon. I wanted a chance to talk to you. I…”

He seemed to be lost for words. And Marion had an idea that wasn’t something that happened to Captain Jack Harkness very often. He looked as if he was usually confident and sure of himself. What was it about her that disconcerted him?

“Are you American?” she asked. “Your accent…”

“No,” he replied. “Would you believe…” He paused as the waiter brought their food order. He watched as Marion helped Rodan to hold her baby spoon and eat the food on her plastic plate and then take a little of her own meal.

“Would you believe me if I said I was born on another planet?” he asked.

Marion looked at him, and considered her answer carefully.

“No,” she said. “I think you’re just saying that because… well, I don’t know why. But I don’t believe it. Not just because you say so, anyway.”

“It’s true,” he assured her. “I come from the fifty-first century, when Human beings have colonised planets across the galaxy. I was born on a little, insignificant one called Boeshane, where I lived with my mom and dad and little brother until… something happened…. And…” He stopped. His eyes dimmed. He turned his face away, apparently intent on Rodan drinking milk from a plastic cup with Beatrix Potter characters on.

“Anyway, I’m out of my time and a long way from home. And…”

“Is that what you want from me? A way home? Because I can’t….”

“No,” he assured her. “Back there… I’m an orphan, homeless, friendless. Here, in this time and place… it wasn’t of my choosing. I AM stranded here. But I have friends… people I love, even. It feels like home. I’m all right. But… you’re an orphan, too. And you live a long way from where you were born. Maybe you understand where I’m coming from?”

“I… wonder if that’s a sob story to make me feel I have something in common with you,” Marion responded.

“No, it’s not. Marion… are you usually this suspicious and cold? I don’t think you are. I mean… maybe I’ve been letting my imagination run on a bit. But I expected… somebody kind, understanding…”

“My husband told me about Torchwood,” she answered. “Why should I trust you? Let alone be kind to you. Why would you need me to be kind to you? You’re a… stalker… You’ve been poking around, trying to find out things about me… and you…”

“I wanted to meet you, Marion…. The mother of… of the man who saved me.”


“I know…” he said. “I’m talking about your future son. I don’t even know when he’ll be born in your timeline. But you ARE his mother. I am sure of it. When I first met him… he had your eyes. He did. He looked at me that way… suspicious. But then… he came to trust me. He didn’t have any reason to. He knew exactly what I was. A con man, a coward… a thief, even. But he offered me a chance to be better than that. He gave me the chance… and I did it. I became a better man because of him. And…”

“Why are you telling me this?” Marion asked.

“I don’t know,” Captain Harkness admitted. “I think… Marion, I know about Time Lords. I know that they live so much longer than humans. So… your son… you probably…”

He stopped in mid-sentence again. And again he looked away, unable to look her in the eye.

“I know about that,” Marion said. “I know that I won’t even live long enough to see my own child leave school…. I accepted that, long ago.”

“That’s why… I thought you ought to know. He’s going to be a very great man. Billions of people owe their lives, their freedom to his courage, to his smart thinking, his compassion.”

“He… my son… billions…”


“His father is a brave man,” she said. “He has done a lot of things… I really hoped our son would be a diplomat or something… something safe. That’s… a bit worrying.”

“No,” Captain Harkness insisted. “It’s fantastic. He’s fantastic. You can be proud of him. I owe him so much. My life… my soul… and more. I want you to know that. And... I love him.”


“Not… THAT way,” he assured her. “Though…” He gave a flash of a smile. “If I thought for one minute there was a chance… I would be the happiest man in the universe. But…. When I say ‘love’ I mean… I don’t exactly know what I mean. There isn’t really a definition for it. Except… I would die for him, if he asked me. Except he never would ask anyone to do such a thing. He would give up his own life first. And I would do anything to prove to him that I was worth the trust he put in me.”

“Have you told him that?” Marion asked.

“Kind of,” he replied. “Not in so many words. And… I lost him… we were separated and I’m hoping to meet him again one day. And when I do… I hope I’ll get the chance to say everything I want to say. But…”

“In the meantime, you’re trying to tell it all to me?”

Jack Harkness looked at her, and he smiled.

“There… you’re not suspicious of me any more. It’s in your eyes, now. You do believe me.”

“Yes,” she admitted. “Yes, I suppose I do.”

“That’s all I wanted,” he said. “To tell you…”

“And for that… you hung around the streets of Liverpool for a month?” Marion smiled despite herself. “My son really must have made an impression on you.”

“More than I have words to tell you,” he said in a slightly choked voice. “And… so have you. I am so honoured… I feel as if…”

“Now, stop that,” she told him. “It’s a little bit scary, you know. All this destiny stuff. I haven’t even… I don’t even know when he’ll be born. I’ve lost two babies, you know. It’s not been easy.”

“I’m sorry,” Jack Harkness said. “But… this little girl… His sister?”

“She’s not mine. She isn’t…”

She explained Rodan’s circumstances quickly.

“See, you ARE kind,” Jack said when she was finished. “I knew you had to be. You’re HIS mother, after all….”

She gave him a reproving look.

“I’m sorry,” he apologised “I’m not usually like this. I’m usually Mr Cool. I only go to pieces in the presence of the future mothers of living legends.”

“You know you’ve had far longer than fifteen minutes,” she told him, but with a smile.

“I was hoping you weren’t counting. Could I… get a couple of coffees… stretch this out a little bit longer. I waited so long… now I’ve found you… and I probably won’t be this lucky again. Let me make the most of it.”

“Coffee would be nice,” she admitted. “Thank you.”

It was a strange kind of luncheon date, she thought. He was a rather strange man. She thought he hadn’t quite told her everything about himself. He had some secrets, still. But it probably wouldn’t do her any good to know them. He asked her a little about herself. He wanted to know how a woman from Birkenhead met a Time Lord and travelled to his planet. She told him. The story delighted him.

“Will this go in a file at Torchwood?” she asked.

“No,” he promised. “This is nothing to do with Torchwood. This is… just me. Nobody there will ever know about this.”

“It… might be better if… HE didn’t know, either,” Marion pointed out. “When you meet him again… It might be a little awkward if you tell him you had lunch with me.”

“I’m going to have so many other things to tell him,” Jack answered her. “And I hope there’s plenty he will want to say to me, too. But… I’ll never forget that I met you, Marion.”

“Every time this conversation starts to sound normal you go off again as if my son was some kind of new Messiah,” Marion told him. “I don’t think I’m going to forget meeting you, either. Apart from anything else… you’re proof that it will happen. There have been times when I have wondered… But now, when I feel the doubts come upon me… I can think of you… and I’ll know there isn’t any need to worry. Thank you for that.”

Being thanked by her seemed to have a curious effect on Captain Harkness. Marion thought he was about to burst into tears. She reached out her hand and touched his. He grasped it and held on for a long time.

“I have to go, soon,” she told him in a very quiet, gentle voice, as if she didn’t want that fact to upset him.

“You’re going back to… Gallifrey… the home world of the Time Lords? You live there.”

“Yes,” she said. “And I can’t tell you how. You mustn’t try to find out. It would be fatal for you to try. So… I’m going to stay here and have another cup of coffee. I want you to walk away, Captain Jack Harkness. Walk out of this restaurant and down the street. Keep on going. One of the staff here will follow and make sure you do. And when I’m sure you really have gone…”

He looked disappointed, but he couldn’t argue. He finished his coffee and stood up. Marion stood, too. He stepped closer to her. Very briefly he put his arms around her shoulders and kissed her cheek. She didn’t try to stop him.

“Goodbye, Marion de Leon,” he said.

“Goodbye, Captain Jack Harkness,” she answered. Then he turned and left the restaurant. Discreetly, one of the sons of the manager followed. When he returned fifteen minutes later Marion paid her bill and picked Rodan up in her arms. The manager himself carried Rodan’s pushchair upstairs to the door of her private flat that she owned. Another of his sons carried her shopping. She thanked them and closed the door behind her. She opened the door to the portal and put in the shopping and sat Rodan in the safety seat installed for her. The pushchair stayed in the flat for their next visit. She closed the portal door and sat down before turning the switch that returned them to Gallifrey in a few short minutes.

While she waited, she decided that she probably should tell Kristoph about her encounter with Captain Harkness. But she would ask him to trust her judgement about him. And that judgement was that he could be trusted – and more importantly – their son, in the future, would trust him, too.

Her son would have a friend, an ally, who he could count on in those courageous deeds hinted at.

That thought was a comforting one.