Toshiko was sleeping alone. Owen had been called out to a possible alien incursion in Bathgate. Darius was with him. He was good for late night investigations. He had perfect vision even in pitch dark and if he absolutely had to, he could turn himself into smoke and slip through the smallest crack to get inside a locked door. As long as the operation was done with before sunrise it was all right. Otherwise he had to come back to the Glasgow Hub under a tarpaulin in the boot of the SUV.
She turned on her side, touching her stomach instinctively. She was sixteen weeks pregnant now. Four months. There was a distinct bulge and she thought happily about the scan she had two days ago. The baby was five inches long and absolutely perfect. Owen had been as thrilled as she was to see it. Of course, he made up a whole bunch of new rules on the spot about what she could and couldn’t do in the office now. She was forbidden to even set foot in the mortuary or any of the areas where chemicals were used.
But that was all right. She was happy with the work she was doing, monitoring extra-terrestrial activity in Scotland. There was no Rift in this part of the country, but there was so much of Scotland outside of the cities that was sparsely populated, and only a very few people realised that it was a major focus for UFOs.
But now, Torchwood was watching them.
There was a soft sound. Toshiko opened her eyes and looked around the room. There was a muted blue and red night light from the nursery. The door was ajar in case Etsuko stirred in her sleep. But she hadn’t made the noise.
She turned and looked at the balcony window. There was a sliver of moonlight shining through the net curtains, and through the insubstantial figure that stood in front of them.
“Oh,” she said. “It’s you. I didn’t expect you to find me all the way up here. I thought you only hung out in Cardiff.”
The figure moved closer. Toshiko sat up in bed. The ghostly figure was easy to see even in the dark. It was completely transparent, but at the same time it looked like a tall man with what she always thought were very attractive features even though they were only visible as degrees of light and shadow.
He said nothing. He never did. Toshiko never quite knew if he couldn’t speak or if he chose not to. He came closer to her. She felt a touch on her shoulder. Even though he was insubstantial, she could always feel his touch. And when she reached out towards his face, there was something beneath her fingers. It wasn't exactly like warm, Human flesh, but more like the memory of it. That was as good an explanation of him as it was possible to get. The memory of somebody who had once been flesh and blood.
The memory of his hand reached down and touched her stomach. There was a slight sound that might almost have been surprise.
“Yes,” she said. “Since I last saw you… I’ve got a little girl already. She’s asleep in the other room. And, yes, I’m having another baby.”
There were no words. But she felt instinctively that the memory of a man was pleased for her. Again she felt the touch of his hand on her cheek, caressing it gently. Then his insubstantial face came close to hers and she felt his kiss on her lips.
“No,” she told him. “You don’t have to go. Not yet. Come and lie down with me. Under the covers. I don’t know if you feel cold, but even if you don’t, it’s cosier that way.”
She probably should have told him to go away. He probably would have done. He wouldn’t force himself on her against her will. He hadn’t the last time, even though she hadn’t known what he was then and had been a little scared of him.
But there was something about him that was hard to resist. It was as if the one thing that remained of his corporeal form was his pheromones. She wanted him to stay. She wanted him to do what he had done before.
His kisses intensified. His hands caressing her body through her nightdress were delightful. She tried not to compare him with Owen. There was no comparison. She loved Owen. He was the father of her baby. He was the man she wanted to spend her life with. And their love-making was everything she had ever hoped it would be. But this was something else. Something special.
She lifted her nightdress and shrugged herself out of it. His touch on her bare flesh was even more wonderful. She sighed softly and closed her eyes. When she wasn't looking straight through him, it felt different. The gentle pressure as he moved on top of her was as real as she wanted it to be. His passionate kiss on her lips was a real kiss. And when he moved his hips slightly and she felt him within her, it was as real as she could want. He was a tender, considerate lover, slow and luxuriant, making it as enjoyable for her as it was for him.
At least she hoped it was good for him. Why else would he seek out willing lovers in this way if it wasn’t? Certainly she felt as if he took pleasure from it. The sounds on the edge of her hearing as his excitement increased seemed pleasurable.
And she was definitely enjoying it. How could she not? He knew exactly what buttons to press. She was with him all the way to the end. She actually cried out loud as they reached the crescendo together.
Afterwards, she kept her eyes closed and enjoyed his ghostly hug and the soft, slow kisses on her lips. She knew he would go after a little while. He couldn’t stay, even if he wanted to. That was his tragedy. He could give physical love, but he couldn’t receive it for more than a very brief time.
She felt a more intense kiss and then he moved away from her. She opened her eyes and looked at him.
“I’m glad you came to me,” she said. “Next time… it won’t be for ages, I know. But you will be welcome. I promise you. You’ll always be welcome.”
He nodded very slightly as he stood by the bed. He leaned over and kissed her cheek and pressed his hand against her stomach again. She felt that he was smiling. Then he turned and walked towards the window and melted into the silvery light.
Torshiko lay there for a few minutes, warm and satisfied in a sweet, sweet, delicious way that she knew she had no reason to feel guilty about even if she decided not to tell Owen all about it. She wasn’t sure yet whether she would. On the one hand, she probably shouldn’t have secrets from the man she loved. On the other, this was such a special thing, and she didn’t really want to try to explain it to anyone who hadn’t experienced it for themselves.
There was somebody she could tell, of course.
She reached for her phone and dialled a number. It was the middle of the night, so she wasn’t entirely surprised when it went to voicemail.
“Jack,” she said. “Phil was just with me.”
Gwen was half asleep, dreaming about sex. It was the sort of vivid, wonderful, warm dream she didn’t want to wake up from. She willed herself to stay asleep enough to make it feel real while awake enough to enjoy the sensation.
And it worked. She really felt as if somebody was kissing and caressing her as he made love to her in a sweet, tender, caring way.
She wasn’t dreaming about Rhys. She was aware of him lying beside her, his back against her side. He was snoring slightly. He felt warm, but he wasn't the one she was dreaming of. Rhys was good in his way. He tried to make sure that she was enjoying the experience as much as he was. But her dream lover didn’t have to try. He knew how to rouse her in all the right ways. She was enjoying the dream. And she wasn’t feeling guilty about her make believe adultery in any way whatsoever.
It wasn’t Jack. She wasn’t dreaming about him. Of that she was completely certain. She had, she admitted to herself, dreamt about Jack making love to her quite a few times. She had fantasised about him almost from the first time they met, and told herself off for being swayed by the glamour and the mystery of him. Then there was that strange Christmas when she actually did make love to the future time Jack who needed her so very much. They had given themselves to each other out of desperate need for Human contact, but it had been good sex, all the same. She treasured the memory even though the Jack of the present day knew nothing at all about it. When she felt that way inclined she would call up that memory and relive it in exquisite detail.
This wasn’t one of those times. She was dreaming about a beautiful, tender, considerate stranger making love to her. She could almost feel his kiss on her lips. She let herself respond to him deliciously.
When it was over, she sighed softly. She almost called out in her sleep, asking him if he had to go. But she was waking up now, and her dream lover was drifting away.
She sat up in bed. She was wide awake. It was about three o’clock in the morning. An hour and a bit before dawn. A dim glow from the streetlamps could be seen through the light coloured bedroom curtains. She could make out Rhys’s sleeping form beside her.
The room was very still. There was nobody there but the two of them.
For a moment as she woke, she expected that there would be somebody else. Her dream lover who had come to her in the night and made her feel so good.
Silly, she told herself. It was just a dream. A vivid dream, but a dream nonetheless.
Except she really did feel as if she had actually had sex. She could feel that dull ache in her thighs from the pressure of another body upon hers, the aftermath of the ultimate climax, the memory of the touch of hands on her flesh.
A VERY vivid dream she told herself as she lay down. She thought of reaching out to Rhys and rousing him. But she didn’t. She loved Rhys, but she just wanted to drift back to sleep remembering the dream.
Martha hadn’t been to sleep. It was her turn for a night watch of the Rift monitor. While it was all quiet on that front she had caught up with her notes on ongoing projects including the cure for Ray the Wolfman’s problems and further investigation into Etsuko’s invisibility. In the quiet of the night, with all the computers on low power mode and the lights turned low, it was actually quite easy to get completely absorbed in the work. It must have been about three thirty when she looked up from her microscope and decided that it was time she got some coffee.
She made instant. She hadn’t yet worked out how to use the big, complicated machine that was always going during the day. Besides, it was just herself. It seemed too much just for one cup of coffee.
She looked in the fridge and found the makings of a sandwich, too. It was too late for supper and too early for breakfast, but she felt hungry. She had done enough night shifts at the hospital to know that a sandwich at three-thirty in the morning was an essential part of the daily calorie intake. Though she told herself she ought to go for a quick jog when the sun was up to work it off. A night shift at the Hub was a lot less hectic than an average night on A & E.
She sat on the sofa in front of the big dragon mural and ate her sandwich slowly. She sipped the coffee and looked around the man made subterranean cavern that was now her workplace. It was a strange place. The half made brickwork and the rusty metal beams, the water that travelled across one part of the floor, run off from the base of the fountain, the pterodactyl in the rafters, all combined to make it the strangest office in the world – in the universe, even.
But she was happy here, for the time being. With Tom away in Africa for a year on a joint WHO/UNICEF project that had creamed the best paediatricians in Europe, she had nothing much to keep her in London. U.N.I.T. had plenty of medics. She was needed here. Stepping into Owen’s shoes was surprisingly easy. He was missed around the place - Toshiko and her little girl even more. But she had been accepted as part of the team, all the same.
Part of the family. Gwen and Beth were like a new pair of sisters. She shared the sort of confidences with them that she did with Tish. Alun and Ianto were like brothers – the sort of brothers who would be there for in a crisis, unlike Leo, who was more likely to be the one having the crisis and needing her to come to his aid.
And Jack… did that made him the father of them all? The thought made her smile. Of course, he was old enough. The man who couldn’t die, who had lived through the whole of the twentieth century and then some. He didn’t really look like a father figure. And he probably didn’t think of himself in those terms, but it was exactly what he was. He was the one they ALL took their troubles to. When there were problems, the sort of inter-family squabbles she knew all about, he was the one who calmed everyone down with a quiet word, a friendly and unconditional arm around the shoulder. He looked after them all. He worried about them when they were on field missions. He was ready at any moment to step in front of a bullet for them.
Yes, definitely a father figure. And now he actually was a ‘dad’ to Gray, it fitted him even more. The old Jack that she had briefly glimpsed, the Lothario who seduced anything with a pulse, was tamed a little. Of course, he was still an inveterate flirt. There was something in his DNA that made his eyes light up that way with any new acquaintance. But he had found true love now and he was a happier man for it.
She looked up as Myfanwy the Pterodactyl ruffled her wings and settled back down. The creature squawked in an annoyed way as if something had woken her from her sleep.
Then another movement caught her attention. It was just in the corner of her eye, on the edge of her perception, but somebody was there. She turned her head and for a moment she thought she was mistaken. Then she saw him.
He was almost invisible in the dim light of the Hub. He was made up of edges, of light and shadow where a Human body would have light and shadow. But there was no substance to him. it was as if somebody had taken the body away and left the highlights and lowlights.
“What are you?” she asked, trying not to sound scared. “How did you get in here?”
That was a stupid question, of course. Even Torchwood’s huge, heavy doors could hardly keep out a man made of light and shadow.
He WAS a man. Very definitely. A naked man at that. Her eyes were inexorably drawn from his insubstantial face down the impression of a finely made torso to his groin. He was DEFINITELY a man. She made an estimate of length and girth with an accuracy that would have impressed Ianto’s father the master tailor.
“Who are you?” she asked as he stepped closer to her. She edged away, towards the steps down to the medical room. On reflection, that might not have been the best idea. The medical room was a dead end. But it was her domain. She felt safe there. And it contained plenty of sharp objects that could be used as weapons.
She grabbed one of them, a scalpel, as he followed her down the steps. She noticed, as she backed away, holding the scalpel threateningly, that he did actually stand on the steps. He didn’t float, and he didn’t sink into them.
“Don’t come any closer,” she said, waving the scalpel. “Please don’t. I don’t want to hurt you.”
He came closer. She thrust out the scalpel. She felt a sort of resistance, as if it had gone into something, but when she let go it fell to the floor with a clatter. The strange man shook his head sadly and then reached out and touched her face.
“Oh!” Martha gasped as she felt the pressure of his fingers on her face. “Oh…”
It wasn’t an unpleasant feeling. And she didn’t really feel scared of him, come to think of it. She had the impression that he couldn’t possibly harm her even if he wanted to. And she was pretty sure he didn’t want to.
“Do you have a name?” she asked. “Can you talk?”
His lips moved, and there was a sort of susurration, but it wasn’t words.
“Wait a minute,” she said. “Say it again. Tell me your name, slowly.”
The first year of her medical studies she had taken an evening class in sign language and lip reading as a way of being able to communicate with deaf patients. She hadn’t used those skills very often, but now she concentrated on the highlights of his lips as they moved again.
“Bill… Will… no… Phil… is that it? You’re name is Phil?”
The phantom man nodded his head and he smiled at her.
“Phil,” she said. “Er… ok… so how did you get here and… what do you want?”
The susurration went on for longer and she had to follow his lips carefully. He told her he belonged here, in Torchwood. He had always been here.
And he told her what he wanted.
She blushed and gasped.
“I… I have a boyfriend,” she told him. “Besides, I hardly know you. And… and… anyway… how… I mean… I can see that you’re… you’re… you’ve got… all of the parts. But you’re not all here. You’re not real… how can you… how can we?”
He smiled rather sweetly, then touched her shoulder as he leaned forward and kissed her. For the length of the kiss she didn’t even try to say anything. When it was over, as he leaned back and took her hand and pressed it against his insubstantial body, she was almost lost for words.
“I have a boyfriend,” she said again, but with a little less conviction, perhaps. “I can’t…”
But she wanted to. She was being seduced by what, for want of a better word, had to be called a ghost. And she realised, with a kind of delighted shock, that she wanted it. She wanted to find out how a man with no real body could actually have sex with her.
He kissed her again, and this time she responded. She reached out and put her arms around his neck as he pressed his body against hers. She felt the solidity of the steel cabinet behind her. She felt the softer solidity of a body in front of her. She felt his lips on hers, his tongue pressed into her mouth seductively. But she was looking right through his face, still.
She closed her eyes and it was easier to believe. He felt real. She touched his body as he caressed hers and slowly unfastened the buttons of her blouse. She opened her eyes again and watched ghostly hands expertly unfasten her bra and cast it aside before reaching to caress in ways that made her gasp with wanting. She closed her eyes again, then opened them again.
If she kept her eyes closed, he was a real man and she was cheating on Tom. If she kept them open, he was a ghost, and she was just trying to find out more about him, an experiment, a Torchwood experiment that she would write up a report about later.
She told herself that as he unfastened her skirt and slid his hand inside her briefs. Then she pulled him closer and claimed another kiss from those strange but delicious lips. She wondered how he had the strength to lift her onto the cabinet, but he did. She sat on the edge of it as he divested her of the last of her clothes and then pressed himself between her thighs. She gasped with pleasure as she let his lovemaking encompass her. She still held onto the idea that she was going to write a report about this later. But in the back of her mind her inner voice was telling her that she probably wouldn’t. Or if she did, there would be some details she wasn’t going to commit to paper.
“I could do with a drink,” she said afterwards as she pulled on her white lab coat over her naked body. “Coffee… I don’t suppose you can?” He shook his head. “Come and sit with me. I don’t suppose…” She held out another lab coat. “Do you feel the cold?”
He indicated that cold was not a problem to him, but he took the coat from her anyway and slipped it on. She was reminded of scenes from The Invisible Man, except he wasn’t completely invisible. It helped her to think better, though, when he covered that part of his body that was going to take up quite a lot of pages in that report, if she actually did write it.
He sat next to her on the sofa as she drank her second cup of coffee. There were questions she wanted to ask him. But they froze on her lips. Instead, she found herself telling him all about herself. She told him about her family, her boyfriend. She told him about U.N.I.T. and her medical studies and the incredibly complicated life she had led inbetween medical school and being fast tracked to her medical degree by the military and how she had come to Torchwood from there. He smiled as if he was interested in her story and touched her on the face and neck tenderly. She liked his touch. She liked when he kissed her again when she finally ran out of words.
“There’s a bed down underneath Jack’s office,” she said. “We could… for a little while. I don’t think I’ve got the energy for any more supply cabinets.”
She was a little bit surprised that he seemed to know the way to Jack’s lair beneath his office. Again as he stepped down the ladder into the little room he moved like a real Human being. He was real, just not in the sense that she usually understood the word.
Then again, she worked for Torchwood. There was no such word as ‘usually’ any more.
The sheets and blankets in the narrow but comfortable bed had been changed even though Jack wasn’t using the room any more. She slipped off her lab coat and laid herself down under the covers. The other lab coat fell to the floor and the blanket was lifted as he slid beside her. She reached to be kissed, again keeping her eyes open. She sighed with pleasure as his body covered hers. The idea of writing even a short set of notes about all of this went right out of her head for quite some time.
She must have fallen asleep afterwards. Not for very long. Maybe only twenty minutes or so. When she woke, she felt him kiss her on the cheek before moving from the bed.
“You’ve got to go?” He nodded. “It was… nice,” she said. “I still don’t understand why you are… what you are. But I understand your need. And I’m glad I could be here for you.”
His lips moved to say ‘thank you’ then he turned and went up the ladder.
She waited ten minutes then she climbed up out of the lair, wrapping the lab coat tightly around her body. She knew Phil was gone. The Hub felt empty now. She was a little sad about that. It had been a strange experience, but one she had thoroughly enjoyed. And now he wasn’t there any more.
She went down to the medical room and gathered up her clothes. It was six o’clock. She could get a shower in the ladies room and get dressed properly before Beth or anyone else arrived for work.
No, not yet. There was something she needed to do. It might or might not go into the report she wasn’t even sure she was going to write. But she had to satisfy her own curiosity about something.
Jack was sitting at the breakfast table when he checked his overnight voicemail messages. There was a call from Ianto and Alun to say they were on their way back from Llandudno and that the late night UFO sightings over the Great Orme were all caused by a hoaxer with a pot of luminous paint and a helium tank. He was now tucked up in a hospital bed suffering from mental confusion and acute loss of memory.
Jack nodded. That was just what he’d thought after seeing the pictures on the usual conspiracy theory websites, but he had sent the boys up just to make sure. He returned the call, leaving a message on their own voicemail to say they could get a lie in and come into the Hub after lunch.
Then he listened to the message from Toshiko. He didn’t know Phil liked to travel. But that was the only thing about it that really surprised him.
“Problems?” Garrett asked as he poured him a second cup of coffee and refilled Gray’s milk glass.
“Not really. But, after we’ve dropped Gray off… there’s something I should tell you about.”
Gray looked at them with keen eyes as he swallowed his cornflakes. He knew whatever it was he wouldn’t get to know about it. Both of his new ‘parents’ had talked to him at length about the fact that their jobs were secret. At the summer school for working parents that he was attending until September he had been told to say that one of his new parents worked in the Inland Revenue and the other was a policeman.
He didn’t care what they were as long as they were both there in the morning when he ate his breakfast and at least one of them was there to pick him up in the car afterwards. He didn’t want to lose anyone else from his life.
Beth was the first one into the Hub at seven o’clock. It was too early to open the tourist office, so she came down into the Hub to have a cup of coffee and a chat with Martha. She had always liked Owen, of course, but having another woman around in the Hub was nice. She got on well with Martha. She always had a friendly smile and she was trying very hard to help Ray with his condition. She was grateful to her for that.
“Hi,” she said as she came down the steps into the medical room with the two coffee mugs. “How are you? Did you work all night?”
“I had a bit of sleep earlier,” Martha answered. She took the coffee and sipped it. This was about the fifth one in the past three hours. She would have to pace herself for the rest of the day or she’d get the jitters. “You look very chirpy this morning. Did Ray stay the night?”
“No,” Beth told her. “He was working till dawn at the Club. He’s the only one of the night staff who can do the empties at this time of year when it gets light so early.” She paused and looked at Martha as if she was debating whether to tell her something. “Funny thing, I had the most vivid dream… about sex… with a stranger. When I woke up, it felt so real, I was almost disappointed that I was alone in the bed.”
She hadn’t expected Martha’s reaction to be so extreme. She almost went pale, except that was impossible with her skin tone. She grabbed Beth by the arms and sat her down on a chair before asking her some very detailed questions about her ‘dream’ that she did her best to answer even though she couldn’t quite understand why they were being asked.
Gwen got in just after eight-thirty. She was a bit surprised when Beth called to her from the medical room and asked her to come down there urgently. She was even more surprised by the expression on Beth’s face. When Martha explained what was upsetting the Torchwood receptionist, she had to grab a seat herself.
“You mean… Oh… Ohhh….” She managed to say.
Jack got in at a minute to nine. That was his usual time these days. He and Garrett dropped Gray at the summer school and then headed for the city centre. That was going to be their routine for the next year while their ‘son’ was at primary school. Next year when he went to high school, they were going to get him a bike. He would be ready to go it alone by then, and both of them could get to work a little earlier. But for now, nine o’clock was as good as it got.
He saw the three women standing by his office door and knew right away what it was all about.
“Come on up to the boardroom,” he said. “There’s something you should all know.”
“First of all,” he said as he looked at the three women. “I really should apologise. I mean, seriously, really apologise. I should have told you all about Phil when you started here. All of you. I ought to have warned you about him.”
“You knew?” Gwen snapped angrily at him. “You knew there was a… a… ghost… or something… that went around forcing women to have sex with him…”
“Forced isn’t exactly…” Beth began. She blushed deeply. “I mean… it wasn’t… I’ve never been raped. But I don’t think what happened to me last night was what rape feels like. It was… nice. And I didn’t try to stop him. Did you?”
“No,” Gwen admitted. “But that’s not the point. Who is he, Jack? And what’s it all about? What was he doing in my bedroom and Beth’s and… and here with Martha…”
“He went to see Tosh, too,” Jack said very quietly. “She met him before, a couple of months after she joined Torchwood. He comes around every few years, when he gets restless. He’s… he really is harmless. If any of you had said no, he wouldn’t have forced you. He’s not like that at all. I’ve never actually come across anyone who has said no to him. Even Suzie let him spend the night with her once. And back in the eighties, there was a lady here… Fiona… She wanted to marry him. She said she’d never had a flesh and blood man in her bed who measured up to him.”
“Even so,” Gwen continued. “I mean… who is he? What’s it all about?”
“His name was Phillip Jarman,” Jack explained. “He was a Torchwood operative in the early 1970s – the era of free love and ban the bomb. Phil was the office Casanova in those days… he even outdid me. He was into women, mostly, although he and I did have one hell of a weekend in the summer of 1973. But the women… if we’d had to sacrifice a virgin to a volcano god back then I’m not sure where we’d have found one. And that was when Torchwood had a pretty large staff. Phil was a real charmer. Even though he put it about, no woman ever felt short changed by him. They knew none of them could pin him down and make him ‘theirs’. But they enjoyed his company for as long as it lasted.”
The three twenty-first century women were not looking too impressed. Workplace sex maniacs were not something they were accustomed to.
“He was harmless,” Jack insisted. “He still is. If anything… he’s much more considerate now. A very gentle lover…”
“Yes,” Martha agreed. “He was. He is… but… what the hell happened to him?”
“There was an accident, here in Torchwood. He was experimenting with something called Xenon particles. It won’t mean a thing to any of you. Alun and Ianto might have come across references in the archives. Afterwards, Fergus shut down the project and banned anyone else from touching the stuff. Anyway, what happened… we’re not entirely sure. But Phil’s body was irradiated by Xenon particles. The lab he was working in locked right down. He was trapped. There was nothing we could do except watch as his body melted. It hurt the poor bastard. His screams were heartbreaking. But when it was over… he wasn't exactly dead. His body was gone. But… Martha, you saw him clearly, didn’t you…”
“Yes, I did,” she said. She reached for a computer keyboard and brought up the internal CCTV on the wall screen. Everyone watched her first encounter with Phil up to when they went down into the medical room. She skipped tracks until they came back up wearing the lab coats and sat talking. She stopped it again before the part where she brought Phil to Jack’s room. There was something about his expression, though, that told her he knew what had gone on.
“He looks insubstantial, but when he touches… he feels solid. When he… it’s real sex. Really good sex. And there must be something about him, because I couldn’t have said no if I tried. Besides, I think he would have cried if I rejected him. There’s something rather sweetly pathetic about him, too. Afterwards… when he was gone… I… I used a rape kit on myself and examined the sample. I found real seminal fluid. But if he was fully Human I’d say he was suffering from asthenospermia.”
“Firing blanks,” Jack translated as Beth and Gwen looked for explanations. “Nobody ever thought to check before. That’s something else we know about him.”
“But what do we DO about him?” Gwen asked. “I mean… ok, I admit, it was nice. He was… good. But… well, I can’t have him coming along every night. Rhys would get jealous.”
“I don’t really want to have to choose between Ray and Phil, either,” Beth admitted. “But if he comes back…”
Martha said nothing. She thought of Tom. She loved him, after all. And she didn’t want to be unfaithful to him in the ordinary way. But she really wouldn’t object if Phil came to her bedroom.
“No,” Jack said to her. “I know what you’re thinking, Martha. It’s very tempting. But it isn’t fair on Tom. And anyway, he can’t stay with you. Phil is… ephemeral. We’ve never really worked out why. He only has the strength to manifest himself this way every so often. I can’t imagine how much energy he used reaching Toshiko. And then he spent the rest of the night with the three of you. He’s got to be pretty much exhausted now.”
“You mean he’s dying?” The three women all looked devastated.
“No,” Jack assured them. “He’ll just… rest again. For a few years or so. Don’t ask me where. Somewhere in the Hub, some unused corner. Or perhaps he’s… I don’t know… a collection of random molecules in the air, always present around us.”
“I think I like that idea,” Martha said. “That he’s always with us in some way.”
Beth and Gwen agreed.
“So do I,” Jack admitted. “Right now, though, I think I’m going to send you three on a field trip for the day. Llancaiach Fawr… the civil war ghost has been seen by tourists. Check it out. Take your time. There’s a couple of four star restaurants in that area. Have a nice long lunch. Keep the receipt for expenses.”
“Llancaiach Fawr….” Gwen frowned. “You don’t seriously…. Oh… you mean you want us out of the Hub. In case he…”
“Jack…” Martha looked at him. “You want to be alone with him. So you and him can…”
The expressions on all three women’s faces was something like jealousy. Yes, that had been the plan. The last couple of times that Phil had manifested himself he had been the one who had laid him to rest again – by seducing him into his bed and making love to him until his temporary existence was exhausted and he just faded away. He had told Garrett he might have to do that. His lover had held his hand in the parked car and promised he wouldn’t be jealous of him having sex with a ghost.
“It wouldn’t be fair if I wasn’t prepared to make the same sacrifices my team have,” he said with a wide, disarming grin. “Besides, I…”
“Jack…” Gwen looked past him with her dark eyes wide. She hadn’t really seen Phil properly when he came to her in the night. Nor had Beth. Both stared at the impression of a man standing at the boardroom door wearing a lab coat to cover his nakedness.
“Phil!” Jack turned and reached out his hand to him. “It’s good to see you, old man. “I’ve just been hearing about how you’ve been playing with the affections of my team.”
He smiled as he heard the susurrating ‘voice’. Phil couldn’t really communicate properly, but Jack knew from the tone and the inflections in the ghostly whisper what he was trying to say.
“I know. They’re all beautiful women. And you made all that effort to go see Toshiko, too. You remembered her from last time. She’s got a life of her own now, though. You should leave her be. You really are a rogue, Phil. Four women in one night! And incidentally, four women I’ve never got past a snog with. You do better as a ghost than I do as a living, breathing sex machine. You can’t really complain.”
There was an ironic note in the susurration.
“All right, you can complain. You can complain all you like. Whatever about those sort of compensations, you’ve got a shitty kind of immortality. So feel free to complain. I’m always here to listen, you know that.”
Phil looked at him and then stepped closer. Jack reached out to his insubstantial face before putting his arms around the transparent shoulders and hugging him. It was a strange sensation. His body felt real even though it didn’t look it. Jack knew if they went all the way, sex with him would be sensational. It had been the last few times Phil had made his presence known in the Hub.
“I don’t think you’ve got enough left in you for that,” Jack told him. “The trip to Scotland took quite a bit out of you. Then you had to find Gwen and Beth’s homes. And Martha was very obliging. Yes, I know all about it. I’ve seen the CCTV. Well, the pre-watershed parts, anyway. You had a very nice night with her. But it’s nearly time for you to rest again.”
Phil nodded. He knew that.
“Martha said she hopes you are still around in spirit,” Jack continued, “Even if she can’t see you. I hope so, too. But no sneaking up on her in the mortuary or anything. And stay out of the ladies room when they’re showering and changing.”
There was something almost like a chuckle from him. But it sounded like it was an effort to do. Then there was another susurration that Jack interpreted correctly.
“You came to say goodbye?” Phil nodded again. Then he turned his transparent head and kissed Jack. It was a good kiss. Jack closed his eyes and felt the pressure of the ghostly lips on his. But even in the length of the kiss he was starting to feel a little less substantial now. He opened his eyes and he could still see the face made up of light and shadows, but touching it was harder.
“Girls,” he said quietly. “Come and… kiss him goodbye.”
Beth stepped forward first and put her hands either side of Phil’s face as she kissed him. Then Gwen. Both felt the difference. It took much more of an effort to feel his lips on theirs. They stepped back as Martha came forward and took him from Jack. They kissed passionately. Jack put his arms around them both. For a little while there were three people in that embrace. But Phil was fading before their eyes. His highlights were melting into the shadow. Then the lab coat fell to the floor in a sad heap. Martha gave a sob into Jack’s shoulder. Beth and Gwen were hugging each other and crying, too.
“It’s all right,” Jack assured them. “He isn’t gone. He really isn’t. There’s less chance of getting rid of him than me. He’ll come back in a couple of years. And you can decide for yourselves whether shagging a ghost counts as being unfaithful to the men in your lives.”
Jack looked at the Torchwood women and had an idea that they thought it wasn’t.
“Go on,” he said to them. “That field trip is still on. The fresh air will do you all good.”
That seemed to break the spell over them. They found their coats and handbags and there was a brief, noisy discussion about whose car to take. Then he was alone in the Hub. He made another cup of coffee and took it to his office. He sat at his desk and looked at the empty air, then he raised his cup as if in a toast.
“Until next time, Phil,” he said before sipping his coffee. Then he reached for his phone and rang Garrett to tell him he was still the only man in his life and to ask if he was free for lunch.