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Chapter 6 - Can’t Trace Time by A.J. Hall

He went ahead, just to make sure Kirov and Karolides didn’t do anything unnecessarily excitable.

“Problem solved,” he said as he came - blissfully - into the comparative warmth and shelter of the stairwell. “Just a patient with a few gripes about treatment issues. Bit of a non-standard way of raising them, but - well, whatever.”

He shrugged.

Karolides stared at him in sheer disbelief. “But that was a violent assault on a member of hospital personnel! Coupled with threats of lethal force!”

Owen looked back at him. “That? Violent? Nah, mate. Obvious you can’t have been on duty at Guy’s the night Millwall went down 2:1 to Arsenal in the Cup. Now that was violence. Whereas this - this was just a little local excitement.”

Behind him he could hear the door opening. He hoped Comienski and the patient had enough sense to be listening. He raised his voice a little.

“Of course, if Dr Comienski chose, technically she might have a civil case for assault - I suppose -“

Right on cue Petrova Comienski - bless her uptight arse - snorted. “Trust me, if I were going to bring proceedings against anyone for assault in this place, I wouldn’t start with the patients.”

Karolides sounded reproachful and, a little, embarrassed. “I’m sorry, Miss. We did trawl through all the footage, truly - if there’d been anything we could have found, that looked definite, you can be sure you’d have had it -“

“Oh, forget it.”

Kirov’s face looked - oddly intense. And regretful. He nodded, dutifully, however, and led Karolides back to their recess in the basement.

Owen, shielding his interest, escorted the little party down the next flight of stairs, heading towards his own floor. There were consulting rooms across the main corridor from his office suite. Just as they approached, however, he had a second thought. He gestured at Comienski. “Be a good girl, and go and get me and our patient some real clothes, please. Sweat pants, fleeces, whatever. Just so long as it’s warm, and comfortable, and fits.”

Irritatingly, she gawped at him. He made an impatient gesture. “I only flew in this morning. And it looks like my luggage is still finding its way back from the arse-end of the Horsehead Nebula. And I’m cold. And no-one would call this robe a fashion accessory, sweetheart -“

“Oh, I’ve no actual complaints,” the patient purred.

He turned and studied her in the harsh light of the stairwell for a long, thoughtful moment. It hadn’t, then, been merely a quirk of accent and circumstances that had caused him to mistake that warm, flat alto for Jack’s voice. The chiselled features, a little too determined for a woman; that soft, short, windswept mass of brown hair (slightly flecked with grey; that wasn’t just the last unmelted residue of the blizzard outside, it seemed); those blue expressive eyes, netted - in this case - by fine laughter lines; and, most of all, that amused intensity, that determination to flirt with anything sentient, albeit on the very edge of the Abyss -

At least as far as appearances went if someone told Owen that his amnesia patient was Jack’s big sister he’d have a hard time proving any different. Though of course, given that the boss’s real age was something on which quite a lot of money was currently riding within Torchwood Three, she might equally well be a little sister - daughter - niece - grand-daughter - anything at all, assuming, say, a time machine, alien rejuvenation techniques, very good plastic surgery or a particularly complaisant portrait in some attic somewhere -

He shooed the doctor off down the stairs. Once Comienski had gone a quixotic impulse overtook him. He gestured at the back door to his quarters.

“Look - ah - there’s a bathroom in there. Can’t have you dying of pneumonia. You might want to take a hot shower. Warm up, you know. Even a bath, so long as you don’t take forever about it.”

The patient looked, momentarily, startled. Then she ducked her head in acknowledgement, and dived inside his quarters. After a second Owen followed after her. There was a line of light through his sleeping quarters from the part-open bathroom door. Steam, already, was starting to billow out through it. He coughed, and raised his voice.

“Just one thing -“

The patient put her head round the door, wearing the door-frame - Owen knew as surely as if he had X-ray vision that she was wearing nothing else - as a towel.


He grinned. “Don’t do anything that might shock the rubber duck.”

The patient laughed, and dived back inside. As if by way of statement the bathroom door remained ajar. There was a prolonged, delicious interval filled only with gurgling and splashing sounds. And the odd gasp of sybaritic pleasure; tentative, shaky and on the very edge of hearing.

Owen lay back on his bed, and tried to make himself relax. And to convince himself that a few hundred parsecs and a couple of thousand years didn’t change the ethical fundamentals about doctor/patient relations.

What he could remember of them.