Title: Stranded On Halloween – Chapter 4
Characters: Tosh, Owen, Gwen, Jack, Ianto,
Word Count: 2871
Spoilers: To The Last Man
Summary: Finally, a ghostly visitor for Tosh.
Written For: Challenge #98: Haunted at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Tosh had been woken by a chilly draft; Gwen must have rolled over, pulling the blanket they shared half off her. Shivering, she got up to see if her clothes were dry yet and noticed that Owen was missing, along with his clothes and his blanket. The draft must have been from the door as he slipped out.
Knowing she wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep now that she was awake, especially with Gwen hogging the blanket, Tosh dressed quickly and decided to see if she could find Owen. Perhaps he couldn’t sleep either; the storm had grown even worse as they’d slept and now the wind was howling around the house like a horde of banshees. Even as she pulled on her boots, a flash of lightning lit the room as bright as day, almost dazzling her, and thunder crashed overhead. Gwen muttered something unintelligible in her sleep, pulling the blanket over her head, but didn’t wake. Tosh glanced over to where Jack and Ianto were snuggled close together under their blanket and smiled at the sight; it shouldn’t be possible for two grown men to look so ridiculously cute.
Pulling her now dry coat around her, Tosh checked her watch by the light of the nearest candle; it was just before midnight on all hallows eve and she was in a deserted mansion in the middle of nowhere. Grinning excitedly at the thought of sneaking about in such a spooky place on the most haunted night of the year, she snatched up a torch in case her candles got blown out, picked up the nearest candelabra and slipped quickly and quietly through the door into the hallway, closing it carefully behind her so the others wouldn’t be woken.
The stairs looked pretty rickety so it was unlikely that Owen had gone up there. He’d probably followed the hallway towards the back of the house. There were a lot of rooms back there that they hadn’t bothered to check since they’d been cold and drenched, just wanting to find somewhere they could shut out the wind and dry off. Maybe Owen had decided to explore a bit. Heading down the hall herself, she paused to have a quick look around each room as she passed. The place was a bit of a maze with rooms leading into each other, so she didn’t go too far, not wanting to get lost on her own. She hadn’t realised it was such a huge house. Maybe when she found Owen they could explore together.
Stepping back into the hall from what seemed to have once been a music room, the wind chose than moment to drop briefly to a whisper and she thought she could hear voices coming from further down the hall. She’d just started in the direction she thought the voices came from when a flash of lightning lit the corridor and she stopped dead with a gasp, her hand rising to her mouth. There was a figure standing a short distance away in the doorway of a room on her right, someone much taller than Owen. For a moment, she cursed herself for not bringing her gun, but then the lightning flashed again and as she recognised the now familiar figure her eyes filled with tears.
He smiled at her, that sweet, warm smile she still saw in her dreams.
“Hello, my beautiful Toshiko.”
“But you’re dead, how can you be here? Is this another dream? I’ve dreamed about you so many times.” She walked towards him, unable to resist the temptation, reaching out, wanting to touch, but he stepped back, beckoning to her as he passed through the doorway behind him. She followed without thinking.
“It’s not a dream, it’s All Hallows Eve. I’ve been waiting for this night for so long, Toshiko. It’s only been four months for you, but for me it’s been 90 years. I wanted to see you again, I never really got to thank you for everything you did for me.”
Tosh shook her head, tears spilling from her eyes.
“I sent you to your death! I knew what would happen but I did it anyway!”
Stepping closer, Tommy reached out, brushing her tears away with a barely perceptible touch. “You had no choice, Toshiko. There was a job to be done, and I was the only one who could do it. I remember everything and I don’t regret it, because I saved all of time. I saved you. I got to be a hero, to do something that truly mattered, and even if only a few people will ever remember what I did, I left my mark on the world. What more can any soldier ask for? I enlisted because I wanted to fight for my country, but I ended up saving the world. More importantly, I got to meet you; that made everything I went through worthwhile. I wish we’d had more time together, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Everything happened the way it had to. Don’t be sad, sweet Toshiko; remember me and smile. You gave me the best four days of my life, showed me things I never would have imagined. I lived more in those four days than I did in all of the rest of my life, and it was all because of you. I wish there was some way I could repay you.”
Tosh was smiling and crying at the same time. She’d longed for a chance to see Tommy, just one more time, and now here he was, she could tell him what she hadn’t been able to the last time she saw him, because then he hadn’t remembered her.
“There’s nothing to repay; everything I did was because I wanted to. You made me feel special, beautiful, and I loved the time I spent with you; never doubt that. I could have fallen in love with you, you know. It would’ve been so easy. You will always be my brave, handsome hero, Tommy Brockless, and I’ll never forget you as long as I live.”
“What more could any man ask than to be remembered by a beautiful woman? I hope I made you proud.”
“You did. Thank you.”
“It was an honour. Until we meet again.” Tommy saluted smartly, head held high.
“Will we? Meet again, I mean.”
“I don’t know. I hope so. Anything’s possible.”
“That’s true. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through working for Torchwood, it’s to keep an open mind. Goodbye, Tommy.”
Whistling a jaunty tune, Tommy turned, lightning flashed, and when her vision cleared, Tosh was alone. Thinking bittersweet thoughts of what might have been, she wandered back into the hallway, head bowed, not quite sure what to do now. Maybe she should just go back to the others. She almost screamed when a hand grabbed her arm, the relaxed as she saw it was just Owen.
“Owen, what did you do that for? You almost scared the life out of me!”
“Sorry, I called your name a few times, but you didn’t answer.” Owen sounded out of breath. “God, I never would’ve believed the hallway could be so long. I swear the house didn’t look this big from the outside. I feel like I’ve just run half a bloody mile!”
Tosh couldn’t help giggling. “Well, it can’t be easy running with a blanket wrapped around you and a candle in one hand.”
“Yeah, nearly tripped myself up a couple times,” he admitted. “What are you doing wandering around this place alone?”
“I could ask you the same thing. Actually, I woke up and came looking for you. Thought it might be fun to explore the spooky old house together, but I got a bit sidetracked before I could find you.” She looked down, embarrassed, remembering that Owen didn’t believe in ghosts.
“Who did you see?”
The quiet question surprised Tosh, and she glanced up to see Owen just looking at her, no trace of sarcasm in his face or voice. Still, Tosh didn’t want to give him a chance to make fun of her.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“I came out here because I heard Katie calling my name. I thought it was a dream, but it’s not. She was real, Tosh. I talked to her. Just, please don’t tell the others, I’d never hear the end of it, not after what I said about not believing in ghosts.”
“I won’t tell a soul. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I think I am. It was so good to see her, Tosh. She was just like when I first met her; funny and bubbly and so full of life. Lately, every time I’ve thought of her it’s been as she was just before she died and it scared me that I was forgetting the way she used to be, before she got sick. But that’s stupid ‘cause I could never forget. She’ll always be with me in here,” he tapped his head, “and in here.” He laid his hand over his heart. “She’s right though, it’s time I stopped livin’ in the past, I’ve gotta get on with my own life. Promised her I’d try anyway.” He smiled wanly. “I’ll never stop lovin’ her, don’t think I could if I tried but maybe I can find someone else and love them as much, just differently.”
Tosh looked thoughtful. “I think every love is different, because every person is different. No one can feel exactly the same about two completely different people.”
“Yeah, that makes sense. So… who did you see?”
“It was Tommy.”
“Tommy Brockless? That Tommy?”
Nodding, Tosh leant against the wall. “I’ve felt so guilty about making him go back, knowing he was going to be executed for cowardice. I know there was no other choice, he had to use the key, but I just wanted there to be another way. He didn’t deserve to die like that.”
“No, he didn’t. He was a hero, even if hardly anyone will ever know. Was he angry?”
“Not at all,” Tosh said softly, shaking her head in bewilderment. “He just wanted to thank me for making his last few days so happy and giving him a chance to be a hero. Can you imagine that?”
“I thought Katie would be mad at me for not being able to save her, but she’s only disappointed with me for the way I’ve been livin’ my life. Well, not really livin’ when you think about it, more existing day-to-day.”
They were walking slowly side by side, back towards the room they’d all set up camp in.
“You still want to go exploring?” Owen asked after a moment’s silence.
“Not really, I’m a bit tired now.”
“Yeah, me too. Time enough to explore in the morning when we can see better. Hopefully we’ll be able to get a signal on our phones once the storm’s blown itself out. Might as well try to sleep until then.
Slipping back into the front parlour, everything looked exactly as it had when Tosh had left, Ianto and Jack fast asleep in each other’s arms, Gwen cocooned in the blanket she was supposed to be sharing with Tosh. Owen chuckled.
“Sorry you got stuck with the blanket hog. You can share my blanket for the rest of the night if you want. Promise I won’t grope you or anything. Scout’s honour!”
“You were never a scout,” Tosh teased, blushing a little.
“Yeah, you got me. How about it though?”
“Well, if you’re sure you don’t mind…”
”Nah, we can keep each other warm.”
A few minutes later, coats and shoes discarded, they were snuggled under Owen’s blanket.
“G’night, Tosh. Sweet dreams,” Owen mumbled sleepily. Tomorrow, when they were back at the Hub and he’d had a chance to shower so he looked less like a drowned rat, Owen thought he’s ask Tosh out on that date. Who knew where it would lead?
“Night, Owen,” Tosh replied through a yawn. Within minutes they were sound asleep.
None of the team stirred again until the autumn sun shone through the window the following morning, rousing them.
Waking proved somewhat disorienting. The storm had clearly blown itself out during the night, hence the bright sunlight, but there were other differences that were less easily explainable. As they sat up and looked around in bewilderment, it was Owen who said what they were all thinking.
“What the fuck? This isn’t the room we were in last night!”
He was right. Oh, it was a parlour of sorts, and there was a stone fireplace containing the ashes of their fire, even some candles burned down to almost nothing, but that was where the resemblance ended.
Scrambling to their feet, they looked around at the rather cramped little room they were in. It had two doorways, one leading into a small kitchen, the other into a tiny entrance foyer containing a narrow staircase and two more doors. The fireplace was less than a quarter the size of the one they’d lit their fire in the previous night and their ‘candelabra’ were now plain metal candlesticks, each holding the remains of a single candle.
“This isn’t possible!” Gwen stated firmly. “How did someone move us and all our gear to another house while we were asleep? Were we drugged somehow?”
“No,” said Jack quietly. “No one moved us anywhere, this is where we came last night.”
“No it’s not! Last night we were in a ruined mansion, I remember it clearly!”
“We all do, it was the archetypal haunted house,” Ianto smirked. “I suppose the spirits of the departed have a certain sense of what’s proper. It was Halloween, after all. They wanted the right setting so they provided it.”
Jack, Tosh and Owen were all nodding, smiling slightly at each other. Gwen looked from one to another, confused.
“What are you on about?”
“You mean you didn’t see any spirits last night?” asked Jack, surprised.
“Of course not. It’s like Owen said; ghosts don’t exist.”
Ianto shrugged. “Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but I know what I saw last night, and I know who I talked to. It felt real to me, not a dream or an illusion.” He looked at Gwen. “Maybe you didn’t see anyone because you’re the only one of us to have never lost a loved one or felt responsible for the death of a good person. Maybe there aren’t any spirits out there who feel the need to communicate something important to you. And maybe you should be thankful for that.”
Gwen nodded slowly. “I am, I still have my parents, my grandparents, Rhys. So who did you all see?”
“I think,” Jack said, “who we saw and what was said should remain private. The messages we were given were for our ears alone. Let’s leave it at that. Come on, better find the SUV and see what the damage is. I want to be back in Cardiff by lunchtime. Okay?”
Filing out, carrying all the gear they’d brought with them, they glanced back at the small, derelict two-storey farmhouse that had been their shelter in the storm. As they looked around, Ianto pointed out the weathered remains of older walls, ridges in the ground that could mark foundations of a much larger building.
“This isn’t the first building to stand on this spot; whatever was here before, maybe that’s what we saw last night. Perhaps even houses have a spirit that lingers and can return on Halloween if the circumstances are just right.”
“A ghost house?” Tosh asked.
“Good an explanation as any, isn’t it?”
They found the SUV a couple of hundred yards down the road, seemingly abandoned on the wide grass verge that ran alongside it. The front wheels had come to rest in a shallow dip rather than the deep, water filled ditch they remembered. Of the fallen tree, there was no sign.
Jack laughed and shook his head. “Our ghosts went to a lot of trouble to get us right where they wanted us. I guess they must have been really determined to talk to us.”
“They had good reasons,” Ianto said, starting to load their gear back into the boot.
“They did,” Tosh agreed, moving to give her friend a hand. “There were things we needed to say to them too.”
“Yeah, and you know what?” said Owen, handing his backpack to Ianto. When everyone turned to look at him enquiringly, he grinned. “Best Halloween ever!”
“I’ll second that.” Ianto slammed the boot shut and moved towards the driver’s door as Jack slid into the passenger seat. “I vote we stop somewhere for breakfast on our way back.” There was a general murmur of agreement as the others piled in and fastened their seat belts. “Looks like we’re all agreed then.” He turned the key in the ignition and pulled back onto the road, heading for home.
If anyone had thought to look back, they might have seen a faint shimmering where a majestic manor house had once stood, and the indistinct outlines of six people standing together.
“D’you think they’ll be okay?” Katie asked.
“Yeah,” Lisa replied, smiling. “I think they’ll be just fine.”