HAVE YOU SEEN ROSE TYLER?
The flyers fluttered in a sudden gust of wind, scattering over the pavement of the Powell Estate. Jackie Tyler made a desperate grab for them, but it was hopeless. The pervasive rain that had kept her inside most of the day had ceased, but the mischievous wind hadn’t released its hold on London.
Jackie padded after the flyers, suddenly exhausted. Another day of plastering posters of her daughter around London. Another day of fruitless searching. The police were angry at her. They insisted they were doing all they could, and demanded that she stop calling them, but she was desperate. She’d come to terms with losing Pete. Now she’d lost Rose, and she had nothing. Nothing but this dogged determination to continue searching.
Most of the flyers had landed in a puddle, the ink running until it was unreadable. Jackie suddenly choked back tears as she picked up the sodden sheets. It wasn’t fair! She tried to dry some of them against her shirt, but that only turned them into wrinkled pulp. She sank down onto her knees and sobbed.
“Can I help?” said a quiet American accent.
Jackie looked up. A painfully handsome man in a long blue coat stood over her. He had something in his hand, and held it out to her. It was some of her flyers, only slightly damp, that had blown further down the street.
“Thanks,” Jackie said. She took the papers from him and tried to organize them in her hands.
“Is that your daughter?” he asked.
Jackie sniffed. “Yes.” She nodded.
“She’s pretty,” he said quietly.
Jackie’s lower lip still trembled as she said, “I wish she’d been born ugly,” she said. “Maybe then she wouldn’t have disappeared.”
He shook his head. “You can’t think like that.” He nodded toward the flyers. “How long has she been missing?”
“Eight months,” Jackie said, gently touching the “last seen” date on the flyer. “There’s no trace. The police don’t know anything. I told them about Micky Smith, I told them about that Doctor man, but they can’t do anything to help.” She shook her head. “They keep telling me the chances of finding her are getting less by the day. But I can’t stop looking. I just can’t! And I don’t have time for a job, I can barely afford the flat on the dole, and these bloody flyers cost half my income, and now I’ve just lost half of these!” She started sobbing again. “And nobody cares!” she wailed. “I don’t see why it had to be MY daughter! Couldn’t something terrible have happened to someone else? What was so special about Rose? She’s only important to me!”
“I’ll bet that’s not true,” the man said sadly. “I’ll bet she’s amazing. I’ll bet that everyone she touches is just... transformed by her.”
Jackie shuddered and threw her arms around him. He stood awkwardly for a moment, and then returned the hug, patting her back brusquely. Suddenly Jackie realized what she was doing and backed away. He was handsome enough that it had just been instinctive. “Thanks,” she said awkwardly.
“For saying ‘is’ not ‘was,’” Jackie said. “You’re the first person I’ve spoken to who hasn’t acted as if she was dead.”
“She’s not dead,” the man said. “I’m sure of it. Just as I’m sure that one day, you’ll open your eyes... and there she’ll be.” He looked immensely sad as he said, “You’ll have found them again.”
“Her,” he corrected himself. “You’ll get her back, Jackie. I promise you that.”
Jackie looked up. “How’d you know my name?” she asked, suspicious.
The man looked flummoxed for a moment, and then his eyes caught on the flyer. “Contact Jackie Tyler,” he said.
“Oh,” Jackie said, relieved. She’d been jumpy lately. “Right.”
“Don’t think something terrible has happened to her,” the man said. “Maybe something wonderful has happened.”
“Small comfort that thought is,” Jackie said. “If it wasn’t something terrible, why couldn’t she contact me?” She shook her head. “No. Someone’s taken her.” She sniffed. “And I’m the only one who cares.”
“That’s not true,” he said. “Life isn’t fair sometimes. That doesn’t mean it’s all terrible.” He touched her shoulder. “You take care of yourself, Jackie Tyler,” the man said. As he turned to go he added, “Don’t give up hope.”
“Who are you?” Jackie called after him. “Why do you care so much?”
He glanced back at her. “I lost someone myself, once,” he said. “Got left behind. It’s not easy.” Then he smiled at her. “But I know you’ll be okay. And I know you’ll find her again.”
His eyes shone with earnest sincerity. “I just know.”
Jackie watched as he turned to walk away, around the corner. Then she shuffled the damp flyers in her hands, ready to head off again to plaster what remained of her posters all over the city. They were damp and runny, but they were the last she could afford.
And something fluttered out of the flyers. It landed on the damp ground, but not in a puddle, so when she picked it up it was still readable. It was a check, for 1,000 pounds, payable to Jackie Tyler. The only name on it was printed on the bottom. Torchwood Institute, Cardiff.
She ran around the corner, hoping to catch the man, but when she surveyed the street, there was no one. When she got home, she could find no reference to Torchwood on the internet, but the check passed through the bank all right. It was enough to pay for the flat, for more flyers, enough to get her by the next few months. It wasn’t enough to change her life, but it helped. It helped a lot. She didn’t know who he was or why he cared, but he’d given her enough.
Maybe fate had robbed her of her daughter, but at least there were people who cared. It was a small comfort... but a comfort nevertheless.
Jack Harkness walked back to his car, wondering if he’d done the right thing. Rose had spoken of her mum — he recalled that in his dim memories of over a hundred years ago. He had enough money to buy Jackie Tyler a huge flat in the center of town, a fancy car, anything she wanted, really. But he knew better than to change the timeline. Rose came from a poor background, and her mother wasn’t supposed to be wealthy. But he couldn’t just leave her struggling, not when he could help.
Besides. For the first time in over a hundred years, he’d knew someone who missed her too. Surely that was worth a thousand pounds? Because it meant he wasn’t alone. And that was a small comfort... but a comfort nevertheless.