: I hold no right over copyrighted characters. The Torchwood and Buffy characters are all the property of their respective owners.
So this is a bunch of vignettes of scenes between Jack and Seo. Some are funny (Ianto becomes a very attractive
pineapple!), and some are sweet. Just building the relationship between these two, before the Years that Never Were.
I like the dynamic between Seo and Jack - I feel like it's unique. There are a lot of fanfic authors who do the whole "Doctor has daughter" or "Buffy has daughter". Very few (if any) have developed a relationship between Jack and said daughter that is quite like this.
(Before you all start complaining that Jack already has a daughter - a real daughter - yeah, I know that. It's all part of the dynamic. Trust me.)
Buffy leaned back against the far wall of the Hub. Looking on at Seo and Jack, as they both bent over a piece of alien tech, talking in hushed voices. Seo's eyes sparkling as she spoke, hands flying to illustrate every word.
"You know," said Owen, coming up beside Buffy and handing her a cup of coffee, "if I were you, I'd keep a closer eye on those two."
Buffy took the coffee. But didn't answer Owen, her eyes on Seo and Jack.
"The way he makes exceptions for her," said Owen, "bends over backwards for her, even just the way he looks at her, sometimes — there's got to be something going on, there."
"I know," said Buffy, quietly.
From the far side of the Hub, Seo cried out in delight, as Jack uncovered a hidden panel on the alien device.
"I'm just saying," said Owen. "If there isn't something sexual going on between them, now, it's coming soon. Don't say I didn't warn you."
Buffy snapped her head over, a shocked expression on her face. "Wait, huh?"
Buffy shook her head. Eyes resting back on Jack and Seo. "No," she said, recalling all of the different moments Jack and Seo had had, in the Hub, since Seo first came here to stay. "That's not what's going on between them. Not at all."
Moments. So many moments.
Just Jack and Seo.
"No!" said Buffy, crossing her arms. "Absolutely not. Nu-uh. No way. Bad idea."
Seo gestured at the large array of alien machine bits and pieces surrounding her. "But… but… I've already gotten the pieces together and figured out what I needed and allocated the energy and everything!"
"And your reason for doing this is that… you think 'it would be fun'," Buffy checked. She sighed. "That isn't even a good reason."
"If it works, it'll be brilliant!" Seo insisted.
"And if it doesn't," Buffy said, "the world will end."
Seo hesitated. "Well, yes, but… if it works, it'll be brilliant!"
Jack, passing by, stopped, noticing them. Then noticed the readings on the rift that were still on the computer monitor. And the devices splayed out in front of Seo.
"Hang on," said Jack. He pointed at Seo. "You're not planning to create a—?"
"Yes, she is," said Buffy.
Seo's eyes rested on Jack. "But… but… it'll be big and flashy and brilliant, and it'll light up the night sky in the most dazzling array of colors you've ever…"
"Seo," said Jack. "What's the probability this will end the world?"
Seo's cheeks went red. She looked down at the ground. "Not… as high as you'd think."
"I didn't ask if it was high," Jack said. "I asked for a number."
Seo shuffled around some of the items on the floor. Blond hair draped across her face. Then, in a quiet voice, "86.5 percent."
Jack put his hands into his military greatcoat. Giving Seo the same reprimanding look.
"But I can make it work!" Seo insisted. "There's still a chance I can make sure—"
"Seo," Jack interrupted.
For a moment, no one said anything. The soft rhythmic patterns of the Torchwood Hub whistling through their ears.
Then Seo slumped her shoulders. Began gathering up the machine bits she'd gathered together, and storing them away for later use.
"Okay, fine," she said. Then shot her head up to him. "But only because I don't want to be grounded for the next two centuries. Not because I can't make it work. You got that?"
Jack grinned at her. "Got it."
"Oh, shit!" Owen groaned, the moment he saw the results of the medical exam pop up on the screen.
"Owen," said Jack, harshly. "Language."
Owen burst out laughing.
"No, really," Jack insisted. He glanced over at Seo, who was working on homework at the far end of the medical lab. "When she's around. Language."
Owen looked over at Seo. Then back at Jack. Then sighed, and nodded.
"Jack!" shouted Buffy, from the other room. "Total alien spaz attack going on out here!"
Jack looked over at Seo, who'd perked up at mention of trouble. Her eyes shining, her face excited. She threw aside her schoolbooks, jumped to her feet, and followed Jack as he sprinted out of the medical lab.
"'Don't swear around Seo, Owen,'" Owen mocked, when they were gone. "'She's only a hundred fucking years old!'"
"Jack!" Gwen said. "You can't just let her go in there with that… thing!"
Jack just stepped back and watched, as Seo entered the cell, speaking to the spiky-headed, multi-tentacled, fang-bearing alien that had ripped apart three people, single-handed, earlier that day. She spoke with a soft, soothing voice, reaching out to it.
"Her mum's going to kill you when she finds out," Gwen said.
"Seo thinks she can make the alien see sense," said Jack. "I say, let her try."
Seo reached down, and offered the alien a small, square device, speaking to it in low tones. A square device that Gwen recognized.
The data storage device that the alien had used to make notes on exactly how to end the world.
"But that's…" Gwen said.
"She knows what she's doing," said Jack, putting a hand on Gwen's arm. "She's giving it one chance to do the right thing and destroy the data, itself."
"She fixed the device, Jack!" Gwen whispered. They'd disabled the transmit setting on the box, earlier, so none of the information could get off world. But it now was blinking and working completely normally, again. "She made it able to—"
"She knows what she's doing," Jack repeated.
The alien looked between Seo and the other two Torchwood agents, still standing just past the open cell door. Listened to Seo's words, a blank expression on its face.
Then, in one violent motion, it grabbed the device, threw Seo to the end of the cell, and hit the transmit button at the top.
Gwen yanked out her gun, shouting, preparing to fire and smash that device to pieces. But too late, as the alien's skin got brighter and brighter, and both he and the box vanished into thin air.
Seo jumped up, beaming. Raced to the door of the cell. "Did it work?"
Jack typed some buttons into his wristband. "Like a charm. Uligrantia Penal Colony's just picked him up, and it looks like they're not letting him go for a long time." He looked up at her, grinning. "Congrats. I think you've finally mastered the 'One Chance' trick."
Gwen looked between Jack and Seo. Lowering her gun. "All right. What's…?"
"The 'One Chance' trick," said Jack. "Give an alien one chance to do the right thing, but in such a way that, if he doesn't take it, you get rid of him."
"Jack said it'd be fun," said Seo. "And he was right! It was! Especially the part where I got to be clever."
Gwen nodded, slowly. "And… what happened to the alien?"
"Well, I thought — if that box is supposed to transmit data," said Seo, "and teleports are basically just devices that transmit data, then why don't we wire it up so that the moment he tries to send the data, it sends him
"Along with the box that has all the incriminating data on it," said Jack.
"And then Jack knew this prison where he said the people running it were really mad at that particular kind of alien's species," Seo continued, "so we sent it there!"
Gwen put the gun away. "Oh."
Seo turned to Jack. Excitement in her eyes and laughter in her face. "We're so brilliant, together!"
Jack cleared his throat, standing in the doorway to the archives.
Seo looked up. Froze. Her hand, holding an alien device she'd just took off the shelves, still half way into her pocket. Caught red-handed.
"You know the rules," said Jack. "No alien tech leaves Torchwood without my permission." He extended a hand. "Give it back."
Seo looked at the device. Then at Jack. Then at the device. "But… but… you let Mom take stuff from here all the time!" she protested.
Jack sighed. "That's because your mom is the one person I can rely on to never use it."
Recalling that time when aliens had been invading, and Buffy had raced into the Torchwood armory, stock full of high tech gadgets and alien-fighting guns, and still reached for the medieval sword that had come out of the rift a few months before.
"And now that you're
around," Jack continued, "she's returning all her alien tech by the truckload."
Seo pouted. Turning puppy-dog eyes on Jack, in the hopes that would melt his heart.
"You know the rules," Jack repeated.
Seo sighed. Then trudged over, and slammed the device down in his hand, muttering sulkily under her breath, as she left the archives.
Jack replaced the device on the archive shelves, a small smile on his face.
A smile which fell, the moment he realized that, now that he had the device, he also had an empty spot on his wrist where his vortex manipulator was supposed to be.
He spun on his heels, and raced after the fading figure, in the hallways. "Seo!"
"It will, too, save Cardiff!" Seo insisted, putting the pieces together.
Jack, racing with Ianto down into the Hub, stopped as he saw the thousand eyes all staring at Seo. "Oh, no," he said. "What is it this time?"
"There's a sudden rush of deadly alien gas about to be dropped onto Cardiff," Tosh explained. "And Seo believes she can build something that will either make the gas harmless — or make it spread throughout the atmosphere and kill everyone across the globe."
"But there's a 75% chance it'll save Cardiff!" Seo insisted. "That's good!"
"It's the 25% chance it kills everyone on the planet that we're worried about," Buffy pointed out to her.
Jack nodded, slowly. Then gave them all a large grin, walked over to Seo, and leaned down. Talked it over with her. The two of them picking up different bits and pieces, discussing their function and application in low tones, their voices sounding rushed — but still calm, steady, and controlled.
Then Jack straightened. Clapped Seo on the back. And told her to, "Go for it."
Seo grabbed up the contraption, and raced outside, Buffy following close behind.
"Jack, are you sure it…?" Tosh asked.
"Well, the way she was building it, before
, everyone would have died, yeah," said Jack. "But, now? It'll work. No problem." He winked. "Trust me. She won't make that mistake again."
Three minutes later, all of Cardiff was saved.
Seo sat on the seat in front of Jack's desk. The clock ticking away the seconds. The room silent, save for the scratching of Jack's pen against the papers he was filling out.
She fidgeted in place. "I just—"
Jack looked up at her, a dark, warning glare.
Seo shrank back. Her hands in her lap. Her eyes still fixed on Jack.
Jack turned back to his work. Continued filling in the forms, as if Seo weren't there at all.
"It wasn't—" Seo started.
Jack snapped his head up, giving her another dark glare.
Seo bit her lower lip, and looked away. Her eyes unwilling to meet his.
Jack finished the forms, signing at the bottom, then stacking them up and filing them away. Then checked the clock. And turned back to Seo.
"That's thirty minutes," he said. "You learned your lesson, yet?"
Seo nodded, sullenly.
"And you're not going to randomly release any more weevils onto the streets of Cardiff?" Jack checked.
Jack nodded. "Just remember — this is a warning," he said. "Next time — two hundred years of this." He crossed his arms. "I'm immortal. I got all the time in the world to wait it out."
"I don't understand what I did wrong!" Seo insisted, as they walked into the Hub. "That Rumbletown—"
"Rombotontwan," Ianto corrected.
"Rombotontwan alien was going insane and killing people," said Seo. "And I stopped it."
Owen snickered beneath his breath. "Yes, you did."
Buffy turned on Seo. "You told that alien that if he stopped killing people, you'd sleep with him! That is not an acceptable negotiation in my book."
Seo looked confused. "I didn't say that," she insisted. "I said I'd go over to his space ship after I was done working here at Torchwood, today."
Gwen cringed. "She doesn't actually know what that means, does she?"
"He said he wanted to show me his fusion drive engine," said Seo.
"Yes, he did," said Owen, trying to stifle a laugh. "His… very big
fusion drive engine."
"Seo, when alien guys offer to show you their… fusion drive engine," said Buffy, "they don't actually always mean their… fusion drive engine."
Seo looked completely lost. "He was flirting with me?"
Buffy hit her hand against her head. "How do you not know this stuff?" she demanded. "It's like half the time someone flirts with you, you pick up everything, and the other half, you just completely don't get it. At all."
"I'm guessing," Seo said. She grimaced. "Sometimes… I guess wrong."
Buffy gave a bitter sigh, then shouted, "Jack!"
Jack stepped out from his office, surveying the scene in front of him.
"Please explain all the nuances of alien flirting, pickup lines, and sexual innuendo to Seo," said Buffy. She turned on her heels. "I've got an alien who needs to be kicked right in his fusion drive engine."
"How does he get her to listen to him?" Gwen asked Buffy, one day.
Buffy looked over at where Jack and Seo were talking, and grinned. "He's got a way with her."
"I mean, if anyone else tells her she can't do something," said Gwen, "she feels she has
to go and do it. Like it's a challenge. Anyone else tries to get her to stay in one place, or be quiet, or stay out of trouble, and she lies to us, tricks us, and runs away before we can stop her. But… with Jack…" She shook her head.
"Not just Jack," said Buffy. "She does it with me, too." She hesitated. "Most of the time."
"You're her mum," Gwen pointed out. "Jack isn't."
Buffy looked out at Seo and Jack. A thoughtful expression on her face, as she watched the interaction between the two.
"I guess… she doesn't want to chance making him angry at her," said Buffy. "Because… in the end… Jack's the only one out there that's going to outlive her."
"What I don't get," Buffy added, "is why he
puts in the time and effort with her
It started because Cardiff had accidentally slid half a dimension sideways.
With no way back.
The whole city went insane. People were popping into and out of existence, turning into animals — sometimes even turning into fruitcakes — all for no apparent reason. Tosh had briefly become a leprechaun before sprouting roots and turning into an elm tree. While Owen began hunching over and dancing beneath a bridge, muttering about no good kids stealing his pot of gold.
It was right around when Ianto had turned into a very comely pineapple that Seo had turned. And run.
They'd raced after her. Tried to cut her off. But she must have worked out Suzie's top secret Hub lock-down activation code, because the second she set foot inside the Torchwood Hub, the entire thing locked down.
There was no power.
That didn't bother her.
She'd raced over. Switched the rift manipulator into reverse, wired it into the energy discharger array they'd raided from the space ship three hours ago, then undid the lockdown — switching on everything all at once.
The entire ground had shook.
Buffy and Jack grabbed each other, both thinking this was the end.
And then… everything went back to normal.
Completely back to normal.
"How the hell did you know to do that?" Buffy asked, when all Torchwood team members were human, again, and had all gathered in the Torchwood Hub, staring open-mouthed at Seo.
Seo looked between the various different Torchwood agents. "I… don't know," she confessed. "I just… kind of… guessed."
"You guessed," said Owen. He threw up his hands into the air. "Bloody fantastic. You decided to use some of the most dangerous items Torchwood has, hook them all together and switch them all on at once, and you fucking guessed
"Owen," said Jack. "I want those reports from that alien autopsy on my desk, ASAP. Gwen, Tosh, Yan — see if you can fix the rift manipulator. Buffy, call up your Ministry contact, try to come up with some explanation of what just happened that doesn't result in government goons breathing down our necks."
They all snapped to attention, then raced off to carry out the orders.
Seo stayed where she was, staring at the rift manipulator, her eyes unfocused. Jack came up to her.
"And as for you…" he began.
Seo spun around, her eyes wide, worried.
Jack grinned. Clapped her on the back. "Well done," he said. Winked. "Expected nothing less."
Seo's entire face lit up, and she beamed.
"She reminds you of him, huh?" said Buffy.
Jack didn't look up. Just kept writing on the form he was filling out — a government record, cataloguing Buffy's time for Torchwood. "Reminds me of whom?"
Buffy gave Jack a pointed stare.
"Sometimes," Jack conceded. He still didn't look up at her. Just remained focused on his work. "She reminds me a lot of you, too."
Buffy shrugged. "Maybe there's a little me in there. The screwing-up-weird-alien-names thing, the aggression, the super-strength…"
"The instincts," said Jack.
Buffy frowned. "What do you mean?"
Jack looked up at Buffy. "You haven't noticed?" he asked. He tapped his pen against the paper. "When she doesn't think before she acts, whenever she says she's 'guessing' — it's because she's doing everything on instinct." Jack raised his eyebrows at Buffy. "Like you."
Buffy wasn't sure what to say to this.
"It's why she's perfectly happy to build a fireworks display that is 86% likely to blow up the world," said Jack, "until you talk her through it. Make her think. And she reconsiders."
Buffy gave a small laugh. "Or asks to open the rift just so she can see if she can close it, again, afterwards."
"She'll work it out, eventually," said Jack, getting back to his work. "When to rely on instincts and when to second-guess herself. When to use brains, and when to use impulses. Until then… it's hit or miss." He gave a small laugh. "And you know there's got to be a lot of misses she's not telling us about."
Buffy swept her hair back behind her shoulders. "Oh, I've got a system for those," she said. "I've worked it out. If there's something out there that you say, 'you know, that's something so clever, only a Time Lord would ever do that', and it's pretty obviously not the only other Time Lord out there — that's a Seo screw-up."
Jack grinned. "Like it."
He'd told his team they could go home for the night. And now Jack was alone. In the Hub. The lights low, the computers switched off, everything put away for the evening.
No alien invasions tonight. No spikes in rift activity. Nothing even remotely out of the ordinary. Just peace, tranquility, and rest.
"Jack?" came a small voice, at the other end of the Hub.
He looked up.
There was Seo, who'd somehow managed to sneak in past every alarm, sensor, locked door, and warnings system they'd installed. She was standing in the doorway into the Hub, shuffling in place, her eyes fixed on him.
"What are you doing here?" Jack asked, eyeing her curiously.
"Nothing," said Seo, hurriedly. She looked away, and bit her lower lip. "I just… Alison's got this new boyfriend, and she's really close to him, and it made me remember… you know… Xander. And I felt all lonely and sad, and I wanted to talk to Dad, but he's… not existy, anymore… so I…" She glanced back at Jack, and shrugged. "…came here."
Jack felt touched.
"Isn't your mom better equipped to deal with this sort of thing?" Jack checked.
Seo stepped into the Hub, her head down. "I don't know," she said. "Maybe. I mean, yes, she knows about not fitting in and not being like everyone else and maybe even not being able to be intimate with the guy you really, really like, but…" She shrugged, as she looked up at Jack. "She doesn't know about… the waiting."
Oh, yes. The waiting.
"Just… the years and years and years," said Seo, "decades and decades of… nothing. Loneliness. The hours you spend… hoping, praying — dreaming about him. And then realizing, one day, that… in reality… it's just never going to be like that between you. Because he's perfect, and you're… weird. Imperfect. Messed up."
Jack glanced over at the severed hand in the jar, bubbling merrily away, at the side of the Hub.
This was something he knew about.
Far, far too well.
He went over, and drew Seo into a warm hug. Patting her on the back, as she leaned into him, trying to banish tears from her eyes.
"I wish I fit in as well as Alison," Seo whispered. "She doesn't have guy-problems or need help putting on makeup or need to hack airport security if she rides an airplane. She doesn't blow things up all the time, or almost destroy the world by accident, or get chased by Slitheen, or…"
"Chased by Slitheen?" asked Jack.
Seo looked up at Jack. "Earlier today. They… said the Daleks would pay a lot of money for me."
"I just… wish… I was human," said Seo. "Really, fully human." She pulled out of the hug. "I used to think I was, you know. When I was really little. Because everyone I ever read about or heard about or knew about was basically always human, so I just thought… that was what I had to be, too. But then one day, Dad was telling me stories about Buffy staking vampires, and I asked him… which heart she had to stake the vampires in, to make them become dust…"
"And you found out," Jack said.
Seo nodded. "That I'm not human," she said. "Not Time Lord. Not… anything." She gave a half shrug. "Just someone's… dangerous, botched science experiment."
A phrase which, considering the overall lack of tact with which it was said, Jack was guessing had come from the Doctor himself. Probably when explaining why she wasn't
officially a 'Time Lord'.
"I don't fit in anywhere," said Seo.
"Of course you do!" said Jack, with a grin. He clapped her on the back. "You fit in right here. At Torchwood!"
Seo quirked an eyebrow at him. Then glanced over at the door that led down to the vaults and cells.
"As a team member," Jack added, quickly.
Seo shook her head. Giving him a look he knew all too well — the look she always gave when she honestly didn't believe him. When she thought he was just trying to pull one over on her.
It was the first time that Jack had thought… really, honestly thought… that Seo didn't
consider herself part of the Torchwood team. That she really felt like, at the end of the day, she was still the alien — the enemy.
"You're not getting locked up here," Jack reassured her.
"I know," said Seo. She clasped her hands behind her back. "If you lock me up, I'll escape. If you shoot me, I'll regenerate. So I guess… I'll probably just get frozen."
Jack rested a hand on her shoulder. Looked into her eyes. "Hey," he said. "You're not the enemy. Got that? You're on our side. The good side. Just as much as Gwen, Tosh, Owen, and Ianto are."
Seo gave a small grin, looking away. "You're just saying that to cheer me up."
"Nope," said Jack. "In fact, if you promise not to tell your mom, I'll even make you an unofficial honorary staff member of Torchwood Cardiff. With your own unofficial membership badge."
Seo looked up at him, her eyes sparkling, her face bright.
"Speaking of which," said Jack. "Does your mom actually know where you are?"
The brightness fell away from Seo's face. "Oops."
... ... ...
One phone call to a seriously frantic, panicked Buffy later, and Seo and Jack had taken out mugs of hot cocoa, and were outside the Hub, sitting on the steps of Roald Dahl Plass, staring up at the night sky.
All those twinkling stars.
All that vast infinity of space.
And beneath it, beneath the infinite realm of possibilities… was one child. A little girl — just like the little girl that Jack had never gotten a chance to raise, in 1975. Little Melissa, who'd grown up without him and become Alice Carter.
It wasn't his child, this time. But Buffy needed help. And Jack… had another chance.
"It must be so much fun," said Seo, leaned back against the steps, her eyes glued to the night sky. "Living on top of a temporal rift."
Jack glanced over at her. "You know… believe it or not… 'fun' is never the word I've used to describe it."
"But it's… so… exciting!" said Seo. Her eyes glowing with the idea. "Beautiful! Every day, there's something new. Something different. Something you've never seen before!"
"Usually something dangerous that's trying to destroy the world," Jack pointed out.
"I know! It's brilliant!" said Seo. "Just… everything! Anything! The whole complexity of life and the universe and…" She trailed off, glancing over at Jack, a guilty expression spreading across her face. "I'm… not supposed to say things trying to end the world are brilliant, am I?"
Seo nodded, slowly. Sipped at her hot cocoa. "Mom says if I lived in Sunnydale," she said, "I'd have opened the Hellmouth and run inside just to see what was there."
Jack put down his hot cocoa. Studying her, carefully. This brave little girl who had so much spirit, so much fire, so much enthusiasm, and yet knew so little about the universe around her. The child who ran on instinct and hope and imagination.
"Why do you want to open the rift?" Jack asked, at long last.
Seo froze. Opening and closing her mouth, not sure how to answer.
"You keep saying it," Jack put in. "Over and over again. Keep asking to open that rift. Despite the fact that every single aspect of your mom's life so far has been a cautionary tale warning you against opening up tears in the fabric of the universe."
"I… don't know," said Seo. Her eyes staring off into the distance. "I'm just… curious. I guess."
"You want to open the rift," Jack clarified, "to find out how
opening the rift is going to end the world?"
Seo didn't answer. For a long, long time, she didn't answer.
As the lightness fell away from her face, and a glimmer of something sad flickered into her eyes. A sort of longing… a desperation… a yearning too deep for words.
"Maybe…" she whispered, her words almost lost on the wind, "…I just want to open it so I can jump inside it."
Jack raised his eyebrows.
"Just… to be in some… other time," Seo said. "Some other place! To jump and never know where you'll wind up, or what will happen once you get there! To run and run and never stop." She rubbed her arms. "To feel that… beautiful… tingle you get when you're moving through the time-streams."
And there it was.
That Doctor part of her, which would always know that Torchwood — wasn't enough. That wanted to tumble through the stars and never know where she'd go next. That wanted to be free to travel through both space and time, wherever and whenever she chose.
How much of her, Jack wondered, was Buffy — wanting a home and a family and somewhere to belong — and how much the Doctor — never able to stay still, never able to resist racing out amongst the stars and beginning a new adventure?
And how much was it killing her to be confined to one time, one place?
Not even able to travel the world.
Jack looked down at the burned out vortex manipulator on his wrist. The one item he'd been more careful with than any other around Seo, because… well, if she was this destructive in three dimensions, four would be a nightmare!
But what if… the destruction and acting out… was because she wasn't able to travel through time? Wasn't able to do what every Gallifreyan part of her physiology was telling her she should do? Wasn't able to do what every instinct of hers was actually meant for?
He took it off. Showed it to Seo.
"It's called a vortex manipulator," Jack explained, as she peered at it. "It's a time travel device. Creating a protective bubble around you as it sends you through the time vortex. Mine burnt out. But I'll bet you can fix it."
Seo took it, staring at it in complete wonder and fascination. She opened up the casing, and began to look through the internal wiring, not touching, just examining, staring, studying.
"So, here's the deal," Jack said. "You fix this. And I'll take you somewhere. Just a short trip. Anywhere in time and space." He winked at her. "Our little secret."
Seo looked up at him, her eyes wide. A brilliant smile sliding up her face. Then she began rooting around in her pockets, pulling out items and shoving them down on the ground around her, eyes always still fixed on the complex inner workings of the device.
"I'm sure I can do it!" she said. "It's so obvious. I mean, no, it's not obvious — it's clearly broken and completely unfixable, but — it's so obvious! You can just use this little thingamy to twist around that whatsit, there, and then redirect that through the other whatsit on the other side, and… and… and…!" She looked up at Jack, her eyes dancing. "And you had this! This whole time, you had this here, and it was so easy to fix, and… and… you never even said! All of time and space at your fingertips, and you never even said!"
"Did it come through the rift?" Seo asked, seeming to find what she wanted in her pockets — a gadget that Jack had never seen before — and beginning to tear it apart, dissect it.
"Nope," said Jack. "Always been mine. Burned out when I jumped from the year 200,000 to 1869." He shrugged. "Been stranded here and now ever since."
Seo stopped. Froze. Her eyes staring at the vortex manipulator, beside her.
"And… if it gets fixed," she whispered, "you won't be stranded here, anymore. You can leave. Forever."
"Just a short trip," Jack reminded her.
Seo picked up the vortex manipulator. Her eyes still tracing its inner workings. A sad, far away look deep in her eyes. A terrible loneliness shining through her.
"Run and run and never look back," she muttered, to herself.
"What's that?" asked Jack.
She snapped her eyes up to Jack. Then closed the manipulator, and handed it back to him.
"I was wrong," Seo said. "I don't know how to repair it." She swept him into a tight, desperate hug. "You're stuck here."