Story: Smoke and Mirrors
Rating: All ages
Word Count: 1275
Author's Summary: It's 1914 and Gerald Carter visits Oxford to observe Harriet Derbyshire. Does she have what it takes to join Torchwood?
Characters/Pairings: Gerald Carter and Harriet Derbyshire as (very briefly) featured in the Torchwood episode "To The Last Man". That's them in my icon there.
Warnings: None. Unusually for a Torchwood fic. :D
Recced because: There was a time, believe it or not, when I was slightly reluctant to identify as a Torchwood fan. I may even, St. Peter-like, have denied it in polite company once or thrice, something that I would never, ever do in the case of Doctor Who. I don't know, maybe it's just that "classic" Torchwood, pre-Children of Earth, always seems like such a...guilty pleasure. And not even always a pleasure, exactly, yet I kept watching it. Anyway, nowadays I'm out and proud: I'm a Torchwood fan. Deal with it, world.
One of the genuine pleasures to be had, though, from the first two seasons of Torchwood, for me anyway, was the sense we got of the Institute's long and storied history, the little glimpses of its past, especially in Season 2, when we were introduced to such luminaries as Emily Holroyd and Alice Guppy, Charles Gaskell, and my favourites - those two in the icon, Gerald and Harriet, from the First World War-era Team Torchwood. I even wrote fic about them. Long and involved fic about two characters who appeared on screen for a couple of minutes tops. I sometimes wondered whether that made me a little bit strange. And then I found this story and...someone else likes them too! I thought. Since then, I've discovered that there are a handful of Gerald and Harriet fics out there, not all on Teaspoon however, but for me this one remains the gold standard. Plus it takes its inspiration from the same BBC website fluff I was using for my fics and none of those falsehoods and calumnies spread by Gary Russell in his Torchwood Archives book! :D
But I rec this fic for somewhat better reasons than that it made me feel validated in my fic-writing eccentricities. It really is a very well-written, quite lovely story that takes two characters who barely had time to name themselves in the television story and make them living, breathing people in a very particular historical time and place. I suppose the danger of writing fanfiction about such very minor canon characters is that they end up becoming de facto OCs, and as I observed the other day, some people have very understandable objections to OCs in fanfic. Personally, I think that fleshing out minor characters is very much within the fanfic writer's prerogative, especially when it's done as well as this by a talented author. I don't expect anybody to share my particular enthusiasm for these particular characters, but I encourage all of you to read this because it more than deserves to be read on its own merits. For me, things like this, the expansion upon barely-glimpsed nooks and crannies of canon, done with intelligence and insight and respect for the source material, are one of the things fanfiction is all about.
“Yes, well.” Gerald cleared his throat. “That really doesn’t matter now, does it? I’ll just take this back and make sure that it is safely secured.”
“Back where?” Harriet quizzed him. “What is it? What is its purpose? And for goodness sake, who are you?”
“Miss Derbyshire, I’m afraid I don’t have time for questions today, but rest assured, this will not be the last time we meet.” Gerald bent down and picked up her fallen books. Handing them to her with a small smile, he tipped his hat and walked toward the gates, getting lost in the crowd of students heading back to their rooms.
“Mr. Carter!” she called, stopping him before he reached the road. “I…”
Before she could ask any one of a hundred questions currently buzzing around her head, Gerald called out, “Miss Derbyshire, why did you walk toward the device when everyone else in the room fled?”
Closing the gap between him, she answered simply, “I was curious.”