Disclaimer: Jekyll and all related elements, characters and indicia copyright Hartswood Films Production / Stagescreen Productions / BBC 2007. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situations—save those created by the authors for use solely on this website—are copyright Hartswood Films Production / Stagescreen Productions / BBC.
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Author's Note: Written for nextian in the Yuletide 2007 Challenge. Huge thanks to elynross for beta.
Now and Then
Katherine Reimer has never been in love before.
She would know, if she had.
Katherine Reimer remembers everything.
Katherine lies in bed, listening as Tom Jackman picks up his cases and walks out the front door of 6 Stadler Street.
She waits until his footsteps disappear before she walks back into the room where the letter lies on the desk.
The thing about having a memory such as hers is a sense of immediacy.
Nothing fades with time. Nothing is re-written, softened by distance or sentiment, thrown grossly out of proportion by ego or fear. All Katherine's thens are nows. And there can never be hyperbole, because she relives every single moment not as she feared it had been or wished it could be, but simply as it had been. Just as it is.
It is called 'hyperthymestic syndrome' though only one other person has ever been identified by doctors as officially an hyperthymesiac, after thorough testing.
She is never tested.
An American named Jim McGaugh approaches her once, when she is in secondary school. He leaves contact numbers at her school, messages on her parents answerphone. Her dad thinks she ought to go on telly, do one of those quiz programmes, make them all rich. Her mother decides that is enough of that, and the subject is never brought up again.
The Centre for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory give up trying to contact her, and never find her again after she changes her name.
No-one ever finds her, until Sophia.
In the first six weeks, Katherine makes one simple mistake. She believes—genuinely believes—that she is in control.
Sometimes, she finds him looking at her, and she knows in that second that what he most wants is to fuck her. Up against a wall, over a table, on the hallway floor. And it would be brutal, and savage, and she rather expects she would enjoy it.
But because it is him, she never meets his gaze with anything but cool disinterest. She knows he can hear her heart hammering in her chest. He could probably smell both her fear and arousal. But he knows that while he is the author of that fear, the arousal belongs to another man, and he is enough of a walking ego to never be satisfied with sloppy seconds. So instead he takes great joy in physically intimidating her, and making sure she knows at all times that he is nature's most highly evolved predator.
But he never lays a hand on her.
She believes they have an arrangement.
She is, of course, wrong.
Katherine Reimer falls in love with Tom Jackman the day they meet.
He straps himself into the chair, eyes fixed on the clock ticking down. There is a shudder that passes through him as he surrenders.
It is that surrender that she relives over and over every time she closes her eyes for the next six weeks.
He is afraid—vulnerable. He doesn't bother to mask it. She sees it, marks it, and it is burned into that amazing memory of hers.
"Don't fall in love with Tom Jackman," Sophia Jackman says, as they clandestinely meet in the café around the corner from the flat.
"I'm not in love with Dr Jackman," Katherine replies quickly, trying to put as much incredulity into her voice as possible.
Sophia overrides her protests without batting an eye. "It's appealing—a man so determined to beat his own demons. But he never can. Hyde is a savage beast, stronger every day. Jackman is a man who wakes up every day wondering what he's done this time."
Sophia taps the tip of her Sobranie cigarette against the ashtray, the ember glowing brightly as she inhales.
"And my dear child, it would be best if you were not on that list. For all our sakes."
Katherine Reimer is a solitary child.
It is hard to make and keep friends once people realise what she can do. It unnerves them to have her parrot entire conversations back, complete with inflections and gestures. It unsettles people, and she learns not to "show off", as her mum calls it. Not for friends and family, never for strangers. She consumes book after book, living vicariously through fiction. She skips entire years at school, getting perfect scores on every test. She still has to bridge the gap between possessing information and applying it, but she is a quick, clever girl.
She gets two advanced degrees by the time she is twenty. She is the youngest mental health nurse in her programme. She completes her CPN training with glowing praise from all her superiors. There is gossip. She ignores it.
More importantly, she creates Katherine Reimer, whole cloth. Creates the shell of a person to inhabit, because that is safe. That keeps her sane and whole and undamaged.
Virginia Emmery had been a gawky socially awkward teenager with a freakish talent. Virginia Emmery had also been taller than her classmates, with a chest like a boy, and never got asked to parties.
Katherine Reimer is always in charge. She is always well-turned-out, immaculately dressed, and has a razor-sharp retort for any comment and an immediate grasp of any situation.
Katherine Reimer is in control.
Hiding under the desk like Little Red having roused the Big Bad, Katherine's mind is blank. Completely and utterly blank.
From the moment his voice rasps across her ear, muted only slightly with static from her phone, she is seized by primal terror that wipes away two decades of civilisation and leaves her with a child's grasp of the world.
The wolf is going to blow her house down and gobble her up and spit out her bones.
She crouches beneath the desk in a hot puddle of her own piss, her heart hammering in her ears, her hands icy and numb, like stumps at the end of her wrists as she tries to curl into a tighter and tighter ball until she is invisible and safe.
"If I tell you who I am, you won't kill me. You'll turn the lights back on, the cameras, you won't hurt me." She tries to be in control. To state it as a fact and not a question, as if she can force it to be true. To protect herself.
As if she weren't meat already.
She tastes tears and sweat and mucus as she wipes at her mouth with one cold and clammy hand, flinching at the sound of his footsteps in the hall.
"Please. Please. Ask me. I'll tell the truth. I'll tell you the truth," she keeps repeating,
Katherine Reimer pulls out of the hospital car park just as the phalanx of black vans arrives. Dr Jackman crouches low in the passenger seat, hiding his face until they are safely kilometres away.
"Dr Jackman, I'm so sorry—" she begins.
"I don't care."
She swallows, stealing glances at him as his face is illuminated by the headlamps of passing cars. "I didn't know—"
"Katherine. As mad as this may sound, my son is alive today because you drugged me. A man has been maimed for life, as well. I can't sort it all out right now, but all that matters to me is that Eddie is alive." Jackman leans back in the chair, eyes shut.
"Then you're not angry?"
When he opens his eyes again, they were still hazel. "I'm furious. I trusted you."
"And I trusted you." She feels tears prick her eyes, and she blinks rapidly until the stinging passes. "I needed to know if she was really your mother. I needed to know."
Tom stares out the window, absently turning his wedding ring round and round his finger, a nervous habit. She doesn't even know if he is aware he does it.
"Why didn't you just ask me for the key?" he finally asks.
"Would you have given it to me?"
He smiles, and it is that sad smile she recognises so well.
"Depends on which me I was when you asked, I suppose."
The woman has grey hair that might have been brown once, but now is just the dun colour of a jumper washed too many times and left out in the sun to dry. She wears shapeless clothes that seem too large for her tiny frame. Katherine cannot guess her age.
"Thank you for agreeing to meet me, Ms Emmery."
"Reimer," she corrects firmly. "My name is Katherine Reimer. I haven't been Virginia Emmery for a very long time."
"Yes, of course. Ms Reimer."
"I'm not sure I understand why I'm here, Ms Jackman—"
The crone pushes a photograph across the table. It is a black and white shot, presumably captured from CCTV, of a man in perhaps his early forties. His dark curly hair and glasses make him look bookish, and his features are unremarkable.
"My son has a very rare condition. On paper, it would be all to easy to assume it is some borderline personality disorder. A rare and dangerous form of schizophrenia. I assure you it is not, although you may find it helpful to think of it and treat it in much the same way."
"I've a position already. I'm not looking for work."
"I realise that. However, I believe this is a unique opportunity that you will not want to pass by."
"You presume a great deal."
"My son will at times need a trained psychiatric nurse. But he will also need a friend. He's very alone."
"You sound as if you're procuring him a—"
"He's perfectly capable of procuring. Well, his brother is, anyway," she adds absently. "I'm not asking you to fuck him, Katherine."
Katherine gathers her purse and coat, and rises from the table. "I think this interview is at an end."
Mrs Jackman's hand shoots out and closes around Katherine's wrist. Her grip is like a vice, but her eyes are kind. "I'm asking you to help him in a way that no-one else can. And help me."
"Help you? How?"
"I haven't seen my son since I abandoned him in a railway station in Northern Ireland, over forty years ago. But he needs me."
"And you need me..."
"An advertisement will be placed in the Times morning addition. An advertisement asking for a psychiatric nurse. I need you to answer that advertisement."
"And if he doesn't hire me?"
"If he doesn't hire you, then we will part company, and you will never see me again."
The first time, Katherine is in a restaurant in Margate and the tune drifts in through the open windows.
Her dinner partner, a perfectly suitable young man named Kyle, doesn't wonder why she calmly excuses herself to go lock herself in the women's lavatory until she can stop shaking.
It takes over two hours.
By the time she returns to the table, he is gone. The bill is paid, and her coat and purse have been left with the waiter.
She had stood in the headlamps of a black van as a soldier stood with a gun waiting to shoot her.
But it is hearing an ice-cream van's tinny rendition of 'Girls and Boys Come Out to Play' that destroys her completely.
* * *
As I sit down to write this letter, you are asleep in the next room. I realise I am taking the coward's way out, writing this letter instead of waking you to tell you how grateful I am for all you've done for me—for both of us—these last few months. Even knowing Sophia sent you, it doesn't change how I feel about you. But it's easier to say good-bye this way. For both of us.
You've kept my secrets, and you've kept his. And you've even managed to keep a few of your own. Well done you. But your loyalty to me almost got you murdered, and that is something I could not bear to have on my conscience. Neither of us, as mad as that may seem.
You are not getting the sack. Not exactly. But this is an ending. It has to be. Things can't go on the way we've been going, and no matter what happens to me from this day forward, your part in this madness has to come to an end, for your own sake.
Thank you. I mean that from the bottom of our heart. These past two months you have helped me function when such simple things as going down to the shop for milk for tea seemed impossible, let alone going to the house to see Claire and the boys without putting them in danger. When sometimes I did not think I could keep living this life day in and day out anymore, you were here with a smile and a kind word and a cup of tea. Sometimes that's all it takes. Even when the tea is drugged.
I wish things could have been different. I mean of course that were I not in needed of a fully qualified psychiatric nurse to chain me up lest I murder anyone.
Getting to know you, I know now that you were my greatest ally and I could not have wished for a better confidante. I know I don't show it, but this past time together has been in many ways the most peace I have found in the last eight months. Your kindness, your patience, and your keen intelligence have been my only saving grace. You have let both me and him know what it is like to have a partner and a friend when no-one else could have possibly understood what we were going through.
I can't thank you enough for what you have done for me and him, day in and day out.
Your loyalty has given me great peace of mind and comfort. Thank you for being my nurse also a very good friend
Tom Jackman's hand is warm in hers as he spreads his fingers and reveals his unblemished palm.
She holds it for just a little bit too long, committing every crease, every little hair, every town cuticle to memory.
For years afterwards, she will close her eyes and feel the warmth of his hand and remember the only time he ever touched her unbidden.
Katherine Reimer has never been in love before.
She would know, if she had.
Katherine Reimer remembers everything.
ljc's fan fiction