Diversions & Digressions | fanfiction by mara

All Loss, All Pain

All Loss, All Pain

by Mara

Summary: “Jack wondered why this never got any easier.”

Notes: For Azarsuerte. Although I’m not sure it’s anything like what she wanted. Thanks to Xandri for the beta and my flist for help with terminology.

Continuity: AU for the end of 2.13: “Exit Wounds.” There’s only one change, but it’s probably not what you think.

As tears rolled down his cheeks, Jack wondered why this never got any easier. He’d seen so many of his people die, at the hands of Weevils and Germans and Daleks and lunatics…and it never got any easier.

He held Gwen and Ianto close, reassuring himself they were there, and they were alive.

Lost in thought, it took him a long moment to recognize the sound that intruded on their grief. “Your mobile, Gwen,” he said gently, letting go, so she could find it.

“Oh!” She scrabbled in her pocket. “Rhys! I haven’t called him!” She blinked through bleary eyes at the screen, then answered the phone. “Andy? Is everything all right?”

Jack frowned as Gwen’s knees buckled and she grabbed the desk for support. “Gwen?”

But she was listening to the phone. “Oh my god. No. No no no.” More tears rolled down her face and the phone slid from her fingers as she staggered backward.

Jack grabbed the phone off the ground as Ianto lunged for Gwen, keeping her from tripping over anything. “This is Jack Harkness. What’s going on?”

“Captain Harkness? I’m calling about Rhys.” The constable hesitated. “He’s dead.”

“Fuck.” Jack was beyond tears at this point. “What happened?”

“It was those things Gwen called Weevils. They were trying to get into the station and Rhys was helping to close the door. One just…reached in and that was it.” In the background, several people were shouting in Welsh. “Bloody hell. Look, I’ve got to go. We’ve still got no senior officers. Tell Gwen…well, tell her I’m sorry.”

“I will.” Jack stared at Gwen, held in Ianto’s arms, her body convulsed nearly in half as she sobbed.

“And…”

“What?”

“Take care of her.”

Closing his eyes, Jack swallowed. “I will.” Although he wanted very dearly to throw the mobile across the Hub and hear it smash into a thousand pieces, he didn’t, putting it carefully down on the nearest desk.

Ianto looked up at Jack, wanting a denial of what he’d guessed. Jack shook his head and saw Ianto flinch, holding Gwen tighter. They slid to the ground in a graceless heap, and Jack knelt down beside them.

“Shhhh,” he said. “We’re here.”

Gwen stared up at them, her eyes wide and red. “He’s dead. Rhys is dead.”

“I know,” Jack said. “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?” She struggled in Ianto’s arms and he let her go. “Sorry won’t cut it, Jack. Rhys is dead.” She made it to her feet and stared down at them. “He…oh god.” She covered her face, then without warning, ran down the stairs and away from them.

Jack stood, took a few steps, then paused in unaccustomed indecision, wondering if taking care of her meant leaving her to grieve, or keeping a close eye on her. He felt Ianto come up behind him, and he turned to look at him.

“Go,” Ianto said, chin up and mouth tight in that way that meant he wouldn’t stand for any argument.

“I’m not sure.”

“She needs you right now.” Ianto paused, pursing his lips. “She needs you,” he said again, sounding like he’d made a decision.

He didn’t mean… “Ianto?”

“She doesn’t love me the way she does you. I can’t help her right now. You can.”

Jack stepped forward, cupping Ianto’s face in his hands so he could get a good look at him. Ianto’s eyes were red but his face was full of understanding. “You’re a good man, Ianto Jones,” Jack said, needing to say *something*.

Ianto kissed him gently on the lips. “Now go, before she does something rash. I’m going to go get something stronger than tea.”

Jack thought about making a joke about that, but decided that right now, nothing would be funny. He nodded, stroked Ianto’s cheek, and jogged in the same direction Gwen had taken, trying to think where she might go and what he would do when he found her.

* * * * *

Gwen was crouched at the end of a dingy and half-lit corridor near the morgue, her hair tumbled around her face. She was easy to track at the end, ragged breathing echoing off the crumbling concrete, and Jack hesitated as he neared her.

Head slowly lifting, she gave Jack a look of loathing he’d last seen directed at a cannibal, and he stopped in his tracks. “You,” she said. “You did this. You brought *them*.” She nearly spat the word. “And they killed Tosh and Owen and Rhys.”

Kneeling down a few feet away, he waited.

She sat up straighter, voice rising. “You and your fucking brother and fucking secrets and fucking past and the fucking Rift! You…” She trailed off, chest heaving as she tried to speak and sob at the same time. “It’s all your fault.”

“I’m sorry.” He wanted to hold her, but clenched his fists instead.

“Why do you care? You wanted Rhys gone anyway, because you were jealous.”

Jack blinked. “No.”

“You tried to break us up a dozen times. Don’t deny it.”

“No, Gwen.” He crawled closer, shaking his head in confusion at her misinterpretation. “That’s not…I *was* jealous, jealous of what you had with Rhys, but I wanted you to be happy.”

She laughed, a cracked sound a millimeter away from hysterics. “Piss off, Jack.”

Shaking his head, he scooted closer again. “Not until I’m sure you won’t do something crazy.”

“Like what? Go chase aliens for a living?” She laughed again, and this time it *was* hysterics.

Jack lunged forward the last few feet and grabbed her before she banged her head against the concrete wall, pulling her against him. She struggled for a moment, but all the crying had left her weak, and he succeeded in pulling her into his arms.

Her body shook and he gently shushed her, as if he held a half-sleeping baby. It could have been minutes or hours that they sat there–Jack’s time sense was easily turned off by repetition–but gradually she stilled in his arms.

“It’s so cliché…but I keep hoping this is a nightmare. And I’ll wake up.” The tears were gone, replaced with a defeat that didn’t sound like Gwen at all.

Jack tightened his hold on her.

“But it’s not a dream.”

“No.”

“What do I do now?”

Jack wished he had a good answer. He *should*. He’d done this…more times than he could count, or wanted to count. “You keep going.”

“How?”

“I don’t know.” He held her, breathing in the scent of smoke and sweat and fear that had surrounded her all through this terrible day, and wishing he could fix things. “You just do. Because it’s that or give up. And I can’t let you do that.”

“Why not?”

“Because I love you.”

With a strength he didn’t think she had at the moment, Gwen pushed herself out of his arms, sprawling back on the concrete. “What the–? Was Owen right? Is Ianto just your bit on the side?”

He rubbed his face. “I love all of you. You know that. And Ianto sent me here.”

She stared at him, and the sight of her face, with the burst blood vessels that reddened her eyes, made his heart ache. “You’re mad, both of you.”

“It’s been noted before.” Sighing, he shifted his legs, trying to find a position that didn’t lead to a cramp. “I’m here to do what I can to help.”

“Just…go away. The sight of you reminds me.” She shivered.

“If that’s what you want.”

“Yes. Go.” She shivered harder, her teeth chattering.

Shaking his head, Jack slid forward and put his arms around her again, waiting to see what happened. She almost flung herself against him, her body shuddering, and he tried to decide if this was clinical shock that needed medical treatment.

“What do you need?”

Gwen didn’t speak for a very long time, and the shudders gradually slowed. “Hold me,” she said finally, her voice barely above a whisper. “Remind me that I’m alive. Oh god, that sounds daft.”

She buried her head in her hands, and he gently pried them off. “No, it doesn’t. Believe me, it doesn’t. Why do you think–never mind.”

Leaning forward, he kissed her. This wasn’t what he’d wanted, not this way, but…she tasted of salt and pain and she was infinitely precious to him. They all were. And Ianto thought it was a good idea, or at least not a catastrophically bad idea.

She didn’t respond immediately, her eyes widening further, then she nearly tackled him to the ground. Although the adrenalin of being alive wanted…well, wanted a lot, Jack restricted himself to holding and kissing.

Gwen rolled away, staring at him. “What are we doing?”

“Don’t ask that. That way lies…” Jack shrugged. “Well, more madness than we have already.” He kissed her gently again. “Come on. The floor is cold.”

Kneeling, he picked her up, cradling her in his arms.

* * * * *

Gwen’s tears started again as they lay in Jack’s bed, under a pile of blankets, but as she dampened his chest, he could tell they were already tears of healing. “I’m going to miss them too,” he said eventually.

“Even Rhys?”

“Even Rhys, the big lug.”

“Jack?”

It was a struggle, but he didn’t tense up. “Yes?”

“This can’t…I mean, I don’t–”

“I know. You don’t have to say it.” He held her close, tucking her head under his chin. “But if you ever need me, you know where to find me.”

She was quiet for a long time. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

–end–

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