Title: It's Not The Same, Their Light And Yours
Pairings/Characters: Jack Harkness
Summary: You wish you could change their lives. You wish you could make her see.
Author's Note: Written for the 'jealous' square of my alphabetasoup grid. Thank you to snarkymuch andwritinstuff for betaing!
You watch them stare holes into Gwen’s back as she flounces out the door, the sound of her voice chattering happily about her date with Rhys tonight, about how well the wedding plans are going, about home and about friends, following her out. They stay staring towards the cog door, unflinching as the claxon screech their warnings. Then they turn slowly back to their work to continue, but their eyes are glazed, their movements more lethargic this time. And you know it’s because of their flooding thoughts of before. You have them too.
It makes you sad to watch Gwen amidst the others. It makes you sad to watch her humanity fade into the hard shell the rest of the team has, to see her ambition and light smothered by the underground basin that houses your team until she’s a grey rather than a white within the blackness of Torchwood Three.
She’s still the heart of Torchwood, but she’s different now. Her innocence is missing, her naïveté of the world, leaving only her ambition and morals and a strange ignorance of the personal goings-on around her.
But she’s still too normal for this job, and it makes you sad to know that she is the only one going home to someone else at night. It makes you sad to know that she’s the only one experiencing a life of normality. She is the one who is left, the black sheep, the single smile in a sea of tears.
And you know the others are jealous. You that know when Gwen talks about her mum coming over for dinner or her little cousin’s antics, Ianto is thinking of his own estranged family, the people he never gets to see because they’re locked away or too different to comprehend now. You know that Tosh is thinking of her mother back in Japan, the one she sees once a year, the grandparents in England that she sees every few months but who know nothing about her. You know Owen is trying his hardest not to think of his mum. You try to remember your own parents, but no solid memories are intact, only vague, fleeting emotions.
You can hear Gwen laughing about her wedding plans, “Oh, Tosh, you have no idea! The florist wanted me to go with lilies, or tulips! I had to remind her that lilies are a funeral flower and well, tulips are silly-looking. Rhys told me I should just walk into a flower shop, close my eyes, and point at three different flowers. It’s not a bad idea, really.”
You hear Owen snort. “Yeah, whatever.”
You know without looking that Owen has subconsciously clenched his hands into fists, that he can’t stop glancing at the drawer in his desk that you know holds a ring box which is never opened, only stared at. You can remember the thousand-yard stare of Owen’s gaze in his first year here, his drooping shoulders, his waking nightmare.
And you love Gwen for her bright, carefree grin, the one that’s punctuated by the gap in her teeth and the glint in her eyes. You can’t remember ever seeing the others smiling like that.
She thinks aloud one day, just bored musings, that Torchwood should have little metal robots to do all the menial paperwork. She doesn’t see Ianto pale and flinch, doesn’t notice that he spends the rest of the day with spook in his eyes, hands shaking. You know she wasn’t there for that like the rest of them were. She doesn’t really know the damage.
Tosh watches her sometimes as she surfs the web or talks to Rhys on the phone. There is a longing in the tech’s eyes then, and sometimes her gaze will stray to Owen before she looks away. You know she wishes for something more, a relationship, a connection with someone that’s good and living and not cold comfort like her computers and machines.
You remember Gwen’s anniversary of her relationship with Rhys—the way she gushes the next day about where they’d gone and what they’d done and how much she loved him and how devoted he’d been. How it wouldn’t matter who he was, she’d love him all the same.
And Owen looks away, blinking rapidly in a way you haven’t seen in a long time, and you know he’s thinking ‘I’ve loved like that once.’
Ianto, too, you can see, has hurried away to the coffee machine to double over against the sink and you know he’s remembering the way Lisa was before. ‘I loved her even when she wasn’t herself anymore. She was still Lisa.’
And Tosh smiles blandly, though her eyes are sad and her heart isn’t in it. She listens and nods the way the others cannot, but you know she’s not hearing anything. ‘I just want a love like that, just once.’
And you wish, oh how you wish you could take their pain away and make their longings real. Gwen has the life of normality, the life they’ve all had glimpses of but could never obtain or keep. You wish you could take their jealousy away and give them those lives. But they are children borne of Torchwood, and a life out there in the real world would kill them far faster than this job ever could. You just wish you could tell them that so they’d understand. You just wish you could tell Gwen that so that she would finally see them clearly.