From Ashes

Notes: This is CoE-compliant; one of my attempts to come to terms with events of the series.

Characters: Gwen, Rhiannon, Lois

Rating: PG-13 (language)

Disclaimer: Torchwood and its characters are the property of the BBC and Russell T. Davies. I make no profit from this fanfic.

After it's all over, Gwen starts in on the cleanup. She's learned to organize and plan in her tenure at Torchwood, and her coordinational skills come in useful for the rescue workers crawling over the remains of the Hub. Rhys frets, of course, but she assures him that she's in no danger standing back with a hardhat and supervising the workmen. (She doesn't tell him that she's often down in among them, especially when some bit of alien tech that no one knows how to handle comes to light.)

Torchwood's existence is certainly no secret now. When Lois Habiba arrives from London, having spent a week with her family to recuperate from the shocks of her experiences, Gwen welcomes her and sets her to cataloguing what's discovered in the ruins.

Much of the Hub is beyond recovery. Gwen's not the least bit sorry to learn that the cryogenics chambers were ruined beyond repair, that Jack's brother died when the explosion went off. She supposes she feels sorry for Jack, but even for Jack she's feeling little sympathy at the moment, considering that he's been suspiciously absent since the disappearance of the 456. Gwen's heard a few things about what happened there, so she understands, in an admittedly limited way, that he's probably -- to say the least -- suffering. She doubts Jack's daughter will ever forgive him for what he was forced by circumstances to do. She doesn't blame Alice. At the same time, Gwen's grateful to be able to say that she doesn't blame Jack (though she certainly doesn't envy him either). The children are alive and home thanks to his actions, and so is her little bump.

When one of the workmen comes up out of the wreckage, a month after the cleanup's begun, with a singed and burnt piece of leather that once was a wriststrap, Gwen's shocked at how hard she cries.

Before that, though, there are other things to deal with. Ianto's funeral, for one. Gwen made sure his body was released as soon as possible, along with those of the other victims of Thames House. She supervised the return of the body herself, flying with him in the helicopter.

Rhiannon Davies still hasn't warmed up to Gwen Cooper, and likely won't ever considering the circumstances under which they met, but she lets Gwen hold her when they go to the funeral home together and she sees her brother's face, cold and grey and ultimately lifeless. Gwen doesn't murmur reassuring words, doesn't try to offer comfort beyond a warm embrace. Gwen's already cried bitter tears over Ianto and knows exactly how useless such platitudes are. She's just glad to know that Ianto's sister is strong and capable, that she'll carry on in his name.

They have the funeral the following week. It's pathetically small for someone who did so much to save the world, Gwen thinks. Rhiannon and Johnny, Mica and David, some of the other families from the Council estates. Herself and Rhys, of course, and Andy. Lois is there, too, as well as Bridget Spears (Gwen was shocked to see her pulling up in the black car, but she's oddly touched by the woman who never knew Ianto coming nonetheless to honour him).

The day is far too sunny for Gwen's liking. And though she keeps sweeping the graveyard with narrowed eyes, she fails to see even the hint of a flap of a grey-blue wool coat.

"Bloody bastard," Rhys says, when they're back in the car and driving away from the ground where Ianto now rests. Gwen's hand is on her belly and she's thinking about the way death is always referred to as sleep, as if that's somehow supposed to be more comforting. It's not, to her, not when she knows that nothing lies beyond death but merciless blackness.

"Are you listening to me?" They're at a stoplight. Rhys looks at her and she swallows and shakes her head.

"Sorry," she says. "Million miles away."

Rhys squeezes her hand. "I just think it's a fucking shit who doesn't turn up to his boyfriend's funeral."

Gwen pushes a rough hand over her eyes. She thinks it, too, and is glad for Rhys, who says these things out loud. "Even if he knew about it," she says quietly, "I don't know if he could face it."

In a way, though, she's glad Jack's not there. The void he left in her life is starting to fill in, with the baby, with the cleanup and Lois and new responsibilities. The Rift is still active, after all, and even if Torchwood is shattered, someone's got to pick up the pieces. Gwen's trained for it, after all. Jack's return would only remind her of just how much she's lost.

They recover the SUV the week after that and Gwen breaks open again, remembering how she was so distracted when Ianto told her it was lost that she'd barely even heard him talking about it. It's stripped of its expensive equipment, but it's still in one piece. She keeps it in the garage at home, back of the house she and Rhys have bought. Maybe they'll need it again someday.

"Will you re-open Torchwood?" Lois asks her one day, out to lunch on a break from the worksite. Things are progressing nicely in terms of cleanup; though much of the Hub is a loss, Gwen's found a lot of remarkable items saved. The pictures of Tosh and Owen she kept on her worktop were fine, if a bit singed around the edges; they travel in her handbag now, always with her, a photo of Ianto tucked in next to them.

Gwen sips her tea thoughtfully. "I don't know," she says, quiet and honest.

"I think you should," Lois says. She's young and so full of energy, making Gwen, only a few years older than her, feel ancient by comparison. "The Rift's still active. You get new stuff dumped out all the time. Someone's got to look after it."

"Hard to see the purpose right now," Gwen admits.

Lois sits back, subdued. "I understand," she says, even if she doesn't. Gwen's tried to fill her in on some of the history, but there's just so much.

"You've seen what happens to us," Gwen says after a little while. "To the people who do this job. It gets inside you, and then it swallows you whole. Torchwood employees have a statistically low lifespan."

"That lady Alice's mother," Lucy offers, and then shuts herself up, blanching.

Gwen looks out the window of the restaurant. "The exception that proves the rule," she says.

"But you're all right, aren't you?" Lois asks. "I mean, the baby--" Gwen's hand curls protectively over her middle and Lois swallows. "You've made it through all right."

Gwen manages a smile, even if there's no warmth to it. "I may be alive, but sometimes it doesn't feel like very much," she admits, and is grateful for Lois's hand on hers.

The message shows up on their voicemail almost six months to the day after the defeat of the 456. Cardiff has moved on. The world has moved on. What used to be the Hub has been filled in with concrete and smoothed over; the Oval Basin is as seamless as it ever was. Gwen found no trace of Myfanwy, dead or alive, so she has to assume the pterodactyl escaped the explosion, but as weeks go by and there's no report of excessive amounts of missing sheep from the Welsh countryside, she starts to wonder if the explosion claimed her after all.

Rhys takes the undamaged vortex manipulator to a leatherworker and gets a new wrist strap made in the style of the old one. At the appointed hour, after sunset on a warm Tuesday night, they drive down to the end of a road and climb a hill to find Jack Harkness there, waiting for them.

Part of Gwen knows that she can't make him stay, but she tries anyway, argues as persuasively as she can. But it won't work and she knows it. She gives him the wriststrap and watches, vision blurred and swimming, as Jack runs away. It's probably for good this time, she thinks as she and Rhys pick their way back down the hill in careful, slow steps. She'll never see Jack Harkness again. She doesn't know if she's glad or not.

The next day, she decides to re-open Torchwood. It will remain Torchwood Three, in honour of the past, but she'll have no more of the secrecy bullshit. Not as if anyone in Cardiff could deny their existence now, anyway. The cleanup in the Bay has been the focus point of media for months, and Andy's part of a special task squad set up to deal with the temporary increase in Weevil attacks.

The warehouse where they've been storing the found artefacts and debris is as good a place as any to open shop, Gwen decides. She calls UNIT to inform them, then the government offices with which Jack always dealt. Once again, she's surprised by some of the fruit borne from the seeds planted during the crisis; Bridget Spears takes her call and informs her that there'll be no problems from their side. As before, the government will provide the budget for, but not interfere with, Torchwood operations. She also offers Gwen the use of the undercover operatives, but Gwen declines, in spite of the fact that they could use the manpower. Even if that woman turned to their side, Gwen still feels the irrational desire to punch her in the face.

Once her official calls are made, Gwen phones up Lois and tells her to report first thing in the morning. Lois sounds far too excited, especially when Gwen tells her about all the new equipment they'll need to order. Ringing off, Gwen leans back in the hard chair she's been using, looking around her at the tiny office she's claimed. It's no prettier than the Hub was. It'll do. And someday, if Jack comes back to Earth -- she's not counting on it, but it'd be nice -- he'll know that the work continues; that not everything he touched turned to ash.

Smiling, Gwen stands and shoulders her handbag. Rhys is waiting for her at home, and she has a busy day tomorrow.

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this page last updated on 9 september 2009