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veritas6_5

Wishing

Title: Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again (1/3)
Author: veritas6_5
Rating: M for adult situations
Pairing: Gwen and ___
Words: 6,037
Warning: Character Deaths and Illness Related Triggers
Classification: Ten years from now.
Genre: hurt/comfort, angst, new life
Disclaimer: All characters belong to BBC and RTD. I mean them no harm. No copyright infringement is intended.

Beta: karaokegal, the finest

Summary: There’s nowhere to go from here.

Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again

In the early afternoon of a Tuesday in July, after giving the cottage a quick clear up, Gwen Cooper-Williams picked up her knapsack, slung it across her shoulders, and headed out the door. She shook her hair out of its loose bun, pulled on a sunhat with a broad brim, and turned back to lock the door. It was a lovely, sunny day in midsummer, and she was off for an afternoon at the seashore. Living in Rhos-on-Sea in the far northern part of Wales was quite a change from living in a nice house in Cardiff.

Moving to the north was one of the many changes she had made to her life in the past year, she reflected as she scrambled over the scree, and up the hill that separated her valley from the sandy shore. She stopped for a moment at the top of the hill, looking down onto the little village to the west, and took a sip from her water bottle. Continuing downhill, she skirted the Promenade and found her way onto the beach. Colwyn Bay stretched out in front of her and further out, the Irish Sea. She moved to the quieter part of the beach, took a blanket from her knapsack, and laid it out. She settled in the sand, grateful for the warmth of the sun today, even though the lowering clouds out in the Bay promised a cooler walk home. She pulled out her notebook and pen, and opened to the page where she had last written, but then put the book and pen down on the blanket.

Staring out at the bay, she suspected the water was as warm as it would get this year, but not really warm, she was fascinated momentarily by a swimmer who cut through the waves offshore. From the power in the strokes, she judged it to be a man, and she watched him battle his way out to sea against the relentless incoming tide. Coming in would be easier, she thought, but the fight was where the challenge was. Clearly, the swimmer was interested in the challenge, but Gwen turned away from the sea, picking up her journal again.

“Too much challenge,” she thought to herself, and settled down to read what she had written in her last entry. She had been advised that journaling would help her to deal with the changes in her life, and she dutifully wrote in it every day, even when it seemed like a pointless exercise. How could writing out her thoughts possibly be helpful, she wondered. What words were there to deal with the successive deaths of her husband and her ten-year-old daughter?

|~|~|~|~|~|~|

It was a nice little house; so much larger than their old flat that they didn’t know how they would possibly fill all the rooms. It had a spacious living room, a lovely bay window that looked out into a small front garden, and a white fence separating it from the street. The window glass was made of individual panes that broke up the view into pleasing vignettes. There was a small fireplace with a gas fire, and a very secure surround on the hearth to keep baby hands away from the hot surfaces. There was no separate dining area, but rather a great room that combined a kitchen space and a more casual living area, opening out into a back garden that was shady and quite deep, going back farther than one might have guessed, seeing it from the street.

The baby’s room was close to the master bedroom. The third bedroom was used mainly as an office for the days when Gwen chose to work at home rather than going to the reconstructed Hub.

This morning Gwen was in the sunny great room, feeding Anwen while Rhys made an early breakfast for himself and Gwen. “You know,” she mused, while washing the baby’s face, “I think we’ve managed quite well.”

Rhys leaned over her to kiss her forehead. “Are you happy here, sweetheart?”

“Oh, yes,” she said. She shifted in her chair as the baby started fussing, “will you be home early tonight?”

“As usual,” he confirmed. “Are you coming in today?”

“No,” she said. “The Rift has been quiet all week, and I have a full staff on call for the weekend. I’m just going to do a little work this morning, and laze about with Anwen in the back garden all afternoon.”

Rhys put two plates on the table, and Gwen put Anwen into her bouncer at the side of the table. She sat down to breakfast with her husband and smiled happily. “I have a sitter lined up for seven pm. Anwen’ll be asleep by then.”

“And I have a reservation at La Ronde for half-past seven. It’s a night on the town for us, m’dear.” He tucked into his waffles.

“I am looking forward to tonight,” she said. “The baby really has changed our lives, hasn’t she?”

“She was meant to,” he agreed. “But I can’t say I’m sorry we are finally going to have a night out tonight. You know she’ll be fine with a sitter for a few hours.”

“There’s a Torchwood monitor into her room,” Gwen admitted. “I’ll be able to hear her any time from my PDA.” She grinned at his incredulous look. “Ok, it’s mummy jitters,” she said. “I just want to be sure she’s all right.”

“That’s going to be brilliant during the movie,” he said with a grin.

“Oh, you!” Gwen picked up her plate and put it into the sink. “Get off, then. And don’t be late tonight.”

She picked up the baby, let Rhys kiss his daughter’s head, and headed to her office, before Rhys finished eating.

The past two years had been very difficult. Jack’s abrupt departure and Gwen’s pregnancy, together with the almost total destruction of the Cardiff Hub, had almost extinguished the very idea of Torchwood’s continuing as a presence in Cardiff.

Surprisingly, UNIT had made a strong case for the rebuilding and restaffing of Cardiff under Gwen Cooper-Williams’s direction. It was an unprecedented compromise between the UNIT forces and the decapitated Torchwood group. Gwen threw herself wholeheartedly into recruiting a new staff. She had only instinct to go on, and Rhys had been her first hire. He’d been on the periphery of the operation for years, and he knew more than anyone else available. Gwen had assigned him the rebuilding of the Hub, and now he was managing the transportation of various other components to the rebuilt headquarters.

Rift operations had been temporarily taken over by UNIT, who then began the training of Gwen’s new hires. Fortunately, the Rift had been quiet for the first six months after the 456 disaster, and UNIT had been able to manage the slow increase. Gwen had taken only a few weeks off when Anwen was born. She and the baby became common sights in the rebuilt Hub.

Gwen took over the large and airy director’s office that now sported a baby cot and playpen in the corner of the cheerful and brightly painted room. The reconstructed round window overlooked the main working area located below the office level, and the autopsy rooms were in a suite farther away from the offices. The water tower had been rebuilt central to the area, but the open water pond was covered by a glass floor.

Anwen became as much a part of the office as the regular staff, and all of the new people treated her like a mascot, always willing to take over her care if Gwen was needed elsewhere. When Anwen began to walk, Gwen and Rhys were both present to see her first steps, and the whole crew celebrated along with them. There was still was plenty of urgency in Torchwood’s work, of course, but great care was taken to make sure that the child wasn’t exposed to any of the scarier aspects.

The working atmosphere in the new Torchwood was not, under Gwen’s guidance, so intense as it had been when she first joined the team. Some of the change was due to a difference in governmental and public attitudes since the 456, and some was due to Gwen’s leadership. She’d originally found it difficult to make the hard choices that arose almost daily. She made mistakes, she knew, during her learning period, and she tried hard to replicate Jack’s leadership style, but in the end, she made her own choices, and the Hub was running smoothly.

The other new team members had adjusted well to their jobs. In addition to Rhys, who managed the physical plant and their transportation issues, a new computer wizard had joined them. Contrary to the stereotype, Billy Freeman was a charming young man with an instinctive knowledge of the computer networks that existed, and a strong propensity for rewriting and improving everything he came across. He was interested in everything, and thanks to him the clunky old Bluetooth com sets had been succeeded by small, hand-built brooches, customized for each agent, that drew no public attention and could be activated with a touch. Billy loved being around Anwen, and he was teaching her sign language so that they could communicate silently after she learned to talk.

Martha Jones stepped in to take over as the Torchwood medic. Not only did she give Gwen a sense of continuity and familiarity, but during her travels with Jack and the Doctor, she had encountered so many anomalies that the aliens, arcana, and life forms that came through the Rift didn’t surprise her at all.

The two new field investigation officers had come to Gwen seeking a job with Torchwood. They had been working for the Yard, and become interested enough in the work that Torchwood had accomplished during the 456 period to seek out, through UNIT, an introduction to Gwen. Jenna Ferguson was tall and athletic with silvery hair, cut short. Sue Barclay was only five feet tall and “fluffy,” as she described herself, pleasantly rounded, with a brilliant mind. Both were dynamic women, intuitive investigators, and serious workers.

Michael Wilkins doubled as their clerk and factotum in the office but could also work in the field as an auxiliary agent when they needed more feet on the ground. His demeanour was so unlike Ianto’s that Gwen wondered if that wasn’t more than half the idea of hiring him. Michael had a very active (and female) social agenda, and claimed that he had never worn a suit in his life. Gwen appreciated the fact that he also made killer lattes, although he was a tea-drinker himself.

Gwen opened the big computer on her office desk, and docked her hand-held to it. Billy had made their offices largely paperless, and she could access Torchwood files from almost anywhere. She sent a quick memo to the team, reminding them that she would be out of touch for several hours this evening, but that she would check in periodically.

Anwen tugged at Gwen’s jacket and signed outside. Gwen laughed and said, “Ok, we’ll go outside now,” and picked her up to carry her to the back garden. Gwen brought the hand-held along with her, and set it down on a table while she played ball with Anwen. When the toddler tired of the game, she found something to amuse herself crawling around in the flower beds that Gwen’s mother had planted. Gwen picked up her PDA and returned some calls, keeping a watchful eye out for the mischief her child might find.

After a while, bored with playing alone, Anwen came to ask her mama for a drink. Gwen reached into the basket for a sippy cup, and when she had had some juice, Anwen climbed up onto the bench and laid her head in Gwen’s lap for a nap. Gwen continued to work, playing with the dark brown strands of her daughter’s hair with her free hand.

|~|~|~|~|~|

Eight years ago, when Rhys had first noticed the weakness in his left knee, he thought it had been just the moving of too many boxes into the new house that had tired him out. When his left elbow started to bother him, Gwen insisted he see a doctor. The doctor ruled out normal muscle weakness and started a battery of tests that left Rhys cursing at the pointlessness of it all. But the weakness continued to spread throughout his body, and both of them knew it had turned into something serious. When his breathing became labored, and his language began to slur, they finally got a diagnosis.

Rhys had developed a degenerative motor-neuron disease that, over the course of six short years, stole most movement from his body; his ability to breathe, speak, and eat; it was unbelievable that so many systems could fail: diaphragm, tongue, arms and legs, leaving his mind terrifyingly untouched.

Gwen was grateful that they had already moved into the new house. There was a bedroom on the main floor, and it meant that, even when Rhys began to use a powered wheelchair, they just moved to the downstairs bedroom. When they had to get a hospital bed installed for Rhys, Gwen moved back upstairs. The king-sized bed was suddenly a vast expanse for one person sleeping alone. Gwen found that there was no end to the work of caring for an invalid, and turned the running of Torchwood over to Martha. For the last three years of his life, she stayed at home to be at hand for the increasing amount of attention Rhys needed.

Gwen took care of feeding Rhys through the PEG tube in his stomach, cleared the mucus from the breathing tube that forced air into his lungs, and changed his clothes. She hired caregivers, too, but preferred to participate in his care at first hand. She made sure that Anwen understood that Rhys was still part of their family, and the child had no fear of the wheelchair, and often climbed into Rhys’s lap to watch movies with him, and generally to keep him company. She did her homework at a table next to him and excitedly told him about her school day when she came home.

Gwen was alone with Rhys that very late night when his eyes met hers with unusually frightening intensity. She held him as he sobbed, helpless to change anything, weeping herself. The sound coming from him was not the sweet voice that had soothed her for years, but bitter and gutteral grunting that had become the only noise he could make.

His eyes pleaded with her, running with tears, and all she could do was tuck the blanket across his legs, and hold his shoulders. She lifted his chin and pressed her lips against his, because sometimes her kisses calmed his fears. He couldn’t even return her kisses, but he motioned her off to bed, placing his right hand over his heart and patted slowly, I love you. She kissed him again, and he pointed down to the ledge beside the bed where the breathing apparatus rested.

They had talked about this moment years ago, once they understood the course of the disease. Gwen gave Rhys a questioning look, and he nodded. She switched off the siren alert that would activate if there was any disruption to the breathing tube. She gave him the questioning look again, shaking her head in denial, but his expression relaxed into such peace that Gwen just kissed him again, exploring his face with her hands.

It was hard for Rhys to grasp anything, but he managed to dislodge the breathing tube from his throat. Gwen watched his chest sink slowly, without the air pressure to inflate his lungs again. He didn’t appear to be struggling in any way, and he kept his eyes locked with hers until he finally fell into unconsciousness. She held him, pressing her lips to his lips, to his cheeks, and stroking his hair, until morning. Then she called Martha.

Martha took in the scene with one glance, and quietly switched the siren alert to the “on” position before she unplugged the machine for the last time.

You were once my one companion,
You were all that mattered.
You were once a friend and lover,
Then my world was shattered.



|~|~|~|~|~|

Gwen managed to get through the funeral, consoling her grieving daughter without any thought for herself. After the long period of Rhys’s illness, she had run out of tears. She had done all that she could, but Anwen was not so well prepared to deal with the loss of her Tad, and became listless and unmotivated. She wouldn’t sleep alone in her room, but only in her mother’s bed.

Gwen wore herself out thinking of things that they could do that didn’t involve being at home where Rhys had died. Gwen put all her energy into reviving Anwen. Her darling sweet little girl, with Gwen’s dark hair and hazel eyes, but so much of the spirit of Rhys, his sense of humor, and his infectious laugh, began to smile again, and looked forward to school beginning again at the end of the summer.

Nothing in the world could have prepared Gwen for Andy Davidson’s unexpected appearance at her door in late September, with news of a school bus accident that took five young lives.

|~|~|~|~|~|

Gwen’s parents had tried to help her gather herself together. It was her father who suggested that perhaps a change of scenery might help Gwen to start over again. Geraint and Mary, of course, had expected that would mean that their daughter would come back to Swansea.

Gwen’s decision to move as far away from Cardiff as she could get and still stay in Wales was not what her parents expected. She enlisted an estate agent who found a small cottage in the far north, in Rhos-on-Sea, at the west side of Colwyn Bay. Gwen visited the cottage on a weekend trip, fell in love with the cool ocean breezes and the dunes, and bought it on the spot. She moved in, and disappeared into a quiet country life. Her parents called every week, and she was dutiful in answering their many questions about how she now spent her time, and what new friends she had met (she lied glibly). She endured their infrequent visits, and even one horrible weekend with Rhys’s parents.

She wrote in her journal, and walked the hills, but all in all, she reflected, sitting on the beach in the warm sunshine, she had built herself a life in the north. She could have traveled, but she really wanted some stability and, for a while, a life free of challenges. The people she left behind at Torchwood four years ago were new people she didn’t know and hadn’t worked with. She kept in touch with Martha, but didn’t work hard at it. The year before Rhys got sick, Jack Harkness had gone away again, despite his promises to tell her if he had to leave, and soon Gwen had too many new worries to spend any anger on Jack.

|~|~|~|~|~|

It was difficult to concentrate on the journal in the warm sunshine, and she couldn’t make herself pick up the pen again. Gwen felt completely out of touch with the life she had lost. She read, cooked, and taught herself to knit. It was a quiet life, and she didn’t miss the excitement she thought she had grown used to. Her mind was unsettled, but the therapist she had been seeing assured her that she would eventually heal and find new reasons for living. She doubted that. She was just marking time.

By the time she packed up her knapsack and headed for home, she had forgotten about the swimmer and his battle with the tide.

As Gwen prepared dinner for herself that evening, she thought again about the swimmer though, and imagined that he could be a metaphor for life, any life. You stroked hard, and it kept you afloat. Surges in the sea could swamp you at any time, but if you kept your wits about you, you adjusted your direction, or changed the amount of effort you expended, and you could still make progress.

Or you could just stop moving, put your head beneath the waves, and inhale deeply. She’d read that after that first gush of water hit your lungs, drowning wasn’t so bad.

She sat down at her kitchen table, ladle in hand, to think about that for a few moments. On her stove, a pot boiled over, and she hurried to turn off the flame. She dropped the ladle in the sink, and moved to sit in the soft and comfortable chair in the corner of her living room. Pouring herself a glass of red wine, she sat in the darkening evening, thinking about all that she had lost in such a short while. “And yet, I go on,” she whispered. “Why?”

Well, she argued with herself silently, there’s that poem, ‘Gas smells awful, nooses give…’ and that made her think about Jack Harkness for the first time in a long time. Jack had never been able to stop his wandering. Wherever he is, does he ever have a thought about me? Does he know how my life has changed? How much loss had he endured in his long life? She had nothing but sympathy for him now, knowing how immeasurable the pain of such loss could be.

Wishing you were somehow here again,
Wishing you were somehow near,
Sometimes it seemed, if I just dreamed,
Somehow you would be here.


She guessed it had been the loss of Tosh and Owen, and finally Ianto, that had broken Jack, finally. How else to explain his unconscionable actions regarding Stephen and his daughter? He returned to Cardiff from time to time, but he never stayed for long. Cardiff held too many memories. He had no resonance with the rebuilt Hub. The Doctor had always been the only one who seemed to be able to make Jack whole again. She imagined that this time, maybe it was taking a lot longer, or maybe it just wasn’t possible.

Gwen had believed that she couldn’t endure a world without Jack in it. But suddenly, she realised that she hadn’t given a serious thought to him for a very long time. Until this afternoon. The swimmer. It wasn’t the powerful stroke that had caught her attention. It was an indefinable something that reminded her of the way Jack moved.

She stood up and rummaged in the drawer of her desk for her address book. She turned pages until she found Martha’s number, and settled back into the soft chair with her cell in hand and waited for the number to connect. She was sipping at her wine when Martha picked up the call.

“Hello, Gwen! It’s been a while since I’ve heard from you,” Martha complained mildly.

Gwen made the kind of sounds she had gotten so good at in the last year, Yes, I’m fine, I love it up here in the countryside, the sea air, the flowers, I’m fine, I’m making a sweater (another glib lie), until there was a pause in the conversation. Gwen said, as nonchalantly as she could manage, “Martha, have you heard anything from Jack?”

Gwen could hear Martha take a deep breath before she answered. “As a matter of fact, I saw him a couple of weeks ago.”

Gwen’s stomach flip-flopped. She steadied herself before she could speak. “Where?”

Martha chattered on then, “He was here, at the Hub. He looks just the same, Gwen. Oh, and he asked about you.”

“What did you tell him?” she asked.

“I told him everything. He wanted to know where you were.”

“Did you tell him?”

“What could I tell him? I don’t know where you are, you never gave me a post address or anything. I just know you’re somewhere in the north, near Betws-yn-Rhos or something.”

Gwen chuckled, “No, Martha, Rhos-on-Sea, in Conway, near Colwyn Bay.” She rattled off her postal address. “Has he been back?”

“Haven’t seen him since,” Martha admitted. “He looked great, but Jack always looks great.”

“Was he with the Doctor?”

“For a while,” Martha said, “but not when he came here. I think he’s just been roaming for a few years. There’s a look in his eyes,” she hesitated, “he’s still searching for something.”

Gwen kept silent. “Martha, if you see him again, please tell him where I am.”

There was hesitation again. “If I see him, I’ll be sure to tell him… Gwen, are you really okay?”

“Oh, Martha, it’s so hard,” Gwen whispered. “I’m okay, but it’s day-to-day.”

“If there’s anything I can do for you,” Martha said, “you know I’m right here.”

“Yes,” Gwen choked out. “I know, thanks.” She ended the call. It was dark outside by then, and she sat in the dark for an hour, finally making her way wearily to bed.

The next day, Gwen went over the hill again to the beach, but it was cloudy, and the beach was deserted. She searched the sea for signs of the swimmer, but no one was in the water. She returned home a little dejected. Because of the darkness, she drifted through the house, turning on some lights, and came face to face with herself in the mirror over her desk.

She looked tired, that came as no surprise. But she was astounded at how pale and gaunt her face was. She hadn’t worn makeup in a long time, and her features lacked definition. “I have let myself go,” she said ruefully, and turned from the mirror. At least there was no grey in her hair. Yet.

Gwen flopped into her chair again, and picked up her knitting. “A sweater, hah!” she said, holding up the misshapen lump that was supposed to be a sleeve. “Oh, to hell with it,” she said, laughing. Talking to herself, that was new, she observed, and laughed again, but this time, it ended in a sob.

She almost didn’t hear the knock at the door.

She composed herself as best she could, and smoothed her face, wiping off the tear tracks. She opened the door.

It was Mrs. Andrews, her nearest neighbour, who lived across the road and down a bit. “Mrs. Williams,” she began, “I was in the post office today and talking to Mrs. Southey, the postmistress, you know. She said there had been a young man asking for you by name…” Her voice trailed off as Gwen’s eyes lost focus on the woman’s face and shifted to see a tall figure standing by the road. The light was too dim to make out his features through the drizzling rain, but she knew him. He took a tentative step towards her, and she turned back to Mrs. Andrews.

“Thank you for bringing him here. He’s an old friend, and I’ve been trying to contact him. We’ll be fine from here. Shall I drive you home?”

“Oh, no, dear, I’ll just walk down. Have a nice visit with your friend, Mrs. Williams,” and the older woman put up her umbrella against the drizzle, and passed the man on her way back to the road, nodding, “Captain,” as she passed him. The man thanked Mrs. Andrews, but his eyes turned back to Gwen.

She waited in the doorway until he came up to the step, not believing her own eyes. “Was it you?” she asked breathlessly. “The other day?”

Jack seemed a bit confused. “Was it me where?” he said.

“Swimming in the sea,” she said, still staring at him.

“The other day?” he asked. “I did go to the ocean,” he said. “How did you know?”

“I saw you, but I didn’t know it was you, until just a little while ago. The man I saw looked so familiar, but I couldn’t see his face,” she admitted.

“Were you expecting me?” he asked, still standing outside the door.

“Not in the least. I mean, no, how could I? I didn’t know where you were, I hadn’t…”

Jack reached out to touch her shoulder. “Are you going to invite me in? It is raining,” he pointed out.

She backed into the house, opening the door wider. “Of course,” she said. “Please come in.”

Gwen watched his reactions as he entered her house. He looked around slowly, apparently trying to see her in this new place. She closed the door, and took his coat, hanging it on the coat rack. “It’s good to see you, Jack,” she said.

“I would have been here sooner,” he apologized, “if I had known.”

She turned back to him. “There was nothing you could have done.” She forced a smile. “Can I make you a coffee?”

“Yes, thanks,” he said.

Gwen retreated to the kitchen and plugged in the kettle. “It won’t be up to your standards, I’m afraid,” she murmured.

He took one of the chairs at the table. “Maybe my standards aren’t what they once were.” He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table, “I wish I had known.”

She didn’t reply. They both seemed embarrassed. The silence was broken only by the boiling of the kettle. Gwen loaded a French press with finely ground coffee and poured in hot water. They both watched the pot, not each other, as the coffee brewed. After a few minutes, she put familiar blue and white striped Cornish mugs on the table, he pressed the grounds to the bottom of the pot, and poured coffee into the mugs.

He lifted his mug while she added sugar and milk to hers. “Mmm,” he murmured. “Very good for a rainy night.”

She contemplated him over the rim of her coffee mug. “How did you find me?”

Jack shook his head. “Martha thought you were in Betws-yn-Rhos, but no one there had heard of you. I’ve just been working my way through every postmistress across northern Wales for the past few weeks.”

“Interesting,” she said. “Martha said you hadn’t changed.”

“I have changed.” He frowned. “More than you might think.”

She bent over the coffee’s steam. “Well, so have I.”

Reaching for her hand, his voice dropped. “I’m sorry.”

“For what, Jack? That Rhys died? For… Anwen?”

“For all of it,” he said. “For you, having to do this all alone.” He gestured at the cottage.

“I happen to like ‘this’,” she retorted. “I chose this place for myself.”

He ran his hands through his wet hair. She handed him a dry towel without speaking. He dried his hair and then his hands. “It’s really very nice. Distant. Quiet.”

She sipped at her coffee. “It’s what I needed.”

“It’s difficult to see you all alone like this,” he said.

She stood up, poured her coffee down the drain, and picked up a half-empty wine bottle. “Want something harder?”

Jack shook his head no. Gwen poured wine into a glass and moved into the living room proper. She pressed a button on the wall by the fireplace and a fire lit itself in the grate. “Gas,” she explained. “We don’t burn wood anymore. Too much pollution.” She sat in her chair by the window.

He joined her in the living room, sitting across from her, stretching his legs out. “I’m trying to apologise. For not being here. For not knowing. For running away again. For staying away so long.”

Gwen waved her hand at him. “Your life here had ended. I’ve come to understand that. For quite a while, actually. Even before you left. Again.”

He sat forward in the chair, hunching over his knees. “Look, I’ve never claimed to be trustworthy. I told you as much years ago.”

She nodded. “I wasn’t waiting for you, Jack. I handled it my own way.”

“I know. I’m…”

“Stop saying that,” she implored. “I’m not being a very good host am I? Out of practice.” Gwen made herself smile tightly. “Where are you staying? Can I give you a lift back?”

“I was hoping you’d let me stay here with you,” he said.

She gestured at the couch. “Of course. I wouldn’t put you out into the rain.” She stood up. “I’ll get you a blanket and pillows.”

Jack said, “I still don’t sleep much.”

“Neither do I,” she said softly.

No more memories, no more silent tears,
No more gazing across the wasted years.
Try to forgive, teach me to live,
Give me the strength to try!


|~|~|~|~|~|

The drizzle increased as the night went on, and the drumming of the rain against her windows woke Gwen. Her nightlight lit the room dimly, and she could see Jack standing in her doorway. “What are you doing there?” she asked.

“Watching you sleep,” he said. “Or not sleep,” he continued, coming into the room and sitting on the side of her bed. She took her time looking at him for the first time since he had appeared on her doorstep. He wore only boxers, and the dim light made his pale skin appear to glow, still all taut muscles, lean, and covered with flesh that looked as smooth as silk. Jack really hadn’t changed at all, she observed. Almost ten years had passed, and he looked the same. At least on the outside.

Something Gwen hadn’t felt for a long time surged through her, and she recognised it as an intense physical longing for the man in front of her. She wanted to touch him, and clenched her fists under the sheets to keep herself from reaching out. She could only stare at his face, his unblinking blue eyes.

“I’ll leave, if you want me to,” he offered, lowering his gaze from her face.

“No,” she said quickly. “I don’t.” She hesitated, biting at her lip. “I’m glad that you went through so much trouble to find me.”

“Me, too,” he said. “And I should say it wasn’t so much trouble, but it was. Those old biddies gave me the third degree every time. Very protective, most of them, but not your Mrs. Andrews. When she overheard me speaking to the postmistress, she couldn’t wait to bring me to you.”

“She worries.” Gwen sat up in the bed, pulling the sheets up to cover herself. “I haven’t really been very social, and it drives her mad.”

A nearby lightning strike lit the window and Gwen shivered. Jack reached out and his warm hand closed on her naked arm. She didn’t pull away. He moved his other hand up to cup her cheek, and her hair swung forward to engulf his arm. She felt his hand begin to shake, and lifted her head. “What time is it?”

He checked his watch. “Almost five.”

“Neither of us will be sleeping any more. May as well get up,” she said, throwing back the covers and swinging her legs to the floor. She stood up and her nightgown swirled around her legs.

“You used to sleep in flannels,” he observed. “That looks like silk.”

She shrugged, and for the first time cracked a genuine smile. “People change.”

He followed her into the living room, and this time he lit the fireplace. He smoothed the tangled blankets on the couch and sat down. He spread his arms wide, an invitation, and Gwen sat, pulled her legs up onto the cushions and rested her cheek against Jack’s smooth chest, pulling the blanket over both of them.

He wound his arms tight around her. Her body trembled as she finally let herself cry, and he soothed her with soft murmuring sounds until she could stop. “I’ve been so alone,” she whispered. “They all want to help, but no one understands what I need.”

“I do,” Jack said. “I know.”


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Pimping My Way Back To You Girl...with a burning love inside.

User karaokegal referenced to your post from Pimping My Way Back To You Girl...with a burning love inside. saying: [...] her life. WARNINGS/POSSIBLE TRIGGERS: Illness, Character Death. Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again [...]

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