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Torchwood: Parting Words (Fanfiction)

Parting Words



Word Count: ~2.100
Summary: Prompt by ms_bekahrose: Gwen meeting with Rhiannon after Anwen is born. (Combined with a second prompt: Rhiannon's reaction to when Ianto was first bought home.)
Characters: Gwen Cooper, Rhiannon Davies, Anwen Cooper-Williams
Pairing: Jack/Ianto (implied)
Rating: PG-13
Spoiler: Children Of Earth, character from Miracle Day
Setting: Between Children Of Earth and the novel First Born
Warnings: mention of canon character death
Author's Note: Written for tw_femficfest. I got ms_bekahrose and combined two of her prompts (as advertised in the summary).
Beta: Eleanor Harkness-Jones, thank you!
Disclaimer: I’m not making money with this fanfic. The tv-show Torchwood and the characters appearing within it belong to their producers and creators. Any similarities to living or dead persons are purely coincidental and not intended.

***
***


The e-mail from Andy to Gwen's emergency account didn't say much.

IJ's sister keeps turning up at the police station. She wants to talk to you. What am I supposed to do?

Gwen just sat in the flat that Torchwood used as a safe house and stared at the screen for a long time. Anwen, cradled in Gwen's arms, made a sleepy noise and whimpered softly. Gwen hugged her closer to her chest. "Sh." The flat Gwen's little family was residing in at the moment was in one of the run-down parts of Swansea. The flat had everything they needed, but it didn't give them any luxury. Rhys was pushing for another safe house, something bigger, maybe, in the north in a little village. Some place to finally call home, at least for a while. Gwen could understand his concerns. This neighbourhood wasn't very safe – they could hear people fight in the street at night and a neighbour had told Gwen about muggings and worse taking place around here. Complying to Rhys' wish for a little village where nobody knew them, though, would mean going farther away from Cardiff and Gwen didn't want to do that.

She turned away from the computer, ignoring the ominous squeaking of the old desk chair, and softly hummed a lullaby to get Anwen to sleep. She looked at the clock. Rhys would be home in an hour. He'd found a job in a local supermarket. Gwen sighed with deep regret. He'd given up so much for her – because of her; moving north seemed like an insignificant sacrifice compared to that. She weighed her options – she barely had any, really. Going back to Cardiff would not only mean being confronted with painful memories, but also with the anonymous people who were after her and Rhys for whatever reason. She couldn't go to her family, either, because that would endanger them. Moving north seemed to be the only option they had left. Gwen owed it to Rhys to at least try.

But before they moved on, she had to do something. Whatever it was that Rhiannon Davies wanted from her badly enough to cause Andy to use the e-mail account she'd given him under the strict instruction only to use it in case of an emergency… Gwen had to give it to her.

***

Gwen and Rhiannon met in a nondescript roadside diner somewhere between Cardiff and Swansea. It was cheap and smelled of old grease. One waitress was loitering behind the counter, watching day-time television. When Gwen entered, the waitress looked up through a dyed fringe and rolled her eyes as if she couldn't be believe that she had two customers to slave for now. Gwen gave her a tight smile and shifted her hold on Anwen. Rhys had stayed at home to pack up their things. They wanted to get moving as soon as Gwen got back. Gwen had taken Anwen with her since she'd been a bit cranky all day and seemed to favour Gwen over Rhys at the moment. That didn't mean a thing, of course. Anwen was prone to changing her mind about who was her favourite parent every week.

When Gwen looked around, she spotted Rhiannon nervously studying the menu at a table in the corner near the back door. Gwen couldn't help but smile about that choice of position for a second. She took a deep breath to steel herself and then sat down opposite Rhiannon, saying, "This will have to be a quick one."

Rhiannon looked up and Gwen wished she hadn't said that. Her eyes were red-rimmed and she looked tired and way too old for her age. Gwen could tell that Rhiannon had lost weight and she wondered if Ianto's loss had taken away a part of her very self, just like it had with Gwen. Rhiannon nodded and answered softly, as if she was afraid to be overheard, "Andy told me you're running away from someone." It was strange to hear Rhiannon refer to Gwen's friend so casually. But then again, they'd gotten to know each other in the aftermath of everything. Andy had made sure that the children in Rhiannon's neighbourhood were alright and he'd volunteered to become Rhiannon's contact person in case of an emergency or if she should ever need to reach Gwen.

"I have no idea who from," Gwen answered, "but strangers kept turning up at our doorstep, asking directions or sitting in cars outside our flat." She cuddled Anwen to her. "We had to think about our daughter's safety."

"Of course." Rhiannon sighed. "I'm sorry I was so hard on you the last time we met. You… I forgot that you had lost him as well." Gwen wanted to tell her that it didn't matter, that she understood grief, but Rhiannon already continued, "It just felt like… he was my little brother and I didn't even know that he was dating someone – let alone a man. You seemed to be much closer to him. I couldn't bear that thought, because it was his involvement with you that killed him. So I lashed out." She stared at the table for a while.

"It's okay," Gwen assured her. "I understand." She gave Rhiannon a few minutes to compose herself.

When she finally looked up at Gwen again, she smiled sadly and reached out a hand to stroke Anwen's fingers. The tiny hand curled around Rhiannon's forefinger and she smiled tenderly. "She's beautiful."

"Thank you," Gwen answered.

"You know when my parents brought Ianto home for the first time, I was eight. They hadn't really…" She swallowed. "They didn't expect to have another child. Money was tight with dad working at Debenhams." She glanced at Gwen before focussing on Anwen again. "He wasn't a master tailor. I mean, he was but… he didn't have his own shop or anything."

"Ianto never mentioned any childhood problems." Gwen bit her lip. "He never mentioned… his childhood."

"He has always been too delicate for dad to handle."

"I can't imagine that," Gwen said with a grin. "The Ianto I know was anything but delicate."

Rhiannon laughed. "Yeah. Those years when he drifted from job to job, living alone in London… it made him tough, self-reliant… I could never get quite used to him being that way. I spent my childhood protecting him from everything. Right from the start… I saw that tiny baby in my mam's arms and I was… smitten. He was my baby brother, literally. It was love at first sight." Her expression saddened. "I always thought that he would have a family one day." She looked at Gwen. "Lisa seemed like the perfect girl for him. And I thought, maybe it would bring us closer again." She shook her head. "He didn't even tell me about Jack until I backed him into a corner. I felt so sad about that. And at the same time, you know, relieved. Because the way he spoke about him, the way he smiled… it seemed like he was happy." She stared at Gwen questioningly. "Wasn't he?"

Gwen didn't quite know what to say to that. She felt awkward and avoided Rhiannon's curious eyes. Even though she'd seen Jack and Ianto at work every day, had seen them interact and kiss and exchanging jokes about bedroom manners… they'd been so professional, so hands-off during working hours. She was sad to admit that she had no idea what their relationship had been like. She cleared her throat and thought about how to ask Rhiannon why she'd wanted to see her without being rude, but the waitress interrupted her by taking their orders.

Gwen waited until they each had their water and slices of cake and then said, "My husband and I are going away as soon as I leave here. We're going north." Rhiannon nodded in understanding. Gwen adjusted her hold on Anwen to be able to pick up the fork. She poked her cake and wondered if she should risk eating it. "I don't know if… when we'll be able to come back, so if there's anything you want to talk about…"

"I want you to stop transferring money to my account."

Gwen was stumped. She hadn't expected that. "What are you talking about?"

Rhiannon frowned. "It's not from you?"

"I haven't seen a bank from the inside for weeks," Gwen answered. They lived from cash out of the trunk of their car. They'd pulled all the money they had from their accounts and had found some more in Torchwood storage units. Ianto had been anything but disorganized – he'd planned for every possibility. That was why there were keys to the Torchwood safe houses in the storage units and money and even three or four cars. He'd made her memorize the exact position of every single storage unit during her first week on the job. "Sometimes, things happen," he'd told her. "You'll find everything you need there." And he'd been right. As usual.

Rhiannon explained, "I've been getting money from an anonymous source transferred to my account for a few months now."

Gwen frowned, then she sighed deeply and closed her eyes when realization hit. "Did Jack Harkness come and see you?"

"Yes, he came by a few months ago. I… he was very nice, said nice things about Ianto always wanting to be closer to me." She laughed bitterly. "Nice lies."

Gwen avoided that verbal landmine by asking, "The transfers started after that?"

Rhiannon nodded thoughtfully. "Now that you mention it… Why would he do that?"

"Because he's got the money to do it. Because he doesn't need it. Because he feels guilty and blames himself for Ianto's death." Just sometimes, in her darkest hours, Gwen blamed him, too. She blamed him for taking Ianto with him, for playing with his life, for leaving her in the dust without at least one of her closest friends to rely upon. But of course she knew that Jack hadn't intended for this to happen, that Ianto's – and Stephen's – death was weighing so heavily on his conscience that he'd left the planet. She knew how they'd found Jack and Ianto in Thames House, curled up on the floor together. Jack had been so utterly broken, unable to stand Gwen being near. He'd just disappeared for several months and then he'd come back… just to disappear again.

Rhiannon said, "Well, I don't want his money. I don't want him to pay me for the loss of my brother. It won't make the pain go away."

"I can't stop the transfers and believe me, he knows that the money won't ever lessen the pain. He's suffered enough to know that. And Jack is… sometimes, he can't find the right gestures, the right words, he's… he does things like that to show that he cares."

Rhiannon nodded slowly, seemingly accepting that answer, and removed her finger from Anwen's grip. She sighed. "I can't keep you here any longer. You have to leave," she said, albeit reluctantly.

Gwen nodded solemnly. "Thank you."

"No, I have to thank you. For coming here… for caring."

Gwen smiled sadly. "Well, Ianto was a friend. The least I could do was to come here." She got up, shifted the sleeping Anwen around so that she could shake Rhiannon's hand. "Take care," she said.

Rhiannon held onto her hand, squeezing gently. "You're the one who should take care. I'll be fine. And if you see Jack… tell him I appreciated his visit and that… I'd like to see him again."

Gwen bit her lip, sensing that only part of that statement was true. Rhiannon probably felt like she'd been out of the loop for too long. Maybe she felt like seeing Jack would give her a closer relationship to her brother. Whatever the reason, Gwen promised, "I will." Even though she doubted she would see Jack ever again.

"Ianto really loved him," Rhiannon said, almost as an afterthought, and let go of Gwen.

"He did," Gwen answered. That, she was sure of. Ianto had loved Jack. She turned to go.

Rhiannon's hesitant voice stopped her. "You never answered my question: Was he happy at least? Did Jack love him back?"

Gwen looked back at her and thought about that for a moment. Finally, she answered, "He was very happy."

She saw Rhiannon bite back tears and took that as her cue to leave.


END
10/11

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Comments

( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
sariagray
Nov. 1st, 2011 10:49 am (UTC)
That was so brutal and honest and heart-breaking. Really well done! I love how, even combined and working together, they still know almost nothing about Ianto. It's such a devastating idea, and you really drove that point home.
jolinarjackson
Nov. 1st, 2011 07:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :) When I sat down and thought about those two meeting up, I realized that they couldn't know the same man. And that's what I wanted to show, really.
remuslives23
Nov. 1st, 2011 10:58 am (UTC)
I love how you showed these two women who had seen the different sides of Ianto, but still knew so little about him as a person. Beautifully done. :)
jolinarjackson
Nov. 1st, 2011 07:53 pm (UTC)
Thanks. :)
bookwormsarah
Nov. 1st, 2011 01:39 pm (UTC)
Oh that was very moving. I do like the way Gwen doesn't lie, and that there are things she just doesn't know... Lovely portrayal of her and of Rhiannon.
jolinarjackson
Nov. 1st, 2011 07:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks. :) I thought that Gwen wouldn't lie at this point or just tell Rhiannon what she wanted to hear. She had to let go of some of her grief here, too.
nancybrown
Nov. 1st, 2011 01:44 pm (UTC)
This is so sweet and so sad!
jolinarjackson
Nov. 1st, 2011 07:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks. :)
ms_bekahrose
Nov. 1st, 2011 01:54 pm (UTC)
Oh! Thank you so much! *hugs* When you asked about combining prompts, I had so hoped that it was these, and I just love it! So brutal and bitter sweet all at the same time. I actually got really misty eyed at the end.

These two women bonding over this man that they thought they knew, and what Rhiannon said about when her parents bought home Ianto for the first time was just amazing!

Thank you so much, I love it!
jolinarjackson
Nov. 1st, 2011 07:56 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you like it! Yeah, I thought about doing a new story for that second prompt, but it would have ended up as a drabble or something and I couldn't work out how to make it interesting. It worked with the first prompt pretty well, though. :)
51stcenturyfox
Nov. 1st, 2011 03:10 pm (UTC)
Really, really nice. I love missing scenes, and I'm sure this really happened. Great characterization too. I love the scene-setting with the put-upon waitress -- that's a nice touch.
jolinarjackson
Nov. 1st, 2011 07:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :)
larsinger29
Nov. 1st, 2011 03:22 pm (UTC)
Oh damn, that was so heartbreaking and cathartic. You did a wonderful job portraying the awkwardness of this meeting. Both women were nuanced and their conversation was very revealing on how they each knew different things about Ianto, but neither truly knew him completely. Yet through their talking, they each glimpsed a bit more of their friend/brother.

Just a very lovely piece here, my dear. You really explored some strong emotions in such a quiet, subtle way. Well done!
jolinarjackson
Nov. 1st, 2011 07:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much. :)
withywindle01
Nov. 1st, 2011 04:50 pm (UTC)
Very nice. I wish they could have become friends.
jolinarjackson
Nov. 1st, 2011 07:58 pm (UTC)
I think, in a way, they left that diner as friends. :) Thanks for reading.
iolo1234
Nov. 1st, 2011 06:17 pm (UTC)
Great story you wrote both women beautifully and summed up Jack and Ianto well. Taut and emotional at the same time.
jolinarjackson
Nov. 1st, 2011 07:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :)
analineblue
Nov. 1st, 2011 11:10 pm (UTC)
I really liked the insight into Ianto that you get through Rhiannon's eyes. This whole exchange feels so open and honest, too, when it doesn't have to be, and I love that. I also really liked the details about what it must have been like for Gwen and Rhys being in hiding like that... All of this just feels so believable - a really great character fic for both of them. :)
jolinarjackson
Nov. 2nd, 2011 10:06 am (UTC)
Thank you. :)
amilyn
Nov. 2nd, 2011 11:16 pm (UTC)
This is fantastic. Really excellent work. (Und auf Deutsch UND Englisch...schön!)
jolinarjackson
Nov. 3rd, 2011 09:19 am (UTC)
Danke. :)
runzu
Nov. 8th, 2011 06:12 pm (UTC)
This was very lovely. How unfortunate that while both women (and Jack in the background) try to piece Ianto together yet, it seems he never really showed his true self to anyone. And they'll never know.

Though if anyone found his dia - ahem - journal, it might help. :)
jolinarjackson
Nov. 9th, 2011 06:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :)
eldarwannabe
Mar. 2nd, 2012 01:45 am (UTC)
I think Gwen and Rhiannon meeting might be one of my favorite genres of Torchwood fic, and this story is fantastic. I love their tiredness and the awkwardness.
jolinarjackson
Mar. 2nd, 2012 11:04 am (UTC)
Thank you. :)
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )