Just a little one-shot I wrote because I love Jack and Gwen. Allusions to lines/conversations in Day One and Countrycide but no real spoilers.
Jack thought he was alone in the Hub, so when he saunters down to the small kitchen from his office, he's more than a little surprised to see Gwen Cooper sitting on the sofa, her feet up on the battered leather. Surprised, but not entirely sad to see her there. It's nearly midnight, and the Hub's been quiet ever since the rest of the team left at six this evening, an early finish by Torchwood standards. He saw Gwen leave with the rest of them, seemingly cheerfully. She'd been dreaming all afternoon of a Chinese takeaway, prompting a teasing remark from Owen that with the amount of fast-food she eats, it's just as well she does such a physical job. Gwen laughed it off before saying good night and leaving to spend the evening curled up on the sofa with her boyfriend. Nothing in her manner had suggested she'd be back within six hours, curled up on this sofa on her own. Well, apart from the pile of paperwork by her side.
"I thought you'd gone home." Jack breaks the silence, making her jump in alarm. He smiles and moves so she can see him. "Sorry, didn't mean to scare you."
Gwen shakes her head. "It's fine. I'm… fine."
Jack, sitting on the arm of the sofa, next to where her feet her resting in their multicoloured stripy socks, tilts his head. "You sure?"
"Certain." Gwen flashes him a defiant glare, and he decides to leave it for now. In the short time he's known Gwen, he's learnt more about reading her moods than he has about most people he's ever met.
He remains seated on the end of the sofa. "What are you up to?"
She waves the papers in her hand. "Just writing up those case notes you asked me to do."
"You mean you went home without finishing them?" Jack mockingly berates her. "Shame on you, Gwen Cooper!"
"Shut up!" Gwen smiles. "They're mostly done, they just need finishing off. I'd have come in early tomorrow to do it if I wasn't here now."
"But you are," Jack reminds her. "That Chinese not quite up to scratch?"
Gwen regards him for a few seconds, then sighs. "Alright. You win."
"It's not a game, Gwen. I'm just asking about a colleague, wondering why she's back at work at eleven o'clock at night."
Gwen looks down at her hands, twiddling the pen she's holding. "Me and Rhys had a fight."
Jack has already figured that one out, but he pretends not to have done. To Gwen's surprise, he lifts her feet up and sits down on the other end of the sofa, placing her feet back in his lap. "Oh. What about?"
"Nothing really. Just stuff." Gwen shifts awkwardly, though whether that's because she's suddenly found herself with her feet (encased in slightly threadbare socks) in her boss's lap, or because she's hiding something is not entirely clear. She shrugs. "It was stupid really."
"So, about Torchwood then?"
"Not in so many words," Gwen replies, smiling sadly. She feels a little guilty for colluding like this with Jack, when she should really be sorting things out with Rhys. It's been nearly two hours since she stormed out of the flat, needing to be anywhere but in the same place as him. And she found herself here; he hadn't been wrong when he accused her of being obsessed with her new job.
Jack looks at her, pulling a face. "You want to talk about it?"
He nods. "Fine." They fall for silent for several minutes. Gwen looks at the pages in her lap but doesn't read anything, and though the pen remains in her hand, it spends more time in her mouth than on the paper. Meanwhile, Jack absent-mindedly massages her feet; it's like a reflex action and he does it without a second thought. Gwen doesn't even notice.
Finally, Gwen gives up the pretence of doing work and puts her pen down. "So why are you here?"
"Me?" Jack sounded surprised that she's asked, and he is a bit. He doesn't know why; it is, after all, the next logical question, but he's never been brilliant at logic. Thinking outside the box is his forte. Thinking inside the box has always seemed a bit dull.
"No, the other twelve people in the room," Gwen teases. "You know why I'm here. Domestic issues. I'm assuming that's not why you're here, unless there's something we don't know." She prods him playfully with her foot. "Come on, Harkness, we all just know there's a Mrs Jack at home with your dinner on the table and the kids tucked up in bed."
Jack laughs. "You have one wild imagination."
"So?" Gwen raises her eyebrows. "Why are you here?"
Jack sighs heavily, leaning his head back on the cushions, one hand still gently flexing Gwen's foot. "I don't know. Couldn't sleep." Like he ever can. Like he's slept for longer than a few hours at a time ever since he lost sight of that blue box and felt his heart crash down inside.
"I know how you feel," Gwen agrees. She yawns. "I can't remember the last good night's sleep I got."
Jack looks across at her. "Do you ever regret joining Torchwood?"
Gwen answers with barely a pause. "No. Yes! I don't know!" She blushes at her outburst and shrugs.
"Gong for the decisive look there, aren't you?"
Gwen sighed again. "Sometimes… sometimes I wish I'd never met you, Jack Harkness."
Gwen gives him a weary smile. "You know what I mean. Life was so much…"
"Dull? Tedious?" Jack suggests words jokingly.
"Simpler," Gwen concludes, knowing how lame it sounds. "Those things too," she adds, trying to make Jack – and herself – feel better.
"Hey, you don't need to justify it to me," Jack insists.
"You know, before I met you, it was all going so well." Gwen reminisces, remembering the unconscious life-plan she had drawn out in her head and didn't even notice until Torchwood happened. "I had a good job, a nice flat, a lovely boyfriend. We had loads of friends, we went out for meals and things. One day we were going to move out of the city, into the suburbs. Do the whole thing, get married, have kids, get a dog, drive an estate…" She sounds wistful, harking back to a time now gone.
"And now?" Jack prompts, even though he's told himself he won't get involved.
"Now…" Gwen gives a snort. "Now, I'm in a job I can't tell anyone about, not even Rhys. We row about the most stupid things, including that secret job. The people I work with are the strangest, most dysfunctional team I've ever seen. Our office pet is a pterodactyl. And not only can my boss not die, but he also appears to sideline as a foot masseuse. How long have you been doing that for?"
Jack stops rubbing her feet abruptly as she finally notices. "Oh. I'm not sure," he admits. "Sorry."
Gwen smiles. "No, don't stop. It's nice."
There's a moment when they both smile at each other, then Gwen looks away, a faint pink tinge creeping into her cheeks. Jack doesn't speak, but begins on her other foot, his fingers slow and firm and methodical.
Eventually he says, "Life was simpler. I know what you mean."
Gwen looks at him curiously. "Before Torchwood?"
"Before the Doctor." The words slip out before Jack can stop them and he looks across anxiously at Gwen, wondering if she heard him. Of course she did, she's a copper, and more than that, she's Gwen Cooper, possessing the innate ability to hear everything, from huge confessions to the smallest change in vocal tone. She's as good as a sniffer dog.
"The Doctor?" Gwen frowns. "Who's the Doctor?"
Jack pauses for a second, almost a second too long as he feels himself about to give way and tell her. Just in time, he remembers he always has the option of walking away from a conversation he isn't comfortable with. Without warning he lets go of Gwen's feet and stands up.
"I'm going to put some coffee on, you want some?"
Gwen shakes her head. "But Jack-?" But he's already gone, striding away from her questions just like he always does. How can it be that she's spent so much time with this man, virtually more time than she's spent with Rhys in recent months, and yet still knows nothing about him? Just for a moment, she thought she might learn something about him then, but then that shutter came down over his face and she knew she'd missed her chance. It wouldn't surprise her if she didn't see him again tonight.
"Budge up." Jack unceremoniously pushes Gwen's legs aside when he returns with his steaming mug of coffee and sits back down in his previous position. He takes the sheet of paper out of her hand and looks at it. "Is this that case from yesterday?"
Gwen nods. Yesterday they investigated reports of teenagers acting strangely around the Bay. As Owen had pointed out, "What's their definition of strange?" It had turned out to be the usual culprits behind the behaviour: drink and drugs.
"It hardly seems worth writing up," Jack remarks, skim-reading Gwen's report and the transcription of conversations she had with them. "Not exactly Torchwood business."
"I thought I might fax it over to the station actually," Gwen reveals, referring to her old job. "They might be interested."
Jack raises his eyebrows incredulously. "What, in a few teenage junkies?"
"They're still people, Jack. Just kids." Gwen shakes her head. "It doesn't matter, I guess you're right. No one will pay any attention."
Jack puts a hand over hers quickly, silencing her thoughts. "No, do it," he says softly. "You never know. Someone out there might give a damn. There might be another Gwen Cooper at the station."
Gwen laughs. "Not likely."
Jack silently agrees with her. Then he puts the report aside.
"It's too late for that kind of thing anyway," he decides.
Gwen raises an eyebrow. "So, what are we supposed to do instead? Talk?" She feigns being shocked.
Jack grins. "I was thinking more along the lines of a game."
Gwen looks even more shocked than her pretend face. "A game? Like what? Pin the tail on the donkey?"
"I was thinking more truth or dare."
"You are kidding?"
"Never been more serious." Jack notes Gwen's amused expression. "What?"
"Nothing." She smiles. "Only you better be warned. I'm the official champion at truth or dare."
"I'm serious! Kayleigh Price's ninth birthday party, 1987, I was officially crowned Champion of Truth or Dare."
"What convinced them of that?"
"I kissed…." Gwen pauses dramatically and then lowers her voice. "I kissed a boy."
Jack bursts out laughing. "Oh my God! Not a boy!"
"I was nine! It was a big thing!" Gwen protests, also laughing.
"Alright, you can keep your crown. For now," Jack teases her. "And seeing as you're so good, you can go first. Truth or dare?"
"Truth." Gwen slips her feet back into Jack's lap and leans back against the cushions, enjoying this rare moment of downtime in the Torchwood base.
"Right." Jack narrows his eyes as he thinks. "Okay. Do you wear those tight black jeans of yours deliberately so that Owen finds it very – and I mean, very – hard to concentrate on his work?"
Gwen's jaw drops, but it seems a little staged to Jack. "What? Me? Don't be silly!" She's unable to keep the act up any longer and dissolves into further giggles. "Oh, maybe a bit," she admits.
"Distracting a member of the team using your body, Gwen. That's a serious offence," Jack tuts.
"Oh like you never do it!" Gwen slaps him on the shoulder. "Anyway, Owen's not complaining."
Jack has to agree with her on that one. He's not exactly complaining either.
"Your turn. Truth or dare?" Gwen can hardly contain her excitement as she runs through all the questions she desperately wants to ask Jack. She assumes the age-old sacred rule of Truth or Dare applies: anyone found lying at any later date is in big, big trouble.
"Truth." Jack relaxes back into the sofa. "Do your worst, Cooper."
Gwen studies him intently for a moment, before deciding upon a question. "If Owen and Tosh knew I had this opportunity and didn't take it, they'd kill me," she explains. "Are you gay?"
Jack's raucous laughter confuses her for a moment. Then he sighs heavily. "God, you humans and your little labels. You've got to catalogue everything, haven't you? You're as bad as Ianto down in the basement with all his odds and ends." He fixes Gwen with a firm stare. "No, I'm not gay, as you put it."
Gwen stares back at him, a bemused expression on her face.
"What?" Jack puts a hand to his face. "Have I got something on my face?"
"You. You're so…" Gwen struggles to find the words as a small smile spreads across her face. "You said 'you humans'. But what are you, Jack? Who are you?"
Again, Jack feels the pull to share things with Gwen, to answer her questions directly. And again he deflects it. "I am… pretty certain it wasn't your turn to ask the questions. And for that, it's dare time."
Gwen groans. "Oh God! What are you going to have me do?"
"Nothing as bad as kiss a boy," Jack promises, almost to Gwen's disappointment. He waves a hand towards his office. "There's a bottle of vodka in my desk, third drawer down. I think it's time we livened things up down here. Go and get it."
Gwen looks at him doubtfully. "That's my dare?"
Jack looks back at her, his blue eyes dancing merrily. "Oh God, no! Your dare's only just beginning."
After several shots of vodka, the game falls apart a bit. When it becomes clear that Gwen will only be able to carry out dares that a) don't involve standing up and b) don't involve anymore drinking, they switch to telling anecdotes instead. Gwen has just finished regaling him with the tale of her first kiss, something he's sure she'll regret sharing in the morning knowing her as he does, when she turns to him.
"Go on then. What about you?"
"What about me?" Jack asks.
"What about your first kiss?" Gwen slurs, pulling a face at her own inability to speak.
"Oh, too long ago to remember."
"Oh come on!" Gwen nudges him. "I shared with you!"
"Yeah, but Gwen, I didn't actually ask you to!" Jack reminds her, smiling as she moves closer to him on the sofa. "And don't think you'll get round me like that!"
"Okay!" Gwen laughs and then hiccups, blushing bright red. "If you can't remember your first kiss, what about the best kiss you've ever had?"
Jack thinks hard. Stalling for time, he turns the question round to Gwen. "What about yours?"
"Rhys of course!" She giggles again. "And stop changing the subject!"
Jack sighs and, with his arm over the back of the sofa, unconsciously begins playing with Gwen's hair. Can he really walk away from an awkward question for the third time tonight? Is that fair on Gwen? The question isn't even a hard one, he knows without a doubt what the best, most heart-breaking, most special kiss he has ever had was. He doesn't need all this time make up his mind. And yet… he's spent so long being the enigmatic mystery man, he isn't sure exactly how to undo all of that. Still, Gwen isn't asking for much. She's not asking for his past life or his present feelings. She's not asking for his future. She's just a sweet amazing woman who's slightly tipsy on this occasion and is asking for a meeting of minds, a sharing process. He can give her that.
"The best kiss I've ever had." He pretends to think it over. "The best kiss I ever had was with the only man I've ever loved."
Gwen lifts her head up and, slightly wobbly, scrutinizes his face. "I'm… sorry?"
"With the only man I ever loved," Jack repeats himself, in a way most unlike him. Gwen can notice the change in his voice, his eyes, his every muscle as he says the words. "The only man I ever truly loved who happened to be in love with the only woman I've ever truly loved." He sighs, smiling sadly, in a way Gwen has never seen him do before. "But that's the way the cookie crumbles."
There's silence for a moment and then Gwen kisses Jack. It's brief and forceful and messy. They bang teeth as Gwen loses her balance, and Jack's almost certain that his lips will be bruised in the morning. But for a second there, they both forget about how they've ended up on this sofa at some stupid hour in the morning. Gwen forgets about her silly argument with Rhys and her new life which terrifies her daily. Jack forgets that he was forgotten about on the Gamestation. For one beautiful moment, they can just be.
Gwen slumps down next to him again. There's another silence.
Jack puts a hand to his mouth and checks to see if his lips are bleeding at all. "That was… unexpected."
Gwen smiles slowly. "Well, you can't remember your first kiss. But you can remember your last kiss."
Jack looks at her and returns her smile. "For once, Gwen Cooper, I can say that you are one hundred per cent right."
Everything becomes a bit fuzzy after that and when Jack next comes to, he finds a heavy weight in his lap. At some point, Gwen must have shifted ends, so her head is now resting on him, and his hand is tangled in her long dark hair. He blinks several times and then glances at his watch. It's six-thirty. If he knows Ianto, he'll be here within the next hour, acting as though he doesn't know it's not eight o'clock yet. They should probably make the effort to move from where they are before he or anyone else comes in.
She looks so peaceful though. Jack could sit and stare down at her face all day, but he knows he can't. That kiss last night, she's right, he'll remember that. He'll remember it no matter how many other kisses happen afterwards and no matter how long he lives (maybe "remains undead" would be a better description there). There was so much honesty and truth pushed into that one brief moment, so much passion and fire. She's wasted on Rhys; if Jack was her man…
He silences the thought as he looks at her, innocently sleeping. He can't ever push this any further than last night. He remembers the thing he said to Gwen on her first day at Torchwood.
Go home, Gwen Cooper. Eat lasagne, kiss your boyfriend. Be normal. For me.
Jack doesn't do normal. It isn't part of his genetic make-up, he is physically unable to be normal. Gwen deserves the chance to escape from this crazy life, the chance to at least try and hold onto that life plan she outlined last night.
Gwen Cooper and Jack Harkness can't ever be more than they were last night, he knows that. But for now, five more minutes day-dreaming won't make any difference. He'll wake her up before Ianto gets in. Before reality shatters the dream.