Rating: T (PG-13)
Disclaimer: I don't own them, don't make any money off them, and intend no infringement.
Spoilers: Exit Wounds (tiny)
Beta: usedsongs, with a lot of virtual cookies for making this fic better beyond what I thought was possible and making the whole beta thing a lovely experience. Thanks!
A/N: also with much gratitude to everyone at the Torchwood Writers' Union for their invaluable help with the character of Gwen.
Her mobile rang late at night as they were about to go to bed. She answered and held the device up to her ear, as Rhys paused in the doorway to their bedroom, attracted by the sound. When she heard the message Andy had for her on the other end, she turned to look at him in shock.
"I'll be there in a minute," she said immediately, and flipped the phone shut while still staring at it.
"What is it?" Rhys asked, coming over and looking at her in concern.
Gwen slowly dragged her eyes up to his face. "Ianto's been hurt. They've got him at St Helen's, I have to go there, with Jack out of town..." Jack was away for a few days, a UNIT conference and several meetings with the Queen's treasurers requiring that he leave his team alone. He wasn't due back for two days, and that was the reason why Gwen had got the phone call.
She turned and distractedly hunted for the things she needed, her bag, her keys, her coat, her mobile... belatedly, she realised she still held it in her hand.
"Is it serious?" Rhys asked of her, handing her her keys from the coffee table. "Should I come with you?"
She shook her head, absently sweeping all the items into her bag. "No, Andy said it was... he was all right. I just need to go. You stay here, I'll call." At the last moment, she remembered to turn to him and kiss him before hurrying out to her car.
She worried on the way over about what Andy had said, the careful way he called it a mugging, pausing before the word, as if it didn't quite cover what had happened. It was bad enough that something had happened to Ianto, Gwen didn't really want to think about the circumstances. Whatever it was, it hadn't been related to the job, and that was something she was, in spite of her police training, ill-equipped to deal with. She wasn't expecting it any more, for crime and normal life to affect her team and her loved ones, having got so used to the toll that aliens so often took on their lives. After what had happened with Tosh and Owen, she was more protective of her friends than ever.
She pulled into the hospital parking lot and quickly made her way through the double doors, her warrant card still allowing her quick passage. She found Andy in the waiting room, and he filled her in quickly.
"Oh, Gwen, good you're here. I'm glad you came, the doctors won't let him go without someone to stay with him, and he wants to leave. Bit of a stubborn one, him. I never really saw him before, who is he?"
She stopped him with a hand and said, "Hi, Andy. Can you tell me what's happened?"
He nodded eagerly and offered her a cup of tea, which she declined. "It was a mugging, Gwen. Reported by this couple, they came to his aid. But they said, although he won't say -- stubborn git -- it was a bit more personal than that. The suspects recognized him from somewhere, they say, said those yobbos were picking on him for a reason."
Gwen knew what his answer would be, but made herself asked the question. "What reason was that, Andy?"
"Well, he was wearing a pink shirt and all, but I don't think it's that," Andy replied flippantly. He continued more seriously, "Even if it were, not a good enough reason, is it, Gwen? Anyways, they said they'd seen him around with some poncey bloke or something, that one of your lot, is it? Your Mulder or something?"
Gwen swallowed hard and thought of how Jack was going to take this. Then she thought of Ianto somewhere in this hospital, suffering the consequences of a mugging and assault. "How's Ianto?"
"He and the doctor best tell you that," Andy said, running a hand through his blond curls, "but it's nothing serious. Knock on the head, cut and a couple of bruises, and an injury to one leg. He's good to go, really."
She went into the room to find Ianto sitting on the bed, a row of stitches above his left eye held together by steristrips. A few bruises, nothing too serious, mottled his face. The knuckles on his right hand were chafed, and one of the fingers was bandaged. He'd discarded his jacket and waistcoat, the two items lying folded over a nearby chair. His shirt had the top two buttons undone; it was the most dishevelled she'd seen him other than the time she'd walked in on him and Jack in the greenhouse.
"Ianto," she said, feeling relief at seeing him intact and seemingly not too badly harmed. She went over and threw her arms around him, hugging him gently to her, and to her surprise he returned the embrace tightly.
"Gwen," he said, sounding remarkably calm, "you didn't have to come."
She smiled at him and put her hand on his arm. "Nonsense, sweetheart, of course I came." She looked him up and down to be sure. "You're not seriously hurt?"
He shook his head slowly, perhaps a little stiffly. "No, I'm fine. Right as rain in a couple of days." He flicked an eye to the corner of the room, where a nurse was making notes on a clipboard. "They won't let me go home by myself."
"Oh, you can come home with me," Gwen said decidedly. "I know Jack would normally --"
She broke off when she caught the look on Ianto's face at the mention of Jack's name, wistful and full of pain, crossing his features so briefly that she wasn't sure she'd seen it right. She continued, "Anyway, you can come home with me, I'll keep an eye on you." She gave him a reassuring smile, squeezing his arm.
Ianto didn't seem impressed by her comments, but the nurse gave her an encouraging nod and said she'd tell the doctor.
He was quiet in the car on the way to her and Rhys' flat, answering her questions about what had happened with a terse summary of events. He confirmed largely what Andy had told her, that he'd been mugged by a pair of youths at knifepoint, and yes, some comments had been made about him and Jack. A young couple had interfered before anything serious could happen, and the police had arrived. She saw how he struggled when he got in and out of the car, how he walked and held himself and favoured one leg, and asked him about any injuries that she couldn't see.
"Took a blow to the back of my leg," he said so easily, it was like he was talking about the weather. "It's just a bruise, they checked me out, nothing serious."
She nodded and smiled, taking his hand and squeezing it briefly on the walk up to her flat.
Rhys barely batted an eyelid -- she had known he wouldn't -- and simply said, "All right, mate, I'll pull out the sofa bed for you."
Soon enough, she had Ianto tucked in with some weak tea, and sat down next to him, her hand on his shoulder. "Will you be all right by yourself?"
He nodded. "I'm fine, Gwen, it's not the end of the world."
"You were mugged and assaulted," she said slowly. "It's okay to be upset."
He shot her a look of irritation and said, "Of course I'm upset. But I'm fine."
She nodded and took that as a dismissal, getting up and leaving him alone to sort through his apparently jumbled emotions. Then she remembered something and turned back. "Have you told Jack?"
"For God's sake, Gwen, it's the middle of the night. It's hardly something to get upset about, and he doesn't need to know immediately. I'll tell him in the morning."
Right. That was her told. She wished him a good night and went into their bedroom.
In the morning he was still out like a light, so she left him to sleep and tiptoed around, retreating back into the bedroom with Rhys. When a buzzing sound from the living room alerted her, she went out and retrieved Ianto's jacket, fumbling for his mobile in the inner pocket. She answered it in the other room. "Hello?"
The surprise in Jack's voice was audible. "Gwen? I was calling Ianto."
"I answered his phone," she said unnecessarily. "He's still asleep."
"Still asleep? Gwen, what --?" Jack sounded half angry, half worried. "What are you doing, answering Ianto's phone at six in the morning?"
She sighed and sat down on the edge of the bed, saying, "Jack, something's happened. There's something you need to know." She explained quickly what had happened, and each time he stopped her to ask her a question, he sounded more upset than the last.
"How is he?" he asked finally.
She outlined Ianto's injuries, emphasising it was not serious.
"That's not what I meant," Jack said shortly. "I mean, how is he coping?"
"He bit my head off last night," she replied, "but he's just -- he's just Ianto."
"No, he isn't."
Jack's reply made her frown. "Jack? What're you going to do?"
"Don't worry about me, Gwen." And he broke the connection.
She went to the hub to briefly check on things while Ianto was still asleep, and take the remote rift monitor back with her. When she returned, Ianto was awake, and she made him a light breakfast and gave him fresh clothes and a towel. He seemed grateful, his posture loosening up a little over breakfast, but she could see the shadows in his eyes, lurking just behind the mask he was projecting.
His leg still seemed to really bother him, so she gave him some painkillers she had lying around. He took them gratefully and retreated back to the settee to stretch out on it. He craned his head back to look at her over the back of the sofa and said, "I'll be out of your hair soon, Gwen."
Suddenly he looked so young again, as young as he'd looked when she first met him, as young as he looked out of his suits. For an odd moment, she wondered if Jack saw him that way. She gave him a bright smile and said, "You can stay here as long as you like, sweetheart."
She sat down next to him, determined to try again. "What happened really, Ianto? Andy said --"
He looked at her with a brief sideways glance. "It was just a mugging, Gwen. They wanted my wallet and car keys, and I wasn't too keen on giving them that. At first, that was all. Then --" He faltered a bit, looked down at his hands before looking back at her and giving her a bland smile. "One of them... I guess he'd seen me with Jack or something. I don't think he would have normally -- I mean, I don't think he went around looking for... well, people like... me to, eh... beat up or something... but I guess I'd pissed him off by not cooperating." He grimaced. "That's how I ended up with this." He held up his bandaged hand. "He took a swipe at me with the knife."
Gwen smiled to herself. She'd seen Ianto in the field, knew a lot of people were deceived by the bland exterior. "And then?" she prodded gently.
"His mate defended him, kicked me in the leg." Ianto stared out the window for a moment, then glanced at the photos of her and Rhys near the windowsill. "I went down... Don't know what would have happened if that couple hadn't interfered."
He sounded level enough, but she sensed him tensing beside her. Before she could speak and try to reassure him, he continued.
"It all worked out okay, I guess. They've been arrested, I'm fine, so..." He shrugged, winced a little at the movement. "It's over."
Gwen wanted to say more, but the shuttered look in Ianto's eyes made the words falter in her throat. She put a hand on his uninjured arm and squeezed. "Stay here a little longer," she implored, smiling encouragingly at him. "It's no bother, and you shouldn't be on your own with that knock on the head you took."
She thought he looked a little relieved when she'd said that, as if she'd given him an excuse to stay. "Thanks," he replied. "Maybe I'll do that."
The door bell rang a few hours later, as Ianto was flicking through the channels of daytime TV without really watching; his third mug of weak, milky tea in front of him, his left leg propped up on the sofa, his right curled under him. She answered it in their small hallway, surprised to hear Jack's voice on the other end, but buzzing him in unquestioningly. Twenty seconds later she was opening the door to him.
She followed him as he rushed past her into the living area and watched as Ianto looked over his shoulder at the intrusion, then saw his face and posture slump. He manoeuvered off the sofa with effort, and took two shaky steps towards Jack, as the captain came towards him.
Jack reached out and cupped his face, thumbs stroking briefly over Ianto's cheek bones. He gave Ianto a searching look, then simply slid his arms around his lover and pulled him close.
Gwen watched as Ianto trembled, closed his eyes and buried his face against Jack's shoulder. Jack kissed his hair and said softly, "It's okay, you're okay. I'm here."
Ianto nodded, head still against Jack's shoulder, keeping his face buried while Jack softly rubbed his back.
She was like that, she realised. She dissolved like that at times when Rhys put his arms around her. It made her avert her eyes from the scene in front of her, trying to shut out their voices as Jack spoke low to Ianto about sitting down, and being more comfortable, and the answering chuckle that was half a sob. She watched from the periphery of her vision as Jack manoeuvered them both on to the sofa, taking care to keep pressure off Ianto's injured leg, wrapping strong arms around his waist and cradling Ianto's head against his chest.
She realised she'd never seen them that close before, although over the last few months, they all had let their guard down around each other more often. Jack especially seemed to be reluctant to let any member of the team go out on their own, always appearing relieved when they came back in one piece; Tosh' and Owen's deaths had affected them all, but maybe the effect on Jack had been the greatest.
She looked at her two co-workers on her sofa, Jack's hand softly stroking Ianto's back as they watched Alistair Appleton on the TV screen drone on about some antique or another, and smiled. Then she went to the kitchen to make some tea.