Disclaimer: How I wish I owned them! Anyway, I don't; they're the property of the BBC.
No need for shame
She's been waiting for the call, but nevertheless there's a surge of adrenalin when she hears Andy's voice telling her that a blue police box has suddenly appeared next to the construction site that used to be Roald Dahl Plass. Gwen's up and out of her seat, letting Lois know where she's going, almost immediately. She races to the car, phone to her ear to tell Rhys that she might be late, and is reversing out of the car park barely five minutes after hanging up on Andy.
Gwen parks as close to the Plass as she can, hoping that he's still there, rehearsing what she plans to say. She's known for weeks that the Doctor would land – it was inevitable, given the 456, given the fact of the Rift – and she's spent too many sleepless nights planning her speech.
But she's not prepared for what meets her eyes as she approaches the incongruous blue wooden box. Its doors are closed, and there's a solitary figure standing a few paces away, hands in pockets, staring at the destruction. The posture is utterly lonely, utterly desolate, and Gwen pauses for a second before crossing the empty space towards the Doctor. As she does so he turns, and makes for the box.
"Doctor!" she calls, quickening her pace.
He stops, looking at her, and she comes up to him. When she'd seen him via video, when the planets moved, she had thought him young, but as she holds out her hand and introduces herself she sees the impression is very wrong. The Doctor's face might be youthful, but his eyes hold centuries.
"Gwen Cooper," he says, shaking her hand. "Very possibly just the person I wanted to see."
"I wanted to see you," she returns. "Were you thinking of going?"
"In the absence of somewhere to refuel, then yes," the Doctor says, "but with the possibility of some answers as to what's happened here, then, no."
Gwen folds her arms. "I can give you all the answers you want," she says. "Tea?"
"Never say no to a cuppa," says the Doctor, cheerfully.
She leads the way to a nearby café, orders, finds them a seat at a corner table. The Doctor props his chin on his hands, apparently examining her.
"Apparently congratulations are in order," he says, eventually.
He gestures loosely at her stomach, where the bump is now clearly evident. "Since the Dalek incident, obviously."
"Oh. Yeah." Gwen touches her belly, as she has begun to do unconsciously. "Erm, thanks."
The Doctor leans across the table, and his expression becomes serious. "Tell me what happened here, Gwen. Where's Jack? What happened to Torchwood?"
"I don't know where Jack is," she starts, her carefully-planned script already to pieces. "He's vanished. Not answering his phone."
"Okay," he says. "Start from the beginning."
So she does, beginning with the children. As the tea comes she talks about Clem MacDonald, takes the Doctor through the discovery of her pregnancy, the bombing of Torchwood Three. He frowns as she describes the cataclysm, but keeps his unnerving, deep gaze fixed on hers as she tells of rescuing Jack Harkness from his cell, building links with Lois Habiba, drawing up the plan to fight the 456. Gwen finds herself faltering as she explains Jack's own history with the 456, but pulls herself together to tell the Doctor about the failed plan, Ianto's death, and the way in which, finally, dreadfully, the aliens had been defeated.
"Afterwards," she says, "once it was all over, I came back here. Started digging through what's left. I've got a bit of an office in the police station, and Lois is helping me out. We might've lost the Hub, but the Rift's still there."
"So you'll rebuild Torchwood?" the Doctor asks, softly.
"Yeah." Gwen wraps her hands around her lukewarm mug. "Because ..."
"Because Torchwood is needed," he finishes for her.
Gwen shakes her head, meets the Doctor's eyes. "No. Because something's needed. Somebody to keep an eye on what's out there. Keep an eye on the government, I suppose. Because we can't rely on you to come and bring us safe home every time."
There, she's said it, though when she planned it she had far more anger in her – anger at Ianto's death, anger at Jack's awful sacrifice, anger at everything that had happened. She's been angry at the Doctor for being absent for so many days now, but faced with his silent understanding the anger has gone.
The Doctor says nothing for a moment. "I knew about 1965," he says, eventually. "I've known for a long time – centuries, by my own timeline – though I didn't know Jack was involved. I didn't know Jack back then. But nobody had enough information on the 456 for me to work out where they came from or what they could do with the children, and in any case by the time I found out about it the exchange had been made. And ... other things got in the way."
"And this time?" Gwen asks, the question she has been burning to ask.
He sighs. "I was elsewhere."
"I thought you had a time machine."
"I do, but ... Harriet Jones was right, you know. I can't always be here. Sometimes it's best for a planet to sort its own problems out."
Gwen pushes her mug away. "You didn't see how we sorted them. We were going to hand over millions of children, Doctor; little kids, just like that. The government lied to us. Lied to everyone. I've never been ashamed to be human before, but I was then. Still am."
"Don't say that."
"But it's true," she insists. "We turned into monsters, Doctor. And Jack ... God, Jack ... his own igrandson/i. He never talked about his family. Never said he had one. We'd no idea until that morning. Now he's all alone out there somewhere, and there's not a soul that'll understand."
The Doctor smiles at her, but it's a smile that fails to reach his eyes. "There might be," he says. "Gwen, people have always been forced into desperate measures – humans, and other races. You're not alone, you know, in having gone through something like this."
She feels the anger, at last, beginning to build. "There's no need to be so bloody patronising," she says. "We're not primitive, you know. And we could help Jack, if he agreed to it. But we wouldn't have needed to help him if you'd been there. What happened?" The Doctor breaks his gaze. "I thought," Gwen pursues, "that maybe you'd made a decision not to come. Because of what we were becoming."
His head snaps up, and she sees astonishment and – and something else. "Decided not to help?"
"Jack once told me you loved this planet," Gwen says. "How can you?"
"How can I not?" the Doctor returns. "Gwen Cooper, I don't think you're often wrong, but here, you are. These days, Earth's the nearest thing I've got to a home after the TARDIS. If the Earth had called, I'd have been here like a shot. But I didn't find out about this until after the fact. I have a time machine, but once something's fixed, it's fixed. I can't go back and change it. I can't rewrite Ianto's death, or Jack's grandson ..."
"Steven. There are rules I have to obey. Sometimes – well, a lot of the time – I break them, where I can, but I can't undo death. I'm so very sorry, but I can't. But that doesn't mean I don't love this planet, and everyone on it. Earth ..." He shrugs. "When I was in a much darker and deeper hole than Jack thinks he's in now, Earth was what saved me. Human beings were what saved me. Jack can get through this, given time." A shadow crosses his face. "He's got enough of it."
She rises. "So, what do I tell him, when I see him?"
"Tell him it wasn't his fault," says the Doctor, standing too and sticking his hands in his pockets as she leaves a fiver on the table for the tea. "Tell him not to run away, to go back to those who love him." They head outside, into the bustle of a Cardiff afternoon; mothers berating their children, office workers clutching coffees, buses belching fumes into the bright Welsh air. The Doctor looks around him, and turns back to Gwen. "He'll still run. He'll think he's got a lot of running to do. But tell him anyway, because he needs to hear it even if he doesn't accept it. It wasn't his fault."
Gwen looks up at him, feeling helpless.
"And what do I do?"
The Doctor lays a hand on her shoulder, light but firm. "Go back to work, Gwen Cooper. Rebuild Torchwood. Keep an eye on this world for me, because I won't be here always. Hand me your phone."
He holds out his hand, and she digs out her phone and passes it over. The Doctor taps in a number, and passes it back. "When Jack calls, let me know. I can trace him; I'll bump into him, accidentally, some time. He'll be all right."
"What about me?" Gwen asks. "Will I be all right?"
The Doctor grins, and suddenly he does look young after all. "Yeah. Absolutely. That's what I love most about humans. You always survive."
She finds herself smiling back, despite herself, and they walk back to the Plass and the blue police box in companionable silence. The Doctor lays a hand on the side of his ship as they reach it. "I suppose I'll have to find an alternative refuelling point until there's somewhere to park again on top of the Rift. Bother."
Gwen laughs, and is surprised to find herself able to laugh. An hour ago she would not have thought it possible. "I'll see if I can get it levelled out for you. Just a bit more rubble to get through."
"Thank you," the Doctor says. He takes out a key, unlocks the TARDIS, and steps in. "You might want to stand back," he adds, and closes the door on her.
Stepping back, Gwen finds her hair blown about her face as – with a groan and a rush of wind – the Doctor's ship vanishes. For a moment she stands, looking at the crater that used to be the Hub, before turning. There's work to be done.