Title: Give Me These Moments Back
Disclaimer: Don't own them; just borrowing.
Summary: She's faced down aliens and the end of the world, and nothing is more terrifying than the prospect of keeping this tiny being alive. She wonders why she ever thought she could do this.
Spoilers: through series 3
Notes: For Lady Fest '10, prompt: Torchwood, Gwen Cooper, motherhood (ain't easy). Title is from Kate Bush's This Woman's Work.
When the baby comes, red-faced and wrinkled and screaming, she loves him. She loves him fiercely, because she doesn't know what else to do. Loves him out of possession, and duty. And fear. She's faced down aliens and the end of the world, and nothing is more terrifying than the prospect of keeping this tiny being alive. She wonders why she ever thought she could do this.
She listens to him cry and the love grows. So does the fear.
Rhys, of course, is more pure. He's in awe. He holds the baby in his palms and stares and stares and stares. And then the baby starts to fuss and he looks at her, wide-eyed and apologetic. "Maybe...maybe you should...here," and hands him back.
You don't get to take a baby back; it's forever, Rhys Williams, she wants to say, but of course she doesn't. He didn't mean it, would never mean it. (Sometimes she thinks he loves the baby more than her.) The wounded look would be too much, and then she might cry, and then where would they be?
She does cry the morning Rhys goes back to work, though not until after he's kissed the baby and told him to be good, and almost on afterthought kissed her and promised to bring takeaway on his way home. She sits down on the couch and holds the baby and cries with him, because she never thought this would be her life. She's got a pretty good feeling the baby never thought this would be his life, either. There's a picture on the end table, her and Rhys, five years ago. She's laughing and he's kissing her cheek, and she doesn't remember the people they were back then.
She doesn't think she's ever been so tired in her entire memory. Everything is through a fog. She forgets to take a shower. Forgets to eat. She has spit-up on her shirt and on her pants and probably in her hair, too. Her nipples crack and bleed, and when the baby latches on she gasps with the pain. At her six-week appointment, her doctor declares her fit for sex again, and Gwen wants to laugh. To her credit, she manages not to cry.
There are times, of course. In the middle of the night when the baby is finally sleeping, when the flat and the street outside are quiet and dark, she breathes. She watches the baby and holds a hand over his chest, moving up and down. The love is stronger than the fear and the exhaustion, in the middle of the night with the stars outside. And then Rhys comes into the nursery, puts his arms around her and breathes her in, spit-up and all. "I love you," he says, and he's talking to her. And, "come back to bed, love," and she smiles and touches his face.
When she finally goes back to work, there's Lois Habiba, and then people she doesn't even recognize working in what only she calls the New Hub. She spends the first day attempting to organize what's left of the old archives, whispering apologies to Ianto as she does. The new people tiptoe around her – she's their superior, but she's also from the Old Torchwood Cardiff, and they all know what that means. Ghost town. She wonders if she should have just stayed away. She understands, maybe, Jack's need to go.
Approximately fifteen times per hour, she has a debilitating moment of panic, and it's not triggered by Rift alarms, but by the sudden, unexplained feeling that she's forgotten something. The baby, she remembers at last, and she waits for her heart to calm down and hopes no one else notices.
One night, exhausted beyond sleep from fighting Weevils at work and trying unsuccessfully to calm an inconsolable baby at home, she packs him up and puts him in the car and just drives. His screams quiet only slightly with the movement of the car, and out of desperation, she ends up at the hill outside the city, where she and Rhys had met Jack, so many lifetimes ago.
Out of the car, she climbs the hill with the baby, feeling his body start to relax. She holds him up against her chest when they reach the top, points to the sky. "There's more up there than you'd ever dream possible," she tells him, quiet and calm, calling back for herself that first feeling of smallness and awe she'd had, back when she was just beginning to discover that Earth wasn't all there is.
Something winks in the sky, farther than the stars, and Gwen's breath catches in her throat. A breeze touches their cheeks and the baby laughs, for the first time. Below them, Cardiff is quiet and still.
They could be the only two people on Earth.