Need (Illegitimate)

 

 

naudhr gerer næpa koste
nøktan kæir í froste

 

 

The light's creeping up cold and white overland, thick fog rolling in and out of the graveyard as Gwen wades through it, bouquet tucked in her elbow, and the world's swimming a little, glassy, because she's been up for days in cold storage with Jack, up for hours after that trying to track where he'd disappeared to, and it's occurred to her now there's something he'd might like her to do.

"We don't know he's gone for good," Ianto ventures, a few steps behind her. His trousers must be soaked in the dew, she thinks, he must loathe it.

"He's not," Gwen says flatly. There, there's the right stone at last. She fingers blue lilies and ferns, traces S and T with her fingers, flicks dew out of the E's. The L's waver. "He's coming back," she tells the grave, and lays the flowers. "This is from him."

She stands, shakes, stamps her feet and yawns uncontrollably. Startles as a warm hand settles on her shoulder. She squints up at Ianto, remembers that kiss, looks down, then up again. She's flanked by Jack's lovers.

"I didn't know," she hedges, "you were together, not until then..."

"Really?" Ianto asks blandly. "I thought we were obvious."

"Well, maybe I was daft," she mumbles, then looks up at him, and says with great drowsy care, "I'm sorry he's gone. But he is coming back."

"Get some sleep, Gwen." Not that there aren't dark shadows under his eyes too, the hypocrite. "You aren't the only one waiting." He gives that light, wry Ianto smile. "We'll do shifts. I'll call you if he shows up. After I snog him senseless, of course."

The sun's almost up. She shivers, desperately unhappy. She kept Jack's vigil, and she brought him back to life. Brought Rhys back to life. Came back herself. Shouldn't that be enough?

 

 

There's a weevil to put away, and then she's sitting down on the couch, and then she's looking at the clock four hours later with a little yelp.

"Shit, why didn't you wake me up?"

Tosh is looking at two sets of spectrum lines at once, keying a few lines of calculus on another monitor, doesn't even look over her shoulder. "There's nothing to explain that wind that came up when Jack left, though the spatial variances are interesting. Oh. You needed sleep."

Her voice is bland, neutral. Gwen grabs a cup of coffee, cold, wavers where she sits. "Not your business, should've woken me up," she mutters, pouts, watches Owen skulk by.

Tosh's head turns as he passes, but only a little.

"Bloody well go home already," Owen mutters, and stomps down to cold storage.

 

 

She wonders vaguely, on the way home, if this is what shell-shock feels like. She still feels the ground shake under her feet, as if from monstrous steps; the clouds make her skin crawl. She feels hollow, hollow as a corpse in a big coat, stiff and cold in a pale, windswept field, white as the sky full of Rift-smoke. Hollow as the dark place where she'd fallen, sliding limp from Suzie's shoulder to the pavement.

She thinks of sleeping again, but she's just napped, knows she'll hit second wind in about, oh, five minutes, as she's dragging herself up the stairs to her flat. The world starts clearing when she sees familiar curtains, red and green gauze, the green Rhys had twined up in one Christmas when he'd gotten very, very drunk and tried to do a drag show, and now he's sprawled on the good old couch with football commentary, starts up as she fumbles open the door.

"Be right back, she says," he mumbles, but looks over his shoulder, blinks. "Bloody hell, love, you look like death warmed over."

"It was--I'm sorry. Somebody at work--something went wrong, he was hurt, I had to stay with him." She looks at the coffee table, though it's almost true.

"Could've bloody phoned?" He hauls himself up, aims for the kitchen.

"Rhys, please..."

She gets a hug. He seems startled by the concept, holds her as she plasters herself against his bulk and warmth, so familiar, so safe, god, how could she ever betray this?

"You come with a kiss, go for days, come back all needy and looking like you've been starved, you sure they're treating you right, Gwen, I think you should talk to whoever does the personnel over there..."

She laughs faintly, with the sort of smile she knows is glassy, too wet about the edges. "He's on vacation."

 

 

"See, told you once I shoveled some dinner in you'd feel better." The football's still on; they haven't bothered to turn it off. Slump on the couch, pick at leftovers and popcorn, twine feet together and laugh. She could almost pretend everything's all right.

Rhys' hand snakes down round her bum.

She laughs, rolls her head against his shoulder. "We could go to bed like civilized people."

"Never!" Rhys declares, dramatic. "Besides, then you might just fall asleep."

So she rolls over him right on the sofa, her Rhys, her best Rhys, pillowed on him with his hands stroking her back.

She has more fun if she's atop, she's found--picked up a few tricks from Owen, how to roll her hips to get his cock up in all the right places, and Rhys likes lying back and letting his hands wander over his body, blunt fingers cupping her breasts, and how bloody cracked is it that she's using something she picked up from Owen--

Rhys heaves. She moans on cue. This isn't about her anyway, she thinks, he's back, he's back, he's back, he's cleaning the oven and scrubbing the dishes, red and blue and green in his hands, it took the world nearly ending and Jack--but he's back, and everything should be right again.

"--position of Manchester United is such that there was a general feeling among analysts that if you bring Manchester United to your table, the others simply have to come with them, because a fixture against Manchester United is its standard value doubled--"

"Hold on, love," she murmurs, pets his cheek, pulls her knees up along side him and lets him take more of her weight, driving him deeper, and her bum hits the remote. "Oh, sorry--"

"--ballpark neither. Now look, maybe your method of massage differs from mine, but, you know, touchin' his wife's feet, and stickin' your tongue in her Holiest of Holies, ain't the same fuckin' ballpark, it ain't the same league, it ain't even the same fuckin' sport. Look, foot massages don't--"

"Bloody hell, Gwen--ahh--don't bother with the telly, you're shagging the love of your life here..." He smiles that bright puppy smile, nobody has eyes like that, nobody in all the world and he's not dead anymore, he's so alive he's bouncing her on his hips--

"--but are you quite sure this is your budgerigar, Mrs. Jones--"

--his hand's on the shotgun scar from Brynblaidd, god he'd freaked when she'd come home with that, and she squeezes down on his cock and tries to come--

"--into the Christian era, the local peasants associated the thaw and sprouting of spring with the myth of Gerd the giantess, a beautiful but frigid maid who finally yielded to the golden touch of the fertility deity Frey after a stormy courtship. She symbolizes the natural mystery of the seed in frozen ground. But the true magic of Easter comes in lambing season. We will continue on--"

 

 

She sleeps until noon, wakes in a panic in the empty flat. She needs to sleep, no, to eat, no, to be in the Hub, no, Rhys, no, Owen the tosser, no, fuck--

She needs only one life. She needs everything to make sense again. None of the bullshit, the crazy, the late nights, the corpses that lie still, the retcon, the secrecy, the corpses that don't lie still. None of being torn in two, and the man whose fault it all was is gone and that makes it even worse, the hole in her worlds where he'd been; she hates him, she needs to find him and punch his lights out, she needs to fuck him senseless...

But Torchwood needs their liaison to the real world. Rhys needs a woman he can trust. Against that, what is she?

Her phone is full of messages from Tosh, asking where she was, we need a hand, Gwen, you're good with the paperwork.

She locks herself in the bathroom, draws the blinds, sobs and wails. She beats her knuckles on the counter. She's wallowing. She knows she's wallowing and she can't stop. Nothing is quite right and it's all closing in around her.

Finally she writes on her calf with a laundry pen. i don't need anything, she writes, dotting the i on a freckle. i am okay and can take care of everybody, she writes, because that might make it true. i don't matter, she writes, because she's afraid it is true. The ink tingles. She caps the pen, throws it at the wall.

Dead calm, she eats a TV dinner and heads off to work.

 

 

"Fuck this shit," Owen mutters, and thrusts the receiver into her hand before she even looks up from the papers.

They're on either side of Jack's old desk, going through everything that might help, wondering how in hell he'd kept up with everything to hold Torchwood together even if he never slept. Owen's been on the phone getting pestered by god-knows-what--the line's on hold, and he thumbs it off before she's ready, ducks back to work.

"Hello?" Gwen says, cautious.

"Excuse me, ma'am. I believe I was talking to Mr. Harper."

"Dr. Harper," Gwen says automatically. "I--I think he wanted my opinion on something? This is Gwen Cooper..."

"Your opinion on the Himalayan situation, I'd imagine?"

"Himalayan?" she echoes, bewildered.

"Now look here, missy, I know what Torchwood is and I know what its mission is, though god only knows why Harkness entrusted it to a bunch of yokels, so stop pretending there's no such thing as aliens. And I know the flaming bastard has gone and disappeared on you, which doesn't surprise me in the least, so why don't you let UNIT reestablish its rightful jurisdiction?"

"UNIT's rightful jurisdiction?" Gwen blinks, sits straight as a ruler and stares at Owen with huge eyes, hoping he'll get the hint.

Bullshit, he mouths, and jerks a finger across his throat.

Gwen gathers her best hard-assed police voice, mostly cribbed from her first-year sergeant at the academy with the big stick and the mulled mead habit, and grips the edge of the table for encouragement. "I'm sorry, sir, but even without Jack we're still Torchwood, and we cannot give you any authority over our activities."

"Have you even read your charter, Miss Cooper?"

We have a charter? she mouths. Owen circles his finger round his ear and rolls his eyes. "We are independent from any outside authority, sir--"

"God save us all from Harkness and his lot of bloody loose cannons. That Costello woman was bad enough. Fine, I can't talk sense into you. The Prime Minister's office is extremely concerned about the Himalayan situation, but if the Prime Minister's office can't move you off your Welsh behinds, then far be it from me to try. Good day."

The line goes dead. Gwen slams the phone down, looks at it in alarm.

"The Prime Minister's office, he says?"

"Just scare tactics, don't throw a fit." Owen snorts. "Look at this--new weapons expert extra hot when welding, makes up for disconcerting lack of public records. Did he ever stop thinking with his dick?"

"You're one to talk," Gwen mutters, looks to one side and picks up another file. "You were fucking her, weren't you? Anyway, what's the point of going through that, she's dead..."

"Excuse me," Owen snaps. "If I recall correctly, you were the one who came skulking up to me in the end. Only one you can talk to and all that."

"You!" Gwen slams her hands on the table, everything blowing over the edge at once, words pouring out before she can even think about them. "You shoot him, you fucking shoot him, and you were decent when he was dead, god I can't believe I have to say that, and then he disappears and you just fly into a snit for days! Shit, Owen fucking Harper, you never make sense, god only knows why I'm bloody shagging you in the first place, cracked in the head I was, never doing that again!"

She catches herself. Her throat hurts. Owen opens his jaw, shuts it with a click, and gives a very hunched and angry shrug. "Not like I'd care."

 

 

Owen's Owen, though, and it's the same twisted wreck of an affair it's always been, so it doesn't particularly surprise her that she's back in his bed that evening, wrists behind her in those fuzzy handcuffs he keeps threatening her with, on her knees with her face in the mattress and his hand over his mouth as he fucks her with all he's got, as she's squealing and squirming and wondering what's gotten into him and really grateful that she's managed to scrub the marker off.

Then he pulls out. Owen pulls out? Doesn't make any sense.

"Poor Gwen Cooper," Owen murmurs in her ear. He's gone; his cock's gone; she aches for more, drips a little with a hot flush, wiggles her fingers in the cuffs and her behind at him. He's reached for something, and she can't see, he doesn't let her turn her head. Not a real gag, she prays, all wordless, not a proper one, he'll drive me mad--

"Not going to let up on you, know how much you like this--"

--and it's his hand instead of his cock, too wet and trailing too far up, and all her bluff and thunder is just a weak mmfh as his rough fingertip circles her arse, slips slowly in--

It's invasive, and uncomfortable, and spine-crawly, and unaccountably hot, and everything that's Owen, and she's on her face with her arse in the air and her tits this way and that, drooling into his hand as she tries to say no though she's almost sure she doesn't mean it because it's making her so wet that she'd hump his leg like a dog if she could--she'd only tried this once or twice before, and never liked it, but he's pressing further into her, merciless, and she does, sort of, like it, which is so unfair, she never did with Rhys...

"Knew you'd like this," he keeps murmuring in her ear, Owen-growl, Owen-bite sharp to each syllable. "Knew you'd like it this way, squirming about while I fuck you. Up the. Arse. All dirty and wrong." His cock isn't even in her yet. How could it be in there anyway? Wouldn't it be impossibly huge? She wails into his hand as he whispers obscenities. "You need to be filthy." Sharp stab of fingers, and she groans. "You need me to fuck you." She tries for yes, god, please, but it's a muffled whine. "Look, I even cuffed you so you could think I was forcing you. That gets you hot, not that you'd admit it, but it. So. Does."

He peels his hand off her mouth, fucks her with the other while her knees quiver. "Owen--!" she starts, sounding a little hysterical, she thinks vaguely, oh but why shouldn't she be--

He smacks her, hard, on her upturned bottom--it stings, then burns, and she yelps like a little girl. "Shut up," he growls, most commanding she's ever heard him, and she freezes silent with a little whimper, stares bug-eyed at the tumbled sheet that's the only thing she can see with her weight on her neck like this--and his other hand lands between her legs too, drags one finger lazily over her clit, which is about when she tries to beg--"I said, shut up"--and then he's sliding fingers into her pussy, fucking her for a bit with both hands at once while she screams--

The other hand's gone suddenly, just the fingers--how many she can't tell, doesn't want to know--insistent up her arse. And then his hand is back on her face, wet and sticky over her mouth, and she's back to shouting denials into it, flushed red with shame because she's drowning in the smell of her own pussy, sharp and thick and something like Chinese noodles and cheap lube and latex from the condom...

By the time he gets his cock into her, though, she's overwhelmed, somewhere beyond overwhelmed, some sort of white space where she's nothing, where she doesn't think, where there's only her body, his cock, and she feels so alive. He's taken his hand away from her mouth to support her, bodily under her shoulders, and she just spasms and howls with every slow, merciless shove. Wet spot on her bicep. He's splitting her in two. Could not speak even if he'd let her, couldn't manage a single real word, because she's got none left.

He pulls her bodily back onto his cock as she squirms, rocks her whole weight back and forth like a doll, comes.

"You," he says later, "asked for that. You needed it. So don't you go having hysterics at me, just fucking deal already."

 

 

Work's intruding everywhere, what with everything it takes to keep up with the hyperactive Rift and make up for Jack. Beer and databases in Owen's kitchen. Lunch with Tosh and a stack of reports, and her saying, all solemn, "I really do think this Himalayan affair is valid," while Gwen twists her breadstick and bites her lip because she doesn't know enough to have an opinion. Sips of very dry scotch in Ianto's flat as they cock up draft after draft of a letter to the PM's office, and she's barely seen Rhys in days.

The flat is small and tidy, all well-stocked oak bookshelves, neat knick-knacks, and pictures turned face-down--she'd peeked beneath one when he back was turned, saw the smiling black woman making bunny ears over his head, and put it back down guiltily, turned brightly to talk about something else.

The scotch is very good. Ianto is very witty. The letter takes second seat to their dancing around the idea of him fucking Jack. The clock ticks late.

Ianto pours another shot, opens his mouth, then closes it, and they stare at each other.

"Is this becoming inevitable?" he asks after a moment.

"I," she starts.

It's like Owen; she should stop, but she won't, and she never knows why.

"I suppose it is, then."

 

 

She'll think later that it's the darndest thing--he doesn't use his cock, he never uses his cock, she barely even sees his cock. Just mouth and hands. Just touching. She thinks at first of Rhys when he's trying to be gentlemanly, settles in to be bored, but she's unprepared for the intensity of Ianto's focus, the slow, scientific deliberation of his palms smoothing over her skin as he strips her. He couldn't possibly be like this with Jack, she thinks, endless scrutinizing foreplay; when his mouth finally settles on her nipple, he doesn't let go for five, maybe ten minutes, until she screams.

"Are you quite all right?"

"Yeah, I just--oh god--you--wow--"

He is calm, observant. She squirms under his microscope. He pins her flat to the tidy white slide of his bed with one hand on her hip, thumb rubbing slow circles over the little knob of bone there, and when his mouth finally, fucking finally, closes over her pussy, she wails in relief. Hears herself ranting, "fuck me, fuck me, oh god please just fuck me, I need you to fuck me," not that he's not good with his mouth, he's fantastic, but--

Eventually, when she's already come twice, thrice, he slides a finger slowly inside, exploring with glacial curiosity. Two as she thrashes her head against the pillow and moans. More, eventually, until she's terrified he'll wind up fisting her, but he doesn't, but it's still not his cock, just four, maybe, strong elegant fingers straining her to bursting, curled forward in relentless, merciless pressure to her g-spot that's making her come almost uncontrollably, wringing her out. She's forgetting how to breathe. A gut-clenching spasm lifts her bodily from the waist up, and he slips his mouth off her clit for the first time in forever and looks up along the sweaty length of her. His hand's gone from her hip, disappeared down somewhere as he's kneeling off the side of the bed, and she thinks uncomprehending that he must be jerking off, though he doesn't look it, just wet and tender about the mouth and this look in his eyes...

His fingers may be curling deep inside her, but he's fucking her with his eyes. Just the sheer focus of his gaze--it's driving into her, nudging somewhere deep. She can't look away. Comes with a howl without breaking eye contact.

When she's exhausted, he wipes his specimen gently with his shirtsleeve. Shaking, dry-mouthed, she looks slowly down at him. She'd yanked off his jacket earlier, but he's still dressed apart from that, and his crisp white shirt is damp with sweat and clinging to his shoulders, soaked with her juices on the sleeve; his tie hangs loose, his pants open and showing bits of tender skin just above his crotch, because, yeah, he was wanking.

"You," she manages somehow, "you're wearing too much..."

"Sorry," he murmurs, a little wry, licking the last drops of her off his mouth. "It was my first time with a woman since. Well. I was in a hurry."

She laughs that sort of laugh that makes her think she sounds a little crazy. "You call that a hurry?"

He strips.

Exhaustion hits.

The ceiling of his flat has a little crack in one corner, drawing off a triangle with the cornice. The white paint is grained with grit. The space between her shoulder blades aches from all the bucking about; she's got that jelly feeling in her belly from when she comes too hard, too long. Not even Owen gives her that anymore.

He's warm, warm up her side, naked and damp.

"Do you enjoy it?" he asks, a whisper near her ear, bland curiosity. It takes her a few moments to register that he's spoken. The ceiling blurs, reforms.

"What?"

"Being a slut."

He doesn't form the word with any particular judgment. It's neutral, tidy. She still jolts upright with a yelp, pulls herself away from every bit of him like he'd poison her, shakes.

"I," she says, fumbling, "I..." She's surrounded by demons; they've appeared in an instant. Too many to fight, and she struggles for a weapon, this close to just giving up, falling, letting them tear into her. Life is for a moment unbearable.

She looks down to one side. He's on his side, curled a little, head resting in the crook of his elbow, looking up at her just with his eyes, unassuming. He's one smooth wash of skin, hair-speckled and sleek, no scars. His feet are curled in a little, toes hooked over toes, the only part of him that doesn't look relaxed. Hair-scruffed and sweaty. She wants to fuck him. She wants him to fuck her. So hard their skin slaps together, no matter that she's exhausted.

She runs two fingers over the scar on her side. She can feel her ribs a little underneath. She curls her own toes together, curls her knees to her chest, hides her face in them.

"God," she says. "Oh, god..."

"I'm sorry," Ianto says, quiet. "I wondered. Because I feel like that at times, for taking Jack as a lover, even after." He doesn't even trail off, simply stops himself, right there. "Though perhaps it was more letting him take me."

"Oh," says Gwen. "Sorry. I thought--" She laughs a little, weakly. "Sorry I spazzed out on you there..."

She's babbling. At Ianto. She stops, uncurls a little, looks back down at him again. He's rolled onto his back, looking up at her with faint concern.

"It's hard, though" Ianto adds after a moment, "to feel sluttish when he's about. Thought I was straight, even, before. He has a way of alleviating such concerns."

"You sound like an instruction manual," Gwen murmurs, smiling a little. There's a slight, wry, almost smug smirk on Ianto's talented lips now.

"An instruction manual for Jack Harkness. Quite a concept."

"And really quite necessary, when you get down to it." She laughs, hears him chuckle. "Might even cover shooting lessons and random disappearances--do you miss him?"

There's a moment of harsh silence. Ianto sits up with easy, soundless grace.

"Yes."

His hand lands between her shoulder blades, just resting.

"And you've been with him since." She stops. Just like he did, she stops. He's been through so much more than she, Lisa and all, how dare she be in pain, so she feels like a little child, twists her thumbs.

"Not quite," he says, quiet, very calm. "We...drifted together. After Brynblaidd, actually."

"Oh," she says weakly, "you too."

"Looking back, I can't quite say how it happened myself. But it worked. It was quite obtuse like that."

She isn't quite sure what he's getting at, but obtuse sounds about the right word for how she'd had her other co-worker's cock up her arse not two days before, and bloody hell, how did she fall into bed with Ianto, she's turning into the office muffin, she might as well go shag Tosh, and, "what's--what's he like? As a lover, I mean? I mean, is he kinky or something?"

Ianto looks somewhere that isn't quite her for a moment.

"He's extraordinary, but I suppose you'd guess that. And he'd laugh at you for making the kinky bit a category. He just does what he likes, though I suppose most people would consider us quite twisty." He looks back at her. "It's like, when he touches you, you come alive." He gestures a little with his hands in midair; the way he says you makes Gwen squirm. "Even just where his hands touch your skin, like he's waking up every nerve. Or sometimes even just the warmth of his breath on your neck." He pauses, looks away again, wistful now. "Though I don't seem to manage the same for him very often."

"Do you love him?" she asks, before she can stop herself. It comes out very thick.

He blinks at her with genuine surprise--it looks almost out of place on him--and blurts, raw honesty, "God, no," and laughs a little. "Would you like tea?"

She stares at him. "Tea?" I thought we were talking about Jack. "I thought you were a coffee man."

"Mostly. I have an odd fondness for tea after, well." He gestures at the sheets. "After a shag."

He pads off naked to the kitchen, starts the teakettle. She wraps herself up in his shirt, trails afterwards with the collar lopsided and the tails about her arse.

"I...need it," she answers him at last, low and dark, in the silence as the kettle bubbles up. "I'm not sure whether I like it, and it's going to do something horrible to my life, but I need it." She blinks up at him, smiles sheepish and gap-toothed. "Sounds silly, I suppose?"

He blinks over his shoulder in confusion, cup and saucer in one hand, hair scruffed and tufting.

 

 

Half past two, and she's left Ianto alone in his little flat with his teakettle, shuffled through the rain-scrubbed streets of Cardiff, glistening under bright white lamps, drifted up her stairs with her hair soaked to the scalp and no one to give her a towel.

Rhys is gone, and it makes her gut sink, but she can't muster surprise. Staying the night on his mate's couch after the game, says the fridge. She is expected to think otherwise, she supposes, expected to think he's sleeping about just like her; she might, in flashes of hot wretched lightning, if she weren't dead, she feels, the walking dead. Scratches the back of her head, where the slow shot left no scar. Thinks on it vaguely, from far away, and for some reason it's Carys twined up in Rhys' arms, Carys' long, thin body against his.

Rhys is gone, so she sits up in the empty house, watches the numbers on the clock change, still from very far away, like they're in a movie somewhere, maybe, a bomb counter with no fuse. Sits up and scrawls on her legs, watches rain sheet down the windows and waits for Jack. Remembers the heat of his body up along her back as she'd brought up the gun, fingers like sunlight on the side of her throat, warmth of him all through her like walking bright fields in July; maybe, if he comes back, maybe he could melt her.

 

 

need leaves little choice
the naked shiver in frost

 

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