Characters: Jack, Gwen, Owen, Tosh, Ianto, mentions Rhys quite a lot.
Spoilers: Basically the whole of Season 1.
Summary: Envy is a universal emotion, nobody is immune, but everyone’s reasons are different.
Word Count: 1706
Written For: Challenge 8: Envy at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Jack is very much aware that the other members of his team misunderstand his motives for hiring Gwen. Because of the reputation he’s cultivated, they automatically assume he only offered her a job because he wants to sleep with her, but that’s not the case. Sure, he finds her attractive enough, but he hired her not for her looks but for what she has that the rest of them lack: a normal life.
His team is made up of damaged people, scarred by events that might have completely destroyed them if they weren’t as strong as they are. Their inner strength is what makes them ideal for Torchwood, but it’s possible that it skews their vision of the world a bit. Gwen is innocent, naïve, she’s never suffered the kinds of loss the others have. She believes that people, with a few exceptions, are essentially good, that the world is mostly fair, and she has a loyal, loving boyfriend and doting parents to help anchor her in the real world whenever she starts to doubt her convictions. It gives her, perhaps, a slightly different perspective on life, one that he thinks his team might be lacking. Besides, she’s broken Retcon once already, and it’s probably safer to have her where he can keep an eye on her, make sure she doesn’t spill Torchwood’s secrets to all and sundry. Employing her is the safest option he can come up with.
There’s another reason too; Jack envies Gwen her normality. Her parents are alive, and they care deeply about their only child. She has someone waiting at home for her when she gets off work, and even though she can’t share the details of her workday with him, whatever she goes through at work, she can count on a comforting hug, unwavering support, and a warm body to snuggle up to in bed when she goes home at night. Jack doesn’t think she values what she has as much as she should; she takes Rhys, and everything he does for her, for granted, apparently not realising how lucky she is to have him. If Jack were in her place, he’s sure he wouldn’t be so oblivious.
Because Jack knows that thanks to his immortality, he can never have the kind of life that Gwen has. What he wouldn’t give to be able to share his life with a good man, have a proper home to return to each night instead of a Spartan little room underneath his office, have a future he could look forward to with anticipation instead of dread.
Gwen and Rhys have so much ahead of them; having children, watching them grow up and make their own lives and families, growing old together… If he can’t have that himself, then maybe he can live that life vicariously, through her. It’s as close as he’s ever likely to get to ‘normal’ so he holds on tightly to it, constantly reminding Gwen not to let it slide. It’s the kind of life he’d like to share with Ianto if only they could, but instead all he can do is dream.
From the moment she joins Torchwood, Gwen goes on and on about her boyfriend, practically shoving her happy relationship down their throats, rubbing it in that the rest of them don’t have what she’s got. Owen can’t help but resent her for it; why does she get to be happy with her love when Katie, the love of his own life, was taken from him so cruelly? He envies Rhys as much as he envies Gwen, finds himself wanting to shatter their little bubble of domestic bliss in retaliation, and so he flirts, teases, touches inappropriately, forces a wedge into any crack he can find until he has her lusting after him and finally gets her into bed.
It’s fun while it lasts, but essentially meaningless; he doesn’t love Gwen, or even really want her, perhaps he wants to hurt her and Rhys for being the lucky sods they are, perhaps he even wants, deep down, to split them up so that they’ll be as miserable as he is. He can’t bear happy couples because they remind him of everything he’s lost and will never have again. They don’t know how lucky they are.
Gwen has a boyfriend she claims to love, but it seems one man isn’t enough for her; she has to have Owen as well. It cuts Tosh to her heart seeing them laughing and flirting together, and she envies Gwen both for her happy relationship with her long-term boyfriend and for whatever it is she has with Owen, the man Tosh secretly loves with all her heart.
Torchwood’s new agent has two men at her beck and call, and Tosh isn’t blind to the looks she throws Jack’s way either. It isn’t fair. Tosh has always been shy around men, self-conscious because of her intellect. She’s not outgoing and bubbly the way Gwen is, she’s not good at flirting, and Owen just treats her like a mate, one of the guys, when he bothers to talk to her at all.
She knows she should give up hope, that Owen is never going to see her as a potential girlfriend, but it’s not that simple; the heart wants what the heart wants, and she can’t just turn off her feelings, no matter how much she wishes she could. But when Owen isn’t with Gwen, he’s with some random woman he’s picked up in a bar, never with her. It’s Owen and Suzie all over again and somehow that makes it worse. Even if Gwen had never joined Torchwood, there would always be some other woman Owen finds more appealing. Sometimes, Tosh thinks she might as well be invisible.
Ianto’s never understood the bond between Jack and Gwen. He’s well aware that Gwen fancies Jack, would most likely dump Rhys without a second thought if Jack asked her to, but he’s never asked. It’s Ianto that Jack comes to at night, Ianto he kisses and fucks and sleeps beside, or it was until Jack gave his life to fix the mess his team created. But in a hidden part of his soul, Ianto has always envied Gwen. Jack never looked at him with that odd, wistful expression on his face that he got when he looked at her. It made Ianto wonder sometimes if it was Gwen that Jack really wanted after all, though Jack’s actions said otherwise. A man like Jack could have anyone he wanted, and if he’d truly wanted Gwen then surely he would have done something about it. But whatever Jack wants, or wanted, from Gwen, apparently it wasn’t her body, and Ianto’s grateful for that.
He still envies her though. Everything they did, betraying Jack and opening the Rift, was to get Rhys back for Gwen, and yet instead of running home to her resurrected boyfriend, she’s sitting in the morgue beside Jack’s body, acting like the grieving widow. Ianto wants to be the one down there, at his lover’s side, but Gwen won’t give an inch. She acts like she’s the only one who’s lost someone. He wants to set her straight, point out that she’s known Jack the shortest time, that the rest of them deserve the chance to say their own, private goodbyes to the man who means so much to them all. He wants to, but he can’t; grief is weighing on him so heavily that even breathing feels like more than he can manage. He doesn’t have the strength to fight Gwen for the right to sit in vigil over the man who made his life worth living again after he lost Lisa. Losing one love was bad enough, but losing Jack feels unbearable. He breathes Jack’s scent from the collar of his coat and lets the tears fall.
Gwen sat by Jack’s side for days, never giving up, not letting the others consign his body to a morgue drawer to be frozen. She had to do it because none of the others believed that he would come back, but she was right and they were wrong, and she feels vindicated and a bit smug. Jack is alive, breathing, smiling… He’s a little pale still, but he’ll be alright. Her faith in him will surely be rewarded.
His first words are like a bucket of ice water over her.
“Where’s Ianto? I thought he’d be here.”
Gwen keeps smiling determinedly.
“He’s upstairs, there’s a lot of clearing up to do, things that need fixing, so he’s getting on with his job.”
She fetches Jack some clothes, waits for him to dress, accompanies him to the main Hub, feeling a bit as though she’s about to present Jack like a conjuror producing a rabbit from a hat. See? What did I tell you? He’s not really dead at all!
Upstairs, Tosh throws herself into Jack’s arms and Gwen smiles at the other woman’s excitement and joy. Then Ianto approaches, looking hesitant and unsure, politely offering his hand to shake, but Jack lights up, pulling the young man close, kissing and hugging him. Gwen reminds herself that Rhys is no doubt waiting for her at home, but it doesn’t make her feel any better. She envies Ianto for the way Jack looks at him, smiles at him, kisses him. He’s never looked at her the way he looks at her fellow countryman. She knows that she shouldn’t want him to, that she’s spoken for and she’s already betrayed the trust of the man who loves her unconditionally far too many times, but it still hurts. There’s something irresistible about Jack that makes her wish she were his in the same way that Ianto so obviously is. She can’t figure out what’s so special about Ianto that Jack would choose him over her.
Envy is indiscriminate; it lurks in every soul. No matter who you are, there’s always going to be someone else who has what you think you want, but it’s worth remembering that no matter how much you might think you want something, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence, and the person you envy might be envying you right back.