Pairing: Rhys/Andy (Rhys/Gwen, Andy/Gwen)
Challenge/Prompt: philosophy_20, #8 Faith
Word Count: 3560
Copyright: Title is a Seth Lakeman song.
Spoilers: 2x11 Adrift, 2x12 Fragments and 2x13 Exit Wounds.
Summary: “She’s made you like her,” he says, tone a mixture of surprise and bitterness.
Author’s Notes: The thing I took out of the finale apart from some hysterical sobbing was the need to write Andy/Rhys. So here it is. For those of you who secretly wanted it too. Don’t know what happened to my writing style though…
Fought upon a broken shore.
The longest fifteen minutes of Rhys Williams’ life are spent holding onto the hand of the whimpering Toshiko Sato. She’s half-crushed by a steel girder, and the knuckles of the fingers squeezing his are scraped raw.
Rhys keeps up a desperate monologue of words, variations on the theme of Jack will come, Jack will get you out, before the words slide into streams of anxious Welsh. It’s all right, though, because Toshiko is mumbling miserable strings of Japanese, and neither of them can understand what the other is saying but it’s all right because it’s not exactly the most normal of situations.
“It’s going to be all right,” Rhys tries to reassure her, voice shaking, hysteria crawling in around the edges. Offering to give Gwen a ride to work wasn’t supposed to end like this.
Toshiko gasps, a bruised sort of laugh, fingers twitching against his.
“We don’t have much time,” she replies.
“That’s what your captain does, though, isn’t it?” Rhys murmurs, brushing his thumb gently over her palm. “Organise fantastic last-minute rescues.”
Toshiko makes a small noise in reply, and her hand trembles. Rhys closes his eyes, and for a moment completely forgets that this could have been Gwen. He forgets to be glad that it isn’t.
“Come on, love, stay with me,” he all but shouts. “Come on.”
Rhys turns his head in time to see Jack and Ianto picking their way through the rubble. Ianto’s smart black suit is thick with dust and he looks half crushed, but he and Jack are quick enough to join Rhys in lifting the girder and easing Toshiko out from beneath it.
He thinks then that it’s over. But it isn’t.
The city is in flames and in pieces and Gwen runs off to try and save the world. Rhys is left with Andy – who hates him – and the Weevils – who want to kill him – and he swallows hard, telling himself that falling apart won’t help.
“What the fuck is Torchwood?” Andy demands. His schoolboyish features are hardened, angry, anxious, and Rhys swallows. His teeth taste like ashes, and he has to be strong because Gwen needs him to hold it together.
“I can’t,” he murmurs. “I can’t, I made a promise.”
There are creatures outside the police station and they both have their backs braced against the door, which is quivering. They’ve got one gun between them and neither of them is exactly a great shot.
“We’re going to die anyway,” Andy points out, a slash of words that shiver with panic.
“I can’t,” Rhys tells him. “I’m sorry, Andy, but I promised.”
The Weevils stop trying to get in for a long second, and Andy turns to look at him in that moment.
“She’s made you like her,” he says, tone a mixture of surprise and bitterness. “All hard and fucking cold like she is now.”
“I’m not,” Rhys snaps back, as the door shudders again. “This isn’t the fucking time for this argument, Andy.”
“Fine.” Andy shuts his eyes, jaw set firm. It’s a look Rhys has never seen on him – and why would he have done – a distinct contrast to the Andy who sat on their sofa with red wine and made little sarcastic comments that were merely funny because Gwen was Rhys’, after all. “Just- just fine.”
The door shiver-shudders again, and Rhys lurches forward with it, a Gwen will save us, she has to open on his mouth.
It’s late when it all goes quiet.
“Are we safe?” Andy asks. He’s got a slice on his cheek, dribbling red, and his eyes have lost their spark.
“Gwen hasn’t called,” Rhys replies. He’s sipping a mug of hot, bad tea – no milk and too much sugar – that tastes faintly like chalk on his teeth. “It won’t be over until she calls and says it is.”
He half expects Andy to say if she calls, if she isn’t dead, but apparently there are some things that no one is brave enough to articulate.
They’re silent for a long moment, alone in a police station full of blood and bodies, but it’s this or the chaotic streets outside. Rhys drinks his shitty tea and watches the blood crust on Andy’s cheek.
“The phonelines are down,” Andy says at last, tentatively, quietly.
“She’ll get hold of us,” Rhys replies steadfastly. “She will.”
After a pause, Andy nods. Whatever else is or isn’t between them, animosity and disdain and exhaustion, they do believe in her.
Rhys’ mouth feels sour and gritty, and his stomach is churning as the adrenalin begins to wane. It’s the early hours of the morning, and the world feels thin.
“So what’s the Time Agency, then?” Andy asks. His voice is hollow, the brightness pushed into it in a mere attempt not to sound utterly dead.
“Buggered if I know,” Rhys replies tiredly, using the wall to drag himself upright. Hours, and not a word.
He imagines calling his parents, with my wife is dead lying slack on his mouth, first the wedding they don’t remember followed up by a death so censored he won’t even get to bury her.
“But you said-”
“It was an in-joke,” Rhys mutters dully. “I was mocking you.”
Andy makes a soft sound that’s almost a snigger, and pulls himself upright too. Blood on his uniform, the collar a pink/red smudge. Ianto could probably fix it, but for all he knows Ianto is in pieces right now.
“Yes, because when people are being murdered and aliens are invading, that’s really the time to make stupid jokes,” Andy snaps.
Rhys closes his eyes, kneads them with fingers that smell like fallen bricks.
“I can’t do this right now,” he says, and: “We need to clean up your cheek.”
It’s possible they’re still in shock. But it really doesn’t matter any more.
The antiseptic in the distinctly crap first aid kit kept by the station makes Andy hiss in a breath through his teeth, fingers curling in his lap. He doesn’t say a word, though, and gazes straight ahead while Rhys sticks his face back together with plasters.
“You might need stitches,” Rhys offers eventually. It’s strange, how he didn’t want the quiet until he got it. Somehow, the screaming and the shouting and the explosions quantified this experience. Now, it’s like a nightmare he can’t get out of because he can’t find the trigger.
“Fine,” Andy mumbles, the right side of his face a strip of closely-stuck peachy plasters. His eyelids flicker as Rhys pastes the final one down, eyelashes brushing against Rhys’ thumb. “Thank you.”
Barely an admission, gritted out between his teeth, but you can nearly die with someone and still resent them for having what you don’t. Rhys sighs, tired because he never planned on disliking Andy, who always smiled just that bit too wide and will remain fifteen forever ‘cause he’s got those sort of features. Who makes you smirk when he swears because he looks a little too young to be spitting out fuck when he gets exhausted.
“I think you were lucky,” Rhys offers eventually, wiping excess blood off his hands. His ribs are bruised but he’s had worse from rugby and right now they don’t seem to be dead, which is pretty fucking great when you think about it.
Andy bows his head and for a terrified second Rhys thinks he’s going to cry. His fingers flex – touch? Don’t touch? They don’t have any sort of relationship but they’re both so scared that it doesn’t matter – and then Andy starts laughing, helpless sounds that roll out into the small room.
His phone explodes into sound.
The sobbing sounds terribly far away in his ear – the reception is dreadful, Rhys suspects that the team have cobbled something together long enough to make a few calls – and for a long minute it seems like Gwen can’t stop.
“Are you ok?” Rhys gets out eventually.
A breath. She chokes. “Yes.”
“Thank God.” His knees buckle, he’s played so many silent, crackling movies in his head through the wait.
“Tosh…” Gwen begins, and her voice cracks, slides back into sobs again. “Tosh… and Owen…”
Toshiko, who clung to his hand and murmured delirious cords of Japanese in an attempt to stave off the pain. Just a few hours ago.
“No,” Rhys murmurs. “No, no.”
“I’ll…” Gwen’s breath shudders too hard, he pictures her crying, and he doesn’t want her to cry. Rhys wants to be the one who protects her, who wraps her up safe in security and makes sure she never feels like that again. “I’ll meet you at home.”
“I love you,” Rhys tells her. That’s the important part.
“I love you too,” she replies, the words twisted around each other.
His phone clatters on the concrete.
[Gwen takes Andy for a coffee, a couple of days later, adding too much sugar to her drink and toying with a teaspoon in a way that makes her look compulsive.
She begins with there’s a Rift in space and time that runs through Cardiff, passes through Jack Harkness has forgotten how to die, and finishes with and now two of my team members are gone.
“…And that’s what Torchwood is,” she finishes, running her finger around the untouched rim of her coffee mug.
Andy says nothing at all, cheek held immobile from the stiff stitches. He feels weak and sort of scooped-out, his insides replaced with cold fear and a sort of firm anxiety.
“So,” Gwen tries a smile that strains on her face and soon falls apart, “Do you still want a job?”
It’s not bloody funny.]
“She told you,” Rhys says when he opens the door to find Andy. Shoulders hunched under his anorak, eyes bearing the signs of a man who’s heard too many things he never wanted to listen to.
“Yes.” Andy’s lips twitch in something too brief to be a smile. “Can I come in?”
“Gwen’s not here,” Rhys informs him, a slip of disclaimer pushed into the conversation.
“Ok.” Andy looks hopefully at Rhys. “Can I come in?” he repeats.
Rhys steps aside, and pushes the door closed behind Andy. He’s not sure what Andy wants and he doesn’t know what he wants, but Gwen is trying to put things back together that shook apart over a week ago, and sleeping over at the Hub tonight. Maybe with Jack and/or Ianto, but Rhys thinks that he trusts his wife.
He hopes that he trusts her.
“You got the stitches out,” he remarks, something inane to fill the stinging quiet. Andy nods, cheek a stripe of angry colour, but it’ll heal. So many things didn’t.
“I don’t know what I thought Torchwood was,” Andy mutters, collapsing into the sofa, folding himself up small in a way that looks forlorn and a little scared, “But it wasn’t…”
“No,” Rhys agrees carefully. He is about to ask why Andy thought to come to him when he remembers that who else could Andy come to? There should be support groups for this kind of thing.
“How long have you known?” Andy asks, voice shuddering around the edges.
“A few months,” Rhys replies. “I got involved in a case, if I hadn’t, Gwen might never have…”
He can’t think that. He has to think that Gwen would have told him before they were married anyway. He has to.
“And she works with… aliens, every day?” Andy turns the words carefully over in his mouth, trying them on for size. You get a whole new vocabulary when discussing Torchwood, and seemingly innocuous phrases get a whole new meaning.
“Just as well you didn’t come to the wedding,” Rhys says in an attempt at lightness, fetching beer from the fridge because he doesn’t know how this will end but he can’t bear to stay sober, “A shape-shifter arrived, ate some of the guests, impregnated Gwen, and then exploded all over us. And then we had to wipe the memories of all the guests.”
Andy stares at him, wide-eyed, but manages to blink out a vague thanks as he takes a can of beer from Rhys.
“And she’ll never leave,” Rhys adds. His tone wavers, too angry, too bitter, too desperate. “She can’t leave.”
Once upon a time – though it’s far from a fairytale – Gwen Cooper used to come home at a half decent hour, in her ugly sensible shoes, and give away slight hints about her job. Bar fights, domestic disturbances. That sort of thing. Then suddenly she stopped talking to Rhys and shortly after that she stopped coming home at all – at least, for a while. Then there’s an evening with drinks that he doesn’t remember, and then things got better and worse.
Unless this is their happily ever after.
Rhys hopes for both their sakes that it isn’t.
Andy’s hands are shaking. It’s subtle, but nonetheless there.
“Can’t get them to stop,” he remarks, realising where Rhys is looking. He’s trying to sound casual, off-hand. Brave. “It doesn’t really matter.”
“It’s ok to be scared,” Rhys tries. An olive branch in the form of empathy – they’ve got enough shared experience that they really ought to be closer than they are – and Andy smiles weakly. His expression looks raw.
“I want to go back to not knowing,” Andy mutters. Tight, torn-off. He’s not the bright and smiling PC Andy Davidson that Gwen first brought home for dinner a few years ago. The work colleague who barely looked old enough to be in the police force, who carefully but deliberately made little comments about Rhys’ weight (but he said Rhys’ coq au vin was the finest he’d ever tasted; though that’s a whole other story).
“You can’t,” Rhys replies, tone hollow. His beer can clicks against his teeth. “That’s Torchwood for you.”
He’s too bitter, he feels like he’s fucking steeped in bitterness. Torchwood stole Toshiko Sato’s life away, bent and cracked Owen Harper until his life was a warped mockery of what it ought to have been; Torchwood has taken Gwen Cooper in entirely, and it has robbed Rhys of the life he always thought he wanted. You know. Marriage, kids, a house with a garden. Holidays on a cold, wind-washed British beach somewhere. All out of the question, because what he wants no longer matters and what Gwen wants has been brutalised.
“I’m just so tired,” he whispers, finally admitting to half of it, putting his beer on the coffee table.
Andy swallows, head in hands.
Gwen comes home the following afternoon. Rhys is watching crap afternoon television, broadcast from London where this didn’t happen. They’ve cracked and nearly failed on more than one occasion, but for once, it’s Cardiff bearing the brunt of the carnage.
“Last time,” Gwen begins in a dreamy, unsteady voice. “Last time, you died.”
Once, he’d have given anything for truth. Now, Rhys is angry and exhausted and can really handle not knowing.
“Great.” He bites off the word, and it isn’t fair because Gwen is suffering in a whole different way. He just can’t handle her hurt in conjunction with his.
They’re broken and Rhys desperately wants them not to be.
“We opened the Rift. We nearly ended the world.” She smiles slightly. “But I saved your life, so it didn’t matter.”
“You saved the world this time,” Rhys reminds her carefully.
Gwen nods, smile twisting, tears trickling down her cheeks. She’s beautiful, even when despairing, and some part of him hopes that she’s still his.
When she wraps her arms around his neck, she’s ice cold.
It’s raining, and Gwen calls to say that she’s Weevil hunting with Ianto and won’t be back ‘til morning. Rhys takes it, because he’s getting increasingly used to spending periods of time alone while Gwen attempts to hold Cardiff together. He doesn’t even resent Jack Harkness the way he used to.
Rhys is almost expecting the hesitant phone call from Andy – can I come over? – and so is perfectly ready to say yes. He’s still not sure how he feels about any of this but all of it has this lingering pain attached.
“I don’t-” Andy begins. His hair is plastered flat to his head, raindrops caught on his eyelashes. On someone else it might look romanticised and exciting; on Andy there is an edge of pathetic about it.
“It’s ok,” Rhys replies.
They both nearly died, and it was tiring, and the bigger picture is just too big right now.
“The world nearly ended,” Andy manages, sounding blank. They’re both sprawled on the sofa, boundaries and antipathy forgotten. Andy’s thigh is warm, though damp from rainwater, where it’s pressed against Rhys’. Rhys’ lips taste like scotch, and ice cubes melt in the glass left on the coffee table. He’s not drunk; the attack on Cardiff shocked him into permanent sobriety. Yet another thing to get used to.
“The world nearly ends every day,” Rhys mutters, fingers curling on his knee, brushing against the worn denim of his jeans. “It’s just that we hardly ever notice it.”
It’s strange and surreal but Andy’s shaky fingers reach and knot through Rhys’. They’re both so scared and it doesn’t ever end. When you’ve been at the eye of the storm it’s impossible to back out again and unsee what you’ve seen.
“But she does,” Rhys finally says, voice broken. “She notices it every time.”
Andy’s hair has dried curly from the rain and it feels soft and static under Rhys’ hands. He thinks Andy kissed him first but it doesn’t matter because it’s not about the competition or about the blame. It’s about the smooth slide of Andy’s lips, and he’s not hesitant at all, not like Rhys would have expected him to be. Not that he has ever given even the slightest thought to what kissing Andy would have been like, but the boyish shiver that has epitomised Andy for the last however many years is not here.
They both take a shuddering breath and press back together again, drinking mutual experience from each other’s mouths. Andy’s hands slip down Rhys’ face, his chest, his back, his arms. Rhys doesn’t ask if this is Andy’s first time with a man and he doesn’t ask exactly why this is happening because it is often easier not to have absolute clarity and anyway it’s evident enough.
There’s definitely no I’ve wanted this for so long and there isn’t even an I’ve wanted this since you walked through the door because both are lies and Rhys digs his fingers into Andy’s curly blonde hair in the hope that somehow this can erase the hours of not knowing with the Weevils trying to cave in the door.
Later, Andy’s chest is heaving and his neck and shoulders are red with bites because Rhys just couldn’t control his fucking teeth. He looks too thin and still too young, sprawled against the duvet. Rhys will change the sheets and Gwen won’t even notice because she trusts him
There’s no guilt. There should be guilt, but there’s just an all-consuming vague nothing.
Rhys isn’t a member of Torchwood but it doesn’t matter because the mentality seems to be damn near infectious. As far as he can tell the team all seemed to be sleeping with each other and he doesn’t ask how deep in Gwen is because it’s easier just not to think about it.
Andy is permanently badly-dressed and barely a friend and he wants Rhys’ wife, but things stopped mattering a few weeks ago. The sex is more a coda to nearly dying and maybe they can both begin moving on. Rhys isn’t in the market for an affair and Andy has made it clear on more than one occasion that he doesn’t even like him. Which is fine. Rhys doesn’t really like him all that much either.
With the mental explanations sorted out to a level Rhys is comfortable with, Rhys leans back in for another swollen kiss.
It is… four a.m and Andy is still naked and Rhys is becoming steadily more ok with that. They’re finishing the scotch leant up against the pillows and Rhys is carefully not thinking about Tosh’s hand clinging to his in the rubble because he’s going to try and move on now. Andy is philosophising, light fingers waving in the half-dark.
“I’m not a part of her world any more,” he explains, and Rhys becomes aware of the fact that Andy is saying he’ll take a step back, and he won’t encroach on the marriage. Which is nearly funny, since whatever happens between Rhys and Gwen in the future, it won’t really relate to Andy. Not that Rhys will ever point this out. “I don’t know how to be,” Andy continues. “I’ll always love her as she was but she’s not mine any more.”
Rhys closes his eyes, and doesn’t say she’s not mine either simply because it hurts too much.