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Optimistic

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Optimistic

Tosh took a sip of her wine and sighed. It had been a long, hard day, though that wasn't unusual for Torchwood. It was, however, unusual for a civilian to come into the base and learn about their supposedly secret organization. And then be allowed to not only help with a case, but keep his memories. Tosh couldn't remember anything like it, and frankly, it had been a train wreck from the beginning.

It wasn't that she disliked Rhys Williams. If she were honest, he seemed like a good man—almost too good for Gwen, who both flirted and fought with Jack, making bedroom eyes yet threatening to leave even while proclaiming undying love for her fiancé. Rhys Williams, on the other hand, seemed straight-forward and honest, average yet exceptionally brave when thrust into extraordinary circumstances. That he had taken a bullet for Gwen showed how much he cared for her, and Tosh didn't doubt that Gwen cared for Rhys as well given her reaction. She wondered, though, how much and how sincere it was considering Gwen's ongoing issues with Jack and their charged confrontations all day.

Tosh hated thinking it, but sometimes it seemed unfair that someone like Gwen had someone like Rhys. She could be so manipulative, and so insensitive toward the rest of them, and yet she had the love of a loyal man who wanted to marry her. Her words to Jack—to all of them—had been ignorant and cruel, and Tosh was tired of Gwen's hurtful treatment of the team.

From her very first day, Gwen had looked down at the rest of them for not having partners outside of Torchwood, as if it somehow made them less human. Maybe they did work too much, too hard; maybe they could use more of a social life. But they had tried, all of them, and they had all suffered heartbreak and loss. It was little wonder someone like Jack had given up, losing so much over his long life, though Tosh had her suspicions about him and Ianto. Owen had lost his fiancé, leaving him bitter and closed off no matter how hard she tried to get through to him; Ianto lost Lisa and still struggled as well. And Tosh would have liked to find a partner, but she always ended up burned in the end. For them, work was an escape, a distraction, and a purpose. It may not have been Gwen's path, but it didn't make them less human for choosing it.

Sometimes Gwen was blind and selfish. Tosh knew she could be intense and self-absorbed herself at times, but she tried to be considerate of others, and not lash out with her words and actions. Yet Gwen had stormed back into the Hub and done exactly that, slamming them all for a policy Torchwood had put in place over a hundred years ago to protect both its agents and civilians alike. She had declared them incapable of understanding her pain and fear because they didn't have anyone outside, because they thought it was cold and lonely out in the real world.

Of course it wasn't.

Tosh had people she cared about. She might not have someone warming her bed (or two men, as Gwen had done at one point), but she worried about her family, her friends, and her team. Gwen had worried about Rhys all day, but Tosh always worried about Owen and Ianto and Jack, despite knowing he'd come back. And even Gwen, though at the moment it was hard. It was obvious that Jack cared about the team as well; Tosh had seen the look on his face when Ianto had been taken captive, the flash of panic that had moved him to step out of cover almost immediately. Though Gwen thought that Jack's reaction to her threat had been all about her, Tosh knew Jack would be devastated to lose any of them.

Gwen used Jack's feelings for them, and for her especially, against him to get what she wanted. It was so obvious that Tosh wondered if Jack knew it and let it happen for some reason, or if he was that blinded by whatever it was between him and Gwen. And since she strongly suspected he was sleeping with Ianto again, she wondered how the Welshman figured into it. Once again, it didn't seem fair.

Ianto had seemed as upset as the rest of them when he left, heading to a local pub with Owen. Tosh just wasn't sure if it was because of Gwen and her words, or Jack and his brooding. It was the second time Ianto and Owen had gone for drinks since they'd returned from their mission in Hengoed, and although they'd invited her, Tosh hadn't wanted to intrude. From the stormy look on Owen's face and the carefully restrained frustration radiating from Ianto, it was clear that they would be venting strongly—and imbibing steadily. And Tosh couldn't blame them, since here she was with a large glass of wine ruminating over a difficult day. The difference was that she felt like being alone with her thoughts rather than airing them in a loud, crowded pub.

Closing her eyes, Tosh leaned back against the sofa and tried not to dread what the next day would be like around the Hub. Would Jack still be brooding? Would Owen and Ianto be hungover and resentful? Would Gwen stride in victorious and tell them once again how they all needed someone special to take a bullet for them? She was so busy thinking about an excuse to come in late that she didn't hear anyone approach until the sofa dipped, and she opened her eyes to find Jack sitting next to her.

Sitting up quickly, she started to apologize, but Jack waved her off with a small smile. He seemed tired and sad, not at all the same angry man who had been shouting at Gwen earlier. It must be exhausting, the constant battles with her, yet she didn't feel bad for him because he let it happen every time.

"You okay?" he asked quietly.

She nodded. "Long day," she replied. "I should probably be enjoying this at home."

"Yes, you should. You deserve the night off. Where's everyone else gone to?"

"They went to get a drink," she said. "Well, Owen and Ianto went to get a drink. Gwen walked out in a dramatic strop."

He eyed her sideways. "Why do I hear a reproach somewhere in there?"

"I have no idea," Tosh replied. "Maybe because you feel guilty and ashamed for your behavior today?" Apparently, the glass of wine had loosened her tongue, or else she was that annoyed with his and Gwen's antics.

"Ouch," Jack murmured. "Don't hold back on my account."

"No one else does," Tosh pointed out. Jack was quiet for a moment.

"You're upset."

She finished her glass with a roll of her eyes and set it down. "We're all upset, Jack. You're upset about Gwen, Gwen's upset about Rhys, and the rest of us…" She shook her head. "Never mind. I should get ready to go."

"No, Tosh," Jack said. "What were you going to say? The rest of you…"

"The rest of us are mad at you both," Tosh finished. Owen and Ianto might be getting pissed as they talked, but Tosh had Jack's attention now and could give him an earful herself rather than talk behind his back. "At Gwen for insulting us yet again, and putting us in danger, and you for letting it happen as she walked all over Torchwood protocol without a care for anyone else but herself." She was practically breathless when she finished and stopped to gather her thoughts before she said something she'd regret.

Jack didn't speak, and when she finally glanced over at him, he was gazing out into the Hub with a look of sadness on his face. She hated seeing it, when he was always confidence and laughter. She hated it so much she apologized, even though he needed to hear it.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I shouldn't have said so much. I should go home." She started to stand, but he caught her hand and stopped her.

"Please don't," he said. "Talk to me?"

"I don't know what to say, Jack," she said, but she did sit down again. "I'm not your conscience, I'm your tech expert."

"You're one of my team," Jack said. "And if my team is upset with me, I want to understand why."

She glanced away, trying to focus her thoughts. "It's mostly because of Gwen," she said. "I hate saying this, I do, but she's so bloody difficult sometimes! It's a wonder we haven't fallen apart because of her—or been killed."

He nodded. "She can be difficult, yes. I knew that from the day she started following us around."

"And yet you hired her anyway," Tosh said, then waved off his protests. "You said you brought her on to remind us of our humanity. But last I looked, Jack, we're all human. We don't need someone to remind us." He nodded as if he knew the truth of her statement, and she continued. "Gwen, however…sometimes she treats us like we're not human. Like we don't deserve the same respect and consideration a civilian on the street gets in the middle of a Weevil chase."

"It's what she said," Jack pointed out. "About it being cold and lonely out there."

"Yes!" Tosh exclaimed. "She thinks she's better than all of us because she's got a partner, because she's getting married. It's bollocks, Jack. She's no better than any one of us, and when she treats us so poorly, she's less! It's no way to speak to coworkers and we're all sick of it!" She was speaking for the others, but knew they would agree.

"You're right," Jack said, sounding sad again. "She demonstrated that clearly today."

"The worst part is that you never call her on it," Tosh said, for once not holding back. "You let her get away with everything. I sleep with an alien and get sent home. Owen questions a decision and gets fired. Gwen cocks up her first case and gets a hug. She cocks up Suzie's case and gets a cup of tea. She cocks up with John Hart and gets a bloody spa treatment!"

"You all got the spa treatment," Jack pointed out.

"Not the point," Tosh said, although he was right. The point was that Gwen had got herself poisoned and handcuffed to a walking bomb, and Jack probably hadn't so much as given her a refresher course on appropriate contact with hostile enemies. "She's not the leader of Torchwood. She didn't lead it while she was away, no matter what she says, and she's not leading it now. Only sometimes we'd never know by the way you give in to her every time!"

Jack cringed, elbows on his knees as he gazed at the floor. Tosh picked up her glass and poured some more wine, unnerved at saying so much. Yet it was all true, and she couldn't take it back now.

"How do I fix it?" he asked after a long silence.

"Fix what?" Tosh asked.

"All of it," he said, sitting up and looking at her with an almost desperate expression. "How do I gain your trust again? Bring the team back together? Keep you safe? All of it," he repeated.

"First of all, you can't always keep us safe," she said, and once again Jack flinched. She wondered if there was something else bothering him, something to do with what happened at the warehouse, perhaps with Ianto. She smiled to soften the truth of her words. "You've trained us to do our best, Jack, but you can't hold our hands all the time. You have to trust us."

"I do," he whispered. "You're my team, the strongest team I've known."

"Because of you. Jack, we trust you," she said. "We trust you to make the hard decisions in the field, to do what you have to do and save the world. We trust you with our lives."

"But you don't trust me when it comes to Gwen," he said. She hesitated, trying to find the right words.

"We see how you both act, and we have our doubts, yes," she said. "I want to believe that you'd do the right thing even if it was wrong according to Gwen, but after a day like today…I don't know."

"I would," he said. "I would do the right thing, no matter what Gwen might say or do."

"But you didn't today," Tosh pointed out. "You let Rhys remember. They're not even married, Jack. None of our families know about Torchwood, and her fiancé knows everything now. It doesn't seem fair."

"Maybe it's not, but maybe the whole policy needs to be revisited," Jack said, leaning back against the sofa. "Look, I know it seems like I was playing favorites today, but I wasn't. Would I rather Rhys Williams had never shown up and didn't know a thing? Yes, absolutely. He'd be safer that way. But he knows. He helped us out. He can—"

"You're not planning on letting him help us again, are you?" Tosh exclaimed in alarm.

"Hell no!" Jack shook his head vehemently. "He's not Torchwood material. But he can help Gwen now. She doesn't have to hide this from him. She can tell him she's stopping an alien invasion when she's late for dinner instead of making up excuses. We won't have to lie when she gets shot or bit or clawed."

Tosh was quiet for a moment. "So if one of us had someone to share our secret with, someone to support us like that, would you consider letting us do the same?"

He answered without hesitation. "Absolutely. It makes a big difference, to be able to talk to someone who knows." She wondered if he talked to anyone, if he talked to Ianto. "Mind you," he continued. "We're going to monitor the hell out of Rhys Williams and watch his every move for a long time. He's going to sign every piece of paper I can find, and I will make it clear to Gwen that if Rhys slips, she's out of a job."

That surprised her. "You'd do that to her? After what you said today?"

Jack sighed. "I know how it looks—the way she acts, the way I respond. It's not what you think, but after today…yes, I would. There's a lot I need to say to her, I know that."

"Like what?" Tosh was curious about what Jack thought, how much he understood. Was it all related to Torchwood, or to his personal relationship with Gwen as well?

"She disobeyed an order today, Tosh," Jack said, speaking slowly as if thinking it through. "It's not the first time, but it got us in trouble today. I don't like seeing my people put at risk because she thinks she knows better. She doesn't."

Tosh smiled to herself and glanced sideways at Jack, several comments clicking into place. "You mean Ianto?"

"I mean all of you," he said, too quickly. "And Ianto…Tosh, he almost got shot…" He trailed off with a pained look, and Tosh felt her heart swell. It wasn't just about Gwen after all.

"You know, you did the same thing for Ianto that Gwen did for Rhys," she pointed out. "So you sort of disobeyed your own orders."

He turned and stared at her. "What are you talking about?"

"When you stepped out of cover," Tosh said, trying not to laugh at how oblivious he seemed. "You told Gwen to stay and she didn't. And then when it was Ianto, you didn't hesitate." A sudden insight occurred. "Jack, are you really upset that she disobeyed orders, or that you understand exactly why she did?"

He laughed quietly through his nose. "Maybe you're right," he said. "Or maybe it's a part of it, anyway."

"She threatened to leave," Tosh said. "To leave Torchwood. Would you let her?"

"I would," said Jack. "If that's what she wanted, yes, I would."

"And Ianto?" Tosh felt better, even optimistic. What had started as a difficult conversation was leading somewhere completely unexpected and almost heartwarming as she saw a side of Jack she hadn't seen before. "Would you let him leave?"

He blew out a long breath and let his chin fall to his chest. Tosh could barely hear his answer. "I don't know if I could do this without him," he whispered.

"You came back for him," she said. "Didn't you?"

"I came back for the team."

"You were looking at Ianto," she said. "Are you sleeping with him again?"

He studied her with a look she couldn't read. "How did we got on this topic?"

"Jack, I saw you step out to save him. I saw the look on your face when the gun went off. And I saw how upset he was when he left. What's really going on with you and Ianto?"

"I don't know," he said, and to her surprise, he continued, as if confiding something he'd wanted to share for a while. He looked and sounded happy as he spoke. "I asked him out when I got back, and we've been dating ever since. It's different than before, it's good, and I think—"

"You're dating?" she couldn't help but interrupt in surprise. "And you never said anything? We never noticed?"

"We like sneaking around," Jack replied with a small smile.

"So if you're dating Ianto, and you're upset about what happened today to Ianto—"

"It's not like that—"

"—then why are you always flirting with Gwen? That seems like mixed signals."

"What do you mean, mixed signals?" Jack sat up straighter, looking concerned. "To her? Or to Ianto?"

"To both of them!" she exclaimed. Ianto was her friend and she felt a protective impulse kick in to make sure he didn't get hurt. "We all see the tension between you and Gwen. Maybe you need to figure that out before you get involved with another teammate." She was not holding back, and another insight, this one more damning, slipped out before she could stop it. "You're not sleeping with Ianto because you can't sleep with Gwen, are you?"

"Absolutely not!" he said, and he sounded genuinely offended. "Gwen's made no secret of her sense of commitment. If I wanted it to happen, it would have happened a long time ago. I don't."

"Fair enough." Tosh nodded to herself, somehow relieved with his answer. She finished her wine and set the empty glass on the table. "So where does that leave you and Ianto? And what exactly are you going to do about Gwen?"

"I'll talk to her," he said, but he sounded reluctant. "I mean it. Really talk to her."

"Don't let her manipulate you," Tosh warned. "That's what she does, you know. She manipulates you. See it and stop it."

"I will. After today, after everything that happened with Rhys, it needs to change. For me, for her and Rhys, but especially for the team."

"And for Ianto," she added quietly. Another small smile came to Jack's face, and Tosh knew then that he meant what he'd said about Ianto. And that he cared for the Welshman, probably more than he'd ever admit. She was happy for them.

"For Ianto." He turned toward her, a worried look on his face. "How angry was he?" he asked. "When he left?"

"Carefully ticking time bomb," Tosh said. "With Owen as a ready and willing fuse."

"Shit," said Jack, abruptly standing up. "I should talk to him, tell him—" He stopped. "What the hell do I tell him?"

She stood up next to him. "I don't know," she admitted. "I have no idea what's going on between you or how serious it is."

He looked like a deer caught in headlights, and Tosh almost laughed, wondering if it was more serious than he wanted to admit and he was just realizing it. Before he could answer, they were startled by the alarm going off as the cog door rolled open. Owen and Ianto walked in, slightly unsteady on their feet.

"Rift alert," Owen announced loudly. "And we're probably too pissed to drive, so one of you will have to do it."

Tosh exchanged a surprised look with Jack. "Er, there's no alert," she said. "At least, we didn't hear any alarms."

Ianto held up his phone. "I set them up to go to my phone," he said.

"Why?" asked Tosh. "We're both still here."

"One of you was too busy sulking," Ianto replied, his tone biting. "And you said you were going home."

Tosh glanced at Jack and saw the hurt in his face. She stepped forward to take Ianto's phone. "Can I see? Nothing came through here."

Ianto shrugged and handed it to her, while he and Owen waited, glassy-eyed and silent with tension. She checked his phone and didn't find any Rift alerts.

"You got a text from someone named Rhiannon, that was probably it," she said, handing it back and rolling her eyes. "How much have you had to drink?"

"Not enough," said Owen.

Jack stepped forward. "Look, I know it was a hard day, and I'm sorry for the part I played in that. Tosh told me…well, everything, and things are going to change. I promise."

Neither man responded. Tosh was about to say something when Owen finally spoke up. "Right. I'll believe it when I see it. Fancy another round?" he asked Ianto. Ianto looked unsure, but after gazing at Jack, he nodded to Owen. Tosh sensed Ianto had indeed been bothered by Jack's actions with Gwen that day; whether personally or professionally, she couldn't say.

"Sure, why not?"

Jack's shoulders slumped as Ianto turned to walk away, and Tosh almost nudged him to say something, to do something, but he stepped forward on his own. "Actually, could we talk? Ianto, that is." He almost sounded nervous.

Ianto looked at Owen, who shrugged mulishly, then at Tosh, who gave him a small nod of encouragement. "All right. Where?"

"I could drive you home," Jack suggested.

Ianto narrowed his eyes, then nodded once. "Talking only."

Owen snorted, but didn't say anything as Ianto walked toward the cog door to leave. Jack turned to Tosh, still looking nervous as he pulled her into a warm embrace. "Thanks, Tosh," he said. "For everything."

"You're not off the hook yet," she said. "With him or us and especially Gwen."

"I know," he agreed. "I meant what I said, though. I will fix this. I want things to change."

"I know," she said, and she kissed him on the cheek. "And I hope Ianto understands."

"I hope so too," said Jack. "Because…well. Because."

"Because he's good for you," Tosh told him. "So be good for him."

"Yes, he is," he said softly, with a smile that spoke volumes. "And I will."

He grabbed his coat from his office, then stopped next to Owen. He said something that Tosh couldn't hear, gripped the other man's shoulder, and left. Oddly enough, Owen grimaced and swore under his breath.

"I could use another drink," Tosh offered. "If you were still interested."

He seemed reluctant. "Well, I should probably—" His blew out a long breath and shrugged. "Sure, why not? You can tell me what the hell just happened."

"I'm not sure myself," Tosh replied. She walked over to her computer to start shutting down the Hub. "But you know Jack and Ianto are sleeping together again, right?"

"Yeah, teaboy slipped up in Hengoed." She glanced at him in surprise.

"You didn't say anything!" Pulling on her coat, Tosh grabbed her purse and hit the last button on her computer, bringing down the lights and routing the alarms to her phone.

"I try not to think about it," Owen grumbled. "Ever."

"I think Jack was rattled by what happened at the warehouse," she said. "And not only with Gwen and Rhys, but with Ianto. I think it's sweet."

"You would think so," he said. "I think it's none of our business."

"It might be good for Jack," she said. "And that is our business."

"If he straightens out his shit with Gwen first," Owen said. "You talk about that too?"

Feeling hopeful as they entered the lift, Tosh put her arm through Owen's elbow. "We did, and I think things are going to change for the better around here."

Owen untangled himself from her arm with a grunt, but Tosh didn't mind. She knew things would get better, that Jack would talk to Gwen and help fix the team's struggling dynamic. And if not, maybe she would speak up. She'd told Jack what she thought, how she felt, so why not Gwen? Knowing her, it might take more than one heart-to-heart from the team for change to sink in.

It had been a long, hard day, but that wasn't unusual for Torchwood. It was, however, unusual for something good to come out of a bad day. Yet Tosh felt optimistic as she walked outside with Owen, and she looked forward to whatever the next day might bring.