He was gone.
Disappeared without a trace, to who-knows-where with God-knows-who. Not that they hadn’t expected something like this.
They’d always sensed that flimsy tie to them, though they’d never doubted that he’d enjoyed his work there. They’d shared the thrills and spills, to some extent. He’d never shared, never voluntarily offered information about him or his past. And that was why this was hitting them harder than it should.
For all they knew, he may have always had commitment issues. They certainly knew he’d had more lovers than hot meals, though living as long as he had this was slightly less significant, but the ratio left very little time for long-term relationships. Though they had no knowledge of his previous employment, before Torchwood. They’d managed to trace him back to 1899, when then-head-of-Torchwood-3 Emily Holroyd had recruited him to the organisation as a ‘freelance operative’. But he’d expressed extreme reluctance to stick around. Even Cardiff wasn’t that bad.
And it was only when they no longer had him that they realised; without him, they were lost. It was his wealth of expertise that kept them one step ahead of the game. Now he was no longer there, they were like fish out of water, flopping around uselessly. Species they’d never encountered before were spat through the rift, and the nagging feeling that Jack would know the answer didn’t ease the guilt as they put a bullet in its head.
Every little incident was intensified tenfold, because they lacked the experience to deal with them. They were out of their depth, floundering amid the sea of creatures threatening their city. It was hard, trying to protect everyone whilst not knowing how to. Sometimes they screwed up, of course they did, and their supplies of RetCon dwindled. But when they screwed up, there was always something else to contain, some other sighting they had to cover up, and it was taking its toll.
The only good thing that came out of his disappearance was the effect it had on the group as a team. Although they were tense and irritable constantly, they worked hard at their jobs. And it was this determination not to fall apart in Jack's absence that united them. It brought them closer together; for the first time ever, they socialised properly away from work, going to each other’s houses for movie nights and dinners. It was the kind of easy-going thing normal people did in their normal lives, and it stopped the stress of their new, hectic worklife taking over. Even Ianto, who was most affected by Jack's disappearance, started to relax in the company of his colleagues, something he hadn’t done since their discovery of Lisa.
Although Ianto was the most distraught, but that wasn’t to say the rest of them were unfeeling. Gwen refused to believe he had gone, just as she had refused to believe he was dead. Only this time he wasn’t coming back.
After relinquishing command to Gwen, Owen settled into second in command. He made a conscious effort to boost morale, though it often fell short, and he spent the rest of his time aggressive and threatening, shouting at anyone who dared oppose him. Ianto simply retreated into himself, meekly doing whatever he was told, a strong contrast to the character he had been before, disobeying Owen and shooting him.
And Tosh? Tosh followed her orders like the consummate professional she was, trying to continue her life as logically as she could. She never protested, never complained. She was Tosh, through and through. That didn’t mean it didn’t hurt though.
Tosh relied on Jack more than the others, and had more to thank him for. Tosh without Jack as a boss was disorganised and disordered. She was incompetent. She needed Jack's authority to keep her focused, and Gwen wasn’t quite right. And she owed Jack so much; without him, she’d be locked up, out of her mind and ruined. Jack literally was her guardian angel. He’d protected her in 1941, kept her safe, and he did the same day after day. But now he wasn’t here, and she felt vulnerable and alone.
Because, in her grief-stricken mind, he had not only left the whole team, but he had abandoned her.