Author's Notes:
Follows "The Inside Man," but can be read completely stand-alone. Spoilers for "Doomsday," "Day One," "Cyberwoman," and "Fragments." BR'd by Yamx and Mimarie, who both rock. Disclaimer: RTD and the BBC own all.

Tosh

Gorgeous. Brilliant. Vulnerable. Wounded. Tosh was a swan among goslings, and by the time Jack saw her in street clothes, he'd come to understand that she had no idea.

He brought her into his Torchwood. She hid happily in Suzie's shadow, letting the other woman's stronger, almost brash, personality fill the Hub while Toshiko made herself a small, safe space composed of computers and gadgets, algorithms and tiny, tentative smiles. It was, Jack thought, like watching one of those tropical creeping vines fill in the empty spaces between the tall canopy trees.

He wondered if he'd ever see her bloom.

What Tosh did wasn't just maths and sciences. In its own way, it was art. It reminded him of some other geniuses he'd known. Enough to break his heart. Enough that he would never, ever risk breaking hers.

It would have been easy to seduce Tosh, but he knew she would never hold his attention. She was missing something, some assertive fire and confidence of the type he kept falling in love with against all reason and desire. And she needed someone who would love her--not just someone who thought she was fantastic. She needed to be someone's everything, or any confidence a lover might help her build would crumble into dust when he disappeared.

Owen

Passionate. That was Owen in one word. Jack could have, should have, retconned the young doctor--taken the horrible memory from him and left him to his grief. But Jack needed a medic. If Owen was ready for Torchwood, then Torchwood was ready for him.

If not, the retcon would always be there later.

A century and a half was a long time to study human emotion. Jack had seen pain become rage and rage become grief and grief become sex. Hell, he'd practiced most of those at least once. So he knew, as Owen left the grave, that the younger man needed to hit something. And when the rage ebbed--when Jack held Owen and let him weep--Jack knew that what Owen most needed was a dad.

Jack became the parent. He frowned on temper tantrums, provided rules, and proffered the occasional sweet. He taught Owen how to check his own wardrobe for monsters. He rewarded good behaviors, ignored the spiky carapace of armour Owen built around himself, and delivered the occasional well-deserved spank.

He couldn't risk that relationship's ever changing. If he ever started power-struggling with Owen, he would already have lost . . . and shagging Owen would be nothing but a power struggle. Dr. Harper could have either a mentor or a lover--and a lover would lose his respect. If Jack stopped being the dad, even for a moment, he'd lose control, and that passionate soul that he loved would burn itself up, and Owen's fire would go out.

Gwen

Okay, she was hot. That was always the easy part of Gwen. She had big dark eyes that would look amazing as she sucked your cock. From four floors away, with her fringe plastered to her forehead, that was still Jack's first impression.

He never expected she'd track down Torchwood, but it was fantastic. Oh, he'd had to retcon her--he'd known that when he let her in the front door. But he'd have his eye on PC Cooper, and the next time he needed to recruit, he'd know where to look.

He'd never expected it would be so soon.

If she was cute in her sober constable's uniform in the pouring rain, she was incredible when she shoved Owen up against the wall. There was that pushy conviction that was so dangerously attractive to him. And if that wasn't enough, she had the strength of spirit to make up for her mistakes, and the strength of nerve to risk her life and her pride doing it.

By the time she kissed him, it was too late. It was so easy to fall in love, and so impossible to fall out of it. He couldn't afford to love that way, but he couldn't manage not to. He found himself ridiculously grateful that she had a boyfriend. Not that he'd always let that stop him, but having an excuse made it easier to keep her at arm's length.

Ianto

Dapper, determined, and dauntingly organized, Ianto caught Jack's attention almost in spite of himself. His dry wit and willingness to plunge into a situation head-first when it was called for were intriguing . . . and then promptly disappeared under the guise of the perfect secretary.

His interest in Jack, and then his hesitation when that interest was returned, painted a picture Jack found all too common in this decade. He had to remind himself that it was a little better than the decade before it. And the one before that. And the one before--well, no, the eighties hadn't really been an improvement.

So Jack played the role: self-assured older man (no need to go into how much older) who was willing to wait, willing to let Ianto take things at his own pace. He'd spent more than a hundred years refusing to modify his behavior to make other Torchwood agents comfortable. He could afford to be the model for how not to end up neatly in a box, predictable and labeled and filed away. He could wait while Ianto fought the same old confusions and anxieties they all seemed to go through in the last twenty years. Hell, he could almost narrate: I know he's attractive, but I'm straight. How can I want him when I know I like girls? What would my mother think? What will my father say? If we do it once, does that make me gay? If I don't like it, am I obliged to carry on?--he's my boss, after all.

It was a relief to finally take him to bed, to make it plain that he didn't want anything that Ianto wasn't willing to give. It was easy enough to let him lead. It was almost a public service to try and help him find his own comfort level. It was . . .

It was all a sham, and Jack found out too late how he'd had the wool pulled over his eyes. He was angry, he was embarrassed, and the kid had brought one of the monsters that had ended Rose's life into Jack's headquarters!

(Except that Rose, too, could have ended this way. He had no way of knowing, but they hadn't found her body at Canary Wharf).

Love was never rational, and grief even less so, and watching Ianto weep over a mangled corpse reminded Jack too much of every time he'd been widowed. He couldn't watch. And in the end, he still felt like he'd failed the kid, somehow.

So he let Ianto curse and rail. He kept his distance during the suspension and had Gwen talk to Ianto. He offered Ianto his job back . . . if he wanted it. Jack tried to treat Ianto no differently than he'd treat Gwen or Owen.

Losing Suzie again--and nearly losing Gwen--was a body blow. When Ianto propositioned him, "devious" was the first adjective to come to mind. Jack still didn't know if he was seeing the true Ianto. The stopwatch could all be part of some mad scheme for revenge.

Or it could be that same uncomfortable young man still hurting, ready to forget the pain with someone else for a little while . . . as long as he retained some element of control. And he knew Jack had no problem surrendering control. At worst, it could be a mindless fuck; at best, two souls in pain providing some comfort for each other. Jack was wary enough now, he wouldn't get conned again. And it wasn't like Ianto could kill him.

And it wasn’t like Jack would risk falling in love.