Title: Three Minutes 47 Seconds

Owen was pinned down behind an outcropping. He wiped the rain from his face. He'd run for cover when Jack yelled out but this stupid pile of rocks was the best he could do. Ianto had been back at the SUV when it all went to hell so he was out of danger for the moment, and hopefully getting backup. He'd better be getting backup. Damn it, they really needed some backup. Even those worthless buggers at UNIT would be helpful about now.

Shit. Just damn it all to hell. This was supposed to be a simple meet and greet! No problem, he said. Simple band of explorers and traders, he said. At least Gwen and Tosh were safe back in the Hub. Jack had wanted the whole team along but no, he said, we can take care of it ourselves. He was such an idiot.

How long had it been? Almost four minutes. Shit. Then there it was... the loud gasp from somewhere in the field out there as Jack came back to life... and the whoosh of the laser as it fired again... and the soft, wet sizzling sound as it stuck its target... the rank smell of burning flesh...the scream that was cut off almost instantly but not soon enough... The sound, the smell, it was too much.

Okay, okay, okay, think damn it! As much as he teased him about being just a tea-boy, Ianto wasn't stupid. He was a highly trained Torchwood agent, or at least a member of Torchwood anyway. He would have come running when he heard the shots and when he saw what happened he would have gone off for help. He would have tried to call in and when he realized the damn phones didn't work he'd have headed back to the SUV. Ianto had driven off and help was on its way. Help was on its way... it just had to be.

Cursing again he ripped the worthless phone off his ear and threw it on the ground. He had no idea what that high pitched sound was the ship was emitting was supposed to do, but it certainly did fry the damn phones without a problem. He tried to sneak a peek around the corner but before he could see anything a laser blast fired off and came close to singeing his hair. Damn it! How the hell did he get himself in this mess? And how the hell was he going to get out of it? How was he going to get him out of it?

Shit. Twelve more seconds.

There it was... the gasp, the laser, the smell, the scream.

Ianto would be back soon. It shouldn't have taken more than five minutes to slog back to the SUV, then another ten or twenty to get somewhere the phones still worked... maybe even less time. Then, another half an hour to convince UNIT to get off there arses and gather up some weapons then get here and take out those aliens. Ianto should be riding to their rescue within the hour.

Maybe it wouldn't even take that long. Maybe Tosh or Gwen had realized their comms were down and were already on their way to back them up. Any second now someone would do something and he could get up out of this cramped position and out of this rain and away from this damn clearing. Away from those bloody aliens and their damn laser.

Shit. Less than a minute. Rescue wasn't going to get here fast enough.

And there it was... the gasp, the laser, the smell, the scream.

Damn it.

His hand shook as he brushed the rain off his face again. Bloody stupid Welsh weather. If only he could see what was going on. If he knew what the hell the aliens were trying to do maybe he could figure out how to get out of this mess. Of course if he could see them then he could see... him... and see what they were doing to him, watching that over and over again, he shook his head. No. No, listening was bad enough.

He scanned the woods again. Nothing had changed from the first thousand times he studied them. Come on Ianto, now's the time to prove what sort of hero you are. Come on, do it! Ride to the rescue, bring the cavalry. Hell, bring UNIT. Just get here. Get here in the next 31 seconds. Please.

Oh God... the gasp, the laser, the smell, the scream.

There had to be something he could do. Something. Anything. Something other than be pinned down here having to listen to that every three minutes and 47 seconds. Maybe could make a break for the woods. Run for the woods...and probably be shot dead within seconds. Not a good plan Harper. Come up with a better one. Try not to listen. Try not to imagine what the sounds meant. Try not to picture Jack's body jerk and shudder and burn over and over and over. Do something. Anything.

He started humming. If he could drown out the noise it wouldn't be so bad. Breathe through the mouth so the smell wasn't so strong. If he couldn't hear it and couldn't smell it than it didn't happen. A drink would be good about now. He really should start carrying a flask. If he was drunk he wouldn't be bothered by the noise or the smell.

He wasn't going to count down the seconds again.

Shit, there it was again.

He wanted to scream along with Jack. It was amazing how long three minutes and 47 could last. It stretched on and on... but still passed too damn quickly. He never thought time could move too slowly and too quickly all at the same time.

Someone was coming. Someone was going to get them out of this mess. Someone had to. Before he went mad. Before Jack stopped coming back. Before he decided making a run for the woods really was a good idea because either he'd get away or be killed and either way he wouldn't have to listen anymore.

He couldn't stay here behind these stupid rocks forever. Seventeen deaths. It'd been seventeen deaths. What was that... Just over an hour? Ianto should've been back by now. Bloody stupid tea-boy.

Damn it! The gasp, the laser, the smell, the scream. Eighteen.

When the hell did he start telling time in deaths anyway? Who the hell does that sort of thing? How would he explain it? Well, you see, it was right about death number thirty-nine that the way out became clear. Yeah, right... Thirty-nine. Why the hell did he pick that number? He could never last that long. He just couldn't. Please, Tosh. Gwen. Ianto. Get here. Soon. Please?

It was just after death thirty-seven that the HMS Indomitable thundered overhead, firing a missile as it flew by. The force of the explosion threw Owen to the ground. Suddenly there were people all around him, familiar faces like Ianto, Gwen and Tosh and unfamiliar ones that must have belonged to UNIT.

He forced himself to sit up and then staggered to his feet.

The alien ship had been completely destroyed. The force of the explosion practically atomized the laser and the aliens. Damn, those new hybrid missiles were efficient. One meter of total and complete devastation with almost no other damage to be seen... except for Jack...


As a team, they ran over to their fallen Captain. Ianto grabbed him, holding him tight, while Owen slipped off his jacket to cover the charred tatters left of Jack's clothing. Nineteen more seconds...

He wanted to apologize, for not stopping it sooner, for not doing something, anything to help. But he just waited, waited for the gasp. Waited for the breath that would bring Jack back to them, confident that, at least this time, he would be back for good.