Writer's notes: This is my take on the aftermath of Countrycide, focusing on Jack, Gwen and Owen. No real romances, except what the episode established at the end. Enjoy!

"I have to understand. I want to know why. Otherwise, this...this is too much."

--

If there was one trait about Gwen Cooper - something so easily identifiable that it was visible in a first impression - it was her stubbornness. Jack had seen it immediately, of course, that analytical, searching mindset that screamed "Torchwood" to him. It hadn't kept him from drugging her – he couldn't keep everyone he met who fit the bill.

Of course, he really hadn't expected the retcon to work, either. And it hadn't, not with Gwen. It wasn't all about cleverness, in spite of what he'd told the others. Some personalities just weren't made to work well with the drug. Left the proper clues – which Gwen apparently had managed in spite of Ianto's nimble fingers with a delete key – and the aforementioned stubbornness, he'd been wondering if and when one Ms. Gwen Cooper would come back to Torchwood.

Of course, in the process of remembering, she'd nearly gotten herself killed – thanks in small part to his own carelessness and in large part due to another person's insanity.

Which, if he stopped and looked at it, pretty much mirrored what he was looking at right now.

Actually, I almost got her killed. I almost got them ALL killed. And over what? A handful of beings that didn't deserve the distinction of being called human. Rejects from a race of people still, in some ways, so primitive he wondered if they would ever mature into what he'd known in the 51st century. Jack didn't care why they'd cannibalized their own race – he simply wanted them off the planet he called home.

A few feet away, an A&E doctor was poking at Gwen's side, stitching up the few pellet gouges that needed it. The next bed over, Ianto's ribs were being taped by yet another doctor. Even from where he was, Jack could see the glazed look in his eyes, indicating the concussion Owen had diagnosed in the field. Two beds from there, Tosh was being looked over by a nurse. Owen – and Jack himself – had been the only ones to escape without any serious harm, with Gwen's wound being the worst of the injuries.

He should have stopped her, never given in to her request to question those animals. If there was one thing he'd learned over the past 100 years, some things you just didn't want to know. Ianto never asked questions – he'd seemed to seen everything in Torchwood London. And regretted at least half of it, Jack mused. As for Tosh…well, Tosh knew all too well the horrors that the human race was capable of. Hell, it had taken Owen – the doctor who seemed to measure himself by how hard he could fight – less than a month to figure out what he wanted to know, and what he didn't.

"You're the one who wanted a copper." Owen couldn't resist the jibe when Gwen had gone flying out of the pub, staggering with exhaustion and looking ready to collapse. Jack had bit back an angry retort – he hadn't wanted the fist in the face that would have been the inevitable comeback to any rejoinder. Instead, both of them simply watched her head off into the bushes, where she had retched until she'd gone to her knees. Owen had taken off a split second before Jack to get to her side, and in mutual silent agreement, they both helped her back to the paramedics and into an ambulance.

And here they were. Owen was collapsed in a chair about 10 feet away, his head dropped down almost between his knees. Jack could tell just by looking at him that exhaustion had taken over, and he felt a pang of sympathy. None of them had slept in the last 24 hours. Jack didn't need the sleep, but the rest of them did. Under normal circumstances, they would be going after each other's throats right about now.

The fact that they weren't scared Jack. Right now, they were all too numb – himself included – to do much of anything. When that wore off, he had no idea what state his team would be in. Or who they'd be in bed with. Jack felt a slight smile creep onto his face. All of them would be welcome in his bed, in a heartbeat. Most likely, none of them would make that choice.

More's the pity. Right now, he just wanted to get them home, and safe – especially Gwen, who he knew this would haunt longer than the rest. "Because it made me happy." The sheer insanity of the words – and the truth he heard in the statement – made him weary … and sick to his stomach. Gwen hadn't needed to hear that, and neither had Jack.

It would have made the animal HAPPY to slay his team. It would have made him HAPPY to bleed every last member of Torchwood and then cheerfully serve them as dinner. The very thought made Jack's stomach come to a boil. It would have made Jack very happy indeed to simply have blown their heads off.

Which makes me what? Jack didn't know, nor did he want to at the moment.

A hand touched his arm softly, and Jack spun around, startled out of his reverie. He came face-to-face with Toshiko. The young Japanese woman held a disposable ice pack on her neck, a tired smile on her face. Jack winced, and reached out for the ice pack, wanting to see the bruising he knew was underneath.

But Tosh shied away, shaking her head gently.

"It's nothing, really. Just a bit of bruising." Jack settled for brushing a stray bit of hair away from her face, and offered her a smile in return, chasing away his own grim thoughts.

"If you'd like, I'll have Owen take you home. No need for you to wait for the rest." Even as he said it, Jack knew she'd refuse, and why.

"No." Tosh might have been exhausted, but her reply was firm. "I don–"

"Don't want to be alone right now?" And truth be told, Jack didn't want to let any of them out of his sight. The fear of almost losing them was still a little too close for comfort.

Tosh nodded, and looked ready to add something else when another voice interrupted him.

"Captain Harkness, is it?" Jack turned to find himself face-to-face with one of the doctors, a distinguished-looking man in his early 50s. Wonder how he got stuck working a shift like this. A quick check behind the doctor revealed Ianto, slowly pulling his shirt on over the wrapping the doctor had done. In the next bed over, a nurse was putting the final touches on a bandage to Gwen's side.

"I have some discharge instructions for your team, as well as medications. You mentioned you had a doctor with you?" Jack nodded toward Owen, who had already sprung to his feet, alert and attentive. Jack saw Owen eye the man from his silver-topped head to his well-polished black shoes, his eyes narrowing as they made the journey.

Jack resisted the urge to roll his eyes, a clear understanding of how the next few minutes would go already dawning in his head. Whatever else Owen was feeling, he could also see the younger man was spoiling for a fight. It shouldn't have surprised him, not really.

And it's still so early in the day. Why, then, was Jack so ready for it to be over?