Author note: Crack. Pure crack. I'm so sorry...
"We're adapting right now," said Jack, "and we're making this a war."
"Then the fight... begins."
Ianto and Jack exchanged a look before turning back to the 456. "We're waiting for your reply," Jack told it.
"Action has been taken."
Ianto and Jack shared another glance as warning sirens began to flare. Jack was spooked, looking around. "What have you done?" he demanded.
"You wanted a demonstration of war," said the 456. "A virus has been released." Jack felt his blood run cold as the 456 continued. "It will kill everyone."
Pushing past Ianto, Jack fled the room to issue as much warning as he could to the waiting soldier. Alone with the 456, Ianto drew his gun and aimed.
"If there's a virus," he told it, "then there must be an anti-virus. Release it now or I'll blow a hole in that tank, and we'll all die together."
Jack rushed back into the room. "You've made your point. Now stop this and we can talk."
The 456 said, simply, "You are dying, even now."
Jack pulled out his gun, mirroring Ianto's stance. At his nod, they emptied their guns at the tank, but to no avail. The glass remained hatefully intact.
"What's that noise?" demanded Jack. Ianto had no answer. "What's it doing?"
The 456 screeched again and slime hit the glass from the inside.
Ianto began to sway on his feet.
Jack's head came around. "We've got to get you out of here," he told him. "I can survive anything but you can't."
"Too late," said Ianto. "I breathed the air."
Suddenly it seemed as if Jack was the only thing keeping Ianto standing. Clinging to the young man's arms, Jack said, "There's got to be an antidote."
"You said you would fight."
"Then I take it back, alright?" begged Jack. "I take it all back, but not him!" His face turned away from the 456 just as Ianto began to collapse. Catching him in his arms, Jack said, "No, no no no. No no. Ianto? No." They stared into each other's eyes, a shared plea. "It's all my fault."
Ianto shook his head as much as he could manage, caught in Jack's arms. "No it's not," Ianto said through unshed tears.
"D-don't speak," Jack stammered. "Save your breath." Still cradling Ianto in his arms, Jack stroked the young man's scarred cheek, tracing the cut. Ianto's face contorted like he was trying not to sob.
"I love—" He didn't get to finish his sentence.
Jack flinched back.
"That was disgusting."
"Sorry," Ianto whispered, wiping the snot from both his face and Jack's.
"That's your deadly virus?" Jack's head turned back to the 456.
"You have no idea of the damage being done as we speak."
"My head kind of hurts, just to mention it," Ianto added on. "But bar that..." He shrugged in Jack's arms. "Feels like flu."
Jack flicked from the 456 to Ianto and back, asking them both, "Flu?"
"A deadly virus," intoned the 456. "It will spread."
"Of course it will, it's flu!"
"It's not just a flu."
"You would call it... A(H1N1)."
"We would?" Jack asked it. He looked down at Ianto again. "We would?"
Ianto's eyes widened and he whispered in tones of horror, "Swine flu."
"Swine flu?" repeated Jack, his eyebrows rising.
"Swine flu," said the 456.
Jack couldn't help the snigger that escaped his lips.
Almost reproachfully, the 456 said, "This is serious."
"Yeah," Jack choked out, trying his best not to laugh. "Deadly."
"You will die," said the 456 while Jack snickered.
"Probably! Most people do, in the end."
"You are mocking us."
"Oh," Jack said, his eyes shining, "definitely."
"Jack," moaned Ianto. "Jack, have you got an ibuprofen or something?"
"Maybe." He riffled through his pockets. "I'm sure I put some somewhere..."
"You will die," the 456 tried again."Tomorrow your people will deliver the children."
"They will not!" Jack practically hooted. "You won't get us that easily. An attack on one—" He paused, flicking open his wrist strap to press a button before continuing, "is an attack on all."
The 456 flailed in its tank. "What have you done?"
"Remote deadlock seal," said Jack with some pride. "Nothing gets in, nothing gets out. For all intensive purposes, you are now a Thing in a Box. Congratulations."
"Come on, Yan. Let's get out of here." Jack pulled him to his feet. Ianto tottered.
"Will there be blankets?" asked Ianto, a sheen on his face. Jack led him to the door. "I like blankets."
"We will not—"
Jack put a hand on Ianto's forehead. "You're hot."
"I'm always hot," Ianto deadpanned. Then he sneezed.
"That you are, that you are..."
"Blankets with spots, they're the best."
"Sure, Yan. Spots."
"Or stripes! Stripes are so much better than spots."
"Uh-huh," the 456 heard Jack murmur as the pair left the room.
And then it was alone. The 456 smoked its child thoughtfully, wondering what would happen next.
They put Clem in a large soft room with lots of toys. It seemed the best thing to do. The man poked and prodded the stuffed animals with a vague interest, just relieved to finally be free of the 456. Occasionally he would go to scratch at his neck; whisper 'Isn't it? Isn't it?' and then he would pause stopping himself. No longer plagued, he had choices now.
Freedom felt good. Clem smiled at a giraffe.
Frobisher looked up from his notes to see Jack Harkness silhouetted in the doorway. He pushed his glasses further up his nose, a nervous habit. "Er, we, er, uhm, ah, well yes. Er, yes."
"Expecting me?" said Jack, a cheeky grin on his face.
"Not quite," said the Prime minister.
"I can see you're all deep in discussion. Let me help matters." Jack made a circuit of the room, tapping people's heads. "Yes, yes, no, yes, no, hell no, yes, maybe with a few drinks, yes, yes, no." He stood beside Lois now, grinning madly. "Better?"
"How did you get over here? That building was under quarantine!" protested one of the men around the table.
"Oh, you haven't heard about me, then? I can do anything anywhere." Jack offered Lois a wink. "And don't you just love it?"
The Prime minister glared across at him. "What do you want?"
"Alright, here's how it's going to go..."
"Alice." Jack's tone was guarded, cautious.
Alice looked beyond him to the bench where a suited man lay. "Who's that?"
"That is..." Jack turned his head to see where she pointed and said, "That is one Ianto Jones. Suffering Swine flu for Queen and Country."
"Swine flu? And you brought him here?"
"Swine flu is no worse than normal flu, everyone knows that." Jack ignored her 'harrumph'. "It was a detour. I needed to check you were okay."
Alice fixed him with a searching stare. After some time, she said, "Okay."
"Was that an 'okay, I believe you' or an 'okay, I'm okay' okay?"
"It was an 'I'm getting there' kind of okay."
Jack smiled, just a little. "Okay."
Alice returned the smile. "Okay," she said.
Steven looked from one grown-up to the other, sensing something big was happening. "Can we go home now, mum?"
Alice put a hand through her son's hair and, trying not to laugh, said, "Okay."
"How are you feeling?"
"That good, huh?"
"The next time the word 'virus' gets mentioned, we leg it out of the building, understood?"
Jack chortled. "Understood."
Ianto snuffled again.
"You look sort of cute with a red nose," said Jack, grinning down at him.
"I will kill you and then sneeze on your remains," Ianto threatened mildly.
"Fine by me."
"You're such a sap in private."
"Says the man with gloop oozing from his nose."
"I will sneeze twice on your remains, then stamp on them for good measure." Ianto tried to sit up and failed. Too weak to do anything, he slid back down under the covers. "I hate this."
"I know you do." Jack hopped up onto the bed, ignoring Ianto's feeble attempts to push him away. "But it could be worse."
"True. Now g'way. I want to sleep."
Jack did as Ianto asked, pausing on his way out only to make sure the younger man was securely tucked in and had all the painkillers he could snort.
Then he left.
All in all, Jack reflected, it hadn't been too bad. He'd really been worried when the 456 mentioned a virus...