Author Note - For anyone still reading this I apologise for the long pause. I can only thank you for sticking with this and hope that you're still enjoying the writing. I also apologise for this chapter. I haven't made any change to the original plot of COE, just added things in. Hope you can forgive me. Enjoy!

TW – COE Day 4

"As a gift," Jack's face went blank, losing all emotion

"As a gift? Jack, what do you mean? You're not making any sense!"

"1965, I gave them twelve children," Jack clarified, his whole expression remaining devoid of any emotion.

Gwen stared at Jack, wide eyed and horrified. Clem cowered away from Jack as much as he could, even though Jack had made no move forward.

"You just...handed them over and hoped for the best?" As always, Gwen wanted the tough answers immediately. Ianto said nothing, just watched Jack through his exchange with Gwen.

"Isn't it? Isn't it?" Clem churned out, almost like a form of Tourettes, "you're in every nightmare I've ever had."

Jack finally looked Clem in the eyes and apologised, seeing the damage he had done to this delicate old man.

"I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. I-" Clem surged forward, grabbing Gwen's gun from the waist band of her dark blue jeans. All Clem could see was the creator of his anguished life, standing there as if conjured up from his worst nightmares, never having aged a day. Clem centered the gun, aiming for the middle of Jack's chest and pulled the trigger. An instance after Clem had fired a look of horror swept his features at the harm he had done.

Seeing this scene play out, but unable to stop it, Ianto rushed forward not quick enough to protect Jack's head as it hit the floor. The rest of Jack's body collapsed in a heap, swirling dust from the floor around him as he landed. Knowing Clem's aim had been true, all Ianto could do was pull Jack's body into his own, and wait for this death to pass.

Meanwhile Gwen tried to calm Clem down who'd started pacing, bringing the handle of the gun to his own head, hitting the delicate skin over his right temple several times before dropping it down by his side. Having been in situations like this several times, Gwen did her best to get the gun off of the vulnerable man.

"Okay, so-" Gwen started.

Clem aimed the gun at her as soon as she started speaking.

"Stay away!"

"Give me the gun Clem. Come on."

"You're on his side."

"Give it to me."

"And he's on their side. You're all involved!" Clem waved the gun around the room to emphasise his point.

"Gwen, get away from him. He's dangerous," called Rhys from his position on the outskirts of a potentially dangerous situation.

"I'm not dangerous!"

"We know!" she glared at Rhys for butting in, for stirring up Clem's agitation to a higher level, "We know you're not. We know that."

"But it's a lie isn't it? Isn't it? We both know. I...killed a man. I am dangerous."

"Can I take that?" Gwen cautiously stepped forward, hands out in a non threatening gesture to take the gun before Clem could claim another victim.

Clem stared at her hands, and then surrendered the gun to her. Gwen quickly passed it behind her, giving it to Rhys who handled with the tips of his fingers like it was going to explode. Once the gun was safely out of harm's way, Gwen hugged Clem. Clem could do nothing but stare at Jack's dead body over her shoulder.

"But it wasn't my fault," Clem started again, "there is something up there. They want children. That man held my hand and took me to them."

It was at this point Jack gasped back into life, startling and scaring Clem all over again. Ianto had felt the first stirrings of life in Jack, as he always did, and grasped Jack's chest harder, as if the tightness of his embrace helped Jack through the 'back to life' process. He was ignoring everything that was going on behind him, his focus solely on the man in his arms.

Gwen again tried her best to calm Clem, trying to explain Jack's special nature.

"This is normal. This is what he does. Ianto knew it was going to be okay."

"No!" Suddenly afraid of Jack and what his gasp meant, Clem ran away from them to a different part of the warehouse.

"Clem! Clem, it's all right!" Gwen's voice could be heard echoing as she chased after him.

"Are you okay?" Ianto asked Jack quietly, as they both moved from the floor to sit on something other than cold concrete. They settled back on the dilapidated sofa. Jack still looked a little pale, but would recover fully soon enough. He nodded.

"I can't believe you didn't mention this before," said Ianto, voicing his concern and a little frustration for Jack's long life and the secrets he kept because of it.

Jack blushed slightly, ashamed, "They didn't speak through kids back then. I didn't recognise the signs at first."

"That's not what I meant. I don't understand how you could have willingly sacrificed children to an unknown entity! Children that had no family, no one to care for them, other than a small home in the middle of nowhere...wait... That made them perfect-,"

"They're coming back," Rhys interrupted, not minding at all that he'd stopped their discussion. He didn't think he could stomach listening to what Jack had done.

Gwen had an arm slung around Clem's shoulder, almost like she was trying to offer him comfort and shelter him from Jack, as she would a small child.

"The man who sent me and my friends to die can't die himself!" exclaimed Clem when he saw Jack sitting next to Ianto. The emotion in his voice indicated he was a little hysterical.

"It was protection right? You knew they'd be back," Gwen said in an accusing tone.

"I knew it was a possibility."

"But you still gave them the payoff."

"We had no choice."

"Why us?"

Regretfully, Jack couldn't meet Ianto the eyes, confirming what the question Ianto hadn't been able to fully voice, "You wouldn't be missed."

The atmosphere in the room shifted from awkward silence to uncomfortable animosity.

"I can see that."

"All this time, the one consolation I had was that...the deal seemed to work."

Gwen shook her head in disbelief, mouth flapping slightly.

"It worked for forty four years. That's not bad for breathing space."

"Why was I left behind? What's wrong with me?"

"We know that they only want pre-pubescent kids. Maybe it's got something to do with that? Maybe you were just on the cusp of puberty, not quite adult, not quite child...," she tried to speculate.

"Saved by your hormones," said Rhys, trying to lighten the mood, before it was broken by a noise coming from a nearby laptop. Ianto hurriedly got up from the sofa, towards the machine.

"Is that still recording Ianto? I need every second of this."



Turned out the 456, the name the alien had been given because of the frequency of sound wave it produced, had a bit of a temper, and some freaky sense that Clem and others were watching them.

When it wanted to announce its displeasure it spat goo at the glass encasing it in gas. But the 456 had a secret it wanted to share with the hidden human beings watching several miles away. It invited them to send someone into the gaseous tank to see them.

The Torchwood team and Clem watched through Lois' eyes as a cameraman prepared to enter the tank, wearing a bright red jumpsuit, complete with oxygenated glass helmet. They could see, via a screen placed in front of Lois what was going on inside the tank. Lois continued to write short hand everything that was being said around her.

Three heartbeats were detected inside the tank, and they soon saw the reason for it. The cameraman discovered a small child hooked up to the 456, like an IV bag to a hospitalised patient.

Clem could be heard chanting 'No!' in the background while sobbing at what he saw on the screen. Gwen was horrified by what she saw, pulling Clem closed into her body to help comfort herself. Ianto sniffled, trying to stop any tears for the young soul, he couldn't look anymore, so turned away, even though the image of the child's face stayed with him. Rhys just closed his eyes to block out the horrible image.

Jack's voice was almost wonder-like, "He's still just a child." Realising how it must have sounded to rest of the group, Jack segregated himself by getting up from the sofa and moving to a different part of the room. The screen they watched closed in on the child's face. Tuffs of fine hair on his head, covered from head to toe in grime, and staring blindly into the distance with eyes too big for his small head. Over the lower half of his face was a gasmask like object, and the zoomed camera display revealed a tube protruding from the place his mouth should have been. The image reminded Jack of another little boy, in similar clothing, wearing a different kind of mask.

"Do you think he knows? Is he conscious?" asked Rhys, but his question went unanswered as the picture started to blur.

"Wh-what's happening?" worried Clem.

"It's Lois. She's crying," Gwen muttered sadly.


"We do not harm the children. They feel no pain. They live long beyond their years," Ianto read, in a trance like voice. Lois has wiped her eyes so the screen cleared again, then she continued writing a transcript of voices still in the room with her. Ianto's whole body had grown numb from the sight and sorrow he felt at seeing the little boy, still as he was from the time he'd been given, like a commodity to strangers...aliens.

Gwen gave a sarcastic reply to the screen.

"We still don't know," Jack said, "What does it do with them? What does it want them for?"

"Bit late to ask now," Rhys said scathingly, much more like Gwen than he would have liked. He'd learned from the best.

"We have answered your question. You have one day to select and deliver the ten percent.

And if they didn't deliver then the whole human race would be eliminated!


Jack disappeared, ashamed. He had been standing in front of a long window for a while, thinking about how he could have done such a thing, and if Ianto would ever forgive him. He heard Ianto approach before he saw him. He didn't want to see the expressions on Ianto's face, so kept his head turned away staring blindly at the filthy windows.

"This must have been eating away at you," Ianto said quietly.

This was the last thing Jack wanted to hear. Ianto's sympathy. Tears filled his eyes and he filled with more self loathing than he ever thought possible.

"Why didn't you tell me? I could've helped."

Jack, choking on his tears just shook his head in denial.

"Jack," Ianto touched his hand to Jack's shoulder, trying his hardest to get some verbal response from him. Since removing himself from the group, Jack had grown very quiet and distant.

I tell you everything."

"What should I have done?"

"Stood up to them?"

Jack shook his head again, shaking some of the salt water in his eyes down his cheeks, still unseen by Ianto.

Ianto pulled his hand from Jack's shoulder abruptly. This person in front of him, this self pitying individual wasn't the man he'd married. He didn't even know this man in front of him.

"The Jack I knew would've stood up to them. I've only just scraped the surface haven't I? Is there something else like this you're hiding? Some other unspeakable event that you had a hand in?"

"This is what I am Ianto. There's no getting away from that. You knew I was a con man. That's all there is."

"No. You pretend that's all there is."

"I have lived a long time – I have done a lot of things."

Ianto rolled his eyes and gave a huge sigh, causing Jack to turn and move away.

"I've got to go. I won't be long."

"You're doing it again. Speak to me Jack. Where are you going? We promised no more secrets. All the time we spent together, alone talking on beaches and inside hotel rooms. Doesn't that mean anything anymore?"

Jack whirled around angrily at Ianto's shouting rant.

"To call Frobisher. I can't call him from here, because they'd be able to trace it. Is that alright with you?"

"You're the boss. Sir," Ianto responded shirtily.

"And just so you know, the only other thing I'm keeping from you is that Alice and Steven were taken hostage yesterday by Frobisher."

As always Jack aimed high and hit his target every time. His declaration stunned Ianto, giving Jack the opportunity to easily turn and exit without being followed, leaving Ianto alone by the window. He watched him walk towards his car, pull on his coat and drive away.


The stolen mobile phone he held to his ear trilled with an incessant ringing tone as it connected him to the one person who could hold all the answers. Jack blocked out everything in his mind – Ianto, Clem, Gwen and Rhys, their reactions and the little masked child in the tank – focusing on getting what he needed from a man he hadn't had contact with in over 40 years.

"Hello?" asked a voice, a little out of breath from having run to his desk in a hurry.

"Have you thought about what I said earlier?" Jack's voice had a hard edge to it.

"Bit busy to be honest."

"Let me put this right. If we hadn't given in to alien demands then we wouldn't be in this situation, and it isn't just me that did this. You may have killed the others, but you're still alive to speak about it. Release my family, they have nothing to do with this, and we can work together."

"Give yourself up and they won't be harmed."

"I wish I could believe that."

"You can."

"You've spoken to the 456, haven't you? They want more children." Jack structured the words more like fact than question, because he'd seen Frobisher do it, without trying to give away the fact that they had eyes inside the building.

"What makes you think that?"

"Well it doesn't take a genius; especially with the light show they pulled for the whole of London earlier. There is no way that you'd let them come to this planet without at least questioning them about why they've returned. With them going public this time, I think they want a lot more than just 12 children. Thousands…millions even. If I have to stop you, then I'll tell the world what's really going on. There's too much at stake not to."

Jack didn't give Frobisher any time to form a response, as he disconnected the call. He only hoped that he'd frightened him enough to let him help and save his family.


While Jack had disappeared to another location to protect them, Gwen sat at the laptop again watching as Lois proceeded by Bridget Spears into a room within Thames House. Clem was sat beside her. She seemed to be his anchor amidst alien threats worldwide.

"Looks like a cabinet office briefing room. Looking at the plans for the building it's room A, Cobra. That's where they hold all the emergency planning meetings isn't it?

"Gold Command meeting's about to get underway."

Not long into watching the proceedings through the eyes of their young admin temp, Jack returned to the warehouse. He said very little, but was just about able to meet everyone's eyes, as he hadn't before.

"They'll sell us out, just like they did the last time," Clem said several times while they listened to the computer generated voice translate the words being voiced on the screen.

"Jack?" Ianto said in a quiet voice so as not to disturb anyone else.


"I'm so sorry about Alice and Steven. You said they were fine, I didn't think they would go after them to get to you. We'll get them out."

"I know we will."

There really wasn't a lot that could be said after that as Jack pulled Ianto into a one armed hug. They all listened to the Prime Minister and various other important individuals argue and debate what kind of offer they should make to the 456. Did they really think that any offer would be good enough? Or were they just trying to put a plaster over what would become a gaping wound in the future, when the 456 knew how much of a pushover the Earth could be? What would be a realistic number of children to give aliens that wanted to take advantage of them because they didn't have space faring technology?

The debating ran to calling the children units, to make the people in the room more comfortable with the decision they were trying to hash out. Could they use failed asylum seeker orphans? It's not as if they would be missed. Would the whole world be involved or would it just be Great Britain?

They made their decision, each member not trying to think too much into the fate of those children. Frobisher then disappeared from the room, only to reappear later on a monitor inside the cabinet room.

"I'm sorry, but we've discussed your demands. We've arrived at a solution that might satisfy both parties. I've been authorised to offer you one child for every million people on planet earth. That's about 6700 in total. 62 from the UK alone."

"That is not acceptable."

"6700. 6. 7. 0. 0. That's our final offer. It's more than generous. I'll give you some time to think about it."

"3. 2. 5. 0. 0. 0," was the number the 456 fired back, first in its own voice, then through all the children in the world, and Clem.

Everyone was confused by the number being repeated over and over again, until they hooked up to the world news broadcasting channels.

"Children in different countries are saying different numbers. In France the number is 448000. The children of America are saying 2340000. What is the meaning of 32500?"

The cabinet room came up with the answer.

"It's confirmed. 325000 is ten percent of the children – uh units in this country. Every country is saying a different number, which in each case amounts to ten percent."

"I think it's fair to say that our final offer has been rejected…Okay, thanks everyone. Let's take a break."

Everyone reconvened a short time later.

"With regrets ladies and gentlemen, I have to tell you that we're now facing the worst case scenario. And right now we don't have time for a discussion on ethics. I'm afraid hand wringing will have to wait. All we can do at the moment is address a number of vital and practical questions."

"Namely, how do we select the ten percent? Who would go? How would we transport them? And how could we sell it to the voters?"

They discussed having a random draw, creating a fair and reasonable system, but the people in the room were thinking more of their own children than being unbiased. Who would willingly risk their own children? Thoughts moved onto options like only taking the second born child in any one family, which was deemed to take too much time and organisation. Then debating shifted to emotional decisions like only agreeing to a decision if all the people in the room's kids were not affected by any decisions made. That they would be exempt from being sent to the 456. Ultimately the Prime Minister had the casting vote.

"Whatever happens, the children and grandchildren of everyone around this table will be exempt."

One person, the only woman sat at the table in the cabinet room, miles away, wasn't happy with the leader of the UK's decision.

"No, the first responsibility is to protect the best interests of this country right? Then let's say it. In a national emergency, a country must plan for the future, and must discriminate between those who are vital to continued stability and those who are not. And now that we've established that our kids are exempt, the whole principle of random selection is dead in the water anyway. Now look, on the one hand, you've got the schools, and I don't just mean those producing graduates. I mean the pupils that will go on to staff our hospitals, our offices, our factories, the workforce of the future. We need them. Accepted yes? So, set against that, you've got the failing schools, full of the less able, the less socially useful. Those destined to spend a lifetime on benefits, occupying places in the dole queue, and frankly, the prisons. Now look, should we treat them equally? God knows we've tried and we've failed, and now the time comes to choose. And if we can't identify the lowest achieving ten percent of the country's children, then what are the school league tables for?

The room on screen, and the room watching the room on screen fell silent, waiting for what would happen next.

"Anyone want to speak against that?" asked the Prime Minister, as people started to look uncomfortable or in some cases disgusted. Nobody jumped in to contradict this woman.

"Then there we have it. John, you have your criteria. We've selected the ten percent."

There was uproar from Gwen.

"We've got enough evidence recorded here to destroy every person in that room!"

"And we can use it to force our way into Thames House; finally get face to face with this thing."

"And get your family released," said Ianto.

Jack took a deep breath, thinking about the implication of what had just happened, and what may well happen once they entered Thames House; then he outlined a plan.


"Right, everyone know what they're doing?"

"Jack? What if I can't get Lois to agree to this?"

"She hasn't let us down yet. Rhys, you ready?"

Knowing Jack's mind, Ianto rushed forwards making sure his hand gun, the one he'd recently put into the back of his trouser waistband, was loaded. Jack mirrored him. Jack looked into Ianto's face as he spoke.

"Let's go stand up to them."

"Yes, sir."

Jumping into the sports car outside, Jack behind the wheel, they sped through the back streets of London, their ultimate aim Thames House. Congestion slowed them, eventually stopping them. Jack, being Jack, jumped from the vehicle, Ianto not far behind, intending to complete the last leg of their journey on foot.

"Do you think I should call Rhiannon? Warn her about keeping the kids away from public areas?" Ianto raised his voice given the fact they were running through the middle of London, conscious of the fact that special government agents were still trying to track them down.

"Yes. Tell her to keep the kids close. No school, no parks. Get her to keep an eye on them at all times until this is over. It doesn't matter if we can be tracked now, not with what's going on in that building. Ring her."

Ianto pressed the speed dial button on his mobile phone. Jack listened to Ianto's end of his conversation as they slowed to a walk, so Ianto could talk properly.

"It's me…It's only just beginning...Listen! That column of fire over London, did you see it on telly?...Just stop a minute and listen…They're from another planet. They want children, that's why they're here. They want kids, millions of them…I'm not sure, but for the next few days, don't let anyone take David or Mica away from you, for whatever reason. This goes for you people listening in on the wire too. Forget the Official Secrets Act. If you've got children or grandchildren you need to hear this, and you need to tell every parent you know. Look I've got to go. I love you. Don't let the kids out of your sight. I love them, too. I'm even warming to Johnny a bit."

Becoming a little overwhelmed by his speech, Ianto cut off the call. He could only wonder at what Rhiannon was thinking now, but at least she knew the truth. That's all that mattered.

Jack stopped, pulling Ianto into the doorway of a vacant building. He crushed him to his chest, taking a personal moment before all hell broke loose around them.

"She knows now, and she won't let anything happen to them."

"I know…what about Steven?"

"We'll get him back. I love you."

Pulling his tear stained face from Jack's wool jacket covered chest, Ianto pressed his lips to Jack's lips then pulled himself out of their embrace.

"I love you. We should carry on moving. Our execution team may not be far behind."

"True. Give Gwen a call when we get outside Thames House, just so she knows we've arrived."


While they snuck into the building guns at the ready, Lois Habbiba was giving the performance of her life. She was about to drop a bomb into the lap of the Prime Minister and all the staff in the cabinet room. She told them all about Torchwood recording all their meetings and what they would do if the government went forward with their half brained scheme, and what would happen if anyone tried to get in Captain Harkness' way.

Jack and Ianto were in an elevator heading towards the thirteenth floor, mindful of what was going on in the next building. A man rushed towards him with guards behind him. Jack stepped straight in.

"I want to feed the live TV pictures directly to this number, can you do that?"

"I can do that."

They were escorted to the purpose built room housing the 456. Both were overwhelmed by how big the tank was that harbored the creature wanting to take their children. Jack wasted no time addressing the alien.

"I'm Captain Jack Harkness. I've dealt with you lot before. I'm here to explain why this time, you're not getting what you want."

"You yielded in the past," pointed out the alien.

"And don't I know it? I was there. In 1965, I was part of that trade, and that's why I'm never going to let it happen again."


"There's a saying here on Earth, a very old, very wise friend of mine taught me it; an injury to one is an injury to all. And when people act according to that philosophy, the human race is the finest species in the Universe."

"Never mind the philosophy. What he's saying is you're not getting one solitary, single child. The deal is off," added Ianto.

"Uh…I like the philosophy."

"I gathered, but it was a little long winded. Needs some work."

"You yielded in the past. You will do so again."

"In the past, the numbers were so small they could be kept secret, but this time that is not going to happen because we've recorded everything. All the negotiations. Everything the politicians said. Everything that happened in this room. And those tapes will be released to the public unless you leave this planet for good."

"You yielded in the past. You will do so again."

"When people find out the truth, you will have over six billion angry human beings taking up arms to fight you. That might be a fight you think you can win, but at the end of it, the human race in defense of its children will fight to death. And if I have to lead them in to battle, I will."

"You've got enough information on this planet. Check your records. His name is Captain Jack Harkness. Go back a hundred and fifty years and see what you're facing."

"This is fascinating isn't it? The human infant mortality rate is 29,158 deaths per day. Every three seconds, a child dies. The human response is to accept and adapt."

"We're adapting right now, and we're making this a war."

"Then the fight begins."

"We're waiting for your reply."

"Action has been taken."

Alarms in the building started to blare. Thames House was sounding lockdown. How the alien managed to get control of the electronic doors throughout the building, they would never know.

"What have you done?"

"You wanted a demonstration of war. A virus has been released. It will kill everyone in this building."

"Shit!" Jack ran to alert the guards standing watch at the door, his thoughts on the innocent people in the building being subjected to an airborne virus, "The air's poison. Call someone. Shut down the air conditioning, block every air vent. Get gas masks, hazard suits, oxygen cylinders."

Without panicking Ianto confronted the alien, "If there's a virus, then there must be an antivirus. Release it now, or I'll blow a hole in that tank and we'll all die together."

It wasn't until he heard Ianto calmly threaten the alien in the tank that Jack started to panic. He never should have brought Ianto in with him. He had exposed his own husband to a life threatening situation and they were running out of options.

"You made your point," he shouted, "now stop this and we can talk."

"You are dying, even now."

Jack and Ianto fired their weapons at the tank. Deafening bullets ricocheted off the glass without leaving scratches or holes. Seeing it was futile, both men lowered their guns as the 456 released a piercing screech.

"What's that noise? What's it doing?"

With nothing else to do but wait, Jack turned to Ianto putting his hands on his shoulders. Jack's eyes started filling with tears.

"We've got to get you out of here. I can survive anything, but you can't!"

"Too late. I've breathed the air," Ianto said sadly resigned to this sudden change in events. Nothing could change this, and let's face it, he'd always known he would die young, working for Torchwood. He'd just assumed he'd have longer to spend with Jack.

"There's got to be something – there's got to be an antidote."

Ianto's vision started to blur around the edges, and his whole body felt like all the strength had been taken from it.

"You said you would fight," taunted the 456.

"Then I take it back, alright? I take it all back – but not him! Please, not him!"

Suddenly Ianto's legs gave way. Jack managed to catch him before his knee caps cracked the marble floor, his body catapulting towards the floor. Weeping, Jack was struggling to keep Ianto from lying on the floor.

"No! No no no no no no no – no! No. Ianto. No, no, no."

Jack cradled Ianto into his chest as tears tracked down his cheeks, his breathing ragged. He could hear the panic and pandemonium floors below him, as people fought to save their lives, giving no thought to their fellow man.

Jack started to rock rhythmically, "It's all my fault."

"No it's not."

Ianto's voice was weak, but still audible.

"Don't speak, save your breath."

"We always knew this was going to happen. I love you. That alien can't destroy that."

Jack shook his head.

"Don't. I was going to get the doctor to research life prolonging alternatives. I can't do this without you. For 4 years you've been there, and now you're my husband. What am I supposed to do?" disbelief causing Jack to blurt things out.

Ianto's eyes closed. Jack shook him desperately, his voice breaking as his whole body was assuaged with pain from the toxic air. He pleaded with Ianto to stay with him. The noise brought Ianto back to some form of consciousness, and Ianto felt the need to comfort him, just as Jack had done for him after Tosh and Owen's deaths.

"Hey, it was good yeah?"

"Yeah," Jack sniffled, realising Ianto needed his support more than ever.

"Don't forget me."

Jack put on a brave face and winked at Ianto with a smile, though his eyes shimmered with tears he desperately tried not to shed.

"Never could."

"A thousand years time…you won't remember me."

"Yes I will. I promise I will."

"Ianto. Ianto? Don't leave me please. Please don't-"

"You will die. And tomorrow, your people will deliver the children," the 456 mocked as Jack, tears running down his face, Ianto's body clutched to his own, placed one final gentle kiss onto his husbands slips before the alien airborne virus took one of Jack's lives.


They say the last thing to go when somebody dies is a person's hearing. Jack knew this to be true, but the first thing to come back was the same thing. The final sign that he was back with the living was a large gasp of breath through fiery pain, but his first real sense was hearing the sounds surrounding him. He could hear the footsteps of booted soldiers walking around the large room he was being held in.

"Thirteen, Fourteen."

His brain was confused by the words, they didn't really make much sense until he heard a different pain of boots; high heeled ladies boots, so familiar to him. The footsteps drew ever closer until they stopped somewhere towards his feet.

His body clicked into gear with a small gasp for breath, mostly because he'd died of a virus and not of something that needed to be healed. His eyes opened to see a blurred Gwen and the sound of plastic sheeting being moved.


Gwen hadn't wanted to travel to the school gymnasium that was doubling as a mortuary, but she hadn't had much option. Someone had to identify the two bodies on the thirteenth floor of the building housing the 456. Jack, Ianto and Gwen had had to do this once before, when their friend and colleague had died a year before. That hadn't been a pleasant experience. This on the other hand was well outside the league of unpleasant.

Lines and lines of colourful rectangular plastic sheeting marred the shiny gymnasium floor. Each sheet covered a body that had been recovered from Thames House. Before their death each civilian had jumped over each other fighting for survival, none succeeding. From the building over 100 people had been removed and confirmed dead, suffering from an unknown virus released and carried by the nitrogen in the atmosphere. Each individual had suffered a feeling of weakness, struggling to breathe before they finally passed out and their heart stopped beating. It was a sneaky way to kill someone, but very effective.

As Gwen entered the hall she spoke to a young soldier who was overseeing the identification of bodies. As a rule Torchwood employees only carried basic Torchwood specific ID, so the army had known to contact. She was directed to two bodies labeled 13 and 14. She took a deep breath to stabilise her emotions before she made the short walk to the correct numbers. Kneeling down between the bodies she pulled the sheeting off the first body, revealing Jack. His eyes were open and he was breathing. She smiled tenderly down at him, taking time to stroke her fingers through his hair before she turned to face the other body.

Anyone watching her would have seen her expression change from happy tidings at seeing Jack okay to be replaced with a dark look. She took a moment to steady herself again, then pulled back the sheet. Unlike Jack, Ianto was pale and it was clear that he wouldn't be coming back to them.

Jack took a moment to sit up, then looked around to find Gwen crying over Ianto's body. Jack felt a heavy, invisible weight slam down on his chest. Ianto was dead. There was nothing he could do to bring back a man that had not even reached his thirtieth birthday. He couldn't look at Ianto's facing, seemingly asleep but his skin was too white to be alive.

Jack shifted his body so he knelt behind Gwen, putting his arms around her shoulders as they both continued to look down at Ianto and weep over their loss.

"There's nothing we can do Jack. There's nothing we can do." Gwen stuttered through her tears.