Jack sat in the cell, completely numb. It was all he could feel, numbness. How could it have gone so wrong? How was he supposed to go on without Ianto? Tears started to leak from his eyes and he realized there was also hurt. So much pain.

He had no idea how long he was there, curled up in a ball on the small bench in the cell until he heard the door being unlocked. He didn't feel like moving, so he remained as he was.

"Well now, this is a first. Captain Jack Harkness, giving up," Jack heard. He stiffened as he realized he knew the voice. He knew it intimately.

"No," Jack croaked. "It can't be."

He heard footsteps cross the small span of the cell and felt someone crouch next to him. His body stiffened more. His senses went into overdrive, reminding him of all the other times he felt the presence he felt now. His senses were assaulted by familiar scents that should be comforting. He whimpered and tried to curl up into a tighter ball. It was a joke, he thought. A cruel joke by the government to crack him further, and then who knew what else? He no longer knew how far they would push, because they had already gone further than even he had thought they would go.

Gentle fingers brushed through his hair. "Jack," he heard Ianto's voice call out to him softly. "I'm sorry. I took longer to come back, but I'm here now. Please Jack, look up." He felt lips press against his hair.

He twisted his head to look up and he saw the wavy image of Ianto Jones looking down at him in concern. "I-Ianto?" he asked in wonder.

"Yes, Jack, it's me," Ianto assured him, still running his fingers in a familiar soothing way.
It was helping, Jack realized. Ianto was the only one who knew the right way to soothe and comfort him. Be it a touch, words, or action, he could always rely on Ianto to know exactly what to do. It was one of the things that made Jack realize how much he started to need the younger man, how much he relied on him, and most important of all, one of the many reasons why Jack loved him.

Yet still there was one problem which kept Jack from believing he was with his lover again.

"You're dead." he pointed out.

"Premature rumor," Ianto stated with his usual dry wit. He stared down at Jack's still disbelieving gaze. "I was, yes," he agreed, putting his arms around Jack to pull him up into a sitting position. "Just as you were. But we're both alive."

"How?" Jack asked, wiping his eyes. He kept trying to look at Ianto, but his tears kept disfiguring the face he needed to see clearly.

Ianto sat next to him and put his arm around Jack, once again kissing his head. "You saved me. Again. Just like you did when Lisa had killed me."

Jack's tears fell harder. "I – I thought… when you didn't move after I woke up, I thought that I had failed. That I'd lost you… that you were…." Jack twisted and buried his face in Ianto's shoulder and started to sob.

"Leave us please," he heard Ianto softly request.

"We'll have to leave soon." Jack thought he heard Agent Johnson's voice reply back.

"I know. Give me a minute. I'll meet you at the base," Ianto stated.

"As you wish," Johnson said and Jack heard the door close, but not lock.

Jack lifted his head and stared at Ianto. "Are you really here?" He lifted a trembling hand and touched Ianto's right cheek, the one that he last remembered had a nasty gash that he was certain would scar. Not that it would flaw Ianto's beauty, Jack was certain of that. He was even beautiful in death. Tears fell from Jack's eyes again as the image of his beloved in the makeshift morgue played in his mind.

Ianto placed two fingers under Jack's chin and lifted it, placing his lips against Jack's. The full, rosy lips were warm and pliable. Jack sighed softly, knowing not long before he believed he would never feel those lips against his again. He whimpered then, afraid he'd stop feeling those warm lips, and Ianto would disappear.

"I am here," Ianto said softly. Jack felt Ianto's warm breath caress his mouth and he could not help the small smile. "Because of you. You couldn't give up on me back there. Thank you, Jack." Ianto pressed his lips to Jack's, softly at first, before he started to convey how he felt into the kiss, backing up those three words Ianto had uttered before he had died.

Jack fell into the kiss, feeling Ianto's arms go around him, holding him close as they kissed. It was almost as if Ianto was returning the favor, because Jack certainly felt his will to live return as the kiss grew more passionate. Ianto's tongue explored familiar territory within his mouth, caressing him and further soothing him. Jack started to believe Ianto was alive and it was not a figment of his imagination. He started to relax in the embrace and gasped, not certain if it was from the pleasure of Ianto kissing him, or the realization that he still had his lover. He grasped onto Ianto and started to return the kiss with vigor.

Ianto pulled away from Jack with a gasp. The immortal man stared at Ianto, his breath ragged. His eyes were stinging with tears of relief and joy. "As much as I can go on with this all day, I suggest we get out of here first." Ianto touched Jack's cheek with a finger and lightly caressed him with a warm smile.

"Where are we going?" Jack asked, watching as Ianto stood up. He smiled as the younger man grabbed his hand and allowed Ianto to pull him to his feet.

"We're going to figure out how the fuck to get rid of those ugly, child-sucking bastards," Ianto replied. "And when that's sorted, I take you to see your daughter and grandson, who are safe and currently in a five diamond hotel."

Jack couldn't help but grin at Ianto's confidence. Jack pulled Ianto close, cupping his cheek and gazed into Ianto's beautiful blue eyes. "You're alive," he sighed reverently.

Ianto smiled at Jack. "Because of you. Thank you for not giving up on me."
"I couldn't." Jack looked solemn. "I can't…." All the memories of the pain he felt losing Ianto rushed back to him. "I can't do this without you, Ianto. I need you." He slipped his arm around Ianto and pulled him even closer, moving his head until his lips ghosted over Ianto's. "I love you, Ianto Jones." Ianto's breath caught and he felt tears sting his eyes. He took a shuddering breath, unable to believe what he heard; those words were music to his ears. But there was still so much to do at that moment. He grinned slightly as Jack's lips met his. "Don't," he sighed. "Not now. But once this is all over, we need to talk."

"We do." The kiss was brief, but still passionate.

Ianto also felt a jolt when they broke apart. Jack raised an eyebrow, grinning. "I still have some extra to spare. I'm going to make sure you don't go anywhere until we get to talk. And even after that."

Ianto chuckled. "C'mon and let's sort this mess already."

As they left the building and Ianto walked Jack over to his brother-in-law's car, Jack came to a stop. "Oh God, you're alive. Ianto! I need to get in touch with Gwen and stop her from telling your sister."

Ianto smiled softly at Jack as he unlocked the door. "As much as I'd have preferred you to be the first to know I was back, time didn't allow for that."

"She knows?"

Ianto took out a phone. "I called ahead to tell Rhiannon that Gwen was going to show up believing that I was dead, but assure her that I'm not. I gave Rhia the number of the new disposable I have and told her to give it to Gwen. Gwen called just before I broke you out."

Jack glared across the car at Ianto and huffed. "It's always the lovers that are the last to know."

"Jack!"

Jack started to laugh as he got into the passenger's side. Ianto shook his head as he remembered Rhys back at the Hub 2 when he'd realized that Jack and Ianto had known about Gwen's baby first.

"Any idea what we're going to do?" Jack asked as Ianto got into the car and started it.

Ianto shrugged his shoulders. "I have Johnson working on pulling together any information she can get." When Jack did a double take, he added, "Gwen managed to show her the errors of her ways. When she saw what the government was up to, she started to doubt her loyalties. Of course, when she watched me come back to life, she went running to me, and she's proven herself. She's on our side now, Jack. She'll do whatever it takes to help us take out the 456. Right now, she's crossing orders given to troops across the UK. She'd do more, but…."

"There's only so much she can do," Jack finished for Ianto as his lover pulled the car away from the building Jack had been held in. "Wait, what about Lois?"

"She's free too. I had her sent to Wales for now. She's not safe staying in London," Ianto replied as he drove through the streets.

"Good. Maybe…" Jack's thoughts trailed off.

"First let's handle this situation, and then we can figure out what to do about the Hub. That Torchwood will still go on is without saying."

"Right." Jack's eyes settled on Ianto. "Ianto, thank you."

"No need to, Jack. I'm only doing what I signed up for."

"You didn't have to. You could have left it all behind with none of us knowing any better."

"And allow you to believe that I was dead? Jack, I did mean what I said before I…died. My place is with you. Which is why I believe I'm back. Between your kiss and how I feel about you, how could I stay dead?"

Jack chuckled. "If it was that easy, Ianto…" He ran his hand through his hair. "Well, if it was, you'd never die."

Ianto smiled. "I'm going to take that as a compliment. You almost make it sound like you want us to stay together for a long time."

Jack gently removed Ianto's left hand from the steering wheel and smiled softly. "I do, Ianto Jones. As a couple."

"But I'll get older, turn gray, maybe even get fatter one day. Surely you'll want someone prettier, younger."

"No. I want you. For as long as I can have you. Even old, bald, and fat. It's who you are that I love, Ianto. Your outside, well, I won't lie and say I don't like your looks, but that's just a bonus. And I'm sure you'll still be very attractive and sexy fifty years on." Jack rubbed his forefinger across Ianto's hand, that was still in his. "In my eyes, you will be beautiful. Always."

Ianto bit his lip, fighting back tears. "Jack… I love hearing this, but let's concentrate on what needs to be done first. Then I think we deserve a little getaway, even for a day or two, to talk. And anything else that comes to mind."

"You're right. But have no doubts, Ianto. The last time I left to help the Doctor; I came back as soon as I could, to you. If I ever leave again to travel with the Doctor, I want you to be with me. But that will be when we know we don't have to worry about Torchwood." Jack released Ianto's hand and leaned against the door, looking out the window. "I thought that dream died with you."

"I'm alive, Jack," Ianto reminded him.

"I know. So, 456 then? How?"

"We'll figure it out." Ianto pulled the car into an alley behind the warehouse they were currently using.

Johnson came over to them when they entered. "Ianto, I need to warn you there's a new uproar. I wasn't the only one who watched you come back to life on camera. It's common knowledge in Whitehall that Jack brought you back to life."

"And what are they going to do about it?" Ianto asked, fully annoyed with the additional complication.

"We'll worry about that afterwards," Jack said, putting a comforting hand on the small of Ianto's back. Inside, he was even more nervous than before. He was worried that the government might still be after them, might want to imprison both he and Ianto so they could experiment on them.

"UNIT is now on our side. Apparently that came down by order of the Crown," Johnson informed them as both Jack and Ianto sat down at laptops and started to go through files that were set out for them.

The two men looked up. "It's about bloody time," Ianto muttered. "For all the 'For Queen and Country' lectures I had to endure from Hartman about Torchwood."

Jack chuckled. "Someone finally let Her Majesty in on what had been going on behind her back."

"The Queen is outraged. Buckingham Palace is now in talks with the U.N." For a split second a worried look flashed across Johnson's face. What she didn't inform them of was hearing that the Queen intended to deal with all the agencies that had used deception and subterfuge in the UK, and those who handled the execution of the blank page, especially in taking down Torchwood. It didn't look good for her and her team, but she decided to use whatever free time she had left in giving Torchwood her team's full use.

"What about the children?"

"She ordered a stand down on collecting the children. Unfortunately that order is only good in the U.K. Each country is going to make their own decisions, unless the UN sends orders otherwise – which is highly possible. Her Majesty said to put faith in Torchwood and UNIT. Someone named Martha Jones is on her way here." Johnson looked at them. "I was told that she's an acquaintance of yours."

Ianto nodded as Jack replied, "She's UNIT, and she's worked with Torchwood before. I guess you could say she's unofficially part of our team."

"She's to be escorted here once the helicopter lands," Johnson informed him.

"We don't have much time, Jack," Ianto reminded Jack. "We already wasted enough time dying and sorting things." He picked up a file and handed it to Jack. "Oh, and working out possible ways of overcoming the 456."

"What do you have?" Jack asked.

Ianto shrugged. "That's for us to figure out using the data we now have."

Jack and Ianto sat down and studied the files, using the laptops to work through scenarios.

"Oh, God," Jack remarked. "I think we have something but…." Heglanced down.

"What, Jack?" Ianto asked.

"The way Clem was killed," Jack stated. "What if we reversed it back to the 456?"

Ianto thought about it. "It could work," he mused. He tapped on his laptop for a minute. "But we're going to need a child to act as a transmitter."

"I know," Jack said softly. "Unfortunately it means that the child won't survive."

Johnson had been looking over their shoulders, watching. She read off Ianto's screen and looked horrified. "The child will fry!" she exclaimed.

Both Jack and Ianto looked back at her. "Not very long ago you were on board to kill Torchwood without having all the facts," Jack reminded her.

"Not to mention you did blow Jack to pieces," Ianto stated. He had been able to put his differences to the side once the agent came to him and removed him from what was looking to be a bad situation. She had been nothing but helpful and resourceful to him, as if she was attempting to make up for the error of her ways. But now she was staring at both men as if they were monsters.

"None of you are innocent children," Johnson pointed out.

"No. But Gwen is pregnant. You didn't know that, did you?" Jack stated. "And we were innocent, even if we're adults."

"I know that," Johnson agreed. "So you want a child?" She glanced at the time. "We're running out of time."

"We're aware of that," Ianto said. "And yes, I think we should have a child close."

Ianto looked over at Jack. He knew that Jack's daughter and grandson were in a hotel not very far away so Jack could have a reunion with his family when the chance afforded. What Jack also did not know, and Ianto was very aware of, was that Stephen could very well be the child they needed. It would be so easy to send to have them brought there. Ianto had already made the decision that Stephen would not come anywhere near them until it was over.

Did that make him as bad as those sitting around the table during the negotiations they had watched? Especially since he knew Jack; as much as it would destroy his lover, Jack was the type of man who could not expect others to do something he could not do himself. That would make Stephen Jack's first choice, even if the Captain would rather hide his grandson and keep him safe. Jack was better than those they had watched negotiate which children would be selected.

Ianto felt he was not the same type of man as a plan formed in his mind. Thankfully Jack had no idea where his family was, which gave Ianto the advantage. His lover had suffered too much, and in the years – even centuries – to come Ianto knew Jack would suffer more. Ianto felt he had to take it upon himself to make sure Jack suffered as little as possible as long as he was in the Captain's life. He felt the guilt when he realized that one day he would not be able to avoid death, and would also be the cause of more suffering for Jack.

Shoving his thoughts to the back of his mind to deal with later, he gave Johnson a knowing look. "I'm sure there's a child out there in the streets somewhere." His eyes shifted slightly in Jack's direction and shook his head.

Johnson nodded hers in response and walked away, speaking into her radio to her people.

"Ianto," Jack said, finally turning to the Welshman. "Where is Stephen?"

"Close, but not that close," Ianto replied. "And that's where he's staying unless we absolutely do not have any other choice."

Jack nodded. "So just like the others, I get to keep my family safe."

"You did not make the bargain, Jack. The decision was already made and it's out of your hands. For now. Is that fair?"

"I… I…." Jack looked back at the laptop. "There has to be another way."

"We don't have much time," Ianto reminded him.

"I know, I know!" Jack snapped frustrated. "Damn."

Ianto tapped his fingers on the table, in thought. "We tried to shoot out the container, which didn't work out well." He frowned. "What the fuck were we thinking anyway?"

"Excuse me?"

"I was committing suicide from the start," Ianto replied, shaking his head. "Since when do we employ such shabby plans? Trying to shoot out the glass of a container holding noxious gases and not even having a gas mask?"

Jack stared at Ianto. "Yeah, that was a shitty plan. I'd have lost you no matter what. Ianto, I'm sorry. I don't know why I didn't think it through completely."

Ianto waved it off. "It wasn't like I noticed the flaw in the plan until now. Don't sweat it, Jack."

"But if we had been able to destroy the containment unit, chances are the aliens would have been killed."

"But that would kill just the ones that are here. What about the others?" Ianto asked.

"Well, if we don't allow anyone to build any more of those units, they can't arrive here."

"They weren't here when you handed over those twelve children," Ianto felt the need to point out.

"That's because it was a supposedly peaceful exchange. They came here now because of the number of children they want. If we destroy the aliens here, and deny them any means of sending more, that would buy us time."

"Time for what?" Ianto turned to face Jack.

"I don't know. Get in touch with the Doctor and have him go to the Shadow Proclamation about them? What they are doing will definitely have the Shadow Proclamation after them."

Ianto nodded slowly. "That's possible. But who the hell knows when we'll see a sign of the Doctor again, unless he needs you. It's obvious he's washing his hands of this mess."

Jack rolled his eyes. "Not that I would blame him, but we could have used his help." He sighed heavily. "I don't suppose you know where we can get a weapon capable of destroying the tank, do you?"

Ianto frowned. Anything they had was now buried under the rubble of whatever remained of the Hub, if it wasn't completely destroyed. Ianto's face fell as he considered for the first time the scope of what they had lost. All their equipment and all the tech they had stored could be gone forever. Everything, including what remained from Torchwood One.

It was at that thought that Ianto looked back at Jack. "When you sent the team to scavenge what was left of Torchwood London, did you get to all the holding areas?" he asked.

"I assume so," Jack replied. "Yvonne wasn't very forthcoming. We took what wasn't destroyed from the tower and some stuff from holding units nearby." He studied Ianto. "Surely you must know what we managed to obtain, since you redid our archives."

"Yeah, I did." Ianto thought for a few more moments. "Below us, underground and about a block away, there was a secure cell for what could be considered weapons of mass destruction. Did you clean out that area?"

Jack shook his head. "No, just whatever was close to the tower. I didn't know other areas existed, including this warehouse."

Ianto grinned at Jack, and then glanced at his watch. "Hurry," he instructed as he made his way across the warehouse. At the far side in a back room Ianto had Jack help him move an empty storage unit. Jack found himself staring at a door with a big rusty lock. that had been hidden by the unitUsing the gun he had obtained when Johnson rescued him from being questioned by security overlooking the makeshift morgue, Ianto shot out the lock.

"Won't we need any equipment or something to get around or into the storage unit?" Jack asked.

Ianto held up his gun. "Yep. We got it. Yvonne was hoping on what no one knew no one could steal, and I have to give her credit for that logic. It's pretty much the same concept on the various fronts that were the main entrance to our Hub over the decades." He turned to look behind him and noticed Jack caressing the butt of the gun he was given. "Ready?"

"Yeah. We'll need to get Thames House evacuated. Again."

"Before we blunder in," Ianto agreed. He took out the radio he had also acquired recently and spoke into it. "Johnson, we're going to need Thames House evacuated. Any chance of you making that happen?"

"Considering what has happened already, that's going to be an easy one. Where are you going?" Johnson asked.

"To get something to give our guests a farewell gift," Ianto replied.

OoOoOoO

By the time Jack and Ianto returned, Johnson informed them that Thames House was once again being evacuated due to a threat of a biological attack.

Ianto had to grin as he shook his head. "Nothing like playing on people's nerves," he commented as he studied the cases Jack and he had placed on a table. "It would be so like terrorists to copy cat a major disaster." His face fell when he saw Jack wince in pain, his eyes glistening. He placed a hand on Jack's shoulder. "We're running out of time, Jack," Ianto gently reminded Jack, pulling his lover from getting too caught up in guilt. There would be time enough for both of them to wallow in the guilt later. As far as Ianto was concerned, Jack was not alone in the actions that caused all those deaths in Thames House. But that was for another time.

Jack nodded slowly. "So, what do we have here?"

OoOoOoO

Johnson stopped the black SUV in front of Thames House. Jack turned to Ianto and leaned over to kiss him briefly. "Stay here."

"You're going to die too," Ianto pointed out.

"I come back. And despite false rumors of your early demise, you don't." Jack squeezed Ianto's hand. "I'm not making the same mistake twice. If and when it's clear and I don't come out, then you can come for me. But only after you know it's safe for you. Promise me, Ianto."

"Yes," Ianto said, his voice cracking on the single syllable. "I'll be here. Waiting for you."

Jack smiled softly. "Good. That's exactly the way I like it. 'Cause I'll always come back to you." His smile grew warm. "I love you."

Ianto's voice hitched in his throat as he started to reply. He never expected to hear those words from Jack, and he'd heard them twice in one day. The first time, Ianto was certain it was because Jack had still been shaken from his death and his unexpected return. While it was true that before Jack expelled Ianto from the Hub seconds before the bomb went off in the immortal's stomach, he had been pulled into a kiss that left Ianto with no doubt how Jack felt about him. Yet, it was not like them to share kisses and endearments before going off on a mission. Ianto was not sure if it was because it was still so close to Jack believing he had lost him, or if this was a start of something new.

Ianto caressed Jack's cheek. "I love you too. So, if it is at all possible, please try to keep yourself in one piece at least."

"I'll try," Jack promised and pulled away to open the door.

Ianto watched as Jack jogged across to the stairs leading into Thames House.

"Ianto," Johnson said, bringing Ianto's attention from the doors of the building he realized was his place of death. Thankfully it was just a temporary one, although Ianto knew by all rights he should not be there in the vehicle with the government agent.

Ianto was reminded once more just how fragile life really was, and decided right then to definitely make the most of the second chance he was given. Third chance, a small voice in his head reminded him. Next time bloody baked beans would be given its proper place in perspective, along with everything else in life.

He looked over to the woman who should be considered the enemy, but since his resurrection had proven herself to be on his side. "What is it?"

"Martha Jones is requesting the location of our base so she can meet us," Johnson replied.

Ianto cast one more look at the building, deciding that Jack should be arriving on the 13th floor. "Take us just outside the perimeter to be safe, while I contact her."

Johnson nodded her head and put the vehicle into drive as Ianto took out the mobile he had been given to use. He punched in the number he knew from memory as the car drove away.

When he heard his friend answer her phone, he said, "I'm sorry that your honeymoon was cut short."

"I would have been here sooner if I had been able to get an earlier flight back. How are you, Ianto?"

"I'm good, considering everything." Ianto decided to keep his earlier death from Martha for the time being. No need to further complicate things. "Jack sends his thanks for getting UNIT off our backs and letting us do our job." He smiled slightly. "I suspect that you had something to do with the Crown also coming to our aid?"

"Well, it might have been slipped to her through a common friend that Torchwood was needed to clean up this mess, and that with the British government now fallen, we needed someone to step up to the plate," Martha replied.

Ianto's eyebrows shot up. "A common friend?" he asked, sounding amazed. "You mean… he's here?"

"He was here," Martha replied. "I was able to reach him. Apparently his sense of what is to be told him this was not his battle to fight, but he did do whatever he was able to, giving those of us who are supposed to fight a chance."

Ianto pursed his lips as he thought that over. He didn'tknow what to make of the Doctor's decision not to help them directly. "Are you okay with that explanation?" he decided to ask. He would trust Martha's opinion.

"Yes. If it gives you and the team a chance to get rid of the threat, then yes."

"Well---" Ianto's reply was cut off by an explosion. The ground under them shook slightly, making the vehicle rock and he watched Thames House rattle. Windows broke and shattered glass fell toward the ground from the upper floors, and masonry broke apart then followed suit. Ianto shut his eyes, clamping down his emotions. He had no doubt that somewhere in the damaged building, Jack was dead.

"Ianto? What was that?"

"That was---" Once again, Ianto's reply was cut off as a ball of fire shot up from the upper floor of the building, the top floors catching as the fire, seemingly tinged with an electrical charge, continued to shoot upward to the sky. "Jack," he finished, his voice shaking. He couldn't explain it, but this time he was certain Jack was dead. He had to find Jack as soon as possible, be there with his lover when the immortal took those first gasping breaths back to life.

Reports started to come through the radio in the vehicle, and finally as Ianto's eyes continued to stare upward, a massive ball of fire seemed to appear in the distant sky along with what looked like an explosion. He remembered seeing an explosion like that years ago, back when he was still with Torchwood One, when they had activated a weapon to destroy the Sycorax on Harriet Jones' directive.

"They're gone," Ianto said, not certain if he was speaking to himself, Martha, or Johnson. Perhaps all three, since Johnson repeated it into her radio, while Martha made a sound.

"What did you do?" Martha asked. "I saw that from here. Where is Jack?"

"He…He's in what's left of Thames House," Ianto replied, his voice catching. He turned to Johnson. "I'm going in there. I need to find Jack."

"Oh, no you're not," the agent snapped back. "I was ordered by Jack to not let you in there until it was considered safe. I am not going to explain to him later why you died when the building caved in on you."

"I need to find Jack," Ianto insisted and made to open the door, only to find it locked. "Open it, damn it!"

Johnson shook her head as she continued to speak into her radio.

"Ianto, don't be stupid. She's right, whoever that is. Jack will come back. You won't. And I don't want to be around him if anything happens to you. I know he probably doesn't say it much, but I know what you mean to him. Ianto, you're everything to him. Wait until its safe. Please."

"Martha, you don't understand," Ianto insisted, horror in his voice as his mind projected images of what Jack's possible current state could be. "Days ago, the Hub was blown up. By a bomb implanted in Jack's stomach while he was dead." His head turned to throw Johnson a glare, letting the agent know while he was willing to put things aside for the greater good, he was not forgetting that quickly, if ever. He watched with satisfaction as the woman bristled under his glare. "It tore Jack to pieces. Literally. It was horrifying to watch as they dug up bits of remains." Ianto's voice broke as a sob escaped. He'd had to clamp down on his emotions while he watched them place the three parts they found of Jack into a body bag, and later as he'd listened to the screams as Jack's body rebuilt and repaired itself. He was certain he was bound for a few nightmares once this was all over, and now this only added to it.

"What? We're going to have a lot to discuss when I meet up with you and Jack," Martha stated. "But what did you do just now?"

"There was a Torchwood storage cell beneath where I set up operations for us, a warehouse that Torchwood One used to use. It still belongs to Torchwood. Seems that Jack's team didn't discover the storage when they did clean up after Canary Wharf. We found some alien explosive devices. One that when detonated created sound waves of a programmed frequency. It would follow the frequency to the end point for a second detonation, destroying whatever was at the endpoint. Jack said it was used in the 40th century by an organization that the Time Agency kept under watch. Sound waves travel back and forth through time, so this weapon made it possible for them to destroy an enemy in the past without actually traveling," Ianto explained. "We managed to program it to the wavelength the 456 was using and send it back to them with charges activated. Unfortunately, I guess we couldn't set it not to explode on both ends of the wavelength. There was a way, but Jack wasn't sure and there wasn't enough time. We did what we could, hoping to prevent the explosion on this side, but…." His voice trailed off as he watched the fire crews and police who were now in the area. There was not much left of the upper floors of the building and with a sickening feeling Ianto watched as the building visibly shifted. "We weren't successful," he stated quietly, feeling ill.

More destruction on Torchwood's behalf, more blame to fall on his and Jack's shoulders. If only they had had more time for Jack to work out how to set it properly. Ianto had to hang on the fact that the 456 were destroyed, that wherever their craft was outside the atmosphere was also destroyed. They had succeeded in their main objective. It didn't however stop Ianto from feeling ill as the need to find Jack increased.

"It's going to collapse," Johnson informed him, her voice raising. "They're calling away the crews until the dust settles." Her eyes fixed on Ianto. "You probably wouldn't have even found Jack in time."

They watched as the crews moved away from the building, and bystanders were forced back further.

Ianto rested a hand on the window, staring at the building. "Jack…." he sighed. And then the building fell onto itself as the rubble crashed to the ground. Clouds of dust and masonry from the fallen building billowed out, spreading through the streets. The emergency teams closer to the perimeter were forced to fall even further back.

He squeezed his eyes tightly shut as he felt himself start to cry. He rested his forehead against the window, not hearing Martha's concerned voice wanting him to reply, or Johnson speaking to him. He was unaware of the dust cloud that covered their vehicle, pitching them in temporary darkness and then grayness.

One thing he never let on to Jack was that with each of the immortal's deaths, Ianto felt a little more of his own soul battered. He felt an empty place in his soul, as if the void of death settled in that area within him. It would stay until Jack came back to life.

OoOoOoO

Dressed in safety gear provided by the fire crews, Ianto found himself with the teams, searching through the wreckage of the building. It was now evening and the sun had long set.

Martha Jones stood on the perimeter, overseeing a UNIT team that assisted in the recon. Fire and emergency personnel were not far from her, but being there was only one person in the building at the time of collapse, they didn't prove to be very helpful. They were only there to assure that no one unauthorized wandered into the rubble. Johnson had her own team, which ironically was the same team that had gone over the wreckage of the Hub, once again searching for the remains of Captain Jack Harkness.

Ianto stumbled towards Martha, needing to take a break. Martha went over to him and guided him to a nearby vehicle where he could sit. She silently handed him a bottle of water. "Ianto, we'll find him and he'll be fine. But you really should take a proper break. Get something to eat, and then some sleep. I'll bet you've hardly had any since everything started."

Ianto snorted. "Oh, trust me when I say that I slept like the dead for a while." His eyes glanced over to Johnson as the agent approached them.

"You slept," Martha commented, not convinced.

"He's not lying," Johnson assured Martha, and the look between Ianto and the agent didn't go unnoticed by Martha.

"Okay, you can tell me right now what really happened," Martha insisted.

"Later. Okay?" Ianto placed an arm around her. "Just trust me for now." When she held out a sandwich to him, he shook his head. "I honestly feel like if I eat anything, I'll just toss it back up again. I promise once we find Jack and he's okay, I'll make sure we both have something healthy to eat and then get some sleep. Is that good enough for you?"

Martha sighed, and rested her head on Ianto's shoulder. "It'll have to do, I guess. But I'll be there to hold you to it."

Ianto drank more of the water and then kissed her head. "I need to go back in there," he stated without apology and stood up.

As he walked away, Martha shook her head. "He's such a stubborn one. He does deserve Jack."

Johnson laughed slightly. "So I'm noticing." Her eyes watched Ianto as he trudged his way carefully through the rubble. "Stubborn bastard couldn't even stay dead," she commented without thinking.

"What? What do you mean?" Martha asked. She tore her eyes away from Ianto to stare at Johnson. "Oh my God! Are you saying Ianto died?"

"Oh crap. He's going to kill me now," Johnson muttered. "I guess I'm more tired than I thought on to let that slip."

"What happened?" Martha demanded.

Johnson sighed. "I guess we still have time yet." She motioned Martha to follow her to the vehicle Johnson used, where she opened a laptop and pulled up the reports on Thames House, including the list of dead. Among the names was Ianto Jones, listed as #14.

Martha looked up from the screen to Johnson. "He… it was a mistake, no doubt. Because Ianto is very much alive."

"As much as #13, wouldn't you say?" the agent replied.

Martha nodded in agreement, as Jack's name was also on the list with the number 13 designated as his place in the morgue that had been set up to contain the dead. "What happened?" she asked. "Is Ianto also…?"

Johnson pulled up some video in response. It was the footage of inside the room on Floor 13, with Jack and Ianto as they faced the 456. Martha's mouth dropped as she watched the footage, up to Jack's death.

"That kiss that Captain Harkness gave Ianto just as our stubborn Welshman died, moments before Jack's own death," Johnson pointed out, "There's a general consensus from everyone who has watched the video and has since been informed of Ianto Jones' resurrection that Jack Harkness has the ability to bring the dead back to life."

"Are you kidding?" Martha asked.

"No, I'm afraid not. And while there are orders issued to leave Torchwood alone, I'm sure there are others in the government who are plotting to find out more about it. Jack, and possibly Ianto, need to be careful in the future." She saw the fear on Martha's face. "Oh, I don't think it will be right away. After all, the government as we knew it is in shambles. If there is to be an attempt to capture and contain Jack for testing, it will be much later. When this isn't in the forefront of everyone's minds and when the Captain is not expecting it."

"Do they know?" Martha asked.

"Not all of it, no. They do know that the footage was seen, but I doubt they had the time to consider the implications, and I didn't have time to point it out to them yet."

"But you will?"

"Of course. They both deserve the right to know."

"They do."

Johnson's mobile rang and she looked at the caller ID. Swearing for a moment, she looked at Martha. "I need to take this call, or else we'll end up with Jack's daughter in the area attempting to give Ianto a hand there."

"Jack's….." As Johnson left the vehicle to speak into her mobile, all Martha was able to mutter was, "Oh my God!"

Martha's attention was diverted as she heard Ianto's cry of, "I found him!" His exclamation echoing through their radios.

OoOoOoO

Ianto sat on the floor of the warehouse, Jack's limp hand in his. Thankfully he had found Jack in one piece, but his body was scorched and burned badly. The explosive device they had decided to use had done its job well. It had traveled along the frequency wavelength of the 456 and from the explosion Ianto saw, as well as anyone else who was looking upward to the sky, at least whatever transported the aliens to the Earth was destroyed. It had also managed to dissipate the noxious fumes contained inside the tank to acceptable levels. Ianto knew it could have been worse. Part of the long wait before they had been cleared to start searching for Jack had been waiting for Martha to announce that the air was okay to breathe without safety apparatuses. Ianto was given something anyway for the first half of the search. All the UNIT and government agents that had been tasked to find Jack and shift through the rubble for anything that might be of use were also issued filter masks.

Ianto ran a thumb along Jack's hand, thankful that the hand he held looked more like it suffered from a bad sunburn rather than a blacked surface with layers burnt. Parts of Jack's body had been burned down to almost nothing. Once again, Ianto had to remind himself that it was a good thing that, despite the areas burned away, Jack's body had remained intact. He was also glad that Jack had remained dead while his body had started to slowly repair itself. Martha had tried to move Ianto onto the couch, or even better in her opinion, to a hotel for the night, but Ianto was not hearing it. Once Jack came back, there was a room waiting for them in a hotel nearby.

Ianto had no idea how long he had dozed off, laying next to Jack, still holding his hand, when he was awakened suddenly as the immortal started to gasp, his body bending upward. Immediately Ianto scrambled to his knees, grabbing onto Jack, and holding him carefully, knowing there were still areas of his body that needed to heal. It was one of the worse times to have Jack come back to life in his arms. For a half an hour, Jack screamed and cried while his body continued healing until he passed out in Ianto's arms.

Carefully, Ianto lay Jack back down on the mat, and took a moment to wipe his tears. During the time Jack healed, Ianto had shared tears and even pain as he held onto Jack, allowing the Captain to hold him tightly, screaming into Ianto's shoulder or chest. Ianto watched Jack, placing a hand gently on the other man's chest, satisfied that he was breathing normally. Carefully, he checked Jack's body and was glad to see it looked normal, as if it had not been burned in an explosion.

He leant down and softly kissed Jack's mouth, glad to notice the breath. He rested his forehead against Jack's, once again realizing that Jack's luck held out for him. Yet he did not escape pain that was worse than death. Ianto kissed Jack's slack mouth one more time. "I'll be back in a few minutes," he whispered, even though knew Jack was unaware of him and what he had to say.

He stood up, and after making sure Jack was covered with a blanket he went across the warehouse to where Martha and Johnson sat waiting behind a makeshift partition that had been put up to give Jack and Ianto privacy.

"He's alive again, but he passed out from the pain of healing," Ianto reported as he approached the two women.

"Then I think we can move him to a hotel now," Martha stated, starting to stand up.

Ianto pushed her gently back into her seat. "Wait until he comes to, and he can get dressed."

"Once you finally get some decent sleep, there's no reason for you to stay here any longer," Johnson pointed out. "The threat is gone and it's not Torchwood's responsibility to clean up the government's mess." She took a deep breath and finally looked up to Ianto, meeting his eyes. "I was under orders," she said. "I was under the impression that you, Torchwood, were enemies of the Crown. I was wrong. I know it doesn't fix what is done, but I am truly sorry about my part of it."

"I must admit it was an eye opening situation. It makes me rethink that we're beyond the government," Ianto admitted.

"Right now, there is no government, and there still is a Torchwood."

Ianto folded his arms and shook his head. "That doesn't mean we're about to take over the government," he quipped. "As you said, that's someone else's job. Meanwhile," his gaze went to Martha, "we have no idea how the explosion affected the Rift, especially if the subetheric resonator, or any other vital parts of the Rift manipulator were destroyed."

"That reminds me," Martha said, "Gwen called not long ago. Your sister and her family are safe; things are calming down in Cardiff. She managed to locate the SUV with some help from your brother-in-law, and will be heading over to the Hub to get an initial assessment of damage tomorrow."

"I'll call her once we're in the hotel," Ianto said. "It shouldn't be long."

"We'll be right here and waiting for when you and Jack need a ride. And Ianto," Martha said, "You will not be heading back to Cardiff until you get quite a few hours of sleep."

Ianto gave her a tight smile. "Believe me, once I put my head down to actually sleep, I don't think anyone will be waking me for at least a day."

"That's fine. As long as you're still breathing, I'm sure I can convince Jack to allow you to sleep. And it wouldn't be a bad idea for him to still get more rest."

"We'll see with Jack, but once we're at the hotel, don't worry about me." He winked at Martha and turned to head to the other side of the partition and finish his vigil at Jack's side.

OoOoOoO

Some fifteen hours later found Jack lying on his side on the wide bed in the hotel room. His head was propped up by his arm and resting on his hand as he gazed reverently at the sleeping form next to him with a gentle smile.

He had woke up two hours earlier, in Ianto's arms, the two having gone almost immediately to sleep once they entered the hotel room, pausing only long enough to take a long hot shower. They shared the shower, but only washed each other, sharing deep kisses and warm hugs before they fell into the bed, bath towels discarded on the floor next to it. Martha had assured them that no one would bother them until they called her, stating they were ready to meet her and make the ride back to Cardiff.

In the car ride to the hotel, Jack had tried again to convince Martha to join Torchwood, but she declined. She did assure him that she would stay in Cardiff for a while and help with going through the rubble of what was left of the Hub. She came into their room just long enough to examine both of them. Ianto bore the examination stoically, having to once again prove to her that he was not going to stop breathing without warning anytime soon. As it turned out, Jack needed the reassurance more, which was why Martha did the exam on Ianto once more.

Now he was content to simply watch Ianto as his lover slept, thankful to have him back again and finding himself praying to Anything out there that was willing to listen to keep the Welshman at his side for a very long time. Jack had a suspicion that Ianto meant more to him than he had ever intended to feel, and feared what losing him would mean to him. He knew now, and for the time that he thought he had lost Ianto forever, that losing him was something he wished to not go through again anytime soon.

He finally dropped his head on Ianto's bare shoulder, draping an arm across the well defined, flat stomach and sighed deeply. "I know it's wrong of me to say this," he said softly, not wanting to wake his lover, "but if I could find a way to make you like me, I would. So I would never lose you. Because I can't. I know that now. But if I can't, I swear from now on, I'll do everything I can to keep you safe."

"I'm not going out of the field, Jack," Ianto reploed, his voice also soft. "Especially with Gwen off field duty until she has the baby."

"I know," Jack stated sadly. "I just…." He buried his face in Ianto's chest, feeling the Welshman's arms wrap around him and hold him tightly.

"I know, Jack. To be honest, if there was a way I could stay with you forever, I would. But I'm also afraid that one day you'll tire of me, need to go on to other things or…."

"Shush. I know you said not to mention it, but that was your decision and I didn't have much of a say at the time, but not only will you not be a blip in time, but I will stay with you as long as you breathe. If I wasn't sure then, I know now. I can't live without you, Ianto, and yet I can't die. How am I supposed to go on?"

"You'll find a way when it's time, because one day, even if you do stay with me through to old age, I'll die. And you'll have to go on."

Jack lifted his head. "I will stay with you for as long as you'll have me. And if I feel a need to find the stars again, I'll only go if you agree to go with me." He smiled softly. "There's too much to do here to consider it now, but there's so much I realized I wanted you to see, things we can do together. One day we'll find a way to do them all. But you'll have to stay alive until then. Okay?"

Ianto chuckled softly. "Okay."

"You don't believe me," Jack stated.

"I want to, Jack."

"You should. I need you. I know that now. I love you. I love you like I've never loved anyone in my entire life. At least believe that."

Ianto's eyes filled with tears as he held Jack tighter again. "That you could say that makes me believe it. Because you would never say that unless you meant it. I know that much about you."

"I do mean it."

"I guess we're even then, 'cause I love you too."

"That's better," Jack said with a smile.

"What's that?"

"That you're telling me you love me because you want to, not because you think it's all about to end. Now we have a whole life ahead of us to explore our love, instead of moments to acknowledge it."

"Is that why you didn't?"

Jack nodded. "Yeah. That and, well, I knew you were only saying it then because you knew you were dying and needed to let me know. I didn't want to accept the end had come. That's what I meant." Hedropped his head to bury his face once again in the crook of Ianto's neck. "Besides," he added, his voice muffled, "I feel like I don't deserve your love."

Ianto carded his fingers through his lover's hair. "Always, Jack. You always do. I wouldn't love you if you didn't."

Jack nodded and pressed a kiss to Ianto's shoulder.

OoOoOoO

The next day was spent relaxing, as much as they were able. They spent the morning in the suite Martha had taken out for them, lounging on the massive bed while working on the laptops they had taken with them from the warehouse.

After they were showered and dressed, Alice and Stephen came by to have an in-room breakfast with them. While Ianto had already met the two during his attempt at some immediate damage control before breaking Jack out of his holding cell, Jack took the time to formally introduce his family and Ianto, referring to Ianto as his partner. The meaning was obvious to Alice, who seemed to accept it.

After Alice and Stephen left, they spent the remainder of the morning doing damage control. Johnson had called in stating that all bank accounts – personal and Torchwood – were assured to be unfrozen, along with credit cards and other accounts that were affected when the government made their move against Torchwood. Martha came by to give Ianto a full exam and when she was done, announced with a broad smile that Ianto was healthy, and proceeded to assure Jack that Ianto's healthy and alive status was not something temporary – as long as he didn't get himself killed again anytime soon. While she was examining Ianto, Jack had mentioned that his right cheek did not have so much as even a faint scar. Martha asked why he should, and listened to both Jack and Ianto explain about the gash Ianto had on his cheek as a result of the explosion. Jack was certain that there would always be a scar if Ianto had not been killed in Thames House.

When Martha left, the two decided to go out to lunch. After a companionable meal with a very attentive Jack towards Ianto, they went shopping. Ianto felt they needed at least a couple more changes of clothes and got them new mobiles not wanting to use the disposable ones any longer than they had to. Thankfully, Ianto had his wallet with him when Jack forced him to leave the Hub.

When they returned to their room, they dropped their bags with their new purchases in a corner. Ianto went to run a bath while Jack first called Alice, setting up for her to meet them in the hotel dining room for dinner. The next call was a brief call to Gwen to check on how she was doing, how was Rhys and to tell her that they were returning to Cardiff the next day. He told Gwen she could give him any reports she had already then, and to make sure she relaxed until the next day.

As Jack was saying goodbye to Gwen, he suddenly felt an arm go around his waist as Ianto said over his shoulder, "You better make sure you take care of yourself, Gwen. We have a baby to look forward to."

Jack yelped in surprise, which caused Gwen to laugh.

"Yes sir," Gwen snapped out despite her laughter. "I'll see you and Jack tomorrow, Ianto."

"We'll call when we're at Ianto's flat," Jack told her, looking back at Ianto to see the other man nod his head in agreement. "I want Ianto to have time to go see his family before we get too involved in reconstruction of the Hub."

"Of course. Rhiannon is concerned that there was a false alarm about Ianto's death, and she really needs to see him," Gwen stated. "Of course she doesn't need to know it wasn't really a false alarm. We were all just a little premature in thinking Ianto would stay that way." She laughed warmly, glad for her friend to be alive and healthy. "We need to have a little talk about this, Ianto. I refuse for you to scare me like this again. You hear Me?"

"I'm all for that," Jack agreed, taking the hand that rested on his stomach and intertwining their fingers. "We're going for an early start back to Cardiff, so expect us to call around lunchtime to come around with the SUV."

"I know you want reports tomorrow, but before I let you two go, I need to let you know that I saw Myfanwy circling the sky near the Hub."

Ianto let out a breath of relief and rested his chin on Jack's shoulder. "Thank you, Gwen. You have no idea how happy that makes me."

Jack turned his head to kiss Ianto's cheek. "Me too. She's more than a pet, you know."

Gwen chuckled. "So you both told me. That's why I figured you'd want to know."

"I need to add to our list that we need to pick up dark chocolate on the way back to Cardiff," Ianto said with a chuckle. "We'll see you tomorrow, Gwen."

Jack disconnected the call after he said his goodbyes and turned in Ianto's arms. "Now about that bath you were running for us?" He lifted his eyebrow. He started to laugh when he was suddenly pulled in the direction of the bathroom and the large built in tub.

OoOoOoO

The next morning, at the crack of dawn, Jack and Ianto set off in Ianto's brother-in-law's car to Cardiff. Alice and Stephen had left London for Cardiff after dinner the previous night, but not before making Jack promise that the two would come by for dinner later during the week.

There was so much to be done. Ianto was afraid that Jack had lost everything he had in the Hub. At least some of Jack's clothes and other belongings had made their way to Ianto's flat in the last few months. He was also glad for having the foresight of scanning the photos in Jack's tin collection, so the Captain hadn't lose everything he had over decades. Jack had also assured Ianto that some of his belongings from the recent decades had been given to Alice. Whatever she didn't use was in storage. He also admitted to having a storage space for older things he had accrued and didn't want Torchwood to have back in the days before he took command of the Cardiff branch. All was not lost to Jack, but enough was.

Their first plan of business was to see if they could access the Hub through one of the several entrances they had, and if so, to assess the damage. It would take weeks, even months to fully assess what could be salvaged from the Hub and clean it out. Then they could start to rebuild. Until then, they would need a new base of operations. For that fiest day, they would settle for Ianto's flat and probably over the following few days.

Johnson had been there to see them off that morning. She informed them that her team was at their disposal if they would have them. They had shared a look, and Ianto saw in Jack's eyes that it was up to him to make the decision and Jack would trust it and stand by him. Ianto still had issues that he doubted he would ever resolve concerning Johnson and her team, but they did prove themselves to him and knew it would be wise to have the resources. He agreed for them to come to Cardiff during the week and to contact them for work schedules. He also made it clear that didn't mean they were now part of Torchwood, but rather outside contractors. Just as he knew Jack would have to pull in at least a team from UNIT to assist in the rebuilding. At least these were people that they didn't need to Retcon.

Before they took their leave of the government agent, she warned them of the danger that too many people had seen the kiss Jack had given Ianto, and later the footage of Ianto coming back to life as well. Jack assured them they would be careful, and that he would be working on a solution to that problem. Jack knew it was extra work they didn't need at the time, but he had also received another call the evening before assuring him that he had the Crown backing him on whatever he needed.

"We're almost in Cardiff," Ianto announced, bringing Jack out of his musings.

Jack turned his head to study Ianto, who was driving. "Looks like it." He sighed heavily. "Once again, here we are. At the end."

Ianto smiled at Jack. But there was still the pain and horror from the last week reflected in hisblue eyes, making them seem even older then they had appeared the week before. Jack sighed inwardly. So young, and yet so old, he thought of Ianto. In his young life Ianto had seen so much death and destruction, had lost too many people he had loved or cared about, almost rivaling Jack's losses through the immortal's long life. Yet, he never gave up, still trudging along. Asking if Ianto wanted to leave Torchwood was out of the question. Ianto would never leave willingly, he had invested too much, and most importantly of all, he still believed in what they did.

"A wise man once told me that the end is where we begin," Ianto said, affirming Jack's musings about the younger man.

Jack nodded and took the hand Ianto held out to him. He squeezed it warmly. "Out of the ashes we will rise again." He squeezed Ianto's hand again before releasing it so the younger man could use both hands to continue steering.

"Just like the Phoenix," Ianto murmured.

"I think that's going to be your new nickname," Jack mused. "Or we can use code names and that will be yours."

"Jack," Ianto warned. "I think our big secret is out now. Besides, if there is anyone who is going to be the Phoenix…."

"Oh no, everyone seems to expect it of me," Jack quipped. "But you… that's twice, Ianto. You're my Phoenix. My hope."

Ianto rolled his eyes as he navigated the car through the motorway toward his flat. "If you insist."

Still Ianto smiled. He intended to live up to the nickname, and to take full advantage of the chance they had been given.