SYNOPSIS: An illness is sweeping Cardiff that is probably alien, and definitely deadly. With TWO of their team infected and dying, can Torchwood still manage to save their own (and, not to mention, the world)?

RATING: T. So SOME swearing by - you guessed it - Owen, innuendo, snogging, and a bit of violence and blood near the end. Please tell me if this rating is too low. In my POV it isn't.

SPOILERS: Set after "To the Last man" and before "Meat", so there will spoilers if you haven't watched the episodes prior.

PAIRINGS: Well, you may just have to guess on that one but some of the more obvious pairings are Gwen/Rhys and Jack/Ianto.

DISCLAIMER: Of course I don't own Torchwood, any of its characters, paraphernalia, catchphrases and whatnot.

I'm Australian, so any Welsh, English or American stereotypes - blame television, not me and please forgive my limited knowledge. I only just learned what a Chav was.

If you've taken the time to read, please review. Even flames, I don't care, just let me know that someone is reading this, otherwise I won't see the point in continuing or updating, really.

As the warm morning light swept over Cardiff, Gwen buried her nose into her pillow and silently begged for five minutes more sleep. Rhys was already up, which was surprising, as Gwen usually beat him out of the door, what with her early morning starts for Torchwood. And he was cooking breakfast, which was even more surprising. Bacons and eggs, by the smell of it. Gwen stretched out underneath her covers and reminded herself to thank her fiance who had been so understanding through her late night shifts and increasingly grumpy attitude. She smiled to herself and reluctantly hauled herself out of bed. She stumbled. The ground felt slightly unsteady under her feet.

"Urgh - what did I drink last night?" Gwen groaned, meeting Rhys in the kitchen. He was wearing a crisp white t-shirt, new jeans, and an apron. He smelled of cologne and his hair was even brushed. Gwen suddenly felt very underdressed in her worn oversized t-shirt she sometimes wore to bed.

"What do yer mean?" Rhys asked, pouring her a glass of orange juice. She took it, smiling at him appreciatively.

"I think I've got a hangover." Gwen mumbled, struggling to remember whether she had been drunk the night before.

"You seemed fine when you got home - at three in the morning, I might add. Perhaps you've been drinking in your sleep. Or perhaps you're just exhausted. It's no wonder you slept till eleven."

Gwen felt some of the orange juice rise in her throat. "Eleven? Shit!" She ran back to the bedroom and glanced at the alarm clock. She stared at the blank screen angrily, and then at the loose plug. She stormed back into the kitchen. "Did you unplug it?" Rhys looked sheepish. "Why didn't you wake me? I'm late for work already because of you!"

Rhys thrust a ceramic plate down on the counter, angry. "Forgive me for trying to help you. You work insane hours, you're always tired, you look like hell!"

"Aw, thanks!" Gwen rushed into the bathroom, turning on the shower. As she did, she glanced at herself in the mirror. He was right. She was pale, her eyes had deep shadows underneath them, and she didn't look herself.

Rhys called from inside the kitchen. "I'm just saying, is all! One day you're going to run yourself into the ground, and don't think I be there to catch you when you fall!"

"I don't need catching!" Gwen retorted, stepping into the shower and feeling jets of icy cold water wash over her, waking her up.

Gwen walked in through the cog door, and waited expectantly as the team's eyes fell on her. Owen peered at her pasty skin and dark rings with a snort of disdain, Ianto seemed fixed on her unruly mop of hair, which she had had no time to blowdry or straighten and was sticking out at all kinds of angles. Toshiko was the only one to give her any sign of sympathy - she herself was looking quite worn out as she typed almost unconsciously into her super computer. Jack walked over to Gwen slowly, looking her sternly in the eyes.

"We've been waiting for you," he said accusingly.

"I'm sorry, Rhys turned off the alarm," Gwen said groggily, hating the way her excuse sounded, as if her personal life was indeed getting in the way of Torchwood. Jack rolled his eyes and turned to the rest of the team.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Listen - some distress calls that need taking care of. Owen - you go to the hospital, there's some sort of outbreak or something, can't remember, just be your usual cheery comforting doctor self and take care of it. Toshiko, you go with him. Ianto, I'm sorry, but there is a stack of paperwork on my desk that needs to be done."

Ianto nodded dutifully. "Consider it done, sir."

"Jack." Jack corrected, an air of exasperation in his voice.

"Sorry, Jack." Ianto headed off towards Jack's office to collect the papers. Jack grinned after him.

" That's better! And Gwen, since you're late, you get to come with me. We've got Weevil duty and you know how they are when they're fresh out of the sewers."

Gwen slapped her hand to her head. "Eurgh." And if her day wasn't bad enough, Owen was walking over to her with a rather happy gait - his face was alight with smugness. He leaned in to Gwen's ear.

"Are you hungover, Gwen?" He whispered.

Gwen nodded. "Little bit, yeah. Except I can't even remember drinking."

Owen clapped his hands loudly. "Well, party on Cooper!"

"I feel dead." Gwen said flatly.

Owen grinned. "Oh, that's just your body letting you know that you've killed it. Doctor's advice? REHAB!"

Gwen swatted him lightly in the arm, because that was all she could muster. "I'm not a bloody alcoholic, Owen."

Owen raised one eyebrow. "You wake up hungover, and you can't remember the night before. I'm sorry, but that's screaming alcoholism to me. And I should know. I'm a doctor." He winked at her, causing Gwen to channel all of her energy into an angry shove.

"Oh, get off!"

"Gwen! Come on!" Jack was waiting impatiently by the Invisible Lift and tapping his wrist-strap as if it was a watch.

Gwen sighed and started to amble towards the Invisible Lift; Toshiko and Owen disappeared through the cog door.

"You look awful," Jack remarked, in awe of just how terrible Gwen looked. She stared up at him fiercely, stepping onto the lift.

"Gee, thanks. I didn't know you were joining the I HATE GWEN club, too. Did you know Rhys is a lifetime member?"

"Sorry," Jack was quick to make a recovery, pressing the button on his wriststrap. The lift began to rise. "I just meant to say that you look like you need a rest."

"Yeah, well, it's a bit hard with this job, isn't it?" Gwen muttered bitterly.

"Oh, shoot!" Jack pressed the button on his wriststrap again, the lift stopping dead. "Just wait here, I have to get something."

Gwen threw up her arms. "What do you mean wait here? Where are you going?"

Before Gwen could shout any more, Jack jumped from the platform, his coat billowing out behind him as he dropped several metres and landed nimbly on his feet.

"Back in a sec!" Jack said boyishly as he ran off in the direction of his office.

"Jack!" Gwen yelled. "Jack, what are you doing, you can't just leave me up here!" Gwen stared at the ground where Jack had landed, she felt unsteady on her feet. Perhaps she was succumbing to a sudden onset of vertigo, or perhaps she was still drunk from last night, but suddenly the Hub was spinning around her...

Jack grabbed a bottle of Weevil spray from his desk drawer. "Hah! Got it!"

"Be careful." Ianto warned from the other side of the room.

Jack sniggered. "After everything I've come back from, you still worry about me."

"Can you heal scars? I'd hate for you to come back horribly disfigured."

"Hmmm, unfortunately I'm going to look like this for quite some time yet." He stepped closer to Ianto, feigning upset.

"The shame. How will I ever cope?" Ianto said, looking into Jack's eyes.

"I'm sure we'll find a way." Jack exited the office, with Ianto following closely. Between the two of them, they were the only ones who hadn't succumbled to the unspoken rule of Torchwood - that leather should be worn at all times, or at least, once a week. Ianto didn't because on his first day working at Torchwood, Jack had casually remarked that Ianto "looked good in a suit", and since then, was rarely seen out of one. Jack's excuse was that his leather days were behind him.

"This should only be quick," said Jack. "There aren't really any sewer-fresh Weevils on the loose, I just said that to Gwen to make her feel bad because she was late. We're just getting some fragments of meteor rock that fell through the Rift."

"Quite a normal day then." Ianto observed. "And how abnormal for us."

"Yeah." Jack's reply was hesitant. In sense, all of Torchwood's days had started out normal.

They walked back to the lift, talking.

"Are the reports from the hospital a major concern then?" Ianto inquired.

Jack shrugged. "Doesn't look like it - I got another call, seems it's an outbreak of meningochoccal."

"Then why did you sent Owen and Tosh out?"

"Gotta give them something to do, right Gwen?" He called to Gwen, who was still standing on the lift, but she didn't answer. Something was wrong - from the ground Jack could see her staggering and swaying about. "Gwen? Are you alright?" But before he could get an answer, Gwen's legs buckled out from under her. "GWEN!" Gwen fell, tumbling off the platform and into the air. Jack, more terrified than Ianto had ever seen him, outstretched his arms to catch her. She fell heavily into his arms, he struggled to maintain a hold of her with the impact, bending his knees and sinking into the ground. Ianto exchanged a shocked glance with Jack. Had they been there seconds later, Gwen could have been seriously injured, or worse. Jack sat down, his hand supporting Gwen's head, his eyes scanning her blank face in terror. He finally tore his eyes away from her, just for a second, staring upwards at Ianto.

"Get Owen."

Next chapter:

Gwen is diagnosed - but is it at all what she expected?

Further twattiness from King of the Twats, Dr Owen Harper.

Even more Torchwood drama as another of the team is in danger.