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Valentine's Day

Title: I Won't Send Roses
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 4333
Summary: When it comes right down to it, Jack will do whatever he has to...

A/N: Post series 2, so the usual spoilers.

I Won't Send Roses

Jack ground the heels of his palms into his eyes, and sighed. The stack of paperwork on his desk wasn’t getting any smaller, and he was weeks behind in even starting his reports. Sometimes he really thought he could use a few extra hours in the day – except they would inevitably be as busy as all the rest. All three of them were exhausted, and the Rift seemed to know it. There was scarcely any time to rest when they’d finished one mission before the next was sprung on them.

Right now they’d been back in the Hub for almost two hours, Gwen looked to have fallen asleep on the couch, and Ianto was locking away a few deactivated devices if he hadn’t collapsed in the archives. And then the Rift alarm went off.

Jack scrambled to his feet and dashed to Toshiko’s – to the computers by the couch. Gwen was wide awake and already checking her gun, pulling her coat on while Jack sent the spike’s location to the SUV computers. Ianto emerged from the archives a moment later, and asked simply, “Do we need anything extra?”

“Bit of good luck wouldn’t go amiss,” Jack suggested, which won him a thin smile, and then they were off.

~*~


It didn’t them long to get up to the location – it wasn’t far from the Millennium Stadium, and Jack took a few illegal shortcuts along the way. The only trouble was that by the time they arrived, there was nothing there. Which in itself was probably odd enough, considering that the clouds were clearing to let the midday sun dry the damp ground. Normally there would have been people in the area, at least.

“Spread out,” Jack ordered, drawing his gun. “You spot anything suspicious, you call.”

He noted that Ianto checked the SUV was locked before they all split up.

The street he took was winding and empty as far as he could see. He splashed through the puddles he couldn’t avoid, gun aimed ahead of him, occasionally glancing up and back in case anything was trying to sneak up on him. After a few minutes of nothing, he raised his hand to his comm, and asked quietly, “Anything?”

“Nothing,” Gwen said immediately.

There was a pause, and then Ianto said, “I’ve got a dead cat here. Looks like a Weevil got it.”

“I thought Weevils only came out at night?” Gwen said, with a trace of dread in her voice.

“Even if something’s making it act up, just hope it is a Weevil,” Jack reminded them both. “We know how to deal with them.”

“Thank you for that cheerful thought,” Ianto sighed.

Jack smiled wryly to himself, and told them, “Stay sharp, kids. I’ll check back in fifteen minutes if I don’t hear anything.”

“Understood,” they both told him, and signed off.

“Jack?” Gwen said, after a second. “Private channel. Can I have a word?”

“Go ahead.”

“We need more people,” she said instantly, and he smiled again. No beating about the bush, at least. “This is killing us, Jack, we need someone else to take up the slack. It was bad enough with just the four of us, but this is mad, we can’t keep it up.”

Jack resisted the easy joke, and told her, “I know. I’m looking into it. Ask me again when we get back, okay?”

“Okay,” Gwen agreed, and closed the channel again.

Moving on, Jack came to a junction, and cursed under his breath, glancing both ways. Gwen was right, of course. And with the Rift as unstable as it was right now, he didn’t just need to find someone to take over for Owen and Tosh, he needed additional personnel beyond that. Five of them just wasn’t enough anymore. Seven or eight would be better, maybe even as many as ten.

“We should have a vet,” he muttered to himself, picking the left street at random and heading that way. “Someone educated in non-human physiology could come in handy. Still need a medic too. Maybe an engineer –”

He broke off abruptly when he spotted the Weevil crouched behind a bin ahead of him. Pulling back against the wall, he quietly called the others and let them know where he was. The Weevil was visible through a small gap between the bin and the wall, hunched over, hands hanging limply in front of it.

Abruptly, the Weevil threw its head back, nostrils flaring, mouth open. Jack tightened his grip on his gun, and dug inside his coat for his anti-Weevil spray.

The bin crashed against the wall as the alien hauled itself into the empty road and headed straight for him.

“Whoa,” Jack called to it, stepping out and levelling gun and spray. “Easy! Don’t make this difficult, I’m not in the mood for fun and games.”

His eyes widened when the Weevil got closer and he saw its face. Blood streaked its skin, pooling in its slack mouth, and with another step he saw why. Its eyes were pure red, every blood vessel behind them burst.

“Shit,” he managed, and dodged aside when it lumbered to him. He tried the spray, but it had no effect.

The blind Weevil lunged at him, pinpointing his position unfailingly, and he fired on instinct. It fell back with a snarl, then came at him again, and kept coming until more gunfire rang out and Ianto and Gwen helped him bring the wounded creature down and secure its hands.

“Need to get this one back to the Hub,” Jack panted, wincing as his coat sleeve slipped, half ripped out at the seam. He grabbed the struggling Weevil and covered its head with the bag Ianto handed him, then between them they hauled it back to the SUV. He and Gwen held it down while Ianto dug out the strongest sedative they carried. On Jack’s orders he managed to take a blood sample when the sedative kicked in.

With the Weevil unconscious in the boot, Jack drove back to the Hub, telling the others about the Weevil’s eyes on the way. Gwen and Ianto sat in the back, Gwen sending messages to her contacts in the police, warning them and requesting to be notified if they came across anything similar, while Ianto accessed the Hub database remotely and set up a search for any matches in the archives.

Despite the sedative, the Weevil was stirring by the time they got back, and they only just managed to get it into a cell before it was fully awake again. It slammed itself up against the glass as soon as it was alert, charging back and forth with no regard for the damage it was doing itself.

“Gwen,” Jack said when the Weevil thudded into the glass for a third time, “I need you to go through Owen’s notes, see if he came across anything like this or predicted what effect blindness would have on a Weevil’s mind. And we should check it’s not a virus, too, so Ianto, I want our guest monitored at all times, and see what you can do with the blood we’ve got from it. I don’t want anybody getting too close to it until we know what’s going on.”

They both nodded and went upstairs, and he sighed, clasping his arms around himself and staring at the mindlessly raging Weevil.

“It would make my job a hell of a lot easier if you guys could talk,” he told the Weevil. The alien ignored him and continued to smash itself against the barrier.

“You’re so predictable,” he sighed, and headed up after his team.

Upstairs, Gwen had settled herself at Owen’s old desk, with a stack of folders beside her and a few of Owen’s files open on the screen in front of her. Ianto was at Toshiko’s computer, setting up the scans for the cell.

“Blood?” Jack asked, and Ianto glanced around, gesturing to the autopsy room.

“I’ll get to it in a minute,” he promised.

“I’ve got it,” Jack assured him, and moved over to Gwen. “Anything?”

Gwen frowned, and gestured at the written report she had open on the desk. “Apparently, he’d run into a couple of blind Weevils before. Wounded in fights, he reckoned, but they stayed underground in their own territory, and they avoided confrontation wherever possible.”

“Nothing like our friend downstairs, then,” Jack finished for her, and she nodded. “Okay,” he said, checking his watch, “I’ll take care of the blood sample, see what turns up, you two keep hunting, keep an eye on... I’m thinking Gladys for our guest, and if there’s no fresh emergency by five you both go home and get some rest for a change. Clear?”

Gwen gave him a quick smile, and Ianto nodded. The fact that neither of them argued only confirmed that they were long overdue a break.

Jack stretched, nodded to them both, and went down to the autopsy room to see what he could do with the blood sample.

~*~


Twenty minutes had passed when Ianto suddenly yelled Jack’s name. He bolted from the autopsy room, hand dropping to his gun without a thought, but nobody was hurt.

“The scans went crazy,” Ianto said quickly, gesturing at the screen. All the readings were normal now, and the CCTV of Gladys’ cell, next to Janet, showed nothing but the insane Weevil still hurling itself at the glass. When Jack frowned, Ianto quickly brought up the lifesign detector and scrolled back a few minutes. Gwen came to stand behind him as well, and they waited.

“Any second,” Ianto promised them, and then, suddenly, only for a moment, the lifesign reading for Gladys’ cell went from one to hundreds. Just as quickly, it was back to one.

“Okay, what the hell was that?” Jack asked. “Show me the CCTV of the same moment.”

Ianto rewound the footage, and zoomed in on the image. At the right second, what looked like a thin black cloud suddenly burst from the Weevil’s mouth, then dispersed by the glass and vanished.

“Oh my god,” Gwen breathed. “Tell me that wasn’t...”

“Mayfly,” Ianto finished for her, then shook his head. “It wasn’t. Not with the Weevil wounded like that.”

“So we have an unknown parasite on our hands,” Jack sighed. “Great. Now I’m thinking we need to go down there and see if there are any dead ones we can look at.”

“Take a magnifying glass,” Ianto suggested.

Jack blinked at him for a second, not entirely sure if he was joking or not. Ianto blinked back impassively.

“I’ll come with you,” Gwen said, flourishing a magnifying glass from Owen’s desk.

Jack nodded quickly, but told her, “First sign of any living ones, you get straight out and lock the door behind you. Ianto, keep an eye on everything. Let us know if there’s any change.”

~*~


Jack actually had his hand on the door to the three cells when Ianto spoke up.

“Gladys has collapsed.”

Jack exchanged a glance with Gwen, then drew his gun. She did the same, pocketing the magnifying glass and standing back as he opened the door. He edged into the corridor, and saw the blind Weevil lying prone on the floor. It didn’t move even when he approached the glass and shouted, “Hey!”

There was a low growl from the next cell, though, and he edged along to see Janet crouched and hunched over, back to the glass.

“Jack,” Gwen said suddenly, “there’s something on the floor of Gladys’ cell.”

He peered through the glass where she was pointing, craning his neck to try and make out what the spatter of black behind the Weevil was

“Gonna have to go in,” he told her, then raised his hand to his comm and looked up at the camera. “Ianto, bring more sedative down here, and fetch the chains. I don’t want to risk Gladys waking up.”

“On my way,” Ianto told him, and he smiled up at the camera, then led Gwen around to the cell doors. Waiting for Ianto, he glanced at his watch. Almost an hour and a half had passed since the Rift spike had sent them all from the Hub.

“What are you thinking?” Gwen asked.

“We missed lunch.”

Gwen laughed briefly, then glanced over towards the stairs. “About that... Jack, when was the last time Ianto ate something?”

“Oh, the ways I could answer that,” Jack said, grinning as he leant against the wall and Gwen pulled an appalled face. “And in every way, not recently or often enough. Don’t worry, as soon as this is dealt with I have every intention of taking him out to dinner.”

“I bet you do,” Gwen said, smiling broadly, and he raised both eyebrows at her.

“And I’ll see he gets home at a decent time and has a good night’s sleep, too,” he told her. “I’ll be a perfect gentleman.”

She held up both hands, laughing, and promised him, “Nothing to do with me. I just think he needs a rest. We all do.”

Jack grinned again. “I could take you to dinner, too. I’d make sure we all got a good night’s sleep.”

“The best way to do that would be to hire more people,” Gwen said quickly, and he breathed a laugh, then smiled at her.

“I’m on it. Promise. Soon as I get a spare minute.”

The door to the stairs opened, and Ianto walked in, with a length of chain over his shoulder and an impressively large sedative needle in one hand. He paused when they both turned to smile at him.

“What?”

“Just happy to see you,” Jack told him, and took the equipment from him. He opened the cell door and stepped in, handing one end of the chain back to Ianto for him to secure it by the door, then edging over to the Weevil.

Janet suddenly groaned loudly in the next cell, and he froze as the Weevil in front of him twitched.

“See what’s wrong with Janet,” he told Gwen quickly, readying the sedative. “Ianto, get outside and be ready to slam the door. Leave me in here if you have to.”

He knew without looking that Ianto winced before he obeyed and retreated back into the corridor. He took another step towards the Weevil, listening with half an ear as Gwen looked in on Janet.

“There’s something on the floor,” she told Ianto. “That wasn’t there before. I can’t see properly. Ianto, is that just a scrap of its boiler suit, or is it something else?”

Jack, freezing in place when the Weevil twitched again, missed Ianto’s reply. He crouched down, and reached towards the Weevil’s neck with the needle, then breathed a sigh of relief when he managed to inject the alien and promptly snap the collar and chain into place around its neck with no incident.

“Should be good,” he called to Ianto. “Cover Gwen while she checks on Janet.”

He heard the next cell open, and looked down at the floor. In front of the Weevil lay a couple of scraps of boiler suit, and a tooth. In the Weevil’s shadow, through the glass, there had been no way to tell what they were.

Jack looked back up just as the Weevil surged up and hurled him aside, charging through the door. Gwen screamed, the chain snapped like a blade of grass, and his head connected with the wall so hard that lights exploded in front of his eyes. Gunfire echoed around the corridor, and he hauled himself up and to the door as the noise faded.

Ianto, gun in hand, was helping Gwen to her feet. She was bleeding from claw marks down her arm.

“It was bleeding from the eyes,” she gasped, steadying herself against Ianto while Jack clutched the doorframe in an effort to make the floor stop swaying. “Whatever it was, it’s got to her as well.”

“They both made a break for it at the same time?” Jack asked. Ianto nodded. “Which way did they go?”

“Further down,” Ianto told him, nodding to the far end of the corridor. “I think I got Gladys a couple of times, but they went too quick for me to be sure.”

Jack silently led them back upstairs, then raised his wriststrap and punched in a code. The normal lights went out, and the red emergency lighting flickered on instead. Thankfully, as programmed, the rest of the power stayed on, including the scans of lifesigns below them. He allowed himself a moment of relief that at least they’d be able to keep track of their rogue Weevils.

“Whatever’s happened to them,” he said aloud, “those two don’t leave the lower levels. Not alive.”

He waited for Ianto and Gwen to nod agreement, then headed for the autopsy bay, saying, “First things first, you get that arm bound up. I have a feeling you’re gonna be needing all your strength. Then we work out when Weevils learned to act.”

“And work in teams without even being able to see each other,” Gwen added, following his lead and grabbing some bandages before she sat on the gurney. He went for the strongest painkillers in the cupboards and swallowed two dry, doing his best not to rub the back of his head. Then he paused and looked up at Ianto. Who wasn’t there.

Jack hurried back up the steps and found him intently going through the archive files on the computer. Gwen followed him, and he took hold of her arm, helping her bandage it while he asked, “What have you found?”

“Nothing yet,” Ianto told them, without looking around. “But the eyes – the bleeding, that’s familiar. I discounted everything that didn’t involve Weevils the first time I searched, but I know I’ve read something about that. I just need to –”

He stopped, and Jack leaned forward to peer at the screen.

“Found something now?”

Ianto nodded. “Late 1880s. If you can say nothing else for them, they kept good records back then.”

“That’s only just before my time,” Jack said flatly. “Trust me, you can say nothing else for them. What have you got?”

“They nearly let an epidemic loose,” Ianto told them, scrolling through the virtual copy of the report. “Parasite. Says here they picked up an alien that came through the Rift. Behaving like a maddened animal, and bleeding from the eyes – they worked out that was from the parasites infesting the brain, breaking it down from the inside. They put it in the cells, and next thing they knew one of their own was infected. They put her in the cells too. An hour and fourteen minutes later, she and the alien both breathed out a cloud of yet more parasites. They homed in on the nearest living things, took them as hosts. Every alien they had in the cells was infected, along with most of their team. Says the parasites acted as a hive mind. The more of them there were, the more hosts they took, the smarter they got. They were clever enough to break out of the cells before our lot managed to kill them all.”

Jack checked his watch anxiously. One hour and forty minutes since the Rift spike.

“Apparently if the host was killed before the parasites had multiplied enough to take over a second,” Ianto said, straightening up, “they died with it.”

“Then we have to take out Janet and Gladys within the next half hour,” Jack said flatly. “Gwen, find them on the scans. And make sure you’ve got plenty of bullets.”

He checked his own gun, fetched the alien lock pick from his desk, and led them to the door for the lower levels.

“Three levels down, at the moment,” Gwen told him, with Toshiko’s portable scanner in hand. “They’re not moving.”

Jack pressed the lock pick up against the door, and, forty-five seconds later, they headed in.

~*~


Every step they took only increased Jack’s frustration. If they came close to the Weevils, the Weevils moved away. They circled each other endlessly, unable to split up when they knew that the Weevils, with their rapidly increasing intelligence and superior sense of smell, would pick them off one by one, but unable, as a group, to even get close enough to attempt to herd the Weevils in a particular direction. And all the time the clock was ticking.

“They’re a level above us,” Gwen said suddenly. “Near the door.”

“They can’t get out,” Jack assured her.

Gwen looked again at the scanner, and shook her head. “I don’t think they want to. I think they want to keep us in.”

Jack checked his watch. They had five minutes left.

“We walked straight into a trap,” Ianto said quietly. “We’ve just given them what they want – more hosts.”

Jack looked around, then led them to the room at the end of the corridor. He unlocked it, let them in, then locked it again behind them.

“If they want us, they’ll have to come and get us,” he told them. “We can take them out before they clear the threshold.”

“That won’t stop the parasites,” Ianto pointed out. “They’re not going to come after us until they’ve multiplied enough. And if they’ve got enough to spread, they’ll spread whether you kill the first host or not. If they infect all of us... Jack, the report I read didn’t say how long it took for the parasites to be wiped out if the host was dead. If they infect you they might never die. They’d never stop.”

Jack stared at him for a few moments, feeling something clench unpleasantly in his stomach.

“Jack?” Gwen said nervously. “They’re heading this way.”

“They’ll have enough to infect two of us by the time they get here,” Ianto said, very quietly. “No telling which two, but only two.”

Jack shook his head suddenly, sharply, and told him, “Don’t. Don’t even think that.”

“Then think of something better,” Ianto snapped.

He turned away. Behind him, Gwen drew in a harsh breath, and he knew she understood what Ianto was suggesting as well. She didn’t swear, or scream, or cry, or demand that there had to be another way, or do any of the things he wanted to. Somehow that only made him more proud of them both. And that made it hurt all the more.

“Jack,” Ianto said quietly. “You need to be dead when they get here. That’s the only way this will work. Please –”

“I can’t,” Jack said aloud, and turned to look at them both. “I can’t. Let me take them. Let them infect me, then kill me as many times as you need to. Freeze me while I’m dead if you have to, just let it be me.

“There’s two of them,” Gwen said. “Even if they take you, they’ll take one of us as well. You can’t save us.”

Her voice broke on the last words, and she covered her mouth, eyes wide. He pulled her into a hug without thinking, then reached out to grab Ianto’s sleeve.

“I can’t lose you both,” he pleaded. “There has to be something...”

Ianto clasped his hand, but shook his head, and told him, “It’s too great a risk. And whichever one of us survives has to be able to... deal with the remaining hosts.”

Jack flinched, and tightened his grip on Gwen. She took a deep breath, hugged him tightly, then pushed him away.

“I love you,” she said firmly. “You know that. But I love Rhys more, and you tell him that. You promise me you’ll tell him that.”

Nodding, Jack managed, “I will.” He swallowed hard, then told her, “And just so you know, I love you too. I love you both.”

He looked between the two of them, and watched Ianto bite his lip.

“I should’ve told you more often,” he said, glancing back at Gwen and squeezing Ianto’s hand, “but I’m so proud of you. Glad I met you.”

“If you make me cry, I’ll be the one to shoot you,” Gwen warned him, tears in her eyes regardless. She checked the scanner, and told them, “They’re two corridors away. They’ll be here any minute.”

Jack turned to Ianto, and pressed the lock pick into his hand, saying, “As soon as I’m dead, you’d better let them in. I don’t know how long I’ll be out.”

Ianto nodded, and glanced briefly at Gwen. For a second there was an awkward silence, then he looked back at Jack, swallowed, and said quickly, “I love you.”

And it was only when Jack heard the words aloud that he knew it was a lie. He could see the apology in Ianto’s eyes, and knew he didn’t want to hear it before Ianto even opened his mouth. They’d made it this far without mentioning Lisa, and he had no wish to end it on that note.

He reached out and pulled Ianto into a kiss, and whispered, “Don’t say another word,” when they parted.

Ianto nodded, and reached out for Gwen’s hand as Jack drew his gun and moved to the back of the room. Gwen looked down at the scanner.

“They’re right outside.”

Ianto squeezed her hand, then let go to draw his gun, and placed the lock pick against the door. She put the scanner down and kicked it to one side, brushing her hand across her eyes, then raised her gun and aimed at the door, just like Jack had shown her all those months ago.

“Love you both,” Jack whispered, and placed the barrel of his gun at his temple.

The lock pick beeped, the door burst open, and Jack pulled the trigger.

~*~


He gasped and jerked up with his gun in his hand, and Ianto and Gwen, crouched over the bullet-riddled bodies of two Weevils, whirled to face him. Blood trickled down their cheeks, and they reached in unison for the guns beside them.

Jack didn’t even hesitate.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
cupidsbow
Feb. 20th, 2009 08:21 am (UTC)
This is so well done. Gutting in every single way.
laligin
Feb. 21st, 2009 04:40 pm (UTC)
(: Thank you very much indeed. I feel a tad guilty, but that is rather what I was going for, so I can't complain. ^_^'
tiggerbrasilf
Mar. 3rd, 2009 07:32 pm (UTC)
Eeeep!
laligin
Mar. 4th, 2009 10:10 pm (UTC)
(: Yay! Ahem. Thank you for reading. Good reaction. ;)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )