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RECIPIENT# WHO HAD BETTER BE GRATEFUL BECAUSE I SPENT TIME THAT I COULD HAVE BEEN ###KING #RITING THIS SHIT: ############## AND ###### AND ####### AND ############ AND ########### AND ######## AND ############ AND ########## AND ######## AND ###### AND ############## AND ########### AND ############## AND ########## AND ######## AND ########## AND ############### AND ############ AND ############## AND ########## AND ########### AND ####### AND ##########.
RATING: #####


Ianto can't help smiling. Harold has taken not only Lisa's arm, but the arm of the sleepstanding woman to his other side, as well. Good ideas spread themselves. Ianto taps Harold's shoulder to release him from duty, and takes back his spot against Lisa, an arm around Lisa, where he belongs.

"So you are important," Ianto says to the man on the ground. The reception is garbage, but he's got it. Ianto is brilliant. "I knew it."

"#### the #####. Who the #### is this?"

"That's an important-looking coat you have."

"A what? Put ##### Hartman on. I don't care how #### she ##. I ##### to ta#### to her now. Let me in the ####ing at least."

Ianto doesn't have time for this, but if Coat wants to believe Ianto has chips to put on the table, that's fine by him. "Someone I care for very much is in danger of jumping off a roof. I need your help."

"You ####? Who is this? Where ####you?"

"Someone I love might fall, and I don't know how to stop her."

Laughter. Insane, angry laughter. "#######be you didn't ##tice, but that's kinda true for ev###yone on the ###net right n##."

Ianto retorts, "And how many of them have been clever enough to get to you?"


"Okay, maybe you do have a slight advantage, but that doesn't mean --"


Tosh is back with her mother, on the ground with her hands over her ears, screaming soundlessly over a sonic explosion and so terrified she may wet herself, right now, right at this very moment, no, she won't because she's got protection, a screaming man with a big emergency blanket coat and big safe weight that's crushing her body, shielding her head from a sort of rain, a hard, heavy rain that shatters when it hits the ground and won't stop, going on, and on, and on.

The glass.

Canary Wharf is nothing but glass. Was nothing but glass.

The roaring soundless sound dies, and Tosh's ears are ringing, and screams, screams are whining up like sirens, emergency sirens through the ringing. Jack breathes hard in her ear and he's asked her a question, right? Is that what that was? "Tosh? Tosh! Are you okay?"

"Fine. But people..."

Jack's weight on her shifts. He's craning around, and she's staring at the bits of glass in front of her, a prickling of snow dusted across her hand. "Tosh?" Jack's voice has changed. It shakes. She nods. "People are hurt. It's not pretty. It's really not pretty, and I need you to do something for me."


"Imagine the worst injuries you've ever seen. Think of Goldenrod. Embrace the memories as enthusiastically as you can. Remember all the details." He climbs off of her. "Then look around."

Tosh stands, dusting herself off, forced to heed Jack's instructions by the very idea of them. More glass, a shocking quantity of white glass powder, litters the ground around her feet, hiding the pavement. She looks up, expecting the very worst. Torchwood One, and most of the buildings around it, have precipitated in mounds, and the sparkling result is decorated horrifically.

One man has lost his head.

Two more bodies don't even look like bodies, and it's easy to tell which one fell from the top of Torchwood One, as it's barely a spread-out splotch with shoes.

Another of the fallen is moving, the lower half of his body broken, dragging himself through the glass with his arms to get who-knows-where.

Three more people, gawkers too slow to shield themselves from the wrong falling knives, fawn and shake over bleeding injuries.

It's a red-and-white Christmas.

Compared to Goldenrod, it's not that bad.

Tosh takes a few deep breaths. They've come apart, not fused together. It's not that bad. She might be sick anyway; her face is greening. Forgot to decorate the loo bowl. "You should have brought Owen with you instead."

"We may as well have. Get your earpiece back on."

Tosh does as she's told, but doesn't turn it on, not yet. "Jack, what was that?"

Jack falls back against the door which, notably, still hasn't broken. "Something big entering the atmosphere." Torchwood One is only bulletproof on the ground floor, then. What perfectly bad luck. Small crowds are forming around the carnage. "Somewhere. Can't see it, though. Can't see anything with all this --" Jack waves an angrily dismissive hand in the air, glancing upwards "-- stuff in the way."



Ianto forgets his mobile immediately as the roof bucks beneath his feet. He grabs Lisa with both arms and heaves her backwards, bringing her down on top of him. The roar is excruciating, following the blast of sound from the sky for a long time as Ianto watches Torchwood One come apart and go straight down, billowing and showering, shedding, a skeleton. He rolls Lisa, pins her hard enough that he may be hurting her, and little bits of glass plink plink plink onto his back. Most of it has fallen to the street. Ianto spares a single sliver of fear for his new friends.

Lisa won't stop struggling, but now that Ianto's got her here, safe under him, he'll be damned if he'll let her go again.

"Help me, oh God, Francine! Hold on, I've got... you, I've... no, this hand --"


Ianto plants an authoritative elbow in the middle of Lisa's back. The roof is still lined with people -- nearly everyone is fine, barely anyone fell -- but Harold, where he kneels, is nothing but one slipper, one bare foot, and a bulbous blue-striped pair of boxer shorts.

And no one is helping him.

Ianto hesitates, hates himself for it, sprints, lands on his knees, may have cut one, and doesn't care. Francine, white-haired and vacant, dangles by a sleeve from the old man's hand. Ianto grabs her arm, able to lean further than Harold, and they heave together.

It takes a very long time to drag a dead weight up from the edge of a building. The hands around Ianto's middle, not to mention the grip around his shoulders, help a great deal. He and Harold and the faceless others get Francine to safety before the seams of her robe tear apart.

Francine fights just the way Lisa fought. Ianto, mindlessly shaking the hands outstretched to him, looks up to his left. Lisa has retaken her place at Francine's shoulder. The last hand, Harold's, pulls Ianto to his feet. "Comrade," Harold says. His eyes are wet.

Their handshake lasts longer than most do. Ianto ends it with an awkward nod and searches his pockets for the other mobile. Lisa's. It's his last chance. Maybe Coat can tell him what on Earth just happened.

Most of the rooftop's faces -- the fully conscious ones, at least -- have turned to the West.

Ianto follows them.

His last chance can wait.

He wraps both arms back around Lisa's waist, his safe place, as a city-sized meteor, a floating dinosaur, creeps through the clouds above Parliament.


Jack and Toshiko wander to the street, dazed. They need crowd control. They need to get their heads. "Owen, we have injuries," Tosh tells him. "Not us. Others. People are injured. I need instructions."

"No problem." Owen sounds far too casual, too calm. "But I should let you know, there's been another transmission. All Your Base, etcetera."

"Give it to me."

"Jack!" Tosh scolds. Not ten feet away, a woman is crying over a bloody ankle, and Jack won't look at her. Or at Tosh.

"Now, Owen!"

Tosh feels enough betrayal to represent all of humanity. She races to the driver's side of the SUV, disrupts an avalanche of glass by opening the door, pulls at a few latches until the boot pops, and trips back to the rear to lift it and climb in. Medical equipment. They must have some.

Owen recites, sounding achingly bored, "'Now will the tribal leader stand forward? Come aboard.' Then a bit later we got, 'You will surrender or I will release the final curse and your people will jump. Yes we know who you are. Surrender or they will die.' That's it, that's all I'm getting so far."

Tosh risks checking Jack's expression. He's smiling. What could possibly be so funny? At least it's not the biggest smile she's ever seen on him. "It's enough," he says. "Harriet's up there. Keep me updated. In the meantime, help Tosh help these people."

"And what about you, Jack? What are you doing?" Tosh asks, digging furiously through a white nylon box. She has gauze, she has tape, lots of tape, she has a whole bag of rubber tourniquets, she has antiseptic, and she needs scissors, where are the scissors?

"Taking a breather," Jack says, echoing double through her earpiece. She looks over her shoulder from inside the boot. Jack is sitting on the bumper, beside Tosh's ankles. "A few minutes, that's it. Can't wait to join you."

Tosh gasps, dropping her roll of tape to cover her mouth. The back of Jack's coat has been sliced open at the waist, and the gap looks darker around the edges than it ought to be. He turns quickly, jumping, shielding it from view. He looks suddenly sick, his calm self assurance a pasted-on veneer. "I'm fine," he says. "You think this face would lie to you?"

Tosh isn't sure why, but she believes him.

She has to.

She finds the scissors.

"Morphine's in the cubby under the left rear seat, if anyone's interested," Owen tells her. "Use it first."


"#### missed you!" is what greets Ianto after he dials. "You w###n't happ### to know ###ere I #### find a g##d seamstress, ## you?"

Ianto's eyes have barely left the ship. "Depends." It's gotten bigger, and now it's stopped. "By 'seamstress' do you actually mean 'prostitute'?"

"Hey, if you## talki## ##### a two for one special, ### all ears."


"###'s me. Listen, are ### on ### of a building?"

"My condo. Reuters."

"You live in the Reuters ######?"

"Special priveleges. It has one residential floor." Lisa, still susceptible to the cues of the hypothalamus, shivers in Ianto's arms. Ianto is making small talk, and it may very well be the end of the world. The hell. "You wouldn't happen to have figured out how to stop the sleepwalking, would you?"

"You ####### happen to ## able to ### the sky, ##### you?"

"If you just asked if I can see the sky, yes. I can. It's got a big turd floating in the middle of it."

"A big what?"

"A." An adult, Ianto, be an adult. "There's a ship. I assume that's what it is. It's very, very large. And brown."


"Above Parliament, I think." Ianto doesn't have anything else to say. The other end of the line fuzzes more static, but Coat is silent. A few mumbles come through. He can tell Coat is muffling the mobile, and he won't look down, because there are bodies down there and he doesn't want to know. Not about that part. He closes his eyes and nuzzles Lisa's wind-cooled neck. "Are all these people going to die?"

"#### hands."

"The line's breaking up." As if Coat may not have noticed this so far.

"Join hands! #### have you ##t up there, ## least ### ##### of the popu#####. Lotta counterweight. Fix it ####self."

The static, and the voice, cut off at the same time.


Toshiko absolutely hates poking people with needles. She's no good at it, either -- she'll be leaving bruises in the wake of her efforts, but at least their bearers won't feel them. 'Half is sold into slavery or one third dies. Your choice.' That was the last transmission from Owen. Tosh is ready to ask him how much morphine she'll need to knock herself out.

"Oooh," Owen says, "Now it's getting interesting. Get a load of this. 'The noise. The bleeping. The noise. The bleeping. The bleeping. Foreign machinery. Hiding machinery. Conspiracy. Bring it on board.' Another full stop. Is it Torchwood One, you think?"

"No." Across the street, Jack kneels in a glassdrift, tying a turniquet hurriedly around a forearm. He snaps the loose ends, smarting the not-so-leaking-anymore little girl at the receiving end, and smiles across the way at Tosh -- so brightly she can feel her irises accommodating. "No, I don't think that's who it is."

"Care to explain?" Tosh asks, rather sure he won't.

Jack jumps up, runs across the street, throws himself into into the boot, then drags the white box out of it. "No, I don't think I do. Come here, take this." He drops the box on the ground, where it crunches, puffing a spot around itself. "Take over."

"You're not leaving." Tosh runs over to him, prancing across the slippery glass. "We're getting a lineup, Jack, it's getting more difficult --"

Jack presses a finger over Tosh's lips while her arm is in midsweep over the crowd. She was not exaggerating. "'Tis a bittersweet parting," he says. "But I gotta go."

"Oi, Jack! They're talking in code or something! 'The yellow girl. She has the clever blue box. Therefore she speaks for your planet.'"

Jack whoops, cutting himself off by kissing Tosh quite the way Suzie kissed him, but on the mouth, and ooh, wasn't that so unexpectedly nice. Hmm. Tosh doesn't need mistletoe either. Still doesn't beat Owen, though. "I really gotta go," Jack repeats, shoving the boot door closed.

"Go do what?" Owen demands, speaking for Tosh, whose eyelids hover at half-mast.

"I dunno! Help!" Jack jumps through the still-open driver's door and slams it excitedly. "Watch! Something! Whatever!"

"Where?" Tosh wonders softly, finding Jack's face in the rearview mirror.


Jack speeds off, spraying up a dangerous flurry of glass.

"That spaceship's serving 'em up like chips at two a.m. Dunno what Jack thinks he has reason to be so happy about. 'You're very very funny. And now you're going to die. Did you think you were clever with your stolen words?'"

"Aagh," Jack says. "I have a call. Owen, keep up with the translations. I'll still hear you. You just won't hear me."

"Fine, boss, but make it quick. I expect a good story to come from all this."

Tosh gets back to work, carefully guarding her morphine and needles, searching for children to prioritize. She hands bandages and lengths of tape out to every reaching hand, trusting them to cover their wounds themselves. Emergency services will be here. Any minute. She tries to say this with her eyes but doesn't mean it. "Owen," she whispers, "I have no idea what I'm doing."

"Pick out the glass from the cuts. Tell people with broken bones not to move. Yell and swear if you have to, punch anyone who tries to take control in the face, and don't forget to smile, Tosh. You're having the time of your life."


Join hands.

Once it clicked what those words meant (and he should have known, he already knew, he just didn't give them a grand enough scope, didn't try hard enough to spread them around), Ianto had them followed to the letter.

Practically everyone has made it up to a roof by now. Atop Reuters, at least, every one of them has a job to do. They join hands. They link elbows. They hold shoulders, two sane people for every vacant one, anchored to the endangered and to one another. Ianto barely had to orchestrate it, just said a few words and a determined telephone game took care of the rest.

They may try to jump, they may not. The rumours smell like extraterrestrial ultimatums, and the battery-operated radio seven heads over speaks of a hostage situation, but atop Reuters, it doesn't matter.

Ianto takes out Lisa's mobile and, since he's forgotten the number in all the hubbub, hits redial and waits.

"You ##### bugging me?"

Ianto can read the tone, not anger, something like... flirtatious challenge. "Thank you," he opens. "People are safer, now."

"Great. How #### things #### the pie in the ###?"

"Can't see much. It's far off."


This static is unrelentingly irritating. "I can't see detail." Or hear it. The sound quality is only getting worse.

"### way to z##m in?"

The camera.

It's what Ianto brought it for, after all, not that he knew what he would be using it to look at. "I'll try. Just a minute." He releases Lisa into Harold's care to unzip the now-battered camera bag, her gift from 'Santa,' that is, another gift from her mother. "What's your name, by the way?"

"### not important. ##### yours?"

"Not Important." It's the truest answer Ianto feels like giving. "Middle name, Very."

"I #### how you feel."

"Sure you do."

"No kidding."

Ianto believes him.

"I'm curious, #####. Do I #### you from s###where?"


Why'd ### #ick me?"

"The Coat. I like it."

"The what?"

"Never mind."

"Hey, ### you hold?"

The line clicks three times and plays Christmas music. Ianto despises The Little Drummer Boy.


"They're haughty, Jack. I'm not sure you can handle this. 'Next to us you are but a wailing child. If you are the best your planet can offer as a champion, then your world will be gutted, your people enslaved.' What shitty shit talkers. I've met better on World of Warcraft, and she was thirteen years old."

Jack steps out of the SUV and sucks in a giant gulp of air from beside the Thames. He surveys. The huge -- yeah, it does kinda look like a turd -- in the sky. The eye. The bridge. Big Ben. Oh, Ben, it's been too long, and you've been through hell, haven't you? What is that, construction scaffolding? Still recovering from March? Poor thing.

"Jack, what are you going to do? The ship's all over the news, can't surf away from it, and I know you're not that tall." Jack doesn't answer, and Owen pauses to sigh, the whooshing fuzz in the earpiece likely deliberate. "I know you can hear me because you said you can hear me, and as I've said a thousand times already, I could really use some answers. And yeah, Suzie's still okay, looks tired, though. Not that you care."

Owen needs to learn to hit above the belt. Jack's got nuts of steel.

"Right. Fuck you, then. You can retrieve the rest of your sodding translations when you get back here." Jack raises his hand to reopen the two-way line for a berating, but Owen changes both their minds. "More words coming through. Fucking fuck. 'I would never dirty my tongue with your primitive bile. I speak only Syccoraxic.' New line. Think it indicates a delay. 'If I might interrupt. Who exactly are you? I demand to know who you are.'"

Oh, baby. Here we go. If only Jack could see. He's directly below the ship. Maybe it looks better in profile. He takes out Tosh's mobile and releases the hold on his new partner. "What've you got?"

"#ESUS #####."

"What's going on?"

The noise is a little nervewracking.

Owen says into Jack's other ear, "In case you're interested, and I suspect you're not, a large fraction of the world just nearly painted the streets a festive shade of red, then had second thoughts."

"It's #ine. She's fin#. Thank ###, they're all ####."

"Can you see anything?" Jack asks, enunciating as clearly and loudly as possible. "What do you see?"

"##ittle busy, tha##ks." The line lights up with sucking sounds and fuzzy 'hmmm's and laughter, bells of laughter, the same man and some woman and many more in the background. Jack laughs with it, even knowing that all this means he's missed the boat. Again.

Similar bustling comes over the earpiece, but in shouts more edged and angry. "'We allow them to live,' it says." Suzie's back. Hell yeah. She has one of the most refreshing voices Jack has ever heard, and that's saying something. "Hi, Jack. Took me ages to get that bastard to take off the cuffs. Tried to reach up my skirt, he did." Sure he did. Jack would have heard about the broken nose by now. "It says, 'Blood control was just one form of conquest.'"

Owen returns. "Well, thanks for that explanation, Self-Sycophants. They're even better at it than you are, Jack. They say they can summon the armada and take this world by force. I'm thinking this ain't over."

"It's never over," Suzie says.

"I'm out of bandages," Tosh pipes up. "I can't do anything else."

Suzie, "I'm sure you've done everything you can, Toshiko. You always do. You're brilliant."

"Thank you for the mistletoe. And I really like your boots."

"We could trade."

"Or hug someone," Jack snarks, then remembers no one important can hear him.

"Yeah, ##### ### ## ##### ### # ########smothered."

Jack grips the rail in front of him, pushing his stomach against it to test his wound. That glass nearly came right through to the front, and his liver still isn't happy. He looks down. Exnay on the 'nearly.' The belly of his shirt -- green with thin white vertical stripes -- is spotted. What a shame. He really liked this one. It's festive. More festive, now, but it's Owen's kind of festive, not the kind you show off.

"Some sort of challenge going on. Bet it's Hartman," Suzie says. "I adore Hartman." Jack still owes Suzie an autograph. He didn't forget. If he ever did catch up with Yvonne, he would have gotten it. He's not afraid to stoop so he can climb. "I'm reading, 'Or what?' ... Come on ... 'You stand as this world's champion.'"

More laughing.

This time, it's explosive, and only in the earbud. "Someone..." Owen stops to laugh more. He has that squeak in his voice that comes from laughing himself to tears. "Someone in lower case called someone else a 'crusty thrice-used communal douchebag with holes in.' My hero, oh fuck, my hero. You could learn a few things from this one, Harkness."

That seemed a little out of character, but hey, when in Rome. "I reckon I could."

"Could ####? Hello? Could what? #ardon me?"

"'For the planet?'" Suzie is aghast, but in a cuddly way. "How romantic."

The following silence is unsurprising. This is where the action starts. Half a conversation (or nearly) was good enough after all. Jack drums his fingers on the rail, faster, faster until the speed overcomes itself and makes him smack it hard with the heel of his hand.

"##llo? Helloo. Have ####gone?"

"Hey, Mister Important. That's you, right? N. V. Important?"

"I'll ##cept it for ###. I can #ee ### ship more clea### if you're ##riou#."

"Whaddaya got?"

Owen says, "Jack, it's all gone silent. Completely silent. Not just you, I mean."

"##### on. Not #ur#."

"News is showing a loop," Suzie adds, "It's a two-minute loop of footage, lazy gits."

Jack takes the earpiece off and has to force himself not to throw it into the Thames. "Any time you feel like living up to your name..."


Ianto and Lisa have changed places. Her hands creep into the front of his robe to slide smoothly across his stomach as she gazes in the same direction as everyone else, her cheek to the side of his arm. Half the people on the rooftop have gone, considering the day done, overwhelmed by the excitement. Harold and Francine were among the first to leave. The rest huddle right at the centre, with Ianto and Lisa pushed to the front of them.

Ianto is watching, watching, killing his eyes, and he just doesn't get it. The digital zoom would be incredible anywhere else. Here, it's mediocre. He can barely see a thing. "It looks like... alright, there's movement outside, that I can say for sure."

"#### it up."

Ianto will assume the missing word is 'keep,' although 'make it up' seems his only option. "Movement. It's. I don't know. Dancing? Do people dance on top of alien vessels?"


"They dance on roofs," Lisa says, "So, maybe." She sways, pulling Ianto side to side. Ianto lowers the mobile to pat her hand as nicely as he can under the circumstances, his view swaying to and from blank sky, then lifts the mobile back to his ear.

"Dancing, then. That's my final word." A glint tells Ianto otherwise, the quickest flash, and he won't say it, it's ludicrous but -- "Dancing with weapons. Possibly."

"That's more #### it."

If those little pinpricks are dancing like this, with weapons, it's a "Swordfight." And now that's he's got that interpretation in place, he's mapping it on top of what he can barely see, deducing parries and dodges and swings, a wide-berthed game of chicken, another dodge and, "Someone..." lost. "Fell down."

Now Lisa's the one holding Ianto up. This must -- this can't be good. Not at all.

"#### #ne? #### he lo## like?"

"Light. Littler. Winner's a lanky lump of coal."


It's over.

Ianto lowers the camera, and Lisa catches it before it gets far, holding it to her eye with her hands over his. "I want to play with my new toy too." Ianto lets her. He may as well.

"#### ####### ### #####."

It's all over.

Ianto hangs up. They should get back downstairs, turn on the news, check out the doomsday clock. Unless it's not doomsday -- sometimes, in the real world, the little guys aren't the ones worth rooting for. Ianto hopes he's just being a bigot. Harrassed by the sun, he hands over the camera and turns around for a snuggle.

"Get your friend back," Lisa says. Ianto doesn't want to. S'nice. "My mobile, my rules."


"### of coal just #### off."

Jack lifts his temple from the railing, focused on one white knuckle. He hardly remembers picking up. "Repeat that."

"##### got up." It's the giggling woman. "Black fell down."

The line jostles, some of which could be Jack's own feedback, as he climbs to the railing's middle rung and props himself up with his shins. "Oh yeah?"

"All the way," rings Important's voice, clearer than ever.


It's a visual sploosh, a white scar leaping from the middle of the Thames. Jack looks left, one coat sleeve gone, looks right, shedding the other and dropping it. No witnesses, not of the ground. His gut smarts from the twist, but a man's gotta do. He drops Tosh's mobile to the crumpled cloth behind him and steps up.


"OW," Jack bubbles into the water, deeply offended. It's cold. It's cold, it's cold, it's cold, it's stabby. And cold. His lungs aren't going to like it either, and he can't afford taking on any more water than he's already got flooding the shrinking hole in his back. Stupid idea, maybe. Fine. Stupid's the best he can do today.

He launches from the surface and evokes his best front crawl -- whoever's waiting at the other end of it will just have to deal. By the time he gets there, one of his legs is kicking numb and he can't feel his face, but hey, he's found a pet dinosaur.

A dead one.

"Who woulda thought?" Jack gasps, smirking at pointy filed teeth, the mocking, horrified, bony red caveman face. Treading water (he's thinking about his legs and he's staying afloat, so they must still be working), he lands a few good smacks about the buoyant body for fun. The cushion of the Thames makes them less than satisfying.

The day is saved, and Jack has been relegated to cleanup duty.


He gets to work finding out how many hits his hand can take before it breaks. He's always wanted to know. Might be useful later on, and if it shatters into little bits oh well he'll just grow back a new one like nothing.



Hey, look.

There it is now.

Oh, baby.


"Toshiko Sato."

Tosh looks up from the sleeping -- or knocked into a shocked stupor -- face in her lap. It belongs to a tanned little girl named Tammy, with adorable braids and a classy nightgown. Tammy was chasing her stepmother when Torchwood One fell, and wouldn't it be nice if this woman, blonde and poised, was just the lady Tammy's been looking for?

The woman extends her hand through the back doorframe of the parked BMW, fixed on Tosh. She isn't the mother type. "Yvonne Hartman. We have a lot in common." She isn't the stepmother type either -- her smile is warm and cool at once, even as her body dons a starched, disciplined skirt suit, with stains under the armpits.

Toshiko shakes her hand. It's soft on the outside and hard on the inside. "How do you know my name?" Toshiko takes her own hand back, finding it still filthy with blood, dirt, a spot of vomit and a dusting of glass. She wipes it down her thigh and tries to gather an apology.

"As I said." Hartman glances at whatever Tosh transferred to her hand and doesn't wipe it off. "We have a lot in common." She looks around at the mass of people, some resting on the dusted-off hood of the car, others on garments spread over cleared patches of ground. Toshiko left some of them crying, and others, just staring, but none of them were moving much. Even the people in the front two car seats -- an old man who can't find his walker, and a boy of six or so -- are still and quiet.

Tosh can hear them listening for more conversation. Something important is happening.

"Did you do all this?" Hartman asks.

Toshiko nods and looks back to Tammy, wishing her hands were cleaner so she could push that errant lock of curly hair behind an ear. "I had help," she says, "I have friends. They put me up to it."

"Do you, now?" Smiling knowingly, like a conspirator, with her dirtied hand on the top of the doorframe, Hartman leans forward and rolls her eyes side to side a little. "Where are they, exactly?"

Tosh looks away to blink at the back of the seat in front of her, and may be blushing. "Not here."

"Quite right. Not here." Yvonne extends a hand again, the other one, palm up instead of palm-sideways. "Let her sleep," she says.

Toshiko gingerly scoops up Tammy's torso, pulls her legs so they fall over the edge of the seat, and lets her lean the other way, the top of her head brushing the far door handle. Yvonne's hair is a frizzy mess, a halo backlit by the sun. Toshiko takes her hand, swings her own feet to the ground, and is swiftly pulled onto them.

Emergency services -- some kind or other, oh, the UNIT kind -- are here. Tosh wants to lean back on the rear of the door frame, but Yvonne is studying her, stopping her. Yvonne comes to some conclusion, fusses at the gold-rimmed, sparkling green holly leaf pin on her own lapel, removes it, and pins it to the left of Toshiko's sweater collar. "So, where is that Harkness fellow, anyway?"

Tosh looks down at the pin. It hangs limply, downturned by her sweater's loose weave. It's a finely-crafted decoration, manufactured, sure. It's also a lot more resilient than a bushel of mistletoe. "He said he was going to Parliament."

"Nothing more specific?"

Tosh smirks. "Never."

Yvonne's eyes crinkle. She's right, they do have a lot in common. "Well, I doubt he'll get into any buildings, as they're all locked up in fear." She pulls a keyring from a suitjacket pocket, and jingles it, and Tosh is horrified. One of the key bases is a black circle, with a blue-and white crossed circle inside.

"I didn't break the window," Tosh stammers, "It was -- someone -- or the -- I --"

Yvonne smiles at her through the tops of her eyes -- don't be silly -- and leans into the driver's side of the car. Toshiko can only hear her murmuring to the little boy, not what she says, and her arm comes up, beckoning for two red berets, one male, one female, to take her place. They gather the BMW's occupants carefully.

Yvonne waves Tosh to the passenger side, and the two of them slide onto self-warming seats already cleared of inblown window glass.


It's freezing out, to an extent Ianto did not notice before. He hangs on the line, listening to different gusts of wind in each ear, sitting back on his other hand with Lisa between his legs. "I'm not wearing any underwear," she says, a simple observation that's a bit too loud. Ianto looks around. They're nearly alone. Two other couples -- three women and one man -- stand at a far corner of the roof, bundled appropriately for the weather.

The camera sits on the rooftop beside them, and the ship is still just hanging there. It may all be over, whatever the resolution, but someone has forgotten to flush the sky.

"Neither am I," Ianto says, and Lisa wiggles her bum against him. She's always wiggling, always moving, always dancing. Dancing on roofs.

She leans back, stretching around to kiss his cheek, and whispers, "I'm cold. Are you cold?"

"Mm," Ianto acknowledges. It might not matter what else happens above Westminster. He's feeling far too Arthur Dent, and would like a change. It would be nice to find out where Coat has disappeared to, so he can get on that. "Five more minutes?"

"Fiiiiine," Lisa allows. "But that's it. I want to watch the news."

They wait three.

"YOU #### BELIEVE #### # GOT FOR #########."


"### me." Was that a 'try,' or something more fun?

Splayed out on the steps down to the water by Westminster Bridge Road, so numb with hypothermia his body feels impossibly hot, Jack pulls Tosh's mobile from his head to dog-shake the Thames from his hair.

"We've only just met," Jack levels with Important, "but I could kiss you."

"I #### think you could."

Jack will take that as he pleases. He shoulders the mobile, takes his coat from his side and makes it a holey beach blanket at his feet, then tumbles (carefully, considering what his other hand clutches) onto it. What an acrobatic feat. He's spent. And sunbathing, far beyond the ability to shiver, burning up under Ben's reflected light. He squints upward, reading the tiny words below the face, 'DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM.'

"#o, what ### you ### for Christmas?"

Jack shrugs as though he can be seen and makes a mff sound. He's baking, scorching, burning up, on fire. He tries his shirt buttons but his fingers won't work, so he just rips it open and gives up. This is as close to nude beaching as he's gonna get today. He closes his eyes and soaks it up, soaks it all up, soaked. "G'bye," he tells the mobile, "it's been important," and throws it to the side. Sploop.

"You don't look well." It's the voice of an angel.

"Jack, are you... Was that my mobile?" No, that's the voice of an angel.

Jack raises one eyebrow reeeally far to pull open the eye below it, and sees three faces. The words below the one in the middle translate really easily for him, almost like he's not doing it by himself. 'O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First.' Maybe he's not. Maybe they're back on the ground by now.

"In fact," says the tall golden one on the left, "You look like you may die."

Does she know? Jack can't remember whether she knows. He doesn't care whether she knows. "I'm a hot potato," he explains. He salutes the faces with the still-twitching hand in his hand, pledges it over his heart, and takes a nap.

It's a short nap. Tosh, kneeling by his head, claws at the backs of his shoulders. "I can't believe you just threw my mobile into the river," she hisses, trying so hard to pull him -- SMACK.

Hey! "And I can't believe you just hit --" Hartman's wearing a taking-responsibility face, and Tosh doesn't seem nearly angry enough to have done that herself after all. "... me in the face. Never mind. You have a thing."

"Get yourself together," Hartman orders. "The gulls are already circling."

She means they're hungry. "I'm hungry," Jack says, helping Hartman sit him up. Tosh has just run away. Hartman takes off her jacket, wraps it around him, then layers his on top of it, pulling the collar tight around his neck and holding it there.

"You're brainless," she says. "Completely brainless. Someone might have seen you." Her face appears on front of Jack's, and her chin bounces at the stairs. "She might still see you." Okay, maybe she does know.

"Look what I got," Jack distracts, holding out the hand, catching it on a coat button.

"Hideous," Hartman defines. "Either give it to me or put it away, for Christ's sake."

Jack tucks it protectively to his side. It tickles. "I don't know how long it's gonna last," he worries through a giggle, "It's gotta last."

"I have an idea," Yvonne assures him, and she sounds a bit hungry too. "You..." she makes a face. "Keep it for now."


Hartman's pocket starts playing an enthusiatic orchestral rendition of Carol of the Bells, strung with electric guitar. When she reaches in to retrieve it, Jack gives her his let's-get-me-out-of-these-wet-clothes eyes, and she coughs and smiles before answering the call. "Hartman. Slightly busy."

Tosh returns with another jacket -- her jacket layered over Jack's shoulders -- and a cream puff. "Looks like they're leaving," she says, falling to her rear to Jack's other side and handing over the flaky pastry puff with smooth, clean fingers. "Will you be okay?"

Jack looks up. The ship is a black moon in the sky, and shrinking. Jack stuffs Tosh's present into his mouth and then says, "Fink so. Wom way or anover. You?"

"Fink so," Tosh says deliberately, between morsels.

"So, tell them we're ready," Hartman dictates. "Yes, I know who she is. Have him tell her we're ready. Thank you." She slaps the halves of her mobile together and clutches it tightly. "Get them following you closely enough and they forget to think for themselves," she muses, standing. "Might want to be on your feet for this part."

Jack and Tosh eyeball one another, each asking, Do YOU know what's she's on about? "What part?" Jack asks.

"The best part."

I've got a five-point converging Klaxian beam to assemble.


The little black moon is barely a meteor by now, barely even visible.

Hartman's mobile starts singing again, and this time, she doesn't answer it. Uncannily timed with wails of guitar, thunking bass and symbol crashes, the ground tremors -- green to the left, green to the right, green in the front, green in the back, and another for good measure. Tosh squeaks. Jack shows the sky a mouthful. Hartman lets out a tiny little whoo.


The green gives way to a white puff, shimmering with pinks, peaches and golds.

Sparkly. Rumbly and sparkly.

"Like in photos," Tosh says. Jack turns to her, questioning, and she shakes her head with a dismissive frown. "It's nothing."

"Damn," Hartman cries, and Jack finds her fanning her hand out before her, inspecting it down her arm. "I broke a nail."

Jack learns from his mistakes. He leans away from Hartman, close to Tosh, and begs, "Save me."

"They were leaving," Tosh whispers.

"And they won't be back," Jack finishes.

A disembodied finger flicks him hard in the ribs. Hey.

Carol of the Bells starts up again, to be swiftly cut off at the third trill. "Hartman. Slightly busy." She taps her foot. "... I doubt she looks any more tired than the rest of us do, Andy. Rather than bothering me, you ought to be arranging her a pedicure and a hot drink."


Well, that was certainly more than Ianto expected to see, and he can empathize with the likely culprit -- he flushed a firecracker or two of his own down the loo in his formative years. He bundles Lisa up with her mobile, bundles himself up with his tools, and makes his way to the stairs. Lisa takes the door with her hip when he opens it, passing in front of him, already sharing stories with her mother.

So much for Coat's number. Ianto could probably find the history if he looked hard enough, but it's not that important.


After a lengthy clothing change for Jack ("I dunno, sweats aren't really me. Comfy, though.") and a lengthier tyre change -- special puncture-resistant tyres from Yvonne -- Tosh drives the SUV back to Cardiff. Jack sleeps in the back seat, his arm curled around his new eerily glowing jar. It simmers inexplicably beside him, proving a distraction, not just by its constant flickering light, but its inexplicability.

Jack will not explain. Of course Jack will not explain. On open road, borrowing Jack's earpiece, Tosh provides search terms and stories, which Owen and Suzie toss between one another, chewing and considering. Tosh will try to explain. She'll do all the explaining she can.

"Jack?" Tosh asks, the mouthpiece reception turned to full volume.

"Mrg. Sleeping. See?" A big hand flops about in the rearview mirror.

"Did Yvonne give you that jar?"

"And an autograph. Don't tell Suzie."

"I'll pretend to be surprised," Suzie promises.

"Please," Owen grumbles. "That woman is such a bitch." That woman would wipe the floor with him.

Tosh fingers the holly pin, which still hangs like a withered thing from her sweater. It's a very nice pin, but she's not sure she'll wear it again. "Jack?" she repeats. This time, Jack doesn't answer.

Tosh pulls into a rest stop to fill up from her own pocket, and pauses for some chit and chat with the middle-aged lady working the cash, telling only the parts of the story that are sure to show up on the Beeb. Sipping complementary tea on a stool behind the counter, she listens to half-baked conspiracy theories until the lady, Kathy -- probably an O-negative -- runs out of breath.

Kathy thinks the PM seems rather green around the gills lately. All that dealing-with-aliens, she says, Harriet likely caught some kind of freakish incurable virus, God save them all.

Tosh isn't in any rush. Once in Cardiff, she stops by her flat to change her clothes and shower, and picks up a few bottles of shnapps at Owen's suggestion. He said Jack may want to get wasted tonight, and won't that be beneficial for everyone.

The SUV rolls into the Plass just after sunset. A generous snowfall has begun, quite the feat, and judging by the line of air rushing in the top of the cracked window, it isn't even cold enough for it.

As she tugs at the door handle, Tosh remembers that she doesn't know where to park. That's why she's pulled in right in front of the lift, after all. She reaches around to the back seat and shoves Jack in the knee. He doesn't respond. She can either leave him there to rest as long as he sees fit, or she can greet Owen with the schnapps and drag him out to help drag Jack inside.

She decides to leave Jack with the schnapps, and walk. After covering the jarred hand with Jack's torn coat, she does an easy lap around the Plass, weaving among the candy cane pillars, and then a second as she starts to feel sleepy. If she can tire herself to the point of falling over, she'll be able to sleep right through Owen and Suzie's questions. They've had time to do research by now, and everyone knows that the more you know, the more questions you have. Jack can answer them. Tosh has had enough.

She should go home. She should get a cat. Something to leave for. She slips a hand into her pocket. Playing with the crevices in Jack's earpiece, she considers calling dibs on the Hub's only settee.

She pauses beside the aquabus station, where the mermaids wink up from the water, and spots a few falling stars. It was good to get away from that London Eye. Tosh is not a fan of the London Eye. She turns away from the million others, and notices a figure -- stouter than Jack, than Owen, than Suzie -- standing by the hood of the SUV.


"Sir?" rap-rap-rap.

A bright light pierces through Jack's eyelids from somewhere near his feet. "Not makin' out," he defends, hiding his face in the crook between the seat and the seatback. He doesn't need to sleep, but Jeez, sometimes he really needs to sleep.

Rap-rap-rap-rap, harder now. "Sir," says the muffled local lady, "You're not allowed to park here." Rap-rap-rap. "If you don't please move the vehicle, it's a ticket." Hahahah. Jack would love a ticket. He's getting good at making flipbooks out of them. The last one was hot.

Rap-rap-rap-RAP-RAP-RAP. "Okay, fine with me. Ticket for you then, and you're lucky I don't take out the breathalyzer. I've had a fuck of a day."

Speaking of hot -- Jack opens the rear door, and pretty much falls onto the curb -- he wonders, "In what way do you mean?"

"What I mean," says the officer, her hand darting at her pad in emphasis, "What I mean is I spent Christmas morning tryin' to pry a naked man twice my size from the roof of our flat. What I mean is old granny Worsteshire got an eyeful and liked it --" The copper yanks the ticket from the pad "-- so much I don't know if I'll ever see him the same way again." She snaps the wiper onto the paper.

"Saucy," Jack says, coming around so the hood is between them. What a lovely gap she has. Not that he doesn't like gaps -- quite the opposite -- it's just that it's the only thing standing her out from her lumpy, curveless uniform.

"Oh, we have a commentator, eh?" snarles the cop, showing off. "Yeah, good, you enjoy this. Happy Christmas."

Jack raises his eyebrows -- what an attitude -- and takes the ticket from the windshield. He doesn't even glance at it, just rips and layers, rips and layers, rips and layers and smiles and rips again, nice and slow, teasingly final.

Scandalized (what big eyes she has), the cop whips her pad back out. "You haven't asked me about my afternoon yet," she says, scribbling some more. This time, Jack reaches out to take the ticket directly from her hand, then rips and layers, rips and layers, rips and layers, tucks his pile between his thumb and fingers, and snows it all over the hood.

The cop's nose crinkles, her upper lip lifting impossibly high, moved from scandal to utter disgust.

Atta girl.


Tosh reaches the SUV just as Jack is wishing a Happy Christmas to the police officer's back, and compiled with what he did to those tickets, it's a very complicated-sounding Happy Christmas. The officer spins to take a few steps backwards, throwing Jack a middle finger before quickly walking off. Wonderful. Tosh gives Jack his earpiece, along with a fake, tight smile, but he's not looking at her -- he's staring after the officer. "God, yeah," he says, under his breath.

Tosh narrows her eyes. Jack is not allowed to ruin Christmases. Not this one. Not any one. She chases after the officer, fumbling at her sweater. She catches up as the officer opens her car door, and taps her on the shoulder.

"How many ways do you have to be told to fuck --" The woman spins, glaring daggers, and then her face just, transforms with a snap. "Hello," she says, meek and unauthoritative.

Tosh relaxes from mid-flinch, trusting the baton won't come out. "I'm sorry about my friend," she says. "I hope he didn't give you too much grief."

"Oh, he did." The officer bursts into an abashed smile, looking around at the ground. "Don't worry about the fine. I've had a bad --"

"Here." Tosh thrusts her hand out, and the officer's eyes narrow inquisitively. "Really, here."

Curious, the officer holds out her hand. Tosh drops the emerald holly pin onto her palm, and watches her eyes grow from puzzlement to shock to glee, and finally to lifted London Eyes. Tosh was thinking another O-negative, but maybe she's a positive. "It's gorgeous." She stares at Tosh a moment, then startles herself with a thought. "I can't. No, nonono, I --"

"Really," Tosh assures lightly, closing the officer's hand over it -- lightly so as not to prick her. "I mean it. I don't need it anymore."

"Thank you," says the officer.

"You're welcome," says Toshiko. She tips her head back and to the side. "I should ..."

The officer nods enthusiastically. "Right, yeah. Happy Christmas!"

"You too." Behind Tosh, the car door closes. She walks slowly, waiting to hear it driving away before catching up to Jack -- and Owen. "This," Owen greets her, self-clever, "is not real snow." To demonstrate, he lifts the back of his hand and catches a few flakes on his black leather glove, then holds it out to her.

He's right. The flakes are solid, opaque and erratically-shaped. There's not a six-sided one among them. "Huh," Tosh says, and glances to Jack.

Jack, unbelieving, sticks out his tongue, catches a few, pulls it in, and makes a horrific face. "Don't --" he wipes his grey sweatshirt sleeve across his mouth "-- don't try that." More self-clever than ever, Owen lifts his eyebrows and smiles thinly, and Tosh returns her own version, giving him her approval. Jack sighs, sweeping his ticket bits from the hood. "Never real snow around here."

"Or in London," Tosh adds, taking up a stray paper square. It's scrawled with a what may be an O, or a G.

"Never real Martians either. Oi Tosh, you want something for that?" Owen is pointing.

Tosh looks back to her fingers, spotted with tiny cuts. She's already gotten used to them. "Bad weather," she says. "Storm's over."

"No shit." Owen extends his elbow. "To the lift? Suze won't ride with me, says it gives her the creeps."

"Can't imagine why," Jack jabs, and things are back to normal.

Tosh hooks Owen's arm, and Owen compliments Jack's new outfit with a few carefully chosen words, but Jack probably hasn't heard him, as he's disappeared to reach into the SUV. "Aww," he says, lifting his darkened jar. "Support looks okay, but the light went out. I'll have to ask her exactly what that means."

"I'll ask her for you if you like," Tosh offers. Jack rolls his eyes, and Tosh looks down. One of the new white spots on her sleeve has six points.

"You're a fountain of ideas, Tosh," Owen says, disappearing onto the lift, then bringing her with him.





( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 31st, 2009 06:25 am (UTC)

As Jack would say, "God, yeah."
Dec. 31st, 2009 07:26 am (UTC)
Dude, now we've got two HUGE fics. Showoffs!

You tied in just about everything I could possibly think of, sorta a big ole' Who/TW frozen pina colada, complete with banana slices and red umbrella.

Jack/Hand - OTP!
Dec. 31st, 2009 08:11 am (UTC)
It's all about the finger fucking.
Dec. 31st, 2009 08:20 am (UTC)
Dec. 31st, 2009 09:11 am (UTC)

A list, in chronological order, of the reasons I love you, part the second:

1. "That's an important-looking coat you have."

2. Tosh is back with her mother, on the ground with her hands over her ears, screaming soundlessly over a sonic explosion...

3. "Imagine the worst injuries you've ever seen. Think of Goldenrod. Embrace the memories as enthusiastically as you can. Remember all the details." He climbs off of her. "Then look around." (And everything that follows oh my god oh my god oh my god.)

4. Coat.

5. Every single exchange between Coat and N. V. Important.

6. "#ESUS #####."

7. "Someone in lower case called someone else a 'crusty thrice-used communal douchebag with holes in.' My hero, oh fuck, my hero. You could learn a few things from this one, Harkness." (I SEE WHAT YOU DID THAR.)

8. "Do people dance on top of alien vessels?"

9. It's cold. It's cold, it's cold, it's cold, it's stabby. And cold.

10. Italics when Jack's hitting the Sycorax corpse.

11. Tosh and Gwen and the holly pin. Oh my heart. It grew six sizes.

12. "Never real snow around here."

13. "YOU #### BELIEVE #### # GOT FOR #########." (Out of order, but most important.)

Thus ends my list of the reasons I love you. The list is needlessly long and far too quotey. I don't even care.

Happy Way After Christmas, Anon.
Dec. 31st, 2009 04:29 pm (UTC)
Whoah. GREAT.

"Not Important." It's the truest answer Ianto feels like giving. "Middle name, Very."


I know who you aaaaaarrrrre!
Dec. 31st, 2009 05:53 pm (UTC)
Oh, I know who it is, too, but not because of that line :) Still, I could be wrong because of the super sneakiness going on 'round here.
Dec. 31st, 2009 05:02 pm (UTC)
OMG ANON. THIS IS... THIS IS.... It's awesome. Totally brilliant stuff. Like like... a bunch of really sparkly, brilliant things. You are made of everything that is good and sexy, anon. I DON'T KNOW WHO YOU ARE, BUT I LOVE YOU. IN MAH PANTS, TOO.

Ianto must summon something not so shallow, something to seriously offend. He puts his mouth to Lisa's ear and tries, "I think Rene Decartes made sense."

(no subject) - curriejean - Jan. 15th, 2010 08:11 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 15th, 2010 05:21 pm (UTC)
HAHA XD Let's marry then, because I loved this story way too fucking much, and I FUCKING LOVED THE DESCARTES THING! I LOLED. xD

I stand by my proposal.
Dec. 31st, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC)
Holy ####### ####, Anon! That was BRILLIANT!
(no subject) - curriejean - Jan. 15th, 2010 08:12 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 31st, 2009 05:39 pm (UTC)
I just wish I could read this now, but I can't, because I am working like a dog at work today which I completely resent. DO!
Dec. 31st, 2009 06:02 pm (UTC)
So that's how Jack got the Doctor's hand. Awesome!
(no subject) - curriejean - Jan. 15th, 2010 08:12 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 2nd, 2010 12:19 am (UTC)
I haven't read this yet, sneaky anon! I have it all printed out though, right here to my left. I haven't accomplished all I thought I would today so it keeps being put aside for later.

But, reveals are coming and will say a quick thank you! I hear awesomeness is contained in this story so can't wait to dig in!

Now WHO THE HECK ARE YOU?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!
(no subject) - curriejean - Jan. 15th, 2010 08:15 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 2nd, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC)
Holy crap. Everyone is in this. <3

Seriously, awesome.
(no subject) - curriejean - Jan. 15th, 2010 08:15 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 5th, 2010 12:08 am (UTC)
you're brilliant!
(no subject) - curriejean - Jan. 15th, 2010 08:15 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 15th, 2010 02:08 pm (UTC)
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )