NO GREATER GIFT

Eleya

Ianto awoke to the sound of a phone alarm going off — a sound that, even in his sleep-fogged stated of mind, he recognised as being a rift alert. Rolling over with a groan, he opened his eyes blearily to find Jack was already half dressed.

“What time is it?”

“Not quite 4am,” Jack answered quietly. “The rift alarm went off.”

“I heard,” Ianto muttered, not quite able to hide the sour tone of his voice. He wasn’t quite awake enough yet to achieve that. “Have you called anyone else, or are we dealing with this ourselves?”

“I called Tosh,” Jack answered. “She’s meeting us at the Hub. The alert wasn’t specific, and we don’t have any coordinates to go by. I’m hoping Tosh can narrow it down at the Hub.”

“Well, with any luck, it’ll be a simple locate and secure,” Ianto sighed. “Bloody rift. First night back, and it starts already.”

Jack laughed and leant down to kiss Ianto softly.

“Have a shower and get dressed. I told Tosh we’d be at the Hub in half an hour.”


Neither Jack nor Ianto were surprised to find Tosh already at the Hub when they arrived. She favoured them with a brief smile as she worked on her computer to isolate the cause of the alert.

“Any idea what we’re dealing with yet?” Jack asked, peering at the monitor over her shoulder.

“Not yet,” she admitted. “It’s strange, not like most signals we get, and it was very quick. There one second, just long enough to trigger the rift alert, and then it was gone again. I can’t tell whether it was a sentient being or whether it was something inanimate.”

Jack sighed and rubbed a hand over his eyes.

“With our luck, it’ll probably be another treasure box.”

She favoured him with a sharp look.

“Are you saying you'd prefer it to be something life-threatening?”

Jack had the good grace to look suitably chastened.

“Fair point. Can you pinpoint the location?”

“It’ll take a while. What I can tell you, though, is that it was a controlled rift spike, not like the ones that usually occur.”

“How do you mean, controlled?” Ianto asked as he came over with three mugs of freshly brewed coffee. Jack looked grim.

“Controlled, as in man-made. As in, someone deliberately did something that caused it.”

“That doesn’t sound good,” Ianto said, and Jack shook his head.

“It’s not. I’m calling the rest of the team in. We need to be ready for some large scale trouble. Anything could have come through.”

Ianto exchanged grim looks with Tosh as Jack headed for his office to make the necessary calls, and Tosh said the words that Ianto hadn’t been willing to.

“Anything… or anyone.”

Ianto thought briefly of John Hart, and had to physically suppress a shudder. He hoped not. He really, really hoped not.


Jack was not in the least bit surprised that Bobby and Alex arrived at the Hub ahead of Gwen and Owen. For starters, their rented apartment was almost literally on the other side of the Plass. Secondly, it stood to reason that they’d be considerably more enthusiastic at this stage, and less likely to baulk at an early morning wake up call. Although, he mused as Bobby strode into the Hub, followed by a dour-faced Alex, he suspected that maybe one was slightly more enthusiastic than the other.

“Coffee?” Ianto asked as Alex trudged over, and didn’t bother to wait for an answer before shoving a mug into her hands. Alex took a long sip, and groaned in pleasure.

“Bobby, we’re taking him back to New York with us.”

Ianto chuckled as he handed a mug to Bobby.

“As much as I’d love to oblige, Alex, I think Jack might object.”

“You got that right!” Jack retorted. “My boyfriend is staying right here, thankyou.”

Ianto flushed red with pleasure at the loud and proud announcement, and quickly hurried off to finish Gwen and Owen’s coffees in preparation for their arrival.

“I think you embarrassed him,” Alex said with a smirk. Jack chuckled.

“Just as well he loves me, then.”

The proximity alarm sounded, and the cog door rolled back to allow Gwen and Owen into the Hub. Like Alex, neither one appeared particularly alert, and Owen especially was grumbling audibly about the early call.

“This had better be important, Jack,” Owen growled, gratefully accepting his coffee from Ianto. He took a mouthful, and groaned loudly. “God, I missed this while you were away.”

“You saying you only missed Ianto, and not me?” Jack asked, pretending to be wounded. Owen glared at him.

“Yes, Harkness. That is exactly what I'm saying. Deal with it, you bloody sook.”

“I wouldn't be too offended, Jack,” Ianto reassured him. “He didn't really miss me. Just my coffee. I think we can consider ourselves equally slighted.”

Jack nodded.

“I can live with that. Of course, you could always teach Owen to make the coffee....”

“He goes near the coffee machine over my dead body,” Ianto stated, no longer looking even remotely amused. Jack seemed to realise his faux pas, and held his hands up defensively.

“Calm down, sweetheart. Consider the suggestion withdrawn.”

Satisfied, Ianto took up his own coffee and headed towards Jack's office. Jack watched him go, shaking his head in amazement.

“He really has me by the balls...”

“Literally and figuratively,” Owen added quickly, and a ripple of laughter went around the team. Jack rolled his eyes in a gesture spookily reminiscent of his young lover.

“All right, joke time's over. Tosh? How close are you to pinpointing the disturbance?”

“I can tell you generally, but not specifically. Pendefig Mall.”

“Oh hell, not there again,” Gwen moaned.

“Hot spot?” Bobby wondered. Jack answered with a rough shake of his head.

“No, not really. Gwen just had a nasty experience there not that long ago. If that's where it is, though, then that's where we need to go. We'll need two cars, though. We're not all going to fit into the SUV... unless, of course, someone wants to sit on my lap?”

He looked around suggestively, and was met with rueful stares.

“Give us a break, Jack,” Owen said with a sigh. “For starters, Ianto is the only one who might be willing to do that, and secondly, since you nearly always insist on driving, I doubt you'll be able to convince him to do it this time. Now will you quit it with the bloody innuendos? It is way too early in the morning for it.”

Jack was still pouting when Ianto emerged from his office.

“What?” Ianto asked when he suddenly found himself the centre of everyone's attention. Alex shook her head.

“You don't want to know. Trust me.”

Ianto lifted a single eyebrow, but decided against arguing.

“All right, gear up,” Jack ordered finally. “Next stop, Pendefig Mall.”

“Pendefig Mall?” Ianto echoed in surprise. “Well, I suppose that answers the question about whether what we're looking for is dangerous. A triple nine call went out from Pendefig Mall about half an hour ago. A man was found dead in the mall by the change-over guard shift. Apparently his heart exploded.”

Jack let his breath out in long hiss, all signs of the earlier banter gone in a flash.

“Owen, you, Gwen and Tosh take your car. Bobby, Alex and Ianto in the SUV with me. Let's move, people, before the locals do something really stupid.”


Even with Jack's suicidal brand of driving, it took them a good forty minutes to get to Pendefig Mall. When they finally arrived, it was to sirens, flashing lights, a slew of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances, and a whole lot of very frightened and borderline panicked emergency workers.

“Great,” Jack grumbled as he guided the SUV to a halt near the outer rim of the arc of emergency vehicles. “Just what we need. A bunch of flighty cops who don't know what the hell they're dealing with.” He paused, and glanced awkwardly back at Bobby and Alex, as though he'd only just realised what it was that he'd said. The two former detectives were both watching him with bemused looks.

“Present company excluded,” he offered by way of an apology, and Bobby chuckled. As far as he was concerned, Jack was entitled to his opinion. He himself had caused a near disaster back home in New York when he and Alex had interfered during a weevil hunt, all because he hadn't understood what was going on. God only knew what sort of chaos so many police officers might cause here and now.

Jack was already moving towards the Mall, shouting his credentials and marching forcibly through the crowd.

“C'mon,” Ianto said ruefully, quickly collecting his gear. “He won't wait for us.”

By the time they caught up with him, he was in the middle of a confrontation with a police officer who was all too familiar to Ianto.

“Ianto, you remember Detective Swanson,” Jack said dryly. “Kathy was just explaining how she’s been trying to keep order until we got here.”

“You arrogant bastard, Harkness,” Kathy Swanson snapped. “This is not your jurisdiction. Why don’t you take your people and clear off!”

“As you can tell,” Jack said to Bobby and Alex over his shoulder, “we have a healthy relationship with the local police and emergency services.”

“Oh yeah,” Alex agreed. “I can see we have a lot to look forward to when we go home.”

Jack smirked, and turned back to Kathy.

“I want you to pull your people out of there, Kathy. We’re going in to deal with it.”

She looked like she was about to argue when another familiar face appeared.

“Andy!” Gwen exclaimed as she, Owen and Tosh joined the rest of the team. Police Constable Andy Davidson didn’t look the least bit surprised to see Gwen and her colleagues there as he came to a halt beside Kathy. If anything, he looked relieved.

“I was wondering when you lot were going to show up. This is definitely one spooky-do that you’re welcome to.”

“PC Davidson,” Kathy growled, and Andy nodded his head in deference towards her.

“Excuse me, Ma’am, but you didn’t see what just happened in there.”

“What did happen, Constable?”

Andy spoke, but it was obvious that he was no longer addressing Kathy, but rather Gwen and, by default, Jack.

“We were doing a search to secure the mall, make sure that everything was safe for SOCCO, when one of the lads called out to say he’d heard something in the food court. We went to check it out, and there was a little girl there.”

“A child?” Jack asked, frowning, and Andy nodded.

“Little tyke, couldn’t be more than three years old. She was sitting in the food court eating crisps. Well, we figured she might be the kid of the dead bloke, so Tommy goes to talk to her. She took one look at him, and he went flying from one side of the food court to the other. Damn near broke his back! A couple of the other lads tried to grab her, and the same thing happened. We couldn’t get near her, and I’m telling you, I don’t think she’s the dead bloke’s little one anymore. I’m thinking maybe she’s the one who killed him.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Gwen growled, incensed at the idea of a child being labelled a killer. Jack, however, had no such qualms.

“Okay. Kathy, pull your people out, now. We’re going in, and we’ll let you know when it’s secure.”

He took off without waiting for her to respond. She watched him go in visible frustration before looking back at the rest of the Torchwood team.

“How in the hell do you lot put up with him?”

“Practise and patience, Kathy,” Owen remarked as he headed past her. “Practise, and an awful lot of patience.”

“Not to mention, it helps to accept that he knows more than all of us put together,” Ianto added bluntly. “You may not like him, Detective Swanson, but you and your officers will be much better off for having paid him heed. Excuse us now. We have a job to do.”

He followed Owen, and the others hurried closely behind.


“He might know a lot,” Alex said as they walked, “but does he have to be so arrogant about it?”

“It’s not arrogance,” Tosh said in defence of Jack. “Not in the way that you’re thinking. He behaves the way he does towards the police, because too often we’ve seen them injured or even killed because they wouldn’t listen to what we asked them to do. So in the end, Jack stopped bothering to be polite. He stopped asking, and started telling them what to do. He found they respond better to orders than to suggestions or requests, so that’s how he works now. And he has the authority to do it not so much because he’s the head of Torchwood, but because he has the knowledge that no one else has.”

“Do you always do what he says?” Alex wondered. “Regardless?”

Three pairs of eyes skittered briefly towards Gwen, and Owen spoke wryly.

“Some of us have a little more trouble than others in following orders.”

“Some of us aren’t blind to the wider consequences,” Gwen snapped. “Like now. What if it is really a little girl in there? What is Jack going to do? Take her back and lock her up in the cell next to Janet?”

“Actually,” Jack said, where he was suddenly looming in front of them with a hard glint in his eyes, “I was thinking more along the lines of finding her… because she’s probably moved on by now… and sedating her so that we can get her back to the Hub and determine whether or not she’s human, and then we’ll deal with her accordingly.”

“She may not be as dangerous as PC Andy thinks,” Owen said, placing a slight, derogatory emphasis on the ‘PC’. “Whether she’s human or alien, it’s entirely possible that whatever she did that left the man in there dead, and sent those coppers flying might have just been a defence mechanism. It might not even be something she has control over.”

“Which would make her all the more dangerous,” Jack said flatly. “Look, I don’t want to hurt her, but whatever she is… whoever she is… we need to contain her. Are we agreed on that?”

He was answered by a sea of nodding heads.

“Good,” Jack said in audible relief. “Let’s go in. Alex and Owen, take the ground floor. Bobby and Gwen, you two take the first floor. Ianto and Tosh, take the second. I’ll take the top.”

He was off again, and they all had to hurry not to get left behind.

“He likes it on top, then?” Alex asked with a sly smile, and Ianto blushed red at the blatant inference.

“He’s good on roofs,” he said simply, and hurried off before anymore remarks could be made.

“I can’t believe you just said that,” Bobby said, eyeing his partner incredulously. Alex grimaced.

“Neither can I.”

“And you’ll probably pay for it when we get back to the Hub, by way of a nice cup of decaf,” Owen told her, trying and failing miserably to hide a satisfied smirk. “On the bright side, though, you’ll think twice before opening your mouth again in front of him.”

Alex winced at the thought of drinking anything other than pure coffee.

“Remind me to apologise to Ianto first chance that I get.”


“Where do we start?” Alex asked, savouring the feel of the gun in her hand. It was only a stun gun, granted, but just having a weapon served to bolster her confidence significantly.

“Well, PC Andy said they came across her in the food court, so that’s where we’ll start. Admittedly, he didn’t say which food court, so it could be any of the food courts on each of the floors, but at least it’s a starting point.”

“That PC Andy,” Alex went on as they moved with new purpose. “Do you know him?”

“He used to be Gwen’s partner, before she joined up with us,” Owen explained. “Nice enough kid, but a little bit on the scatty side. Although, don’t let Gwen hear you say that about him. Personally, I think our Gwen had a bit of a crush on PC Andy once upon a time. Must have a thing for blokes in uniform. Although, that doesn’t really explain how she ended up with…”

Owen froze, as though suddenly aware that he was letting his mouth run riot. He hazarded a glance at Alex, and was mortified to see the knowing look on the woman’s face.

“With Rhys,” he finished off lamely, but it was clear that the damage had been done.

“You had an affair with her,” Alex said quietly, and Owen was surprised that there was no condemnation in her voice.

“It didn’t last long,” he admitted. “She got smart, and ditched me. She’s engaged to her boyfriend, now. Clinging to that normal life that Jack keeps going on about.”

He dared another look in her direction, and again was surprised at that lack of disapproval. She saw the expression on his face, and smiled a little.

“I’m the last person to be judging you, Owen. And between us, I don’t think you’re half as bad as you’re trying to make yourself out to be.”

A hint of a smile filtered onto Owen’s face.

“Is that so, Detective Alex?”

Alex’s grin widened a little.

“Yes, that’s so, but don’t go thinking that charm of yours will work on me. I’ve got the no fraternisation policy far too ingrained in me to ever try anything with a colleague.”

“So, you’re saying that you and Bobby have never…?”

“No,” she answered firmly. “Never. He’s my best friend, but it’ll never be anything more than that. I wouldn’t want it to be.”

“Never say never, Alex,” Owen chided her lightly, and Alex grimaced.

“Great. I probably just jinxed myself.”

“Food court at ten o’clock,” Owen said abruptly, his voice dropping several notches in volume. “Get that stun gun ready, Alex.”

Alex lifted the stun gun, and followed Owen around the corner into the food court. There were plenty of nooks and crannies in which a small child could hide, and so they moved from one food stand to the next, checking each one meticulously. It was fairly apparent, though, from the lack of disruption to the surrounding area, that this was not the food court that Andy had been talking about.

“Jack,” Owen said, after activating his Bluetooth earpiece, “nothing down here. I don't think the kid is on this floor, but we'll keep looking.”

Okay, Owen. Be careful, both of you.”

Owen glanced around ruefully at Alex.

“I fucking hate it when he says that.”

Alex raised her eyebrows quizzically, but said nothing, waiting instead for Owen to elaborate. He did, sounding more sour with every word that left his lips.

“Give it five minutes. Ten at the most. After that, I guarantee that everything is going to go to shit. It always does.”


On the first floor, Gwen and Bobby had just found the toy shop, and the dead body.

“He just looks like he's sleeping,” Gwen murmured sadly as Bobby crouched down for a closer look.

“He never knew what hit him,” Bobby mused as he prodded at the body. “Poor bastard was dead before he hit the floor. Hang on...”

He rolled the body over, at the same time telling himself that he no longer had to obey the same sort of restrictions that were in place for cops in the NYPD. As long as he was careful... Assured that there was no gas or any other bizarre substance emanating from the body, Bobby finished rolling it over, and Gwen uttered a cry of distress at the sight.

The man's chest had been ruptured open, and yet the wound was startlingly neat. There was a small pool of blood on the floor, and when Bobby looked closer he was fascinated to discover that the man's insides had been virtually liquefied.

“Not exactly Alien,” Gwen muttered. “But still...”

“This is amazing,” Bobby enthused. “Gwen, look at this...”

“Actually, I'd rather not,” Gwen jumped in quickly. Bobby looked momentarily startled, as though he hadn't honestly expected her to refuse. Then, a sheepish smile flickered across his face, and he leaned backwards, away from the body.

“Sorry. I forget... You're not Alex.”

It wasn't said meanly, and his smile softened his words considerably. Gwen smiled back, anxious to show him that no offence had been taken.

“She doesn't mind you poking at dead bodies?”

“I wouldn't say she doesn't mind,” Bobby admitted, sounding marginally uncomfortable. “She puts up with me, though. She puts up with a lot, actually.”

“Looks like you're worth the effort, though,” Gwen said with a warm smile, and Bobby blushed noticeably. Interesting, Gwen mused. He reacted similarly to Ianto when praised or complimented. It was as though he wasn't used to it, and didn't know how to deal with it.

Deciding to cut Bobby some slack, Gwen stepped carefully past the body, and into the toy store.

“So, he found her in here...”

“Lends credence to the theory that it really is a little girl,” Bobby said.

“And not just a shape-shifter,” Gwen concluded. “I'm not sure whether to feel relieved or not.”

Bobby understood where she was coming from with that concern.

“What sort of little girl is capable of doing that?” he murmured, gesturing at the body.

“He wasn't armed, either,” Gwen pointed out. “But if she was frightened enough already...”

“It wouldn't have taken much for her to see him as a threat,” Bobby said. He was enjoying this, in as much as was possible. Gwen, like Alex, seemed to be a willing sounding board for his ideas, and wasn't afraid to throw out ideas of her own. He always worked better when there was an equally capable mind to back him up.

“She's not here,” Bobby said quietly, if somewhat unnecessarily. “We need to keep looking.”

He rose up and exited the shop, with Gwen close behind. The former constable paused by the body, though, and looked down at the dead man with a detached sympathy.

“I'm sorry,” she murmured, before continuing on after Bobby.


“So what do you really think of the newbies?” Tosh asked Ianto after making sure her earpiece was set only to receive. She hoped for Owen's sake that Gwen had again forgotten to turn hers on; otherwise the poor bastard was going to be in for it after his little conversation with Alex. Ianto adjusted his own earpiece before responding.

“I think they have a lot of potential. For once, Jack hired someone without thinking with his dick.” He paused, taking in the mortified look on Tosh's face before speaking again. “I don't mean that he didn't hire you for your skills, Tosh. I know that isn't true. But I also know for a fact that he fantasises about you and Owen as much as he does about Gwen.”

“And that doesn't bother you?” she wondered. Ianto smiled.

“If Jack were from the 21st century, yes. It would bother me a hell of a lot. But he's not from this century, Tosh, and he was raised under a completely different set of morals when it comes to sex and relationships. For him, he honestly doesn't understand why a person can't have more than one lover, or why he shouldn't be able to flirt with whoever he likes. There is nothing wrong with that where... and when... Jack comes from. If we try to impose our 21st century morals on him, he'll only baulk and end up shutting us out. I know he loves me. I know it will never be a monogamous love. But just knowing that he does love me... Well, that's enough.”

“Is it really, Ianto?” Tosh asked softly. “I’m sorry for pushing it, but I just don't want to see you get hurt.”

Ianto laughed at that notion, though there was a distinctly bitter tinge to it.

“Tosh, if either of us gets hurt, odd are it's going to be Jack. He's the one who faces being left behind after we all die. Frankly, I'm amazed he has the courage to love at all, knowing how much it'll hurt him further down the track.”

“I guess you're right,” Tosh conceded. “You're lucky, Ianto.”

He smiled gently at her.

“I know, and I'm reminded of it every single day that I look at Jack. He's the reason I'm still here, and for him I'll do my damnedest to stay alive. I know that one day I'm going to cause him a hell of a lot of heartbreak, but I'd like to postpone that day for as long as I possibly can.”

Tosh smiled, and squeezed his hand.

“C'mon, you big goose. Let's find that little girl so that we can get out of here and go home.”


The security office was on the top floor, and that was where Jack headed first. He had no trouble getting in there. The door was wide open in a perfect invitation. He entered quickly, and with confidence, taking in the state of the room as he went. There were chocolate bar wrappers, empty crisp bags and at least five drained cans of beer scattered around the room, and Jack was starting to get a picture of what had happened.

The dead man, he guessed, was no employee of the mall. They already knew that. However, it looks like he had probably been subbing, perhaps for a mate. He went to check out a disturbance, found the little girl... or something masquerading as a little girl... and next thing, he was just a pile of meat and bones.

A couple of button pushes later, and Jack found himself watching footage of the dead man walking through the mall. Definitely not an official employee, Jack mused. If the lack of uniform wasn't enough of a giveaway, the way the poor bastard radiated terror was.

The man reached the toy shop, and Jack watched the image of him entering. A couple of minutes passed, and then the delicate figure of a little girl emerged, clutching what looked like a couple of stuffed animals. Even as Jack watched, she turned and wandered away, out of sight of the camera. The man never re-emerged from inside the toy shop.

It was impossible to know from the CCTV footage alone just what they were dealing with, although Jack was almost positive that it wasn't human. He hoped ferociously that the child had merely acted in self defence, but the calm way in which she left the toy shop suggested otherwise to Jack.

“Anyone had any luck yet?” he asked into the comm., and got back three negative responses. “Okay, be careful, all of you. Whoever or whatever this kid is, she's dangerous. Do not take any unnecessary risks, and call me as soon as you find anything.”

Shaking his head grimly at the now blank CCTV footage, he turned and ran from the room.


Jack had only just finished giving out his warning when Ianto heard the sound of a child crying nearby. A glance at Toshiko told him that she had heard it also, and was nodding in the direction that she believed it was coming from. Moving with extreme care, Ianto edged around the corner and froze. Sitting on an oversized armchair that was part of a furnished rest area with the mall, was the child that they were hunting.

She didn’t seem to be aware of their presence and was instead focused on the two stuffed animals in her arms, crying softly. Despite the uncertainty of the situation, Ianto felt his heart go out to the child. Before he had a chance to really think about what he was doing, he gave his gun to Tosh, along with a whispered order to stay back.

“Ianto, what are you doing?” Tosh hissed. “Jack will kill you!”

“Yes, well, I’ll deal with that when I need to,” he muttered. “Just stay here, and if this goes badly, then I’ll need you to call for help. Just, keep yourself safe, okay?”

He didn’t give her a chance to respond. Heart in his throat, he ventured out into the open, into the child’s line of sight.

She was instantly aware of his presence the moment he moved into the open area, and her young face tightened with obvious suspicion. Ianto held his hands out in as submissive and non-threatening a gesture as he could manage, and smiling warmly to try and convey to her that he was no threat.

He got to within ten feet of the child when he felt a sudden tightness in his chest, and realised with fright that his heart rate was escalating dangerously. Forcing himself not to panic, while also aware that verbal pleas would be pointless, he instead took a deliberate step backwards, and sat down on the carpeted floor.

The gamble paid off, and he felt the tightness in his chest steadily easing off. The little girl watched him with a slight frown, and diminishing suspicion. Relieved, Ianto offered the child another smile.

“My name is Ianto,” he told her softly. “Can you tell me what you’re name is, then?”

The suspicion faded to make way for confusion.

“Mai?” she asked tentatively, and Ianto silently cursed at the realisation that she didn’t seem to understand English. Moving slowly, he lifted one hand and patted his own chest.

“Ianto.”

“Anno,” the child echoed, getting slightly tongue-tied in her efforts to pronounce his name. Ianto’s smile widened a little.

“Yan,” he said, resorting to the nickname a thoroughly loathed nickname in a reluctant compromise. The child, however, had apparently decided that he was called ‘Anno’, and nothing was going to dissuade her.

“Anno,” she stated firmly, and Ianto couldn’t help but laugh. Seemingly reassured by both the sound and Ianto’s non-threatening posture where he sat on the floor, the child slid off the chair and toddled towards him. Ianto watched her approach with increasing curiosity and dwindling fear. He was more certain than ever that whatever power she’d unleashed that had resulted in the death of a man, and the assault on the police constables, it had been out of fear, and not out of any malicious desire to cause harm. She really was just a scared, lost little girl, he realised sadly; yet another victim of the bloody rift.

She came to a halt in front of him, and stood there, studying him intently. Then, as though she’d suddenly come to the conclusion that he was safe, she sat down in front of him with a soft thud, and held out the penguin to him.

“Dooka.”

Ianto took the proffered toy in mild amusement.

“Dooka?”

She reached over and patted the penguin.

“Sii dooka.” She then waved her bear at him. “Ba. Enna ba.”

“Dooka,” Ianto repeated. “And ba.” He paused, and then tried something else. “Penguin.”

She looked at him quizzically.

“Mai?”

He suspected that ‘mai’ possibly translated into ‘what’. Hoping he was right, he patted the toy and spoke again.

“Penguin.” He then reached out and touched the bear. “Teddy bear.”

Abruptly, she began to giggle, and Ianto had to resist an urge to roll his eyes. Gods, she sounded just like Jack. A moment later, he was startled when she suddenly climbed into his lap, and snuggled in against him. He slipped his arms around her, and held her gently, anxious that she feel safe, and not restrained.

“Anno,” she murmured, burying her face in his shoulder.

“You poor love,” Ianto whispered.

He heard footsteps approaching, and looked up to see Tosh coming around into his line of sight. He was relieved to see that she’d put their weapons away, out of sight. The little girl had also noticed her approach, and was clinging all the more fiercely to Ianto. He rubbed her back gently.

“This is Tosh. She’s my friend.”

Slowly, Tosh crouched down and smiled at the child.

“Hello, sweetheart.”

Tentatively, the child reached out and the tips of her fingers brushed against Tosh’s cheek. She then turned away shyly and buried her face in Ianto’s shoulder once more.

“Did you see her eyes?” Tosh asked, careful to keep her tone light. “I’ve never seen eyes as green as hers.”

“I know,” Ianto agreed. “Wherever she’s from, I don’t think it’s this planet. Tosh, you’d better call Jack and the others. Tell them we’ve found her. And tell them to put their weapons away before they get here, and not to come charging in here like idiots, otherwise god knows what might happen.”

She rose up and disappeared from sight, and a moment later he could hear her speaking in a subdued voice to their colleagues.

“Now, what about you, little one?” Ianto murmured to the child who was currently curled up in his arms. “What’s your name?”

“Leya.”

Ianto blinked in surprise.

“Leia? Is that your name?”

She lifted her head to look him in the eye and spoke primly, as only a child could.

“Eleya.”

She pronounced each syllable clearly and concisely, leaving him in no doubt as to what her name was.

“Eleya,” he echoed softly. “That’s a beautiful name. Now, if only we knew where your mummy and daddy are.”

At that, he felt a rippling shudder through the little girl’s body, and her tiny hands clutched at his jacket.

“Dada…”

She began to cry again, clutching at him tightly, desperately, as though terrified that he was going to vanish on her.

“What happened to you?” he wondered aloud. “Where’s your daddy?”

“Dada kun maya dumo,” Eleya sobbed. And then unexpectedly, she managed to speak a few words in broken English. “Dada gone. Bad men, Dada gone…”

She dissolved into a fresh flood of tears. Ianto promptly abandoned any concerns about holding her too tightly, and wrapped her up in a fierce hug.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered.

“Ianto?”

He looked up to find Owen had appeared, looking partly amused and partly irritated.

“Jack is going to skin you alive, mate.”

“Good luck to him with that,” Ianto retorted. “Look, she’s just a scared and lost little girl, Owen.”

“Who killed one man and disabled half a dozen others.”

“She felt threatened. And no, I’m not letting go of her so you can start poking and prodding her.”

Alex, who had come around the other side of Ianto and crouched down for a better look, reached out and stroked her matted hair in a tender gesture. The child turned her head to peer at Alex, who favoured the girl with a warm smile.

“Hello, sweetheart. You don’t have to be scared. We’re not going to hurt you.”

She then looked up at Ianto, still smiling.

“Good call, Mr Jones.”

Ianto grimaced.

“Thankyou, but Owen’s right. Jack is going to kill me.”

“You got that right.”

Ianto winced a little at Jack’s stern voice behind him.

“Jack…”

“Don’t, Ianto,” Jack growled. “We’ll discuss it later. Now, what have we got?”

“It’s just a little girl, Jack,” Tosh said quickly. “Just a scared little girl.”

“With a hell of a lot of power,” Jack added. “Don’t get carried away here, people. We still need to secure her and get her back to the Hub…”

His words were interrupted abruptly by a loud squeal from the bundle in Ianto’s arms. At the initial sound of Jack’s voice, Eleya had raised her face from where it was buried in Ianto’s shoulder, her eyes wide. She peeked over Ianto’s shoulder to identify the source of the new voice, and when she saw Jack she let out a wail and began to fight tooth and nail to escape from Ianto’s hold.

“What…?” Ianto stammered in confusion. “Eleya, what are you doing?”

She squirmed furiously, slipping out of his grasp, darting around him and barrelling straight towards Jack. The Captain was just reaching for his Webley in an instinctive reaction when the little girl collided with him, and he found himself with approximately two feet of child wrapped around his leg like a limpet.

“Looks like you've got an admirer, Jack,” Alex remarked. The expression on Jack's face told them all that he was markedly unimpressed. Getting up from where he'd been sitting on the floor, Ianto walked over and placed his hand on Eleya's shoulders, intending to detach her from Jack, but the little girl was having none of it. She clung even more tightly, and shrieked in protest.

“Nai! Nai!”

“Ianto!” Jack growled, but the young Welshman could only shrug.

“I'm sorry, Jack, but she doesn't want to be moved.”

Jack peered down at the child who was currently hugging his leg. She raised her eyes to his, and he felt a sharp jolt deep in his mind, like something inexplicable stirring. After a moment's consideration, he made up his mind, and leaned down to pick her up.

“What did you say her name was?” he asked.

“Eleya,” Ianto replied. “She doesn't seem to speak very much English, but I get the feeling that she understands quite well. And, she was very specific about her name.”

“Eleya,” Jack said softly, and Eleya peered up at Jack, her green eyes shining with visible joy.

“Dumia enna kun,” she said happily, before throwing her arms around his neck in a ferocious hug, startling Jack greatly. He exchanged looks with Ianto, and it took an enormous effort on Ianto's part not to simply burst out laughing. In the end, the only thing that kept him from doing just that was the growing wonder on Jack's face as he held Eleya in his arms. Whatever the reason behind it, Eleya had latched onto Jack and her trust in him seemed to be rock solid. That seemed to have registered with Jack, judging by the wave of emotion that Ianto was getting from him.

“Any idea what she's saying?” Ianto wondered, but Jack shook his head.

“I don't recognise the language, not completely. There are bits that sound like 51st century dialect, but it's mixed with another language that I don't understand.” He frowned as he shifted his grip on the child so that they were both a bit more comfortable. “I feel like I should know it, but I don't. Tosh, I'll need you to run your translation program when we get back to the Hub, and see if we can identify where she's from. Hopefully, it won't be too hard to get her home.”

“And in the meantime, you have yourself a new attachment,” Owen remarked dryly. Jack glowered at him.

“Don't, Owen. Just don't. Not now.”

The medic held his hands up defensively.

“You want me to give her the once over before we get out of here?”

Jack nodded.

“Yeah... and where are Gwen and Bobby?”

“Here,” Gwen called out somewhat breathlessly as she and Bobby finally came around the corner. “We found the dead man. Not the prettiest sight there... Oh, you found her...”

“Ianto and Toshiko found her,” Jack clarified. “And I'll be having a little chat with Mr Jones later about following proper procedure. But right now, if you wouldn't mind, Dr Harper?”

Owen stepped in and reached out towards the little girl. Her reaction was fairly explicit as she gave a frightened cry and buried her face in Jack's shoulder.

“It's okay,” Jack murmured, stroking her hair lightly and grimacing a little at the dirt that was caked through it. “Owen isn't going to hurt you. He just wants to make sure that you're not hurt. It's okay, I've got you.”

Eleya whimpered faintly and murmured a single word that brought them all up short.

“Dada.”

“Did she just call you Dada?” Alex asked incredulously. Jack looked marginally uncomfortable.

“It's just transference. She's latched on to me in place of her father. It's not unlike a bird that's just hatched.”

“You mean imprinting,” Bobby offered, and Jack nodded. Tosh, however, spoke up in puzzlement.

“But if that's what it is, wouldn't she have attached herself to Ianto?”

“Tosh is right,” Owen said, sounding entirely too gleeful for Jack's liking. “That isn't imprinting. This kid really thinks you're her daddy!”

Jack didn’t look like he knew whether to be amused or annoyed, and finally settled for something in between.

“Can we please get out of here, and get back to the Hub before anything else happens? I, for one, would like to find out who this kid really is, and where she’s from so that we can get her home.”

“Can we do that?” Bobby wondered as they began to head back towards the mall’s main entrance. “Send things back through the rift?”

“With specific coordinates, and this,” Jack said, indicating his vortex manipulator. “Yes, I can take her home myself, wherever home is.”

“Unless we’re talking about a parallel dimension,” Owen added. “In which case, we’re stuck with her.”

“In which case,” Jack said tersely, “we’ll deal with it somehow. We have procedures for cases like this... I just don’t ever recall needing to put them into action. If need be, I’ll call the Doctor and ask for his help… but I’d like to avoid that if I can. I think we can handle this on our own.”

“She certainly seems to have taken to you,” Alex commented, taking care to keep her tone gentle and non-confrontational. Jack couldn’t help but smile as he glanced down at the small bundle in his arms. The little girl was curled in against him, with her arms locked around his neck and her head on his shoulder. As he had confirmed to Ianto, he was not empathic at all, but he could literally feel the love and joy coming off her in waves. It was nearly overwhelming. He didn't understand it, but he wasn't going to reject it, either.

It had been a very long time since he'd encountered anyone — adult, child or otherwise — who had taken to him with such complete trust and, dare he even think it — love. He didn't know who this little girl was, but for some unfathomable reason, she already loved him unconditionally.

They emerged from the mall into the early morning light, and were immediately accosted by Kathy Swanson, who was eyeing Eleya as though she was booby-trapped.

“You aren’t seriously going to tell me that this is who’s responsible for the dead man in there, and my injured officers?” she asked incredulously. Jack twisted a little as he moved past her, strangely anxious to keep Eleya from being grabbed, poked or prodded by the detective.

“We haven’t determined anything yet, Kathy. But I’ll be sure to let you know.”

“Yeah, sure you will,” she retorted. “And what about the little girl? What are you going to do with her? Take her back to your little hidey hole, wherever that is?”

“As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Owen stated as Jack carried Eleya over to the SUV. “And you can do yourself a favour by forgetting about her. But don’t worry, the scene is secure... and we’re leaving you the body this time.”

By then, she was staring at him as though he’d grown a second head.

“You’re leaving us the body,” she echoed bluntly. “Well, isn’t that just so bloody generous of you!”

Jack grinned as he headed on towards the SUV.

“I thought so. But that’s me for you, isn’t it?”

“Damn it, Jack Harkness, come back here!” she bellowed after him. “That little girl needs proper care!” she protested. “You should be giving her over to human services, so that we can find her parents!”

“We'll take care of that,” Jack called back dismissively over his shoulder. She watched him go, shaking her head in disgusted frustration.

“Bloody Torchwood.”


Ianto was already at the SUV when Jack got there with Eleya. The Welshman favoured her with a warm smile, and she giggled softly in response.

“Anno.”

Jack raised an eyebrow bemusedly, and Ianto shrugged.

“She couldn't quite get her tongue around 'Ianto'. I tried to get her to call me Yan, but 'Anno' seemed to stick.”

“You told me you hate being called Yan,” Jack pouted.

“Yes, I do, when the one calling me that is a hundred and something year old immortal who should damned well know better. She, on the other hand, couldn't be older than two or three years. She gets dispensation. You don't.”

Jack jiggled Eleya very lightly.

“Anno's a big meanie, isn't he?”

It was Ianto's turn to raise an eyebrow as Eleya giggled wildly, and Jack just shrugged and grinned. His grin faded, though, when Ianto held out his hand.

“Keys, Jack.”

Jack opened his mouth to protest, but Ianto cut him off firmly.

“Eleya is clearly not about to let go of you anytime soon, sir, and the SUV is not equipped with child restraints. You are going to have to hold her.”

The Captain looked down at Eleya, who stared back up at him with a hopeful smile. He suspected that Ianto had been right in his earlier supposition that whilst Eleya didn’t speak much English, she did have a reasonable understanding of what she was hearing.

“How about it, sweetheart?” he asked. “Do you want to sit on my lap?”

Ianto rolled his eyes as he climbed in behind the steering wheel.

“That would be obscene if you weren’t holding an infant. In fact, I’m not sure that it isn’t anyway.”

Jack shook his head as he got in, and settled Eleya on his lap before pulling the seatbelt securely around them both.

“And you accuse me of having a filthy mind.”

“Doorun maya kunjin, Dada?” Eleya asked excitedly. Jack sighed and stroked her cheek lightly.

“We’re going to have to try and teach you some English, sweetheart. Then we might be able to find out who your daddy really is.”

“She seems pretty sure that it’s you,” Alex remarked as she settled into the SUV beside Jack and Eleya. Jack, however, shook his head.

“Maybe I look like him, and that’s why she’s fixed on me.”

“It’s probably just as well,” Bobby mused. “I overheard Owen listing the tests that he wants to run on her when we get back. You might be the only hope she has of staying calm. Especially if she really did do that to that man in the toy shop.”

Jack looked up at Bobby sharply, but there was no condemnation in Bobby’s expression. He caught the look that Jack was giving him, and spoke quietly.

“I think she did do it, but she did it out of fear. Look at her left wrist, Jack. That’s a hand-shaped bruise coming up. I’d say the dead guy tried to grab her… I noticed he had a bite mark on his hand, so I’m guessing that she bit him to make him let go of her. And there’s a bruise on her cheek. He probably slapped her when she bit him. She was frightened, and I don’t think she was in full control of what she did.”

“She managed to get a few words of English out while Tosh was calling all of you,” Ianto piped up. “She said that her daddy was gone. She also said ‘bad men’. I’d say that she and her father were being chased, and they’ve gotten separated somehow.”

Jack frowned.

“If that’s what happened, then she only acted in self-defence. Even if the dead guy didn’t mean to hurt her, there’s no way she could have understood that, and if he did hit her… But then, that begs the question of who is chasing her?”

“And are they going to show up here?” Alex added grimly. Silence fell, as each one of them thought the same thing. They hoped not. They really hoped not.


The trip back to the Hub was filled with childish laughter as Jack unsuccessfully tried to egg Ianto into going faster, in order to beat Owen back. Ianto steadfastly ignored Jack as the Captain alternated between taunts and pleas in an effort to get the younger man to speed up. In the end, Jack was silenced when Ianto snapped at him that he might be immortal but the rest of them, and in particular the little girl on his lap, were not, and would he kindly shut up before they had an accident.

Visibly and thoroughly chastened, Jack fell into a doleful silence until Eleya twisted around on his lap and stretched up to kiss him on the cheek.

“Dono arri, Dada,” she told him sweetly, and again Jack was taken aback by the love and trust in the little girl’s eyes. Never before had he experienced that sort of complete faith from someone else except, perhaps, with… But, no. He was not going down that path with his memories. It was far too painful.

And despite his whole-hearted attempts to maintain a professional stance, by the time the SUV pulled up at the Hub, Jack had fallen head over heels for the little girl who so steadfastly believed that he was her precious daddy.

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