: And the end.
Stay tuned for "88719"!
Gwen and Seo had gotten split up, at some point in the chase. Gwen had managed to distract the alien, so it chased after her, letting Seo go free, then raced down towards the freezers, heart beating in her mouth.
It snarled and growled at her, leaping into the freezer vaults, its eyes narrow slits and its jaw oozing saliva. Gwen could remember some of the hiding spots Jack had used to hide those alien guns of his, but every time she tried to get her hands on one, she found the weapon wasn't where she thought Jack had hidden it.
Then her mobile rang.
Gwen reached down, picked it up. "Jack, can't talk," she hissed. "I'm down here, in the freezers, and—"
"It's a set up," said Jack, over the phone. "It's not Seo's birthday. There are no aliens coming through the rift. Seo's been tricking us all, to get us out of the Hub."
Gwen felt her blood freeze. "Tricking us all?"
"If she doesn't want me and Buffy there," Jack said, "there's a reason. And I'm betting it's because… whatever she wants to do, there's less than a fifty percent chance it'll work."
And Gwen realized… when the alarm had first sounded, Seo had been the one to get to the computers. Far before Gwen did. Get to the computers… and type something. Which she shouldn't have needed to do, because the surveillance footage was already up, on the next screen over.
Seo had triggered the alarm, remotely. While she and Gwen had been struggling for the gun. Then used the distraction of the alarm to get over to the computers and release the alien from the cells, herself.
Gwen heard a sharp clang, behind her, and spun around, just in time to see the freezer door clang shut.
"Jack," said Gwen. "She's trapped me down here with that Xengoftrizoid we carted in, this morning. She disabled my gun, so I can't—"
"Wait, the Xengoftrizoid?" said Jack. In the background, someone who sounded like Owen was talking, very animatedly. Then, Jack, into the phone, "Gwen. The Xengoftrizoid. It's harmless."
Gwen stared at the huge alien before her. "What?!"
"It's in the Torchwood cells because it's loud, not dangerous," said Jack. "And this one's about to give birth. We were trying to contain the noise, so we didn't scare off the city of Cardiff, when the birth finally happened."
Gwen shook her head. "No," she insisted. "But… it… it was chasing me, and…"
Jack sighed. "Reach into your pocket," he said. "Take out the chocolate that Seo must have slipped in there. And the Xengoftrizoid will stop chasing you."
Gwen reached into her pocket. And discovered a small, wrapped up little chocolate ball.
The Xengoftrizoid sniffed the air, then howled with an ear-piercing howl. Then raced over to Gwen and began making dog-like begging noises, pleading for the candy.
Gwen… unsteadily… unwrapped the chocolate, and gave it to the alien.
Feeling supremely stupid.
She'd been afraid of Seo, just because she was alien. And she'd been afraid of this thing, just because it was alien. She'd been set up, and used, and had been exposed as the terrified amateur she really was.
"All right," said Gwen. "This is my fault. I was afraid of her, and she used that against me."
"Doesn't matter," Jack dismissed. "Just get up there and stop her, before she does something stupid that she can't take back. Now!"
"Working on it!" shouted Gwen, ramming her shoulder against the freezer door.
"And don't let her lock down the hub!" Jack added. Then, muttering under his breath, "She always
"I said I'm working on it!" Gwen repeated, then hung up. Rammed her shoulder against the freezer door, again, then a third time, then a fourth. Trying to dismiss the fact that she'd been warned, specifically, that Seo would do this to her, and she'd walked into the trap, anyways.
The seventh time, she managed to force the door open, a crack.
The Xengoftrizoid sniffed the air. Smelling the residues of chocolate. And in one leap, jumped forward, dislodging the door, and bounding back towards the center of the hub.
Gwen sprinted after it.
She was expecting the Xengoftrizoid to race into the main Hub area, but it turned out, Seo had already thought of that. A cluster of Ianto's chocolates were lying out for the Xengoftrizoid, in its cell. It was currently back where it was supposed to be, snarfing up the candies as if there were no tomorrow.
Gwen could hear talking, from the main cell area.
Gwen finally found one of the weapons Jack had hidden, earlier. The only one still left where it was supposed to be. She grabbed it, charging up the steps two at a time, and emerging into the Hub area, gun in hand.
She stopped, in the doorway.
There, standing by a faintly glowing rift manipulator, her head bowed, was Seo.
She was holding a small flower in her hands.
"—and I know it's stupid," Seo was saying. "Everyone else will think I'm thick for doing it. But… just… standing here…" She swallowed, then looked up at the manipulator. "It feels like I'm closer to you, somehow."
Gwen lowered the gun.
"I'm ninety nine, tomorrow," Seo said. Her voice trembled. "One more year until a hundred. Ninety nine, and… I'm free. Out here, in the big world. I'm free, and… and… and I don't know what to do, Dad! I don't…" She took a deep breath. "You were right. It's beautiful out here. And brilliant. And wonderful. But… it's… scary. Humans are scary." She closed her eyes. "Suzie's gone, now, but there's this… Gwen. Gwen Cooper. And I'm terrified of her. I know I shouldn't be, because everyone likes her, and she seems really nice, but…" She swallowed. "I'm not brave, Dad. Not like you thought I was."
Gwen felt the anger and worry fade from her. As she watched the girl in front of her, talking, as if at a graveside, to the rift manipulator.
"Dad," Seo repeated, and the word echoed through the Hub. Echoed with pain and desperation and loneliness. "It's my birthday, Dad. My first birthday where… you're not here. First birthday where you're… gone. Gone forever."
Something in Gwen's heart broke, as she heard these words.
"I miss you, so much, it hurts," Seo whispered, and a tear rolled down her cheeks. She put a hand up against the machine. "I… I just wish…"
Gwen looked on, feeling any vestiges of fear, terror, anger, or worry leave her, in an instant.
As the girl lowered her head, and stifled a sob, standing by the rift manipulator.
"I'm sorry, Dad," she said. Dropping the flower. "I'm so sorry."
The gun fell out of Gwen's hand, and clattered onto the ground.
Seo spun around, and gasped, starting out of her reverie. The rift manipulator stopped glowing, behind her, and the Hub went deathly quiet.
Seo's mouth opened and closed a few times, as she tried, desperately, to find something to say.
"I'm not afraid of you," Seo said, very quickly. She wiped the tears from her eyes. "I… everything you saw… everything you heard… I don't really feel that way! It was all just… a joke." She gave an uneasy laugh. "See? Funny."
The laughter died away.
Into the desperate sadness that still creased her face.
She really was turning ninety-nine, tomorrow. She hadn't lied about that. And the reason she'd chased them all away from the Hub was because — she was just what Owen had said. A teenager. Embarrassed to want to leave flowers at what she considered — for some reason — to be her dad's graveside. Embarrassed to let anyone else hear the truth about how she felt.
"I… I'm sorry," said Gwen. "About your dad."
Then, seeing the girl's lower jaw shake, Gwen stepped forward, and wrapped Seo up in a tight hug. Seo's eyes leaking salty tears, as she crumpled into Gwen, unable to contain heartfelt sobbing, unable to contain the way she clung to her — just because Gwen had reached out, and Seo had reached back.
That was all she'd wanted.
Someone to reach out.
"You don't have to be afraid," Gwen told her. "I'm here. I can help. Promise."
Holding her, just like she was a normal human. Just like Gwen would do for anyone in this kind of terror and emotional pain. Anyone that just needed a hug and a hand to hold.
Owen was wrong.
Being a young girl, who didn't understand the world, who made mistakes and got embarrassed and didn't want to admit she was scared — that wasn't what made her terrifying.
That was what made her part-human.
A growl, from their left.
Seo's head snapped up, as she noticed the Xengoftrizoid, stalking towards them. Its eyes fixed, squarely, on the cluster of Torchwood computers, still blinking merrily away.
And the tray of Ianto's chocolates. Lying on top of one of the computers.
Seo's eyes went wide. As she realized… she'd forgotten to close the cell door, when she'd left the Xengoftrizoid eating chocolates.
"Oops," she said.
And, before anyone could stop him, the Xengoftrizoid barreled through the Torchwood computers, sparks flying around him, as he crushed them underfoot.
Seo grabbed at a control on the wall, yanked it down.
Every door in the Hub sealed itself. The power died.
And the Hub plunged into lockdown.
Seo and Gwen had finally gotten the Xengoftrizoid back into its cell. Which was a lot more difficult, after all the chocolates had been eaten. Because, while the Xengoftrizoid was, indeed, harmless, it was also stubborn, annoying, and very difficult to get to do what you wanted it to.
But they'd managed. Somehow or other.
At the end of it all, Gwen, feeling somewhat exhausted from the day's events, collapsed into a chair, by the torn-up computer banks. Her head still spinning from what had just happened, what she'd just learned about this odd, almost impossible girl she'd met.
The girl who'd wanted to spend her birthday with a Dad who'd died, according to Seo, in some distant dimension.
Seo stepped across the debris, towards Gwen, a smile planted on her face. But Gwen could see past the chipper exterior, now, see a hint of everything that was running through the girl's mind. The pain, the worry, the fear, the excitement and the sorrow and…
That deep, deep sense of compassion for those around her.
"What are you doing?" Seo asked. She grabbed Gwen up by the hand, and tugged her to her feet. "We can't just rest! We've got a computer bank to fix!" She gestured at the torn up computers.
Gwen stared at her, confused. "What?"
"I told you," Seo said, handing Gwen a potato hooked into a weird-looking device, clearly designed to generate power, then bending down and getting to work. "If we destroy something we have to fix it. And if we don't want to get into trouble for breaking it in the first place, then we have to make sure it's working just the way it was, before, by the time the lockdown ends and everyone else can get back into the Hub!" She gestured at Gwen. "Now help me with this!"
Outside the Hub, in the tourist information center, Jack, Owen, and Tosh burst through the door to discover Ianto and Buffy standing by the back exit. The closed, locked-down back exit. Which should lead them from the Tourist Information Center straight down into Torchwood.
Jack sighed. "Let me guess," he said. "Seo's broken something, again."
"Typical," Buffy sighed.
"Typical," Ianto agreed.