Jack must have heard both of them, but he didn’t react. He stepped closer to the creature, reloading his Webley with rounds from his pocket. The long, poisonous feelers whipped out and caught him around the shoulders and neck. He yelped in pain, but his gun was loaded again. He fired rapidly, stepping closer and closer to the queen. The paralysing venom was affecting him. His steps were slower and harder, but he pressed forwards until he could actually touch the queen.

“Die, @*#%$,” he screamed over her screeching cries and pushed with all his strength. The remaining glass and framework in the round window shattered as the queen fell back through it, her cry of desperation melding with Jack’s as they both plunged to the ground far below.

“Oh, &@#!$%,” Li cried out as the two bodies hit the ground below with a wet splattering sound rather than a bone-crunching crash.

“Let’s get down there, quickly,” Kristoph added. The two Time Lords moved much faster than any Human would on the concrete stairwell. Neither was out of breath when they reached the ground floor of the silo. They didn’t pause before running out through the old railway siding.

Jack’s body was twisted and broken from the fall. He had landed a few feet away from the Gebellian queen on the rough, weed-infested and stony ground where the train lines used to pass under the silo. His eyes were wide open, paralysed by the venom before death came from the fall.

The Gebellian queen was dead, too. Her outer carapace cracked on impact. The soft inner tissue was crushed. A nasty smelling ichor was pooling on the ground.

Kristoph looked around. There was a high brick wall between them and Regent Road where traffic passed by. Though the glass smashing and bodies falling from the window had to have been witnessed, the aftermath was hidden from view.

He looked at the future-manufactured weapon in his hand. It had a couple of other modes as well as machine gun. One of them was a very effective flame thrower. He aimed it at the Gebellian queen’s revolting body. A few minutes later there was a nasty scorch mark on the floor and a really disgusting smell of burnt insect, but that would quickly dispel.

The problem was the sound of police sirens drawing close. Kristoph got ready to make up the best possible cover story for their presence and the dead body of Jack Harkness.

He didn’t have to worry about the latter. Jack took a deep, ragged breath and uttered a very colourful Andromedan spaceport swear word as he sat up.

“Muscle paralysing venom,” he added. “I ache all over.” He managed to look around as two policemen cautiously approached the scene, noting the weapons all three men held. Kristoph passed his gun to Li and stepped in front of them and smile disarmingly.

“It’s all right, officers. There’s nothing to be worried about, here. We’re from the BBC drama department. Some people must have seen our very successful falling stunt and got the wrong idea.”

“BBC?” the officers queried. But Kristoph’s Power of Suggestion was winning them over and blinding them to obvious questions like ‘where are the cameras, then?’

“Wait until you see it in context, with post-production special effects added,” Jack said, pulling himself to his feet. “It’ll be stupendous. Great idea to use a real urban decay location like this. Way better than green screen fakery. But I hope it worked first take. I don’t feel like going up there and doing it again.”

“Your department should have been informed,” Kristoph told the police officers. “We have all the permits from the City Council and the property owners. There must have been some missed communications. Sorry about that. We’re about finished for today. We’ll be out of the way very soon.”

“That’s… quite all right, sir,” the senior of the two policemen said. “Take all the time you need.”

They left. Jack Harkness again swore dramatically and stretched his limbs.

“That was a lie worthy of Torchwood itself,” he said. “We make a pretty good team.”

“We give the appearance of a team.” Kristoph responded. “But we still stand at opposite poles as long as you work for that organisation.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Jack conceded. “If it’s all the same to you, though, would it be ok if I called my people to do the clean up in the silo. There are a hundred or so Gebellian bodies turning nasty in there.”

“I think that is a very good idea,” Li said. “Call them as soon as possible. Remind them that there are some Human bodies that the queen was feeding on prior to hatching. They will need to be dealt with appropriately.”

“It’s one of the things we do best,” Jack assured him, reaching for a mobile phone and finding the reception difficult in the shadow of the huge, empty buildings around him. “Right now I could do with a cup of that Chinese tea you do and possibly a quick shower to get the Gebellian mingingness out of my hair. How about we head back to your place?”

Li accepted that as a proposal. The drive back to Chinatown was a quiet one. Everyone had something to reflect upon after their encounter with that unpleasant alien species. When they returned to the herbalist shop, Kristoph and Li sat in the pagoda in the garden while Jack showered. There was still much they had to talk about.

“You still have the killer instinct when it is needed,” Li told Kristoph. “I don’t think you should be ashamed of that. We saved this city – indeed the whole planet, the Human race in its naivety about the universe - from a gruesome fate. You have every right to be proud of that.”

“I am,” Kristoph admitted. “But I don’t think I’ll be telling Marion about this adventure. It’s not that she has any qualms about my past career, but I know she prefers to be married to the Peacemaker than the Executioner.”

“Then what Marion doesn’t know won’t hurt her. It is just one of many secrets you must, of necessity keep from her.”

“Indeed,” Kristoph agreed. There was a thoughtful pause, and then Li spoke of Lily for the first time since they left the garden a few hours ago. Now that the Gebellian crisis was over his grief came back to the forefront of his thoughts. He spoke of his sorrow about the way events had come to pass. Of course, neither he nor Lily had ever thought about the consequences of their love affair in those terms. They would never have imagined themselves as parents of a child. Even so….

“Oh, Jeez,” Jack Harkness said. Both men looked around in surprise. They had not heard him come into the garden. He stood there now, on the edge of the wooden pagoda floor, dressed in a Chinese silk shirt and trousers combination that gave an exotic flavour to his usual handsome appearance. The young women of Liverpool Chinatown – and possibly some of the men – would have been in trouble if he was in the mood for that sort of mischief, but his expression was uncharacteristically serious. “That’s the news you came here, with? That’s what was going on here…. I’m sorry, I really am. I mean, that’s a rough thing for anyone to have to deal with. Is she… Lady Lily… I remember her from that time with the Rift in Cardiff. She is a real Lady. I hope she’s doing all right.”

“She’s doing as well as can be expected,” Kristoph answered.

“Your sympathy is appreciated, Captain Harkness,” Li added. “And your tact in not drawing attention to our advanced age, given the nature of her trouble. My thanks.”

“But you’re going to see her aren’t you?” Jack added. He looked at Kristoph. “I mean… that’s why you’re here, isn’t it? Not just to break the news. You’re going to give him a ride back to your planet to see her? If it was me… in that sort of situation… I’d want to be there. I’d want her to know I care… and a videophone message doesn’t do it like being able to hold her hand and kiss her and tell her you know how she’s feeling and….”

Kristoph and Li were both surprised by the tumble of words from Jack Harkness. Everything they knew about him suggested that relationships with either gender were easy and consequence-free as far as his heart was concerned, but he had put his finger right on the core of the problem for Li.

“I can’t,” Kristoph admitted. “Li is banished from Gallifrey. He can never return there on pain of death.”

Jack used yet another colourful spaceport expletive.

“Can’t you do something?” he asked Kristoph. “I thought you were pretty important in your government. Can’t you reason with the top banana about this?”

“I AM the ‘top banana’,” Kristoph answered. “But I cannot ride roughshod over our laws for the sake of personal friendship. Quite apart from the trouble my political enemies would create, it would debase the Lord High Presidency and reduce all of our laws to mere ashes blowing in the wind.”

“Wow,” Jack Harkness responded. “All of that just to let one guy have a compassionate visit to his sick girlfriend?”

“You do not understand, my friend,” Li told him. “I could not… I would not… ask Kristoph to risk his reputation for me. As much as I would cherish a chance to be with my Lily at this sorrowful time the consequences of my setting foot on Gallifreyan soil would be too far-reaching.”

“So don’t tell anyone,” Jack said.

“It isn’t as simple as that,” Kristoph pointed out. “Even the Lord High President’s TARDIS has to pass through the Transduction Barrier. Any passengers must be declared. And they have probes that can determine if a false declaration has been made.”

“Probes can’t penetrate a Zero Room,” Jack responded. “Does your TARDIS have one of those?”

“How do you know about Zero Rooms?” Li asked.

“You two aren’t the only Time Lords I’ve crossed paths with,” Jack reminded them. “The one I knew… who I hope to know again in the future… the one who showed me how to be a better man than I was before we met….”

Again there was an uncharacteristic earnestness in the tone of Jack’s voice. Li and Kristoph both had a slight idea what he was talking about but they didn’t press him about it.

“Well, anyway, my point is, I’ve been in a TARDIS. His one didn’t actually have a Zero Room. There was a Zero Cabinet and some kind of long story about having to jettison rooms one time. But the point is, a Zero Room is impervious to probes, transmat beams, Jehovah’s Witnesses calling with the Good News… whatever. And if you two are such good mates as you say, and if you both care about Lady Lily, then I’m surprised you don’t give it a go, and to hell with the Laws of Gallifrey.”

Kristoph and Li looked at each other for a long, thoughtful moment, then at Captain Harkness.

“It could work,” Kristoph admitted.

“It could,” Li agreed.

“Then do it,” Jack exhorted them. “Go on, get on with it. I’ll hold the fort here, if you’re worried about the shop. I’m dressed for it, after all. And I have to wait for the clean-up team anyway. Give my regards to Lady Marion while you’re at it.”

“You know very well I would prefer not to mention your name to Marion,” Kristoph answered him. “You confuse her mind in very disturbing ways.”

“Please yourself,” Jack responded. “But you know I’m right about the rest of it.”

“Yes, you are,” Kristoph admitted. “Li….”

“I am ready,” he said. “We will risk it together. Captain Harkness, I will speak to you again, I am sure.”

The two men left Jack Harkness in the Chinese Garden. The sound of the TARDIS parked at the far end of the street dematerialising caught the very edge of his hearing only because he was straining to hear it. Jack nodded in satisfaction and took a sip of green tea. It wasn’t as good as a glass of good liquor, but it was a satisfying brew in its own way.

On the southern continent of Gallifrey, Marion sat on the terrace of Maison D’Alba in the dying light of a long day. She wasn’t needed at Lily’s side just now.

Kristoph came out to join her. Marion hugged her husband fondly.

“Thank you for bringing him, despite all the risk involved. It is the tonic Lily needed most, for all of your mother’s herbal preparations.”

“It’s not me you have to thank,” Kristoph admitted. “But our old friend Captain Harkness. He reminded us both that some things are more important than legal technicalities. He sends his regards to you, my dear. ‘Regards’ is, of course, a euphemism for his peculiar adoration of you, which I, as your husband, am doing my best not to be jealous about.”

“No need to be jealous,” Marion assured her. “You are the man I love. But I think we can all spare a kind thought for Captain Jack Harkness from time to time.”

“Of course, we can,” Kristoph agreed.