Ianto was idly watching the CCTV cameras behind his desk that looked, to all intents and purposes like the desk of a rather disorganised tourist office. He smiled as he watched tourists wandering about Roald Dahl plas and along the waterfront. He could hear their footsteps on the boardwalk above his office and see them getting their pictures taken by the fountain. He could see their lips moving as they tried to pronounce the Welsh words on the beautiful façade of the Millennium Centre.
“Creu Gwir fel gwydr o ffwrnais awen, you daft muppets,” he laughed, and reflected that he wouldn’t make a very good tourist office manager really. He didn’t even like tourists.
Then he noticed that the tourists had stopped milling around aimlessly and all seemed to be moving in the same direction. Their cameras were all snapping the same thing. He pressed the button that moved the CCTV camera around until it focussed on the waterside.
“Fucking hell!” he swore and reached for the phone.
“Boss, you’d better check this out,” he said.
Captain Jack Harkness checked it out and then he went to deal with it.
He stood on the paving slab, hidden within the perception filter. There must have been a hundred people in the plas but not one of them noticed him. Not so much because of the perception filter as because none of them were looking that direction anyway. Jack watched the focus of their attention as he walked along, the crowd parting to allow him to pass. Wet footprints and water dripping from his naked body left a trail from where he had climbed out of the water.
He was definitely a HE. Jack was not the only one who noticed that this was a male of whatever species he actually turned out to be. He had all of the right equipment in the right place, and in the sort of proportions that would usually be of primary interest to him.
But right now he wasn’t thinking about sex. Contrary to popular belief he could go for hours without doing so. And when he was looking at a five-foot six, pale green humanoid with webbed feet and hands, and tears rolling down his face he wasn’t thinking of trying to have sex with him.
At least not yet, anyway.
He stepped off the paving slab, pulling a small plastic wallet from his coat pocket. He didn’t use the old psychic paper trick much these days. But it never failed. This time it might just as well have stayed as a piece of grubby blank paper in the wallet. All he had to do was wave it and speak as if he was somebody in authority. Even the two police constables who were drifting towards the scene backed off.
“All right, big fella,” Jack said as he slipped off his WWII RAF coat and put it around the shoulders of the weeping figure. “You look like you could use a drink. What would you prefer? Tea, coffee? Martini? We’ll see what we can find anyway.”
He turned and steered him back towards the pavement lift. He was still weeping, though he seemed to have taken some comfort from the friendly tone of Jack’s voice and apparently trusted him not to harm him.
“Yeah,” Jack said. “And listen, I’m trusting you to be a good web-footed non-Human and not grow fangs and claws and try to eat me in a minute, ok.”
The non-Human looked at him with green eyes that had no whites and only a pin-prick of a pupil. He wasn’t sure if he understood him or not.
“What the bloody hell is that?” Owen asked as he stepped off the lift and walked with his charge into the main body of the Hub. Toshiko turned and stared as well, so did Gwen as she stepped away from her workstation and came to see if she could help.
“Hot cup of tea,” Jack suggested. Gwen sighed. She had made most of the tea in the police station. Now she was expected to do it here.
But she did it anyway. She put lots of sugar in it. She wasn’t sure, but she had a feeling the alien, she assumed it WAS an alien, would like the tea sweet.
Jack had sat the alien down in his big chair in his office. He was sitting on the edge of the desk looking at him.
“Here you are,” Gwen said, offering the mug to the alien. He looked up at her and seemed puzzled at first, then he reached out his hands and took the cup and sipped the tea. He seemed not to notice that it was boiling hot and kept on drinking until the big mug was empty. Gwen took the mug back. The alien looked at her and smiled a watery smile through his tears.
“Seems kind of sweet,” Gwen said. “He’s not going to grow fangs and claws and try to eat us, is he?”
“I told him not to do that,” Jack answered her. He looked at the alien again. “Can you talk to me?” he asked.
Jack was surprised when the alien began to talk. So was Gwen, but to her the language was just meaningless hisses and clicks. Jack, to her astonishment, began to reply to the alien in the same language.
“How do you do that?” she asked.
“Just a trick I picked up,” he answered.
Another gift from his mysterious past. He could understand just about any language, written or spoken.
His name is G’Teir’el, I think I’ll call him Terry for short. But he’s a little confused. He doesn’t entirely know how he got here. I think he had a bang on the head and he’s feeling a bit out of sorts. I think it might come back to him when he’s feeling better.”
“Look,” Gwen said, pointing to his hands. The translucent webbing between them seemed to be dissolving and he was taking on a pinker hue, far more Human.
“I’m still not sure what his species is,” Jack said. “But it looks like they’re amphibious and morphic. Seems like they look more like us out of the water.”
“Man from Atlantis,” Owen said, standing at the door and watching the transformation.
“Come again?” Gwen turned and looked at him.
“Telly programme in the 1970s,” he explained. “About a bloke with webbed hands and feet who could swim underwater without breathing.”
“Seeing as you weren’t born until the 1980s, it’s a little sad that you know that, Owen,” Jack replied. “But he hasn’t GOT webbed hands and feet now, and he’s NOT The Man From Atlantis.” Jack smiled at what now looked like a normal Human of about 20 years of age. “He’s a lot better looking, for a start.”
“No claws and fangs, anyway,” Gwen commented.
“Well, I’d like to get some blood samples and run some tests on him,” Owen said. “We might have a better idea about him then.”
“Jack,” Toshiko came to the door as well. She held out a bundle of folded cloth. One of the white, all in one outfits they used when going into possibly hazardous environments. “For him to wear. I suppose you want your coat back some time.”
Jack took the clothes and looked at the audience that had gathered in the doorway. The only one not being nosy at their guest was Ianto, dutifully manning the front desk.
“Fuck off the lot of you,” Jack said. “I’ll bring him to be your lab rat in a minute. Go and make yourselves useful meantime.”
They all moved back to their workstations, but keeping an eye on Jack’s office, just in case the claws and fangs emerged after all. Gwen and Toshiko especially found it hard to look anywhere else. Gentle Jack acting the big brother to a confused teenage alien, helping him to dress, was a new side to him.
Or not. They all still knew so little about him. Maybe sensitive and kind WERE traits that could be applied to him.
“Ok,” he said at last. “Stand back, I’m bringing him out now.” And he came out of the office with the decently dressed alien looking dazed and confused but apparently trusting him. “Owen, you can take your blood tests now, and whatever else you need to do.”
Owen took more than blood tests. He took skin and hair samples, a throat swab, x-rays and full body scans and measurements of his whole body from height, chest size, cranial size, inside leg measurement. Terry submitted to all of it, but he looked at Jack in a hurt way as it was being done. He tried to reassure him, speaking to him in his own language, to the bewilderment of his colleagues.
“Just one more test,” Owen said and he held an ophthalmic meter to his eye and pressed a button causing a small bright flash. Terry’s tiny pupil disappeared altogether and he uttered a pained cry. Jack stepped forward and pushed Owen away from him. He hugged him tightly and looked as if he would hit the next person to come near them.
“Ok, that’s definitely enough,” Gwen decided. “If he was going to develop fangs he’d have done it by now. He looks worn out, poor thing.”
“He can get some kip in the cells,” Owen said.
“You’re not putting him in a cell?” Gwen protested. Toshiko, too, looked at Terry. He looked frightened and vulnerable. His eyes were the only part of him that looked alien now, and they seemed to add to his rather pathetic look.
“He’s just a scared kid,” she said.
“He is that,” Jack said. “He’s the equivalent age of about nineteen in our years. And he’s NOT going in a cell with a rabid bloody weevil snarling at him from next door.”
“He’s an alien,” Owen protested. “He should go into the cells until we know more about him. How dangerous he is, or what use we could get from him.”
“Owen, just fuck off and leave him alone,” Jack snapped at him. “Terry is in my charge. I’ll take care of him.”
Owen fucked off, at least as far as his workstation. Jack went to the corner of his office and opened up the round cover set in the floor. Below was another room, Jack’s own living quarters. Nobody was entirely sure if he lived there permanently or if it was just a handy place to doss down when they were on a case, but he had a bed and a few home comforts down there.
He reached out his hand to Terry and he came dutifully. He climbed the ladder down into the room and Jack followed. Gwen stepped closer and looked down at him as he put the alien to bed and watched by his side until he fell asleep.
“You were so sweet with him,” she said when he emerged, leaving the cover open.
“He’s lost and alone,” Jack replied. “What am I supposed to do? Bully him? Use him for experiments like Owen?”
“The tests were necessary,” Toshiko said in defence of her colleague who was too engrossed in examining Terry’s blood to answer for himself.
“Maybe they were,” Jack said. “But that doesn’t mean we have to treat him like a specimen.”
“We don’t have to treat him like our adopted kid brother, either,” Owen responded. “Whatever he is, he’s ALIEN, and generally speaking our job is to protect Humans against aliens, not the other way around.”
“Not all aliens are bad,” Jack retorted. “We’d all be in really deep shit without ONE alien at least.”
“What?” The whole team looked at Jack and waited for him to expand on that comment, but there was nothing forthcoming. Chalk up another unexplained Jack mystery. Jack went back to his office and starting working at his computer terminal. Toshiko and Gwen continued the assignment they were on before Terry arrived in their midst, plotting the occurrences of UFO sightings in the Glamorgan area over the past six months. Owen set to work analysing Terry’s blood and skin samples.
Gwen and Toshiko were the first to pack up and leave. Owen heard Tosh ask Gwen if she fancied a drink before she went home to her boyfriend’s attempt at cuisine.
Owen felt a little miffed that they didn’t include him. Ok, the unwritten rule was you didn’t get off with team-mates, but being seen with both of them might enhance his general pulling power.
He was even more miffed when he saw another couple set off out. He stared at Jack looking smart casual in his chinos and a pressed shirt, and the alien in blue jeans and t-shirt and matching jacket. Jack handed him a pair of sunglasses to go over his alien eyes as they stepped out together.
“Bloody idiot,” he muttered and turned back to his microscope, where he had just worked out something surprising about Terry’s DNA. “He’ll just have to find out the hard way.” Owen wrote a quick note and left it on Jack’s desk and then he walked out through the faux tourist office, hardly answering Ianto’s cheery goodnight.
Gwen had phoned Rhys and told him she was going to be late. He complained that the lasagne would dry up but she promised to enjoy it anyway. And she told herself she would. But for now she was enjoying a girl’s night out with Toshiko. They had something of a bond between them as the two females working with three men. They enjoyed an alcohol enhanced giggle about their workmates, which inevitably fell on the one question that any after hours discussion of the personnel in any office in the universe will fall upon.
“Marks out of 10 for shagability,” Tosh laughed. “Ianto.”
“7,” Gwen said. “He’s cute. But a bit too diffident. I think he’d take too long to warm up.”
“I’d give him 8,” Tosh said. “I’ve seen him without his shirt on. What about Owen?”
“4,” Gwen answered. “He’d probably be GOOD in bed. But he’s so up himself he’d enjoy it more than me.”
“Yeah,” Tosh agreed. “And then there’s…. JACK.”
“20,” Gwen said without hesitation. “30.”
“50!” Both girls giggled into their drinks.
“He never would though,” Tosh sighed.
“Look,” Gwen touched her on the arm and she turned to look at the two people who had come into the bar.
“Oh my…” Tosh stared as Jack walked past them without even appearing to recognise them. Terry was hanging onto his arm like he was his date for the evening, smiling nervously, and a little bit phased by the noise of the busy pub. Jack bought drinks and took him to an alcove at the back of the pub.
“Should we let him know we’re here?” Gwen asked. “Maybe we should hook up… a foursome, two couples… might look less….”
“No,” Tosh insisted. “Finish your drink and let’s find another pub. Those two want to be alone.”
“I’m positive. Jack’s on the pull.”
“You mean he intends to…”
“I’d say so,” Tosh said as they found their handbags and headed out.
“You saw Terry when he was walking through the plas. He’s got all the parts in all the right places. He’s pretty shaggable if you like younger men.”
“But he’s an alien.”
“I don’t think that would matter to Jack. Besides, I have wondered sometimes if maybe JACK isn’t an alien himself.”
“That’s a scary thought.”
“I don’t know. We just gave him 50 out of 10 for shaggability. So it’s too late to be fussy.”
“Yes, we did, didn’t we.” Gwen thought about it. And she remembered what he had said earlier.
“Not all aliens are bad. We’d all be in really deep shit without ONE alien at least.”
Jack had seen them. He had pretended not to notice and hoped they wouldn’t come over. Yes, he wanted to be alone with Terry. Not JUST because he had all the right parts in the right places, and he had definitely planned on seducing him into some inter-species fun later. But also because he wanted to find out more about him.
“Alcohol doesn’t affect you then?” He watched in fascination as Terry drank a double neat scotch as if it was water. He sipped his own drink and tried for a way to probe him about his background. Where did he come from, how did he get to Earth? Were there more of his kind in Cardiff bay?
And it was as if the floodgates opened. Jack was glad the pub was a little noisy because it covered the sound of Terry’s alien language as he began to talk quickly.
“Let me write some of it down,” Jack said and took out his PDA. Then he stopped. Yes, this was important information. Of course it was. But the only reason Terry was talking now, here in the pub, was that he felt he was with a friend, not an interrogator.
He got enough, anyway. Terry came from a planet in what would be the Leo constellation as seen from Earth. His people were, indeed, both amphibious and morphic. They were directly descended from fish, not from apes as Humans are. They had great cities underwater. NONE of them, Jack noted, were called Atlantis or anything resembling that name. They had other cities on the land. Terry came from a place by the sea that sounded a lot like San Francisco by the description he gave of it, except that his species didn’t wear clothes.
Jack tried NOT to think about a city the size of San Francisco with beautiful naked people going about their business.
“And what are you doing here then?” Jack asked. “Were you looking for ancestors in Earth’s sea or something?” He listened as Terry explained his presence.
He was a student, on a field trip. He was supposed to be with thirty others of his people from the university in that city like San Francisco with nude people. They travelled in a flotilla of travel pods, in partial suspended animation, listening to lectures from their tutors and soothing music. They were heading PAST Earth’s solar system to somewhere much more interesting to them when an ion storm hit the flotilla. They were separated. His pod drifted into the solar system and its guidance system fixed on Earth, first because it had so much water, and then because it recognised the Cardiff Rift. But the splash landing had been too fast and his pod was damaged. It cracked open on impact and he had been forced to swim for it, alone and hurt from the landing and not sure where the rest of his people were.
“Geez,” Jack murmured as he finished. “That’s rough. No wonder you were crying. But it’s ok now. You’re safe with me. Nothing to be scared of.” He put his hand on Terry’s shoulder comfortingly. Terry smiled and put his hand over Jack’s as he replied to him.
Jack smiled. The reply had been something like “I know.” But the words in his own language had far more inflection in them and they suggested to Jack that Terry was even more comfortable in his presence than he had hoped.
Earlier, when Terry was in distress, he had not seen him as a sexual conquest. But now, as they got cosy here, Jack remembered how physically impressive he had looked even in his aquatic form. And now he had done his duty in finding out the facts about his alien friend, he swallowed his beer and decided it was time to find out if pleasure could follow on from business.
He slid a little closer and put his arm around Terry’s shoulders. Terry said something else that didn’t exactly have a direct translation but Jack understood what it meant. He grinned widely. They definitely understood each other.
“I think we need a couple more drinks,” he said. “Then back to the Hub.”
Back to the hub. It was quiet now. The computers were all on standby. Only a couple of low-level lights were on. The pterodactyl was roosting in the roof somewhere. Jack opened the cover and let Terry go first down into the ‘nest’ below.
It was known by all who thought they knew him that Jack would go with anything and anyone, anywhere. And he HAD. There were two exceptions to that.
He had never had sex with any of the people he worked with.
He had never brought a conquest to the Hub. It cost him a fortune in hotel rooms, but he kept his work and his sex life distinctly separate.
He was about to break his second rule.
“Been a while since I went with an alien,” he said as he reached and drew Terry close to him. He laughed softly as Terry informed him it was HIS first time with an alien. “Bit of a learning experience for us both,” he said.
Terry’s lips were cool as they kissed. His body temperature was lower than Humans. Jack knew another alien who was also cooler than Humans, but the only time he had kissed him had been in much different circumstances. A bitter-sweet memory.
“Yes, I know,” he said as Terry whispered something else to him. “I’ll be gentle with you if you’re gentle with me.” Then as they undressed each other and slid down into the bed there weren’t any words for a long time, in any language.
Jack woke early. He always did. It was another one of the ‘gifts’ along with not being able to die. It was 4.30 in the morning and he was wide awake.
He was warm and comfortable. Terry might have started off cool, but he warmed up nicely as their mutual passion grew. He pressed himself against him now and savoured the pleasant scent of his alien perspiration, like warm sea water. He kissed his cheek and slipped out of the bed. He headed for the shower cubicle in the corner of the room. A cool shower after a night of hot loving. What could be nicer. He was enjoying himself until he dropped the soap.
He bent to pick it up and that was when he noticed something very strange. He stared at his own hands in rising horror.
The cubicle door opened and Terry entered. Jack held up his hands to him. Terry put his arms around his shoulders and whispered in his ear, explaining it to him. He breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t so bad as he had thought.
“Tell you what,” he said. “How about we go for a swim?”
Owen was the first into the Hub in the morning. The two women turned up at same time, ten minutes later, with a withering look that wiped the suggestive smile from his face.
“So, where’s the Captain this morning?” he asked, looking at the empty office. Gwen went and looked down the open manhole to the room below. That, too, was empty.
“You don’t suppose…” she began. “No, surely not.”
“Jack’s been kidnapped by the alien?” Owen speculated.
“Kidnapped?” Toshiko’s eyes grew big as the implications sank in. “Killed?”
“What are you lot on about?” Jack called as he and Terry came down the pavement lift together. “We just went for an early morning swim.”
He kept his hands firmly in the pockets of his coat. He was starting to dry out now, but he needed a few more minutes.
“So, what’s the story?” he asked casually. “Owen, did you find out anything useful?”
“Yes, I did,” he said. “And you should maybe stop getting so cosy with him as you were yesterday. His morphic ability – it’s contagious. I tested it on the rats. Ended up with very funny rats. If any of his bodily fluids got into your bloodstream, you’d get the Man From Atlantis syndrome. Webbed hands and feet…”
“And the ability to breathe underwater and swim like a fish. Wooww-wee it was bracing, I can tell you.” Jack took his hands out of his pockets and held them up. Before their eyes the webbing between his fingers was dissolving.
“You…” Tosh stared at him. “You and him…. Last night…. After the pub. You DID have sex with him.”
“Yes,” Jack said.
“But you didn’t….” Gwen began. “I mean you surely used precautions? You didn’t get any of his bodily fluids...”
“Of course I did. But I didn’t ‘catch’ it that way. We were cuddled up together most of the night. Perspiration on our bodies… I absorbed some of it through my skin and it was enough…”
“Fucking hell!” Owen swore. “That’s a powerful STD!”
“It’s NOT an STD. And it’s not permanent. Went for a swim for a couple of hours and worked it out of my system. Back to normal now.”
“Well, that’s a lucky escape for you,” Owen told him. “You might want to be careful who you ‘cuddle up to’ in future.”
“Don’t lecture me about my private life,” Jack answered him. “Tosh, you were mapping UFO sightings yesterday. Did you get anything in the Severn Estuary?”
“Yes, two nights back, why?”
“Because obviously that’s Terry’s spaceship. We swam about five miles this morning, but that only took us just outside of Cardiff Bay. He was in the water for about twelve hours before he found the entrance to the harbour and ended up exposing himself in the Plas.”
“We’re looking for his space ship?” Owen asked. “Why?”
“Because as sweet as he is and as much as I’d love him to stay, it’s not very practical. I don’t fancy the swim every morning when winter sets in. We need to contact his people and tell them to come and get him.”
“ET phone home?” Tosh laughed as the image popped into her head.
“Yes, he very well might. But his phone is somewhere in the Severn estuary. How many of you know anything about scuba diving?”
“I’ve done a bit,” Tosh said. “And Ianto has.”
“Ok, that should do it. Four of us including Terry should be able to manage it. Tosh, scan the estuary for alien energy readings. Gwen, can you go and get the boat ready for us. Make sure it’s fuelled up and the computers are online. Owen….”
“If it’s all the same to you, we might as well get something useful out of all this. I’d like to try synthesising the Man From Atlantis Syndrome. You never know when being able to breathe under water might be useful.”
“That’s exactly what I was thinking.” He reached out his hand to Terry and said something in the alien language. Terry blushed and blinked his eyes and came to his side. Jack flashed a smile that belonged in a toothpaste advert at his colleagues and turned away towards his office and his living space beneath.
“I bet being screwed day and night by Captain Jack wasn’t what he went into space for,” was Owen’s comment.
“He didn’t seem to be complaining,” Tosh said. “I think he’s in love with Jack.”
“I think Jack is a little bit in love with Terry,” Gwen commented as she opened the panel in the wall that led to a tunnel under the plas and emerged, after a half mile walk, by the marina. Torchwood had its own boat moored there, equipped with all the same equipment the car had.
Jack and Terry emerged from their love nest in time for lunch and everyone avoided commenting on what they had been doing. But Jack looked fairly satisfied. Terry looked gloriously happy.
“I’ve got a lock on a very weak signal out in the estuary,” Tosh said as they divided up three 12 inch pizzas between the six of them. “Bear in mind the Severn is very silty. The pod is probably already sinking down into the mud.”
“That’s a really flashy boat we have,” Gwen said. “It must have been expensive. Who audits Torchwood’s accounts?”
Tosh and Owen looked at her with an expression that said “What’s an audit?” Jack laughed softly.
“Don’t you worry about it,” he said.
“Where DOES the money to pay for what we do come from?” Gwen asked as they all walked down through the tunnel to the marina together.
“Gwen, honestly, don’t worry about it,” Jack answered her and that was all she got from him.
She knew they ALL got paid very well for their work. Her own bank balance was very healthy since she gave her details to Jack and he arranged for her monthly salary. She nearly fainted when she looked at her mini statement after the first payment went in. She resisted the urge to go mad with the unexpected bonus because at the back of her mind there was always a slight suspicion that this was all a wonderful dream and one day she would wake up as PC Gwen Cooper again, making tea for the DCI’s and dealing with shoplifters and pickpockets in the shopping centres of Cardiff.
But so far the bubble hadn’t burst. And she never ceased to be surprised by the things that happened in her new life. Jack falling in love with an alien was one of the NICEST things, she thought as she looked at him sauntering along with his arm around Terry’s shoulder. She almost wished they wouldn’t find his ship and contact his people. Jack was so lonely really. For all his alleged sexual prowess and the exotic one night stands he had, he had nobody special in his life.
But would it work? Keeping an alien lover with him in that little place below his office. Would Terry really be happy with that long term? Jack was the only person he could communicate with. Could he learn English even?
The same thoughts were running through Jack’s mind. He told himself he was being irrational. He didn’t DO love. And if he did, he was sure it would take longer than one night, even as pleasant a night as it had been, to fall in love. And yet, the idea of somebody being around for him, the way Gwen had her boyfriend back at her flat, was nice.
It was tempting. But there were a million reasons why it couldn’t happen. The fact that Terry was an alien wasn’t one of them. It was all the other complicated reasons why relationships never work for him. Plus the fact that Terry really DIDN’T belong on this planet which was far from the most welcoming place for people who didn’t fit in.
Torchwood was one reason why aliens didn’t fit in here. Their job was to keep them at bay. What they were doing was completely against the very raison d’être of Torchwood. Helping aliens, keeping one in his bed within the Hub itself, was a transgression he hoped he wouldn’t have to pay for in some way.
He felt Terry’s hand clutch his a little tighter and turned to see the grateful expression in his eyes. Gratitude for the care and affection he had given him, and for the effort they were now making.
Fuck it, he thought. If it cost him his job, it would be worth it.
The small cruiser handled a little like a space shuttle craft, Jack thought as he piloted it out of the Bay and into the Severn Estuary. He felt the change in the water beneath them, from the sheltered calm of the artificially created Bay, to the pull of a flood tide.
“We’re close,” Toshiko said presently as she tracked the signal on the onboard computer. “Terry, is this where you crashed, do you know?” She looked at the alien who was sitting close by Jack. Of course he didn’t understand her. Jack repeated the question in his own language and he turned and came to her side. With hand signals and translations from Jack he confirmed that she WAS picking up the energy signal from the engine of his own craft.
“Well, I suppose it would be,” Gwen commented. “How many alien ships would there be in the Severn Estuary?”
“You’d be surprised,” Jack answered. “Don’t forget Cardiff is on the rift. It’s like a magnet. It’s why Terry’s craft came here rather than anywhere else. Lucky for him. If he’d landed in Florida they’d have him in Area 51 trying to take him apart to see what makes him tick.”
“They wouldn’t? Would they?” Gwen asked. “I mean, I know, the alien autopsy thing. But that one was supposed to be dead. They wouldn’t really kill him and… you know… like Owen dissects rats?”
They all looked at Terry. He looked back at them uncertainly. He didn’t know what they were saying, but he must have been able to pick up their emotional responses.
“Nobody will hurt you,” Toshiko told him, putting her hand on his arm. “They’d have to come through all of us first, and they’d still have to deal with Jack.”
Jack didn’t have to translate. He smiled warmly at her.
“Ok, here we are. We’d better get suited up.” Toshiko and Ianto went into the small cabin and returned shortly in wet suits and scuba tanks on their backs. Jack had stripped down to a pair of swimming trunks under his clothes. Terry likewise. Gwen and Owen watched as they all got ready to dive down. They had visual control through mini-cams on Tosh and Ianto’s helmets and were ready to operate the winch when they received the signal from below.
Jack felt the cold of the water as he dived in and kept on going down. It was murky water. The Severn estuary was the repository of all the soil and silt and debris brought down through two hundred and nineteen miles of England and Wales. It was hard to see even when his eyes started to adapt to Man From Atlantis mode.
His eyes, his lungs, his feet and hands - he felt them all transforming as he dived through the water. He could see without his eyes hurting. He could breathe water into his mouth as easily as air and he was moving through the water like a torpedo.
He loved the feeling. And knowing it was a side effect of having really good sex with Terry made it all the more precious.
Even so, he knew it was bad to mess with his body this way. His DNA was already fucked up beyond all recognition when he was brought back to life on the Gamestation. He sometimes wondered if he was still technically Human. He loved this gift from Terry, but it WAS a borrowed gift. He didn’t want to turn into a sea creature every time he took a shower or walked in the rain. That would be tricky living in Cardiff!
It would be better if Terry went home. If he didn’t, he would never be able to resist wanting to hold him, to make love to him, to cuddle him in the warm afterglow of their love-making. And if it went on too long, maybe it WOULD become permanent.
He saw the ship. It was lying in the silt at the bottom of the river. One wing was partially buried, but it hadn’t been down long. They could pull it up easily enough. It wasn’t very big. The fuselage was about long enough for Terry to lie inside in suspended animation. The delta wings were only about a four foot span either side.
It didn’t take long to get the chain fixed around the fuselage and at a signal to Owen it began to lift off the bottom. Jack and Terry swam either side, keeping the wings level. Tosh and Ianto followed behind. They broke the surface quickly and all hands reached to lift the craft onto the deck of the cruiser. Tarpaulins were pulled over it to hide it from curious eyes as they pulled up the anchor and prepared to set off back towards the bay.
“This is a problem,” Jack said as he sat in the pilot seat. He held up his webbed hands. “I don’t change back until I’m fully dry all over. And I’m not sure I can handle the controls.”
“Here, let me,” Ianto said. Jack slid out of the seat and went to sit next to Terry as Ianto took over the controls. Webbed hands clasping together was a strange experience, but he didn’t mind.
Ianto was a more careful pilot than Jack, but he got them back. He brought them to a mooring as close to their tunnel entrance as possible. Fortunately Jack and Terry had dried out enough to revert to Human form by then and they took their share of hauling the tarpaulin covered cargo.
Once they got back to the Hub it WAS amazingly easy. Opening up the pod they concluded that it was very badly damaged. There were major cracks in the wings and fuselage and all the electricals were waterlogged.
Even so, Tosh was excited by it.
“This is the best bit of alien technology I’ve ever had my hands on. It’s great. We could learn a lot from this.”
“We’re not supposed to be learning from it. We’re supposed to be finding out how to get into contact with Terry’s people,” Gwen pointed out.
“Yes, I know. But if he doesn’t mind… if we could reverse engineer it…”
Terry spoke in his own language rapidly. Jack translated.
“He says it's ok. Use what you like. But it has no weapons technology. His people are peaceful explorers.”
“He’s the most co-operative alien I’ve ever come across,” Owen commented.
“He’s a sweetie,” Gwen said. “His people must be missing him. Does he have a mum and dad? Do they have families in the same way we do?”
“Yes,” Jack said. “They’re on his homeworld. He doesn’t know if they would have been told he is missing. He hopes they don’t know and that he’ll be back with them before they worry too much.”
“I hope so, too,” Gwen said. “I’ve done missing kids. Even when we find them an hour later wandering around the Queens Arcade it’s a horrible hour for the parents. If we can spare them that misery it’s worth it.”
“They won’t be pleased when they find out Jack’s been shagging their kid,” Owen pointed out. “Hope they won’t be demanding a shotgun wedding.”
Jack laughed. He was about to say something else when he was distracted by a shout from Toshiko. She had been crosslinking the alien communications panel with their own computer system.
“I’ve made contact,” she said. “Listen…”
Jack bolted to her side as she routed the sound to the main speakers and they all heard a voice speaking in Terry’s language. He looked animated by it. Jack pressed the transmit key and spoke. A conversation ensued.
“It’s his teachers,” he reported. “They’re looking for him. I’ve told them that we have their boy here and he’s safe and well. I’ve given them the location and suggested they come discreetly, because this planet has no official First Contact yet. They say it will be…” He did a rough calculation in his head. Converting different concepts of time was always tricky. “About midnight on Saturday. I have another three nights of Terry’s company.” Jack smiled at his alien lover. He looked conflicted. He was happy to know his own people were coming, and yet…
Terry reached out to Jack and hugged him tight.
“Yes, I know,” Jack whispered to him, kissing him on the forehead tenderly. “But we have two whole days. Three nights…”
“Let’s make them fun for him,” Gwen said. “He went off from his home to learn about the universe. Let’s show him Cardiff.” She smiled at Jack’s expression. “Don’t worry, he can still cuddle up to you at night. But let’s make the most of the days.”
“It’s a great idea,” Jack answered. “Everywhere but the swimming baths. We might cause a bit of a sensation there.”
Leaving out the swimming facilities of Cardiff there were plenty of places they could take him. With what was left of the afternoon he got the hang of ten-pin bowling and enthusiastically sampled the multi-national cuisine in the Red Dragon Centre, and that first night they moved on to one of the better quality night clubs of the city, where Jack taught him to dance. Early 21st century Cardiff still found two men in a passionate clinch on the dance floor a little distracting, but they didn’t care and if anyone else wanted to make an issue out of it their friends closed ranks around them.
The next morning after he and Jack started with a brisk swim in the bay, Terry was suitably fascinated by Cardiff Castle which, though a modern building by Earth standards was far older than any of the architecture of his world. As was the city hall and much of the splendour of Victorian Cardiff. After lunch he showed more interest than any other visitor on the guided tour of the National Assembly and explained to them all, through Jack, how their government differed from the government of his planet. It puzzled him how Earth had so many different administrations. He wondered why they didn’t have one global authority.
“Because we don’t all want to live in the United States of America,” Owen said in reply to that one and winked at Jack, the token American citizen of their group. He grinned and did his best to explain the political divisions of planet Earth in as short a paragraph as possible. Terry didn’t quite understand, he thought.
“We’d need more than two days to get through it all,” he said. “Don’t you worry about it, Terry. Life is too short.”
Their second night they took in a concert at the Millennium Centre. It made an ironic change for the Torchwood team to visit the place right above the Hub as ordinary patrons. Afterwards they all said goodnight to Jack and Terry by the pavement lift and headed home.
The last day, they packed as much as they could into it. They wondered as they sat in the stand at Ninian Park how he would describe his experience of a football match to his people back home. He seemed to enjoy it even though there was no equivalent to it in his culture.
It was a fun day, but a sad one. They had all become fond enough of Terry to feel a little bit sorry that he was leaving them soon. Jack was trying to be cheerful. His friends all knew better.
As the evening drew in and they expected the signal any time soon he sat out on the waterfront with Terry. The others gave them some distance as they watched the darkening skies.
“I’m going to miss you,” Jack told him as they embraced each other and kissed fondly just like the courting couples who strolled along the path. “It’s been really sweet. I won’t sleep half so well tonight without you to cuddle up to.”
Terry answered him in his own language. Jack kissed him again.
“Yeah, the sex was great, too. Absolutely bloody fantastic. If you’re ever in town again, we’re on. No question.”
He sat quietly for a while. There was nothing more to be said. He just treasured the nearness of the alien who had made his life a little less lonely for a brief time. They both watched the stars, watching for a star that wasn’t a star to arrive, the tutor ship come to collect their accidentally truanting student.
“There!” Toshiko spotted it first. They all stood and watched as a shape grew larger in the night sky. Contrary to all myths about UFOs, it had no flashing lights. It was a dull metallic colour that only became visible as it came within the glow of the lights around the waterfront. They watched as it settled on the water, looking, at a casual glance, like a rather flashy catamaran.
Terry turned to Jack and embraced him tightly. They kissed a long, lingering kiss and whispered their goodbyes to each other. Then Terry turned and dived into the water. They saw him swimming out to the spacecraft and a door opened in the side. He climbed inside and it closed again. They watched as it began to rise up again, becoming nearly invisible in the sky.
Jack waved. They all did, though they knew nobody would wave back.
“He’s gone back to his own kind,” Gwen said as she came and put her arm around Jack’s waist. He looked at her and put his arm around her shoulder. He hugged her tightly. He felt Toshiko’s arms around him too, and Owen and Ianto touched him on the shoulders. His friends gathered around him in mutual understanding.
“I’m ok,” he said after a while. “Really I am. Don’t you worry. Gwen, go on home. Your bloke will be missing you like mad.”
“He’ll be asleep,” she said with a laugh. “Probably got pissed with his mates. It’s Saturday night, after all.”
“Well go home, wake him up and shag him until he’s stupid – or more stupid than usual anyway,” he said. Gwen laughed and kissed him on the cheek and went to find a taxi. The others walked with him as far as the fountain.
“You are going to be all right?” Tosh asked him. “All alone down there.”
“You never worried about me being alone before,” he said. “And I know you’re not offering to make me less lonely. So go on home, Tosh, all of you. See you Monday morning.”
He stepped onto the paving stone and disappeared in the perception filter. He watched them walk off before he went down into the darkened Hub, into his office and down into his room. He undressed and slipped into his bed. It did feel colder tonight with nobody to hold in his arms. But no colder than it ever was.