Ianto and Alun were on what amounted to the late shift. Beth could have gone home hours ago if she had wanted to, but she chose to stay with them for a bit. She said it was exciting being in the Hub, even when there was nothing much happening.
Ianto sat her at Toshiko’s desk and told her to watch the monitor and shout out if the single figures scrolling down the right hand side of the screen suddenly jumped into the hundreds.
“We’re expecting a rift surge tonight,” he explained. “Nothing big. Otherwise there would be more of us on alert. But we’ll keep an eye on it all the same.”
“It’s like Los Angeles,” she said. “Where they have tiny earth tremors all the time but nobody worries about them. Only the big ones.”
“Exactly like that,” Ianto said. “These minor surges are just the rift having a bit of a grumble. They don’t do very much. Since Tosh managed to perfect the rift predictor it’s just routine. If we’re lucky, some good antiques might drop through. A few nice ornaments for your new flat.”
She laughed. “You’re kidding me.”
“No, really. Jack says anything like that is finders keepers. People and animals are a problem. And aliens. But the odd Louis Philippe ormolu clock…
She wasn’t sure if he was kidding still, but she gave him the benefit of the doubt.
“This is definitely the best job I ever had,” she admitted. “I don’t even mind being here late and not even being paid for it. It is strange seeing the Hub at night, though. It’s so quiet without everyone. Even Jack is out. I suppose he’s with his boyfriend?”
“Yep, dinner and a movie and whatever follows.” Ianto smiled. “Jack is a lovely man to go out on a date with. I remember going to see Casablanca with him at an old backstreet cinema. We cuddled all through the film and cried at the end.” He smiled even more widely as he watched Alun coming with coffee for three. Alun cried at the end of Casablanca, too. But they’d watched it cuddled up on their own sofa and ‘whatever follows’ was a lot easier to get to. “Gwen and Rhys are out at some company dinner at Rhys’s new job. Toshiko has an aunt visiting who wants to see the baby. And Owen said he didn’t want anyone calling his mobile number unless the world actually turned upside down.”
“Don’t tempt fate,” Alun responded as he passed the coffee around. Ianto laughed and kissed him on the cheek. He didn’t need dinner and a movie. He was happy to man the Hub with his lover alongside him. Especially on a quiet night when all they were expecting was that minor rift surge.
Jack and Garrett were having an after dinner drink in a pub near the restaurant where they had eaten. They had tickets to a late classic film double bill at Jack’s favourite back street independent cinema. They were in two minds whether to go or not, though. Garrett had both films on DVD and they would be in the right place when the mood they were already slowly building up got to the point where the films could just carry on without them.
“Four months,” he said as he raised his glass. “Four months I haven’t had sex with anyone but you. Here’s to fidelity. It’s an experience I haven’t tried for a very long time.”
“I still don’t believe half the stories you tell about your love life,” Garret replied. “Especially the one about the twin acrobats.”
“I love your laugh,” Garrett added, brushing his hand against Jack’s cheek.
“I love the touch of your hand,” he answered, putting his own hand over his lover’s. “Touching… is something the Human race does so well. But we forget about it too often.”
Touching like this, in public, without causing a scandal, or risking getting himself and his lover beaten up was something he had only been able to do in recent years, and then only in certain pubs where the clientele were happy to live and let live. He valued touch. Sex was great. And it was the ultimate aim. But touching any part of a warm-blooded being, preferably, though not exclusively, the same species as his own, was something he enjoyed.
“Do you want another drink?” Garrett asked after a long, quiet time.
“Yes,” he answered. “Iced water with lemon, please. Remember I’m designated driver tonight.” He watched his lover as he went to the bar. He was what he had needed for a long time. Somebody special. Omnisexuality was fun. All out hedonism was breathtaking. But he had decided he was going to stay around, to live in the early twenty-first century, in Cardiff, in the job he loved, with people who had come to matter to him. And Garrett completed the picture.
He never quite stopped expecting it all to go wrong, for something to come between them, either his job or Garrett’s, or some other damn thing. But every day that it didn’t was a day he cherished.
He didn’t expect a tall blonde female to come between them. Jack watched as Garrett stood at the bar, waiting for their drinks to be poured. The woman moved closer to him.
Garrett didn’t pay her any attention at first. He was aware of her female perfume and since he had once been heterosexual he was aware that the view down her top was interesting. But it was Jack who was pushing his buttons now, and he was only interested in having enough drinks to keep himself mellow until they got back to his place.
“Are you on your own, gorgeous?” the woman asked. He was surprised by that. Flashing her breasts at him and giving him the look was one thing. But it was unusual for a woman to actually make a move like that.
“No,” he answered as he found his wallet and paid for the drinks. “I’m with my boyfriend.”
“That’s a crying shame,” she said. Then Garrett saw her reach into her handbag and pull out what looked like a perfume atomiser. She sprayed it around herself. He noticed a strange smell, not exactly a perfume, but heady. And he looked at the woman’s face with renewed interest. He leaned towards her, intending to find out if she kissed as well as she was promising.
“Back off, lady,” Jack said, suddenly by his side. “He’s mine.”
“I’ll have you both,” she answered. “I’m up for it.” And she sprayed the air between their three heads again. Garrett’s eyes were almost popping, but Jack reached into his own pocket and pulled out a similar atomiser. He sprayed it liberally. Garrett blinked and looked puzzled as he drew back from the woman. Jack pocketed the atomiser and then in a quick, swift movement, grabbed the other one from the woman’s hand and finished with her wrist firmly held in his.
“Order a drink for the lady, too,” Jack said to Garrett. “Bring them over to our table.” And gently but firmly he brought her to where they had been sitting. Garrett looked even more puzzled. Was Jack about to suggest a threesome? He had heard a few lurid stories, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to try it out first hand. He was too fond of Jack to share him with anyone.
The woman was sitting quietly. Jack wasn’t holding her down, but clearly she knew there was no point in making a scene. He put the two atomisers down on the table just out of her reach as Garrett brought the drinks.
“I know we promised each other we wouldn’t mix business and pleasure,” Jack told him “But my kind of business butted in uninvited. We’ve been finding these things all over town. Somebody is selling them. Instant attraction in a bottle. So where did you get it?”
The last was addressed to the woman.
“Why should I tell you?” she asked mutinously. “Who are you, Torchwood or something?”
“Good guess. And unless you want to spend the night in a cell next to something that wasn’t born on this planet, I think you’d better answer my question.”
“Wow,” Garrett said to him. “You’re interrogation voice is scary…. And rather sexy.”
“Later,” Jack promised with a wink. “Well…”
“I found it,” the woman said.
“On my bedroom table two nights ago,” she answered. “I met a man in Muzzie’s bar. I didn’t fancy him at first. Then he used this spray and I totally went for him. The next thing, I’m back at my flat having the hottest sex. I woke up the next morning and I couldn’t remember what he looked like. But I found the bottle. I used it at work and every man in the office got hard-ons when they passed my desk. So I figured… no more lonely nights buying my own drinks and trying to pull. Any bloke I fancy… I get to choose, not them. Women never get to choose. We’re like a pick and mix to men, but we have to just go with it.”
Jack looked at her and for a moment he could see her point of view. The casual dating game wasn’t exactly fair. But pulling people against their will, with the help of an alien pheromone concoction that he had been trying to get off the streets for months wasn’t the way to make it fair.
“Sorry, but you can’t have this,” he said, pocketing the two atomisers. “And you can’t have me or my boyfriend, either. What you can have is that drink. On me… and Torchwood.”
She drank it. Jack watched her eyes glaze over ever so slightly. She had already had a couple of drinks before the one with the Retcon in. It wouldn’t be long before she was asleep.
“Did I really try to get off with her?” Garrett asked.
“No, she tried to get off with you. And I don’t blame her one little bit. You’re pretty damn hot.”
Jack stole a lingering kiss from his lover. They broke off as the Retconned lady slid under the table.
“Let’s take her home,” Garrett suggested. “Then my place?”
“Sounds a good idea to me,” Jack agreed.
The rift predictor’s figures surged exactly on schedule. Ianto expertly interpreted the results.
“A five second opening somewhere close to Upper Boat,” he reported. “I’ll go and take a look in case there is anything that needs tidying up. Just so long as it isn’t a headless Viking this time.” He kissed Alun on the cheek and told him to keep the coffee hot, then he was gone. Alun asked Beth if she’d like another cup, but she didn’t.
“Headless Viking?” she queried.
“We’re not sure about that,” Alun answered. “He was dead before he came through the rift. Owen did the autopsy.”
“It’s not always nice antiques then?”
“I’m afraid not.”
“I thought he was kidding about that, anyway.” She was going to say something else when the phone rang. She automatically reached for it – receptionist ran through her like lettering in a stick of Brighton rock. She listened carefully to the caller then put the phone on mute as she turned to Alun. “It’s ‘Fox Mulder’,” she told him. “He says he’s got an alien in his car that has a big problem. And he says can somebody meet him at the usual place with the blindfold?”
Alun laughed. ‘Fox’ had visited them two or three times with alien artefacts that proved extremely interesting. Every time he insisted on being blindfolded when he was brought into the Hub. So that he couldn’t give away the exact location to enemy agents, he said.
“Why don’t you do it,” Alun suggested. “Bring them in the tourist office entrance. An actual alien? Last time it was an alphabet game for teaching alien youngsters to read. Toshiko wired it up to her computer and made massive inroads into her universal translator programme. But an actual alien? ‘Fox’ must be feeling really proud of himself.”
Beth was excited. She was actually being asked to do some real Torchwood work.
Alun watched her go then went to make the usual preparations for receiving an unknown live specimen - mostly making sure there was a clean cell available for detaining them and that the heating was on in the interrogation room.
Toshiko had lied about her plans for the evening. She didn’t know why, really. There was nothing wrong with her having dinner with Owen. But he hadn’t told anyone about it, either, and she really didn’t want to field all the questions that were bound to be asked about whether they were an item now.
They weren’t. It was just dinner. Owen had asked her quite casually a few days ago if she’d got out much since Etsuko was born. She replied a little wearily that she hadn’t gone out very much before she was born, and then added, with a complete abandonment of any pride, that she hadn’t had a social life to speak of before her baby was conceived for that matter. She then challenged him to laugh about her pathetic lifestyle.
He didn’t laugh. He simply asked her if she’d like to have dinner with him at his flat – bringing Etsuko if she couldn’t get a baby sitter. It was a first step towards having a real life. Two friends having dinner, the way people who didn’t work for secret organisations that monitor alien life on Earth did.
She accepted on those terms, though she did wonder if he meant anything more from the evening. Maybe he would ask her to stay the night? She wondered if she wanted him to ask. Just on the offchance she made sure Etsuko had enough nappies and her sugar free baby orange juice for between feeds.
The dinner wasn’t home cooked. It came from one of those gourmet dinner delivery services. She saw the cartons in the kitchen. But it was very nice and he had picked a very good chilled white wine to go with it. She sipped one glass of the wine slowly, because she would have to feed Etsuko afterwards. They tried not to talk about Torchwood too much, even though it was the one thing they had in common. It meant that they ended up talking a lot about Etsuko, instead. Owen was quite proud of his part in her birth and upbringing. He actually liked to hear the details of her progress. He was especially pleased that the wristband worked and she remained visible all the time now.
“I really hope that wears off as she gets older,” Toshiko admitted as she sat and fed her. “What will happen when she goes to school, otherwise?”
“I can’t quite think that far ahead,” Owen said. “She’s so tiny yet. There’s a lot to think about before then. Will she still be with us at Torchwood when she’s older? Will you be?”
“I don’t plan to go anywhere,” Toshiko answered. “It’s a good job. We do good for people. I don’t think I’ll ever want to leave. And I suppose Etsuko will just take the Hub for granted.”
“We’ll have to teach her not to tell other kids that she knows a pterodactyl and mum goes to work on an invisible lift.” Owen watched her feeding the baby but not in a voyeuristic way. He had a soft expression as if he was watching something wonderful that he felt privileged to witness.
“Besides,” Toshiko added. “Where else could I work that would let me bring her in? Most regular bosses aren’t as accommodating as Jack. He’s been wonderful.”
“That he has.”
“You’ve been wonderful, too. You’ve been there for me all along. I am very grateful, Owen. I want you to know that.”
“That’s what friends are for.”
Etsuko went to sleep quickly after her feed. Toshiko settled her down while Owen made coffee.
“Is the music all right or would you like to watch a DVD?” he asked as he joined her on the sofa.
“I’m happy like this,” she answered. “The view out of your window is lovely. All of the city stretched out around the bay.”
“I hardly look at it,” Owen admitted. “I suppose I should. I spend all my time protecting that city. I should take a good long look at it and be glad every time that it’s still there to look at.”
“Hmmm.” Toshiko considered that response as she picked out familiar landmarks uplit at night. The Norwegian church that had been saved from demolition after protests from historical societies and made a feature of the renovated bay area, the Pierhead building, the National Assembly, the Millennium Centre. Below all of those buildings Torchwood sprawled through tunnels and corridors and rooms that didn’t appear on any of the official blueprints for the new buildings. Hidden from sight, but ever present.
She was aware that Owen had moved close to her, and his arm had slid around her back. She didn’t mind. It felt cosy and comfortable, sitting there. She turned her head and noticed him watching her, not the view he was so familiar with.
“Owen…” she whispered.
“It’s ok,” he answered. “You call the shots. If and when you’re ready.”
Both their phones rang at once, destroying the mood. Owen scowled and grabbed his. It was Torchwood.
“So is mine,” Toshiko said. “I’ll take it outside in the hall.”
She closed the door behind her, cutting off the soft music so that it didn’t come over as background noise on both their calls. She still wasn’t sure why she wanted this to remain a secret, but she took these precautions anyway.
“Sorry, Tosh, love.” Alun said to her. “We’ve got a problem that needs some extra hands and both Gwen and Jack’s phones are going to voicemail.” He laughed softly. “If we didn’t know better we might think they were together.” Toshiko laughed as well, but with a nervous ring to her laugh that she couldn’t help. Alun didn’t seem to have noticed, anyway. “I really am sorry, but if you could come in…”
“Sure, no problem. Is Owen coming, too?”
“If Beth can sweet talk him. You know what he’s like about his free time. Probably on a hot date that we’ve spoiled.”
“I’ll pick him up on my way,” she suggested. “Car sharing… very green, you know.”
She closed the call and stepped back into the drawing room. Owen was swallowing a couple of pills with a bottle of Evian water. He offered her some. She shook her head.
“I am really not sure that an alien recipe for instantly removing alcohol from the blood is compatible with breast feeding. Besides, I only had half a glass. For the same reasons.”
“I’ll drive. I’ll be stone cold sober in about thirty seconds.”
“Did Beth say what it was about?” Toshiko asked as she gathered up Etsuko’s baby things and lifted the carry cot.
“She said ‘does a pregnant man qualify as the world turning upside down?’”
Toshiko’s dark eyes widened at the idea. Owen picked up his car keys and turned off the music.
Alun had not put the alien in the cells. One look at him had been enough. This alien was not going to give him that sort of trouble. He had brought him to the boardroom instead and made him comfortable on the sofa with a blanket.
He was definitely a he, despite being obviously and heavily pregnant. He was humanoid, but could not pass for a Human in daylight. His skin was a waxy grey and his face was distinctly alien. His nose had a bony horned piece above the bridge, and the forehead was ridged and sculpted into what looked like an exaggerated DA haircut, except that it was solid bone.
“That was another contraction, wasn’t it,” Alun said gently as the alien’s face screwed up in pain. “Don’t worry. Our doctor is on his way. He’ll look after you. Meanwhile, can we get you anything at all? A drink…”
“H2O,” answered the alien. “With one part sodium chloride to two parts solution. Stirred thoroughly at room temperature.”
“Warm salty water?”
“My species… needs to ingest sodium regularly. In the travel pods it is intravenously supplied. I need… for the spawnling…” He put his hand over the bump lovingly.
“I’ll get it right away,” Beth told him and rushed off to do so.
“He told me his name is K’Tach’o,” ‘Fox’ said as he sat at the boardroom table simply because nobody had bothered to put the blindfold back on and lead him back to his car. He hoped there might be something useful for him to do soon.
“And you found him…”
“On Peterstone golf course,” he answered. “I’ve got a part time job there. He was lying in a ditch by the fence. There was a sort of capsule, pod, thing, about big enough for one man… alien… whatever. I thought at first it was one of those maggots… But it wasn’t. And he’s… Well, you can see. I figured you guys could help him.”
“We will,” Alun assured him. “But there was no sign of a second pod?”
“Separated,” K’Tach’o said. “A strange energy signal in this place pulled our pods towards it. But I do not know where... My…” He touched a small patch on his neck. It looked something like a nicotine patch, except with a microscopic printed circuit on it. Alun realised it was a sort of translator. Toshiko would be raring to get a look at that.
“My… wife… does that word make sense? The phrase sounds wrong. But the translator tells me it is correct… is… Please find... The spawnling needs us both. The birth is not long now.”
Beth returned with the water. He drank it slowly and explained to them how the conception of a child began in one partner, and the embryo grew through the first two trimester within her body. Then it was transferred – none of those listening entirely understood how – to the other partner, who nurtured it to full term. When it was born, however, it needed to be fed immediately by the other parent, who spent the intervening time storing up a special nutrient.
“If my… wife… is not here, the spawnling will die within hours,” K’Tach’o explained and his eyes welled up with tears that expelled some of the sodium chloride he needed so badly.
“We’ll do what we can,” Alun promised him. “You just stay calm. Toshiko can help with that. She’s very good with technology. She’ll trace the pod.”
Beth looked around as the big wheel door opened and Toshiko and Owen walked in. Toshiko brought Etsuko in her carry cot and left her by her workstation. Owen stopped long enough to grab his medical bag and both ran straight up to the boardroom.
“Pregnant man?” Owen queried. Beth pointed to the patient. Owen went to him as Alun explained the situation to Toshiko.
“I’ll look for any UFO sightings this evening, trace energy, radio signals…” she said. “Is he going to be…”
“Owen’s with him now,” Alun told her. “We know how good he is.”
Toshiko smiled. Yes, she had first hand experience of his midwife skills. But he had never had to deal with a pregnant man before.
Owen examined his patient thoroughly. A live alien was quite unusual for him. Usually he performed autopsies on them. A pregnant one was original, and a pregnant male was unique in his experience. He had to ask a lot of difficult questions of a man who was undergoing severe pain and discomfort, just to understand what he should expect to be happening and how long it would take. He was relieved to discover that he wouldn’t have to perform a caesarean section. It was the only way he could think of in which a pregnant man could give birth. But apparently K’Tach’o’s species had figured that one out several millennia back down their evolutionary path.
The womb, was between a double layer of flesh on the torso. When the pregnancy reached full term, an opening would begin to form through which the child would be born. It was not unlike the opening of the cervix in Human birth. The contractions were just as painful and followed the same pattern, increasing gradually in frequency. The chief difference was that there was no birth canal. The cervix opened directly from the womb into the open.
K’Tach’o cried out in agony as a long, hard contraction wracked his body and the cervix, still only about the size of a five pence piece, widened slightly. A sort of jelly like substance oozed from it. K’Tach’o said that was normal, and contained a natural antiseptic that protected him and the child. Again, Owen thought that was a very good evolutionary idea.
“I’m sorry I can’t do anything about the pain,” he told his patient. “Your metabolism is so very different from a Human. Nothing I have available in the way of painkillers would be safe.”
“That is the role of the other parent,” K’Tach’o told him. “The pain is shared through the touch of the other. It is an act of love to share the pain at the time of birth. But I shall bear it alone with fortitude. I will not let our child down by failing in my duty to him.”
As another contraction took hold of his patient and he saw the oozing cervix expand a little more, Owen hoped fervently that they would find the wife soon. If this was in the same time frame as a Human birth, they had maybe two hours maximum. And if the child so desperately needed the other parent straight away…
“Is this your first time?” Owen asked, just to distract him from his fear and discomfort.
“It is,” he answered.
“How come you’re so far from home with the birth this close?” Owen asked. “That was a risk, wasn’t it?”
“We are representatives of our world.” He winced as Owen put his hands over his extended stomach to feel the position of the baby and confirm that the head was presenting. Again he touched the translation patch and considered several different words. “Diplomat, ambassador? Do those words make sense to you?”
“Yes, they do. You travel to conferences, peace negotiations, that sort of thing?”
“That is so. The diplomatic corps travel by individual life support pods in shoals. My… wife… and I were never more than a few rills… copucs… metres? away from each other as we travelled. We listen to the same music and tell each other stories. We make our plans for retiring to the home world and living in peace with the spawnling once he was born. This was always going to be our last trip.”
“So your people will come looking for you, then?” Owen asked. “They’ll send help to get you home?”
“I expect so. They will know that our pods went astray from the shoal. But… Oh…” K’Tach’o cried suddenly, the pain and distress of the birth among strangers and the loss of his partner overcoming him. Beth stepped forward and sat with him, hugging him around the shoulders and offering him more salt water to drink. The emotional moment passed.
“I am sorry to burden you,” he said. “You have been kind. Your planet seemed a frightening place. So much noise and strange, strange smells. But you have been kind.”
“All in a night’s work,” Owen said. “Don’t worry, we’ll get through this. Beth will hold your hand now. I’m an old hand at childbirth. In fact, we’re thinking of renaming this Torchwood Maternity hospital.”
K’Tach’o didn’t get the joke. Of course not. But the sound of his voice helped, as well as Beth’s tender ministrations. He half turned as Toshiko came to the boardroom door and quietly called Alun and ‘Fox’ out. He hoped it was good news, but in case it wasn’t, it was best not to worry the patient.
“I think I have something,” she told them when they were out of earshot. “There were two unidentified radar blips over Cardiff in the time frame. One must have been K’Tach’o landing by Peterstone golf course. The other was at Leckwith Woods. I can’t be much more specific, but when you get close enough, you ought to be able to trace its energy signal. And ‘Fox’ knows what you’re looking for.”
“Me?” ‘Fox’ was astonished. “You want me to go on a mission?”
“It’s not exactly a mission. But it is important.”
“He can do it,” Alun said. “Come on. Let’s go.”
“What about the blindfold?” ‘Fox’ protested.
“Bugger the blindfold,” Alun answered as he propelled ‘Fox’ towards the pavement lift. “We don’t have time to mess about. You should have figured it out by now, anyway. I mean, what does that big metal bit look like to you?”
“It looks like a grungy version of the fountain in Roald Dahl Plas,” he answered. “Oh… I see. Oh….”
Beth emerged from the boardroom, sent to find clean towels ready for the birth. She waved at ‘Fox’ as he rose up on the lift. He waved back. Alun gripped his arm to stop him falling off in nervous excitement.
Toshiko returned to her workstation. She watched the progress of Alun’s car towards the suburb of Leckwith on her monitor and hoped they would be in time. She glanced back at the activity in the boardroom. She couldn’t see much, but Owen’s head bobbed up from time to time. She felt a surge of pride in him. He was doing his very best for an innocent who had fallen onto their planet by accident and needed help very badly. It wasn’t in the Torchwood remit. All aliens were meant to be the enemy. But just once in a while they weren’t. And she was glad of it. It made this job easier to know they weren’t constantly at war with every other species.
She looked around at Etsuko, sleeping peacefully in her carry cot. Owen had been there for her when she needed him. Etsuko had been born in the Hub, too, under his care.
Her mind turned on the intimate mood they had both shared earlier. She wondered if they would have gone all the way if they hadn’t been interrupted.
Would it have been a good idea if they had? She had wanted them to. But what would have happened after? Would they have ended up regretting it? Would it have ruined a good friendship that she treasured?
They would probably never know.
Alun and ‘Fox’ reached Leckwith Woods in fast time thanks to an alien gizmo that turned red lights green and tended to clear the road ahead into the bargain. When they got there they quickly found that Toshiko was right about being able to trace the pod by its unusual energy signals. They found it in a few minutes, right by the edge of the woods. It had soft landed safely.
It looked like a canoe - if a canoe could be organically grown out of a substance that had the look and feel of eggshell. It was a good three inches thick and strong enough to withstand all the rigours of space travel.
It was empty.
They cast around with their torches and found footprints leading away from the woods and towards the A4232. They could see the headlights of fast moving traffic passing by and both their hearts sank as they thought of the danger the alien, new to the concept of dual carriageways, would have walked into. The chances of another smart thinking passer by like ‘Fox’ coming along were slim.
“At least let’s get the pod back to the Hub,” Alun said. “It can’t stay here, anyway, and Tosh can probably use it to contact their people. They might still be able to save the baby. Poor K’Tach’o, though. He needs his wife so badly.”
They set to that task sadly. The pod wasn’t especially heavy, but it was unwieldy and it was a struggle to secure it on the roof rack of Alun’s car.
They were just done when they heard the sound of a powerful car engine and headlamps blinded them before they recognised the blue strobing windscreen lights of the Torchwood SUV.
“Aren’t you two supposed to be at the cinema?” Alun asked as Jack and Garrett rushed towards them.
“We haven’t got to that bit yet,” Garrett answered. “First there was this woman in the pub with alien make out perfume. Jack Retconned her and we were supposed to be taking her home when we spotted a dazed alien wandering along the side of the dual carriageway. Jack said there was some kind of energy reading over here by the woods…” He laughed. “He sure knows how to show a guy a good time.”
“You’ve got the alien?” Alun ran past them both and looked into the back seat of the SUV. A blonde woman was fast asleep, leaning against the shoulder of a grey-skinned alien with a familiar bony protuberance on the bridge of the nose and the DA style forehead. His face was a picture of despair as he turned his eyes towards Alun.
Alun was puzzled by that, but it was a mere detail. The big picture was K’Tach’o going through a painful labour without his partner.
“Get him back to the Hub right now,” he said.
“That was the plan,” Jack answered. “Just as soon as we drop sleeping beauty off at her house.”
“She can wait,” Alun replied. “Get back to the hub right now. Don’t stop for anything. Not even a Cyberman invasion.”
Jack was surprised by Alun’s forceful tone and was on the point of reminding him who was boss,
“Ok, tell me why on the way. Garrett, you get to see the batcave, tonight.”
Toshiko ran up the stairs to the boardroom, taking two steps at a time.
“They found his wife,” she said breathlessly. “Jack says five minutes, tops, including parking time.”
“Good. That’s about all the time we have,” Owen answered. “Come over here and lend some moral support.”
K’Tach’o was groaning constantly now. His face was glossy with perspiration and creased in agony. Toshiko glanced at the oozing cervical opening and saw that Owen was right. A few minutes more and it would all be over. She could see something grey covered in that strange jelly-like substance and a sort of membrane. The baby’s head?
K’Tach’o screamed out loud and his body spasmed painfully. Toshiko held him tightly by the shoulders, his head pressed against her chest. She sympathised, fully. It didn’t seem so long ago that she was in the same agonising last minutes of childbirth without any kind of medication to ease the pain.
“It’s ok,” she whispered to him. “It won’t be long now. And it will be worth it. I promise.”
He couldn’t answer her. He groaned again and she kept hold of him.
“You know what they say about childbirth,” she said to Owen. “If men had the babies…”
Owen had no reply to that. He was too busy at the business end of the proceedings.
“I can see the head,” Beth gasped. “The baby is coming.”
“One more push,” Owen said. “When the pain starts again, K’Tach’o. Push with all your strength. Let’s get this little one out.”
It was easier than it was for humans in one way. The cervix was wide enough to press out the head without too much strain on either parent or child. But K’Tach’o’s pain as he did so was still intense. Owen held the ooze-covered, grey alien baby head as he relaxed ready for the final push. Toshiko and Beth both held him as he made the last effort and shared his cry of joy as they saw Owen holding the baby in his arms.
Owen counted to twenty as K’Tach’o had told him to do, and the umbilical cord detached by itself, leaving a small indentation on the baby’s stomach. He looked down at two dark eyes that blinked at him. A grey mouth opened and uttered a tiny alien cry as it took a breath of Torchwood’s air. Beth passed him a warm, clean towel to wrap the baby in and he gave it to K’Tach’o to hold as he cleared away the expelled placenta and covered the open cervix with a sterile gauze pad. K’Tach’o had told him that it would safely close up in a few hours as long as it was kept clean.
“They’re here,” Tosh cried out as the boardroom door crashed open and K’Tach’o’s ‘wife’ rushed to his side. He took the child from him and sat by his side as he fed the baby from the single swollen mammary gland in the middle of his chest.
A calm came over the Hub afterwards. The new family were transferred to the ‘hospitality suite’ with a supply of tepid salty water and suitable food to sustain them in their first hours together. Toshiko gave the pod a cursory look and confirmed that she would be able to contact their people later and arrange for their rescue. Meanwhile the Torchwood crew plus guests enjoyed a cup of coffee around the boardroom table. Garrett told Jack the ‘batcave’ was a great set up compared to MI5’s Cardiff office. ‘Fox’ was pleased to be a part of it all still, and to be given one more task to perform - taking ‘sleeping beauty’ home when he’d finished his coffee. She was lying on the sofa that K’Tach’o and his partner had vacated, snoring slightly under the influence of the Retcon.
“I don’t get it,” Beth mused. “He said ‘wife’. I thought they were a couple. But the other one is a man, too.”
Jack laughed. So did Garrett and Alun. They all understood perfectly well as soon as they saw the two alien parents together.
“He said the translator wasn’t working properly and ‘wife’ sounded wrong,” Alun reminded them.
“On his planet there is no concept of ‘wife’ and ‘husband’ or of two genders,” Jack explained. “They don’t have men and women. What they DO have is beautifully close, loving relationships and they take it in turns to bear the children.”
“How do they GET children if they’re both….” ‘Fox’ asked. The three gay men at the table all gave him the same pointed look. He decided not to pursue the question.
“They’re lucky,” Alun said. Garrett agreed with him. Jack said nothing, but his expression spoke volumes.
“Oi,” Owen cut in. “Don’t you lot get broody. Torchwood Maternity Hospital is closed.”
“Any chance of re-opening it?” Ianto asked. They all turned to look as he stepped into the boardroom. He was holding a cardboard box as if it contained something precious. He put it down on the table gently and opened it. “No antiques, I’m afraid, Beth.”
“Oh no,” Owen groaned. “Not more pterodactyl eggs?”
“No,” Ianto answered. “The readings indicate these came from the 11th century and they seem to be….”
“Eagle eggs!” Alun exclaimed. “Golden eagles, I think.”
“You’re a bird watcher?” ‘Fox’ said with just a hint of scathing in his tone.
“We all have our little peccadilloes,” Jack told him. “Are the eggs viable? All four of them? Wow…”
“They’re still warm,” Alun confirmed as he stroked the smooth eggshell gently.
“The whole nest slipped through the rift,” Ianto explained. “But it didn’t fit into my car. I don’t know where the adult bird is. Either left behind or lost in 21st century Cardiff. But I couldn’t leave them…”
“There are only 400 pairs of Golden Eagles in Britain and Ireland,” Alun said. “If we could hatch even two of these…”
Jack went to the boardroom door and looked up at the roof.
“Myfanwy’s been sitting on that stone cold unfertilised egg for weeks. She’s besotted with it. These are the same size. The chicks will be about the size her own young would be. She could teach them to fly…”
“We’ll need the nets up again,” Toshiko observed. “Like before Myfanwy was house-trained. And it’ll be noisy.”
Nobody cared. Torchwood Maternity Hospital, Crèche and Aviary was fully open for business. They might even do a bit of saving the planet, tomorrow, too.