When the emergency line rang, accompanied with a whole new whooping alarm, Jack reached for the phone with the speed of a man desperate to get away from paperwork. It was UNIT, swiftly followed by the MOD and then an entire alphabet of world-wide top secret military agencies. The actual news however, made Jack wish all he had to worry about was paperwork.
"Okay," he yelled as he exited his office. "Everyone in the car - field trip time!"
"Do we need the big guns, Sir?" Ianto asked, at his elbow with his coat. Jack shrugged it on and nodded grimly.
"Yeah, we might."
"I'll prepare the SUV," and Ianto slipped away. Jack watched him go, with pleasure. If the world was going to end, Jack was going to enjoy every moment. Perhaps he'd get a chance with a poodle or two, as well.
"Jack?" Gwen asked as he herded the team down to the garage, Tosh still collecting just 'one more piece of equipment', and Owen complaining about the autopsy that suddenly had to be done right now. "What is it?"
"Right," Jack gave her a harried grin. "Your first time, isn't it?"
"First time for what?" she asked, warily.
"Not really - " Tosh reassured her. "Or, well, we hope not really anyway. But we're on call when a direct entry, self-powered object enters Earth atmosphere - a space craft - to do first contact and determine the threat level."
"Most of the time," Jack said then broke off to edge Owen away from the passenger door, "- I get shotgun, 'cause I have the big gun - "
"Yeah," Owen said as he climbed into the back, "you should probably stay up there with Ianto. In case your ammo goes off."
"Lovely image," Ianto said dryly, "thank you for that, Owen."
"Most of the time," Jack raised his voice and repeated, "it's just junk. Sometimes, somebody's gotten lost and we just send 'em on their way."
"Sometimes," Ianto put in helpfully. "We blow things up."
"Yeah, so don't smoke around the SUV." Owen muttered.
The mysterious trajectory took them to the nature reserve, sandy hills marching to the shoreline and the air was full of the damp smell of mud and sea. The SUV ground to a halt, kicking up sand like a bully and forcing the lot of them to use their feet for the last approach. They could all smell smoke and eerie red light flickered dimly in the twilight.
“We’re not winning points for impressive,” Ianto commented when Tosh’s heels sunk deep into the sand.
“I’ll handle that,” Jack loped up the last slope to pose against the darkening skyline with the big gun at his hip, wind whipping his coat like a banner and the settings sun turning his hair bronze-gold, displaying every heroic inch with a gleam in his eye and a perfect smile. “Damn,” he muttered after a moment.
“What?” Tosh scrambled up, scanner clutched in one had, shoes in the other and eyeing the shrubbery for stray aliens or a good place to take cover. The hill sheltered a pebbly little beach where flotsam and jetsam washed ashore. Not far offshore, the clunky hull of a rather unappealing space ship rose out of the surf; Pepto-Bismol pink and giving the impression of an origin in some galactic version of a cheap Taiwanese knock-off. “What’s wrong?”
“No eyes,” Jack said with disappointment as he slung the gun back over his shoulder. “Still, a good pose is never wasted. Hey!” He yelled, striding down the last slope to the sheltered cove where piles of seaweed had washed ashore, steaming around an abandoned bonfire. “Get off our lawn!”
The seaweed trembled, cringing away.
“So,” Ianto muttered, flicking the safety off his gun, “no sushi tomorrow for lunch.”
The aliens, and there were four of them if each bundle of murky green tendrils, folds and fronds were singular, clustered around a driftwood bonfire, sounded like classical music when they spoke, and sort of smelled like kelp rotting in the sun. Ianto hummed along with the conversation until the nearest alien leaned toward him in a disconcertingly seductive fashion.
Jack reached out and gave one of them, the one with the crumpled tinfoil hat on, a sympathetic, squelching, hug.
“So,” Owen was sitting on the face of the dune, huddled in his jacket, “it’s not an invasion? We can go home?”
“Their ship broke down,” Jack said, waving Tosh over. “They were off for a party, weren’t you sweetheart?”
The nearest alien agreed in a chorus of mournful violins, then went on in some contorted explanation that no one, except Jack, understood.
“She’s the birthday girl, their version of their wild twenty-first,” Jack went on, grinning up at the alien. “They were going to hit up all the skin joints in the Vail … wow, it’s been awhile since I was banned from there.” He shook his head. “Good times.”
“Banned?” Gwen asked. Ignoring Ianto’s frantic, warning hand gestures. “what were you banned for?”
“I thought you’d never ask.” Jack’s smile was delighted. Ianto groaned. “You would not believe how picky the Whore’s Guild can be about sex-moddy’s … I mean, I come by my talents naturally but a little nekko-moddy for spice never hurt anyone. I mean, who can resist a fine bit of tail.”
“Not listening!” Owen desperately jammed his fingers in his ears. “Tell me when he stops.”
The aliens leaned closer with every word, shuffling across the sand to gather close to the bonfire and the audience inspired Jack to nearly operatic enthusiasm.
“How come the aliens can understand Jack but we can’t understand them,” Gwen whispered to Tosh, trying desperately to unsee the images Jack’s words were conjuring up. She was so very sorry she’d asked.
Tosh tilted her head towards Jack, now giving a few illustrative pelvic thrusts, and a crotch grab as he flashed a laugh at his own joke. “Everyone understands Jack.”
When one of the aliens reached out to drape a few very friendly fronds across Jack’s shoulders, he patted them with a grin. “Of course the birthday girl deserves a kiss!”
“I have a bad feeling about this,” Ianto muttered. “Jack? No need for the heavy weaponry then?”
“Well, depends on the model you’re talking about,” Jack said with a wink broad enough to signal orbital satellites. “I figure we can salvage this little party and send these kids on their way. Tosh, take a look at that ship and see what you can do for them and we’ll handle the rest.”
“Oh, thank god,” Tosh scooped up her shoes and fled.
“Exactly what sort of celebration were our … guests hoping for?” Ianto asked warily and Jack cocked a chiding brow at him.
“What sort of party did you want when you turned twenty-one?” He shrugged off his coat and thumbed down his braces. “And honestly, in the galactic scheme of things? Earthlings are easy.”
The sound of a zipper going down chirped through the night air. “These kids have very influential parental-clones, making a few friends by being friendly wouldn’t be a bad idea.”
“Besides,” Jack flashed another smile up at the birthday hat wearing alien. “I hate seeing an evolved Planate cry.”
“I think,” Ianto said straightening his tie as he planned a dignified retreat, “I’ll wait in the car.”
“A better idea you’ve never had,” Owen said, scrambling up the sand dune to the safety of the SUV and some medicinal alcohol.
“Twenty-first century,” Jack muttered, shaking his head then turned back to the aliens, wearing nothing but his boots. “Now, where were we?”
“Oh, my god,” Gwen took a cautious step back. There were things no one was meant to see. This was one of them. She couldn’t help pausing for a moment, eyes widening, because Captain Jack Harkness really did live up to every boast he made.
“Watch the airway!” Jack yelped. “I’m much less fun dead. Oh – right there baby ….”
“Oh, my god. Oh, my god!” Gwen flung caution to the wind, turned and ran.
Behind her, the birthday girl ejected Jack’s boots from an unidentifiable orifice with a sucking slurp accompanied by low, seductive, if muffled, laughter.
“Darlin’, you sure know how to show a bipedal vertebrate a good time.”