“Dad!” Byron called as John was walking out the door for work, “Don’t forget to take this with you. To help you find the alien.” Byron shoved one of his Wandering Frog Men action figures into his hands.
John put the toy in his pocket and patted it seriously, “I’ll take good care of it,” he promised. “And if I see the alien, I’ll make sure to get a picture.”
“You’ll be famous if you get a picture!” Byron said, bouncing with excitement. The triplets had all been overly excited when the news reports came on TV about the alien sightings in Stamford. That the sightings seemed to be concentrated in the mile-radius around their father’s office was even more exciting. But when one eye-witness gave a description of the aliens that seemed to match the triplets Wandering Frog Men toys, they were practically overcome.
“You have to go alien hunting, Dad,” Jordan had said emphatically.
“Pleeease,” Adam and Byron said, looking at him and attempting to use their puppy dog eyes, something they should have outgrown.
John had laughed, “All right,” he’d said. “I’ll go out on my lunchbreak tomorrow.”
John shook his head a little, as he quickly finished eating his sandwich at his desk. He took the toy out of his pocket and studied it. He wasn’t sure why it was called a Wandering Frog Man. The thing honestly looked nothing like a frog. It was human in shape, and brown rather than green. It had humanoid features with large eyes, crested at the brows. The teeth protruded at the top and bottom and featured impressive fangs. There wasn’t much of a nose to speak of, at flattish hump in the middle of the face with no discernible nostrils. He had to admit, the description from the news did seem to match this crazy little toy of his sons’.
John snuck out of the office, not wanting to let the other attorneys know what he was doing. The alien sightings had been the subject of many jokes, which he was not anxious to become the butt of.
His small, four-story office building was on the far edge of town, at the end of a street which did not connect to any other streets. Behind the building there was a small picnic area and beyond that, a small wooded area, several acres large. John decided he’d look in the woods. Thankfully seeing no one from the building at the picnic tables, it was only fifty degrees after all, John made his way into the wooded area.
There were no paths, but it was small enough, John figured he wasn’t likely to get lost. He made his way deeper into the woods, seeing nothing but squirrels and birds for several minutes. Then he heard a large crack, the sound of a tree branch breaking under someone’s foot. He turned and saw it.
There was no mistake. This was, indeed, a living replica of his sons’ Wandering Frog Man toy. His first reaction, his first ridiculous reaction was that he needed to call Dee and find out exactly where she’d gotten this toy from. He and the alien stared at each other for a moment, and he slowly extracted the toy from his pocket.
As he looked down at the toy, he was startled by the sounds of people. A man and a woman with guns ran toward the creature, shooting it in the neck and causing it to fall to the ground. Not dead it appeared, just tranquilized. They turned their guns on John.
He raised his hands immediately. “Give us the weevil,” the woman demanded.
“What?” he asked, shaking from head to toe.
She flicked her gun upward, indicating the action figure in his hand. “That. The model of the weevil. Hand it over.” She had an accent that was hard to place. Not exactly British, but close.
He took a step toward her and she yelled “Stop!” pointing the gun directly at his chest. “Throw it.” She commanded. “And put your hands behind your head.”
John threw the toy underhanded toward the woman and immediately put his hands behind his head.
“I’ll get the weevil, Owen. You take care of this guy. We’ll bring him back to Jack.”
The woman lowered her gun and started to tie up the creature. The man was rooting through a black bag as he walked toward John. He came up with a needle. “Don’t worry, the man said. This’ll just knock you out for a few hours.”
“What is it? Who are you?” John asked.
“We’re Torchwood,” the man explained as he sunk the needle expertly into the meatiest part of John’s upper arm.
Everything went black.
John could hear the voices before he could open his eyes. He recognized the woman’s voice. “What does Jack think?”
“I dunno,” said a man’s voice, this one with slightly different accent. “He looked at that model weevil this guy had in his pocket and got this look of recognition. The he and Ianto disappeared into the archives.”
“Into the archives, huh?” the woman asked. “To do what?”
“Gwen,” the man said impatiently. “There are now weevils loose in two cities on Earth. The rift has been replicated across the pond. I’m sure even Jack knows to keep it in his pants for the moment.”
John struggled to open his eyes. His body was sore, and felt like lead. As he took in his surroundings, he noticed that he was lying face-up on a metal table and that his hands were bound to the table by handcuffs.
He struggled instinctively, trying to get up. The movement got the attention of the man and the woman, Gwen, he’d heard her called.
“Well look who decided to join us,” said the man.
“Who are you?”
“Dr. Owen Harper, and this is Agent Gwen Cooper.”
“But who are you?”
“We’re Torchwood. And we need to figure out how you know about the weevils.”
“That thing? It’s not a weevil. It’s a Wandering Frog Man.”
“Frog man?” Owen asked. “It doesn’t look at all like a frog.”
John tried to shrug, unsuccessfully given that he was cuffed tightly. “I know it doesn’t.” He struggled again. “Why do you have me chained up?”
“We need to figure out when you came from. We don’t know if you’re a danger.”
“What do you mean when? I came from my office in Stamford. Where am I?”
“You’re at Torchwood Three,” Gwen explained, as though that explained anything. “We think you came through the rift in Stamford.”
“What the hell’s a rift? And what the hell is Torchwod?”
“I think we’re the ones doing the asking,” Owen said. “What year is it?”
“2013,” John answered. “I’m an attorney, I know my rights!” he insisted.
John could sense another presence in the room before hearing the voice, belonging to an American. John tried to swivel his head to see who was speaking, but he was bound too tightly to do so comfortably. “Those rights don’t exist here at Torchwood. We’re outside the government and beyond the police. What we need to know is why the hell you thought it’d be a good idea to go weevil hunting without a gun. And we need to know where you got the model of the weevil. That is a classified Torchwood item.”
“I don’t know who you are, but that classified item is my sons’ toy. They have a whole collection of them.”
“They have fifteen of them, don’t they?”
John stilled and thought for a moment. He seemed to recall that each triplet had five. In fact, he was sure of it, because that was the excuse they gave for never sharing with Nicky. Fifteen wasn’t divisible by four. Byron, the smartest of the three, of course had been the one to figure that out. “How could you possibly know that?”
“Because sixteen of them were commissioned by Torchwood many years ago, and only one could be found in the archives.” The man who was speaking moved from behind John to right next to the table where John was lying.
John got his first look at the man. Tall, brown hair, bright blue eyes, and dressed in clothes that were a good half-century out of date. Once John got a look at the man, he found it hard to pull his eyes away. “Who are you?” John was sick of this question. But there was something about this man - something undefinable that John was attracted to. He felt the strong need to know who this guy was.
“Captain Jack Harkness,” the man introduced himself. “And you are John Pike, attorney at Metro Works in Stamford Connecticut, lives at 134 Slate Street, Stoneybrook Connecticut. Married to Dee Pike. Eight kids, four girls and four boys, three of whom are identical triplets. Late fees at the Stoneybrook Public Library in the amount of $5.25, and member of the Stoneybrook Tennis Club.”
“How do you know all that?”
Jack smiled and held up John’s wallet. “I got your wallet while you were knocked out.”
“I don’t understand what’s going on. What’s Torchwood?”
“We track down alien life on Earth, fighting for the future of the human race.”
John looked at him, directly in his eyes, waiting for the punchline. Finally sighed and rolled his eyes a little bit, “Aliens. Jesus Christ,” he whispered. “Is this a joke?” His brain was feeling fuzzy.
Jack looked at John, “What do you think you saw in the woods in Stamford?”
“I don’t know. But there’s got to be a better explanation than alien.” John was trying his hardest to concentrate on the conversation, but he was distracted by some kind of smell, he felt almost as though he were being drugged. Which, of course, he just had been.
Jack leaned toward John, planting his hands on either side of John’s body. He leaned in closer to John, “There are aliens. There are a lot of aliens and there are five of us here who are responsible for them.” John could feel Jack’s breath hit his cheek, making it feel warm and tingly. He realized that the smell distracting him was this man.
“Huh,” John said, staring into Jack’s eyes. “I didn’t....” he drifted off. “What did you give me? I can’t focus. Can you uncuff me?”
Jack paused for a moment, appeared to be thinking hard, then said “Yeah.” He dug in his pocket and came up with a key and unlocked the cuffs that were holding John to the table.
John sat up, rubbing his wrists a little and trying to shake the fog out of his head. Jack took a step back and John said, “Wait!” Jack jerked still. “Come here,” John said.
Jack took a step closer to John and John grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him close. John closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. There was something undefinable about the way Jack smelled, something that reminded John in some vague was of a mixture of home and sex. “Who are you?”
“Holy shit,” Owen sighed. “I’ve never seen anyone so susceptible to it.” Gwen giggled.
Jack took a few steps back and John sat up straighter, his head clearing with every step away from him Jack took.
“The bigger question,” Jack said, eyeing John suspiciously, “is who are you? And how to you come to be in possession of Torchwood property,” Jack held up the Frog Man again.
“There’s got to be a mistake,” John said. “Those are my sons’ toys. They call them Wandering Frog Men.”
“Where did you get them?”
John thought for a moment and finally shrugged. “My wife had them. They were her brother’s when he was little, then when we had the boys, they were given to her for the boys to play with.”
“Who’s your wife’s brother?”
“He’s dead now.”
“What was his name?”
“Hartigan. My wife’s maiden name is Hartigan.”
Jack stilled for a moment, and John saw his breath catch. While Jack was thinking, John took a moment to look around. He was in a round room, medical equipment all over, and stairs leading up to another mysterious room. “What is this place?” he asked Gwen and Owen.
Owen shrugged, “Medical room at Torchwood Three.” He smirked, “You’re sitting on the autopsy table.”
John stood up quickly and moved several steps away from the table. “Christ, you laid me down where you do autopsies on people?”
Owen shrugged and grinned slightly, “Not just people,” he said non-chalantly, “aliens too.”
For the second time that day, John closed his eyes and whispered, “Aliens. Jesus Christ.”
“John,” Jack interrupted abruptly. “Follow me to my office.” He turned and started up the stairs. John looked briefly at Owen and Gwen wondering if he should. Gwen gave him a half nod, indicating that he should, indeed, follow Jack.
When they reached the top of the stairs, John was surprised to see a large open work space with several computers, some lab equipment, and in the corner a couch sitting behind a table littered with pizza boxes. Two other people were working at the computers. Jack introduced them, “John, this is Toshiko Sato, computer genius extraordinaire, she’s monitoring the second rift in Stamford for us, and the guy who looks fabulous in the suit is Ianto Jones, all around admin and coffee boy. He’s helping Tosh monitor the rift in Cardiff.”
“Most of that means nothing to me,” John said apologetically to Toshiko and Ianto. “Did you say Cardiff? Are we in Wales?”
“Yes,” Jack nodded.
“How long was I knocked out? My family’s going to think I’ve gone missing!”
“Don’t worry, we’ll work it out. The flight here was shorter than a commercial flight,” Jack explained. “It’s good to have RAF friends who can jet us across the pond.”
Jack continued to his office in one corner of the space. He opened the door for John and held it open, closing it and locking it behind him. Now that they were in close proximity again, John’s head seemed to go foggy, making it difficult for him to concentrate on anything but Jack.
Jack motioned for John to have a seat across from the desk. John took the seat. Instead of sitting behind the desk, Jack sat in the other seat next to John and he pulled a yellowing folder toward them. John had the uncontrollable urge to touch Jack’s leg, or elbow, or face. He sat on his hands instead. “What did Dr. Harper say I was susceptible to?” he asked, leaning in toward Jack.
Jack smiled slightly, “Call him Owen, please. And he said you were susceptible to 51st century pheromones.”
Jack shook his head, “Never mind.” He opened the folder, “tell me more about Dee’s side of the family. The Hartigans.”
“Just humor me here,”
“OK. Um, there’s my wife, Dee and her brother, Peter died last year. She didn’t have any other siblings.”
“How’d Peter die?”
“OK. Who are Dee and Peter’s parents?”
“Linda and Peter, Sr. Linda’s last name was Shultz. Linda’s still alive, but Peter, Sr. died about six or seven years ago.”
“Do you know her grandparents?”
“Yeah, which ones?”
“Peter Senior’s parents. Um, they were Eliza and Graham Hartigan. Eliza’s maiden name was Worth.”
“Your wife is Graham Hartigan’s granddaughter?”
“Yes. And Graham Hartigan emigrated to the U.S. with his parents and sisters from Wales.”
Jack turned the old folder toward John. In old-fashioned script on the side, it read “Victoria Hartigan.”
“Who’s Victoria Hartigan?” John asked.
“Graham Hartigan’s mother.”
“No.” John shook his head. “Graham Hartigan’s mother was Diana. I know because Dee is named for her.”
Jack licked his lips, a gesture that made John suck in his breath. “Victoria Hartigan was a Torchwood agent about a century ago. She died when Graham was five. Her brother, Jacob and his wife, Diana adopted the boy after her death.”
“Who was Graham’s father?”
Jack looked uncomfortable. “I don’t know. No one ever knew who he was; Victoria was a single mother.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“I thought you’d like to know where your sons got their toys.”
“Look. This is a secret agency, right?”
Jack looked at John, studying him. John flushed. “Right.”
“So if you’re telling me this, does that mean you’re going to kill me?”
Jack looked genuinely surprised. “No! God, no. We have other ways of seeing that you won’t talk.” Jack leaned in closer, so his face was inches from John’s, “Don’t worry. We aren’t going to hurt you, and we’ll get you back to your family safely.”
Jack was so close to John who was still sitting on his hands to keep from grabbing the man. With Jack so near, John leaned in a bit again to inhale. It wasn’t so much that he was sniffing Jack, it was that he was breathing in his essence. When he inhaled, he got a feeling deep in his gut that something was pulling him instinctively toward Jack.
“I’ll be safe? My family too?” John scooted his chair right next to Jack’s and leaned in even closer.
“I promise,” Jack said softly, his eyes meeting John’s seriously.
John paused for a moment, then lunged toward Jack, pushing his lips against the other man’s. Jack seemed unsurprised by this turn of events and returned the kiss with enthusiasm, reaching up and stroking John’s face with the tips of his fingers.
They broke apart. “I don’t know what this is,” John said, breathing hard and standing up. “I’m not even gay.”
Jack stood in front of him and held on to John’s shoulders, not letting him pull too far away. “Gay is such a 20th and 21st century label.”
“I don’t even know what that means,” John said, clearly unconcerned as he leaned back in to kiss Jack. He pulled back again, “I’m married and not gay, but I just can’t.” He stopped.
Jack leaned back, “We can stop.”
“I don’t really want to.”
“I don’t want you to regret it.”
“I don’t think I will.” John leaned in toward Jack and inhaled deeply again. “I get this close to you and it’s nearly impossible to keep my hands to myself.” He reached up and began unbuttoning Jack’s shirt. Jack didn’t stop him.
They didn’t kiss as Jack slipped out of his shirt, revealing a starched white undershirt beneath. John lifted the shirt from the hem and Jack pulled the shirt over his head. John didn’t hesitate as he lifted his hand and began stroking Jack’s chest, running his thumb nail over the nipple. Jack leaned in and kissed John softly, loosening his tie and working on unbuttoning his shirt. John wasted no time in helping Jack with his shirt and tie. Then pushed him against the wall and sunk his hips into Jack’s.
John didn’t even stop to think about Dee. He couldn’t stop and think about anything else, because there was something about this man in front of him, this man whom he was letting unbutton his trousers, that was beyond irresistible. Jack Harkness had an aura about him, something John couldn’t put his finger on. But kissing Jack and being kissed by Jack, jerking Jack off and being jerked off by Jack - these things didn’t even feel sexual, necessarily. It felt like it was something that had to happen, he had to find a way to drink Jack in. A way to get closer to this man who made his brain turn to mush.
When they were done and were sweating and still breathing hard, John asked Jack, “So what now?”
Jack pushed off the wall slightly and pulled up his pants, then picked up his and John’s shirts and handed John his while he started to get dressed. “Now we work on getting you back home.”
John pulled his shirt on and started buttoning it up, “But what about this?” he asked, waving a hand between them.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“I have to worry about it,” John started to explain.
His thought was interrupted by the door opening. Tosh and Ianto were in the doorway, Tosh holding a laptop and Ianto holding a tray with two steaming mugs. They took in the state of John and Jack, both with untucked shirts, Jack’s trousers still unbuttoned, and John’s tie hanging loosely around his neck. Tosh looked unsurprised, but Ianto looked slightly pained.
“Jack,” Tosh said, very business-like, “I’ve been studying the rift activity from the States, and it appears that the rift is shrinking. In fact, when I analyze the data, the rift activity appears to be nearly symmetrical,” she showed Jack some data on her laptop. “If this pattern keeps up that rift will be closed off completely in a matter of two and a half hours.”
John was pretending to listen to Tosh as though he’d understood a thing she was saying. Pretending so that he wouldn’t have to make eye contact with Ianto, who was scowling openly at him.
“Good work, Tosh,” Jack patted her on the back. “Contact the guy in the RAF, so we can get a plane back across the pond. Swear that this will be the last time we need it.” He turned to Ianto, “Ianto.”
Ianto tore his eyes away from John, “Yes sir?”
“Thanks for the coffee. Which is mine?”
“This one,” he handed Jack one mug. Then he picked up the other mug and, smiling, handed it to John. Then he picked up his tray and walked out of Jack’s office.
“Drink up,” Jack said, holding the mug up.
John took his mug and took a little sip. “Good coffee,” he said.
“Ianto makes the best.”
“Anyway, what we were saying...” John trailed off.
Jack waved a hand dismissively. “Give me a minute to sit back and enjoy the coffee, will you?” He leaned back in his office chair.
John sat down, silently sipping from his mug as well. When he’d drained the last bit of it, Jack stood up, walked around the desk, and kneeled down in front of him. “I need to tell you a few things.”
“OK,” John said nervously.
“We put something called Retcon in your coffee. In a few minutes, things will go black and when you wake up, you will have no memory of being here.”
“You drugged me?” John’s hand instinctively went to his mouth. “I don’t want to forget.”
“Yes. You do.” Jack assured him. “Just listen. As soon as I’m nowhere near you, you’d be filled with unspeakable remorse about cheating on Dee. It’s better this way. And there’s the whole fact that Torchwood is top secret. We can’t let you out of here with any memories. People who know about Torchwood have a scary habit of turning up dead.”
“This will all be like a dream?”
“It won’t even be that. You’ll have no memory of the past several hours. When you come to, you’ll be safe in a bed at a hospital in Stamford. You will have been found knocked unconscious by a falling tree branch in the woods where Owen and Gwen picked you up.”
“Oh my god.”
“But that’s not all. Stay with me another minute.”
John looked up, “I’m still here.”
Jack licked his lips, “I’m not from this time. I’m from another time completely and I’ve been all through time and space. That’s just who I am. About a century ago, I fathered a child with Victoria Hartigan. We named that baby Graham. But because I am who I am, I couldn’t keep this child when Victoria died.” Jack paused, “John, your wife is my great-granddaughter.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because you won’t remember.”
John stared at Jack long and hard. He leaned in and kissed him softly on the lips, then pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and handed it to Jack. Jack looked at him questioningly. “What’s this for?”
“Download the pictures of my wife and kids. If they’re your family, you should be able to see them.”
Jack had to turn quickly so John wouldn’t see the tears in his eyes. He took John’s phone to his computer and plugged it in. “Thanks,” he said to John as the pictures downloaded. “Tell me about them.”
“Mallory’s my oldest, she’s creative and clever and a real care-taker. Then are the triplets, Adam, Byron and Jordan. All good kids, but together they’re full of piss and vinegar.” Jack smiled and John continued, “Vanessa is next. She’s moody and thinks she’s a poet. Then Nicky who’s my little science genius.”
“Nicky looks a lot like Victoria.”
John smiled, and his eyes began to droop, but he continued talking a little more slowly. “Margo is a little princess and Claire is little miss silly. And then there’s Dee. I love her and I can’t get enough of her. ” John started to sway, “She must have inherited your pheromones.”
Jack looked up quickly. He ran to the door and called, “Ianto!”
Ianto came rushing to Jack’s office. “Yes sir?”
“He’s fading. Help me get him to the lift and to the car.”
Jack and Ianto each took one of John’s arms and pulled it over their shoulders. “Up we go, John.” Jack said. “Stay with us.”
“Hmmm?” John was blinking rapidly. “Where are you taking me?”
“Home,” Jack answered as he and Ianto helped moved John toward the lift.
“Jack?” Ianto asked as the three settled on the lift. “What’d you do with him in your office?”
“Jealous?” Jack asked with a smirk.
“No,” Ianto said, clearly seething with jealousy. “Just wondering if you had any limits at all.”
Jack laughed, “Oh, Ianto. You don’t even know the connection John and I had.”
“What is it?”
Jack looked at Ianto, “John here is married to my great-granddaughter.”
“Dee,” John mumbled.
“That’s right,” Jack patted him on the back, “Just think of Dee. You’ll be seeing her soon.”
Everything went black.
John was unaware of his surroundings, so when he first came to, he whispered “Jack.”
“John? John? Are you awake?”
John opened his eyes, squinting at the bright hospital light. “Dee? Is that you?”
“Of course it’s me!” she leaned over him and he looked up at her.
“God damn, you’re beautiful. You know that?”
“You didn’t come home from work. You didn’t even show back up to work after lunch. People were searching for you. Someone found you in the little woods behind your office. You’d been knocked out by a falling tree branch.”
“My head feels funny.”
“You got hit on the head.” She looked at him, tears leaking out of her eyes. “I was so worried.”
“It’s OK, Dee. I’m here.” He struggled to sit up. “My head is foggy.”
“Should I get a nurse?”
“No. I just want to enjoy being with my wife for a few minutes.” He scooted over on the bed and lifted the IV, “Come lay next to me.” He leaned in and sniffed her. “You smell amazing.” He buried his head in her neck and just breathed her in.
Dee lay next to him, and rested her head on his shoulder. “Who’s Jack?”
John thought and shrugged, “No idea. Why?”
“That’s the name you said, when you just came to.”
“Huh, did I?” John thought hard. “I work with a Jack. Maybe I was dreaming about work.”
“Maybe. Do you remember?”
“No. I don’t remember a thing. I was going through the woods and I took Byron’s little Frog Man toy out of my pocket and looked down at it. Then everything went black.”
Dee slid off the bed and grabbed the pants from the cabinet. She reached in the pocket and smiled, “They’re still here,” she held up two Wandering Frog Men.
“Why are there two?” John asked. “Byron only gave me one this morning.”
Dee looked at him with concern. “Maybe there was another on the floor of your car? And you picked it up?”
John shook his head, “I don’t remember that.”
“Well,” Dee shrugged. “It’s just one of those things I guess.”
“Yeah,” John nodded. “I guess so. Let me see those guys.” Dee handed them over and he inspected them. “You know, they look nothing like frogs.”
Dee laughed, “I know. I used to say the same thing to Peter when we were kids.”
John turned one over in his hand. In tiny print on the bottom of the Frog Man’s foot said, “Jack H.” John mulled it over, decided he had no idea who Jack H. was, but also instinctively decided it’d be better to not show Dee.