May Contain: peanuts (also drugs, alcohol, amtdi, LOLcats, and Cher)
Authors' Note: We looked into the trope randomizer, and the trope randomizer looked into us.
THAT'S WHAT YOU GET
by Rex Luscus and Nancy Brown
"Oh. By the way. Meant to tell you. I found Gray." John vanished from sight.
Before Gwen could draw breath to ask Jack what he'd meant, the halo of the Rift crack fluxed like a cheap special effect, and electricity moved inside her brain. She thought she heard shouts, and her vision went dark.
Time passed, most of it with Gwen fighting to hold down her supper and keep her own head from exploding in pain. Both sensations gradually faded, and she chanced opening her eyes. A faintly familiar smell had been present, just out of reach of comprehension. As her vision cleared, she saw the edge of Owen's jacket, her nose almost buried in the beaten-up leather.
She pulled her head up. Owen was unconscious beside her, breathing. The room they lay in was unknown to her, not a hospital nor one of the rooms in the Hub. Large overstuffed pillows with frayed tassels covered a plush carpet. The two of them lay haphazardly across three pillows, and it was stressing her back.
Gwen sat up as Owen's eyes came open. No-one else was in the dimly-lit room with them. She remembered her near-death thanks to Hart, remembered the Rift explosion into last night. What had happened then?
A door opened. She expected Jack to walk in and explain nothing, as usual.
Instead, a large cat walked in on two legs. "U want noms? U can has noms."
Toshiko woke with a splitting headache. Her face hurt, and she remembered: Hart. Ugh. He'd shot Owen, punched her, poisoned Gwen, and killed Jack. And to think she'd thought him attractive. Now all she really wanted was a session with his bollocks and a cheese grater. Possibly some lemon juice and salt for a poultice after.
The image made her smile. She rolled onto her side. Jack's smile greeted her. "Good morning, sunshine," he said brightly, and she swallowed her yelp.
"Don't do that."
"Sorry. You looked so sweet, waking up."
"Thanks." She brushed her hair behind her ear as she sat up. Her boss might be an outrageous flirt, but he so rarely directed that particular behaviour at her that she had no idea how to react.
She took in their surroundings: a bedroom done in safari chic, complete with an enormous bed covered in unidentifiable animal fur, or a fake version thereof.
"Where are we?"
"No idea." He flowed to his feet and offered her a hand. "I think we got pulled through the Rift. It was still touchy after the explosion."
She nodded, the scenario spinning through her head: high-energy release inside the Rift, coupled with Hart's manipulation device, would have destablised it. She'd thought they'd got off lucky with a short time jump. But luck and Torchwood rarely had anything to do with each other.
Terror edged at her. "We went through the Rift? We're lost?"
Jack placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. "We're a little displaced. But we're not lost. John came through, too. I'm sure he's not far. We'll have him drop us back in Cardiff. All right?" He appeared confident, but Jack always did.
"Are we on another planet?"
"Could be." A grin spread across his face. "Wanna check it out?"
The sane, sensible part of her said no, they needed to find Hart now and get home as soon as possible. She certainly shouldn't consider strolling around an alien planet with someone as untrustworthy as her boss, who (just in a shortened list) had kept her prisoner, abandoned them for months, and killed her admittedly evil alien girlfriend.
But Jack's grin was infectious, and this was an actual alien planet. Tosh's pulse raced at the prospect. "I suppose a little look around couldn't hurt."
Ianto vomited. Nose full of stench and head spinning, he crawled away from the mess and rested his forehead against a cool floor. No-one came. He had to take stock. Rift. Hart. An ugly memory hit him: Hart's gun stroking his face and cold fear in his stomach of what the madman had done to his friends, and what he would do next.
The fear gave him the energy he'd lacked, and Ianto got his feet beneath him, casting his eyes about him for any sign of Hart. Nothing. Wherever this was, he was alone. The room, or cell, was small and unfurnished. Light came from a wall-bound fixture. He found a door with no handle, but a palm pressed against the tan surface pushed it silently into a slot on the adjoining wall.
Ianto stepped out of the room into a dark corridor. A tall cat standing on two legs stood there looking at him. It let out a loud screech, and Ianto fell back, careful not to get trapped back in the room. His feet tripped beneath him as it advanced on him. He reached for a gun that wasn't there, then turned to run. The cat hit him full on the back, sending them both to the floor.
He struggled, pushing for purchase and trying to twist the thing off him as it scratched at his ears.
A sharp pain shot through his left ear, like a stick puncturing his eardrum. A moment later, the pain passed, and the cat's screeching abruptly changed to words: "Y u no calm daown, dumbass?"
"What the hell?" His hand felt at his ear gingerly.
The cat rolled its eyes. "Doan poke babelfish, dumbass." It loped away down the other end of the corridor, pausing to groom ruffled fur with an annoyed tongue. "Coming nao, dumbass?"
Ianto followed the cat. "That's not my name."
"We don't want fucking noms," Owen said for the fourth time. "Where the fuck are we?"
"Doan swear. Ceiling cat iz watchin u," said the cat. It flicked its tail towards Gwen and sauntered out of the room.
"Follow it," she said, striding after the stupid fucking thing.
"We don't know where we are, we don't know where the others are, and it has food."
He hated when she was right. "Fine. If we get eaten by fucking space cats, it's your fault."
He did link arms with her as they walked. This whole place gave him the creeps. Giant cats? Giant pillows for them to sleep on and balls of yarn somewhere to play with? So they'd gone through the Rift and were on an alien planet. Great. Just great. And it'd be that kind of planet where they took one look at Gwen and decided to marry her off to the local potentate puss as one of his seventeen wives or some shit. Best for Owen to put in his claim early, as it were, and avoid that mess.
"Any idea where we are?" she asked, taking note of the narrow corridors and frankly obvious signs of walls used as scratching posts. At least they hadn't been put into a giant space litter tray. God, he hated cats.
The moment Tosh stepped out the door of their room, a feathered alien in a white tie and dinner jacket accosted her with a shriek. Tosh leapt back, right into Jack's chest. Jack took her gently by the shoulders and then pointed to his own ear. The alien paused, taken aback, and then handed them two little yellow fish.
"What the hell," said Tosh.
"Put it in your ear," said Jack.
She obeyed, too disoriented to object, and the feathered alien's shrieking turned suddenly to articulate sounds. Sounds very much like English. English that seemed to be saying "... congratulations on your nuptials! Everything's arranged for you downstairs!"
Tosh looked up at Jack, who shrugged unhelpfully. "Guess they think we're somebody else," he observed. "Are you going to tell him we don't belong here?"
The alien awaited their response with an expression of—well, it could have been ravenousness, but seemed more to Tosh like eager expectation. Could the fish help her read alien faces too? Regardless, it seemed like such a small lie to get this fellow off their case. "Uh, lead the way!" she said, grabbing Jack's hand just to make it convincing.
Jack, of course, dropped her hand and threw his arm around her shoulders, pulling her tight against him as they followed the alien down the corridor. Jack was very tall and solid, and he smelled nice, and she'd missed him like crazy, so she didn't put up a fight. This was a kind of playacting. It was safe. She relaxed into the role.
The alien kept up a steady stream of chatter as they passed through atria, climbed up and down flights of stairs, and finally reached a glass lift. As they descended, one side of the lift shaft opened up a panoramic view of the outside. "I knew it!" whispered Jack. "I'd recognise those orange mountains anywhere. Not to mention the patterns in these carpets. We're in the Vegas system!"
"There's a whole Vegas system?" asked Tosh.
"Yeah." Jack grinned. "And it's exactly what you think."
Tosh let the implications filter through her mind, but most of her attention was on the extraordinary landscape. It wasn't unlike pictures she'd seen of the American southwest, except painted in colours ten times as vivid, and ten times as strange. A desert plateau of periwinkle sand stretched ten or so miles to a line of undulating foothills the colour of yams. The vast sky, speckled even in daylight with planets or moons, was a deep bubblegum pink.
"It's very ... jewel-toned here," she said.
"Yup," said Jack. "All terraformed. The Chamber of Commerce picked the colour palette."
"For the whole planet?"
"I think so. To be honest, I haven't seen much of it. The casinos here are kind of hard to leave."
On the ground floor, their guide led them through an enormous vaulted lobby into what appeared to be a ballroom or banquet hall. A number of other banquets were already in process. Tosh realised after they'd passed a few tables that each featured a wedded couple or moresome.
"So cheap, fly-by-night marriages are a thing here too," she said.
"Oh yeah. Only place to go for 'em. You have to go to another planet for the no-questions-asked divorces, though."
"Good to know."
Their guide—their host, it seemed—seated them at a large table already populated by merrymakers. As soon as they took their seats, the party raised a raucous toast. Somewhere, a cork went off with a bang, and then Tosh was accepting a glass filled with something fizzy and green. "Oh, I love this stuff," said Jack, easy smile on his face.
"Might I have your names, my dears?" asked their feathered host.
Once they'd given them, the ad hoc wedding party toasted them by name and drank several times to their health.
"It's all a bit artificial, isn't it?" she said. "I mean, we could be anyone!"
Jack shrugged and squeezed her shoulders. "Sure, it's all fake, but who cares? Besides, I know who you are." He planted a kiss on her cheek.
Yes, at least she had Jack. Jack, who had the reputation for starting a party under any circumstances, be that an alien wedding reception or a 1940s dancehall. Jack, who'd proven he'd do everything in his power to keep her from getting lost or hurt, and who'd run out on them without a word and come back full of secrets. She loved Jack, and she was glad to have him with her, but Tosh knew better than to rely on him to find their friends or get her home.
She took a sip of her alien champagne. It was delicious.
"This is where it was leading us?" said Owen, looking around. "A fucking food court?"
Gwen shrugged. She was feeling peckish, actually. Maybe travel through the Rift did that to you. She was less sanguine about eating alien food. But she'd spotted a few human-looking people on the way, so surely there was something edible for humans to eat here.
"Come on," said Gwen, tugging Owen toward one of the decorated booths. "The pictures on that sign kind of look like Phǒ."
At the counter, they discovered a problem.
"O hai," said the cat behind the counter. "Cheezburger ten dollarz."
"Um ..." Owen fumbled with his wallet. "Only got ten quid, I'm afraid."
The cat stared blankly at his ten-pound note. "Ten dollarz plz."
Owen lost his temper immediately. "How was I supposed to know they only take American cash in space?" Assuming they weren't asking for space dollars. Were there space dollars? Jack would know, but where was Jack?
"Assuming that's where we are." Gwen led him away by the elbow. "Maybe we'll try for food later."
It didn't take long for Owen to panic about a matter he'd been indifferent to just a few minutes ago. "If we don't have money they'll take, how are we going to eat at all? We're gonna starve!"
"Calm down," sighed Gwen, craning her neck to look around. "We need to find out more about where we are. Like, we need to find out where we are."
"And where the fuck are Jack and Tosh? Or Ianto, for that matter? Hell, he'd be able to scrape us up some food in no time."
"Wherever Ianto is, he's probably being terribly resourceful and doesn't miss us a bit."
Ianto staggered after the bipedal cat, holding his stomach and trying not to scratch his ear. Any curiosity he'd ever had about visiting other worlds had evaporated, and now he just wanted to get the hell out of here, wherever here was. He wanted the familiar insanities of Cardiff on a busy night, when all he had to worry about was defending the city from aliens—not being the alien.
The corridor changed from drab service passage to something a little more festive, one might say, if a carpet the colour of Pepto-Bismol full of writhing glyphs and tendrils put you in a celebratory mood. He tried not to think about Pepto-Bismol. But this meant he had to look up. And now he could see exactly where he was.
The room he'd entered was unmistakably a casino. The games were different, but they were all clearly games, and they were being played for piles of coins by aliens in what, for them, must be fashionable dress. Or maybe this was their naff tourist gear, no way to know. Either way, he'd entered a house of chance, and he didn't need to understand the culture to observe that it was as vast and vulgar as anything one could find in Nevada. Everything blinked and flashed. The noise was deafening.
He imagined for a second what would happen if Jack had been with him. Jack would tell him all about the place, probably via a story from his deep past about a crazy weekend full of failed cons and sex with perfect strangers, and Ianto would immediately feel at ease, because Jack knew his way around this world. At any rate, Jack enjoyed disorder and unpredictability in most of its forms, and he could even make them tolerable to Ianto. But Jack wasn't here. Ianto'd had him back for less than a day and now he'd lost him again.
"Y so srs?" asked a cat leaning against a tall blinking column.
"Uh, afraid I'm a bit lost." At least he could sort of communicate.
The cat slung an arm around his shoulders, and Ianto was too stunned to pull away. "U sad," said the cat. "U try da gud stuff." He led Ianto slowly toward the edge of the room.
"Uh ..." Ianto tried ineffectually to free himself. He wasn't sure how a violent defence would go over, or if he was even capable of it at the moment. "What did you have in mind?"
Once they were under the shelter of a doorway, the cat reached into his coat and drew out something that looked very much like a plastic baggie.
"Oh." Some customs were universal, it seemed.
"U try nao."
"Um, no thanks."
"Nao!" The cat opened the bag and held it under Ianto's nose. It smelled almost exactly like catnip.
Ianto laughed. "I don't think it's going to work on me."
The cat jammed the bag up against Ianto's nose just as he was inhaling, and his head filled with the awful burning stuff. He sneezed violently, and the cat patted his back. "Gud boy."
Rubbing his nose and wiping his eyes, Ianto detached himself from the cat. "See? I don't think I'm quite the right ... species ... oh fuck."
The cat had acquired multiple copies, one for each second that passed. Looking down, Ianto saw that the same was true of his hands.
Owen stuck close to Gwen as they wandered from room to room in what, they'd decided, was either a shopping mall or a massive hotel, until they stumbled into a room with a lot of whirling wheels and flashing lights and realised that it was, in fact, a casino. "Figures," said Owen. "Food's always overpriced in these places."
"It's too bad we don't have a bit of cash for an ante."
Owen laughed. "What, feeling lucky? We're stuck on an alien pleasure planet and you want to play the tables?"
"No, you idiot, I'm saying it's a way to make money and thus not to starve."
Owen stroked his chin. "Good point. Frankly I'd rather just find Jack and get out of here, but barring that…"
They checked the trays of the alien slot machines until Gwen found one with abandoned coins. This got them a seat at a low-stakes card table.
"Er, what do you think the rules of this game are?" Owen muttered in Gwen's ear.
Gwen was studying the table intently. "It looks like you have to get three of the little spiky-shrub cards before you get an upside-down-teacup card."
"Really? That's it? Even Blackjack's got a bit more to it than that."
"Well, I could be wrong."
Owen dove into the game. Astonishingly, he won the first two hands.
Gwen gave him an awkward hug after the second. "How much do you think that gets us?"
"I dunno. These are just chips, no idea what they'll cash in for."
"Hopefully it's enough for a bite to eat."
"Hang on," said Owen. "I'm hot right now. If I haven't won us enough, I may not be able to get this kind of streak going again."
Owen played another hand and promptly lost everything.
"Bugger," said Gwen.
"Lemme try one more time," said Owen, covering up his humiliation.
The next hand had him owing the house.
"One more time," said Owen.
They were deep in the red when a large cat in sunglasses tapped Owen on the shoulder. "U pay nao," it said.
Owen looked quickly from the cat to Gwen. "Uh."
"Run!" said Gwen as she grabbed his wrist.
"Oh for the love of ..." He shook his wrist free as they darted through the crowd. "This is all your fucking fault!"
A dozen or more happy couples joined the lists announced by the feathered aliens. Toshiko tried to focus on the variety of new life forms: some scaled, some leathery, some bulbous and some knife-thin. She watched a happy grouping of four multicoloured clouds be joined in matrimony. One triad of bears passed the feathered alien extra money and for their trouble, were given their announcement by a humanoid alien with a dark bouffant wearing a spangled white jumpsuit.
Her glass of green alien champagne was empty. Jack's eye glanced over to her hand.
"You didn't drink all of that, did you?" Under his idle curiosity, Tosh thought she heard a note of worry and slight guilt. His glass was untouched.
"It's got a lovely flavour."
He plucked the glass from her hand. "This really isn't good for humans."
"You said you loved it."
"Yeah, but it's got a kick. And a punch. With brass knuckles. Anyway, don't have any more."
Her heart raced. "Have I been poisoned?" She noticed her voice was rising, and alien heads were turning to stare at them. Jack lowered his hand in the air to signal her to be quieter, which only served to annoy her. "Dammit, Jack, you never tell us anything when it can help."
"Try harder to remember." Her head had started to reel, and she was having a row with her brand-new husband. Wait. "Are we married now?"
"Only on this planet." He frowned. "The marriage is recognised in a couple other systems, but we probably won't go there." Jack brightened up. "We can get a discount on a honeymoon suite."
Another couple was announced and toasted. The aliens began blending in her sight, along with the mental picture of herself with Jack in a honeymoon suite together. As if she needed another horror to contemplate. "No, we can't."
She expected him to turn on the charm, but Jack took another look at the empty glass he'd taken from her and instead popped a friendly kiss on her hair. "Maybe in the next galaxy. Come on," he said, setting down the glasses and taking her hand. "Let's see if we can find the others and get out of here."
The world had stopped making copies of itself. Now Ianto felt like his head was a helium balloon that was gently wafting his body along, brushing his feet lightly against the ground as he went. All around him, what had been a flashing, chaotic din of menace just minutes before was now a kind of fairy garden, festooned with luminous pulses of warm colour. The random lights and noises of the casino had a kind of poetry. He felt flooded with good will. Even the aliens no longer frightened him; they were lovely and absurd, like tourists tended to be, and he had nothing but compassion for their strangeness.
Following an imperceptible tide, he drifted from room to room. At length, the lights ceased and other spectacles took their place—a parade of aliens, colourfully dressed and walking in pairs, and then suddenly—
The moment Ianto recognised the face in front of him, the name attached to it had popped out. The filter between his brain and his mouth, usually so robust, had apparently been removed, leaving other things free to come out as well, such as: "Oh I've missed you like you wouldn't believe!"
"I might." Jack's huge, warm grin dominated Ianto's field of vision as he was gathered into Jack's side. Jack smelled so good that Ianto couldn't resist rubbing his face all over Jack's shoulder. "My goodness," chuckled Jack, "what happened to you ...?"
"I love you!" Ianto hummed, squeezing him around the waist.
"I think Ianto may have drunk the green stuff too," said another familiar voice.
"Tosh!" Ianto reached out in her direction, unseeing. "I love you." Tosh ducked and gave an embarrassed laugh as his hands fumbled around her face. "Also," he went on, "dunno if you noticed but I'm high as fuck."
"No kidding," said Jack. "Look, I should probably get you two—"
Ianto turned toward yet another familiar voice and grinned.
Owen was just starting to get out of breath when he spotted—those fuckers—his three missing teammates, hugging and carrying on as if they weren't all stranded on an alien planet. Or being chased by alien security guards. Ahead of him, Gwen had spotted them too and had altered course to intercept.
"JACK!" Owen shouted. "Where have you been, you bastard?"
"Either give us a hand or try to keep up!" Gwen shouted as they closed in on the other three.
"Whoa whoa whoa!" Jack held up his hands. "Keep your shirts on! Or don't. What I mean is, relax."
Feeling exactly like a kid hiding behind his dad, Owen put Jack between himself and the advancing cat bouncers, who were stalking toward Jack with clear intent. Ianto, who had been clinging to Jack's side, detached himself and fixed Owen with a frightening, wide-eyed stare. "Owen!" he said, slurring a little. "I love you!"
"Fellas!" Jack was saying to the cats, hands raised in the universal sign (was it? Owen hoped so) of surrender. "Let's talk this over like civilised people." He turned to Owen and Gwen cowering behind him. "I'll be right back," he said.
As Jack led the cat bouncers out of earshot, Owen finally got a good look at Tosh and Ianto. Tosh's eyes were enormous and dilated, and a bit of drool was collecting on her lower lip. Ianto was smiling fixedly, as if he couldn't stop. Both of them looked incredibly stoned.
"Well," said Owen, "I see you two got right down to it."
"Maybe it's good we never ate or drank anything," said Gwen, peering sympathetically at Tosh.
"Just avoid the green stuff," said Tosh. "And anything else Jack tells you he loves."
"I love Jack," observed Ianto.
"Yes yes, we know," said Owen. "You're gonna hate yourself in the morning and it's gonna be hilarious."
"Okay," said Jack, striding back over. "All taken care of."
"What?" said Gwen, aghast. "What did you do?"
"Don't worry about it," said Jack briskly. "Owen, you'd better take these two up to our honeymoon suite and make sure they're okay. The chemical entertainment on this planet isn't always ideal for humans."
"Honeymoon suite?" frowned Gwen. "Okay, really, what did you do?"
"I'll explain on the way," said Tosh, reaching for Gwen's arm, managing it after two tries, and patting her hand.
The honeymoon suite, Gwen decided, was awesome, but still the least interesting thing she'd seen all day. The taste for a particular kind of tacky faux-romantic décor extended, apparently, to all corners of the universe. She poked around the room while Owen sat Tosh and Ianto down on a huge heart-shaped bed. She tested the temperature of a sunken pool filled with what looked like champagne (though she knew better than to taste it), then opened a closet and looked inside. "Oh, well, they've left us some attractive négligées, at least."
Owen was taking swabs from Tosh's and Ianto's mouths and testing them on his portable chemical analyser, which he'd stowed in his jacket pocket. "Are they for someone with two arms and two legs?"
Gwen took the garment off the hanger. "Er ... no."
"Okay, kids," said Owen, putting away his instruments. "Tomorrow morning's going to suck, but I think you'll live."
By now, Gwen had discovered the minibar. "You know," she said as she picked up one wrapped, unidentifiable snack after another, "it's kind of sad that we're on an actual alien planet, surrounded by actual aliens and whatnot, and we're stuck in a hotel room."
Owen came up behind her and snatched one of the packages out of her hands. "Fuck it, we've got snacks."
Suddenly ravenous, and not particularly caring if they got billed for it later, Gwen tore open what looked like a neon green fairy cake. "Good point."
"Hey," said Ianto spacily from the bed, "where's Jack?"
"On stage nao."
The cats hadn't perfected their translation technology yet and wouldn't for a couple of centuries. Jack preferred the later models, and had waxed rhapsodic over drinks one night when he'd been trying to impress a potential shag in a London pub back in the '70s. (He'd made up the thing about the towels to draw out the story, and he still hadn't managed to convince the bloke to go back to his place.)
"Yeah, yeah." Jack had agreed to work off the gambling debts and the payment for the room. It wouldn't be the first time he'd done a strip tease for some quick money. The trick was working out what the audience thought would be hot. Some species liked a nice long, drawn-out reveal, one ankle at a time, others were all about bawdy dancing and bits bouncing amidst public whistles and encouragement.
Jack took in the room now. The cats who owned the place swarmed around, not paying attention to the stage: servers, waiters, and the many go-betweens who pointed out to the customers the delights they could purchase for just a few more dollars. The customers were a good mix of the regulars from this part of space. The poly gas group from the wedding announcements floated at a table, and a mated pair of intelligent pink poodles next to them. In the corner, a couple of newlywed yellow giraffe-necked lizardpedes were getting on with their wedding night right at their table. Jack had forgotten how flexible they were, and watched with interest until his arm was poked by a sheathed claw.
As he walked out under the golden spotlight, an old-fashioned (by his standards, it looked like Jaring Dynasty era, valuable if you knew the right buyer) microphone.
"Share what?" Jack hissed back.
"Share!" The cat growled at him. "I got u babe! Share!"
Jack blinked. "You want me to sing a Cher song?"
Jack cleared his throat as the screechy cat orchestra started to play. The tipsier members of the audience sang along. "They say our love won't pay the rent. Before it's earned, our money's all been spent ... "
The honeymoon suite was filled with the musical sounds of snoring. Tosh made a deep, low whuffle into her pillow, Owen sawed logs beside her, and Gwen on his other side made a series of high-pitched sighs at random intervals. The concert floated around him, soaring and swooping, the colours of the music dancing like ugly elves.
Ianto stifled a giggle. He hadn't felt this warm and fuzzy since he was seventeen and his mate Daryn stole Daryn's older brother's weed.
The snoring reached a crescendo, which he conducted with his hands, enjoying the flowing patterns his fingers made in the semi-dark. Then he climbed out of the giant bed, stepping on Owen's face as he went, but Owen didn't wake up. Too bad. Ianto loved him so much and wanted to tell him.
His brain drifted. Where was Jack? He ought to tell Jack how much he loved him.
Barefoot, Ianto went to the door and after some fumbling, he wrangled it open. Light from the corridor outside stabbed his eyes, dilated from the darkened room and the drug, but if he turned his head like this, the light patterns zipped across his eyes like retinal flashes. With a happy snicker, Ianto followed the pretty fairy lights they made, relishing the slickplush carpet fibres between his toes.
More music hit his ears, not snoring this time, but a celestial harmony he'd never experienced. At last, his alien planet experience was paying off. Joyful tears dripped down his face unnoticed as the enticing clove-and-oranges scent of the sounds drew him towards the source. Surely his feet were leading to some alien cathedral, where spindly-legged creatures worshipped dark, faceless gods. His imagination peopled the arched ceilings with chittering, winged angels, and the floor beneath them writhing in orgiastic sexual ecstasy, driven by the heavenly notes.
He reached the door, could not fling it open dramatically, settled for sliding it so he could squeeze his body through.
"But every night all the men would come around, and lay their money down." The notes reached a high point, and ended. Close by to him, aliens of every shape and size put their hand pods together, clapping politely. Two bears applauded loudly, and Ianto saw their large, empty mugs, and knew they were drunk. His hands hurt, and he looked down to see them clapping together.
The singer bowed and grinned. It was Jack. "Hi, Jack!" he said, but no-one could hear him from back here.
As the curtain came down, Ianto padded, unnoticed, to the stage and followed where Jack had gone. Jack stood in conversation with a tall cat, who was patted him on the shoulder companionably. Jack's grin was well in place. Ianto wondered if Jack was going to have sex with the cat, and if so, if they'd mind an audience. You didn't see that sort of thing every day.
Jack noticed him. "Ianto, what are you doing here?"
"That was amazing! I love you!" He reached out for a hug, and Jack slung an arm around him, holding him steady.
"You really had too much, didn't you?"
Ianto didn't reply. He was too busy tapping his feet to the sounds of the voices out in the audience talking. Brilliant.
Jack told the cat, "If we're finished here, I should get him back to the room so he can sleep this off."
Jack shrugged into a better hold on Ianto and helped him walk back towards the room. "Your hangover is going to be epic tomorrow."
"Yeah. I love you." He tilted his head happily at Jack, who smiled fondly back. It wasn't his usual come-hither grin, or the naughty let's-play-cowboys-again grin, but something kinder, almost tender.
Not remotely for the first time in his life, Jack woke up with his nose in someone's hair (mint shampoo, probably Gwen) and his hand on a different someone's bare midriff (hairy, shirt on over top, could be Owen but more likely Ianto). Someone else had a hand firmly cupping his arse, which was definitely nice but would have been nicer had he not still been wearing his trousers. He passed through a hopeful rundown of the night before and sadly did not scrape up any memories of talking the team into an orgy. Maybe next time.
Gwen turned her head and faced him as her eyes opened. Jack, never one to miss an opportunity, said, "Good morning, sweetheart." On cue, her eyes widened and horror crossed her features as she backed her head away from his.
The warm stomach under his hand moved muscles that indicated whoever it was would be sitting up soon, and Jack drew away, sitting up himself and inspecting the room.
Empty wrappers were strewn all over the floor for food products Jack remembered with fondness. He probably wouldn't tell the others the "coated almonds" weren't almonds, and the coating was the excretion of a particularly tasty insect species. Some delicacies were best enjoyed not knowing their source. Or their cost.
"That's right, we got the honeymoon suite. I could tell you stories about the good times I've had in the Vegas galaxy in one of these."
He was met with a series of unhappy groans, especially from Toshiko and Ianto, both of whom sat up with expressions of severe morning-after syndrome. Tosh's hair stuck up in odd places. Ianto had the print of the bedspread patterned on one cheek. If they were in different circumstances, Jack would kiss them both for being so cute, then go after Owen and Gwen for a warm-up snog and shag.
The door buzzed and disappeared into the floor. He remembered that, too.
Outside, a tall cat dressed in the bellhop uniform for this particular station stood with its paws crossed. "U dun nao. Checkout tiems."
"What?" Gwen asked, stretching out as she spilled out of the overlarge bed. She gave Tosh an arm, as Tosh clutched her headache-riddled skull with her other hand.
"Checkout tiems. No pay, no stay."
"We were sleeping," Ianto said, casting around for his shoes.
"Too bad, dumbass. U out nao!"
"Fine," Jack said, and waved down whatever expletive-filled invective Owen was opening his mouth to share. "We're going. Outside, kids."
"Fuck," said Owen as they piled out into the corridor. "We're still stuck on a fucking alien planet in another fucking galaxy, and we're lost, we have no money, and now we've lost our room."
"We need to get home," Gwen said, awake enough now to have that worried 'I just remembered Rhys' look in her eyes, as she played with her diamond ring.
Toshiko said, "Do we have any ... any ... Jack? We need a transportermat. Something." Jack remembered that, too. Toshiko was going to stay drunk longer than she thought. He'd sworn off that stuff for a reason.
The bellhop dissolved the next room's door. "Checkout tiems! U go nao!"
"Sod off, you pussy," said a very familiar voice.
Jack's head snapped over to see his former partner emerge, barely dressed, from the next suite. Two oversized poodles walked out after him.
Gwen growled. Jack put out a hand, caught the eyes of the rest, and as the bellhop moved to the next room, the team moved around John neatly as a claw.
"Hi," Jack said. "Forget something?"
John looked him up and down, giving peripheral glances to the others as he sized them up. Either he didn't like his odds, or he didn't care. "I wondered about that. That Rift of yours buggered up my VM."
"Take us home."
John stepped into his personal space, which in times past meant the beginning of a good time or another fight. Jack saw Ianto tense and gave him a hand sign not to interfere. "Tell you what," John said slyly, "for old times' sake, I'll strike you a deal."
"Give us a kiss, and I'll let you ask one thing." He smirked. "Like I told you, I have intel on You Know Who."
Around them, the others exchanged worried looks. None of them had asked about Gray, too caught up in the Rift event that had sucked them up. Jack hadn't let himself consider, or hope. Gray was lost to him, had been lost for over a hundred years, and John said he'd found him.
John was giving Jack the chance to have Gray back.
Jack grabbed his head and sucked John's lower lip into his mouth, remembering every trick, every touch of lip and tongue that drove him wild. Jack had spent plenty of time learning, no matter how long ago, and he never had minded morning breath. Even if the morning breath tasted very slightly of wet dog.
Eyes cracked open, he could see Owen rolling his eyes, could see Gwen watching them with dawning interest, and Toshiko with frank curiosity. Just for fun, Jack put a little extra pizzazz into the kiss, running his fingers through John's unwashed hair, scratching his nails. From behind him, in the vague direction of the potted plant in the corner, he heard Ianto retching.
Finally, Jack broke the kiss and stared in John's eyes. "Fair?"
John caught his breath in half a second. "Fair. Ask. But remember, you only get one request."
John expected him to ask for Gray. His team didn't know what to expect, but the last time they'd been together, Jack himself had run off from them, so they weren't holding out much hope now. Everyone expected Jack to choose in his own best interests, to disappoint them somehow.
"Will you please take us back to Cardiff?"
John's eyes narrowed. Jack heard one sigh of relief but refused to check who'd made it.
"A deal's a deal. Everybody hold on tight."
It was the next day.
Toshiko still ached. Loud noises hurt, and even her hair pained her if she didn't move around gingerly. Owen took pity on her around ten-thirty and gave her two pills from his anti-hangover stash, so instead of feeling like death warmed over, she was merely miserable. He wouldn't give any to Ianto, claiming he didn't know how the meds would react with the drugs draining from his system, but really (Tosh suspected) because he wanted to watch Ianto be sick during his hangover for the entertainment value.
"I think it was a fascinating experience," Gwen said perkily (and loudly) over lunch. "I mean, we run into aliens all the time, but we were on an alien planet."
"Yeah," said Owen, reaching for the prawn crackers, "and we didn't see anything except more fucking aliens and the honeymoon suite. We could have gone to the real Las Vegas. At least we could have seen strippers there."
Jack said, "Turn on some music and I'll do a dance right now."
Honeymoon suite. Tosh turned to Jack. "Are we still married?"
That got Ianto to lift up the icepack he held on his forehead. He stared at Tosh. "You got married?"
Jack took a large bite of his food and slurped his drink to wash it down before he replied. "What happens in the Vegas galaxy stays in the Vegas galaxy. Anyway, we never consummated our marriage, so we're annulled." He winked at Tosh. "Unless you'd like to pop down to my room for five minutes and fix that?"
"God, no," Tosh said, as Ianto said, "Make him take at least an hour. He's lazy in bed."
Gwen was shocked into laughter, covering her mouth with her hands so she didn't spit rice. Owen looked vaguely disgusted.
"No," Tosh said again.
Jack leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. "Easiest divorce I've ever had."
Owen said, "Had many, have you?"
"I'll never tell. Speaking of telling, you and Gwen woke up together and racked up debt together. You're married in Vegas, too." His eyes glittered as he asked Gwen, "How are you going to break it to Rhys?"
Horror crawled over her face. "We're not really married?"
Owen grinned. "Apparently we are. And we did consummate our nuptials a few months ago. Sounds legit to me."
"No," Gwen said. "We are not married, we are not going to be married. We are never telling Rhys. It never happened!" She folded her arms and glared at the four of them, saving her most righteous stare for Owen, daring his to challenge her.
Jack snorted laughter. Owen rolled his eyes. Ianto put the icepack back over his face. Tosh gave her an encouraging smile. "Right. It never happened."
"Your loss," said Owen, and he threw his container into the bin as he walked out, headed back to Medical, and back to work.
Gwen said, fidgeting with her ring, "We will never speak of this again."
Toshiko took one more moment, spinning out a mental future with her space marriage now official, and the rest of her life spent married to Jack.
Shuddering, she said, "Agreed."