“So what is it?” Detective Kathy Swanson asked. She’d called Torchwood in after seeing a bright flash of golden light in an alley, which had left behind a strange, knobbly, dull silver object about the size and shape of a grapefruit, but a lot less appealing to look at.
“Bomb,” Jack said succinctly. “Good thing you called us; it’s not the sort of thing you want left lying around where someone might trip over it.”
“Bomb?” Instinctively Kathy took several hasty steps backwards, suddenly wanting to be well away from her find.
“Oh, don’t worry,” Jack told her casually. “It’s not going to explode; it isn’t armed.”
“Are you sure?” Kathy took a cautious half step closer, eyeing the object warily, as if it was a living creature that might suddenly jump up and attack her.
“Let me put it this way; you saw a bright flash of light, right?”
“Golden light, yes. Like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”
“That was the Rift opening,” Jack explained. “It doesn’t make for a gentle arrival; things tend to be ejected at speed, often from quite a height.” He pointed at the bomb. “If that didn’t blow up when it hit the ground, which it obviously didn’t, then we should be okay. For now at least. It’s usually advisable to remove the explosive charge before picking a bomb up though, just in case the trip through the Rift has left it a bit unstable.”
“Should I call the bomb squad and evacuate the area?”
“The bomb squad wouldn’t know where to start with one of these, but evacuating everyone from the nearest buildings wouldn’t be a bad idea; just tell people a suspicious package has been found, then if it doesn’t explode you can tell them it was a false alarm.”
“IF it doesn’t explode? I thought you said it wouldn’t!”
Jack shrugged. “Nobody’s touched it yet. There’s always a chance when someone does, it might go …” he threw his arms up in the air, “boom.”
“Right, I’ll clear the area. Don’t let anyone touch that until I give you the all clear.” Moving away, Kathy took out her phone and called in some of her officers to help with the evacuation and setting up a cordon to keep people at a safe distance.
Just under an hour later, she returned to the alley where the bomb had made its appearance. Thankfully it wasn’t a residential area, and it was evening, so she’d only had to evacuate a few businesses that had stayed open late, set up roadblocks to keep traffic away, and move any pedestrians and bystanders back behind the barriers.
Jack looked up from his study of the bomb as she returned. “Everything okay?”
Kathy nodded. “As okay as it can be with an unexploded bomb waiting to be dealt with.”
“Good. Guess I can get started then. I’ll just need a few things first; Ianto should be back with them shortly.”
“Wait a minute, you’re going to disarm the bomb yourself?”
“D’you have a better idea?” Jack asked, amused.
“Don’t you have, I don’t know, an explosives expert on the team or something?”
“Of course I do! Me!” Jack graced her with his widest smile, all white teeth and brimming self-confidence.
Kathy looked horrified. “Oh God, we’re all doomed.”
“Hey!” Jack’s smile vanished like a switch had been thrown, replaced by a hurt expression. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I do actually know what I’m doing, and if by chance something does go wrong, who would you prefer to get blown up; the man who can’t stay dead, or one of my very human team?”
“I suppose you have a point there. Okay, just give me fifteen minutes to get clear, then…” Kathy shrugged. “Have at it. Good luck, try not to blow yourself up.”
“Thanks for the vote of no confidence,” Jack grumbled. Turning away from Kathy, he clicked his Bluetooth headset on. “Ianto, where are you?”
The melodious Welsh voice came from right behind him and Jack jumped, spinning around. “How many times do I have to tell you not to sneak up on me like that?”
“I don’t sneak,” Ianto said mildly, handing Jack a tool kit and a stasis box. “I’m stealthy. There’s a difference. Will you be needing anything else, Sir? Bombproof armour perhaps?”
“Do we have any?”
“Not that I’m aware of, but I could check, or possibly borrow protective gear from UNIT if you’d like.”
“No, I don’t think so. Just get yourself behind the barricades with the others. And take this with you.” Jack slipped out of his coat and passed it to Ianto, who took it and draped it over one arm. “Wish me luck.”
Ianto glanced towards Kathy, who was already walking away, then grabbed Jack by the front of his shirt, pulling him in for a passionate kiss. “Good luck. Don’t get blown up,” he said sternly. “If you do, I’ll kill you myself. Got it?”
“Got it. Now get out of here.”
“Yes, Sir.” Ianto left, following Kathy, quickly catching up and walking alongside her.
“Will he be alright?” she asked, glancing up at him and then back over her shoulder.
“He’d better be.” Ianto smiled down at her. “Surprising as it might seem, he does actually know what he’s doing. Most of the time, anyway. It’s a big universe though, and even Jack hasn’t seen everything; there are a lot of times we find things none of us can identify, and then we just have to scan them, take every precaution we can think of, cross our fingers, and hope for the best.”
“And this time?”
“It’s an explosive device of some description, and it’s not radioactive; that much we’re sure of. The rest is up to Jack. Wouldn’t hurt to pray, if you have a mind to. A little help from above couldn’t hurt.”
“That’s not very reassuring.” Kathy scowled at Torchwood’s General Support Officer.
“Welcome to my world,” Ianto replied with a wry half smile. “You get used to it.”
“I’m not sure I want to.”
As they reached the barrier, the police constable on duty ushered them through to where the official vehicles were parked, the Torchwood SUV among them. Then it was just a case of waiting for Jack to do his stuff.
The minutes stretched out, time seeming to move at a snail’s pace. Nothing happened for a long time, or by Ianto’s stopwatch, a little less than ten minutes.
Abruptly there was a loud bang, like a very big firecracker going off; it rattled nearby windows. Ianto gripped the barrier in front of him, knuckles turning white, but he stayed where he was.
“Shouldn’t we…” Kathy gestured in the direction the explosion had come from, but Ianto shook his head.
“We don’t know if it’s safe yet. Jack may just have set off a controlled explosion, or he could have accidentally triggered part of the mechanism. If we go running in there we might make things worse, so until he gets in touch, we wait.”
More time passed, the seconds dragging even slower than the minutes had earlier, and then Jack appeared, walking towards them. He looked… different somehow, but Ianto couldn’t have said why he got that impression. It wasn’t until the Captain drew closer that Ianto could see him properly in the orange glow of the streetlights. He was quite a sight, festooned with colourful streamers and splattered with patches of what looked a lot like glitter.
Ianto slipped past the barrier and went to meet his lover. “So, not a bomb?”
“Not exactly. What gave it away?”
Ianto plucked a sparkly streamer from Jack’s hair and examined it. “Most bombs don’t have things like this in them.”
“Well spotted. It was some sort of party favour I think. Quite a powerful explosive charge though, definitely not designed for human use. Nearly took half my fingers off.” Jack showed Ianto his bloodstained hand; the thumb and all four fingers were present and correct, and the injuries were already almost healed.
“You got lucky.”
“Very. Still, if we ever get another one through the Rift I’ll know what not to do to it. They’re safer to detonate from a distance.”
“I’d imagine there’s some cleaning up to be done?”
“Yes, sorry; lots of streamers and other decorative items. The alley looks quite festive, it almost seems a shame to spoil it, but these streamers are made of a substance that hasn’t been invented yet. Can’t have them getting into the wrong hands.”
Ianto tested the streamer; whatever it was made from was tough. “They could be a hazard to pets and wildlife too. I’ll go down there and get started; you can join me once you’ve cleaned yourself up. Try not to shed.”
“Captain Harkness?” Kathy joined them. “Am I right in assuming the danger has been dealt with?” She looked like she was having a hard time keeping a straight face.
“We still have some cleanup to do, but yes, I think that’s a fair assessment,” Jack said smoothly.
“Bomb, huh?” This time Kathy couldn’t keep from smirking.
“Explosive device,” Jack corrected. He held up his bloody hand. “It may not have been a bomb as such, but it still could’ve harmed or even killed a child. Just because it was full of pretty things rather than chemicals or shrapnel doesn’t mean it was harmless.”
Kathy sobered immediately. “Point taken. I’ll have the alley cordoned off while you take care of cleanup, and let everybody get back to their businesses if that’s okay with you.”
Jack nodded. “That’s fine. Thank you, Kathy.”
“No, thank you for risking life and… limb dealing with it.”
“I’d say it was my pleasure, but honestly, almost getting my hand blown off doesn’t rate high on my list of fun things to do.”
“I’d worry if it did,” Ianto quipped. “Right, cleanup isn’t going to do itself, more’s the pity, so I’d best get started. I’ve got cleaning supplies and a roll of black bags in the SUV.”
“The rest of the team can help you while I nip back to the Hub and change,” Jack agreed. “Kathy, might I trouble you for a lift back to the Plas? I’ll try not to shed too much, and I promise to pay for your car to be thoroughly cleaned.” While they’d been standing there talking, Ianto had been busily picking streamers off Jack so he was mostly just smothered in rainbow coloured glitter now, sparkling prettily.
“Well, alright; I suppose I owe you that much, but I’ll hold you to your promise.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Jack insisted.
One hand crammed full of the colourful alien streamers, Ianto strolled away towards the SUV. Cleanup, then dinner and an early night, because he needed to check Jack thoroughly from head to foot and that would be easier, not to mention more comfortable, with both of them lying down. He smiled to himself; he had a feeling both he and Jack were going to enjoy that. After all, like sand, glitter could work its way into some very unexpected places and he’d have to make sure he didn’t miss a single speck…