Chapter 12 In sickness and in health
The cold, bitter wind swept across the city as the year came to an end. The newly engaged couple had left Orion to spend new years with Rhiannon and the family, so they could have a night to themselves. They had put their child-free time to good use. Made love in the afternoon and dressed up in their fineries for the evening. They had gone through a nice romantic candlelit dinner and had danced softly to Glenn Miller playing in the background. Sadly they had been interrupted by an alarm. A weevil sighting downtown, followed by a spike in the rift, bringing through an ancient Mongolian warrior with a damaged mind. Local police shot him before the boys could get there. All they could do was collect the corpse. The city was awash with the festive crowds imbibing ridiculous amounts of alcohol and behaving as if tomorrow would never come.
So it was a tired pair that made it back to the Hub early in the morning. Moods were on edge and they decided to just go to bed. Things would look up in the morning
“Gnrh” the disgruntled sound came from somewhere underneath the duvet around the centre of the bed. A slight movement rippled under the cover. The loud sound of “Staying Alive” by ABBA shattered the silence in the room. The darkness was pierced by the harsh blue glare from the vibrating mobile. Soon it would vibrate clear off the night stand and clatter to the floor. That is if someone didn’t answer it. ‘Well it’s not gonna be me!’ Ianto thought sleepily and burrowed deeper under the duvet, trying to block out the sound. Jack stirred sluggishly, but eventually he reached out and without looking fumbled after the phone. He managed to knock it to the floor and grumbling under his breath he leaned down and picked it up. Ianto’s arm was flung across Jack’s stomach and when he moved the arm slid further down almost coming into contact with his favourite body part. Jack was tempted to just let the phone ring and play with his Welshman instead. But duty called to him as it had done so many times before. He answered it.
“It had better be important.” Sleepy as he was he still managed to sound grumpy, but professional.
“Jack? It’s Johnny.” For a brief moment Jack couldn’t remember who Johnny was. An ex lover? Someone they had worked with? But then his brain caught up. Rhiannon’s Johnny. “I think you need to get here. There’s something wrong with the kids.” Jack sat up immediately, disturbing Ianto in the process.
“Jack? What’s wrong?” Ianto mumbled as he was looking sleepily up at him.
“What do you mean?” Jack said into the phone as he shot a worried glance at Ianto, who was slowly sitting up.
“They all started getting sick last night. At first it just seemed like flu or something. That’s why we didn’t call. But now… Jack, I’ve never seen anything like it.” The man’s voice was shaking now. He was truly disturbed by this.
“Jack, what’s going on? Who are you talking to?” Ianto interrupted. Jack waved his hand at him in shushing motion. Ianto rolled his eyes at him, but remained silent.
“Are you sure it’s serious? Kids get sick all the time.” At this Ianto became very alert and watched him like a hawk. “What are the symptoms?”
“That’s the weird part. They all have fevers, cold sweats and are difficult to talk to. You know..? Unresponsive. Orion’s the worst. He seems like he’s delirious. But that’s not all. They have spots all over them. But the spots are all purple.” During the conversation Jack became increasingly alarmed. Until now Orion had never shown any sign of sickness. Heck, he had never even sported an injury. Not even a bruise. With his weird part alien physiology who knew what could happen. It was not unheard of for indigenous species to be wiped out by diseases that were harmless in other species. It had happened on Earth in the past. Many Native Americans died from the chicken pox and other such diseases that were otherwise fairly harmless in the people who had infected them. ‘Did he say purple spots? Purple, not red?’
“We’re on our way.”
They drove in silence along the nearly empty city streets. Most people were at home sleeping off the alcohol and nursing their hangovers. The remains of fireworks were scattered all over the pavements and streets. Slight scorch marks accompanied various spent fireworks batteries. Jack couldn’t help but speculate how much black powder had been used in that one evening and compare it to one of the many wars he had participated in back when he was younger and still new to this planet. He shuddered at the thought. Lighting fireworks once a year really was a rather barbaric custom. But so very human. Not many species would use a weapons ingredient as a means of celebration. He supposed it was a form of poetry that humans would always strive to turn even the nastiest of evils into something of beauty and peace. Like children using their imagination and turning a dangerously sharp stick into a toy.
With a jerk his thoughts returned to the reason they were now driving along. Orion and the kids. ‘What could be wrong?’ He could not for the life of him remember any disease that caused purple spot. Red ones, yes. And yellow ones and even green ones. But not purple. He glanced at Ianto in the passenger seat. The young man was staring pensively out the window, a worried frown on his forehead.
“I’m sure they will be fine.” Jack said softly. Ianto startled and sent him a quick apologetic, embarrassed look. He nodded tightly, clenching his jaw. He turned back to stare out the window, but put his hand on Jack’s thigh. Jack but his own hand over it and drove on.
They arrived at the house soon after and were immediately greeted by Johnny and shown to the children’s rooms. Orion was sleeping in Mica’s room on the lower bunk. Ianto immediately rushed to his side. Sitting on the bunk he put his hand on the small child’s forehead in the age old movement of checking for fever. Jack moved over to them; put his hand on Ianto’s shoulder as they both gazed at their son. Orion was clammy, hot and slightly restless. Tossing his head a little and making small mewling distressing sounds. Just as Johnny had said, the child was covered in purpled spots. Jack looked up to see Mica in a similar state in the top bunk.
Rhiannon came into the room, carrying a bowl of water and a cloth. Setting the bowl down, she dipped a cloth in the water, wrung it and handed it to Ianto.
“David’s the same as these two.” She repeated the process with another cloth and placed it on Mica’s head. She shook her head, as if to shake an unpleasant thought away. “I have never seen anything like this, Jack. What kind of disease gives you spots like those?” she indicated the children.
“I don’t know, Rhi, but I promise you we will find out.” She sighed and nodded. With a long look at Mica she exited the room. Ianto looked up at Jack.
“Do you think this is alien? Some Torchwood bug? Did we do this?” his voice cracked. It was just too awful a thought. What if they had somehow infected these innocent children? Heaven knows they were exposed to who knows how many things by all those aliens they came in contact with. Just last week he and Jack had crawled around inside a drain pipe that could have been infested with who knew what.
The look that Jack sent him wasn’t reassuring. Jack squatted down in front of him, grabbed his hand and placed the other on his knee.
“It’s possible. I won’t deny it,” Ianto opened his mouth to ask questions, to argue, to say something, anything. But Jack held up his hand, stalling the flow of words. “But we won’t know until Owen has looked at them. If it is alien, then we will deal with it, okay?” Jack was looking at him beseechingly. Ianto sighed and nodded tersely.
“I’ll call Owen now.”
Johnny opened the door to see a wreck of a human being slouching on the door frame. The smallish man was dressed in a suit, though it was a several hours since it had been in a presentable state. He looked like he had slept in it. The shirt was hanging out and the jacket was put on inside out. The tie was undone and hung loosely around his neck. His hair stood on ends and he had a lipstick kiss on one cheek. The man was currently holding a hand across his eyes as he hiccupped and looked miserable. Johnny feared for a moment that the man would chuck up right then and there. The man groaned and peaked through his fingers at him.
“Hi. Dr. Owen Harper, at your service.” He groaned again and staggered past into the house. “Oi, spaceman! Where are you?” he hollered as he stumbled further into the house. He soon found a wall and clung to it, as if he was seasick and needed something unmoving to hold on to. Johnny was too dumbfounded to say or do anything. But Rhiannon didn’t have the same compunction. Like a fury she stormed down the stairs followed shortly by Jack and Ianto. Owen paled as she came stomping into the room.
“What the hell is the meaning of this?” she yelled. “Are you drunk?! You are. Aren’t you? How dare you show up at my house like this! If you think I am going to let you near the kids like this, you got another thing coming! What the hell were you thinking?” When Jack tried to defend Owen, it only brought him into the spot light. She whirled like a dervish and pointed a finger at him. “And you! Captain! Jack! Harkness! You brought him here. How can you even think of letting a drunkard come anywhere near you son?” As Jack was trying to defend himself and Owen – and failing at both, Ianto went over to take Owen’s bag. The man had had the presence of mind to grab it and bring it with him. He rummaged inside and found the little bottle he was looking for. The Arkadian Alcohol Neutralizer. He prepared the syringe and the equipment he’d need for the injection. With a quick glance at his irate sister and floundering fiancée he grabbed hold of Owen’s arm and steered him to the nearest seat. The man saw what he was doing and tried to help. Ianto swatted his hands away. It would be quicker if he did it him self. Within moments he had Owen’s shirt unbuttoned and the rubber cord wound tight around the man’s arm. He swiped the arm with the disinfectant and injected the neutralizer into Owen’s arm.
“Gonna steal my job, tea-boy?” Owen slurred with smile. Ianto rolled his eyes good naturedly.
“Hardly. Sit still until it kicks in, ‘right?” the man nodded. Ianto packed up and looked back the others. They were still arguing and now Johnny had joined the fray, trying to calm both agitated parties down. Ianto sighed. He knew his sister, when she got like this. Like a terrier that never would let go. There was only one thing to do. Sighing he got up, drew in a deep breath and let out a loud piercing whistle. He kept at it until all other noise in the room had died. The others had jumped and covered their ears.
“Rhi, Jack, Johnny, Shut the fuck up!” he held up his hand to forestall any protests. “I just gave Owen an alcohol neutralizer. When it kicks in, he will go and examine the kids and you will not stand in his way, is that clear?” he looked pointedly at Rhiannon. She gaped like a fish out of water, but finally she nodded and he looked at Johnny and Jack until they nodded as well. “Good. Owen, go get cleaned up. Bathroom is upstairs to the left. Rhiannon, Jack, go check on the kids. Johnny, help me in the kitchen. I think coffee and sandwiches are in order.” He looked around with an anybody-got-a-problem-with-that glare. They all hopped to it. He allowed himself a tiny smug smile as he followed Johnny into the kitchen.