Word Count: 5530
Summary: It's almost as much a part of Christmas Day as presents, crackers and party hats...
Prompt: For the tw_calender, Christmas Day. (Also to be found in the comm there - but I'm pedantic and like to keep all my fic in my journal, just in case.) And in addition, this manages to follow on vaguely from Arrivals, Day 19 of the Calendar, which I also wrote, though reading that is in no way necessary. It just seems to work, that's all...
A/N: And there's one sentence in here that I really glee and delight over, and no-one seems to have picked up on it... I snuck it in that well?
When Ianto brought the coffee down, Gwen had got round to asking Owen and Tosh about their plans for Christmas. Owen was telling her that he’d be quite happy following his usual routine (Ianto presumed that meant getting drunk, getting laid if possible, and passing out on the floor at home) when they became aware of Jack standing in his office doorway, arms folded.
“What about you, Jack?” Gwen asked. “Are you doing anything for Christmas?”
“Same as you,” Jack said, then, confronted with her confused look, he clarified, “We’re working.”
There was immediate shocked outcry from Gwen, Owen and Tosh. With varying pleading expressions, they protested that he couldn’t possibly make them work over Christmas – Gwen had promised Rhys she’d be home for the day at least and Tosh was expected by her family, while Owen simply refused flat-out on the basis that he was owed at least a week’s holiday by now. Jack countered that one by pointedly asking Ianto how many days he’d taken off this year.
Ianto decided not to remind him of the four weeks in the summer when he’d gone AWOL. Jack didn’t seem to be in the mood to be bothered by such trivialities as accuracy.
As it stood Owen brushed that line of argument aside anyway, taking the girls’ side as the best way of getting his own time off.
“No,” Jack said simply. When they started to complain again, he raised both hands and said, “Look. For the past few years we’ve been invaded every Christmas. I don’t know why – maybe all the lights are spelling out rude words or something and we’ve offended a dozen alien races passing by, it doesn’t really matter. Whichever way you look at it, Christmas is a hotspot, okay? We need to be ready. And that means you’re all on duty and we’re on high alert. Deal with it.”
“No buts, Gwen,” Jack told her firmly, and went back into his office, closing the door.
“Bloody hell,” Owen said. “He’s serious.”
Tosh rolled her eyes and asked dryly, “What gave you that idea?”
“No buts,” Owen repeated. “When was the last time Jack said that without adding certain exceptions to the rule?”
He’d only just started to gesture in Ianto’s direction before a pen hurtled through the air and smacked him on the back of the head.
“Good shot,” Tosh told Ianto approvingly, and he responded absently, “Practice,” while Gwen giggled and Owen picked up the pen and pocketed it.
“How can we get him to change his mind?” Gwen asked aloud after a moment.
“Send Ianto in,” Owen suggested. “Jack never refuses him anything, anyway.”
“On the contrary,” Ianto said idly, putting his hands in his pockets and raising an eyebrow. “And I could give you details if you like.”
“No thanks,” Owen said hastily. “I did have breakfast this morning, and I’d quite like to keep it.”
Ianto was about to make some reply when Tosh said, “Actually, Owen has something of a point. Jack’s more likely to be reasonable if you ask him to reconsider.”
Tilting his head slightly in reluctant agreement, Ianto said, “Perhaps. But it doesn’t matter anyway.”
“Why not?” Gwen asked, sipping her coffee and looking up at him from her seat on the couch.
“I think he’s right.”
“You what?” Owen said flatly. “Oh, bloody hell. Just because you’re –”
“Before you suggest I’m agreeing with him so he won’t kick me out of bed,” Ianto interrupted sharply, “consider that I did work for Torchwood One for four years. I agree with Jack because I’ve seen what happens at Christmas.”
“Like what?” Gwen said disbelievingly, and both Ianto’s eyebrows went up.
“Don’t you remember everyone with A positive blood standing on the top of the nearest tall building?”
Gwen paused, and Tosh said quietly, “But we’ve had so much trouble in the last few years… There can’t be an invasion every Christmas.”
Ianto smiled a little, and said, “If that’s all for now I have work to be getting on with. Excuse me.”
Before the others could really think of a reply, he managed to vanish back up to the Tourist Information office.
The others did have a point, he supposed. For a few days now everything had been quiet, perhaps unusually so. And while this was generally considered something to be extremely grateful for, it also meant that while the others were all catching up on their own research projects and looking into anything that seemed the slightest bit out of the ordinary (and usually came with a perfectly logical explanation) he’d more or less finished sorting out the archives and keeping up with the paperwork. It helped somewhat that he’d kept on top of the reports even in the middle of many a crisis, but now, to put it quite simply, he was bored.
He spent a few hours sorting out some faulty connections in the online version of the archives, then indulged himself for a while by putting up some decorations around the office, pinning tinsel up over the door and making some paper chains from old leaflets when he ran out of that. By three in the afternoon he was still staying out of the others’ way, hoping vaguely that they hadn’t really tried to push the issue of Christmas with Jack, and wishing that there would be some sort of emergency (where had all the Weevils gone this week?) that would at least give him something to watch on Cardiff’s CCTV even if he wasn’t invited along to clean up the mess.
To keep himself occupied, he started going through UNIT’s records (on the quiet, of course. They’d refused him permission every time he’d requested it officially, despite his and Jack’s best efforts to persuade them otherwise. It did annoy him that he had to be so underhanded as a result, but really, if UNIT was going to be so uncooperative he didn’t have much of a choice). There was nothing particularly engaging this month – all the minor emergencies that had cropped up had been taken care of fairly quickly, it seemed. There was really nothing to catch his interest.
Except, possibly, five reports of Christmas trees disappearing without warning.
No. He’d read that wrong. Christmas trees appearing without warning.
Frowning, he sat up straighter and went back to their own records. True enough, they had another four instances noted of Christmas trees materialising out of thin air. And those were only the ones that had been reported – he had a feeling that some people might have simply taken advantage of their good fortune and told no-one.
Somehow he couldn’t help feeling that the others would not take kindly to the idea that this might be the alien invasion they were on the lookout for.
With that in mind, he left it until Gwen, Owen and Tosh had gone home for the night before going to Jack with his findings.
Jack looked through the printouts in silence, then went back to the beginning and started reading again, frowning.
“I know it seems unlikely, sir,” Ianto started, but Jack waved a hand to stop him and flicked through to the last of the papers again.
“You might have something here,” he said quietly. “The Sycorax used a Christmas tree to attack people when they tried invading. This many, though… That’s not good.”
“Should we get the others to look into it as well, then?” Ianto asked, and Jack nodded distractedly, saying, “We should work out what areas have been targeted and try and get hold of one to run some tests. Get Gwen to contact the police about it – we want to know if any more turn up, and we might need their help to round them all up if they do turn out to be dangerous. Owen and Tosh can fetch a sample and analyse it. See what you can do about finding the records from the Sycorax invasion to compare our results with the trees around then.”
“This would be tomorrow, sir?” Ianto asked cautiously. “Unless you want me to call the others back in?”
Jack blinked at him, then looked at his watch and said, “Oh. No, leave it. They already hate me enough for cancelling their day off. I swear Owen was calling me Scrooge on his way out.”
“He would know,” Ianto said, with a shrug, and Jack smiled.
“Okay, first thing tomorrow we deal with our Christmas trees. If they take over the world tonight I’m just going to sit back and tell the others I told them so.”
“Nothing will happen tonight,” Ianto told him. “It’ll all kick off on Christmas Day, just like usual.”
“True,” Jack said, grinning. “So what shall we do tonight? Dinner out somewhere? I know it’s pretty late to try and get in anywhere, but you could try and work one of your miracles, couldn’t you?”
“Actually, I was hoping you’d ask that. If you’d care to get your coat and come with me…”
Laughing, Jack said, “Any time,” and did as he was told.
The next morning, Gwen got in touch with the police and turned up seven more cases of Christmas trees appearing unexpectedly. Three of them seemed to have been dumped, and were probably unrelated incidents, but the others had been left outside families’ homes. She passed on the names and addresses to Jack, who promptly grabbed his coat and rushed off to talk to them, looking unusually worried as he told Ianto he’d be borrowing his car, since Tosh and Owen had already taken the SUV to pick up one of the Christmas trees that had been turned over to the police.
Confused, Gwen asked Ianto what had Jack in such a hurry.
“The families with the Christmas trees,” he told her absently as she sat on Jack’s desk, while he used Jack’s computer to hack into UNIT’s records (on which they seemed to have increased the security since the previous day, as he was having a little more trouble than usual).
“What about them?” asked Gwen. “I mean, does he know them personally or something?”
“Sort of,” Ianto said distractedly. “They’re aliens he’s helped settle in over the years. They’re usually unaffected by any of the invasion tactics around this time of year, so I expect Jack’s worried that they seem to be being singled out.”
Ianto glanced up, considering for a moment, then said, “A little, yes. But we’re going to get this sorted out before anything drastic happens, hopefully, so there’s little point in me wasting energy worrying about them at the moment.”
“Oh,” Gwen said, playing with the coral on Jack’s desk.
Ianto turned back to his work for a few moments, then asked, “Could you try to find any references in the older police records to anything like this? I’ve already gone through ours and got everything from there.”
With a nod, Gwen got up and went back to her workstation, leaving Ianto to navigate his way through UNIT’s security protocols without any further distraction.
Owen and Tosh got back after a little more than an hour, Owen complaining loud and long over the comms until Gwen went to help them get the tree in through the Tourist Information entrance and down the lift. Ianto stayed at the computer, doing his best to concentrate and not think of the amount of pine needles that would be scattered everywhere by the time the others were finished hauling their prize downstairs.
“Leave it there,” he heard Owen say at last, and paused long enough to glance out of Jack’s office and find that they’d positioned the tree by the fountain, leaning it against the railings and just managing to get it to balance.
“I’ll get some cutters,” Tosh said, hurrying away, and Ianto went back to UNIT’s files, waiting for the password request to appear and then typing in the right sequence to override everything. At last, the records opened up to him, and he allowed himself a small sigh of satisfaction before setting to work taking any and every possible related report he could find – not just the details of killer Christmas trees, but anything appearing from nowhere, any plant-related incidents, and everything from their many Christmas invasions. It was quite an extensive list by the time he’d finished.
“Got enough for your tests?” Tosh asked Owen out in the main Hub, and Ianto saved his findings to their own database, then printed off hard copies of everything just in case. That done, he got up and went to see what was going on.
Owen, loaded down with branches from the tree, made his way to the autopsy room, while Tosh took three sprigs to her own desk, smiling at Ianto as she passed.
“It smells wonderful, doesn’t it?” she said quietly. “We always have an artificial tree, but a real one just smells like Christmas.”
Smiling back, Ianto agreed, informed her that UNIT’s records were now available, and then headed upstairs to check on the state of the tourist information office.
Naturally, there were pine needles everywhere.
With a sigh, he set about cleaning up.
Jack returned late in the afternoon, looking pensive as he came in through the Tourist Information entrance and absentmindedly threw Ianto his keys.
“Are they all alright?” Ianto asked, leaving the hidden door closed for the moment.
Jack paused and looked back at him, pushing his coat back to shove his hands in his trouser pockets.
“They’re okay,” he said quietly. “But they’re all freaked out. They didn’t realise it was just alien families being targeted with the trees. They’ve all promised to let us know the minute anything else happens, but… well, you know.”
“The minute it happens it’s probably too late,” Ianto supplied, and Jack nodded.
“Anything come up from UNIT?” he asked, and Ianto said, “Possibly. I’ve been trying to find a pattern behind the appearances, and so far it seems to be focused around certain homes, mostly but not all inhabited by aliens, as far as I can tell. UNIT’s getting more reports daily, from across the country, and I sent a message to the other Torchwoods to see if they’d noticed anything out of the ordinary.”
“Good,” Jack said. “Keep me posted.”
Ianto nodded and opened the hidden door for him, saying, “Could you make sure Tosh and Owen forward their results to me as well, sir? I need to narrow down my searches.”
Jack shot him a quick smile, nodded, and headed downstairs.
By the next day, Ianto had reports of unexpected Christmas trees in from all over the country. He spent the morning fielding enquiries, passing on what little information he had and encouraging different organisations to search other avenues, then finally took a welcome break to fetch the others lunch.
When he got downstairs he found Gwen, Owen and Tosh discussing decorating the Hub. Even as he handed Gwen her lunch she was too busy saying, “If we have to work here over Christmas, then we at least have to make the place look festive,” to thank him.
With a snort, Owen gestured at the tree still standing by the fountain, saying, “That’s not enough for you?”
“Well, it’s a start,” Gwen said, in tones of vague disappointment. “I suppose we could get some decorations for it. But it’s a bit… battered now you’ve been at it for samples.”
Jack materialised behind Ianto, reaching past to snag his lunch and telling them all, “Nobody’s using that tree for decoration. It’s a potential alien threat.”
“Oh, Jack, don’t be such a spoilsport,” Gwen complained, while Ianto calmly took Toshiko’s lunch back from Jack and gave him the right bag in return.
“If we can’t have the day off for Christmas,” Gwen continued, “then we’ll just have to have Christmas here. We can swap presents and everything. And I bet the Hub would look great with some proper decorations up.”
Jack shrugged, investigating his lunch, and told her, “You want to decorate, go ahead. Just not that tree, understood?”
“But we have to have a tree, Jack…”
“Ianto,” Jack sighed. “Indulge the children and order another.”
Owen immediately took offence at that, and started to insult Jack in return, but Ianto interrupted quickly, saying, “You do know it’ll be extremely difficult to get hold of a decent tree at this late a date. I’ll try, but no promises.”
“Thanks anyway, Ianto,” Jack told him, smiling a little, then glanced at the others and said, “Will the rest of you get back to work now?”
As he headed for his office, Tosh said hurriedly, “Jack, wait. There’s not much more we can do. We’ve run every test we can think of on the tree and there’s nothing. The only thing wrong with it is that it’s hollow.”
“Hollow?” Jack repeated. “Well, what’s inside it?”
“Nothing,” Tosh told him. “Hence hollow. It’s a real tree, but it’s like the insides have been scooped out. There was a crack down the side of it when we fetched it, but we didn’t realise it was actually split open.”
“No trace of anything on the inside?” Jack asked, and Tosh said, “We did look, you know.”
With a quick grin, Jack raised his hands in surrender and said, “Okay, I get it, you’ve checked. But until someone tells me why hollow Christmas trees are appearing out of nowhere, you’ve still got work to do.”
Anticipating the eye-rolling and grumbling that followed, Ianto slipped away, muttering, “I’ll go order that tree.”
Shortly before nine o’clock on the morning of the 23rd of December, Ianto opened the Tourist Information office door to find a Christmas tree leaning against the wall just outside. He stood and stared at it for a few moments before ducking back indoors and making a call.
When he put the phone down he paused briefly, then picked up the handset again and called Jack’s office.
It took a few seconds for Jack to answer.
“Ianto, what? If there’s anyone desperate to see me, hold them off and let me get dressed first.”
“Other way round, Jack,” Ianto said, checking his watch and hoping that the others would be later than usual. “You need to get up here. There’s a Christmas tree outside.”
“I thought you said they didn’t have any left?”
“I did and they don’t,” Ianto told him. “I just called them to check, and they said they know nothing about it.”
There was a brief pause, then Jack said, “I’ll be right up.”
“Clothes first,” Ianto reminded him. “It is cold up here.”
Jack laughed and hung up, leaving Ianto to go back to the door and frown at their unexpected gift. He’d barely got there before Tosh arrived, pausing when she saw the tree and saying delightedly, “Ianto, you really are a miracle worker. How did you manage to find one this close to Christmas?”
Ianto reached out to catch her hand when she went to touch the branches, and told her, “I didn’t.”
“It’s another one of the phantom trees?” she asked, and he sighed a little.
He heard the hidden door open behind him, and turned to find Jack, hair still wet from his shower, hurrying forward to see what all the fuss was about.
“Was there a note with it?” Jack asked hopefully, and Ianto shook his head.
“What do we do with it, then?” Tosh asked. “It’s not dangerous, it’s just… random.”
“You know what Gwen will suggest,” Ianto said quietly, and Jack frowned.
“I don’t think taking it in and decorating it is really the best plan. Do you think we can get it to the incinerator before she gets here?”
Tosh gave a little cry of disappointment, while Ianto gave him a weary look and said, “Not without leaving a rather telling trail of pine needles all the way through the Hub, sir.”
“What did you and Owen do with the other one?” Jack asked Tosh, and she thought for a moment.
“I think it ended up in one of the drawers in the autopsy room,” she admitted. “We didn’t really know what to do with it. We thought it might be useful if some more information turns up about them.”
Jack folded his arms and regarded the tree, then finally said, “You promise me nothing dangerous turned up in the tests.”
“Nothing at all,” Tosh confirmed.
Looking deeply unhappy with the decision he was making, Jack said, “If Gwen still wants her tree then she can have it. But if the sensors pick up anything out of the ordinary, it goes straight in the incinerator.”
Tosh beamed, and he turned away and started back indoors, muttering, “Scrooge, huh? We’ll see about that,” as he passed Ianto.
Ianto turned to follow him then heard Tosh call, “Hi, Gwen,” and hurried footsteps on the planks, followed by Gwen’s delighted, “We got a tree? That’s great!”
With a sigh, Ianto let Jack disappear back into the Hub and turned back to help the girls bring the tree indoors, doing his best to scatter as few needles as possible and avoid getting spiked as best he could.
A little after lunchtime the Rift spewed out a pair of chameleon-like robots that started trying to blend in with various places throughout Cardiff. It took them five hours of chasing and searching to get the pair contained, deactivated and safely locked away back at the Hub, by which point no one was in the mood to finish the decorating of the tree, which had been abandoned midway through when the Rift alerts went off.
Since it was dark by then, not to mention cold and raining, Jack gave them all permission to go straight home, and he and Ianto dealt with the paperwork and cover-up resulting from the chameleons’ excursions until Ianto started falling asleep on the couch.
“You should have gone home too,” Jack murmured to him, taking the last of the forms from him and gathering the papers together.
“There was work to do,” Ianto yawned. “There’s always work to do. I can go home now if you really want rid of me…”
Jack snorted, and gave him a hand up, saying, “What do you think?”
“I think bed and sleep,” Ianto told him. “Right now I have a one track mind and it’s very focused on sleep.”
“I won’t even try and persuade you otherwise,” Jack promised, keeping hold of his hand until the ladder down to his quarters forced them to separate, albeit briefly.
Christmas Eve saw Tosh analysing the chameleons’ camouflage mechanism, while Owen decided to spend most of his time on the internet, playing games and grumbling that them being at work was a complete waste of time. Gwen was occupied for the most part by dealing with anxious enquiries from the police about what exactly the whole deal with the Christmas trees was, why Torchwood were taking an interest, and what they could expect. Jack, similarly, was holed up in his office on the phone to UNIT and the other Torchwoods (and the Prime Minister at one point, though none of them was quite sure how word of the Christmas trees had spread that far) nearly all day.
It resulted, Ianto noted, as he brought them extra cups of particularly delicious coffee, in tempers fraying all round. Jack didn’t help matters by storming out of his office demanding answers every couple of hours, and getting incensed when he realised that none of them was working on the Christmas tree issue.
Ianto spent as much of the day as he could conceivably get away with lurking up in the Tourist Information office, going through Tosh and Owen’s test results and trying to work out what he was missing. There was something obvious about the whole matter, he was sure, right under his nose. But he couldn’t see it.
Eventually the others called it quits and headed home. Jack didn’t even notice, stuck on the phone to UNIT until well into the night.
Ianto tidied up around the workstations, eyeing the tree beside the couch. Somehow or other, despite everyone’s increasingly foul moods, a small pile of wrapped presents had gathered around its base, and when he checked the labels (an urge he’d acquired early in childhood and never really been able to resist) he found that Gwen and Tosh had both put down gifts for the rest of the team. That at least made him smile a little, though when he straightened up again and regarded the tree, he found himself wishing that whatever the trees’ purpose was, it had been revealed today rather than waiting for Christmas itself.
“The one day a year everyone tries to be nice,” he muttered, “and aliens just have to come along and ruin it.”
Jack’s door opened, and Ianto glanced up as Jack said, “Where’s everyone else?” upon finding the Hub otherwise empty.
Ianto checked his watch and told him, “They went home four or five hours ago. They said they’d be back in early tomorrow, don’t worry.”
Jack frowned, and Ianto said quickly, “I couldn’t make them stay any longer, it wasn’t fair. Do you even know what time it is?”
Looking at his own watch, Jack said, surprised, “It’s nearly midnight. God, I’m sorry, I didn’t realise.”
Ianto shrugged, smiling, and told him, “It doesn’t matter. They’ll be back tomorrow, and if anything’s going to happen, tradition dictates it’ll happen then.”
“True,” Jack agreed, and stretched with evident relief until his spine clicked.
“So,” he said idly, reaching out to draw Ianto to him. “It’s nearly Christmas Day. Do I get to unwrap my present early?”
Ianto considered for a moment as Jack slid his arms around him, kissing his neck.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “How good have you been?”
He felt Jack grin against his neck, purring, “I’ve been bad, Ianto. Very bad. It’s much more fun.”
Ianto smiled, and said softly, “Then what’s stopping you?”
Jack laughed and went to kiss him, but Ianto ducked away, nearly managing to wriggle out of Jack’s hold.
“We should have got mistletoe,” he complained.
“Who needs mistletoe?” Jack asked, and pulled him back to a deep kiss.
Ianto wrapped his arms around Jack and kissed him back with enthusiasm. When they parted, he made a point of checking his watch, and was about to wish Jack a merry Christmas when they both stopped, suddenly realising that the scent of pine had begun to become almost overwhelming.
As one, they looked at the tree.
“It’s hollow,” Ianto said quietly. “That doesn’t mean it’s empty.”
“Shit,” Jack said, closely followed by, “Why the hell didn’t I see that?”
He hauled Ianto through to his office and fetched them both gas masks from his coat stand.
“The pine masks any lingering scent until it starts releasing the gas,” he told Ianto, raising his voice to be heard through the muffling gas mask. “This whole thing has just been about getting poison to a few specific targets.”
“Anyone who might be able to stop an invasion,” Ianto responded, securing his mask, and Jack nodded.
“If we’d been asleep, or even just in my room…”
He didn’t need to finish his sentence. Ianto shuddered and set off the main alarm that would bring Gwen, Owen and Tosh running, and then activated the air purification systems to get rid of the gas.
“If we’re going to be invaded,” Ianto said loudly, over the noise of the gas being sucked away and replaced with clean air, “I have to ask. Why the UK?”
“Start small and work your way up,” Jack told him, then added, “Besides which, I reckon we’ve got the highest proportion of potential threats. Anywhere else might be easier to take over, but it would give us plenty of time to fight back. If they strike here first then, in theory, the rest of the world crumbles.”
“Nice to be important for once,” Ianto said, heading over to Toshiko’s computer and bringing up the internal diagnostics of the Hub to find out how their air quality was doing. In addition, he started fetching all the reports from their furthest external sensors.
“I’m assuming they have a ship somewhere above us,” he told Jack, “to accomplish all that teleportation accurately. But we’re not picking anything up. Sensors all read empty space.”
Jack joined him, peering through the gas mask’s eyeholes to see where he was indicating, and then said quietly, “We need to find them. If they’re trying tricks like this then maybe just the fact that we survived will convince them to back off, but if we don’t know where the ship is we can’t send them a message. And we may not have been the only ones who kept our tree.”
Nodding, Ianto checked the air quality again and then took his gas mask off, saying, “It’s clear now.”
“Hate those things,” Jack muttered as he yanked his mask off, but Ianto was too busy trying to recalibrate the sensors to give him a response.
“Tosh’ll be here in two minutes,” Jack reminded him. “She may be able to come up with something.”
“I know,” Ianto said in frustration, “but they should be right there. They can’t just hide a spaceship like that.”
“Assuming all the trees started giving off the gas at the same time I’d guess we have about fifteen minutes before they really get deadly,” Jack said, looking at his watch again and pacing behind Ianto. “Even if Tosh gets here in time –”
“The chameleons,” Ianto interrupted. “Stealth technology. Even we have that. That would explain why they’re not showing up.”
Jack stopped and looked at him.
“Sounds good to me,” he said after a moment. “Can we do anything about it?”
“Tosh was working on it earlier,” Ianto told him, rapidly going through her files. “If she got far enough in the program, I may be able to patch it directly into the relay from the sensors.”
Jack darted back to the workstation beside him, just as a ship appeared off to the side of one of the screens, which had previously been showing only the starry sky.
“There,” Jack said triumphantly. “Nice work, Ianto. Get me a channel open.”
With a few quick keystrokes, Ianto obeyed, then stepped back and handed Jack Toshiko’s microphone.
“Hey up there,” Jack said into it, cheerfully. “This is Torchwood Three from Earth, just to let you know we can see you pretty well, and we’re all fine here. Nice try, better luck next time and all that. You can take your trees back now and get the hell out of our system, unless you really want us to blast you out of the sky. Oh, and I warn you now, if one single person has died tonight because of you, you will be made to regret it. Are we clear?”
At a rustle behind them, Ianto turned to find that the tree had vanished, depositing its decorations in a heap on the floor and knocking over some of the carefully piled presents around it. He looked back at the screens to see the ship turning and heading away from Earth with increasing speed.
“I love dealing with cowards,” Jack said, turning off the microphone and putting it back on the desk. “Life is always so much easier that way.”
“I’ll get in touch with UNIT and the other Torchwoods to make sure everything’s alright with them,” Ianto said, heading for Jack’s office, and Jack flopped into Toshiko’s computer chair, saying, “Good plan, go ahead.”
At that point the cog door rolled back and the bars swung open, the alarm sounding and light flashing as Tosh and Owen dashed in.
“It’s okay,” Jack told them, over their demands to know what was going on. “We dealt with it. There was gonna be an invasion, poison gas was involved, it was no problem.”
They fell silent to stare at him, and then Owen demanded furiously, “You mean you got us to get up and come here in the freezing cold for nothing?”
Sighing, Tosh said, “Since the crisis is over, can we at least have tomorrow off, now?”
“Yeah, why not?” Jack said, shrugging, then glanced at his watch. “Well, today, anyway. Whatever, Christmas Day is yours to do with as you please.”
“Thank God for that,” Owen muttered, and they both turned to leave, running into Gwen as she arrived and telling her the glorious good news.
Jack let them go and went through to his office to tell Ianto, who covered the mouthpiece of the phone and asked, “What if anything else happens?”
With a shrug, Jack said, “We let the Doctor deal with it. After all, he’s usually hanging around somewhere nearby at Christmas. He’s used to it.”
Ianto smiled a little and said, “Practically tradition by now, then?”
Jack nodded seriously, and then said, “That reminds me,” and turned to leave.
“Where are you going?” asked Ianto.
Jack told him, “I’m fetching mistletoe. You’d better be off the phone by the time I get back.”
Ianto just smiled.