After an encounter with some aliens, Ianto has to rescue Jack …
All At Sea
"Ianto, go!" shouted Owen. "I can handle things here."
"Sure?" The Welshman hesitated, gun forgotten in his hand as he looked at the remains of three dead humans, the blasted body parts of the female Yinyan and Gwen propped up as the doctor worked on her injured foot.
"Yes! Just bloody go!"
"Go on, sweetheart," said Gwen through gritted teeth. Owen may be a good doctor but he didn't mind causing a bit of pain when giving treatment.
That was all the encouragement Ianto needed. He ran to the SUV and jumped in. As he started the engine, the passenger door opened and PC Andy Davidson climbed in beside him. "Room for one more?" he asked, reaching for the seatbelt.
"What are you doing?"
"Making myself safe. For all I know this thing bloody flies!" He glanced across. "Get going then or we'll miss the boat."
Shaking his head, Ianto put the vehicle into drive and shot away from the Bay. He had the blue warning lights flashing and even activated the seldom heard siren as he sped along, past the gathered emergency vehicles and personnel, out of the Bay on the road to Penarth. To avoid a blocked junction he drove up onto the pavement – which he had first checked was clear of pedestrians - and cut across it before getting back onto the main road.
"Could have you for that," commented Andy, hanging onto the dashboard as the vehicle swayed round a corner. "Dangerous driving. Need to get my arrest rate up too. Sarge was saying only the other day -"
Ianto ignored him. "Tosh, what's happening?" he said into his comms.
"It's still heading south. It was spotted over Flat Holm Island three minutes ago," she replied.
"In its claws still." She paused then carried on. "I'm tracking you and all the lights are changed in your favour. Both lifeboats are being readied. The one at Barry Dock has already headed out. The Penarth one is being held for you."
"And me," interjected Andy.
"Who's that?" asked Toshiko, the surprise evident from her voice.
"A hitchhiker," said Ianto dryly, taking his eyes from the road long enough to give his passenger a dirty look. "But tell them it will be two of us."
"Okay." She did not sound very happy.
"Any news on Gwen?"
"On her way to hospital with the paramedics. She'll be okay. Owen's doing clear up."
"That'll please him."
"Tell me about it." He could hear her sniggering; the doctor hated doing clear up. "You're seven minutes away at the rate you're driving. Lewis Hamilton been giving you lessons?"
He smiled. "In his spare time. Keep in touch."
Ianto cut the connection and concentrated on the last part of the journey. He did not like driving fast but was competent when it was required of him. At that moment, he welcomed it as a distraction from worrying about Jack. The thought of the man hanging from the Yinyan's claws as it swept across the Bristol Channel was sending icy shivers up his spine. After some tense minutes during which he flashed through junction after junction kept clear for him, the Penarth Lifeboat Station, a three roofed white modern building, loomed ahead. It was a hive of activity as people milled around awaiting his arrival. He drove as close as he could get and stopped, jumping out of the vehicle and heading to the back for the tranquiliser kit. He quickly checked the box and threw in a Linwiss blaster, a match to the one that Owen had used to bring down the Yinyan's mate.
"Come on," called Andy, hovering at his side. The man had removed his Kevlar vest, cap and fluorescent jacket leaving them in the SUV but had retained his belt which held all his equipment. He didn't think he'd need handcuffs but decided it was better to be prepared.
"There's no point going if I don't take these." Ianto checked once more that he had everything, slammed the back door and closed and locked the vehicle. "Tosh, we're about to board the boat. Anything new?" he asked as he hurried forward in Andy's wake.
"Nothing. It's still headed south."
"This way, sir," called a man in an orange waterproof suit and life jacket, yanking on Ianto's arm. "You can get togged up after launch." Ianto was bundled into a large, inflatable lifeboat and pushed onto a small bench seat with a large handrail in front of it. "Hang on."
The fully loaded boat atop a trolley was gradually let down the slipway by ropes attached to a heavy duty winch until it was afloat. The engine started and the boat took off, gaining speed over the mercifully calm water and out into the Channel. It bounced as it hit a wave and Ianto had to hang on for dear life, his feet wedged around the equipment box to keep it safe. Spray was coming over the sides of the boat and another man in a waterproof suit – or it might have been the same one, Ianto could not tell – was beside him.
"Put this on," the man shouted over the noise of the engine.
Ianto struggled into one of the orange suits, no mean feat when bouncing over the water and only possible because the suit was huge and the man helped him. Then a life jacket was tied over the top and rubber boots put on his feet. He was hot and sweaty from the effort but once he was in the gear it did keep him dry as the boat put on yet more speed and continued to head out over the increasingly choppy water. Back in his seat, with the equipment box - his shoes inside it, he noted - secured in a mesh contraption designed for the job, a helmet was plonked on his head and fastened. The helmet contained a radio and he could hear the crew's exchanges as they went about their business.
Gathering his wits, Ianto looked around him. There were four other people on the boat with him in the three rows of seats in the middle of the boat. He reasoned that the man towards the front must be the man in charge as he was steering or was it piloting? He wasn't sure of the correct term. The two seated the middle seats were Andy, also now in one of the waterproof suits with his police belt outside it, and a man he didn't know, presumably a member of the crew, while Ianto was at the back with another crew member beside him. The boat sat low in the water and had put on speed now the two passengers were properly attired. It skimmed over the waves, sending spray everywhere and the noise of the engine, behind Ianto, would have been deafening without the helmet's ear mufflers.
"Mr Jones," came a voice crackling over the radio, "we're making thirty knots on our way to rendezvous with the Barry crew who'll take you on board and continue the pursuit."
Ianto looked round to see who was speaking to him and his neighbour gestured to the man at the front. The neighbour leant over and indicated a button on the helmet and gestured to keep it depressed if he wanted to speak. Holding the button down, Ianto said, "How long to the rendezvous?"
"Ten minutes, give or take."
Ianto pressed the button again. "Thank you."
In front of him, Andy Davidson turned and gave him a broad grin and a thumbs up, obviously enjoying the frantic ride. It was pretty thrilling, thought Ianto, managing to return the grin. A fast boat riding low in the water made the speed seem even greater. People paid a lot of money for trips like this, he had seen them leaving Mermaid Quay, and he was getting it for free. He enjoyed the ride for the next two minutes then reality dawned once more and the ride became what it was, a desperate attempt to rescue Jack and capture or destroy the Yinyan.
Only Jack had ever seen a Yinyan before today but now the whole Torchwood team, a significant number of the Cardiff police force as well as quite a few civilians had seen a pair of them. Large creatures, a cross between an ostrich and a bat, Jack had explained that they originated on the planet Treswoon Two where they preyed on mammals the size of cows. The pair that had appeared above Cardiff Bay had probably been hunting when they had been taken by the Rift as, after a period of adjustment to their new surroundings, that had given the Torchwood team time to jump into the SUV and get to the site, they had continued the hunt. A family of four sitting on a bench enjoying the late afternoon sunshine had barely had time to notice and marvel at the huge 'birds' in the sky when the female swooped and picked up the eldest child in its claws and made off to wasteland near the water where it deposited the lifeless body before ripping off her leg. The male Yinyan snatched a man, a well built rugby player, walking to Harry Ramsdens and he joined the first victim. The two Yinyan had feasted for five minutes or so before the male had swooped on a woman tourist unlucky enough to emerge from the St David's Hotel at the wrong moment. Her screams as she was carried to the feeding ground had greeted the Torchwood team as they arrived on the wasteland which, so the hoardings proclaimed, would soon be a world class water sports centre. The screams died abruptly as the woman's head was smashed against a rock.
"Ianto, you're getting close to the other lifeboat. Can you see it?"
Toshiko was speaking in Ianto's ear and he brought his mind back to the present. He peered ahead and saw an orange boat, like a small fishing boat, ahead of them. They were closing on it fast. Turning his head away from the crewman beside him, Ianto spoke into the comms.
"Yes. Any more news?"
"Nothing. I can track the Yinyan but there are no visuals. Owen suggested calling up air-sea rescue. What do you think?"
Ianto paused as he realised that for once he was the man on the spot, the one who called the shots and controlled the actions of the other team members. It was a strange feeling and doubts flooded his mind. He wondered how Jack and the others made these decisions so effortlessly.
"I'm here." He took a deep breath. "Don't call them yet, Tosh. We don't want an aircraft in the sky to make this thing any madder than it is already. In fact, make sure the air is clear all round. If we need them later, I'll let you know."
"Okay. You'll be out of range very soon. I'll monitor the lifeboats' communications if you need to contact me. Good luck."
Sitting back in the seat, which had grown quite uncomfortable, Ianto hoped he had made the right call. He felt very alone and weighed down with the responsibility. There was not long to think about it, however, as the two lifeboats had met up and were tearing alongside one another. The prospect of getting from this boat to the other one suddenly loomed large and all other considerations were thrust from his mind. Visions of a breeches buoy – he had seen Towering Inferno too many times - filled him with dread and he was mightily relieved when 'his' boat got closer to the side of the other one, matching speeds until finally it was alongside and ropes held the two tight. It was an amazing piece of seamanship and at any other time, Ianto would have been suitably impressed, but now all he could do was crawl over to the side and clamber awkwardly up the fixed metal half-ladder to the deck of the larger boat. Behind him, a crewman handed up his equipment box then Andy Davidson climbed up to join him. In seconds the ropes were cast off and the smaller boat headed away in a wide loop back the way it had come. Only when it was speeding away did Ianto realise he had not thanked the crew for their help.
"This way," urged a crewman, garbed similarly to the crew of the other boat and Ianto himself. He led the two newcomers into an enclosed cabin and out of the wind and spray. "You can remove the helmet while you're in the cabin." Gratefully, Ianto pulled off the headgear and ran a hand through his sweaty hair.
"Mr Jones?" asked another crewman standing by a table which had charts and electronic gizmos. The man was looking from Ianto to Andy.
"That's him," said Andy, pointing. "I'm Andy Davidson, Cardiff police."
"Right. I'm Henderson, the navigator." The man looked dubious, probably wondering why this man Jones needed a police escort, or was it a guard?
"He's been helping us," explained Ianto, glancing at Andy. Standing next to the navigator he asked, "Where's the bird?" He continued to call it that, no need to confuse them.
"Here." The man pointed to the chart.
He went on to explain that they had radar and GPS among the many navigational aids on board and tracking the Yinyan was proving easy given the signal being emitted by Jack's comms the frequency of which Toshiko had passed to them. The boat was closing on the creature which had slowed and was not flying in a straight line any longer, it was circling and had doubled back on itself once or twice before dropping several dozen feet. It was now flying low which helped as the lifeboat's radar was designed to track objects at sea level. They discussed what to do but Ianto did not make any definite plans, he had to see what the situation was when they caught up to the Yinyan, only then would he finalise the action to be taken.
"It'll be about another twenty minutes before we catch up with it if things stay as they are," said Henderson finally. "Why don't you take a seat?" he gestured towards a bench that ran along the side of the cabin towards the back.
"Let me know if anything changes," replied Ianto before going to sit down next to Andy.
"So, mate, how you going to get Mulder out of the bird's clutches?" the policeman asked. His voice was loud enough for Ianto to hear but not loud enough to carry to the crew.
"Not sure." He took the bottle of water offered by a crew man and undid the cap, drinking thirstily.
"Have to shoot it down, won't you? Like the other one?"
Andy looked at him in disgust. "I was the decoy so you could get the other one! You can trust me."
"I know I can, Andy. I really don't know what I'm going to do right now. It depends on so much." He smiled to show he was being open and was relieved when Andy nodded before sitting back and relaxing.
"No doubt you'll tell me before you want me as bait again." He took a long draught from the water bottle.
Taking another drink himself, Ianto settled back against the side of the cabin and made himself as comfortable as possible. The bench was wooden and hard and his backside was numb. This boat was much larger than the other one and it cut through the waves so there was less bouncing and a much smoother ride. Ianto's mind was not on this, however, he was remembering events at the wasteland with his colleagues and the two Yinyan who were feasting on their prey.
It had been an horrendous sight. Pieces of all three victims were scattered around and the large creatures were hunched over like vultures as they tore at the flesh and spat out the indigestible bones and clothing. Jack had directed the action, despatching Gwen to liaise with the police officers and emergency personnel who were responding to the 999 calls from horrified bystanders. There was even an RSPCA unit, called by a woman who feared the 'birds' were being harmed. Assessing the situation, based on the information Toshiko was feeding them from the Hub, Jack, Owen and Ianto had edged forward in a rough semi-circle around the scene intending to fire tranquilising darts at the two Yinyan. Unfortunately they had not been able to get close enough without being attacked themselves and had regrouped to consider another strategy with Gwen who had rejoined them, having directed the emergency services to stay back,.
Before Jack had been able to come up with another plan, the female Yinyan had risen into the air and was beating its leather-like wings and heading for a couple of police officers standing ahead of the rest. Andy Davidson, one of the officers, had started running but away from the other people and comparative safety, risking himself to lead the creature towards the Torchwood group. Running out of options, Jack had told them to forget about sedating the creatures and ordered Owen and Ianto shoot the female down which they had done, eventually, Owen getting in the fatal shot that had blasted it apart. In the meantime, Jack and Gwen had run off to contain the male Yinyan which was still busy feeding. Taking an enormous risk, Jack had grabbed the creature's beak and bound it up with a length of clothing torn from one of the victims. It had gone berserk, thrashing about and knocking Gwen down. Diverting its attention from her, Jack had been trying to get a good angle for a shot when it had taken fright at its mate messy death. The Yinyan had risen into the air, flapping its great wings, and taken Jack with it! The Torchwood Leader had been picked up in the Yinyan's claws and carried up into the air where the creature had hovered for a minute or two. Owen had winged it with another shot and that had sent the Yinyan heading out over the Bay and past the barrage with Jack still firmly in its grasp.
That was the last Ianto had seen of his boss and lover, firmly held in the large creature's claws. He did not know if Jack was alive or dead. Even when Toshiko had told them the comms tracking beacon had activated he was still not sure; it could have be jarred and come on automatically. The fact it had activated, however, was all they had needed to start the chase to both rescue Jack and prevent the Yinyan doing any more damage. Ianto hated not knowing how Jack was and in this period of inactivity he was imagining all sorts of outcomes. There were three he thought most likely. The worst was Jack being torn to pieces. Ianto had no idea how Jack could survive that and quickly moved on to other possibilities. The Yinyan could just drop Jack in the water but that seemed unlikely as the tracking beacon was still moving; in the water, Jack would be more of less stationary. He would survive in the water too although finding him would be tricky. Ianto hoped Jack was still being held in the Yinyan's claws as that gave the highest odds of finding him quickly.
None of these thoughts were reassuring, they all ended up with Jack dead and even knowing Jack could survive most deaths Ianto hated the thought of him suffering. Ianto's brain was whirling with all these thoughts when Henderson returned.
"We've got the bird in sight. Come out on deck and take a look."
With their helmets back on, Ianto and Andy left the security of the cabin and stood on the open back of the lifeboat. The wind was strong and Ianto reached out to a railing to maintain his footing, scared he'd be blown to the side and, with the unfamiliar movement of the boat, be swept overboard. They were far out into the Bristol Channel, he realised, and was relieved that he could still see land on his left and behind him. He could not see in front because of the cabin in the way but land on two sides was enough reassurance for him.
"We're almost at Bridgewater Bay," said Henderson over the helmet's radio. "We passed Weston," he waved to the left, "a while back. And there's our quarry." He pointed to the right, out to sea.
"Where?" Ianto squinted into the light reflecting off the sea, eyes roaming high in the sky.
"Further down." The arm pointed much closer to the sea. "That's like no bird I've ever seen before."
"I see it," called Andy excited. "Looks like it's floating."
"Not quite. It's about three feet above the waves but its tiring and may drop down any time. What is that thing?" Henderson exchanged a quick word with another crew member, heads close together, as Ianto and Andy stood near the right side of the boat and focussed on the Yinyan. "We'll be coming around so hold on."
The two landlubbers didn't need the warning, they were already holding tight to anything they could find, but they also wedged their feet into handy spots too. The boat made a quick turn and headed towards the creature, its large wings managing to keeping it in the air whilst barely moving.
"I don't see your boss," said Andy quietly. He had a clear view of the creature now and its claws and lower legs were dragging in the water. "If he's still there, he's under the water and, well, it's been a long time." He let the thought tail off.
Ianto said nothing just stared at the Yinyan getting larger and larger as they neared it. He swallowed painfully, where was Jack? He turned to Henderson. "The signal, are you still receiving it?" he demanded.
After quick consultation with the coxswain, he replied, "Yep. It's coming from the bird."
"And the signal's coming from Jack. It's his comms, his earpiece comms," Ianto said quietly. He so wanted to believe that Jack was there somewhere but if so he was staying hidden. That meant he was probably still in the creature's claws, as Ianto had thought earlier, but being dragged along in the water. He would definitely have drowned by now and Ianto's heart started to ache for his lover's suffering.
"Could have taken it out, I suppose," began Andy thoughtfully. "Attached it to that thing somehow." He took an involuntary step backwards when he saw the fierce glare Ianto sent his way. "Sorry, mate, but it's true." He had thought he was being helpful, positive. No one could survive being under the water that long whereas he might make it if was floating around somewhere on the surface. If they could find him, of course.
The boat was slowing. Two hundred yards or so separated it from the creature which was flying even lower, its lower body brushing the waves. Ianto stared out, wishing Jack's head to appear from behind the Yinyan's and his cheesy grin to beam out at them all. But it didn't. Ianto saw that the material was still tied around the creature's beak so his worst case scenario could be dismissed; Jack could not have been pulled to pieces. That left the man being dropped somewhere in the Channel, and hard to find without the comms signal, or under the water here in front of the boat. It was up to Ianto to find out which and he had to do so discreetly or Jack's secret would be out: there was nowhere Jack could revive on board this small boat without being seen. Ianto so wished another member of the Torchwood team was here to take the lead, he hated being the one to make these decisions.
"Mr Jones, what do you want us to do?" Henderson was looking at him as was another crew man and Andy Davidson.
Ianto gazed round at them and his mind went blank. He had no plan, no idea what to do for the best.
"Mr Jones?" prompted Henderson.
Be careful, thought Ianto, if Jack was still in that thing's clutches he had to keep the Yinyan in one piece. He took a deep breath and made his decision and prayed it was the right one. "We'll tranquilise it. Is it possible to get a little closer? But as slowly as you can, we don't want to spook it."
"Yeah, we can get closer. But if we go much slower … well, you'd better have strong stomachs." He spoke to the coxswain who was directing operations from the bridge and the boat slowed some more while continuing to creep forward.
Ianto went into the cabin and retrieved the tranquiliser gun and darts. Back on deck, he stood with gun in hand and understood what Henderson had meant. The boat was going so slowly now it was no longer moving through the waves, it was at their mercy and as they were coming from the side the boat was rolling from side to side. Luckily the sea was relatively calm but the movement still set Ianto's stomach churning and he was glad he had not eaten since breakfast.
"It's spotted us," said Andy, having seen the Yinyan raise its head and focus on them. "Ianto?" He sent a worried glance in his fellow Welshman's direction.
"Just a bit closer." Looking around, Ianto had been trying to find a good firing position. Deciding there was only one option, he knelt on the deck wrapping his arm through some straps to keep himself as steady as possible. He looked through the gunsight but the roll of the boat made it hard to get a good shot and, head on as they were, the creature made a small target. "Mr Henderson, can we get slightly to the left of it?"
"Aye, we can go to port." He smiled and more orders were exchanged before the boat moved slightly left.
Looking through the gunsight, Ianto now had a better view of the Yinyan and in particular of its bulbous body. A dart into the muscle there should complete the creature's collapse without killing it. When Owen had shot the other one with the blaster it had exploded and Ianto did not want that now, not if Jack was somewhere underneath it. He cleared his mind, refusing to think about Jack or what to do with the creature once it was sedated, that could wait until it was captured. He used the sight to scan the whole body and there was still no sign of Jack. They were very close now, about twenty metres or so and it was in range. Taking a shallow breath as Jack had taught him, Ianto held it and squeezed the trigger. The dart travelled true and landed only slightly off target, more forward and slightly higher than Ianto had hoped but he thought it would be good enough.
"Bloody good shooting," cheered Andy, slapping Ianto on the shoulder.
Ignoring him, Ianto rose to his feet, watching the Yinyan. The dart had had no noticeable effect yet but the creature was certainly already suffering from Owen's winging shot earlier. It made no attempt to rise into the air and was settling further into the water, its wings folding.
"We need to get right up alongside, now," said Ianto to Henderson. "Do you have some ropes, anything we can tie round it so it doesn't sink?"
"Rope, Mr Jones? We have miles of rope." He smiled grimly, giving more orders to the crew. Another crew man appeared from nowhere with arms full of coiled ropes. The two men, with Henderson's help, started to uncoil the rope as the boat gained speed and came up close to the Yinyan.
"We need to get the rope round the body so it can't use its wings. Can the boat circle round and your men do that?" Ianto would have had a go at rope throwing himself but he thought these tough and competent men would be more skilled than he. "Use as many ropes as you need. Better to be safe than sorry."
If the crew needed any proof of the Yinyan's ferocity they got it now. Its head was above the level of the deck and with its strength draining as the sedative took effect, the creature made a last attempt at freedom. It lashed out with the still tied beak and raked the deck. Henderson went down, swept off his feet, and a crew man was smashed into the side of the cabin hitting his head hard. Ianto had fallen too and was crouched down on the deck, the beak swinging round to stave in the side of his head. He knew when it connected the helmet would not save him, it would be the end for him. Frozen in place, he had a good view as Andy Davidson wrestled his nightstick free of his belt and confronted the Yinyan, using the stick to set about its head and neck. He landed a few good blows and the already weakened creature gave up the fight.
With a new lease on life, Ianto scrambled back to his feet nodding to Andy in acknowledgement of his brave actions. Only the man who had been slammed into the cabin did not get up, he was unconscious and laid to one side for later attention. In short order the remaining crew members got the ropes around the Yinyan and it was soon securely tied up. Some idiosyncrasy of its genetics allowed it to float even while unconscious which pleased Ianto. He did not have to worry about securing it somewhere on board. But this was only a minor concern: there was still no sign of Jack.
He removed his lifejacket, helmet and boots. "I'm going in to check something," he shouted to no one in particular and stepped up onto the side of the boat and dropped over the side.
The water was frigid but the suit he was wearing kept his body dry and relatively warm. Knowing that he could nonetheless die of the cold, he took a couple of deep breaths, upended and dived under the Yinyan. He had to check the creature's claws. The water was muddy and visibility poor and he used the creature's body to guide him down. He reached a leg and tried to remember how long they were, four or five feet? About that. He had enough air for that, he thought. Going hand over hand down the legs, he came to something clammy floating in the water. It clung to his hand and he involuntarily recoiled before he realised what it was: Jack's greatcoat! With renewed energy, Ianto felt around and sure enough, Jack was still in one of the Yinyan's claws which was clamped around the inert body. Reaching for Jack, Ianto tugged and tugged but could not get him out. With his air fast running out Ianto had no choice but to go back to the surface. He emerged with a sudden pop and gasped for air.
"Bloody hell, mate, you all right?" shouted Andy, hanging over the side of the boat dangerously. He was holding out a hand to pull Ianto back aboard. "What the hell d'you think you're doing!?"
Ianto ignored the hand. "Your stick, Andy," he gasped, "I need your stick."
"Look, just come back on board. We've got this thing -"
"Your stick, Andy!" Shaking his head, Andy leaned out even further holding the stick towards Ianto. "Thanks."
With the nightstick looped over his wrist, Ianto took three deep breaths and dived again. He made a quick descent to Jack and used the stick to whack at the Yinyan's leg as best he could underwater. Just when he was thinking it would not work, the creature's claw opened and Jack drifted free. Grabbing Jack before he could slip away, Ianto headed back to the surface taking care about his direction and cursing silently as the greatcoat tangled round his legs and generally got in the way. With a final effort he reached the surface and lay on his back gasping in air. Jack lay on top of him, face up and not breathing, in the classic lifesaving position. After several desperate breaths, Ianto had time to look around and confirmed that he had surfaced on the opposite side of the creature to the boat. His plan, if plan it could be called, was to wait there for Jack to revive before making themselves known. But for the plan to work, Jack had to come back soon or Andy and the lifeboat crew would think he, Ianto, had drowned. He didn't want anyone else in the water looking for him. He could already hear them shouting his name and talking amongst themselves.
Time passed - it seemed like hours to Ianto but was only minutes - until he felt Jack stir in his arms and gasp loudly, flailing about as he revived. "It's all right, Jack, it's all right. I've got you. Just lie still." Ianto knew that if Jack kept moving around like that he was in danger of taking them both to the bottom of the Bristol Channel!
"Ianto?" The voice was wondering. "How?" It was stronger now and Jack twisted his head to look round at his colleague.
"Long story. I'll tell you later. For now, just remember I found you trapped under the Yinyan where you'd managed to keep your head above water just enough to breath." Ianto began to swim back round the Yinyan to the lifeboat.
"Thanks, Ianto." Jack made to start swimming.
"No, lie still! Don't look too fit for a while."
A shout went up as the crew spotted Ianto swimming towards them, Jack lying motionless in his arms. It was hard work and Ianto was not best pleased to hear Jack chuckling. A boathook was held out and, after a couple of tries, it snagged the back of Ianto's suit. He was unceremoniously hauled in. The two men were pulled on board by willing hands and taken to the cabin, both shivering with cold. The wet clothes were stripped from Jack and he was rubbed dry and then wrapped in blankets. Ianto was dry inside his suit and just used a towel to dry his hair, hands and feet. Hot drinks were pressed into their hands.
"Back to base, Mr Jones?" asked Henderson.
"To Penarth, please, if that's possible. Our transport is there. Can you pull the bird along behind us? Maybe with a tarpaulin or something over it?"
"Sure thing. You two stay here and get warm, we'll see to it." He was about to go when Ianto stopped him.
"Can I send a message, please? My colleague is monitoring your transmissions."
"Okay." He brought the handset over and waited.
Thinking quickly, Ianto depressed the button to speak and said, "Tosh, this is Ianto. We have big bird and are heading back to Penarth. Jack is safe. Over." He smiled at his boss.
After some crackling, the calm tones of Toshiko could be heard. "I hear you. We'll be waiting. Well done. Over and out."
Ianto passed the handset back, aware of Henderson going out on deck but too tired to watch. He closed his eyes and leant back into the wall of the cabin, suddenly exhausted. Something knocked against his knee and he looked down to see the nightstick still hanging from his wrist.
"Shall I take that?" offered Andy Davidson. He had kept out of the way as Ianto and Jack had been brought aboard, more than a bit suspicious about where the Torchwood leader had come from. Now he was sat opposite the pair, watching them warily.
"Yeah." Ianto struggled but his cold fingers could not get the loop to move so Andy leant over and removed it. "Andy, the man who was knocked out? Is he all right?"
"They put him down below. Some more cabins down there, apparently." He was looking below the deck. "He's conscious again but woozy. They reckoned it would be better to let him lie down for a bit."
The boat had gained a little speed and was heading back to Wales towing its unusual cargo. The crew left the three men alone in the cabin, too busy tidying the ship, looking after the injured man and making sure all was fine with the towrope to bother about their passengers. Jack drank the cup of tea and felt the warmth seep into his bones. He had been in the water a long time. Long enough to have died and come round more than once – he thought it was three or four times but couldn't be sure. A movement as the boat changed course made him bump against Ianto and he smiled an apology as he righted himself. This man had come after him. He had jumped into the water and rescued him taking care, even then, to protect the secret of Jack's immortality. Jack wondered if the rest of the team would have done as much. They would have come after him, he had no doubt of that, but he could not see Owen for one trying that hard to keep his secret; he'd have relied on Retcon to cover up afterwards. Jack marvelled at Ianto's dedication, to the job and to him personally, and wondered what he had done to deserve it.
"So, Captain," began Andy, drawing out the words, "what happened after you got scooped up by the thing out there? And I don't want a load of bull. The truth would be nice for a change." He crossed his arms and stared at Jack.
"I was brought out to sea. The Yinyan, that's what the creature is called, was injured." He turned to Ianto. "Did you wing it?"
"No, Owen," Ianto answered.
"Good shot. Anyway," he turned back to Andy, "I was stuck. I managed to activate the comms tracking beacon, I assume that's how you found me." He turned to Ianto again who nodded. "There wasn't much else I could do, I was in the thing's claws and that's where I stayed until it tired enough to weaken its hold when it was about to hit the water." Jack was making this up as he went along now. "I grabbed some of its plumage and stood on its foot, holding on for dear life. I figured if anyone was looking for me they'd have a better chance of finding me if I stayed close to it. I got stuck there somehow, caught up in something or the other, and was only just keeping my head above water when Ianto came round and got me free." He smiled his most genuine smile, his 'Hey, I'm telling the truth' smile, and kept his eyes on Andy.
Jack blinked and opened his mouth in mock horror. "I am shocked, PC Davidson."
"Right, and I'm a monkey's uncle."
"Not knowing your family, I don't wish to presume but that seems a little harsh on the little Davidsons."
"We'd have seen you. More to the point, you'd have heard the boat and would have made yourself known. Only way you could have hidden and not been seen was if you were up that thing's arse!"
Jack raised his eyebrows eloquently and shrugged. He turned to Ianto. "Do you think my coat'll be all right? You'll be able to fix it?" He looked in concern and his wet clothing bundled on the floor.
Ianto stirred, dangerously close to falling asleep in his corner. It was warm and the throbbing of the engines was very soothing. "We'll stretch it out to dry when we get back, should stop it shrinking." He smiled reassuringly. Jack was obviously okay if he was teasing Andy and concerned about his coat. It was such a relief to have him back.
"You and that bloody coat!" exclaimed Andy. "Haven't asked about Gwen I notice. She's hurt, like the bloke below. They got hurt rescuing you and you don't even ask after them. Just your bloody coat." He stood up and stomped out of the cabin, slamming the door behind him.
"What's that about Gwen?" Now it was just the two of them Jack did not bother to feign weakness, not that he had been very good at it.
"Not sure exactly what she's done. Something to her leg or ankle, broken maybe. Owen sent her to the hospital while he did clean up." Ianto saw Jack grimace: Owen so hated clean up he would be in an even worse mood than usual for the next few days. "Tosh said it wasn't serious."
"Okay. And you, are you all right?" Jack's hand came out of the blankets and rested on Ianto's shoulder, his thumb brushing against the man's neck.
"Fine. Didn't much like being point man though. You make it seem it so easy and now I know it's not."
"From what I've seen so far, you did great. Rescued me, captured the Yinyan and protected my secret. Pretty good going." Smiling, he leant forward and kissed Ianto's lips briefly. "In fact, you all did well. Though why you brought laughing boy with you I don't know." Jack was looking out at Andy who was pacing up and down on the deck.
"He kind of brought himself." Ianto looked out at the man and realised he still hadn't thanked him properly for his actions earlier. "He saved my life. The Yinyan was about to crush my skull until Andy stepped in with his nightstick."
"He did?" Jack was looking at the man with something bordering on respect.
"Yeah, he did. Don't be so hard on him."
"But he makes it so easy," grinned Jack.
"He's interested in what we do. Maybe we could trust him with the truth occasionally."
Jack looked at him quizzically. "Like the fact I can't die? I think not." He glanced back at Andy. "He's got a real stick up his arse about me." A grin suddenly spread across his face. "Think it could be penis envy now he's seen me in all my glory?" Jack had enjoyed getting naked and being rubbed down by the crew.
"You wish!" They both laughed, relieving the tension and stress of the past couple of hours.
Outside, Andy looked in at them and then turned away in disgust. He had the unhappy feeling that they were laughing at him, that he was the butt of their jokes. Probably pleased with how they had once again pulled the wool over his eyes. It was so unfair, he had helped them out today and still they lied to him. Staring out behind the boat, hanging on to a handy railing, he did not realise what he was seeing for several minutes then he turned and opened the cabin door.
"Before you two die laughing," he said to the still grinning pair, "you ought to know your bird's sinking."
"What?" Jack was on his feet and out of the cabin, nearly tripping on the blankets in his rush. Ianto was on his heels.
"See? Definitely going down." Andy stood, arms folded across his chest, and looked at the Yinyan which was lower in the water and listing to one side.
They were joined by Henderson who had seen them gathered together from the bridge. "What do we do now, Mr Jones?" he asked.
"Jack?" Ianto looked to his boss.
"We let it go," replied Jack after a moment. "It probably wouldn't survive in captivity anyway."
"You're going to let it drown?" This came from Henderson, incredulity in his voice.
"That thing slaughtered three people, one of them a little girl," said Andy forcefully, rounding on the lifeboat man. "Picked them up off the streets and tore 'em to bits. Drowning's too bloody good for it."
Jack looked over thoughtfully, surprised at the man's vehemence. But Andy had seen many strange things happening in his city, many deaths and disappearances which despite the best efforts of Torchwood still looked mysterious. Maybe the man wasn't such a bad sort after all.
"Jack, will it be all right to just leave it?" whispered Ianto, pulling his boss to one side. "Will it die? And what about pollution if we leave it to rot out here?"
Thinking quickly, Jack made his decision. "You're right, sir," he said to Henderson. "Ianto, get the sedative, a triple dose will put it out of its misery. And you're right too, Andy. But let's not sink to its level." He grimaced at the inadvertent pun. Ianto came back with the tranquiliser dart and gun.
"That's a good tarp out there. And ropes," said Henderson, realising he had partially won his point and not pressing for more. Knowing the creature had killed innocent people he was not so keen on saving it.
"And we can't let them go to waste," agreed Jack. He threw off the blankets, standing naked again, and took the dart from Ianto. "Stop the boat for a minute." With that he put the dart between his teeth and dived over the side.
The boat stopped and started rolling again. The three men did not notice, too intent on watching Jack swim expertly through the water to the Yinyan which was now more than half submerged. On reaching it, he loosened the ropes and attached the tarpaulin to them. He injected the dart in the Yinyan's side and moved away to lie on the tarpaulin, holding onto the rope and waving an arm.
"Let's haul him in," said Henderson.
He grasped the end of the rope still attached to the boat. Awkwardly at first but then with a certain rhythm, the three men pulled in the rope and Jack with it. He was climbing over the side, dripping water and cold again from his dip, when the Yinyan finally slipped under the surface. Ianto wrapped the blankets round Jack hurriedly and got him into the cabin with Andy following. Henderson went back to the bridge and the boat started on its way again.
"Sit down and get warm," said Ianto, helping Jack to sit on the bench. He took his old place beside him in the corner and Andy sat opposite. "We could quite easily have shot the dart from here," he complained, "there was no need for you to get wet again."
"Would have lost the tarp," Jack said through chattering teeth.
"We could have bought them another one!"
"It's properly dead then?" queried Andy.
"Oh yeah. By the way," Jack said, "Ianto tells me you saved his life. Thank you, I owe you for that."
"You do? Why?"
"You saved a member of my team. And my team means a lot to me." He thrust out a hand and reached over. Andy took the hand and they shook solemnly. "You also did well earlier on, leading the Yinyan to us and away from the bystanders. That was quick thinking."
Andy eyed him suspiciously. Jack had never said anything nice either to or about him before and he was not sure how to take this sudden turnaround. However, the man seemed genuine. "Yinyan, that was its name then?"
"His name might have been Bob or Joe or Andy," replied Jack brightly, "I don't know. Its species was Yinyan."
Ignoring the sarcasm, which Andy had come to expect of the older man, he said, "My mate Martin, he reckoned they were those birds that escaped from South America few months back. Didn't say anything about them eating people though."
Jack and Ianto managed to suppress smiles. They listened for a little longer while Andy added to his theory and went on to expound a few more to explain away some of the more recent alien incursions in and around Cardiff. The other men did not interrupt often but Jack did egg Andy on from time to time. They were nearing Penarth when Henderson reappeared and invited them to the bridge. Only Andy accepted and went off happily, pleased to have had his theories taken seriously for once.
With him gone, Ianto risked a look at Jack and started to laugh. Jack joined in and they were soon chortling on the borders of hysteria. "Birds escaped from South America!" gasped Jack.
"Carnivorous, man-eating birds," corrected Ianto, wiping his eyes.
"You people never cease to amaze me," said Jack, his laughter having run its course. "You have a logical explanation for everything."
"Which is a good thing. We'd never be able to cover up all we have to otherwise."
"True. But even so," Jack was chuckling, "that theory of his is a doozy".
"One good thing, we got rid of the Yinyan. I had no idea where I would have kept it."
"There's room in the Hub."
Ianto looked at him and raised an eyebrow. "You'd want it flying round and picking us off one by one? Thought your team meant a lot to you."
"You have a point. Would have been interesting to see how Myfanwy reacted though."
"That was a male Yinyan, wasn't it?" Jack nodded. "Maybe they'd have mated," mused Ianto.
"A Pteranodon and Yinyan hybrid. Cool " Jack sounded impressed by the thought.
Ianto shook his head, smiling; it was so good to have Jack back safe and sound. He looked out of the side window and saw they were close to the Penarth lifeboat station. He could see the smaller lifeboat that had taken them out to join this one and hoped the crew were among the people on the slipway so he could thank them. He spotted the SUV and Owen leaning against it waiting for them. It was good to be home.
A week after the events detailed above, the Penarth and Barry Dock lifeboat stations each received an anonymous donation of £10,000 towards their operating costs.