Title: Damsels In Distress
Author: Erin Giles
Genre and pairings: Action/Adventure, Jack/Ianto, Gwen/Rhys
Warnings: Graphic Violence, Swearing
Summary: Ordinary is not a word that is synonymous with Torchwood, so it doesn't come as a complete surprise when Ianto Jones finds himself bound and gagged in the back of a van after a night down the pub. It is, however, a surprise to Rhys Williams. While Ianto and Rhys experience the worst hangover ever, it is up to Gwen and Jack to rescue their damsels in distress without becoming ones themselves.
Notes: I had so much fun writing this and while it may seem rather clichéd and 'bad mafia movie' at some points I completely intended it that way because Rhys & Ianto together is the prefect opportunity for things like that; lots of sarcasm with copious amounts of Scooby Doo. I'd also like to point out that Ianto in a towel is specifically for my beta since she requested it.
There are very few moments in Ianto Jones' life that he can classify as being normal. Half the time he wonders why people expend so much effort on being extraordinary and on experiencing the exceptional. He feels like telling them extraordinary is not all it's cracked up to be, but then Ianto has never seen himself as being remarkable - he's just an ordinary person whom amazing things happen too; not all of them good though.
Those few moments of ordinary Ianto clings onto with the same gusto and hope of Kate Winslet clinging onto the door in that scene in Titanic – which, really, there was more than enough room for two people on there if her dress hadn't been taking up most of the space.
Ianto enjoys every morning when he has the time to run. He relishes in the cool morning air on his face, his breath condensing as sweat trickles down the back of his neck, making him shiver involuntarily. It feels like a privilege every time he experiences the slap of his trainers on tarmac, stopping in at the corner shop to buy the Western Mail, which he'll read on his morning coffee break if he's lucky. Ironically, the number of times he throws the paper out without even the Sudoku done is inversely proportional to the number of cups of coffee he makes in a day.
He tries to get down to the pub at least once a week with friends, but his job – and his boss – can be just as trying as he is, and more often than not he finds himself apologising that he has to work - again. It almost comes as a surprise to him when he does step into The Neville on a Tuesday evening, so much so that he has to check his phone at least twice before he even starts looking for his friends. They're always sat in the same booth near to the small stage that has been set up and Ianto is already removing his tie, shoving it in his pocket next to his mobile phone, while he takes his wallet out of the other pocket and goes to order a pint at the bar.
The world will end on a Wednesday, of this Ianto is certain, and taking into account Sods Law it will no doubt be the morning after a night out with friends, when he's too hung-over to remember his middle name never mind how to re-route the Rift Manipulator to reverse the polarity neutron flow. So it doesn't come as a complete surprise when he is walking home from the pub – too drunk on only four pints, but exhausted enough to let his feet guide him home – that he finds himself unconscious in the back of an unmarked van.
"Ianto!" Ianto turned lethargically towards his name to find Rhys Williams, Gwen's husband, jogging down the street towards him.
"Rhys." Ianto doesn't sound surprised to see him, but then Torchwood is still in his left coat pocket – tie and phone safely stowed – as he wanders home. His mind is on the more mundane - like whether he's done the washing up or if he needs to buy more olive oil when he's at the supermarket tomorrow. It doesn't take long for Torchwood to come crashing down around his ears.
"Jack given you the night off then?" Rhys asked, falling instep beside Ianto as they wandered past Cardiff's nightlife.
"We never really get the night off, Rhys," Ianto replied, smiling slightly at Rhys' reaction of rolling his eyes.
"Just been having a couple of drinks with some friends," Ianto continued, not willing to lose the ordinary for the moment. Rhys helps with that willingness to cling, he is just an ordinary man that has been dragged into the extraordinary by his wife – at least he would help with that feeling of ordinary if he closed his mouth long enough.
"It amazes me you lot have time for friends and a life outside of Torchwood, Gwen hardly ever sees her mates anymore. I left her at home, falling asleep on the couch with Gavin & Stacey on in the background," Rhys rambled, shoving his hands in his jeans pocket as they turned the corner into Clare Road. Ianto doesn't say anything. He is quietly seething at how easily Rhys is shattering his evening of the mundane.
"You live out this way then?" Rhys asked, trying to stimulate conversation, apparently too drunk himself to realise Ianto's sour mood.
"Yeah, just off Clive Street near the train station," Ianto answered.
"Handy for the footie then," Rhys continued idly as they crossed the road, pausing just off the pavement as a police car went past. Ianto's eyes followed the police car before he pulled his phone out his pocket, internally cursing Rhys.
"Something to do with you?" Rhys asked, following the police car with his eyes as it disappeared down Penarth Road.
"Hope not." Ianto sighed, pocketing his phone again before continuing to cross the road.
"How are you lot coping now that..." Rhys scuffed his feet on the pavement, not looking at Ianto, unable to finish his sentence.
"Gwen doesn't really wanna talk about it," Rhys continued, trying to explain himself.
"Neither do I really," Ianto replied, rather brusquely. Rhys seemed suitably chastised, keeping quiet for a fraction of a minute as he continued to follow Ianto down the street like he was a lost puppy.
"Handy for work as well," Rhys commented, still trying to make idle conversation that Ianto wasn't really in the mood for. To be honest, he didn't know why Rhys was walking this way with him. He was sure Gwen and he lived up near the University - unless Rhys was getting the train back to Cathays or staying at a friend's house. Ianto managed a grunt in agreement as he rounded the corner into one of the alleys that ran parallel to Clive Street.
"Maybe we could all go out the one night, you know, when aliens aren't invading Cardiff," Rhys ploughed on, making Ianto cringe, the phrase double-dating flitting round his brain like 'family Christmas' and 'fancy dress'. Thankfully, he did not have to dwell on it.
He barely had time to register footsteps in the alley before someone was pushing him up against the bricks, scrapping his cheek against them as he heard Rhys yell out from somewhere nearby. Ianto struggled back, lashing out with an elbow and catching his attacker in the stomach, winding him. He managed to twist free, only to turn into a fist that knocked him backwards into the wall, his head cracking off it before he stumbled dazedly about for a moment, shaking his head to try to clear it. He didn't get a chance before another fist hit him square in the jaw. His head rattled against the wall again, his brain feeling like a bouncy ball inside his skull.
"Oi!" Rhys called out, finding his feet again after being floored himself. He rugby tackled the figure that was currently beating Ianto into submission, slamming both Ianto and his attacker into the wall. It wasn't long before the other bloke was dragging Rhys off them and throwing him further down the alley. Rhys watched as Ianto struggled to his feet before a third punch sent him reeling into the wall, dropping like a sack of spuds. As he watched one of the men slipping a bag over Ianto's head and binding his hands, Rhys' alcohol muddled brain managed to figure that his only way out of this would be to run for it and call Gwen. Sadly, his brain did not manage to get the message to his legs quick enough before a fist was bearing down on him. As he lay on the alley floor, stars dancing at the edge of his vision, he noticed his mobile phone lying next to him, the screen cracked and dead.
"Morning," Gwen called as she slipped through the opening cog door of the Hub and bounded up the stairs. She felt well rested after spending the whole night sprawled out on the double bed without Rhys snoring or tossing and turning. She presumed he had ended up back at Banana's as he had planned and had probably crawled into work from there, wearing one of Banana's ludicrously dirty minded t-shirts that he had gotten on one of his many clubbing holidays to Ibiza.
Gwen heard a distant 'morning' echoing back to her from the depths of Jack's office, making her smile. She could imagine Ianto and Jack down below Jack's office, Ianto probably flustered that Gwen was in so early, frantically adjusting his tie and shirt cuffs while Jack chuckled heartily at him. She could also vividly imagine what they had been up to the night before; she couldn't help it really after that time she had walked in on them in the hothouse.
"Did we have fun last night, then?" she called over her shoulder when she heard footsteps emerging from Jack's office, while she hung up her coat.
"By we do you mean the royal we? Or are you referring to me and my mini Captain?" Jack asked.
Gwen swung round, giving Jack an odd look as she tried to decipher what Jack was on about before she crinkled up her nose at the thought.
"Oh, Jack, no," Gwen protested adamantly, looking past his shoulder for any sign of Ianto. "God no! I meant you and Ianto."
"It was Tuesday last night," Jack said, as if that explained everything. Gwen waited, watching Jack as he perused some papers that were in his hands.
"He goes out with his friends on Tuesdays," Jack clarified when he saw the bemused look on Gwen's face.
"Oh," Gwen voiced, frowning slightly as she sat down at her desk. "Right." Gwen nodded a couple of times before she was logging onto her computer.
"He does have friends outside of work you know," Jack said, chuckling slightly before he turned to go back into his office.
"I know," Gwen called out indignantly after him, turning back to her computer with a frown and perusing the BBC News site for the morning headlines.
Rhys wondered what the hell had happened last night for him to feel this shitty this morning. He made a quick assessment of his situation.
Head throbbing. Check.
Mouth dry. Check.
Knuckles aching. Check.
Lying on a hard surface that is most definitely not a bed or even a carpeted floor. Check.
Smell of vomit in the air. Check.
Assessment – spent the night in jail after starting a drunken brawl, or more likely intervening after Banana got a bit too laree with some guy's girl. He just knew that when he eventually decided to right himself in the world Andy bloody Davidson would be staring down at him with a smug smirk on his face and a condescending tone to his voice.
"Have a bit too much to drink last night did we, Mr. Williams?"
Rhys groaned at the thought before he cracked one eye open, realising he might as well get the world's worst hangover over and done with so he could crawl home and live out the rest of his days as a hermit underneath the bedcovers. He soon found that he wasn't where he expected. Instead of white tile walls staring back at him, he found old sandstone walls and rusty old pipes. The previous night suddenly came flooding back to him with horrifying clarity.
"Bastard fucking Torchwood," Rhys cursed under his breath as he pulled himself rather awkwardly into a sitting position, one of his hands handcuffed to a pipe that ran vertically up the wall and disappeared through the floorboards. This was far worse than waking up in a Cardiff Police station, even if Gwen had been the one to come bail him out - he only ever realised how high-pitched and annoying her voice was when he was hung-over. At this moment in time though, being hung-over and yelled at by Gwen was the least of his worries. He tugged on his handcuffs fruitlessly a couple of times before he heard a bolt retracting on a door just out of sight.
Light flooded into the basement for a moment before the shadows of a couple of large figures were cast on the wall opposite him.
"He won't be going anywhere for a while," a gruff voice said, before something heavy thundered down the stairs, coming to rest at the bottom of them with a groan.
"Boss'll be mad if he's dead," a second voice came, sounding slightly concerned.
"He's fine," the first voice drawled in what Rhys recognised as an East London accent.
"Maybe we should check, just to make sure," the second voice replied, which Rhys imagined came from a timid young man, fresh into the business of kidnapping and torture. Rhys' eyes were adjusting to the gloom now as he watched a body rolling itself over at the bottom of the stairs to reveal the face of Ianto Jones, or at least it had been Ianto at one point, his face now unrecognisably beaten into a pulp.
"See, he's fucking well fine," the first voice barked out before the basement door was slammed shut, the bolt slipping back into place, leaving Rhys alone with Ianto's painful breathing.
"Ianto," Rhys hissed, tugging on his handcuffs, again to no avail. He blinked a couple of times trying to see through the dingy confines of the basement. The only light to go by was what was filtering through the gaps in the floorboards above. He listened as footsteps retreated overhead, casting dust down on top of him and causing him to cough. His eyes moved back to Ianto, but he hadn't moved since rolling himself over in the dirt.
"Ianto?" Rhys questioned quietly, holding his breath as he waited for a reply. He didn't get one. He futilely pulled a couple more times on his handcuffs before he was patting down his jeans pockets. He found a stray paperclip next to the £2.10 he had been saving for the train home. He pulled it as straight as he could with his teeth before sticking it in the lock for the handcuffs. He had no idea what he was doing, but he had seen James Bond do it, so it had to work. Right?
Gwen was searching for holidays on , fantasising about a week on a beach somewhere when her phone started ringing, startling her so much she almost jumped out her chair. She minimised the window bringing up the word document of the report she was supposed to be working on before picking up her phone from the desk, looking at the caller ID. Ruth, Rhys' secretary, who was the sweetest woman in the world but had her blonde moments from time to time - even if she was a brunette.
"Hello?" Gwen answered, looking up at Jack as he came out of his office, mouthing something at her.
"Oh hello, Gwen. It's Ruth here. Secretary at Harwoods," Ruth clarified, just in case Gwen knew any other Ruth's.
"Everything alright?" Gwen questioned as she made a face at Jack, mouthing 'What?' He mouthed some words back at her that she couldn't understand, so she shrugged her shoulders, shaking her head.
"No actually," Ruth was saying as Jack tried to whisper something at her. She caught the name 'Ianto' so she shook her head before turning her attention back to Ruth.
"Have you seen him?" Ruth asked.
"Sorry love, my boss is talking in my other ear," Gwen apologised, giving Jack a shove on the arm as he tried to mouth something else at her. Jack just sighed in annoyance before picking up a pen and a bit of paper off her desk.
"Seen who?" Gwen questioned, trying to read what Jack was writing.
"Rhys," Ruth said almost nervously. "It's just he hasn't come in this morning, and he's always very good about calling in sick or late and I was wondering if everything was alright?" Ruth rambled on for a minute, drawing Gwen's attention away from the piece of paper that Jack was shoving under her nose.
"I haven't seen him. He went out with a few of the lads last night, I presumed he stayed at Banana's," Gwen replied, sounding slightly concerned, swivelling round in her chair so her back was to Jack. "Have you tried his phone?"
"First place I called. It's turned off," Ruth answered indignantly, as if she was taking it as a personal insult. Gwen huffed out a sigh, swinging round in her chair again to get rid of Jack and how much of a pain-in-the-arse he was currently being, waving the bit of paper in front of her face.
"Alright, leave it with me; I'll see if I can track him down. He's probably just lying on a sofa somewhere hung-over," Gwen gave a little huff of a laugh. "Give me a call if he shows up though," Gwen said softly, snatching the bit of paper out of Jack's hand as she ended the call.
"Do you have no concept of phone etiquette?" Gwen snapped at Jack.
"Have you seen Ianto?" Jack asked instead of answering Gwen's question.
"No," Gwen shook her head, glancing round the Hub just to make sure she hadn't missed him hiding in a corner somewhere. "He hasn't come in yet, why?" Gwen glanced at the time on the clock in the corner of her computer screen and her frown deepened.
"I called him to see how hung-over he was and he didn't pick up. Not his mobile or his house phone," Jack clarified.
"That's weird," Gwen commented, lifting up her phone that she was still clutching in her hand. "I've just had a call from Ruth saying she can't find Rhys anywhere."
Gwen and Jack exchanged a look for a moment.
"And you know how much I believe in coincidences," Jack said softly before Gwen was looking back down at her phone, scrolling through the contacts.
"I'll call Banana; see if he's seen Rhys."
Rhys swore under his breath before he pulled fruitlessly on his cuffs again, rattling the pipe he was attached to. The paperclip he had been using to try and free himself with had more bends in it now than when it came fresh out the paperclip factory.
"It's an urban legend." The voice came out of nowhere, startling Rhys as his gaze flipped over the expanse of the basement he was in to take in the sight of Ianto, still lying on his back at the bottom of the stairs. Ianto didn't move his head to look at Rhys - in fact, he didn't look up to moving much anytime soon. Rhys could see a thin sliver of light from above catching Ianto's right cheek that was black and blue.
"Oh aye, expert are you?" Rhys asked bitingly. He was royally - and rightly - pissed off to be handcuffed to a rusty pipe in a basement somewhere in the arse-end of Wales. In his eyes, this was all Torchwood's fault and right now Ianto was the only member of Torchwood that he could take his anger out on.
"I was more into shoplifting," Ianto replied and Rhys could sense the smile in his voice. Rhys sighed, letting his hand drop onto the cold pipe in defeat.
"You alright?" Rhys enquired after a moment. He may be pissed off but he didn't particularly want to be the one that told Gwen another one of her colleagues had died in front of his eyes, while he was being a bastard.
"I've had better hangovers," Ianto replied wittily. Rhys let out a slight hysterical laugh at that, sobering quickly as he watched Ianto pulling himself into a sitting position. Ianto's frown deepened as he turned himself around so he was leaning against the wall. It was now Rhys got a good look at him for the second time that morning. His right eye was swollen shut, his lip also split and swollen.
"This happen a lot?" Rhys asked, trying to sound casual as he watched Ianto dabbing at his bloody lip with the back of his hand.
"Depends what you define as a lot," Ianto replied noncommittally.
"Look, I'm not a member of the public, I'm Gwen's sodding husband so don't give me the bloody brush off you give the rest of Cardiff," Rhys ranted, eyes boring into Ianto's one good one across the basement.
"It's happened before," Ianto replied after a moment, tallying up the number of times he had found himself at the end of a beating or even worse, the end of a barrel of a gun.
"So what happened in that warehouse - that really is a regular day for you lot?" Rhys asked, giving out a huff of a laugh, almost in disbelief.
"Depends on the week," Ianto said vaguely, looking down at his hands as he brought his knees up to his chest. Rhys gave an exasperated sigh.
"Are you always this bloody obtuse?" Rhys shot at Ianto.
"What do you want me to say Rhys?" Ianto asked, losing his patience. "Do you want me to tell you about the time I was captured by cannibals and tenderised by a baseball bat? Or how about the time my cyberized girlfriend tried to kill me? Or before that, when my old Torchwood offices were burned to the ground and I was left for dead in the rubble? Torchwood is dangerous - surely Gwen's told you that? Surely you've figured that one out for yourself since we've just lost Tosh and Owen? So take a bloody hint already!" Ianto snapped, tongue shooting out to lick the blood from his lip where it had cracked open again.
Rhys apologised after a moment. "Look man, I'm sorry alright. I just, I worry about Gwen; And considering I'm sat in a basement chained to a pipe, and you look like the next Picasso, I think I have reason to worry." Silence then descended between the two of them for a moment as Ianto continued to try and stop his lip from bleeding.
"I'm suddenly getting the weirdest sense of déjà vu," Ianto said eventually, raising his head to look at Rhys again. Rhys gave a huff of a laugh.
"I'm missing the gun being pointed at my head," Rhys said solemnly in reply.
"No, he's not in trouble, I just dunno where he is," Gwen said into the phone, sighing in frustration.
"Well he didn't go home with some bird, Gwen, if that's what you're asking. And he didn't come home with me," Banana was saying down the phone, although it was obvious he was being distracted by something far more entertaining than Gwen on the other end of the line. Probably porn, Gwen thought.
"Where were you last night? At least give me that to go on?" Gwen asked, resisting the urge to snap at Banana. He was Rhys' best mate, but some days Gwen could barely tolerate him, let alone be civil to him.
"Someplace in Grangetown I think," Banana replied absentmindedly. Gwen tucked her phone under her ear, bringing up Google and typing in 'Cardiff', 'pubs' and 'Grangetown'. She clicked on the first site that came up.
"Was it The Grange? The Neville?" Gwen asked, scrolling through the list of pubs.
"I dunno love, mullered wasn't I?" Banana chuckled slightly and Gwen sighed in annoyance.
"Do me a favour and try and remember, yeah? How about The Cornwall?"
"Oh, aye. That one rings a bit of a bell. Think Dav knows the barmaid in there," Banana started reminiscing and Gwen ran a hand through her hair in annoyance.
"Well if you see him will you get him to call me," Gwen interrupted with irritation.
"Aye, I will do sweetheart," Banana said absentmindedly, hanging up on Gwen as she rolled her eyes.
"Well Banana's not seen Rhys since last night," Gwen said, swinging round to face Jack who was coming out of his office. "What about you? Anything on Ianto?"
Jack looked up at Gwen rather sheepishly, his phone still in his hand.
"I was thinking of dropping by his flat," Jack said after a moment. "Just to check he's not there, passed out on the bathroom floor or something," Jack clarified. "And maybe rummage around for his address book," Jack added as an afterthought.
"Not met any of his friends?" Gwen asked, raising an eyebrow slightly.
"He's never introduced me," Jack almost sounded hurt.
"Hmm, I wonder why?" Gwen teased, ignoring the look Jack shot her in return.
"Anyway, I think Banana's given me a lead on Rhys. He thinks they were in The Cornwall last night in Grangetown," Gwen said, looking back at the map she had up on her screen with coloured squares representing the pubs in Grangetown.
"He thinks?" Jack asked, raising an eyebrow.
"He was apparently too intoxicated to remember details," Gwen replied cynically before waggling the pen in her hand at her computer screen.
"It's on the way to Ianto's, so maybe we could pop in there first before you start going through Ianto's underwear drawer?" Gwen suggested, turning back to Jack with a raised teasing eyebrow.
"You take all the fun out of everything," Jack replied, slightly miffed before disappearing back into his office to retrieve his coat.
Ianto shifted slightly as the door into the basement swung open. Ianto heard Rhys swear under his breath as he tried to pull the paperclip from the handcuffs with minimal success. No words were exchanged as two burly men came into the room - one of them dragged Ianto roughly to his feet while the second one took a set of keys out his pocket to unlock Rhys' handcuffs, chuckling to himself as he pulled the paperclip free.
Ianto did not let his man get far before he was struggling in his grip. Ianto elbowed the man in the stomach, trying to twist out of his reach before shoulder charging the second guy that had turned back to assist his mate. The first one recovered quicker than Ianto had anticipated, grabbing hold of Ianto's arm and twisting it behind his back, making Ianto let out a wailing keen before he was forced to his knees.
"Oi!" Rhys was yelling now, trying to struggle out of his bonds to get to Ianto, who was trying to get back to his feet as the man, who could have played prop forward for Wales, continued to grip tightly to Ianto's wrist.
"Careful, Mr. Williams. Unless you want to end up like Mr. Jones here I suggest you co-operate." There was a smile behind the voice as it stepped into the room, polished shoes clicking on the concrete floor as the figure descended the stairs.
"Not if you're fucking treating him like that I'm not," Rhys spat, turning his anger on the man in charge - only he wasn't a man. From the neck down he could easily be mistaken for a member of the human race, but from the neck up he looked like something out of Star Trek. Rhys cringed at the sight of him. His skin - or what Rhys thought passed for skin - was sagging off of him in inappropriate places and had a slightly blue tinge to it, like he'd been stood outside too long on a cold Cardiff night. His eyes were yellow like he had jaundice, but what was most odd about him was the fact he had a very respectable moustache on his top lip that Poirot would have been proud of. Enough daytime TV, Rhys.
"Who or what the fuck are you anyway? And what the fuck do you want?" Rhys yelled again, trying to mask his fear with anger.
"Really, Mr. Williams, do you need to swear quite so much? You could have rivalled Dr. Harper the mouth you've got on you," the alien commented without bothering to look at Rhys, his eyes still on Ianto before he nodded, indicating that the prop forward should let go of Ianto. Ianto dropped to the floor gratefully, cradling his arm to his chest.
Ianto's brain was busy trying to process the voice for the second time that morning, having already heard it propositioning him – and not in the way that Jack did - before instructing his goons to beat the living daylights out of him when he wouldn't co-operate. He was definitely a well-informed man, but it was only now Ianto got a good look at him, no longer the shadow in the corner of the room, as Ianto pulled himself awkwardly to his feet, holding his arm close to his body.
"Ah, Mr. Jones. The office boy who knows far too much for his own good," the alien sneered, moving towards Ianto as the prop forward grasped Ianto firmly by the shoulders, ensuring he was not going to make a break for it again.
"As well as the ins and outs of Captain Jack Harkness," the alien leered, looking at Ianto almost appraisingly.
"Yes, I believe you know every contour of that man's body and then some from what I've heard. A part-time shag that has become much more by all accounts, on your part at least." The alien stepped closer, invading Ianto's personal space now so Ianto could smell the cheap aftershave on him. "I'll let you in on a secret my boy." Ianto could feel the alien's breath next to his ear as he whispered into it. "Jack Harkness doesn't do love."
Ianto didn't rise to the bait. "Who are you?" Ianto asked.
"How rude of me not to introduce myself when I already know your names," the alien apologised, pressing a hand to the front of his suit and turning away from Ianto slightly so he could take in both he and Rhys in the dim light of the basement.
"My name is Mr. Sanders, although I am known to everyone as Roulette," the alien replied, far more politely than Ianto was comfortable with. "And to answer your previous question, Mr. Williams, I am a collector of rare alien artefacts and I want something which Mr. Jones has the power to give me," Roulette said softly, turning back to face Ianto, raising an eyebrow in question.
"So, Mr. Jones, have you thought about my proposition?" Roulette asked, undoing his jacket buttons and pulling a gold cigarette case from his inside pocket.
"The answer's still no," Ianto replied curtly, ducking his shoulder slightly, trying to stop the prop forward from squeezing so hard, but he just seemed to redouble his efforts.
"I'm sorry to hear that, Mr. Jones," Roulette said as he lit up his cigarette, taking a long draw from it before turning towards Rhys and nodding to the man still stood beside him.
"Perhaps Mr. Williams will be more accommodating," Roulette suggested, watching as the man got the keys out his pocket again.
"He doesn't work for Torchwood," Ianto stated, trying to move forward towards Roulette, but the prop forward just grabbed hold of him tighter, wrapping his tree trunk arms around Ianto's chest and arms so he had minimal chance of escape. "He doesn't know anything," Ianto gasped out as he tried to draw breath. Rhys was already struggling, trying to get to his feet so he could make a break for it. He got a punch to the jaw for his troubles.
"My men may not have been aware, but I know that Mr. Williams was in the wrong place at the wrong time last night," Roulette said calmly as he watched his man pulling Rhys rather roughly to his feet, still looking dazed, and training a gun on him.
"He is, however, a member of the public," Roulette said lazily, turning towards Ianto as Rhys was pushed towards the stairs and made to climb up them, a gun pressed to the back of his head so he complied.
"Someone I believe your organisation swore to protect," Roulette drawled cruelly, taking another draw on his cigarette and exhaling lethargically, nodding at the prop forward that still had a hold of Ianto.
"Let me know when you come to your senses, Mr. Jones," Roulette called over his shoulder as he ascended from the basement. Ianto struggled in the prop forwards hold before he was pushed into the wall, his hands wrenched painfully behind his back and secured with handcuffs. Ianto tried to push back but he barely had a chance to think before he was thrown back harshly, stumbling to stay upright before he fell gracelessly on his arse, his head cracking off the floor. He lay there, listening to footsteps retreating back up the stairs before the sound of a bolt sliding back into place was heard.
It was soon followed by a pained yell from Rhys.
Gwen found herself on the doorstep of a pub at 10.30 on a Wednesday morning, possibly the earliest she had ever found herself at the door of a pub, even on match days. Jack was hammering on the door with a heavy-handed fist.
"Alright!" They heard a muffled voice from behind the door before bolts were retracted and keys turned. The door was pulled open slightly to reveal a man in a Cardiff City shirt, the remains of yesterday's stubble still on his face. He looked like he had been a bouncer in a previous life and Gwen was sure there were prison tattoos hiding under the sleeves of his shirt.
"We're not open yet you know," the man said gruffly, making to close the door on them again. "We open at 12."
"We're not here for a social call," Jack said bleakly, shoving his booted foot in the door before the guy could close it over properly.
"I'm not bloody well letting you in unless you've got-" the man broke off as Gwen shoved her police ID in his face. He sighed overdramatically before pulling the door open all the way.
"You best come in then," he said resignedly before turning his back on Jack and Gwen and disappearing into the pub. He moved round the bar, putting a firm barrier between him and Jack, that he was clearly more comfortably with, as Jack moved into the main room in The Cornwall, leaning far too casually against the bar.
"You the landlord?" Jack asked conversationally.
"Aye, Davie Erwin," the man replied politely but made no move to hold his hand out for Jack to shake.
"What's the problem?" he asked, draping an arm over the nearest tap and picking up a pile of beers mats, shuffling them nervously.
"We're looking for a man that was in here last night," Gwen supplied, stepping up to the bar beside Jack but not leaning on it. "He's about 5'10, brown hair, Welsh."
"Sorry love, but that narrows it down to about half my clientele," Davie Erwin said, picking up a rag and starting to wipe the bar down unnecessarily. Gwen sighed in frustration.
"He was with a group of lads, probably rowdy most of 'em. A bald black guy who was probably wearing a suit?" Gwen prompted. The landlord just shrugged.
"How about a blonde? Mouth on him? Goes by the name of Banana?" Gwen tried. If anyone was to remember Rhys and his group of friends, Banana was usually the one who stuck out like a sore thumb.
"Oh aye," Davie nodded, obviously remembering Banana with minimal fondness if the scowl on his face was anything to go by. "Kicked him and his mates out about an hour before closing after he threw up in the ladies. Don't remember your fella being with them though."
"What about a brown haired man in a suit?" Jack asked, from where he was still carefully watching the landlord. "He had on a pink shirt, about 5ft 11."
"Like I said, half the guys in here are tall and brown haired." Davie shrugged apologetically as Gwen whipped her phone out her pocket, Jack turning to frown at her in question.
"This is the first guy," Gwen said, thrusting her phone at the landlord. He squinted down at a grainy picture of Gwen and Rhys both in Welsh Rugby shirts, toasting the camera with a pint each.
"He rings a bell, but I couldn't say if I saw him for sure last night," Davie said, handing Gwen her phone back.
"What about him?" Gwen asked once she had scrolled through to a drunken photo of Ianto leaning against a wall outside a pub in Cardiff City Centre, Tosh stood beside him trying to suppress a fit of the giggles.
Gwen could remember that particular evening vividly, Owen plying Ianto with so much alcohol he could barely stand by the end of the night. Frankly, Owen hadn't been much better himself, passing out in the taxi on the way home. Ianto had been the kind of drunk that Gwen had in no way expected of him. He had been loud and uninhibited, even serenading her and the whole of Cardiff when he rolled down the taxi window on the ride back to his flat. She had ended up sleeping on his couch after holding him over the toilet for the best part of an hour. It was the most intimate thing they had ever done together up to that point, and amusingly the start of a tentative friendship between them. All it had taken was several pints, Bob Dylan and the overwhelming smell of vomit.
"Oh, aye," Davie said, handing Gwen back her phone again. "I know him, comes in here all the time with mates. Tuesday night last night weren't it?"
Gwen gave a nod in the affirmative, an eager look on her face. "Did you see him?"
"Not last night, no. He'll have been in The Neville. Tuesday's karaoke night."
Gwen felt like her eyes were going to pop out her head, but then nothing should have surprised her about Ianto Jones after that night out on the town. It was Jack who ended up voicing her confusion.
Rhys coughed - so hard in fact, he felt sure he was going to retch. Thankfully, he hadn't eaten anything since his questionable dinner of fish and chips that Banana had presented him with after work yesterday evening. He had no concept of time either. It didn't make a difference being out of the basement; all the windows were boarded up in every single room he had glimpsed. Now he was sitting in a room, tied to a chair like he was Indiana Jones in the Last Crusade. Only, thankfully, his father wasn't here with him and there were no Nazi's in sight. There was, however, a rather large Welshman who was currently using him as a punching bag.
"Aren't you supposed to ask questions between each punch?" Rhys asked, gasping for breath as the prop forward pulled back, a vicious leer on his face.
"What would be the point in that, Mr. Williams?" A voice came from behind the prop forward in the direction of the door. The prop forward stepped aside, that insufferable smirk still on his face, to reveal Roulette stood there, finishing off his cigarette. Rhys tried to shrug nonchalantly and failed - one of his shoulders didn't co-operate with him and the other one gave a spasm of pain when it did, causing him to cringe.
"Well if you're going to let your boy here beat me up like, then I at least deserve to know why, don't you think?" Rhys pressed, sounding far more confident than he actually felt. Truth be told, he feared for his life at the moment, and was desperately hoping Ianto would come to his senses and give the alien bastard whatever the fuck he wanted before he became a Rhys-shaped puddle on the floor. Surely dealing with the wrath of Gwen after his untimely death would be far worse than the end of the world?
Roulette chuckled in the back of his throat, a horribly chilling sound that Rhys hoped never to hear again as long as he lived. Which, he morbidly thought, might not be that much longer, looking at the silver lining and all that.
"I take it Mr. Jones chose to keep you in the dark in regards to our agreement then?" Roulette asked rhetorically, taking a few leisurely steps into the room.
"Not for public ears I presume," Roulette mused, pulling a chair from the side of the room and moving it over so it was sitting in front of Rhys. Roulette sat himself down, pulling out his cigarettes again and offering one to Rhys. Rhys was too stunned to say anything. His nightmare of a hangover was quickly turning into a mafia movie or something out of The Sopranos. He wondered briefly - hysterically – if Gwen had woken up next to a horse's head. He eventually gave a brief shake of the head when Roulette gestured at him with the packet again.
"Allow me to keep you in the loop then," Roulette said, lighting up his cigarette. "Manners and all that." Roulette gestured about vaguely with his lighter before pocketing it, leaning back in the chair and crossing his legs as if he was about to discuss a business proposition.
"As I said before, I'm a collector of rare alien artefacts. I have a Dogon eye, the casing of a Dalek from the Time War itself, a Cyberman's head – empty of course - and what someone believed to be angel's wings but are in fact Myakian wings. Mr. Parker was very helpful in assisting me too, great loss to the world of collectors." Roulette paused a moment, almost as if he was remorseful at the loss. Rhys on the other hand was having a hard time comprehending an alien in a business suit collecting things, as if he was planning to be on the Antiques Roadshow sometime in the near future, while he was trussed up like a turkey at Christmas.
"Anyway, that's not why we're here, is it?" Roulette continued, watching Rhys as he stared bug eyed.
"Why we're here is because something came through the Rift over a hundred years ago in Guyana, when it was still part of the British Empire, and it's been in Torchwood's vault all that time, sat on a shelf in the dark with no one to admire it." Roulette sighed, almost wistfully, and Rhys opened his mouth like a goldfish to say something, although he wasn't sure what.
"I've only ever heard it described to me," Roulette said almost breathlessly, a faraway look in his eyes. "Its beauty and splendour should not be left on a shelf to waste away. It should be out in the open for everyone to admire. All those years locked in that dank and dusty underground Bat Cave that Jack Harkness calls office-space." Roulette almost spat out the last few words as he crushed his cigarette between his fingers.
"What is it?" Rhys asked quite abruptly, curiosity outweighing his fear for a moment. A smile that Rhys was sure was not supposed to be sinister, but was anyway, crept onto Roulette's face as he uncrossed his legs and leant forward in his chair, his face closer to Rhys' than Rhys was entirely comfortable with.
"A crystal skull," Roulette whispered before leaning back in his seat waiting for Rhys to 'ooo' and 'ahh' like a schoolboy presented with his first BB gun. What Rhys did do, however, left Roulette momentarily stunned.
Rhys burst into uncontrollable laughter - he couldn't help himself really. It was surreal. It was beyond surreal. It was preposterous. Gwen had come home some days with farfetched stories of what she'd been up to – like that time Ianto had been under the thrall of a plant, or when half of the team had been turned into clowns – but this really took the biscuit.
"His name may be Jones, but he's not bloody Indiana Jones," Rhys managed to choke out through gales of laughter. He was silenced by a punch to the face and sobered remarkably quickly as he shook his head to stop the ringing in his left ear.
"This is no joking matter, Mr. Williams," Roulette spat, his chair lying behind him where it had toppled over when he had lurched to his feet to punch Rhys. Rhys' eyes were suddenly wide with fear as Roulette's body moved so he was mere inches from Rhys' face.
"I want that crystal skull, and I will most certainly do anything and everything to get it," Roulette said, voice barely above a whisper, but his meaning was clear as he pulled back from Rhys and turned to leave the room, nodding to the prop forward.
"Also, unlike Jack Harkness, I very much doubt you and Mr. Jones have the ability to come back from the dead," Roulette threw over his shoulder as he left the room. Rhys stared after him, jaw slack and eyes unbelieving, before the prop forward filled his vision again, a mischievous smile on his face revealing he was missing a front tooth. Rhys gulped comically.
"Did you know Ianto went to karaoke night?" Gwen asked as she and Jack made their way down the street towards The Neville.
"No. And to be honest with you, I'm more hurt than surprised," Jack replied, looking sidelong at Gwen as they reached the door of The Neville where someone was just putting out the board for lunch. "He told me he only sang in the shower," Jack groused, as he held the pub door open for Gwen.
"Maybe we'll found out Rhys is secretly a Go-Go dancer," Jack whispered in Gwen's ear as she passed him. Gwen chose to ignore him and headed straight for the bar.
"What'll it be?" the barman asked Gwen, grinning over the taps at her, his face falling slightly when he saw Jack striding up behind her.
"Nothing to drink thanks love, we're here on work," Gwen smiled rather glumly at the man over the bar. "We're looking for someone that might have been in here last night. About 5ft11, brown hair, wearing a suit with a pink shirt."
The barman gave Gwen a funny sort of look, as if he was trying very hard to remember someone of that particular description.
"His name's Ianto," Jack added when the barman looked on the verge of not remembering.
"Yeah, I know Ianto." The barman smiled, nodding enthusiastically now that he could help. "He's in here most Tuesdays with his mates. One of our best crowd pleasers is Ianto."
"Was he in here last night?" Jack asked, an edge to his voice that made Gwen turn to look at him.
"Aye, he was here. He's never any trouble mind. Sings too much if anything." The barman smiled and Gwen laughed into her hand. Jack ignored them both.
"Can you remember what time he left last night? Did he leave on his own or with a group of people?" Jack asked, sounding agitated.
The barman shrugged. "I'm not his mam. I think he maybe left around half ten after he sang 'Piano Man'."
Jack raised his eyebrows appreciatively at Ianto's song choice.
"Have you got any CCTV either in or around the pub?" Gwen asked hopefully, leaning on the bar now in an effort to get closer to the truth.
"Sorry sweetheart, we don't have any up. Council covers this street so it'd be a waste of time us having any," the barman replied. Jack and Gwen looked at each other, nodding in silent agreement.
"Thanks for your help," Gwen said politely before she and Jack turned to leave The Neville.
"So, what kind of trouble's he in then?" the barman asked their retreating backs.
"He's missing," Jack replied without bothering to turn around, sweeping out the pub after Gwen.
Gwen started walking back down the street towards the SUV.
"So we head back to the Hub and hack into the Council security systems, see if we can track Rhys and Ianto's drunken progress?" Gwen asked.
"We can do it the old fashioned way first," Jack called after Gwen, causing her to stop in her tracks when she realised Jack wasn't following her down the street back to the car but was heading in the opposite direction.
"Old fashioned way?" Gwen called out to him, reluctant to follow, but her feet were already running back up the road towards him.
"Ianto lives round here, yes?" Jack asked rhetorically.
"Yes," Gwen answered anyway, falling in step with Jack as he turned down Clare Road.
"So he'll have walked home, yes?" Jack didn't wait for a reply this time before he continued. "And If I know Ianto Jones he'll have taken the most direct route home. Drunk or not, he's a man of habit. So if we follow the route Ianto would have taken home, maybe we'll find a clue."
"What about Rhys?" Gwen asked almost indignantly.
"Maybe he followed Ianto home too," Jack said, winking at Gwen before continuing down the street, his eyes scanning for any sign of Ianto or Rhys down alleys or in gutters. Gwen hesitated for a split second, looking back down the street at the abandoned SUV outside The Neville, before she reluctantly followed Jack towards Ianto's flat.
Rhys tried to keep his feet under him as he was pushed towards the basement door, but he was having a hard time trying to keep his balance. He ached in places he didn't even know he could ache and his arms were secured behind his back like he was a detainee in Guantanamo Bay. The bolt on the door to the basement was pulled back and Rhys was shoved forcibly inside, the prop forward following moments after, chuckling to himself. His laughter was cut short as Rhys watched a dark shadow barrelling into the side of the prop forward and knocking him down the stairs onto the basement floor, unfortunately taking Rhys with him.
Three bodies lay at the bottom of the stairs, groaning in pain, the shadow that Rhys presumed to be Ianto, staggering to his feet as he squared off against the prop forward. Ianto had lost the upper hand now, what with his hands tied behind his back, and was floored easily by the prop forward slugging him in the jaw. Rhys was too sore to do anything. He honestly did not know how Ianto was still mobile after the beating he had obviously taken.
Rhys felt ashamed of himself as he just lay there, watching the prop forward taking out his anger and frustration on Ianto at being momentarily subjugated, hoping that the bully would tire before Ianto expired.
"Stop," Ianto managed to splutter out, spitting blood onto the floor as he rolled over in blatant agony. The prop forward just laughed before he turned away, aiming a boot at Rhys. Rhys flinched, but instead of a boot hitting his ribs the sound of vicious laughter reached his ears. When he opened his eyes, not realising he had closed them, the door to the basement was clattering shut behind the prop forward.
Rhys twisted his head to try and see Ianto, dust coming up from the ground as he wriggled around to get himself in a sitting position, causing him to cough.
"Ianto?" he hissed into the darkness. He was met with the reply of a wet cough, followed by the sound of Ianto spitting what was most likely blood.
"What?" Ianto asked, a pained sound to his voice as Rhys finally got himself into an upright position and propped himself up against the wall, his arms at a painful angle behind him.
"Just checking you're not dead," Rhys mumbled after a moment as his eyes adjusted to the dim light of the basement again, watching Ianto as he too struggled to get himself into an upright position, panting and gasping for air. Rhys watched as Ianto rested beside him against the wall, head falling back and his eyes closing as he tried to regain his breath.
"Not yet," Ianto managed after an age. Rhys chuckled nervously. His bad hangover of a Mafia film was quickly turning into Saw the movie, where Rhys didn't know if either of them were going to make it out of here alive or if one of them was going to have to kill the other in order to do so.
"Are you always like this on-" Rhys hesitated, unsure what the right word to use was. "Missions?" Rhys finished rather lamely, glancing sideways at Ianto who was spitting more blood onto the floor of the basement. Rhys grimaced.
"Like what?" Ianto asked, turning slightly to look at Rhys and almost immediately thinking better of it.
"You know." Rhys tried to shrug. "Shoot first, ask questions later sort of approach?"
"I've been taking lessons from Jack," Ianto replied quickly, causing Rhys to turn and look at him sharply.
"Jesus Christ," Rhys whispered harshly. "Does nothing faze you?"
Ianto's head lolled to the side, before he was leaning up off the wall to look properly at Rhys. He licked his bottom lip, smearing blood further down his chin rather than getting rid of it.
"I just have to laugh to keep from crying," Ianto said softly, watching as a smile crept onto Rhys' face.
"Life lessons from Madonna now is it?" Rhys asked, quickly followed by, "Don't you dare tell my wife I listen to Madonna!"
Ianto chuckled dryly, taking a sharp intake of breath when that hurt too much. Rhys sobered quickly too, staring at the opposite wall now.
"Gwen and Jack are looking for us, right?" Rhys asked suddenly, needing some kind of reassurance even if Ianto couldn't give him answers.
"I think it's safe to bet that Gwen's probably phoning all your mates accusing them of losing you at the pub last night," Ianto replied almost immediately.
"What about you? Jack not be sending out search and rescue by now for his missing employee?" Rhys asked, turning to look at Ianto again to find him staring blankly ahead at the wall opposite. Ianto gave a slight shrug of the shoulders.
"Probably, considering I'm not at work, nor have I called in hung-over," Ianto replied, almost forlornly.
"He'll be calling your mates as well then," Rhys suggested, like he seemed sure of the fact.
"More likely he'll be raiding my underwear drawer for my phone book since he's never met any of my friends," Ianto replied wryly. He could see Rhys looking at him out of the corner of his eye, as if he was waiting for more of an explanation.
"Jack and I don't have the most conventional of relationships," Ianto added as an afterthought. Not really wishing to expand anymore than that, they lapsed into silence, listening to footsteps on the floor above and the steady drip of a leaky pipe somewhere in the basement.
"Anything?" Gwen asked as Jack opened the passenger door of the SUV and got in.
They had traced the route back to Ianto's house, Gwen mumbling under her breath about how much of a waste of time it was while Jack picked up every stray fag end and screwed up receipts like he was some kind of perverse bag lady. When they had reached Ianto's flat Jack had let himself in while Gwen had gone to talk to Ianto's neighbour who lived downstairs from him. Gwen had gotten a lovely story about how Ianto had saved her cat from being deposited in the bin lorry, but other than that, she hadn't seen hide nor hair of him for more than a week now. Gwen had left Jack to his snooping and gone to pick up the SUV.
"Well he's not passed out on the toilet with his pants round his ankles and a pair of fluffy handcuffs attached to one wrist," Jack joked as he pulled his seatbelt on. Gwen just raised an eyebrow at him in reply before she pulled out onto the street.
"Also, he doesn't keep his address book in his underwear drawer," Jack grumbled and Gwen gave him a sidelong glance.
"Do you seriously believe people do that?" Gwen asked scathingly.
"No, but I thought I'd check anyway." Jack smiled and Gwen couldn't tell if he was joking or not.
"I would have thought Ianto of all people would have a back up of all his phone numbers," Gwen mused as she turned onto Penarth Road to head back towards the Bay.
"He probably does, just not where prying eyes can find it," Jack replied, turning to look out the passenger window, a pensive expression on his face.
"So you didn't go through all his drawers then?" Gwen asked, a teasing note to her voice.
"Why should I?" Jack asked, turning to look at Gwen. "He deserves his privacy."
"Jack, I don't think privacy really counts when he's missing," Gwen shot back, trying to keep her eyes on Jack and the road at the same time.
"It counts more," Jack said softly, turning to look out the front windscreen, effectively ending the conversation. It was obvious that Jack meant more than what he said, but Gwen didn't rise to the bait. She thought that Jack trusted Ianto now that they had put past grievances behind them – apparently loyalty was still an issue.
The ride back to the Hub continued in silence, the only sound coming from the SUV was the whir of the computers on board and the dull sound of the tyres on tarmac. Jack's joking mood had disappeared just as quickly as it had come about, a coping mechanism he had no doubt picked up from Ianto at some point. Gwen had to chew on her lip all the way back to Hub to stop herself from saying anything, although she wasn't sure what she would say. She was just as worried as Jack was, no doubt, at the disappearance of her husband and his - what? Work colleague? Friend? Boyfriend? Partner? Gwen was never sure, not when you had to be so bloody politically correct these days. But then, she had never really asked Ianto or Jack to define their relationship, and now she was struggling herself.
She watched Jack as he moved swiftly out of the lift and into the main area of the Hub, coat flapping behind him. She watched him take it off and hesitate a moment, as if he was waiting for someone to take it from him and hang it up, before he threw it on the sofa, moving to the nearest computer. She hung up her own coat before she pulled her phone out her pocket; she flicked down to the recent call list, her thumb hovering over the call button.
"Gwen," Jack called, startling her. "Start checking out the CCTV near The Cornwall, anytime between 9pm and kicking out time. I'll start at The Neville."
"Sure," Gwen said, pressing the cancel button on her phone and moving over to her workstation. She pulled up a chair and settled in to watch the security feed from last night's drunken party on Clare Road. She saw a group of girls tottering down the road arm in arm, wearing skirts too short and heels too high for the time of year. She watched a couple having a fall out, the girl slapping the guy before she marched off down the street, hugging herself, while her boyfriend - or ex-boyfriend - went back into the pub. A group of Cardiff City supports spilled out of the pub at 9.43pm, stumbling into each other as she wiggled a pencil between her fingers. She glanced across at Jack sat at Tosh's old workstation. He was chewing on the end of a ballpoint pen, watching the security feed intently, but apparently coming up with as much as she had. Nothing.
It was as she was watching a man walk his Jack Russell past the pub at 10.24pm that Jack startled her out of her hypnotic gaze.
"I think I've found Ianto," Jack said, beckoning her over. She turned back to her security feed to pause it, but she didn't move over to Jack straight away. She leaned closer to her screen, watching as a familiar shape stumbled out of the pub, pulling a leather jacket round his shoulders and turning the collar up against the night air.
"Gwen," Jack called again, motioning for her to join her.
"I've found Rhys too," Gwen said, smiling slightly as she watched Rhys fumble in his pocket, no doubt for his phone. Gwen had received a drunken text from Rhys at about half past ten the previous night, declaring his love for her, when she had been curled up in bed, drifting off to sleep. She had just smiled, rolled her eyes and rolled over.
"He came out The Cornwall at 10.24pm," Gwen said, finally moving over to Jack to see what he had found.
"Which would be why he's stalking Ianto down the street," Jack commented, pointing at his own screen which showed a grainy image of a man in a suit in the corner of it, turning back to wait for someone. A moment later the shape of Rhys appeared in the lower corner of the screen and fell in step with Ianto as they continued down Clare Road and out of the frame of the CCTV.
"Now all we have to do," Jack said, hands flying over the keyboard as he brought up the next CCTV camera on the way to Ianto's flat, "is follow them home."
"What's Rhys doing following Ianto home anyway?" Gwen pondered aloud as she watched them pause on the corner of Penarth Road to let a police car go past. She leaned forward towards the screen, squinting slightly to try and see their faces, but it was too dark and the image was too grainy to see their features as anything more than a blur up close.
"Maybe Ianto invited him," Jack mused, flicking to the next camera. His tone was joking but his face remained impassive, almost as if he was jealous Rhys had received an invitation back to Ianto's. Gwen didn't say anything in reply; she wasn't in the mood for jokes when she was possibly about to see her husband and friend abducted by aliens. She watched as they disappeared in one end of an alley and waited with bated breath for them to appear on the next security camera that Jack brought up.
Jack frowned, rewinding and fast-forwarding the security feed to try and find where Ianto and Rhys had disappeared to, but they never appeared out the other side of the alley.
"Where've they gone?" Gwen asked, leaning over Jack and flipping back to the security camera at the other end of the alley. They watched Rhys and Ianto disappear into the alley again, waiting for a second time.
"Maybe they're down there doing-"
Gwen interrupted Jack by slapping him on the arm.
"Rhys and Ianto are missing. Do you think now is really the time to be making crude jokes about them having an affair?" Gwen chastised, silencing Jack as she started fast-forwarding the footage. She paused it when ten minutes later a black van emerged from the alley and headed back up towards Penarth Road. She frowned before starting the footage again, fast forwarding for another half hour in the vain hope that Rhys and Ianto would reappear, but it was obvious to even the most dense Dick.
"Is it just me or is this turning into something out of CSI?" Jack suggested as he re-wound the footage and paused it on the black van, zooming in on the number plate.
"That means we'll be done by 10pm then," Gwen joked in reply, sighing as she moved back over to her workstation and started doing a number plate search through the CrimNet database.
Roulette threw a paperweight at the wall that exploded in a shower of glass shards on impact, causing the weedier of the two men to flinch, while the prop forward just stood there with his hands crossed in front of his crotch. Neither of them dared say anything as Roulette leant on his desk heavily, trying to get his breathing under control.
"What if we call O'Toole in, get him to work with us so we can break into that base of theirs?" the weedy one suggested, a stutter in his voice. Roulette looked up through his eyelashes at the two men, his gaze scathing.
"I know Mr. O'Toole is the best in the business, but even if he can make it past all the Hub security, he still has their pets to contend with, and no doubt one very pissed off Jack Harkness," Roulette answered bluntly.
The two men looked at each other, shuffling nervously from foot to foot as they watched Roulette staring down at his desk before he sat down calmly, steepling his hands in front of his face and pressing them to his lips.
"No, Jack Harkness doesn't respond to brute force. Not anymore," Roulette ruminated, his eyes roaming over the telephone perched on the desk next to where the paperweight had just been. Silence seeped into the atmosphere as the weedier of the two men opened his mouth as if to suggest something else, but suddenly thought better of it, scared of Roulette's reaction more now he had calmed down.
"I'm sure if I had a quiet word in his ear though," Roulette pondered, still staring at the telephone on his desk as if it held all the answers to his problems. "I think now is the time to call Jack Harkness and make him a business proposition he can't refuse." Roulette smiled, finally removing his gaze from the phone and turning to his two goons as they mirrored his cruel smile.
Gwen stood in one of the alcoves of the archives. She was hiding, although whether it was from Jack or the truth of the situation she didn't know. She fingered the call button on her mobile, chewing unconsciously on her bottom lip before she pressed it, raising the phone to her ear. It didn't even ring once before Rhys' voicemail kicked in.
"Rhys Williams here, I'm not available right now, but if you leave your name and number I'll get back to you when I can." Rhys' voice sounded almost nervous and she could still vaguely hear herself giggling in the background. She listened for the beep and for a moment didn't say anything – she didn't know what to say.
"Rhys love, I'm getting worried now," Gwen started to chastise - like it was Rhys' fault he had disappeared. "Could you give us a call before I start calling in the coastguard. Might be a bit embarrassing on both our parts if you turn up hung-over in Splott in a couple of hours," Gwen chuckled to herself, but it sounded hollow.
"Just give me a call soon will you love," Gwen said softly before she hung up, a fist forming around her phone as she held it to her lips. She let out a sigh as she heard Jack calling her from somewhere in the distance. She closed her eyes against the flood of emotions before pulling her phone away from her mouth and heading out of the archives towards the main area.
"You screamed?" Gwen questioned as she moved into Jack's office. He was sitting at his desk, his phone vibrating on top of a pile of folders sat to the right of the desk. Jack was just staring at the phone as if it was a dangerous alien artefact.
"Are you going to answer that?" Gwen asked, as she moved hesitantly towards the desk, gesturing at the phone. There was a pause as Jack brought himself to his feet, picking up the phone before flipping it open, his stare set on somewhere past Gwen's shoulder.
"Where are they?" Jack said in a dangerously low voice, causing Gwen to stop a foot or so from Jack's desk, eyes widening slightly in disbelief. She should have realised really when she heard the different ringtone. Owen's sense of humour had not died with him the first time.
"So rude, Mr. Harkness, I would have thought we'd at least exchange pleasantries," Roulette said calmly in reply.
"Well it already seems you've done your homework on me," Jack ground out between gritted teeth, trying to ignore the anxious look that Gwen was giving him.
"Oh I know all about you, Jack," Roulette leered, smiling down the phone so it translated into his tone.
"Almost as much as Mr. Jones. He, however, is not willing to kiss and tell," Roulette continued and Jack had to reign in a growl that was building in the back of his throat, like a hunter ready for the kill.
"How about you give me him back then?" Jack suggested, ignoring Gwen who was desperately trying to communicate to Jack to include Rhys in that equation.
Roulette sighed. "Really, Jack, I'm disappointed that you think I'm that stupid."
"What do you want then?" Jack snapped, losing his patience quickly.
"Just a little thing really," Roulette said offhandedly. "That crystal skull that's gathering dust in your-"
"No," Jack cut him off firmly and Roulette gave out a surprised huff of a laugh.
"Not even to save your archivist and your second in command's husband?" Roulette questioned.
"I'm not risking the planet for two people," Jack bit back sharply before hanging up. He held his phone in a fist bringing it to his mouth as he tried to get his breathing under control, still avoiding Gwen's gaze as he stared blankly at the wall ahead.
Gwen's eyes were wide in her head as she took a step towards Jack, mouth open as she prepared to tell him what she thought of his negotiation skills. Jack throwing his phone at the wall cut her short. It shattered into pieces, the sound of plastic hitting concrete before it was followed by Jack's cry of anger. She barely had time to register what had happened before Jack was sweeping from his office.
"Have we found those number plates yet?" Jack barked, moving over to a computer and bringing up the search Gwen had been conducting before she had slipped off to the archives to try and call Rhys again.
"I've narrowed it down," Gwen said hesitantly. She felt uncertain of herself, and scared of Jack and what he was going to do next, as she brought up the results. She was also terrified for Rhys and Ianto's safety.
"They're registered to a pizza place in the city centre," Gwen started, glancing round as Jack disappeared back into his office. "A place called United Pizza Plus, on Broadway," Gwen continued, looking back around to find Jack now with his coat on and the keys to the SUV in his hand, moving towards the door. Gwen grabbed for her own jacket moving after him towards the cog door, turning back at the last minute to collect her gun too.
Rhys and Ianto both looked up as they heard the bolt on the door retract. Neither of them moved, having too little energy to put up much of a fight anymore. The best they could hope for now was to pass out before they sustained internal injuries. Although, Ianto already suspected he might be peeing blood by the time morning came. The light bulb above the door flickered on, causing Rhys and Ianto to squint, turning their heads away from the bright flare.
"Well," Roulette started when he was halfway down the stairs into the basement, moving to stand in front of them as they both struggled to look at Roulette and the halo of light behind him. "It seems that good old Jack doesn't want to have anything to do with either of you," Roulette informed them, absentmindedly brushing lint off his sleeve so that he appeared disinterested. Ianto could tell that Roulette was barely concealing his anger about the fact that Jack had not given him what he desired.
"So, since you, Mr. Jones, will not give me what I want, nor does your employer seem very interested in getting you back, it seems that I don't actually have a use for either of you anymore," Roulette voiced, nodding to the prop forward and another man that had entered the room with him. They pulled Ianto and Rhys roughly to their feet.
"Hang on," Rhys spluttered. "What do you mean you don't have a use for us?"
Roulette gave a cruel laugh while Rhys watched him bug eyed and Ianto stared resolutely ahead, trying to remain unfazed.
"I believe Mr. Roulette here is going to have us disposed of," Ianto answered for Roulette, in an exceptional imitation of Roulette's polite façade. Roulette's laugh petered out into a chuckle as he turned his eyes on Ianto.
"What?" Rhys asked, watching as the third goon that had come into the room with the small party was now pulling a gun from his inside jacket pocket and training it on Rhys' head. Rhys knew what it felt like to be shot, thanks to Torchwood surprisingly enough, and he didn't plan on repeating the experience anytime soon. Also, he wasn't a doctor, but he was pretty sure that a bullet to the head tended to carry the side effect of death.
"It was a pleasure to meet you Mr. Williams," Roulette said politely, nodding his head at Rhys before he turned to Ianto. "Mr. Jones." Roulette nodded again before he turned on his heel, pulling his cigarette case from his pocket.
"Look man, this has all been some big understanding I'm sure," Rhys spoke calmly, though his voice wavered towards the high-pitched end of the scale. Ianto didn't say anything as he stared down the barrel of the gun, thinking about how much of a habit it was becoming. The gun was cocked as Roulette's shoes disappeared out the basement door, allowing it to slam shut behind him,
"Jesus fucking Christ, Ianto man, say something," Rhys almost yelled, sounding agitated. Ianto didn't blame him.
Ianto would have liked to say that his whole life flashed before his eyes, but it didn't. He didn't make up some elaborate fantasy where Jack and Gwen came sweeping in at the last minute in a swirl of coats to rescue them. His last thought was not of Jack. Nor Gwen, liked he assumed Rhys' was if the mumbled begging was anything to go by. Ianto's last thought as he watched the finger on the gun sedately squeezing the trigger was, 'Alone again. Naturally.'
When he heard the bang, he realised a Die Hard quote would probably have been better suited to the situation rather than Love Actually.
"Who owns that van?" Jack yelled, his hand round the throat of the delivery boy, a fresh pizza and his crash helmet still on the desk waiting for him. The boy's eyes were wide with fear as his feet scrambled to keep some sort of purchase on the ground. Gwen stood hesitantly behind Jack, unsure whether to stop him, scared that he would turn his anger on her.
"Jack," Gwen tried, putting a hand on his shoulder, but he just shrugged her off harshly, pushing the boy so his head banged off the wall.
"I don't know nothing man," the boy said desperately, gasping for air as Jack shook him again.
"Alright mate, I think it's time you left," the manager said, appearing out the beaded curtain behind the till. Jack turned his gaze on the manager, dropping the boy a moment later and moving round the counter towards his new victim who was reaching for the phone, no doubt trying to call the police. Gwen felt sorry for him – the police weren't going to do him any good. She watched the delivery boy scrabbling to his feet before turning and running from the shop. She didn't blame him, she felt like running herself.
"I'll leave when I get what I came for," Jack snarled, pressing the manager up against the wall next to a tower of pizza boxes.
"Just take the money then," the manager spluttered, desperately motioning towards the till. Jack laughed, something cruel and twisted sounding that Gwen had never heard coming from Jack Harkness.
"I want something a lot more valuable than money," Jack hissed through clenched teeth. His voice was low and dangerous sounding, so much so it sent shivers down Gwen's spine.
"I want information," Jack whispered, his face pressed so close to the other man's that he could see beads of sweat forming on his brow.
"W-what information?" the man stuttered, trying to look away from Jack's steely blue stare.
"A black ford transit van registered to this place but not actually related to the business," Jack said quickly, a dangerous tone to his voice. "Where is it?"
"I don't know what you're on about mate," the man answered quickly. Too quickly.
"Maybe you want to think about that answer and try again," Jack suggested, a hand moving his coat aside so his Webley was on display. The man's eyes moved down to the gun and if Jack had not had him by the throat, he would have probably gulped comically. There was a moment's hesitation from the man as he glanced pleadingly at Gwen who tried to make her face impassive, although she was pretty sure her own eyes were wide with fear and begging the man to co-operate, for fear of what Jack might do next.
"It belongs to Mr. Sanders," the man answered, somewhat reluctantly.
"Where is he?" Jack all but growled, apparently recognising the name.
"I dunno mate," the man said nervously, trying to shake his head and failing. Jack shook the man, banging him backwards off the wall again.
"You think this is funny? Think this is a game?" Jack spat. The man shook his head enthusiastically in the negative.
"Good. So when I say I know how to keep you alive and in pain indefinitely you know that I'm not joking," Jack growled.
"I dunno where he is, really," the man stuttered sweat dripping down the side of his nose now, he was that nervous.
"He might be out at Bryn-ty Fferm," the man choked out as Jack tightened his grip.
"Where's that?" Jack demanded, voice anxious now rather than threatening.
"On the road to Barry, past Dinas Powys" the man said, relief washing over his features as Jack dropped him unceremoniously to the floor, the tower of pizza boxes tumbling on top of him as Jack swept out of the pizza place. Gwen remained stock-still for a moment, watching the gibbering wreck of a man Jack had left behind. She shot him an apologetic look before she was following Jack out the door, running to catch up to him as he gunned the engine of the SUV. Gwen had not even shut the door before Jack was doing a U-turn and heading towards Cardiff Road. Gwen chanced a glance at Jack, still too scared to say anything. He was staring straight ahead, face set in determination.
Ianto did not know where he had obtained his quick reflexes. He definitely wasn't born with them – he had been a gangly teenager who was no good at the 100 meters and as a child he had fallen out of so many trees that several of the doctor's at the Royal Gwent A&E knew him by name. Now was probably not the best time to be wondering where he had obtained them, but more a moment to be grateful he had them as he and Rhys ate dirt. The man that had been holding Rhys gave a cry of shock as the bullet hit him before he slumped to the floor, missing Ianto and Rhys by an inch.
Ianto was scrabbling to get his feet under him before anyone had a chance to realise what was going on. His hand slipped inside the unconscious goon's pocket, pulling a modified 1911 from the inside, which he briefly noted had TORCHWOOD engraved down the side. He swung round, and if he hadn't been in fear for his life he would have realised how James Bond he felt dressed in his suit and swinging the gun in a long arch before firing at the man still wielding his gun. He hit him in the shoulder – ironically, in the exact same spot where he had hit Owen. The man dropped his gun, falling backwards into the wall in surprise and pain, clutching at his shoulder.
Ianto turned to Rhys, hoping to assist him with the prop forward that had been holding him in place but Rhys was holding his own against the thug. Ianto moved over to the goon with the shoulder injury, kicking his gun away before turning the gun he had in his hand over and hitting him over the head with the butt it. He turned back to Rhys, noting the prop forward was now unconscious and slumped against the nearest wall.
Rhys turned to Ianto, giving him a rather toothy grin before he was struggling to his feet. Ianto looked down at the gun in his hand – his gun, he noted - sliding the cartridge out and checking how many bullets he had left. None. Well that was lucky, he thought before he bent down to retrieve the second gun, the cartridge of which had three bullets remaining.
"Time to get out of here?" Rhys asked hopefully, as Ianto exchanged the cartridges.
"Past time," Ianto replied before starting up the stairs cautiously, Rhys following behind him. They paused at the top of the stairs, peering out of the door warily. There was no one immediately outside the door so Ianto stuck his head out along with the gun, glancing further down the corridor. He heard a door bang open just out of sight followed by footsteps coming their way. He pulled the door back towards him, closing it quietly as he listened to a couple of sets of footsteps marching past the door. He waited until he heard another door go before he opened the basement door again, double-checking they were alone now.
Ianto moved out into the corridor, trying the nearest door. The handle rattled, but nothing more happened as Rhys stepped out into the corridor behind him, failing to notice the prop forward was already shaking off his beating and pulling his own gun from his inside pocket.
Ianto had no way of knowing whether he was heading towards the front door or away from it. It was just as dark above ground as it was below. Every door or window they came across was either locked or boarded up. Ianto didn't even know where they would actually be if they made it out of the house. They could be in England or even Scotland by now for all he knew, although he suspected they were still in Wales if the slate fireplace he had just past was anything to go by.
Gwen followed Jack up the lane towards the farmhouse. They had abandoned the SUV at the gate of a nearby field and continued on foot. Gwen had to trot to keep up with Jack as he strode down the muddy lane purposefully. The sun was just disappearing behind the nearest hedgerow as the farmhouse came into sight. It looked deserted. There appeared to be no lights on, but Gwen realised as they drew closer that that was not the case. All the windows were boarded up and the door sealed fast - if there were someone inside they wouldn't know. It was as if the house was preparing for the blackout of World War III.
Jack made some military gesture at her that she didn't understand, but Gwen did not have time to question him before he was running swiftly towards the front door of the house and kicking it in with his booted foot. Gwen sighed before following him, pulling her gun out. Jack Harkness was never the subtlest of people.
Gwen followed him in to the building that had probably belonged to a typical Welsh farmer, once upon a time. Now it was just an abandoned building that was being used to replace happy memories. Gwen was barely two steps in the door before she felt the barrel of a gun pressed to the back of her head.
"Where do you think you're going?" a gruff voice asked as the safety was pulled off the gun. Gwen stopped trying to look behind her, looking for help from Jack, but he was in the same predicament as her, relinquishing his gun as Gwen moved hers so it was hanging slack in her hand. It was snatched from her clutches as she raised her hands, worried that someone had a twitchy trigger finger as Jack looked back at her with apologetic eyes before they were frog-marched down the hallway.
Gwen was quietly mad at Jack – she had thought he had a plan. Apparently, it had been a Captain Jack Harkness plan – half-cocked, go in guns blazing and hope for the best. Gwen and Jack were corralled into a study at the end of the hall. The window in this room was also boarded up, but there was a beautiful Tiffany lamp resting on the desk, illuminating the room in an eerie green glow that made the alien behind the desk sickly looking.
"Mrs. Cooper." The alien nodded to Gwen before turning his eyes on Jack. "Jack Harkness, we meet again," Roulette said politely, pulling himself to his feet as Jack glared back at him not saying anything while Gwen stared wide-eyed. She shouldn't be surprised really that Roulette knew Jack; in fact, it would surprise her even less if Roulette and Jack had been an item at some point. She half wondered how much less trouble Torchwood would have to encounter on a regular basis if they didn't have to deal with Jack Harkness' past conquests.
"We've never met," Jack replied rather curtly, folding his arms across his chest.
"No," Roulette replied, sighing slightly. "I always forget that it was your back I saw when you were running away from me with that skull," Roulette said, standing up rather suddenly and bringing a gun with him, which he aimed at Jack's head. Jack let out a chuckle of annoyance, but Gwen could still see the anger boiling underneath the surface.
"You obviously didn't do your research well enough," Jack mocked, staring down the end of the gun defiantly.
Ianto twisted the doorknob and pushed dramatically into the next room. It was as empty as the last two had been, the windows boarded up so that no light fell on it apart from what was filtering in behind the forms of Ianto and Rhys from the lone light bulb in the hallway. Ianto turned back out the room again, leaving the door open behind them.
He stopped as he heard another yell from further down the corridor, holding up his hand to cause Rhys to stop behind him. He paused, listening for a moment to the sound of scuffling feet coming from behind a door further down the corridor, followed by the sound of yelling. Ianto smiled to himself. He would recognise that American twang anywhere.
He turned to look at Rhys with the smile still on his face only to have it slide off again as he noticed the prop forward creeping up on Rhys and he, gun pointing at them. He raised his gun, pushing Rhys aside bodily into the empty room behind him.
A shot rang out and Ianto stumbled back into Rhys, dropping the gun. He hadn't been the one to fire. He hadn't been quick enough.
Being shot hurt a lot more than he had ever imagined. It hurt to breathe, to move, to think even, although he was pretty sure a lot of his hurts existed before he was shot. His headache was dulling into the background as a fire swelled in his belly that wasn't due to any emotion, just a deep hurt that made him want to cry out in pain and curl up in his mother's arms and sob. Instead, he swore quietly as he lay on the floor, his hand pressed to his stomach painfully as the prop forward smiled down at him, raising his gun for a second time.
Everyone in Roulette's study turned as one to look at the closed door. A gunshot had sounded from down the corridor. When Jack turned back to face Roulette he had a cruel smile adorning his features. Roulette pulled the safety off the gun he was holding, his arm swinging round so it was aimed at Gwen who took an involuntary step back, grimacing.
"Now Jack," Roulette said, the K in Jack's name clicking off Roulette's tongue. "I suggest you give me the skull before you lose the last member of your team." Roulette sneered as Jack's glare intensified. "
"What do you mean last member of the team, where are Rhys and Ianto?" Gwen spoke up, taking a tentative step forward, trying to ignore the gun that was still pointed at her face.
"Thanks to your boss' inability to negotiate, your husband is dead, Mrs. Cooper, as is the last of your work colleagues," Roulette told her. Gwen shook her head once, slightly, in disbelief, taking a step back as Roulette circled round from his desk, gun still pointed at her. Both of her hands went up to cover her mouth as she shook her head again, her face creasing up as if she was going to burst into tears, but she couldn't.
Jack's arms had unfolded now, fists clenched at the sides. "You better be lying," Jack ground out, jaw set in anger as he stepped towards Roulette.
"Don't even think about it," Roulette threatened, although he sounded nervous, even desperate now. He jabbed the gun towards Gwen again. Gwen was backed up against the desk now, Roulette standing firmly between the pair of them and the door.
"Tell me where that damn skull is Jack before I shoot you both," Roulette demanded, gun jabbing angrily at Jack before he cocked the gun.
"You better hope you're a quick shot," Jack threatened, eyes locking angrily with Roulette's.
Rhys picked up Ianto's gun and shot without thinking. He wanted to wipe that cocky smile off that prop forwards face. The prop forward was too intent on aiming his gun at Ianto - who was on the floor, staring up wide-eyed at the man that Rhys had just shot. Although, he had to admit, for his first time firing a gun he had aimed pretty well.
"Bloody hell," Rhys breathed, looking down at the gun in his now shaking hand before he looked at the body squirming on the floor in pain.
"Bloody hell," he voiced again as he turned to look at Ianto who was pulling himself into a sitting position with the use of the doorframe.
"I just shot someone," Rhys said, stating the obvious, which caused Ianto to roll his eyes as he clutched painfully at his stomach, trying to staunch the bleeding.
"Can you have your James Bond moment later please? Maybe after we've got out of here alive?" Ianto asked sarcastically, causing Rhys to animate himself, a little bit too enthusiastically for Ianto, as he started waving the gun he still had in his hands. Ianto winced, although Rhys presumably took it to mean he was in pain rather than resisting the urge to take the gun off Rhys.
"Bloody hell," Rhys swore again, gesturing at where blood was steadily dribbling through Ianto's fingers from his stomach. "You've been shot," Rhys stated, causing Ianto to rapidly lose patience with him.
"Thanks, I had noticed," Ianto deadpanned before gesturing to the man on the floor who had apparently passed out from the pain of the gunshot wound that Rhys had inflicted on his kneecap. "Pass me his gun, and tie."
Rhys crouched down next to the unconscious man, reluctantly tugging on his tie to pull it lose, looking more like he was dealing with a body rather than an unconscious man. Rhys handed Ianto the tie and gun hesitantly before standing up straight again and looking up and down the corridor uncertainly.
"This way?" Rhys asked, moving down the corridor slightly towards the sound of raised voices. Ianto put the gun in his jacket pocket for the moment before he was using the man's tie to make a kind of tourniquet.
"Yeah," Ianto replied, taking a deep breath before pulling himself to his feet with the use of the wall he had been unconsciously leaning against. He stumbled slightly, gasping for air as he put a hand out in front of him to grasp at the opposite wall. He stood there a moment with his eyes closed, trying to catch his breath, as he felt dizzy from blood loss.
"Come on." Rhys' voice was in his ear as he felt an arm go round his waist, pulling him back into an upright position. Ianto hesitated a moment, trying to get his feet under him and not lean on Rhys quite so much, but it was proving difficult and the voices were getting louder. Probably someone sent to investigate the sound of gunshots. Ianto swallowed his pride and put his arm over Rhys' shoulders, using him as a crutch as he pulled the gun Rhys had retrieved for him out of his pocket before they carried on down the corridor.
"Oh, I'm going to make you watch as I kill the last of your team Jack, then I'm going to make you give me that skull," Roulette was saying, almost salivating at the prospect of getting his hands on the skull. Jack's hands were so tightly clenched now he could feel his fingernails digging into his palms, his knuckles cracking under the strain. Jack could see Gwen out of the corner of his eye, leaning heavily on Roulette's desk, a blank look on her face as she thought of the loss of her husband and friend, not caring that she was possibly about to lose her own life.
Jack's eyes flicked to a weedy guy who was looking increasingly uncomfortable in the situation he found himself. His eyes were wide and unfocused, a slightly ashen quality to him, as if he was thinking about the bodies that were lying further down the corridor. Jack didn't want to think about it. He didn't want to even entertain the prospect that he had lost Ianto, another team member; another lover.
"And what then? You really think I'm going to let you get away with the murder of my team?" Jack barked angrily. He was ready for launching himself at Roulette and fighting him tooth and nail until there was nothing left of him, but he didn't know how quick Roulette's reflexes were; he didn't want to risk the loss of Gwen as well.
"You may not be able to die Jack, but there are other ways to get rid of you," Roulette drawled, a manic look in his eyes as he took aim at Jack's forehead. Suzie Costello had been the last one to shoot him there. Alice Guppy had been the first.
His gaze flickered apologetically to Gwen before he steeled himself, ready to rush Roulette or die. He wasn't sure which.
Two shots were fired in rapid succession and Jack waited for the darkness to take him. But it didn't.
Jack blinked a couple of times as the body of Roulette dropped to the floor, dead, to reveal Ianto and Rhys stood in the doorway, guns raised.
"Rhys!" Gwen cried from beside Jack, reanimating herself before she was running towards him, throwing her arms around him like she was never going to let go. Rhys gave a grunt of pain at Gwen's enthusiastic greeting before she was pulling back, looking at him in sympathy.
"Are you okay?" Gwen asked, tears sparkling in her eyes as her hands moved up to his cheek, thumb running over the bruises he had there. Rhys flinched away at the touch.
"I'll be fine love," he assured her, leaning forward to kiss her, one hand combing through her hair. Jack was regarding Ianto who was leaning heavily on the doorjamb, face pale and sweaty looking.
"What are you doing here?" Ianto asked, that half smile on his face as he regarded Jack.
"Well, we did come to rescue you," Jack started, a smile spreading onto his own face as it sunk in that both Ianto and Rhys were still alive.
"Took your bloody time," Rhys muttered as Gwen turned to glare at him half-heartedly in admonishment.
"I believe I just rescued you, Sir," Ianto deadpanned, a twinkle in his eyes showing how much he was teasing.
"Yeah, I didn't really think this one through," Jack replied bashfully. The smile slipped from his face as Ianto sagged even more against the wall. Jack stepped forward towards Ianto, a look of concern creasing his features as he put a hand on Ianto's arm.
"You okay?" Jack asked, ducking his head slightly to try and catch Ianto's gaze. It was blatantly obvious though, by the bruises and cuts on Ianto's face, that he was very far from okay at that moment in time, but that wasn't what was worrying Jack.
"I think I need to sit down," Ianto whispered, his legs buckling underneath him as Jack's hands moved like lightening, grabbing onto Ianto's upper arms.
"Whoa, okay," Jack soothed as he lowered Ianto carefully onto the floor, a hand coming up to cradle Ianto's head so it did not crack off the floor as Jack lay him down.
"Ianto!" Gwen called, suddenly turning away from Rhys to regard Ianto and Jack. Ianto's eyes were flickering between open and closed, as if he was struggling to stay conscious.
"Ianto?" Jack called, a hand going to his cheek, taping lightly as he searched blindly for injuries other than the bruises that littered his face. "Come on Ianto, no time for napping now."
"They shot him in the stomach," Rhys voiced as Jack pulled back Ianto's jacket to reveal the bloody shirt beneath. Jack frowned before turning round to Roulette's fallen form, tugging the jacket from his shoulders rather roughly as Ianto's eyes fluttered open fully again, trying to focus.
"I feel bad about shooting Owen now," Ianto mumbled after a moment, as Jack pressed the makeshift bandage to Ianto's stomach, causing him to gasp in pain.
"Why's that?" Jack asked, reluctantly pressing down harder on the wound to try and slow the bleeding.
"It fucking well hurts," Ianto ground out through gritted teeth, causing Jack to let out a slightly hysterical chuckle, Gwen giving a pained smile.
"Well you're in the club now," Jack teased as he put a reassuring hand on Ianto's shoulder.
"I'd like to revoke my membership," Ianto replied wittily, causing Jack to smile at him as Ianto's eyes drifted closed. Jack turned to Gwen who was still standing awkwardly behind him, holding onto Rhys' left hand with vehemence.
"Gwen go bring the SUV around and then call Andy and tell him to secure the building until we get back," Jack said, chucking the keys at her. Gwen caught them deftly, reluctantly letting go of Rhys.
"Gwen," Jack called out to her before she could leave. "Tell him under no circumstances is he or anyone else to come in this room," Jack said vehemently. Gwen nodded at him before running out of the door without a word. Jack turned back to Ianto, pressing harder on the wound, causing Ianto's eyes to open wide as he gave out a strangled cry of pain.
"You need to stay awake, Ianto, until we get you to the hospital," Jack explained softly - apologetically - before he was pulling Ianto painfully into a sitting position. Ianto's head spun, as if he had stood up too quickly. Jack struggled with his dead weight for a moment while Ianto tried to co-operate by getting his feet under him - too weak from blood loss to control his limbs.
Rhys was on the other side of Ianto, grunting in pain as he helped Jack to pull Ianto to his feet before he was ducking under Ianto's arm. A silent understanding passed between Rhys and Ianto as Jack held Ianto up on the other side, a hand still pressed against Ianto's stomach before they lead the injured man from the room, Jack pulling the door shut behind him.
Gwen was just pulling the SUV up at the backdoor when they emerged into the cool night air. She sprang from the SUV, moving to open the passenger door for Rhys and Jack just as she was hanging up her phone on Andy.
"I'll speak to you later, Andy," Gwen told him in irritation before she shoved the phone in the back pocket of her jeans.
"No," Jack shook his head at her. "Back seat."
Gwen looked forlornly at Rhys for a fraction of a second before she was pulling open the backdoor of the SUV, disappearing round to the rear of the car. Ianto mumbled something that sounded very much like, 'I owe you a pint,' which caused Rhys to chuckle as they manoeuvred Ianto into the back seat of the SUV. Roulette's jacket was now saturated with blood, which worried Jack more than he was willing to let on. It looked like Rhys was flagging too as he leant against the side of the SUV trying to catch his breath.
Gwen appeared at Jack's side with the medical kit, handing it to him before she turned back to Rhys, coaxing him into the front seat of the SUV. He let out a sigh of contentment as he laid his head back against the headrest before Gwen pressed a chaste kiss to his temple.
Jack used his teeth to tare open a packet of gauze, pulling Roulette's jacket free from the wound and throwing it out the SUV before pressing the gauze firmly over the bloody hole in Ianto's stomach. Ianto groaned in pain and tried to curl up in the foetal position.
"Ianto, you need to try and keep the pressure on," Jack encouraged, taking another wad of gauze from Gwen and pressing it on top of the first one before moving Ianto's limp hand on top.
"'m trying," Ianto mumbled, voice full of anguish as his eyes slipped closed. Jack reluctantly let go of Ianto's hand, wiping his bloody hands on his coat before indicating that Gwen should get in. She climbed into the back, head ducked so she didn't hit the roof as Jack ran around to the driver's side. While the engine turned over he glimpsed Gwen in the rear view mirror shuffling around so Ianto's head was in her lap. He glanced across at Rhys to see his reaction but his eyes were closed, his face set in a look of tired defeat.
Jack threw the SUV into reverse, turning round sharply when he heard Ianto cry out in pain again.
"Ianto pet, I'm sorry," Gwen was mumbling, tears in her eyes as she pressed a hand to the mess of now red gauze, covering Ianto's larger one while her other hand tried to offer some comfort, stroking his now sweat soaked hair. Jack turned back to stare out the front windscreen as he revved the engine, speeding off down the drive and sending gravel flying everywhere.
Gwen was torn as she watched Ianto fighting weakly against the desperate help he needed. She watched as he tried to pull the oxygen mask off his face for the umpteenth time and she wanted to go to him, to stroke his hair and tell him it was okay, that he was going to be alright; but she still had a hold of Rhys' hand and she was damned if she was going to let go.
"Go and get Rhys seen to," Jack encouraged, a hand on her shoulder, pulling her back as she fluttered closer to the bed. "Gwen, there's nothing you can do here," Jack continued, his gaze firmly on Gwen, valiantly trying to ignore the hustle and bustle behind him.
"Go and look after Rhys," Jack said with conviction, giving Gwen a slight push and looking over Gwen's shoulder to Rhys, grateful when he tugged on her arm in encouragement.
"Ianto, you need to keep the mask on," one of the nurses told Ianto adamantly. Gwen gave Jack another anguished look but Rhys was still tugging on her arm. She turned to look at him, taking in her husband's battered features before roles reversed and she was tugging on his hand, leading him back out the room into the Wednesday night Hubbub of A&E. She glanced briefly back at Jack who gave a slight inclination with his head, conveying the fact that he'd look after Ianto and make sure he was okay, because like her he was terrified of losing another member of the team.
"Ianto pet, you need to calm down," one of the nurses was saying as Jack heard the heart monitor beeping erratically. Jack swung round as he watched a weak Ianto fighting a losing battle with one of the A&E nurses. The nurse glanced over at Jack imploringly and he took that as his cue. He moved round the bed, carefully avoiding the activity until he was level with Ianto's head. He bent over so his lips were next to Ianto's ear.
"Ianto, it's Jack," Jack whispered gently, waiting a moment as Ianto's head lolled slightly towards Jack. Ianto tried to mouth Jack's name, but his eyes conveyed more than he could ever put into words about how scared he was and how much pain he was in. Jack pulled back marginally, leaning over Ianto so he couldn't see anything that was going on around him.
"You need to let them take care of you," Jack reassured, smiling down at him before he gently placed the mask over Ianto's mouth and nose again. Ianto blinked a couple of times in understanding as Jack pressed his palm, still sticky with the residue of Ianto's blood, flat against Ianto's bruised cheek.
"I'm going to be right here," Jack said calmly before finally moving out of the nurse's way so she could insert a line into Ianto's arm. There was a brief moment of serene quiet as Jack watched Ianto's eyes slip closed before alarm bells were ringing.
"We need to get him stabilised and into surgery."
"Sir, you need to come with me."
Jack was herded out of the room and left to pace outside the closed doors like one of the worried relatives in Casualty. He heard vague snatches of conversation as people moved in and out of the room, but nothing he could make sense of. He caught a glimpse of Ianto's socked feet as a door swung shut behind the second or third Doctor that had entered the room since Jack had left. He felt like he should ask for Ianto's shoes, just to hold onto them, because a daft part of his brain knew how angry Ianto would be if they lost his shoes. They were the third new pair that month, due to various mishaps – all of them Torchwood related. Ianto had joked only yesterday about buying shares in Clarks or Marks and Spencer.
The next time Jack saw Ianto he was being wheeled past Jack at high speed towards the lift, mumbled words about 'getting the bullet out' and 'shock' and even more worryingly 'lucky to be alive' reaching his ears. He tried to follow but was met by the sound of the lift doors pinging closed and the words, 'Someone will be down to speak to you,' drifting out at him.
He stared at the shiny surface of the lift doors, not quite able to see his reflection in them, starting slightly when he felt a hand on his arm.
"Mr," the nurse paused, not sure how to address the man in the military coat. She knew he'd come in with Mr. Jones, but she didn't know if they were related, or partners or were nothing more than neighbours.
"Jack," he told her hoarsely, finally moving his gaze away from the lift as she steered him to the side of the corridor to let a gurney past with a rugby player writhing in pain and holding his thigh.
"Mr. Jack," she started again, but was interrupted by him telling her it was 'Just Jack'. She tried to reign in a giggle, wishing she hadn't watched that last episode of Will and Grace before going to bed last night.
"Jack," she tried for the third time. "They've taken Mr. Jones upstairs to surgery to remove the bullet and repair the damage that's been done. He's lost a lot of blood and we think that the bullet's nicked his spleen so we might have to remove it," she told him carefully, watching with a morbid fascination as the news sank in. She was already opening her mouth to reassure him though; it was second nature now.
"He can survive just fine without his spleen though. He'll need to take antibiotics for the next year or so to keep infections at bay, but otherwise he'll lead a relatively normal life," she told him, waiting for the reassurance to set in. She watched, gauging from his reaction that this Jack was something more than Mr. Jones' next-door neighbour or work colleague.
"I need someone to sign the consent form though-"
Jack was taking her clipboard from her and signing before she had a chance to even utter the end of her sentence. She looked down at the elaborate handwriting as he handed it back, noting the title in front of his name. She allowed herself a second of fantasy where Jack wasn't Ianto Jones' next of kin, and therefore definitely not romantically attached to him. Mrs. Vicky Harkness. Why were they always married or riding the other bus?
"I can take you upstairs to the relatives waiting room if you'd like," she offered. Jack would have noticed how young she was, how blonde, and how pert her breasts were if he hadn't been thinking about Ianto and about how much he wished he had got the chance to kill Roulette himself. He shook his head, bestowing a half-hearted smile her way.
"That's alright," Jack told her, looking at her name badge before he raised his eyes to her face. "Thanks for letting me know, Vicky." Vicky smiled back at him bashfully, ducking her head before she retreated down the corridor with her clipboard to give another worried visitor either good or bad news. Jack hoped it was good.
He found Gwen and Rhys in a cubical further down the hall. Someone had apparently tried to make Rhys put a hospital gown on, without success for it lay at the foot of the bed next to the remains of Rhys' jacket. Gwen was perched on the bed beside Rhys, looking down at his left hand as she clutched it in her two smaller ones, tears threatening to fall.
"How's Ianto?" Rhys asked before Jack had even stepped into the cubical.
"They've taken him upstairs to remove the bullet," Jack said, avoiding the question he had no answer to. Rhys nodded sagely, understanding everything that Jack wasn't saying.
"He'll be okay though, won't he?" Gwen pressed, her fingers fidgeting with the wedding ring on Rhys' hand.
"You know Ianto," Jack said, giving her one of his disarming grins. It matched Gwen's smile that she used when everything was going to shit. "He'll be fine," Jack reassured, although he wasn't entirely sure who he was reassuring. Gwen gave him a hesitant nod, not completely buying the bullshit.
"I'm afraid we've got a job to finish as well," Jack apologised.
"Yeah," Gwen nodded, rising to her feet, "No rest for the wicked." She huffed out a laugh that was visibly false, still holding onto Rhys' hand, reluctant to let go.
"I'll be fine, love," Rhys encouraged, squeezing her hand. "You go finish up and I'll get myself sorted out, keep an eye on Ianto for you as well."
Gwen hesitated a moment before nodding, bending to kiss Rhys firmly on the lips.
"I'll be back as soon as I can," Gwen said softly, kissing him one last time before moving out the cubical past Jack. Jack gave Rhys a tentative smile before he too turned to leave.
"Jack," Rhys called, causing the man to pause with his hand on the curtain, turning back slightly. "Is he going to make it?" Rhys asked bluntly, never one for pre-amble or airy-fairy questions.
Jack hesitated again, and it struck Rhys that he had never seen the infamous Captain Jack Harkness so unsure - so vulnerable - as he did now.
"I don't know," Jack replied croakily before he turned lethargically, leaving Rhys alone.
Gwen looked across at Jack in the driver's seat of the SUV as they headed out along Cardiff Road again. He was no more relaxed now than he had been on the previous drive. His face was impassive, not revealing anything to her about how he was taking this all in. Just another day at the office, she supposed. She opened her mouth to say something to him - to ask him to tell her the truth as to how Ianto was, about what Rhys had called him back into the cubical for - but she barely got her mouth open before Jack was slamming on the brakes and bringing the SUV to a grinding halt at the foot of the lane up to the farm.
Gwen's hand shot out to brace herself on the dashboard before she looked up to see a police car blocking the lane. There was someone in the driver's seat and as she undid her seatbelt to go and get them to move the car she realised it was her old partner, Andy Davidson.
"I'll get him to move the car," Gwen said to Jack, sliding from the SUV and moving towards the car when she realised Jack was about to lean on the horn. As she drew closer she realised why the car hadn't started to move itself or why Andy hadn't come out to greet them. His head was resting back on the driver's window, his mouth open and his arms folded across his chest as he slept. Gwen smiled, tapping on the window lightly before giggling as Andy jarred awake, looking around comically before his eyes fell on Gwen. He rolled down the window as he looked at his watch.
"Working hard as usual then, Andy," Gwen teased, watching as Andy ran a hand down his face, presumably to try and clear the sleep.
"Well what else am I supposed to do when you lot are off somewhere else, running around in your mystery machine, and tell me to not let anyone in apart from paramedics?" Andy questioned defiantly.
"You didn't go in that room at the end of the hall?" Gwen asked, suddenly agitated.
"No, although there's a bloody awful smell coming from in there," Andy groused, turning questioning eyes on Gwen, knowing he wasn't going to get any answers out of her. "To be honest with you, Gwen, that's the least of my worries. One of those men had his kneecap blown off, and there's another one in the basement that's, well," Andy paused, giving her a direct look, "It almost made me lose me tea."
Gwen didn't say anything, her head whipping round as Jack let out a loud toot on the horn. He was looking at her from behind the wheel, silently telling her to hurry up; he wanted to get this over and done with as quickly as possible. She turned back to Andy giving him a shit-eating grin before dismissing him.
"Thanks for doing this, Andy," Gwen said coyly, patting him on the arm through the window. "We'll clear up now, you get yourself home." Gwen smiled before she moved back towards the SUV, getting in the passengers side. Andy glared after her for a moment before he started the car and pulled over in the lane slightly to let the SUV past. Gwen didn't even so much as look his way as she and Jack sped up the lane towards the house. Andy sighed before he threw the police car in gear.
"That's another fine mess," Andy mumbled under his breath as he turned back onto the road towards Cardiff and the prospect of an early night.
"Anybody see anything?" Jack asked, speaking for the first time since they had left the hospital as he pulled up onto the gravel path outside the front door to the farmhouse.
"Andy says only he and the paramedics were in the house and they stayed out of the room Roulette's in," Gwen supplied as she slipped out the SUV, following Jack into the house.
"Good," Jack answered, not turning to look at her as he led the way into the basement. Gwen winced when Jack flicked his flashlight on to illuminate the dead body there, crumpled in a heap with a surprised look still on his face, at least what was left of his face. Gwen swallowed her gag reflex, noticing there was a set of handcuffs beside the man and an abandoned pair of keys too.
Gwen tried to re-construct what she suspected had happened in the basement but all she could see were shades of that time in the countryside with the cannibals. She swallowed the rising bile in her throat, suppressing the flashbacks that threatened to paralyze her. She had a job to do. She had to get back to Rhys.
Jack's feet were scuffing over a patch of dirt in the corner of the room before he turned and disappeared up the stairs of the basement. Gwen listened to his long strides heading down the corridor, unable to tare her gaze away from the body for a moment before she followed Jack.
"Jack?" she called out to him when he was not in plain sight of her. She didn't get a reply but she noticed the door into Roulette's study was now open at the end of the corridor. She approached cautiously, as if she was scared there were still people other than herself, Jack and the dead bodies, in the house. She found Jack stood in the middle of Roulette's study, standing over the body of Roulette, an indeterminable look on his face.
"Jack?" Gwen questioned again, voice hoarse with emotion as she tried to ignore the second body in the room. The guy that she had found only marginally intimidating looked no older than Ianto in death.
"Burn it," Jack whispered harshly, his eyes never straying from Roulette's fallen form, still lying face down on the floor.
"What?" Gwen asked confused as to what it actually was.
"Burn the whole place," Jack said again, his voice slightly louder and more confident. "We'll say it was teenagers," Jack said, finally looking up at Gwen with a glint of malice in his eyes.
"Burn it? With what?" Gwen asked, scared of asking the question she really wanted answered - why?
"There's petrol in the back of the SUV," Jack replied quickly, taking one last look at Roulette, before moving to leave the room. Gwen watched as he paused on the threshold, his gaze falling on the now dried patch of blood by the doorjamb. Gwen must have stepped on it on her way in because it covered almost the whole threshold. Jack's breath hitched, so quickly and quietly Gwen could have mistaken it for something else had the house not been so silent itself, before Jack was gone, striding back down the corridor towards the front door.
Gwen sighed, she was too tired to argue with Jack now, to contradict him and tell him the stupidity of what he was about to do. Ianto would have argued too – he had always been one for the more subtle cover-ups - but Ianto was in hospital fighting for his life and Gwen did not have enough reason in her to speak for the both of them.
When she emerged back out into the courtyard Jack was already hauling two canisters of petrol towards the house. She watched mutely as he disappeared back inside, methodically moving from room to room, a trail of petrol following behind him. Gwen did not want to be a part of this. She had done cover-up before and this wasn't cover-up - this was something else.
She followed Jack back into Roulette's study though, watching as he emptied the last of the petrol over Roulette's body. He muttered something as he took a lighter out his pocket - one she had seen Ianto with on occasion - and Gwen was suddenly fearful that he was going to set fire to himself too by starting the fire with Roulette's body.
"Jack," she started urgently, but he didn't move or even acknowledge her.
"Jack," she tried again, reaching out to him and placing a hand on his arm. He turned to her sharply, startling her as he swept out the room again, petrol can and lighter still in hand.
When Gwen reached the front door Jack was already setting fire to an old rag that he had shoved in the petrol can, moving past Gwen to the front door of the house again. Without hesitation, Jack threw it through the front door before walking backwards a few steps, watching as flames rose in the hallway, spreading quickly to other rooms.
They both watched enthralled as the fire took hold, the flames licking at the boards covering the windows. There was the sound of the upstairs floor collapsing and fire flared in the doorway, causing Jack and Gwen to take another couple of steps back. Gwen stared in through the front door, able to see all the way to the back of the house where the study was now completely hidden by the flames. She stared entranced for a moment, before Jack speaking brought her back.
"We're done here," he said harshly, moving back to the SUV and getting in. Gwen followed, pulling her seatbelt on before looking over at Jack as he started to drive away. Neither of them looked back as the fire lit up the surrounding countryside.
"Morning, sleepy," Gwen cooed, a hesitant smile on her face as Ianto blinked himself back to consciousness.
"Morning," Ianto mumbled round his tongue that felt too big for his mouth, trying to smile at her, but he wasn't sure if his lips were co-operating.
"How you feeling?" Gwen asked tentatively, leaning forward in the plastic hospital chair squeezing his hand that he'd only just realised she had a hold of.
"I feel like I should be in a lot more pain," Ianto replied rather dopily as his eyes roamed lazily over what he could see of his body, inventorying the wires and tubes and machines that if he had been more lucid, would know exactly what they were for. Gwen gave a relieved laugh, a hand involuntarily moving up to stroke his hair. His eyes fluttered closed at her careful touch.
"How's Rhys?" Ianto asked as he opened his eyes again to look at Gwen, as if he had suddenly remembered how he had made it to the hospital. To be honest, everything from the last couple of days was a little fuzzy at the moment. The only thing he could remember in vivid clarity was the fact that he'd sang 'Piano Man' at karaoke on Tuesday. He didn't even know what day it was now.
"Moaning," Gwen replied, a little disdainfully. "Everything hurts apparently."
"Everything?" Ianto asked, raising an eyebrow. Gwen frowned down at him for a moment before she let out a laugh.
"God, you need to stop spending so much time round Jack," Gwen reprimanded him and saw the brief flicker of Ianto's glazed eyes towards the ward door.
"He was here when you got out of surgery. They said you would be out for a few hours so he went to finish clean up duty," Gwen told him softly, although her gaze looked away nervously. She didn't actually know where Jack had gone. He hadn't been very forthcoming with details – which was nothing out of the ordinary, really. "He left me here because I was apparently too distracted to be of any use."
"Why are you not with Rhys then?" Ianto asked dopily, words slurring together now as he tried to swallow a yawn.
"Because I wanted to come check on you," Gwen replied indignantly. "Also, you were unconscious and therefore less likely to moan about the hangover from hell," Gwen teased, as relief flooded her features, making her cheeks glow. Ianto gave her a lopsided smile, chuckling slightly before he realised that hurt too much.
"Thank you," Gwen said, suddenly serious.
"What for?" Ianto asked, bemusement in his voice as his lolled to the side on his pillow.
"For looking after Rhys, and according to him, saving his life," Gwen said, eyes boring into Ianto's, glistening with unshed tears, her grip on Ianto's hand increasing slightly.
"Think you'll find it was the other way round," Ianto corrected her, smiling dozily. Gwen didn't say anything for a moment, looking down at the hospital sheets pooled round Ianto's waist.
"God, I was so scared," Gwen choked out, trying to contain her sobs as tears started running down her cheeks.
"Hey," Ianto soothed, reaching up to cup her cheek with his palm, wiping away the tears. "He's fine, you can't moan if you're dead," Ianto joked, and Gwen let out a soft laugh.
"You should have tried telling that to Owen," Gwen shot back without thinking, but Ianto smiled anyway, watching as her eyes flicked down to the bandages adorning his stomach.
"And I'm fine too, or I will be after a weeks holiday," Ianto said wistfully. Gwen just shook her head slightly as she moved a hand up to her cheek to capture Ianto's hand in her own again. She wondered if he realised how close he had come to dying.
"No, not just that. Jack," she said softly, like it was some great secret.
"Jack?" Ianto asked, raising an eyebrow slightly.
"I've never seen him like that before, Ianto. I've never seen him that angry, not since..." Gwen trailed off, looking away from Ianto but placing a second hand on top of their clasped hands. Ianto sighed, closing his eyes briefly at the memory of cold metal next to skin.
"I think," Gwen hesitated, before turning back to Ianto. "I think he would have killed the manager at the pizza place if I hadn't been there. I think he would have killed Roulette with his bare hands had he got the chance," Gwen finished, watching Ianto for any sign of a reaction. Ianto just smiled at her, muffling another yawn. He tried to move a hand to cover it up but his limbs were not willing to cooperate anymore.
"Maybe you should get back to the moaner," Ianto said quietly, his eyes flickering closed, not entirely feigning drowsiness. Gwen laughed.
"Maybe, otherwise I'll be giving him more things to moan about," Gwen said, pulling herself to her feet and leaning over Ianto to kiss him softly on the forehead.
"Get some rest, sweetheart," Gwen encouraged, a hand going through his dirty hair again. Ianto smiled weakly at her, his eyelids already drooping, He could see her smudged mascara and hooded eyes up close though and she smelt of petrol and smoke and fear; not like she usually smelt at all. He didn't have time to dwell on these facts though before he slipped into a dreamless, exhausted and drug induced sleep.
Gwen shoved her hands in the pockets of her stained jeans as she walked back down the row of beds towards the ward door. She stepped back to allow a trolley through that had an unconscious patient on it, his head bound tightly, his face black and blue and his nose obviously broken. Gwen's eyes moved from one bruised face to another, watching Ianto sleeping before she pulled her phone out her pocket to call Jack, moving out into the corridor.
"How is he?" Jack's voice came out of nowhere startling Gwen so much she actually jumped, putting a hand to her chest as she felt her heart thundering in her ribcage.
"Christ Jack," she muttered, putting her phone away before she looked up at him.
"Sorry," Jack apologised, looking genuinely sorry as he grabbed her forearm, pulling her out of the way of a group of doctors and nurses that were rushing by them with a crash cart.
"I spoke to one of the nurses, she said the next few hours are critical, but he seems to be a fighter – her words, not mine – but I agree," Gwen said, giving Jack a tentative smile that he returned.
"He is a trooper," Jack replied.
"Where did you go anyway?" Gwen asked, looking down for the first time at the bag Jack had in his left hand.
"Just some loose ends I had to tie up," Jack said, pulling the bag further behind his back and looking distractedly past Gwen to a nurse coming out of the ICU ward.
"Go and sit with him," Gwen encouraged, a hand grabbing onto Jack's and squeezing. "Go on." Gwen gave him a slight shove on the arm. "Damsels in distress are supposed to look after their heroes when the battle's won," Gwen told him cheekily. Jack gave a genuine smile and a giggle of a laugh at that, while Gwen retreated down the corridor, presumably to find her own hero.
Jack did as he was told, pulling off his coat as he entered the ward and pulling up a chair, the seat still warm, at Ianto's bedside, depositing the bag of Ianto's clean clothes he had been to fetch. Any excuse to rummage through Ianto Jones' underwear drawer.
"Jack?" Gwen asked as she finished dotting the I's and crossing the T's on the death certificates for Roulette and his men.
"Hmm?" Jack looked up from where he was reading something on the screen of his computer, deep in thought
"That skull that Roulette wanted," Gwen started, shoving the papers back in the folder and handing it to Jack across his desk. "What would have happened if Roulette got a hold of it? If we had maybe used an alternate plan and bargained for Ianto and Rhys' lives with it?"
Jack put the folder down Gwen had just handed him, putting his elbows on the desk and steepling his hands so his chin rested on them. He considered Gwen for a long moment, before he got a distant sort of look in his eyes, staring past Gwen at some forgotten point on the wall behind her.
"They say it has the power to end the world," Jack said mysteriously. "Or possibly save it," he added as an afterthought, his gaze moving back to Gwen thoughtfully. "We never did find out which," he finished offhandedly, chuckling to himself before he looked back down at the folder on his desk.
"You mean there's something down in our archives that could either destroy or save the world?" Gwen asked, incredulously. "And you don't know which."
"Right time and right place it could do either I think, but today wasn't the time or the place," Jack said enigmatically, causing Gwen to sigh in frustration.
"So what would have happened if Roulette had got his hands on it?" Gwen asked, crossing her arms in annoyance.
"But he didn't," Jack replied.
"But what if-" Gwen started.
"But he didn't," Jack interrupted, giving Gwen a meaningful look before he turned back towards his computer, typing a few last strokes on the keyboard before pulling himself to his feet, taking the folder with him. Gwen hesitated for a fraction of a second before following Jack out into the main area of the Hub, watching as he started moving down the stairs past the water tower.
"Jack?" Gwen called after him.
"Leave it, Gwen."
"No, it's not about the skull," Gwen replied, standing beside the water tower as Jack turned back to look at her.
"Well, not entirely," Gwen said hesitantly, and Jack sighed.
"Why were you so determined that Roulette wouldn't be getting his hands on the skull if you don't even know what it does? If you don't even know what he would have done with it? We could have saved Ianto from being shot, Rhys from being beaten, couldn't we?" Gwen pressed Jack. She saw him waver slightly, but his gaze never left hers.
"I don't respond well to blackmail," Jack said shortly before turning away from Gwen again, his shoulders stiff as he marched away towards the archives. Gwen let him go this time, uncrossing her arms and looking around the Hub for a moment, taking in how empty it was.
Jack placed Ianto's jeans over a hanger in the wardrobe before he returned to the bed where a t-shirt and casual shirt lay on top of the sheets. Jack set about folding them carefully to place back in the chest of drawers. He hesitated though, picking up the t-shirt and pressing it to his face, inhaling deeply. It smelt of sweat and blood and pain, but so irrevocably Ianto.
Jack looked up as the bathroom door opened to reveal Ianto stood there in nothing but a towel, wet hair plastered to his forehead. Jack watched hesitantly as Ianto limped over to the bed, holding his stomach and gingerly sitting on the bed beside Jack before he lay down even more carefully.
"You okay?" Jack asked, twisting slightly to regard Ianto, whose eyes were now closed.
"That was far too much effort," Ianto complained, looking like he was not going to be moving any time soon.
"I did offer to help," Jack retorted, smiling slightly as he got up from the bed and crossed to Ianto's chest of drawers.
"I know you, Jack, you have what you claim to be a lazy eye, as well as a severe case of wandering hands," Ianto replied sarcastically, cracking his good eye open to watch Jack retrieving a pair of pyjama bottoms from the drawer. Jack chuckled to himself as he came back over to the bed, standing over Ianto.
"I'll try and refrain from molesting you," Jack retorted, holding up the pyjama bottoms to show Ianto what he was about to do. Without waiting for a reply he bent down, putting Ianto's feet through the legs of the pyjamas and hoisting them up under the towel.
"I feel like I'm doing this backwards," Jack teased as he pulled the pyjamas up over Ianto's hips. "In my opinion trousers should always be removed from your person, not put on."
"We've already had this conversation, I'm not coming to work naked," Ianto retorted, not opening his eyes as Jack finally pulled the towel from round his waist, smiling to himself.
"Spoilsport," Jack grumbled before he threw the towel over Ianto's head, causing him to yelp in surprise before Jack was gently rubbing his hair dry, trying to avoid the bruises and cuts that were buried somewhere underneath his hair. Jack sat down on the bed beside Ianto's head, continuing to rub at Ianto's hair even though it was mostly dry now.
"Do you want me to stay tonight?" Jack asked, almost nervously.
"I wouldn't have brought you home if I didn't want you to stay," Ianto replied almost immediately, causing Jack to pull the towel away from Ianto's head and look down at him.
"You brought me home did you?" Jack asked sceptically, watching Ianto's closed eyelids for any sign of a reaction. Ianto didn't reply and Jack thought that he was asleep, either that or feigning it, but he soon realised Ianto's silence was answer enough for both of them. He watched the steady rise and fall of Ianto's chest for a moment before leaning in to kiss Ianto lovingly on the lips, his hand resting on the top of Ianto's head.
"If you want me to stay then you're going to have to make room for me on the bed," Jack said eventually as he pulled back from the kiss. Ianto gave a light groan as Jack pulled himself to his feet taking the towel with him and heading towards the bathroom.
"You've got until I get out the shower to move," Jack called over his shoulder as he disappeared into the bathroom, as usual leaving the door open, ever the exhibitionist.
"Even if I was able bodied I still couldn't move in that short amount of time," Ianto called after him, finally cracking open an eye, titling his head sideways and watching Jack as he started to undress.
"Got my lazy eye, Ianto?" Jack called from the bathroom without even looking at Ianto. Ianto snorted, getting a last eyeful of Jack's arse as it disappeared into the shower before he was pulling himself painfully into a sitting position.
"Banana dropped a six pack round for you as a get well present," Gwen said idly as she finished serving dinner up for herself and Rhys. "And no you can't have any. Those painkillers aren't supposed to be mixed with alcohol or the operation of heavy machinery," Gwen chided, catching Rhys frowning at her out of the corner of her eye from where he was perched on the kitchen stool. Gwen lifted the plates of curry up and moved them across to the breakfast bar, placing Rhys' down in front of him and kissing him on the side of the head, before taking up her own seat.
"What are we classifying as heavy machinery?" Rhys asked, as he picked up his fork, smiling cheekily at Gwen.
"Well let's put it this way, I'll need to go out and buy you new jeans since Ruth will be feeding you up in the office for the next couple of weeks," Gwen reassured, kissing Rhys again before she picked up her own fork. Rhys gave a sly smile before he started digging into his food.
"So being dragged into Torchwood business does have upsides then," Rhys mused round a mouthful of rice. "That were my favourite shirt mind, ruined it is aswell," Rhys started ranting, and Gwen just smiled indulgently, watching him. "I think Torchwood should be paying for a new wardrobe for you too, the rate you go through clothes. I dunno how Ianto copes mind; dunno why he wears his best suits to work, do you?" Rhys asked, turning towards her slightly.
Gwen shrugged. "He just does, I think it would be weird if he started wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Also, I think Jack might have something to say about the change of attire," Gwen mused, smiling to herself.
"Well I wouldn't wear expensive suits if I bloody worked for you lot, dirty job, cleaning up bodies, getting tenderised by cannibals, and almost killed by your girlfriend before you're twenty-five."
Gwen stopped with the fork half way to her mouth, turning to look at Rhys fully now.
"What did- How?" Gwen asked almost breathlessly.
"We had time to chat while we were locked up down there," Rhys said idly as Gwen reached for her glass of wine and nearly downed the whole thing, worried what else Ianto and Rhys had time to talk about while they were down there.
"Easy love, just 'cause I'm not drinking doesn't mean you have to make up for me," Rhys reprimanded, chuckling slightly. §Gwen gave an unsure smile, putting her glass back down, sucking on her bottom lip for a moment.
"He's got a stubborn streak, I'll give him that," Rhys said softly, smiling sadly, obviously remembering something that only Ianto and Rhys had shared, locked up alone in the basement.
"Yeah," Gwen said softly, smiling sadly herself.
"Seems like he'd fight for anything given half the chance," Rhys mused, shovelling another forkful of rice into his mouth.
"Including his life," Gwen said softly, before she was biting her lip, tears brimming in her eyes that she tried to hold back. Now that she thought about it, Ianto had come close to losing his life so many times and after Lisa, when he was no doubt falling apart at the seams – she didn't want to think about losing Rhys, not again - he'd kept going, because she supposed Jack had believed in him. Like Jack, you apparently couldn't kill Ianto, although Gwen knew that wasn't strictly true.
"Gwen, love?" Rhys asked, a hand touching her arm so she looked up at him sharply, her eyes sparkling with unshed tears. They spilled over though as she looked at Rhys' black eye, cheek black and blue too. A hand shot up to her face to try and stifle the sobs that were building painfully in her chest. It didn't help when Rhys put his arms round her, awkwardly hugging her sidelong at the breakfast bar as she cried for no other reason but relief that Rhys and Ianto were okay – for now at least.
"I think this is the part where they play the cheesy romantic music," Rhys said softly into Gwen's hair. Gwen pulled back from him slightly, wiping at her eyes and smudging what remained of her mascara and eyeliner down her cheeks.
"What?" she asked, giving him a confused laugh.
"Well let's face facts here, love, I feel like I've been in a bad mafia movie. Last Wednesday felt like the Godfather meets the X-Files meets, I dunno, Indiana Jones," Rhys clarified. Gwen stared at him for a moment before she laughed loudly.
"You daft sod," Gwen said almost breathlessly, continuing to wipe tears, now of mirth, from her eyes before she twisted away from him.
"Eat your dinner," Gwen chided, picking up her fork as she shook her head at him.
Jack slipped into the bed beside Ianto, flattening the covers back around his and Ianto's forms as he gingerly moulded his body round Ianto's. He felt the young man sigh appreciatively from where he was lying on his side as Jack tentatively placed a protective arm over the top of him.
"I'm not going to break," Ianto whispered in the half-light of the bedroom.
"I know," Jack replied, but made no move to grip Ianto tighter. Ianto could feel Jack tensing behind him as he grasped Jack's hand that was lazily resting on his side and pulled it down so it was covering the scar on his stomach, pressing both their hands gently against it.
"Then stop treating me like a china doll," Ianto replied, leaving his hand on top of Jack's for a moment before moving it. Ianto was relieved when Jack's hand remained over the scar, his fingers even tentatively running over it, mapping every imperfection. He was even more grateful when he felt Jack's hand slide up a bit, tugging Ianto back into Jack's body so they were flush and Ianto could feel Jack's breath on the back of his neck, hot and needy. They lay like that for a long moment, Jack's breath tickling the back of Ianto's neck as he stared at the wall opposite, contemplating.
"Gwen told me how scared she was," Ianto whispered into the darkened room after a moment's hesitation.
"About Rhys?" Jack asked, moving his head slightly on the pillow so the words whispered past Ianto's ear.
"No," Ianto paused again, his hand moving to cover Jack's that was holding Ianto's chest. "She said she was scared of you."
"Scared of me?" Jack asked, confusion in his voice as his thumb curled over the top of Ianto's, rubbing small circles.
"She said she'd never seen you so angry," Ianto explained, listening to a train rattling on the line out the back of the block of flats. "She was scared what you were going to do."
A silence descended between the two of them as Jack continued to draw circles on the back of Ianto's hand. Ianto let out a sigh, finally closing his eyes, too tired to keep them open now.
Jack's voice came out of nowhere. "I think I scared myself a bit," he whispered before he let out a sigh of his own. There was a beat before Jack spoke again. "Also, I've got a bone to pick with you, Ianto Jones," Jack started, breaking the serious moment between them.
"Oh yeah?" Ianto asked, quirking his eyebrow even though Jack couldn't see it.
"You've been going to karaoke behind my back when you insisted you never sang anywhere else apart from in the shower," Jack bemoaned. Ianto chuckled slightly before burying his head further into the pillow.
"You're not coming with us," Ianto replied.
"Why not?" Jack asked indignantly. Ianto feigned sudden sleep. "Oi!" Jack jostled Ianto slightly. "Why not?" he repeated. Ianto let out a couple of fake snores for good measure.
"I know you're not sleeping," Jack groused, rolling away from Ianto so he was lying on his back. "You're not snoring loud enough."
Ianto couldn't help the laugh that escaped his lips, giving himself away.
"Why not?" Jack asked for a third time, voice serious as he turned his head to watch Ianto rolling over so he could see Jack.
"The truth?" Ianto asked. Jack nodded.
"Not just about that though," Jack said, sounding insecure, something that was more than a little disturbing coming from Jack Harkness. "Why have I never met any of your friends?"
Ianto blinked a couple of times, watching Jack for any sign that he was teasing or winding Ianto up, but there was just genuine confusion in Jack's eyes as he watched Ianto.
"I didn't think you'd want to," Ianto replied truthfully, pausing a second to watch Jack's reaction, interrupting Jack before he had a chance to reply to that comment with something serious. "Besides, I know you - you'd hog the microphone at karaoke."
Ianto huffed out a hesitant laugh, avoiding Jack's gaze as he rolled onto his side again, closing his eyes. He didn't expect Jack to roll back over with him, not after his blatant dismissal of the subject of their relationship so he started slightly when he felt the bed moving and Jack's arm draping back over his side.
"If I promise not to hog the microphone can I come with you next Tuesday?" Jack asked, throwing Ianto slightly. He hesitated, not because he didn't want to say yes, but because he was scared to. It was changing the rules of their relationship, moving the goalposts, making he and Jack closer towards a working relationship of some sort and that scared him more than he was willing to let on.
"You promise?" Ianto asked eventually, a teasing quality to his voice even though he was struggling to stay awake now. The painkillers he had taken after his shower were making him drowsy, his body already exhausted from the effort of doing anything.
"I promise," Jack whispered in Ianto's ear. Ianto could hear the smile in his voice before a swift kiss was pressed to that spot behind his ear causing his eyes to flutter closed.
Rhys was stood at the bar of The Neville a couple of weeks later on Quiz Night, his turn to get the round in. Dav and Banana were in a corner booth arguing over who had won the 1986 world cup, Dav insisting it had been Argentina while Banana was arguing that it was the fourth time Brazil had won. Rhys wasn't getting involved. The barmaid was serving the man next to Rhys when a pint was set down in front of him. Rhys looked up, slightly shocked for a moment to see Ianto Jones standing there.
"That pint I owe you," Ianto explained, indicating the pint glass with a nod of his head. Rhys smiled slightly before sliding the pint back across the bar so it was in front of Ianto.
"You don't owe me anything man," Rhys replied.
"I owe you my life," Ianto objected, pushing the pint back in front of Rhys again.
"I think that's my line," Rhys replied, huffing out an almost disbelieving laugh.
"Then I'll have a pint of Brains," Ianto replied, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. Rhys gave him a disbelieving look before he too was smiling, shaking his head slightly as he turned back to the bar.
"What can I get you, love?" the barmaid asked, smiling at Rhys over the top of the bar.
"Pint of Brains," Rhys said, a smile spreading on his own face as he paid for the pint, handing it over to Ianto. Rhys raised his glass slightly in a silent toast, Ianto mirroring him before they drank, relishing in another ordinary night down the pub.