It was Monday morning, the first day back at work after Gwen's wedding. By mutual agreement nobody had come in on the day after the reception, having spent most of the night dealing with the aftermath.
The autopsy area stunk – more than normal – a reek of dead fish, rotten seaweed and decomposing weevil. Owen's painstakingly slow post-mortem exam was being watched from a distance by Ianto and Tosh.
"Where was it found again?" asked Toshiko, through a tissue daintily clasped to her nose and mouth.
"Down the coast – out past Swansea," mumbled Owen, his accent more nasal than usual, muffled by the face mask he was wearing.
"So, what's going on then, I thought they didn't travel far from the city?"
"Maybe they took a tourist bus down to the Gower, a day out to Mumbles?" mused Ianto, the thought of weevils at the seaside momentarily taking his mind off wondering where the hell moody Harkness had got to.
"Nope – this one didn't get to make sand castles, the local cops found it sticking out of the stinking mud of the salt marshes. Luckily the forensic pathologist that went to the scene used to work in Cardiff and figured out it was the sort of the thing that Torchwood deal with and had it shipped back to the local morgue for us to pick up." Owen explained – he had been called up early that morning to collect the body and had been grumpier than usual ever since.
He was puzzled, the body on the slab had no obvious injuries, but had not died a natural death as far as he could tell. There were signs of inflammation around the throat and under its arms – from what he did know of weevil anatomy there were tissues there that responded in a similar way to human immune systems. An infection maybe? There was no way he'd be opening up this carcass without taking quarantine precautions, just in case.
Meanwhile, Owen took samples of body fluids for analysis and grinned up at Toshiko.
"How 'bout you do the toxicology and DNA analysis, and I'll do the microscopy?"
"You mean – let me do the real science, while you peak down the lens of the microscope and mumble?"
"I'll make coffee shall I?" proffered Ianto, already on his way up the kitchen area, looking over towards Jack's office and noting with dismay the lack of any indication of occupation.
It was midday when they gathered together in the boardroom, not quite sure who should be taking the lead, none of them sitting at the head of the table. There was still no sign of Jack, despite a number of calls to him discretely made by Ianto. Owen and Tosh had earlier shared a silent smirk as they spotted Ianto slam down his mobile phone angrily, both of them quite aware of who he was trying to get in touch with, although they both agreed that the atmosphere could only get worse on his eventual return, even taking into account the stench of sea soaked weevil.
Ianto had set out a tray of coffees and sandwiches for lunch, grateful for the opportunity to do something useful.
"You'll be happy to know that I've sealed up the body and put it to chill in the morgue for now Owen – it's in drawer 8 labelled Magwitch."
"Does that make you Pip?" asked Tosh, grinning cheekily as she delicately nibbled on the smoked salmon sandwich she knew Ianto had made just for her.
"What?" demanded Owen, thoroughly confused and slightly pissed off, as always, by in jokes that he was on the outside of.
"Dickens - Great Expectations, Owen, and no Tosh, it doesn't make me Pip."
"OK – so back to our dead weevil, it had a disease of some sort, blood cells distorted, excess numbers of their equivalent to lymphocytes, so definitely an infection of some sort, although Tosh should have more on that."
Tosh looked up from her lap top, a slight frown creasing her brow, exposed as she subconsciously brushed hair from her face.
"This is weird – the toxicology didn't show anything conclusive, slightly higher levels of compounds analogous to histamine and cytokine in humans-"
"Ties in with CBC results."
"It's the DNA analysis that isn't right – I took the samples from Owen, used the PCR as normal to amplify the quantities-"
"Skip the technical details Tosh, I know it and you're givin' teaboy a headache, he's having trouble enough concentrating as it is."
Ianto looked up from his mug of coffee, about to object, but had to acknowledge to himself that Owen was right, he was distracted, and the object of his distraction was pissing him off more and more with each passing hour of its absence. It was one thing being angry at Jack, but when his fury began to wage war with his worry for Jack's well being, he was getting one hell of a headache, as Owen had astutely spotted, although not due to being blinded by science as the doctor assumed.
Tosh spared Ianto a sympathetic look, raised her eyebrows in a gesture that asked if it was OK for her to go on and at the almost imperceptible nod of his head she continued.
"There are three sets of genetic material present in the samples, regular weevil DNA, influenza RNA and something different. It would appear that the viral RNA has become incorporated within the weevil's genetic material and become corrupted, maybe hybridising with dormant DNA from some form of pathogen from the weevil home planet, which means-"
"We can do fuck all about it just yet-" Owen cut in with a succinct summary of the situation.
"What next then?"
"More work-ups on the strain of virus from Tosh and I guess I'll have to get round to a proper exam of the body. "
Owen took a look at the sandwiches, wishing he could eat one, wondering if Ianto had made his favourites on purpose to goad him. A thought came to him and he suggested, as innocently as he could:
"Fancy a drive out to the country?"
"Well, me and Tosh are going to be busy rest of the day, and if that weevil died of something nasty, someone needs to go out and check that the area where it was found has been secured properly. Can't trust the local police y'know-"
"What? No arguments? No excuses to wait for our illustrious leader to come sweeping in, coat flapping about his –"
"Nope, just give me the location, names of the local contacts and I'll set off straight away."
Owen was mildly taken aback by Ianto's willingness to leave the Hub, never mind the city. It must have been one hell of a falling out, mind you even Owen thought Jack had behaved like a complete arsehole, but Ianto was a twat if he thought Jack could think monogamously never mind act it. However, if Ianto was happy to drive out to the other side of Swansea instead of him, that suited Owen.
Ianto walked towards the garage where he parked his car, there was no point taking the SUV to drive out to the coast where the body had been washed ashore and the others might need it, Jack might need it. Ianto slapped the side of his head in an attempt to dislodge the thoughts of Jack, only succeeding in aggravating the tension headache that continued to pester him. There was also no point in taking a trip down to the Gower peninsula in a suit – he'd stop off at home and get a change of clothes on the way there.
Dressed in a soft pale blue plaid shirt, white tee shirt and dark jeans, with a decent pair of boots that a man could run in rather than slide around on, he set off with every intention of leaving Cardiff and everything to do with the city behind him as he headed west.
Pulling out onto the M4 heading west towards Swansea and the Gower, he put the radio on – Red Dragon radio blared out, advertising local businesses with loud, harsh jingles that grated on nerves that had been frayed to their ends over the past few days. He switched it off, even though his thoughts would soon come tumbling back to the man that he really didn't know if he loved or hated right now. Some distance would help. Only about 50 miles, an hour's drive at this time of day – but far enough to keep him away from the Hub, just in case Jack did come in, he could see himself making Jack a coffee or some other stupid gesture that would just let the infuriating man think he'd been let off the hook again.
That ridiculous game, whereby Jack hurt Ianto's feelings, unintentionally maybe, but always thoughtlessly – and then Ianto made the first move to reconcile them, was driving him insane. If he wanted to maintain any semblance of self esteem he had to hold out just a little longer. It was bad enough that Owen treated their relationship as a joke, nothing but shagging …
He still couldn't figure out just what the hell Jack had been playing at on Saturday at Gwen's wedding. Once his duties as "wedding fairy" had been fulfilled Jack had grabbed him by the wrist and virtually dragged him to spare hotel room, that he'd 'found' the keys to. After some pretty rough love making – no not making love, it had been nothing but a fuck if he was totally honest with himself – Ianto had passed out from sheer exhaustion. The next day he'd woken as light entered the room, he was still half dressed, sprawled face down on a hotel bed, alone – the sheets half on the floor, on top of his crumpled jacket and trousers, the bastard hadn't even bothered to tuck him in before buggering off.