Thanks for all the reviews, and glad you're all sticking with me. Thanks also and as always to my wonderful beta riftintime, who always sticks with me. You're my hero.
Ianto started awake in a tangle of damp sheets. He was dripping with sweat and rock hard. Cursing to himself, he stripped off his briefs and began to stroke his cock. He'd dreamt about Jack again. It had been three months since Jack had disappeared with the Doctor, and Ianto was furious with himself for the lingering affect of his former lover. He tried to think of anyone but Jack as he brought himself to climax. Images of various women flitted through his mind, but he dismissed all of them. He tried thinking of men – film stars that he'd always admired, but those were also unappealing. Try as he might, Jack's naked, muscular body and chiseled features kept creeping into his mind's eye. Finally he gave into the fantasy, imagining Jack's mouth on his body as he pumped his cock with his hand until he climaxed with a guttural groan.
Muttering a few choice swear words, he wiped his hand on the sheets, pushed himself to the floor, and tore the bed clothes off the bed. He dumped the bundle into the laundry basket on the way to the shower. Letting the hot water cascade over his upturned face, he gave himself a stern lecture. It's been three months. Jack is gone. He's not coming back. He's out there somewhere, traveling the galaxy with the Doctor. There's nothing here for him to come back to… It was just a fling anyway. It would have never worked out between us. I don't even like men…
He had given himself this same lecture countless times since Jack's sudden departure, clinging to the outside of the Doctor's TARDIS. He'd wanted to forget all about Jack. He'd been relieved when Jack left, although the reasons behind that profound relief, he was not ready to admit to himself. But Jack's ghost lingered in every part of the underground base. Since that fateful day, Ianto had avoided staying overnight at the Hub. It had taken weeks for Jack's scent to fade from the bunker. But Jack's ghost was just as present in Ianto's flat, even though the man had never even been there. It was his mind that wouldn't let go.
His team had been upset over Jack's sudden departure. Ianto tried to explain his absence to the best of his ability, without divulging too many of Jack's secrets. He'd told them that Jack had once been a companion of the Doctor, and the Doctor had returned to fix something that had happened to Jack while under his protection. Any further demand for details he shrugged off, stating that he didn't know the answers. But he told them in no uncertain terms of his belief that Jack was never coming back.
They'd had to get organized after Jack's departure, and Ianto couldn't help feeling a swell of pride when he thought about how well they now worked as a unit. But the spark had once again gone out of the team. "We work really well together, but it's just not as much fun without Jack," Gwen had announced one day.
No one could disagree with her.
After Ianto was immaculately groomed and dressed in a well fitted, tailored, dark pin-striped suit with a deep purple shirt and silver and blue tie, he made his first cup of coffee and sat down at the kitchen table. He booted up his laptop and logged into the Hub's mainframe. Munching on a piece of toast and jam, he hacked into the police database. Gwen had brought an unusual set of circumstances to his attention several days ago; seventeen disappearances within the last five months, all with last known whereabouts within a twenty-mile radius. None of the bodies had ever been found. The missing people just fell off the radar. No patterns in age, sex, or race. "Could be alien," Ianto had said. "We'll keep an eye out."
He stopped mid-chew as his eyes scanned over a new police alert. There was another victim by the name of Ellie Johnson who had disappeared the night before. Throwing his toast down on the plate, he pulled up Ellie Johnson's mobile phone records. "Last outgoing call…" he said aloud as his nimble fingers danced across the keyboard. "She dropped out of signal mid-call. The coverage map has her placed... somewhere about there." He stared at the map on his laptop screen. "Bugger. Same vicinity as all the others."
He sighed. I hate camping, he thought irritably. He reached into this breast pocket and composed a group text message. "We're going to the countryside," he typed. He added a few more details. Then with another weary sigh, he pressed 'send.'
He carried his plate and mug to the sink, washed both and placed them on the rack to dry. Then he went back to his bedroom to change clothes. As much as he enjoyed his professional attire, he was not going to trek around the Brecon Beacons in a three-piece suit. Ten minutes later, he left his flat wearing jeans, a pullover, and a waterproof jacket.
Just over an hour later, he was driving Tosh, Owen, and Gwen out to the Beacons. Tosh was tracking coordinates, Gwen was looking through the police database, and Owen was complaining as usual. "I hate the countryside," he grumbled. "It's dirty, it's unhygienic… and what is that smell?"
"That would be grass," Gwen said, not bothering to look up from her computer.
"It's disgusting," he announced.
Ianto raised an eyebrow as he glanced in the rear-view mirror at the team doctor. He felt that Owen seemed to grumble and complain less when Jack was around and wondered what Jack had done to temper that churlishness. He wondered if he'd ever have the same affect on his team. It will never happen. I don't have that kind of magic… He frowned inwardly and gripped the steering wheel just a bit tighter.
"I've mapped out the coordinates," Tosh announced some time later. "I think I've found the precise epicenter of all the disappearances."
"Well done, Tosh," Ianto said, glancing at her, sitting across from him in the front passenger seat. "That's as good a place as any to set up camp."
"Sorry, did you say 'camp'?" Owen asked with obvious horror.
Everyone ignored him.
Once they arrived at the location Tosh had pinpointed, they set up their gear and gathered around a wooden table, exhausted from their exertions. Ianto sat nearby in the SUV studying a map. "So, now what?" Owen asked. He'd muttered and whined his way through setting up his tent and was now looking as surly as ever and significantly more disheveled.
"How about… who was the last person you snogged?" Gwen asked, grinning broadly and sounding like an excited schoolgirl.
Both Owen and Tosh began protesting at once. "Bloody hell, not again!" – "Oh, not this again!"
Ianto rolled his eyes and fixed his gaze firmly on the map in front of him.
"Oh, come on!" Gwen pleaded. "It's just a bit of fun! Who was the last person you snogged?"
Nobody replied. After several moments of uncomfortable silence, Gwen announced, "Mine was... Rhys!"
"Shocking," Owen growled.
Gwen turned to Tosh. "Tosh, your go."
"No comment," Tosh said coolly.
"Oh, come on! Spill the beans!"
Tosh looked thoughtfully at Gwen. It's about time it gets out in the open… She's the only one who doesn't know. Besides, maybe then she'll stop trying to get us to play this sodding game. "Owen," she announced.
"What?" Gwen asked, looking from her to Owen.
Way to go, Tosh! Owen thought triumphantly.
She really didn't know? Ianto found himself thinking. They've been together for two months now…
Gwen glared at Owen. Owen… and Tosh? No, it can't be! "And yours was…?"
"Tosh, actually," Owen replied, crossing his arms with a satisfied sneer on his face.
"When was this?" Gwen asked, her eyes nearly popping off her face. I don't believe it. Must have been a one-off.
"This morning," both Tosh and Owen said at the same time, then they smiled at each other.
Gwen looked daggers at her two teammates. "When did this start then?" she asked, a dangerous note in her voice.
"After I got smart enough to quit shagging you," Owen spat.
Gwen jumped up from the table. Both Owen and Tosh also got to their feet. The three of them glared menacingly at each other. Ianto decided it was time for him to intervene before they started throwing punches. "It's my turn, is it?" he asked, rising to his feet, walking towards them, and sitting down on the bench. They all turned to look at him. "It was Jack."
There was a moment of complete silence. Ianto could hear birds chirping in the distance and the wind moving through the trees. "Ianto, I'm sorry," Tosh said, sitting down next to him.
"Yeah, sorry mate," Owen said taking a seat next to Tosh.
Only Gwen remained standing. "Jack?" she asked, staring at him, her mouth slightly agape.
"Yeah, Gwen. Ianto and Jack, me and Tosh. You really are clueless, aren't you? So wrapped up in yourself…"
"Owen!" Ianto cut him off with a warning note in his voice.
"You… and Jack?" Gwen continued to stare at him, completely awestruck.
A loud noise made the three of them jump to their feet. They drew their guns and ran into the woods in the direction of the sound. The state of the body they soon discovered drove all other thoughts from their minds. "Cause of death?" Ianto asked.
"Impossible to say," Owen said, rising to his feet after examining the corpse. "The body's been stripped of the flesh and bodily organs. So, all that's left is a carcass."
"Could the Weevils have come out this far?" Tosh asked.
"No, Weevils don't finish off their victims like this," Ianto said.
They heard a car engine starting in the distance. "Is that ours?" Gwen asked.
"Yes," Ianto answered before he started to run.
They reached the campsite in time to see the SUV plow over a tent and head off towards the road. "Bugger!" shouted Gwen. "Who the bloody hell left the keys in the ignition?"
"I was carrying that stupid gear," Owen admitted, "And then I was trying to put that bloody tent up. And then ... well, yeah, I sort of forgot that I'd left them in there. But I'm sorry. I'm human. I ballsed up."
Both Tosh and Gwen began to chastise Owen for his lack of security protocol, but Ianto's voice broke through their scolding. "They've been watching us this whole time," he said. "Tosh?"
"Tracking it now," she said, pulling her hand-held computer out of her pocket.
They began on foot, tracking the stolen SUV to a stone and wood cottage several miles away. "This is a trap," Ianto said after they'd explored the perimeter of the cottage.
"Definitely a trap," Tosh agreed.
They looked at each other, then simultaneously cocked their guns. Ianto kicked the door down, and the four of them entered, weapons drawn.
Inside they found a house of horrors. Bodies were strewn everywhere, stripped of flesh and organs, just like the one in the forest. Some were missing arms, legs, or heads. The place reeked with the stench of blood and death. "It's like a bad slasher movie," Owen commented, with a failed attempt at levity. Even his hardened, medical intellect was being tried.
"What kind of alien does this?" Gwen asked, her hand over her mouth and her eyes wide with revulsion.
"I have no idea," Ianto said, swallowing down the bile that had risen in his throat.
"Dear God," Tosh whispered.
In an instant, before any of them had time to react, they were surrounded and relieved of their weapons. But it wasn't aliens who bound their hands behind their backs. It was human beings. "Who are you people?" Gwen asked, struggling against the large, burly man clad in a flannel shirt and jeans, who held her.
No one replied as they were shoved into a kitchen. Several other people were sitting and standing around a blood-spattered room. Large pots were boiling on a stove. There was a distinct smell of flesh in the air, and bodies hung from the ceiling on meat hooks.
"Welcome to our Harvest," said an elderly woman with wild grey hair, wearing a flowered dress. She was holding a meat cleaver, and leering at them.
"You're… cannibals?" Tosh's voice was ragged with fear.
"I'm afraid we're all just meat," the man holding Gwen sneered, running a hand down her body with a hideous grin.
Ianto felt his blood run cold. Man-eating aliens he could handle. Human beings in this day and age, capable of killing and eating their fellow man was more than his brain could comprehend.
"Only in the bloody countryside! You sick fucks!" Owen yelled, twisting desperately against a tall, lanky man wearing beige overalls.
The elderly woman grinned maniacally and raised her meat cleaver, walking slowly towards Owen. "NO!" Ianto yelled as he struggled desperately against his captor. His mind was spinning. He was about to lose his entire team to these lunatics. "What kind of perverse, sadistic, inbred wankers are you?" he blurted out, saying anything to turn their attention away from the others. "Do you shag your own mother?" he asked the man holding Owen. "Is that why you're all so twisted?"
The woman holding the meat cleaver gave a guttural howl and turned towards Ianto. "Yeah, that's right. You take me!" he shouted.
She strode towards him, her cleaver raised over her head. This is it, Ianto thought. This is how I'm going to die. Not by some alien, but by some backwater savages. Figures. He looked at Tosh. He tried to convey to her that he was buying them time – that as soon as they started on him, it was the moment for the rest of them to make their move.
Tosh was looking back at him, her eyes wide with panic. She was shaking her head 'no.' He nodded at her once. Then he turned his attention to the insane, smiling face of the woman stalking towards him. He grinned at her, then head butted her with all his strength. There was a wail, then shouting and outcries. Ianto took a vicious blow to his stomach, which doubled him over, gasping for air. A sharp blow to the back of his legs dropped him to his knees. There were sounds of struggling. "Ianto!" It was Tosh's voice, a desperate warning in her cry.
Ianto looked up into the deranged, wrinkled face of an older man. A clever was raised over his head. He closed his eyes, resigning himself to his fate. Please let them get out safely…
There was a roar of an engine, an immense crash, repeated sounds of gunfire, then silence.
Ianto opened his eyes. He was still kneeling on the ground, doubled over in pain. Tosh, Owen, and Gwen were standing upright, looking stunned, hands still bound behind their backs. Everyone else in the room was dead.
Their SUV had plowed through the wall of the cottage. Jack Harkness was standing on the hood of the car, a gun in each hand.
"Hey kids. Did ya miss me?"