Gwen carefully steered her car through the blizzard. She had no idea whether she was even on the road or not. In the passenger seat, Ianto was gripping the door handle so hard, his knuckles were white. He wasn't at all convinced of the ability of Gwen's car to cope with the snow, and was really whishing they'd brought the SUV.
"My driving isn't that bad, is it?" Gwen asked, when she noticed Ianto's fear.
"It isn't you," the Welshman replied, through gritted teeth. "I was in an accident when I was little. My Mam crashed the car in the snow. No-one was hurt, but the memory still scares me."
Ianto's fear was realised a few miles later when the back of the car skewed suddenly. Gwen tried to steer into the skid but couldn't regain control. The car slammed, bonnet first, into a tree.
Rhys Williams pushed the buzzer on the door of Torchwood's dummy tourist office. He'd been there for five minutes and his finger had been on the buzzer the whole time. Down in the hub, Jack was alone, so couldn't hear the sound. It was by pure chance he glanced at the security monitor showing the tourist office door. He wasn't happy at seeing Rhys standing there, and was tempted to ignore him. However, Jack figured the other man was worrying about the same thing he was. Gwen and Ianto had been due back two hours ago and there was still no sign of them. He'd tried their phones, but assumed the snow was blocking the signals. Jack headed up to answer the door.
"Where the fuck is she, Jack?" Rhys demanded as the door opened.
"I don't know," the captain replied, as he beckoned him in.
Jack led Rhys down to the hub and, while preparing coffee, told him where Gwen and Ianto had gone. Several UFO sightings had been reported in a village fifty miles north of Cardiff. They'd sent word back that it had been local kids messing about with balloons. That had been hours ago. Jack handed Rhys his coffee.
"Not a patch on Ianto's, but it's almost drinkable."
Rhys had been appeased slightly, knowing that she currently wasn't in any alien related danger. She was still missing though, and he could tell that Jack was just as worried as he was. Rhys was well aware the captain harboured feelings for his fiancée, but he also knew he and Ianto had a thing going.
"How do we find them, Jack?"
"I'll try their phones again, and then I'll physically go out looking. I should hopefully be able to get a fix on the remote locator in Gwen's car."
"I'm going with you," Rhys insisted.
Jack very nearly vetoed Rhys instantly, until his hindbrain kicked in. With Owen in Swansea, and Tosh on holiday, it could prove useful to have another pair of hands. Especially if there'd been an accident, he thought.
It was a few seconds before she answered.
Her voice was weak, and Ianto could see she had a head injury. He wasn't unscathed either. The Welshman was certain the seat belt had cracked a couple of ribs and his neck was hurting him. Gwen came to full consciousness and screamed.
"What is it?"
"My leg," she gasped. "It's trapped."
Rhys barely had the door of the SUV closed before Jack was screeching out of the garage. The captain had checked the weather conditions along Ianto and Gwen's route and discovered the snow had been much heavier out of the city. It solidified the sense of foreboding in the pit of his stomach.
The further out of Cardiff they travelled the worse the weather got. It wasn't long before the SUV was crawling through the deepening snow. The vehicle could easily negotiate the stuff on the road, but visibility ahead was almost zero.
"I'm not leaving you."
"You have to."
Gwen was trying to persuade Ianto to go for help, but he was reluctant. He could easily get lost out there; given that he didn't know where they were. On the other hand, if Gwen didn't get medical attention soon, she could die. Ianto had given up on the phones long since. In the distance, he could make out some lights and tried to calculate his chances of reaching them.
"The blizzard seems to be easing off," he told Gwen. "I'll give it a few minutes then head for those lights."
It was another ten minutes before the snow stopped falling.
"Are you sure you'll be ok if I leave you?"
Gwen nodded, the pain from her leg threatening to consume her. Ianto squeezed her hand and gave her, what he hoped was, a reassuring smile. He pulled on a pair of leather gloves and climbed out of the car. Pulling his collar up around his ears, he trudged off through the snow.
With a few instructions from Jack, Rhys quickly figured out how to work the tracking software in the SUV. The captain's joy at finding the beacon signal was short-lived when he realised it was stationary. The expression on Rhys' face told Jack that he'd reached the same conclusion he had.
"Don't worry," he told the other man with a confidence he didn't feel. "We'll be there soon."
Ianto had a problem. He could see the lights he was aiming for, but had lost the road he thought he was on ages ago. His footing was extremely precarious with the slippery snow and the concealed, uneven surface below it. The Welshman wasn't sure how long he'd been walking, but it must have been at least half an hour. Ianto couldn't feel his extremities and was beginning to wish he'd never left the car. Plunging his hands further into his pockets, he tried changing direction a bit. Three paces later, his foot slid into a hidden dip.
Ianto felt his ankle snap, and was strangely grateful that his foot was almost numb. He fell sideways and landed heavily, causing his ribs to remind him of their injuries. The sudden pain was too much and Ianto instantly plunged into blessed oblivion.
Jack's heart froze in his chest the moment Gwen's car came into view. He shared a terrified glance with Rhys before both men leapt out of the vehicle. Rhys flung the drivers' side door open and dropped to his knees.
"Gwen? Talk to me, love."
The insensible woman didn't respond. Rhys looked to Jack with despair in his eyes. The captain came to his side and checked Gwen's pulse. It wasn't great, but he wasn't about to tell Rhys that. Besides, there was a further problem to deal with. Ianto wasn't in the car. Surely he hadn't gone to try and find help. If Jack thought he'd been scared before, it was nothing to what he felt now. He told Rhys to try and call for the emergency services. Now that the snow had stopped, there was every chance a signal would get through.
"I'll have to leave her in your hands. I have to find Ianto."
Rhys nodded and watched Jack stride away, before taking his phone out. It took four attempts, but finally he made a connection. He babbled into the phone, telling the woman at the other end about the crash, Gwen's injuries and the fact Ianto was missing. Luckily, the despatcher was used to taking to hysterical relatives. She calmed Rhys down and managed to extract the information she needed.
"Don't worry, Sir. Help is already on the way."
Jack followed the footprints which led away from Gwen's car. There was only one set, so logically, they could only be Ianto's. He was trying hard not to think about the worst case scenario. He and the young Welshman had finally come to a happy understanding. They were a couple but each had promised never to use the term. Jack loved Ianto and even though he would lose him eventually, it was far too soon for that. If he lost Ianto now, Jack knew it would take centuries for his heart to recover, if it even recovered at all.
The captain was surprised to suddenly find hot tears had started to run down his cheeks. He had always been so guarded with his soul, but somehow a young, quiet, extremely complicated Welshman had managed to steal it. He'd spent a year being repeatedly tortured to death aboard the Valiant, and his last thought before each and every death was of Ianto. One of the darkest days had been when the Master had brought his lover to him in chains. Jack had been forced to watch as Ianto had been slowly and painfully murdered. It had taken two days for Ianto to die and Jack could still hear his tormented screams and pleas.
When time had reversed and he'd returned to them all, Jack had vowed to himself that he would no longer take Ianto for granted. He would look after him and court him properly. He'd even asked him on a date and had been quite taken aback when Ianto agreed. As he'd suggested they'd gone out for a quiet dinner and seen a movie. Jack had never felt so at peace in a very long time. Afterwards they had gone to Ianto's flat and fell asleep in each other's arms. There hadn't been any sex. It wasn't a night for sex. It was a night for two people who had been lost and hurt to comfort each other.
Jack began praying to gods he didn't believe in that Ianto wasn't lost and hurt now. He hoped against hope that he had found help. That was when he saw the dark shape in the snow. Even in the darkness, Ianto's black overcoat stood out against the white background. Jack ran to him, ignoring the slippery surface, and knelt down next to the stricken man. He looked so pale, the captain briefly though he was already dead, but then he noticed the vapour of his breath in the cold air. Without a thought for himself, Jack took off his heavy greatcoat and laid it across Ianto. Then, he got his phone and rang Rhys, thankful the call got through first time. He told the other man his approximate position and asked on Gwen's condition.
"She's holding her own."
Rhys' voice was shaky as he told Jack help had arrived and that he would direct someone to him. Jack thanked him and hung up, before taking hold of Ianto's hand.
"It won't be long, Yan," he whispered. "You'll soon be safe."
Sitting in the snow hadn't been the greatest idea Captain Jack Harkness had ever had. He was, almost literally, freezing his balls off. The semi-conscious figure lying next to him was enough to take his mind from his own discomfort. Ianto was shivering too much for Jack's liking. He'd started coming round when Jack slid his hand between Ianto's face and the snow. The captain didn't want the younger man to get freezer burns on his beautiful face. As a result, Jack's hand was burning with the cold. He made a mental note to give his team arctic survival lessons. Assuming they made it back unscathed.
Jack pushed the last thought to the back of his mind as he heard Ianto try to speak. At first, he couldn't make out was being said. The he realised, Ianto was mumbling in welsh. That was something which had always puzzled Jack. Ianto was from South Wales, where English was the primary language. It was really the north of the country where welsh was predominantly spoken. Yet, for some reason, when Ianto was hurt, tired or angry he switched to the native language. Jack had never bothered learning it. There'd always been someone to translate for him. With his free hand, he stroked Ianto's hair. He wasn't sure which of them he was trying to soothe.
Gwen woke up as she was being loaded into ambulance.
"Jack?" she murmured.
Rhys felt a stab of jealousy, which quickly passed. He'd long since accepted Gwen's feelings for Jack. He knew they were attracted to each other, but he also knew Gwen always came home to him.
"No Sweetheart, it's me."
Gwen looked into the eyes of her fiancé and gave him a weak smile.
"I love you, Rhys," she muttered quietly, before unconsciousness reclaimed her.
Rhys clambered into the ambulance with her, refusing to let go of her hand.
Jack was about to give Rhys another call, when he heard voices.
"Over here," he called back, slightly more hysterically than he would have liked.
Within moments, two paramedics were by his side, with medical equipment and a stretcher. The captain reluctantly relinquished his place next to his lover and allowed them to do their thing. Ianto was carefully laid onto the stretcher and was swathed in a foil emergency blanket. He was also hooked up to a drip, which contained heaven knew what. Jack offered to take one end of the stretcher, leaving one of the paramedics free to monitor the patient.
It was slow going, but the group eventually made it back to the second ambulance. Although Jack desperately wanted to stay with Ianto, he couldn't leave the SUV behind. However, he stuck very close to the emergency vehicle on its way to the hospital, making sure he had the SUV's blue lights flashing. He smiled at an unbidden thought which entered his head about maybe getting some sort of siren fitted. He could almost see the withering look Ianto would give at the suggestion.
At the hospital, Jack was denied access to Ianto while the medics got to work. He was relegated to the waiting room, where he found Rhys.
"Any word on Gwen?" he asked.
"She's in surgery."
The two men fell back into silence. Each of them was lost in their own worry. Jack's earlier fears of losing Ianto were still with him. Of course, he didn't want to lose either of them, but his love for Ianto was a thousand times stronger than for Gwen. Ianto burned through his very being. Inside his own head, Rhys was cursing Torchwood. Not for the first time either. He acknowledged a car accident could happen at any time, but if it hadn't been for bloody Torchwood, Gwen would never have been on that road.
Both men leapt to their feet when they noticed a doctor approaching.
Twenty four hours later, Gwen and Ianto were in a private room together. Jack had called Owen back from Swansea and the doctor had immediately taken over sole care of the two of them. Gwen's injuries weren't as bad first feared. She had a mild concussion and a broken leg. Both would heal without a problem. She was sitting up in bed, quietly chatting to Rhys.
In the other bed, Ianto was still sleeping. He'd broken two ribs, had slight whiplash and was recovering from the effects of hypothermia. Jack had never left his side from the moment they'd been brought into the room. He was holding onto Ianto's hand as though he were afraid of letting go. Owen had told him the Welshman would be fine and would probably wake up shortly. Jack's patience paid off when, finally, Ianto's eyes fluttered open. He seemed confused for a moment until he saw Jack. A broad smile spread across his face, which got wider when Jack bent forward to kiss him on the forehead.
"I thought I'd lost you, Cariad," he whispered to the younger man.
"Since when do you speak welsh?"
Jack explained how Ianto always used it when he didn't realise what he was saying. Ianto laughed.
"My parents are from the north. Welsh was always spoken in the house."
"Maybe, I should take some lessons. Just so I know if you're talking about me."
Ianto laughed again and reached up to pull Jack in for a proper kiss.
"Could you two at least wait until I've left the room," moaned Owen. "That goes for you and Rhys too, Gwen. Now that we know everyone is fine, Jack and Rhys can bugger off. You need to get some rest yourselves."
The two men grudgingly accepted the instruction and each said goodbye to their respective partners. Before the door had chance to close, Jack popped his bed back through.
"Oh, Ianto, how do you feel about getting a siren on the SUV? You know, to go with the blue lights."
The Welshman had never sighed so deeply in his life.
"We're supposed to be secret, Jack. Isn't it bad enough that 'Torchwood' is written down the side of it?"
Jack simply shrugged in defeat and flashed a trademark Harkness grin.