"Should'a been a cowboy" Jack gasped.
The call had been harried and the fear in Andy's voice had filled the room. Everyone was on edge and Gwen silently cursed her bloody habit to put him on speakerphone.
The creature had sounded unfamiliar. Like a dog in shape but the size of a small horse. Bright blue fur and teeth the size of carving knives. Three dead already. Andy had been cut off mid sentence and her fear for her old partner was almost paralysing.
If he was a casualty of this thing she was gonna loose it. She knew it. The thought of the whole team around her both comforted and worried her. Especially with Jack and Ianto not speaking.
The fight had been epic. More than the usual swearing and old shit dragged up and thrown at each other. The Doctor … again. Ianto had found Jack going through his phone messages. When he had demanded a reason the fight had begun.
"You left me!"
"You tricked me"
The bottom line was Jack trying to claim Ianto. He had used Ianto's phone to text the Doctor and answer messages from him. Ianto had never thought to check his memory and when he realised that Jack was turning down invitations and answering personal questions on his behalf he lost it.
Owen's remarks about mommy and daddy fighting had even tapered off as the fight had now lasted for nearly a week.
Owen was sure Ianto hadn't been sleeping. He had been watching Ianto struggle for the last two hours to hide the shaking in his hands and the flickering looks at him through the seats told him that Ianto had noticed his interest.
Ianto's hair was lank and hung in a sad ponytail down his back. It had now grown down almost to his waist and he had asked Tosh for a hairdresser's number, which had caused a new angle to the arguments. Jack liked his hair long and accused Ianto of wanting to cut it as a punishment. Something about the length of his hair showing his strength or something. Even Ianto had snorted at that excuse. He accused Jack of wanting him to be effeminate.
The final kicker was when Ianto had leaned over the desk and asked if Jack wanted him to wear Gwen's boots as well.
Things had become childish. Well, Jack had become childish. Ianto had become silent.
Ianto had been feeling unwell. He wasn't eating properly and the dark rings around his eyes made him look like a drug addict. Jack's gaze kept flicking between the road and Ianto who sat silently in the passenger seat ignoring the glances.
Tosh had been piggy in the middle as usual. Jack kept snarking at her to ask Ianto for a file and Ianto was refusing to enter Jack's office, instead handing her all files and coffee mugs to deliver like a bloody secretary. Seeing two men she loved so deeply hurting each other was upsetting. Jack's pouting and stomping reminded her of the angry giant "fe-fie-foe"ing about the hub while Ianto's silence was just un-nerving.
They reached the last recorded coordinates as given by Andy's phone and all pilled out of the SUV.
"Gwen, with me!" Jack barked. "Owen, you take Ianto and look around that building and Tosh can man the comms."
Everyone scattered. Ianto had not even flinched at the obvious snub as he always accompanied Jack now. This would be the first mission apart and Owen was relieved that he had Ianto with him. Maybe he would get the chance to talk to him about his health.
Yelling, shouting followed by the Captain's whoop informed the two men that what ever it was, it was probably toast.
Owen leaned against the building to watch Ianto pull a packet of cigarettes out of his jacket pocket and light one with trembling hands.
Ianto looked at a spot over Owen's head and took a deep drag from the cigarette before lowering his gaze to meet Owen's.
"Well? When did that start then?" Owen tried to sound calm and understanding.
"Always did. On and off, mostly when I need something to do." Ianto shrugged.
"Does Jack know?" Owen straightened up and pushed off from the building.
"Mmm. Doesn't like it but it's not like he's about to "kiss a bloody ashtray" today eh?" Ianto's reply sounded just like Jack and Owen sighed at the bitterness.
"You never said. I'll need to list it on your records. A medical report kind of thing. You like reports, yeah?" Owen tried to shrug against Ianto and was surprised when Ianto suddenly grabbed him into an awkward hug.
The noise was like a rockslide and Owen turned to watch the monster skid around the corner in the gravel. Ianto was turning them both, flicking Owen behind him and Owen realised that had been the intention of the hug, to pull him to him, then behind him in a fluid movement.
Ianto stepped forward and drew his blade as the creature bore down on them.
Owen couldn't move. Transfixed by the creature he didn't notice Ianto's movements until Jack yelled his name and he looked to his left at his teammate. Fuck, his gun was still on safety and he struggled to release it as he ran after Ianto.
The hair band had come loose and Ianto's hair flew freely about his shoulders and he swung. His feet danced silently on the gravel as he dodged the creature that seemed hell bent on eating him.
Blue light and a soft hum filled the space between Ianto and the blue beast as they circled each other with matching fierce grimaces.
The rest of the team came to watch by Owen. Tosh was the last to arrive and was in time to see the creature lunge through the light to clamp down on Ianto's arm as Ianto stumbled. With a scream of horror, Jack surged forward to throw himself onto the beast's back.
Ianto slid forward and tried to reach the fallen blade with his free hand as Jack roared and grunted on it's back. He slipped an arm about its neck in an attempt to choke it but this made it clamp down harder on Ianto who finally gave in to the pain and screamed.
Falling to his knees, Ianto's fingertips finally teased the blade close enough to claim and he swung it up in an arc, slicing the beast's neck just above Jack's arm. With a strangled cry it released Ianto and turned, running from the blade straight into the concrete wall of the building with a horrifying crunch.
Jack slid from the body of the beast with a shaking laugh and looked up at Gwen who was struggling to help him up.
"Should'a been a cowboy" Jack gasped, bending to grab his knees as he regained his breath.
Raised voices got his attention and he straightened up to look at the rest of the team on the ground. Owen had hold of Ianto's arm and was trying to stem the blood pouring from the jagged wound and Tosh was struggling to get the medical kit open.
Ianto was still and silent. Apart from the occasional rubbing of his heels on the ground (gravel - which would really piss him off later when he saw his shoes were ruined) he didn't struggle.
"Fuck! No." Owen screamed as Ianto slumped against him, giving into the pain.
Jack's screams echoed Owen as Ianto struggled to stay with them but their voices faded into the merciful black.