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The Clash of Worlds: The Fellowship of Necessity
Submitter: Date: 2011/10/30 Views: 264
Chapter 11

They pushed on across Northern France in long marches, broken by short stops in nearly silent villages. People regarded them with suspicion, and were pleased to see them move on when they'd eaten and slept. On their fourth break, on the outskirts of Brussels, Jack sat with his back against the wall of the empty factory they'd taken shelter in, lost in his own thoughts whilst Ianto slept with his head pillowed on Jack's thigh. The Doctor sat next to him and looked down at Ianto for a while, a thoughtful expression haunting his eyes. Jack squeezed Ianto's shoulder and rubbed his arm when he stirred slightly. "You wanted something, Doctor?"

He nodded, not looking away from Ianto, and answered equally quietly. "Just thought I should check on you."

"Thanks," he tipped his head back against the wall again and sighed. "We're being followed, you know?"

"Yeah, I know," the Doctor rested his chin in one hand and looked up at Jack. "They're human, though."

"Not always a good thing," Jack pointed out. "Don't you ever despair of us?"

"Sometimes," he admitted. "But then just look at you all, strangers uniting to protect people. And you two..." he smiled fondly and waved a hand to indicate Jack and Ianto. "You restore my faith in humans."

"Just him, Doctor," Jack looked down at Ianto sadly. "He's... something special."

"I can tell. It's the way you look at him," he tilted his head.

"I wish it had come sooner, or later," Jack admitted, "so that I couldn't lead him into danger like this. I wish it had never come to me at all."

"So do all who live to see such times. All we have to do is decide what to do with the time appointed to us."

"I've got all the time in the universe, Doctor," he looked up. "That's a lot of decisions."

"Your time looks very finite at the moment, Jack," the Doctor gestured to Ianto, still sleeping. "The time we're given isn't just our own time."

"We don' need telling," Ianto murmured groggily, opening an eye to glare at the Doctor. "'m not letting him go."

"Good," he clapped his hands and jumped to his feet. "Miss Sato, what have you got there?"

"I'm picking up signals, Doctor," she called out over the room, stirring everyone awake into movement. "Close to us and closing in. They're scans of some sort."

"How far away?"

"Half an hour at their current speed, but that's faster than we are," she looked up. "at their current speeds and our optimum speed, I'd calculate that we can make it to the British embassy in Brussels, but we'll have to make a stand there."

They stood for a second, then moved. Rick called out orders, "Leave everything that can be spared. Food, cooking equipment, anything like that can be replaced. Take the tech, and travel as light as possible."

Jack offered Ianto his hand and dragged him up. "Is there anything you need to bring?"

"Yeah, just this," he pulled a smaller bag out of his pack and checked it, then shouldered it whilst Jack was still sorting through his. "I came prepared."

"Good thinking," Jack grinned and tossed the bits he was taking back into his pack, then fastened it and hauled it on, standing to kiss Ianto. "Running for our lives; it always seems to happen when he's around."

"Jack, Ianto, come on," Tosh called across to them.

Ianto nodded over at her and gave his abandoned pack a last forlorn look, then they hurried out of the building with everyone else. The Doctor was standing by the corner of the street, studying the map by the light of his sonic screwdriver, and looked up at their approach. "Is that everyone out?"

"We're the last, sir," Ianto confirmed. "Which way now?"

"That way," he pointed out the street and raised his head. "We'll go straight up the main road there's no use in subtlety now. A straight road, as fast as we can."

"And catch a bus if we find one," Ianto muttered, taking Jack's hand. "Let's go."

Tired as they were, without having had a proper rest, and pushing as fast as they could, it was painful and exhausting even with lighter loads. Ianto clasped Jack's hand tightly, squeezing harder as they went on and letting Jack keep him walking. Only Jack, Orlando and the Doctor weren't showing signs of tiredness Martin, Anton and Rick trudged on stoically, whilst Tosh and Owen stuck close together and in the middle of the group, concentrating on keeping up to keep themselves going. Orlando, who had proven himself a surprising crack shot and able to function on very small amounts of sleep, brought up the rear, whilst the Doctor led the way.

Finally, they passed the Irish Embassy on their left, dim lights sweeping up the drive towards an imposing house, and scurried across the road to the British Embassy across the road. Martin pressed the intercom repeatedly, turning to look at them anxiously when there was no answer. "You think they've been here?"

"Nothing we can do about it if they have," the Doctor pushed him out of the way and used his sonic screwdriver on the gates, pushing them just open enough for them to get through. "It's the only place we have inside, quickly."

They stumbled up the driveway and straight in at the front door, slamming it shut behind them. Inside, the house was silent, and the coppery smell of blood hung on the air. "Yes, they've been here," the Doctor looked around the entrance hall, giving them impression that he saw more than they could. "Martin, where's the garage?"

"Round the side, but it'll be empty..."

"Good, bring explosives. You, Orlando and Tosh, I want you to set the garage to blow, but not until we get through. Jack, you're in charge here. Hold them off for as long as you can, then guide them through to the garage. Ianto, you'd better come so that you can show them the way."

He nodded and released Jack's hand, hurrying after the group to the garage, then back to Jack. "It's down that hall and on the left. Jack, he wants you to..."

"Yeah, decoy, I figured," he looked around and laid out his strategy. "Anton and Rick in that doorway there, pick them off as they come through. Don't let them get close to you. Ianto, take the foot of the stairs, behind the curve," he reached into his bag and pulled out the device. "And take this. You have to get out of here with it."

"Jack..."

"No, Ianto," he turned him around and put it into his rucksack, then turned him back and took his hands. Screams and a clanging sounded as the gate opened. "You have to get out with it. If I'm a decoy... we can't risk it being damaged."

Ianto surged forwards and cupped the back of his neck to kiss him fiercely. "Don't keep us waiting too long."

"I won't," he promised, then pushed Ianto away. "Positions, guys, quick."

Ianto stumbled away from him, then dived for the cover of the staircase as they started hammering on the door. Anton leaned out of the doorway, having looked out of the window in the side room. "They have a Sandkin," he groaned as the door shuddered again.

"Shit," Jack leaned back against the sofa and looked up at Ianto. "Stay safe. For God's sake, stay safe."

"I intend to," Ianto smiled at him darkly and clicked the safety off. "Ready?"

Jack nodded and knelt up, looking over the top of the sofa as the doors burst open. The sound of gunshots echoed and rattled around the marble hallway over the screeching of strange, skittering creatures that called to mind a cross between a stick insect and a bat, and the roar of the Sandkin. The creatures fell quickly to the onslaught, and those that survived fell back behind the Sandkin to let it smash them aside. Jack had to reload before he could take aim, and it was virtually on him by the time he could fire again. It roared down at him and reached out with a giant hand, for what he didn't know, and his shots ricocheted off its thick skin. He fell onto his back on the floor, out of its reach, but trapped. From the corner of his eye, he saw Ianto break and come towards it, catching its attention, and his stomach tied itself into a knot. As he lurched upwards at it, though, it gave a low grunt and swayed, and when it turned down to look at him again he saw that someone had got a direct hit into its eye.

He backed off, waving Ianto, Anton and Rick down the corridor, and watched with some sadness as it toppled to the floor at his feet. Orlando grabbed his shoulder and pulled him away as the strange creatures burst in again. "I thought you might need some help," he grinned nervously and bolted down the corridor, leading the way.

They hared down the corridor and out through the garage, scattering the others in their path, and they all burst out of the small garage door like rabbits from a hole. Jack, at a nod from the Doctor, took his position in the doorway and held the creatures back whilst the team got far enough away. When the garage was full of them, none brave enough to approach him just yet, he slammed the door shut and hurtled down the garden towards them, throwing himself flat at a yell from Tosh, so that he felt the heat of the explosion graze over him.

He lay still for a moment, catching his breath as the fire settled behind him, and soon felt hands on his shoulders turning him over, and Ianto's hand cupped his cheek. "Jack, Jack, are you alright?"

"Yeah," he struggled upright and leaned on Ianto, glad of the comfort and reassurance. "Just winded myself falling."

"Only you," Ianto sighed, with evident relief. "Come on, we have to push."

He nodded and found Ianto's hand, holding on to follow him down the garden to the small back gate. The others were waiting for them, looking up at the Embassy as fire spread from the garage into the main house. "I think we can safely say that the British Government are not safe and well," the Doctor mused. "And neither are we yet. There will be more, and they'll come after us."

"What are they?"

"Okrani," he turned and ducked out through the overgrown bushes to find the gate. "Stupid, skittish and very dangerous. They'll use blades against guns and win through brutality and weight of numbers. They've been growing in number in the forest and mountain regions of Europe, especially in the foothills of the Himalayas."

"Do you think they're something to do with the Lashimi?" Ianto asked.

"I think they must be, but what?" he shoved his hands in his pockets and set off down the road, and they followed him without question. "Unless they brought them as an army, rather than get their own hands dirty. The Lashimi lost you when you caught the boat, and although they knew where you were, they didn't know where that was. Now... I don't know what they'll do now. They must be close."

"Where are we going now?" Rick asked when the Doctor paused on a street corner.

"To the NATO headquarters," he straightened his shoulders and looked at Rick. "We can't go to the EU, not if they're going to the Embassies. We go to the military and they get us to Geneva."

"Understood," they all nodded and he looked past them. "At a run, I think. We aim for the river."

If anyone saw them, they paid them no notice as they ran through the darkened streets, galvanised by the adrenaline of the near miss at the Embassy. They thought that their luck was up when they raced through the park and Okrani started to appear like ghosts from trees and bushes, but they scattered quickly, scared by something more than the small band of travellers. Jack and Ianto exchanged a worried look, and the Doctor stared off in the direction that the Okrani had fled from, fear written in his eyes. "Keep running."

"That was the plan," Jack pushed at him to get him moving again.

Finally, they reached the bridge to the NATO headquarters. Beyond, they could see sentries on duty, which told them that all was not lost. Behind them, a shadow trailed down the hill, darkening every light it passed. The bridge was only wide enough for one at a time, a cast iron construction that could have done with a coat of paint, or possibly rebuilding, and the river below swirled with the autumn's heavy rain, thick, fast and brown. Jack ushered Ianto ahead of him and looked back over his shoulder to find Rick ushering him in turn. "Across now, Captain. Whatever that creature is, we can't let it cross behind us."

He nodded and hurried across to join those who had already crossed, then looked back to see the Doctor standing in the middle of the bridge, hands on the rails at either side, leaning forwards with his sonic screwdriver in one hand against the rail. "Doctor?"

Ianto grabbed his wrist to stop him moving as the shadow stepped onto the bridge and suddenly blared brightly with the light it had taken in. Stillness fell for a moment, then the Doctor raised his screwdriver to point it at the rails of the bridge. "Go back," he told the shadowy form. "Go back and leave us."

It raised up in answer and the light glowed brighter, nearly blinding.

"I said go back," he activated the screwdriver and the bridge started creaking. "You shall not pass."

The shadow-light surged forwards again and the Doctor turned back as the shrill whining of his screwdriver increased. "Fly, you fools."

Jack yelled out and strained against Ianto's hold as the bridge crumbled and fell into the river, taking the Doctor and the shadow with it.

Sounds faded out around him, and Ianto pulled him away from the river and into the compound. The team's shocked expressions faded through his sight and out of his awareness. He was utterly numb, cold and empty inside. The Doctor was the one person he could count on, the one person who would always be there... always. Suddenly angry, he dragged himself out of Ianto's comforting grip, leaving him standing in the rain as he walked away. Rain ran into his eyes and sparked him to tears, chilling his skin to match the rest of him. He didn't know how long he stood there alone, arms wrapped around his chest as if that would stop it hurting, but he finally felt Ianto's hands rest on his shoulders and turn him, then guide him to and into a waiting car, where he simply held Jack and let him cry himself out.

When the numbness eased, pushed aside by pain, Jack tightened his arms around Ianto's waist and turned his head so that he could press a dry kiss to the hollow of his throat. "I'm sorry," he whispered.

"Don't be," Ianto chided, stroking his open palm down Jack's back. "I'm here for you, whatever you need."

Jack buried his face into Ianto's shoulder and nodded minutely. "Where is here?"

"We're in a car on the way to Geneva. There was only room for three to a car, so I commandeered the one with only two people," he pressed his lips to the top of Jack's head when he trailed off, and Jack shifted to get more comfortable against him. "Jack, what if... what if this is what he meant? Or he didn't know... Maybe..."

Jack shuddered and tightened his arms around Ianto further, to what must have been almost painful levels. "I know," he whispered. "I hope you're right, I really do. I can't lose you too, Ianto, not... not now."

"You won't." Ianto turned his head to kiss Jack's temple and held on fiercely.

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