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ArWen the Eternally Surprised
Author: Ria Time: 2007/11/22
Arwen encounters a strange monk and gains a little extra time.
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The Clash of Worlds: The Fellowship of Necessity
Submitter: Date: 2011/10/30 Views: 540
Chapter 13

They stopped in a tiny coastal village in the early afternoon, waiting for the cover of darkness and the larger boat which would take them across the sea. In the middle of the school hall they'd rented for the night, Tosh, Orlando and Ianto sat with their heads close together, poring over scans and printed results for any clue about what they would face once they reached Tel Aviv. Rick frowned at seeing Ianto without Jack close by and looked around the room for him. "Ianto, where's Jack?"

He looked up from the computer and searched the room with worried eyes. "I don't know. Did Anton not say anything either?"

"No," he pushed off the wall and went to offer Ianto a hand up. "They shouldn't wander off, Jack especially. Where might he have gone?"

"I... I don't know," Ianto ran a hand through his hair and looked around. "When's the boat due?"

"Any time now," Tosh looked up from the floor. "Ianto, he wouldn't leave without you."

"No?" Ianto grabbed his bag and strode towards the door. "Maybe if there was someone who'd take a message for him, he would."

"Anton wants the device to go to Milan," Rick pointed out. His and Ianto's eyes met and he nodded. "We need to find them."

"Ianto, these readings," Tosh called out, "I don't think our worry is what we're going to meet over the sea, I think they're here already."

Rick looked alarmed at Ianto, who nodded and ran a hand through his hair again. "Of course we have immediate problems, life would be so dull otherwise," he snapped. "How close?"

"I can't tell, not without doing more detailed scans that would give away their location."

Orlando nodded. "Find him, Ianto, and get him back here."

Jack stood amongst the graves, beneath an ancient yew tree, and closed his eyes to let the peace wash over him. This graveyard wasn't used any more it had filled up over the centuries, and the municipal graveyard in the next town was now the final resting place for village residents. Here under the yew and close to the walls of the church, the gravestones had been set before Jack arrived on Earth to start on his slow journey, but he would surely outlast them. Behind him, autumn leaves crunched under someone's feet and he swung around, hand flying to his gun, but he relaxed when he saw Anton. "I didn't think anyone would look for me here," he confessed.

Anton shrugged and smiled. "I followed you from the school. None of us should venture out alone; you least of all, Jack."

"You're right, of course," he conceded with a sigh. "I miss my freedom, being able to wander off and not tell anyone where I'm going is nice."

"I can believe that," Anton leaned against the tree and looked up through its branches to the sky. "It must be a heavy burden, to carry the world's only hope."

Jack gestured to the grave next to him and then the graveyard around them. "Sometimes I wonder why I do it, why I worry about the individuals when they'll be gone so soon anyway. Especially why I get involved with individuals, when the more people I know, the more people I'll lose. But eventually I realised, it's by looking after individuals that I can protect the world. If I can get Ianto, Tosh and Owen, and Gwen, through each day, they're still there to help others. Getting this... thing, to where it can destroy them, really, is no different and no harder than making sure that Gwen goes home to Rhys at the end of a working day."

"Or making sure that Ianto goes home with you."

"Yeah, or that," he agreed.

"Wouldn't you rather that were someone else's burden?" Anton asked sympathetically. "If we took it to Milan, we could fight them on our terms and our turf. It's too much of a risk sending you in there, for Ianto especially, but for the world as well."

"You know, using him to appeal to me emotionally is a really low blow," Jack objected stiffly, realising that he now needed to pass close to Anton to get out of the graveyard, and not really trusting the man enough. "I thought it was below you."

"I'm just concerned, Jack," Anton protested. "Can't you understand that? You don't see the pitched battles that we do, but I know you've seen them in war, Captain. If you'd had access to the information held on that device, that could have saved your men's lives, but weren't allowed to use it, what would you have done?"

"That would depend entirely on whether I trusted my leaders," he answered quietly. "I trust the Doctor to choose the right thing."

"Really? After what he chose during that year?" a smile flickered when Jack stiffened. "Of course I know about that year, Jack. My father replaced Colonel Sampson, remember?"

"Yes, I trust him. And it's because of that year, not in spite of it," he hissed. "I know that he will always put this world first, above everything."

"Even over you?"

"Especially over me," he pulled back further as Anton took a step forwards and the backs of his knees bumped into the grave. "Anton."

Anton froze in his advance and they glared daggers at each other, then Jack moved off the grave, pushing past him roughly and striding out of the graveyard. Anton called after him fiercely, "You'll take it straight into their hands, Captain, and you will see him die and then you will see this world fall."

He broke into a run down the hill, towards the jetty. His muscles burned with the exertion and his lungs with the cold, and running down a slope like this was the closest thing to flying. Seeing Rick rounding the corner, he slowed to a stop and caught his breath. "What about you, Rick? Do you agree with Anton?"

"Not recently," Rick broke off approaching him when Jack backed away. "What has he said?"

"That we should go to Milan," he swallowed and took another deep breath to steady his heart rate. "And that I'm going to kill us all."

"Then no," Rick reassured him, resting a hand on Jack's shoulder when he finally relaxed. "You're doing the right thing, you know you are."

"Yeah. Rick..." they both looked down as Jack's wrist-strap started beeping rapidly.

"That thing never beeps," Rick frowned at him.

"And yet still more often than I'd like it to," Jack flipped it open and his face paled. "Oh no."

"Shit," Rick pushed Jack away, down the hill. "Get to the boat and go, Jack. I'll find Ianto..."

"No," Jack gripped his wrist. "Look after him."

Rick held his gaze for a moment before nodding his assent, and Jack released him. "He'll never forgive you."

"As long as he's alive," Jack squeezed Rick's shoulder and took off down the hill again, and Rick turned up the hill towards the screaming.

He found the graveyard where Anton had accosted Jack swarming with Okrani. They were larger than the ones that had caught them in Brussels, and there was a blue sheen to their scales. He pulled back behind a parked van to use it as cover and started picking them off from a distance, but it was clearly only a matter of time before he would have to resort to knife fighting to protect himself.

Jack got into the main village before he encountered trouble again. Okrani thundered down the main street past where he was crouched behind a car, and every time he thought the coast was clear, another group would appear. Across the road from him, Tosh and Owen crouched below the window of the village pub, appearing over it every time the coast was clear to beckon him over to them.

He shook his head yet again and Owen gripped Tosh's arm. "He's leaving."

She stuttered and stared at Jack. "He... but... No," pulling away from him, she pushed the door open and made it halfway across the road before he grabbed her again. "Owen!"

"Tosh, let him..." Okrani surged around the corner ahead of them, coming from the direction of the jetty, and Owen tugged Tosh's arm. "Jack, go. Hey!" he raised his voice and snatched up a stone from the road to throw towards the Okrani. "This way!"

Tosh caught on and took a couple of steps backwards up the hill, away from Jack. "Looking for us? We're over here." The Okrani, after a moment's hesitation, started forwards towards them again. "Owen, it's working."

"Yes, Tosh, I know it's working. Now run," he pushed her up the hill and they ran, drawing the Okrani away from Jack, who closed his eyes in a heartfelt prayer for them and dashed from his hiding place.

Rick was hard pressed to keep his position now. If any more attacked him from another angle, he would be in serious trouble. They were getting braver now, and would soon realise that if they attacked in a large group, their individual chances of survival were higher which, admittedly, didn't appear to be high on their list of priorities and he couldn't possibly take them all down before they killed him.

So his relief when he heard yells approaching from behind him, and saw several of the creatures fall to Orlando's exceptional shooting before he and Martin joined Rick behind his van, was enormous. Orlando grinned at him and took another three down with the remainder of his clip whilst Rick reloaded, then reloaded his own gun whilst Rick took over. "We thought you might need some help over here."

"Thanks," he chuckled dryly and knelt up again to pick more off. "We just need to keep them busy long enough for Jack to get away."

They considered this in silence, Martin watching the way he and Orlando had come. "He'll be alright, as long as Ianto's with him?"

Rick shook his head. "He's gone alone," and he was out of bullets again, so he sank down next to Martin to reload. "Ianto's going to be pissed."

"Seriously," Orlando breathed out and glanced down at him. "Where is he?"

"I've not seen him since he went to the jetty to look for Jack."

Martin gritted his teeth and pushed himself upright. "It's swarming with Okrani down there. Fuck, I hope he's alright."

Tosh yelped as Owen tugged her down a little side alley again and glanced behind her at the following hoard of Okrani. They burst out the other end of the alley into a car park and stopped dead, finding themselves faced with another hoard ahead. They drew their guns and stood back to back. "Jack's gonna kill us for this," Owen whispered.

"Yeah," she agreed. "Hopefully."

He laughed bitterly and nudged his shoulder back into hers. "Blaze of glory, couldn't ask for more, yeah?"

"Yep, definitely," she smiled and set her shoulders. "Just wish they'd get on with it."

One of the larger Okrani snarled and lurched forwards towards them, and Owen was bracing himself to take the shot when Anton appeared out of nowhere, bringing it to the ground with a tackle and stabbing it with a long blade. He pulled the blade out and pointed it at them with a grin. "In France too we play rugby. This fight, it is knife work."

Owen offered him a hand up and accepted the two blades he offered. "Kitchen knives? Better than nothing, I suppose."

"Anything is better than nothing."

Martin whacked another of the creatures with his spade and stamped his foot down on it. "I need a sword, a big sword," he stated as calmly as he could. "I'd look fantastic with a sword."

Orlando peered out from under the dashboard of the van for long enough to say, "Axe, big axe," then disappeared below it again to carry on swearing at the wiring. Rick and Martin stood at each of the doors, protecting him, whilst he hotwired the van for use as an offensive weapon.

Rick was about to snap at him to hurry it up before they got slaughtered when the van lurched into life, and Orlando gave a whoop. "Right, Martin, in."

"You're closer," Martin hurled himself around the front of the van and shoved Rick in before him. "Now drive, Orlando, drive!"

"We need to find Anton," Rick said grimly. "Ianto will have found Jack, however much Jack wishes he wouldn't, and Tosh and Owen will be together, but I expect that Anton's alone."

"God help him," Martin sighed.

Anton slashed at another of the Okrani which got too close and ducked under the blade of another, backing up further with Tosh and Owen. They had no idea where they were now, only that they were a long way from the jetty. They were all flagging, and the enemies were an unending tide. One of them grabbed at Tosh, again, and he dove to the side to dispatch it, only to feel white hot pain in his side. He lashed out without thinking, then clamped his hand to his side and felt the warm flow of blood. Time seemed to slow and crystallise, then raced ahead again after another, deeper, stab. Tosh yelled as they used her distraction to grab her, and Owen snarled and launched himself at them, only to be dragged away himself. Anton dropped to his knees and dropped his knife to be able to press both hands to his wounds, but it was clearly an exercise in futility.

He looked up as one of the remaining Okrani approached him, and he snarled at it. "You're just pawns, aren't you?"

The creature grinned and nodded, drawing a fearsome looking knife. It hesitated, then raised it to strike him.

The blow never came, though; mostly because the Okrani was run down by a bright yellow van. He had to laugh, even as his vision blacked out for a moment.

When it returned, Rick was applying pressure to his wounds and trying to get his attention. "Anton, where's Owen?"

"He, taken," he gasped, dropping his head back when the pressure caused the pain to spike. "Some plan, they wanted Tosh and Owen, and not me. They've taken them."

"Anton, focus, you have to stay with me, okay?"

He shook his head and smiled. "I'm dead, Richard. Find them, find Jack."

"Jack's gone," Rick told him, hoping it was true.

"With Ianto?"

"We don't know."

"Find Ianto too," Anton coughed and closed his eyes. "You'll make a good director, Richard. I would have been proud to be one of your captains."

Rick held him tighter when he fell still and bowed his head. "Too many already," he whispered.

Orlando squeezed his shoulder and crouched down behind him. "We can't stay here, Rick. Those creatures will return for us."

He shook his head, but laid Anton down. "No, they got what they came for. We need to make sure that Ianto isn't lying dead somewhere, then follow them. Wherever they're taking Tosh and Owen, if they have Ianto, that's where he'll be taken too."

"What about Anton?"

"We'll lay him out in the church," he stood up and looked towards the sea. "Put him in the van for now, we have to look for the living first. Then if..."

"If Ianto's lying there somewhere, we can lay them out together," Martin finished for him.

Ianto had gone straight to the jetty to find Jack, only to discover that the boat wasn't in yet. Rather than go in search of him, though, he had settled into the shadow of a stack of crates to wait, unobserved, for his errant husband to make a bid for freedom.

The sounds of fighting drifted to him on the breeze, and all he could do was hope and pray that his friends were safe. His duty was to Jack, to make sure that the idiot didn't try to go on alone. The boat drew up to the jetty and he held his position, still waiting. He didn't have long to wait after that, though, before Jack's boots thudded on the boards and he was barking orders to the boat crew to go immediately. Ianto took a deep breath and stepped out from his hiding place, hurrying towards the boat. "Jack, you're not going anywhere without me."

The boat had already been undone from its moorings and was starting to pull away from the jetty. Jack hurried to the side and leaned over it, starting at him as if he'd never see him again, but showed no intention of changing his mind. "I'm sorry, Ianto. You know I can't risk you."

"That is not your decision to make," he shrugged his bag off and swung it from one hand, having to shout now over the distance. "If you don't come back for me, I'll swim for it."

"You can't swim the Mediterranean," Jack scoffed.

Ianto shrugged and slung his bag onto the boat it was a good throw and a good shot, and it thudded onto the deck right next to Jack. "I know, but you're not leaving me like this."

"Ianto, I'm not, Ianto!" Ianto had ignored him and dived into the water, striking out strongly towards the boat. Over the sound of the water around his ears, he could hear Jack's frantic instructions, then felt a rope splash into the water close to him and a hand close around his wrist.

Between them, Jack and one of the crew of the boat pulled Ianto up onto the deck, and Jack dragged Ianto into his arms and held him tightly. Ianto was content to be held against Jack's solid warmth now, letting it chase away some of the chill, which he hadn't anticipated. Jack's lips on his a moment later chased away even more of the chill, as it burned with some of the strange, fierce energy that kept Jack bound to life. It wasn't the first time that he'd felt the energy like this, and hopefully not the last, but it was definitely one of the most welcome. He broke the kiss for long enough to breathe, then surged up again for another.

When they finally parted again, Jack was cradling Ianto against him and trembling. "I wanted you safe, idiot."

Ianto rested his head on Jack's shoulder and held him just as tightly. "I promised, I promised I wouldn't let you go on alone. And I don't mean to break that promise."

"Thank you," Jack kissed his forehead and helped him up. "And now we need to get you into dry clothes. Can't have you coming all this way to die of pneumonia."

"No," Ianto agreed. "That would completely defeat the object of the exercise."

Rick closed the heavy oak doors and leaned back on them, facing towards the sea and, he hoped, Jack and Ianto. "They're beyond our help now. All the evidence suggests that they found each other, and that they're crossing to Tel Aviv now. Tosh and Owen are our priority. We need to find them and find out why they wanted them in the first place."

"How do we follow them?" Martin asked. "We don't have any idea as to where they might be taking them."

"Well, East," Rick pointed out. "And they're far from subtle. Look at the devastation they've wreaked here. All we have to do is follow the news reports."

"And get as much help as we can," Orlando added.

"That too," Rick nodded to the van. "As we're saving the world, do you think they'll mind us stealing the van?"

"Possibly, but I don't much care," Orlando patted the side and rubbed at an Okrani-inflicted dent. "I'm going to call him Duncan."

"I like it," Rick opened the door and got in. "The three hunters, and Duncan. We'll get them out of there, wherever there is."

"Yeah, we will," Orlando started the engine up and they drove out of the village, into the East.

Read the second part in this series, The Three Paths.

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