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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: 543
Chapter 5

Jack buttoned his cuffs as he jogged down the stairs, hair still damp from the shower (Ianto still sprawled out on the bed), and paused halfway down, well aware of the fact that the creaking stairs had given him away anyway. Tosh laughed and said his name, and an unfamiliar voice asked a question. He fastened the other cuff whilst he took the last few steps and pushed the door open to step out behind the bar, assessing the newcomer, who really shouldn't have been there, sharply. "Tosh, Owen, Gwen?"

The stranger smiled and got up, extending his hand. "Captain Harkness."

"No," he studied the hand and folded his arms. "That's me. Who are you?"

He dropped his hand and lifted his chin. "We need to talk, somewhere private."

"They're my team," Jack told him sternly. "Anything you'd say to me, you can say to them."

"How far into this are you willing to drag them?" the stranger reached into an inside pocket and showed Jack a top level UNIT security clearance. "How much..."

"Come with me," he cut him off and went back to the stairs. "And don't let anyone else in, even if they are UNIT."

Captain Richard Rant followed him up the narrow stairs and stopped in the doorway when he saw Ianto glaring at him slightly fuzzily and, thankfully, fully clothed. "I'm afraid..."

"Captain, this is my husband, Ianto Jones," Jack sat on the bed and gestured to the chair next to the wardrobe. "Do carry on."

"I know what you carry."

"I'm happy for you, so do I," Jack folded his arms. "Who are you and what do you want?"

The click of Ianto's cartridge slotting into his gun was loud in the silence that followed, and the UNIT captain watched him warily, shifting his stance to a much more passive one, even though Ianto didn't look up from what he was doing. "How far would you go for him, Mr Jones?"

"Oh don't you start," he scoffed and gestured at Jack. "I've had this discussion with him too many times. I'd follow him to the end of the world."

"It is the end of the world."

"As we know it," Ianto looked up at him. "Seriously, we've had this discussion. So what. Do. You. Want?"

"You're waiting for the Doctor."

"Not exactly," Jack corrected him. "That would be an exercise in futility, and we don't have a spare century. You've seen him?"

"At UNIT London," he confirmed. "He was planning on being able to come back here to meet you and take you to London by TARDIS, but something came up."

"Something always comes up when he's around," Jack sighed. "Besides, TARDIS travel is too risky with them onto us already."

"Yes, we told him that," Captain Rant agreed. "You know what he's like, though."

Jack nodded and extended a hand. "Captain Jack Harkness, this is my husband, Ianto Jones. Call me Jack."

"Captain Rant, Rick to almost everyone. I've been sent to get you to UNIT by the back roads."

"We go by car?" Jack checked.

Rick sat back and shook his head. "We'll have to go cross country on foot. The boat will meet us to the West of the city and take us around the coast to Norfolk, where another boat will take us inland on the canals and rivers until it can't go any further, then we'll have to walk or get transport if it's safe to do so. Ely to Ely by boat, essentially."

"You seem to be very organised."

Rick smiled over at Ianto and inclined his head. "That's my job. We have to leave as soon as the streets get busy tonight. The cover of darkness and drunkenness is the best we can hope for for this part of the journey, and they'll be close on our tail from the moment we set off. It'll be at least a week before we reach London, and that's already too long."

Jack stood up and squeezed Ianto's shoulder. "I suggest you get some sleep, then. Gwen, Rhys and I will cover the pub, I'll send Tosh and Owen up too, and make you a room up, Rick."

"Thanks. I'm sorry to drop on you like this and present you with a fait accompli..."

"Keep us alive and I really won't care."

Rhys had taken their bags to the Harwoods office when he took the van back there, ready for them to collect when they got out to that side of town, leaving Jack, Gwen and Andy Davidson to cover the bar for the few locals who poked their noses into the reopened pub whilst the others got some sleep.

Glancing up at the clock, Jack slipped out from behind the bar and headed upstairs to wake them, ready to leave as soon as the pub was clear. He went to Ianto last, letting himself into the room to sit on the bed next to him. The movement of the mattress was enough to wake him and he blinked blearily up at Jack before rolling over to bury his head in the pillow. Jack chuckled and trailed the tips of his fingers over Ianto's exposed shoulder, digging into the tense muscle. "Come on Ianto, we have to..."

When he stopped, Ianto lifted his head and followed Jack's gaze to the window, scrambling out of bed when Jack went to look out. He'd barely undressed to go to bed, just taken off his shoes and T shirt, and he pulled them back on at Jack's expression. "What do we do?"

"Out the back way, down the fire exit," he turned back and caught Ianto's shoulders, holding him in place to kiss his forehead. "I'll get everyone out after you, wait in the garden by the gate for them. Once they're all there, go. I'll catch you up."


"I promise," he released him and hurried to the door. "We don't have time."

Tosh, Owen and Rick were ready by the time he returned to them, and they followed Ianto out down the fire escape whilst Jack hurried down into the bar again. Gwen greeted him with a knowing smile, which dropped when she saw him properly. "What is it?"

"They're outside, or someone is," he squeezed her shoulders and pushed her towards the back door. "Get out and wait with them, but wait behind and tell me the route they've taken."

She hesitated before she followed his push out the back door into the garden. Beyond her, he could just see the shadows of his friends moving into the trees that lined the back fence, safely sheltered from the view of anyone in the pub. At the bar, Andy was watching him worriedly. He collected a few abandoned glasses on his way back and nodded at the clock. "Last orders time."

With a nod, Andy turned to ring the bell, putting his back to the pub. "What's going on, Jack?"

"We've been found, we have to get out of here."

"Then go," he muttered, turning back to the bar to start serving the last orders round. "I can cope with this, it's a pub. Simple."

Jack shook his head and carried on collecting glasses. It was chance that he was ducked behind the counter putting the glasses into the dishwasher when the door opened again. Andy kicked him and announced loudly. "Sorry, too late, we're shutting up."

Utter silence had fallen. Jack sat back against the dishwasher and listened to light, ringing footsteps coming across the tiled floor, hoping that they wouldn't look over the bar. "We're looking for Torchwood." The voice was high and bright, and slightly distorted, leading Jack to believe that they were using a translation device.

Andy laughed and reached over above Jack to ring the bell again. "Yeah, you and half of Cardiff. Come round tomorrow and maybe someone will be able to tell you what they think Torchwood are up to."

"You know Torchwood."

"I know that Torchwood's a load of bollocks," he countered. "Trust me, I was with the police. If Torchwood were really around here, I'd have heard about it. Time, please."

"You know..."

"Look," the old guy who'd been sitting at the bar for four hours now spoke up next. "We in Wales are used to being invaded. We might not like it, but we'll put up with it. You let us get on with our lives and we won't put up a fuss. Try to interfere and you'll bring out the Welsh Dragon on yourselves."

"Do you threaten us?"

"No, just a warning. Friendly like. Bad at taking instruction, we are."

There was a drawn out hiss and the footsteps shifted. "If you hear of Torchwood..."

"You'll be the last to know about it," the old guy confirmed.

The volume of talk increased again over the sound of the footsteps returning to the door. A minute or so after the door shut, Andy stepped back and offered Jack his hand. "I reckon you're safe now."

He took the offered hand and let Andy pull him up. "Thank you," he offered his hand to the old guy. "They're on the house tomorrow."

"No need for that, lad. Anyone who knows about Torchwood knows who you are. You'd better get out after your girl, make sure she's safe."

"She's not my girl," he grinned and grabbed a few cans from the fridge under the counter. "I need to catch them, though, before they go too far. Can you manage, Andy?"

"Yeah, I can manage," he got out from behind the bar to collect glasses and let Jack out, and Jack picked up his coat and Ianto's battered leather jacket from the hook by the door. "Good job it didn't spot those."

"I guess it is," he agreed. "Are you going to stay here?"

"Until you get back. Look after them, Jack."

"As long as you look after Gwen and Rhys for us," he reached across the bar and picked up the unopened bottle of whiskey. "We'll be back before you know it."

He'd nearly made it to the door when Andy called his name. He turned back and looked at him questioningly. "He'll be alright," Andy told him firmly. "You'll bring him home."

Jack smiled, hoping that it hid his doubt, and let himself out into the garden. The lone figure on the dilapidated swing turned more towards him and then stood up as he got closer. "Jack?"

"They've gone," he told her. "Andy put them off, for the moment at least. They might come back tonight, though."

"We'll be on our guard," Gwen assured him. "They're only ten minutes ahead of you, you should catch them if you push."

"Where to?"

"To Harwoods," she fished in her pocket and passed him a note. "From Ianto. They're heading over to the Taff and going up the river, out that way. Good luck, Jack. Keep them safe."

He kissed her cheek and pulled back, putting the note in his pocket with the drinks until he found a streetlight where he could read it. "I don't know how long this will take, but I will bring them home."

"I know you will. Now go on," she pushed him towards the back gate and he ducked under the low branches, out onto the street.

He set a fast pace, cutting through the back streets without having to think about it, he knew them so well. Not even Ianto knew his way around Cardiff as well as Jack did, although their night time activities (of the work related sort) were teaching him.

Jinking through alleys and ginnels, and even through the occasional back yard, brought him onto the tow-path of the Taff unnoticed. Now here, he had a dilemma, as he had no way of telling whether the others had come past here yet, or if they were actually behind him. No trackers because they were in their phones and comms, which they'd left behind, and no means of contacting them for similar reasons. He crouched by a puddle and tried to read the shoe prints, but he was painfully out of practice and it was a popular route.

Footsteps coming down the path towards him caught his attention and he melted back into the shadows of the tiny, overgrown path he'd come down to wait for them. They got closer and closer, and nearly muffled the clicks of their guns. He held his breath and pulled back even further, ready to run if he had to, so when it was Rick who told him to show himself he didn't really know what to do.

They all untensed somewhat when they saw him, and re-holstered their guns. "When I told you I'd catch you up, I didn't mean for you to catch me up," he chuckled at their shocked faces. "More homework needed on the back streets of Cardiff when we get back."

"Well, we've got the expert with us now. Are you ready to lead us now, Captain?" Rick asked.

Jack passed Ianto his jacket and nodded. "Ready and willing, let's push on. It's another half an hour to Harwoods yet."

Ianto fell into step beside him, with Tosh and Owen behind them and Rick bringing up the rear. They were all still highly alert and tense, hands never straying far from their guns along the open tow-path. He looked over when Ianto nudged his arm and smiled. "Hey, you okay there?"

He nodded and brushed his fingers over the back of Jack's hand. "Is that a bottle of whiskey in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?"

"Am I allowed to say both?" Jack laughed. "I thought we might need it, it'll get cold at nights."

"It already is cold at nights," Ianto pointed out with a smile. He searched Jack's face as they passed under a streetlight and caught his fingers. "Did they get you?"

"No, I got lucky," he reassured him. "Andy's good at lying about Torchwood."

"He's a good bloke," Ianto agreed. Jack let him think, as there was clearly something on his mind. Eventually, without looking at Jack again, he asked, "did you read my note?"

Jack's fingers twitched against the piece of paper in his pocket and he shook his head. "Not had chance to stop for long enough yet. Should I?"

"Oh, no, it doesn't matter now," he pulled his hand away from Jack's and shoved it in his pocket. "Just the codes for the garage at Harwoods, if you were that far behind us."

"Ianto, give me some credit," he sighed. "I know you better than that."

"Yeah," he trailed off and tucked his head down. "I guess you do."

"So what was it?"

"Oh, just me realising that... you haven't died for a while, not when I couldn't be there," he shrugged, looking almost embarrassed. "I felt guilty, if I wasn't going to be there."

"I didn't die though," Jack slipped his hand into Ianto's pocket and curled their fingers together. "But thank you."

Ianto fell silent again, holding onto Jack's fingers with his own until they had to break apart to get through the narrow alleys to Harwoods. Rhys was waiting to let them in by the little side gate, and ushered them into his office where he'd put the bags. Jack opened his own and checked the device, then wrapped the bottle in a shirt and shoved that into his bag too. The others were checking their bags and putting the last few things into them whilst he did this, and he checked the clock as he straightened up. "What do you think, Rick? We can get another three hours walking in before dawn."

Owen grunted and Rick nodded. "Yeah, we'll push on, stop for a couple of hours at dawn, then push on again during the day. We should get there sometime during the morning, and we can hole up until it's dark enough to take the boat across."

"We've had worse days," Tosh pointed out. "Let's go."

"That's my girl," Jack grinned. "I'd like to say we'll keep in touch, Rhys, but we can't. We'll get a message to you from London if we can."

"Just do what you do, and keep me out of it," he shoved his hands in his pockets and looked out into the darkness. "I know it's what you all have to do, but I wish it hadn't happened on Gwen's watch."

"No one wants it to happen on their watch," Owen told him shortly. "Or that of anyone they care about. Look at Jack and Ianto, they've got stuck with both. Be glad she's back here, safe, not coming with us."

"Oh, I am," he hurried to reassure them, retracting his foot from his mouth and avoiding looking at Jack and Ianto, who were avoiding looking at each other. "It's just... why Earth?"

Jack shrugged. "Why anywhere? It's here. Come on; Tosh is right, we have to go."

He stepped out onto the forecourt and breathed in the night air, tasting the poisons of the lorries' exhausts. Rick joined him and stepped up close to him. "You should leave him behind, Jack. He'll distract you from what you have to do."

"I know," he agreed. "But you try telling him that."

"Try telling me what?"

"Not you, Owen," Rick sighed. "Ianto."

"Oh, you think he should stay behind too?"

"Yes, Jack won't focus if Ianto's there and in danger," Rick ignored Jack's huff. "Partners shouldn't do this sort of thing together."

"Why not?" Ianto challenged from behind them. "You barely know us, who are you to say that we can't work together? How do you know that we could adjust to not having each other there?"

"He's coming," Jack insisted. "I'd be worse if I left him behind."

"Fine, just don't get us killed," Rick tightened the straps on his bag so that it settled higher on his shoulders. "After you, Captain."

"Where am I leading us to?"


He set his shoulders and looked up at the sky. "Call it six hours to get there, we've got three hours before we need to get our heads down. We'll find somewhere in Ely."

They took footpaths away from the main roads out of Cardiff, keeping their heads down and keeping their pace as fast as they could take it. Tosh was flagging fastest, but she kept up with them despite it, trekking on doggedly as the sky lightened above them, dusky blue smudging the stars away.

They stopped in the park in Ely, flopping into the shade of the trees to rest tired feet and legs. Ianto settled next to Jack and leaned into him, accepting an arm around his shoulders. They sat there in silence for a while, steadying their breathing and stretching their abused muscles in the cold morning air. Rick shifted his bag and lay back on the grass, turning his head away from Jack and Ianto.

Ianto was the first to move, pulling away from Jack and standing up. He flexed his shoulders and looked around them, then reached down to offer Jack his hand. "Breakfast time," he wiggled his fingers. "There's a Tesco down the street, we can get some bits there and eat here, then I'll go find us somewhere to stay."

"Good thinking," Jack agreed, taking Ianto's hand and letting himself be pulled to his feet. "After you."

"Couldn't one of us find somewhere to stay whilst you're gone?" Rick suggested. "some places must be open early enough."

"Yeah, but Ianto's the only Welsh one," Owen pointed out with a yawn. "You get used to using the Welsh one to get stuff done."

Ianto snorted and headed out of the park, with Jack hot on his heels. They strolled down the quiet streets to the supermarket, where the girl behind the counter watched them blearily as if she'd much rather be back in bed, and didn't think that they should be so with it at such a god-awful time of the morning. She rang up the pastries, sandwiches, fruit and bottles of fizzy drinks that they'd bought and managed half a smile at Jack's overly cheerful 'good morning', then went back to sleeping on the checkout until more people arrived.

They dropped their spoils onto the grass and reached into the bags for food and drink before the others could get there. "Chef's prerogative," Jack announced around a mouthful of muffin. "We went, we get to pick."

"There's plenty," Ianto reassured them, although not until he'd found the doughnuts and made sure he got one. "Jack went a bit mad."

"Wait, I went a bit mad?"

"That's what I said," Ianto smirked and pulled out the bottle of orange fizzy. "It's a well known fact that I'm very good at shopping and buying only what we need."

"Only to people who don't live with you," Jack pointed out. "I've seen our drinks cabinet."

"I like our drinks cabinet," Ianto waved the doughnut at him. "It's friendly and welcoming."

"You missed a word," Jack filled the pause with a hiss as he twisted the cap of the drinks bottle. "It's friendly, welcoming and full."

"Full is good. An empty drinks cabinet is a very sad thing."

"Do you two ever shut up?" Rick groaned. "Honestly, from the stories I was told I thought I'd have most problems with you flirting, not having to put up with something out of Stepford Wives."

"Oh God, they've been like this for ages," Owen propped himself up and reached for a sandwich. "Since before they got married."

"I'm coming to the startling conclusion that you're all mad," Rick announced.

"Sanity isn't conducive to surviving at Torchwood," Jack pointed out, only slightly bitterly. "If you're sane when you arrive, you won't stay that way."

In the silence, they all heard something, a soft footstep in the bushes behind Tosh. They drew their weapons and got to their feet. "Stand your ground," Jack instructed. "Let them come to us."

"Preferably before the park fills with kids on their way to school," Ianto pointed out.

Three aliens stepped out of the wood quickly, though. They were armed for hand to hand combat rather than distance fighting, so the team had the advantage for the moment. They were tall and slim and silvery in colour, with double bone structures along their limbs, one protruding in an arc above the skin. Their movements were surprisingly angular and jerky, and they jerked forwards towards the team, raising their weapons. "Surrender, Torchwood."

"On what terms?" Rick demanded, glancing over at Jack.

"You will be taken from this place and will serve our army, for the glory of your planet and our empire."

"And if we refuse?"

"Then you will die."

Jack nodded and released the safety on his Webley. "We'll take our chances."

They opened fire as the aliens surged forwards. Bullets glanced off the protruding bone structure and off their weapons, but not enough to save two of them, who fell fast. The last one, though, was on them before they could take aim again, and drove into Jack fiercely, forcing him to the floor as its blade thrust into his chest. He jerked and his mouth opened in a silent scream as electricity surged through him from the weapon and the alien slumped on top of him.

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