The ground shuddered as if it were a large wet dog trying to shrug off droplets of water. Tish felt her feet loose traction, as she became a preverbal droplet along with everyone around her.
The grinding of metal mixed with the screams of human skittles rent the air as the world shook again. Tish found herself on her hands and knees amongst rubble. Rubble?
Looking up she noted for the first time the devastation around her. She remembered 9/11 and looked at a repeated landscape. With a cry of outrage she regained her feet, looking for explanation. They had failed. The machine had dialled up, the vortex had been manipulated by those maniacs at UNIT.
No planes in the sky, no birds. The realisation that even the pigeons were absent from the sky filled her with dread. Looking about her showed the birds flapping mournfully about the square as though drunk. Magnetic pulse? Atmospheric displacement perhaps?
The sky was shaking too, no. Not shaking. Shimmering. A ribbon of colour rippled across the atmosphere making her think of the aurora borealis but this was not the same. Not in the middle of London at 2pm in the afternoon.
The colours were like oil on water. As she watched it twisted and curled. Furling and unfurling, rolling towards her about 20 feet in front of her frozen form.
As the ribbon slowly floated towards the ground she steeled herself for the next shake. She was right. This one was a doozey, throwing her into the wall of what had once been a building but looked more like a Taleeban house after our boys were finished dropping ordinance.
Tish lay prone with her cheek against the hard cobbles. That's gonna bruise for sure, she thought to herself with a snort.
Hands. Strong and insistent hands were lifting her and pushing her forward.
"Move!" a voice hissed with pain.
Turning as she began to stumble in the direction that he was urging her, she noted a young man with blood and dust marring his work suit. He was looking towards the corner of the square with a determination that she found comforting. He knew where they were going. He had a plan.
He stumbled and she reached out to grab his arm. His cry of pain was the first indication she had that he was injured. My god, the blood was his. A lot of it. A gash to his head was still seeping down his temple and around his ear to pool on his shoulder.
That meant the blood on his side must be from another injury. He seemed to know her thoughts and turned his face towards her. Their eyes met for the first time and she read something she didn't expect to see. Mixed with the pain and urgency was a gleam of excitement.
Oh great. A thrill seeker! Tish shook her head and instead tries to concentrate on where they were going.
An hour passed without comment, still stumbling and lagging with fatigue she wondered if they were ever going to stop.
Finally he stopped. Yeah, just stopped dead in the street and looked out along the wharf with a sigh of something that sounded a lot like sorrow.
Turning to face her again, he took her hands and looked into her face. His was pale and strained, blood loss was finally stripping the last of his reserves and he had to make her understand what was going on.
"We need to go under the pier, down by the water mark. You'll see a door. Not a regular door so you have to look for it. I may not be able to help you much longer. I'm already slowing you down. We need to get there before …" he stopped and closed his eyes like he was summoning the right words.
"Something bad is coming. On the rift ribbon. Following me I think. We must get underground and keep quiet so they pass us by." His sincerity urged her on.
She grabbed his arm and helped him along the path down to the waters edge. As they followed the water's skirts he stumbled with a cry of pain.
She turned to urge him on and saw the cause for his stumble. A dog-like creature had latched onto his ankle. Long bluish black fur fell from a lean greyhound shaped body. The teeth were long and curved. Curved into his flesh. With a scream of horror Tish surged forward and grabbed the creature by the throat.
Working together, they forced its jaws open and his ankle joined its mate behind him as they struggled to keep control of the beast. His hands found a rock and he began slamming it down on the creature's head.
"Quick thinking" he panted with a grim smile.
"Training I guess. I work for … well. I know how to breathe in an emergency" she gasped back.
"Yes well … breathing is important you know" he deadpanned.
Realising her comment she laughed at his response and helped him back to his feet. The door was close and they hobbled towards it.
He was muttering to himself quietly. A snatch of words drifted her way and she recognised the phrase he was repeating.
"It's the end of the world as we know it …"
Another creature made its presence known with a shriek as it launched itself at Tish. The hand in her back that shoved her forward needed no follow through as she dropped to her knees in shock. He caught the creature and continued its trajectory towards the ground with increased speed and force, smashing it's skull into the ground with a satisfied grunt.
"Thanks" she swallowed down her disgust at the smell of the thing as he looked about warily.
"You remind me of someone I used to know. She was beautiful too. Clever and quick. I think you're gonna make it. God, did I just start to quote a rock song back there?"
The laughter dimmed as the adrenaline began to wear off and she pounded on the door. After a few minutes she turned to him with a frown.
"Are you sure there's someone in there?" she asked noting his pallor and reached to hold him against her as the shudders of pain increased. "What if there wasn't time to evacuate?"
"Christ. I think there was something in that bite. God!" he groaned.
The door finally swung open and they fell into the corridor of the facility.
"Tish" a voice shrieked and she looked up into the face of her sister.
"Martha! Oh thank God!" she cried with joy.
"Martha Jones, sound of a nightingale so I've been told. Should've known!" another voice said quietly and Martha froze.
She stepped around Tish to view the man sprawled on the floor as a medic saw to his ankle. Silently she fell to her knees and pulled him into a fierce hug with great sobs shaking her body.
They rocked and spoke softly in a language Tish didn't understand before another noise took her attention.
Mickey was sprinting, his jacket flapping behind him and his usually ever-present gun absent as his hands reached forward like he was grabbing for faster movement from thin air. As he reached the door he spun around his wife and her companion to slam into the metal siding.
"Is this secure?" he shouted unnecessarily in the small space.
"Mickey?" Tish touched his arm.
"Those bloody things are fucking everywhere!" he growled looking down at his wife for the first time.
She was kneeling at his feet kissing a prone, bloody, dirty man in a suit and tie.
"Babe?" he frowned.
"Help me get him to the med-bay" she ordered, regaining her feet.
Silently they all walked down the slopping corridor into the complex. Monitors flickered as the carnage above ground continued. The sound was muted on each screen but the anguish in the faces of those unlucky enough to be caught outside was speaking silent volumes.
Her earpiece crackled into life as a familiar voice boomed loud enough for Mickey to stop walking and turn to stare at her. With a flick of his hand the live audio feed filled the room with sound.
Panting and a groan of pain then a shout of anger. Shots. Screaming in the background. Gwen, move your arse woman. Grunting. Gwen, what the fuck! Leave her. She's gone. Move. Here. The door, get the bloody door, I'll hold them back. More shots. Fuck! More shots. A woman's voice venting with profanity as her shots echo his.
"Martha? Honey I'm home!" Jack laughed as the sound of the door clanged shut.
"Med-bay three Jack" she answered as she cut the feed.
She turned and took in the room. Then with a nod of her head they continued to the med-bay with the man's energy depleting fast and his weight increasing in their arms with each step.
Lifting him gently onto the table as Martha reached for scissors, Mickey looked again at Tish's new friend. Tish was supporting his upper body with hers as she hugged him from behind. He wore a suit, torn and grubby like his sister-in-law who was quietly stroking his hair back from his scalp wound for a better look. At least the bleeding seemed to have stopped.
Martha was folding the material back from the wound on his ankle and a soft groan of pain was the only complaint. The wound was angry and spreading quickly in thin red threads up his calf almost to his knee.
"Sodium. I think its sodium nitrate that will help if memory serves" he said to Martha who nodded and showed him a vial already in her hand.
"A needle. Great. Just the way to end the day" the man sighed and his head fell back against Tish's shoulder.
The door flew open as Jack invaded the room with his usual noise and bluster. His great coat seemed alive as it slunk around the doorframe to grip back at his ankle like an obedient pet and he came to a halt at the foot of the bed with his hand on his hips in hero pose.
"Well Martha Jones, I did tell you the Rift was going to re-open if your mates didn't stop that experiment!" he crowed with glee.
"They're not my mates Jack!" she spat as she rose to reach for another bandage. Gwen had entered behind Jack and she noted the prone form on the gurney first. Her cry of surprise was quickly drowned out by Jack's own roar as he surged forward to grab the man from Tish's arms.
She opened her mouth to object to the rudeness but then watched with fascination, as jack's features seemed to be in flux. A plethora of masks seemed to mix, fix them fall away until an expression she had never seen settled into place.
Joy. Honest Joy.
His lips crushed the mouth of the man he cradled in his arms and tears began to fall. Now fully embraced by Jack, the man fought to grip Jack's shoulders, as the need for air grew urgent.
Finally Jack broke the kiss and the man gold fished for breath as Jack stroked his face. With soft murmurs (in that language again) Jack smiled and Tish felt her heart break at the tenderness of it.
"Jack. Tired. I'm cold and so tired" he finally spoke with that soft Welsh lit.
"I know my love. I know. My beautiful heart" Jack crooned.
Closing his eyes, the Welshman buried his face in Jack's neck with a sigh of pleasure and Jack tightened his arms around him before looking at the others with a new face. This one Tish knew. Anger.
"Mine!" he hissed at Martha as she tried to touch his arm.
"It's OK Jack. He's going to be OK" she soothed. "There is poison from the bite to his ankle but we got to it in time. He'll be sick but he will recover."
"Mine!" Jacks sounded more firm, pulling his Welshman almost off the gurney.
"It's alright Jack." Gwen said softly. "We've got him. We've got him back!"
Gwen's voice shook and broke with the last word as she threw her own arms around them both.
"No-one is going to take him" Martha said with confidence. "If they try we'll kill them!"
Mickey looked at his wife with shock. First Jack now her going gaga?
"Mickey Smith!" Jack said looking directly at him. "Meet my Ianto Jones."
Ianto groaned softly and burrowed deeper into the embrace and Jack finally lifted him from the gurney and stepped back.
"Mine" he spoke softly now, turning to head for the door. Gwen followed with one hand on his back.
Tish found them in Jack's quarters. Gwen was outside the door talking to Rhys. Her body language told her that he and Anwen were safe. With a smile and nod, she opened the door and entered the room. The lights were dimmed and music played softly.
Ianto was laid out on the bed in a deep sleep as Jack gently sponge washed his naked body. Tish hesitated for a moment to take in the lean pale body before surging forward. Picking up the towel she began to follow Jack's sponge to dry the skin. Jack looked up in surprise then smiled.
"Tish. The little sister I always wanted" he smiled softly before returning to the loving stroke of the sponge on Ianto's arm.
"Jack Harkness, my big brother I got anyway!" she answered with a kiss to his brow.
A snort from the bed let them knew Ianto was awake and watching them.
Jack hummed softly as he lent down to kiss Ianto's forehead. His cheeks. His eyelids. His nose, as
Ianto gave a quiet chuckle that made Jack's heart ache fit to burst.
"Hey ya big twypsn. Did you really drop a Venulzian Dribble onto the input machinery?" he asked.
"Yeah! Hoped it would stop the rift opening if I could seize the bloody thing but I was too late. Story of my life, beloved. Too late!" he sighed with a face palm.
"Well, I know that. End of the world … again! But, hey! You did get me Cariad" Ianto's fingers were plucking at his sleeve.
Jack snorted with glee and looked deep into Ianto's grey-blue eyes with affection.
"Yeah, it's the end of the world as we know it but I feel fine!"