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Protective Instinct

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.oOo.

Luke had the bluest eyes Adric had ever seen.

Mister Smith said he saw different parts of the colour spectrum than humans, after that rather disastrous first art appreciation lesson when he honestly couldn’t tell the difference between the red of some nobleman’s tunic and the grey of his hair. He saw blues and greens and the associated colours more intensely than they could ever dream, and in return most reds and oranges barely registered as anything other than different shades of grey.

Luke’s eyes were so blue that they practically glowed, and sometimes he would catch himself watching his adoptive brother from the corner of his eye, hoping to catch a glimpse of that intense colour. In a world where most of the people he met looked to be various shades of muted brown and grey – not that he could talk, to his own people he himself looked stark black and white – Luke’s eyes were unique.

He hadn’t been so fascinated by someone’s eyes since those damned vampires in E-Space, and they at least had had the excuse of being telepathic and twisted enough to find making him obsessive rather amusing.

Although it was a bit strange that lately he was starting to catch Luke watching him back. It made him feel strange inside, short of breath and nervous. Like his stomach was trying to do back-flips every time Luke smiled.

Still, at least he was appreciating something in the art appreciation classes now. The teacher had a strange obsession with harsh red and murky brown works lately, and he was on the verge of just ‘admitting’ that he was colour blind to avoid the endless snippy comments coming his way. Even if he did have the same eyesight as humans, he doubted that he’d enjoy the classes much. He was a mathematician at heart, and he found beauty in strings of numbers, not smears of paint.

(Sometimes he thinks he could reach out and recreate Castrovalva with a thought and a word, a Castrovalva meant to heal and protect instead of the twisted trap that the Master turned his creation into. Only fear holds him back, fear and a growing respect for what they do with Sarah Jane.)

Thankfully art appreciation was the last class for the day, so as soon as they were done they could head back to Bannerman Road and do something a bit more interesting. Maybe he was being stubborn about the whole thing, but he just didn’t get art, and lately it seemed like he was missing the point even more than usual.

Then again, Luke had initially been doing very well and was starting to find the classes just as confusing as he was, so maybe it was just a lack of cultural references.

The bell rang for the end of the day and everyone packed up in a great hurry, most of them studiously ignoring the mention of homework. Luke noted the chapter to read down, as he usually did, and they exchanged a brief smile.

“Smith!” the teacher, Mister Granville, called, beckoning Luke over. “A word about your report.

“I’ll catch up,” Luke told Adric, his smile as cheerful and guileless as ever.

“Don’t be too long.” He felt a bit strange, leaving Luke behind. Not only because it was unusual for the teachers to ask anyone to stay behind, but because he was still adapting to the new group dynamics with their friends. Maria leaving had hurt all of them, but everyone else seemed to be adapting to Rani’s arrival far better than he was. He liked her, yes, but after everything he’d been through in the last subjective year he felt entirely justified in being a bit slow to trust new people.

Especially after Tremas was taken. Seeing the face of a friend sneering up at him had made the Master’s tortures all the worse.

He shook his head to dispel the memories and hurried out to the gate where Clyde and Rani were waiting, wincing a bit at the bounce of his backpack against his spine. If he wore it over one shoulder, it irritated his scars, but if he wore it over both Clyde could not be convinced to shut up about it. Adric appreciated Clyde’s help in acclimatising himself to life on Earth, but his unfortunate obsession with ‘cool’ was sometimes irritating in the extreme.

“Where’s Luke?” Rani asked, looking back towards the building he’d just left and frowning just a little. “It’s not like him to be late coming out.”

“Granville wanted to talk to him.” He shrugged a little. “He said something about a report.”

“No need to hurry.” Clyde grinned, holding his phone up. “Did you get the message from Sarah Jane? She’s busy on a story and won’t be back for a couple of hours.”

“Huh?” Adric patted his pockets frantically and groaned. “I dropped my phone again. It must be back in the classroom, I’ll be right back.”

“We have got to teach him how pockets work.”

“I don’t know, Clyde, you’re the one who taught him that gesture after all.”

.oOo.

It was unnaturally quiet in the hall, and something made the hair on the back of Adric’s neck rise as he got closer to the classroom. There was a faint metallic tang to the air, like blood and seawater, and it was definitely getting stronger in harmony with the inexplicable desire to be elsewhere.

“A perception field?” A rather subtle one, too, from the feel of it. It was probably specialised to keep humans away; a broader-spectrum field would have been enough to push him away too, but he could sense it working on him and that was enough for him to work through it.

And if there was a perception field...

“Luke!” He charged down the hall and took the corner on a skid, scrambling for the classroom door with all the speed he could muster.

The field gave out a couple of feet away from the door and the sudden lack of pressure made him dizzy, but he still managed to make it to the door and struggle with the handle. It wasn’t locked, but the door didn’t budge, and he pounded the panels in frustration.

“Adric!” Luke appeared at the narrow window, struggling with the door in a panic. “Something’s wrong, he’s not-“

Luke suddenly went stiff and wide-eyed for a moment before crumpling, the sound of him hitting the floor painfully clear despite the barrier between them.

Luke!” He threw himself at the door, slamming his shoulder into it and only managing to send sharp waves of pain down his arm. It didn’t even shake. What he wouldn’t give for a sonic device right now!

Something moved to pick Luke up, and as it straightened with his brother over its shoulder, it looked directly at him. It was humanoid, with skin so intensely red-orange that he could actually see the colour, suckers lining every angle of its body. Its eyes were a deep green that was almost black, unreadable, and it looked at him for a long moment.

Not human. Luke had meant not human. And his phone was inside the room, not to mention the perception filter between them and the nearest help!

He slammed into the door again, stumbling through when it opened without resistance. He caught himself on a desk and pivoted to take a swing at the alien, only for another to grab his wrist and hold something fleshy and bulbous up in front of his face.

The lump unfolded like a flower and puffed a cloud of pollen at him. The instant it touched him, his head started to swim and his limbs went numb, and a strange bitter taste welled up in his mouth.

“Luke...” The pollen took him down into the blackness of his own mind.

.oOo.

“Hey! Hey, Adric! Wake up!”

His mouth actually did taste like something had crawled in and died, and his head throbbed hard in time with his heartbeat. Whatever that pollen-stuff had been, it was strong. If Clyde hadn’t just dumped a bottle of water over his head, he might have been out for a fair while yet.

“Luke!” He tried to stand, swayed alarmingly and half-fell over a desk, clinging to it like a drunk clinging to a lamppost. “They got Luke, they took him!”

“Slow down,” Rani said, handing him another bottle of water which he drained thankfully. He could already feel his head clearing as his body absorbed the blessedly cool liquid. “Now try again.”

“Aliens have Luke.” His heart lurched in his chest painfully, like someone had wrapped their hand around it and yanked hard. “They drugged him and took him!”

He was shocked to realise that he was breathing hard, on the very edge of a panic attack. He hadn’t had one for months, not since before Maria left. Then again, he hadn’t been drugged by alien pollen before either. Still, it felt different to a drug reaction...

Later. He could worry about it later. Luke was in trouble!

“See, I told you something weird was going on!” Clyde walked back to where Adric and Luke had been sitting earlier, picking up his mobile from the floor and throwing it over. “We realised you’d been gone too long, but every time we got close we found ourselves turning around and leaving.”

“They must have turned the perception field off when they left.” There was definitely something strange about sounding like the Doctor almost as much as Sarah Jane did. “I only got through it because it was tuned to humans.”

“Alright.” Rani clapped her hands once. “So we know that aliens have him, and they have a way of distracting us. First we contact Sarah Jane, then we call Mister Smith and K9 and see if there’s some way to track Luke. I’ll call Sarah Jane.”

“I’ll call Mister Smith,” Adric started, but his phone buzzed and he broke off halfway through. That didn’t make sense, it couldn’t be! He hit the button to answer twice, putting the call on speaker.

“What do you want?” It was Luke’s voice, a little tinny and distant, but still utterly recognisable and filled with fear.

Rani clamped a hand firmly over Clyde’s mouth and shook her head, cutting off whatever comment he’d been about to make. Instead they listened to the strange raspy breathing that grew louder as the... whatever it was got closer to where Luke was being held.

“Justice. Vengeance.” The voice was gurgling, like a person trying to speak with water in their mouth, and with a faint pause between the words that suggested that human speech was extremely difficult for the speaker. “The Smith female helped kill our offspring. In return, we shall make her watch as you die.”

Luke shouted and struggled at that, fighting hard enough that the sound of his clothes rustling and the horrible meaty sound of someone being struck echoed eerily clear. There was a clattering sound and when the voices returned they were softer and less distinct.

“Subdue him and attach the device,” the drowning voice said, and another set of strange raspy breaths came into range of the phone.

Mum!” Luke screamed, his voice abruptly cut off by an all too familiar hissing sound and heavy footsteps vanishing into the distance. The line stayed open, but it seemed there was nothing else to hear.

“Clyde, call Mister Smith now,” Adric said, not recognising his own voice for a moment. It had been a long time since he’d felt the kind of anger and despair that was clawing at his insides right now. “Get him to trace the signal. Rani, call Sarah Jane and warn her.”

“What are you going to do?” Clyde asked, even as his fingers flickered across the keypad.

“I’m going keep the line open.” They might still learn something. He believed that.

He had to believe that.

.oOo.

Mister Smith had no trouble homing in on Luke’s phone, tracing the signal back to an old warehouse surprisingly close to the school. It had belonged to a shipping business until a few months ago, when the business had suddenly vanished and the warehouse had slid out of the public eye to the point where the most recent maps hadn’t even noted its presence.

The three of them ran, barrelling down the road at full pelt. It was a matter of pride that Adric was the fastest of them, although Luke was very close; travelling with the Doctor had taught him how to run in a way that carried him forward quickly while taking the least effort possible. Having some breath at the end of a run could spell the difference between life and death.

He could smell and sense the perception field before they got too close, and Clyde and Rani both shook their heads as if trying to clear them. It was stronger than the last one, but still tuned to the human norm. He could get through it. The hard part was going to be finding a way to bypass it for his friends.

Then again, the field had ended before the door to the classroom, so it was probably a safe assumption that it’d end before or at the walls of the warehouse. They’d want Luke and then Sarah Jane to be able to see exactly what was going on.

“Well I hope you’ve got a plan for this,” Rani said, puffing a little from the sprint. “I can feel it telling me to go away.”

“Sounds like my dad,” Clyde added, his face a strangely ashen colour, far paler than it usually seemed.

He was even more thankful than usual that the Doctor had been around the last time he’d encountered something like this. Working from the Time Lord’s methods was usually a sound bet, admittedly only tenuously so on occasion.

“Blindfold yourselves,” he told them, examining the building closely. The main doors were ajar, but that was too obvious and would likely be watched. The small door on the side of the building was a far better bed and visibly hadn’t closed properly. It meant going through more of the field, but the end result would hopefully be worth it.

“Are you sure about this?” Rani asked as she tied her tie around her eyes as a blindfold, which seemed to prompt Clyde into doing the same.

“The Doctor taught me when he was still Sarah Jane’s Doctor.”

He took their hands, laced their fingers together tightly, and sent a silent prayer to any being or deity willing to smile on him that he was remembering this properly, and he ran.

The field battered at him, tried to push him back, and dragging the two humans behind him made it harder, but he focussed himself on the door with almost manic intensity. He was not going to give up, not now that he was so close! He had to help Luke!

It cut off a couple of feet from the broken door, exactly as he’d predicted, and he managed a relieved grin before tugging the blindfolds off Clyde and Rani. They both looked pale and slightly sweaty, but their expressions suggested that it would take some kind of nuclear explosion to make them turn back now.

“When we find what’s making that field thing, I’m going to smash it,” Clyde panted, balling his hands up into fists.

“Not if I find it first,” Rani said, managing a smile before going very wide-eyed and pointing towards the main doors. “Isn’t that Sarah Jane’s car? How is she getting through the field?”

“Oh rabbits.” Adric really wished he knew some more potent Earth obscenities, rabbits just wasn’t cutting it. “New plan. Rani, warn Sarah Jane. Stick close to the walls, the field doesn’t reach them. Clyde, we’re going to find Luke.”

“I didn’t even know we had a plan.” Rani smiled dryly before she darted off, her hair fanning out behind her as she took the corner and disappeared.

“You didn’t have a plan at all, did you?” Clyde asked as they shoved the door until it opened up enough to let them squeeze through.

“Not as much as I do now, no.” Inside the warehouse was mostly clean barring a thin layer of dust that covered everything, the corridor stretching off straight down the side of the building and pitted with doors that led into empty offices.

Adric turned and followed the corridor down towards the main entrance, eyes fixed on the dust for any sign of disturbances. The only marks in the hall were the ones created by his and Clyde’s presence, so logic dictated that it would be at least a passable guide for tracking down where the aliens had taken Luke.

He rounded the corner and Clyde yanked him back, a hand clamped over his mouth as he pressed them against the wall, tilting his head just enough to look around the corner. A moment later he heard voices, muffled by distance and walls, and he froze until the taller teen released him.

“They went up the stairs,” Clyde said as they stepped out into the hall proper. “The dust’s all churned up by those double doors, though. That’s probably where Luke is, or whatever’s making the field.”

“Preferably both.”

They crept down the hall towards the double doors, and the mere fact that they were barred from the outside suggested that Luke was in there. It took the both of them to haul the long chunk of metal free and put it aside without making too much noise, and then naturally the doors gave them away regardless by screaming as they opened.

They looked at each other for a long moment, fully expecting to be set upon by the aliens, but instead it stayed eerily silent.

“Shit,” Clyde eventually said, his hands trembling. “This feels like a trap.”

“I know.” He led the way forward, with a confidence he didn’t feel.

The doors led through a short hall out into a large area that must have held items to be shipped, once upon a time. Now the walls were lined with thick layers of pulsing brown-tinted flesh filled with blue filigrees of veins that throbbed so loud that he could actually hear it. Almost transparent drapes of the stuff formed walls and archways, coming together up in the ceiling like the draperies of a circus tent. The entire place smelled oddly clean, salt water and vinegar like the stuff Clyde practically drowned his chips in.

It was alive and a construct at the same time. Biological technology, probably, which explained why Luke had been allowed to keep his phone. In his experience, species that used bio-tech tended to have a bit of a blind spot for anything inanimate. It was a massive weakness, and one they could maybe turn to their advantage later.

“Luke?” he called, not even bothering to keep his voice down. The aliens would have to be deaf to not know they were here at this point, so caution could go out the window. He had a horrible feeling that there wasn’t much time left.

“Adric!” Luke voice was scared, so scared, but he was close. “Where are you?”

“We’re right here, Luke,” Clyde said, tilting his head a little to listen. “Keep talking so we can find you, alright?”

“Clyde!” The relieved note in Luke’s voice shouldn’t have made him jealous, but it did, like a sharp claw driven into his heart. “Is Mum alright?”

Adric started weaving through the barriers, Clyde on his heels as the two of them kept up a running commentary. It was times like this that he envied Clyde’s confidence and easy nature; if he tried to speak right now, he felt like he’d choke on the knot of worry rising in his throat. They’d never been separated like this before, it had always been him and Luke and Sarah Jane at the heart of it.

It hurt more than being taken from the Doctor and he didn’t know why.

They stumbled out into a wide area, the barriers of flesh suddenly giving way to the debris the shipping company had left behind when it left, the centre ring of a circus waiting for a performance. And that was exactly what it was, wasn’t it? The aliens wanted to put on a show to hurt Sarah Jane, and had prepared an arena for it.

Luke was leaning heavily against a pillar, his skin ghostly pale and sweat plastering his hair to his forehead. The shoulder of his jacket and shirt were torn, stained with blood, and a sharp-edged gash was clearly visible through the hole. Something ropey and wrong-looking was wrapped around his wrists, holding him up despite his obvious exhaustion.

“Luke!” Adric ran forward, heedless of the debris strewn across the floor, wrapping his arm gently around Luke’s waist and taking his weight. A relieved sigh tugged at his hair, and to his relief when their eyes met, Luke’s eyes were bright and clear despite the shadows beneath them.

“My hand hurts,” Luke said, his arms twitching as though he was trying to show them. “I think I’m bleeding.”

“Let’s get you out of here, then we’ll fix you up, good as new.” Clyde offered up a reassuring smile, but it fell rapidly and he shuddered visibly at the sight of whatever was wrong with Luke’s hand.

A large patch of the draping flesh lit up, rectangular and glowing like a computer screen. It flickered for a few moments, then resolved into some kind of control room, two of the suckered aliens watching on expressionlessly. One of them had some kind of weapon pointed at Sarah Jane and Rani, but they seemed unharmed.

“Intruders,” one of the aliens rasped, the suckers along its head fluttering. “Leave at once, or die with the blood of the Smith woman.”

“Go fuck yourself,” Clyde said, flipping a crude gesture at the screen before turning his attention back to trying to remove the thick ropey stuff from around Luke’s wrists. After a few moments he rummaged around in his pockets and came out with a small pocket knife.

“Your deaths are regrettable.”

Sarah Jane gasped and Rani screamed, and Adric slowly pulled away from Luke, crouching and picking up a length of metal piping that had broken off something. He could hear a low growl and something swishing through debris in a rhythmic pattern, and he knew with a sudden clarity what they’d done to Luke’s hand.

Biological technology, and the ability to duplicate human form to a ridiculous level of accuracy. It wasn’t exactly a stretch to imagine that they could create a homing device and creatures that would track down and destroy the bearers.

He felt strangely calm, his head crystal clear even as adrenaline started racing through his body. It was like when he’d been unlocking the logic codes on the freighter, but somehow more. He was more keenly aware of what he stood to lose, and how much he was willing to give to make sure that didn’t happen. He was afraid, terrified even, but at the same time he felt as immovable as a boulder.

Luke was not going to die here. He wouldn’t let it happen. No matter what, Luke was going to live through the day.

“Clyde, get him out of here.”

He turned and locked eyes with the creature. It was quite elegant, in a way, not unlike a big cat in general body shape but covered with little quills instead of fur, a trio of whip-like tentacles protruding from between its shoulders and lashing around violently. Every now and again one of the tentacles would spasm violently and make a sound quite like a lash, usually accompanied by a low growl.

If it hadn’t been expressly designed for killing Luke, he might have called it beautiful. Its beauty or lack thereof wasn’t an issue now; the coiling of muscles as it crouched to pounce was.

He shifted his grip on the pipe and swung hard as it jumped, the shock of the impact running right through his body. The cat fell from the air, stunned, but was on its paws again in no time. A few of the quills across its shoulder were broken or bent, but it seemed unaffected.

Oh rabbits.

Adric would never have the words to describe what came over him next. It was half primitive anger and half pure mathematical clarity, his mind calculating odds and trajectories so quickly that his body could barely keep up and the pipe striking the cat-beast with far more force than he would ever have believed himself capable of.

One swing caught the cat with the ragged, sharp edges of the pipe, and it went down with a horrible scream, green blood erupting from its throat and face like a fountain. He recoiled in horror, the hot splash across his body shocking him out of the strangely clear trance.

His side ached and he could feel a slow spreading dampness that made his shirt cling to his skin, and the backs of both his hands were speckled with puncture marks. Hopefully the spines weren’t poisonous, or he was in for a world of trouble.

He’d made a mess of the cat, beaten it half to death before the ragged edge of the pipe had finally claimed its life. He’d reacted like a Marshman.

He was going to be sick.

.oOo.

He stayed in the shower until his hands started to go pruney and the deep slashes from the cat-beast’s claws had healed almost completely, staring blankly at the wall and trying very hard not to think. Not thinking was a hell of a lot harder than it sounded.

He’d never reacted like that before. Even when Varsh died, when the Marshmen took him away forever, his mind had run a million miles a minute. It tended to paralyse him more often than not. And yet...

The alien – the Zygon, Sarah Jane called it – had threatened Luke, and he had unleashed something inside himself that he hadn’t even known was there. Was that how Varsh had felt at the end, sending him on alone despite having no more oxygen in his tank to drive the Marshmen back?

Oh.

It was like the crystalline moment when a complex equation unfolded inside his head, everything falling into place with icy clarity. It was so obvious! No wonder Maria and Rani giggled all the time.

Tegan was right. He really was an oblivious idiot sometimes.

.oOo.

The kiss that Rani catches on her phone the next day is not the first, although they laugh and blush and pretend that it is.

Their first kiss is there in the darkness of their room, clinging to each other on Luke’s bed with a toy panda pressed tight between them. Adric leans forward and presses his lips to Luke’s mouth, soft and awkward and shy.

And Luke smiles and his eyes glow so bright that Adric wants to never have to look away.

.oOo.

To: AGirlLikeMaria@gmail.com
From: TimeAndTheRani@gmail.com
Subject: YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

Attached: AboutTime.jpg, SoCute!.jpg, ClydeAlmostDied.jpg

(304): My god. We'll be gay porn millionaires.

~ Rani