Benton and Yates in a Daring Escape from Aliens by Sproid



Summary: After being captured by aliens, Benton and Yates aren't just going to sit around and wait to be rescued. An escape involving bravery, injuries and emotions.
Rating: Teen
Categories: Third Doctor
Characters: Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Jo Grant, Mike Yates, Sergeant Benton, The Doctor (3rd), UNIT
Genres: Action/Adventure, Fluff, Hurt/Comfort, Romance, Slash
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 2013.02.03
Updated: 2013.02.03


Index

Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Chapter 3: Chapter 3


Chapter 1: Chapter 1

It lands in the middle of Hampshire’s countryside, a giant spacecraft that drives long spikes into the ground to anchor itself and then releases its reptilian strike force without warning. Their numbers are few, but when the enemy is eight feet tall and possesses such stunningly lethal weapons as these, there really isn't a need for many of them. UNIT's best is good but not enough, and the Brigadier orders the troops to withdraw within five minutes.

On the front lines, covering the retreat, Benton and Yates never stand a chance.

-- -- -- -- --

It's a surprise when they don't end up dead. Less surprising is that they're captured, their radios and rifles wrenched away before they’re seized and marched inside to be thrown forcefully into a cell. While they’re groaning on the floor, the leader tells them, “We shall return,” and leaves with his compatriots in tow, scaled tails sweeping along the corridor as they stride away.

Shaking his head as he pushes himself to his feet, Yates extends a hand down to Benton and remarks, “That could have gone better.”

“You're telling me,” Benton agrees.

Gratefully he accepts the hand up, and they stand side-by-side as they brush themselves down and survey the cell. It’s not particularly promising in terms of escape. Solid wall comprises one side of the large square, the other three consisting of heavy bars that run from the ceiling to the floor. Theirs appears to be one of ten or so cells in a row, the empty corridor running outside the door, which has no visible locking mechanism and yet remains firmly shut when they shake it.

“Well that's it then,” Benton sighs. “We're stuck.”

“Quite,” Yates agrees. “Still, on the bright side, at least the camouflage seems to be doing its job for once.”

“How's that, sir?” Benton asks doubtfully. Granted it's a nice big cell, warm and clean, but they're still very definitely inside it rather than outside it.

Yates flashes him a quick grin and pats his hands against his trousers. “They don't seem to have noticed that we've got pockets, Benton.”

-- -- -- -- --

“Doctor, these aliens have landed with no warning, no communication of any kind, anchored their spaceship in the middle of nowhere - and in an exceedingly defensible position, I might add - and taken two of my men hostage.” The Brigadier paces around the village hall that he’s commandeered for a base of operations, while the Jo and the Doctor examine the few photographs they’d managed to take of the ship. “If that’s not hostile, I don’t know what is.”

“On this occasion, Brigadier, you are perfectly correct,” the Doctor says.

“Yes, thank you, Doctor. I was rather aware of that. What I want to know is what they are, why they’re here, and how we can get rid of them!”

Seating himself on the table where the one alien weapon that they managed to acquire lies, the Doctor replies, “Well, as to the latter of your questions, I’m honestly not sure. I’m familiar with the species - they’re known as the Trilactians - but I’ve never seem them use weapons quite like these before. It could take me a a little while to work out an effective way to disarm them.”

“Do you know what they want?” Jo asks.

“Earth’s minerals and metals, if I’m not mistaken. Their home planet was deficient in the heavier elements when it formed; it’s a miracle that life developed there at all, but against all odds it did. Their civilisation reached the end of its accessible resources, oh, two hundred or so years ago. Since then they’ve been searching the galaxy for planets whose resources they can transport home, without much care for anything that happens to be living on that planet already. I must admit, I’m surprised they’ve made it out this far. They must be getting desperate.”

“Your surprise notwithstanding, Doctor, the fact remains that they are here,” the Brigadier points out. “Now what are we going to do about it?”

-- -- -- -- --

Benton and Yates don’t get long to examine the combined contents of their pockets — of which the knives, lighters and energy bars look to be the most useful of the lot, not that that’s saying much - before the sound of footsteps alerts them to the promised return of two of their lizard-like friends. After a scramble to shove everything out of sight again, they stand side-by-side in the middle of the cell and watch as a hand pressed to something outside the door makes it swing inwards.

That they have to tilt their heads backwards to keep eye contact with the one that enters is not particularly promising for any hopes of overpowering them, really.

Raising his voice, Yates steps forward and says, “I would say good afternoon, but given that you've taken us prisoner and locked us in a cell, I wouldn't really mean it. Would you mind telling us why you've -”

“Quiet,” the thing instructs, and knocks Yates backwards with a quick — and apparently effortless — nudge from its clawed hand.

“Steady on!” Benton says, catching Yates as he stumbles backwards. He glares at the creature before turning to Yates. “Are you alright, sir?”

“Fine,” Yates coughs, rubbing at his chest. “Just got the wind knocked out of me, that's all.”

Carefully Benton lets him go, relieved when Yates appears to be steady enough on his feet. “You be careful, sir,” he cautions. “No point us getting ourselves knocked around for no reason.”

Ruefully, Yates nods, and then their captor demands their attention again.

“You two are the first of the human subjects we require for experimentation before we conquer this world,” it tells them. Benton and Yates exchange worried looks. “We must establish the compatibility of the human system with our minds and biology for conversion into our army. Our biological laboratory is currently being assembled and will be ready in a day. The xeno-neurologist has their equipment ready for use now, and will begin testing on one of you immediately.”

It gestures to the lizard outside the cell, which comes in with a long, low hiss that sets the hairs on the back of Yates' neck on end. Green eyes darting between them, it spares only a moment for Yates before fixing on Benton, nostrils flaring and a distinctly unpleasant look on its face. “This one will be perfect. It will come to my laboratory now.”

“Not a chance,” Yates says, and their heads arch aggressively towards him. “If you need someone to experiment on, you'll take me.” A tail flicks out towards his face, pulling back mere inches from his eye, and Yates blinks but holds firm.

“It's all right,” Benton says, stepping forwards. “There’s no need to get violent, I'll go with you.”

“Sergeant Benton,” Yates snaps, catching him by the arm.

“Sir, I don't think it's going to change its mind,” Benton says, turning to face him. He lowers his voice and adds, “Anyway, one of us needs to have a functioning brain if we're going to get out of here, and you are the Captain for a reason. I'd rather have my head scrambled than yours.”

As determined as he sounds, there's an understandable hint of trepidation on his face, which makes it all the harder for Yates to grudgingly nod and let him go. Keeping his voice down to match Benton's, he says, “Alright, but be careful. I'll need your help, too, you know.”

“Right you are, sir,” Benton says, and leaves with head held high and back straight, tall and strong even between two aliens with two feet and a good few stone at least on him.

“I'd better get on with it then,” Yates says to himself, and slides his hat off his head before he sets about looking for a way out.

-- -- -- -- --

Two hours later, Benton still isn't back and Yates still hasn't worked out how they're going to escape. The cell is obviously made to accommodate prisoners of the lizards’ size and strength; the bars won't bend or break, and although they're spaced farther apart than would be found on Earth, they're still a couple of inches too close together to slip through. Yates tries it a few times just in case, but gets firmly wedged at the shoulder each time.

The door is equally as impenetrable; the mechanism on the outside is easy enough to find and reach, but gives Yates nothing but a short sharp shock when he tries to activate it. A smooth hard floor means they can't go down, and the ceiling — a good fifteen foot above the ground — looks to be made the same stuff.

Frustrated, he kicks one of the bars, the toe of his boot impacting with a satisfying 'thud' that doesn't improve his spirits much. Benton's out there, undergoing god knows what so that Yates can get them out, and it looks very much as if it will be for nothing. For all Benton's faith in him, Yates has no idea how they're going to get out of this one short of being rescued, and they both know how likely that is when -

Blinking, Yates shakes his head and takes another look at the bars in front of him. Tapping his foot against them again, he reflects that one would expect metal to go ‘clang’ rather than ‘thud’, which rather implies that as silver and shiny as these things are, they're not metal at all. It's a slim advantage, but hopefully one that a couple of resourceful army personnel can make the most of, if he can just work out how.

-- -- -- -- --

When Benton returns, he's half slumped over and barely stumbling along, dragged between the same two who had taken him earlier. They don't so much shove him into the cell as just let go of him, whereupon he falls to his knees and tilts forwards before Yates manages to get in front of him and stop him hitting the floor face-first. While Benton groans against his shoulder, Yates gives the aliens a hard look, and holds his tongue only because he's already experienced the consequences of not doing so.

Placing a tray of food and water on the floor, the leader informs him, “No lasting damage has been done to it. Nourishment is provided so that it will recover before the next trial.”

“That's very reassuring,” Yates mutters as they leave. “Benton?” He takes Benton by the shoulders and eases him away, slightly alarmed at the way his head rolls back and he seems unable to focus on Yates. “Come on, Benton. Stay with me.” There's a groan in response, followed by an obvious effort which thankfully yields a result, and Benton looks groggily but somewhat more alertly at Yates.

“Sir?”

Letting out a relieved breath, Yates nods. “Got it in one. How are you feeling?”

Carefully, Benton raises one not-entirely steady hand, and lays his palm against his forehead. “I've got a banging headache, but otherwise I'm fine. At least, I think I am.”

“Glad to hear it. Can you move? The wall isn't likely to be all that comfortable, but at least you can lean on it.”

Tiredly, Benton nods. Yates makes sure he's steady against the wall before he retrieves the tray, and crouches down in front of Benton while he investigates the 'nourishment', which appears to be water and something not unlike their own energy bars. “Drink this,” he says, pressing a cup into Benton's hand. “And stay still while I check you over.”

“I'm alright, really,” Benton protests, but he does as he's told. In truth, while he is feeling better, it might not be a bad idea to have Yates make sure of it.

Benton's forehead is hot to the touch, and there are red indents at his temples which make him wince when Yates brushes his fingers over them, but his eyes track Yates' finger and he's not slurring his words or falling asleep. As to his mental state, Yates can only hope.

“You'll be just fine,” he tells Benton. “Other than the loss of your hat, which I can't do anything about,” he adds.

Benton manages a weak laugh, and a smile as Yates ruffles his hair gently. “Sorry about that, sir. They didn't seem to want to give it back once they'd got if off me.”

“I’ll forgive the offence on this occasion,” Yates tells him. He presses a careful hand to the side of his head and lets it rest there a moment, a brief soothing touch that has Benton looking up at him curiously. They've been very carefully skirting around this for weeks now, neither naming or acknowledging it but quietly moving towards something nonetheless. Touching though, that’s new, and Benton can’t help but think that now is an odd time to bring it up.

Leaning back when he notices Benton’s look, Yates shrugs. “I was worried about you.”

As casual as his tone is, Benton catches the lingering concern anyway. “I promise you I'm all right,” Benton tells him. Yates nods, and there's a quiet moment before Benton carefully tips his head back to rest against the wall, and asks, “How long was I gone?”

“Three hours.” Cautiously, in case Benton doesn’t want to remember, Yates asks, “What did they do to you?”

With a grimace, Benton replies, “I'm not really sure. They put some sort of strange-looking crown on me and a similar one on the scientist chap, and hooked them up with wires. I think the idea was to test some kind of mind-control on me, but it didn't work very well. It just sort of hurt, really.” Actually, 'sort of hurt' is an understatement, but that isn't particularly relevant.

Given that Benton had barely been conscious when they brought him back, Yates is well aware that he's understating the facts of the matter, but doesn’t mention it. Instead he says, “I didn't think you'd make it easy for them.” Benton looks quietly pleased, which was the intention. Yates adds, “Probably that thick skull of yours. It's got to be useful for something.”

“Hey now,” Benton objects. “This thick skull has done a lot today. I'm not so sure about other people's.”

“If you feel up to moving, I'll show you what I've been up to.”

“Well I can't sit around here all day,” Benton sighs, and gets to his feet without wobbling too much. “Show away, sir.”

Leading him to the edge of the cell, half-an eye on him to make sure he’s not going to fall over, Yates points at the bars. “What would you say these are made of?”

“You mean they're not metal?” Benton taps one, and frowns. “So they're not. It's almost feels like... like some kind of plastic?”

Yates nods. “That’s what I thought.”

“How does that help us, though?” Benton asks. “I mean, it's pretty hard stuff, isn't it?”

“Tougher than our knives?”

“Well, no, but it's probably a close match.”

“Speaking of matches... what does plastic do when exposed to naked flame, Benton?”

“You want to use the lighters to melt it?” Benton asks, comprehension dawning.

“Well, soften it up, at least. The knives can do the rest.”

Doubtfully, Benton looks at the bars again. “I don't know, sir. It'd take a lot of cutting to get through these. Although...” He takes a step back and sizes up the gaps. “We'd only need to remove one bar to be able to fit through, right?”

“That's the idea,” Yates says. “Think it'll work?”

“It might just,” Benton says slowly. Yates claps him on the back, and then has to grab him by the arm as he sways on his feet. “It's certainly better than waiting around,” Benton adds with a chagrined smile.

-- -- -- -- --

They take a chance that no-one will check up on them until morning, given that there's such a small crew and that Yates was left alone while Benton was gone, and start straight away. As for surveillance equipment, just because they can't see any doesn't mean there is none, but nothing comes rushing to stop them when the blades and flames appear.

It's slow work, hard-going and foul-smelling, burned plastic letting off fumes that make their eyes water and throats itch and doubtless do their lungs no good at all. Holding lighter flames close to melting plastic is a dangerous business at best, more so when there are knives in the same vicinity. There are more than a few muffled curses let loose when fingers become the victims of either fire or steel. Gloves, unfortunately, make them too clumsy to be efficient so they have to do without.

Half an hour in, they have to stop when Benton's head starts swimming, the noxious gas compounding the headache that hasn’t really faded from earlier. Flame licks a sharp streak along his thumb before he drops the lighter and braces himself against the floor with shaking arms. “Just a bit dizzy,” he mumbles as Yates drops down and slips an arm around his back.

“You and me, both,” Yates says, wiping his arm across his forehead. Looking at their progress, he decides, “We might as well take a break for five minutes.”

They share some of Yates' chocolate, which is sweet and dark and expensive, the good stuff that he brings to work and doesn't share easily. “You're an exception,” he tells Benton, nudging his leg with his boot. “Don't tell anyone.”

“And lose my share to them? Not a chance.”

Before they get back to it, they dampen their scarves and wrap them around their noses and mouths, which hopefully will stop the fumes going to their heads. If nothing else, it cuts down on the smell. Even with the precaution, when they get back to it Yates keeps half an eye on Benton just to make sure he's not suffering too many ill-effects.

“Sir, what are we going to do when we get out of here?” Benton asks as they work.

“You're going to lead us off this ship, Benton. You were paying attention earlier when they took you, weren't you?”

“Well, yes. That part should be fairly easy; there aren’t many guards around and it’s a big ship, so we should be able to get past them alright.” Yates gives him a 'Now you've done it' look above his scarf, which makes Benton smile beneath his own. “What I mean is, when we get out of the ship, where do we go? They landed this thing in the middle of nowhere, and we don't have any way to let the Brigadier know where we are.”

“Ah, but we know where he is,” Yates points out. “He’ll have set up in that village we passed on the way here. We head for whichever road is nearest, and follow it there. Once we get away from here a bit, we might even be able to hitch a lift the rest of the way. If not, it'll be a bit of a trek but we'll make it in less than a day, I should think.”

“So we just have to hope that they don't follow us, and if they do they don't walk faster than us?”

“Cross your fingers,” Yates says. “We'll need the luck.”

-- -- -- -- --

In the end it takes them two hours to get through the bar, with two more breaks to give cramped fingers and sore eyes a rest. They save the rest of Yates' chocolate for an emergency, but swallow an energy bar each - their own, not the dubious-looking alien ones — and the rest of the water that was left for them. Then they move out into the corridor, holding their breaths in case they're tripped some alarm, and only relaxing when seconds tick past and the place remains deathly silent.

“Which way?” Yates says.

“Along and down,” Benton replies. “We're three floors above the lab I was in earlier, and that was only one or two above the main entrance, I think. I didn't exactly get much of a chance to look out of the window while I was there.”

“I've escaped on less information,” Yates assures him with a reassuring confidence. “Let's go.”

Their footsteps echo around corridors that are scaled up as the rest of the ship, large enough to make them both feel uncomfortably exposed even when nothing comes to investigate them as they creep past closed doors and down staircases.

“What do you suppose they've got in these rooms?” Yates murmurs.

“Equipment for that army they were on about making?” Benton guesses.

They look back at the extent of the corridor.

“I don’t fancy our chances if we can’t stop them before they get that far,” Yates remarks.

On the level below they creep past the few half-open doors to currently unoccupied living quarters, whose inhabitants they find in the room at the end of the corridor which is obviously the centre of operations. Safely around the corner and out of sight, Yates signals a stop and they listen as the voice of the leader drifts out to them.

“...compatibility has been established, we shall raid the small dwellings to the south and west. The fully-grown ones will be taken to the conversion chambers, and the juveniles can be set to work maintaining the machinery. Tegu, will you be ready to begin the biological tests tomorrow?”

“The samples will be ready for implantation by the morning, Leader.”

“Excellent. Igan, what progress have you made with the configuration of the mind-control unit?”

“Modifications have been made following today’s experiments, but I will need to test it on the subject again tomorrow. It’s mind was more resilient than I had anticipated. It is a most... interesting example of these homo-sapiens.”

“If you are successful in making it obey our commands, and giving us the information we require about this planet’s military organisations, you may have it as a pet afterwards.”

The hiss of satisfaction that follows that statement makes them both shudder. “I knew I didn’t like the way it looked at you,” Yates mutters to Benton beneath his breath. “Come on, I think it’s time to get out of here. I don’t much care for what they’ve got planned for us, and we need to let the Brigadier know what they’re planning.”

Three floors down they come to their final staircase, from which they can feel fresh air drifting up.

“The entrance must be just down there,” Yates says quietly.

“Looks like I didn't jinx us after -”

“Shh!”

They flatten themselves to the wall and hold still as the guard walks past the bottom of the stairs.

“-all,” Benton finishes glumly as its footsteps fade. “Reckon we can get past it?”

Yates keeps an eye on his watch, and counts the seconds until it reappears. “One loop every fifty seconds. We'll make it if the door isn't too far away.”

On the next pass, they get down the stairs as quickly and quietly as possible, and wait for the guard to round the corner before they follow and peek around to see where it’s going. They grin at each other as they watch it march along the corridor towards the exit which lies half-way down it, no more than one good sprint to the outside world.

“There it is,” Benton whispers. “But what if there’s a guard outside?”

Yates shakes his head. “Watch our fellow. It's stopping to look outside; it is the guard. Once we're past it, we're home free.” They wait another few second until it's turned the next corner, and then Yates claps Benton on the shoulder and says, “Run for it.”

Boots pounding loud on the floor, they run full-pelt for the door, abandoning caution in favour of covering the yards as quickly as possible. Benton's longer legs let him pull slightly ahead but Yates is right behind him, and they're almost there, a mere few strides away when a door opens to their left and Yates barrels straight into the creature that emerges from it. Skidding to a halt, Benton turns around in time to see it swing its arm towards Yates, sending him flying across the width of the corridor and only just managing to get his hands out in front of him before he hits the ground.

“Sir!” Benton shouts as Yates' wrist very obviously gives way and he collapses, while the lizard strides over to tower above him. Then there's an alarm going off, and when Benton looks behind him he sees that their guard has reappeared at the end of the corridor, looking none-too-pleased to find that they've tried to escape on his watch.

“Benton, get out of here,” Yates croaks, cradling one arm to his chest and waving Benton towards the door with the other one.

“You will remain still,” the lizard instructs, swinging its weapon around to point at Benton.

Benton looks at the door, still open with nothing between him and it, and then back at Yates where he lies unprotected and in pain on the floor. Even if he could reach the exit without getting shot, he can’t leave Yates to face the aliens’ wrath on his own. It’s just not right.

Slowly, Benton raises his hands.

Back to index


Chapter 2: Chapter 2

“Benton, get out of here,” Yates croaks, cradling one arm to his chest and waving Benton towards the door with the other one.

“You will remain still,” the lizard instructs, swinging its weapon around to point at Benton.

Benton looks at the door, still open with nothing between him and it, and then back at Yates where he lies unprotected and in pain on the floor. Even if he could reach the exit without getting shot, he can’t leave Yates to face the aliens’ wrath on his own, it’s just not right.

Slowly, Benton raises his hands.


Grimacing, he glances around to watch the guard advance on them, and finds his eye caught by what lies behind the door that their new friend had come out of: racks upon racks of glorious support for his earlier guess of what all these rooms might contain. Not giving himself time to think about it, he dashes for the door as two shots chase at his heels, and seizes the first gun he comes to.

“This had better be loaded,” he says, looking at the barrel that doesn’t seem to have anywhere to attach ammunition to. Then the door is filled with a towering, angry lizard creature, so Benton hurriedly aims and pulls the trigger, and takes several hasty steps backwards when it collapses in front of him and twitches for a while.

From outside, a loud voice growls, “You will die for this insolence, tiny Earthling.”

“Come in here and say that!” Benton shouts back, and blinks in surprise when it obligingly appears in the doorway. Not that he should be surprised that clich├ęd threats are accompanied by supreme overconfidence really, he reflects, and pulls the trigger.

When nothing happens, he reminds himself that overconfidence can be the downfall of more than one species, and hastily grabs the weapon of the already fallen creature. It’s knocked from his hands almost immediately, but by then Benton’s already got a shot off and the lizard takes a hit to the shoulder. Not lethal, but while it’s staggering around, Benton is clambering over the fallen guard and back out into the corridor.

“Let’s get out of here,” he says to Yates, who has got to his feet, looking pale but determined. Benton waits for Yates to go first this time, and they set off at a half-run into the twilight, battered and bruised and not out of hot water yet but on the way there.

-- -- -- -- --

They don’t get far before they have to stop, making it over a small hill that won’t stop any pursuers but has a couple of trees at the bottom that should hide them from sight while they catch their breath. Benton’s head is pounding again, and Yates’ eyes are shut, face drawn in pain although he’s obviously trying not to show it.

“A right sorry pair we are,” Benton says after a few minutes.

“We could definitely use a first aid kit,” Yates agrees.“Or two,” he adds, a hint of humour making its way into his voice as he opens his eyes.

Benton takes another minute to let the adrenaline rush fade, and then gets to his feet. “Well, we can at least make you a splint for your arm. Is it broken, or sprained?”

“Just sprained, I think,” Yates says, watching as Benton searches for sticks in the half-light. “Hurts like the devil though.”

“I’m not surprised. You went down pretty hard.” Benton returns and kneels in front of Yates, who shifts to sit a little more upright and seems reluctant to release his arm into Benton’s care. “Now, sir, don’t be a baby,” Benton says, and grins when Yates knocks his boot against Benton’s knee in retaliation.

Fashioning the splint isn’t a pleasant business, particularly when they don’t have so much as a couple of paracetamol for Yates. He grits his teeth as Benton wraps a scarf around his swollen wrist, and distracts himself by reflecting on the irony that is the most painful part being the padding that will stop the sticks rubbing against his skin. Then Benton gets to the bit where he arranges the sticks and secures them with their belts, and Yates decides he might have judged too soon, because as careful as Benton is it still bloody hurts.

By the time it gets to making the sling, Yates is about ready to snap at Benton just because he’s there, which would be completely unfair when this is going to stop his wrist being an even bigger disaster than it already is. So he shuts his eyes and breathes deep as Benton fashions the other scarf into a sling, and resists the urge to rest his head on Benton’s shoulder when it’s all over and his arm is safely held against his chest once more.

For a moment, Benton lets his hand rest on the back of Yates’ neck, curving around in a protective gesture that calms Yates’ frayed nerves as he breathes deep. “There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” Benton says, the gentle words giving Yates the last push he needs to pull himself together.

“I’ve been through worse,” he sighs, lifting his own hand to squeeze Benton’s in thanks. With a nod, Benton moves to sit back at his side, their arms barely pressing together as they give themselves just a few more moments more to gather their strength before moving on.

-- -- -- -- --

The moonlight lights the landscape around them in a soft glow, and they head for the trees that are a dark patch a few miles away. They make good time but Benton’s about ready to collapse by the time they find a decent spot to rest for the night, tucked in the leeward side of a group of trees close enough together to provide shelter. It’s a good job that the warm June night means they don’t need to make a fire, because neither of them is in any shape to hunt for firewood, and their burned hands are a testament to the fact that they’ve had enough to do with flames for one day.

Scrubbing a hand over his face, Yates groans and tiredly says, “I’ll take first watch.” Benton looks as if he’s about to protest. “I doubt I’ll get much sleep with my arm anyway, and you’re the one who’s had their head poked around in. Go on, get some sleep. I’ll wake you in a couple of hours.”

“Alright,” Benton says reluctantly. “But if you need anything before then, you wake me up early, alright?”

When it comes to it, Yates hesitates to wake Benton, who has curled himself up in the hollow and looks more peaceful than either of them has been all day. It’s well past midnight though and his eyes keep drifting shut despite the throbbing in his arm, so he crouches down to shake Benton by the arm, and they swap.

Of course, once he’s actually at liberty to sleep, he can’t. His eyes feel gritty and dry from the fumes earlier, and the ground is comfortable enough but his arm hurts however he settles himself, while the scorches on his fingers sting and his bruises come to life every time he moves.

“Can’t sleep?” Benton asks, looking over at him when he shifts for the third time in as many minutes.

“Can’t get comfortable,” Yates sighs. “My arm hurts more lying down than it did when I was sat up.”

Benton sends a considering look around at the quiet trees that so far haven’t given way to any crashing lizards, and then gets up and walks over to Yates. “Then try it sitting up, and lean on me. I’ll be more comfortable than the tree, and I can keep watch as well from here as I can from over there.”

If he was less tired, Yates would probably insist that he’s fine, but he really isn’t and Benton’s sensible head is probably more right about anything than his own at the moment. So he drags himself up and watches as Benton seats himself with his back to the tree and a space between his drawn-up knees for Yates. Somewhat awkwardly he seats himself in it, and then lets out a quiet, tired, contented sound because Benton’s chest is warm against his back, his legs a reassuring barrier against the outside world either side of him, his shoulder when Yates lets his head rest against it the most comfortable thing Yates can imagine right now.

“Get some sleep, sir,” Benton says affectionately, and Yates drifts off to Benton’s hand rubbing absently up and down his uninjured arm.

A few hours later he wakes to find he’s slid down during his sleep, his head now using Benton’s upper arm as a pillow while Benton holds him firmly around the waist to stop him slipping any further. If it wasn’t his turn to take watch again, he’d be perfectly happy to stay here all night.

“If you don’t mind, sir, I can sleep anywhere,” Benton tells him as Yates gets ready to move. “You can stay here if you’d like.”

“Benton, you’ve made my day,” Yates says, settling back against him with a sigh.

Sleepily, Benton tells him, “Well, you make a pretty good blanket, so we’re even.”

The moon travels slowly across the sky as Yates keeps watch, standing guard between Benton and the dark night around them, which seems far less threatening with Benton snoring softly behind him.

-- -- -- -- --

The morning after the attack, the Brigadier takes some men to see what chances they’ve got of regaining any of the ground lost yesterday. By lunchtime, he’s back at HQ and on his way to the Doctor’s lab in the hope that he’s had more luck.

“Ah, Brigadier,” the Doctor says as he walks in. “How did it go?”

Next to him, Jo says hopefully, “And did you find Mike and Sergeant Benton?”

The Brigadier almost smiles at her optimism, but it’s gravely misplaced. “I’m afraid we didn’t, Miss Grant,” he informs her. “I can only assume they’re on the ship. As for how we fared, Doctor, the answer is ‘not well at all’. The jeeps didn’t get within twenty miles of that alien ship before they activated some sort of... sonic defences, I suppose you’d call them. Had my men covering their ears for at least a mile back up the road, and fairly knocked a couple of them out for a good half hour. No casualties, but I’d be reluctant to try it again.”

“Can you get to the ship by, well, not-on the road?” Jo asks.

“We could try, but it wouldn’t do us much good. There’s forest between us and them and the jeeps just wouldn’t get through it. No, unless the Doctor can come up with a way of disarming their defences as well as their weapons, I’m afraid we’re stuck for the time being.”

“Yes, well, I’m having some success with this one you brought me,” the Doctor indicates the weapon lying in front of himself and Jo. “It’ll take me a little while but the good news is that once I’ve got something rigged up, it should work on all their technology. You see, by using my sonic screwdriver -”

“Thank you, Doctor, I don’t need details,” the Brigadier tells him. “Just hurry it up, would you? As yet we have no idea what these aliens are planning, but I’d rather stop them before they get around to doing it rather than afterwards. And we’ve got to get Yates and Benton out of there, too.”

“We’ll do our best,” Jo assures him.

“I know you will, Miss Grant.”

He just hopes it’s before anything happens to Benton and Yates.

-- -- -- -- --

Breakfast is the last few sips of water from their bottles and half an energy-bar each, which does little to satisfy hungry stomachs. Yates’ arm doesn’t feel any better than yesterday but at least now that he’s slept, he’s better able to ignore it. After he lets Benton check that the splint isn’t too tight, they straighten themselves out as best as possible, and head off in the direction of the road that should be somewhere ahead of them.

The sun has risen strong and high, the beautiful day a strange counterpoint to the danger they know they’re in. Still, they make the most of it and roll their sleeves up - Yates with Benton’s help - to better enjoy the warmth as they walk along. When Yates starts whistling, Benton sends him a bemused look but he smiles, too, so Yates carries on until his lips get too dry.

They reach the road before too long, a long strip of smooth concrete that cuts through the wood and leads - assuming they’re at the right one - in the general direction of HQ. It’s quiet, almost eerily so, and now that they’re standing at the edge it seems like less of a good idea to walk along something so open. Granted they’re a good way from the spacecraft now, but that’s no guarantee against anything.

It’s either this or trek through the trees though, and Yates would prefer to avoid unnecessary effort on the trip.

“Stick close to the edge and keep an ear out for anything coming up behind us,” he cautions Benton, who nods and sticks close behind him as they start out along the road.

It goes well for the mile or so; easier going than through the underbrush of the forest, and no cars but nothing following them either. Behind him, Yates can hear Benton humming under his breath, and he chuckles as he recognises the tune.

“‘The Sun has got its hat on’, Benton? Really?"

“Thought it might cheer us up, sir,” Benton replies, and Yates grins.

Their tuneful meanderings are brought to a dissonant end when a high-pitched whine blasts out from all around them, a near-deafening screech that sets Yates’ teeth on edge and makes his bones feel like they’re shaking. Half of him wants to freeze on the spot and clap his hands to his ears until it’s over, but he ignores the irrational urge and yells for Benton to follow him before heading for the forest.

He’s only stumbled a few steps before he realises that Benton isn’t with him. When he turns back, Benton’s curled up in a ball on the ground, arms wrapped around his head, twitching and rocking as if he’s in agony. Rushing back, Yates realises that Benton is in no state to listen to him even if he could hear, so he grips Benton’s hand with his own uninjured one and drags it away before slipping his palm underneath Benton’s head. Come on, Benton he thinks to himself, grimly aware that if Benton doesn’t want to move, there’s no way either of them are going very far.

Benton’s gaze when it meets Yates’ is anguished, but he manages a nod when Yates gestures at the side of the road, and gets himself upright despite having clear troubles concentrating. Drawing Benton’s arm around his shoulder and gripping it tight at the wrist, Yates aims them both for the treeline, and they stumble away into the cover of the forest as fast as they can.

It takes half a mile for Benton to stop tripping over his own feet every few steps, another half after that for the noise to fade to a level where he doesn’t need to lean on Yates. The noise stops shortly afterwards but Yates pushes them on anyway, only letting them rest when they come to a stream far enough away from the road that if anything has been alerted to their presence, it’ll take them a little while to catch up.

Leaving Benton propped up against a rock, Yates takes their water bottles down to the stream, and returns with cool, clear water for them both. Benton downs half of his in one go and then blinks blearily at him. “What on Earth was that?” he asks, wincing as his voice comes out far too loudly for the comfort of his abused ears.

“Some sort of alarm doubling as a defence system, I’d assume,” Yates replies, having trouble judging the volume of his own voice. “My ears are still ringing.”

Grimacing, Benton raises a hand to his forehead. “So are mine.” With a soft groan, sounding thoroughly fed up, he adds, “It brought my headache right back as well.”

Of course, Yates realises, after yesterday’s ordeal it makes sense that Benton would be so much more susceptible to something like that.

“Thanks for getting me out of there,” Benton says, which earns him Yates’ ‘Don’t be an idiot’ look. “Do you think anything will come looking for us?”

“That depends how badly they need us,” Yates says. “Either way, I think we’d better not risk going back on the road. We don’t know how many tricks like that they’ve got between here and HQ.” Standing, he takes his compass out of his pocket, and looks along to where the stream flows. “On the plus side, the stream is going roughly towards where we need to be. It’ll take us a bit further east than we need to be, but we can follow it for a while.”

“Right.” Benton nods and gets to his feet with a determined look. Wiping at his brow with his forearm, he says, “I suppose we’d better get going then?”

Amused, Yates eyes the dirt that’s now smeared across Benton’s face. It makes him look an odd mixture of rugged and adorable, although Yates decides against mentioning it. “I’d say ‘if you’re up to it’, but you clearly are. With me then, Sergeant Benton. We’ve got places to be.”

-- -- -- -- --

At noon they rest, a shady spot down by the river where they can sit and breathe while water trickles by their feet.

“Anything for lunch, sir?” Benton asks hopefully, injecting a slither of humour into a day that’s taken a distinct turn for the subdued since their encounter with the alarm.

“Not unless you’ve got a sandwich that you’ve been hiding up your sleeve,” Yates replies, but he breaks out the chocolate and passes Benton a few pieces. They disappear quickly; a hazard of nearing thirty-six hours without food.

“How far from HQ do you reckon we are?” Benton asks.

“About fifteen miles, maybe twenty,” Yates replies. “We should make it by tonight if nothing else gets in the way.”

Benton sighs and licks the last of the chocolate off his fingers, wincing when he catches the raw patches from yesterday’s burns.

“How’s the thumb?” Yates asks. Ruefully, Benton extends his hand to Yates, who slips his own underneath it and examines the inflamed blisters that run down the side of the digit.

“Hurts like the blazes when I think about it,” Benton tells him.

“I’m not surprised.” He supposes they should really wrap it, but for the moment the blisters will keep it from getting infected, so there’s no point making it more uncomfortable for Benton. “How about your head?”

“Throbbing a bit, but I doubt it’s as bad as your arm.”

“I certainly wouldn’t say no to some painkillers,” Yates says wistfully. “Which we’re far more likely to get back at the base than here. Ready to move out?”

To Benton, hiking through English countryside while keeping an eye out for whatever may or may not be following them sounds far less appealing than sitting for a while longer with Yates’ hand cool beneath his own. That’s not really an option though, so he stands with a sigh and reaches down his less-injured hand to Yates. “Ready when you are, sir.”

With a nod of thanks, Yates takes it and gets to his feet. It takes just a moment or two more than necessary for them to let go, and their arms brush together as they walk on, quiet contact that keeps up flagging spirits where mere determination cannot.

-- -- -- -- --

From up on the bank, Yates keeps an eye out while Benton refills their water bottles. While he’s down there, he takes the opportunity to dip his fingers in the cool flow and splash some up onto his face, looking almost relaxed as he leans his head forwards and rubs a hand across the back of his neck to cool it.

It’s a nice image. Yates wonders if one day he’ll get the chance to take Benton fishing or something, enjoy a warm summer’s day and a river when they’re out of danger - and out of uniform. His family owns a cottage up in the Lake District that would fit the bill, although he’s not sure what Benton would think of that idea, seeing as how he’s a fan of fish and chips and the seaside. He’s not entirely sure what Benton would think of the idea in general, actually, but there’ll be time enough to ask him later.

Rustling from the forest snaps Yates from his daydream, and he hisses urgently at Benton even as he looks around to see what moved and where. When he catches sight of the creature, it’s ahead of them rather than behind, moving slowly but surely out of the trees and towards the stream. Slowly, footsteps light, Yates draws back into the forest and beckons hurriedly for Benton to get up the bank and join him. He’s barely made it to the treeline when the lizard emerges out onto the bank, and Yates waves a desperate hand at him to freeze before it catches the movement.

Barely breathing, Yates watches as it looks left and right, extending its forked tongue into the air to flicker and dart before it draws it back in with a snap. Then it starts walking towards them. Benton, flattened to a tree that isn’t going to hide him for long when he’s right at the edge of the forest, looks at Yates somewhat worriedly and mouths ‘What now’?

‘What now’? indeed, Yates thinks, while he signals for Benton to stay put. Moving isn’t an option; they’ve got no weapons, and haven’t fared too well two-on-one during their previous encounters. Can’t attack, can’t retreat, but a distraction... that just might work.

His good arm is the injured one, which makes it the bad one at the moment, so he crouches slowly down and searches for a decent stone with his left hand. When he finds one, he hefts it carefully, and judges the trajectory as best he can in the few seconds he has available to him, then launches it towards the other side of the river.

If the creature sees the stone, or it falls short, then they’re done for. But no, it sails across and rattles through branches on the other side, drawing the lizard’s attention with a flick of its head and a swing of its tail. Then it hisses and splashes across the river, while Benton sighs and slumps against the trunk in relief.

Only when the lizard has well and truly vanished amongst the trees on the other side does Yates beckon him over, not entirely at ease until Benton has joined him behind his own much more substantial cover.

Voice low so it doesn’t carry, Benton says, “Nice throw, sir. And very much appreciated, too. I thought for sure it was going to see me.”

“Not while I’m around,” Yates tells him, which comes out a little stronger than he had intended it to. “It was a pretty decent shot, wasn’t it?” he adds, because if there’s one thing the last two minutes have taught him it’s that now is not the time to think about these things.

Letting the moment go, for now, Benton just nods in agreement.

“Time to head back into the woods, I think,” Yates decides. “We need to be heading east now anyway.”

“Nearly there then?” Benton asks.

The innocent look on his face makes Yates eye him suspiciously. “Benton, you’re just as capable as I am of judging how fast we’re going. Why exactly do you keep asking me instead of working it out for yourself?”

“Oh, but it’s no fun if I do that. It’s not a proper trip back home if there isn’t someone asking ‘Are we nearly there yet?’.”

Slightly shaky, tired, sore, and still recovering from their near-miss, Yates shakes his head and can’t hold back his grin. “Remind me not to go anywhere in a car with you again,” he tells Benton, who looks entirely too pleased with himself. “We’ll take the bike instead,” Yates adds, and sets off while Benton is still blinking and trying to work out if that was an invitation or not.

-- -- -- -- --

“Well, Doctor, how’s it going?” the Brigadier demands.

“Finished just this moment, my dear Brigadier,” the Doctor tells him, tapping his hand against the large box lying on his desk, wires and antenna emerging from every surface. “It’s not my most elegant work, but it’s perfectly functional.”

“As long as it works, Doctor, I couldn’t care if it looks like the back end of a horse. Benton and Yates have been behind enemy lines for more than twenty-four hours now, and we’ve got to get them out of there.”

At the Doctor’s side, Jo nods in determined agreement.

“You’ll be able to do all that, and more,” the Doctor says. “This little thing should knock out every weapon and defence system that they’ve got, and your regular old bullets should put paid to the aliens after that. Unfortunately, it’s only got a limited range, but by necessity that’s the same range as the alien weapons themselves.”

“That’ll do me just fine,” the Brigadier says. “All right then, let’s get going. Miss Grant, given that I know you’ll be coming with us whether I like it or not, might I request that you stay out of harm’s way and keep the Doctor in the same condition?”

“I’ll do my best,” Jo promises him. “Only do hurry to get Mike and Sergeant Benton out, won’t you?”

“I assure you, they’re my top priority. We’ll have them safe and sound in no time at all.”

-- -- -- -- --

It's tougher going through the forest, the only consolation being that the lizards, bigger and bulkier than they are, will have an even harder time moving through it. They can’t afford to assume that they’re ahead though, so they travel quietly, tensing at every rustle and glimpse of unidentified movement until the bird - as it usually is - flits away with a cheerful whistle that fails to alleviate the tension. The miles seem to drag as they push on beneath the dense canopy above which blocks out the sun, through brambles which tangle in their clothes and scratch at their bare forearms, climbing slowly upwards on an incline that doesn’t want to end.

As unobtrusively as possible, Benton keeps an eye on Yates. He knows full well that he’s had as much of a rough day as Benton, probably more so what with having to haul him away from danger in the morning and then rescue him again this afternoon, all with his bad arm. Equally he knows that the Captain won’t complain about it unless Benton asks, which there’s little point in doing. Instead he does what little he can to ease the trip, pushing branches silently to the side as silently as Yates acknowledges the assistance, and providing a steadying hand on the few occasions he stumbles.

“Is it just me, or are the trees thinning out up there?” Benton asks, pausing to squint against the sunshine that’s doing his pounding head no good at all.

“You know, I think they might be,” Yates replies.

They exchange a look that tries not to be too hopeful and fails, and finish the climb with an enthusiasm that’s been distinctly lacking of late. Out of breath and sweating slightly, they arrive at the top of the hill and the edge of the treeline simultaneously, and look down into the shallow valley within which is contained a familiar looking village a mere mile or so away.

“Home in time for tea,” Benton grins.

“Not quite,” Yates says grimly, and points to an outcropping of rocks a little way below them where a well-armed lizard with its back to them is standing guard. Between it and HQ is nothing but open space, the forest extending a little way around to the sides but nowhere near far enough, a few scattered boulders the only inadequate cover on the grassy expanse. “We’ve got to get past that, first.”

Back to index


Chapter 3: Chapter 3

“Home in time for tea,” Benton grins.

“Not quite,” Yates says grimly, and points to an outcropping of rocks a little way below them where a well-armed lizard with its back to them is standing guard. Between it and HQ is nothing but open space, the forest extending a little way around to the sides but nowhere near far enough, a few scattered boulders the only inadequate cover on the grassy expanse. “We’ve got to get past that, first.”


Dismayed, Benton asks, “How on Earth are we going to manage that? That thing can see for miles from there.”

“Apart from behind it,” Yates points out thoughtfully. “Benton, do you think you could take it out with something like, oh, that branch there?”

“Well, yes,” Benton replies, looking at the hefty chunk of tree that Yates is pointing at. “Assuming its skull isn’t metal-plated or something. But how am I going to get close enough? Even if it’s not looking, it’ll hear me coming before I get within a hundred feet of it.”

“Not if it’s distracted.”

“Oh, no, sir-”

“Look, if I get down to those trees there and make a dash for one of those rocks, it’ll think I’m trying to get back to the village. You can sneak up on it and give it a good knock over the head before it gets a chance to shoot me, alright?”

“That’s incredibly reckless, sir,” Benton protests. “What if I can’t get to it in time? Those rocks aren’t going to give you much cover if I can’t overpower it.”

“You’ve got a much better chance than I have, Benton. Besides, what other choice do we have? We’ve got to get back to the Brigadier as soon as possible and warn him, before those lizards start taking innocent people from their homes to turn them into canon fodder and slave labour.”

He’s right, of course, but that doesn’t mean Benton likes it one bit. Reluctantly he picks up the branch, checking that it’s in one piece and hard enough to do a decent amount of damage. “Just you be careful, sir,” he says.

“When did being careful ever get us anywhere?” Yates’ quick grin, flashed from a grimy face beneath tangled hair that sticks up and catches the sun, reminds Benton of what Yates is capable of. He might look as if he’s held together only by a makeshift sling and determination, but he’s competent and quick and more than capable of managing even with those hindrances. “Give me two minutes to get down there, but be ready in case it spots me sooner.”

“Got it.”

“Good. Best of luck, Sergeant Benton.” Yates claps him on the arm and disappears into the trees, leaving to Benton crouch down and eyes the descent so that when the time comes, he can get down to the lizard as quickly as possible.

Less than two minutes later, he spots Yates ready to emerge from the treeline, and starts making his way down the hill. A second or two after that, the lizard spots him as well, as Yates breaks from the trees and starts to leg it across the couple of hundred meters he’s got to cover. It trains its weapon on him and looses a shot that goes wild, then another that Yates dodges but just barely, while Benton raises his makeshift weapon and scrambles downwards as quickly as he can.

It’s just about to make its third shot when Benton arrives, already swinging, and the branch slams into the side of its head with a thump that Benton feels all the way up to his shoulders. It really must have a metal-plated head though, because its tail whips out and takes Benton’s legs out from underneath him while it staggers, stunned but not out, and fires blindly into the valley again.

“Oh no you don’t,” Benton tells it, and has no qualms about giving the lizard back what it dealt out. One well-aimed strike to the back of its knees brings it down, and Benton tackles it to the ground while it sways. Dazed and bruised, it offers more of a fight than Benton would have expected but nothing he can’t handle; the scuffle ends moments later when Benton shoots it in the chest with the weapon he wrests from clawed hands, and the lizard goes still on the ground.

Breathless, Benton turns around to wave at Yates to let him know that it’s over. Then his heart sinks as he sees Yates’ body lying limp and unmoving on the ground below, his bad arm beneath him, the other above his head inches from touching the rock he’d been so close to reaching.

-- -- -- -- --

“Alright! Listen up you lot,” the Brigadier shouts as the convoy assembles in the village square. “The Doctor’s device is, as far as we can tell, operational but it’s got a limited range. We’ll be taking this road as close to the alien ship as we can get, so stick close and keep an eye out for anything trying to sneak past us. And remember, getting Captain Yates and Sergeant Benton out of there comes before blowing the ship up. Everybody understand? Good. Move out.”

-- -- -- -- --

After a mad dash down the hill, Benton reaches Yates, face-down and deathly still. Hands shaking, Benton presses his fingers to his neck and prays desperately for a pulse. When he feels it, faint and fast but there, his breath rushes out in dizzying relief. The blast must have not have caught him properly, thank goodness.

“Come on, sir,” he mutters, carefully rolling Yates over onto his back. There’s blood running down his face from a heck of a bump just above his hairline, and he doesn’t so much as twitch when Benton pats him on the side of the face. What he needs is a hospital, and fast.

Muscles aching, lungs protesting, hands shaking, Benton lifts Yates up and over his shoulder, apologises silently for the jostling he’s about to receive, and sets out for the village as quickly as he can.

-- -- -- -- --

“Brigadier!” Jo says from the back seat, leaning forward to point out of the window, nearly knocking him on the nose in her excitement. “Look!”

“I’d love to, Miss Grant, but your arm is rather in my way,” he says irritatedly. “Thank you. Now what - good Lord, it’s Benton! And he’s got Captain Yates with him.”

“Neither of them look to be in particularly good shape,” the Doctor remarks. “You’d better get some men out there to help them.”

Without wasting time replying to that, the Brigadier brings the convoy to a halt and leaps out, shouting for the medics to follow him as he strides towards Benton.

“Alright, Benton, we’ve got him,” he assures the exhausted-looking man, who shakes as he hands Yates over but doesn’t once let his grip slip until he’s safely on the stretcher. “Get him to the hospital right away,” he instructs the medics, and lays a hand on Benton’s arm before he can follow them. “Don’t worry, Sergeant Benton, you’ll be going there momentarily. I need you to tell me anything you know that might help us before we attack though. Is that understood?”

Nodding, Benton brings himself to attention, and starts telling the Brigadier everything of importance in a remarkably coherent fashion, pausing only once to take a grateful swig of the water that Jo hands him when his throat dries up. The Brigadier nods and takes note of everything, and thanks him when he’s done by packing him into a jeep that follows the medical truck back to the hospital.

“I’m surprised you didn’t want to join them, Miss Grant,” he says as they clamber back into the jeep. “You seemed most concerned about them.”

“There’s nothing I can do to help them that the doctors couldn’t do better,” Jo says practically. Then she adds, with a more than slightly threatening edge to her voice, “Besides, I want to get to the things that hurt them like that, and see they get what’s coming to them.”

-- -- -- -- --

Despite Benton’s protests, the nurse won’t even consider letting him see Yates until he’s been checked out. He’s not going anywhere until they’ve established that he’s in a fit shape to do so; and besides, he’s informed, the doctor is with him now and wouldn’t let Benton in even if he turned up, so he might as well get himself looked after now.

Sighing, Benton takes a seat on the edge of the hospital bed, and lets the man do his job.

“You really have had an eventful few days, haven’t you?” he asks when Benton finishes running through the list of injuries. “Sounds as if you’ve been lucky and avoided anything too serious though. We’ll have you patched up in no time, and then I’ll talk to the doc, see about getting you in to see Captain Yates. But only if you have something to eat and drink while I’m sorting that out, all right?”

“Fair enough,” Benton says gratefully. “Thanks.”

Benton sits quietly while the nurse pokes at his bruises, shines bright lights in his eyes, smears Savlon over his cuts and scratches, and wraps his thumb carefully in a bandage. Then he gives Benton a tetanus shot, a sandwich and some painkillers, a bottle of water to swallow them with, and leaves him with orders to finish them all and put on a clean t-shirt while he goes to find the doctor.

“Can I see him?” Benton asks the second the nurse comes back into the room. Hastily he chews down the last bite of the sandwich, which he has to admit he needed. “How is he?”

“Still out, but fine. The doctor will fill you in; two doors down, room number three. Go on with you. I’ll bring you another sandwich in a bit.”

Already off the bed, Benton thanks the man as profusely as he can on the way out, and then makes his way to Yates’ room. Quietly he slips in and makes his way over to the bed, where Yates lies unconscious and pale, a drip in one arm and plaster cast on the other, the finishing touches of a white bandage around his head being applied by the doctor.

“How is he, Doc?” Benton asks, watching his chest rise slow and steady beneath the sheets.

“Bruised and battered, but no permanent damage done,” she tells him, and Benton finally feels the worry begin to fade. “A hairline fracture to the wrist, a few impressive bruises and some minor burns on his hands, all of which should heal with no complications. On top of that he’s got a mild concussion mixed with dehydration and exhaustion, so he’ll be out for a while, but he’ll be fine.”

“Can I sit with him?” Benton asks her. “Please? I won’t be any trouble, ma’am.”

She looks him up and down, and gestures to the chair in the corner with a hint of a smile. “Well you don’t look as if you’re up to standing for much longer, that’s for sure.”

Gratefully, Benton drags the chair to the edge of the bed, and half-collapses into it with a sigh. “Thank you,” he tells her, putting all the gratitude that he can into his voice.

She nods, hooks Yates’ chart over the edge, and leaves him alone in the quiet room. Benton means to stay awake and keep an eye on Yates, but now that he’s seen that Yates is being looked after and knows that they’re safe, he barely lasts ten minutes before falling asleep and snoring gently at Yates’ side.

-- -- -- -- --

An indeterminate amount of time later he’s awoken by a shake to the shoulder and the Brigadier’s voice, and starts to get to his feet before he’s even fully awake. “At ease, Benton,” the Brigadier tells him, pushing him back down into his chair.

“Thank you, sir,” he half-yawns, rubbing bleary eyes as he wakes the rest of the way up.

“How’s Captain Yates doing?” the Brigadier asks.

Benton looks over to where Yates still sleeps safe in hospital sheets. “He’s got a mild concussion and a broken wrist, but the doctor says he’s going to be fine once he’s rested and fed.”

“I’m very glad to hear it.”

There’s a sandwich on the bedtime table that Benton’s stomach tells him he should eat, so he does, enquiring through a mouthful, “How did the attack go?”

“Splendidly,” the Brigadier says with a great deal of satisfaction. “I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that there’s a great pile of debris where the ship used to be, and we’ve acquired some impressive weaponry to send to the scientists.”

Benton nods. “I’m sorry Yates and I weren’t more use to you,” he says, reflecting that for all they’ve been through, they ended up doing very little when it mattered.

“I’ll thank you to leave judgements like that up to me, Sergeant Benton,” the Brigadier says sharply, although his expression when Benton looks up in surprise is not as harsh as his tone would suggest. “You and Captain Yates not only managed to get yourselves out of the hands of the enemy, thus preventing them from using you as hostages when we attacked, but you also gathered intelligence on their plans and reported back to me successfully. That they never got a chance to put those plans into effect is irrelevant.

“In addition,” he continues before Benton can speak, “your information on the placement of their defences proved very useful on the advance. Took them rather by surprise when both of their little alarm systems failed to take us by surprise, and indeed failed to take us out at all. No, Sergeant Benton, I think you’ll find that both you and Captain Yates did your jobs excellently.”

“Thank you, sir,” Benton says quietly. “To be honest though, most of it was Captain Yates. He came up with the escape plan, and stopped me from getting captured by the aliens - twice. And he drew the alien’s fire so that I could knock it out, too. We wouldn’t have made it if it wasn’t for him.”

“Two things, Benton,” the Brigadier says. “Firstly, I’ve no doubt that if Yates were awake, he’d be telling me that your contribution to the escape was at least as significant as his. Secondly, correct me if I’m mistaken, but it was you who carried him almost a mile back after he was shot by that creature. He wouldn’t be here without you.” He gives Benton a moment to consider that, before adding, “You’ve both been through a lot, Benton. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

After a moment, something of the truth of the Brigadier’s words make it through to him, and Benton nods.

“Now then,” the Brigadier says. “It’s seven o’clock in the evening, which I believe is more than past time for you to be getting some proper rest.” Alarmed, Benton starts to object, and the Brigadier quiets him with a raised eyebrow. “However, you look to be perfectly comfortable where you are, so I see no reason you can’t stay until Captain Yates wakes up.”

An extremely relieved Benton replies, “Thank you, sir.”

“I’m putting you on the truck back home tomorrow though,” the Brigadier tells him. “And no amount of protesting will change my mind, so I advise you not to try.”

Benton knows better than to push that one. “What about Captain Yates?”

“He’ll stay here until the doctor clears him to travel. Don’t worry, I’ll be supervising the clean-up operation here, and I’ll keep an eye on him. You have my word.”

The Brigadier is looking at him with far more understanding than Benton expects, and there’s a silent moment of acknowledgement before the Brigadier turns and leaves, closing the door behind him. Yawning, Benton shuffles his chair backwards, leans forwards to rest his arms on the space between Yates and the edge of the bed, and sets his head down on the makeshift pillow to nap while he waits.

-- -- -- -- --

It’s gone nine pm by the time Yates stirs, groaning softly while Benton raises his head and watches his eyes blink open. For a moment he looks confused, and then he focuses on Benton. With a smile that’s lacking none of its charm and confidence despite being delivered from a face with a split lip and a black eye, he croaks out, “We made it, I take it?”

Unable and unwilling to stop smiling, Benton pours a glass of water and helps Yates raise his head to sip at it. “Yes, sir. Everybody made it, expect the lizards. The Brigadier shot them, or maybe blew them up, I’m not really sure.”

“What happened after I got... knocked out?” Yates blinks. “Actually, I’m a little fuzzy on what happened before then, too.”

Setting the cup back down on the bedside table and taking his seat again, Benton fills him in as best he can, not leaving out the bit about being unable to stop the lizard before it shot Yates.

“Not your fault,” Yates assures him with a sleepy smile that reassures him far more than the Brigadier’s earlier words had.

Looking down at where his hands lie on the sheet just next to Yates’, matching sets of fingers covered in bandages and antiseptic, Benton says quietly, “I’m just glad you’re all right, sir.”

There’s so much he should be worrying about but his brain is tired and he just wants Yates to know, wants everything he isn’t saying to be heard and understood, and waits with his heart pounding to see whether Yates is going to respond at all. Then Yates does, and it’s as silently as Benton spoke in the first place, a nudge of his fingers against Benton’s followed by a slow slide of them together, bandages soft against rough skin that’s warm to the touch, and makes Benton’s fingers twitch where they now lie between Yates’.

“So am I,” Yates says, and Benton breathes out slowly. “Benton?”

Benton looks up and sees that Yates’ eyes are slipping shut, a content expression on his tired face. “Sir?”

“I wouldn’t be alright if it wasn’t for you. Thank you.”

Smiling, Benton covers their joined hands with his free one, and squeezes gently. “Any time, sir.”

“Mike,” Yates murmurs, and slips back into sleep.

Benton waits a few more minutes before he leaves, tucking Yates’ hand back against his side before he does so, and goes to find somewhere to rest his own head properly for a while.

-- -- -- -- --

When Benton checks in on Yates the next morning, he’s sound asleep and looking much better for it, so Benton leaves him to it and hops on the jeep that’ll take him back home as per the Brigadier’s orders. The last remnants of his headache have faded overnight and there’s really nothing wrong with him, but the doctor has signed him off work for five days so there’s nothing for it but to do as he’s told.

After he spends that afternoon sleeping on the sofa, Benton admits that maybe a bit of time off isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Jo comes to visit him the next morning, a bright and smiley surprise that livens up his day considerably. She’s just come from seeing Yates, and Benton tries not to look too anxious when he asks how Yates is. After barely spending a moment away from his side on their not-so-little adventure, not seeing him for more than a twenty-four hours now is causing him more concern than he’d anticipated.

“He’s fine,” she assures him. “He’s got to stay in hospital another day just to be safe though.” With a smile, she adds, “He didn’t seem very pleased that the Brigadier had sent you home without him.”

Benton tries not to break out into a grin at that information, but Jo is looking at him speculatively and he’s got a feeling he’s already been found out. “I wasn’t all that chuffed about it, either,” he admits. Jo gives him a sympathetic pat on the arm, promises she’ll see what she can do about it, and changes the subject to fill him in on what was going on back at HQ while he and Yates were roaming around the countryside.

-- -- -- -- --

Three days in hospital is more than enough for both Yates and the nurses looking after him, and they’re all relieved when he’s cleared to go home. Once there though, Yates finds himself wandering about the house with not much to do, no-one to do it with, and no Benton to cheer him up either. What makes it worse is that Benton is only short drive away, only his damn arm means he can’t drive.

Decidedly fed-up, Yates welcomes Jo’s arrival when she pops around to see him with some grapes and an enthusiastic but careful hug. He only begins to suspect she’s got an ulterior motive when she looks at him over the top of her mug and says in what is probably supposed to be an off-handed fashion, “I went to see Benton yesterday, by the way.”

“That was nice of you,” Yates replies, and holds his disinterested air until Jo’s face falls. Then he winks at her, and she glares crossly at him before he asks, “How is he?”

“I think he misses you,” Jo tells him.

Frustrated, Yates says, “If only I could drive, I’d go and see him.” Jo looks at him like he’s an idiot. “What is it?” he asks.

“I did come here by car, you know.”

“Well, yes, but I can’t ask -”

“Don’t be silly,” she says, putting down her cup decisively. “Come on, let’s go.”

Grinning, Yates leaps up and grabs his jacket.

-- -- -- -- --

The next time Benton opens the door, it’s to find Jo there again, only this time she’s got Yates standing next to her with an half-cautious smile on his face that matches the sudden nerves in Benton’s stomach.

“I bought you a get-well soon present,” Jo tells Benton with a mischievous grin, and they all break out laughing. “Have fun,” she says, and skips back down the path to her car.

Inside, door shut behind them, Benton sticks his hands in his pockets and tells himself that there’s no sensible reason to want to shuffle his feet, or to be unable to hold Yates’ gaze for more than a second. It doesn’t help. “It’s good to see you up and about again,” he offers sincerely, but somewhat awkwardly.

The next time he glances back, Yates is standing right in front of him, and leans forwards to press his lips to Benton’s, soft and warm and almost completely unexpected. Benton makes a surprised sound and forgets how to take his hands out of his pockets, and by the time he’s remembered, Yates has stepped back again and is looking amused at his reaction.

“I thought I’d better get that out of the way, clear things up in case there was any doubt,” he says. Then he lets out a breath and adds, “I feel like I’ve been waiting to do that for ages.”

With a slight flush on his cheeks, Benton tells him, “You can do it again any time you like.”

“You be careful, making offers like that,” Yates cautions with a smile.

This time it’s Benton who steps forward to kiss Yates, and they linger in the hallway for long moments, hands clasped loosely together until Benton draws back and rests his forehead against Yates’ with a contented sigh.

“Any chance of a cup of tea?” Yates murmurs, and Benton laughs.

“Definitely.”

Feeling properly relaxed for the first time in days, Benton makes tea while Yates leans against the kitchen counter, and then they settle down on Benton’s sofa with two steaming mugs in front of them.

“Perfect,” Yates sighs, leaning back with a satisfied sigh. “Hospital tea really isn’t deserving of the name. Mind you, they make up for it with some pretty damned good painkillers.”

“You looked like you needed them,” Benton tells him, remembering how thoroughly beaten-up Yates had looked when he’d been lying on that stretcher. Now he’s got the colour back in his cheeks, the bruise around his eye is fading, and although he still looks as if he’s in need of a good meal or two, he’s clearly in much better shape. “How long did they sign you off work for?”

“A week,” Yates says. Gingerly, he lifts his wrist in its cast and sling. “I’ve got to wear this thing for six weeks though, so I’ll be stuck at the desk for a while yet.”

Given that there'd been a point where Benton had thought that Yates wasn't going to make it back to work at all, he can't find it in him to be as sympathetic towards Yates' plight as he probably should be. “It could have been a lot worse,” he says quietly.

“With you there to look out for me? Not a chance.” Benton hides his flush by taking another sip of tea, while Yates nudges his knee with his own but doesn’t mention it. “How’s your head?”

“All better now,” Benton replies. “The Doc came around yesterday to check that the aliens’ mind machine hadn’t done me any permanent damage, and he said I was fine.” He sees Yates’ disbelieving look. “Alright, he used bigger words than that, but he didn’t look too worried when he was saying them, so I think they were the good sort of big words rather than the bad.”

Yates laughs. “Fair enough. They wrapped your thumb up for you, I see.”

Benton only hesitates a moment before he holds out his hand. Slowly, Yates leans forward to put his cup of tea down, and twists in his seat a little so that he can cup his own beneath it. In Benton’s mind there’s a flash of trees, water, shade, protection, and he smiles.

“What is it?” Yates asks, catching the expression.

“I was just thinking that there were a few things that weren’t so bad while we were out there. Only a few, mind,” he clarifies, “and I wouldn’t want to go through it all again. But still, there were some nice bits.”

“I do seem to remember finding you rather comfortable to sleep on,” Yates agrees.

Benton tugs their joined hands towards him, and says hopefully, “You could always see if I’m more comfortable than the sofa cushions as well if you like.”

Laughing, Yates tells him, “Only if you put that cup of tea down. We’ve both had quite enough injuries for a while, don’t you think?”

Grinning, Benton abandons his mug, and Yates moves up and over to rest his knees either side of Benton’s legs on the cushions. His eyes glint as he braces himself against the back of the sofa, and he murmurs “Much better,” before leaning down to press their mouths together. This time Benton is ready for him, hands sliding around to rest on Yates’ back and pull him closer, lifting his head to chase the firm touches pressed against his mouth, and sighing at the warm weight of Yates settling against him.

Slow and careful slips slowly into something slightly bolder, which is fine and good and fun save for the pained sound when Benton moves the wrong way and almost re-opens Yates’ split lip. Yates waves it off with a chuckle and Benton apologises with a careful kiss to the spot. A few minutes later Yates forgets that he’s only got one arm working at the moment, so that when he moves his arm from the back of the sofa, he falls forwards against Benton and bangs his cast against Benton’s chest. That one hurts a little more.

Shortly after that, there’s some hasty rearrangement, and a slightly surprised Benton finds himself tugged down on top of Yates as he lies along the length of the sofa. “Hurry up, Benton, I can’t get my hands underneath your shirt until you’re down here,” Yates says with a wink.

“You could just have asked me to take it off,” Benton says, carefully resting most of his weight on his arms either side of Yates. “Is this alright? I don’t want to squash you.”

Pressed gently into the sofa cushions by Benton’s warm weight, Yates sighs and shuts his eyes for a moment. “It’s perfect,” he murmurs.

“Good,” Benton replies softly, and lowers his head to kiss Yates again, soft and slow and calm so as not to disturb the peaceful look on his face.

A moment later he lets out something which most definitely isn’t a squeak as Yates’ hand sneaks beneath the hem of his t-shirt and creeps up his stomach, tickling softly as it goes. Yates chuckles and says, without opening his eyes, “I did warn you.”

“You did,” Benton agrees. Grinning, he presses a kiss to Yates’ jaw and then works his way down his neck until he finds the spot that makes Yates gasp and shift underneath him, hand stuttering to a stop on Benton’s ribs. From there, soft groans and surprised giggles follow, shirts pushed up so that firm hands can move gently over still-bruised skin, legs sliding together while hips shift and they press against each other as much as their still somewhat battered bodies will allow. It’s not so much a competition as a co-operation, and when they finally draw back breathless and flushed, it’s obvious that’s it’s a rather successful one.

“Stay for dinner?” Benton asks, voice low and eyes hopeful.

“Just you try and kick me out,” Yates replies, and grins as Benton’s face lights up.

-- -- -- -- --

After dinner they sit out beneath the apple tree in Benton’s garden, Yates leaning back against Benton, whose arms wrap low around his waist and stroke absently against his side while they watch the sun set. There’s a soft breeze around them but the blanket draped around their shoulders keeps the chill away, and whenever Yates shivers, Benton gathers him a little closer and presses a gentle kiss to his cheek. If Yates had thought it was comfortable before, it’s even better now that they don’t have to worry about keeping watch or coping with painful injuries, or anything other than each others’ company.

“I’m going to fall asleep if I stay here,” Yates murmurs.

“Do you have anywhere else to be?” Benton teases him.

“Mmmm. No.”

“Then go to sleep.”

Yawning, Yates lets his head fall back to rest on Benton’s shoulder. “Remind me to ask you about the Lake District tomorrow,” he mumbles.

Smiling, no idea what Yates is talking about, Benton agrees, “I will.”

Yates’ eyes drift shut, and a few minutes later he’s snoring softly. Twilight brings the birds out to sing the night in, while Benton holds Yates’ sleeping body to him, a slight, strong form that doesn’t need keeping safe but simply watching over sometimes. For as long as it is necessary, Benton is more than happy to be the one who Yates trusts to do that.

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