Characters: Jack, Ianto.
Spoilers: Not really.
Summary: Jack is dead again and lost in the lightless limbo he’s visited far too many times already.
Word Count: 1000
Written For: oneill’s prompt ‘Any, Any, Heaven couldn't wait for you / So go on, go home,’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
Jack opened his eyes to a familiar darkness. No, it was more than mere darkness; it was a complete absence of light. This was a place that had never known illumination of any kind, or sound, or anything else. It was a place of nothing and he’d already been here way too many times for his liking. It was where he always came when he died.
What had happened to deliver him here this time? He could rarely remember while he was here, and after he left, whatever memories he took with him from the darkness quickly faded. They only returned when he came back here again, the next time he died. There was always a next time.
Despite the lack of light, even despite the lack of any physical sensation, Jack knew he was standing upright rather than lying down. Sometimes when he came here he barely had time to blink before being dragged back into life. Other times, like now, he felt as though he’d always been here and would never leave again. Like this was reality, and the real world, even life itself, was nothing more than a swiftly fading dream. Time and space held no meaning in this place, it was always right now, and he was always right here. Nevertheless, when he didn’t immediately revive back in his own body he began to walk.
Was he moving? He felt as though he was, but there was no way of knowing since he couldn’t feel ground beneath his feet, and didn’t actually have feet anyway, or even legs. He could simply be walking on the spot, or just imagining he was, but if he were indeed moving then where was he going, and was there even anywhere he could go? Come to that, did it really matter? That was doubtful, but what else could he do, just stay in one place, waiting for the inevitable sensation of being dragged across broken glass to begin?
That option never appealed, it made him feel too vulnerable, because as vast and empty as the nothingness around him seemed to be, somehow he was always aware that he wasn’t alone. Something else was here with him, and every single time he found himself here, he could feel it hunting for him. What would happen if it found him? He’d asked himself the same question at least a thousand times, but the answer always remained the same; he was probably better off not knowing.
So he walked, not sure if was going in a straight line, wandering around in circles, or standing still. He didn’t get out of breath; there was no air here, and breathing was unnecessary. He had no heartbeat because he had no body and therefore no heart, and no blood to be circulated. He wasn’t physically here; his body was lying dead back in the real world and the only part of him present in this limbo was his consciousness, what might be termed his spirit or soul.
Maybe he wasn’t here at all, maybe there was no ‘here’ and the blackness was merely his undying mind trying to make sense of its situation while disconnected from his senses.
Then again, maybe this was the place all souls came to be sorted after death, drifting in nothingness, being studied and evaluated before being assigned a destination. Maybe he was simply never here long enough to be sent through to whatever might lie beyond. He hoped that was the case because the alternative, that nothing existed beyond death, was simply too bleak to contemplate.
If heaven, or any form of afterlife, existed then it wasn’t for him. If a portal to the beyond did happen to open, he wouldn’t be able to pass through, he was sure of that much. Jack didn’t remember what had happened after the first time he died, when he’d been exterminated by a Dalek. There’d been pain, and death, and then life again; he hadn’t even been aware of coming here. Perhaps he hadn’t and he just got shunted here now like a package with no delivery address, waiting to be marked ‘return to sender’ and despatched back where he came from because nobody knew what else to do with him.
‘You don’t belong here.’
It wasn’t a voice as such, he didn’t hear it, because he had no ears, and no brain with which to interpret any sound waves his non-existent ears might pick up, but he was somehow aware of the words anyway. Before he could even begin to think about trying to reply, more words made themselves known.
‘Go home; it is not your time.’
Instantly the tugging sensation began, pulling painfully at his essence. How could there be pain when he had nothing to experience it with? And yet he did, and it only got worse as he was slammed back into his body, every nerve ending transmitting pain signals to a brain not prepared to cope with them.
But he wasn’t alone now, there were strong arms around him, holding him, trying to comfort him, and although they were the source of some of his pain he was grateful for the way they anchored him as he drew his first gasping breath, giving him something tangible to hold on to.
Already the memories of his time in the lightless no-place were melting away like mist on a summer’s day, but at the edge of his awareness, he seemed to catch two final words that for the briefest of moments gave him hope.
Perhaps there would eventually come a day when his unnaturally long life would end. If that was so then he could wait, however long it took. For now, he opened his eyes and looked into Ianto’s face, returned his lover’s tentative smile with a slightly shaky one of his own.
“Thank you.” But whether he was talking to Ianto or the unheard voice that was already fading from his memory, he couldn’t have said.