Characters: Ianto, Jack, Alex Hopkins, OCs.
Word Count: 2620
Summary: Halloween in the Hub brings forth restless spirits.
Content Notes: Some gory descriptions of wounds.
Written For: Challenge #171: Amnesty, using Challenge #27: Ghosts and Gore at fan_flashworks, and my genprompt_bingo square Gore.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Even after Jack had moved each of his dead teammates to one of the drawers in Torchwood’s morgue, the cold concrete floors had remained stained with blood and gore. No matter how much he’d scrubbed and bleached them over the following months, the stains had persisted, a constant reminder of the tragic events that had unfolded on the eve of the new Millennium.
Time and wear had gradually faded them, and most people wouldn’t have noticed the irregular, slightly darker patches on the mottled, uneven cement, but Jack knew they were there, and what had caused them; for him they were impossible to completely ignore. Nevertheless, life went on and he tried not to dwell on the past.
After a period of mourning, during which he died even more frequently than usual because of trying to do everything on his own, he rebuilt Torchwood Three his way, hiring new people to do the work his colleagues and friends on Alex’s team had once done. Inevitably he grew attached to his new team, even more so than to the people he’d worked with at the tail end of the Twentieth Century. Perhaps it was because these were people he’d hand picked himself rather than someone else’s hires, but for whatever reason, they soon became more to him than mere employees. They weren’t just his friends; they were his little family.
Like the bloodstains, Jack’s memories of that horrific New Year’s Eve dimmed as the years passed. He didn’t forget, he knew he never would, but he also knew that allowing himself to become fixated on the events of that one night wouldn’t change anything. He needed to keep moving forward, and he had more than enough going on in the present to keep him busy. Eventually, the only time the memories surfaced was on the last day of the old year and the first of the new, and even then he tried not to let them interfere with his team’s celebrations.
He thought he’d made peace with what had happened, but when Halloween rolled around one year, he began to wonder if that was really true.
October the thirty-first, 2010, just shy of ten years since Alex Hopkins, then head or Torchwood Three, had massacred his entire team before putting a gun to his head and blowing his brains out, all because of something he’d seen on opening a seemingly innocuous little locket that had fallen through the Rift.
The day had started out normally enough; a couple of minor Rift events dropping some random junk on Cardiff for the team to collect, followed by lunch eaten companionably around the big table in the boardroom. Once the dishes had been cleared away, everyone had hurried through their paperwork, hoping to leave early in order to go home and change for the Halloween Party Rhys and Gwen were hosting at their apartment later that night. If it was anything like the previous year’s bash, it would be a fun evening.
Ianto and Jack had volunteered to take David and Mica Trick or Treating in the early evening, before returning to the Hub to don their costumes for the party. The October weather was much too cold for them to walk the suburban streets in the skimpy uniforms they planned to wear, and besides, they’d probably freak out the homeowners. It was one thing to dress like that for a party attended by adults, but quite another to parade about in public as naughty schoolgirls while playing escort to impressionable children. Well, Ianto thought so, and his opinion on the matter was what counted.
On the way back from dropping the kids at Rhi’s, they had to take a detour to investigate another Rift alert, so they arrived at the Hub half an hour later than planned. Dumping the object they’d found on Tosh’s workstation for her to examine whenever she had time, Ianto grabbed the two items that had arrived earlier and took them down to his desk in the archives, intending to catalogue and shelve them the following day.
Returning to the main Hub, he stepped out of the stairwell into pitch-blackness, and stopped dead. That was odd; the lights had been on when he went downstairs, and even when they weren’t, the Hub was never this dark. Then again, Jack did love playing Halloween pranks.
“Jack, are you playing silly buggers with the lights? We don’t have time for this, we’re already going to be late to the party!” Although he yelled the words, for some reason his voice sounded oddly muffled to his ears and didn’t carry far.
As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he realised it wasn’t quite as complete as he’d first thought; he could just make out areas of dim reddish light here and there, an unpleasant shade that reminded him of congealing blood. A chill ran down his spine as he started to doubt that Jack was behind this eeriness, and he really wished he had his gun with him. Not knowing what else to do, he started forward, inching his way along the wall in the direction of Jack’s office; in situations like this, being alone was probably not the best idea.
Down in his bunker, Jack was adjusting his wig in the bathroom mirror when he became aware that everything had gone unnaturally quiet. There was always a certain amount of noise in the Hub, even late at night; the hum of the computers, clanking sounds from the pipes, the whirring of the ventilation system, and soft rustles and squawks from Myfanwy in her nest, but now a heavy, ominous silence seemed to have settled over everything. It was unsettling.
Leaving his bathroom, he climbed the ladder leading to his office, sticking his head out into darkness so deep he couldn’t even see his desk, which he knew was only a short distance away to his left. Ascending the rest of the way, he fumbled his way across the intervening distance until his groping hands found the familiar solid bulk of the antique piece of office furniture, which had been at Torchwood even longer than he had. He pulled open the top right-hand drawer, retrieving his Webley and a torch. Not that the latter made much difference to the surrounding darkness when he turned it on, its light seeming to be quickly swallowed before it reached more than a couple of metres, but at least it might keep him from bumping into anything.
Leaving his office, Jack ventured into the main Hub, intent on finding Ianto, which proved easier than expected since Torchwood’s archivist had been on his way to find him and they almost collided with each other at the bottom of the steps.
“Jack, what’s going on?” This time Ianto kept his voice low, but despite the muffling darkness, Jack heard him well enough.
“No idea, I was hoping you knew.”
“Not a clue.” Ianto looked at Jack by the light of the torch, which was nowhere near as bright as it should have been. “At least you’re armed. My gun’s down in your bunker, I wasn’t expecting to need it tonight.”
“You’d best go get it. Here, take my torch, there should be another one in Gwen’s desk.”
Ianto was reaching for the torch when the whispering started, voices speaking words they couldn’t quite make out at first. The patches of sickly reddish light were growing brighter, and Ianto abandoned all thoughts of going after his gun in favour of staying close to Jack. Instead, the two men moved slowly towards the closest patch of light. The glow appeared to be emanating from the concrete and they could just discern the vague outline of a figure there, lying on the ground.
As they drew closer, they could see it was a woman, or had been at least. Part of her head was missing, blown away by a gunshot by the looks of it. It was obvious that she was dead, and yet even as they stared at her, she started to move. Slowly she pushed herself up from the blood-smeared concrete, her head turning as she scanned the Hub with her remaining eye, searching for someone, or something. Despite her horrific injury, Jack recognised her immediately. He might have succeeded in pushing the memories to the back of his mind, but they were still there, and as vivid as they’d been on that fateful night almost ten years before.
“Janine,” Jack whispered in a broken voice. It cut like a knife to see her like this when she’d once been so lovely. “I’m sorry. I should have been here, maybe if I had been I could have saved you.” He might as well not have spoken, her gaze passed right over them and it was clear she neither saw nor heard Jack.
Ianto recognised her too, from the Torchwood personnel files: Janine Lewis, one of the members of Alex Hopkins’ team. He tore his eyes away from her ruined face, scanning the rest of the Hub. Each patch of blood red light centred on another gore-splattered human form, each of them looking lost and confused; sad spirits, dragged from their rest. Like Janine, they were all dragging themselves to their feet. Gordon Fox, a neat bullet-hole in his forehead and a bigger, messier one in the back of his head. Melanie Fierra, a gaping wound in her belly where she’d been shot. Paul Miller, dragging himself upright on the balcony, the left side of his shirt drenched in blood from a single bullet to the heart. Jeff Needham, shot twice in the back.
One by one, they started to walk, staggering and lurching, all heading in the same direction, their fatal wounds dripping as they moved, leaving behind them bloody trails, smears, and footprints that glowed with their own eerie light as they advanced on the final figure. He half sat, slumped on a barrel that Ianto knew for a fact hadn’t been there before, and like the others, he was obviously dead, one side of his head reduced to a gaping hollow. It wasn’t really a surprise to see him. Alex Hopkins himself, the man who had perpetrated the massacre.
Jack and Ianto stood frozen in place, holding on to each other tight enough to leave bruises, neither of them sure what they were seeing or what was going to happen. They wanted to get out of there, and yet they didn’t, compelled to watch by their own morbid need to understand, and besides, Ianto was dubious about whether or not he could move even if he tried. Somehow it seemed best not to find out for certain one way or the other.
Alex raised his head as his team advanced on him, his expression sorrowful and resigned. “I’m sorry.”
“You killed us,” one of the corpses murmured, voice slurred and hard to understand. “We trusted you, and yet you took from us the most precious thing we had; our lives.”
“I had to do it, for your own good. You have to understand; it was a mercy killing. I saw the future, and we weren’t ready.”
“Then you should have made us ready.” This time it was Janine who spoke.
“At the very least, you should have told us what you’d seen and given us the choice. Did you have so little respect for us?” That was Melanie.
“I wanted to spare you. Don’t you see? It was better this way. A quick, easy death; that was all I could offer you.”
“You took our lives and then your own; it was a coward’s way out. What right did you have to decide we weren’t ready? You never gave us the chance to find out.” Gordon was the first to reach Alex. “You killed us, consigned us to purgatory, and now we’re trapped there in the black. Because of you, we can’t move on. That wasn’t when we were meant to die, you stole our deaths as surely as you stole our lives, and left us adrift in the place between, where nothing exists.”
“We looked for you there, but you were somewhere else, somewhere we couldn’t go,” Jeff explained, resentment in his tone. Reaching Alex, he grabbed a handful of the man’s hair, pulling his head back. “Now you’re going to free us.”
“But I don’t know how!”
“We do. Your death for ours.” Paul grasped Alex’s left arm.
“I’m already dead.”
“So are we.” Melanie and Janine each grabbed one of Alex’s legs. He tried to struggle, but there were five of them and only one of him. Gordon’s hands gripped his right arm like a vice and Alex screamed. It looked as though they intended to tear him apart.
“Please! I just wanted to save you!”
“You should be happy then, you’ll get your wish.”
The red glow was gradually being drawn in, collecting around Alex and his team, brightening as it began to coalesce, and then it was as if the ghastly light was bloodstained water being sucked down a drain, swirling faster and faster so that Ianto and Jack could no longer see the people at its centre. The solid concrete seemed to swallow it down, taking the ghostly presences with it and plunging the Hub into darkness once more.
Ianto held his breath, fingers digging painfully into Jack’s arm, then almost jumped out of his skin when the computers abruptly hummed back into life, the ventilation system began to rattle and whirr, and the Hub’s nightlights came on. Dim though they were, the sudden illumination made both men flinch and shield their eyes, blinking away tears. When they were finally able to see again, they glanced quickly around the Hub. Everything looked completely normal.
“What was that?” Ianto asked, voice scarcely above a whisper.
Jack shook his head, like a man waking from a bad dream. “I’m not sure. Revenge from beyond the grave?”
“No, I mean was it real or some sort of hallucination?”
“Beats me, and I don’t think I really want to analyse it.”
“Yeah, that’s probably sensible.” Checking his watch, Ianto saw that barely five minutes had passed since he’d headed down to the archives. “Weird.”
Ianto glanced at the wall clock. Nine forty-seven, the same as his watch. “I don’t think any time passed.”
They stood in silence for several minutes, letting the normality of the Hub in night mode soothe their rattled nerves. At last, Ianto broke the silence.
“So, that happened. Are we still going to the party?”
Jack nodded. “I’m game if you are. It might take our minds off… whatever that was, and anyway, I’d hate to think I got all pretty for nothing.” He indicated his costume.
Shaking off the lingering effects of their creepy experience, Ianto looked Jack up and down appreciatively. “Yes, you are pretty. Come on, help me get into mine and we can get out of here. I thought we could go back to my place afterwards.”
Jack gave the Hub a quick once over. “Good idea, suddenly I don’t fancy coming back here tonight. Halloween in the Hub has lost its appeal for some reason.”
“Can’t imagine why,” Ianto commented wryly. “You’d think we’d be used to this kind of thing by now.”
“A gory visitation by vengeful spirits is almost tame, compared to some of the things we’ve seen,” Jack agreed, steering Ianto towards the steps up to his office. They still hadn’t let go of each other.
“All the same, I’d just as soon not have to see anything like that ever again.”
“Same here. Next Halloween, we’re getting changed at your place.”
Ianto nodded. “I can live with that.”