Disclaimer: I do not own Torchwood, and I make no profit from this work.

Voices in the Dark

That which begins must end.

It is a fact that Jack has maybe forgotten, or maybe finds irrelevant. After all, when one lives long enough, eternity and a ridiculously long time seem to become the same thing.

But eventually, it becomes harder: the drag back from the black limbo of death ("There's nothing there.") takes longer, and his energy isn't restored so quickly as it once was.

But then, he is not who he once was.

It is not so much the whispers of the beginning - the murmurs in his mind that tell him that now, finally, his time is ending - that make this transition obvious to him.

It is the memories.

He hasn't thought of them in thousands of years. Why would he: they have been gone too long, and his life has moved on too far, to recall them like he could. And while ("I was raised not to speak ill of the dead.") some don't speak of the dead, others yet prefer not even to think of them.

There are entire cultures dedicated to forgetting the dead. In some worlds, once a man dies, it is like he never existed in the first place. His name is never spoken again, nor do those left behind reminisce. There are planets where it is normal to say that one never had a mother or a father, or a brother or a sister, or a friend or a lover, simply because they have died.

He wishes he was not one of them, but the pain remembering all the millions that he's lost mean that he is.

But now, with the time forced upon him finally winding down, it seems as if those memories he's shunted aside have come back for some strange, twisted revenge. It hurts, to hear those voices again, whispering into the most innocent of things, twisting up his days with their new words. They are like malicious children who've learned to speak all at once, and are happy to wreak pain and havoc on his psyche.

It's not even that they're saying cruel things - the odd Welsh phrase when the nurses greet him in the mornings, the odd snide Cockney observation, a woman's reprimand - but the fact that they speak at all...

Sometimes, he catches himself speaking back, and when he ceases, there are complaints.

"You can't tune in for ten minutes only to bugger off again when it suits you!"

And sometimes he tries to ignore them completely, but they only get louder. The one time he tries to tell them to leave him alone, to be quiet, he regrets it:

"Leave you alone? Oh, I see. You miss us for so long and so hard we can't bloody well go anywhere, but God forbid we stop ourselves going mad by trying to actually hold a fucking conversation with you! Dear Lord, no, can't disrupt your nice little cushy routine! I didn't get fucking cushy, I got a fucking nuclear bomb in the face!"

"Yeah, made you much more attractive."

"Fuck off, teaboy."

Those are the times he can tolerate - when they speak to each other. Maybe it's a further madness, but if they can speak to each other then they might not need to speak to him all the time. And he doesn't understand them much when they do - they speak of an afterlife, of letting go and holding on, of Heaven and Hell and, for some reason, champagne flutes of Welsh beer.

"Fucking atrocious. This is my Hell, I'm telling you, Harkness. My Hell, right here. Stuck with a million Welsh gits. Probably all called Jones too - OW!"

One time, near the end, he is dozing, and listening to the voices squabble, when one rises up and drowns the others out.

"It's like dreaming, Jack. You'll never remember if you wake up."

He sleeps, then. Sleeps like he's dying, sleeps like he can remember exactly who that was. Sleeps like he knows what's coming and welcomes it, and time begins to wind down.

Eventually, the darkness calls, and he can't understand why Asha screamed, or why Jonee was so afraid to die. It's a warm darkness, wrapping him like a quilt, taking him under until even the nurses' voices fade away and the spirals of time are finally, finally beyond him.

After a thousand years of silence and nothingness, or maybe only a thousand seconds, the voices come again.

"Can you let go, now, Jack? Let go of life and come into death?"

The voice is closer, brushing past his ear. A warm breath, a hand in his, one that - faintly, from long ago - he remembers.

He opens his eyes. The darkness recedes, and the hand in his tightens. The world is a smile, a white smile framed by an unfamiliar landscape in the background, that - for the moment - he ignores.

"That's it," the voice says, crystal clear and no longer stemming from Jack's insanity. "Just like that. Let go."

He exhales.

And the blue-eyed man smiles.