Black on Black

It was a Tuesday, he thought. Maybe it was Wednesday. Ianto would know. It didn't matter which day it was, really. Gunrunner Day, Jack thought. He set one foot in front of the other in an attempt to get back to the SUV and the rest of the team, but after a few steps his legs turned into rubber and his chest constricted and his arms shook, so he found a nearby brick wall to hold himself up. He had gotten separated from the team and he needed to call for help. He needed to call and tell Gwen and the others that there were more of these gunrunners, more than they thought because they thought they'd caught them all when they'd stunned three of them in the park. Jack had the laser hole in his side and blood streaming down his pant leg to prove that they'd missed a few. How should he call for help? Earpiece. Right. He reached up to tap the earpiece but the arm movement sent waves of pain exploding down his side and sweat stung his eyes as he shuddered, head leaned back against the cold wall. Jack could feel each pump of his heart in his head. He tried to reach for the earpiece again and this time he did manage to get it tapped. Gwen's voice came through and Jack cringed at the volume. "Jack? Where are you?" She yelled into his ear. He had to stifle the urge to rip the earpiece out of his ear, and he tried to answer her, but no words would come. His legs crumpled beneath him as the nausea rose in his throat instead of words and the alley he was in spun. How the hell does an alley spin? The alley was loud, too. Music from a club bored its way into Jack's brain and footfalls from patrons seeking the cool air outside the club sounded like an army of steel boots. They marched erratically past him, even though he wished one would take notice and stop to help him form words to give to Gwen. No one did, though, so he tried his own voice again. It sounded strange in his ears, as if he were under water or standing in a tunnel deep underground. "Gwen, there are more. . . shot me. . ." and that's all he could choke out before the air in his lungs ran out and he had to take deep, gulping breaths. He heard Gwen's voice on the other side, "Tosh! Trace Jack's earpiece. Tell me where he is!" And then the other gunrunners found him.

His vision was blurred, but he saw that there were two of them, dressed in black tunics and green pants and looking completely human from a distance. However, when one of them knelt down next to Jack, he saw its face up close, and he couldn't suppress a violent shudder. It was humanoid, but its eyes were black on black and didn't blink. It smelled vaguely of sulphur, and it its skin was far too translucent and shining with a watery sheen to be human. Jack tried to burrow into the brick wall behind him, but the creature leaned in close and spoke with a velvety voice, "You shouldn't know about us. These people aren't supposed to know about us yet. How do you know about us?" But Jack couldn't answer. He was too busy trying to climb into the wall away from that face and voice, and when he managed to duck his head, he saw his team approaching from behind. Distract. Distract. Distract them and give them time to inch closer with their guns. But distracting required thought and thought was gone, leaving only the wall he was desperate to get into and away, away, away. When a shot was fired and one of the aliens slumped down the wall next to Jack it startled him out of his attempt to burrow and right into the arms of the other alien, who grabbed Jack and held a gun to his head.

It was when the alien yanked Jack upright that he heard Gwen say, "You can leave this planet in peace if you let him go. Just let him go and leave! We won't hurt you, and you can take your comrades with you." Peaceful negotiations. 'Always try to get them to leave of their own accord' was Torchwood Three's current saying, but aliens rarely did. The alien holding Jack shoved him with remarkable strength toward his team and it shot him again as it thrust him out of its arms, a thick red laser beam ripping through Jack's left shoulder and tearing across his chest. He screamed and the alien ran. He heard gunshots ring out around him as he crashed to the ground. Every breath he took was filled with needles, raking across his throat and keeping his breaths shallow.

"Ianto and Tosh, with me!" Jack heard. "Owen to Jack!" Jack heard gunshots a moment later, hoping that the three shots were enough to fell the bastard who did this. Someone gently rolled him over, and Jack made out the muttering voice of Owen, "Shit. Shit. Shit." Pain coursed through Jack's upper chest, like someone was tattooing him without any painkillers. Perhaps alien black eyes were being scarred into his chest, alien black eyes that threatened to swallow Jack entirely. Jack struggled to open his eyes but they wouldn't stay that way, and he thrashed, trying to escape the pain and that darkness of those black eyes, and he felt Owen pressing a needle into his arm and warmth spreading through his chest and abdomen, down his legs, and Jack turned to jelly in Owen's arms.

Jack managed to hold his eyes open now that the pain dissipated and he saw Ianto and Tosh skid to his side. "Jack!" Ianto's voice held panic and Tosh's eyes echoed that and Jack struggled to find his voice. He couldn't find it, though. "Shhh. Rest," Ianto murmured, and Jack felt his hands running through Jack's hair and down his cheek, trying to soothe him.

"The hole in his side is starting to heal, but slowly," he heard Owen report darkly. "Laser wounds are a double whammy, though. A third degree burn and a puncture wound wrapped in one; it's no wonder it's a slow heal." Owen's voice was angry; as if he couldn't believe someone would use those kinds of weapons. Jack's voice escaped from his throat then. "Efficient," he said, hoarse and weak. Owen got close to Jack then. "Hey," he said to Jack gently, wordlessly commanding Jack's eyes to focus on his, "I want to get you back to the Hub. It may take a while to heal this round, but I can get you on a sedative to help you sleep through it." Jack nodded weakly and felt Ianto's strong arms slide under his shoulders and knew Owen took his feet. Ianto's grip caused the wound across his chest to explode, though, and Jack cried out in agony, wishing he'd just pass out from the pain but not finding such luck. He did slide close to unconsciousness, only fully waking when they had him in the SUV laid across the back seat with his head in Ianto's lap. "Shhh. It's okay, Jack. You're going to be okay," Ianto whispered, making Jack realize he'd actually been whimpering in pain.

Jack didn't notice much about the ride back to the Hub, until he felt himself lifted onto a stretcher. His vision swam in and out of focus, doors and stairwells swimming by as they carried him inside, and it seemed like it was getting harder to breathe. More needles raked his throat and burrowed into his chest with each breath, and by the time they got him down to the med bay he could hear himself drawing ragged breaths erratically. He thought his hearing was being weird again as he swore Ianto shouted, "Owen, what's wrong?" Hands peeled his shirt off, the cold air on his skin startling him, and he drew a gulping breath. He gulped the air again, not getting enough, hearing Owen definitely shouting this time, "Dammit!" And then darkness pulled Jack into the black nothingness he was all too familiar with.

The next breath Jack drew was another gulp, but this one was familiar, not frantic, and he knew from the jagged edges in his chest and as he felt Ianto's arms wrap him in warmth and security that he had died and was now coming back. He drew a few more of the heaving breaths and Ianto ran his hands up and down Jack's arms and drew him into a secure hug, and Ianto's arms were rods of warmth gripping him furiously. He forced his eyes open, even though they wanted to stay closed in exhaustion, and he saw Ianto's face wreaked with concern. He felt Ianto's fingers run through his hair again and down his back, as if to assure himself that Jack was real. "What happened," Jack asked, unable to get any force into his voice at all. Ianto lowered him into his lap again, saying, "The laser wounds caused massive internal bleeding that Owen couldn't catch until we got back here, but then it was too late." Ianto paused, and said quietly, "Come downstairs and go to sleep, Cariad. Today's been too long for you. Gwen and Tosh are taking care of the cover story and Owen is cataloguing and autopsying the aliens." Jack nodded, and Ianto helped him off of the couch and down the ladder into his bunker. He fell into sleep, relieved that the day was over. But then the dream began.

Jack stood in front of the tunic clad alien once again, its eyes black, fathomless and empty. Jack knew they were soulless eyes and they bored into Jack as where he stood, taunting him with a future filled with money and death and hollow pleasures brimming with pain. One by one Jack watched as everyone he loved fell into those eyes, looking back in desperation at Jack as they fell, expecting him to catch them, to save them. He reached for each person, Ianto, the Doctor, Owen, Rose, Tosh, Martha, John, Grey, his mother and father, grasping each time at empty air and listening to them scream their way into the darkness of those alien eyes. He tried to reach for the alien, to strangle it so that it couldn't draw anyone else into the void, but he realized that the alien was the Master, with black on black alien eyes, grinning at Jack as he pulled everyone Jack loved into the darkness, and Jack screamed.

He screamed so long that eventually breathing seemed impossible and it seemed as if a brick lay on Jack's chest and pressed all air out of his lungs, another form of torture on the endless list. Ianto was gripping his arms again, though, and was yelling for Owen, who appeared out of nowhere in Jack's blurring vision and once again pushed a needle into Jack's arm. Jack collapsed back, twisting the sheets with his sweaty, trembling hands. Voices rang around him, through a tunnel again, "Nightmares. . ." ". . . afraid. . ." "He's got to sleep." Jack focused on pulling air back into his lungs and desperately searching for Ianto's face through his own watery eyes. "Shhh. Cariad. You're safe. You're safe." He could hear the voice he needed, but he couldn't focus enough to find him in his view. He was desperate, though, as he realized what Ianto had that his nightmare didn't, what he desperately needed to see again before Owen's sedative pulled him back into sleep. He struggled to clear his eyes, felt himself rubbing furiously at his own face to wipe the moisture of the nightmare-tears from his vision so that the things that would send him into a peaceful sleep could come into view, and they did. Ianto leaned over Jack and Jack saw clear blue eyes promising comfort, safety, and dreamless sleep, and so he slept, and the blackness stayed away.