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26 October 2008 @ 02:26 am
Dark Memories  
Has nobody really updated for this long? Ok here goes:

Title: Dark Memories
Author: ammorgan21
Summary: Prompt #6: When Gwen suffers flashbacks to a childhood trauma, the rest of the team must find out what happened to her. For tw_exchange
AN: thanks a million to crystalshard who put up with my ramblings and brought me away from a very brutal story to something more acceptable. I owe her cookies.


The door to the abandoned flat swung wide open with a loud bang and a crunch as the wood splintered. The plan, as Gwen understood it, was that Jack would enter first and Owen and Tosh would enter next. They would fan out from the doorway, going in opposite directions. Tosh would walk to her left towards the window and Owen would take the right and head towards the kitchen.

Owen and Tosh were to secure the living room while Jack, Gwen and Ianto checked out the rest of the flat. The team had been monitoring it for a month now. On the surface, it looked like there were drug dealers coming in and out all hours of the day. However, the police were baffled, and Andy had called Gwen to see if Torchwood could help. Tosh had done some readings which came back positive for alien technology and Jack had reluctantly agreed to help.

Jack moved to the centre of the room and made a click with his tongue, a noise that was almost inaudible, but clearly heard over the com system in his ear, a signal for Gwen and Ianto to join them from their posts outside. When they entered, Jack motioned for them to follow him further into the flat. Gwen looked around and breathed a sigh of relief. It looked ordinary, but she knew that looks were deceiving. She just wanted to get this over with as soon as possible.

Gwen had a weird feeling that something bad was going to happen. She felt a strange, yet familiar, nauseous feeling in the pit of her stomach. She didn’t like it at all.

The toilet was empty. Ianto had found the tub full of needles floating in something green, and a bloody hand print on the mirror. He showed it to Gwen, and she shivered. Nothing seemed right, even for Torchwood. Gwen and Ianto then took each side of the bedroom door. Jack nodded to each, glanced down the corridor to Tosh, and she and Owen joined the others at the door. This was the last room in the small flat and so far everything had been clear. Gwen took a deep breath once again and prepared herself for what they might find.

Jack then slowly pushed the door open, and they were greeted by the smell of burnt flesh. Gwen’s stomach flipped, but she managed to steady herself. They entered the room slowly. It was empty. Jack gave the all clear signal. Gwen entered after Jack, and looked around. It was clear, but that smell still lingered and she couldn’t shake the feeling in her stomach.

“Gwen, call the police and tell them it’s over. Ianto, Tosh, start the cleanup.” Jack gave directions while they started checking out the room. Gwen started looking at the walls, hoping for clues. The smell of flesh was strong, but there was nothing there. Gwen knew there must have been something before they arrived, but was gone now.

Gwen finished her call to the police, reassuring Andy that they had everything under control. She looked down at her feet to find that she was standing in what looked like a large metal ring. She couldn’t remember standing there earlier. She made to move out of the ring, when something stopped her. She couldn’t get out; it was like a force field kept her in. It burned her hands every time she tried. Gwen then clutched her head in pain and she curled up in a foetal position. The pain was blinding.

“Make it stop!” Gwen screamed out, and then everything went black.
----

The first thing Gwen noticed was that she was no longer in the flat. In fact she was not sure where she was. It was dark, very cold and wet. What struck her most, however, was not that she seemed to magically transported somewhere else, but that it was deathly silent. No birds, no sounds of breeze in the leaves. No sound whatsoever was reaching her ears. The fact that it was dark didn’t help. There was no light, no reference. Gwen put her hand out in front of her and she gasped. She couldn’t see anything. There was no light whatsoever coming through. She felt the air and it was wet, like fog. She felt a shiver down her spine.

Gwen decided that standing there wasn't safe, so she headed off into the fog. She didn’t know why, but everything was wrong, and the sooner she could find her way out, the better. She had to keep moving, that was all she knew. It felt like normal fog, except for the darkness. It was cool, but not too cold. The air was still, and thick. Gwen wrapped her arms around herself. She was scared. She couldn’t figure how she got there, or why. She didn’t know where she was, but she didn’t like it and the feeling in her stomach got worse. At least she still had her coat on from earlier.

What was that circle that she had stepped in? Gwen racked her brains for what it was. She couldn’t remember stepping in it and what worried her most is that she knew better; she had better observation skills than that. What could that circle be? She knew that it had to have something to do with why she was there, but she couldn’t think of the reason why, or how. It was black, and Gwen noticed that the fog seemed to be black too, like smoke or something. But it didn’t smell like anything but moist air, so it had to be fog. Gwen shivered again.

The problem was that not only did she not know where she was or how she got there, she had no idea where to go from here. She could not see much in front of her, and what she could see was because she was using her torch for light. The fog was definitely black and the little light reflected this back to her. Her stomach continued to churn, and she had to stop and catch her breath. This was deeply wrong and the fog was just the beginning, she knew it could only get worse from here.

She kept thinking back to a time when she was thirteen and found herself in a similar situation. She and her friend Ceri had been coming back from the cinema, and they had decided to take the shortcut through the forest that they always took. However, this time the film had finished later than they'd thought and so when they'd entered the forest, it had been dark. Normally this wouldn't have bothered them, because it had been warm enough and it hadn't been raining. The further they'd gone into the forest, the more they'd realized that it was a mistake and before long there had been an eerie fog, black like smoke, that had enveloped them and they'd been lost.
---

“Gwen! Jack, something is wrong with Gwen! We’ve got to help her.” Tosh rushed over to the circle that had Gwen still curled up in the middle of. There were tears streaming down her face, her hands clutching her head, and there was a small trickle of blood coming from her nose.
Owen and Ianto reached the women first, with Jack close behind. Ianto reached out his hand towards Gwen, but was stopped. “Ouch!” he said. It seemed the circle emitted a force field that kept Gwen trapped in, and the rest of them out.

“Shit, I can’t get to her with this force field up. Gwen’s suffering and we can’t do a goddamn thing about it.” Owen swore and started to pace, chewing his fingernail in frustration.

Jack was silent as Tosh pulled out a scanner. He knew what the readings were going to say, however.

“It’s a torture device.” Jack was quiet, but the team still turned around to look at him with astonished looks on their faces. Gwen let out a whimper, and Jack grimaced. “Our aliens used it to make their victims suffer. It gets inside their head, making them relive their worst trauma. As they struggle to get out, the device slowly kills them.” He gestured to the strangely empty room that still smelled of flesh and bore the evidence of a struggle.

“Well that explained the burning smell,” said Tosh.

“What sick fucking bastards,” spat Owen. Ianto nodded, but was silent. He looked slightly green. Tosh started rummaging through her bag. Jack smiled, despite the desperation of the situation. Of course his Tosh would have something.

“Hold on Gwen, we’ll get you out of this,” Jack said in a whisper, not sure, or caring, if anybody heard him. He was not going to allow this to happen to his team. There had been enough death already.

Tosh rummaged around and found what she was looking for. She pulled out a black cap that had blinking lights and wires. She had modified it from the last time they used it, but it would do the trick. She plugged into the laptop that had been taking readings and she set the device up.
Jack smiled some more. The cap had been the same cap Tosh had used to persuade Tommy to sacrifice himself to save the future. He knew that Tosh had been modifying it to make it more portable, and with no need for the drug. He watched as Tosh proceeded to pull out what looked like four thimbles that were activated by a button on the cap. She turned the thimbles on and they beeped.

“I had been modifying this in my spare time. The idea was to see if we could all use it at once. I brought it along just in case we needed it tonight,” Tosh explained as she worked. Only a few minutes passed before the computer beeped. Tosh smiled.

“We are going to use the cap to get into Gwen’s mind, see if we can help her out before any major damage is done. I modified it with these finger devices in case any of the rest of the team needs to join the cap wearer in helping. As I have the most experience with the cap, I’ll wear it, while the rest of you take the finger devices. Hopefully the computer will work out a way to bring down the force field as well,” Tosh explained unprompted while setting up the computer software. She handed out the finger devices to the others and she took the cap and placed it on her head. The others sat down with her, and they formed a circle around Gwen.

“Ready? I’m going to push the start button and we should be able to reach Gwen, hopefully in time.” Tosh looked around and the team nodded. They all put their hands that had the device in front of them and closed their eyes. Tosh pushed the enter key on the keyboard, and everything went white.
---

There was a sound and Gwen was snapped out of the memory. She heard a voice, a girl’s voice, in the dark still air. “Gwen? Gwen, where are you?”

Gwen felt herself blanch at that. She recognized that voice, even after fifteen years. Ceri, her best friend, was calling out for her. She had been transported back to that very time that she was remembering. The circle was a time machine. It had to be, there was no other reason that she could think of. Another voice called out, this time from somewhere behind her.

“Ceri! I can’t see anything!” Gwen recognized her own voice, even though it still had the thick Welsh accent that she had worked hard to tone down to become a police officer. She was in her own worst nightmare and even though she knew the ending, she still had nightmares about the dark and going into forests. She tried not to let it affect her work, but there were times that it almost became too much.

Gwen turned off her torch and stumbled towards her younger self’s voice. The fog was getting thicker and the feeling of dread was getting stronger. Gwen didn't want to panic, but her stomach had other ideas.

The fog started to swirl and she felt it whoosh around her body. Then she heard other voices that she knew hadn't been there before. She could still hear Ceri in the fog calling out in the distance, but now she could hear low mumbles, multiple voices in the dark. She decided to turn towards those voices, as they were strangely familiar.

“Ok, we need to find Gwen, but as this fog is so thick I’d rather not separate. Let’s keep together and don’t shout out unless we need to. Who knows what is waiting for us here.” A low male voice, in what sounded like an American accent, was speaking. Jack?! Gwen smiled despite herself and walked even faster towards that voice. She heard herself respond to her friend, and apparently so did the team.

“Is that Gwen? She’s in here somewhere!” Owen’s voice this time, no mistake. Her team were here, looking for her. Gwen felt her stomach ease up on her.

Gwen started walking in the direction of the team’s voices. The fog was dark and scary, and Gwen had to tell herself to calm down, everything would be all right. However, she couldn’t help but feel the pain that she had felt all those years ago. The fog was had been so thick and she couldn’t see. She remembered that she'd kept walking into rocks and trees, and she'd had cuts, bruises and a sprained ankle for weeks afterwards.

But what had really scared her was that she couldn’t find Ceri. It hadn't been until day time had come and the fog had disappeared. They'd been found by the police who had spent the night searching for them after their parents called when they didn’t show up that night. Gwen remembered wondering if help would ever come, if they would be stuck in this abnormal fog forever, if she would ever find Ceri. The cold seeping into her clothes, the uneven ground, the sense of fear and foreboding that she had felt then came back to her in a wave. Gwen couldn’t help a few tears from coming. It really had been the scariest night of her life, not to be matched until she joined Torchwood.

Gwen was not paying attention to where she was going, so trapped by her memories of that -this?- night. She walked straight into something solid, a person. The person turned around and Gwen saw that she had walked right into Ianto. He seemed to be alone, but the others’ voices could be heard nearby. Both of them broke into grins, his of relief and hers a small one that showed that she was trying not to cry. She hugged him. She was just happy she found someone she knew, and she let out a watery giggle.

“Jack! Owen! Tosh! Come here! I found her!” Ianto called into the night, but because of the thickness of the fog, it seemed a little muffled. Gwen had calmed down and she had stopped crying. She didn’t let go of Ianto, and he kept one arm around her shoulders in reassurance. He was searching the darkness, waiting for the others to show up.

Tosh reached them first. Jack came next with Owen close behind. The look on each of their faces showed relief. Tosh bounced in excitement. She had a grin on her face and ran up to Gwen, giving her a hug. She let go and Jack gave her a hug that said so much in such a short space of time. Owen walked up to her, put his hands on her shoulders and looked to be inspecting her for injuries. Satisfied, he gave her a quick hug and stepped back.

“She looks physically fine. The machine hasn’t hurt her in that way yet. Gwen,” he turned to her, “how do you feel? Are you alright?” He looked serious and his voice had an undertone of worry. Gwen looked at him and almost couldn’t believe it. They were here, somehow, and Owen knew something that he wasn’t telling her.

“I’m ok. I think I've been transported back into the past. I recognize this place. I once was separated for the night from my best friend and we weren’t found until the morning by the police. I keep having nightmares about this place and I know my friend Ceri doesn’t like forests unless it’s daylight. Why am I here, and how did you get here? How are we going to get out?” Gwen knew she was rambling. The memories of the night were so vivid and now here she was, reliving it all. Luckily, this time she wasn’t alone. Her heart went out for the children wandering out there lost and alone.

Jack smiled. Gwen always rambled off questions like that. Sometimes it was a good thing, sometimes not, but he admired it anyway. “The machine that you stepped into,” Gwen gasped at the memory of the metal circle she was standing in back in the flat, “transports the victims back to a traumatizing moment. It’s a bit like Tosh’s cap and it’s all in your head. As the victim tries to fight it or the emotional distress gets too much, the machine starts to kill that person off. This explains the burnt flesh smell we experienced when we got into the room.”

Jack looked around at the fog. What he couldn’t explain was why it was black. “Was the fog black in the past, or is it black now?” he asked, taking a step closer.

“It was black then too. Why? What is it?” Gwen was worried again. The fog had freaked her out back then, but she had put it down to a figment of her imagination. She had long learned that all the weird things that she thought she saw as a child were a result of the rift, and it became all too clear that the fog was the same.

“Well I can’t be sure, but because it's either just a condition of the rift, or because you transported, it's on a perpetual loop. It was black because you'd been transported here from the future. It’s hard to explain,” Jack said to Gwen’s perplexed look, “but that's inconsequential right now. We have to get you back before something happens to you. There's nothing we can do for your younger self, but since we need you to get out safely, we need to concentrate on that now.” Jack moved and put his arm around her shoulder. She felt comforted that her team cared so much. She looked up at Jack and flashed him a small grin. Everything was going to be okay, and her stomach started to feel better.

“Right. I set the computer to work out a frequency that will lower the force field on the machine and then we can all get out of here. I used the projection cap to get us here. I had modified it for the whole team to use. We needed to keep you safe and calm so that the machine didn’t hurt you while we waited,” Tosh explained while looking around. Gwen had her arms around her body. The place was giving her the creeps. She hoped the computer was quick.

Gwen stood there in the swirling fog. She was facing Owen, who kept looking around in the dark, or at the ground. She felt Jack’s arm around her shoulder, and it made her calmer. The dark fog was oppressive on all of their minds. There was no moonlight to penetrate the density. It was getting cooler, but not too cold. She knew that it would get worse over the night.

Gwen kept starting every time she heard either Ceri’s voice calling out, or her own responding. Her mind transported her back to that night. She had wandered around and finally given up and sat under a tree. Ceri had given up as well, and they were quiet. She knew that they were both scared of being alone more than anything. The fog had pressed in on her and any movement that the fog had while she wandered around had been gone. The fog had been against her skin like clothes and no matter how hard she'd tried to wave it away, it had stuck to her.

Thinking about Ceri and her past self, both alone in the oppressive fog, was starting to give her a headache, so she decided to concentrate on the present. She found it hard to breathe. She slowed down her breathing, and she thought it felt like it was going into her lungs and slowly choking her. She tried not to panic. It would only make it worse. She stayed still and waited. Morning would come and the nightmare would end. Gwen knew it was the past, but it felt so real. She could feel her body aching as well as her head, and she needed to relax. She knew the machine had something to do with it, but right, she was feeling too lightheaded to think about it.

Gwen was feeling claustrophobic after that, and shook off Jack. Owen looked up and he was worried. “Gwen? What’s wrong? You’ve got to stay calm, sweetheart.” Gwen nodded but stood back a little from the group. Jack knew to stay away, so he did. Gwen slowed down her breathing. The fog hadn’t reached the choking point yet, but already it felt like it was closing in around her. So she kept quiet and waited, once more.

Tosh heard a beep that only meant one thing. “The computer did it! Everyone with a finger device, concentrate on Gwen. We should be back in no time!” Tosh, Jack, Ianto and Owen all stood in a circle with Gwen in the middle. There was a white flash that almost blinded her after all that blackness.

Gwen blinked and opened her eyes. She was back in the flat, and Owen was looking over her once more. Jack was behind her, supporting her neck. Ianto was holding her hand again and Tosh was looking at her computer. Once she realized that Gwen was awake, she rushed over. She had a sweet and sympathetic smile on her face. Gwen smiled weakly back. She sat up with Jack’s help and rubbed her head. She just wanted to go home to her well-lit and comfy flat with her fiancée.

“Gwen, are you alright?” Owen was giving Gwen a quick check-over. Currently he was looking in her eyes. “How’s your head?”

“I have a bit of a headache, but I feel ok, considering.” Gwen sat up with Owen’s help. He handed her some paracetamol and a bottle of water from his med bag. She took them gratefully and looked around the room. It still smelled, but her stomach settled and it wasn’t all that bad any more. Gwen felt better now that they were out of the forest.

“Well there is no physical damage, and since we were able to get to you in time, it looks like that all you got was a bad case of the spooks.” Owen was talking, but it sounded muffled against the pounding in her head.

“Alright, let’s get this cleaned up. I don’t think that they'll return tonight, but you never know. Tosh call the police to help clear this up, and to set up an armed cordon around the place, just in case. I want to get everything out just in case they come back. Gwen,” Jack turned to her,
“I will get Owen to take you back to yours, but I want you to call if anything happens, alright?” Gwen nodded, and it hurt. The lights were much too bright, but anything was better than the dark. “Owen, I want you to take Gwen home, make sure she is alright, and come immediately back here.” Owen nodded and moved to help Gwen.

Jack and Owen helped Gwen to her feet while Ianto and Tosh closed up the technology and they packed up the evidence they had managed to gather before they went to find Gwen. The ring was carefully packed away so it wouldn’t cause any more trouble. Gwen wobbled a bit, and her head still hurt, but she felt the medication start to work and the throbbing was going down.

They slowly made it out the door and into the night, and she was glad that she had her friends and it was all over. She reminded herself to call Ceri tomorrow. Just another night for Torchwood, but one she would rather forget.