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Ash and Sulfur

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He woke in a cold sweat.

The feeling of dread still lingered even in waking, caused Jack's magic to buzz and his skin to crawl. A small remnant from his dream, a dark reminder of…something. The dream slipped through his fingers, faded from memory before he could recall just what, but it couldn’t have been anything pleasant. It never was.


But the small arms that wrapped loosely around his shoulders, the too warm body that suddenly pressed against him from behind, eventually drew the man from his thoughts, and Jack tilted his head to glance back and give Pete a tired little smile.

“It’s nothing, luv.” Normally, he was quite the accomplished liar, a skill he had developed early on and only honed through the years since. But the way the young woman’s brows knitted together and the snort she gave in reply told Jack just how horrible and cliché that in particular must have sounded. He couldn’t fault her for that.

“It certainly sounded like nothing. You were talking in your sleep.”

There was a snort then, but Jack said nothing else. And after a long moment of silence he felt her hold tighten just the slightest bit.

“I miss you, Jack.”

And whose fault is that, do y'think? That’s what he wanted to ask. He wanted to scoff and tell her that putting distance between them had been entirely her own idea, actually. Wanted to tell her being such a cold-hearted bitch was doing nothing to help the problem in the least.

Wanted to apologize for betraying her, thank her for still caring just enough to drag him away from the hag’s ever reaching claws and give him one more second chance that he still didn’t deserve. Wanted to hold her close and promise that this time - like he’d promised so many times before, broken his word on each and every single one, but not this time - he’d be there for her until the very end.

He didn’t get the chance to. Pete had already moved around him, closer rather than away, settled herself into his lap - much too warm, a familiar and smothering heat - and pulled him into a soft, oddly possessive kiss. But he didn’t mind so much. When such a lovely young woman was showing such a rare moment of initiative, who was he to complain?

And then he pulled back when he tasted blood.

It took several moments before confusion finally set in, and another moment more before the pain caught up with it, sharp and stinging across his tongue where he’d been bit. Jack gagged and spat out the blood quickly collecting in his mouth, furiously wiped his lips with the back of his hand and looked accusingly back at the woman on top of him.

At her sharp and bloodied grin, and the void black eyes that seemed to flare up with a dark, hellish fire of their own.

“I miss you so much.”

There wasn’t any time to to move away before that all consuming heat embraced him again, drove him down into the flimsy mattress. For a moment - one brief, heart stopping moment - he caught the suffocating scent of ash and sulfur-

“And it’s time for you to come back home.”

He woke in a cold sweat, and he bolted up with a cry.

And almost rolled right off the edge of the couch as he doubled over, face twisted in agony and clutching at his stomach as another set of stitches threatened to pop in protest. Sudden movement, still not the best idea. And yet, despite the way his skin still crawled and his sight pulsed steadily in time with the migraine that was quickly settling in, it was all the proof he needed that he was awake. Finally awake.

The lack of movement in the other room meant that Pete was, hopefully, still sleeping soundly enough for the both of them. And he tried to keep it that way as he pulled himself to his feet, swallowed down the bile rising in his throat, and stumbled as quietly as he could into the kitchen.

It was going to be a long, long night.