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09 August 2007 @ 06:01 pm
The Keeper of Memories (5/5)  
Title: The Keeper of Memories, Part Five: The Keeper of Memories
Characters: Jack/Ianto (Estelle, Ellie, Eugene, and John mentioned)
Rating: PG
Spoilers: Through "Out of Time"
Summary: In which they are remembered

Disclaimer: None of this is mine.

Big, big, big, massive huge ups and props and all of those good things to hellenebright for listening to me ramble on and waffle about what to do with this story. You, my dear, have the patience of a saint.

For them what hasn't read 'em: Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Part Four.

There is a filing cabinet in a dusty corner of the archives. It holds fifty-two red folders. There is a name on each folder, in Ianto's tidy print. Forty-nine of those folders bear the name of someone who died at Canary Wharf. The other three bear the names of those who died in the Hub. The victims of the Cybermen, already all but forgotten.

He is standing by the filing cabinet, the fifty-third red folder in his hands.

He's not entirely sure what he's doing.

Estelle Cole. Born August 8, 1923. Had an affair with a Captain Jack Harkness during WWII -- this may or may not be the same Jack Harkness who is Ianto's boss (it all seems a bit improbable, but then, Jack himself is a bit improbable). Never married. Something of an expert on the subject of fairies, which Ianto would have found amusing a week ago. It isn't funny now. Drowned in her garden during a freak rainstorm. No next of kin. No one, save Jack, will mourn her.

It just doesn't seem right.

He has already arranged the funeral, sent in the obituary, ordered the flowers and the wreaths, and yet it doesn't seem enough somehow. He wants to do more, and this is the best he can manage. Still, this is Jack's memory, and not his. Sighing, he turns to go, the folder still in his hands.

Jack is standing in the doorway, a sheaf of yellowed papers in his hands. "I brought you these," he says, his voice unnaturally flat. He's holding back some strong emotion, but Ianto can't tell what, and it's a little terrifying after everything that's happened. After his betrayal. "For your file."

"Jack..." He's not sure if he's apologizing or begging for a chance to explain himself or what.

Jack steps in closer, far too close, and Ianto stiffens instinctively, bracing himself. But Jack only slides the folder out of Ianto's hands, opens it, and places the papers inside, before handing it all back. He rests a hand on Ianto's shoulder, reassuring him. He's been doing that a lot lately. "Take care of her for me. Keep her safe."

He lets out a breath that he didn't realize he was holding. "Of course, Sir." Jack raises an eyebrow, and Ianto smiles slightly, corrects himself. "I promise. Jack."

Jack nods once, then lets go and walks away. His shoulders are more relaxed now, and a bit of the cocksure strut is back in his step. It's all so familiar that, as soon as Jack is safely out of sight, Ianto lays the folder down and pulls a photograph out of his inside jacket pocket. A blonde girl, a man with ruffled brown hair, and a blue police box. Rose Tyler.

He wonders, briefly, just what he's gotten himself into. Then he puts the photograph back and files Estelle away with all the others.

The next is Ellie Johnson. Pretty girl, just in her first year of uni. Loved music, loved to dance. He stares at her picture intently, trying to force out everything else -- the way she died, what they did to her after. She wasn't just meat. She wasn't.

When his stomach has stopped churning and he feels a little calmer, he puts the folder away and returns to the Hub.

Eugene Jones, the eminently forgettable Eugene Jones. Gwen was right about him. "You're part of Torchwood now," Ianto says, to the folder, to the dust, to the silence of the Archives. Just in case he's still hanging around.

It's hard to file John Ellis away, to let go of him, when they'd tried so hard to help. There was something in him, a sort of gruff dignity; it reminded Ianto of his father. He just didn't have anything left to hold onto. Ianto feels he can understand that, a bit. He knows that Jack understands it as well. He can't stop thinking of the look in Jack's eyes when he got back from John's house, that absolute emptiness of someone on the verge of packing it in. It seems to have faded, at least for now, but he knows it'll come back someday, and it scares the shit out of him. He's not ready to write the Captain's name on one of his red file folders. He never will be.

But for now, Jack is all right, and Ianto has things to finish up before he goes home for the New Year. It's been too long since he's seen his family, and he wants to remember what it's like to be someone's son. It is, perhaps, the most appropriate tribute he can pay John.

It isn't a surprise to find Jack in the archives when he returns. Jack stops by from time to time, mainly to visit Estelle; it makes sense that he might want to come in now and see John. Both were very dear to him. But then he looks up, and there's an expression on his face that Ianto hasn't seen since Lisa, rage and grief and betrayal all tangled up with a horrible suspicion. "So," Jack says, a forced casualness in his voice that means nothing but trouble. "Tell me about Rose Tyler."

Ianto can only blink and gape for a long time; he's sure the expression must be comical, but Jack isn't laughing. "She's... one of the missing. From Canary Wharf. I met a friend of hers afterwards. He asked me to remember her. To keep her safe for him."

Jack studies him for a long time, that stare that goes straight through Ianto's skin, makes him feel naked with all his clothes on. "Don't suppose he had a name, this friend."

"I never thought to ask." In retrospect, he never thought to ask a lot of things, but he'd been exhausted and shell-shocked, and so had the brown-haired man, and it hadn't really been the time or the place. Summoning all his courage, he pulls the picture out of his pocket and steps forward, steps into Jack's space, holding the picture out. "That's the man I met, standing with... with her." After a long hesitation, Jack takes the picture, staring at it. He looks more confused than anything else, and Ianto's heart stutters back into its normal rhythms.

"How could..." Jack shakes his head, the words trailing off into nothingness. He touches the picture very gently, brushing it with the tips of his fingers. "Did he say what happened?"

"He said he told her to go someplace safe. She wouldn't. She said she'd never leave him."

There is only grief left in Jack's face now, utterly human and terrifying. "No. She wouldn't have. She loved him."

"Jack..." Unsure what he's doing, knowing only that he needs to do something, Ianto reaches out and runs his fingers through Jack's hair, brushes the back of his hand down Jack's cheek, wipes a tear away with his thumb. Jack leans in to the touch for just a second, then draws back.

"Sorry," Jack says, handing the picture back. Ianto tucks it away with a strange pang of reluctance. "It just kind of... took me by surprise, I guess."

"I'd no idea you knew her." He's careful to keep the reproof out of his voice; he doesn't get to lecture anyone about keeping secrets.

Jack shrugs, his hands fisted in his pockets. Ianto aches, seeing him like this, fragile and mortal. This isn't the Jack he knows. "I don't like to talk about it. Anyway, it's ancient history."

It's not, of course it's not, but Ianto will never say that. He waits, instead, for Jack to say more, and when he doesn't, Ianto straightens his tie and clears his throat. "I should get back to the Hub; I've got to catch up on my work."

The question stops him before he's gone more than two steps away. "Will you remember me, Ianto?"

His breath catches in his throat, but he doesn't turn around. He can't. There's too much written on his face right now, and he doesn't want to see that look in Jack's eyes again. "Were you planning on going somewhere, Sir?"

"I'm not planning on anything, Ianto. But if something happened... If I had to go somewhere, for a while..."

For a while. That helps immeasurably, and he manages to turn around, meet Jack's gaze. "I think I'd find it hard to forget you, Sir. You're very... memorable."

Jack laughs. "You say that like you aren't sure whether it's a good thing or a bad thing." Now it's his turn to step into Ianto's space, run his fingers through Ianto's hair and down his cheek. He pulls Ianto in, kisses him quickly and chastely. "Will you remember me, Ianto?"

"I will," he says, quietly. "Jack."

There's still a touch of wistfulness in Jack's smile when he pulls back. Then he claps Ianto on the shoulder and leaves.

"If something happened... If I had to go somewhere..."

Ianto pulls the picture out one last time, stares at it, wonders.
galaxy_songgalaxy_song on August 9th, 2007 10:40 pm (UTC)
Bravo great chapter. shame this is finished I really enjoyed reading it.
Karen von S.: cuddleslookninjas on August 10th, 2007 09:54 pm (UTC)
There is more; there's always more with me. But it really is its own story, so it'll come out separately.
Malcolm Ffarfrynardd, Esq.ffarff on August 9th, 2007 11:46 pm (UTC)
i like Jack in this. its the Jack we dont get to see much of. the Human jack.

I love the verbal dance Jack and ianto do.
Karen von S.: cuddleslookninjas on August 10th, 2007 09:55 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you like it, and him. Jack's bloody hard to write. And yeah, they don't talk; they spar.
donutsweeperdonutsweeper on August 10th, 2007 12:12 am (UTC)
ooh, angsty Jack, my favorite. I love this series, you write Ianto so flawlessly!
Karen von S.: cuddleslookninjas on August 10th, 2007 09:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Zedhalfspokenwords on August 10th, 2007 03:51 am (UTC)
This is really lovely. Great series-- thank you.
Karen von S.: cuddleslookninjas on August 10th, 2007 09:56 pm (UTC)
As much grace as Bambi in rollerskates...: elmorubicks_cube on August 10th, 2007 09:06 am (UTC)
awwww, bravo! what a lovely ending :)
Karen von S.: cuddleslookninjas on August 10th, 2007 09:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you! No more crying, I hope?
As much grace as Bambi in rollerskates...: care bearsrubicks_cube on August 11th, 2007 07:07 am (UTC)
lol, nope. It's all good ;)
jane_olivejane_olive on August 10th, 2007 09:33 am (UTC)
I feel like i want it to carry on, but that's a good ending
Karen von S.: cuddleslookninjas on August 10th, 2007 09:58 pm (UTC)
I do too, in some ways, but I think it's best to end this story here, and then write the rest as its own story, give it a clean slate, so to speak.
hellenebrighthellenebright on August 10th, 2007 10:27 pm (UTC)
You got there in the end. I think all I did was keep tossing the coin for you, until it came up the side you wanted.

Excellent piece.
Karen von S.: cuddleslookninjas on August 10th, 2007 11:30 pm (UTC)
If I had gone with the original outline, though, it would have been a mistake. Chapter six is growing into a story of its own, and it will be better (and far more coherent) for it. And it sometimes takes a hell of a lot of patience to keep tossing that coin.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, and if you ever need someone to bounce ideas off of or rant at or whatever, you know where to find me. I'm more than willing to return the favor.
hellenebrighthellenebright on August 11th, 2007 12:41 pm (UTC)
I might take you up on that one of these days.
badly_knitted: If In Doubtbadly_knitted on August 24th, 2012 07:31 pm (UTC)
My heart almost broke when Jack asked if Ianto would remember him, but somehow I'm not sure which of them it was breaking for. Both of them, I guess.

I was wondering how Jack would react if he found Ianto's file on Rose. It was bound to be a shock to him. Ianto had no way of knowing that Jack knew her, so he had no reason to mention her to Jack. I love the way Jack's request for Ianto to keep Estelle safe for him parallels the Doctor request to keep Rose safe. It sort of brings things full circle, the Doctor and Jack each entrusting the memory of someone they loved into Ianto's care, and feeling lighter, less burdened, by doing so.