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Torchwood: Tin Box (Fanfiction)

Tin Box

Word Count: ~ 1.100
Summary: Jack had a tin box in his quarters, dented and old. In it, there were pictures and drawings. People he’d loved.
Characters: Jack Harkness, Ianto Jones, Toshiko Sato
Pairing: Jack/Ianto
Rating: PG-13
Spoiler: They Keep Killing Suzie, Exit Wounds
Setting: after Exit Wounds
Warnings: Sad!Fic, mention of character deaths
Author's Note: Written for prompttorchwood prompt #5 – Ephemeral.
Disclaimer: I’m not making money with this fanfic. The tv-show Torchwood and the characters appearing within it belong to their producers and creators. Any similarities to living or dead persons are purely coincidental and not intended.


Ianto was a stoic presence next to Jack, stone-faced and seemingly not bothered by the cold, an unreadable expression on his pale face, wearing a black suit with a black tie and looking for all the world like the perfect funeral guest.

However, Jack knew better. He knew how much this took of Ianto; he knew that Ianto wanted to cry and rage and scream. It was his hand that gave him away, the slight tremor in the fingers that held onto Jack’s like a vice, and he stood just that bit too close to make them look like just friends. It didn’t matter, though. Nothing mattered. Nothing but the hole in the ground and the urn being lowered into it.

Jack had promised Tosh a funeral way back, just after she’d joined and had had the first brush with death. He’d promised her that she wouldn’t end up like all those agents in Torchwood’s drawers, frozen – trapped – to be preserved forever. And she’d asked for something else, after Suzie had come back.

”I don’t want to come back to life,” she said, her dark eyes earnest and pained. ”Never, Jack. Promise you’ll cremate me.”

He’d promised.

(Many years later, Tosh’s death was an invisible scar, not leaving a trace on Jack’s skin but on his mind. The scar joined many others: some deep, others not so much; some with ragged edges, others with smooth; some recent, others faded. Jack had an impressive collection, the result of a long life and many losses. Sometimes, he wondered if there would come a point sometime in the future where his mind couldn’t bear another scar and would collapse, leaving him dead inside. Until then, though, the scars would remain silent witnesses to Jack’s grief, not bothering him unless reminded of them – then they ached badly, not letting him rest for weeks.)

Ianto’s breath stuttered, for just a second, unnoticeable for anyone but Jack. He pulled Ianto closer, offering his shoulder. It didn’t surprise him when Ianto didn’t accept, remained stiff and unyielding. Jack knew that Ianto hated to seem weak. He would let go later, when it was just the two of them, when Jack would let go as well. That was how they handled trauma and grief and fear.

Preparing for the funeral was a painful affair and they didn’t speak. Not until Ianto suddenly turned around to Jack, fussing with his tie. ”Do you remember who you lost a hundred years ago?”

”What do you mean?” Jack asked.

”The human memory is fleeting. Things fade. I’m just wondering …” Ianto hesitated, cleared his throat and then stepped closer to Jack. “Being immortal, do your memories of people you loved back then fade to be replaced with memories of people you love now?”

(Jack had a tin box in his quarters, dented and old. In it, there were pictures and drawings. People he’d loved. On the backs of those pictures, he’d written their names and what he’d loved about them, special things he’d seen and experienced with them.

On the back of Owen’s picture, it said:
Owen Harper, friend and colleague. Loyal to the end.

On another it said: Toshiko Sato, my hero.

He knew it wasn’t much. He would add things as time went on, when the grief slowly dulled and he’d be able to remember the good times.)

Ianto’s hands brushed through Jack’s hair, making it representable and neat, the tender gesture soothing the sharp ache of his scars. ”In your long life, are memories of us ephemeral?”

Gwen looked at him from across the tiny grave, her eyes red and wet, Rhys’s arm around her shoulders. Jack’s pain worsened at the thought of losing her, too, of losing Ianto. Tears welled up in his eyes when he noticed, not for the first time, that the scars hurt but he couldn’t for the life of him remember what (who) had caused some of them. Not without his little box of paper-and-ink memories.

Ianto looked earnest and sad and understanding all in one. And Jack loved him, he really did. Ianto was his rock, his lover, his friend and everything Jack wanted him to be, except for one thing – he didn’t want Ianto to be ephemeral. And yet, he was.

”Do I have to answer that?” Jack asked.

Ianto’s eyes slid away from his and he shook his head, his fingers still playing with the short strands at Jack’s nape, as if straightening every hair one after another. Jack dreaded the day he would put Ianto’s picture into the box. He wondered briefly what he would write on the back of it, but steered his thoughts away from that question quickly. He couldn’t tell Ianto the truth, the words stuck in his throat. This day was sad enough, no matter how understanding, how wonderful Ianto would be about it, Jack couldn’t say that, compared to the long life he was living, his time with Ianto was just a short spark of light. Just two years. Two years in an endless sea of decades and centuries …

”It’s okay,” Ianto said and kissed him, his lips warm and pliant when Jack answered the kiss, feeling the need to pull Ianto closer, to kiss him properly with tongue and teeth and lips.

They stood at the grave for a long time, not speaking. By the time they left, it had started to rain slightly, the only noises being the drops hitting their umbrellas and their feet scrunching on the gravel.

(Jack’s hands found the tin box many years later in his cupboard when he was about to add a new picture. He leafed through the memories, finding Rhys Williams and Gwen Cooper on one picture, together, the colors faded but the smiles still bright. His scars started to ache while he turned the picture around to read the words.

Rhys was a friend and Gwen knew me too well.

He read through the list of memories on the back and smiled sadly, noticing how empty the words seemed. The memories were faded at best, broken fragments of a life long gone.

There was another picture, the colors just as faded, the smile just as bright. Old jeans and a dark hoodie and wise eyes. The dull ache strengthened, becoming a searing pain driving tears into Jack’s eyes. He turned the picture over.

Ianto Jones: He understood me.)


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( 37 comments — Leave a comment )
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Nov. 17th, 2012 11:21 am (UTC)
Oh. I will tell you just how wonderful this is when I stop crying and can make a coherent statement.
Nov. 18th, 2012 07:29 am (UTC)
Thank you. :)
Nov. 17th, 2012 11:34 am (UTC)
See, I KNEW you were going to do that as soon as you first mentioned the box, but it still hurt. *laughs at self*

It's also another one of those things that annoys me about the way they destroyed the Hub. As far as we know, all Jack got out of it was his Vortex Manipulator. So much lost...
Nov. 18th, 2012 07:31 am (UTC)
That's true. This Story, though, could be read as an AU, since the pictures of Gwen and Ianto are equally faded, so they could have died at the same time. I left it open for interpretation on purpose.
Nov. 17th, 2012 12:09 pm (UTC)
Poor Jack, how could he possibly remember everyone who he loved over eternity. And if he chose not to love, his immortality would be all the more difficult to endure.
Nov. 18th, 2012 07:32 am (UTC)
That's just the thing. Even with a normal life, memories fade. Living so long, how could Jack with a normal mind or even an eidetic memory remember everything in detail over such a long time?
Nov. 17th, 2012 12:41 pm (UTC)
it is not good to styart Saturday morning crying but this is so sad but beauitfully written, as usual!
Nov. 18th, 2012 07:33 am (UTC)
Thank you. :)
Nov. 17th, 2012 01:53 pm (UTC)
OMG, that last line killed me. Jack, apparently, is the master of understatement.

Beautifully done. Now I have to go get some tissues.
Nov. 18th, 2012 07:33 am (UTC)
Thank you. :)
Nov. 17th, 2012 02:53 pm (UTC)
Wonderful, as always. Almost drove me to tears, just like Jack... I absolutely love your writing. It makes me feel what the characters feel and that is not easy.
Nov. 18th, 2012 07:34 am (UTC)
Thank you. :)
Nov. 17th, 2012 04:05 pm (UTC)
Oh my god this was amazing! I'm really glad my prompt inspired this out of you! Jack seems to try and cling to the past, no matter how much pain it will bring him. Makes me wonder what that past will make him when he's millions of years old.
Nov. 18th, 2012 07:34 am (UTC)
Thank you. And that prompt was just perfect. :)
Nov. 17th, 2012 05:38 pm (UTC)
Really, really beautiful!
Nov. 18th, 2012 07:34 am (UTC)
Thanks. :)
Nov. 17th, 2012 08:48 pm (UTC)
loved it
Nov. 18th, 2012 07:35 am (UTC)
Thanks. :)
Nov. 17th, 2012 11:30 pm (UTC)
So sad
Nov. 18th, 2012 07:35 am (UTC)
Nov. 18th, 2012 02:47 am (UTC)
So sad yet so beautiful. -sniff-sniff-
Nov. 18th, 2012 07:35 am (UTC)
Thanks. :)
Nov. 18th, 2012 10:01 am (UTC)
That last line was a thing of poetry. So heartbreaking, yet so beautiful at the same time.

Truly a terrific exploration of Jack's methods of holding onto his past loved ones. It was really moving, and so poignant. Jack is going to lose everyone, but the fear that he'll forget everyone is just as terrifying. His methods to try and remember at least something of them is really remarkable.

Fantastic job! This was so wonderful.
Nov. 19th, 2012 01:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :)
Nov. 18th, 2012 02:16 pm (UTC)
That was so beautifully painful.
Nov. 19th, 2012 01:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks. :)
Nov. 18th, 2012 05:21 pm (UTC)
Good for Tosh for demanding a real grave and cremation and good on Jack for following through.

Great story, really sad,poor Jack.
Nov. 19th, 2012 01:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :)
Nov. 18th, 2012 09:11 pm (UTC)
Nov. 19th, 2012 01:40 pm (UTC)
Sorry. :)
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( 37 comments — Leave a comment )