Title: Between the Bell Notes
Rating: R (Mostly for bad swears)
Spoilers: Torchwood COE, thru Episode 5
Pairing: None, really, (although Jack/Ianto implied)
Characters: Jack, Rhiannon Davies
Summary: Missing scene conversation set during the 5th episode of COE—to say anything more would be spoilery
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
A/N: I guess you could say this is my reaction piece to COE. Thanks, as always, to ares132006 for looking over my stuff, and, also, (along withblue_fjords andpjgale), for being my sounding board whilst the episodes aired.
He surveyed the scene in front of him, eyes sweeping side to side, taking everything in at once. Old habits died hard. Children, screeching and running and swinging and climbing. Perpetual motion. The parents were sat in groups ringing the playground, laughing and smoking and gossiping, vaguely lifeguarding the action. People’s sheer resilience was one thing in all of his years that he never stopped being impressed by. It wasn’t enough to keep him here, but it was still something to behold. The sky had already started taking on some hues of pinks and purples that would usher in twilight, but it was summer, so there was still enough daylight for a few more hours of play.
“David, wait for your sister!” He heard the voice behind him, but he didn’t turn around. A shock of blonde hair ran past him, followed by short legs working hard to keep up. He got a quick glimpse of the little girl’s face as she passed, and his heart clenched in his throat. “Mica, be careful on that thing!” He heard a beleaguered sigh just to the side, then felt the woman take the seat beside him, one hand up shielding the early evening sun, the better to keep an eye over her brood. “For Christ’s sake, David, just push her on the swing!” He couldn’t help the small chuckle that escaped his lips. He felt her turn and search his face, chuckling herself. “Which one’s yours?”
He turned and looked at her for the first time, taking in the eyes, nose, shape of the face, jut of the chin. All of the air left his lungs in a rush. He realized he was just staring when she began to lean away in suspicion, eyes darting between him and her children several times. Not that he blamed her. The distrust of past events had not disappeared completely, especially not in a neighborhood like this. He finally found the words. “Rhiannon. I’m Jack. Jack Harkness.” He didn’t extend a hand, didn’t make a move to touch her in any way, not sure such an overture would be welcomed. Not sure he would welcome it, either. “I worked with your brother.”
He saw the moment of brief confusion in her eyes before it passed over to understanding. And then the raw open grief as it all clicked home. Fuck. He turned his head away, unable to face such pain, knowing his own face was betraying him as well. She took a few shaky breaths, leaning towards him, touching him lightly on the arm. “Ianto’s Jack?” Her voice caught on his name, and he couldn’t help the way his vision suddenly blurred with tears.
He swallowed audibly and nodded, closing his eyes briefly. He looked up at her again, but instead of the accusation and anger or suspicion he’d been expecting, he found pity, which was hard not to hate, just a little bit. One of the reasons he so desperately needed to get off of this godforsaken rock. He took in one last, steeling breath and straightened up, giving her the best smile he could muster.
She smiled sadly in return and shook her head, a bit in disbelief. “Like a film star.”
Jack’s brow furrowed in surprise. “He say that?”
She chuckled in response. “Nah.” Her eyes automatically scanned the crowds again, a mental check-in of her kids. The action was so instinctive Jack wasn’t sure she was conscious she was doing it. He felt something tighten high up in his chest, remembering when he, too, performed such actions by rote. “He just said you were ‘very handsome’.” She smiled at him a bit coyly, then quickly remembered herself, remembered the grief, and closed her eyes against it.
Jack studied her face a bit longer, as there were differences worth noting. Worth remembering. Her face was rounder, and she was a bit darker, eyes a paler shade of blue, almost grey. He could tell from their brief encounter that she was kind in a completely different way from Ianto, but tough and unashamed of who she was and what she had. Proud of it, even. He decided to plow ahead, the sooner he did this the sooner he could be just fucking done with all of it. “Look…I just came because, well,” he sighed and looked down at his hands clasped between his knees, anything to turn away from her face, swallowing thickly, “I wish it could have been me, to come and tell you. I’m very sorry that I wasn’t here.”
She placed her hand gently on his arm. “You were with him, weren’t you?” His eyes felt hot and his throat got tight and thick as her eyes searched his face, her voice taking on a slight air of panic. “That other girl said you were. Gwen? She said you were there with him when it happened.” He could hear the anguish leaking into her voice as it lowered, eyes widening in fear of the worst. The desperate need to know her baby brother wasn’t alone when he died. He didn’t have the heart to tell her that it really didn’t matter, anyways. You wouldn’t remember whether you were alone or surrounded by dozens of fat grandchildren. You were dead. That was it. The. End. There was nothing out there waiting for you. He kept his thoughts to himself.
He licked his lips and took another breath in, blinking a few times. “Yeah.” His voice cracked, and he cleared his throat, trying to cover. Harder to hide the tears streaking down his face, though, which he swiped angrily away. A few more seconds to control himself. “Yeah. I was there.” The pain had given away to anger awhile ago. He knew this was part of the grieving process, had been through the drill several thousand times now, but it still sucked. Every time. Some more than others. This was one of those. The futileness of it all. How he’d slipped and even let this happen. He’d thought he’d been so goddamned careful around this one. Well, not anymore. He just ended fucking up everyone’s lives spectacularly. He wondered, not for the first time, if this is what the Doctor had meant when he told him he was wrong. He felt the need to put as much distance as he could between himself and this woman as quickly as possible. He looked her full in the face again, the onslaught of her sympathy briefly rocking him. “I’m here because I know that Ianto would want you looked after.”
She barked a harsh little laugh. “I don’t know what lines he’d been feeding you, but Ianto didn’t exactly come from money.”
He frowned at her, ashamed this was all he had left to give. “Actually, Torchwood paid quite handsomely.”
Her eyes widened and her mouth fell open. “You’re kidding me?” Just then her littlest ran over, climbing up into her mother’s lap, thumb automatically going into her mouth. She smiled shyly at Jack and then turned her face away. Rhiannon began absently stroking her back, but her eyes never left Jack’s.
He nodded distractedly, but couldn’t stop staring at the little girl. When he felt eyes upon him again, he cleared his throat. “Sorry. It’s just that she…”
Rhiannon nodded in agreement. “Spitting image, yeah?” She stroked her daughter’s hair and kissed her temple, gently shooing her from her lap. “Off with you! Da-vid! Come push your sister on the swing.”
“Mam!” The word stretched over a several syllables. David was kicking the footy around with a few other boys, clearly displeased by the request.
She stood, a virtual tower of parental authority. “David Alun Davies!” The boy slumped and rolled his eyes, and Jack couldn’t help but smile at the display as he grumped his way over to his waiting sister. Who looked so tiny on the swing, so fragile…Jack looked away, swallowing down the lump in his throat. Rhiannon sat once again. “So sorry about that.”
He shook his head, dispelling any concerns, and spread his hands wide. “Look, I need to get going, but I wanted to let you know that I set up a trust account for you and your family in Ianto’s name at Barclay’s.” He dug the slip of paper from his coat pocket and handed it over with the account number and information. “Just contact Mr. Fenton at the Cardiff branch office on St. Mary’s Street. He’ll get you all straight.” He brushed his hands on his thighs and stood, and she stood with him, looking more than a little dazed.
Rhiannon took the card, studying it with her head cocked to the side, one hand perched on her hip. “Well, is that it, then? Will we see you again?” Her eyes skipped over his face anxiously, trying to commit every detail to memory. Another drill he knew all too well.
He smiled, hoping he looked kind, and shook his head. “Got some travelling to do. There’s too much…” He waved his hand around vaguely, simultaneously taking in everything and nothing. He chewed his bottom lip for a moment, looking for the words, surprised that none would come. He sighed, his breath unexpectedly shuddering. “Need to…”
“Yeah.” She stepped up towards him, again lying her hand on his arm. He looked down at her delicately boned fingers, and sighed audibly, closing his eyes. She stepped back, her eyes a bit hard. “Tell me something, Jack.” She looked him square in the eyes. “Where did Ianto say our dad worked?”
He let out a small huff in surprise, shaking his head at the question. “Well, he’d always claimed he was a master tailor. Very proud of that fact” She dropped her eyes and shook her head resignedly, clearly broken. “However, Torchwood always did keep pretty extensive records of their employees.” He tilted his head at her knowingly and gave her a tight grin. “I never let on.”
He lurched a little when she suddenly pulled him forward into a hug, and he stiffened immediately, but she wouldn’t let go. Unrelenting, this one. His heart ached briefly at the thought that Ianto should have spent more time around her. Her breath hitched and she was shaking in his arms, clinging to the back of his coat. “You were in love, weren’t you?” Her voice was a frantic whisper. “Please tell me that. Please. You loved each other, yeah? He had someone to love?” He remained silent and still, not being able to answer when it mattered, surely not answering now. There was no need. Love, the very fact of it, and what it meant to those who loved him back, wasn’t a lesson he would soon forget. He still couldn’t get the taste of ashes from his mouth.
He pushed back from her. “I need to go.” He turned abruptly, coat swishing around his legs as he moved. He knew if he looked back and saw those pleading eyes, so achingly familiar, he could easily be kept by the wanting to know. But, he knew better than anyone that knowing wouldn’t change a fucking thing. Besides, there was nothing left here that he needed to know. He heard her call out to him several times, the wind carrying his name up the hill as he neared the car. He just carried on, knowing she wouldn’t abandon her post below. He got behind the wheel, not even glancing in the rear view mirror before pulling away.
I listen to the monk's bell.
I will never forget you
even for an interval
Short as those between the bell notes.
~ Izumi Shikibu