Chapter One: HERE AND NOW (I): Intersection
And here we go...
Certain For the Dead 2/?
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory (garnettrees)
THERE AND THEN (I): Memoria
'If you keep secrets long enough, sometimes they begin to keep you.'
Ianto Jones was raised with secrets. Suckled on them, his father sometimes said, glancing disdainfully (distrustfully?) at his wife from the corner of his eye. He never could take her straight on. When they fought, it was with stiff backs, facing away from each other with their voices as hard and unforgiving as the bones in their spines. Or, worse still, they fought with silence; a clipped, seemingly innocent phrase fired off like a shot in the dark.
'Sometimes I just don't know what to do,' Mam would say, and always her hands would be busy, so she would not have to grasp the words. Shelling peas, or mending, keeping household accounts in her neat, odd left hand. 'I just don't know'-- and there would be real sorrow in her voice, though Father couldn't hear it. Wouldn't.
'Damn it, woman,' he'd say, thick yet somehow skeletal hand coming down in a fist. 'Why can't you ever just say what you mean?' He asked that of Ianto too, as the boy grew. It was, in fact, a question Ianto grew accustomed to. 'But what do you *mean* by that?' Lisa would ask, throwing her hands up, lacquered nails flashing in the fluorescent light of Torchwood One. How could he explain her what he'd learned so well, so young? Words were only tools; weapons, bridge-builders, flares set off against the night. Sometimes the truth was in the silences between them, in the breath you took before pronouncing a lie.
His mother did not teach him to lie outright. She met his questions head on, as much as possible. He was a curious child, a bright child (she said to his father); she would answer his questions where she could (she promised Ianto himself, stroking his hair as he fell asleep). The lies he learned were the best kind, those of omission-- he learned to lean around questions, to stare blankly, to redirect.
'Discretion is the better part of valor,' she'd say. Or, 'mouth shut and ears open'. This with her gaze on the ceiling, or looking past her reflection in the mirror; she wasn't speaking to him but to herself, or else some invisible other-presence. Lower lip bitten between her uneven teeth, she'd ball up her fists and scrub at her eyes like a boy trying not to cry. It's only now, through the lens of his experience and memory, that Ianto realizes how very young she was. And how very afraid.
It's hard to figure out where to start things, where to pick up a thread. Ianto developed a sense for what questions would be welcomed, and which would be passed over as if not asked at all. As a result, he has only bits and pieces; bright, translucent mosaic tiles that do not fit edge-to-edge. He thinks his first memory might be of lying against his mother's breast, threading his tiny fingers along the silver of her necklace. She wore a fairy pendant-- a silver affair with stylized wings, and a little shard of blue crystal in its tiny hands. He remembers toying with it while she rocked him, reaching for it as she leaned over his cradle. But these are collections of moments, repeated motions-- not a single memory. She liked to hold him in her lap, or let him sleep next to her in bed-- Father said she was smothering him. Mam said she never asked him for advice on how to raise her son.
And Ianto was just that-- *her* son, not Father's. It was always 'do something about your son, Amser' from the elder Mr. Jones, or 'my Ianto' from Mam. One of those things that everyone knew but no one said.
His first concrete memory was of sitting on the cool kitchen floor at night, cross-legged with his mother as they soaked up the warmth of the stove. There was just a little antique light on in the far corner, casting a halo around the dark kitchen-- outside, snow fell against the black Welsh night, and Mam sang him 'happy birthday' over a single golden cupcake. She wasn't only his mother-- she was his coconspirator, as well. A shield; against father from the very beginning, and later against the teachers who thought him too inquisitive, or else too odd.
'It's natural for a boy to have imaginary friends' she'd wave her hand, brush back a bit of her sensible-short brown hair. 'He doesn't have many playmates of his own age.' She had that way of banishing concern, even as she leaned down close late at night, and whispered to him that he shouldn't believe everything his tree-friends told him. At the time, he assumed she knew everything-- she was Mam, of course she understood it all.
Presently, deep beneath Ianto Jones' waking mind, something stirs. Memory and legend-- those bits of childhood we bury like precious treasure and then forget to dig back up again. He does not remember the tree-friends of his early childhood or, if he does, he discredits them as fantasy, something he concocted for his own entertainment. But there's that look, the one of sudden and complete loss on Mrs. Pearce's face as he does the follow-up confirmation of a successful Ret-Con. An image blazes; Mam, standing by the sink, her face moon-round, hair pulled back in one of those tortoise-shell clips. She's smiling at him, at something his small, child-self has said... but, there! There, in the pale of her skin and the widening of her eyes. She is afraid. She has only half-answers and superstition herself, and she loves Ianto more than anything else on this earth.
The memory sinks back into the endless, waveless reservoir of the unconscious mind, and Ianto is left only with that vague feeling of displacement. Deja'vu, as they say. That little prickle along the hairs on the back of his neck. He feels it all the time, along with a quiver behind his heart, when Jack Harkness smiles at him.
Next Week: Back to the present, and the aftermath of Brecon Beacons. A much longer chapter, too. ^_^
Feedback? *puppy dog eyes* Yes, I am a 'ho-- don't tell my mom. ^_~