Aside from that little warning, there's nothing to do save thank you all for your kind comments for the last chapter, and for even bothering to read my story at all. I really, really appreciate it. Hearing from you makes my day. ^___^ If I could bother you to take a moment to comment after you read, I'll... kiss your ring, or something. (Assuming you have a ring to be kissed. *Jack-leer*)
And now, away we go...
Past Chapters Here:
[HERE AND NOW (I): Intersection]
[THEN AND THERE (I): Memoria]
[HERE AND NOW (II): Sweeter Than]
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory
THERE AND THEN (II): Each Small Piece
This is what he knows for certain: He is the son of Vaughn and Amser Jones, both of whom lived in a small Bridgend County village all their lives. Not just their individual lives, but _lifelines_-- grandmothers and grandfathers, stretching back to where memory became smeared, like a blot of ink on the registry. He was born in the winter of 1983, when his mother was seventeen and his father was... More missing pieces-- he couldn't have been much older than Mam, but no one seems to have bothered to calculate for him. He was a road-hullage man, or boy really; he drove lumber and cattle, food shipments and the occasional drums of chemicals across Wales and back again. Not a member of their small household, but a feared and worrisome guest. You didn't know when he was coming, or when he might go once he came; you could only tiptoe, breath held, around his foreign presence, feeling like a stranger in your own home. When real-life swam back into being, it was always just Ianto and Mam in their small stone house, coming and going and laughing as they pleased.
Secretly, he has already edited this story-- he has bent it to his own means, added his own agenda. The pieces are already frayed, obscured by the motives of others, but he's known all along that you can't tell a story without changing it. Really, he's just the son of Amser Jones, Amser Haydn that was. Already that's a bad place to start, because it begs questions, leaves holes, but what can you do? He works around them as best he can, stitches them up when the opportunity presents itself. Mam was seventeen, still a child herself, when she squatted on the old chestnut bed, sweating in the firelight while the snow fell like a cloak of negative darkness over the world outside. She gave birth to him at home, with only her mother-- The Grandmother-- for help. She was a tiny thing, and the going was hard.
(How does he know this? It's not part of the story she told him.)
And where was Father for all of this? Tradition would put him down stairs, in the kitchen, smoking or doing something else to alleviate the tension, the worry. But really, honestly, he was over at the pub drinking it down like water, muttering and snarling at anyone who came near. Others have told him this-- village mothers, busybodies, offering the words as if he'd asked for them, as if he somehow needed to know. Well, it's hardly a surprise, and at least it completes the picture. Everybody in their places, the players all on the stage. And then Mam takes up the story.
Almost midnight on March 12th, 1983. ('You narrowly missed the Ides, darling,' Lisa used to tease, and at the time he thought it was funny.) Mam and The Grandmother in the upstairs bedroom, waiting. One last push, he's small and perfect, this new little life-- he slides, bloody, into waiting arms and is quiet, quiet. The Grandmother blows in his face, gives his bottom a healthy whack, but... nothing.
'Oh, you gave me such a scare,' says Mam, years later, cuddling him next to her under the quilts. 'You were quiet for so long, eyes open and your face all blue, and finally, finally you screamed.'
The baby does scream, and so does Mam-- a whoop of triumph, an exhausted battle cry. Ianto imagines her, pink with sweat, her short hair a dark halo as she falls back, laughing, amidst the soiled sheets. The Grandmother does the cleaning and cutting quickly, while the unnamed boy protests with his new voice. Mam holds out her arms, wiggles her fingers-- 'Give me my boy,' she says, 'give him to me now.' She's tossed a rag instead, and told to clean herself up. It's cursory, but she follows directions, until at last the Grandmother deems everything in order. Her wrinkled hands surrender the baby to its mother, who coos, 'Come to Mam, Ianto', and thus gives him his name.
It was never difficult to get Mam to tell that story, though she mostly preferred others. (And there were others, seemingly lost to him now, though he hears her sing-songing, "Once when all the world was green and young...") Mam never completed Sixth Form...
-- she was only very narrowly wed properly (said the villagers)
--she made a drinker out of poor Vaughn (said his family)
--she always seemed like a nice, quiet girl (said the teachers)
--and there she was, at seventeen, with a tiny baby and no shame. It's the getting there that's hard to figure; but Ianto does it with determination and quite a bit of hearsay. He knows there was a school dance; there's a photo, Mam in a blue dress with flowers and indigo ribbon, smile so bright as Father leans his form around her, looking pleased. He knows Vaughn was fast boy, a boy who knew his way around.
(A drizzling, gray Sunday morning. Father is drunk, sitting on the steps; Ianto is fifteen, and Mam is dead. Newly dead-- such an odd turn of phrase-- and buried under a mound that is even now slaking its first taste of rain. Father says, "She was so beautiful. The moon was up-- she was like silver and gold. We went out back of the barn and I thought she was an angel, 'cause she had her own light." A long, healthy swallow of liquor. "She wasn' an angel. Not ah proper one, she wasn' _right_." Sidelong glance at Ianto, young and lost in the maelstrom of adolescent grief, "Jus' like you ain' right." )
What comes next? Ianto laughs to himself, because he's telling two stories at once. What happened was this; Mam had the baby and, fifteen years later, Ianto swung and clocked his father in the jaw on that rainy morning.
"I hate you," he'd told his father, words acidic with truth.
Vaughn had shrugged, jaw swelling and unnoticed, "Don' take it personal." But it wasn't that-- it had been the words before the insult. The revelation that, if only for an hour or so, if only for a night, Father had thought Mam to be an angel.
"You killed her," Ianto had said, walking backwards into the muddy driveway. "You know it, too, and you're not sorry. You're a murderer."
"Queer thing, you are," Father had muttered, continued to mutter as Ianto turned and loped off into the forest. "Not right-- but she had her own glow, and I just..."
Ianto has backed himself into a corner, thinking about this. He tries not to, most days; he restricts himself to the inbetween times, those still-photo memories of himself and Mam, living their quiet lives, together alone. Beginnings and endings are always violent-- he knows that from his own experience now-- it's the middle of the story, the eye the storm, that matters when everyone else is gone. Himself and Mam in her sewing room-- the hum of her work and the low radio, himself at the little card table, drawing or reading, or driving his little silver matchbox car along invisible roads. Summer in the garden, up to their elbows in dirt, while the forest watched and giggled. There's nothing else there, nothing but the Father's brief and sometimes baleful interruptions. Just him, and Mam, and maybe he was a little lonely and had a few imaginary friends.
That's the real story-- he's not just changing it because he wants to.
(He can't be.)
Presently, in the dim lights of Jack's office, Ianto sits on the antique couch and slowly, absently catalogues the contrast of hub metal and smooth, old-fashioned wood. Functional technology; graceful lines. It's a study in contradictions that somehow fit together, make more of themselves than their parts. Every bit of Ianto aches, and he fights the urge to simply curl in on himself and collapse. Self-consciously, his body squirms in the long-sleeve shirt and sweats Owen gave him. He feels out of place, as if Brecon Beacons is still sliding along his skin, a sick and cancerous oil. What he needs is the clean press and lines of his suits, everything squared away and smoothed out. He's almost convinced himself to get up-- to hell with take-out and Owen's stupid pills-- and change; he'll just go home, or down to the vaults, and find something to do until dawn breathes and makes the Beacons seem like a nightmarish fever dream.
"Don't move, Jones," Jack's voice prompts Ianto's body before it even registers with his mind. He sits back down, an involuntary smile lifting as Jack finishes with a bad gangster impression; "We got the place surrounded, boy."
Ianto runs a somewhat sheepish hand through his hair, "I was just--"
"Going to sneak off?" Jack asks, brandishing a bottle of Vat 69. "Finish eating and take your pills. Assuming the apocalypse doesn't descend upon us, I've given everyone the day off tomorrow. That way, you won't disappear into the archives, or decide to give Myfanwy a bath." There's a knowing look behind Jack's smile and wink, and Ianto feels the blush cover his face no matter how hard he tries to will it away. That beautiful bastard-grin just gets wider, "Consider yourself thwarted."
There's a healthy does of sarcasm in Ianto's 'Yes, sir', and they descend into a companionable silence. It's a comfort and familiarity that Ianto feels guilty about, even as he relishes it. How quickly they all forgot about Lisa, playing their stupid summer camp games! And yet, here he is, gratefully absorbing the peace of Jack's presence, accepting (here comes Yvonne's disapproving tone) aid and comfort from the enemy. Lord, he'd been starting to think he'd never feel this way again, like they were here and alive and okay, like Jack's hands were on him because that's just where they wanted to be.
"Hey," Jack says. And there it is, a touch on his elbow, and another very brief one on his waist, as the Captain takes a seat beside him. He's unwrapping the pills from the napkin, pressing them into Ianto's hand. "I'm usually the last person to lean on pharmaceuticals for relief--" a nod towards the Vat 69, "but you look like you're in a lot of pain."
"It hurts... there's nothing that doesn't hurt," Ianto admits. He could lean into Jack now, if he let himself, if he didn't think he'd hear Lisa's mournful, betrayed voice in his dreams. Ianto hates pills, but he swallows these before he can think about it any longer, and allows Jack to lift a glass of water to his lips. He dozes a little, feels Jack carefully rearrange his limbs so he can sleep.
"Rest," Jack's voice is like a caress, following Ianto down into the darkness. He thinks he hears, or imagines, or remembers, Jack say, "I've got you" and then he _is_ dreaming. There's the village river, churning white and gray, and a young (four? five?) Ianto stands above it on the stone bridge, listening to the silver girl cry and the forest in which his tree-friends weep (laugh?) and gnash their teeth. He watches the water, watches it moving, and takes a step off the ledge while Jack's impassioned, panicked voice tells him no, no, no.
This is the part where I beg you for feedback. *puppy dog eyes* My muse and I are so needy. Brats, we are, in fact. ^_~ Please?