Author's Note: This story has cut itself neatly into three parts - but with me, you never know, could turn out to be five. For now, it is planned out as having three chapters. The next two might be a lot longer, I'm not certain how the writing will turn out just yet. We'll see. This is based off of a diary entry from 1952 that was on the Torchwood website. If you'd like to read it, you can find it at community (dot) livejournal (dot) com (slash) iantos_desktop (slash) 1082 (dot) h t m l. Sorry for the crazy format, but you know how it is. Chapters should be on a one-per-day basis, to be finished on Wednesday. Ianto's birthday! It's incredibly sad that I know that. Enjoy.
"All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream."
- Edgar Allan Poe
The first time Ianto heard the singing, he was dreaming.
It was something about a church. His father. Stained glass windows casting red, yellow, blue light onto wooden pews. Holding his hand out to touch it, to feel the colored light. Feeling its weight. Then pulling his hand away to find the colors still there, staining his fingers, staining his palm. Red, yellow, blue. And the singing.
He woke up to complete darkness. There was nothing, no glow of a clock radio, no diluted trickle of a streetlight through the blinds. Just the pleasant closeness of walls and a warm body next to him. Jack's quarters, then.
He could still hear it.
He pushed the blankets away as carefully as he could, waiting for any sign of Jack stirring. When he felt nothing, Ianto swung one leg and then the other to the floor and stood slowly, watching the vague form in the darkness that was slowly becoming Jack's sleeping body as his eyes adjusted. He didn't wake.
Ianto padded to the ladder – barefoot, in pyjama bottoms – and swung himself up into Jack's office. It was louder, there. Voices, singing. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up.
He jumped when the he crossed the threshold of Jack's office and the low-lights of the hub came on, casting a thousand more shadows than the darkness had allowed. Myfanwy gave a short cry at being disturbed.
Ianto spoke under his breath. "Hush."
He followed the voices through the hub, finding the sound where it got stronger. It swelled and softened, like a kids' game, when he got closer or further away. It led him back through the archives, rows and rows of stored alien technology. There, the sound bounced from wall to stone wall as though there were a hidden choir in the narrow hallways. Then, he found it.
The storage container was small, and when he pulled it out and opened it the singing got exponentially louder, a wave of sound that passed through his whole body and seemed to vibrate him. He took it out.
It was the size of a small stone, fitting easily into his palm. It was smooth, as though it were made out of glass, and swirled with color. Like a marble, he thought. It seemed to be changing shape in his hands. He stared down at it. And he remembered.
(shame but also glee at getting away with it his pockets stuffed walking out of the store but then a hand on his arm and it's the police oh god he's caught)
He dropped it back into the container, shocked. What was that? A memory? Yes; caught shoplifting. Sixteen, was he? Such an idiot then.
What was this?
He carried it with him, back out into the hub. The lights were still on; Jack was standing outside of his office, looking confused.
"Where'd you go?" he asked when Ianto came into view.
Ianto held up the container and rattled the thing inside. "I heard this, singing." He handed it over. "Do you know what it is?"
Jack picked the stone up and looked at it closely, turning it this way and that in his hand. "No. Haven't seen it before." He paused. "You said it was singing?"
Ianto nodded. "And it made me-" He cut off. Jack looked at him.
"It made me remember something."
Jack's brows furrowed. "What was it?"
"Shoplifting," Ianto said, looking at the stone in Jack's hand. "When I was sixteen. I was caught shoplifting."
Jack smirked. "I remember. It was in your file."
Ianto shook his head. "But why would it make me remember that?"
"I don't know," Jack held it back out to him. "Maybe it didn't. Maybe there isn't a connection."
Ianto shrugged, "It felt so real, though." He took the stone back.
(lying on the ground screaming dad hovering over him "you should have told me to stop, you should have told me-" so much PAIN)
Jack was holding him upright, taking the stone out of his hand and putting it on the desk next to them. Ianto was breathing hard; he put a hand on Jack's shoulder to steady himself, his eyes wide and unfocused.
"Ianto? What was it? What did you see?"
Ianto shook his head, his breath still coming short. "It was – nothing -" He stepped away, running a hand through his hair. "It was nothing. I'm fine." He looked at the stone. "I'm fine."
Jack's concerned expression grew grim. "What did you see, Ianto?"
"Nothing." Ianto said this with finality, looking at Jack's face. "It's fine. I'll put it back. Go to bed."
Jack looked like he was about to say something, but Ianto was turning, grabbing the container off of the desk and walking back towards the archives.
Jack was already asleep when Ianto returned. Soon, he slept, as well.
- - -
Gwen arrived that morning with dark circles under her eyes, dragging her feet through the entrance gate. Ianto was already handing her a coffee as he greeted her.
"Oh, thank you. You're a lifesaver," she said, holding the mug up to her lips. "I've hardly slept."
"I can see," he said, taking in the haggard way she held herself.
"Thanks for that." She glowered at him.
He smiled a bit. "Sorry."
She shook her head, taking a sip. "Rhys and I had a fight last night. It's all right now, just – that man can go for hours. About hardly anything." She sank into a chair. "I think he just likes to keep me up."
Ianto started to turn away, but Gwen stopped him, sounding concerned. "You don't look like you've slept much, either. You all right?"
He looked at her, his eyebrows raised. "I'm fine."
She smirked. "Jack keeping you awake?"
Ianto rolled his eyes and left.
- - -
That afternoon, he heard it again.
It hummed underneath of everything.
He was cleaning the coffee maker when it came back. He could feel it at the base of his skull, like a single nerve firing endlessly. The cups drying on a towel beside him clinked together and rang like bells in time with the singing. He stepped away, surprised, and knocked a rack of dishes so that they, too, sang.
Gwen looked over her shoulder at the noise. "Ianto? You okay?"
He looked at her. "Do you hear that?"
Her eyebrows narrowed; she looked at him quizzically. "Hear what?"
He stared for a second, then shook his head, returning to the coffee maker. "Nevermind."
Gwen let her eyes linger on him for a second, then turned back to her work.
It didn't stop.
He could hear it everywhere. In the conference room with Gwen and Jack, under everything they said. During lunch. When they went out to capture a Weevil, he could hear it through the Bluetooth in his ear.
He ignored it. Tried to.
But it called to him. It wanted him to hold the stone. He wouldn't. Not again. He'd rather hear the singing forever than feel those memories again.
Jack sat on the edge of Ianto's desk at the end of the day and grinned down at him. "Are you staying here tonight?"
Ianto looked up at him. "I thought I'd go home."
Jack studied his face for a moment; his eyes were a trifle too wide, his breath a little shallow. "You okay, Ianto?"
Ianto shook his head. "I just need – to go home. I'll be fine." He smiled. It was painfully forced. "Tomorrow. I'll be fine."
Jack frowned. "Do you want me to come home with you?"
Ianto really did smile a little bit this time. He shook his head again, slowly. "No. Thank you, though."
Jack looked a little relieved at the smile. "All right. I'll see you tomorrow, then."
Ianto stood up, nodded, then left.
Outside, in the Plass, in the dark and the cold, Ianto could still hear the singing.
- - -
He didn't make himself dinner. There was nothing in. He was too tired. He shrugged out of his jacket, his waistcoat, pulled off his tie, began to unbutton his shirt.
He would just go to sleep. That was all.
Maybe in the morning it would be gone. If not, he'd tell Jack. They'd stop it. It would be all right.
He fell into bed in his boxers and was asleep in seconds.
- - -
Sand under his feet. The sound of waves. Gulls. Storm clouds approaching from over the sea. Wind swept his coat, his hair, his eyes closing against the grit. He was singing. Standing on the beach, staring out at the sea, singing.
It began to rain.
He was in a building. Someone was throwing things against the wall in the next room; the sound of broken glass ringing on the floor. Someone crying in a corner. It was dark, but there were shadows on the wall made by the fires raging outside. He could smell the smoke. He could hear people shouting, screaming, fighting.
He could smell chips frying.
More confused images; a broken gramophone, a building burning, a man slumped against a brick wall, a dog with two broken back legs dragging itself across the ground, a raised knife, someone's terrified face.
He woke up standing half-naked in the archives, tears streaming down his face, staring down at the stone in his hands.
And he remembered.
(hands on her throat listening to her scream pushing her against the wall watching her eyes widen watching her scramble at his gloved hands watching her face watching it slacken watching her die with the rain on his back in his eyes in her eyes glazed eyes dead eyes)
He dropped the stone. He ran.