Notes: The full extension of #103 of 'Snapshots of Smiles'. Requested by laal ratty.
"There's something down in the lower archives," Dani said, bursting through the door and making a beeline for the terminals, ignoring Jack's presence entirely. "We've got an intrusion."
"There's no alarms saying that," Jack said. "Why do you...?"
"There's somebody down there," Dani insisted. "I heard someone singing."
"Singing?" Jae looked up from her computer. "Oh, no. That's not an intrusion. I don't think so, anyway. I think one of the machines is running by accident; I was trying to find it yesterday."
"One of the machines is singing?" Jack pressed, suddenly feeling very tired.
"I think so," Jae said. "It's Welsh, you see. My grandmother spoke Welsh and I recognise some of the words."
Jack stiffened and frowned at her, all exasperation gone.
"There's a Welsh...?" he asked, then turned on his heel and marched for the door. "Dani, Jae. Show me."
The singing could be heard floating through the last six floors of the archive space, but it was clearly coming from the third storage room on the final floor. Jack hadn't been this far down in years, and it hadn't changed from the last time he was down here, nearly thirty years ago now. Nobody had been down here: the grease and pools of leaked pipe water were thick on the ground, and the only prints were Dani's, coming out this way and returning.
"In there," Dani said, pushing open the door.
The volume grew, and with it, the clarity. Now, it was crystalline, as if the singer was there, standing right in front of them, though the room was devoid of life. Lights flickered from a tiny blue box on one of the shelves, and as Dani picked it up, the lights paused, flashed red, and a new song began.
"It's...what, a CD player?" Jae guessed. "That sort of thing?"
"No," Jack had gone white, and took it from Dani's hands. "It's...it's a recording device, of some kind."
"How do you...?"
"I remember the voice," Jack breathed. "He...he worked with us. It is Welsh; he was native Welsh, before...before the language died."
"He's gone now, then?" Jae asked unnecessarily. Welsh had died over sixty years ago, officially, and if he had worked with Jack, in Torchwood, then he would not have become an old man. Even if an operative survived their contract years, they usually developed cancers and tumours and other, deadly things, and died in their fifties.
"Yes," Jack murmured. "He's...he died a long time ago. The...the 456. You know about that."
Dani blinked and said, "Oh."
It was all that was necessary. They all knew about the 456, about the damage that it had inflicted on the country and on Torchwood itself. They knew what they had to blame for their new situation, and, apparently, for Jack's meeker personality that, from his record, they couldn't place.
"What was his name?" Jae asked.
The singing was the only sound for some time - rising and falling, soft and beautiful. He had been a good singer; he had been in choirs all his youth, church and school and community hall. Once, a concert hall, even. It was easy to remember why, now, with his voice haunting them via his work beyond the grave.
"Jones," Jack whispered, wishing he knew what it was that the song was about. "Ianto Jones."
The lights flashed red again, but a song didn't follow. Instead, there was an odd static, and a clear voice that made Jack's heart lurch.
"What are you, then? One-six-nine-eight-one-five...right...ah. Recording device. And...yeah, you're doing it now. Great, now I sound crazy. And I bet Guppy didn't leave any instructions on how to delete. Procedure in this place is ridiculous. So I'll be on a bloody box before, and future generations will think I'm crazy. All that's left of me. Insanity. How wonderful. But then, I work here, so it's not too surprising..."
The recording quietened, but carried on, as if Ianto had put the box down, and eventually more singing started up, sounding brighter and more cheerful. Jack smiled, even as his throat threatened to choke him.
"He was special to you," Jae said.
"They were all special to me," Jack replied flatly. "Every last one of them. And I suppose he was crazy. He put up with me, for so long, and he didn't deserve what he got."
He could see the wheels turning in Jae's head, and he shook his own.
"No. He's not in the system, so don't go looking."
"Why not?" Dani asked.
"Because..." Jack faltered, then said: "Because this way, I can keep his memory. It's mine, and nothing can take it away."
Both of them noticed him pocket the box as he walked away, but neither had the heart to comment.