Notes: The full oneshot for #33 of 'Snapshots of Smiles.' I'm sorry for the long silence; see my profile for excuses and other news. Fairly exciting news, IMO, but probably not for you guys all waiting on these things. Sorry!
This ignores Children of Earth.
The Ghost Man
The new archivist lasted only four weeks.
He stormed up to the Captain's office, resignation letter in hand, and slammed it down on the desk in a way that spoke of complete finality.
"I quit," he said, and before Harkness could even ask for an explanation, he ploughed on: "I can stand the team shunting me off - it's only understandable, you did lose one of your own - but I won't put up with that bloody...thing down there!"
"What thing?" Jack asked blankly.
"The...whatever it is...that you have down in the archives!"
"The...equipment?" Jack asked, completely nonplussed. He wondered vaguely if one of their alien toys had been activated and sent Thomas absolutely stark raving mad.
"The ghost! The dead man!" he exclaimed, waving his hands about like Owen used to do when supremely frustrated. "You have a bloody ghost down there, it bloody hates me, and I won't put up with it!"
One couldn't really blame Thomas for his attitude. He had gotten used to the presence of something else, in the last four floors of the archives, fairly quickly. The cold spots, the whispers, the sounds of footsteps - that was fine. Even, most days, the flash of cold blue eyes - that was sometimes okay. So he didn't know if they were in his mind or really there, but who cared? They were only eyes.
But in the early morning and late evening...he just couldn't handle that.
In the mornings, the whispers became shouts - loud, angry yelling that flickered between Welsh and English, and Thomas had never thought of Welsh as sounding particularly threatening before, but it did then. The English was arguing with some other person, some invisible creature, and sometimes, when it got really loud, Thomas would hear metal objects bouncing off the walls.
Only hear, because the minute the shouting started, he left.
And in the evenings, he would see the objects being rearranged on the shelves, see pens scribbling instructions on papers handled by invisible fingers. Once, he tried to take the pen, and was struck sharply on the side of the head by a ghostly hand - a large, strong hand, and he had felt the calloused palm for a moment.
He couldn't handle it.
"I can't work with it," he told Jack, and walked out of the base, and that was the last of Thomas.
The problem was, whenever Jack went down there, he felt and heard nothing. No ghosts, no movements, no nothing. None of the devices seemed to be doing anything, and he was always alone.
"It's because it's you," Gwen told him once, over lunch, and he frowned at her, puzzled.
"What do you mean, because it's me?" he asked.
"Well," Gwen shrugged, "it's Ianto, isn't it? A ghost or an...an imprint or something. But when you go down there, he calms down."
Jack stared at her. Ianto had been gone for seven months now, and Jack had never seen or heard anything to suggest a ghost of him in the base.
"Gwen, ghosts aren't..."
"Well, it's doing a wonderful impression, then," she said softly, stirring her food around on her paper plate. "When I go down there...he talks to me. He doesn't shout or anything. He doesn't know Thomas, I think that's why...he didn't know him. He wasn't meant to be there. But he knows me...he talks to me."
"He...talks to you?" Jack breathed.
Gwen nodded, and bit her lip, trying not to cry. One of her biggest regrets was Ianto: despite their mutual backgrounds in being Welsh and both being from Newport, they had never really taken the time to get to know each other. She had resented him, for having so much of Jack's attention; he had resented her, for trying to take it back, and when Gwen gave up on Jack and turned back to her own relationship, it was just too awkward to try again with Ianto. There would always be more time, always be another day...
Until there hadn't been.
"What does he say?" Jack asked quietly.
Gwen shrugged and laughed a little wetly, "Oh, all sorts. Wants to know the rugby score. Asks about how me and Rhys are doing. How you're doing. About the new people. About new aliens. Complains about the filing system being shoddy in the lower levels."
"Does he talk about me?" Jack asked.
"Once," Gwen admitted. "He...asked why you didn't come down to see him."
That evening, after Gwen had gone home, Jack went down into the lower levels of the archives. Like every time before, it was silent and eerie down there, devoid of activity, and he stood in the doorway to the fifteenth room and shivered.
"Yan?" he called quietly. "Yan? It's me."
"I know it's been a while," Jack coaxed, feeling depressed at the lack of...anything around him, "but I'm back now. I've missed you."
And there, a breath of a sigh, a rustle of air, and something Jack couldn't see was moulded up against his front, a solid weight coming around his waist to hold on.
And Jack didn't need to see to know.