Summary: Some people have more to remember
With thanks to crystalshard for the quick beta.
Ghosts of Christmas Past
“Has anyone seen Jack?” Gwen called, ducking under her desk for her bag.
“Well I don’t think he’s under there,” Owen said from right behind her, making her jump and bang her head. “Unless there’s something you’re not telling us.”
“Very funny.” Gwen pulled a face at him as she sat up again. “Tosh?”
“Haven’t seen him all day,” Tosh said, not turning from her computer screen. “I’m nearly done.”
“Cool, we’ll meet you upstairs then.” Gwen peered round the Hub, ignoring Owen’s ostentatious glance at his watch. “Ianto? Where’d you go? Are you coming?”
“I’m just finishing up with the coffee machine,” Ianto called from the kitchen. “Won’t be a minute.”
“Come on, people,” Owen said, looking at his watch again. “We’re wasting valuable drinking hours.”
“Go on and bring the car round,” Gwen told him, dropping things into her bag. “We’ll join you in a bit.”
“Fine.” Owen stomped off muttering something about tee-totallers.
Gwen left Tosh tapping away at her keyboard and made her way up to Jack’s office. It was in almost complete darkness but, as she drew closer, she could see a single light, barely showing through the thick glass. Cautiously, she pushed at the door.
“Thought you guys would be out of here by now.”
Gwen jumped, then took another step into the room. One of the desk lamps was turned on low, casting strange shadows across the different surfaces. The jar containing the severed hand that meant so much to Jack was sitting on the centre of the desk, and there seemed to be something wrong with the walls. As she moved further in, Gwen realised that, instead of the usual bare brick, the walls were covered in photographs and pictures, reflecting the light as they shifted in the draught from the door.
“Welcome to the gallery.”
Gwen turned towards Jack’s voice, finally spotting him in one of the darkest corners.
“What is this?” she asked.
“Not what. Who.” Jack gestured and Gwen saw that he was holding a glass. “Take a look.”
Very slowly, she moved closer to the wall, looking into the faces in the photographs. There were pictures of all kinds of people, from all different eras. She recognised some Fifties-style dresses, and some true fashion monstrosities that could only have been from the Eighties. Jack was in some of the pictures, his arms round people, laughing at the camera.
“Who are they?” she asked, not sure if she would get an answer. Or if she wanted one.
“My rogues gallery,” he told her, taking a swig of his drink. “They’re keeping me company.”
As her eye travelled down the wall, she spotted a face she recognised. Leaning closer, she realised it was John Ellis, in two photographs, one in colour and one in black and white. One from now, and one from then.
“All these people, Jack,” she said, turning to him again. “Are they all…”
“Dead? Yup.” He drained his glass and got to his feet, coming over to join her at the wall. “Long time gone, most of them.”
“Why are you doing this?” Gwen asked, shivering a little.
Jack shrugged. “To remember.” He leaned against the photographs, looking down at her. “Some things, some people, you can’t just forget.”
“This is how you remember them, is it?” She shook her head. “Shut away in here with only the drink for company?”
“No-one else remembers,” Jack whispered, closing his eyes. For just a moment, Gwen thought he looked old. Then she put a hand on his arm and gave him a little shake.
“Come have a drink with us,” she said gently. “Tell us about them.”
“It’d take too long.” Jack pulled away, going over to the desk and putting the empty glass down next to the jar. He leaned over it, head bowed, but Gwen wasn’t about to take no for an answer.
“The night’s still young,” she said. “Come make a start.”
For a moment, she thought he was going to turn her down again, then he lifted his head and looked across at her.
“Nothing says thanks like a G&T.”
He smiled properly at that, pushing himself upright and taking his coat from the back of his chair.
“Come on.” He turned out the light as they left and put his arm around Gwen’s shoulders. “I know a little bar, just the other side of town, where they make the galaxy’s best eggnog.”
“Eggnog?” Gwen laughed. “Very festive.”
“’Tis the season.”
Tosh was waiting for them, coat on as they came down into the hub. To her obvious surprise, Jack wrapped an arm round her as well, steering all three of them towards the exit.
“You’re joining us?” Tosh said, swerving to avoid a table.
“Gwen made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Jack said, winking at Gwen and letting her go so they could fit through the doorway. “Has Ianto left?”
“He’s waiting upstairs.”
Gwen paused before following the others, listening to Jack hold forth in his usual bright tone as she looked back at the Hub. It wasn’t hard to imagine that it was haunted, and she wondered, just for a moment, what Jack saw when he looked at it.
Then she heard him calling her name and she flicked out the lights before hurrying to catch up.