Leave Only Footprints

by Canaan [Reviews - 5]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • General, Hurt/Comfort, Introspection, Series, Standalone, Vignette

Author's Notes:
Written for Robin C. as a gift for Fandom Stocking 2010. Part of my How It Could Have Happened continuity, at least until it's jossed. May be read stand-alone--just assume it occurs sometime between s2 and s3

"--piece of junk! You're supposed to do the whole thing! Half of it doesn't do me any good!"

Gwen looked up from blotting out the dusty smudges her shirt had acquired in the storerooms. Ianto was paused in the corridor ahead of her, twenty feet closer to the central core of the Hub. She walked up behind him and stopped. Jack continued in his one-sided argument with whatever it was. She caught Ianto's eye and lifted her eyebrows in a silent question.

Ianto grinned. He nodded and held a finger to his lips. They crept quietly around at the edges of the room, staying back where Jack couldn't see them as he stood at Ianto's workstation. They were too far away to see the screen, but Gwen managed a view of the rest of the desk, trying to get some idea what was causing the latest episode of "When Modern Technology Attacks Jack."

(The man's inability with basic things like photocopiers and fax machines had been legend when she started on with Torchwood, and she hadn't noticed it getting any better since then. Honestly, how had he managed before he hired Ianto? Owen had certainly never volunteered for any office task he didn't have to do, and no one would own up to Suzie's being the type to deal with administriva. Probably Tosh had taken pity on him when the swearing got too loud).

Jack lifted a plastic panel carefully, holding it up a few inches while he manipulated something with his other hand. He pressed the panel flat again and took hold of the mouse, instead. Several clicks produced a mutter of "No, no, if I wanted centimeters, I'd ask for centimeters. Do you have any idea how long it's been since I thought in centimeters?"

Ianto shifted suddenly. Gwen glanced at him and saw a look of sudden understanding on his face. She smiled and pointed toward Jack. Ianto nodded and began quietly walking over to him. She followed a couple of steps behind and on Jack's other side.

Jack noticed Ianto's approach and turned abruptly, blocking his line of sight to the monitor. "Ianto! I thought you were down in the archives."

"I was. I've got those files you asked for."

Gwen looked past them at the desk. The only thing of interest was a small metal box standing open beside the scanner. It looked like it was full of old photos (well-handled, the copper in her observed: mostly worn about the edges, and the image fading on the couple she could see parts of). Her heart tightened, and she understood, suddenly, why Jack had wanted to do this himself, alone.

"Good," Jack said blankly. "Good."

Ianto asked, "Scanner giving you trouble?"

Jack sighed.

Gwen moved around where he could see her and touched his arm lightly. She caught his eyes, and as she watched, the fierce defensive edge to them softened. "We'll help," she said quietly.

He nodded, sinking slowly into Ianto's chair. Ianto looked over Jack's head at her, but Gwen bit her lip. She couldn't answer the question in his eyes. That was for Jack to choose.

Jack tugged the box of photographs in front of him, and he considered it, one large hand still half-hiding its contents. "I'm trying to scan these in," he told Ianto, drawing his hand back. "I don't have copies."

Gwen watched Ianto look down at the pictures, hesitate, and then . . . not ask. "They're very old," he said.

Gwen squeezed Jack's shoulder gently. He reached up and laid his hand over hers for a moment before reaching into the box. He drew the photos out, sliding them through his fingers like a deck of well-loved playing cards, eventually laying one on the desk.

"This is Estelle, when she was young," he said softly. Gwen looked at the woman in the photograph. She had been beautiful, blonde and trim and looking very proud of her WAAF uniform. Jack laid another photo beside hers. "Alejandro. We served in the Great War together. Afterward, Gerald recruited him for Torchwood." A third picture joined them. "Rebecca. That woman could talk her way into anywhere. Damn, I loved to watch her work . . . "