Characters: Ianto, Lisa.
Summary: Looking at photos of happier times, Ianto can no longer recognise the young man he sees there, any more than he recognises his reflection in a mirror.
Word Count: 959
Written For: Prompt 035 – Mirror Mirror at fandomweekly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
How long has it been since I last looked at these photos? Must be months at least. I brought them with us from London because I thought we both needed the reminder of how Lisa used to look… before; the real Lisa, the one I was trying so hard to get back.
I’ve never liked having my photo taken anyway, always makes me feel awkward, self-conscious, but Lisa loved it. She’d show off for the camera every chance she got, and I loved taking pictures of her. They’re all I’ve got left now of what used to be; Lisa’s dead and I might as well be. Something inside me died when they killed the monster she’d become, when I knew for sure I’d never get my Lisa back. The rest of me just hasn’t caught up yet, so where does that leave me? A hollow shell of a man, going through the motions of life, day after day, just marking time? Maybe this is my punishment, what I deserve for harbouring a monster.
Lisa was beautiful, passionate, vibrant, always full of fun, full of enthusiasm, full of life! She shines out of the photos, her smile bright enough to dazzle. That smile was the first thing I noticed about her; it drew me to her like a moth to a flame, but she stopped smiling after Canary Wharf. There was nothing for her to smile about; she was in so much pain.
I’m only in a handful of pictures; I remember the promises Lisa had to make just so I’d hold still and look at the camera. I hardly recognise myself, I look so young, bright eyed, smiling, awkward, but… happy. I’m not sure I remember how that feels; happiness seems more alien to me than the things I see at work. Happiness belongs to the past; what use do I have for it in the present?
Still, I take one of the photos with me into the bathroom, compare it to the reflection in the mirror over the sink, trying to figure out which is the real me. Maybe neither of them is. Oh, there are similarities; the nose is the same, and so is the chin, as clean-shaven as ever. The hair is a bit shorter though, and there’s a hollowness to the cheeks; I’ve lost weight, which is hardly surprising. The last ten months or so, between the stress of caring for Lisa, the long hours of work, and too little sleep, even when I’ve found the time to eat, I haven’t had much of an appetite.
There are lines on my forehead that didn’t used to be there, etched deep in too pale skin, and the eyes… I can’t look at them, I don’t want to see the grief and loss, the guilt and shame, the shadows that must fill their depths now, so I look at the eyes in the photo and wonder how I could ever have been so young, so naïve, and full of hope for the future. Where did that innocent optimism go?
The face in the photo is a stranger, but I don’t recognise the one in the mirror either; one is full of life, the other devoid of hope, and I’m not sure which it hurts more to look at. One represents everything I’ve lost, and the other is all that remains.
Just what exactly IS left now?
I’m still alive, or at least I’m still breathing, my heart still beating. I have my memories, although I keep changing my mind on whether or not that’s a good thing. Memories hurt, but would forgetting be better or worse? I don’t think I want to forget Lisa, what we had together; someone should remember the way she used to be.
I still have a job, whether I want it or not, and I’m undecided on that as well. It gives me a reason to get up in the morning, shower, dress, and leave the flat, otherwise I might never leave my bed. But it means spending every day in the presence of the people I betrayed, enduring Harkness’s constant scrutiny, Owen’s barbed comments, Gwen’s cloying sympathy, and Tosh’s gentle concern. That last is the hardest to bear because I’m sure I don’t deserve her kindness.
Part of me wants to tear up the photo in my hand, and all the others with my face in them, erase that version of me out of existence completely; seeing a smile on a face so like the one in the mirror is like salt in an open wound. But Lisa’s in the photo too, and I can’t bear to lose what little of her I have left. It would be unforgivable, an insult to her memory. So I’ll put it back in the box along with all the others, tuck them away right at the back of the wardrobe’s top shelf where I don’t have to see them and be reminded of when I was young, and happy, and alive, and I’ll go back to avoiding my refection in the bathroom mirror, shaving by touch alone. If not for safety razors I probably would’ve cut my throat by now. What an ignominious end that would be; accidental death when I’m too much of a coward to do it deliberately. I can’t anyway, because if I did who’d remember Lisa? There’s no one else left to. I couldn’t save her, but I can at least keep her memory alive.
Besides, living is my penance for all of my failures, and my only chance of making amends. I can do this, just as long as I don’t have to look myself in the eye. I don’t think I could bear what I might see there.