Characters/Pairings: The Face of Boe. References to Jack/Ianto, Jack/Rose, Jack/Nine. Possible FoB/OFC, depending on how you interpret that chunk.
Rating: PG, if that.
Author's notes: I just got turned onto the Jack = The Face of Boe thing and it started obsessing me in a really dark way. Writing a fic in the voice of the oldest thing ever is kind of really hard. Hopefully this actually works.
Bonus goodies: There is a podfic of this piece available here: http://audiofic.jinjurly.com/an-ech
The thing he misses most is the having of a name, and he's had a lot of them. This Face of Boe business, well, it's more a title really, but it does help the performance aspects of it all, he has to admit. It makes him laugh. If he could still laugh. Laughing, he has decided, is a physical act, and he does not particularly engage in physical acts anymore. Other than that very occasional giving birth thing, which, in truth, he doesn't really like to think about. It's disturbing.
He doesn't miss it particularly, the physical acts. Too long ago and too far away, and those he once knew, once remembered, would be surprised. There are so few things he remembers, and he remembers so much. If he had sadness now, this would make him so. But he doesn't. Grief, too, is a physical act. He knew that even when he had limbs.
He does not remember from when he came, does not remember his mother, his father. His mother, nothing; his father the texture of wrist, of skin and of hair, a phantom feeling on phantom limbs of what would now be a ghost if there were really and truly any such thing. There isn't. Not quite. Not any more. He knows this, but does not know why.
He had a name once and remembers it only because he remembers remembering it.
During a physical act.
In a world where he was called something else entirely.
The name, a true name, he blurted, gasped, muttered out in some perfect, awful moment of remembrance even then, a life forgotten even when it was not so hard to remember. It hurt.
There had been a man. A young man; boy, really; child, even. They all seem like children now, even himself as he was then, soft and fleshy and perilously limbed creatures. The boy, the man, his name too among the lost, assumed that what was uttered belonged to someone else. A different conquest.
He was not a conqueror. A soldier, maybe.
He does not know what he would have conquered. Hearts? The thought is fragile. Some people had too many. He remembers this. He had had too many, and he had only had one. Persistent. Energetic. Greedy.
The boy, the man, was not a conquest, he thinks. The boy was an angry, winking creature who was all neatness, paper and acrid beans. And death, also. He tries but can no longer remember how many deaths to place there. Death meant different things then, he thinks, but cannot explain. His mind convulses in an echo of the thing. Then.
"So who was it?" the boy had asked. About the name. He had blurted. A way of grunting, words particular and without thought. The opposite of now.
He could have lied. Thought of at least a dozen of them. Lies. Maybe some of them were even almost true. He was.
"Me," he had said, very softly. He had once been a boy too. He thinks. On a beach.
Long silence. Like a hundred thousand of these years in water and stars. He assumes that's why he can remember it. He may be wrong. Eternally.
"Does that mean I can bind you now?" the boy had asked, voice trembling, once he had understood. You.
A myth forgotten in old Earth soil when it was full of rot and not dry sand -- demons? faeries? Wrong names for things not legend. He remembered them. Then. Could have replied with something distracting. His mouth. There were games.
But he had said yes and the boy had repeated it, the name, not the yes, although he had often done that too. Cruel gift of much forgetting. Secret prize. That boy. Love. No risk of ever speaking it now. Relief.
Today, these days, these hundred thousand years, it is his mind he must watch. He must remember not to think too loudly. It has taken a long time to come to the trick of it, just as at first it took a long time to come to the trick of making himself heard at all. Silence, he has not been fond of. He once drew grand sounds out of his mouth. The absence of that is like the absence of the name. Telepathy compensates. A title compensates.
Eternity is inadequate. Misnomer too.
He likes his minders. A pun in that first language. A girl who hears him best, who presses her face against his tank and closes her eyes and hums. He can feel her. See her behind eyes closed. Blond. Like red flowers. She laughs, tells him he speaks in code. She must sense, he thinks, the self he cannot remember. She should be lonely, but is not.
He is not, but is unsure why. He feels no different from when he held his father's wrist, tasted earth, remembered boy, loved a man of magpies, touched and ate and drank bitter fruits. He felt like this then. What he was was better for what he wanted. But this, better for what he is.
Dying. That is funny. Is laughter. Is relief. He misses guns. And shock and pain. The world is dull in water. Death lies. He will dissolve, be mourned, fall out amongst the stars, still thrumming, burning, and create a hundred thousand more cities. Like all those he burned. Maybe.
Remembering is directional, but space is not. The girl hums. Reminds him. Forgets him. Traces his jawline against the glass. Is lost.
Everyone is. Except those who choose. He was a coward. Then and again. There was a boy once. A thousand names. Not even stars wait alone and he wonders if they know their first names, uttered once. In storms.