15 November 2007
Toshiko missed Ianto.
It had been fifteen days since the cannibals, and the dragon was still on medical leave. The enforced vacation had Ianto climbing the walls of his house, but at least it meant he didn't have to be around Gwen and Owen. She was sure he would have been as sickened by their behavior as she was.
It was obvious the pair was shagging. Toshiko didn't find it as surprising as she might have, if it had been anyone but Owen Harper. As it was, when Owen was getting it regularly he was more unsubtle than Jack….which wasn't quite fair to Jack in a lot of ways, since his tales were more tall than real. Gwen seemed to get into random giggle fits like a schoolgirl, and it set Toshiko's teeth on edge.
If Ianto had been there, the dragon would have been some sort of buffer between herself and the hormonal teenagers her teammates seemed to have regressed to. He wouldn't have liked it, and they could have been a united front against it. As it was, Ianto wouldn't be back until Monday, so it left Toshiko on her own.
But again, she was being a bit unfair to Jack. It was obvious that he was distracted; not only distracted, but also very happy. Toshiko knew why, since a certain dragon of her acquaintance was also the same way. She was glad for them, but it left her as odd woman out, although she knew very well that the thing between Owen and Gwen wouldn't last. Owen would get bored, and move on.
What really bothered her about the whole thing – even more than, once again, Owen showing his complete blindness to Toshiko's own feelings – was that Gwen, who had a man who loved her, was cheating on that man. Toshiko had never met Rhys Williams, and only knew what she'd pulled up in the background check, but her sense of fairness was currently being outraged on his behalf. Gwen had always gone on about how fantastic Rhys was, and how good her life was, while making the rest of her team sound like they were sad and lonely.
Well, to be honest, Toshiko had been known to get lonely on occasion. After all…who didn't? But while she wasn't involved with anyone romantically, she had Ianto, her friend. One of the things she felt worst about was not realizing that something had been wrong with him besides his falling out with Jack. But she also had known almost from the beginning that he loved Jack, and that Jack didn't return those feelings. She remembered standing up for her friend with Jack, but that had been too late.
She was so very happy to have him back, and to have Ianto and Jack happy and quite possibly together, judging from how much time their captain spent at the dragon's house during his convalescence.
Speaking of Jack…their captain came bounding out of his office, coat flying. "Let's go, kids," he called. "Our local constabulary need us."
Toshiko smiled. At last…something to get her away from the Hub, and out of such close proximity to her two hormonally regressed teammates.
They ended up at a construction site.
Toshiko climbed out of the SUV, lugging her equipment case with her. She followed Jack as he led them toward a tent that had been set up among the various excavation vehicles. There were several coppers, one of whom was Gwen's former partner, Andy, and they were busily trying to keep the crowds that had gathered out. A part of her wanted to go up to him, to ask him questions about Gwen and her behavior when they worked together, but found herself not that interested after the thought crossed her mind.
She sighed. Best get on with it them.
Toshiko followed Jack into the tent. A hole had been dug in the soil, the dirt soggy and uncertain under her feet. She peered into the hole…and saw the body.
It was actually a skeleton. Nothing else remained. Toshiko immediately saw what had to have been the cause of death: a large, gaping wound in the chest. She inwardly cringed, realizing whatever had happened must have been horribly painful.
But it was the corroded piece of tech that really caught her attention. It had obviously been buried with the corpse, and it was obviously not from Earth.
Jack knelt by the hole. "Just once," he said playfully, "I'd like to walk into one of these tents and find it's a party. You know, food…drink…people dancing…the girl crying in the corner…"
That would be me, Toshiko thought, then banished the notion from her mind. She might have been in the corner, but she certainly wouldn't have been crying. Most likely she would have been writing lines of code on the nearest computer.
Gwen leaned over Jack's shoulder, and Toshiko couldn't help but notice that she was standing closer than what could have been construed as just friendly. She already had Owen, although Toshiko had seen her flirting fit to burst with Jack ever since he'd hired her. "Is it alien?" she asked.
Toshiko barely managed to roll her eyes at the question. Instead, she concentrated on her own equipment.
Jack inched away, playing with his wrist strap. It suddenly beeped. "And how," he said. "I'm picking up traces of ilmenite, pyroxene, and even dark matter."
Now Jack was just showing off. Toshiko's hands practically itched to get ahold of that strap. Even one scan of it would answer so many questions…
"Any idea what it is?" Gwen asked.
"Not a clue," he answered. "Could be a weapon, or a really big stapler. " He turned to Owen, who was actually in the shallow grave. "How's our friend there?"
"She's dead," Owen snarked.
"Yeah, thanks Quincy," Jack snarked back. "She?"
The medic nodded. "Judging from the size of her skull."
"How long have they been here, Tosh?"
She looked at the scanner she'd been using on the area. "From of the depth they found them…196 years, 11 to 11 ½ months. The earth's been disturbed so I'm afraid I can't be more accurate."
"That was pretty damned accurate though," Jack replied, impressed.
Tosh smiled at the praise.
"What killed her?" Gwen asked. "The stapler?"
"Nah," Owen answered that one. "See the shattered ribs? I reckon she was shot."
"Let's get her and the stapler back to the Hub," Jack stood up, dusting down his trousers. He left the tent in a swirl of greatcoat.
Toshiko packed up her scanner, as Owen climbed out of the hole. Gwen offered him a hand. He took it, and the ex-PC pulled him up. "You're so light!" she exclaimed, laughing. "You're like a girl!"
"I'm not light," he growled. "I'm wiry. The girls go for it." He raked his eyes up and down in an overly lascivious way that had Toshiko wanting to throw up. "But I guess I don't need to tell you that."
The eye rolling could not be contained. And Toshiko knew that Gwen saw her do it.
Toshiko had only been gone five minutes.
But that was all it had taken for Gwen and Owen to cause complete mayhem.
"I'm really sorry," Owen said, not sounding sorry at all, "but I think your computer is dead."
Anger made her face heat up. "What did you do?" She stood in front of her terminals. The main screen was dark, and it was obviously not getting any power to it at all. All of that work…Jack was going to be as furious as she was. It had taken weeks to gather all the data she'd needed!
"Okay," Owen answered, trying to hide what looked like a football behind his back, "so she said I was no good at sport! So I said, 'Throw something to me and' – "
Toshiko made a negating motion with her hand. "I asked you what you did to the computer!"
"I kicked out a plug. I think."
"What?" The technician had the sudden urge to collapse into her chair. This was a disaster. "It was running a new translation program I'd written! I'd collated every scrap of alien language we've got, and broken it down into binary threads to see if there was a common derivation!" All that work…she and Ianto had been working on that very program even before his bereavement leave.
"That's a bit of a mouthful," Owen smirked.
Gwen laughed, and Toshiko didn't bother to hide her glare. "Sorry," she mumbled. "It was a private joke."
Toshiko stabbed them both with her hottest glare. "We're supposed to be professionals! I'm sure you both have work to do!"
"She's right," Gwen hastened to agree. "You're right…sorry, Tosh."
"Do you know what, Tosh?" Owen snapped. "Sometimes that stick up your arse has a stick up its arse."
That was the last straw.
Toshiko stepped up, right into Owen's personal space. She might have been much smaller than him, but she had a serious indignation going, and she wasn't about to back down. "I'd rather have a stick up my arse," she snarled, "than have your dick up my pussy." That might not have been strictly true, but she was too mad to care. She turned and pointedly glared at Gwen, then back to Owen. "That program you just ruined was one Ianto and I had been working on for months. It would have helped us translate a lot of the languages we run into, and perhaps save your miserable lives when something says 'bomb' instead of 'toy'. You have managed to wreck something that would have made our jobs much better, and maybe much less dangerous. When Jack finds out…I wouldn't want to be either of you. And that's not even adding in what Ianto is going to do."
"What's Ianto going to do?" Jack's voice echoed over the Hub, from the gantry above.
Toshiko looked up at him. "I'll let Owen and Gwen explain about the mess they've just made." She made a grab for her jacket and bag. "I have to get out of here."
She didn't look at her co-workers as she stormed out of the Hub. She desperately needed a drink.
It took two glasses of really good wine before Toshiko was calmed down.
Twisting the stem of her third glass in her fingers, she thought about her little tantrum back at the Hub. She was a just a bit ashamed of herself. It wasn't that Owen hadn't had it coming; it was just she didn't like to lose her temper like that. It wasn't dignified. And she'd accused Owen and Gwen of not being professional!
She sighed. Chances were, she'd be able to retrieve a lot of the information that had been lost when Owen had unplugged the computer. It was just the principle of it; she'd been working, doing the job she was actually paid for, while Owen – who should have been working with that body they'd recovered just that morning! – and Gwen – God only knew what she was supposed to be doing – had been goofing around with that damned football. One wrong step and it had set her own work back weeks!
Hopefully Jack would sort them both out before she went back. Toshiko honestly didn't think she could handle the pair of them anymore.
And it wasn't even because of her own feelings toward Owen. She'd long ago realized that he'd never return them, and besides she had Tommy to look forward to. No, this was more because he was flaunting the fact that he'd bedded the new girl, despite her having a boyfriend at home. Didn't Gwen have any self respect? Couldn't she see just how Owen was strutting around like some sort of oversexed peacock, with his plumage out for everyone to see?
Gwen was just another notch on his bedpost, and the woman just didn't get it.
Toshiko really wanted to talk to either Jack or Ianto about the situation. She knew Jack saw it as well, judging from the disapproving looks she'd seen him shoot the pair when their antics got too much to bear. She knew for a fact that he'd already admonished them about keeping it out of the workplace. But, at the same time, Jack was walking a fine line: calling Gwen and Owen down for their behavior meant that his and Ianto's whatever it was also would not be tolerated in the Hub. Toshiko had no doubt that the captain and the dragon were indeed getting closer, just from how much time Jack was spending in Ianto's company. The dragon was practically homebound after injuring his wing in the Brecon Beacons, and it was really beginning to get to him. Having Jack – and Toshiko – visit him had kept him from going insane.
Movement out of the corner of her eye drew her attention, but she didn't turn. Toshiko took a sip of her wine, deciding that she'd just leave it alone for the night. It wouldn't do to dwell on it, and she simply didn't want to have to deal with the mess Owen and Gwen had left until tomorrow. She didn't normally avoid things like that, but the very idea of going back to the Hub just didn't appeal.
Something prickled at the back of her mind, and Toshiko shivered slightly. She tilted her glass up, draining it, then began to gather her things.
"This guy over there," a voice caught her attention, "has been staring at me all evening."
Toshiko turned in the direction of the voice, and found herself staring into a pair of very intense eyes.
"I told him he's wasting his time," the woman behind the eyes went on, "but he won't listen, so I've come over to talk to you because you know how this ends: he gets a punch in the neck and I get barred. I've already been barred from about twenty pubs, and I don't want that to happen here because they do these nice olives on the tables."
The technician stared at her. She was attractive; blond, a little taller than Toshiko herself, but it was her eyes that caught her attention: they were dark, and there was something in them that made her think of Jack's eyes when he was thinking too hard about something. There was another odd tickle in her head, and she found herself putting her bag back down on the bar. "Right," she found herself saying. "Okay, then."
The woman smiled, and while it was friendly there was something off about it. "Cool. Let me buy you a drink." She put her bag down on the counter, digging around inside it and bringing out her wallet.
"Really, there's no need," Toshiko protested.
She waved the bartender over. "I'll have a JD and Coke, and…Toshiko, what do you want?"
Suspicion slammed through her, and she climbed off the bar stool. "I didn't tell you my name." Her hand crept to where she normally kept her gun…only to find it not there. She'd taken it off in the Hub, and hadn't retrieved it after her rather precipitous exit.
"Oh yeah," the woman grinned. "That was the other thing…I kinda know who you are."
15 November 2007
"Toshiko Sato," the woman said. "Born London, 1975. Moved to Osaka when you were two, then back to the UK in 1986. Parents in the RAF, grandfather worked at Bletchley Park. Very impressive."
Toshiko stared at her, her mind whirling. Certainly, some of this could have been found on the internet; she was certain in her time she'd left quite a bit of a paper trail. She hadn't particularly worried about it, but with this recitation Toshiko was seriously considering asking Jack if she could write a virus that would destroy a Torchwood operative's personal information anywhere it was found online.
"University…blah blah blah," the woman went on. "Snapped up to a government think tank when you were twenty. Recruited into Torchwood four years ago."
She didn't know about my time in a UNIT holding facility, Toshiko thought. How interesting. That meant Jack had been as good as his word, and deleted anything to do with her spending time as a 'guest' of the Unified Intelligence Taskforce.
Toshiko wanted to leave. But there was something about this woman, something that made her want to stay. She couldn't figure it out. It was like she was rooted to the spot, listening as this stranger went on about her, and what she'd been able to find out.
The woman lit a cigarette; Toshiko didn't like being around smokers, but still couldn't find the inclination to leave. "I saw you at the building site this morning," she said. "What was that you had in the case?"
The technician shook her head. There was no way she was going to talk about anything that this person had an interest in. "How do you know about Torchwood?" she asked instead.
She shrugged. "There's stuff on the internet, but you have to dig really deep. Plus, we pick up bits and pieces from police radio scanners." She reached for the drink the bartender had set in front of her.
"We?" Toshiko demanded. She was very much aware that Torchwood was one of the worst-kept secrets in Cardiff, but she knew damned well that she and Ianto kept very close tabs on any and all websites that might have reason to mention Torchwood.
"Scavengers," she answered. "Collectors. Just like you."
And again, something that didn't quite add up in her recital. While Torchwood could be considered scavengers, they were funded by the Privy Purse and weren't anything like this woman was implying. "How many are there of you?" If she could get numbers and information, they could check out just what these so-called collectors were. There was a lot of alien tech out there that was just too dangerous for civilians to have, and it was their job to make certain no one was hurt.
"Oh," she said, waving her hand, "don't think it's in any way organized. It's really just a disparate bunch of IT guys who live with their mothers."
Toshiko somehow doubted that, just from the brush-off she'd gotten. She needed to get whatever information this woman had, in order to see just what sort of trouble whoever it was, was up to.
At the same time, she knew she really should go. She should call Jack, so they could pick the stranger up and get whatever she knew out of her, then Retcon her. But at this point all she had was someone who knew how to use the internet and who'd tried to intimidate her with her knowledge. For all Toshiko knew, this could be a stalker, or worse yet one of the few groupies they seemed to get. It had happened before; Eugene Jones was a prime example, and Ianto was always trying to deflect him.
She made her decision.
"Let's get a booth," Toshiko said, grabbing her drink and her bag. "And you can tell me more."
It should have tipped Toshiko off that she was being a bit more loose-lipped than usual, but something was telling her that it was okay.
She couldn't figure it out. The woman – she called herself Mary, not bothering to share her last name – just sat there and listened, while Toshiko rambled on about things she really shouldn't. It was almost a compulsion to talk, to tell Mary things that she'd normally keep quiet. Toshiko managed to keep it light and frivolous, but a part of her was saying that it felt good to confide in someone who wasn't Torchwood.
Another part was a bit freaked out by her apparent trust in a complete stranger.
"I shouldn't even be telling you this stuff," she interrupted herself, taking a sip from her wine. She wasn't even drunk, and she'd keep an eye on her drink so there was no chance that she'd been doped. "I could get fired."
That wasn't true, she wouldn't be fired. Retconned, yes…fired, no. Firing her meant that she'd end up back with UNIT, and Toshiko knew that Ianto wouldn't let that happen. The dragon had been horrified by her treatment back then, and had made her a promise that she'd never be handed back to UNIT no matter what.
Mary kept looking at her, her dark eyes intense in that pretty face. Somewhere in the back of her mind she was realizing that Mary had gotten to her; that despite her going into this with her eyes open and best of intentions, she'd somehow fallen under Mary's spell. Maybe it was just as simple as having someone to talk to; or perhaps it was something more.
Toshiko wanted to stop. She wanted to get up out of that booth, and go and call Jack and tell him that there was possible danger to Torchwood and that they needed to take Mary in for questioning.
And yet, she still sat there.
"I want to show you something," Mary said, reaching into her bag and pulling out a battered old tin. She set it on the table, giving Toshiko a conspiratorial grin.
Inside was a pendant.
It was obviously alien. Toshiko didn't need any of her scanners to know that.
"Put it on," Mary urged.
She didn't want to. But her hands were moving of their own accord, grasping the cord and slipping it around her neck, hooking the clasp.
It lay cold against her skin.
And suddenly, she wasn't alone in her head.
"I'll drink one more then drive home slowly."
"Does coffee count as food if you take sugar?"
"If he tugs at his groin one more time, I'll smack him in the face…"
The voices were overwhelming, slamming into Toshiko's mind and she couldn't stop them.
"I should have said it was Hammer Time when she asked what time it was. That would have made them laugh."
"Did I send that email? Did I click 'reply to all'?"
"They're people's thoughts," Mary's voice intruded into the cacophony pounding through Toshiko's skull.
"He doesn't touch me anymore."
"They're people's thoughts, Toshiko."
She knew that. She could tell they were all in her head, echoing through her consciousness as they were speaking across a great chasm.
"I should have shagged that single dad I met."
"What's that Asian girl doing? Is she having some sort of fit?"
Toshiko realized that it was her that whoever it was, was thinking of. She tried to get herself back under control, not wanting to draw attention to herself.
"She's cute though. Is that her girlfriend? Marcus reckons he's done it with two lesbians, lucky sod. How would that work?"
Toshiko's eyes track over, and manage to pinpoint the man who was thinking those particular thoughts. Not bad looking, but he was watching her and Mary with an interest that the technician found unnerving. "That man over there…I can hear him."
"I mean, does one of them sort of sit on – "
"Toshiko," Mary's voice cut through the din, "I need you to focus."
"I can hear all of them!" She didn't know whether to be excited, or horrified.
"Hone in on my voice," Mary ordered. "Shut everything else out."
Toshiko turned away from the man, her eyes meeting Mary's. There was something swirling deep with them, a soft blue color that was gone as quickly as it had appeared. She closed her eyes, attempting to do what Mary directed, and it took a lot out of her to do just that.
Eventually, she opened her eyes to see Mary still staring at her. "Very good," she congratulated.
"There's just so much…" It felt as if she was swimming against the tide.
"Just home in on my thoughts," Mary's voice was now in her head. "Only my thoughts. Ignore everyone else. Follow my voice…"
Toshiko mentally berated herself. She knew her mind; knew she could block out pretty much anything around her while she was concentrating on one of her projects. She reached for that, locking all of her attention on Mary and her mental voice.
"Follow my voice," Mary encouraged. "What am I thinking?"
" – that I want to kiss you…"
Toshiko gasped, practically yanking the pendant from around her neck. No, she didn't want to hear anymore. She slammed it onto the table, not concerned if she broke the colored crystal on it or not.
"I'm sorry," Mary apologized. "That was…"
"No, look – " She tried hard to gather her scattered thoughts; they'd been blown apart under the assault of all the minds in the pub.
"Sometimes you can't control – "
"It's fine." Toshiko was lying; it was anything but fine. All of those people, thinking so much…and then Mary's thought…no, it was hardly fine at all. Perhaps she'd been stalked after all. "Where did you get it?"
"It's been in my family for a long time."
Toshiko didn't believe her, not after that scavenger story she'd given when she'd first approached her. This was…it was most certainly alien, and it was dangerous. "I've never seen anything like it. It's…incredible."
"It's more than incredible!" Mary exclaimed. "With this, you can read people's minds. It levels the pitch between man and God."
Now, that sounded almost hysterical. Toshiko didn't believe in God…she believed in herself, and her abilities, and her teammates.
She didn't like how Mary was looking at her. There was that odd tickling in her head again, and she'd been feeling it all evening. "Is it alien?" she asked, wanting to test Mary's response.
The woman shrugged. "I guess."
And there was yet another crack in her story.
"I want you to have it."
Toshiko suddenly did want it. She didn't know why, only that she really needed to have that pendant. "No, I can't…" she tried to deny it, but the effort was weak; she was already picking up the pendant by its dark cord.
Mary looked amused. "Please. I've kept it too long. After a while, it gets…you hear too much. It changes how you see people."
That made sense. Knowing someone's innermost thoughts would change how you looked at them. "I'll have to show it to the others."
Mary made a scoffing noise, taking a sip of her drink.
"What?" Toshiko demanded.
"Nothing," the woman shrugged. "Just, I bet you don't."
"And you know this from finding my CV on the internet?" Toshiko felt angry, and her hand tightened on the pendant's cord.
"No, because I know the pendant." She certainly seemed very sure of herself.
That surety cemented Toshiko's resolve to do just that. "Well, you're wrong. I will."
"Yeah," Mary said. "But you won't."
16 November 2007
The pendant had weighed on her mind all night.
Toshiko knew she had to turn it in to Jack. It was dangerous, and it needed to be put into Secure Archives so no one would be tempted to use it. She also needed to investigate Mary more closely; she certainly didn't believe her when she'd said that these so-called scavengers weren't organized. It had been in her denial, and her explanation of the pendant, that told her differently.
And so, she got up the next morning, fully intending on turning over the offending pendant to Jack first thing that morning. Her heart lighter, she made herself some breakfast of tea and toast, then got dressed and headed into the Hub.
But, somewhere between the Tourist Office and the cog door, the pendant ended up around her neck once more.
"What the hell would produce such a perfect circular puncture? Maybe some kind of wooden stake…"
Toshiko stopped as Owen's thoughts hit her. This wasn't as bad as last night, when she'd been in a pubful of people. No, she could handle one or two.
That nagging voice in her subconscious was wondering just why she was wearing the pendant around her co-workers anyway.
"Hey, Tosh," Owen's physical voice jerked her mind back into the present.
"She'd better not go on about that computer again, we got bollocked enough by Jack last night."
A small smile tugged at her lips. She'd need to thank Jack later for going after Owen and Gwen after she'd left.
Toshiko headed over to her station. She immediately noticed that her screens were all back up, and she knew that Jack had been responsible for that, too.
"Morning, Tosh," Gwen's voice greeted, sounding almost too cheerful.
"So sick and tired of the coppers asking where Ianto bloody Jones is, don't they get it that his job is mine now?"
That made her angry. Ianto had been police liaison a lot longer than any of them had been in Torchwood, and he'd done a fantastic job at it. Gwen didn't have the right to think about her friend in that tone!
That small voice was back, urging her to remove the pendant, that her overhearing her teammates' thoughts was wrong. That she didn't have the right to pry into their minds, that it was intrusive and she wouldn't want that to happen to her.
"Oh sweetheart, the jeans in the boots thing has really kind of had its day."
"Why is Tosh staring at Gwen like that? She can be dead weird. Wonder what she'd be like in bed? Catholic but graceful, I bet."
"I can smell Owen on me from that shag in his car this morning. Does this mean we have an arrangement? Or is it more than that? And why is Tosh staring at me like that?"
Toshiko turned away, back to her terminal. Why had she put the pendant back on? She should have left it off, and shown it to Jack immediately. But Jack's office was dark, and she guessed that he was at Ianto's.
"She did that thing where she ran her tongue across my teeth…I should've worn different trousers. I'm gonna have to sit down til this subsides a bit…"
Owen promptly left the main area, heading down to his desk in the autopsy bay.
"I wonder if I could get Owen to come down to the Vaults. No…couldn't have sex in front of a Weevil. I couldn't even do it in front of Trevor Kendal's cat."
Toshiko ripped the pendant from her throat. She couldn't handle it any more.
She'd give this thing to Jack the moment she saw him.
16 November 2007
After a couple of hours of putting up with her teammates and there being no sign of Jack, Toshiko snuck out of the Hub, deciding that she needed to go to the one other place she knew she could find someone to speak to.
The pendant had been preying on her mind in that time. She hadn't put it back on; although she couldn't decide if it was out of irritation for her oblivious teammates, or something deeper, she couldn't say. The idea of knowing another person's thoughts…it seemed wrong to her, and yet there was a part of her that really wanted to put it back on, and use it to dig around Gwen and Owen's minds and root out their deepest secrets.
It made her slightly ill.
It was also out of character for her.
At heart, Toshiko was a private person. She also tried to respect the privacy of those around her, but the pendant threatened to make her destroy her own personal barriers. That was something she didn't want to do.
She did wonder why Mary had chosen her. There was no doubt that Mary had chosen her, but she didn't know why. That disturbed her; she didn't want to think that she was the kind of person someone would pick to turn against others. She could see that happening, far too easily, knowing what other people thought about her. It was a curse, and Toshiko didn't want to have anything to do with it.
Mary wouldn't find her so easy a target.
She pulled her car up into the drive of the large Victorian structure that was Ianto's home. Toshiko sat there, just staring at the house, her thoughts in disarray, not one settling long enough for her to tell what it was she was actually thinking about. A sense of dread overcame her, and for a heartbeat Toshiko considered starting her car and driving away.
No, that would not do.
Gathering herself together, Toshiko got out, and walked up to the front door. She had her own key; Ianto had given it to her a couple of weeks ago, when the dragon had become involuntarily housebound. She used it now, letting herself in.
Toshiko loved Ianto's place. The front room looked so very normal, with everything that humans had in their own homes. It was decorated tastefully, with twin leather sofas and a dark wood entertainment center holding electronics of all sorts. A couple of landscapes hung on the walls; Toshiko knew that one of them was a genuine Monet, while the other was one he'd found at an art show several years ago. The entire place was peaceful, and the technician loved to be there.
"Ianto?" she called out, not wanting to startle the dragon.
"Tosh!" came an answering call from upstairs. "Come on up!"
She did as she was invited, taking the stairs up to the loft where Ianto slept. As she moved upward, she began to hear singing.
It was a soft sound, with a joyful undertone. The words were in a language that Toshiko didn't know, but she could feel the ancientness in it, bringing to mind open spaces, and mountains, and wind and sky and freedom.
It made her smile, and seemed to lift a burden from her that she hadn't known she was carrying. Her steps lightened as she entered the large open space of Ianto's loft, and she couldn't help smiling.
The dragon was on his bed of pillows, legs curled up beneath him and his wings tucked into his sides. The pale sunlight streaming in from the skylight made the dragon's scales glitter like real emeralds. His head was up, and he was looking at her with pleased surprise in his blue, cat-slitted eyes. "I didn't expect anyone until later," he greeted her warmly. "But I'm glad you're here. Three more days, and I have a feeling it's going to go very slowly indeed."
Toshiko opened her mouth to tease him for his impatience, but nothing came out.
She could still hear the singing, and it wasn't coming from Ianto.
Only, she realized, it wasn't coming from him vocally. She was hearing his thoughts.
Toshiko wondered just when she'd put the pendant back on, because she certainly couldn't remember doing it.
The song turned from joyful to concerned. "Are you all right?" the dragon asked, his voice echoing the emotion in that song.
"I'm…fine," she answered. She wanted nothing more than to sit and listen to Ianto's inner song, even if she couldn't understand the words. She'd known that singing was important to him; he'd once told her that dragons had songs for every occasion, and had even sung her a few. She's also heard the song he'd sung at Lisa's death, and the sadness in it had torn at her heart.
But this…this was him. This inner song was the dragon, was Ianto Jones at his core. It was amazing.
It made Toshiko ashamed for listening in.
The dragon was looking at her, and she tried to smile to reassure him. It wasn't working, judging from the expression on his scaly face and the tone of the song.
Toshiko had come there to tell him about Mary, and about the pendant. That had been her intention, and now she found she didn't want to. It was like Mary had said; she wouldn't tell anyone about it, keep it to herself…
No, she couldn't. This wasn't her. This wasn't Toshiko Sato. She wasn't some sick voyeur who pried into her friends' minds and learned their secrets. She didn't want to know that Gwen and Owen were that shallow, or that Ianto thought in song.
She wanted nothing more than to go back to her former ignorance.
The dragon shifted forward a bit, his worry more obvious than before. His ancient eyes regarded her, as if looking into her soul. "Toshiko…I know there's something wrong. I can…sense…a difference within you. Would you please tell me what's happened?"
Her hand went up to the pendant. "You're right," she admitted, forcing the words out past the sudden compulsion to remain silent. "Something…has happened."
His eyes narrowed as he caught sight of the pendant at her throat. "Where did you get that, Tosh?"
"From…her name is Mary. She gave it to me."
The large head shook in denial. "No, it's more than that. You're not the kind of person to put random alien tech around their neck just because someone gave it to you. " He seemed to come to a decision. "Please, sit beside me. I'm going to call Jack."
Relief roared through her. Toshiko did as he asked, resting herself against his warm bulk. She'd known that Ianto would understand. Something was preventing her from telling the entire story, and she was pitifully grateful that she'd been able to come to him.
Ianto was using the voice remote to activate his phone; Toshiko had set it up, when Owen had banned the dragon from transforming back into a human unless absolutely necessary. She'd also voice-activated his laptop and the smaller television that Jack had brought in, even though the dragon had a tendency to complain that there was nothing on except for soaps and game shows.
The phone rang twice, and then Jack answered. "What's up, gorgeous?"
Toshiko felt the scales under her back grow warmer, and she knew that this was most likely the dragon form of blushing. "Are you almost done with your business?"
"Actually, yeah. I was on my way back to the Hub. Do you need anything?"
She wondered vaguely what sort of business had kept Jack from the Hub that morning.
"You need to stop by. Toshiko is here, and there's something wrong."
"I'm on my way," Jack's voice sounded serious. "Is she all right?"
"She seems to be, physically…but I believe something is controlling her. I'm hoping you can help me figure out what it is."
"I'll be there in twenty minutes." With that, Jack hung up.
While he'd been talking to Jack, the song in Toshiko's head had changed, growing lighter yet warmer, almost as if a sun had begun to beam down into her brain. She smiled softly; this was a confirmation of something she'd always suspected.
"You love Jack, don't you?"
The dragon stilled, then a soft exhalation made his side jerk slightly. "You've been thinking that for a long time now, Toshiko."
Sadness tinged the song, and the strange words seemed to change; a brief flash of gray-blue fluttered through her mind. The song changed once more, this time it was deeper and older and darker, yet she found herself wishing she could sing along. It was important, this song; she just didn't know why.
It was overwhelming, that song. Toshiko was barely aware of the tears on her cheeks as it whispered through her, the power of it so intense it took her breath away. She heard Ianto calling to her, and she managed to look up into worried blue eyes. "I hear it," she managed to say.
Ianto looked confused. "Hear what?"
"The song. It's ancient, but it's a part of you. It's beautiful…"
If the dragon had had eyebrows, they would have shot up his scaled forehead. "You…can hear the song? You mean, this one?"
And he began to sing.
Toshiko let the notes of the song roll over her, and she leaned against the dragon's flank, lost in it. She heard it twice: once in her ears, the second in her mind. She knew she could lose herself in it so easily, letting it carry her in time and space, back to when dragons roamed the Earth freely. She could smell the Earth; its deep, loamy coolness a comfort to her frayed nerves.
She caught a glimpse of another dragon: this one blue-gray, mighty wings against a blue sky. Then it was gone, and the song was fading away, changing back into the softer song that seemed to run through the background of her mind.
"That is the song of the Earth Dragon," Ianto said quietly. "I heard it when I was very young, and have never forgotten it."
"And the dragon?" she asked, just as quietly.
Sadness flooded her. "He was…supposed to be my mate. But the dragons are gone, and I'll never find him. How did you see him, Toshiko? How did you hear that song?"
"I think I can answer that."
Toshiko had been so lost in the song that she hadn't even heard Jack come in. She looked up; the captain was standing just on the landing, pain and sadness evident in his own features, and she knew the expression had to match her own.
"Jack," the dragon greeted somberly. "I'm sorry, I didn't hear you come in."
"That's okay," Jack answered, coming into the room. He stepped up to the dragon, running a hand lightly along his snout. "I heard…I wish there was something I could do to make the pain better."
"You do, Jack," he answered. "Believe me; you do. But, you think you know what's going on with Toshiko?"
"I do, yes." Jack knelt beside her, staring into her eyes.
That was when she realized…"I can't hear you!"
The immortal shook his head. "I've always had some fairly strong mental shields, but I think my immortality has made it pretty impossible to read me anymore." His eyes trailed down to the pendant. "Oh yeah, that's an Arcateenian crystal. The Arcans are telepathic, and they use the crystals to communicate with other life forms. The question is…just where did you get it, Tosh? You're not usually so clumsy with tech that you'd actually put something that could be dangerous around your own neck."
Toshiko was relieved. She knew Jack and Ianto could help her. "It was…given to me," she answered slowly, feeling as if the words were being dragged out of her. "I didn't want to take it…"
"You think an Arcan is responsible then," Ianto stated.
"Yep, or else someone who didn't know what the hell they were doing. You see, the crystals aren't quite compatible with humans." Jack leaned forward, and Toshiko felt a little uncomfortable with him getting that close to her cleavage. "And, I'm thinking there would've been some sort of mind control involved to get Tosh to actually put it on." He looked up, smiling at her gently. "Our Tosh is too strong a person to let someone influence her otherwise."
She blushed at the compliment. "I don't feel very strong right now," Toshiko admitted.
"You are," Jack repeated. "Anyone else, I think they would have just let the pendant control them. Not you…you came here, to Ianto, even if you couldn't come right out and ask for help. Now, let's get this thing off you. I'm going to run out to my car for a containment box. Just sit tight, and I'll be right back." He touched her cheek lightly, then in a swirl of greatcoat he was gone.
Toshiko turned back to the dragon; his head was twisted around so he could look at her, and his ancient eyes were filled with concern for her. "I'm sorry," she blurted.
"Why are you sorry?" he asked, surprised.
"I…read your mind," she admitted. "I didn't want to – "
"Tosh, it's fine," he answered. "I'm not sure you can exactly help yourself at the moment. We'll get that off of you, then you can tell us what happened. Don't worry; we'll fix this."
Jack was back in no time, and using a latex glove he carefully removed the pendant from around Toshiko's neck. He tucked it away in the containment box he'd brought up.
The moment the pendant was locked away, Toshiko felt herself again. She let out a long sigh, and she looked at both of her friends, smiling widely. "Thank you." She hugged Jack, then looped an arm around the dragon's neck. "Thank you both so much."
She couldn't believe how better she felt, now that the pendant was gone. A weight had been lifted from her very soul, and she felt free again.
"Now," Jack said, making himself comfortable next to her, his own back nestled comfortably against the dragon's side, "why don't you tell us what happened?"
She was more than willing to do just that.
16 November 2007
Toshiko told them everything. She told them about leaving the Hub yesterday, and about going to the pub for a drink. She explained how Mary had approached her, and how she'd found herself listening to Mary and sharing things she shouldn't have. She didn't gloss over anything, although she was heartily embarrassed that she'd fallen under the other woman's spell so quickly.
"It's obvious that you were being influenced," Jack reassured her. "Even without the pendant, the Arcan would still have enough telepathic oomph to push you the way she'd want you to go." He glanced up at Ianto. "Remind me to start some sort of psychic shield training, to avoid this in the future."
The dragon hummed his agreement.
The tech expert went on, about how she'd gone into the Hub that morning, and what she'd heard from Owen and Gwen. That information caused a short staring match between man and dragon, and Toshiko realized they'd come to some sort of consensus when Jack had asked her to continue.
She did so, telling them of her discomfort, and her decision to tell Jack about it…only that Jack hadn't come into the Hub. The captain apologized, saying that he'd had business elsewhere; he didn't go into it, and Toshiko didn't ask, although from Ianto's reaction he'd known exactly what that business was.
She finished with her coming here. "It just wasn't right," she said. "It bothered me to read anyone else's minds, but I just couldn't seem to stop myself."
Jack nodded. "That was the pendant's influence. Don't worry, Tosh; it can't get to you any longer."
She felt relieved, smiling at Jack's reassurance. Then, she frowned. "What about Mary?"
"We'll stop her, Tosh," Ianto promised.
"But why me? Why did she choose me?"
"She most likely picked up on your thoughts in that bar," Jack answered. "It wouldn't have mattered which one of us it was, as long as the right conditions were met."
Toshiko looked back on last night, and realized her most overpowering thought was anger at her colleagues for what had happened in the Hub. She'd been furious at both Gwen and Owen for wrecking her program and for making light of the work she'd been doing, and for flaunting their shagging to all and sundry.
She nodded in understanding. "I can see why I was such a tempting target."
"I'm sure she had a reason for wanting you to basically betray your teammates," Jack went on. "As soon as we find her, we'll ask." He graced her with a smile, reaching across and patting her on the knee. To anyone else, it might have seemed patronizing, but from Jack it was strangely paternal.
Well, maybe not that strangely, given what they now knew about him, and just how old he really was.
Jack's mobile rang, and the captain cursed as he had to shift around to dig it out of his coat pocket. "Yes, Owen?" he answered.
He listened for a second, then put the mobile on speaker. " – finished the post-mortem on that body we found out at the construction site," the medic was saying. Toshiko could hear Gwen singing somewhat teasingly in the background, and it sounded like that silly children's song about the human skeleton. "Stop singing," he snapped.
The singing got louder.
"What did you find, Owen," Jack snapped, in his no-nonsense 'Captain' voice.
"Well, I've had to tweak some of my initial conclusions, hence Cooper being annoying. The first being that this isn't, in fact, a woman. It's a man."
They could hear Gwen laughing.
"Okay, yeah I was wrong," Owen admitted grudgingly, "but it's a very girly man."
"But still a man," Gwen chortled.
"Gwen, let Owen finish his report," Jack ordered.
The laughing stopped, dropping into what Toshiko swore was a pouting silence.
"I also thought that the wound might have been GSR," Owen went on. "The real answer is…I don't know what caused it. You see this sort of thing in RTA's: when something like a steering column or a post goes into a body at great velocity."
"So there wasn't anything at all right about your initial prognosis?" Gwen asked.
Toshiko watched as Jack stifled a sigh at the antics. "That's enough," he said. "Is there anything else you have for me? Or are you two just larking about back there?" He didn't sound happy, but then he didn't look very happy either.
"There's something about this," Owen mused. "I could swear I've seen this sort of injury before. I'm going to search a few hospital databases and see what comes up."
"You do that. Toshiko and I are on our way back in." Jack snapped the phone closed. "Tosh, I don't want you to leave my sight until we know more about what's going on with the Arcan. In the meantime, you and I are going to work on that piece of tech we found with the body. I want to know exactly what's going on." He stood, then helped Toshiko to her feet.
"And I suppose this means I get to remain useless and stuck here," Ianto muttered.
Jack's face cleared of its irritation at Owen and Gwen. He reached over and stroked his fingers down the dragon's snout, eliciting a near-purr from him. "Sorry," the captain answered, "but you're still under restriction. "
Ianto's face dropped, but he nodded. "I just feel helpless while someone is out there, stalking our Toshiko."
The technician felt her chest warming at how he'd referred to her. She could understand why he felt that way, but she didn't want him to risk his recovery for her.
Then something occurred to her. "You don't have to sit by and do nothing," she said. She went over to the computer she'd set up for him, so he could use it without having to use his overly large claws on the keyboard. "You can be going through the CCTV, looking for Mary." Her own fingers moved on the keyboard. "I can route the Hub's control to you, it's easy enough. Then you can be on the lookout for her." She went on to describe the woman who'd approached her. "There. You can run the scanning program vocally now." She smiled up at the dragon. "You won't feel so helpless that way."
"Thank you, Tosh," the dragon said, his eyes almost glowing with pleasure.
"If you find anything – " Jack began.
"I'll call immediately," the dragon promised.
"And I'll be back later, once this is all sorted."
"I look forward to it. And, if you bring Tosh, we can all do a movie night. She can stay in my guest room while there's a threat against her."
Jack nodded. "Agreed."
"I can look after myself!" Toshiko protested, even though she was secretly pleased that they wanted to watch out for her.
"But you don't have to," Jack answered. "Not when you have a dashing hero and a brave dragon to do that for you."
A smile curled up one side of her mouth. "Well, when you put it that way…"
The drive back to the Hub was made up of silence, punctuated by Jack asking random questions about her encounter with Mary, and the soft crooning of Ella Fitzgerald from the car's speaker system.
Toshiko could tell that Jack was trying to put things together. She'd been working with him long enough to recognize the look; it was so very different from Jack's usual grinning devil-may-care expression that it was almost like looking at a whole other person. Sometimes it was easy to forget that Jack was leader of Torchwood for a reason; that he did, in fact, know how to command and that he had a very sharp mind. It was equally simple to discount him, especially when he had a tendency to blow up the microwave at the oddest times, and enjoyed using such anachronistic technology such as the old phonograph player with its collection of discs.
But it was just layers of Jack Harkness, and it covered up a person who knew more about quantum mechanics than most contemporary scientists and who could fly all types of aircraft, on and off the Earth. He'd admitted to her about being from the 51st century, and it made Toshiko think about all the times that current tech had seemed to stump him. She'd known then to never think that Jack was an idiot; not that she had before, but it had been easy to think that he was just inept at certain things. Before his confession she'd had ample opportunity to see his expertise with alien technology, and had known that Jack was more than just how he appeared. Now, she knew that current tech was just below him, and that he had to work that much harder to use it.
They arrived back at the Hub, stopping for coffee on the way. Once there, Jack removed the containment box containing the pendant and led the way inside, Toshiko bringing in the coffees.
Owen was still in the autopsy bay, fussing over the corpse they'd found. She handed him a coffee, and he smiled at her. "You are gorgeous," he said by way of thanks.
Toshiko found herself blushing slightly, but knew not to read too much into it. "Still trying to figure it out?" She motioned toward the skeleton.
The medic nodded. "I'm thinking now it might be some sort of ritual."
"What kind?" Jack's voice echoed around the circular room. He'd joined them, leaning on the railing and looking downward.
Tosh went up to him, handing him another of the coffees. The box was gone, and she guessed he'd already locked it away in the Secure Archives.
"Not sure," Owen confessed. "But I started looking into devil-worship and stuff from that era, see if there's anything about plucking out hearts. Guess what? There's nothing. They ate eyeballs, they drank blood, they had sex with animals, but they didn't pluck out each other's hearts. Cos obviously this is what happened, now that I've gotten a closer look."
"But you said you thought you recognized it," Jack pointed out.
"Yeah, I know." Owen actually chewed on his lower lip, a sure sign that he was confused by it all. "There's something…does it remind you of anything?"
Jack shook his head, and Toshiko thought to lighten the mood a little. "Kinda like that bit in "Alien" where that thing bursts out of John Hurt?"
Owen snorted, but she could tell it had done the trick. "I'm sorry, I should have been more specific. Does it remind you of anything helpful?"
"Right. Well, then why don't you go over there somewhere, " he motioned in the general direction of her station, "and do your computer stuff, and maybe think of shoes, okay?"
Toshiko rolled her eyes, but she did head over to the work stations, Jack behind her. She went to set Gwen's coffee down on the other woman's desk, but the ex-PC seemed to appear as if by magic. "Thanks, sweetheart," she said, taking the offered cup.
She was very glad that the pendant was gone now. She had no desire to know what her fellow teammates were thinking.
"C'mon," Jack urged, "I've got the tech set up on the work table in the armory. Let's say you and I go take a look and see if we can't figure out what it is?"
Toshiko followed, ready for a challenge to take her mind off what had happened with Mary.
The device cleaned up really well.
It sat, gleaming under the lights, and Jack looked thoroughly disgusted with himself. "I must be getting senile," he muttered angrily. "Why didn't I think of it before?"
"What is it?" Toshiko asked, not liking Jack's tone.
"It's Arcateenian," he answered grimly.
Dawning realization hit her. "Just like Mary."
"I think we now know why she chose you."
"She must have been there, to see us find it." Toshiko turned to leave. "I'm going to go back over the CCTV footage, see if she was at the construction site."
She hurried to her terminals, Jack at her heels. With a few keystrokes Toshiko had the footage from the site up on her main screen, and she was forwarding through it, looking for a familiar face amongst the crowd beyond the barricades.
It didn't take too long.
"There!" She froze the image. It was obviously Mary, standing amongst the rubberneckers at the scene.
"Get that to Ianto," Jack ordered. "It'll make his search a lot easier."
Toshiko was doing just that when Owen interrupted them. "You have to see this!" the medic's voice shouted from the autopsy bay.
She'd emailed the screen grab to the dragon in moments, then joined Jack and Gwen down at Owen's station. Owen was ashen, and his hands trembled slightly as he used the keyboard to flip through the records on his screen. "It's impossible," he murmured. He turned to Jack. "It finally hit me why I thought that injury looked familiar. I ran across something like it when I was doing my A&E residency at Cardiff General. We had a case come in, a woman, with a wound just like that. I searched some more, and found something called Project Lowery through the local coppers." He turned back to the monitor. "So, I dug into that, and found a long list of deaths, going back decades. Same cause of death: a hole punctured through the ribcage, heart gone."
Jack had been looking angrier and angrier as Owen's recitation progressed, until by the end he was thunderous. Toshiko shivered, very glad that she'd had the strength of will to go to Ianto about the pendant. Would she have ended up like those poor victims, once Mary had gotten what she'd wanted? Thinking back on the meeting in the pub, she remembered Mary's thought, that she'd wanted to kiss Toshiko. Was she some sort of alien sexual predator? Had all her victims let her get close, then killed them after having her way with them? Or had she chosen Toshiko because Torchwood had that device, whatever it was? Would she have left Toshiko unharmed once she'd gotten it?
A mobile rang, the ringtone of "Moonlight Serenade" marking it as obviously Jack's. He pulled the phone from his pocket, flipping it open. "Harkness," he answered, his voice clipped.
Then his expression softened, and Toshiko guessed it was Ianto on the other end. "Got it," the captain answered. "We're on it." He hung up, turning to the rest of the team. "I have a lead on the alien who could be responsible."
That caused a minor bustle as everyone got ready to leave. Toshiko touched Jack's arm. "Where is she?"
Jack looked at her, his eyes serious. "Outside your flat."
16 November 2007
Toshiko parked her car just down from her flat, watching as Mary sat on the low stone wall just outside, a cigarette dangling from her lips, and illuminated by the streetlight overhead.
She took a deep breath, knowing that her team was nearby. When Jack had explained his plan, it had made sense to her; they had no idea if Mary would sense them surrounding her, and had asked that Toshiko go in as a decoy while he and the others got set to take her. They wanted as little fuss as possible; there was no telling what the Arcan would do once they moved in. The last thing Toshiko wanted was one of her neighbors to get caught in the crossfire.
Jack had given her a down and dirty lesson in avoiding a telepathic scan, and she put it into practice as she got out of the car. She thought back to the song Ianto had sung for her, the one he'd said was the song of the Earth Dragon, and while she wouldn't even attempt the words she could remember the tune. She brought the music to mind, and let her fill her head, in order to hide her thoughts from the alien who was currently jumping down off the wall and coming to greet her.
"Might have known you'd have my address as well," she said as Mary approached.
The woman frowned, and now that Toshiko knew that there was some sort of influence over her, she could feel Mary trying to get in. It had been that strange itch she'd felt, back at the pub, and she tried to use the song to block it out. It was harder than she'd believed, but she tried anyway. "Did you tell them?"
Toshiko shrugged. "No, I didn't," she lied.
Mart smiled smugly, stubbing her cigarette out against the wall then throwing the butt over it. "What changed your mind?" Her smile grew wider. "You listened to them, didn't you? See, I told you! It's incredible, some of the stuff you hear…"
"Why?" Toshiko asked. "Why did you give it to me? What is it?"
"I told you," the alien in human form answered evasively.
Toshiko shook her head, doing her best to drown out her thoughts with the song. "The things I heard…what they thought of me…God, these are the people who are supposed to like me!" She played it up a bit, wanting Mary as distracted as possible.
Mary frowned again, and Toshiko felt her trying to probe once more. She began to hum under her breath, to fortify the dragon song in her head.
"You think you know someone," she went on, as Mary practically moved into her personal space. "Then, suddenly you see them for real, and they're…bastard little kids."
She knew that they'd be listening. Jack had made that clear, that the others would be monitoring the situation. That meant Gwen and Owen now knew that she'd read their minds, and a part of her wished she could see their faces.
Then she went back to the song, wanting to make sure Mary hadn't heard that.
"What is that?"
Toshiko looked at her innocently. "What do you mean?"
"You have a song in your head."
Her eyes widened in surprise. She hadn't expected Mary to admit that she was actually trying to read Toshiko's own mind. "So, you can read me without the pendant?"
Mary got a cornered look in her own eyes, the darkness within them deepening. "Where is the pendant?" she asked.
Toshiko saw Jack moving up behind Mary, and she smiled. "I don't have it."
"You – where is it?"
Her surprise was comical, and the technician grinned.
"It," Jack drawled, causing Mary to spin on her heel, "is safe, locked up in my Secure Archives. I do believe you're not from around these parts." His comedy American Southern accent was almost as funny as Mary's expression of shock had been.
The alien turned back to Toshiko. "You told them!"
"You used me!" Toshiko snapped. "You controlled me, gave me that damned pendant and tried to convince me it was a good thing that I could spy on my teammates."
Gwen and Owen chose that moment to join the party, guns out, and from the looks on their faces Toshiko knew she'd have some serious explaining to do once this was all over. With the four of them, Mary was surrounded.
"You underestimated our Tosh," Jack said, sounding almost triumphant. "You wanted to use her to get to that transporter of yours."
"I just want to go home," Mary whined, her eyes locked on Toshiko's.
The technician could tell that the Arcan was still trying to get to her, but now the once-subtle tingling had turned into a rough scratching, and it was giving Toshiko a headache. "You could have simply asked," she retorted. "We could have helped you."
"No, you wouldn't!" Mary spat. "You'd have just examined me, assessed whether or not I'd be useful, whether I'm a danger, then locked me away in a cell. You're not interested in understanding alien cultures. Did you really think I was just going to walk into that, hands raised in surrender?"
"That used to be Torchwood," Jack answered softly. "It isn't anymore. We've changed, and we would have helped if you'd just asked for it."
"And I'm going to believe that?" Mary retorted.
Jack shrugged. "What you believe isn't up to me. We would have, but that was before you went after a member of my team. Before you used her to try to get you what you wanted. I know what you are, and I know that transporter was a two-person device…room for one prisoner and one guard. Now, I'm just familiar enough with your culture to know you'd have had to have been a political prisoner, to be exiled like that."
Mary went pale. Toshiko almost felt sorry for her.
"What happened to the guard?" Jack demanded, moving closer.
That question seemed to release whatever restraint Mary had had. She smiled, and that expression made Toshiko shiver. "I killed him," she admitted lightly. "But I was disturbed. A woman, and she was running. It was simple to take her body." She shrugged. "But then, there was a soldier. He tried to shoot me, so I plunged my new human hand into his chest and plucked out his heart."
She seemed so proud of what she'd done. Toshiko once again realized just how close she'd come to being Mary's next victim, and she was so very glad she'd been able to throw off the pendant's control long enough to get to Ianto.
"And you've been doing it ever since," Owen growled, the hand cradling his gun flexing, as if he were itching to shoot. He probably was.
"This form needs to be fed," the alien said matter-of-factly.
Toshiko saw a pair of curtains flick at the neighbors across the street, and was glad that Ianto had called Detective Inspector Swanson to warn her not to dispatch any of the local coppers if someone called about any disturbances.
"All the punctures were about the size of a fist," Owen went on. "My God, all those people…"
"I fled before any more soldiers came," Mary went on, looking as if Owen's disgust didn't register. "I had so much to explore! And this body…" she caressed herself. "So soft…so wicked. The power such a body has in this world!" She smirked at Toshiko. "We could have had a lot of fun, before I left. It's too bad you'll never know what you missed."
"It would have been rape," Toshiko shuddered. "You were manipulating me the entire time."
Mary winked at her. "If that's what you choose to believe. I don't have to coerce anyone, Toshiko. I could have anyone I wanted, and I wouldn't have had to use my telepathic abilities on them. You'd just be one more."
"And you would have killed her once you'd gotten what you wanted," Jack snarled.
"I would have had the transporter and been gone. You'd never have been able to catch me." She seemed too certain.
"Why now?" Gwen asked. "Why go after the transporter now?"
"It was safe as long as it was buried. But I felt it, the moment the air touched it, and I knew I had to retrieve it. And so, I found Toshiko. My beautiful Toshiko…"
Mary suddenly moved in a blur. Toshiko felt something grab her hair, yanking her backward. She couldn't help but shriek a little at the pressure on her head. She began to struggle, but felt something sharp touch her throat.
"Don't move," Mary ordered. "Or I'll cut her throat."
Toshiko's heart was hammering in her chest. She felt so very stupid for letting Mary get the drop on her, but the alien had moved so incredibly fast it had been impossible to even prepare for the attack. And now, she was a hostage to this alien who'd used her.
To say she was pissed off would have been an understatement.
She looked at Jack; there was something in his eyes, something telling her to stay calm and wait. Toshiko trusted him, and stood quiescent, the knife at her throat and one of Mary's preternaturally strong arms around her chest.
"Let her go," Jack said, one hand held out in supplication.
"Do it!" Owen snarled, moving to stand just beyond Jack.
"Toshiko," Mary whispered in her ear, her breath causing gooseflesh to rise on her neck, "tell them to give me the transporter."
"I can't do that, Mary," the technician answered calmly. Her eyes met Jack's, and he nodded slightly.
"You're surrounded," Jack went on. "You're not going anywhere."
"I can cut her faster than you can shoot," Mary warned. "I want my transporter."
"You'll just be taken again once you get back," Toshiko said.
"Two hundred years have passed. They'll be a new government…in fact, there'll have been about twenty new governments by now. I'll be perfectly fine."
"Let Toshiko go and we'll talk about it," Gwen tried to reason.
Mary's mouth was at Toshiko's ear again. "You heard them, when you wore the pendant. These aren't your friends, Toshiko. They belittled you. They don't even know you, not like I do. We have a connection, beautiful Toshiko. You can feel it, can't you? I know you can…"
"You lost your hold on me," Toshiko answered. "I know who my friends are, and they aren't you." She did know; Jack and Ianto were her friends, they were the ones to notice that something was wrong, and to help her when she needed it. They were the ones she trusted above anyone else, and she would continue to do so.
The point of the knife pressed keeper into the tender skin of Toshiko's throat. "If you want me to let her go, then give me the transporter. I'll be on my way, and you can have your precious Toshiko back."
"Okay," Jack said. "You want the transporter, and we want Toshiko. I think it's a fair swap."
"You can't let her go!" Gwen argued. "She's a murderer!"
Toshiko rolled her eyes, and she knew Jack had seen her do it due to the exasperated look on his face. "We don't have a choice, Gwen. Now, it's just in the SUV. I'll go and get it, and you don't do anything we'll all regret."
"Get it then," Mary answered. "We'll wait right here."
Jack jogged off, leaving Toshiko with a homicidal alien and two colleagues she didn't particularly trust at the moment, who were currently aiming guns in her general direction. Toshiko wondered if Ianto was watching via the CCTV that she knew was on her block. She was willing to bet he was, and was probably very worried for her. She'd have to go and let him know she was all right once this was over.
In moments, Jack was back, holding the transporter. He got close enough to hand it over, grabbing Toshiko out of Mary's grasp as the alien took the transporter in hand.
But, she managed to pull Jack toward her, and Toshiko noticed that the two of them blocked whatever shots Owen and Gwen might have had. Mary's nose crinkled, and she stared at the captain. "You smell…different," she said.
Jack smiled lethally at her. "Fifty-first century pheromones. You have no idea."
"What are you?" she hissed.
"I don't know," Jack admitted seriously.
"And you'd put me in a cage?" she asked disbelievingly.
"I never said we would," he answered. "You're the one who assumed that. But you started this, and we're going to finish it." He released his own hold on the transporter.
It immediately began to power up.
Just as Toshiko had known it would.
"What's happening?" Mary shouted.
Jack put his arm around Toshiko, moving them both out of range. She reveled in the contact, enjoying the support. "Oh, that. We reprogrammed it for you. It's set to enable."
A bright light flooded out of the artifact, and Toshiko had to cover her eyes even though she'd known to expect it. Jack had explained the workings of the transporter to her before they'd left the Hub, telling her what he'd intended on doing.
He'd asked her if it was all right, and she loved him for it.
"What happened?" Gwen asked.
"I reset the coordinates," Jack answered, steering Toshiko toward her car. He squeezed her waist comfortingly.
"Where to?" Owen asked.
Jack looked down at Toshiko, and she saw the uncertainty there. She nodded, reassuring him that what he'd done was all right with her. "To the center of the sun," she answered for him. Then she threw a sarcastic smile over her shoulder at her stunned teammates. "It shouldn't be that hot, with it being night and everything."
"You killed her," Gwen accused fiercely.
"Yes," Toshiko said harshly.
And she and Jack walked away.
16 November 2007
They stopped for Chinese on the way back to Ianto's house.
Toshiko held the bags as Jack unlocked the door, relief practically slamming into her as she crossed the threshold. She hadn't realized just how tightly wound up she'd been before, but just knowing that the whole thing was over was a weight off her mind. Being at Ianto's, to her, meant that she was safe. And, while Toshiko prided herself on being strong and independent, everyone needed to feel like that every once in a while.
The sound of footsteps practically pounding down the stairs made her look up; Ianto was in human form, and the smile that greeted her warmed her. The dragon was with her in a second; he removed the bags from her hands, handing them off to Jack, then wrapped her in a hug which she gratefully reciprocated.
"Hey," Jack complained, "don't I get one?"
Ianto pulled back just in time to catch the tail-end of the eye roll he'd sent in Jack's direction. "Ladies' first, Jack," he answered primly. "Didn't your mother teach you any manners?"
"I have excellent manners," Jack sniffed.
Ianto snorted, but he wrapped the captain in a hug anyway.
"Is that Chinese I smell?" he asked, eyeing the bags that Jack had set on the floor in order to receive his hug.
"Yes, it is," Jack confirmed. "And should you be human-shaped?"
"I have to be, to eat," the dragon replied, taking the bags and heading into the kitchen. "I doubt you're going to want to feed me sweet and sour chicken while I'm in dragon-form."
"I'd feed you anything, anytime, and anyhow," Jack leered.
Ianto ignored it. "Besides," he called, accompanied by the sounds of plates rattling, "I thought Tosh might need a hug."
Toshiko smiled. "I did, thank you."
Jack removed his greatcoat and boots, and then moved into the kitchen with the Chinese. She followed, leaning against the entry and watching them both work. They moved around each other easily; it was almost like watching a dance. It made her wonder if they'd ever admit how they felt about each other, because it was obviously more than friendship.
She thought back on that vision she'd had, about the blue-gray dragon. She hadn't been able to get much detail but the color, but it struck her that the dragon had been the exact same color as Jack's greatcoat.
But Jack wasn't a dragon. Ianto would know if he were. And yet, she couldn't help but think it was some sort of sign, and perhaps Ianto was misinterpreting it?
Or, maybe Toshiko was just a hopeless romantic, and wanted her two friends to be happy.
"We'll do a movie," Ianto said, as he dished up their supper. "We can take the plates upstairs, and when we're done I can change back…although I feel just fine. The pain is gone."
"You still have a couple more days," Jack scolded lightly, going for the refrigerator for drinks. "We don't want you to relapse. I need you back at the Hub, to keep me from going crazy."
"Too late," Toshiko teased, unable to resist.
Jack pouted, and Ianto laughed. "You left yourself wide open for that one, Jack."
"You're right," the captain grinned. "Come on; let's get this stuff upstairs. We can relax for a bit, and then I'll head back to the Hub to monitor the Rift for the night." He looked disappointed.
"Stay," Ianto said softly. "I'll be able to tell if the Rift acts up, even this far from the Hub."
The small smile Jack graced the dragon with melted Toshiko's heart. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, Jack. I'm sure."
"Then let's eat and take the rest of the night off." Jack practically bounded up the stairs, carrying his plate and drink.
Toshiko laughed at his excitement. She exchanged grins with Ianto, then took her own food up into the loft, the dragon following.
17 November 2007
Toshiko arrived at the Hub with Jack the next morning, completely relaxed after spending the night at Ianto's. She'd taken the bed up in the loft; Jack had been quite content to sleep against the dragon's flank, and Ianto had seemed quite content to let him. Jack had accompanied her back to hers for change of clothes – Toshiko had instinctively looked around for Mary, but had mentally kicked herself for it – and then he'd ridden in with her.
She'd even found an oldies station on the radio for him to listen to.
"You going to be okay?" he asked quietly, in the pause between songs.
Toshiko nodded. "I think so, yeah. It's funny though…such a small thing, that pendant. And yet it could be one of the most powerful pieces of alien tech we've ever come across. It could take down governments, wipe out armies. "
"That's why it's going to be buried in the Secure Archives where no one can get to it," Jack swore. "That sort of power…it can corrupt. We're all lucky you're strong enough to handle it."
"I might not have been."
"But you were."
Toshiko nodded slightly. "I guess I was."
Jack was silent for a few moments, then he asked, "Are you really okay with what happened to Mary?"
She considered the question. "Yes, because I understand why it had to be that way. Sending her back home was out of the question, because for her to have been exiled in the first place her crime had to have been bad. Having her transport to the Shadow Proclamation wouldn't have worked either, because Earth isn't a member. Chances were, they would have released her because they wouldn't have recognized our grievance. And we couldn't have imprisoned her, because she would have found some way to influence one of us and could have escaped." She let one hand leave the steering wheel, to reach across the console and take Jack's, squeezing. "I do understand, Jack. And I'm fine with it." She was, even though Toshiko wasn't usually a bloodthirsty person. There just hadn't been any other way.
"Well, those are good reasons," Jack admitted. "But at the time I was only thinking about what she'd done to you. No one messes with my team and gets away with it. I wanted to punish her for that."
"You'll always want to protect us, Jack. Please don't take this the wrong way, but you're almost like our father, in a way."
Jack laughed. "But I look good for a dad!"
She joined him in his laughter. "Yes, you do."
"So," he said playfully, "who does that make the mother?"
"Ianto, of course!"
Jack laughed even harder. "You might not want to tell him that! He might take offense at being thought of as a girl."
Toshiko grinned. "No way am I saying a word."
"Good. Because he might serve you decaf of that remark!"
She gave a mock shiver. "Anything but that!"
"I'll just pretend you didn't say anything then. Although, it would make very good blackmail material…"
Toshiko slapped him lightly. This felt good, to have friends such as these two.
They were her family.
The moment they'd stepped into the Hub, Toshiko had known that there was going to be some sort of confrontation between herself and her two other teammates.
Not that she hadn't expected it. The moment that Owen and Gwen had heard that she'd been able to read their thoughts, Toshiko had known this would come. She was actually prepared for it, and when Jack had looked at her questioningly she simply nodded. She couldn't avoid this.
Jack touched her arm in support, then headed toward his office. Toshiko herself went to her station, her eye on her two teammates as they huddled around Gwen's desk, whispering intensely.
"Good morning," Toshiko said to them both, interrupting their conversation. She put her bag down, and removed her coat before switching on her monitors. She would let them approach her, because she wasn't going to go out of her way to explain anything.
It took almost a minute before they did just that.
"So," Gwen asked somewhat uncertainly, "how long have you had this…ability?"
Toshiko shrugged. "It wasn't an ability. It was alien tech. And I was wearing it yesterday."
"What did you hear?" Owen asked bluntly, almost angrily.
She turned to look at the pair of them. Gwen looked nervous, while it was obvious that Owen wanted to pick a fight. Toshiko shrugged, turning back to her screens. "Just things that confirmed what I already knew." She still felt ashamed for what she'd done; it hadn't been any of her business what she'd heard them thinking, but she knew it was the pendant's influence. Both Ianto and Jack had talked to her about it, and she would just have to accept that.
Her chair was spun, and she was facing them once more. "What do you mean by that?" Owen demanded, his eyes narrowed in anger.
She stared at him, wanting to control her own irritation because she'd been in the wrong. But the fierceness in his gaze made her want to lash out at his own selfishness. They hadn't even noticed that something was wrong with her, content to ignore her presence while he played around with Gwen.
"What I mean," she answered slowly, "is that you both are selfish, egotistical, uncaring, and childish. Oh, and you've been shagging since the cannibals, but we all knew that. You haven't exactly been subtle."
Gwen went pale. Owen ground his teeth. "You had no right to go poking about in our heads!" he snapped.
"And you didn't even notice something was wrong," Toshiko snapped back, "because you think I'm weird anyway. And you'll never know what I'm like in bed, Owen Harper, so you can stop thinking about it immediately. You're not going to touch me…ever."
A part of Toshiko mourned the loss of that small hope that, one day, Owen would notice her. That he'd realize her feelings for him. Everything that had happened in the last couple of days had really brought home to her the fact that Owen wasn't capable of any emotion other than selfishness. Toshiko was worth more than that.
Plus, she had Tommy. She really wished it was time to wake him up again. He wouldn't judge her, not like these two did.
Owen took at step back, putting his hands up in an almost defensive posture. "Okay, so we didn't notice. Doesn't give you the right to raid through our minds like that!"
"I was under the control of an alien device," Toshiko ground out. "I had no choice. And it wasn't something I actually enjoyed. I didn't like hearing you objectify me like I didn't matter. Nor did I particularly care to hear about you two screwing each other." She sent a glare at Gwen. "You have a boyfriend, Gwen. And yet you're perfectly happy to risk all that for a man who's only using you. You're just another notch in Owen's bedpost."
"It's none of your business what I do," Gwen answered hotly.
"No, you're right. It isn't. But what is my business is how you think about my best friend. It's not his fault you can't liaise with the police properly."
Gwen looked angry. "I can do my job just fine! No creature is better than I am!"
Toshiko laughed. "You're just jealous, Gwen. You're jealous because the authorities respect Ianto, and not you. Well, let me tell you something: you respect them, and they'll respect you. The same goes for me...which, you obviously don't. You need to earn my respect, and dissing how I dress or badmouthing my best friend isn't the way to go about it. So you see, that pendant was good for one thing: I now know precisely who my friends are. And the only ones who cared enough about me to notice something was wrong were Ianto and Jack. They took care of me, and they saved me. You two were too wrapped up in your own drama to notice. Now, I have to start salvaging this translation program that the two of managed to bollocks up. So, if you'll excuse me, I have work to do."
She turned back to her terminal, dismissing them completely. She had things to do, and she fully intended to do them.
Movement on the gantry caught her attention, and she looked up; Jack stood there, and he nodded once.
Toshiko nodded back, turning happily back to her computers.