26 November 2007
"Hey Tosh," Gwen greeted, sliding her chair toward the technician's. "Have you noticed something off about Jack today?"
Toshiko wanted to roll her eyes, but instead kept them on the lines of code she was reading. "Not really," she answered, keeping her voice distant.
She was lying, of course.
She had noticed something different about both Jack and Ianto, but in her opinion it wasn't 'off', as Gwen put it. But of course the other woman wouldn't notice that Ianto was the same way; she only noticed Jack because half the time she was panting after him, and the other half she fighting with him. And this was while she was shagging Owen, and keeping her own so-called boyfriend Rhys on the side.
Toshiko just didn't get people sometimes. And she was often glad of that fact.
She heard Gwen barely stifle a sigh, then push her chair back to her own desk. Toshiko smiled slightly, happy that she'd taken the hint instead of pushing, as was her wont. She wasn't about to get into her friends' personal lives with Gwen Cooper.
And it was, indeed, personal, as far as Toshiko could see. Ever since she'd gotten in that morning, it had been impossible to miss the looks, the touches, the smiles; how close Jack tended to stand next to Ianto and vice versa; and Jack's tendency to get distracted when Ianto was in the room. Ianto had this radiance about him as well; he was positively glowing, and Toshiko had never seen him that happy.
It only led to one conclusion, one that Toshiko had been hoping for ever since she'd realized that Ianto loved Jack.
That Jack loved Ianto, too. And that they were finally together.
There was a part of her that wanted to get up and dance, and go up to them both and congratulate them. But she knew better, because Gwen would disapprove and it would cause unrest within the team, and Owen would simply mock them both. No, this was something she'd keep to herself, and be quietly pleased for both of them.
Well, within work hours. After hours was fair game.
With that thought, Toshiko settled back in to work, wanting to get every bit of corrupted code out of the system from Suzie's tampering.
Toshiko lost track of time tracing down the bad code, and before she knew it Ianto was at her shoulder, bringing her afternoon coffee. She smiled up at him, happy to see the contented look in his eyes.
"How is it going?" he asked, setting the mug down on a clear area of desk.
"I think that should be my question," she returned, "only I think it's pretty obvious it's going very well."
Ianto actually blushed, while trying to look completely innocent. "I'm sure I don't know what you mean."
She raised a disbelieving eyebrow, not saying anything.
In seconds, Ianto cracked.
He leaned forward, and after taking a quick look around to check for privacy, he whispered, 'Jack and I…" he let the sentence fade, but Toshiko could fill in the details.
She'd had a feeling that something good had happened last night, but Ianto's near-confession was enough to confirm it. She grinned, slipped an arm around his waist, and hugged him. "You have no idea how happy I am for you!"
Ianto draped his own arm over her shoulders. "Thanks." His eyes were shining. "Oh, and Jack and I would like you to stay a little while after the others leave, if you can."
"Not a problem." Toshiko wondered what that could be about. She wanted to ask, but kept her curiosity under wraps. "Oh, I think I've found all of Suzie's tampering. I'm just running things through to check right now."
"Excellent. I'll let Jack know – "
The dragon snorted. "Speak of the devil and he shall bellow your name." Toshiko chuckled. "Actually, I think that's the conference call with Her Majesty –"
"OI, Toshiko! Quit feeling up my Second and let him get back to work!" Jack's voice was teasing.
She felt her face heat up, but she couldn't help but respond, "I would if Ianto didn't have the best arse in the Hub!"
It was Ianto's turn to blush, as Jack bounded down from his office, grinning almost madly. "He does, doesn't he?" he said, gently removing Ianto's hand from Toshiko's shoulder, and dragging him along.
Toshiko noticed that Jack didn't let go.
It gave her a warm feeling,
"OI!" Owen's aggrieved voice shouted from the Autopsy Bay. "I resent that! I have a much better arse than Dragon Boy does!"
"In place of 'better', read 'skinnier'," Toshiko answered primly.
The soft sound of Gwen snickering came to Toshiko's ears, and for some reason it made her a bit irritated. "But I'm sure Gwen's the expert on that!" she called back, not feeling at all bad about it.
It certainly shut Gwen up.
"Okay, kids," Jack called, stepping out of his office and clapping his hands together to get their attention. "Rift willing, the long-delayed Torchwood Anniversary Pub Crawl will be Friday night. Put on your glad rags and prepare to get drunk off your collective asses. Oh, and our own Second in Command and head dragon, Ianto Jones, will be performing karaoke sometime during the evening."
Toshiko laughed at Ianto's put-upon expression. "And who decided this?" he asked, coming to a stop just at the bottom of the steps going up to the office.
Jack pouted. "We can't have a true pub crawl without you singing!" He pressed his hands together prayerfully. "Pretty please?"
Ianto rolled his eyes. "I expect to be fully compensated."
"You will be," Jack purred lasciviously.
"God, Harkness, that's disgusting," Owen groaned. "You don't have to prove that's you'll flirt with anything, human or not."
Ianto turned, spearing the medic with a superior expression. "You're just jealous because my arse is better than yours," he snarked.
"In your dreams," Owen scoffed. "Please say we can go so I don't have to deal with the bullshit in here? I don't want to ruin my shoes."
"And that alien goop you were flinging all over the Autopsy Bay didn't already do that?" Ianto said, deadpan.
"Children," Jack warned playfully, "do I have to send you both to the naughty corner?"
"Excuse me?" Ianto quirked an eyebrow at him. "And just how old are you?"
Toshiko laughed at Jack's affronted expression. It was true; Ianto was so much older than Jack, even though their captain had been in Torchwood for nearly one hundred forty years.
"Go on, you lot," Jack shooed them out. "Leave me to my mediocrity."
In no time at all, Owen and Gwen were leaving, and Toshiko wondered if they were going back to Owen's. She had no idea how long Owen would keep it up, but she suspected it wouldn't be much longer. She'd seen it all before; the medic had the sexual attention span of a mayfly.
She took her time, recalling what Ianto had said earlier about Jack asking her to stay over. Sure enough, the moment the cog door had closed behind her two colleagues, both Jack and Ianto approached her. "Ianto told you we'd want you to stay over a little?" Jack asked, without preamble.
Toshiko nodded. "And I don't think it's because you both want to announce that you're finally together," she teased.
This time, it was Jack who blushed. She made a mental note to mark the calendar; it wasn't often that Jack Harkness got embarrassed. "Yeah, well I had to come out of that idiot phase eventually."
"I'm really happy for you." Toshiko pulled them both into a hug. When she pulled back, she playfully punched Jack in the shoulder.
"What's that for?" he complained, rubbing his shoulder.
"That's for taking so long!" she answered. "And I didn't hit you that hard, you big baby."
Ianto rolled his eyes. "Thanks for staying, Tosh."
"Not a problem. What can I do for you?"
Both men glanced at each other, and she watched as they seemed to have a silent conversation; Jack shrugged, Ianto raised an eyebrow, then Jack nodded. She had to fight the smile that threatened to give away her delight, instead choosing to wait and see what they wanted.
"All right," Ianto finally said, turning back to Toshiko. "You remember when you were wearing that Arkateenian pendant, and you heard the Earth Dragon's song and saw that image of my mate?"
Toshiko nodded; it wasn't one of her best moments, and she still felt guilty about prying into her friends' thoughts, even though Ianto had long forgiven her.
"The other night," the dragon went on, "Jack and I were sleeping in my hoard room, and Jack…had a dream, where he was that dragon, and that we were joined in the Mating ritual."
"It was a very intense dream," Jack admitted, this time the blush rose into his ears, and Toshiko didn't need to know anymore for her own blush to start.
"And when Jack woke up, something…was happening." Ianto stammered to a halt.
Toshiko glanced between the two of them, suddenly concerned. They seemed happy together, so it couldn't have been bad, but they both appeared very hesitant.
Her worry must have shown, because Jack touched her arm. "No, it wasn't anything bad…at least, we don't think it was."
Ianto nodded in agreement. "I'd kept these carved posts that were a part of my sister's mating ceremony, and I brought them from Ddraig Llyn after my leave and set them up in my hoard room. They…reminded me of good times, and I wanted them nearby."
"That's understandable." Ianto had been through a lot lately, and Toshiko could certainly see why he'd want to bring them here.
"But," he went on, "after Jack woke up from the dream, one of the posts – the Earth Dragon's totem – was glowing."
"I tried to scan it with my wrist strap," Jack added, "but by the time I was up, the glow had stopped and I didn't get anything."
Toshiko frowned, her mind trying to come up with answers. "You think it had something to do with the dream?"
"It's really the only explanation," Ianto answered, "but there shouldn't be any sort of power in them at all. They were only used as anchors to call the Great Dragons for the actual ceremony; if there was any sort of power in them at all, it would have come from the priest officiating, or from the Dragons themselves."
"I'm wondering if they aren't somehow tapping into the Rift," Jack suggested. "But once again, I'm not sure how it's doing it, unless being exposed to power in the past primed them for now. The only thing is, I'm not sure the others were glowing, because I was focusing on the one in front of me."
"And," Ianto went on, "when Jack asked me what the ritual actually entailed – "
"To compare it to my dream."
" – I began to say back the chant to call the Dragons, and things started to happen. I could feel the power rising, and it shouldn't have been able to do that. I stopped immediately."
"And what Ianto said, matched up to the dream perfectly, and he'd never told me that. My first thought was that it was some sort of shared dream, but Ianto hadn't been dreaming at all."
Toshiko chewed her lip. This was certainly a puzzle, one that she was prepared to help her friends solve. "So, we need to set up some sensors down in the hoard room, then attempt to recreate the initial conditions." She considered. "I think I know what we can use. Help me get the equipment together and then we can see what we find out."
It took about an hour and a half to get what Toshiko wanted, and then get set up. She'd been in Ianto's hoard room many times; it had fascinated her that there could even be a hoarding instinct for dragons, and Ianto had said that much of what was actually there had come from a time when he'd been worshipped as a god. He'd looked uncomfortable as he'd admitted it, and Toshiko guessed that it hadn't been the best time of his life.
The four wooden posts were amazing. The detail that had been carved into each of them had her mesmerized, until Jack had gently prodded her back to work. She wondered how long it had taken for Ianto and his father to carve them, and just what some of the symbols meant. Some were abstract; others looked like some sort of alphabet; while others were obviously Latin words. Entwining its way through the symbols and words was a dragon, its tail the end of the post that would go into the ground, and his head at the very top. The workmanship was superb, and she made a note to ask Ianto if he still did any sort of woodwork like that anymore.
Toshiko knew about Ianto's sister, Sabrina; he'd told her, one night over movies and pizza. She would have dearly loved to have been a dragon-friend at the mating. Hope flashed through her that, perhaps one day she might actually see one…
She thought back on the bracelet that Ianto had given her, three birthdays ago. It had been very old, and very expensive, and she'd tried to refuse it at first. But Ianto had said that it had belonged to his sister, and had been a mating gift from a dear friend of their family. He'd told her that she was his sister now, and that Sabrina would have loved her.
It still brought happy tears to her eyes when she thought of that simple, heartfelt statement.
She supervised the placement of various sensors around the room, making certain that each post had their own little group of instruments monitoring it. Toshiko tested each with her PDA, making certain the mainframe was getting a clear signal from each. Everything seemed to be in working order.
The three retreated toward the center of the room, just next to the pile of pillows and quilts that Ianto – in his dragon form – slept on when he stayed at the Hub. Toshiko fiddled with the PDA, then said, "If you wanted to, we could try to call the Dragons, like you did before."
Ianto nodded, taking several steps back. The golden glow that heralded his shape-change shimmered over him, and in second the magnificent green dragon that was also her friend was curled up on the cushions, his cat-like eyes smiling down at her and Jack.
Jack didn't hesitate; he made his way to the dragon's side, resting his arm over the well-muscled neck. Toshiko was struck at just how right it was, to see them like this, and it brought to mind a couple of notions that had been perking just below conscious thought.
"Ianto," she asked, "have you ever given any thought to the idea that your vision-mate's color is the same as Jack's greatcoat?"
Ianto's mouth moved, but nothing came out. His head moved to regard Jack, who looked as confused as the dragon must have felt. "No," he admitted. "I…just saw a blue-gray dragon. It never once occurred to me that he was the same color."
"And your mate has always been a male, right?" At the dragon's nod, Toshiko frowned slightly. "I don't mean this to sound rude, but didn't anyone think it was strange that you had a vision of a male dragon as a mate?"
"No," he said. "Dragons are quite open-minded. Even if we weren't, I was raised during the height of the Roman Empire. Having a male lover was almost expected."
"And when I overheard your thoughts, there was the Earth Dragon's song in your mind…and that was the same song that was being sung when you saw your mate, and it was also the one in Jack's dream? And it was the same post that was glowing?"
She could practically see the gears running behind Ianto's eyes. "I…feel a bit like an idiot for not seeing the connections."
"Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes to see what's just in front of you." She didn't want to sound smug, but she certainly felt it.
"Wait," Jack interrupted, waving his free hand about, "are you saying that the dragon in Ianto's vision and in my dream was allegorical?"
"Well," Toshiko shrugged, "I doubt that, as a dragon, Ianto would have accepted that he's somehow destined to mate with a human…even an immortal one. It can't look any closer like you if it tried: blue eyes, scales the color of your greatcoat, dragons are practically immortal…"
"That…" Jack shook his head, but Toshiko couldn't tell if he was denying it or was just in shock. "Well…"
"I agree," the dragon said.
"It's…incredible," Jack went on. "This predicates that an ancient dragon knew about me, 4,600 years before I was born, and knew I was going to meet Ianto at some point, and that I would want to be his mate."
Toshiko saw a flash of pain in Ianto's eyes, and realized that he'd just taken Jack's last words to mean that he didn't, in fact, want to mate with him. "We believed her," he murmured, moving slightly away from Jack's embrace.
She was just going to say something, when Jack moved with Ianto and tightened his grasp. "Yes, we did," he said fiercely. "But that doesn't mean we can't break the readings it we want. I promise you: I'm not going to let happen what she told you, okay? I'll do anything in my power to prevent it. The last thing I would ever want to do is break your heart once, let alone two more times."
Toshiko really wanted to know what Jack was talking about, but apparently Ianto did, because the dragon visibly relaxed under Jack's reassurances. "All right," Ianto said, mouth open in the version of a dragon smile, showing more teeth than Jack usually did when he smiled. "Let's see if any of these sensors can pick up what we felt that night, shall we?"
"Just do what you did before," Toshiko said, readying her PDA. "If anything does happen, we'll know it."
The dragon nodded. "I'll start the Call, then." He took a deep breath. "I call upon the Dragon of Fire, who keeps the soul of the Earth burning brightly within his mighty claws, bless this mating with the warmth of comfort and love."
Toshiko kept her eyes on her instruments, and she frowned. She wasn't getting anything, and yet it seemed a bit warmer in the room.
"I call upon the Dragon of Air," Ianto continued, "who keeps the breath of the Earth flowing from her great wings, bless this mating with the breeze of laughter and understanding."
Something ruffled her hair, but they were too far underground for there to be a wind…and yet, the equipment was failing to pick anything up at all. She glanced up to check the ceremonial posts, but they simply stood in their corners, not reacting.
Jack stood beside Ianto, his own eyes glancing between the posts, and it was obvious that Toshiko wasn't the only one feeling the atmospheric changes; his hair was blowing as well, but very lightly.
"I call upon the Dragon of Water," Ianto began.
"Who keeps the life of the Earth flowing through his veins," Jack put in, echoing Ianto's words exactly. He looked quite surprised, but kept on. "Bless this mating with the lifeblood of peace and fertility."
The technician was seriously beginning to get weirded out, which was saying something with all the strange shit she'd seen in her time with Torchwood. The faint tang of the sea wafted about her, and while she could try to fool herself that it must have been from the bay, she knew it wasn't; it was far too fresh to be that.
Her PDA still remained stubbornly quiet.
Then, it wasn't the Rift. She wondered exactly what it was.
"And finally," both dragon and immortal intoned, "I call upon the Dragon of Earth, the mightiest of us all, who brought the first of our race out of the darkness of ignorance and despair, and who keeps the bones of the Earth from shattering, bless this mating with the strength to endure all that may test it."
She could feel it; a deep thrumming within her blood as they finished speaking, The once-bright lights within the hoard room dimmed, and while none of the posts were responding it was obvious that something was going on.
Toshiko saw it happen.
While he still stood beside Ianto, in his human form, a larger shape overlaid itself over him, nearly hiding him in shadow. Toshiko could see the blue-gray dragon manifesting around her captain and friend, and the large head turned to look at her, the blue eyes laughing as he acknowledged her presence.
"Not yet," a voice whispered throughout the chamber. "Now is not the time."
It was another dragon; even though she couldn't see it physically, Toshiko knew there was a third dragon in the room with them. It was what was dimming the lights; it was the power that she was feeling, beating with her heart.
And the song began.
It was the same one she'd heard in Ianto's mind; the Song of the Earth Dragon.
"Soon," the voice added, sounding as deep as the core of the planet and just as ancient. "I Name you Dragon-Friend, Toshiko Sato. You are a True friend, and your memory shall be cherished among those who follow. I Bless you, child, as I Bless these two. Do not fear what comes after; hold true to yourself and your friendship, and you shall be rewarded. My sons have much to go through before they can be truly Mated, and you must stand beside them through the trials that come. Will you do this?"
Toshiko stared at her friends; they seemed frozen in the center of the hoard room, the silhouette of the blue-gray dragon still hovering around Jack. She could barely make out the presence of the Earth Dragon, and while she didn't know exactly what was going to happen, she knew there was no way she could deny him when it came to Jack and Ianto.
"I will," she answered, holding her head up proudly. "Thank you for trusting me."
"You are a good person, Toshiko, with a true and giving heart. My sons have chosen you as their friend and confidante very wisely indeed. Will you take my mark, as a sign of your promise?"
"I will," she said again.
The Dragon didn't say anything; instead, Toshiko felt the presence swirl around her, like some sort of mini cyclone. There was a sudden, sharp pain just over her left shoulder blade, and it was gone just as quickly as it had occurred.
"My time here is done," the great creature said. "Your machines will not have detected anything, but you have the evidence of your memories and of my mark. When the time comes for the proper mating, you will know. Thank you once more, Toshiko, for being a sister to my sons."
With those final words, the lights came back up, and the blue-gray dragon vanished. Both Jack and Ianto started, then turned as one to look at her. "Please tell us you got something," Jack said, almost pleading.
Toshiko shook her head, and both of her friends looked vastly disappointed. "But," she said, "I think you missed something that happened only to me, and I can't wait to tell you about it."