Toshiko rolled over and grabbed her mobile, opening it before she'd woken enough to register the ringtone. It was too late; she was holding it to her ear and saying hello as awareness kicked in of just whom she'd assigned that ring to. She groaned silently as Owen's voice said, "Tosh! Now, don't hang up."
She was extremely tempted to do so -- it was obvious he was drunk, but there were only two possible reasons Owen would be ringing her at two fifteen in the morning. She sat up, tugging the sheet up to her shoulders, feeling uncomfortable talking to him dressed only in her nightshirt. As if he could tell, somehow. Though, knowing Owen, he'd be likely to make a rude comment regardless.
"What is it?" she asked, calmly as she could, waiting to find out if it was Torchwood business or something she could properly hang up on him for. Then she could spike his tea tomorrow with turpentine.
"Look, be a doll and come round and pick me up, okay?"
Tosh frowned. "Where are you?" She could hear noises in the background, but they sounded loud and happy, thumping music overplaying it all. "Are you at a club, Owen?"
"Yeah, the Blue Heron. It's really not far from your place, so if you could just be a mate and come get me?"
She didn't make any move to get out of her bed. Leaning forward, she was irritated, wide-awake and didn't relish trying to get back to sleep before her alarm went off at six. Not that she wasn't used to odd hours and being awake for days on end, but when she was finally home and able to asleep, she hated being robbed of even half an hour of the rare commodity.
"Why are you calling me?" Tosh bit her tongue over the next question. Shouldn't it be Suzie? She hadn't quite figured out if any of them were supposed to know that Suzie and Owen were sleeping together, or if it was one of those things nobody talked about. Rather like the way Ianto was most likely sleeping with Jack, except Tosh wasn't entirely sure Jack slept, nor did she think that Ianto was allowed into Jack's quarters. Shagging on the couch, more like, and Tosh had stopped sitting on it several weeks ago, just in case.
There was a sigh and Tosh couldn't quite decide if Owen was trying out his pleading look over the phone, or if he was so drunk he was being distracted by the bright lights of the club. She could hear a voice near Owen, talking in a deep, stern tone but she couldn't quite make out the words.
"Yeah, yeah," Owen said to the other person, then he said to her, "She took my car, all right? And she won't answer her mobile -- well, she answered, but what she said wasn't exactly friendly. So I'm stranded and need a lift or this very kind copper says he will 'arrange a lift for me.' Please, Tosh?" he added, his voice dripping with exaggerated cheer, as though Tosh was his best mate who simply needed a bit of cajoling to get out of bed at an ungodly hour and rescue Owen from his drunken predicament.
Tosh scowled and stayed right where she was, in bed under the covers. "You upset Suzie and now you want me to come get you?"
"I didn't piss her off; we just had a misunderstanding. Come on, Tosh, are you coming or what?" Owen snapped.
"Why don't you call a taxi?"
There was a short pause, then, "Suzie might have taken off with my wallet. And my keys. So, er, if I could crash on your couch--"
"Why don't you tell the police you're with Torchwood and get them to take you home?"
There was a long sigh, which seemed to convey just how idiotic the suggestion was. "Because how can I show my I.D. if Suzie has my wallet? Am I supposed to just say 'Hey, mate, I talk to aliens at work. Look, I can talk in Garfinian to prove it?"
"Right, sorry." Tosh rolled her eyes, but felt genuinely contrite. She bit her lip, asking herself if she was really about to do what she thought she was going to do. Then she sighed, her shoulders falling as she shoved the sheets down and swung her feet onto the floor. It was cold; she remembered that she'd meant to look for her slippers again last night and she'd forgotten anyway, distracted by the book she'd been reading. "I'll come get you. Give me fifteen minutes."
"Thanks, Tosh, you're a real life saver!" There was a click and the call disconnected without any more of a goodbye.
Tosh stared at the phone and wondered what would happen if she just lay down and went back to sleep. He'd ring again, no doubt. If he was drunk enough he could easily keep ringing her the rest of the night until she gave in. She staggered out of bed, instead, the last vestiges of sleep tugging at her, reminding her how nice it had been to get home at a decent hour last night, to make herself dinner in her own kitchen and curl up in bed with a book until she'd fallen asleep.
She was actually going out to rescue Owen from his own stupidity. Tosh pulled on yesterday's jeans and exchanged her nightshirt for a clean t-shirt, then grabbed a sweater from the back of the chair. There was no good reason for her to do this, she knew. It wasn't like Owen would return the favor, unlikely as it was she would ever need it. There was no reason at all for her to do this...except she knew what her reason was, though at least she had the good sense to be ashamed of herself for her hopelessness. Tosh caught her reflection in the mirror. "Do you really think he'll care?" she whispered. Because she was picking up Owen in the middle of the night on the ever so slight chance he might...notice. Might say thank you, smile at her and remember, one day, that she'd been kind to him. As though he might one day return the gesture and--
She glared at her reflection and asked again, sharply, "Do you really think he'll care?"
Tosh stepped away, not willing to look any longer because she knew he wouldn't, and yet she was going anyway. Stupid of her to hope, but Tosh grabbed her purse and her keys, slipping her mobile into her purse as she left.
He probably wouldn't notice, probably would never care, but Tosh couldn't stop herself from doing this anyway. There was always the chance, slim as it was, and she couldn't bring herself to let go of that faint hope just yet.
She talked herself out of raising her hopes too high as she got into her car. She knew perfectly well that Owen and Suzie were sleeping together, even if they weren't exactly dating. No one in Torchwood seemed to really be dating, although Jack and Ianto came close if you considered lunches in Jack's office as date-worthy. The only socialising Torchwood did was with each other, in pairs or as a group, and Tosh understood that her chances of getting any of the things she wanted were almost non-existent.
As Tosh headed for the club, she listed all of Owen's flaws -- irritating, arrogant, and ringing her up on a rare night off to drag her out of bed to drive him home. It didn't quite work, because two days ago he'd smiled at her when she'd brought him a file she'd stumbled upon, thinking it might help him with his research. He'd glanced at it, looked up at her, smiled sincerely and said thank you, before going back to his work and forgetting all about Tosh, who had still been standing there.
It was stupid and hopeless and silly, Tosh told herself, well-practised words not really sinking in. Not that they ever did. She didn't really expect them to this time, either. At the moment she found it easier to cling to her annoyance rather than being shy and awkward and hopeless.
Tosh forced a glower at the club ahead and the figure of Owen standing beside a uniformed officer. "He's an arse," she said, trying to rile herself up more. She gripped the steering wheel hard, glaring and thinking about all the things she'd ever been angry at him for. It worked; by the time she'd parked and got out, Tosh was feeling nothing but the urge to smack Owen and tell the cop he was welcome to keep him.
Owen grinned at the sight of her and chucked the cop on the shoulder then wove his way over to her car. "Tosh! You're looking lovely as ever," he said, slurring his words a bit. "I really do appreciate this."
Tosh paused, and made herself focus on the part where he hadn't exactly said he owed her one, instead of... Well, Owen was drunk. He probably didn't mean it. She looked over at the policeman, who nodded his thanks to her and was already turning to walk away. Tosh sighed, gripping her purse strap tightly and turned back to her car. Owen was already in the passenger seat, slumping backwards as if he'd fallen asleep as soon as he'd sat down.
"Lovely," she muttered. She was going to regret having got out of bed, now that she was stuck with him, passed out in her car. She should have told him to ring Jack, or call a taxi and have it take him back to Torchwood where Owen's lost wallet could be dealt with by paying with petty cash out of the register Ianto kept in the tourist office.
Too late for good suggestions now, Tosh knew, and shook her head.
She tried not to think about how Owen had seemed genuinely happy to see her. He was drunk, it didn't count. Tosh suddenly realised that she was staring at an ATM placed halfway between the club and the closed restaurant next door. The lights on its screen were flashing; she'd been staring absently at it while she'd tried to work herself up over Owen being annoying and not at all charming or handsome or--
The lights on the ATM flashed again, and Tosh suddenly saw that they were flashing in a pattern. She walked over, slipping her hand inside her purse and locating the small gun she carried there. She stopped in front of the ATM and watched for another minute. The lights flashed in sequence again -- not one she recognised right away, but definitely a pattern.
"Hello?" she whispered. The lights stopped, then three single dots flickered on the screen. "You can hear me, then?" Three dots, flashing on and off.
Tosh had no idea if the ATM itself was the creature, or if something was using it to try to communicate. She glanced around, taking note of the CCTV camera nearby, reminding herself to check the tapes later if necessary. Then she turned back to the ATM, pulling out her wallet and pretending she was conducting a transaction, just in case anyone sober was watching her.
At this hour, that was unlikely, but it was always a good idea to have a secure cover.
"If you can understand me, one dot for yes, two for no. Can you hear me?"
There was a pause, then a single dot of light shown for several seconds before fading away.
"Right. Are you in danger?"
Two dots flashed.
"Are you lost?"
There was a pause, then a single dot shone.
Tosh began to ask another question, then stopped. "Are you here as a scout for an invading armada?" She didn't really expect an honest answer, but one never really knew how an alien's mind worked. Asking would let it know she was aware of the possibility and put it on alert in case she -- or Earth -- was in danger.
There was a blank screen for a moment, then lights flashed at random all over the screen. A moment later, two dots of light were left. No.
Tosh smiled. "Are you lying to me to get me to drop my guard?"
Two dots and she got the distinct impression it was amused.
"Right. Well, then, let's make this easier than sticking to 'yes' and 'no'. I don't suppose you know what binary is?"
An hour later, Tosh pulled into her usual spot in the parking garage near the Hub. It was too late to bother going home and back to sleep. She couldn't take Owen back to his place, not with Suzie in possession of his keys, that meant either actually letting him sleep on her sofa, or bringing them both to work.
The fact that some part of her wanted to take Owen back to her place, embarrassed Tosh exactly as much as she would have wanted it to. Her inner twelve-year-old had no real sense, she consoled herself. She looked over at Owen, still sound asleep in the seat. She sat for a moment, waiting to see if he'd wake up; when he didn't, she reached over and shook his shoulder. He started awake and looked around, blearily.
"You're home," Tosh said, indulging in a bit of evil mischief. Then she got out and locked her car door behind her, heading across the car park to the lift. She'd put in her full day's work now, leave around lunchtime and head for home. Assuming there were no rift alerts, or invading armies. Or, just as likely, assuming she didn't get caught up yet again in one of her projects and forget about the fact she'd had only a few hours' sleep.
She heard Owen stumble out of the car, finally, and after a moment she heard him say, "This isn't my building." He sounded confused and half-awake.
Tosh smiled, wondering how long it would take for him to find his way down to the Hub and if he'd sleep on the couch or if he, too, was avoiding any potential contact with...bodily fluids.
Soon she was sitting at her work station, computer screens showing the codes she'd been working on the day before. A cup of coffee was at her elbow; not Ianto's, but it was hot and had caffeine. As she began typing, she forgot all about Owen and where he'd ended up -- or if he'd fallen asleep in the car park, sprawled in the parking spot next to hers.
At some point later that morning Ianto wandered by with a 'Good Morning' and a fresh cup of coffee. Tosh gave him a grateful smile before returning her attention to her work. Behind Ianto, Jack followed, looking rumpled. His shirt was half unbuttoned and his suspenders were down, and he hadn’t brushed his hair.
Though it was really the look on his face that made him look disheveled, Tosh thought: the indulgent smile and the way his eyes lingered below Ianto's waist as he walked by her station. Jack gave her a wink as she watched, and Tosh felt herself blush. Jack started to turn and head up to his office, when he stopped and turned back. "Nice work saving the Earth, by the way," he said.
It took her a moment to stop typing, then she glanced up. "I'm sorry?"
"This morning, with the Giffin Multi-Brain. Stuck in an ATM outside a bar on Duncan Street?"
"Oh, yes." Tosh frowned. "It was trapped; I helped it extract itself from the banking system and transmit itself back to its ship."
"Exactly. And in the process of which, saving the planet from having every last piece of electronic data absorbed and subsequently destroyed, throwing everything into apocalyptic chaos. So. Good work."
Tosh blinked at him. He just looked back at her, and he seemed incredibly serious. "Um. Oh."
Jack grinned. "Feel free to take the rest of the day off, at least until the alarm--"
They both looked up at the rift alert blared into life.
"Right, so! Tosh, feel up to saving the world again?"
"Why not?" she asked, standing up and letting the automatic program send her work into stand-by mode.
"That's the spirit. Also, we'll bring a thermos of Ianto's coffee with us." Jack turned and ran up the stairs to grab his coat from Ianto's hands. Tosh followed him out of the Hub, clambering into the SUV, and was not at all surprised when Owen climbed into the back, complaining of a headache and not once even directing a single comment to her.
It must be Thursday.