Toshiko checks her emails, runs a news search, and glances over the most recent rift data whilst opening the post. Her multitasking skills are legendary within Torchwood. Until recently she never had an office of her own, because it was too much hassle to rewire another part of the Hub to sustain all of the monitors and tech equipment that she uses on a daily basis when she was already set up near the main computer station.
Then Gwen had a row with her boyfriend and spent a weekend sleeping on the couch in the break area. She said fixing up a proper office upstairs for Tosh had given her something to keep her occupied, to stop her from begging Rhys to forgive her and her odd working hours. (That time it had been Rhys that had ended up doing the begging and if there have been any other arguments Gwen hasn’t mentioned them.)
Toshiko suspects the others had a hand in it as well though. People don’t tend to like having the boss working right next to them all day and every day. Besides, the phallic coral stationary cup could only have come from Jack.
She places three bills in her in-tray and a pizza delivery advert in the paper-recycling bin, notes a trend in rift activity that means a trip to Tremorfa should be on today’s agenda, and deletes several emails from Jack that are far from work related, before reaching the letter that makes her pause.
She rereads it twice, then lays it flat on the desk in front of her, places both hands on top of it, and tries to make sense of the white noise filling her head.
We regret to inform you…
Toshiko is no stranger to death. She’s watched people die, killed people, and been killed herself. It’s a torturous kind of immortality when instead of just carrying on living she pauses to die and resurrect. Sometimes death can be a relief, but never for her, not when it’s just a moment out of time she could be spending doing something else and when the pain will come again.
She thinks it was probably a relief for her mother. She hopes it was a relief.
“I’ve got that autopsy report for you on the Flying Octopus,” says Ianto, lovely Welsh vowels lifting her out of her thoughts.
“Stratchelvia,” Toshiko corrects him automatically.
Ianto shrugs and adds a folder to her in-tray. His shirt sleeves are rolled up, his tie clipped to his shirt, and his suit jacket is nowhere in sight, which means that he’s just finished said autopsy. Toshiko is grateful that he’s removed his overall and gloves before coming up. As someone in an on-again, off-again relationship with death she doesn’t enjoy being reminded of said relationship when in an ‘off’ part, particularly the time she when she woke up in the middle of being autopsied herself. Not that she’ll ever let Ianto know about that.
“Tosh, is everything okay?” he asks, peering at her face. “Anything I can help with?”
“Not unless you’ve come up with a cure for old age.”
Ianto doesn’t smile and Toshiko doesn’t blame him. Joking isn’t her strong point and at any rate he doesn’t know what she’s referring to.
“It’s fine,” she says dismissively. “Can you do me a favour and check the SUV medkit is fully stocked? I think we’ll be taking a drive later and I suspect our latest present from the rift is going to be a live one.”
“Anywhere but Splott,” says Ianto, rolling down his sleeves and starting to fasten the cuffs.
“My bet’s on Tremorfa.” She grins. “We can drive through Splott if you like.”
Ianto rolls his eyes and walks out, finishing doing up his left cuff as he goes.
The grin slides off Toshiko’s face and she stares back down at the letter, smoothing out the paper with her hands.
We understand with your mother no longer a guest of the Institute that you may feel under no obligation to continue in your current position, but we would remind you of your responsibilities as the leader of Torchwood Three and towards those under your command…
Toshiko had travelled through time and space, chosen by the Time Agency and then by Rose and the Doctor, until being dumped back on Earth in a racially constipated period of British history and forced to take the slow route back to her own time.
She’d never intended to see her mother again, even as she’d lived her way back towards a day when she’d be able to without crossing her own timeline. She’d left the first time with a promise from the Agency that they’d return her five minutes later and after everything she still could have done it, shown up on the doorstep five minutes after she’d gone and almost a century older, but there was no going back for an immortal who couldn’t afford to be tied to Earth when she was waiting to leave again with the right kind of doctor.
By that point though she’d been chosen by Torchwood and they had used any means necessary to keep her.
“Coffee! Hot mocha! With added sweetness!”
Jack barges into her office with a tea tray, shoving the door open with a cocked hip and letting it bang against the frame.
“It that whipped cream?” Toshiko asks dubiously as Jack deftly places the mug on her ‘technobabble is good for the soul’ coaster.
He leans the empty tea tray against the open door and starts watering the few plants in front of the glass wall opposite her desk, which looks down into the main area of the Hub, making sure that she gets a good view of his jeans-clad rear when he bends over. Jack might be the least classy dresser that works here but he wears jeans well and Toshiko has no complaints.
“So, I hear we might be adventuring out later today,” he says, retrieving the tea tray and keeping hold of the plant sprayer in the other hand rather than putting it back on the tray.
“You’re not invited,” Toshiko tells him firmly.
“Come on,” he says, wriggling his eyebrows, “I’m way better with the big guns than the rest of them.”
“We’re not taking those either. The rift prediction is for a live, most likely benign, being.”
“Oi,” says Owen, the next to enter her office without knocking and Toshiko sometimes wonders why they wanted her to work separately from the rest of them after all.
“I was asking about some figures that don’t make sense and Ianto gave me the look,” says their newest recruit irritably. “Someone want to tell me what the fuck a negative spike in rift activity is?”
Toshiko casually folds up the letter as the pair of them crowd closer to her desk, ensuring they can’t see the contents.
We are sure that you are aware that with the loss of Torchwood One and our dubious relations with UNIT, particularly since that incident, that our ability to enforce your tenure is tenuous at best…
She could leave right now. She could get up and walk out and go. There’s a whole universe out there, she has more than a lifetime to see it, and somewhere, surely, she could find the Doctor.
She looks up at Jack.
“You’re not going. Why are we still talking about this?”
“I live in hope,” he says and winks at her before he leaves.
“How did he even end up working here?” Owen asks in disgust.
“He came with a pterodactyl.”
Plus he’s pretty to look at and he knows it. Toshiko doesn’t see why she can’t indulge herself a little when hiring staff.
“Can’t we send them both back?” Owen folds his arms and frowns. “Wait, what you mean ‘he came with’? Did he come through the rift? Is that why he keeps making those references to fifty-first century hormones and shit like that?”
There’s that as well. The old adage of ‘if it’s alien, it’s ours’ and if Jack Harkness, man from another world and time, was going to become the property of Torchwood then Toshiko Sato was going to make sure that it was Torchwood Three and that this property would have a decent living wage and the right to leave. Not that Jack seemed to have any intention of going anywhere at the moment, except perhaps home with Ianto if their resident doctor ever got the hint.
She should have known that Owen would figure it out before anyone got around to telling him. Everyone else at Three knows, it’s just not something that they really talk about.
“Yes, he did,” Toshiko confirms.
“Negative rift spikes, Jack is an alien, and what else, Tosh? I work here and I even then I can’t fucking know what’s going on?”
“Owen,” she says, leaning forward and speaking as gently as she can, “they’re not secrets, they’re just things that we haven’t told you yet. You’ve only been working here a month and Torchwood has been around since 1879. There’s a lot to take in.”
She understands his frustration. He’s investigative by nature, so it’s no wonder he became a police officer, but since his fiancée died and he couldn’t figure out why he’s become driven by it, by the need to know.
“All right, how about this: my office, every day, ten o’clock, fifteen minutes. You ask and I answer to the best of my ability. Does that sound fair?”
Owen’s posture relaxes a little and he nods. Toshiko decides to take that as a win.
“For today then,” says Tosh, “yes, Jack came through the rift, from the fifty-first century and a planet other than Earth. Not at the same time as Myfanwy, but he got to her first and she’d taken rather a shine to him. I’m from Earth originally, but I’ve been around the universe a bit and I can’t die. Or rather I do die, but then I keep coming back. It’s painful and annoying, but it can be useful. Ianto and Gwen are just Welsh. Try not to hold it against them. Do you have any questions on all of that?”
“Um, Myfanwy?” says Owen, and she tries hard not to smile at the look on his face and the fact that that’s the first questions that springs into his mind.
“The pterodactyl. Jack named her.”
The phone on Toshiko’s desk choses that moment to ring, a green light signalling that it’s an internal call so she hits the speakerphone button.
“Heads up, love,” says Gwen. “Rift activity brewing in Tremorfa. Ianto’s already geared up and in the garage.”
“Right,” says Toshiko, shoving her chair back.
She grabs her gun from the always-tray, which is in between her in- and out-trays, and secures it in the thigh-holster that is a permanent part of her own work outfit as she stands up.
“Gwen, make sure Jack is linked into the communications system, tell him again, no, he isn’t joining us on this one, and then everything else as usual. Owen’s with me and we’re on our way.”
Toshiko ends the call and yanks her leather jacket off the coat stand, already moving towards the door. She ushers Owen out in front of her, then crumples up the letter and throws it into the paper-recycling bin on top of the pizza delivery advert, before dashing down the stairs with Owen right behind her.