There are days when Tosh doesn't feel like a real person, someone who can reach out and touch things, move them, make things happen. Her work is her life, and her life is this: she sits and thinks and types (the world fading away around her, until she wonders if it's the other way around, and she's the only real thing, and the rest is her daydream); or she works in the lab for hours with only the click of metal instruments and the snap of gloves to break the silence (only to find out later that the invasion/sex gas/bodyswap happened without her); or she runs and runs to block off the alley/shopping mall/back door (the exit the alien never comes through, unless one of the others is with her -- Gwen, in particular, always gets to shoot something).
Tosh has become familiar with low-level paranoia, a feeling that her life is just blank time, until someone else needs her to flick this high-tech switch or translate that alien language. Then everything rides on her genius ("...do it faster, Tosh! We need it now!").
The paranoia doesn't stop her, though. She refuses to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. So she undoes the top button of her blouse, dabs on a little perfume (Chanel no. 5 -- she keeps a tiny bottle in her desk drawer) picks up the filamented tool she thinks is some kind of surgery instrument, and goes down into the autopsy bay.
He doesn't even bother to look up from the microscope. "Busy."
"Oh. I just... this looks like a surgical instrument to me. I thought you might--"
"Put it with the other crap. I'll look at it later."
She puts it down amongst the collection of untested tech -- the tray is tell-tale neat, which means Ianto's been here -- then goes over and stands behind Owen's chair, curious to see what he's working on so intently. There hasn't been a priority job in days; the Rift has been in one of its rare lulls.
The microscope's monitor is showing a moving swarm of fractal-like specimens... or maybe it's just one being with many facets. She leans a little closer, fascinated. "Is that the giri-bhraj sample?"
Owen grunts (it sounds like a "yes" grunt) and makes a note. It's a spiky scrawl, but Tosh can just decipher a question: geometric progression? On the screen, the mass heaves and expands to fill the entire slide.
Straightening up from his slouch, Owen swivels his chair around and wrinkles his nose. "What the hell is that smell?" He sniffs in Tosh's direction and makes a disgusted gagging sound. "What is that? Au de alien brothel? Have you been helping the tea-boy clean out the Weevil cells or something?"
Tosh has a freeze-frame moment: the world stills, and she tries to catch her breath. Before she really has, she says something. Something. She can't quite remember what, but she says something and it might even be cutting ("Snorting the samples again, Owen?" or "You're the one with the Weevil fixation, Owen. Not to mention the tea-boy fixation.") before she retreats (runs away), one hand fisting the top of her shirt closed as she goes.
In the dingy staff bathroom, she scrubs at her neck with a wad of wet toilet paper. Her reflection hisses insults at her (stupid, stupid, should know better), and there's a knot clenching beneath her diaphragm. And very likely Gwen will sail in and catch her any minute (or be in one of the loos, hearing everything) and will be horribly (infuriatingly) sympathetic. And Gwen will tell Ianto how worried she is about Tosh, and Ianto will make tea, green tea, just the way Tosh likes it, and later, Jack will praise her for something, the Rift prediction program maybe.
Tosh will hate all of it, with a slow-burning humiliation, even as she drinks her perfect tea. And she'll wish, oh how she'll wish, to be invisible, to be a walk-on part, to be the deus ex manipulator who, at just the right moment, flips a switch or solves a puzzle so that someone else can save the day.
(Later, thanks to Gwen's prompting, Jack and Owen will use the filamented surgical tool to splint a wounded spider-like alien's exoskeleton. In gratitude, the alien will decide to leave peacefully, and find a spawning ground on some other planet. Tosh will nod, save her work, slip the little bottle of perfume into her purse when no-one is looking, and go home. As she drives, she'll imagine that there's something more than an empty flat waiting for her.
A cat maybe. Yes, a cat. One with a tortoiseshell coat.)