Summary: Tosh after Mary
Disclaimer: I don’t own Toshiko
When she arrived at her apartment that evening, Toshiko Sato had a headache.
This wasn’t unusual in and of itself. Her job usually involved staring at screens for hours on end, which was never good for a relaxed mind, or relaxed eyes.
But today, her headache felt different. Today, she hadn't spent the day updating the database, or designing new software, or analyzing a new alien find. Instead, she'd had a knife held to her throat by a woman who claimed to care for her, and spent several hours after trying to offer her boss a suitable explanation for why she had betrayed him.
Now, alone in her apartment, Tosh rubbed her forehead, took an aspirin, and then crashed on the couch, a familiar motion. Half-lying and half-sitting on one of the pillows, she fumbled for her TV remote, and turned the television on. She watched images flickering on the screen without trying to make any sense of them. This wasn’t unusual, either. She would turn the TV on even when her headache had been caused by looking at screens rather than crying. She would turn over on the couch and stare at the ceiling in order to rest her eyes. She would listen to the voices from the speakers.
It was better than listening to silence.
Sometimes, when Tosh came home from her apartment after a long day, she wasn’t coming from work. Jack had relented a few years ago and allowed her to attend the occasional family event as well as send postcards. Once or twice a year, she would show up at someone's birthday or a wedding and drink and chat. She would listen to her aunts, uncles, and cousins talking about their lives. Marriages, babies, job changes, children growing up, people falling in love, break-ups, divorces, gossip from London and Osaka. She smiled when they told her about their joys, and was empathetic about their sorrows, and tried to keep the conversation as far away from her own life at possible.
Coming home to her empty apartment was hardest on the days she saw her family.
As devastated as she felt now, thinking of Mary, she still felt it wasn’t as bad as coming back from a family reunion with people whom she became stranger to every day.
She had expected Jack to punish her over Mary. Ianto had gotten away with bringing a cyberwoman to the base with little more than a slap on the hand, but Tosh had expected worse for herself. She was a betrayer twice over.
But Jack had offered sympathy and tissues, and no mention of punishment. She never knew what he was thinking.
He had trusted her, taking her on after she had betrayed her previous employers. He had saved her. She had broken his trust for Mary, an alien she barely knew.
But it wasn't just Mary. Suzie had asked her once if she thought there was anything good out there, any alien life that wasn't horrible. This was right after they had tracked down a slug-creature that fed only on human eyeballs, leaving one moaning victim after another. Sometimes Tosh wished she had paid more attention to the things Suzie said. Sometimes she was glad that she hadn't.
At the time, Tosh had just replied, "There must be."
"Then why doesn't it come here?" Suzie asked, and there was no mistaking the bitterness in her voice.
Tosh couldn't remember what she had answered, if she had answered. It hadn't seemed so important at the time. Maybe they had gotten distracted.
She shrugged off the conversation as one more meaningless exchange between two fellow operatives, sharing a moment of cynicism about their brutal lives. It came back to her later, when Suzie was a cold corpse, when Gwen was their new recruit, all bright-eyed optimism. Tosh had joined already defeated – but not Gwen. Gwen was happy. Sometimes, Tosh felt a bit of sadistic delight at the thought of Gwen's insistent self-righteousness and good nature being destroyed by the harrowing monsters of Torchwood. She made an effort to be nice to Gwen. Gwen had done nothing to her.
None of them talked about Suzie, after she was gone. Tosh didn't know if the others thought about Suzie. But Tosh did, a brief exchange echoing in her head even months later. Why doesn't it come here?
She wanted Suzie to be wrong. Wanted there to be good things that came through the rift, from the sky. The pendent, Mary. Couldn't they offer something? Something good?
Code on a computer is very simple. If you have a great deal of code it can seem very complicated, but it is actually a lot of very simple and logical ideas multiplied. An error can be a misplaced letter, a forgotten space. One tiny little mistake can screw up an entire piece of code. But mistakes are easy to recognize, if you know what you are looking for. Clear logic, this follows that leads to that. Computers don't have the vagaries of personality.
People are different. You can meet someone in a bar and let them into every part of their life. You can read their mind. You can find out that they are an alien. You can find out that they are a murderer. You can kiss them. You can fuck them.
And nothing about them makes the slightest bit more sense.
At some point during Jack's interrogation of Tosh, it had crossed her mind that maybe the thought that Mary had insisted was Tosh's had been Mary's. She had been playing that particular sexual act in her head ever since, trying to decide if she recognized it. If it was a part of her mind, of her self, or if it was something of Mary's, that Mary had tried to claim was her.
She had been playing it in her head for hours, remembering the way Mary’s skin felt on her and she had no idea.
Tosh sat up on the couch, and stared at the images on her screen until they started to gain meaning. A hospital drama was playing, the actors emoting about their current medical crises. Owen liked this kind of show. He liked to criticize every error made by the show writers in portraying medical knowledge, and criticize the characters for every mistake they made in running their personal lives. If Gwen were a character on a TV show, cheating on her boyfriend with a co-worker, Owen would probably be shouting for her to leave the damn boyfriend already. Why stay in a relationship if you can't stay faithful?
There's a fantasy – and Tosh, as an adult woman, hated to admit even to herself the truth of it, but truth it was – there's a fantasy, when you like someone, that they like you back. No matter how much they might seem not to care. And if you ever could read their mind, you would know that.
What she got instead was a petty little affair, and all the little nasty stuff that was as inane as it was hurtful.
It wasn't like reading a person's diary, Mary had said. God knows what Mary had meant by that. They had gotten distracted, on another topic. Mary had changed the topic. Tosh let her control the relationship, every step of the way.
It hurt to acknowledge it, even only to herself, but she had felt that if she let Mary make the calls, maybe she wouldn't have to take responsibility, later. She wouldn't have to be sitting in front of Jack trying to explain why she had let an unauthorized stranger into her life and into Torchwood.
Maybe the fantasy was her fantasy, that she had mistaken for Mary's. Maybe it was her own fantasy, and she wanted to believe that it wasn't.
She could go to work tomorrow. Probably, no one would ever mention the incident again. Mary would disappear from their conversations as thoroughly as Suzie had. We don't talk about the dead murderers. We just do our job. And we fuck it up. And we don't talk about how much we fuck it up.
"It changes how you see people," Mary had said. And right now, all Tosh could see was the downsides of this. The shallowness, the nastiness. "There are some things we're not supposed to know," Jack told her. His attempts at being comforting always seemed to involve confirming her worst fears. But he had touched her face, just a simple gesture. Something he couldn't put into words. Don't cry. The sun will still get up tomorrow. The first time she met him, he told her he wanted to protect people. There must be something that he saw in the bastard things, something she was currently missing. Suzie's suicide and Ianto's betrayal and turning that child over to the fairies and the cannibals and all the horrible things they had encountered – none of them had shaken his faith in their mission. Sometimes, on darker days, days, Tosh allowed herself to entertain the thought that Jack wasn't really fighting for their side, that he was plotting against them, that that was why he was so secretive. But on other days, she hoped that he knew something good that they didn't.
And today, she realized, her face still hurting from tears, was one of the good days. Despite Mary, despite everything, Jack’s continued faith in her, and in humanity, gave her hope.
Tosh turned off the television, interrupting an earnest young male nurse in the middle of his giving bad news to a patient. It was time to go to bed. She had to go to work tomorrow.