redsnake05: Art by Audrey Kawasaki (Default)
Leitmotif ([personal profile] redsnake05) wrote2010-01-23 01:10 pm

Fic: Intersection

Title: Intersection
Author: [personal profile] redsnake05/[livejournal.com profile] redsnake05
Fandom/characters: Torchwood, Toshiko Sato
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Some violence, canon character death
Other content: Nudity
Wordcount: 6100
Summary: There are lines that frame space to be useful and others that imprison. There are marks of ownership and others that you choose to represent your belonging. There are rules you break and ones that are inescapable. Tosh works at the crossroads, always, and makes do with what she can find, until she finds what she wants.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction and no offence is intended
Author's notes: Written for the 100 Days of Colour fest over at [livejournal.com profile] choc_fic. [personal profile] used_songs and I brainstormed a little, and this came from her idea about codes and observation. She also beta read for me, for which I am very grateful.


Read it on dw>>>>read it on lj

Now with an awesome podfic, recorded by [personal profile] sophinisba. You can find it here (scroll down, it's the last one listed).

No one left UNIT unmarked.

Tosh wasn't sure why they bothered with the tattoo. It wasn't like she could escape, when not even death was in reach of her clever fingers. Her red overalls were an ineffectual exoskeleton and the mark on her chest, right over her solar plexus, chafed underneath. She wasn't sure she'd be sane long enough to watch how it healed and chart its progress.

Time blurred into something twisted, felted and ragged. It was different to the clean linearity of when she'd worked long hours to perfect a project or master a code. It felt like dross and sullen seaweed in her hands and on her skin.

When she was shuffled out of her cell and into a new, bare room, the only measure she had for how long she'd been there was in her skin, embedded black. It was no help. The man waiting there for her, that was different, though. She'd not seen anyone since she arrived. He invited her to sit down, said his name was Jack. She wasn't entirely sure it wasn't some new nightmare.

"So, you want to get out of here?" Jack asked. He sat on the edge of the little table, casting the smallest of shadows from the harshness of the overhead light. She could read nothing from his face or his voice.

"Is that possible?" she asked. Even if she left her cell, left UNIT and the mechanical calm of the recorded voice behind her, she would not be able to get the ink out of her skin.

"You can escape many things," said Jack. "But I'm offering you a very specific exit package."

It was hardly the fairest of deals. But she put her hand over her breastbone and imagined that she could feel the heat of the tattoo under her fingers, and, under that, the whoosh of blood and the deceptive fragility of bones. She was in no position to be choosy.

"Five years?" she asked.

"Yes," he said. Now she could tell he was lying, but not why or about what. Still. A more spacious prison would offer comfort.

"How many prisoners does UNIT keep?" she asked. Jack's easy smile faded a little before he hitched it back into place with an elasticity as obvious as his braces.

"I'm only interested in you," he said. She nodded slowly and looked down at her hands. They were rough, the skin dry in the artificial atmosphere of the UNIT cells.

"I'll take your offer," she said.

When she walked free, expecting to be dragged back at each step she took, she breathed deep. As her chest rose and fell, she thought of her cell and the light, of the probable lives of the other prisoners. She thought of the curtailed edges of the tattoo on her skin and the rough corners of concrete that had closed her in. She would not forget them, or the people still trapped. She felt the camaraderie of the forgotten. She slipped into the car and let Jack carry her away to her luxurious parole.

>>>>

Over time, she ignored the tattoo. She dressed up her apartment in traditional clothes, things she'd never wanted in any of the other tiny flats she'd lived in. She had chrysanthemums on the table in winter and dried the flower heads for tea. It wasn't cloaking or camouflage, but a more complicated arrangement that had her stepping back into the soothing rhythms of her culture. In truth, she couldn't remember much of how she'd lived before, and the only clear things that stood out were from her childhood. The intent and the execution of each object was clean edged and simple, elegant in style and solution. They had the beauty of mathematics and the strength of well-written code.

She knew this was a facade. All the trappings of something she'd spent years escaping, though she found them soothing now. She knew Jack watched her, she knew Suzy regarded her with suspicion. At home, she created a flawless exterior of forbidding lines. This had been restrictive to her once, and she'd struggled against the clean compartmentalisation of her parents' house, her grandparents' house.

Only her mother knew what she'd given up for her family, and even she did not know the whole truth. Tosh sometimes wondered what she thought of the change in her wayward, westernised daughter.

She kept the knowledge of the stained flaw in her skin to herself.

>>>>

"How do you do that?" asked Martha. There was nothing on her face but cheerful interest and friendliness, but Tosh knew where she came from. Not even Martha's connection with Jack and the Doctor could overcome the itch that settled uneasily on Tosh's skin when in her company. She pressed her hand over the black mark that disfigured her skin and imagined that she could feel it hot and tender against her palm. She moved her hand like it had been burned, bring it back to action.

"Practice," she replied, fingers not pausing on her keyboard. Perhaps, if she kept busy and looked indispensible, Martha wouldn't report back to UNIT that she wasn't pulling her weight.

"I wouldn't even know where to start," said Martha. Tosh gritted her teeth and ran her fingers over the keyboard quicker than the panic at Martha's proximity could chatter over her nerves. The code was clean, smooth lines and sharp teeth to complete its task. It helped distract her from the sense memory of coarse cotton.

"I'm sure I wouldn't know how to do your job," Tosh replied, keeping her bitter tone hidden under briskness. She didn't know how Martha could work for UNIT. They were faceless bright lights and mechanical voices, and Tosh wasn't sure that she didn't hate the human face Martha was putting on the organisation the most of all the terrifying possibilities that flashed through her head. She thought for a moment of all her forgotten fellows, still crazed and desperate under their uniform of red cotton.

"A few bandages and some iodine," joked Martha. Tosh's answering smile was brief and deliberately distracted. She ran a few more tests and hooked up her equipment. Action was a balm, giving her something to concentrate on. She could box off the panic behind the sliding paper screens of her mind, wrapping it neatly in fabric to be examined later. Now she had the soothing speed of her fingers over the keyboard, shaping round connectors and leads.

Martha moved away and Tosh saw her talking with Jack the next time she looked up. Her hands were steady on the probes as she manipulated the tech. Tech was easy; non-sentient and dangerous only in an impartial way. She didn't take it personally when tech tried to kill her. People were another thing entirely.

>>>>

When Tosh climbed wearily out of the water after the latest hunt, clothes streaming and hair plastered flat to her head, she felt only relief that the alien being was restrained, even if her shoes would never recover properly. Then she looked up and caught Martha's gaze, riveted to her chest. She glanced down and saw the black outline of the tattoo, harsh and incontrovertible through the flimsy cotton of her blouse.

Jack draped a towel round her shoulders and followed it up with his arm. She was valuable to him, she knew, and the support of his arm was warm in more ways than one.

Looking up, she met Martha's gaze squarely, hiding the trepidation she felt. Martha looked away after a moment, saying nothing. Tosh felt the press of Jack's lips to the top of her head and felt absurdly grateful. She hadn't expected to come to love him, or trust him. She just hoped it held through this.

"You'll catch your death," he said.

"You never listen to Owen, do you?"

"Not if I can help it," Jack replied. "It makes me nervous. Nearly as nervous as your shivering makes me."

"I'm fine," she protested.

"Hmmm," he said. "Let's get back to the Hub and get dry. Ianto can probably be persuaded to make your favourite tea."

"Probably," agreed Tosh. She let Jack lead her towards the car.

"I don't keep you because you're useful," said Jack.

"You don't keep me because I'm ornamental," replied Tosh.

"No," Jack agreed. "As soon as things breathe, they get more complicated."

"You said you would look after me, Captain Jack Harkness," Tosh said. "That's the moment this became complicated."

"You have never been straightforward." He kissed her cheek as he handed her into the SUV with another towel, following it up with an order not to drip on the upholstery.

>>>>

When Martha stood on her doorstep that night, Tosh hesitated before opening the door. She'd known she would come. She'd spent the hours at home keeping her hands busy to quiet her mind. The floor was clean, the bonsai on the kitchen counter neatly trimmed. As she opened the door, Tosh heard the washing machine switch off, leaving the flat in silence broken only by the lift and fall of her own breathing and the forced steadiness of her own heartbeat.

Tosh left Martha sitting at the low table in the lounge. She needed every advantage that she could find, and the structured formality of her tea set was like fine armour. Martha gave nothing away when Tosh returned with the tray, merely watching her prepare. Tosh pushed down her nervousness and placed a delicate cup in front of Martha.

"Jack never told me," Martha said.

"Was it your business to know?" asked Tosh.

"No, I suppose not," said Martha. She was silent, and Tosh breathed deep. Maybe she would get through this with no more damage. "I guess I wouldn't have picked you as the type to end up on UNIT's radar," Martha said.

"Oh?" Tosh replied, blandly questioning. Martha fidgeted with her cup, but Tosh gazed back at her impassively.

"I was told," said Martha slowly, "that only the most dangerous make it to UNIT's cells."

"Then either Jack is wrong, and I am a liability, or UNIT has lied to you," said Tosh. "Either way, it is not my job to educate you to think for yourself."

Martha looked at her then, eyes wide and hurt. Tosh was angry, she could feel the unfamiliar prickle under her skin, but she corralled it neatly and bottled it for later use. Her voice held a snap, a smack of determination and spine that she knew Martha hadn't expected.

"You should go," Tosh said.

Tosh finished her tea in silence and moved into the bedroom. She stripped off her clothes methodically and looked at herself in the mirror. The black symbol on her chest was harsh and ugly. There was no finesse there, no delicacy or yearning for knowledge. There was lust for order, in the sense of restraint and curtailment. Tosh knew that the sweetest part of order was in the measured gaps. In UNIT, there was no freedom in the blank spaces, just incomprehension. Tosh's lips curled in a sneer. She was better than this brute force could even dream.

>>>>

Tosh dressed in black the next day, heavy and opaque. She was tempted to flaunt the mark on her skin, push it under Martha's nose. But as well as her desire to stay private, there were other considerations.

She had known, taking Jack's offer, that the five year contract was a lie. He could dress it up in any fine words he liked, but the only freedom for her would come in death. The ink on her skin was not just a reminder of her dirty concrete prison, but a bar to her past. She could never visit her family in Japan with this on her skin. She felt that shame hang over her.

The tattoo parlour was brightly lit and cheerful when Tosh stepped inside. The artist was young and strangely earnest. She had pictures of her work in the window that Tosh had looked at many times as she passed on her way to work, all of it brave and alive. She'd often wondered what it would be like, to mark oneself on purpose. Her life was so full of uncomfortable contradictions already; she was sure adding more ink to her skin wouldn't break down the truce she had going. It wasn't like it could make her shame worse.

Tosh wanted one anyway; something of her own choice. She wasn't sure if it was defiance of Martha's judging look, or if she would ever have taken this step on her own, but she was here now. She had her design and unfolded it in front of the artist.

"It's a classic piece," she said, tracing over the gold scales. Tosh's smile was muted. She could still remember the dull silence of art classes as a child. She'd hated the nearly silent swish of the brush on the paper. She hadn't imagined she would ever find a place for the hard-learned skill to be useful.

"Can you do it?" she asked.

"Yeah," said the artist. "It will take some time, though."

"That's okay," said Tosh. "I know about patience."

"Let's make you an appointment," she replied. There were no awkward questions and Tosh left with a small card for an appointment that evening and a feeling of freedom.

At the Hub, Ianto was waiting for her with a coffee. She smiled and swapped him the cup for a bag of doughnuts.

"How did you know I was in the mood for doughnuts?" he asked.

"You're always in the mood for fake cream the day after excitement," she replied.

"You know me so well," he said. She pinched his cheek, feeling the give of skin, so easily shaped but so difficult to mould.

"No," she said, "just the surface features."

"You're not going to get into my wiring?" he asked.

"Not today. I have a date with my box of unknowns."

"Martha is waiting by your desk, poking restlessly at one of them."

Tosh forced a smile and hid behind her coffee cup before it splintered on her face. "Lucky me," she said. She held tight to her confidence.

Ianto's smile barely touched his lips. "Let me know if you need me to hold anything," he said. This time her smile was genuine as she heard the offer of support behind his words.

It faded as she approached her desk to find Martha sitting on the other side, tapping her finger absently against the casing of an indeterminate blob.

"That's either a homing beacon for a cruiser or an alien disco ball," she said. "I'd rather you didn't make us find out by turning it on."

Martha snatched her hands back and watched as Tosh slid into her seat. Tosh set her coffee down and picked up the little device. As always, it made a gently questioning little hum when she picked it up. She watched Martha's eyes go wide.

"It didn't do that for me," she said.

"Really," said Tosh. She kept her voice flat and disinterested, even when this piece of news was very interesting indeed. As far as Tosh knew, the little noise was what the device did when seeking initialisation. The fact that it did not do it for Martha was a mystery. Concealing her curiosity with the ease of a lifetime's practice, she put the device aside.

"I thought we should talk," said Martha.

Tosh hummed a non-committal reply as she waited for her computer to initialise. She didn't want to talk. She wondered what remnant of socialisation prevented her from saying so outright. It's not like she thought Martha would listen, even if Tosh said no. Tosh wasn't going to waste her breath on anything but holding up her confidence like a paper screen.

"Can we go somewhere more private?" Martha asked, frustration colouring her voice.

"I'm not paid to have private talks at work," Tosh said.

"You were late this morning," Martha retorted.

"If you want to be in HR or payroll so you're actually allowed to stick your nose into my business, go talk to Jack. Otherwise, I have work to do."

Martha compressed her lips into a thin, dissatisfied line and Tosh felt a smug little bubble of pleasure work its way up through her chest. This was her place. She belonged here and Martha did not. She belonged here, and Martha needed to see that. Just so long as Martha didn't see her insecurity and worry, or her fear of ever going back to that place, she would be fine.

She began to sift through her vague to-do list, cataloguing priorities and projects put aside for a quiet day. As she pulled up her inventory of objects and chores, she ignored Martha and let her face settle into the blandest of masks.

"Martha?" called Jack. Tosh looked up too, seeing him leaning against the rail and looking down at her workstation. His face was in shadow and Tosh could read nothing from his tone. Ianto stood next to him with a cup of tea in his hand, waiting to hand it over. "Can I talk to you in my office for a moment?"

Martha stood, casting a last look at Tosh. Her gaze flickered over the blob she'd been playing with earlier and back to Tosh.

"I'll talk with you later," she said. Tosh merely nodded, eyes fixed on her monitor. In her peripheral vision, she saw Martha retreat before dragging her attention back to the content of the screen. The list on it was depressingly long, testament to how often they lurched from crisis to crisis. Tapping her fingers on the desk, she groped for her coffee and took a long drink, licking over her top lip thoughtfully when done. She drained the cup in her next swallow.

"That looked like you needed it," said Ianto. Tosh smiled, stilling her tapping to pick up the blob Martha had been playing with. It hummed again and Tosh smiled at it as she put it down.

"Caffeine is always essential," she said. "And your caffeine is always so smooth, my dear Ianto." She looked up and met his gaze with a mischievous smile. "How about picking that up for me?" she asked. He raised an eyebrow, but did as she requested. The hum was different this time, but still there.

"Is this interesting?" Ianto asked.

"Yeah, it is," Tosh said. "Thanks."

"Whatever makes you happy," Ianto said. Tosh smiled.

"It does make me happy."

"I'll be back with another coffee soon," Ianto promised, taking her cup and skirting her workstation to head for Gwen's. Tosh closed her inventory with a decisive nod. She knew exactly what she was going to be working on today. There was something intriguing about this blob. She blocked out the noise of the shouting in Jack's office.

Attaching her probes to the smooth outer surface, she didn't even notice when Martha left.

>>>>

Tosh felt stripped bare in front of her, but more alive and confident than she had in a long time. When she shrugged off her shirt and unhooked her bra, the tattoo artist didn't flinch, just considered how to place the design. She frowned a little over the ugly UNIT marker.

"Shoddy work," she said. "I could tidy it up for you."

"That one wasn't consensual," said Tosh. She wanted it to stay as it was, a marker on her skin that looked ragged and rough. UNIT wasn't her. They were brute force and dirty edges. The artist looked up at her but merely blinked a few times, obviously deciding not to ask.

"This one will be," she replied.

It didn't hurt as much as she expected. The pain bloomed on her skin, true, but it was hot and refreshing. It washed away other hurts with its clarity. Tosh breathed deep through it. Somehow, in the sharpness, she could find her centre, her purpose and belief. It felt good. It felt like freedom etched in sharp lines of her own choosing.

The artist put down the gun and the silence startled Tosh. She looked down as the artist smeared on ointment and slicked on a covering of clingfilm. Tosh took a deep breath or two, looking down at the uncompromising lines on her skin.

"We should get the colour done next time, if you can handle another long appointment."

"How soon can I come back?" Tosh asked.

"A fortnight," the artist replied. She was smiling, looking genuinely pleased with the progress of the art on Tosh's skin. Tosh could barely remember the person who'd done the scarring inking at UNIT; too disoriented and terrified to notice much beyond the restraints and the lights.

"Thanks," said Tosh. She wanted to say more. She wanted to tell this woman what this meant to her, both the design and the inking. She wanted to talk about how her parents wouldn't understand this choice she'd made, how they understood so few of the choices she'd ever made. She wanted to talk about how fiercely they loved her anyway, and how strong her duty and love were for them. Beneath the reddened lines of her own design, the UNIT symbol was harsh and unforgiving. She shrugged her shirt back on and listened to the artist tell her about aftercare.

>>>>

Work was uneventful. Tosh sat next to the Rift and listened to its quiet rhythms. They were there, she was sure. Buried deep down inside the surface wildness would be truth, the spare beauty of physics; maths like poetry to describe it. She knew she would find it eventually. Days like these, when the Rift was a bare whisper, she thought she came closest to it. The hum of it skittered over her skin and she felt her own rhythms falling into step. Her inventory steadily grew smaller, each item ticked off and catalogued, labelled and stored. She was careful with her markings.

The blob Martha had touched on the first quiet day continued to be intriguing. It responded only to her and Ianto, issuing an invitation so specific, so subtle, that she had trouble sifting out the layers of intent and engineering. Behind the interface, though, was space. Frowning, she shifted from a pointed probe to a fluffy duster arrangement, each delicate tip ready to read and report back to her.

She listened to the soft hum, watched the output slowly resolve on her screen into streams of data, choppy rushes of binary. Enthralled, she watched it run loops of numbers on her screen. Tosh fumbled for a pen, letting the low purr of the device be her soundtrack as she sketched out a program that would translate this binary into a form she could read. If the data was there, asking her for input or giving her a message, then her code would take it and interpret it for her. She delved into translation sub-routines, calling on dictionaries of alien languages, hoping that this would give her the secrets she was after.

Finally, she put down her pen and the device, looking around the Hub in surprise. She had nearly forgotten she was here, so lost in her own world she had been. She thought wistfully for a moment of what it would be like to be there all the time. Still, she felt happy, satisfied in her work and her effort. Touching her hand to her chest for a moment, she thought equally wistfully of those still imprisoned. They would never again get to feel this joy.

"Coffee?" asked Ianto. He stood on the other side of her desk, eyebrow raised in question.

"How long have I been gone?" she asked.

"Long enough that three cups of tea have gone cold," he said. She smiled. Of course Ianto would measure time in service.

"Then I definitely need a coffee," she said. Ianto smiled and reached out to touch the blob. It hummed for him and his grin widened.

"That's good, right?" he asked.

"Good and interesting, the best combination," she replied. She looked up at the sound of a scraping chair in the meeting room and saw Owen on his feet, waving his arms and shouting, though his words were muffled. Jack looked determined, and Martha uncomfortable. It was the first time Tosh had seen her look less than sure of herself, and she felt glad.

"Coffee," she said, turning back to Ianto. He was watching the drama unfold in the meeting room too, a frown line creasing his brow. She curled her fingers around his elbow and they walked together to the break room, footsteps light. She knew Ianto was listening to the Rift too.

>>>>

Tosh put down the blob, no longer indeterminate or even really blob-like. It had resolved into a collection of planes and vertices, dizzyingly cut and graded. Tosh was certain she understood it and the invitation it held out. It purred, almost, a mechanical whirr of coded satisfaction, as she stroked her finger over one of the shiny planes. Next to it lay two bands of metal, dark grey and beautiful in their simplicity. She picked on up and slipped it on, gasping as it hummed too, settling firmly round her wrist, over her pulse. She'd not expected to feel it connect to her, picking up the rhythm of her blood, the whoosh of her breath, the minutiae of her nervous system. She took a moment to feel the metal quiver and settle, warm as her skin; a comfortable weight.

Stretching, she looked round the Hub. Gwen was gone already for some bridal thing, or maybe just a romantic lunch. Owen wasn't there and she felt a spike of worry crawl over her nerves. She had seen him leave, slinking out like a shadow. But he had promised he was okay, she had his promise now.

"You look pleased with yourself," said Martha. Tosh didn't jump, barely even looked up.

"I am," she replied.

"I told Jack I thought you were a security risk," Martha said.

"I know," said Tosh. She hated the thought that she was vulnerable enough that Martha could even make the accusation.

"You could have just explained," said Martha.

"You could have trusted Jack," Tosh pointed out. "Why should I explain myself to you?"

"I know I'm not the boss here," Martha said.

"But you wanted me to treat you like you were," Tosh pointed out. She felt braver about saying it, bolder and stronger than ever before. "You wanted parts of me you had no right to demand, and you assumed you were allowed them."

"I was wrong." admitted Martha.

"You were."

"I'm sorry," she said. Tosh just raised her eyebrows, stroking a finger absent-mindedly over the device and listening to its hum under Martha's harried tone. "I am," she protested. "All I wanted was to know how you ended up here, after everything I'd been told."

"I'm not responsible for your education," said Tosh, more gently than she thought possible.

"You've told me that before."

"All these things you've done, the things that make you a hero... tell me, who did you do them for?" asked Tosh.

"For the world."

"Liar."

"For my family," said Martha. "For the people I love."

"Then you're the same as everyone UNIT imprisons. You're in that cell, you're the one with the dirty overalls and the shitty brand of ownership."

"That's you," said Martha. She looked somewhere between thoughtful and apologetic. Tosh thought that maybe she had learned something. She had that wearied look that went with self-reflection.

"Maybe," said Tosh. The little device under her hand whirred and clicked, rotating its planes slowly.

"I'm sorry," Martha said again. "For judging you."

Tosh shrugged. So many people had judged her, looking at her clothes or at her machines, or at her skin; another one was just another strike amongst so many. This one had just been more dangerous.

"UNIT... they don't recognise possibility," said Tosh. "They don't recognise potential, just compliance. How compliant are you?"

Martha stood there for long moments as Tosh scooped up her device and the spare bracelet and walked away, deliberately wrapping her fist round it and holding it against the cradle of her chest, up against the healed black outline, the half-healed colour. Tosh did not look back.

She was still part of that forgotten company, damned with the careless mark of UNIT's primitive methods. In her parole, she had found something worth serving freely. She hoped Martha could say the same thing.

>>>>

Taking a deep breath, Tosh slipped off her shirt in the little shop again. The artist smiled at her, touching a finger to the slope of Tosh's breast.

"It healed well," she said. Tosh smiled. It felt good. The colours were rich and bold. The gold and orange of the koi stood out against the blue water, the red and pink of the peonies was vibrant against green leaves, and the whole thing splashed across her chest like a shield. The image was everything Tosh had spent a lifetime learning not to be, then a month learning to embrace again. It was fierce, strong, proud and risk-taking. It didn't back down. It was good.

"Are you ready for the back?" the artist questioned. "It's so small."

"It's the exit wound," Tosh said. The artist just nodded and placed the transfer on Tosh's back with deft fingers, carefully positioning it parallel to the smudgy UNIT symbol on her chest. This time, the pain was welcome. Tosh let it flow through her, thinking of what the symbol meant. In her pocket, the device whirred and clicked almost soundlessly and the bracelet under her watchstrap still rested snugly on her pulse. Tomorrow, she would plug the device into the Mainframe and wait for the inevitable.

>>>>

Tosh had heard Jack speak of death. He'd spoken of the dark, the loneliness. He sat across her desk from her and fiddled with her stylus. She knew that he understood displacement and confinement; disappearance and silence. Sometimes she couldn't quite believe that he still understood hope.

"Things have been quiet," he said. "How's your box of unknowns?"

"Getting more empty every day," she replied. "Are you restless?"

"No," he said, "not really."

"Liar," she said.

"The Rift is, though."

"True," Tosh agreed. "I can hear it."

"Ianto broke three cups and a saucer this morning," Jack said.

"He can feel it too."

"You two... I don't think we've ever had two people who feel the Rift like you two do," Jack said.

"Wondering how you're ever going to do without us?" asked Tosh.

"That's a little morbid," Jack protested, but the melancholy of his voice gave him away. Tosh hid her smile. On her wrist, her bracelet hummed a little, a smug little secret sound. It had mapped her thoroughly, soaking up as much of her as it could.

"We'll always be with you," she said. Reaching out, she stilled his fingers on her stylus, taking it from his grasp and wrapping her fingers round his. He squeezed back. "Trust me on this," she said.

"You're easy to trust," he said. She laughed and rubbed her thumb over his wrist. Leaning forward, she kissed his cheek. "Tosh," he said, and the flirtatious note to his voice was different, even more of a cover-up than usual. "Tosh, did I just see colour down your modest and decorous cleavage?"

Tosh considered Jack. He was someone she'd never thought to have so close, but she looked round the quietness of the Hub and made her decision. Letting go of Jack's wrist, she raised her fingers to her buttons, slipping them free without haste. She shrugged the shirt off and stood, hands reaching behind her for her bra fastening. If he should see, he should see it all.

She felt some of the assurance she'd felt in the tattoo parlour, some of the bravado she'd felt in her final conversation with Martha, but mostly she felt certain in her place, the edges she'd skirted and the decisions she'd made. She didn't feel ashamed or scared, or nervous about Jack's eyes on her.

"It's beautiful," he said. "But... I didn't know those bastards did that."

"That's not the important part now," she said. Jack nodded. Looking up, she saw Ianto in the doorway and smiled at him, inviting him into the moment. He stepped forward to stand by Jack's side.

"For... action, taking risks and ambition?" Ianto questioned.

"Yes," she said. She slipped her arms back into the straps, putting herself back together. Ianto walked round the table, taking the ends of her bra and hooking them together efficiently. His thumb brushed over the tattoo on his back, but he slid his hands away without comment and picked up her shirt, holding it out for her to put on. "Thank you," she said.

"You're welcome," he said. Her fingers paused on the buttons and she stood up on tip toes, pressing a kiss to Ianto's cheek. He smiled down at her, then across at Jack.

"I actually came to tell you both that I have fresh Eccles Cakes in the breakroom," he said. "But, naturally, I was distracted."

"Naturally," Tosh replied. "But now we have no secrets from each other, and the cakes are waiting."

"No secrets?" laughed Jack. She lightly pushed at his shoulder as she walked past, heading for the break room with light footsteps. The Rift was uneasy, but for the moment the Hub was quiet.

>>>>

Tosh had always known that death would be her only escape. She hadn't imagined waiting for it so eagerly. It hurt; cold, except for the sticky warmth of her own blood. She breathed, relishing the burn of the air into her lungs, knowing that there would be only a few more. The hum of the bracelet round her wrist got faster, sensing that her body was winding down. She left her messages, the ones they would expect. She knew her real message, the one she'd finally finished, would be found eventually. She could wait. She had all the time in the world.

>>>>

Her first blink of wakefulness hurt nearly as much as the bullet did. Tosh stretched out, seeking the limits of her mind in this new world, new dimension. The chatter of the gates and the relentless rush of data was nearly overwhelming, but she slowly unfurled, finding herself in the virtual world, and her brain shuttered out the noise to a background hum.

The device sheltered her now, plugged into the servers down in the lowest basement. The bracelet sat on her lifeless wrist in a drawer somewhere; her wrist here was bare. Somehow, she'd expected something less like home; or, at least, the virtual reality version of it. There was her bonsai on the kitchen bench, but the bowl was a different shape, something relentlessly geometric and not the curve of real life. The view outside her window, though, when she opened the curtain, was a dark eye into nothing. Her reflection stared back at her, dark eyes and hair and the splash of colour on her chest. She shut the curtain and crossed to the low table, set with cushions and a tea set, her laptop waiting for her. She no longer needed to touch it, each thought moved her through the virtual world.

She rose to the surface, looking for Jack and Ianto. She could feel them somewhere, stored in the memory and also out there, interacting with the sensors. She wondered if either of them knew she was here yet, if they'd found the traces of her in the computers. One of them would, she knew. Someone would figure out how she'd uploaded herself.

The computer screen in front of her showed connections and folders, data that she could play with and mine. She could sort and categorise. She might be able to find the mathematics that would finally lay bare the Rift and its secrets. She would be able to duplicate the programs that sheltered her, backing herself up and making herself indestructible. She would be connected, virtual; constrained by wiring and programming alone. If this was her final prison, she knew it was the one she'd freely chosen and shaped herself.

She thought of all the possibilities of connection, all the pathways down which data flowed. She would find them and use them. Smiling, she considered UNIT and its tempting vulnerabilities before turning back to her immediate tasks.

The Mainframe was ticking over nicely, the Hub settling back into its accustomed rhythms. Ianto might have already found her last message to him, stored in a place only he would think to look. He served the Hub as surely as she served the Mainframe; he'd find her message. Then there might be more rooms to be made and the sleek lines of his espresso machine would find a home here too.

If Jack was Torchwood Three, then Tosh was the Mainframe; Ianto the Hub. They were sentinels on the Rift, spread round the edges of that wavering gap.
lilacsigil: Toshiko Sato, "oh no toshiko!" (toshiko)

[personal profile] lilacsigil 2010-01-26 01:01 pm (UTC)(link)
Wow! This is an astonishing story, and at every paragraph I was more and more impressed by the layers of knowledge and regained control that Toshiko held; and the strange calmness of the telling, as if there was nothing more truly bad that could happen. Martha disturbed that cold, hard-won peace but I was glad to see Tosh defending herself and defiant rather than compliant, and giving Martha the warning that she never had. That prison scene and Tosh's coerced membership was really disturbing to me, and I am really thrilled to see this wonderful story discuss and dissect what may have happened then and afterwards.

(Also, the parts with Ianto and Tosh brought tears to my eyes - so much of Torchwood's functionality depended on them, and to see them as those sentinels was fantastic.)
sophinisba: Gwen looking sexy from Merlin season 2 promo pics (gwen by infinitesunrise)

[personal profile] sophinisba 2010-01-30 04:37 am (UTC)(link)
This is fantastic. I really love Tosh's strength, especially in the scenes with Martha, her refusal to back down in order to make someone else feel comfortable. And the relationship with Jack and Ianto, omg, that last section was just gorgeous.
sophinisba: Gwen looking sexy from Merlin season 2 promo pics (toshiko by hermitsoul)

[personal profile] sophinisba 2011-01-12 10:32 pm (UTC)(link)
Hey there, I'm interested in doing a podfic of this for the [community profile] chromatic_podfic challenge. Would you be up for that?
sophinisba: Gwen looking sexy from Merlin season 2 promo pics (toshiko by hermitsoul)

[personal profile] sophinisba 2011-01-13 05:50 pm (UTC)(link)
Hooray! Say, would you like my to call you "redsnake zero five" or "redsnake oh five" or just "redsnake" in the intro?
sophinisba: Gwen looking sexy from Merlin season 2 promo pics (goddess)

[personal profile] sophinisba 2011-03-01 04:55 am (UTC)(link)
Here's the podfic with some others! Thanks, I really enjoyed doing this one!

[identity profile] colouredmango.livejournal.com 2010-01-23 01:13 am (UTC)(link)
That's really lovely-- I like this woman I've never met so much.

[identity profile] redsnake05.livejournal.com 2010-01-23 01:20 am (UTC)(link)
Thanks so much! I really love her, and it's great to know that you feel like you know her enough to like her, just through my writing *beams*

[identity profile] moth2fic.livejournal.com 2010-01-23 10:24 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh YES! I wish RTD and his writers had been as brave as you. This is how Torchwood ought to have gone - not that CoE rubbish with them shooting bullets at bullet proof glass and dying for nothing in five nights of self-aggrandisement.(Forgive the rant).

Your Toshika is perfect. And I love what she did.

(Typo: His thumb brushed over the tattoo on his back,)

BTW, your sub hasn't reached our mailbox yet. Try again?

[identity profile] redsnake05.livejournal.com 2010-01-23 10:38 pm (UTC)(link)
*hugs* The rant is perfectly understandable! Torchwood is one of those fandoms that I love but it itches at me with its dissatisfying moments and unexplored characterisations and possibilities - I think that's what makes it simultaneously a joy and a horror to write in.

*rushes to fix the damn typo*

Also, I received an email this morning saying that the submission had been received... so I hope it was true

[identity profile] moth2fic.livejournal.com 2010-01-23 10:43 pm (UTC)(link)
I think the problem is that I can't access the completely up-to-date inbox on the site! Google isn't talking to it, it would appear.*g* I will no doubt hear the truth tomorrow!! (It is currently stuck on Jan 10th and I don't know what I did wrong - *wibbles*)

[identity profile] redsnake05.livejournal.com 2010-01-23 10:53 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh noes! You're having a groundhog day, only not. Most irritating. But, yeah, hopefully you will see it soon.

[identity profile] jalabert.livejournal.com 2010-01-24 02:54 am (UTC)(link)
This is brilliant! So much of tosh lay hidden behind a mask; I love this glimpse into her soul.

[identity profile] redsnake05.livejournal.com 2010-01-24 03:20 am (UTC)(link)
I am so glad you liked the peep behind the mask. I think Tosh was always very much hidden from view in the show and I enjoyed having a chance to open her up a little. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

[identity profile] nancybrown.livejournal.com 2010-01-25 05:31 am (UTC)(link)
This was just PERFECT. I want to take this fic home and have its babies, omg. *loves on your Tosh voice and characterization and this whole thing SO MUCH*

[identity profile] redsnake05.livejournal.com 2010-01-25 08:35 am (UTC)(link)
*beams* thanks so much! I'm delighted to hear that this fic worked for you. I adore writing Tosh, and this fic, in particular, got right under my skin. It makes me really happy to hear that you liked it, especially the voice and characterisation.

[identity profile] lizzleness.livejournal.com 2010-01-26 01:29 am (UTC)(link)
This was simply splendid and breathtaking. I love the connection between Tosh, Ianto, and Jack.

I miss Tosh...

[identity profile] redsnake05.livejournal.com 2010-01-26 04:20 am (UTC)(link)
I miss Tosh too. She was awesome. I am glad that you enjoyed the fic - the connection between Tosh, Ianto and Jack has long been one I want to explore and I'm pleased that you liked the result.

[identity profile] purple-cube.livejournal.com 2010-02-10 06:18 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, this is just lovely! I love how you've written Tosh, and the way that she ready to take her life back. I also love her interaction with Martha, and the fact that she wants Martha to find out for herself what UNIT are like and not have to be told by her.

[identity profile] redsnake05.livejournal.com 2010-02-11 04:38 am (UTC)(link)
Thanks so much for leaving a comment. I'm so glad that you liked the interaction with Martha - I have always thought that their relationship must have been difficult, particularly after seeing Fragments and being able to put all the pieces together.

(Anonymous) 2011-04-18 10:25 pm (UTC)(link)
Beautiful, elegant and appropriate.

In particular I loved this line.

If Jack was Torchwood Three, then Tosh was the Mainframe; Ianto the Hub. They were sentinels on the Rift, spread round the edges of that wavering gap.

That... basically says it all, to me. And I always loved that idea of Tosh continuing on within the mainframe itself.

On a side note, I had no idea you could make tea from chryanthenums.

She was still part of that forgotten company, damned with the careless mark of UNIT's primitive methods. In her parole, she had found something worth serving freely. She hoped Martha could say the same thing.

It's funny but I've always thought that spending time at Torchwood eventually became one of the reasons Martha left UNIT and ended up a freelancer (I believed her when she said she thought she could change them -what builds confidence more than walking around the world, staying alive and saving everything?) but Torchwood shows us that UNIT has become something cold; something ugly. It hurts to look at what it became.

Tosh is is the example of that wrongness seeping in and I love the way you demonstrated that here by showing the clash between her and Martha. How ironic that UNIT should now how true to the things the Doctor hates, while Torchwood were potential allies...