PG, 2500 words
Torchwood; Ianto, Tosh, background canon pairings
Summary: There's not really much of a support network in the event of the death of your alien girlfriend. Tosh and Ianto make do.
Notes: About a month ago, secondsilk had a birthday, and asked for these two. Apologies once again that this is so late! This story is something of a tag to Greeks Bearing Gifts. Thanks to onehundredmoons for her help.
Even though she could still feel the sensation of the crystal smashing beneath her feet, in some ways it was as though Toshiko had never taken the pendant off. Having been privy to her colleagues' thoughts once, she now found them easier to interpret, their body language more readable. She didn't know if this was due to some residual alien energy - after all, it wasn't like she'd actually known the first thing about that necklace, she'd just gone ahead and worn it anyway - or whether she actually had learnt something from the whole sorry mess. Either way, if these were the kind of lengths she had to go to in order to acquire better social skills, Tosh really couldn't help thinking that must make her a lost cause.
Jack insisted she take some time off, afterwards, but she couldn't bear the thought of sitting alone in her flat while the others had free reign to discuss her, so she spent as much time as she could at work, cataloguing and archiving until her racing mind finally began to slow.
On the Tuesday after the Mary incident, the Hub was almost at a standstill, with no new Rift activity to distract them from the fact that one of their own had nearly compromised them completely, again. Tosh knew she already had their forgiveness, because they'd all done similar and worse before, after all, and what they all needed was reassurance that this wasn't the end, that yet another mistake had not led to the end of the world.
Team Torchwood: defenders of the Earth. On a day like today, lost in her own head as she was, it struck Tosh forcefully just how terrifying that was. There had always been London, before; better organised, bigger staff, the place where the buck really stopped. Now they were on their own, with UNIT keeping its own agenda, and they weren't ready, couldn't cope with everything that the universe kept throwing at them, and oh, God, she'd nearly destroyed the city just because a pretty girl batted her eyelashes and told her she was worth something.
It was unbearable. Tosh tore her earpiece off, throwing it viciously into the labyrinth of wires that ran along the side of her desk, and slipped away. Jack was holed up in his office, no doubt looking busy but probably lost somewhere in his own thoughts, where he seemed to spend so much of his time. Gwen and Owen - well, she definitely didn't need psychic powers to work out what they might be doing now.
Really, when she thought about it, maybe it wasn't surprising that when she walked out to the harbour, hoping the sea air would clear her head, Ianto was already there.
"Hey," he said quietly, not turning from his contemplation on the lapping waves.
"You all right?"
"Yeah." Ianto looked at her, smiled briefly.
Tosh sighed, reached out a hand to rest on Ianto's arm. "I suppose you do. Ianto, I've never told you how - how sorry I am, about Lisa."
Ianto nodded. "Thank you."
But that was so inadequate, wasn't it? Words failed her when it came to the real stuff - not aliens, not saving the world, but grief and loss and mourning and all the other things that no amount of research could ever really teach you how to deal with. She didn't need that pendant to feel the misery that was radiating out from Ianto, and didn't have a clue what to do about it.
"What are you doing tonight?" The sentence left her mouth before she had a chance to think about it, before she analysed and filtered the words like she always did. The question hung unanswered, for a moment.
"Do you really think I have plans?" Ianto asked with a laugh that nearly broke Tosh's heart.
"Well. If you wanted to - I mean, I just thought that maybe it'd be good for you, you know, not to spend all of your off-work time alone."
"You sound like Jack."
"Well, he's not wrong often, is he?" She hadn't had a 'no' so far, and Tosh felt heartened in her efforts. "Come on. When was the last time I saw you out of the Hub?"
"Tosh, I'm not - I doubt I can cheer you up, restore your faith in humanity. You can't fix me."
"I never said I could. But I can buy you a beer."
Ianto smiled slightly. "Well, that's an offer I might be able to take you up on."
"Great! That's great."
The last vestiges of the sunset were disappearing beyond the horizon, so they turned from the harbour and began to walk back into the city. They walked mostly in silence; Tosh attempted conversation once or twice, something banal about mission reports or filing, but her heart wasn't in it, and Ianto seemed elsewhere entirely. She began to wonder is this was a really bad idea, and the feeling only heightened as they got to the city centre, where the rugby crowd were still in full swing, packs of them moving through the streets loud and brash on the back of a home win. Every bar within half a mile looked like it was going to be heaving.
"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea," she said.
"No, don't worry, it's fine."
But Tosh could see the tension in Ianto's shoulders, and his expression growing even more closed, if that were possible.
"Do you know what? I've got a better idea."
They wandered into a side street, and Tosh dispatched Ianto to pick up something from the off-license while she went and ordered as much Chinese as she could carry.
"We're not predictable at all, are we?" Ianto remarked as they stood on the pavement again, watching a group of students race past them.
"Oh well." Tosh glanced at him, wondering if she was imagining something of a smile playing on his features, half-hidden in the shadow cast by the streetlight above them. "So, your place or mine?"
"Oh, God, yours please."
It occurred to Tosh she'd never actually been in Ianto's flat, and wondered how on earth that had come about. She let it pass, however, just led the way, and when they got to hers she raced around, tidying up the empty mugs and sections of newspaper that she hadn't had the will to clear up before. Ianto had still barely said a thing, but Tosh felt better all the same, her energy refocused, like the world was coming together, her sense of herself returning. She shrugged off her coat, shook out her hair, and let the business of the day go.
And when she found a bit of paper covered in Mary's doodling scrawl (drawn while she sat in Tosh's kitchen, talking and laughing and luring her in all the while with those eyes, those eyes that had shone with such limitless possibility, before they'd turned to snarling vitriol), she screwed it up and threw it away and only felt the slightest shiver of grief as she did so.
"Right, right, come and sit down, I'll get glasses."
Ianto sat stiffly in her armchair while Tosh put food in the oven to keep it warm and poured out two beers. Ianto murmured a "Thank you," but said little else, so Tosh switched on the TV and flicked through channels, looking for something mindless. Sci-Fi was showing a crappy seventies alien invasion flick, and it was perfect. The aliens looked ridiculous and the acting so wooden she wondered if they'd hired robots rather than people.
"Assimilate this!" the heroic lead cried, and the leader of the Martians let out a piercing death cry and exploded into a mess of purple gunk. Tosh smirked, and looked over at Ianto, who caught her eye, and they both burst out laughing.
"Ah, if only they knew," Tosh said, still chuckling.
"Thank goodness they don't."
"Yeah, I suppose so."
Then an unearthly cackle sounded out from the TV as the end credits rolled, and Ianto started laughing again. "Well," he said, standing up, "that Chinese isn't going to eat itself."
Tosh started to get up, but he waved her off. "I think I'm about capable of finding your crockery."
"Are you sure?"
Ianto just smiled and walked into the kitchen. Tosh sipped her beer meditatively, thinking about what it must be like to live an ordinary life, to know precious little of aliens and other worlds and the imminent destruction that always seemed to be bubbling in the Rift beneath their feet. She'd chosen this life, jumped at the chance to know more about science and technology than anyone she graduated with, wanting to learn and discover things that nobody else had imagined before. She knew Owen had the same drive inside him, though you wouldn't always know it to speak to him, and the way Gwen had fallen into their laps was a good enough hook for life.
With Ianto, she never thought she'd seen any of that, just a desire to keep to himself, to do his job, and to do it well. She wondered what his position had been in London, and realised that was yet another thing she didn't know.
"You ok?" Ianto asked, and she jumped.
"Sorry, I was miles away."
"May I tempt you back to the present with a spring roll?" Ianto cleared space on her coffee table, laying out food in neat, orderly clusters.
"That's all right." He drained his glass and reached for another bottle, not looking at her as he snapped the lid off and loosened his tie. "So. Do you want to talk about it?"
"Huh?" Tosh asked, momentarily thrown. "Oh. That's not why I asked you over, not really."
"I know. But you can't talk to Owen, don't want to talk Gwen either, and Jack's probably already given you a pep talk that's supposed to be helpful, but in reality is enigmatic and possibly even mildly irritating, so."
Tosh smiled. "I probably should, shouldn't I?"
"I'm no psychologist, but probably."
"And you don't mind?"
"Not at all."
"Right. I'm going to need more beer for this."
Ianto lifted up his glass and nodded. "Cheers."
Tosh sighed, trying to get all of her scattered thoughts together. "I just - oh, I feel terrible," she admitted, running a hand across her face. "I'm embarrassed, and angry at myself, but most of all I feel awful about what nearly happened."
Ianto shook his head. "There's no point beating yourself up over it. Everything turned out ok."
"No thanks to me," Tosh muttered.
He shrugged. "They got one up on you this time. It happens. You couldn't know what she was planning."
"Or I didn't want to know."
"Tosh. As these things go, it's not that bad. And, well. Seeing as I've still got a job after-- after everything, I wouldn't worry," he finished.
"I… Ok. Thank you. And look, if you want--"
Ianto shook his head and cut her off. "Believe me, I don't."
"Right. All right."
"Also, and this really is none of my business, but I'll ask anyway - was that your first relationship with a woman?"
"Sorry?" Tosh spluttered. "I, well. Sort of."
"Yeah, I know how that is."
Tosh's eyes widened. "You do?"
Ianto reddened. "Well, yes."
"I didn't know that."
They sat in awkward silence for a few minutes. Tosh was sure there ought to be something she should say at this point, but surprise combined with lingering embarrassment on her own part left her devoid of conversation openers to say to one's co-worker regarding your mutual deviant sexual leanings. Ianto just helped himself to more chow mein, and didn't meet her eye.
"Do you want to watch a DVD or something?"
"Yeah, good idea," Ianto replied before she'd quite finished the sentence.
They settled for The Matrix, and as green code began to cascade down the screen, the uncomfortable feeling in the room unwound itself. Tosh curled up on the sofa, laughing at the Wachowski brothers' idea of advanced technology, and gradually Ianto seemed to relax again.
At some point it became a very good idea for Tosh to go and forage in the kitchen for a bottle of wine, and it wasn't long after that before she was lying back in her seat, loose-limbed and feeling expansive. She desperately hoped Ianto was similar, or this was going to be seven different shades of embarrassing come morning.
"So," Ianto said, "I think I might be about to start sleeping with Jack."
"Wait, what?" Tosh sat upright, startled. "That's a little sudden, isn't it?"
"Not really." Ianto laughed. "He's been trying to for a long while now, and, well. You know Jack. He's… persistent."
There was a pause. "You know, I'm not going to be best pleased I told you this in the morning," Ianto said thoughtfully.
"Oh, don't worry about it, I won't say a thing," Tosh replied hastily. "But, Ianto? Are you sure about that? I don't want to be, you know, too invasive or anything, but it seems a bit--"
"That's not the word I'd use, but--"
"I know. Torchwood can foot the bill for my therapy later. It's just - it's just Jack, I suppose." Ianto's eyes searched the ceiling, an odd smile playing on his face.
"And it's not too soon, after Lisa?"
The smile left Ianto's face. "She'll still be just as dead tomorrow. It never changes."
"Sorry, I didn't mean…"
"No, I know."
"You and Jack, then." Tosh laughed. "Torchwood, honestly. I've never worked anywhere else like this. The things it does to us."
"Yeah." Ianto leaned over, briefly touched Tosh's arm. "We'll be all right, you know."
"You know what?" Tosh answered, reaching over to top up their glasses, "I reckon we just might be. Thanks, Ianto."
"For, despite all intent, restoring my faith in humanity."
Ianto looked surprised, but he smiled. "Oh. You're welcome."
Tosh switched off the TV, and turning to quiz Ianto further on this latest nugget of information, she decided that maybe he was right: they were all of them broken, messed up in their own particular ways, but the world was still standing, and that might be enough to make everything all right.