Cog-nition

There's a downside to being reliable

Torchwood/Romance/Angst/Toshiko/Owen and Ianto/Jack

"That's not the way to get more fiber into your diet," Ianto mused while leaning against a pole next to Tosh's monitors. Toshiko was biting down on a pencil with a quizzical look on her face and furiously typing computations on the keyboard.

Half a minute passed before Ianto spoke again.

"Tosh? You still in there?" Tosh was infamous for becoming engrossed in her work, but she was rarely impolite.

Tosh looked up. "Sorry Ianto, you say something?"

"I was checking for signs of life. What are you working on?"

"I'm still trying to perfect the rift predictor program. If I could just narrow down the meteorological phenomena that occur when the rift opens, we might be able to better predict when it will open."

"You want to tie when the rift opens to weather conditions? C'mon, Tosh – half the time the weatherman on the BBC tells me to bundle up I end up shedding my scarf and gloves within the first three minutes of my commute!"

"I like to think I'm a little better at this than a television weather bureau," Tosh said with a glare and in a tone indicating she felt offended. Tosh was called many things, but stupid was never one of them.

"Sorry," Ianto said ashamedly while casting his eyes downwards. "I'll leave you to it."

As Ianto turned away and walked, Toshiko realized she had behaved badly.

"Ianto, wait!" Tosh called out, causing Ianto to stop and turn towards her again. By this time she had caught up with him.

"Ianto, I didn't mean to jump down your throat. My nerves are frayed from calculations, permutations, and probabilities. I've been going at this too long today."

"That's what I was thinking," Ianto replied. "I came down to see if you had plans for dinner."

"Dinner? What time is it?"

"A little after eight."

"Shit! Where has the time gone? Where has everyone else gone?"

"Gwen said she needed to get home to Rhys because she hadn't seen him in three days, and Jack and Owen are out on a call. Something about an RAF pilot seeing a UFO. After they debrief him, my guess is Owen will 'prescribe' some Retcon."

Toshiko had never been out with just Ianto before. She didn't have anything against Ianto, but she didn't feel like she had all that much in common with Ianto, either. She didn't think Ianto was unintelligent or unattractive, it's just that Ianto was always just sort of there. After snapping at him, Toshiko thought dinner might be a good way to patch things up.

"What did you have in mind?" Toshiko said with her rarely-seen smile.

"What are you in the mood for?"

"Something close and not too pricey – my oven blew up last week and the repairs to the kitchen took a bite out of my budget."

"How about that Turkish place Bosphorus?"

"Sounds good," Tosh replied while grabbing her leather jacket.

As Ianto and Tosh exited the hub, Ianto couldn't resist asking the obvious question.

"What were you doing that caused your oven to blow up?"

"I was just making a batch of cookies and there was a short in the wiring and it exploded. I was furious. I only bought the oven about a year ago."

"I didn't know you baked."

"I don't, usually. I just had a craving for chocolate chip cookies and I hate the pre-baked kind from the store. They're always so dry and crumbly."

"Definitely. You have to drink a liter of milk just to choke down a couple."

The two walked on for a couple of minutes before making another attempt at small talk. The frantic pace of working at Torchwood Three didn't usually allow for water-cooler conversation.

"I shouldn't let it bother me. I work with machines all day and I know they often fail. I guess because it's not a high-tech gadget – I mean, it's an oven – I guess I just expect it to be dependable."

"Isn't that the way it always is, though?"

"Always the way what is?"

"If you depend on something – or someone – to always work the way it has in the past, and it – or him, or her – always comes through, you don't think about it until it, or him, or her isn't reliable."

Toshiko allowed this thought to sink in before making a reply.

"You're right. It's easy to take things or people for granted when they deliver all the time. Take us, for example. We're always the first to arrive, and if Jack didn't live at the office, we'd be the last to leave. Whenever there's a technical problem, everyone assumes I'll be able to figure it out within nanoseconds and I get grief if it takes longer. And you have it even worse. You have to do all the dirty work – dealing with dead bodies and the other undesirable tasks that keep us below the public's radar. And what do you get for it besides a paycheck?"

"I must admit, I do often feel like I'm a refuse disposal man in a nice suit," Ianto conceded.

Shortly after arriving at Bosphorus, Ianto and Toshiko were seated and began to peruse the menu. Both were silent until the waiter came and took their orders. After he left, Ianto picked up the conversation.

"It's not limited to the job, you know," Ianto said.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, look at us. We're both relatively young and relatively attractive, but neither of us is with the one we fancy – no offense."

"You think there's someone I fancy?" Toshiko asked.

"Tosh, you're very good at concealing the nature of our work, but when Owen walks in the room, it's pretty obvious how you feel."

Tosh sighed heavily, then leaned in. "Really?" she asked in a low voice while scrunching her eyebrows together.

"Really," Ianto confirmed. "But I'm not passing any judgment. I get the same way with Jack."

"I must admit, I did notice," Toshiko replied.

After a prolonged awkward pause, Tosh broke the silence.

"Can you get drinks here?"

"Let's find out," Ianto said as he motioned to the waiter to come back to their table.

After dinner and three pub stops, Tosh and Ianto were at Ianto's door. Both were laughing as if they had been trapped in a party supply store filled with leaky helium tanks.

"I don't think you're going to make it home," Ianto said between gaffs.

"I think you're right," Toshiko said while laughing.

As Ianto fumbled with his keys, his eyes became wide and a smile spread across his face.

"I have an idea . . . but I don't know if you're up for it."

Tosh propped herself against the door for support.

"Try me."

"I think you should crash on my couch, but we should let the others draw their own conclusions about you staying over."

A mischievous grin not often seen formed on Tosh's face.

"You mean . . . let Owen and Jack think that we . . . ?" Toshiko asked while waving her hand back and forth between herself and Ianto.

"Why not?" Ianto asked, attempting to add dignity to this suggestion while simultaneously trying to bring himself back up to his full height but swaying into the still-locked door instead and hitting his head. After a few moments, he looked at Toshiko.

"That's supposed to hurt, right?"

"Yeah . . . especially since you're bleeding a bit. Let me try to open the door and get you bandaged up."

In merely five minutes, Tosh the techie managed to open Ianto's flat with his key while in a seriously inebriated state. The pair stumbled through the front door, and within another 20 minutes, Tosh had dressed Ianto's fairly minor wound and Ianto provided Tosh with a pillow and blanket so she could curl up on the couch.

Six hours later, Tosh smelled something vaguely familiar. She turned her head towards the aroma before fully opening her eyes.

"Breakfast is ready," Ianto called out while removing the pan from the stove.

Toshiko rubbed her eyes and crawled out from under the cozy blanket. As she sat down at her plate, she couldn't help but laugh.

"Chocolate-chip pancakes?!"

"I thought cookies for breakfast might be a bit much," Ianto replied. "An American e-pal of mine and I trade recipes, and I thought this would be the right time to give this one a go."

It seemed as if it had been a million years ago since Ianto and Toshiko had trouble making conversation. Last night they had traded stories about the slights and oversights of their respective loved ones who may or may not ever love them back. It wasn't the liquor or the gallows humor or the shield of sarcasm to protect each of their hearts from breaking – it was the sharing of that awful kind of pain that comes from unrequited love.

While doing the dishes, Toshiko suddenly became serious.

"We're just cogs in the machinery, aren't we?"

"What machinery?"

"In Jack's, in Owen's, in Torchwood's. We don't get noticed unless we're not working or missing."

"Have you already forgotten our plan for this morning?"

Toshiko let out a chuckle. "No."

"Then let's go," Ianto said while holding up Tosh's jacket for her to put on.

About 20 minutes later, Toshiko and Ianto walked into the hub – together.

"Who's that coming in 15 minutes late?" Jack bellowed from his office.

"It's Ianto," Gwen replied.

"And . . . Tosh?" Owen added with a bit of incredulity.

"Ianto and Tosh? Together?" Jack whispered to himself before stepping out into the open part of the hub to see them for himself.

Gwen and Owen had also walked towards the entrance for a closer look, and arrived just in time to see Toshiko straightening Ianto's tie and Ianto tucking a bit of hair behind Tosh's left ear. They flashed each other a knowing smile while Ianto walked backwards to reach the tourist office front and Tosh looked over her shoulder at him while heading towards her computer station.

Gwen merely shrugged her shoulders before returning to her work, leaving Jack and Owen standing between the separating Tosh and Ianto.

"Tosh . . . and Ianto?" Owen mused.

Jack let out a deep sigh. "I guess that's what we get for taking others for granted."

"Speak for yourself," Owen retorted before heading back to his desk to figure out why Tosh had stopped fawning over him.

"It's not over," Jack said to himself with a note of resolve he hadn't mustered for a non-work related reason in a long time.

Two minutes later, Tosh picked up her ringing phone to read the text message.

"No one is more attractive than someone who seems unavailable. Do you think it worked? Ianto."

Tosh glanced over at Jack, who was still staring at the door Ianto had just exited, and happened to also catch Owen's eyes, which were fixed upon her in a way she hadn't seen before.

Letting loose that rare smile again, Toshiko replied with her own message.

"Like a well-oiled machine. Tosh."

THE END