Fic: Lines of Command
Two things I've learned from this round of writerinadrawer; never trust your instincts, and semi-colons aren't always the friends they pretend to be.
I'm still not entirely happy with this story, but have posted it anyway, because...well. Other people seemed to be!
Title: Lines of Command
Disclaimer: I don't own Torchwood, nor its characters.
A/N: Written for round 3.04 of writerinadrawer; for the prompts lessons learned and school supplies, in 500 words. Spoilers for To the Last Man. Any feedback is welcomed!
Summary: No one at Torchwood hesitates, or teeters on the edge of doubt, like he always has. Except her.
Tommy spends his life surrounded by commands; shouting from posters, blaring from wirelesses; telling him what to do, and how he should be.
Join up and fight!
On the battlefield they’re thrice the volume; embedding into him the way fleas do, into the seams of his uniform; painful but persistent invasions.
Move! Charge! FIRE!
Even after he escapes that hell-hole and is locked away for what he’s told is a far greater cause than he can understand, the commands continue; intended benevolently, but he still sees through them.
Look. Listen. See how this works.
These new figures are determined to better him; even if it’s under the guise of teaching. Whether they’re thrusting new technology at him, or regaling him with tales of the unseen world; he feels like an experiment, someone fresh upon whom they can ply their knowledge, their boasting, regardless of what he could teach them. About their roots, their beginnings, how they can avoid unnecessary disasters from happening again.
Then one day he awakens, and it’s...quiet. No instructions; no aggressive enthusiasm. Alex and the newest team have vanished, and the haunted darkness of Captain Jack’s eyes tells Tommy more than words ever will. Jack is friendly, but authoritative and distant; the soldier Tommy could never be. The clinical quiet of Torchwood envelops them all.
It’s a while before he notices the Japanese girl in the background.
Even after Tommy’s been introduced to Toshiko, she hangs back; retreating to her workstation as he gingerly tries to get his bearings.
Her desk is littered with pieces of unknown technology, frayed wires protruding at odd angles. Her eyes flicker up at him; a smile playing at her lips. Without quite knowing why, he picks up a device which looks like a shinier, heavier mobile phone. He weighs it in his palm.
“What is this?” he asks.
“It’s a PDA,” she replies.
He taps at the screen with a pencil and the thing bleeps loudly, making him jump.
“Do you want to, um, see how it works?” asks Toshiko hesitantly, and Tommy feels his stomach give an unfamiliar swoop, because no one at Torchwood hesitates, or teeters on the edge of doubt; like he always has.
He nods, and she smiles, and teaches him how he’s always wanted to be taught; with a wide berth, room for negotiation and questions, and curiosity.
And despite days, or years, of re-animation at Torchwood’s hands; for the first time, he feels awake.
Later, he and Tosh retire to the pub, watching revellers party around them.
“Not used to it being this loud!” Tommy shouts in her ear.
She smiles, resting her chin on her hand.
“What were pubs like in 1918, then?” she asks.
He blinks, surprised, but she looks genuinely curious, smile small and shy. He can feel a stupid grin emerging, but he doesn’t care. He leans forward, and tells, and tells, and tells.