Deviations from the mean
"We've got a voyeur," Suzie said to the back of the room. "Do you think he liked our show?" As she stepped forward the harsh electric light from the open doorway cascaded over a hardened nipple, down over a flat stomach to the curve of her mons. She swayed slightly, pale breasts slipping in and out of shadow, the blade of a smile on her face. "Don't be shy. Come in and say hello."
A half muffled voice from the dark interior asked her a question. "It's only Ianto." Lips parted a fraction more. "And I do believe he's creamed himself."
The figure by the door bolted.
Suzie turned towards the gloom, hair curling at her shoulder. "He’s a child in a man’s body. Whatever do you see in him?"
"Human compassion," Jack’s voice replied, the noise of his trouser zip closing echoing around the bare walls with a metallic finality.
"How gloriously kinky," she said archly. Their coupling was obviously over so she sat down on the nearest seat and looked around for anything to finish off with. The heel of the stiletto looked promising but Suzie remembered from the last time the black rubber streaks it left on her pubis. It had been sharp enough worn though to pierce Jack’s shoulder – the thin carmine line on the back of his white cotton tee-shirt a rather pleasing reminder of the way he’d gasped with the sudden pain and ground his hips further into the pile of her discarded clothing.
The dress would have been crushed beyond recognition now but it was a small price to pay to maintain her professionalism.
"You’re not seriously going after him?" Suzie asked, barely masking her incredulity as the good Captain’s feet strode past the leg of her chair. The man/boy had just soiled his three-for-two jockey shorts. What was Jack intending to do – offer to mop up the excess seepage?
Jack left without reply.
Alone in the empty office she toyed with the stiletto in her hand watching the oily reflections the dim light from the hallway made on the red leather as it twisted in her fingers. In for a penny. In for a pound.
A skua took fright as he watched and launched itself over the tumbling waves out into the ocean.
The cliff marked the boundary of his known universe. Beyond the endless sea lay a new world with its strange vocabulary. Sidewalks and Pontiac fenders and hanging chads. America was too vast a concept to encompass; too geographically and culturally diverse to wrap his plans around. Instead he limited his dreams to a small corner of New York State and hoped fervently somewhere in that blessed land he could find a decent tea.
The flight ticket was safely tucked away on his bedside cabinet weighted down by the tick-tick-tocking of an ancient alarm clock. Back east of the sharp rocks and the foaming waves and the grass that bent and twisted under sudden gusts. Back east with the grey houses and their grey inhabitants with dead-end jobs and drab, colourless lives. That was not the Wales of his birth. He had been brought up on tales of a young Owain ap Gruffydd sheltering among the cromlechs and quoits as the English men-at-arms tried to rout him.
Suzie would understand. Wales was where his heart was but his soul yearned for dry soil and summer sun and yellow cabs driven by mad men and women. Beautiful though she was she was too cerebral for him. He wanted a dancer from the edge of the stage, dangerous with adrenaline and the neural beat of the music: not a scientist whose eyes analysed everything - for whom speech was a logic diagram and the colours of the rainbow a catalogue of wavelengths.
The skua understood in its avian way – to live and eat was not enough. It needed the caress of thermals on its broad wings; the salty lash of the waves on its face. It needed the freedom of the air and the bounty of the water. And so did he with his promotion.
"I think you’ll find that’s Cork over there. Not Manhattan," Suzie said, bringing his reverie crashing down to earth. "I should buy you a GPS as a going away present." She’d tied her hair back against the sea wind but every so often a gust threatened to undo her work.
He had anticipated a scene, spent the last three nights pacing up and down in his tiny Newport flat thinking up answers to all the questions she might have thrown at him. It was almost disappointing to hear how calm her voice was. "You’re not upset?"
A brief head shake. "Not in the slightest." To her his gullibility was his least appealing feature. Not for a moment had he queried why the transfer had arrived out of the blue or even why he should be promoted above his peers. As the tension went out of his shoulders Suzie added sweetly: "I’ll come and visit when you settle in. If you want me to."
"Yes. Of course."
"I’d like to." She brushed up close enough to let him smell the perfume in her hair, running her long slim fingers down his lapels, the white fabric of his shirt, the small mound at his groin. She’d chosen this spot hours from Newport knowing its isolation would appeal to his romantic dreams. A deft hand found shelter in warm moist skin, burrowed its way into loose flesh making him grunt.
Like most paraphiliacs he was unlikely to be wholly satisfied by this. Outside of his narrow range of fetishistic acts he was never very far for impotence yet with his impending departure from her world she wanted something more than just an embrace. Today, in this moment, she wanted his seed no matter how meagre the harvest.
A fingernail dug into the side of his neck drawing blood from a tiny lunate wound. He sighed harshly, chest rising and falling beneath thin cotton. "I’ll miss you in the States."
She stole the rest of the words from his lips with a kiss.
Ianto glowered at her over the top of a broadsheet as she perched on the side of the common room table balancing a Starbucks latte in a hand.
"Is that a new suit?" A flush crept up from Ianto’s neckline yet to his credit his eyes didn’t waver. Trying a different tack she crossed her legs and kicked her shoes across the floor towards the sofa feigning a yawn. "Mondays…"
The newspaper rustled. Blue eyes tried to bore into her forehead.
Suzie leaned in towards him. "Are you angry with me because my body makes you uncontrollably aroused?" Voice gentle as a wasp’s wings. "Or because I failed to stop Jack trying to swab you out?"
There was a tiny strangulated cry and Ianto’s head disappeared entirely behind the paper, knuckles white against the black print, swallowed up by the ancient woolly armchair.
She’d never understand what Jack saw in him. The man/boy appeared to have few talents outside of boiling water and spying on adults. The rest of their team might have been equally as maladjusted as the young Welshman yet they could all claim to have some modicum of expertise in their own fields.
A neatly manicured nail tugged the edge of the front-page headline down a fraction. "I bought you a coffee as a peace offering."
No reaction. Sulking like a schoolboy.
"May I remind you Ianto, I am second in charge here." She smiled at him with bared teeth. "And if I’m not satisfied with your attitude you’ll find the way out of here is far more direct that the path that brought you in."
Reluctantly he took the coffee carton from her and made a show of sipping it.
"That’s better. Now prove there are no hard feelings and drink up."
The ghost of resentment passed over his features and was replaced with a bland expression that gave little away as he drank a few mouthfuls. "Thank you, miss. Now may I read my paper?"
"You can run over the headlines for me. I didn’t have time to listen to the radio coming in."
Ianto harrumphed. "Three car pile up in Beaumaris. Property prices in the Bay area are continuing to go up. Change of line up for Welsh Opera. Another jumper found off the rocks at St David’s Head…"
"It’s a good suicide spot."
A wistful look came into his eyes. "Scouted it out have you?"
Suzie shifted to a more comfortable position on the tabletop. "If someone fell off the cliffs above the inlets there at the right time the currents would take the body all the way to the Irish shore."
"They found this one at Whitesands Bay along from the head. Police said only the strong winds at the weekend stopped him from drifting out into the sea."
"Your coffee’s getting cold."
Ianto eyed the disposable plastic with a barely disguised disapproval. "You know I’ve got some perfectly good Old Government Java in the shop. Save you a few pounds too."
"Are the police sure it was a suicide?"
He glanced back at the column. "They found the remains of a one way bus ticket in his jacket pocket. No sign of a car. Injuries consistent with falling onto rocks." He sniffed, then looked up at her. "You seem very interested, Suzie."
A shrug. "Just wanted to make sure I‘d covered all the angles." She watched the man/boy’s forehead wrinkle as he pondered her meaning. "Of course the greatest uncertainty is always the weather. Hadn’t expected him to be discovered so soon."
"Are you – are you trying to tell me you pushed that bloke off?"
"Not exactly. Once Brian saw the knife I was carrying he felt running off the cliff was the more survivable option." She watched Ianto’s jaw move slackly up and down as if chewing on his words. "If I’m trying to tell you anything it would be ‘mess with me again and you’re dead’." She made no effort to stop him as he pushed himself out of the seat, the aged springs groaning in protest.
"I’ve no idea if you’re trying to wind me up or not but either way I’m telling Jack and he can deal with you." His neck and cheeks were scarlet.
"I don’t think you’ll be telling Jack anything." She swivelled her legs aside to let him leave.
Ianto hesitated, blinking uncertainly at the door. "What have you done?"
"Finish your coffee, Ianto. Finish your coffee."
Coefficient of Determinism
"I found him wandering around the lower levels incoherent."
"It was the only course of action to take, Jack. Unless you’d rather I’d shot him and fed the leftovers to Myfanwy." Empiricism had taught her pterodactyls were just as efficient as their porcine descendants at disposing of unwanted items.
His black eye had faded and was almost unnoticeable away from the bright glare of his office lamp. It was a pointed reminder between them of just how ill judged his compassion could be at times and there was no way in hell she was going to stand there and take a lecture on appropriate behaviour from him.
"I need a second I can trust." He slammed a palm down on the desktop as punctuation. "Any more of that kind of improvisation and you’ll be out too."
Stupid, stupid man. "If you’re going to question my decision-making then the least you can do is to tell me how you were planning on dealing with the situation."
"It would have all blown over."
She snorted. "Do you have any idea how a normal human brain works? You accuse me of being heartless then you blunder into a situation any average person would leave well alone. Sometimes you’re more alien than the creatures we lock up."
Jack’s cheeks darkened. The pen he’d been fidgeting with suddenly jabbed the air in Suzie’s direction. "There is a line here. And you’re just about to cross it."
"Where’s the harm in a little drop of Retcon? When he wakes up he’ll have forgotten the details of the last three days and we can all get on with our lives like the big happy family we are."
"You can’t just arbitrarily decide to amputate portions of your colleagues’ memories. No matter what the reason." The pen was dropped abruptly. Jack pushed his chair back and got up, both hands on the desk for support. "This is a new team. I can’t afford for it to break up. There’s too much at stake to fail."
"All the more reason for me to do what it takes to keep it together."
He stared at her. "Who are you Suzie Costello? Where do people like you come from?"
Suzie’s back straightened and she returned his gaze levelly. "Torchwood."
"Glib." Jack shook his head vehemently. "Not an answer. Not. An. Answer."
"Then how about this? People like me exist so people like you can carry out the mission without getting distracted by the grubby little sideshows."
He was breathing heavily. "You’re bright Suzie. Very bright. But that’s not enough to survive here. I’ll be watching you from now on." He waved his hand dismissively. "Now get out of my sight. You’ve got work to do."
Indeed she had. Her research was just beginning to take off. "Yes, Captain."