Length: 664 words
Summary: Torchwood changes everything, but you have to understand what things were before to know how.
Author Note: For a prompt at comment_fic: S/he sings pieces from various operas in the original language. Yes, the title is a blatant rip-off from Buffy. No apologies :P
She sings pieces from various operas in the original language; French, German, Italian, and Russian pouring from her mouth as if she’s known them all her life. Someone had given her a packet of marker pens and she sings as she covers the walls of her cell in words and symbols to which no one can assign any meaning. Some look like they might be hieroglyphics and one wall is dedicated to a language of maths and computer code, where they at least recognise some of the letters and numbers even if they don’t know what they add up to.
They’ve tried to understand her. At one point, when she’d been speaking in alien tongues, he swears that Jack actually had, but then she’d danced from one language to the next, on and on, searching for the ones that no one could follow. Maybe she was just trying out the novelty of it, the feel of every language on her lips, but she settles on the ones they find incomprehensible so he thinks that maybe she doesn’t want to be understood.
She can still understand them, though. She just can’t seem to speak or write their language anymore, as if a switch in her brain has been thrown to change her into a translating machine – input English, output anything else but.
Upstairs Ianto is calmly going through everything that she’s worked with recently, his hands encased in latex gloves and a mask shielding his nose and mouth. Upstairs Gwen is going through every contact that she’s had, human, alien, or other. Upstairs Jack is going through the commands that she’s assaulted the mainframe with, that she hadn’t stopped assaulting it with until Jack had made her, easily overpowering her and putting her in the cells for safekeeping, until they can figure out what those commands were, what she was doing, if she’s changed in more ways than the obvious. Until they can figure out if she’s dangerous.
She sings as she covers the walls of her cell and he watches her, through the transparent wall and the writing on it, wondering if she’s transcribing what she’s singing, or just scribbling a recipe for her favourite meal, a plan to take over the world, a how to guide for the mainframe.
They’ve never tried to really understand her before; that’s the problem. They don’t know her well enough to communicate without words, to know what the twist of her lips or raised eyebrows might say, or to know what actions are hers or due to another agency. They can’t know if she’s still her unless they hear her say it, unless they hear and can understand.
He doesn’t know if he wants to understand her, to know for sure that she isn’t herself. He would know then that they’ve lost her, and he hates losing people.
He doesn’t know if he wants to understand her, to know for sure that she is. He would have made a connection then, reached out, and he doesn’t need that. He’s had enough of clever women who light up when they make a discovery and have eyes for nothing else, who are beautiful and competent and could own the world if they cared to, who smile at him just so. The universe has a way of balancing out the good of people like that and he couldn’t take being there again for that.
He steps forward, placing both hands on the (mostly still) see-through cell wall and resting his forehead against it, touching her languages from the other side.
“Tosh,” says Owen experimentally, making her name a question.
She pauses for a moment to look at him and he looks back but he doesn’t know what he’s seeing. Then she looks away. She sings pieces from various operas in the original language and covers her cell walls in words and symbols that have no meaning for anyone but her.
No one had known that she even listened to opera.