Word Count: 3700
Summary: “Did I miss the part where I get a choice? And really, I’m disappointed you haven’t brought me flowers.”
Author’s Notes: Set post 2x05, and inspired a little bit by the deleted scene on the DVD where Owen calls his mum. I’m not necessarily saying anything new, I just love writing all the different dynamics between my boys. Also, I haven’t done Ianto’s POV of O/I for a while.
And it’s such a sad old feeling
All the hills are soft and green
And it’s memories that I’m stealing
But you’re innocent when you dream.
- Tom Waits
(I think, I have the Spiers & Boden cover version!)
The important bit is that Lisa is still in his head in all her inglorious state, which sort of implies that Jack hasn’t been trying to lobotomise him and this really all is an accident. Although Ianto can’t shift the slightly uncomfortable thought that maybe he’s done something worse than Lisa and that’s been retconned away.
There’s a pamphlet in the archives: Do You Think Your Amnesia Could Have Been Deliberately Caused By An Alien Device And/Or Your Co-Workers? It’s one of the ones Torchwood printed up in the fifties; there are altogether too many exclamation marks and all the people in the pictures look weirdly like Buddy Holly. Ianto is the only person who bothers reading these things; Suzie just used to doodle moustaches on the images, Owen tends to take the piss out of the overly jovial advice, Tosh just talks about making far more efficient pdf files, and he hasn’t bothered mentioning to Gwen that Torchwood makes leaflets because he’s not sure they’re in any way relevant any more.
This leaflet is slightly useful because Ianto establishes that since he isn’t missing little bits and pieces of the last few weeks or months, just the last two days, he can’t have done anything entirely terrible. No worse than that time they all killed Jack and ripped the Rift open and then killed Jack again, anyway.
He’s not sure how his diary came to be at work, though, and that disturbs him. Ianto is fully aware that Torchwood Protocol dictates that he is not allowed to keep a diary (it’s all covered in: Thinking Of Writing A Journal, Letter, or Novel Based On Your Experiences At Torchwood? Think Again! published in 1962), and so has been endeavouring to keep it quiet. He knows he’s not the first to keep a diary by any means – there’s an entire drawer in the archives full of illicit journals kept by various employees over the last century or so – and he’s read enough to realise that there is very little that hasn’t been done before, and done in a far more disgraceful and kinky fashion, by previous Torchwood members.
Jack doesn’t seem to be trying to take Ianto’s diary away from him, which is useful, but on the other hand Ianto wants to know what on Earth would possess him to bring it to work with him. Unless he actually was possessed… That is a horrible but not unlikely possibility, after all. Maybe they were all possessed; it would certainly explain why Tosh randomly has flowers apparently from Owen, of all people, on her workstation. And no; the teasing about that is not ever going to stop.
The Hub is quiet; Ianto could probably have gone to find Jack and coerced him into some brain-damaged sex, but he’s kind of glad he didn’t go down that road. Things are still tricky and claustrophobic and too tight there; he can’t work out if he’s meant to love Jack or still kind of despise him, and anyway tonight all he can think about is that Jack killed Lisa and Jack is sincere when it suits him and everything about Jack comes with the disclaimer: up to a point. It’s complicated and exhausting and Ianto isn’t in the mood.
Owen is still around somewhere, snapping and snarling more than usual and kind of being a cock again, the way he was before Jack left them and it came down to a choice between: get on with each other, or kill each other. Gwen and Tosh insisted that they needed a doctor and someone who actually knew how the Hub worked, so Ianto and Owen settled on a compromise. Said compromise has slid into something that impersonates friendship on its nights off, but they both know the slightest push could slip them back into the whole you-shot-me-in-the-shoulder/you-told-me-I-w
Ianto shuts his diary, having found absolutely no clues that will explain the amnesia, and is trying to work out whether he wants to go home and do nothing or stay here and disinfect things when Owen appears in the doorway. He looks haggard and slightly angry and Ianto wonders if the memory loss thing has made Owen forget that he and Ianto are meant to be getting on now. Or whatever the hell this is, anyway.
“You’re coming for a drink with me,” Owen informs him.
Ianto processes this. It’s possible Owen is being truthful, but then again the sentence, particularly Owen’s abrupt delivery of it, could also sort of be code for I’m going to shoot you out back and dump your body in the Bay for the evil mutant fish that inevitably live there to eat. So there, teaboy.
“Did I miss the part where I get a choice?” Ianto asks evenly. “And really, I’m disappointed you haven’t brought me flowers.”
Owen glares. “Don’t. Not right now. Come on, get your coat.”
This is at least an option that isn’t moping in his stark, over-sanitised flat or sitting in the archives listening to the mould drip unattractively, so Ianto sighs and obediently follows Owen.
“Should I be feeling flattered?” he asks, to break the silence. “Is there any special reason you want me to come drinking with you?”
“Tosh will only think it’s a date,” Owen replies, a slightly savage edge to his voice that Ianto now knows is actually defensive. He’s not exactly sure when he gained the ability to read through what he originally thought was just Owen’s Personality Disorder to see the vulnerability underneath, but he’s grateful for it. Well, grateful and slightly disturbed.
“There are three other people who work here,” Ianto reminds him carefully. “Four, if you count the Pterodactyl.”
“Pteradon,” Owen corrects automatically. “Actually, Myfanwy would probably be more fun than all of you right now, but I’m pretty sure she’d be barred from any pub I tried to take her to.”
Ianto nods. “Fair enough. Still, you could have asked Gwen-”
“She’s all loved-up with loverboy,” Owen interrupts, an interesting streak of bitterness shot through his voice. “She would never go with me, I remind her too much of all the shit she did to cope with arriving here.”
Ianto could point out that Owen manages to remind everyone of the shit they did to cope with arriving at Torchwood – either because they did large parts of it with him or because he’s still doing it – but he isn’t feeling that needlessly cruel. Melancholy and self-indulgent, yes; but certainly not sadistic enough to kick Owen when he already looks pretty down.
“There’s always Jack…” Ianto knows it’s a stupid idea the moment the words leave his mouth and sure enough Owen gives him a slightly patronising disbelieving look. “All right, point proven.”
“And if I go alone, the mood I’m in, I’ll probably end up going and getting myself attacked by Weevils again,” Owen continues in an oddly singsong voice.
Ianto wishes he could believe that Owen is just making a joke, but he knows he isn’t.
“I’m flattered that you see me as a slightly better option than being eaten by a Weevil,” he remarks dryly.
They come out into the main Hub; Ianto can just see Jack standing in his office, looking puzzled and miserable and haunted, and decides that getting the hell out of here for the next few hours is a very sensible idea. He contemplates calling a goodnight, but decides against it.
It takes eight minutes, on average, to walk from the Hub to the surface; after about four, Ianto breaks and asks: “Do you want to talk about it?”
Owen’s smile looks rather ugly under the bad electric lighting. “Not until I am a lot drunker than I am now.”
Ianto smirks. “I’m sure we can manage that.”
He shrugs into his coat, turning off the lights in the tourist office. He’s hidden his diary safely in the archives; no matter how morose and manic Jack gets tonight, he won’t be able to find it. Ianto isn’t self-centred enough to think that he really matters that much to Jack, but he knows Jack could get bored and curious and Ianto really doesn’t need his boss to reach into his mind and pull out all the little painful bits inside.
It’s got dark already, and they walk in a surprisingly companionable silence along the Bay. Light is reflected across the dark water, and Ianto finds himself remembering walking this way with Lisa; he’d brought her to meet his family and after dinner they were hand in hand beneath the quietly malevolent stars. It’s not something he’s thought about in a long time; after the battle of Canary Wharf, Ianto has done his best to suppress all his memories about Lisa, both good and bad.
He’s half-expecting Owen to make a comment along the lines of you’re so fucking emo – it’s the kind of thing Owen usually says – but one glance sideways tells him that Owen is far too wrapped up in his own thoughts.
Ianto finds himself really wondering just what the fuck happened during the last two days.
They settle at a table in the corner with their pints, a little bubble of gloom. Ianto’s thoughts seem to be tangled between Lisa and Jack, between who he was and who he is and who he really isn’t; he spends a moment trying to work out what is lingering inside Owen, and then decides that he really doesn’t want to know. He’s used to Owen being angry, Owen being sharply defensive; Owen being obviously vulnerable is a new one.
“Do you want to sit in silence all evening?” Ianto asks eventually. “I don’t mind, I just need to know so I don’t try and make conversation or anything.”
Owen is already three quarters of the way down his glass, though his tight expression hasn’t eased any. He considers Ianto for a long, slow moment, the dangerous edge in his eyes that usually precedes violence, before leaning over and grabbing Ianto’s tie. Ianto grits his teeth, preparing himself for whatever Owen wants to do to him, but all Owen does is drag at the knot until he can pull the tie off completely, popping the top button of Ianto’s shirt with a press of his thumb.
“You look too damn professional,” he mutters, and leaves it at that.
Ianto could point out that he uses the professionalism as protection, but he’s pretty sure Owen already knows. He obediently undoes another button and watches Owen crumple his lovely silk tie in his fist.
“Where do you think they are?” he asks Owen.
Owen shrugs. “Sorry, I don’t speak Cryptic Teaboy,” he responds, though the venom is absent from the words.
Ianto sighs. “The missing two days. Do we think they’re gone completely, or just suppressed?”
Owen thinks about this for a moment, before draining his pint glass. “To be honest, Ianto, I really don’t give a shit,” he shrugs, getting to his feet. “Another round?”
It’s probably a bad idea; Ianto nods anyway.
With the alcohol starting to make a warm buzz in his limbs and his brain – a nice change from the unusual hollowness and slight dizziness he’s been feeling until now – Ianto rests an elbow on the table and regards Owen for a moment.
“It’s a box,” he says at last, when Owen raises an eyebrow in a well, what? kind of way.
“You can’t be pissed already,” Owen replies incredulously.
Ianto shakes his head. “No, I mean, that’s what happened. Our minds are like boxes, and someone’s opened them up and rifled through the stuff inside and right now it’s impossible to get the lid back on.”
Owen sighs. “No one’s going to give you points for a pretty analogy, Ianto.” As usual, he mangles the name horribly in his mouth, and Ianto spends a moment wondering when that became sort of endearing rather than irritating.
“I’m right though, aren’t I.” It isn’t a question, and Owen scowls harder, giving Ianto the answer anyway. “If you want to talk about it-”
“Why the hell would I want to talk about it?” Owen demands. “I’m going to put the lid back on the box or whatever the fuck you want to call it, and that’s that.”
“Healthy,” Ianto remarks.
Owen pins him with a cold glare. “Don’t you fucking dare pretend you’re saner than I am,” he snaps, “You’ve got a mind full of knives and shit and you’re suppressing it all in the hope that it won’t explode one day and drive you mad.”
Ianto refuses to get pulled into this. “That… wasn’t a pretty analogy,” he says, and watches Owen grit his teeth.
“It’s true, though.” Owen sighs, drains the last of his beer. His expression is getting distinctly morose. “That’s all we are, a load of memories we’re trying to give up on, packed in layer upon layer and we’d just better hope they don’t get more than we can handle.”
“So, kind of like Tetris then.”
Owen’s mouth works, like he’s trying not to smile, like he’s trying not to shout at Ianto. The usual battle. Finally, he sighs and looks away.
“My mother doesn’t want to talk to me,” he says simply. “She doesn’t want to talk to me because she never does, ok?”
For a moment, Ianto thinks all the little pieces of the Owen puzzle have slotted easily into place. Then Owen’s mouth curls into an ugly sort of sneer.
“Oh, Ianto, you think you’ve got me all figured out, haven’t you?” He reaches for the last of Ianto’s pint and finishes that too. “You’re thinking ‘oh, poor Owen, didn’t get enough affection as a child, that’s why he’s such a cunt now’.” His mouth twists a little more. “Well, teaboy, you’re fucking wrong, ok?”
“I didn’t say anything,” Ianto points out, a little disturbed at the resurgence of Owen the way he used to be; dangerous and cruel and impossible to have a conversation with.
“You didn’t have to,” Owen replies. He pushes himself to his feet and walks over to the bar. For a moment, Ianto considers just getting up and going, but it is too late for that now. He’s a little bemused when Owen returns with two glasses; he thought he didn’t warrant one. Owen slams the pint glass down with very little grace; beer sloshes over the sides and Ianto very carefully does not wince at the mess on the table. He won’t have to clear it up, after all.
“Shall we have a wander around in your head now, Ianto?” Owen asks, voice feigning pleasantness. “Shall we go and rip out something that bloody hurts for your benefit?”
“You could have just said you didn’t want to talk about it,” Ianto points out. He’s in no mood to have Owen talking about Lisa; not tonight, not when she’s so close to surface, not when half the memories about her have stopped hurting. He can’t have Owen touching her right now, he can’t.
“You’re fucking your girlfriend’s killer,” Owen says calmly, a cruel sharp twist to his voice. Ianto thinks: I don’t deserve this.
“You all killed her,” he responds flatly. “All four of you killed her.”
“Is that what you tell yourself?” Owen asks, a nasty light in his eyes.
“Stop it,” Ianto says, quiet and firm.
“Is that what makes it easier? That we all killed her? Is that how you live with it?”
“Shut up,” Ianto mutters.
“I killed your girlfriend, then,” Owen tells him, with a nasty slant to his lips. “Are you gonna start fucking me now?”
Their voices have been rising and Ianto’s shout silences the entire pub. He sighs, running a hand through his hair, apologising softly. After a moment, the chatter resumes around them.
“You’re a bastard,” Ianto says quietly, picking his coat up from the seat beside him. “I think I should go.”
“Don’t.” It’s barely an admission and Owen doesn’t look directly at him, but the slight break in his tone is genuine, Ianto can tell that much. “I pushed it too far. It’s… it’s whatever’s in our minds, it’s fucking everything up.”
It’s the closest Owen will ever get to apologising to anyone; Ianto sometimes wonders who first started letting Owen getting away with being a shit all the time without any recriminations, and then worries that it was him.
“Fine,” he sighs, and puts his coat back down.
“It’s just…” Owen seems to be struggling to find words. “It’s hard, sometimes. I mean, Gwen has Rhys, you’re dating Jack…”
“I’m not dating Jack,” Ianto interrupts.
“I’m his part-time shag.”
The words sting less somehow; maybe he’s repeated it to himself so many times that it’s lost all meaning. Ianto drains his pint in one go, putting the glass back down on the table. Owen is staring at him.
“Another round?” Ianto offers, getting to his feet. The world is starting to shiver around him, which isn’t necessarily a good sign.
“Ianto.” Owen catches his wrist, long fingers gripping just a little too hard. He looks like he wants to say something more, but he crumbles, and lets go. “Yeah, all right.”
They finish their drinks in silence; an easier silence now. Ianto wonders what it says about him, that he needs to have an argument in order to calm himself down, and then remembers that he knows what it says about him and he’s trying not to remember that.
“We should go home,” he says, when the final pint is finished. “Before this gets any worse.”
Owen nods. “You’re too sensible,” he complains, words blurring at the edges, “But you have a point.”
“I usually do,” Ianto replies, managing to get his coat on on his second attempt.
The night air is briskly cold against their faces and sobers Ianto up a little more.
“Do you still live around here?” he asks.
Owen shakes his head. “I moved,” he responds.
“That’s a pity,” Ianto says. When Owen turns to frown at him, he adds: “I rather liked the big exhibitionist windows.”
Owen rolls his eyes. “Weirdo.”
“So where do you live now?” Ianto asks, as they meander their way down the road.
Owen waves a vague hand; he could mean over there, or above that opticians we’re just walking past or on the planet, you know, somewhere, but Ianto can’t decipher it.
“Fine,” he sighs, “You can sleep on my sofa.”
“Does it have one of those weird plastic granny covers on it?” Owen asks.
Ianto sighs. “No.”
Owen smiles at him in a lopsided sort of way. “Ok then.”
They walk in silence for a while, and then Owen says: “I see why you could love him but I don’t see how.”
For one thing, Ianto’s not sure that he actually loves Jack, and for another, Owen’s made a point that Ianto has been steadfastly ignoring for too long.
“Leave it,” he sighs. Stares up at the dark sky, the black hiding a wealth of violence and shit. “God knows I have.”
Owen squints at him under a lamp post. “Then why the hell do-”
Ianto pushes Owen, making him stumble, pins him against the nearest wall and seals their mouths together. It’s one of those shutupshutupshutup kisses, messy and uncoordinated and entirely accidental, but Owen does kiss him back, which Ianto suspects might be important in a very strange way.
When they finally draw apart, Owen’s lips are shining wet but his eyes are still dark. “I think I’ve underestimated you, Ianto,” he says, “You’re actually more fucked up than I thought you were.”
Yes, because of course you can talk, Ianto thinks acidly, but decides against saying it aloud.
The silence is easier as they walk the rest of the way to Ianto’s flat, occasionally bumping shoulders in a way that’s nearly companionable. Ianto unlocks his front door and walks inside, trying to ignore the gnawing in his stomach; he’s never had anyone from Torchwood in his home, not even Jack; that final line he’s always tried to hold steady. But Owen is drunk and tired and reassuringly human, and it’ll do as an excuse.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” Owen says, looking around, “You actually live in Ikea!”
Ianto smiles, in spite of himself. “Yeah, keep that up, you can sleep on the nice cold pavement.”
He hears Owen mutter wouldn’t be the first time as he goes to get spare blankets and a pillow for him. When he comes back, Owen is examining a photograph of Ianto in happier, younger days, with his mum and dad and sister. Owen puts the framed picture back on the bookcase without comment, though, as Ianto dumps the bedding into the sofa.
“This ok?” he asks, just to break the hush.
“Yeah.” Owen smiles softly at him, leaning in to kiss him. It’s different this time; slow and sweet and with a whole host of emotions, none of which are anger, entwined in it.
Ianto pulls away first. “Owen-”
“It’s ok,” Owen replies, “We’re slightly pissed and we’re already missing two days. Who’s to say we’ll even remember this when we wake up?”
Ianto takes this to mean that they will at least pretend not to remember this tomorrow, which is fine.
“Goodnight, Owen,” he says firmly, and realises that his hand is still curled around the back of Owen’s neck, thumb pressed to the sharp line of his jaw. He lets his hand drop, because things are complicated enough already.
“Goodnight Ianto,” Owen responds, kicking off his shoes.
Alone in his bedroom, Ianto thinks about the leaflets Torchwood has printed up over the years, including Fifteen Handy Reasons Why Having A Relationship With A Co-Worker Is A Bad Idea (complete with particularly horrible seventies illustrations which everyone had such bad hair you could sort of see why Torchwood didn’t want them to procreate).
“You know, Lisa,” he sighs, “I thought it was going to get easier, but it bloody hasn’t.”
He imagines her saying that’s because you’re endearingly indecisive, and his lips curl into a smile.
Inhaling slowly, Ianto walks over to the door that divides his bedroom and the living room, and opens it.