They pull themselves together, because they don’t have a whole lot of options. Owen gives up smoking even though he’s not sure why; just knows that it doesn’t appeal to him anymore. He finds himself angry from nicotine withdrawal but Tosh silently buys him patches and nobody tries to stop him from going outside to get air when it’s getting a little claustrophobic, even though he no longer has a valid excuse.
“This is so pathetically not rock n’roll,” Owen remarks one morning, slumped over a bowl of cereal with a crashing headache.
“Guess you’ll have to start smashing guitars onstage,” Jack tells him, smirking.
They’re ok; not great, but ok. They don’t talk about Suzie and somehow everything else has fallen into place.
“I will when you start paying for them,” Owen replies, sticking a round patch to the inside of his left arm.
Jack smiles into his coffee cup – Ianto’s making them all coffee today, and of course it’s the best coffee ever. Owen suspects Ianto is just trying to prove a point, but whatever he’s doing, they’re getting coffee out of it – and it’s soft and domestic and almost fine for a moment.
Tosh walks out of the bunks area, phone in one hand. “Owen, it’s the police for you.”
“What?” Owen asks, floored.
“They’ve found Suzie’s suicide note,” Tosh explains, “it’s addressed to you.”
Owen puts his mug down on the table that coffee sloshes all over it and bolts, hearing Ianto say his name but not looking back. His stomach is twisting and, after a moment, he brings his breakfast straight back up again.
“Suicide note” doesn’t really seem a fitting way to describe the post-its shoved into an envelope with For Owen written on it in pink sharpie. After a brief discussion with the police back in the UK, Owen gets photographs of them emailed to him.
There’s a fragment of an Emily Dickinson poem on the first one. And then the words twinkle twinkle, little star – Owen can’t work out if he’s supposed to feel guilty about this or not; sod Suzie and her ambiguities – and then I DON’T WANT ANY OF YOU AT MY FUNERAL – fair enough, Owen thinks, and refuses to acknowledge just how deeply that aches – and finally the simple phrase nothing’s ever over.
He closes the lid of his laptop and Tosh is waiting for him; she pulls him wordlessly into a hug and Owen lets her because he thinks he might shatter otherwise.
“She’s definitely dead, isn’t she?” he asks quietly.
“Definitely dead,” Tosh agrees, words quivering in her mouth.
Owen sighs and lets her go. “Suzie was mad as a hatter, wasn’t she?”
Tosh’s lips quirk, just slightly. “Yeah,” she agrees. “Tea?”
Tour insomnia isn’t anything new and Owen is used to it by now, to sitting by the window in their lounge area and watching lights flash past; they’ve got miles to cover tonight and he should sleep, he really should, but he can’t. He’s not thinking about anything in particular, slumped on the sofa and staring at the darkness outside. The others are asleep and there’s something comforting about that, about being the only one awake.
Well, he’s the only one awake until he glances back towards the bunks area and finds that Ianto is standing there and watching him. He’s fully dressed but he hasn’t put the lights on; they’re mostly in shadow and anything casually cruel about cleaning products that Owen was going to say dies in his mouth. He sits very still, saying nothing, staring at Ianto and waiting for something to shatter. Ianto straightens up and Owen thinks for a moment that he’s going to go to bed, but then he crosses over to him. Owen has enough time to see Ianto’s blank expression momentarily illuminated by a passing light outside before Ianto leans down, cupping Owen’s face in his hands and kissing him.
Owen freezes for a moment and then kisses back, just the wrong side of desperate, curling one hand over the back of Ianto’s neck and pulling him down. One of Ianto’s hands slams against the back of the sofa, his knee braced between Owen’s thighs; the angle is awkward but they don’t break apart long enough to adjust it, dragging each other closer relentlessly, hard enough to bruise in the morning. Owen really doesn’t give a fuck right now, one hand tangling in Ianto’s hair, biting at Ianto’s lower lip, rough and aching and refusing to give an inch.
It occurs to Owen that someone could walk in on this, anyone could walk in on this; they’re being as quiet as they can but Jack’s an erratic sleeper at best and Tosh and Gwen are hardly much better, and Owen has no idea what he will say if anyone catches them. But the darkness is like a blanket around them, reducing Ianto to patches of white skin that occasionally catch the moonlight or something harsher and more electric at the roadside; it feels unreal. Well, it feels unreal until the hand Ianto isn’t using to brace himself above him fumbles with the fly of Owen’s jeans, pulling it open and then pushing inside to wrap Ianto’s infuriatingly long fingers around his cock.
Owen lets out something like a gasp that Ianto swallows immediately, reaching for Ianto’s own jeans, intent on not thinking about whatever the fuck is happening here because... because he’s got nothing at all to go on. And, Jesus, he’s so glad that he didn’t know before that Ianto apparently elects to go entirely without underwear from time to time. Ianto breathes hard into Owen’s mouth and it’s barely a kiss anymore and they have matching sets of calluses from guitar strings, which is weird but not necessarily bad, and time feels elastic, tight, confusing as the bus drives on through the dark and Ianto’s fingers slide over his cock.
He has no idea whether it’s soon enough to be embarrassed or not when he arches up, stifling a moan in a scrape of teeth across Ianto’s bottom lip; though Ianto follows soon enough, so whichever it is they’re in the same boat. Ianto slides his hand out of Owen’s jeans, wiping his hand across his already ruined t-shirt as he does so, and pulls away. He looks at Owen for a moment and then goes to bed, zipping up his jeans as he does so.
Owen sits for a while, shivering a little though he’s not sure why, until something in his mind snaps and clears and he scrabbles through the mess on their table for a biro and a piece of paper.
Jack’s an early riser but Owen knows this, so he’s already changed his clothes by the time Jack comes staggering into the lounge area, looking for coffee.
“You’re up early,” he says.
“Haven’t been to bed,” Owen replies distractedly, writing down one final word and a definitive full stop.
Jack puts the kettle on and then comes to sit beside him; Owen doesn’t trust himself to read back through what he’s written, so he just hands it straight over. Jack raises an eyebrow at him and then looks back down at the paper. He reads through it slowly; the kettle boils and Jack doesn’t seem to notice, so Owen gets up and makes them both cups of tea. When he comes back, Jack is humming one of the chord progressions Owen jotted down.
“This...” Jack exhales slowly, more than a sigh. “This is incredible,” he says. “It’s... I don’t think there are words.”
Owen scrapes together a smile, lets a shrug be his only reply.
“Do you want to sing it?” Jack asks.
“I wrote it for your voice,” Owen tells him.
“That’s fucked-up,” Jack says.
Owen grimaces. “Well, most things about this situation are.”
Jack looks at the song again, fingers of one hand tracing over the scribbled biro letters. “Just one thing... you can’t call it They Keep Killing Suzie.”
“Too morbid?” Owen guesses. “Too personal?”
“Something like that,” Jack agrees.
Owen thinks about it for a moment, and then leans over, crossing out the original title and replacing it with Random Shoes. “There,” he says.
Jack smiles at him; a soft smile, something more real than the blindingly charismatic ones he throws around all the time. “Get some sleep, Owen,” he says.
He feels the tiredness crash down on him suddenly, as though he could sleep for days on end, and barely makes it to his bunk before he passes out completely.
Owen is not-having his morning cigarette by the side of the road a few days later. Random Shoes is being sorted out by Tosh now; she weaves rhythms and melodies effortlessly together, taking the jagged, helpless words Owen spilled out in the dead of night with a handful of chords and a burning memory and making them into something more than that, something solid and honest and reasonable enough to fit on an album somewhere. She’s making it into the song Suzie actually deserves and Owen is grateful to her.
“I bring Ianto Coffee,” Gwen announces, carefully carrying two mugs out of the bus and coming to join him, a careful, companionable smile on her face. They’re all careful around each other at the moment, maybe afraid of what they could wind up saying if they don’t.
“Thanks,” Owen says, accepting the mug.
They stand shoulder to shoulder and watch cars drive by for a few minutes, and Owen sips at his coffee to give him something to do with his hands. That’s what he hates most about giving up smoking, he thinks; his fingers feel useless, empty.
“Our lives are insane,” Owen remarks quietly.
Gwen laughs beside him. “I suppose that’s what you get for living the dream,” she says. It should sound cheesy, ridiculous, but she carries it off well.
“This wasn’t ever my dream,” Owen shrugs.
He can feel Gwen’s gaze on him; curious, thoughtful. “So what did you want to be when you grew up?” she asks.
Owen drops his gaze to his trainers. “Left alone,” he replies.
“Well,” Gwen sighs, “you really buggered that one up, then.”
“Yeah,” Owen agrees flatly, “I really did.”
They’re playing in the same city as The Time Agents so they’re all half-expecting a repeat of last time; violence and sex, the things that Jack seems to trail after him in droves. But Jack disappears pretty quick after their show, leaving the four of them to get casually drunk and mingle with fans without him. That’s fine; Owen and Ianto might be kind of having difficulty speaking to each other at the moment, but it’s a pretty good night anyway.
Jack still isn’t back in the morning, and Tosh is surfing the internet while Gwen and Ianto make something resembling breakfast.
“Oh,” Tosh says, “well, that explains a lot.”
They crowd around her computer and there, in a hundred different youtube videos and a handful of entertainment news websites, is Jack onstage at with The Time Agents. He and John are sharing a microphone and looking stupidly happy while singing together, while teenage girls practically scream the place down.
Owen studies them; the picture isn’t particularly great but it’s enough, and he’s not sure that he’s ever seen Jack look at anyone like that. Not ever.
“That is interesting,” Owen agrees quietly, while the ignored toaster starts spitting black smoke.
Lisa has gone to The Sun – that oh-so-classy tabloid newspaper – and done some sort of exposé on her relationship with Ianto. Owen finds this out when Yvonne, their manager, rings Jack up at an unholy hour and starts screaming down the phone, and he reads the article himself on the Sun’s website.
“When were you going to tell us that you broke up?” he asks Ianto later, when Ianto himself is skimming the interview, looking tired.
Ianto shrugs. “She called it off a couple of days before Suzie died. By the time I was ready to tell you guys... it wasn’t really the moment.”
Owen is about decide that that explains everything, fair enough, when he recalls that the first time Ianto kissed him he was definitely still in a relationship. He’s honestly giving up on having a reason for any of this, he really is.
He sighs and reads the interview again over Ianto’s shoulder; it’s pretty standard stuff, pointedly mean about all of Ianto’s flaws – Owen feels weirdly protective; he’s the one who gets to say cruel shit about Ianto and his OCD cleaning tendencies – and with a few in no way subtle hints about Ianto being epically in love with Jack.
“Shouldn’t you be getting defensive and going to explain yourself to Jack?” Owen asks, and if there’s any trace of bitterness in his voice, well, fuck, it’s been a weird month.
Ianto shrugs. “We’re all kind of in love with Jack, this is hardly ground-breaking news,” he points out. “Besides, she’s managed to just come off sounding like a jealous ex so no one’s going to take this seriously anyway.” A smirk flickers over his mouth. “And she didn’t say anything at all about you, so really, you don’t have anything to complain about.”
Owen raises an eyebrow. “Should she have something to say about me?” he asks.
Ianto’s expression remains blank; it’s like talking to a fucking brick wall sometimes.
“Fine,” Owen says, getting up from the table and wishing he could use needing a cigarette as an excuse to escape, “well, if you want to convince the world that you’re not madly pining over Jack, you might want to stop singing his songs in the shower.”
He walks away, and ignores Ianto shouting: “convince the world or convince you?” after him.
The show is filled with a kind of crazy energy that night; the fans are cheering for Ianto louder than anyone else, evidently to show some kind of support, and teenage girls scream anytime Jack and Ianto get anywhere near each other. Owen isn’t surprised; he’s snooped around on the internet a few times and has frequently wished afterwards that he hadn’t. The things the girls write about them are insane and kind of filthy, and most of them aren’t even physically possible with the tour bus bunks being the size they are.
Gwen is on fire tonight, beating the drums harder than is really necessary – she’s pissed about the whole Lisa thing, which is stupid because it’s not like Lisa told everyone about Gwen’s inability to remain monogamous – and Tosh’s fingers are practically a blur over her keyboard. The audience scream the entirety of Small Worlds back at them, absolutely word-perfect in a way that makes Owen’s spine crackle because he can still remember when they were writing that song, yelling at each other until Jack threw a box of takeaway chow mein at the wall and left, and now it’s one of their defining hits. Ianto’s wearing more eyeliner than usual and Owen doesn’t miss the way Ianto isn’t looking at him, deliberately isn’t looking at him in a way that almost makes him lose the beat a couple of times.
Afterwards, they’re barely offstage before Ianto grabs his wrist and they lose themselves in the corridors full of people. They fuck in the backstage bathrooms, quick and vicious, Ianto’s fingers digging into his skin and their bodies sliding and bumping messily together, shifting to a rhythm Owen will later recognise as belonging to Exit Wounds, a song Jack doesn’t have any words in at all.
When they’ve vaguely tidied themselves up they stumble out of the cramped stall; they both looked wrecked, Owen can see in the mirrors, make-up smeared and mouths friction red and clothes crumpled incriminatingly.
Ianto heads straight for the door.
“What the fuck is this?” Owen demands.
“I don’t know, Owen,” Ianto replies, and he sounds tired, “why don’t you have a go at classifying something in your life for once?”
The door bangs shut behind him.
“Adam’s coming to visit,” Tosh informs him happily the next day when they’re on the bus driving to wherever it is that they’re going next. The others are asleep, though it’s about lunch time; their body clocks are seriously fucked-up by now.
“Can he bring a lot of hard drugs?” Owen asks dully.
“Don’t you have friends in the medical profession who can provide you with those?” Tosh asks.
Owen shrugs, managing not to say not anymore. He shrugs. “Eh.”
Tosh folds her arms and looks stern. “Ok, talk to me.”
He thinks about it for a moment and then remembers that this is Tosh, not Gwen or Jack or Suzie or even Ianto himself, and he doesn’t have to dance around it. “Tell me how I feel about Ianto.”
Tosh doesn’t blink. “You’ve wanted to shag him for as long as you’ve known him and everyone knows it,” she replies calmly. “And by everyone I mean everyone, including Suzie and Dianne and even Lisa.” She shrugs. “I used to be quite jealous of him, back in the day.”
Owen suspected it was going to be something like that, though hearing it aloud doesn’t help. “Shit,” he mumbles.
(who’d you rather be; the beatles or the rolling stones?)
“The thing about Suzie,” Jack begins, like this is a conversation that Owen actually wants to have half an hour before they’re due onstage with the audience already screaming along to the support band outside, which it isn’t, by the way, “is that she was always fixated with her own mortality. You must have noticed that.”
“We’re doing this now?” he asks, running a hand through his hair. It’ll screw it up from ‘artfully messed up’ to ‘I was outside in some kind of tornado’ but he doesn’t care.
Jack shrugs. “Some of it. And we’ll be doing it for the rest of our lives, so you might as well get used to it.”
Owen obediently sits down; his jeans are probably too tight to allow actual sitting but, what the hell, he can carry off this look as well as anyone.
“All right,” he says, “Suzie was morbid as hell. The first time I met her in a situation where we were sober, she was reading Emily Dickinson. And she said most of it made sense to her.”
Jack’s mouth twists slightly. “Yeah, she said that to me too. Should’ve been the first sign really.”
This isn’t an easy conversation for either of them, but at least Jack’s better at covering than he is. Owen has no idea what his expression has in it right now.
“The first sign that she was going to kill herself?” he snaps.
Jack shrugs, awkward but still somehow smooth. “If you’re terrified of life and death and just how random they are, then maybe you want to take out the element of surprise, exert some control.”
In a crazy sort of way, it actually makes sense. Owen bloody wishes that it didn’t. “You sound like you’ve thought about it,” he says.
Jack’s smile is twisted. “Who says I haven’t?” He stands up, clapping a hand on Owen’s shoulder. “Well, I’d better go see where my band has gotten to. And you might want to do something about your hair.”
Owen sits there for a good five minutes after he’s gone.
They’re signing autographs after the show; black sharpies wending their way across pictures and posters and paper and tickets and, on occasion, skin – though Owen has decided against signing breasts now, it’s just too weird – while they smile and nod and laugh and promise to come back and play again soon. Owen is less shit at all this than he used to think he would be, and sometimes it’s reassuring, like his bedside manner wouldn’t have been as crap as he always thinks it would have been.
Dr Owen Harper. Just another spectre of something that never was.
Lisa calls Ianto shortly after they’ve all piled into the showers, washing off sweat and glitter and make-up until they resemble people again; she must have timed it perfectly to coincide with this, and it makes Owen hate her a little bit, hate her a little more than he admittedly already does. Which is ridiculous because he’s pretty sure that he’s managed to betray and hurt Ianto far worse than Lisa ever has and he has the advantage of years of acquaintance to back up every cruel thing he says, but whatever: Ianto’s ex girlfriend is way worse than Owen is. Somehow.
Ianto gets very drunk that night; Jack buys him the tequila shots he demands but stays with him, sipping at his mineral water and looking nonchalant but Owen can see just how sharply his eyes are fixed on Ianto.
“Is Adam ever going to do this to you?” Owen asks; he’s watching Ianto too, though he’s pretending that he isn’t.
Tosh shrugs. “If you mean break up with me, well, maybe. How do I know? And if you mean sell out my story to the newspapers, well, he knows just how much blackmail material I have on him, so probably not.”
That’s what it always comes down to, Owen reflects, just who’s got the power at any given moment. At who has the power to rip the world out from under the other person’s feet.
It occurs to him just who’s got the power here, between him and Ianto, and he doesn’t like the answer. He really doesn’t.
“I’m going back to the bus,” he mumbles to Tosh.
She frowns. “You don’t want to stay here and watch Ianto inevitably falling off his barstool and having to be carried home?”
“Not particularly, no,” Owen replies. “It’s nothing I haven’t seen before.”
Tosh’s expression changes into something devious, something Owen really doesn’t like. “Jack has no scruples about taking advantage of people when they’re drunk,” she points out. “You don’t want to stay here and keep an eye on them?”
“I don’t care,” Owen tells her, and at this moment in time, it’s true.
“You’re a twat,” Tosh tells him.
“Yeah,” Owen sighs, and leaves.
They get to the next city mid-afternoon the next day; Tosh and Gwen decide that shoe-shopping is a necessity and disappear somewhere in a flurry of giggles – girls, seriously – and Jack apparently has friends here and wanders off to “catch up”, which is probably code for “shagging”; it usually is.
Owen didn’t sleep while they were driving so he dozes on the couch, restless and irritated and not even sure why. Ianto comes wandering through the lounge a while later, looking somewhat worse for wear, though when he smiles at Owen he still manages to look condescending. When Owen follows him into their kitchen area, he finds Ianto is cleaning out their sink with a look of careful concentration, the rest of the world blocked out.
Sometimes, he finds himself thinking that Ianto was raised in a cupboard, probably one with a bottle of Dettol in it. It would explain a lot.
“You shouldn’t let what that bitch says get to you,” he offers, cold comfort or something like it.
Ianto doesn’t look at him. “Don’t call her that.”
“Ianto, Lisa fucked you over completely. You have every right to call her a bitch.”
“Maybe,” Ianto replies neutrally, knuckles white on the sponge, “but you don’t.”
“Ianto, she is a bitch,” Owen can’t help saying, though he really should stop and he knows he should. “She dated you, broke up with you and then went to the newspapers to tell them that you were in hopeless gay love with your lead singer and that you were a pretty shitty lover; which isn’t something I’ve experienced, actually,” he finds himself adding, “maybe kind of emotionally detached, but well, I kind of thought that was something to do with me. I could always call Lisa up and ask, I suppose...”
Ianto punches him. “Jesus fuck, Owen,” he breathes, “why do you always have to be such a cunt?”
If Ianto’s breaking out the big swearwords then Owen knows he’s really hit a nerve. “I don’t know,” he says, honest enough, “but you’re the one who keeps jumping me.” Ianto isn’t looking at him, cleaning task forgotten, hands shoved into his jeans pockets. “And why is that, Ianto?”
“Piss off, Owen,” Ianto mutters, low and hard.
“You’ve already punched me,” Owen points out, “unless you’re planning on going for a kitchen knife next, I think I might as well stay here and push. What changed? Seriously, why now?”
Ianto meets his, eyes narrowed and angry. “I got tired of you watching and waiting and not doing anything at all,” he snaps. “Years and years of nothing, Owen, and you never did anything, not one little thing, not once.”
“Do you even want this?” Owen demands, “is this just some kind of experiment?”
“Years of you watching me,” Ianto snarls, ignoring the question, “and not knowing what the hell was going on in your head, Owen. And I still don’t. Now get the fuck out of the kitchen and leave me alone.”
Owen doesn’t want to but he’s not sure what they have left to say to each other right now.
He obediently walks out.
“So, did you ever try to kill yourself?”
As conversation openers go, it isn’t the most tactful. Jack bursts out laughing.
“God, Owen, we should get you a book on social interaction.”
Owen shrugs. “If it’s the same one you use I can go without; I quite like being able to talk to people without hitting on them.”
Jack mumbles something that sounds kind of a lot like yeah, and look how well that shit’s been going with Ianto, but it’s quiet enough for Owen not to be able to call him on it.
“You’re avoiding the question,” Owen points out, sitting down beside him.
The lighting technicians are buggering about, working out which angles they want to best highlight just how sparkly Tosh and Gwen really are, and Ianto is talking to one of their roadies, laughing about something too far away for Owen to catch.
“What makes you think I did?” Jack asks distractedly.
Owen shrugs. “You seemed to get what was going on in Suzie’s head pretty well.”
Jack tips his head to one side. “I’m not going to live forever,” he says at last. “And it took me kind of a while to get that, because for ages I thought that I really was, that I was invincible and nothing could touch me.” He glances at Owen, rueful smirk on his lips, “cocaine can do that to you, ok, but it was also my attitude. I never got sick, never got hurt, and I was really young and really damn stupid.”
“So what changed?” Owen asks.
“I overdosed,” Jack replies, “me and Suzie both; you guys never found out because we hid it from you, figured you’d quit the band if you found out just how crazy we both were, and I can’t even tell you what we overdosed on because I don’t even know, something Katie gave us.”
Katie is another of Owen’s ex girlfriends, but he tends to pretend that she isn’t. Katie was crazy, and not even the fun kind of crazy.
“So I worked it out,” Jack explains, “once we’d gotten out of casualty and everything; I’m not going to live forever. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t work on it a little.”
“So that was why you went into rehab,” Owen says slowly, things clicking.
“Yep,” Jack replies. “And, you know, I’m still working on it. Maybe one day I’ll get there.”
He gets up and abruptly walks over to Tosh and Gwen, throwing a smile over his mouth, superhuman as always. Owen frowns; he’d never realised that Jack was actually in any way self-aware.
“Fucking hell, Harkness,” he mumbles, and looks away from where Ianto is ignoring him again.
Owen quits the band on a Thursday.
There’s context, but not a lot of it.
They have a TV interview coming up; Owen can’t remember what the channel is, but whatever, anyway, they get to babble inanely for a while and play a couple of songs.
“Get those toothy grins out, everybody,” Jack tells them, revealing his own.
“Your teeth are somewhat sinister,” Ianto remarks, smirking, before returning to intently disinfecting the blinds. Owen can’t even be bothered to comment on this; there’s no point.
“I bloody hate interviews,” he sighs.
“You hate everything,” Gwen points out reasonably.
“Yeah, well,” Owen shrugs, “I mean, it’s kind of justified, isn’t it?”
And they’re all looking at him now, even Ianto, and it’s been a very long and very strange month. They’re in a foreign country far too far from home and they’re playing the same songs over and over and over until new meanings are starting to bleed from them, new meanings that they never intended, and Suzie is dead and Ianto is either playing a really complicated game or has no fucking idea what he’s doing and Owen is beginning to suspect it’s the second option, which is never good.
So something inside him just snaps.
“Look,” he says, and he’s trying to sound reasonable but his voice is too loud, much too loud, “we’re five people who have fucking nothing in common. Even our sociopathic personality traits don’t match up. We play this music and we fake it but we hate each other.” Fuck, he’s tired and he really shouldn’t say this, he knows he shouldn’t, and the others are just staring at him. “We hate each other but we stay here because we want the fucking fame and the fucking money and... I don’t even know why I do this anymore.” He’s breathing too hard and the world seems to have become very small and very hot. “You know what? Fuck this and fuck all of you. I’m done.”
And he walks out.
“Well, that was certainly a display of staggering mental stability,” Ianto says two hours later when he’s found him.
“Did Jack throw a lamp after me?” Owen asks, and then changes his mind. “Actually, don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.”
Ianto chokes on a laugh and slides into the booth opposite him; Owen’s pretty sure he shouldn’t be in this random bar and he doesn’t even know how Ianto found him, but what the hell. He sits there, looking casual in a t-shirt and jeans, and his hair is still too long and Owen still, in spite of everything, wants to touch it.
He sits there and says nothing and stares at Ianto’s hands spread flat on the table top and remembers the last night they had in a hotel; Ianto spread him out on his back on one of their single beds with all the lights off and fucked him through it, fucked him until Owen couldn’t breathe anything but Ianto, until it was hard to say whose body was whose, they were so numb from the friction, until they were both bruised and bitten and shaking and clutching each other too tight, clenching fingers that couldn’t and wouldn’t let go. Well, Owen reflects, if he really has actually quit Torchwood then at least he’ll be free of trying to work out what the hell is going on; if nothing else, it’s become increasingly clear that neither of them have any idea what it is they’re doing.
“I have two things to say,” Ianto informs him quietly, “and you’re going to shut up and listen.”
Owen considers this. “Are either of them ‘I don’t want you to go’?”
Owen sits back a little, wraps his fingers around his mostly-empty beer bottle. “Ok then.”
“Firstly,” Ianto says, “you can’t leave because you have nowhere to go. And I mean it. You have no degree, no job prospects, and if you go now you’ll just wind up working in a shop somewhere with people periodically saying aren’t you that guy who used to be in that band? And that’s it. That’s all. If you hang around for another album at least you might be able to get a shitty book deal out of it.”
Owen refuses to respond to any of that, because it’s horribly true and he’s feeling claustrophobic now. “And what was the other thing?”
“We don’t actually all hate each other, you know.”
“That’s a lie,” Owen snaps.
“No, it isn’t,” Ianto replies, and his smile is a little lopsided, a little sad. “We don’t always like each other very much, that’s true, but we don’t all hate each other.” He holds a hand up as Owen tries to protest. “No, what you’re doing is projecting the fact that you hate us onto everyone else and making assumptions.” Ianto looks thoughtful, reaching for Owen’s beer and finishing it off for him. “Oh, and that’s another thing, actually. Thing two, subsection b: you don’t hate us.”
“You don’t know a fucking thing about how I feel about anyone,” Owen points out.
“If you actually hated us you’d have walked away years ago,” Ianto says calmly. “And we both know that. You might not like us much, but you don’t hate us. You’re just...” he sighs. “I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going on in your head right now, Owen, but you don’t want to leave and you don’t hate us either.”
Owen’s mouth twists. “You should never consider a career in motivational speaking.”
Ianto stands up. “I’ll see you at the bus later,” he says.
“You seem awfully sure of yourself,” Owen snaps.
Ianto shrugs. “You have nowhere else to go,” he points out. He turns away, and then turns back again. “And Jack threw a chair after you,” he adds.
Owen considers this. “Does this make me more important than Suzie, or do we just have a limited amount of furniture that isn’t nailed down at the moment?”
“That’s quite philosophical,” Ianto says, and: “I’ll see you later.”
That night, when everyone has decided to Never Speak Of Today Again and they’re all in bed, Ianto crawls into Owen’s bunk with him. It’s dark and warm but Ianto doesn’t touch him, just lies there, and Owen eventually shifts to accommodate him.
“I didn’t want you to go,” Ianto admits in a scrape of a whisper.
“I don’t think I was ever really going anywhere,” Owen replies, finally acknowledging it for the first time. It feels heavy in his chest, settling there like a promise and a curse in one, and this is why he normally lets Ianto and Tosh write the lyrics, his own always end up being kind of melodramatic.
He falls asleep listening to the sound of Ianto breathing.
(when you’re singing i’ll be with you ‘til the exit line)
“I need help,” Owen admits.
Jack’s mouth quirks. “And you came to me? You must be desperate.”
Owen shrugs. “You know everyone and you’re fucked-up and you’ve taken just about every drug ever and you’re still alive, you must know a decent therapist or something, I don’t know.”
There are trees rushing past outside the windows. Ianto and Tosh are cooking lunch, Gwen is calling Rhys from her bunk. Owen doesn’t know if it involves phone sex; he doesn’t want to.
Jack raises his eyebrows. “You want a therapist?”
Owen doesn’t know. Owen doesn’t know what he wants and he’s beginning to think that that’s more than just ennui that comes from unexpected fame and possibly it needs someone else to help him feel something other than angry and passive.
He shrugs. “I tried to quit the band a few days ago. Suzie killed herself and I don’t talk to Dianne anymore and everyone in the world seems to know that I’m in love with Ianto except me.”
“So it’s about Ianto?” Jack asks, looking a weird mixture of amused and annoyed.
“It’s not about Ianto,” Owen says quickly. “Or maybe it is. I don’t know. I’m starting to think I might be a little bit insane.”
Jack tips his head to one side. “There’s the good kind of insane and there’s the bad kind of insane and when you’re not sure which is which, that’s when you need help.”
“Thank you, fortune cookie,” Owen snaps. “Do you know someone or not?”
When Jack smiles, it’s genuine and reassuring. “I’ll put you in touch with Martha when we get home,” he says. “She got me into rehab the first time, she’s pretty good.”
Owen nods. “Is she an ex boyfriend of yours?” he can’t help asking.
Jack laughs. “Isn’t everyone?”
Owen suspects that Jack probably knows a lot more than he actually lets on.
The interviewer loves Gwen and Ianto’s Welsh accents – clearly the Americans need more bands with Welsh people in them – and spends most of the interview flirting with Jack. This is par for the course with pretty much all interviews, though, so Owen manages not to stare directly at the camera and stays fairly quiet, sandwiched between Tosh and Ianto. At one point, when nobody’s looking at them and the camera is trained on Jack and Gwen teasing each other about something – it screams hey, look, our band can do heterosexuality sometimes! but Owen isn’t really in a position to judge – Ianto’s fingers curl through his, just briefly.
They’re not really talking and they haven’t had sex in over a week. Owen’s decided that he’s psychologically incapable of categorising what’s happening now, it’s Ianto’s turn to take over and angst for a while.
He skates by on a couple of comments on how he’s glad he dropped out of being in med school and how being in a band is much more fun, and smiles the smile that Tosh and Gwen have approved as being genuinely charming.
They play their forthcoming single – A Day In The Death, which isn’t nearly as emo as it sounds, by the way – and also Small Worlds, and Owen thinks that they’ve got through this whole thing pretty well, actually.
He pushes Ianto up against the mirror in the dressing room and kisses him for as many breathless minutes as they can cram in before they hear footsteps outside; Ianto tastes like the TV make-up they’re all covered in but his eyes are bright, warm, intense.
“I’m pretty messed up,” Owen says without preamble, “and when we get back to England I’m apparently going to a therapist who Jack has recommended and who he has almost definitely slept with. So. You know.”
“You should definitely have said that in the interview,” is all Ianto replies. “It has ‘soundbite’ written all over it.”
“You’re such a bastard,” Owen says, but for the first time there’s something fond in his voice.
Adam and Tosh are ridiculously, sickeningly sweet.
“He is pretty good-looking,” Gwen remarks, when they’re spying on the two of them out of the bus window.
“You still have a fiancé,” Owen reminds her.
“I do,” Gwen agrees, with that soft smile she gets whenever anyone mentions Rhys. Now that’s a bloody weird relationship right there, but Owen has heard that phrase about people in glass houses and throwing stones.
“Of course he’s good-looking,” Jack cuts in, “I have good taste.”
“In shags or drug dealers?” Owen asks before he can stop himself.
Jack shrugs, smirking. “Why not both?”
Jack’s life philosophies are deceptively simple, and Owen sometimes thinks that he should write a book. They could sell it off their website and everything. Of course, then they’d have a whole world full of people thinking like Jack, and, well, that’s a thought.
They all scramble to look nonchalant as Tosh and Adam turn towards the bus, falling across each other as they sit around on the couch. The door opens.
“I would run while you can, Adam,” Owen says, “this bus breeds insanity.”
He’s only half-joking.
“I think I’ll risk it,” Adam says. “It’s probably just the smell of bleach and coffee, anyway.”
They all frown at each other; they’ve been living on here so long that they no longer notice how it smells. Cleaning products and Starbucks are better options than lots of the others at their disposal, Owen reasons, though possibly Ianto shouldn’t have free reign anymore.
Tosh looks happy, stupidly so, and Owen can’t be arsed to feel bitter about it; instead, he scrapes up a mostly real smile and she winks in reply.
It’s kind of weird when their last night rolls around. Owen only realises that it really genuinely is the final night when he sees the date printed at the bottom of one of their merchandise t-shirts – he’s still weirded out by the thought of people wearing clothes with his face on them, but what the hell, if it makes them happy – and the atmosphere is electric. They’re on fire tonight, pushing harder than they ever have before, and maybe tonight is the night they finally raise the roof. Jack kisses all of them just for the wave of hysterical sound they get in reaction, Gwen throws her drumsticks to the crowd after they’ve finished playing Fragments for the encore, people are dancing and singing and screaming and Owen thinks that he can’t walk away from this; not now, not anymore. It’s a strange feeling but not necessarily a bad one.
There’s a party afterwards, too much alcohol and too many people and it’s still kind of amazing. Owen has no idea how John Hart got in here but whatever he and Jack are doing could possibly be considered almost sweet if it wasn’t so damn creepy, and Owen feels detached from all of it but doesn’t hate it the way he used to. He thinks maybe he can get used to this.
Somewhere around 4 a.m. Ianto drags him back to the bus and they have sweaty, drunken, adrenalin-fuelled sex. Ianto admits he has no idea what the hell is going on, Owen says that he suspects they’re both rebound guys despite the fact that the girls they were with were rebounds in the first place, and Ianto tells him that thinking like that makes his head hurt so in the end they both fall asleep, crammed awkwardly into Ianto’s bunk.
Jack and John have made them all breakfast the next morning. “A Day In The Death made it to number one in the UK,” Jack says. “And also in Austria.”
“Oh good,” Tosh says blearily. “Are those pancakes?”
Tosh usually sits next to Owen on planes because she’s quiet and tends not to fidget too much or get ridiculously drunk on those little tiny bottles of alcohol – although admittedly Jack doesn’t do that anymore; he seems to be serious about sobriety this time – but today Ianto drops into the seat next to his.
“I am not joining the mile high club with you,” Owen informs him before they’ve even taken off. It’s too early in the morning for all this.
“It’s ok,” Ianto says, “I have a book.”
Gwen is already asleep on Jack’s shoulder and Tosh is immersed in a copy of Vogue, yawning behind a pair of sunglasses. Owen thinks about England and all the things that are and aren’t waiting for him there and his stomach twists, just a little.
“I called Martha, by the way,” Jack says casually, while the cabin crew are demonstrating what to do in case of an emergency. “She says she can slot you in somewhere.”
“Does she get a surname?” Owen asks, watching an air hostess pretend to put on a life jacket.
“It’s Jones,” Jack tells him, grin wicked and nothing short of pure evil. “Dr Martha Jones.”
“Oh,” Ianto says, stifling a laugh into Owen’s shoulder, “well, that’s suitably Freudian.”
“Shut the fuck up,” Owen tells him, driving an elbow into his stomach.
Tosh is laughing, though she’s hiding it well behind her magazine.
“Let’s go home,” Ianto says softly, as the plane begins taxiing towards the runway. He looks at Owen as he says it, and Owen has no idea if Ianto is saying let’s have a lot of sex or let’s meet for coffee sometime or let’s never speak again and, weirdly enough, right now all those options seem attractive. Maybe by the time they’ve landed he’ll have actually chosen one.
“All right,” he says, comfortably aware of how they’re pressed together all along his left-hand side, much too close, “yeah, let’s go home.”