Challenge/Prompt: 1sentence, theme set Gamma, and fanfic100, 065. Passing
Copyright: Title taken from “How We Operate” by Gomez.
Summary: 50 moments, in sentences.
Author’s Notes: I had to do something to amuse myself at work on Saturday. Semi colons are love.
Jack has told Owen that Gwen’s wedding to Rhys (and Owen has no idea why she insisted they all come anyway, but that’s Gwen all over – sodding crazy) will be bearable because Owen can amuse himself picking up all the single, insecure women; but by the end of the ceremony Owen has decided to spend the reception seeing exactly how much champagne gets rid of Ianto’s stiff-upper-lip inhibitions.
Under the stark electric Hub lighting, Ianto’s face is washed out and pale, screwed up with anger, and Owen knows that he can’t look any better; “it’s your fault Jack left, you shot him, you stupid, stupid bastard,” Ianto screams before half-collapsing, hands fisting in Owen’s shirt; “I didn’t see you trying to stop me,” Owen mutters in his ear, “You’re not exactly the hero here either, you know.”
The first time Owen met Ianto, it was his first day on the job; he’d already shot two different kinds of alien, been propositioned by Jack, and was putting stitches into his own right knee, because some kind of creature that seemed to be all teeth had taken a chunk out of him – Ianto brought him a cup of coffee, made, somehow, exactly the way Owen liked it, grimaced at the blood on Owen’s torn Levi’s, and said “welcome to hell” with a wicked little smile.
Two days after Suzie’s death, when Ianto can think clearly again, he gathers up all the pheromone-producing devices in the archives, puts them in a big box, and goes to hide them somewhere where no one can play with them (because he seems to be the only one to realise that alien artefacts aren’t toys); however, just as he’s putting them on a top shelf in storeroom 81.7, something slips, something falls, and everything smashes, surrounding Ianto in a haze of pink and gold free-wheeling pheromones, and, of course, the first person to push the door open just happens to be Owen.
Ianto comes downstairs to find Owen has spent the last three hours wrecking the filing system while looking for his autopsy results from last month, there’s paper everywhere and a strange, closed look appears on his face; “Owen,” he says slowly, “I am going to give you a thirty second head start, and then I am going to come after you and hurt you in an extremely painful and lingering fashion”; Owen is about to ask exactly what a receptionist can do to him, when he notices the feral look in Ianto’s eyes, and before he knows it he’s running for his life.
The first time he shoots Owen, Ianto lets the gun fall from suddenly-limp fingers and then he just stands and stares as Owen manages to scramble to his feet, shaking all over, and he makes it to his workstation before collapsing, yelling “at least fucking get me something to soak the blood up with!”, and Ianto ignores him, just staring at the Rift manipulator and the Hub shaking around them, wondering what the hell is going to happen now.
Diane said something about how sex should be taken seriously, because when the two of them took off together, it was the closest thing to flying; this is more like free-falling, Ianto’s nails digging into his shoulders and both of them breathing raggedly and too hard, for a breathless second Owen can’t even tell if they’re shagging or if this is just a new method of fighting that leaves them both with even more bruises than before.
It must have been Jack, Ianto decides, who decided on communal showers, because he’s mad and sadistic like that, and besides, if you’re going to encourage the staff to have orgies, it’s better to do it somewhere where it’s easy to clean up afterwards; Ianto wishes he hadn’t just thought the word ‘orgies’, particularly because he’s watching the unbearably skinny line of Owen’s body, skin slick under the shower, and it’s making him picture things he doesn’t want to be picturing, so he reaches and determinedly turns the spray of water to cold.
The second time Ianto shoots Owen, it’s a Wednesday afternoon and the streets of Cardiff are slick with rain and Jack has been back a fortnight and tensions are running so high they’re all on the verge of hysteria; even Ianto can’t say what the tipping point is, but Owen says something frustrating and casually cruel, and Ianto can’t handle it, and the next thing he knows there’s a moment of shocked silence where Owen grabs at his right shoulder and splutters, and Ianto swallows and says, “Well, at least it wasn’t your left again.”
There’s a steaming mug of coffee on the table that Owen is ignoring, and his head is swimming because he has drunk far too much, a lot too much, and he aches all over; Ianto didn’t even sound surprised when Owen called him up and said I’m too drunk to drive me home, come get me, and he’s brought him back to the Hub – fuck knows where Jack is tonight, but it’s just them, and Ianto is calmly administering some form of first aid to Owen’s split lip, bloody nose and bruised face; he says: “Did you get into a barfight or something?” and Owen really can’t remember, so he mumbles: “Or something”, and shivers under Ianto’s fingers.
“You locked yourself in a cage with a pissed-off Weevil,” Ianto mumbles against his mouth the night Owen gets out of hospital (and when Ianto’s thumb brushes over the stitches on his face, he flinches), “You’re so stupid,” and Owen replies with a hint of amusement in his tone, “What, and you’re not?”
Ianto is stark, stark naked and knelt on Jack’s desk, cupping Owen’s face with his hands and kissing him deeply; “‘I can resist anything except temptation’,” Owen quotes thoughtfully, and Ianto just laughs; “Owen, don’t give yourself so much credit”.
Since Owen is running the whole damn show now, he gives Tosh and Gwen the day off and switches off the security cameras; Ianto spends the afternoon lying on the sofa, watching Owen wandering about in Ianto’s shirt and a pair of boxer shorts, smoking and looking faintly bemused, and Ianto decides that this isn’t love, or happiness, or even inner peace, but it probably is something worth holding onto, at least until circumstances tear it from his grasp.
Owen whistles tunelessly between his teeth all afternoon, shirtsleeve torn and hair a little wild, amusing himself by dissecting small-alien-rat-type-things and getting mess absolutely everywhere; Gwen watches him through narrowed eyes, trying to work out what’s cheered him up, and therefore completely misses Ianto humming while he makes coffee, his shirt missing three buttons.
Ianto has to suppress a laugh, somewhere along the line, because Owen’s sheets are this incredible shade of deep purple, which is somehow unbelievably slutty, but then he’s distracted by the way Owen maps every moment, every touch, with a groan or a moan or a hiss or a flickering of his eyelids, and it’s kind of engrossing, wrenching these noises from Owen’s bruised mouth; it’s almost enough to make Ianto forget to mock Owen for his choice of bedlinen.
In the weeks after Jack’s disappearance, it seems that nothing at all has changed between Owen and Ianto; except that Owen still flinches whenever Ianto has his hands on a weapon of any kind, and although Ianto is sarcastic-but-obedient as ever, he still can’t look Owen in the eye.
Owen watches the bullet wound on his shoulder stop bleeding and scab over and then become a round white scar, days trickling awkwardly by, and swears to himself that one day, he will get his revenge on Ianto.
Due to something Owen can’t remember happening right at this minute, he has a lot of stitches and is on a lot of painkillers, which are making world amusingly quivery around the edges, so he doesn’t know if Ianto did actually volunteer to take him home or not, and he has no idea if he’s dreaming Ianto undressing him and putting him into bed, and he can’t tell if the kiss Ianto drops on his lips and the whisper of I’m glad you’re not dead are in any way real; but when he wakes up in the morning, considerably less stoned and in a lot more pain, although he’s alone, his entire flat has been cleaned and tidied up.
“We’re Torchwood, we don’t get powercuts,” Owen complains, but even by the flickering candlelight he can see the sarcastic look on Ianto’s face, so instead he sinks into a mutinous silence, reflecting that it’s going to be a long night, watching the flame flutter and go out completely, and counts to twenty before a warm mouth covers his in the dark.
Owen is exceptionally good at making mistakes, particularly ones that begin with ‘here is a bloated alien corpse and I have a shiny, sharp scalpel’, and end with Ianto using five kinds of bleach to try and get dripping green/purple viscera off the walls and ceiling, trembling with barely-suppressed anger, while Owen attempts to look slightly penitent and not laugh, and adds to his autopsy notes: alien explodes if prodded too hard.
It takes half an hour to patch Tosh up and she’s still worryingly quiet and still; Gwen agrees to stay with her, and Owen and Ianto wind up screaming at each other in the briefing room, Ianto telling Owen he’s fucking up and someone is going to get killed, and Owen shouting back that he refuses to stand there and be judged by a man who bins crisp packets for a living, and it could go on for hours, but Ianto grabs Owen’s collar and pulls him forward and kisses him desperately hard, and then there’s nothing but a ringing, angry hush.
They don’t know where Jack went or how long he’ll be gone, just that he’s not here, and the space he left behind yawns emptily; Ianto finds himself kissing Owen at two-thirty on a Monday morning because he can’t take the hollowness inside any more, and Owen mumbles, “I’m going to regret this, aren’t I,” but he doesn’t let go (and Ianto thinks, not as much as I will).
Owen’s first act as leader of Torchwood Three is to fire Ianto, because he shot him, because he hid that Cyberman in their basement, because all he really does is walk around in a silent fashion tidying up (and, he adds in the privacy of his brain, he really is far too distracting); Ianto merely looks bemused and says that Torchwood Three will sink without him, and in a week Owen will be begging him to come back; in actual fact, it only takes four days.
There are some days when Owen isn’t feeling quite so vindictive towards everyone in the vicinity, and on those (very, very rare) days, he wonders exactly how Ianto keeps himself going; through being ignored and treated as little more than a very subservient robot most of the time; to his girlfriend almost being converted into a Cyberman, and then hiding her, and then her almost killing all of them; to nearly being eaten by cannibals, to Jack’s disappearance… then there are other days when Owen’s shoulder is still hurting, and he maliciously hopes that Ianto stops coping and breaks down completely.
About a week after Lisa’s death, Owen makes some stupid remark about ‘people who keep their homicidal girlfriends locked up in the basement’, and Ianto’s calm, none-of-this-matters exterior slips, and he lobs a full mug of scalding coffee at Owen before storming out; Owen refuses to apologise and Ianto refuses to clean up the mess, standing there looking cold and passive again as though the world can throw whatever it likes at him, because he honestly doesn’t care any more.
Within two months of Jack’s disappearance, Owen and Ianto have put aside their differences and fucked on every flat surface in the Hub, and on several surfaces that don’t really qualify as ‘flat’, and this includes the invisible lift, in the cold February air, tourists milling about and taking pictures of the fountain (which is faintly worrying, because Ianto hasn’t yet figured out if the chameleon circuit/filter thing works in photographs), shivering and swearing and losing all feeling in their extremities, but refusing to give in and go somewhere warm, because they have some kind of inane point to prove.
It starts out meaningless, so meaningless that it takes Owen a ridiculously long time to notice that he’s getting attached; after all, falling in love with Ianto is nothing like falling in love with Diane, it isn’t hot, or immediate, or overwhelming, it happens in pieces and moments and awkward silences; Owen doesn’t even realise until he wakes up one morning and watches Ianto sleeping and thinks holy shit, and by then it’s too late and he doesn’t mind nearly as much as he should.
When Torchwood One brushes itself off and opens again a year after Jack disappears, Ianto returns without looking back, taking nothing with him but a bottle of retcon and a suit bag; six months later, Owen is called up for a meeting with the new leader to explain why Captain Harkness seems to be conspicuously absent; he’s greeted at the front desk by Ianto, suit sharp as ever, but Owen can see in the receptionist’s eyes that Ianto no longer has any idea who he is.
There’s nowhere that Torchwood doesn’t have access to the CCTV footage, and a week after Owen returns to work, still looking considerably battered, face an ugly yellow-green from the fading bruising, Ianto notes him watching some form of footage on his computer; when he looks over Owen’s shoulder, he notes that it’s Owen and Diane, in a beautiful red dress, dancing in an empty carpark; Ianto says nothing, but adds some brandy to Owen’s afternoon coffee.
Owen decides that this is what going completely batshit crazy feels like – their latest experiment-gone-wrong has turned Ianto into a frustratingly gorgeous woman, with a shimmering waterfall of dark hair, legs so long that any skirt becomes positively indecent, and truly amazing tits; but she still has the same come-fuck-me smile twitching around her lips, and Owen can’t think clearly for days.
They’re all shades of angry and drunk and weak and Owen is bleeding and Ianto is half-shouting, half-sobbing, both of them hidden down in the archives where there are no security cameras, no evidence, and Owen sends three boxes of files crashing to the floor when he pins a struggling Ianto against the shelves, kissing him and kissing him until Ianto is hardly fighting any more, just whispering Owen, don’t, and Owen finds himself snarling at him, “There’s no fucking point in saving yourself for Jack, he’s never sodding coming back!”
Suzie doesn’t get a funeral, and they don’t talk about her because she betrayed them, but Owen still wants to remember her, and the pieces of her that he almost didn’t really have, so a week after she dies for the second time, when he’s staying late at work, when he finds Ianto sitting in the morgue with a glass of scotch, Owen says nothing, but sits down beside Ianto, and they share the rest of the drink, remembering the colleague they’re supposed to forget.
Owen is just discovering that the skin underneath Ianto’s shirt is unbelievably soft, and things are looking interestingly promising, when his phone goes off; it’s Jack, the Earth is in peril yet again, can he get in because Jack, for some reason, can’t get hold of Ianto, and when he puts the phone down Owen sighs, because it would be nice if the world could stop getting itself in trouble, just for half an hour – is it really too much to ask?
Ianto practically pisses himself laughing the first time he sees Owen in a suit, tugging awkwardly at the collar, and scowling like a child; then spends an almost indecently long time straightening the tie, while Owen shifts uncomfortably from foot to foot, muttering mutinously and resisting the urge to whine: but it’s itchy!
When the mysterious pale blue cylinder Tosh has been tinkering with somehow manages to infect Ianto with a virus curiously similar to flu, Owen puts him into a quarantine room and then doesn’t leave his side, wiping sweat off his forehead and monitoring his vital signs for days and days, watching Ianto toss and turn, half-delirious as his temperature sky rockets, calling desperately out for Jack.
In the cramped space that is the backseat of the SUV, Ianto’s laughter is too close and too real, and Owen kisses him to shut him up; they’re a tangle of limbs and Owen’s back is being bent at an angle he isn’t sure is physically possible, and this is stupid, because there are plenty of places where there’s actually room to spread out a little, but no; nothing’s allowed to be simple or sane when you work for Torchwood, so Owen clenches a hand in the back of Ianto’s hair, and resigns himself to spending the rest of the day trying to work the kinks out of his spine.
“I fucking hate you,” Ianto says bitterly, early hours in the morning, the marks of Owen’s teeth in his shoulder, half a migraine attempting to manifest itself, “I wish that you would just fucking leave me alone”; Owen barely opens his eyes, half-unconscious, scratches on his unbearably skinny shoulders and sprawled out on his bed, still mostly drunk, but there’s still enough of him left to smirk cruelly and say: “Who exactly are you kidding, Ianto?”
Ianto is filling out the paperwork regarding Suzie’s death, and Owen sits beside him in the morgue and looks at all the drawers, drawer after drawer of dead Torchwood employees, dating fuck knows how far back, and he grimaces and says to Ianto, “I’m not sure I want to stay here for the rest of eternity,” and Ianto just shrugs and says “Well, you don’t have a lot of choice, but if you like, I’ll let you pick your drawer”.
Owen can’t be in five places at once, no matter how hard he tries, but when he and Tosh get back to the Hub after dealing with a rogue case of telepathy, there seems to be broken glass, blood, and coffee everywhere, and a dead alien (their latest present from the increasingly unstable Rift) oozing into the water at the base of the tower; Gwen is bleeding profusely when Owen patches her up, but what really stings is the look on Ianto’s face when he tells Owen that no one’s blaming him for not being there.
Owen is doing Ianto’s medical check-up, his first at Torchwood Three, and Ianto is therefore sitting stripped bare on the autopsy table and shivering as Owen prods and pokes him and asks unnecessary questions about sexually transmitted infections – then adds that Ianto’s a lot skinnier than he looks; Ianto glares at him, and so Owen tells him “I’ve never seen you naked before,” and Ianto glowers and mutters, “Well, you’re obviously a shit doctor then”, but he’s blushing anyway.
During the day they all scream at each other and somehow make Cardiff not fall into the abyss and drink too much coffee and get repeatedly hurt and promise UNIT that everything’s ok although it’s becoming increasingly apparent that it’s not, and then, when Gwen goes home to the shattered wreck she calls her relationship with Rhys and Tosh just goes because she can’t handle it any more (but she makes it in on time every morning and Owen never did know how to reach her so he can’t fix what’s wrong), Ianto tidies up and Owen watches his arse and hopes that Jack comes back before he has to resort to desperate measures and start shagging the teaboy himself.
They sit under Jack’s desk with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and drink late into the night, there’s still a little too much antipathy between them, but it could be worse; when Ianto is horribly drunk and half-lying on Owen because he’s incapable of holding himself upright anymore, he says “I’m not sorry I shot you, but I am sorry I missed”; Owen mumbles “Amen to that”, and knocks the bottle over.
Four o’clock in the morning and all of them are crazy and shaking and miserable, stuck watching the same CCTV footage of Jack running up to a blue box and then disappearing, and whichever way you look at it he’s all kinds of gone and they don’t even know where to begin looking; Tosh is crying and Gwen is in shock and Ianto looks dead on his feet, so when he leans his head on Owen’s uninjured shoulder and closes his eyes, Owen doesn’t comment and doesn’t shove him off either.
Even though Jack has been gone almost eighteen months, Owen knows that Ianto is still counting, and could still tell you, if asked, how long Jack has been gone in minutes, which is disturbing but then he always was good at maths, and he knows that he hasn’t given up yet; but when Ianto finally kisses him, fingers clinging on hard enough to bruise, Owen knows that this is the tipping point, and Ianto is finally admitting that he knows their leader is never coming back.
In the hours after they get back, Ianto shakes quietly and bleeds into his shirt collar, and it’s up to Owen to put in stitches and wash the blood and dirt from his skin, and Ianto says nothing at all, and Owen supposes, well, fair game, given that Ianto was nearly eaten by mad cannibals and everything, but Ianto won’t look him in the eye, so Owen patches him up and tells him he’ll be ok, and then goes to see if Gwen’s ready to take him up on his offer yet, because at least he can help her.
Aftermaths are always entertaining but rarely fun; the edge of Jack’s desk has left raw bruises on Owen’s hips and he’s sitting stark naked on the floor feeling sticky in awkward places, while Ianto paces, equally nude and looking somehow twice as naked as anyone else without that ubiquitous suit and tie; but while Ianto has a what the hell have I done sort of expression on his face, he doesn’t actually look all that sorry, and nothing’s been thrown yet, so Owen supposes that things could be considerably worse.
It’s a Tuesday afternoon when Owen finds Ianto clinging to the coffee machine and sobbing, it’s hailing on the surface and Tosh and Gwen are snapping at each other for no good reason, a day when everything’s fragmented and Jack’s absence is felt more keenly than ever; he drags their teaboy into the SUV, and drives them out onto the motorway; “Where are we going?” Ianto asks, when the crying subsides a little, Owen shrugs, and replies: “Anywhere not Cardiff,” and puts his foot down on the accelerator.
Jack lectures both Owen and Ianto for a very long time on how this is the last time he takes any of them to an alien planet and how he told them not to accept any food or drink from the locals, but Owen is more than a little distracted by the fact he has the hangover from hell and has also woken up apparently married to Ianto.
The Hub has gone into biohazard lockdown for no good reason, and all communications are out, and Owen assumes, as the temperature won’t stop rising, this means that he and Ianto are going to die at some point in the near future, but, hands sliding on sweat-slick skin, Ianto’s teeth biting anxious bruises across his shoulders, at this point in time, he can’t bring himself to care.
They got invaded, again, the Hub fucking needs knew better security systems and Owen is going to point this out to Jack the first chance he can, but the comms all got knocked out and for fifteen terrifying minutes they all thought Ianto was dead, but he’s not, and they’re all trying to clear up and Owen can’t stop shaking and in the end he corners Ianto upstairs with his hands full of paper and tells him not to say anything, not yet, and just buries his face in Ianto’s shoulder and breathes until the world makes sense again.