Challenge/Prompt: 5drunkfics, 04. Confessions
Copyright: Title taken from Tori Amos’ “Blood Roses”
Summary: Proper bosses don’t do this.
Author’s Notes: Set between “Combat” and “Captain Jack Harkness”. Dedicated to widowedanthem, not because I think she’ll like it, just because she likes J/O. I’m coming around to quite liking these two as well, actually :) This was inspired by that line when Jack says to Tosh; “What do real bosses do in this situation?”
“Proper bosses don’t do this,” Owen observes somewhere around halfway down his third pint.
Jack tries to work out if he should be offended, then remembers that he has no idea what proper bosses do in this situation. He’s running Torchwood by his own personal rulebook and by the skin of his teeth (one of those 20th century human phrases he really doesn’t get – although there is this whole planet where they really do have skin on their teeth, and you just don’t want to be around at dinner time), and people seem to enjoy pointing out his ineffectual leadership skills on a regular basis. And he realises that he’s not actually paying attention to Owen.
“Proper bosses don’t take their employees out for drinks an hour after they’ve been discharged from hospital,” Owen explains. “Because proper bosses know what a bad idea mixing strong painkillers and alcohol is.”
“You could have stopped me,” Jack points out. Owen shrugs.
“I’m out of my mind at the moment,” he explains, “You can’t expect me to be responsible for myself.”
“When have you ever been responsible for yourself?” Jack asks, somewhat curious, and rather disliking the incredulous tone that creeps into his voice.
Owen glowers at him, a look which is somehow improved drastically by the purple-black bruise taking up half of his face.
“Don’t pretend you know anything about me, Harkness,” he spits. Jack just laughs, and gets to his feet to buy Owen another drink. Then he leans down, and whispers in his ear:
“Owen, I know everything about you, and that includes everything you’ve ever done and everything you ever will do and all those dark little things in the back of your mind you hoped I’d never find out about.”
The look Owen gives him is somewhere between incredulous and terrified, so Jack just pats him on the shoulder and walks off.
“Why are you drinking water?” Owen enquires. He frowns slightly, “I mean, unless you’re cunningly hiding vodka, which doesn’t seem like you. You’re one of those guys who shows everything off.”
Jack shrugs, because the communal showers were not his idea, contrary to popular opinion; he just likes taking advantage of them.
“One of us should stay sober,” he tells Owen. Owen laughs, bruised knuckles white around his pint glass.
“Give me some truth,” he says, “I’ve fucking earned it.”
“No you haven’t,” Jack feels compelled to reply. “You took several unauthorised days off work to sulk, then attempted to kill yourself with a terrified and feral alien. Tell me which part of that earned you anything.”
“Ianto could do a better job running Torchwood than you could,” he replies, “And I bet in this situation he would take me home, tuck me into bed, and then leave me alone. He’s much more responsible than you are.”
“I’m on suicide watch,” Jack points out steadily, taking another mouthful of water, “Just in case you decide to do something crazy again, which, let’s face it Owen, is probably likely.”
“Fuck off, Harkness,” Owen mutters, he looks like hell, and Jack supposes that he probably shouldn’t have got him completely pissed within hours of a hospital discharge. Still, you learn something new every day, and Jack won’t do this next time. And he knows, in the pit of his stomach, that there will be a next time, because Owen, for all his determined self-preservation, has a beautiful destructive streak about half a mile wide.
Jack finishes his third – or maybe it’s fourth, or fifth, or even sixth, who knows – glass of whisky and watches Owen, who looks like he’s been put in a tumble dryer on spin cycle, then taken out and beaten with something heavy for a while. Jack reckons that it would be fairly ironic if Owen died of alcohol poisoning or something similar just after surviving a deadly Weevil attack.
A moment after this, and Jack decides he should take Owen home. One of them ought to be the responsible adult. When he points this out, Owen starts laughing, and Jack reflects that the words “responsible” and “adult” don’t necessarily apply to the man who has no idea how to take care of his injured employee. But he pulls Owen to his feet anyway, and Owen falls against him and the laughing stops abruptly and Jack thinks oh, hell in about twelve languages.
Owen doesn’t live all that far from this particular bar, so they stumble through the streets together.
“Who are you?” Owen asks, words slipping together and Jack considers ignoring the question, but Owen is physically broken and mentally impaired at this point in time, and he won’t remember, and if he does remember, then that is what retcon was invented for.
“I am a man out of his time,” Jack explains, “My name isn’t mine, I’m from somewhere so far in your future that this Earth is nothing more than the primeval beginnings of a great society. We don’t have ipods. No one knows who David Beckham is. And no one cares who they shag as long as they have fun doing it. But there were problems. And now I’m here. In my old-fashioned coat with my futuristic ideals. And I don’t drink because I’m scared of what that could lead to.”
Owen considers him for a long, long moment.
“You’re fucking crazy, mate,” he mutters, “Either that or you’re secretly a comic book hero, and none of us have noticed.”
“Who’s to say I’m not?”
Owen narrows his eyes and then starts laughing; oh, but he believed it for a second.
It is impossibly late, and Owen’s flat seems to have far too many windows. These two things aren’t at all related, but Jack has to stand and stare at the huge amount of glass for a moment because he has the strange feeling he’s being watched by all sorts of people, who can look right in if they so wish. Owen has no such qualms, has already tugged his trainers off and thrown himself on the sofa. Jack thinks about leaving for a moment, but he’s not exactly stone-cold sober any more, so sits beside him.
“You’re going to have such a hangover in the morning,” Jack observes thoughtfully. “I had this amazing hangover once, I’d drunk about a gallon of Hyper Vodka, no one could work out why I was still alive, it felt like the top of my head was coming off… then it turned out the top of my head had come off and then-”
“You talk too much,” Owen interrupts suddenly. “For the guy who’s meant to be all brooding and enigmatic, you’re irritatingly chatty.”
“You’d prefer me to be the strong, silent type?” Jack enquires. Owen turns to look at him.
“Jack,” he says, “I feel like I’m falling apart at the seams right now, which is weird, because I wasn’t even aware I had seams, and most of this is your fault, and you’re sitting there being all… smirking, and shiny, and…” he sighs, fight going out of him, and finishes weakly, “I really, really hate you.”
“I saved your life,” Jack feels compelled to point out.
“And I didn’t want you to,” Owen replies, they’ve had this conversation too many times before.
Jack is sick of Owen insisting that he wants to be dead.
“Yes you did,” he responds tiredly.
Owen’s fingers are scrabbling through the back of Jack’s hair, uncoordinated and Jack thinks that somewhere along the line he might be taking advantage of an extremely vulnerable and extremely drunk man. And he can’t bring himself to care. He’s not quite in his right mind at this moment, and Owen kissed him first, halfway through yelling at Jack to get the fuck out of his home, and his coat is somewhere and there are too many windows and tomorrow… oh God, this is going to be ugly in the morning.
But the morning is at least five hours away and therefore not Jack’s problem at this moment in time. And besides, it’s not like this hasn’t been brewing since the first morning Owen staggered into work after Diane’s departure, still half-drunk, blame thick in his eyes even though Jack doesn’t know how Owen has managed to twist Diane’s decision into Jack’s fault.
“Proper bosses don’t do this either,” Owen mumbles, lips against Jack’s, there’s more than a hint of a laugh in his voice. “Proper bosses know that this is sexual harassment.”
“Shut up, Owen,” Jack orders firmly.
And for once in his life, Owen obeys.