Challenge/Prompt: Written for johanirae [also fanfic100, 025. Strangers]
Word Count: 4670
Summary: Owen is feeling charitable enough to last four hours before going to Jack and telling him to fire the new guy.
Author’s Notes: johanirae wanted the first day the boys worked together, and this is what came out. It was far too much fun to write, actually. My original title was going to be At This Point In Time, We Didn’t Know He Was Hiding A Cyberman In The Basement, but I decided that was way, way too long!
Because it’s a slow Thursday afternoon, and because he got laid last night, Owen is feeling charitable enough to last four hours before going to Jack and telling him to fire the new guy.
“Not that I don’t trust your distinctly biased judgement or anything,” Jack smirks, leaning back in his chair like he’s waiting to be entertained, “But I’m going to need a reason of some kind.”
“Well, for one thing, the man clearly has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” Owen says. “You can’t let him work here just because he has a fabulous arse.”
Jack’s smirk broadens, now there are teeth in it. “So you’ve noticed?”
You would have to be blind not to notice, and even then Ianto Jones probably radiates some special kind of aura that lets everyone in the vicinity know he has an arse so perfect it should probably be outlawed.
“That’s not the point, Harkness,” Owen snaps. “You can’t keep him around just to perve over him.”
“You’ve never had a problem with me doing this kind of thing before,” Jack replies, and Owen finally realises that this is an argument that he is not going to win.
“That’s because, before, your eyecandy wasn’t potentially putting my life in danger!” Owen practically shouts, remembering at the last minute to keep his voice down (damn Jack’s office. What kind of man doesn’t have doors?)
“You do realise you’re starting to sound like a jealous ex-boyfriend?” Jack looks unhealthily amused, actually, and it isn’t fair because Owen is trying to make a sensible point and it is, once again, being twisted up and thrown back at him.
“But-” he tries to say, but Jack cuts him off.
“We’re not going to have this conversation,” he informs Owen with certainty. “Maybe, when hell freezes over and you become my second in command, you can have a say over who I employ and who I don’t employ. But, until then, the decisions will be left to me and Suzie, ok?”
Owen decides now isn’t the time to argue over exactly how stable Suzie’s state of mind is; Jack wouldn’t listen anyway.
He sighs heavily.
“Now, be a good boy and flounce off somewhere else,” Jack continues brightly. “I have to give our new recruit his weapons training.”
What Jack calls Weapons Training is what most people call A Sexual Harassment Case In The Making, but it’s a Torchwood rite of passage and they’ve all been through it. Ok, so Ianto Jones has come straight from Torchwood One and therefore is a) at least as good a shot as Jack is, and b) possibly even better than Jack, but their captain has never let reality get in the way of his incredibly inappropriate seduction schemes.
Owen scowls all the way back to his workstation, where he deliberately only has one sip of his utterly perfect coffee on principle. Well, ok, two sips. Fine, half the mug; but he meant to ignore it, which is the most important part.
There’s no denying that Ianto Jones is both extremely competent and extremely good-looking, but there is also no denying that he jumps at practically every noise and his hands are not exactly steady. Owen would expect no less from a man who, around a week ago, was caught up in a Cyberman attack at his previous place of work (for God’s sake, the Battle of Canary Wharf was so recent that Ianto still has stitches in his jaw from what was apparently a very narrow escape). However, he wouldn’t expect someone who’d only just avoided being turned into a metal serial killer to come straight back to work. For one thing, if it were Owen, he’d be claiming as much paid holiday as possible while he ‘recuperated’, regardless of whether he needed it or not; he wouldn’t be eagerly running to brand new employment.
It’s not the action of a man in his right mind.
Owen starts watching him, because he is in charge of the team’s medical care, and if Ianto has a meltdown right in the middle of the Hub, it’ll be his problem. Besides, he never passes up on an opportunity to say I told you so to Jack. Unreasonably pretty as he is, Ianto is clearly a man on the brink of a nervous breakdown, and he should not be here. Two days later, Owen takes his list of complaints to Jack.
“Ianto isn’t sleeping,” Owen explains, while Jack makes it clear how much he doesn’t care about what Owen has to say by amusing himself flicking paperclips at his desklamp rather than actually looking at him. “You can see that from the shadows under his eyes. And he practically has a spasm every time the coffee machine starts grinding the beans; any sort of metallic sound has him right on edge.” Jack continues to listen with an I’m-only-being-patient-and-listening-to-y
“…Are you going somewhere with this?” Jack asks.
“Ianto is in no fit state to be here,” Owen finishes abruptly, deciding he’d better just cut to the point and let Jack make of it what he will.
The captain doesn’t really look all that interested in what Owen has to say. He never is.
“I wouldn’t have hired him if I didn’t think he was capable of doing his job,” he explains in a long-suffering, patronising tone. “Which is more than can be said for you at the moment. I know stalking is a popular Torchwood tradition and all, but I believe I did give you some bodies to autopsy. I definitely didn’t order you to watch Ianto 24/7.”
Owen sighs. “If you don’t want to find him crying his eyes out in archive room 12-C, or murdering prostitutes in his spare time, or something equally crazy, I’d give him some time off for therapy.”
“I don’t think I’ll start murdering prostitutes, if it’s all the same to you Owen.” Ianto has appeared creepily and noiselessly behind him, and Owen once again curses Jack for being too cheap or too sociopathic to put doors on his office. “I think I’ll stick to tidier activities while I have my meltdown. Perhaps I could take up knitting?”
He’s got this little smirk at the corner of his mouth and although Torchwood takes away all kinds of regular social interaction, Owen can’t help feeling slightly guilty; Ianto wasn’t supposed to overhear his less-than-professional personality analysis.
“Well, since Doctor Harper is so insistent that you need constant supervision, you can help him out.” Jack has that bastard grin on his face, the one that Owen would punch off if he thought he’d be able to survive the aftermath. “From tomorrow, Ianto, you can help him out on the Waterson case.”
The Watersons were found on a jetty over the Bay with their important internal organs strewn around them. Owen is pretty certain that Ianto is going to be incapable of coping with this case, but if he does fall apart then at least he’ll have been proven right.
“Yes, sir.” Ianto gives an unreadable smile and then wanders off to wipe things with a j-cloth. Owen gives Jack the angriest glare he can manage, and then goes to autopsy things in an attempt to calm down.
This isn’t going to end well.
The archives cover the bottom few levels of the seemingly endless Hub. They’re bloody cold, they smell like bleach, and they’re incomprehensible to all but the most intimately initiated. Needless to say, Owen can never find anything.
“What are you looking for?” he asks, hoping he doesn’t sound too much like he’s whining. “And you can’t tell me you know your way around down here already. You’ve only been here four days, that would just be creepy.”
“I’m very efficient,” Ianto informs him in that melodic Welsh accent. He appears to be counting clip-folders, and Owen tries to work out if maybe OCD is one of the interesting after-effects of Ianto’s experiences at Torchwood One. “Aha, there we go.”
He picks a charcoal grey folder off the shelf. It doesn’t look any different to the others, except that this one has a sticky label with 188.8.131.52 on the spine.
“You have the same filing system as Torchwood One,” Ianto explains, carrying the folder down to the end of this particular room, turning left, and ending up in a little alcove with chairs and a kettle that Owen has never seen in all his two years of working here. He says as much, and Ianto just makes a small sound of amusement before sitting down in one of the armchairs, putting the giant folder on a round table in the middle.
“What are you doing?” Owen asks, sitting down beside him.
“Give me the autopsy notes,” Ianto says, in lieu of an answer, and Owen obediently hands him the cardboard file. “You said the bones had toothmarks on them, right?”
“Yep.” Owen looks over Ianto’s shoulder as she starts flicking through the sheets of paper in the file. “What is this?”
“It’s the file for Small Bite-y Things With Teeth,” Ianto explains briskly. “I think our alien is going to be somewhere in here, might give us a clue as to where to find it.”
“Couldn’t you just have looked it up on the computers?” Owen hears himself whining, but he is freezing his backside off down here, it’s probably warranted.
“It’s more difficult to look up Small Bite-y Things With Teeth in a search engine,” Ianto replies calmly, licking his thumb and index finger and turning a couple more pages over in rapid succession.
“Small Bite-y Things With Teeth doesn’t exactly sound professional,” Owen begins, realising he’s probably down here for the longhaul.
“Does what it says on the tin,” Ianto replies distantly, scanning down a page and then turning it. “There are also files for Things That Are All Shades Of Prussian or Navy Blue and Big Things With More Than Four Tentacles. They get official names, but it’s just quicker to file them by type rather than alphabet. Torchwood Archivists’ code and all.”
“And you just happen to know all the numbers for these things?” Owen asks dubiously.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” Ianto tells him. “Longer than you have.”
“How do you know that?”
“You’ve been working for Torchwood Three for two years. You were working in Cardiff A+E until you got fired for shagging the patients rather than doing your job.” Ianto doesn’t look at him, continues hunting through the file, but Owen feels like he’s been punched in the stomach.
“You shouldn’t know that,” he says, “That’s classified.”
“Nothing’s ever classified if you’re in charge of the paperwork,” Ianto points out, turning another page and smirking. “This could be our creature.”
Owen doesn’t want to let go of the fact Ianto knows all kinds of things he shouldn’t know (Jack fucking promised no one would ever find out, it wasn’t exactly Owen’s finest hour or anything), but obediently looks at the page Ianto has selected. It’s printed on typewriter paper and is crinkled at the edges, and the picture paperclipped in the top corner is in black and white, but it’s expressive nonetheless.
“You think we’re looking for a Prexorin?” he asks dubiously. The thing in the corner definitely fits the bill of a Small Bite-y Thing With Teeth, but that doesn’t mean the Watersons weren’t killed by one of the other myriad evil bastards in Ianto’s file.
“Prexorins have been found in Wales before,” Ianto replies, when Owen voices this doubt, tapping a small locations box in the bottom left hand corner. “I did check whether they could potentially be found here before I suggested it.”
Owen is used to handling cases by either letting Jack figure out what kind of alien it is (Jack seems to know an awful lot of aliens, but Suzie told Owen on his first day not to question it, and he hasn’t) or just referring to them as Those Ugly Yellow Sods Who Tried To Eat Tosh That Time. Ianto’s method of alien catching seems to involve a lot more paperwork and research. It’s both reassuring and frighteningly anal at the same time.
“Well then,” he says, “Let’s take that paper and get out of here before we both get hypothermia and die, and Jack finds our tragically rotting corpses in a decade’s time still bloody sitting here.”
Ianto gives him a bemused sort of look. “Actually, it’s temperature controlled down here,” he says after a moment, “So our tragic corpses will be unable to rot. Just so you know.”
Owen rolls his eyes.
“Whatever. We’ll still be dead. Come on.”
Jack is bickering with UNIT and Suzie and Tosh appear to be having Fun With Firewalls by attempting to embezzle money straight from the Torchwood funds in order to buy shoes or motherboards or something. Owen can’t help noticing the way Ianto’s eyes flick over them all in confusion.
“I take it we’re more relaxed than One was,” Owen suggests, trying to make some kind of human connection because getting Ianto fired hasn’t paid off and he’s probably going to have to work with the guy for a really long time, so he might as well attempt to get on with him. If only so they don’t end up shooting each other or something.
“Just a little.” Ianto smiles a strange little smile. “It says here a normal bullet will kill the Prexorins, and they like water, so I presume you should go down to the Bay and see if you can find any evidence.”
“I’m not going on my own,” Owen says. “Jack said you have to help me, so you can bloody well help me.”
“I’m not trained for field work,” Ianto tells him carefully.
“I really don’t care.” Owen shrugs. “Go and find your coat and see if you can get the SUV keys out of Jack, I’ll meet you up top in ten minutes.”
When Ianto walks into the tourist office, sure enough, he’s holding the car keys. Owen knew it would work; Jack hates letting him drive their precious 4x4, but all Ianto needs to do is flutter his eyelashes and Jack willingly hands over the keys. Their boss is depressingly predictable.
“Here.” Ianto gives him the keys with a clumsy brush of fingers.
“You don’t want to drive?” Owen asks.
Ianto holds one hand out straight; it’s still shaking.
“It’s probably not a good idea,” he murmurs awkwardly, curling his fingers and dropping his hand back down to his side.
“You have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” Owen says, in a you-really-need-lots-of-therapy-right-now sort of voice.
“And you’re more interested in my arse than you are in finding this alien. We’ve all got our faults, Owen.”
He turns, and walks out of the tourist office, forcing Owen to follow him.
“I’m not going to like you, am I.”
Ianto gives him a grin.
Owen thinks that they probably should have told someone that they were leaving, if only because if they do find themselves a Small Bite-y Thing With Teeth, Owen would like someone to come along and recover his remains. Still, it’s too late for that, with the late afternoon sun casting shadows along the waterfront, and Ianto looking thoughtfully over the water.
“We’re not going to be eaten,” Ianto says in a long-suffering voice.
“I didn’t say anything!” Owen protests.
“You didn’t have to.” Ianto turns to look at him, a wicked look in his eyes. “Torchwood One Telepathic Training.”
Owen feels his mouth drop open, thinking something along the lines of oh shit, and Ianto cracks up laughing.
“Oh, you’re too easy. Seriously.”
“I officially don’t like you,” Owen mutters.
“I figured that part out when you were trying to get Jack to fire me for being potentially unstable,” Ianto replies, turning his attention back to the water.
“You are potentially unstable,” Owen can’t help reminding him.
“No more so than you,” Ianto murmurs neutrally. “Torchwood attracts unstable people. You couldn’t be completely sane and do this for a living. It fucks you up inside.”
Owen doesn’t want to ask. He does. He probably ought to ask anyway, though he isn’t a psychologist and he’ll probably make it all worse.
“What happened to you, at Canary Wharf?”
Ianto seems to think about this for a moment, though he doesn’t look at Owen and his expression is entirely neutral. In natural light, the stitches in his chin look angry and red.
“I can’t really remember,” he says at last. “I mean, I remember pieces and flashes, but nothing… nothing concrete.”
Owen wants to believe him, but isn’t sure that he does. But as he opens his mouth to ask something else, Ianto catches his arm, pointing out across the water. There are shapes coming out of the Bay, small things with lots of limbs and too many gigantic teeth.
“Told you so,” Ianto says, with just a trace of smugness in his voice.
These Prexorin things move worryingly quickly, and it occurs to Owen that they seem to be heading right for them.
“Fuck,” he mutters, “Run!”
Ianto doesn’t need telling twice, and keeps pace with Owen easily as the two of them start running. It’s not a good plan, and this is probably top of the list of reasons why Owen is not allowed to be second in command; his plans lack, you know, flair.
“We should split up,” Ianto tells him, “It might confuse them.”
“What do you know?” Owen pants, “You have no field training!”
“And with all your field training your plan is to run!” Ianto snaps back, and sadly, he’s got a point. They pick different roads, hoping to get far enough away from the water to make the Prexorins confused and less inclined to follow. Then maybe they can back and try nego- Fuck that, actually, they have teeth as long as Owen’s fingers, he is not going to try negotiating.
Owen doubles back, and immediately wishes he hadn’t, because it turns out the Prexorins can get a certain distance away from water. A nasty little bastard with yellow, three-inch-long teeth leaps out at him from nowhere, clinging onto Owen’s forearm. It’s teeth are currently barely breaking the skin, but there’s an implication in it’s deep pink eyes that at any moment this state of affairs could change.
This is not good. This is ridiculously not good, and Owen has sudden, horrible mental images of himself with his stomach all torn out. He’s really not in the mood to have his stomach torn out. A soft chattering noise and then sudden weight on his shoulders tells him that the other Prexorin has arrived and clambered up onto his head, apparently with the intention of biting through his skull and eating his brain or something. Lovely. Owen tries to move to get to his gun, but the Prexorin on his arm sinks its teeth in a little more, and then one on his head shifts, implying that even if he does get in a position to kill it it’ll probably move at the last minute and leave him shooting himself.
Fucked doesn’t even really begin to cover it.
“Am I going to be able to talk my way out of this?” he asks, there’s cold water from the Bay dripping down his neck and an alien with its teeth slowly sinking into his arm. The Prexorins make little growling sounds, and Owen resists the urge to tell them not to talk with their mouths full, in case they take that as an invitation to simply start eating him. “Shit,” he mutters. “Fucking, pissing shit.”
The one on his head moves a little more, Owen feels teeth scrape almost tentatively against his scalp, and then, just as he’s beginning to think that there really is no way out of this, there are two rapid gunshots, and the Prexorins fall right off him.
Ianto is standing a few feet away, gun clenched in both hands, lower lip caught between his teeth in concentration. Owen swallows, shuffles his thoughts back together.
“You could have shot me,” he says eventually. “They were moving around, and your hands aren’t exactly steady.”
“You’re welcome,” Ianto responds quietly, returning his gun to its holster inside his suit jacket and walking over. He looks really tired and slightly shaken, and Owen wonders if this is his first kill since Canary Wharf. It must be.
“We should get these bagged and back to the Hub,” Owen says, reaching into the pocket of his coat for some of his ever-present biohazard bags. He kneels down and carefully pushes the two Prexorins, now bleeding an unattractive shade of mauve onto the pavement, into the bags and sealing them shut. Ianto remains silent, just watching, looking a little queasy. “Hey,” Owen continues, as they start walking back towards the Hub, “Let me buy you a drink later, ok?”
Ianto opens his mouth and Owen can see the no forming on his lips, but then he hesitates.
By the time Owen finishes autopsying the Prexorins, his fingertips are stained a weird sort of purple-y colour and he’s beginning to suspect he’s going to have nightmares about shining yellow teeth for the foreseeable future.
Ianto left at six; he still looked shaken and peaky, but agreed to meet Owen, at eight, at Owen’s particular favourite bar.
“How did the autopsy go?” Suzie asks, walking past with a stack of papers and what looks a lot like a staplegun, when Owen walks out of his lab. In response, Owen holds up his hands, his ten hideously stained fingers. “Oh.” Suzie dumps her burdens down on Tosh’s currently empty chair. “You should have worn gloves.”
“I did,” Owen replies. “This stuff just seeps right through.”
“Nice.” Suzie grimaces. “I could try and see if we’ve got something in the industrial cleaning supplies that would get it off.”
“I quite like having skin,” Owen replies. “But thanks anyway, Suze.”
She smiles at him pleasantly enough; they haven’t slept together for at least three months and Owen likes to think it’s less awkward between them than it used to be.
“What’re you up to?” he asks, jerking his head towards her stack of papers.
“Trying to see if there’s a connection between the recent murders around this area,” Suzie replies. “A load of people turning up with their hearts torn out. So it’s printouts and a nice stretch of blank wall for me tonight.”
“You should get Ianto to help you with that tomorrow,” Owen suggests. “He seems to know a scary amount of stuff about filing.”
Suzie nods, and then smirks wickedly. “So, what do you think of him?”
“He’s a liability,” Owen replies. “He makes decent coffee when he’s not twitching at the noises the machine generates. But he saved my life this afternoon, so I’m taking him for a drink.”
Suzie’s smile gets way too knowing and Owen doesn’t like it.
“It’s not going to be like that,” he says swiftly.
“Your track record suggests otherwise,” Suzie points out. She really does look indecently amused. “Tell me everything tomorrow.”
“You should get a life,” Owen mutters, picking his car keys out of the chaos that is his workstation.
Suzie rolls her eyes, picking up her printouts again.
“Have fun,” she says mildly. “Try not to be too obnoxious to the poor boy, he’s been through a lot.”
Owen is pleased to note that Ianto’s arse still looks pretty damn good in a pair of jeans, as opposed to those meticulously pressed suit trousers, and then the fact that he is still noticing this worries him, makes him wonder exactly what his motivations are here. Then again, Torchwood relationships tend to be built almost entirely on ambiguity.
“You look like you’re trying to hide some kind of domestic violence,” he remarks, nodding towards Ianto’s petrol blue poloneck.
“Well, Cyberman violence,” Ianto replies with something that’s half a smile, half a grimace. He rolls up his left sleeve to reveal an interesting-looking cut held together with neat stitching, and a mass of dark bruising around his elbow. “But I suppose the principle’s the same.”
“Why the hell are you here?” Owen can’t resist asking. “Because you really can’t have passed any kind of physical or psychological tests.”
“Ninety-five percent of people in Torchwood One died,” Ianto replies. “If I actually sat down and thought about that, I’d never be able to get back up again. So here I am.”
Owen still has the feeling that Ianto might not be telling the truth, or at least, he’s lying by omission, but he really doesn’t know the guy well enough to tell. Ianto takes a sip from his pint, knuckles white against the glass. Owen isn’t going to get him drunk; that would just be stupid.
“How’s your arm?” Ianto asks.
“It didn’t need stitches,” Owen tells him, pushing up his shirtsleeve to reveal the nasty, red-looking bitemarks. “Though I’ll probably get rabies or something now.”
“I think rabies is the least of your problems.”
Owen knows that he isn’t imagining the way their knees are pushing together under the table, isn’t imagining the way that they keep not-quite-looking at each other. And this is stupid, because they haven’t even worked together a week yet. Besides, they’re only on their first drink, so it can’t be drunkenness either. Whatever it is, it’s not a good sign.
“Your fingers are purple,” Ianto observes mildly.
“That kind of thing happens a lot around here,” Owen tells him. “I suppose One wasn’t like that.”
“It was… tidier,” Ianto agrees. “More hygienic.”
“You’re going to bloody hate it here then,” Owen murmurs.
“Oh, I don’t know.” Ianto gives him a look that lasts a little too long, and Owen returns it, and Ianto looks away, blushing slightly.
“Look, mate, we both know the way Torchwood fucks with your brain,” Owen points out. “This honestly isn’t going to be an issue.”
He pushes his knee against Ianto’s a little harder, and Ianto doesn’t pull away.
“I’ve got…” Ianto begins, swallows, tries again. “I’ve got a girlfriend.”
Oh. Oh. Owen really didn’t see that one coming.
“And your girlfriend is likely to care if you sleep with another man, right?” Owen asks, because it’s always best to check.
Ianto gets a very complicated expression that Owen can’t decipher.
“Wow.” Owen takes another mouthful of beer. “That’s fucked-up.”
Ianto laughs in a way that’s kind of ugly. “You have no idea.” He looks at his hands for a moment, and apparently reaches a decision. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Good.” Owen smiles; charming but graceless. “I don’t want to hear about it.”
Ianto’s knee slips against his; his thigh is half between Owen’s and this is almost definitely going to happen.
“Come on,” Owen says, getting to his feet. “I live just over the other side of the Bay.”
Ianto gets up too, smiling in a way that’s more bemusement than anything else. Just as they’re walking out, Owen feels he ought to slot in some kind of disclaimer.
“Just so you know, this is going to fuck up any chance of a friendship we could have had. We’re going to be endlessly awkward around each other from now on. Are you sure you’re ok with that?”
They look at each other and burst out laughing. You don’t make friends at Torchwood, you really don’t. You meet people who you don’t want to kill some of the time and that really is enough. At least they’ll be able to live with the uncomfortable knowledge that they almost got on with each other to begin with.
“It’s all right,” Ianto says calmly, a smirk flicking the corners of this mouth, “I was never going to like you anyway.”