Pairing: Owen/Ianto [Jack/Ianto, Owen/Tosh]
Word Count: 4,050
Sequel to: Nobody Wins Anymore and We Lied When We Said That We’d Aired All Our Grievances
Spoilers: 2x05 Adam, and 2x06 Reset (set during a tweaked-about Reset).
Summary: "See what I mean?" Ianto says quietly, but he doesn't sound happy about it. "Same old fight; just new arguments."
Author’s Notes: Contains proper grammar! I promise! Ahem. I finally figured out where I want to go with at least the next three instalments of this story, after that canon will dictate what I have to do. I didn’t really want to write this for a while, as it’s my A Day In The Death tie-in that I actually want to write, but I finally decided to sit back and enjoy myself (and by “enjoy myself”, I mean torture the boys some more) Oh, and writing it from Owen’s POV was a bit risky as I’m still not 100% sure how he actually feels about Ianto. Anyway.
As always with them, confusion turns far too quickly into blame. The team are missing two days, all of them are missing two days, and the Hub security footage is missing. Jack has settled for looking puzzled and then letting it go - after all, he's got so much life that what's two missing days in the grand scheme of things? - and Tosh is far more interested in why she has a bouquet of flowers apparently from Owen on her workstation. Owen is as much in the dark about this as she is; and deeply unsettled about it too. Ianto seems more bemused than anxious.
He drops onto their long-suffering sofa beside Ianto at some point in the evening, nursing a migraine and a whole lot of boredom, and they start a conversation halfway through.
"Maybe," Ianto suggests thoughtfully, "You did something so stupid and embarrassing that you had to retcon all of us."
Owen turns to look at him. "Why me?" he asks.
Ianto shrugs. "'Cause I wouldn't put it past you," he replies.
"Fuck you, Jones." His autopilot reply for pretty much everything that he doesn't like; and Ianto smiles almost affectionately.
"You left flowers on Tosh's workstation," he points out, a shred of accusation in his tone. "With a card."
"I'm telling you, I have no idea how those got there," Owen insists. He doesn't like the way Tosh is looking almost expectantly at him; and Ianto's bemused smirks are no better. "I've never given a bird flowers in my life. Well, maybe once, but I had shagged her sister, and I was kind of hoping my near future wouldn't contain castration."
"What a charming man you are," Ianto says dryly.
Owen rolls his eyes, but refuses to get drawn into what could be a particularly nasty argument. Things are still shaky between them; exacerbating it would be nothing short of idiotic, and Owen is masochistic enough around Ianto as it is.
"Anyway, it wasn't me," he says. "Surely I'd remember if I decided to retcon you all."
"Or not." Ianto grins at him. "You could have retconned yourself in order to make sure that there was no chance of letting anything slip."
"You were one of those conspiracy theory types as a kid, weren't you?" Owen smirks. "Believing any kind of shit as long as it looked like there was a cover-up operation going on."
"In all fairness, once I got to Torchwood, I realised that most of the conspiracy theories were actually correct," Ianto points out. "You know, it’s like Adam always says…"
"Who the hell is Adam?" Owen interrupts.
A frown crosses Ianto’s face. "I have no idea..."
Owen shrugs, deciding not to pursue the moment of temporary Torchwood-related insanity, and instead sighs and stretches out on the sofa. Gwen has dashed off home to Rhys, presumably to see if he can remember anything about the last two days, Tosh is mercifully gone (because he did not give her those flowers, ok?) and Jack is once again somewhere not here.
"Don't you have somewhere better to be?" Ianto asks, apparently thinking along the same lines. "Hanging purposelessly around the Hub isn't your usual style, you know?"
Owen has nowhere better to be, not any more, not since he broke out of the endless cycle of alcohol and meaningless sex. His flat is a place to sleep and occasionally eat, that's it. And it's not as though he has any friends; he chased them all off, Torchwood rips everyone in your life away from you.
He's hardly going to tell any of that to Ianto - he knows where getting in too emotionally deep like that can get them - so instead he lashes out, as usual.
"Shut up," he murmurs. "Go and make me a coffee or something."
Ianto gets that furious little put-upon-teaboy look he gets, even though technically that's what he's actually paid to do, and Owen responds with a scowl of his own. Things between them veer between as bad as they ever were and far too close for comfort; Owen hasn't quite decided which he hates more.
"Fine," Ianto snaps. The anger, Owen can deal with; the hurt, he's not used to. Ianto gets to his feet, and as he does so, a leather-bound book slips off the couch beside him and lands on the floor. Ianto stoops for it, but Owen manages to get it first.
"I'm not in the fucking mood," Ianto says, holding his hand out.
Some spark of the old Owen, the one who acted like a bastard all the time, raises its head and smirks cruelly, before he flicks the book open.
Ianto's careful, anally neat handwriting covers the pages. Owen sees words like Lisa and Jack repeated all over the place, along with archive reference numbers and alien names.
"You keep a diary?" he asks incredulously. "That's really..."
Ianto drags it out of his hands, flicks through the pages, and then hands it to Owen. His mouth is set in a thin line, and Owen reads: Today, I shot Owen. I've never shot a co-worker before - not one in human form, anyway - but it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I suspect I am meant to feel sorry, but I don't.
Owen shoves the book back at Ianto, feeling tired and bitter because it's one step forward, three steps back with them.
"You're a dick," he says softly. He could say far worse things, but it might descend into a fistfight and everyone would take Ianto's side anyway, so there's no bloody point.
"Go home, Owen," Ianto says steadily. Impenetrable and calm and it must be a whole lot less confusing in his head than it is in Owen's.
You make me crazy, Owen thinks, You make me crazy and so damn angry and it's not fucking fair, Ianto.
"See you tomorrow," he mutters, turning away, and when he glances back Ianto's already disappeared into the rabbit warren of the Hub.
Bright and early the next morning - well, Owen's half an hour late as ever, but who really cares - he joins Ianto at the coffee machine.
"Are we fighting?" he asks carefully. "'Cause I'd kind of like a latte but I don't want to make things worse."
Ianto reaches for a mug, sighing.
"I don't know what we're doing," he replies. "I never have. But yeah, I'll make you a coffee."
Owen shrugs. "Thanks." He watches Ianto mucking around with filters and things, and something occurs to him. "Oh bloody hell. We are fighting, aren't we? It's just we're doing it quietly and kind of passive-aggressively so that it doesn't get out of hand."
"I honestly don't know," Ianto mumbles. He offers Owen a close-lipped smile. "Although, to a certain extent, we're always fighting, it's just that it's more pronounced at certain times."
"You're only saying that 'cause you're incapable of normal human interaction," Owen tells him. He thinks about it. "And 'cause you're winning."
"I'd hardly call this winning, Owen," Ianto replies.
"That's only because you're not losing," Owen explains, coming to stand beside Ianto. "You don't know what it feels like."
Yet again, he's managed to trip one of Ianto's invisible wires; the nerves that you don't know exist until you hit one. Ianto pulls the lever-thing on the top of the coffee machine a little too hard; the machine makes a sound like screaming and coffee pours into the mug. He pushes it into Owen's hands.
"One latte," he says sharply. "You've got what you want, now leave me in peace."
"Aren't you at least going to tell me why I've pissed you off now?" Owen asks. "Just so I can do it again at an inappropriate moment. Hey, maybe you could shoot me in the left shoulder next time, I could have matching scars. Wouldn't that be exciting?"
Ianto ignores him.
Owen puts his coffee carefully down next to the sink, and pulls Ianto around to face him.
"If you're right, and we are fighting all the bloody time, then don't you think we should negotiate for some kind of ceasefire?"
"I've tried," Ianto informs him. "And every single time I do anything you just turn it around and tell me I'm bloody selfish for wanting to be with Jack and not you. I do know that, Owen, and I've been trying to keep my distance, and it's not working because you don't seem to understand the meaning of self-preservation."
That is the problem, of course. If they were both logical and sensible and determined, they could probably keep away from each other, have conversations that were focused solely on whichever alien it is they're hunting down at the time, and wait this out. They could almost certainly manage it. But Owen doesn't want to stay away from Ianto, and although Ianto is, as he said, trying, he's not trying all that hard. This entire situation is stupid and horrible and distracting.
Owen looks at Ianto and knows, with absolute certainty, that if he reached a hand around to the back of Ianto's neck and pulled him into a kiss right now, Ianto wouldn't protest, wouldn't try to stop him. He'd give in too easily, and even kiss Owen back; and he wouldn't pull away until Owen did. And because he knows this, he doesn't do it. But for a very long moment, he's tempted, and he can't take his eyes off the curve of Ianto's mouth.
"See what I mean?" Ianto says quietly, but he doesn't sound happy about it. "Same old fight; just new arguments."
Owen can't even get the upper hand by claiming that Ianto is leading him on because, for once, Ianto isn't. Not really. Someone, at least, has realised that this is a game that has got to stop. He uncurls his fingers from Ianto's arm and takes a step away.
"Don't forget your coffee," Ianto says lightly.
Owen doesn't look back.
Martha Jones makes him feel inadequate. He's pretty sure that it's deliberate; it's got to be nerve-wracking, walking into an organisation full of people she doesn't know. Proving she's a better doctor than he is has got to be a fairly successful relaxation technique. She's also very pretty, and not all that interested in him, which doesn't help.
It is almost certainly the feelings of inadequacy that lead to him agreeing the next time Tosh asks him out. It's not that he dislikes her; far from it, actually, but he's not certain his feelings towards her are of the couple-ish variety. It's why he played so dumb that it got ridiculous, every time Tosh opened her mouth. The leaden hints she was dropping on him could have been spotted a mile off by a blind person with no grasp of the English language, but desperate panic kept Owen pretending he had no idea what her intentions were. But he feels inadequate, so it's cruel, but he casually drops in a mention of the "pool tournament" she definitely didn't suggest the last time she got this idea into her head, and lets the rest of the conversation run its course. Apparently, he can keep being "King Of Flirts", if that's what he wants, which is just as well because he's fairly sure he's being needlessly cruel and manipulative. And Tosh definitely deserves more than this.
"You're looking twitchy," Ianto murmurs, walking past with a tray on his quest to save the Hub from the rest of the team's coffee mugs.
They haven't really spoken in at least three days and so Owen should just laugh it off and carry on researching The Pharm, but he doesn't.
"Tosh asked me out for a drink," he says, and immediately wishes that he'd just kept his fucking mouth shut. Ianto doesn't even blink.
"About time," he replies. "And what did you say?"
"Good for you," Ianto tells him, with what at least looks like a genuine smile.
"Is it?" Owen asks.
Ianto's smile fades. "Don't do this to her," he warns.
Owen sighs. "I won't," he says. "You know I won't."
"I hope you won't," Ianto replies, and when he walks away Owen is left with the urge to hit something. Or someone; he's not all that picky.
They are supposed to be staying the hell away from each other because their not-relationship is unhealthy and unproductive. Ianto can't talk to him because Owen will just accuse him of leading him on; and Owen can't talk to Ianto for fear it will look like he's coming onto him. Their constant sniping and arguing unnerves everyone in the Hub, and apparently Ianto wants to keep his relationship with Jack going even though it’s becoming increasingly apparently that Jack doesn't really care about him. Therefore, they're trying to keep their distance.
Trying... and failing.
"We're not supposed to take coffee breaks together," Ianto says, both of them sat on the floor in the hothouse and sipping coffee.
"We're not sixteen," Owen replies. "I'm sure we can manage to keep our hands to ourselves for half an hour."
Ianto raises an eyebrow at him. "Have you met you?"
"Ha bloody ha," Owen replies, and damn, the bickering has got that soft edge that doesn't end well. He sighs, leaning his head back against the table behind him. "Jack and Martha seem pretty close," he remarks, knowing that he shouldn't say it and going ahead anyway.
Ianto shrugs. "I knew what I was signing up for."
At times when Owen thinks he's going sodding mad here, he just takes a look at Ianto and reminds himself that actually, in contrast, he's completely and utterly sane. It’s not as comforting as it should be.
He swallows, and the words fall out. They're not quite the words he means to say, and they fill up the bemused silence in a strange way, but they manage to get the point across anyway.
"At the risk of sounding like a cliché from every single chick flick ever, if you were mine, or… you know, someone else’s… well, you’d be the only one."
Ianto's not even going to give him that inch, since he knows Owen would only snatch a mile.
"I thought you said you were going out with Tosh," he says, tone neutral, expression impossible to read.
"Yes," Owen agrees, "But if I thought I had the slightest chance with you, I’d stand her up like a shot."
Ianto gives him his patented you-really-are-an-inconsiderate-bastard look. "That's not much incentive for me to give in then, is it?"
Owen rolls his eyes. As though Ianto was ever going to give in. He might have all sorts of indecent and stupid hopes, but he does know that none of them will pay off.
"We could give it a try," he suggests, fatalistic to the last. "I mean, Tosh and I are only going on a test date, so why don't we have a go?"
Ianto stares at him incredulously.
"You could invent a scoring system," he suggests sharply. "Maybe you'd like us to go with you at the same time. Kill two birds with one stone." His smile curves coldly. "Perhaps the one with the most points at the end of the night gets to go home with you."
"What the fuck do you care?" Owen demands. "Even if you lose, you can come back here to Harkness. You win regardless."
"I'm sick of this," Ianto says, and it comes out on a sigh. "I know other people's relationships don't matter to you" - he doesn't mention what Owen nearly managed to do to Gwen and Rhys, but it's implied - "but I am dating Jack and you're borderline dating Tosh so, really, don't do this."
Owen knows that Ianto is going to hit him when he keeps talking, so he carefully puts his mug down and tucks it behind the nearest tray of seedlings.
"You're not dating Jack," he responds. "He asked you out on a dinner-and-a-movie date, but you didn't go on it."
"I don't tell you everything," Ianto mutters, but his eyes are blazing. A warning, and Owen should stop, but he never knows what's good for him. Especially not when it comes to Ianto.
"You didn't go on it," Owen repeats, hard, and doesn't back down. "And I bet whenever you try and bring it up he... distracts you, and when you're wandering around the Hub later looking for your underwear it seems kind of stupid to mention it again."
Ianto's mouth goes tight. "Actually, it was my tie I was looking for," he admits quietly.
A very, very small part of Owen that doesn't want Ianto to get hurt by anyone hates that he was right. But it's only a small bit of him. His triumph must show on his face, though he doesn't mean it to, because Ianto puts his coffee mug down too.
"I am going to have to hit you now," he says carefully.
"That's Torchwood for you," Owen says brightly. "Solving problems the Neanderthal way. And I'd be grateful if you didn't give me a black eye, I supposedly have some kind of date with Tosh coming up, I'd rather not have to wear sunglasses through the whole thing."
"Do you have a preference?" Ianto asks, sounding a mixture of amused and angry.
Owen shrugs, and gets to his feet.
"I'm ready," he says steadily. "Though we should probably learn to deal with these things in a way that doesn't involve physical violence."
Ianto shrugs, pushing himself to his feet and brushing compost off his trousers.
"The thing is," Owen continues recklessly, "Since you're going to punch me anyway I might as well say this. What do you do with Jack?"
Ianto looks a little disconcerted. "Do you need me to draw you a picture?" he enquires.
"No," Owen sighs. "I mean, what do you do? Do you just shag, and then you try and get some kind of meaningful conversation out of him and he throws it back at you?" Ianto's face has that pinched look again, which tells Owen he's getting somewhere close to the truth. "I mean, do you just sit and talk about nothing with him? Do you argue with him? Have you ever just shared a takeaway with him? Watched a DVD on the sofa with him? Have you got pissed with him and woken up the next morning hungover and with mysterious broken bones?"
"That was once," Ianto replies stiffly. "And it was only my wrist and you said we wouldn't mention it again!"
Owen waves his hand vaguely. That's Ianto all over: getting caught up on the little details and studiously ignoring the big picture. "The point I am attempting to make is that what you and Jack have probably involves astronomically great sex and is definitely aesthetically pleasing, but what you and I have is more like an actual bloody relationship!"
"This is not a relationship." Ianto's voice is hard, but cracking at the edges. "This is not a sodding relationship, Owen."
"And it's still more fucking real than anything you have with Harkness," Owen hisses.
Ianto's fist catches him hard on the jaw, making his head snap back, and then before he can even complain that it bloody hurt, Ianto grabs his upper arm and pulls him forward. Owen stumbles, and Ianto sort of... catches him, pressing his mouth to Owen's. There's a shocked moment of nothing; Owen is pretty certain Ianto has never kissed him before. The other way around, plenty of times... but Ianto's normally the passive one standing there and letting it happen.
He opens his mouth and Ianto takes advantage, one hand cupping the back of Owen's head, kissing him deeper and harder. By the time they part, Owen can barely breathe, and they stay pressed together, foreheads touching, gasping raggedly.
"What was that for?" Owen whispers.
"You might have had a point," Ianto murmurs. This close, Owen can't see his expression, but he certainly sounds sheepish.
Owen sighs. "And it doesn't matter, does it?"
Ianto's eyelashes brush his face when they close.
"No, it doesn't."
Owen is about to enter the autopsy room when he hears Martha's voice echo clearly out of it.
"I thought you were 'dabbling' with Jack." She sounds accusing, and he quickly ducks out of sight, pressing his back against the wall near the entrance. Sure, this probably counts as stalking, but it's not as if they're not all at it.
"I am," Ianto responds, unflappable as ever. "It's interesting, adventurous, I believe 'avant-guard' was the phrase I used."
"So where does Owen fit in?" Martha merely sounds inquisitive, not cruel or triumphant. It's just plain curiosity here, which is often the most dangerous kind.
"Owen?" Ianto, to his credit, doesn't sound disconcerted.
"Yeah. I had some new results, I was bringing them up to where I heard you and Owen would be in the hothouse..." Martha trails off.
"Ah." Ianto still sounds painfully calm. "And how much did you see?"
"Enough." There's an awkward pause, like Martha isn't sure what to ask next. "So, what's going on?"
Owen resists the urge to walk in and ask the same question. He doubts he'll get answers if it comes from him, but maybe an objective observer might get something out of Ianto.
"Owen's my best friend," Ianto replies lightly. And then laughs. "It sounds kind of sad coming out like that, doesn't it? But I've carried him drunk out of bars and done his laundry and alphabetised his CD collection and mocked bad sci-fi with him and he's broken my wrist and called me every name under the sun and taught me to do sutures." He sighs. "So he's my best friend and I'll never tell him that, and I'll do anything not to lose him."
"But..." Martha begins.
"This is Torchwood," Ianto says.
"I'm not sure that counts as the get-out-of-jail-free card you all seem to think it is," Martha tells him.
"You'll understand if you stay here any longer," Ianto informs her. "You really will."
"That sounds like a threat."
"Who's to say it isn't?" Ianto is silent for a long moment. "Oh, and don't tell Owen. I've managed to get this far without him figuring it out, and I'll never hear the end of it if he does find out."
"You people are very weird," Martha says fervently.
"Well, we can't all have kind, hot doctor boyfriends in London," Ianto points out.
Owen walks away from the door, deciding he'll give it a minute before going to talk to Martha about the latest results from the Pharm victims. Hearing Ianto's perspective on this whole thing doesn't improve matters at all. It turns out it's about as clear as mud from both sides.
Tosh has labelled him King Of Flirts, and maybe he is, since there's no guarantee that they're not still in some kind of mortal danger and he can't resist trying it on with Martha. Again. After all, he's saved her life, and that's a pretty damn good aphrodisiac. He wouldn't be Owen Harper if he didn't attempt to have a go with everyone who came near him.
Same old fight; just new arguments.
Martha turns him down anyway.
After that, things speed up. Blur into thirty seconds of a stupid decision. But Copely was his hero when he was in med school, and no one likes to see their hero become a psychotic madman waving a gun around. Owen has talked people out of murder before; in spite of the underlying self-centred bastard thing, he's got enough charm to see him through. Most days.
Turns out today isn't most days.
Twitching and bleeding onto the damp ground, with Tosh sobbing and Jack squeezing his hand and babbling assurances and Martha’s desperate hands on his bloody chest and Ianto staring down at him with horror in his eyes wasn't what Owen was expecting to happen at all. The world is too bright and too blurry and the pain is so bad that he can't even feel it and his mouth tastes like salt and he finally manages to think: well, this changes the odds, before The Black swallows him up.