Challenge/Prompt: 5drunkfics, #3 Forget
Word Count: 2870
Summary: “I could have run,” Owen points out.
Author’s Notes: Set in an AU after End Of Days, with extra spoilers for Fragments. Yes, obviously I want to write some season two Jack/Owen, but I need to make bright, shiny plans first. This idea has been hanging around a while. Title inspired by one of Owen’s lines in that episode. And it ended up far more depressing than I meant it to be.
"Nobody leaves this place intact... I get retconned. All my memories erased. I don't know where or when, but he'll get me."
- Owen, End Of Days
He lasts a whole week before Jack catches up with him.
It’s longer than he thought he’d get. Owen spends the time writing a very nearly comprehensive memoir of his time at Torchwood Three. He then copies it onto three USB portable hard-drives; sends it to a variety of email addresses which he creates in internet cafés all over the city, and locks it privately onto a couple of blogs as well.
It’ll give Tosh something to do, tracking them all down.
For Ianto, he carefully sorts all the photographs, spare files, torn/bloody shirts, and other things that scream Torchwood! so that they can be put in a warehouse somewhere, probably next to Suzie’s stuff. He labels the boxes with an anal attention to detail that even their OCD teaboy will be pleased with, and leaves them in a pile in his living room for the team to find.
It’s more helpful than he’s ever been in his entire time at Torchwood.
Then, he starts feeling a little useless. A Weevil runs past him, on the way back from the pub one night, day five, and he automatically reaches for the gun he doesn’t wear any more, before letting his hand fall, dejected. He turns away, because it isn’t his problem any more.
Jack slides onto a barstool beside him on day seven.
“I thought…” Owen begins. He laughs bitterly.
“That I’d forgotten you?” Jack suggests.
Owen shrugs. “But you didn’t.”
“I’ve been a little tied up,” Jack informs him. “Averting the apocalypse you created.”
“I could have run,” Owen points out. “Got the hell away and hidden.”
Jack smiles, brilliant white shark’s teeth. “But you didn’t.”
“No,” Owen sighs. “I didn’t.”
He knew there was no point in running, because there is no escaping Torchwood, even when it’s technically turned its back on you. And, even more so than Torchwood, there is no escaping Jack Harkness, once he’s decided that he doesn’t want you any more.
“I thought this was Ianto’s job,” he mutters, turning away from Jack because he doesn’t want to look at him right now.
“Would you prefer him to be here?” Jack asks. Owen thinks about their teaboy, who doesn’t like him and actually sodding shot him, and sighs. Jack has him; and he knows it.
“No,” he admits, teeth gritted.
They’re silent for a moment, and Owen wonders if maybe he managed to knock Jack unconscious or something he’d be able to run away and not have to cope with what’s inevitably coming next.
“I think this could be the making of you,” Jack offers.
“Don’t try and placate me,” Owen mutters, and slides his half-empty pint glass across to Jack. “Just put in the retcon and piss off.”
Jack takes a sip from the glass and makes a face – he hardly ever drinks, and when he does it tends to be the stuff that comes with at least one object on a stick thrown in – before pushing it back along to Owen.
“I’m not putting your retcon in that,” he says. “We should treat your departure from Torchwood with some kind of dignity.”
“My time at Torchwood has been laughably undignified,” Owen points out coldly. “And I don’t think they serve drinks with sparklers in here anyway.”
Jack smiles slightly. “I’m not sure you’ve earned sparklers,” he says.
“Because I managed to restrain myself and never actually shagged you?” Owen asks sharply, finishing his pint.
Jack smirks. “We could fix that. You know, before you leave.”
Owen holds out his hand. “Give me the retcon and go away,” he mumbles. “I don’t have to play this game any more.”
“But you want to.” Jack fixes him with that blue-eyed stare that no one is capable of resisting. Owen can’t look away, and bloody hates himself for it. Jack turns away first, and smacks his hand on the bar top. “Shots,” he decides.
Owen frowns. “I can’t actually think of anything less sensible than drinking shots with your omnisexual soon-to-be-ex-boss.”
“You’re the one who said you wanted to leave Torchwood in an undignified way,” Jack points out.
“I didn’t actually-” Owen begins, but Jack is ignoring him and leaning over the bar with a dazzling smile to order them vodka shots.
“This way,” Jack adds, “You don’t know which one I’ve put the retcon in.”
“Like Russian Roulette with your memories,” Owen remarks.
“Be grateful I haven’t suggested putting arsenic in,” Jack shrugs. “That would be one way of going out with a bang.”
Owen grits his teeth and then looks dubiously at the first two shots slammed down on the bar in front of them.
“So I’m going to wake up with a fucking nasty hangover and about three years’ worth of missing memories,” he remarks.
“You’ve woken up in worse situations,” Jack tells him.
Owen scowls at him and then drains the shot in one without choking. He puts the glass back on the bar. Jack smirks at him in triumph, and then follows suit, holding his fingers up to indicate he would like more.
“You’re a cruel bastard,” Owen tells him, just to get it out of the way early on.
Jack shrugs. “Either do better than that or don’t insult me at all,” he says.
Owen contemplates the wisdom of spending the next half hour insulting Jack in increasingly nonsensical and creative ways. Maybe he could work through the last three years of frustration before they’re taken out of his mind altogether. What do you do in the last few hours of being yourself? The man named Owen Harper who wakes up tomorrow morning won’t be him. And… oh fucking God.
“Katie,” he says softly. “Jack, you’re going to put me right back to the way I was when Katie died. And now I won’t even know how she died.”
“Maybe you’ll work through the grief better this time around,” Jack suggests.
“I won’t,” Owen replies. “I could kill myself.”
Jack frowns at him. Owen bites his lips together, and decides that he is not going to explain to Jack how walking into a cage with a murderous Weevil in it wasn’t the first time he tried to end it all over a woman. Jack’s going to steal away his memories tonight. He doesn’t get to know what all of them contain.
Two more shots have appeared on the bar. Jack smacks Owen between the shoulder blades.
Owen does so, because he doesn’t know what else to do.
“It’s like you’re killing me,” he continues, because he needs Jack to feel guilty about this. Just for a while. Just a little.
Jack shrugs. “In the old days, you’d have been shot at dawn,” he says.
“I didn’t desert, you sodding threw me out,” Owen protests.
“Be thankful for small mercies,” Jack says.
“Did Torchwood surgically remove your sympathy?” Owen demands.
“If you stay any longer, you’re going to break,” Jack tells him, expression suddenly serious.
“I’m broken now,” Owen reminds him. When the bartender brings them more shots, Jack tells him to leave the bottle.
“You tried to stage a coup,” he shrugs.
“Badly,” Owen murmurs, and chokes down his glass. “I was scared and the enigmatic act might make you sexy but it doesn’t make you reassuring.”
“If you don’t trust me then you can’t work for me,” Jack points out, tone too reasonable. “Sooner or later it’ll get everyone killed.” He pours them both more drinks, and then his mouth flicks up into that frustrating smile. “You think I’m sexy?”
“Ianto is incapable of closing his mouth when you’re in the room. Gwen called your name out in bed once. So did Suzie, come to think of it. And even Tosh looks twice when you accidentally wear a t-shirt.”
He snatches the shot from Jack and downs it because sobriety is becoming increasingly unappealing. Jack copies him, but the smile doesn’t die.
“We’re not talking about them.”
“I hate you,” Owen mutters. “I really, really hate you.”
“No you don’t,” Jack says easily. “People wish that they hated me, but no one actually does.”
“You’re killing me,” Owen reminds him.
“Don’t be so melodramatic.”
“You’re taking away everything that makes me me.” Owen sighs. “The man you’re talking to right now is never going to exist again.”
“And the man you are is so great, isn’t he?” Jack’s mouth is a hard line. “How many visitors did you have while you were in the hospital with your Weevil injuries?”
Owen takes another shot; he’s starting to feel nauseous and the alcohol is beginning to make its presence felt.
“Don’t,” he mutters. “Just don’t.”
“I woke up one morning,” Jack tells him, running his finger around the rim of his glass, “And I was missing two years of my life.” He tosses back his drink as though the thought still stings.
“So why are you doing this to me?” Owen demands. “If you know how it feels-”
“It made me the man I am,” Jack snaps, an expression Owen’s never seen on him before crossing his face.
“What about the man you were?” Owen asks.
“I don’t know,” Jack admits, pouring them both another drink. “I don’t think I’ll ever know.”
Owen obediently drinks because he’s sliding deeper into this and he doesn’t see how he’ll ever escape.
“Bloody marvellous,” he mutters. Tears sting the back of his throat, but he sobbed up everything he had while leaving the Hub the last time, trapped in the corridor. He hopes Ianto has erased the CCTV footage.
“We’ve found you a job,” Jack says, already pouring the next drink. “And Tosh spent yesterday afternoon thinking up a story for why your memories are missing.”
“What about the bloody great bullet hole in my shoulder?” Owen asks. “Have you thought of a cover for that?”
Jack meets his gaze and doesn’t flinch away from it. “Ianto did,” he says. “And you’ll be happy with your new life,” he adds.
Owen laughs hollowly. “Don’t bet on it,” he murmurs. “Can’t you just shoot me and stick me in the morgue next to Suzie?”
“You’ll get there in the end,” Jack informs him.
“My body’s still yours, isn’t it?” Owen swallows hard, leans over to take his next drink. “No matter what the hell I do, I’m still Torchwood’s property.”
He thinks that that fact could break him more than any other. Whatever he might do with this enforced new beginning, he’ll still end up in the same place. They sit in silence, each downing three more shots. Jack is holding his drink better than Owen is; it figures.
“You’re like a cat,” he mutters.
Jack makes a faintly obscene purring sound that would probably have Ianto on his knees, only Ianto isn’t here and Owen isn’t going to give in to Jack because he is so bloody angry.
“You’re toying with me,” Owen adds. “Like cats do with their prey. Dose me or piss off.”
He’s losing coherency and he’s getting so drunk that it doesn’t matter what Jack does to him any more.
“One last shot, then,” Jack says, shaking the almost empty bottle. Owen watches as intently as he can manage, and catches Jack’s slightly clumsy sleight-of-hand over the drink. Owen stares down at the alcohol and feels his heart racing.
“I can’t do it,” he says softly. “I can’t. I can’t drink that.”
It’s like suicide. He can’t just take the retcon and willingly give in. One little drink and it’ll all go.
“Then don’t,” Jack says. “It’s ok.”
Owen frowns at this abrupt change in direction and turns to look at Jack. “You’re letting me off the hook?”
“You don’t have to drink it if you don’t want to,” Jack shrugs.
Oh God, is this a reprieve? Did Jack plan his whole evening for shits and giggles? “So… you’re not kicking me out?”
“Of course I am,” Jack tells him. “The retcon was three shots ago.”
“Oh.” Owen feels weak and dizzy and he can’t work out if that’s an effect of the alcohol or the beginnings of the sedative kicking in. “You wanker.”
As if to prove the point, Jack takes the shot from him and downs it. “We should go,” he says, as though Owen’s world isn’t falling into pieces around him. “I don’t want you collapsing here, people might think I’ve put rohypnol in your drink or something.”
Owen scowls. “Good.”
Jack tosses a banknote on the bar and slides off his stool. For a man who doesn’t usually drink he seems to be holding the alcohol frustratingly well. Owen reluctantly attempts to get up too, ends up half-falling as his legs forget how to stay upright, and finds himself pressed against Jack in a way that is reasonably embarrassing.
“Get your sodding hands off me,” he growls.
“You’ll fall over,” Jack warns. “You don’t want a broken nose tomorrow.”
“I won’t care,” Owen mumbles. “I will be dead.”
“You really are morbid,” Jack tells him. “And a fortnight ago you were trying to kill yourself anyway.”
“My terms,” Owen reminds him, as they make their unsteady way out of the bar. “Not yours. Not Ianto’s. Not anyone’s.”
This bar isn’t far from his flat and Jack seems to know the way, which would be concerning but Owen doesn’t give a shit about anything any more. There doesn’t seem to be much point.
“Will Tosh and Ianto have finished ransacking my flat by now?” he asks, voice crushed against Jack’s shirt. Anger and fear have started to push the effects of the alcohol to the side, but he can feel the sedative beginning to edge its way in. “Wouldn’t want to get back too early.”
Jack doesn’t say anything, just continues to half-drag, half-carry him down the road. Owen wonders if throwing up right now would get rid of the drug joyriding through his system, or if it’s just too late. It probably is too late, but he doesn’t want to give in without a fight. He can’t just stand back and let his memories be torn away.
“What if I’m immune?” he asks as Jack is fumbling with the front door key. “People are immune.”
“You’re not immune,” Jack tells him, pushing him inside.
Owen’s living room looks horribly empty now all the boxes of stuff are gone. Ianto and Tosh have been here and taken everything away. He’ll never see those things again. Owen can also tell that they’ve been here, because the disturbingly anal teaboy seems to have disinfected every available surface. OCD tosser.
“Why aren’t I immune?” he asks, as Jack drags him in the direction of his bedroom. He stumbles a few times on the way.
“Because this isn’t the first time I’ve given you retcon,” Jack replies, pushing him until Owen folds obediently onto the bed. He is momentarily blinded by pillows and blankets, but when he looks down he finds Jack is removing his trainers for him. It’s unsettling.
“What have you made me forget?” Owen asks. Jack shakes his head. “Come on, I’m about to lose all my memories, I might as well have them all available.”
“No,” Jack tells him quietly but firmly.
“You’re using a bloody death-bed voice,” Owen tells him. “You can just piss off if you’re going to use a death-bed voice.” Jack tucks the blankets over him, leaving Owen cocooned in sheets. “Actually, you can just piss off.” The effects of the sedative are beginning to slur the edges of Owen’s voice.
“I’m staying,” Jack says, sitting down on the edge of the mattress. “You could seriously hurt yourself if you tried to reverse the effects of the retcon now.”
Owen frowns at him; the room is trembling. “If I wake up in the morning to find you’ve taken advantage of my unconscious body in any way, shape or form…” He swallows. “Well, I won’t know it was you, but rest assured that you’re going to rot forever in a very special Hell anyway.”
Jack laughs; Owen wonders if this is the last time he’ll ever hear that rich, warm sound. “Point taken.”
Owen’s eyes close. He wants to open them again but he can’t. It is like dying, he reflects dully. And his limbs feel so heavy.
“You win,” he manages to say at last. “You… get rid of the… traitor, and you can… tell yourself that you’re… the good guy. But… what do I get?”
Jack’s voice is very close, like he’s leaning right over Owen. “You get a fresh start,” he whispers. “You get a new chance at life. Which is more than I’ll ever have.”
Owen is clinging on to the last parts of his consciousness by his fingertips. “I… don’t… want… it.”
Jack breathes in sharply; his voice sounds wet. “It’ll be ok,” he promises. “Just go to sleep, Owen, and it’ll all be better in the morning.”
Owen laughs sleepily. “Liar.”
There’s a press of lips against his own, a last goodbye. His exhausted breathing sounds like a death rattle but he can’t make himself feel scared. He can’t make himself feel anything any more.
“Owen?” Jack asks. “Owen, can you hear me?”
He slips over the last edge into deep, dreamless sleep.