Author: Erin Giles
Disclaimer: Torchwood is property of the BBC.
Characters/Pairings: Owen, Ianto, Jack
Summary: Post Adrift. There is that moment of doubt in all our minds about whether we’re playing the hero or the villain of the piece.
A/N: This is an attempt on my part to rectify the lack of Owen in my writing, and the relationship that Owen and Ianto should have had.
Owen’s doing a shuffle dance down one of the archive corridors. He’s got a file in one hand, a biro that looks like it’s been used as a chew toy in the other and he’s still wearing his lab coat. He’s having a quarrel with himself about whether to a) put the file in the right filing cabinet and then retreat back upstairs, b) abandon the file on the cabinet he’s busy swithering beside and turn around to go back upstairs, c) go back upstairs with the file and leave it on his desk to do tomorrow or d) go and investigate who’s sobbing to themselves in the archives.
Of course, Owen already knows who’s down here crying. Gwen wouldn’t hide her tears from anyone, Jack would usually skulk in his office or the firing range and Tosh tends to have a good sniffle in the main server room, pretending to do routine maintenance.
Owen quite likes any of the options that involve him going back upstairs and ignoring the snivelling suit in the corner, but as much as he likes to fool people into thinking otherwise, Owen can actually be a decent human being on occasion. He thinks about going to get one of the others. They’re more likely to be of comfort, know what to say or do. The girls would no doubt provide hugs and cups of tea or bars of chocolate and Jack would most likely offer up the distraction of sex. Owen’s got nothing to offer apart from understanding.
He finds a tissue that he hopes is clean in the pocket of his lab coat and hands it to Ianto as he stands over him in the corridor. Ianto’s backed himself into a recess that’s not really visible unless you go looking for it, or you can hear someone crying inside it. Ianto’s already wiping furiously at his blotchy face to dry his tears, but they don’t seem to want to stop as Ianto takes the tissue, reluctantly acknowledging Owen’s presence.
Owen drops the file on the dusty floor with a loud thwack before throwing the tails of his lab coat out behind him and sitting down on his bony arse beside Ianto, back against the wall. Owen pulls his knees up to his chest, mirroring Ianto’s posture as he rests his elbows on his knees, hands clasped loosely in front of him. He doesn’t say anything as Ianto tries to control his sobs that soon turn into muffled hiccups.
“Moment of doubt?” Owen inquires as he sits staring at Ianto’s shoes, scuffed slightly at the toes but otherwise polished.
Ianto sighs deeply before uttering, “Yeah.” His voice wavers with watery grief. Owen doesn’t ask him anything else. If Ianto wants to talk he will, if Ianto wants to get up, walk away and never speak of it again then Owen’s okay with that too.
“Just sorting out the missing persons…section.” Ianto takes his time deliberating over the right word to describe that part of the archives that’s too big, whether it’s one file or the whole cabinet that it actually is. Owen’s never looked in it, he likes to think of the people he’s helped rather than lost.
“Gwen leave it in a mess?”
An amalgamation of a chocked sob and laugh breaks free from Ianto but he doesn’t answer Owen’s question.
“Annie’s still in there,” he says instead and Owen frowns trying to remember who Annie is and what significant role she plays in this pity party that Ianto’s throwing himself. Owen’s not judging – he has his own often enough. He usually enjoys it with several pints and a naked girl or two. Or he used to, until he died. Now he watches Tosh drinking out of the corner of his eye while he pretends to watch late night re-runs of QI and Top Gear on Dave.
“The pizza delivery girl that,” Ianto pauses, turns his head further away from Owen, her name on the tip of his tongue, “the Cyberman killed.”
Owen frowns. He’s forgiven and nearly forgotten about that night, along with the rest of the team. Ianto, it seems, hasn’t done either.
“What did we tell her mother?”
“I told her that she went missing during a delivery, with no trace,” says Ianto. Jack had probably made him do it, Owen thinks. As if cleaning up the bodies hadn’t been punishment enough. “Hope was better than letting her see the body.”
Owen silently agrees with Ianto. He’d hidden his DVD of Frankenstein in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that night, only finding it again when he moved house.
“There’s an island in the middle of the Bristol Channel called Flat Holm. Jack keeps all the people that have been spat back out by the rift there,” Ianto blurts out, because he can’t do anymore damage than telling Gwen.
“Give us some credit, Ianto. Me and Tosh aren’t completely stupid.”
Ianto turns to look at Owen then, huffs out a sort of laugh, before admitting, “No, you’re not.”
They both turn to look at the opposite wall that holds the filing cabinet, top drawer still open. Ianto holds out his hand, indicating the file that’s on the floor beside Owen with a nod of the head. Owen passes it to him without a word and they both struggle to their feet within the small confines of the alcove.
“Ianto,” Owen says as Ianto’s already moving away down the corridor, “there’s still that bottle of whisky in the bottom drawer of-“
“I know,” Ianto calls back to him as he disappears further into the archives with Owen’s folder.
“Everything alright?” Jack asks when Ianto places the last mug of coffee for the day on a block of post-it notes. Ianto nods hesitantly, not quite looking at Jack as he grasps his own mug between both hands, leaning on the edge of Jack’s desk.
“Tell me I’m a good man,” whispers Ianto. Jack looks up at him, hand hovering half way between his mug and abandoned pen.
“What?” asks Jack.
“I am, aren’t I?” Ianto looks up at Jack then, bloodshot eyes reflecting the light from Jack’s desk lamp. Jack considers for a moment the scope of the question, wondering what Ianto is really asking him beneath the layers of words. His eyes don’t move from Ianto’s, and only when Ianto looks away does he speak.
“It’s about balancing the good with the bad. What people forget is there’s a whole lot of grey in between.”
Ianto’s hands are shaking where he clutches his mug tightly, staring at that rather than Jack, but Jack continues.
“You’re grey, Ianto. You’ve done things that could be seen as unforgivable, things that others will judge you for, things that you can’t quite forgive yourself for, acting on human emotions. No one can fault you for that, but you’re trying to make amends, and that’s more than a lot of people do.”
Ianto gives a hesitant nod, chewing on his bottom lip before he stands up to leave.
“Night, Ianto,” Jack calls after him as his office door rattles shut. The only reply Jack gets is the dull clunk of Ianto’s shoes on the metal grating.
Jack lets a long sigh pass his lips as he stands up from his desk, crossing to the metal bookcase beside the window that looks out over the Hub. Ianto is abandoning his half-drunk coffee in the sink before shucking on his coat. Jack frowns in contemplation, watching as Ianto moves past the mess Owen’s left behind on the coffee table, disappears into the autopsy bay for a moment and then leaves the Hub without a backward glance. Jack thinks he should maybe go after him. He doesn’t.
Owen answers the door, some programme about the Third Reich blaring on BBC Four in the background. Owen figures death is the best time to catch up on history that isn’t his own. After all he has no future now. He’s almost surprised to find Ianto stood on the doorstep. Almost.
“Want to come in?” Owen asks, stepping back to allow a bleary eyed Ianto, and what’s left of that bottle of whisky Owen keeps in the bottom drawer in autopsy, into his flat. Ianto does so with some reluctance, like Owen isn’t his first port of call for the evening. The bottle clatters down onto Owen’s kitchen work surface and Ianto leans against it heavily, letting out a sigh. Owen shuts his front door and goes over to turn the television off.
“Tell me I’m a good man,” Ianto says, and Owen turns round to find bloodshot eyes looking at him.
“You’re a good man,” Owen says without really thinking if he believes those words or not. Ianto laughs and Owen thinks that Ianto’s having some kind of hysterical breakdown.
“See! How hard was that?” Ianto asks, unscrewing the cap from the whisky before searching wildly through the cupboards in Owen’s kitchen.
“Above the sink,” Owen says as he moves to stand on the other side of the breakfast bar, watching as Ianto discovers a glass and pours himself a sizable measure with shaking hands.
Ianto doesn’t speak again until he’s drunk nearly half. “I just wanted- I just needed-“ Ianto’s head drops between his shoulders as he leans heavily on the breakfast bar.
“You’ve done some fucked up stuff, we’ve all done some fucked up stuff, but you’re a good man, Ianto,” Owen says, and he means it this time. Ianto looks up at him then through watery eyelashes, wipes angrily at tears before they have a chance to fall.
Ianto falls asleep on Owen’s couch– he’d give him the bed, because it’s not like Owen’s going to use it, but Ianto’s out cold. There’s barely a measure of whisky left in the bottle beside an empty tumbler on Owen’s coffee table. Owen gets up and pours the rest of it down the sink. It almost seems a shame to waste it, but it’s served its purpose now. He fills the glass with water instead and sets it on the coffee table. Ianto’s snoring now, mouth open in an unflattering manner. Owen leaves him where he is to sleep it off.
Ianto wakes in the morning to find the blinds pulled down, his head pounding out a call to arms and mouth like the Bonneville Salt Flats but with a little less doubt in his mind.