Title: When the night is dark
Pairing: Owen/Ianto (m/m)
Word Count: 3, 707
Notes: Spoilers for first series of Torchwood. Thank you to joolz01 for betaing this for me :) Written for
Owen is sitting on the floor of the autopsy room, a bottle of vodka in his hand, when Ianto walks in.
Glaring at Ianto, who has turned on the lights, Owen rubs a hand across his eyes. “Piss off, tea boy.” He doesn’t want company tonight. If he did, he tells himself, he’d be getting hammered in club somewhere preferably with some skimpily clad blond in his lap.
Ianto makes no move to leave. He just looks at Owen and shakes his head.
“I said go away. You deaf or something?” Owen says louder, before deciding that if Ianto isn’t going to leave then he will. Drinking neat spirits on an almost empty stomach isn’t a good idea, Owen thinks as he stands. He sways on his feet for a moment before falling sideways, ending up at Ianto’s feet in a heap of spilt alcohol and shattered glass.
“Owen.” Ianto sounds concerned as he crouches down in front of him.
Owen flinches as Ianto touches him, backing away, the glass pressing into his hands. He doesn’t stop until the cold metal of the autopsy table is against his back and he has nowhere else to go. Hanging his head, Owen sighs. “Leave me alone.” Can’t he get five minutes, or better yet a whole evening, to himself anymore? Is it really too much to ask?
“No.” Ianto takes holds Owen’s wrists lifting his hands clear of the glass.
The pain across his palms is sharp as Ianto moves them and he can see his blood on the floor mixed with glass and vodka. Sobering and sickening at the same time Owen closes his eyes and tries to blot it out. Right now being sick or sober are both unwanted conditions.
Standing, still holding Owen’s wrists Ianto pulls him upright, before walking over to the sink, dragging Owen with him.
“I don’t want or need your help,” Owen snaps, but he doesn’t pull away as Ianto releases one of his hands to turn on the tap. He’s not sure he could get away right now even if he actually wanted to. Ianto is a damn sight stronger that he appears; the way he hauls weevils down to the cells single handed is testament to that.
“Really?” Ianto raises a disbelieving eyebrow.
“Yes, really.” It’s Ianto attitude rather than Ianto himself that he wants to get away from, Owen decides. It’s the way that Ianto is treating him like a child who’s hurt himself after doing something he’s been told repeatedly not to do.
“So if I left right now you’d clean and treat these cuts properly? ” Ianto’s tone clearly suggests the he doesn’t remotely believe it. Then, without waiting for a reply, he holds Owen’s hands under the fast running tap.
The water stings and Owen can’t help but flinch. Ianto’s grip on his wrists tightens fractionally as if he’s expecting Owen to try and run. “You’re over reacting, it’s just a few scratches; they’d be fine.”
“With all the crap you leave on the floor in here? I don’t think so. Do you want it to go septic?”
“Maybe I do, maybe I want to get blood poisoning and die.” Owen’s quite aware that it’s a bloody stupid thing to say, but he’s feeling bitter tonight. Bitter and lonely and so damn tired of everything, and Ianto’s attitude really isn’t helping.
“No you don’t.” Ianto sounds as tired as Owen feels as he releases Owen’s hands and turns on an angled lamp. He waves a hand at the table and picks up a pair of tweezers. “Just sit down.”
Owen sits on the edge of the autopsy table his shoulders slumped in defeat, as Ianto, with surprising care, picks the last few pieces of glass from his hands. It hurts, but Owen’s aware that it could be worse, knows that had their situations been reversed, he probably wouldn’t have shown the same level of care or concern. Which begs the question. “Why are you doing this?”
“Because.” Ianto’s eyes are carefully fixed on Owen’s hand as he smears on some antiseptic, his face revealing nothing.
“What sort of answer’s that?” Owen hates it when he can’t figure out what’s going on. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that he distrusts Ianto so much, the fact that he never knows, and perhaps never will know, quite where he stands with him. One minute he’s bringing you coffee, the next he’s shooting you.
“Just because.” Ianto smiles slightly, adding to Owen’s irritation. “There you go, all done.”
“Thanks.” It’s mumbled as Owen feels that he should say something, but doesn’t actually want to sound too grateful. After all it hadn’t really been necessary, he tells himself.
“You’d do the same for me,” Ianto says lightly, placing a steadying hand on Owen’s back as he tries to slide himself off the table without putting any pressure on his hands.
“Course I would, it’s my job you prat.” There’s no venom in it though, just the old sarcasm that they once traded so easily. Owen’s missed it. Missed how easily they used to trade insults. Yes, sometimes they went too far, said things that hurt, but it was a constant, it was something that never changed, it was stability. It was like Tosh’s enthusiasm, Jack’s flirting, Suzie’s passion for life and Gwen’s blind faith that everything would somehow be all right.
Only Suzie’s dead, Jack’s gone and Gwen’s faith seems to be fading with every passing day. Only Tosh seems to have remained unaffected; or maybe she’s just better at hiding it, Owen thinks despondently. He’s not sure of his judgement on anything much these days. Why they hell they’ve continued to put up with him being in charge, dragging them from one near disaster to the next, Owen doesn’t know. Maybe they’re just waiting for him to totally screw things up just so they can tell him they knew that’s what would happen, that he isn’t any good at anything, that he never will be.
Perhaps Ianto notices the change in Owen’s mood as he places a hand on his arm and says, “You should have something to eat, there’s some pizza left.”
Owen stares at him for a moment. He feels drunk and stupid. “Pizza?”
“Pizza. You know it’s the bread, tomato and cheese based thing that we seem to subsist on these days.” There is something very close to a smirk on Ianto’s face, even if it is a bit forced, and Owen can feel his bleak mood lifting just a little with this small attempt at normality.
“I know what a pizza is.” Owen manages to raise a smile.
“I should hope so. You order enough of it.”
Sitting on the tattered old sofa behind Tosh’s workstation they eat cold pizza and drink lemonade in something approaching companionable silence.
Feeling decidedly more sober with some food inside him, Owen is considering the best way to get home while there is still a chance of getting a few hours sleep, when Ianto gets up and walks over to Jack’s office.
Ianto is the only one who goes in there now. Owen’s seen him, watched him, as he tidies, cleans and organises and turns over the calendar as the months change, keeping the office ready. Nobody else goes into Jack’s office, not even Gwen, not anymore. Nobody sits in his chair or uses his decanter and glasses, the desk lamps are never switched on, nor the gramophone played. So it is left waiting for him, a silent reminder of better times and a single-minded gesture of hope that he will one day return.
A few moments later Ianto reappears with a bottle of whisky. Sitting down next to Owen he offers him the bottle, explaining, “I don’t want to drink alone.” Although his expression says it is probably far more complicated than that.
Owen stares at the bottle for a moment, uncertain whether to accept or even what to say. A line is being crossed here, it’s more than them drinking socially for the first time in months, it’s more than the fact he’s almost certain he’s already had too much to drink this evening, it’s more even than the fact that it’s Jack’s whiskey. It’s like they are saying that Jack may never come back and drink it himself, that they’ve now got to survive without him. Suddenly a stiff drink sounds like a bloody good idea again. “All right, but you’ve got to replace it before he gets back. I’m not taking the blame for this.”
Ianto lowers his gaze, looking at the floor rather than Owen. “Thank you.”
Quite what Ianto is saying thank you for Owen isn’t sure. Whether it’s for staying to drink with him or because he implied he still had faith that Jack would return.
There are no glasses and they pass the bottle between them, drinking slowly and in silence, until Ianto speaks. “Why today?”
“Why today what?” Owen could do without cryptic right now.
“Why did you pick today as the day to sit in the dark and get drunk?”
“Why do you think?” It’s a little harsher than Owen intended, but Ianto seems to ignore the sharpness of it.
“You really hate Thursdays?”
“I nearly got Tosh killed.” Owen finally voicing what has been screaming inside his head for the past eight hours.
“She wasn’t though.” Ianto says simply.
“She could have been. I mean if Gwen hadn’t been there, hadn’t pushed her out of the way.” Owen closes his eyes. If she hadn’t been there, if she’d got there too late, he’d have been putting Tosh’s body into cold storage right now. It doesn’t bear thinking about, except that’s all he can think about, that and how it could have all been his fault.
“They’re both fine, nobody was hurt.”
“No thanks to me,” Owen says bitterly. How could he have been so stupid as to send Tosh off on her own in the first place? Jack wouldn’t have done it. Jack would have known what those things were and he would have known that they were likely to explode.
“You were the one who told Gwen to go back, to check that Tosh was all right. You made the right choice.”
“I nearly didn’t.” He’d almost forgotten that Tosh was still in the building and now he can’t forget, can’t put it out of his mind that he nearly screwed up today, nearly lost part of what is now his team.
“Nearly doesn’t count.”
“Yeah, right.” Owen can’t keep the bitterness from his voice. He’s been running on fear and adrenaline for far too long, and he’s beginning to wonder how much more he can take, how much more any of them can take. Maybe next time he screws up it’ll only be him that’s caught in the cross fire, maybe that would be best for all of them. He takes a gulp of the whisky hoping that it will help; it doesn’t. All he knows is that he can’t start letting himself think like this, not again. “I never wanted this, I never wanted to be in charge,” he says quietly.
Ianto hesitates for a moment, unsure if Owen is speaking to him or not, before asking, “What do you want?”
“I want Jack to come back, for it all to be how it was. I was happy then.” Owen hangs his head. He said it now, so why doesn’t it make him feel any better? He smiles grimly. “Well, happier anyway.” He’s not sure he can remember the last time he was truly happy. Only that’s not true, not really and memories of music and Christmas, of moonlight and dancing crowd in and somehow it’s so much worse than not remembering. He hopes it doesn’t show in his face, the idea of Ianto pitying him is too awful for words.
“Things can never return to how they were,” Ianto says sadly. “However much we want them to.” He smiles faintly. “I know that now.”
“What? And you think that I don’t?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Then what are you saying?” Owen snaps.
“That you’re doing the best you can.” Ianto puts a hand on Owen’s arm. “Nobody can ask more of you than that.”
The touch is warm and Owen knows it’s meant to be reassuring. The touch becomes a gentle squeeze and suddenly it’s clear, he’s seen Ianto do this before. “This is what you did for Jack, wasn’t it? You helped him hold it together when things went to shit.” Like that’s not almost an everyday occurrence, he thinks bitterly.
“I wouldn’t go that far. Sometimes he needed somebody to be there, to tell him that everything would be all right, just to listen. I guess I thought that…” Ianto closes his eyes, although whether he’s trying to remember or to forget, Owen couldn’t say.
“We all thought you and him were doing it.” Owen regrets saying it almost immediately. This is the most companionable they’ve been in a long time, perhaps ever, and it is, for want of a better word, nice, and Owen knows that he really doesn’t want to be the one that ruins it.
There is a distant, sad look on Ianto’s face when he speaks and there is no anger is his voice, just a weariness that hurts to hear. “We were. I was…” He sighs and shakes his head. “It doesn’t matter now though, does it? ” There are tears in his eyes and he turns away for a moment, blinking fiercely until they are gone.
Owen thinks it’s probably the most emotion that Ianto has shown in front of any of them in the three months that Jack’s been gone. He doesn’t answer Ianto’s question; he can’t, he doesn’t have an answer to give, so he hands him the bottle instead.
“You know that Gwen thinks you don’t even miss him. It’s because you’ve not been all whiny and emo about it.”
“What good would that do me? He walked out on us. It’s not like he’s dead or he didn’t have a choice, is it?” Ianto drinks straight from the bottle before returning it to Owen.
“You do miss him though, don’t you?”
Ianto nods and swallows the whisky. “It feels like my insides are torn out, like I’m never going to be whole again. I hate him and I want him back.”
“We’re both so fucking screwed up.” Owen stares down at the bottle in his hands. No amount of alcohol is going to make things better, not really, not in any way that actually means a damn.
“I suppose we are.” Ianto voice is heavy as he slowly leans against Owen’s shoulder.
Owen moves slightly, placing the bottle on the floor and letting Ianto lean more heavily against him. Ianto is a warm and solid presence on an otherwise cold and lonely night, so it is almost without realising it that Owen presses closer, leans into that warmth, with what he hopes isn’t an audible sigh.
It takes Owen a few minutes to realise that Ianto’s hand has started stroking his leg. He looks at it stupidly for a moment, not able to understand what Ianto is doing or why. Then realisation dawns: Ianto is making a move on him.
It’s only now that Owen realises one of his arms is around Ianto’s waist, holding him close, and he is left wondering if maybe he’s the one making a move on Ianto and his brain hasn’t caught up with his body yet.
Whichever it is it’s unexpected, not to mention completely inadvisable for any number of reasons, not least the fact that they aren’t remotely sober. Mainly though it’s because there are days when they seem to actively hate each other. Yet somehow, despite this, it’s not an unpleasant or unwelcome idea. It’s unusual for Owen, although certainly not unheard of, and tonight, he knows, Ianto is going to be the only offer he’s going to get.
“Are we going to…?” Owen trails off. He’s not sure what to call what they are about to do. Fuck is too passionate, and there is no passion between them, not in that way, there is anger, but never, as far as Owen understands it at least, any lust. Screw doesn’t seem to be the right word either. Nor does make love, which is, in Owen’s opinion, far too sappy and they certainly don’t love each other. Owen frowns. He’s sure he could probably think of a better word if he was sober.
With a slightly hurt expression Ianto removes his hand from Owen’s leg, seeming to take Owen’s frown as displeasure at his actions. Owen can almost see him formulating an apology, getting ready to run away from this, to carry on tomorrow like none of this had even happened.
Two choices then, Owen tells himself. Either I can let him go or I stop him and see what happens. On consideration it’s not much of a choice, so wincing slightly at the pain in his hand Owen grabs Ianto’s hand and returns it to where it was on his thigh. “So, are we going to have sex then?” It still doesn’t sound right to Owen, but he’s not sure that anything would. He’s often thought things would be a lot better without words, simpler. After all it’s a hell of a lot easier to lie with words that it is to lie with your body, in Owen’s experience.
Ianto licks nervous lips, seemingly still concerned at Owen’s apparent hesitation. “Would you want to?”
“I wouldn’t say no. But if we do, you’re not going to get any bloody silly ideas about love are you?” He got to get this out the way first. The last thing he wants is Ianto transferring his affections to him. It wouldn’t be fair on either of us, he tells himself. After all we’re only doing this because we’re are drunk and lonely. This would never be happening otherwise.
“I don’t want love, not right now and not from you. But…” His hand moves up to rest against Owen’s neck, fingers stroking into his hair, his confidence seeming to return. “I need…we need something; something to hold on to, something to get us through the night, just so we’re not alone.”
Owen can feel his own breathing start to get ragged. He’s surprised at how much Ianto is turning him on, how much his body is telling he wants this, needs this. All he’s doing is talking and stroking my hair for fucks sake, he tells himself.
Ianto leans in until Owen can feel his breath warm on his cheek, their mouths nearly touching as he speaks. “It’s this job, it takes so much from us, it destroys us if we let it, it consumes our lives and forces us see the worst of everything.” Ianto’s lips brush his. “This is just about being alive.”
Ianto’s tongue is inside his mouth and Owen is struggling backwards out of the kiss before he knows what he is doing. He hadn’t expected Ianto to be so full on, not yet, maybe not at all. “What the hell was that?”
“Just a kiss.” Ianto face is flushed, lips moist and breathing hard.
“That kiss didn’t feel like just anything.” What it had felt was good. Maybe even good enough to get used to, to want to get used to and he’s not doing that. This is just about getting through the loneliness, getting through the night. It’s survival, nothing more.
“Well it’s not my fault if all your previous dates have been lousy kissers, is it?” Ianto sounds more amused than annoyed. His fingers are still stroking Owen’s neck, their touch gentle and reassuring.
“You’re not my date,” Owen snaps.
“You know what I mean.” Ianto strokes his thumb across Owen’s lips and Owen has the almost absurd urge to suck it into his mouth, to see if that action will break Ianto’s seemingly endless reserve of calm.
Instead he just scowls. He knows what Ianto means, but he’s not about to admit it. “Fine, but don’t think for a minute…”
Ianto silences him with another kiss. Owen doesn’t pull away this time, doesn’t want to. Instead he closes his eyes and relaxes into it, giving himself over to sensation, willing himself to forget Torchwood at least for a while.
By the time Ianto pushes him down gently on to the sofa, Owen is aware of little else other than Ianto’s hands on his body, Ianto’s lips against his own and how ridiculously good it all feels.
Later, lying on the sofa, Ianto is curled against his back, an arm wrapped protectively around his waist, holding him close, as Owen settles down to sleep.
It’s more comforting that he wants to admit, even to himself, the feeling of Ianto’s chest against his back, the gentle rise and fall of it as he sleeps, the warmth of Ianto’s breath on his neck.
Leaning back against him, glad of a warm body against his own, Owen wonders just how fucked up he’s become to feel safe lying in the arms of a man who’d not so long ago shot him. But it does feel safe. Safe. Protected. Cared for. Wanted. So many things that Owen has rarely received from anyone. Not that he’ll tell Ianto that. He’ll never tell anyone how much he craves it, he can’t, he doesn’t know how or even where to begin.
In the morning, he knows, they’ll be up and about by the time Tosh and Gwen get in, Ianto will make sure of it. Like he will make sure that any traces of what’s happened between here them tonight are gone, tidied away. Nothing will be left for Tosh or Gwen to wonder at or ask awkward questions about. So if he’s a little hung over tomorrow nobody will notice, or if they do they will just assume he’s been out on the pull again. They’ll never know.
Owen smiles sleepily. Sometimes you just have to make the best of what life gives you, and right now life’s not looking so bad after all.