The Road to Hell
After an unplanned encounter with an alien plant, Owen and Ianto come to an arrangement: casual sex with no obligations. But good intentions only go so far.
Notes: Thank you very much to Santousha for all the help with betaing. Any mistakes are my own.
Owen woke up feeling like his brain had been replaced with cotton balls. He was lying naked on the hard floor, and he felt the bare flesh of another person lying on top of him.
Truthfully, Owen woke up like this often. But he had no memory of going to the pub, or meeting anyone. The last thing he remembered clearly was taking one of the alien plants out of the boardroom and bringing it down to the autopsy bay to study.
Once he remembered that, the rest of it came back to him, though it was hazy, like remembering a dream. Owen remembered having sex, but it was more the idea of sex, rather than the feel of it.
Which was fine, really, until he remembered who he'd had sex with: Ianto. Fuck.
He cracked open his eyes, and winced at the bright overhead light. He turned his head out of direct view of it, and when he managed to open his eyes again, he looked down his chest and saw Ianto hugging the lower half of his body. Ianto had come in his hair.
Owen cleared his throat and tested his voice. "Ianto..." The name tickled in Owen's throat. He needed some water.
Ianto didn't respond, and Owen put his hand on Ianto's head and pushed a little. "Ianto, wake up."
When Ianto still didn't stir, Owen tapped, and then slapped, him on the arm. "Oi, mate, wake up."
They had obviously been exposed to some sort of drug, and it was a little worrying that Ianto was still unconscious. Owen had hated working with overdoses when he'd worked in the A&E; he sure as hell didn't want to have to deal with one now. How would he explain it to Gwen and Tosh?
At least with Jack gone, there wouldn't be any crude chuckles about aphrodisiacs.
Just then, Ianto groaned and opened his eyes. His eyes were glassy, and he looked confused.
"You all right?" Owen asked.
Instead of answering, Ianto blinked, and his eyes widened as he took in his surroundings. He looked as miserably wasted as Owen felt, which made Owen feel a little better.
He rolled off of Owen, and Owen sat up, grabbing a leg of the autopsy table to hoist himself off the floor. Owen moved too fast, and a sharp pain shot through his head. He screwed his eyes shut, and when he opened them, Ianto was standing with his back to him, hands on his hips. Ianto had red, finger-shaped marks on his arms and hips that would probably turn into bruises before the end of the day.
Owen cleared his throat. "Is that your attempt at modesty? I can still see your arse, you know."
Ianto looked over his shoulder and glared.
"What?" Owen said. "Had to say something."
Ianto looked away. "I think I'd rather not talk to you." There was a hint of a growl in Ianto's voice, but it could have been that Ianto was having trouble speaking. Owen's throat and nose still burned from inhaling the pollen or whatever the hell it was. Their bodies, and the entire autopsy bay, were covered with the fine yellow powder.
The plant still sat on the table. Owen felt like shoving it off onto the floor, but he didn't feel like risking any further contact with it just now. It was a hideous thing. The flowers were blue and the leaves were the same shade of dark pink as the tie Ianto had been wearing (which was now rumpled on the floor with the rest of Ianto's clothes). Owen believed the technical name was fuchsia. He sorely wanted to see a connection, and blame Ianto for this.
Owen looked at his watch, which was the only thing he was wearing, and blinked until he could make out the time. "Fuck," he said, "Tosh'll be in before long."
Ianto looked back over his shoulder, his eyes wide now. "What time is it?"
"After five." It had been just before midnight when he'd brought the plant down for study. No wonder he was so tired-he'd been having sex for the better part of four hours, at least. "You gonna get dressed, or are you just going to stand there naked for her to come in and find you?"
"I was waiting for a little privacy," Ianto informed him, and the tone of his voice reminded Owen of the ache he still felt when he moved his shoulder. At least Ianto didn't have his gun on him.
Owen wasn't going to try to reason with Ianto. He crouched down and pulled his clothes out from among Ianto's. He rolled up his shirt and jeans, and held them over his crotch as he headed for the stairs.
"I'm taking a shower," he announced. There was no reason to go into detail why, because it was obvious. He had dried come on his body, and he was trying to ignore the fact that some of it wasn't his. But then, he was no worse off than Ianto.
Owen left Ianto and went to the communal showers. The team rarely used them, except in situations involving lots of alien blood and goo, but Torchwood was always prepared, and they kept little packages of especially astringent soap and shampoo on hand. The packaging was emblazoned with the Torchwood logo, and was like being in a hotel, except more utilitarian. The soap made his skin red, and his scalp itched a bit, but it was worth it to get rid of any trace of Ianto.
When he finished, he hesitantly went back into the main part of the Hub. He looked around, and spotted Ianto sitting at one of the workstations, looking at the computer screen and fully dressed, thankfully. Owen made his way over.
Ianto didn't look at him, but said, "I'm going to delete the CCTV footage."
"Right. Good idea."
"You need to get that plant...contained. Preferably in the incinerator. This can't happen again."
Owen snorted. "You always this bossy after you have sex?"
Ianto ignored him, but his hand tightened on the mouse. He pulled up the CCTV footage and chose the appropriate starting time. Owen watched over Ianto's shoulder. The footage showed Owen in the autopsy bay, inspecting the plant.
It wasn't even a job Owen wanted to do. He just got stuck cataloguing the damn things. It wasn't his fault he'd studied biology more than the others.
On the screen, a yellow cloud started rising out of the plant, obscuring Owen's head. Owen watched himself turn away, one arm over his nose to prevent further inhalation. To the right of the screen, Ianto came into view. He was on the stairs, and the yellow cloud reached his head before he could move.
Owen stared dumbly as the footage progressed. It was hard to tell exactly when the fumbling and coughing turned into groping and kissing. He blinked and glanced away when they started taking off their clothes. It was like seeing amateur porn with him in it. Thankfully, that was when Ianto stopped the footage.
"I'll just delete five hours' worth," Ianto said. "That should cover it all."
"Yeah, you do that. I'll take care of the autopsy bay," Owen said as he started making his retreat.
He got the broom, but before sweeping up the pollen he took several samples, which he marked as dangerous and placed out of the way. He was finishing with the floor when Ianto appeared at the top of the stairs.
"It's deleted. All four hours, plus anything else incriminating."
Owen looked up. "How deleted? Could anyone find it?"
"It's as deleted as possible. It's hard to get rid of all traces, but someone would have to be looking for it." He paused, and said, "I can't believe this happened."
Owen frowned. "Try not to look so disgusted."
Ianto grasped the railing and chuckled humorlessly. "Right, because that's just what I wanted to do."
"Wasn't my idea of a good time, either, but it's not like having sex with me is a big disaster. Look, it's Torchwood, this shit happens, right?"
"Still, after that other plant bit Tosh, I'd think you'd be more cautious. I'm going home." Ianto walked off.
For a moment, Owen just stared at the spot where Ianto had stood. Then he started up the stairs. "Wait--are you coming back? Gwen and Tosh'll be in soon."
Ianto was heading towards the cog door. He stopped, turned his head, and said, "My suit's wrinkled, I think I have your come in my hair, and I'm lightheaded."
He continued out the door, and Owen let him leave, still unsure if the question had been answered.
Owen collected the plant and carried it back upstairs to the boardroom. They hardly spent any time up there now with all the plants, so he didn't think it would be a risk. Later, he might look at it a bit more. Preferably while wearing a mask.
He laid down on the sofa, then, and drifted off to sleep. He hoped he'd done a good enough job cleaning up the evidence. Cleaning was Ianto's thing, not his. But he was too tired to think about it any more.
At Torchwood, having alien-induced sex with a coworker was bound to happen eventually. It had happened before, in 1967, when the entire team ended up having an orgy after eating some odd chocolates. And that was just one case. Ianto may have thought he had a claim on knowing everything about everything that had ever happened in Torchwood, but Owen had the medical files, and things like pregnancy and STI tests tended to stand out. Reading about other people's sex lives entertained him when he was bored and didn't have time to go out and have sex himself.
It wasn't like Owen had never thought about it-hadn't imagined himself with some attractive alien, or one of his coworkers. He used to imagine Suzie, and then Gwen, before that became reality.
But Ianto did not play into these fantasies at all.
Owen didn't wake up again until after Tosh came in. He opened his eyes and saw her sitting at her workstation. She glanced over at him.
"I see you're awake," she said with a small smile. "I was surprised to see you here when I arrived. Did you go home at all?"
"Uh...no, I was, um, working, you know?"
"Must've been working late."
"Yeah, well, we've all got to pitch in, do our part, right?"
Tosh just cocked her head and smiled. "I think that's a great attitude to have."
Owen got up, and sluggishly moved over to his workspace. He busied himself at his computer, and tried to ignore the fact that Ianto hadn't come back.
Gwen turned up an hour later, carrying a big bag of bagels.
"Ianto called me," she announced. "He said he's not feeling well. I told him to stay home today."
Owen glanced over casually, and Tosh turned from her computer. "He wasn't exposed to anything, was he?" Tosh asked. "Nothing that could make him sick?"
Before Owen could come up with a lie for that, Gwen turned to him and asked, "Did you see him last night?"
"Yeah," he said, "a little. He said he didn't feel right."
"Did you ask him about it?" Gwen asked.
Owen stood up. "Ianto was fine when I last saw him. Just a little light-headed. If he was really sick, he would have told you, but if you two are so concerned, call him back."
"Maybe I will," Gwen said with an air of child who had just been given a dare. She sighed before adding, "I'm just saying, it's a shame if he's sick. You'd think being a doctor, you'd have some concern."
Owen sneered at her and started for the autopsy bay. "It's not my problem if he's got a cold, and I think I know this stuff a little better than you do, love."
He went down to the autopsy bay, and stood over the table as he tried to decide what to do. There were two aliens that needed dissecting, but he couldn't motivate himself to do that. He wanted to look at the pollen samples he'd collected, but he didn't want to do that while the others were around. Gwen had an annoying habit of asking people what they were working on.
Presently, Gwen leaned over the railing with her mobile still in her hand. "I just spoke to Ianto," she said. "He said he's all right, but he's feeling a bit out of sorts. I told him he should stay home."
"Fine," Owen retorted, his voice laced with annoyance.
"Do you think maybe you should go over to his flat? Just in case? Tosh is worried he caught something off from that meteor that fell last week. Alien bacteria or something like that. Maybe you should take a blood sample or something just in case."
"Right, 'cause I've got time to waste on that. Since when did you get all paranoid?"
"I'm not paranoid. I just think, with Jack gone, we should try to take care of each other."
Gwen came down the stairs, and Owen wished he'd done a better job at dismissing her.
"Are you still upset over him shooting you? Is that it?"
"That was a month ago, and I don't let personal shit interfere with my job. If I did, you'd notice."
"Please," she murmured. "All last month you were letting your personal shit interfere with your job. I know why you wanted to open the rift."
"Yeah, like you know anything about my personal shit. You're too busy with your own fucked up life to notice anybody else's."
Gwen didn't respond; she just looked at him with her eyes wide and her mouth in a small line.
"This is about working together," she finally said. "As a team. We don't have Jack to pull us together, so need to do it ourselves."
Owen patted her on the arm, and felt her retract though she'd barely moved at all. He started for the steps. "You keep on that, love. Keep bringing in bagels, and we'll be a good team."
Three hours earlier, Ianto realized he was trying to use his key upside down. He was standing outside his flat, trying to open the door, and he barely remembered driving himself home. It was a good thing it was too early for much traffic. He got the door open and staggered into his flat, where he turned on the living room light. The sun wasn't completely up yet, but the newspaper had been waiting for him and he set it on the coffee table.
Maybe he shouldn't have driven home, but leaving his car at the Hub and hiring a taxi had felt unnecessary.
He hoped his head would clear after a shower. Showering at the Hub had not been an option: he didn't care how much Owen had seen of him already-what happened while they were drugged and what happened afterward were two different things, and Ianto wanted to keep the distinction.
Ianto stripped while the water heated, letting his already wrinkled and dusty suit lie on the floor, and then he stepped under the spray. Taking a well-needed shower was blissful. Getting mucked up frequently at work hadn't detracted from that pleasure. Even now, with his senses and mind dulled by whatever alien substance that was in his bloodstream, the water tingled on his scalp and down his back.
He couldn't blame Owen. Not really. Bizarre things just happened at Torchwood. Working there practically meant signing away his dignity. At least the drug hadn't made Owen seem attractive. That would have been embarrassing. He thought it had just increased their libido by about five-hundred percent, which was almost as bad. It reminded him of early adolescence. He hoped he wouldn't be waking up in wet sheets until this stuff was out of his system.
Still, it would have been easier if he hadn't enjoyed it so much. If it had hurt, or been unpleasant, that would have been better. But the only thing he remembered clearly was how great the orgasms had been. It was the best sex of his life, and it was because of a drug, which he would never have again. And it was with Owen. There was grave injustice in that.
He didn't want to think about it.
Ianto turned off the water, and stepped onto the mat outside the tub. As he did so, his vision dimmed, and he felt blood rush to his head. He reached out, and grabbed the edge of the sink, but the feeling passed. He waited, holding on to the sink with one slippery hand, to make sure he wouldn't pass out. Remain conscious, he told himself. Remaining conscious was good. The last thing he needed was to fall down and hit his head on the edge of the tub.
Once he could, he went into the bedroom. He pulled on some boxers, opened the closet, and chose a clean suit. He laid it on the bed, but then stopped. He was probably well enough to go back to work. He probably wouldn't pass out or throw up, even when he saw Owen. Still, Ianto didn't much feel like going back to work. He knew his feelings shouldn't matter-with Jack gone, it was more important than ever for them all to work hard. But another wave of lightheadedness made the decision for him.
Guiltily, Ianto picked up his mobile and called Gwen on the speed-dial. When she answered, he heard the sounds of traffic and wind in the background.
"Hello," she said brightly.
"Gwen, sorry to bother you."
"Is everything all right? I'm on my way in right now; it'll only be another minute."
He cleared his throat and sat on the bed. "I'm not at the Hub, actually. I wanted to tell you I may not be in today. I'm not feeling quite right this morning. Think I might have caught the flu."
"Oh, I'm so sorry. Are you all right, love?"
"Yeah, I'm just a bit tired and sore. I was working late last night, and I'm feeling a little lightheaded. I don't think it's serious. I can come in if you need me, but if I'm sick, I'd rather not expose you to it." Sometimes, it bothered him how easy it was to lie.
Gwen clicked her tongue. "Well, don't worry about us. Take care of yourself. Can I get you anything?"
He swallowed in guilt at the concern in her voice. "Thanks, but I'm fine. If you need anything, don't hesitate to call. I'm hardly on my deathbed."
"I'm sure we'll be fine. You just rest."
He said goodbye to her, and got dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. Aside from the flu part, he hadn't really lied to her. He was very tired and sore. He hoped he wasn't inconveniencing them by staying home, but he needed time to process everything, and didn't feel like seeing Owen just now.
He walked barefoot into the living room and sat himself in front of the television. Ianto was seldom at home in the morning, so it was novel to watch the telly. He flipped through the channels, and when he didn't find anything that interested him, he settled on some news and lay down with his head on the arm of the sofa. He closed his eyes, and listened vaguely to something about Harold Saxon rising in the polls.
Ianto opened his eyes when he heard knocking, and he realized he'd fallen asleep. He hadn't realized he was that tired. He sighed, turned the volume down on the television, and got up. He looked through the peephole, and got a distorted view of Owen's face.
Ianto opened the door and asked, "What are you doing here?"
Owen was standing with one hand in his pocket and the other against the doorframe. Owen looked Ianto up and down, and then aimed his view over Ianto's shoulder and into the flat. Ianto stepped to the side to block his view.
"You told Gwen you were sick," Owen said.
"Would you rather I told her the truth?"
Owen shifted on his feet. "Well, from how Gwen put it, I was thinking you'd had a fucking reaction to that stuff. I breathed it in, too, you know. If you're sick, I'd like to know about it."
"No," Ianto said, forcing a smile, "I think I already had the reaction. I'm just tired and a little lightheaded. You could have just called."
"I did call. I called your mobile three times, and you didn't answer."
Ianto sighed. "I've been resting, and I left it in the other room. I didn't hear it, all right?"
Owen nodded. "Right, okay, then." He turned, and it looked like he was going to leave, but he stopped. "And just so we're clear, this whole thing? I didn't plan it, and I didn't like it, either. So let's pretend it never happened."
Ianto nodded. "So you'll keep quiet about it, then?"
"What, you think I'm going to go around bragging about it? You're not that good a shag."
Ianto rolled his eyes. "I could just see you getting pissed and bragging about it in a pub. Except, you'd change me to a shapely blonde."
Owen scoffed. "It'd take a better imagination than I've got to change you into that. I'm going back to the Hub. But if you do get sick or something, let me know, yeah?"
Ianto did not wait to see Owen off. He closed the door, secured the latch, and went to make himself a cup of tea.
The next time Ianto woke up, he was in his bed. The room was dark, and he turned on the side lamp so he could see the clock. It was almost nine. He sat up quickly, thinking for a moment it was morning and he was late for work. But no, it was dark. It was nighttime. He remembered lying down not long after Owen left; he'd slept all day.
The upstairs neighbor was playing some music, and that was what had woken him up. He was glad: he'd been dreaming. It hadn't been a bad dream, not yet. But he'd dreamt he was in London, and those dreams rarely turned out well.
His bladder was full, making his lower belly ache. He got up to use the toilet, and once that discomfort was gone, his stomach still ached from hunger. It was just as well-Ianto felt like some fresh air, and there was a Chinese place within walking distance. He put on his shoes, grabbed his jacket and mobile, and went out.
Ianto felt refreshed, now, and figured the rest was just what he'd needed. It was a cool night but the air was still. Though it was still cold, it was clear that spring would come before long. He saw several couples walking hand in hand down the pavement, as well as groups of teenagers who laughed loudly and were under-dressed in t-shirts. Ianto realized it was a Saturday. Working at Torchwood, days held less meaning (though, the rift seemed partial to Thursdays for some reason. He knew Tosh planned to find out why once she found the time).
The woman at the take-out place smiled when Ianto came in. Ianto came here often, and the owners had begun to recognize him. He'd started to come here when ordering Chinese for the team-when Ianto found something worthy of his support, he stuck by it.
On the way home with his lo mein, Ianto watched the people around him. He always watched his surroundings as a matter of habit. And he liked watching strangers. But now every time he looked, he imagined he might see Jack. That should have made him want to stay out all night, watching each face that went by, but instead he quickened his pace and kept his gaze centered ahead of him, in the direction of his home.
Every day, he wondered if Jack would come back, and the disappointment was turning to dread. He didn't like working in the tourist office anymore. Expecting Jack to walk through the door had become nerve-wracking.
You knew this was coming, he told himself. He'll never be back. Ianto knew about the packed duffel bag Jack had kept under his bed. He knew it was gone, now. He didn't blame Jack for leaving, if he'd prepared the event that much.
And because Ianto knew, he had no right to be bothered. He should have prepared himself for that loss.
It wasn't as though losing people was a novel experience.
"What do you think?" Gwen asked. They were standing by the cog door, which was where they were having their meetings now that the boardroom was taken over by the plants. Gwen was holding up a missing poster with Jack's picture on it.
When nobody responded to her question, Gwen continued: "I was thinking we could post these around town, in case anybody's seen him."
Ianto looked down at the coffee cup he was holding. There was a small hair floating in it. Tosh murmured in soft agreement, but Owen spoke, and when he did his voice snapped with like stretched rubber band, tight with frustration. "Nobody's seen him around. He disappeared. We all saw the footage."
"He was taken," Gwen said. "But that doesn't mean he hasn't been seen anywhere."
Owen sniffed. "Yeah, right, like he's in Cardiff but hasn't contacted us. Hasn't called. Nothing."
"Maybe he can't," Tosh suggested.
Maybe he doesn't want to, Ianto wanted to say. They'd betrayed the man. There was always the possibility he'd just decided to leave them behind. It could have been cause and effect. It was just nicer to think it was a coincidence, and nobody dared verbalize any other possibility.
They'd all seen the footage with the blue box. Jack was taken. Or he left. Chances were, he was far from Cardiff by now. Ianto wondered how much the others knew about the Doctor. The Doctor had been a big deal in London. They'd shown Ianto a video during orientation, and he'd even worked briefly on a team compiling possible sightings. It had been strange to come to Cardiff and find no mention of the Doctor at all. Not only that, but there were no files on the Doctor in the archives. That was not only strange, but very suspicious. Ianto had always wondered why Jack had taken all the focus off the Doctor. Now, he was starting to see why.
He didn't share this with the others, though. There was a definite taboo against saying anything that suggested Jack wouldn't be coming back.
"Look," Owen said, "you put up posters, all you're going to get is a bunch of Jack's old shags coming forward saying they saw him a few months ago."
"Even so," Gwen cut in, "I see no harm in giving it a try. If someone has a better idea, I suggest they share it."
"I'm still keeping an eye on the CCTV when I'm able," Tosh said.
"I know," Gwen said, looking at Tosh appreciatively. "We're all doing our part." She glanced accusingly at Owen. "And this is part of my contribution to the cause. If anyone wants to help me, great."
Ianto kept his head down, not wanting to get involved in this. Frankly, Owen had a point. The posters were probably a waste of time, and Ianto was very busy these days, having taken over most of the admin work Jack left behind.
"I've already printed up a hundred," Gwen said, "and I was thinking of putting some up this afternoon if there's time. I've talked to the police, and they've agreed to keep an eye open and let us know if they spot him."
"Excuse me," Owen said, "is that even a good idea? Do we want the police to know our leader's gone and disappeared?"
Gwen looked at him and crossed her arms. "Well, I don't see what harm it does. What are they going to do, exactly, aside from help?"
"Of course," Owen said, derisively, "'cause being without a leader doesn't make us vulnerable at all."
Ianto, who would have preferred to stay silent, cleared his throat and spoke up. Someone had to, or Owen and Gwen might be at it all day. "I'm not sure I'd say the police are a threat. They certainly can't claim any authority over us. I'd be more concerned about UNIT, but I've been keeping them at bay."
Owen looked at him. "Oh, and you're the expert. You're a glorified secretary."
"Now," Gwen said, "come on..."
Ianto ignored her. "My, uh, secretarial duties include dealing with UNIT. And the police, for that matter."
Gwen sighed and shook her head. "All right, listen, this isn't something to argue over. I made a small decision. That's all."
"Because you're the boss now," Owen snapped, "is that it?"
"I don't see anyone else taking charge."
Ianto looked at Gwen. She was taking charge? Since when? Ianto had no objections to Gwen (indeed, she would have to be better than Owen, at least), but it felt much too...permanent, and he didn't like it. He noticed that Tosh and Owen were looking at Gwen, too.
"That's perfect," Owen said, walking closer to Gwen. She flinched a little when he advanced, but didn't move. "You come in here, become Jack's little pet, and now he's gone you're taking his spot. That's real nice."
Her cheeks became flushed. "I'm not taking anyone's spot," she said. "I know Jack's out there, and I won't give up on him. But we need to remember our purpose."
Owen sneered. "Helping people, right?"
"Yes, helping people. Helping Cardiff. I don't care who's in charge, as long as we can do that. So don't twist my motivations, Owen."
He backed off, and nobody said anything.
"All right," Gwen said, once the silence got too heavy, "that's settled. There's just one more thing I was going to say. Rhys and I have decided to get married."
They all looked at her. Tosh smiled awkwardly, and said, "Congratulations. That's wonderful for you."
Ianto nodded. "Yes, congratulations."
Owen nodded, and mumbled something that may have been congratulatory, or may have been a curse.
Gwen continued. "I'm not looking for any fuss. I just thought you should know, and I wanted to make it clear that this won't interfere with my work. I'm not going anywhere."
Ianto saw Owen quietly leave. He was tempted to follow, because there was something he needed to talk to Owen about, but he stayed behind with Tosh to admire the ring on Gwen's finger. Ianto resisted temptation to ask if the ring was insured (he'd had to buy a new watch last month because his old one got damaged in the field). Eventually, Gwen and Tosh made their way back to their workstations, and Ianto followed Owen down to the autopsy bay.
Owen was putting on his white doctor's coat, though whether he was really busy or just trying to avoid them, Ianto didn't know. He looked at Ianto and said, "If you're going to yell at me for not trying harder to find your precious boyfriend, you're wasting your time."
"Jack's not my boyfriend," Ianto said, keeping his voice low, "and that's not what I wanted to talk to you about."
"What is it, then?"
Ianto moved closer, not for intimacy but so he could speak lower. "I realize we agreed not to talk about what happened last week," he started.
Owen closed his eyes. "Yeah, I thought we'd put that behind us, myself."
"Right. I need to ask you a question," Ianto said. "It's...awkward..."
"Just say it, all right? Some of us have more important things to do around here than make coffee."
Ianto would have replied to that comment if he didn't want to get this over with.
"Are you...clean?" he asked. "I mean, have you been tested recently?"
Owen narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms. "You think I'm diseased?"
"Well, I wasn't trying to imply that. But you're not exactly celibate, and we didn't use anything. I think it's a reasonable thing to ask."
"Yeah, and I bet if Jack were here and he dropped his trousers for you, you'd suck his cock without wondering where it'd been."
The only thing that kept him from punching Owen in the nose right then was knowing that Gwen and Tosh were nearby. It was to his own best interest to keep this quiet.
Owen sniffed, and turned his back. "But yeah, I'm clean. So if you think you've picked up anything nasty, tell me, 'cause it goes both ways, you know."
"I wouldn't be offended if you'd asked me."
"Yeah, well, I've got your medical records. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Now would you get out so I can work?"
Ianto retreated, wishing he'd just snooped in Owen's records instead of bothering to ask at all. He didn't know sometimes why he bothered trying to be civil.
He went upstairs to the tourist office, and worked on the accounting until Tosh asked if he had time to help her in the basement that evening.
"You know," Ianto said, "you have seniority. If anyone should take charge, I suppose it's you."
Tosh let her hair fall over her face. "I don't think Torchwood bases much on seniority."
He shrugged. "Still, you're probably the most qualified."
"Thank you, but I don't think I'd want the job."
He wondered if she was blushing.
"Besides," she said, "anything we do right now is temporary."
They were renovating one of the unused sublevel rooms, turning it into a new boardroom. It had been something they'd thought about for a while-during Ianto's first month at Torchwood, Tosh had talked about wanting to redo the old one, updating the technology, but Jack had put the idea on hold. In a way, doing it now was rebellious. The boss was gone, so they were all doing what they wanted. Even Gwen, who was trying so hard to keep things running, had begun to shamelessly surf the net during working hours. But they were entitled to that, weren't they?
But it was also practical. They'd stopped trying to hold meetings in the boardroom after Tosh had gotten bitten by one of the plants. Perhaps it would have made more sense to find somewhere else for the plants, or get rid of them entirely (Torchwood Two had had them delivered without any warning).
But the old boardroom was inadequate in small ways. The screen was too small. There was too little fortification, considering it was the meeting place in times of crisis. And Ianto had to walk up and down the stairs whenever someone asked for coffee or biscuits.
The new boardroom was big enough to have a counter for making coffee and cupboard for snacks. It had a metal door that could be closed and locked from the inside. And right now, Tosh was working on the wiring so that they could have the nicest screen and speakers they could find.
Ianto thought the old boardroom might make a nice hothouse.
"Thanks again for helping me," Tosh said.
"It's no problem. We're the ones who wanted this."
Owen had no interest in the new boardroom (though he didn't seem to have an interest in anything these days, except getting drunk and arguing), and Ianto thought Gwen would have helped, but it was best not to overwhelm her when she was already trying to take care of them all.
Ianto didn't mind. It was a nice, quiet project. Sometimes he and Tosh would talk, but more often they worked in shared silence. Now, working on it had the added bonus of meaning he didn't have to see Owen.
The room wasn't much to look at right now--the walls were still grey concrete, and the bad lighting required them to use torches. Ianto was holding one now for Tosh, who was working on some wires.
"Well," Tosh said, "I don't know how I'd find the chance to do this without some help."
Ianto did his best. He had some experience with working in the dark sublevels, and he wasn't sure that was a good thing. The last electrical job he'd done down here was for a cyber conversion unit. Tosh must have realized that.
After a while, Tosh said, "It's nice, isn't it? About Gwen, I mean."
"Yes," Ianto said. "I suppose she's proved it's actually possible. Mixing a personal life with Torchwood."
Tosh paused for a moment before continuing. "I suppose it depends on the people. Could you shine the light to the left? Thank you. I'm not sure I could do it. The secrets, I mean."
Ianto leaned against the wall and rubbed his thumb over the textured grip of the torch. "It wears you down."
She glanced up at him, but only held his gaze for a moment before looking back down. "You and Jack seemed to be getting along, you know, before..."
"He left," Ianto finished for her.
Tosh looked down at the wires she was connecting. "It's good though, if you were."
When Ianto didn't respond, Tosh said, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to pry."
"You weren't," he assured her. He swallowed, and said, "You know, when he left...I didn't really expect it any more than you did." He really hadn't. He should have.
Tosh nodded, and for a few minutes, neither of them said anything. Finally, she said, "Should we do something for Gwen? Some sort of engagement party?"
Ianto thought for a moment. "I'm not sure she'd want anything too fancy. But I could order a small cake."
"I think it'd be nice. But will it be awkward? Since Rhys can't come?"
"Well, I suppose she can take some cake home with her."
It would probably be the first engagement party in Torchwood history.
The cake said Congratulations Gw.
"Oi," Owen said, "I think that bakery ripped you off. Gwen's name is cut off. The entire end of the cake is missing."
Ianto was rooting through the cupboard in the Hub's small kitchen. He turned and glanced down at the cake. "No, I cut off the end for Gwen to take home. It's hardly fair if she can't share it with her fiance. If you're going to stand around, do you think you could carry the plates and forks?"
Owen let Ianto give him the stack of paper plates and the package of plastic forks, but he couldn't help but ask, "Why isn't Tosh helping with this? I thought this party was her idea."
"She helped pick out the cake," Ianto answered. "And it's not a party. It's just something nice for Gwen. But then, I can see how you might not comprehend that."
"Right, because you're much more socially adept than I am."
Ianto smiled. "At least you can acknowledge it."
Owen scowled while Ianto picked up the cake and carried it out into the main Hub. Owen heard Gwen's exclamations at the sight of the cake, and decided he really didn't want to go out there. He didn't want to celebrate Gwen's engagement-he would be surprised if she were even still engaged a month from now, and how awkward would this party seem, then?
And he couldn't think of a reason to sit by and pretend to be happy for her when she'd been so quick to cast him aside. Oh, he could understand it, but he didn't have to play along nicely while she decided to re-invest herself in her boyfriend. It wasn't Owen's fault she'd had a guilty conscience.
But there was no way to leave without passing by the others, and he was stuck with the plates and forks. He walked out of the Hub's small kitchen, and found the others congregating around the sofa. The cake was on the coffee table, along with some bottles of beer. Owen dropped the plates and forks on the table, grabbed a beer, and sat in the chair at his workstation nearby.
"You didn't need to do this," Gwen was saying. "You really didn't. I didn't want a big deal. Really."
Tosh was sitting next to on the sofa, smiling. "We wanted to do something."
"You needn't have."
Ianto was kneeling on the floor by the coffee table, and started cutting up the remaining cake and putting pieces on plates. He said, "It was no problem. We wanted to. It's not every day that we have an engagement to celebrate."
Gwen smiled, and Owen wasn't sure if she was uncomfortable or secretly thrilled. Regardless, she accepted a piece of cake from Ianto with a warm "Thank you. I'm sure I'm not the first person to have gotten engaged, though."
"Last time was in 1987," Ianto announced. "Woman named Kit Powell, I believe."
The name sounded familiar, and Owen thought he'd come across it before.
"Was she happy?" Gwen asked. She took a plate of cake from Ianto.
Before Ianto could reply, Owen recalled why it was familiar. "Wait a second, Kit Powell? Wasn't she that gal who got decapitated? I read about that when I was cataloguing the morgue a couple years back."
Gwen froze around a bite of cake, and Tosh looked at Owen with widened eyes.
"I didn't think that bit was relevant," Ianto said calmly.
Gwen took a hurried drink of her beer. "That's horrible, though. And she had a husband?"
Tosh put her plate on the coffee table and gave Owen a disapproving look. "This conversation is getting very morbid."
"Don't blame me, he's the one who started it," Owen said, pointing at Ianto.
Ianto opened his mouth to say something, but Tosh interrupted. "Let's talk about something else." She turned to Gwen, and asked, "Have you decided on a date for the wedding?"
Gwen shook her head. "Well, no. We were thinking of sometime this summer. We're looking at different locations. That will determine it, I 'spose. You know, with having to make reservations."
Despite Tosh's attempts, they didn't speak much. This was probably why they didn't spend much time socializing with each other.
Owen helped himself to two pieces of cake. He drank the rest of his beer, but didn't take another because it was still early and he thought he might go to the pub after this was all done.
If he'd been in charge of Gwen's engagement party, that's what they would have done in the first place.
Gwen hugged Ianto and Tosh, and then, like an afterthought, she briefly wrapped her arms around Owen's shoulders. She took the remainder of her cake, and said goodnight. Tosh left a few minutes after, and Owen was left at his work station while Ianto cleaned up.
It was the first time since their encounter with the plant that they'd been alone in the Hub together, but that was almost two weeks ago, now.
"You staying late?" Ianto asked as he stacked the crumb and frosting-covered plates.
"No, mate, I'm out of here. I think I'll hit a pub."
Ianto disappeared into the kitchen, and Owen put his computer on standby. He was getting his coat when Ianto came back out.
"What about you?" Owen asked. "You sticking around?"
"I might for a bit. We got a tip today from Gwen's poster, and I'm going to look into it, just in case."
"That sounds like a lovely way to waste your evening."
Ianto blinked. "What is your problem, exactly? Why are you so against anyone trying to find Jack?"
"He buggered off and left us. What? Can't you see how pathetic it is to keep mooning after him?"
"Or, he could be hurt. I'd think you'd feel a little more obligation after how you treated him."
"How I treated him? Look, everyone else was just as willing to open the rift. That includes you."
"Yes," Ianto admitted, "but I wouldn't have shot him in the head."
Owen shook his head. "You have no right to judge me, Jones. You really, really don't. How about we talk about you, huh? Let's talk about what a fucking hypocrite you are."
Ianto put his hands on his hips and stared at Owen, the mess of plates and beer bottles apparently forgotten. "Oh, I have to hear this."
"Good, then I'll tell you. When you're getting cakes for Gwen and telling her about all the Torchwood employees who lived happily ever after, what are you thinking about? Are you wishing you could have married your cyber girlfriend? 'Cause that's the reality, innit? Her boyfriend's already gotten himself killed once, remember? Next time, things aren't going to make themselves right."
"Is this about Diane, still?" Ianto asked. "Or are you mad that Gwen's come to her senses about you?"
Owen ignored him, and continued: "And Jack. What were you doing? Sucking him off? Letting him fuck you? 'Cause that worked out nicely for you, didn't it? Tell me: did you start before or after he shot your girlfriend?"
Ianto was breathing heavily, and looked like he wanted to react, but he didn't, so Owen continued.
"And then, you accuse me of being infected with venereal diseases. With whatever Jack might have exposed you to, I'm lucky you haven't given me alien herpes."
The next thing Owen knew, Ianto's fist connected with his jaw. Owen stumbled backward in shock. Being punched wasn't like in the movies-it wasn't easy to recover from, particularly when it was unexpected. Owen's jaw went numb with pain, and he blinked as he put his hand to it. He looked at Ianto, who had backed up but still had his right hand in a fist.
Owen balled up his hands and lunged at Ianto, throwing a wild punch. Ianto stepped back, and the punch only just connected with the side of Ianto's ribs. Owen stumbled forward, and would have fallen over had he not corrected himself at the last moment.
"My relationships are my business. I'm not going to justify them to you." Ianto said, pressing his hand against where Owen had hit him. Ianto sounded serious, and Owen looked to make sure Ianto didn't have his gun on him.
Owen straightened up, and back away, not retreating, he told himself, but keeping safe distance.
"This is all you," Ianto said. "You've been an utter bastard ever since Jack left. You're jealous of Gwen-"
"I'm not jealous of anyone!"
"-I'm not even trying to fight with you." He was silent for a moment, and Owen, not having anything to say, was about to leave. But then Ianto asked, "Is it because of what happened that night, with you and me?"
Owen sighed. "We're not talking about that." He clicked his tongue. "And sorry, but sex with you isn't quite enough to rock my world. You're delusional if you think I even remember it."
Ianto made a small sound in his throat, and calmly went back to cleaning up. There were some paper napkins crumpled up on the coffee table, and Ianto gathered them up and put them in a nearby rubbish bin.
"What?" Owen asked. "Do you remember it? Did you like it, is that it?"
"And you call me delusional?"
"You did, though. I can remember that much."
Ianto would not look at him. He kept his back turned, and it reminded Owen of that morning, when they'd woken up together in the autopsy bay.
Finally, Ianto stopped straightening up and ran a hand through his hair. "What do you want?" he asked. His voice was softer and without malice, and he sounded genuinely curious.
And Owen did not know the answer to the question. Despite everything, Owen kept his life fairly simple. He ate, he drank, he went to the pub and drank, he had sex. It satisfied him. Anything he wanted tonight he could get by going to the pub and leaving Ianto behind with the cleaning, and he didn't know why he bothered to stay here at all. Fighting gave him very little relief.
But Ianto didn't wait for an answer. He said, "Yes, you know I enjoyed it. I got off during it. That's enjoying it by your standards, I'm sure. Now if you're satisfied, I'm going to finish my work and go home."
"You're probably still getting off on it." Owen could see Ianto's muscles stiffen, and he assumed he'd managed to offend.
Ianto chuckled, and looked over his shoulder. "I just find it a shame that it was you."
Ianto turned and sat down on the sofa. He put his hands on his knees, and kept his eyes on the empty beer bottles in front of him. "Can we be decent about this?" he asked. "Can we just...not dance around it?"
Owen sat down next to him, but on the other far end of the sofa.
"I would really rather have hated it," Ianto said.
"Shit, it's just sex, Ianto. Really, that's it." He turned, facing Ianto who still would not face him. "So we got off on it. Big deal. Doesn't mean I fancy you."
Ianto looked at him very slowly. "We were drugged."
"No shit we were drugged. Look, I'm just saying it didn't mean anything. We could fuck right now and it still wouldn't mean anything."
Ianto chuckled, but it sounded more scared than amused. "Is that what you're suggesting?"
Actually, he hadn't been. But he realized it would be interesting. He'd liked Gwen not just because she was attractive but because when he'd pushed, she'd pushed back. Ianto did the same thing. Owen was nothing if not good at managing these things with minimal consequence.
"What?" Owen asked. "You think you're too good for it? Not pathetic enough?"
Ianto just murmured in his throat and rubbed his forehead. "Right. Because I'm the part-time shag. I'm quite pathetic enough to go home with you." He leaned back, then, and closed his eyes, and Owen thought maybe that was the end of it, and felt silly for pushing it at all. But it was still early, and the pub was waiting, along with plenty of ladies he could try his luck with.
But Ianto said, "If we did, it would just be this once. We would never talk about it again. That'd be it." He opened his eyes, and looked at Owen. "Maybe we should. Just to end it."
Owen swallowed. "You serious 'bout that?"
"Do I look serious?"
"Follow me home, then. I'm not doing it here again, on the floor. It's bad on my back."
He got up, and walked out of the Hub without looking behind him. He got in the lift alone, and put a hand to his still aching jaw on the ride up to the tourist office. Outside, it was beginning to sprinkle, but Owen stood casually outside his car for a minute, pretending to fiddle with his keys. Ianto didn't appear. Eventually, Owen got in his car, and after another minute of stupid waiting, he pulled away and started in the direction home. So Ianto wasn't going to call his bluff. Not surprising, really. He didn't really expect Ianto to go through with it. He thought he'd stop home, get a snack, and go back to his pub plan. It was still early.
But then he glanced in his mirror, and saw Ianto's car pulling up behind his.
Owen was waiting outside the lift when Ianto walked up next to him.
"We're doing it, then?" Owen asked softly.
"You were the one who made the offer." Ianto's face, reflected in the brass plate around the lift button, was impassive.
They rode silently and alone together for several seconds until they reached Owen's floor. The hallway was thickly carpeted, and their footsteps were barely audible. Owen would not have known if Ianto was still following him if not for the second shadow along the wall.
Owen used his key, flipped on a light inside his flat, and held the door open with his back until Ianto stepped inside.
There was a lamp on in the far corner of the living room, and the foyer light that Owen had just switched on, but otherwise the flat was dark. Owen left the lights off, and walked into the living room towards the mini bar.
"Do you mind if I hang my coat up?" Ianto asked.
"Go ahead. You want a drink?"
There was the sound of cloth rubbing together as Ianto took his coat off. "What do you have?"
"Well, I don't really feel up to mixing anything fancy. What do you think about shots?"
Ianto snorted. "I think it sounds like a good way for me to get pissed quickly."
"Sounds like a good idea to me."
Ianto moved to the window and looked out and down. "You've got a nice view up here. Nice flat." The rain was picking up and there were fine drops on the outside of the glass.
Owen pulled out a bottle of whiskey and poured two shots. He swallowed his, and then handed one to Ianto, who took it, closed his eyes, and downed it. He wrinkled his nose, and said, "One more. Then the bedroom?"
Owen nodded, and took the empty shot glass from Ianto.
Three shots later, Owen hesitantly led the way into the bedroom with Ianto shuffling behind. He switched on the bedside lamp, and turned to see Ianto slowly undoing his striped tie. Owen walked over to the nightstand, pulled a condom out of the drawer, and set it on the bed.
Ianto looked down at it. He took off his suit jacket, and folded it over his arm. "I was never the sort for casual sex," he said, "but I've begun to see the benefits."
Owen turned back to the drawer, and started looking for his lube. The bottle he found was almost empty, but it would do. He put it on the bed next to condom, and turned around to get undressed.
From behind him, Ianto spoke again. "In London, everyone was shagging everyone else. Made dating and socializing impossible. You couldn't ask someone out for coffee without everyone saying you were moving in on your supervisor's secretary's fuck buddy."
Owen grunted in agreement while he wrestled himself out of his jeans.
"Seems easier, though," Ianto said, "without the commitment."
"Only way to do it, you ask me," Owen said. He was glad that Ianto understood and shared his philosophy on these things. He finished getting undressed and turned around. Ianto was in his boxers, sitting on the bed with his arms across his chest. Ianto's suit was laid across the lid of the clothes hamper against the wall.
Owen crawled on the bed, and picked up the condom.
"How are we doing this?" Ianto asked, nodding at the package in Owen's hand.
Owen sneered. "If you think I'm letting you fuck me, you're nuts. Get on your stomach."
Ianto rolled his eyes. "Well, you're being so seductive about it..." He turned on his front and stretched his legs out behind him. "I'm fine either way, though. I rather like bottoming."
"That explains why you always act like you've got a stick up your arse."
Owen slid Ianto's boxers down, and he felt Ianto draw in a deep, stiff breath before he kicked them off and onto the floor.
Ianto was an attractive man. Owen knew this intellectually more than sensually. Owen had never been drawn to men sexually quite like he was with women. That, he supposed, came down to brain chemistry. The curve of Ianto's back, gently muscled and covered in fine, dark hair, and the roundness of his buttocks were not enough to make Owen hard.
But the sex could be good, especially if a man was attractive. And thinking about that, while rolling the condom onto his hardening cock, was enough.
He paused as he put some lube on his finger, and he wondered if he should warn Ianto before continuing. The only thing he could think to say was what he'd learned as a student when they'd told him he might have to do a rectal exam at some point: You're going to feel my finger now. It might be a little cold. Tell me if you feel any discomfort. That was not what he wanted to be thinking about right now.
"Right," he said, "um, I'm going to get started." When Owen slid his finger in, Ianto gasped, and Owen guessed it must have been a little cold. Owen straddled Ianto's knees, and put his other hand in between Ianto's thighs. Ianto moaned and pushed back.
"You ready?" Owen asked, after a few minutes. Truthfully, he found this tedious, and he hoped the whiskey had Ianto relaxed.
"Yes," Ianto mumbled into the pillow.
"You still want me to fuck you?"
Ianto lifted his head. "Yes. Would you get on with it?"
Owen pulled out his finger, and grabbed a tissue from a box the nightstand to wipe it clean. Ianto spread his legs, and there was no resistance when Owen pushed inside.
The rain was getting heavier. The sound of the raindrops battering the plate glass window was almost loud enough to drown out their quickened breathing. Owen put one hand on the bed and the other on Ianto's back, and focused on the rhythmic movement of his own hips.
"Owen," Ianto said, but Owen barely heard and didn't answer.
"Owen," Ianto continued, "could you-Owen!"
Owen paused. "What?"
"This-" Ianto shifted underneath him. "This isn't working."
"What the fuck do you mean, it's not working?"
"It's not. Would you get off me?"
Owen sighed, and pulled out. He knelt back, and Ianto turned over and sat up. Ianto's cock was only partially erect.
"So, what?" Owen asked, gesturing at Ianto's crotch. "We're just going to stop 'cause you can't get it up properly?"
Ianto glared at him. "It's not my fault. It's your technique."
"It's your cock. And you're not supposed to get off right away. You couldn't give it a few more minutes?"
Ianto propped his arm on his knee and cradled his forehead in his palm. "It wasn't going anywhere."
He should have known bringing Ianto home would be a disaster. Now he was stuck with a hard-on. If Ianto wasn't going to get off, Owen wondered if he could still get his own needs met, at least. In this situation, Owen thought a hand job would only be considerate.
But Ianto sighed. "Look, I wasn't saying to stop, I just thought...I'm thinking too much. Maybe if we changed the angle or something....Try again?"
Owen nodded. It would be ideal to see it through. Ianto turned over again, this time lifting his hips higher and spreading his legs more. Owen shuffled between his legs and tried again.
Owen quickly got back into the rhythm of it. Ianto had put his head on the pillow and closed his eyes. His hair was damp with sweat.
Owen kept his left hand firm on Ianto's hip, digging his fingers in. He snaked his right arm around Ianto's waist to stroke his cock. It was clearly in Owen's best interests at this point to give Ianto a damn good lay. And Owen had never been one to leave his partners unsatisfied.
It forced Owen to multi-task, but Ianto grunted in what sounded like pleasure.
Eventually, Ianto came, making a mess of himself, the sheets, and Owen's hand. Owen ignored it, and put all his energy into finishing.
Afterward, they lay spent on the bed.
Owen's skin was sticky and damp from sweat. He didn't mind feeling filthy, except that he knew some of the sweat was Ianto's. But he was sleepy, and didn't want to hold himself up on his feet long enough for a shower.
He got up and walked to the bathroom, leaving Ianto behind on the bed. He left the door open while he disposed of the condom and washed his hands. When he returned, Ianto was wiping the come off his belly with a tissue.
Owen stretched out on the bed and glanced at the window. It was still raining, and he heard thunder.
"I should go," Ianto said.
Owen scoffed. "You've had four whiskies and the weather is crap. If you try and drive, you'll probably crash within a minute, and then I'll have to tell Gwen and Tosh why you were driving away from my flat late at night."
"Then I'll wait," Ianto said, yawning, "but I'm not spending the night here. I'll wait for the rain to stop, and I'll call a taxi."
"You do that."
There was rustling as Ianto pulled the sheet over his body. Owen covered up, too, pulling the sheet to his stomach. Now that his energy was depleted, the sweat cooled on Owen's skin.
"I want to make sure you understand," Ianto said. "It's just nice sometimes. Sex. The act of it. Takes your mind off things."
"Yeah, I get it. You felt like getting off and I got you off. Likewise, mate."
"But you need to-"
"Understand. Yeah. I think you're a little drunk. Go to sleep or something, or I'll kick you out."
Ianto curled his arm under his head and closed his eyes. Owen turned on his side, facing away from him, and watched the rain come down until the pinpoints of water became too hypnotizing, and he closed his eyes.
Ianto woke up in Owen's bed. The covers on the other side were pulled back, and the only that Owen had slept there was a slight indentation in the pillow. Ianto heard indefinable noises somewhere else in the flat. He would have preferred to have left before Owen woke up, but this was still preferable to having a morning-after chat in bed. In Ianto's experience, people only made charming post-coital banter in the movies.
It had stopped raining, but there were still raindrops on the large plate glass window that took up the entire far wall of the room, and the sky was a murky gray that promised more rain later. That was nothing new for Cardiff.
The only thing Ianto was wearing was his watch. He looked at it, and saw that it was seven-thirty. That wasn't too late, but he wondered how it would look when both he and Owen came in to work at the same time. But that was silly. It wouldn't look like anything. Short of admitting to it at the morning meeting, he didn't think anything would give them away. Gwen and Tosh wouldn't suspect them of having a drink together, let alone having sex.
Ianto lay back and stared at the ceiling. Owen's bed was large and comfortable, and Ianto wasn't ready to get up. If he were home, he might have waited another ten minutes. But he was worried that the longer he stayed naked in bed, the more likely it would that Owen would come back in the room. With a groan, Ianto slid out from under the covers and stood up.
He cringed when he saw the stain where he'd come on the bed. It had been years since he'd been ashamed of something like that.
Ianto pulled the covers up to the pillow, and then collected his clothes. There was a bathroom just off the bedroom, and Ianto held his clothes in front of him as he went in, closing the door behind him before he even switched the light on.
He put the folded up clothes on the counter next to a pile of hand towels, and his shoes, with his socks rolled up inside, on the white tiled floor. He looked at the shower, and saw that it was still wet and the bar of soap inside was still sudsy. There was a damp towel hanging over the open glass door. Owen had evidently been awake for a bit. Ianto thought about taking a shower, himself, but that felt too intrusive without asking Owen first, and Ianto wasn't going to do that. He needed to go home to change into a fresh suit, anyway.
Instead, he took a piss and then opted to wash up in the sink. He didn't want to use the nice, ivory-colored hand towels, so he tore off a decent length of toilet paper and wet it under the tap to clean his thighs and stomach with. The wet, disintegrating paper clung to his skin, and he ended up picking off pieces and flicking them off his finger into the small bin. But he was clean enough to pull his clothes back on.
The bathroom was nice, but aside from the row of hair and skin products that were clearly Owen's, everything looked like it was arranged for guests. There was not one but three folded hand towels beside the sink, as well as a pile of larger bath towels on a shelf by the shower. The bar of soap at the sink looked fairly new. Ianto imagined it must be easy to keep the bathroom nice, since none of them at Torchwood got to spend much time at home. But this felt more like a hotel bathroom.
Which meant the towels and fresh soap were for the benefit of whomever Owen brought home to shag.
If Ianto had suspected that earlier, he wouldn't have been so reserved about using the towels. At the same time, he felt like he'd been drawn into a poshly-furnished spider web.
He took a final look the mirror, and ventured from the safety of the bathroom. He found Owen in the kitchen, holding a piece of toast in his mouth while he got a glass of water from the tap. He glanced over his shoulder when Ianto came in the kitchen.
Owen took a bite of his toast and, with his mouth still full, said, "Your breakfast is there."
Ianto looked at the counter, and saw another piece of toast sitting on a thin paper plate. It was buttered and everything.
"This is uncharacteristically pleasant of you," Ianto said, picking one half of the toast up and taking a bite.
"Niceness has got nothing to do with it. I was making a piece for myself, anyway. It's not a proper meal, but it'll do."
"Well, it's better than what I usually have."
Ianto paused. "Nothing, really. I've usually got a package of sweets in my car, and I'll usually eat some on the way to work."
Owen snorted. "As your doctor, I should lecture you on eating a healthy breakfast."
Ianto leaned against the doorframe, nibbled his toast, and thought about what Owen had said. "You're not really my doctor."
"Okay. Next time you get banged up, I'll drive you to the A&E."
Ianto rolled his eyes. "I didn't mean it like that. I wasn't talking about emergencies or work stuff. When I think of who my doctor is, I think about who I'd go to if I had a sinus infection."
"According to regulation, you're supposed to see me for everything. In case you've got some alien parasite in you or something."
"Yes, I'm aware of regulations. All things considered, we're not actually that good at following regulations."
Owen shoved the rest of his toast in his mouth and poured more water in his glass. "Good thing, too," he said, his voice muffled, "'cause I don't give a shit and I have better things to do with my time. I'm still your doctor, though."
"Hmm. Not sure I like the idea of having sex with my doctor."
Owen smiled wickedly. "It's not any worse than having sex with your boss."
Ianto paused. "You know that's entirely different."
"Yeah, right, you were special to him. Funny how he didn't drop you a note or anything before he buggered off."
Ianto's jaw tightened. "Actually, I meant that Jack's job never required the examination of partially naked employees. Seriously, though, I'm tired to talking about Jack with you."
Owen grunted and shook his head. "Right. You almost done here? I want to get going, and I'm not leaving you unattended in my flat."
Ianto set the empty paper plate on the counter and turned towards the door. "You know, usually you don't tell your guests that you don't trust them alone with your belongings."
Owen scoffed. "You don't have the good taste to steal any of my crap."
"Crap being the operative word," Ianto shot back as he walked out the door. Owen didn't reply, but Ianto felt him sneering at his back.
He was immensely glad that they would never do this again. After actually sleeping with Owen again, he wasn't sure what he'd been so curious about.
It was four days since Ianto had stayed at Owen's flat, and Ianto felt a pleasant lack of awkwardness over the event. Work was not suffering, and Tosh and Gwen showed no suspicion. This must be what it meant to have truly casual sex.
Right now, the four of them were in the SUV, going about fifteen miles over the speed limit.
"Tosh, you still got that reading?" Gwen asked.
"Yes, there's some slight movement, but still within the area."
Owen increased the acceleration even more, though Ianto would barely have noticed it if not for the growl of the engine and the buildings that whipped past outside the window. At this rate, they were going to crash. And if they didn't die, they'd be the joke of the police forever.
"Owen, slow down," Gwen said.
"Thought you wanted me to get us there before anyone gets eaten."
"Yes, so try not to kill us."
Owen slowed the SUV, but only barely. Ianto figured if Owen slowed down any more, it might look like he was actually listening to Gwen. Obviously, they couldn't have that.
When they turned a corner, Ianto was thrown sideways into Tosh, even with his seatbelt on.
"Sorry," Ianto mumbled, and he righted himself.
Fifteen minutes ago, Tosh's equipment had detected rift energy. Now she was getting readings of residual energy, which often meant something had come through.
This was one of the first "incidents" they'd had since Jack disappeared. In a way, opening the rift had had a positive effect-despite what they had expected, things had been unusually calm since Jack destroyed Abaddon. They didn't talk much about it much, but it seemed understood that the influx of rift activity and the subsequent calm had a temporary stabilizing effect (Owen referred to it as a belch). But to acknowledge it properly would just drudge up the guilt, or, worse, imply that everything they'd done was okay.
And of course, any benefit to opening the rift couldn't last forever. It was only a matter of time before the rift started spitting stuff out again. They were starting to see that, now.
Unfortunately, Ianto was out of practice when it came to field work. But they were one-person short, so he was hardly going to try to get out of it.
When Tosh's directions led them to a restaurant, Ianto wanted to groan. It was always much worse when this stuff happened at a crowded place. Even if no one were hurt, he would have to Retcon everyone, and clean up any slime, blood, or vomit.
Inside the restaurant, everything was in a clamor. Everyone was talking, and several people seemed to be trying to get out of paying their bills.
There were a few people standing outside the men's toilet, and Gwen led the way in that direction.
"What's going on?" she asked.
One of the men, whose balding head was shiny with sweat, looked at her and said, "Please, just stay back. We've called the authorities, and it's all being taken care of."
"We are the authorities," she said. "Now please, what's happened?"
He looked at them skeptically. Ianto knew they probably looked nothing like "authorities," but ultimately, in times of need, people rarely questioned who they were or refused the promise of help.
"I'm the manager," he said. "There's some sort of snake or worm. It's huge! It came slithering out of the supply closet. The customers are horrified and I don't know what to tell them."
Gwen held up a hand. "Where is it now?"
The manager nodded at the door to the men's bathroom. "We trapped it in there."
Owen stepped forward. "All right, we'll take it from here. Go take care of your customers, and get them out of here."
The manager nodded and retreated with his employees, obviously relieved to have someone else take control of the situation.
They waited until no one was watching to draw their guns. Ianto wasn't sure how effective the guns would even be--he had no idea how useful they were against snakes.
The room appeared to be empty. The overhead light, which cast a greenish tinge on the room, left no shadows. They stepped inside cautiously, and Tosh closed the door behind them. Ianto could not help to think how that they were now trapped with whatever might be in there.
"All right," Gwen said, softly. "Keep your eyes open. It's got to be in here somewhere."
"Well, we don't know how big it is," Tosh said. "It could have escaped through the vents, or the plumbing."
"Can you get any further readings?" Owen asked.
Tosh looked down at her hand-held scanner. "I need to fine-tune it."
While Tosh did that, Ianto started making his way across the room, checking each toilet stall for anything amiss. He heard a light splash of water coming from one, and cautiously walked over to investigate.
Something flashed in front of him, quicker than he could react. He fired at the toilet on reflex, and water started spraying up and gushing across the floor. He felt a sharp pain in his shoulder, and looked down to see what looked like the world's longest tapeworm hanging onto his shoulder, sharp teeth boring through the fabric of his suit. He backed against the wall.
"Oh, God," Gwen cried out while she rushed over.
Owen turned to Tosh. "Go get my bag from the SUV. We don't know if this thing is poisonous."
Ianto's vision was blurring, and before he could say that yes, this thing probably was poisonous, he slumped to the floor. The last thing he saw was Gwen and Owen kneeling over him, urging him to stay awake.
Ianto woke up on the autopsy table. He knew he should be relieved for some reason, and then he remembered he could have died. Being killed by a worm jumping out a toilet would be humiliating. It would have been even worse than being decapitated.
"You're awake, good. Now maybe Gwen will stop pacing around."
Ianto turned his head and saw Owen standing to the side of the room, scribbling on some paper. Ianto looked at his shoulder. His shirt was off, and there was a white plaster on his shoulder.
"That worm thing?" Owen said. "It seems to have some toxin that knocks out its prey. Strong sedative, basically, along with a muscle relaxant."
"Prey?" Ianto asked, hesitantly.
"It drinks blood. Don't worry-we got it off you soon enough. Wasn't easy, though. It sort of burrowed its head inside."
Ianto swallowed down bile. "But it's out? All of it?"
Owen nodded. "Yeah, yeah, I did scans to make sure. I just need to check you over some more now that you're awake. After that, you can go show Gwen that you're okay. She figures this was her first real mission in charge, so having you attacked by a phallic, toilet-dwelling worm is a bit of a blow."
Ianto groaned and closed his eyes. "Oh, God...when you put it that way..."
"Relax. It's just part of the joy that's Torchwood. No worse than aphrodisiac plants. Anyway, you should be fine with a bit of rest. I am going to give you some antibiotics, which I expect you to take. And no more saying I'm not your doctor. I'm writing this up for your file, and I could choose to put that you wet yourself when you passed out."
"You did. Don't worry-Gwen never noticed. We all got pretty wet after you shot the toilet. You can change yourself, though. But first-check-up and your anti-biotic."
Ianto groaned and sat up. He took the pill and small cup of water from Owen, and swallowed it down. Owen checked Ianto's heartbeat, and shone a light into his eyes. Ianto sat still, even as he was getting impatient.
"Are you trying to draw this out?" Ianto asked, finally.
"No, I'm trying to make sure you're fit to be walking around."
"Well, I'd like to change my clothes, and I think you're a bastard."
Finally, Owen released him. Ianto went to the employee lockers, where he kept some spare clothes, and got changed. He had to admit that, all things considered, Owen wasn't too horrible about it. Didn't make it rankle any less, though.
After he finished getting dressed, Ianto went to find Gwen. She was in the main part of the Hub with Tosh. They looked happy to see him, and Gwen came over to him.
"Are you all right?" Gwen asked.
"A little out of it, but I'll be fine, thank you."
"I feel responsible, somehow."
He smiled at her. "You're not, Gwen. It's a hazard of the job. We had no way of knowing where that thing was, or how good it was at jumping out of small bodies of water."
Tosh, who was sitting at her workstation, turned her chair to face them. "You should have seen Gwen. That manager had the nerve to be upset that you shot the toilet, and Gwen told him a thing or two."
Gwen touched Ianto's arm. "Why don't you go home for the rest of the day?" she asked softly. "We can manage."
"I'm fine," he said. "Really. I'll just sit and do some paperwork. We're getting a backlog, and I'd rather wade through it some." Out of the corner of his eye, Ianto saw Owen coming over.
"Well," Owen said, "paperwork shouldn't kill you. Just don't do anything too physical."
Ianto almost asked if that excluded sex, but stopped himself.
It was late in the afternoon, so Ianto closed the tourist office and sat at the front desk to go over the expense sheets uninterrupted. At least with his minor injury, it was unlikely that they'd be asking him for coffee just now.
When Owen came up, Ianto thought little of it until Owen stopped at the desk.
Ianto looked up at him. "You needed something?"
Owen leaned on the desk. "Nah, just wanted to see how you're holding up."
"I'm feeling all right. I think we lucked out with one of the less lethal species of alien worm. By the way, what happened to that thing? Is it still alive?"
"Yes, actually. I've got it contained. Thought it'd be good to hang onto it in case we needed an antidote."
"I'm glad to hear you were thinking of my well-being." Ianto said while be beginning to put the reports back in the file folder. He was done for the night-his eyes couldn't take much more of the small type, and he wasn't in the mood to try to find out who had been spending money on eBay.
"Actually," Owen said, "I was wondering if you might want to swing by my place tonight."
Ianto looked up at him. This was certainly...unexpected. He cleared his throat. "Uh, generally speaking, 'one time' means 'one time.'"
Owen backed up slightly. "Yeah, well, I thought I'd ask. I mean, I thought we've had some pretty good times."
That was certainly one way to look at it.
"My shoulder's sore," Ianto said. "I want to take some aspirin and go to bed. And I don't want to get in the habit of sleeping with you after I get drugged by aliens. I think I'll take a rain check."
Owen nodded. "All right, tomorrow, then?"
Ianto sighed. He threaded his fingers in his hair and looked away. He finally said, "I'll consider it."
"But I don't understand," Ianto said. "What exactly is so horrible about him?"
Owen sighed with frustration. "I'm just saying. He looks like one of those creeps you find masturbating at bus stops."
"All right, I have never seen anyone masturbating at a bus stop. But now that you've put the image in my head, I'll never look at Tintin the same way again. Thank you."
All Owen had to say was, "Good." He and Ianto were lying side by side on Ianto's bed. Owen was staring up at the ceiling.
Ianto had pulled his boxers back on after they finished, but Owen was still naked. Somehow, they'd gotten to talking, and now Owen wished they hadn't. Ianto snorted, and Owen realized he was laughing at him.
He turned on his side and looked at Ianto. "Look, you're the one who brought it up."
Ianto's face was almost blank, but the corners of his mouth turned up and his eyes glistened. "No, you were, remember? You're the one who said the alien we brought it looks like Tintin. I had to ask."
Owen turned onto his back. "Well, it's not funny, all right?"
Ianto hummed and moved closer. "Did I hit a sore spot?"
Owen didn't reply to that. Instead, he put his hand on Ianto's hip and said, "C'mon. I wanna have another go before I leave."
Ianto smiled and slid out of his boxers. His shoulder was still bandaged, and he moved stiffly to avoid hurting it, but the injury was mild and hadn't hindered them.
"In the mood again already?" Ianto asked. "Is it because you were picturing Tintin masturbating?"
"Shut up." Owen sat up and pulled Ianto closer. Ianto started to speak again, but Owen stifled him with a kiss.
As it was, Owen didn't go home that night. He woke up at three that morning, still next to Ianto. He blinked in the dark room, and contemplated making his exit now.
Ianto turned over, and for a moment Owen thought he was waking up. But he was only shifting in his sleep. Ianto mumbled something unintelligible.
Great. Ianto spoke in his sleep.
"No," Ianto murmured. "No..." He kicked Owen in the shin, and Owen moved further away.
"Ianto," Owen said, "wake up."
Ianto squeezed the sheet in his fists. "Run..."
Owen rolled his eyes. "You're dreaming. Wake up."
Ianto gasped and opened his eyes. He looked around frantically for a moment. When he seemed to realize that he was awake, he cleared his throat and asked, with a shaky voice, "What is it?"
"You were kicking me. I was getting sick of it."
"Oh, sorry." Ianto sat up and rubbed his eyes. He reached over and switched on the light. "I'm gonna go get a drink."
Ianto got up and pulled his boxers on. Owen waited until Ianto left the room, and then got up. Now was a good time to bow out. Owen pulled his clothes on and went to find Ianto.
This was the first time Owen had been in Ianto's flat. He'd been in the hall, and had dropped Ianto off at home a couple times, but he'd never had a chance to see the inside. It was disappointing. He'd imagined Ianto living the way he was at work: stiff and buttoned up. Actually, the only interesting thing about the flat was that none of the furniture matched.
Ianto was sitting in the living room in his boxers, drinking a glass of water. Owen leaned on the wall.
"I think I'll head on."
Ianto didn't seem to hear him. He was looking forward at the wall, and he still looked a bit clammy. Slowly, he turned his head towards Owen. "Hmm? Ah, right. I'll see you at the Hub later. Sorry I woke you."
"It's all right," Owen said. "I was waking up anyway."
Owen wasn't going to talk any more about it. First of all, it wasn't really his concern if Ianto had had a nightmare. Second of all, these things happened. In their line of work, it was no wonder that aliens and missions gone wrong crept into their dreams sometimes. Whatever it was had Ianto shaken up, though.
Owen turned to leave. He knew when to offer some privacy. He was walking to the door when Ianto called out, "Owen?"
Owen turned, and saw Ianto looking at him. "What?"
"Is this...an arrangement? It's the second time. Third, if you want to be technical."
"You mean are we fuck buddies now or something?"
Ianto raised an eyebrow. "I wouldn't have put it in those terms, but yes."
"Then...yeah," Owen said. "I guess this counts as an arrangement."
"If you're gonna stand there, put some gloves on and help," Owen said. Usually, when he was dissecting things, saying that made people go away pretty quick.
But Gwen just ignored him. "Do you know what that thing is?"
"What does it look like?"
"It looks like a large sea sponge."
Owen turned to get a scalpel. "And as far as I can tell, that's what it is. An alien sponge."
Gwen looked at it. "A man in Splott killed by a sponge. Is that even possible?"
Owen grinned at her. "You've been here six months, love. You've seen weirder shit than this."
Gwen shrugged. "Yes, but usually it doesn't make me wonder what's in my cleaning supplies. I'll tell the police he died of a heart attack. Can we release the body yet? The family will want a funeral."
"Not yet. I want to examine the body more closely. Tell the police we need it for another day or two."
"Right." Gwen turned to go, but stopped. Inexplicably, she said, "Ianto's in the shooting range."
Owen was focused on his work. His tools were laid out, and he thought to grab a mask just in case. "Really? Good for him," he said.
"I thought maybe you could work with him later."
Owen looked up at her. "Work with him on what?"
"Look, it's been a while now, since Jack left. The rift is not going to stop because he's not here."
"Yeah, Gwen, I know. You want to get to your point? Sometime today would be nice."
"Ianto doesn't have much experience with fieldwork, and clearly he knows he could use the practice. Maybe you could help him. Work with him."
Owen put down his scalpel. "He shot me, remember? Bloke knows how to use a gun. And if you're so concerned about his abilities, why don't you work with him?"
She sighed. "Because you have more experience. You're a better shot. I'm not blind to that, Owen. Despite what you think, I am trying to work with you, here. If you could try to work with the rest of us, that'd be nice."
Owen turned away to get some gloves. "When we're on a mission, I'll be a team player. Right now, it's not in my job description. Look, I don't do supportive. All right? So you can stop wasting your time."
Gwen might have left in a huff. He wasn't sure since he was still bent over the box of latex gloves.
It had been a hard day. Tosh had detected a possible security breach on one of the computers, and had spent all morning making sure everything was okay. Then UNIT had tried to get in touch with Jack, again, and Owen had had to take the phone and make something up when they wouldn't accept Ianto's excuses anymore. Owen had no idea how much time he'd managed to buy them. Later, Ianto had finished going through the expense reports, and had sent Owen a nasty e-mail about using Torchwood credit for personal expenses. And a couple hours ago, Gwen had gotten a call from one of her old police buddies about the odd death in Splott.
Now, Owen had to dissect the murderous (and hopefully completely dead) sponge.
Actually, he didn't mind that much. He liked to complain sometimes about the gross stuff he had to cut open, but in fact he usually liked it. This part of his job interested him, as a doctor. He'd never regretted going into medicine, but when he'd worked in the A&E he'd spent more time examining people who thought they were dying from indigestion and stitching up idiots who had gotten into pub fights than doing anything truly rewarding.
This job really was ideal. He got to study aliens, and it was always interesting or important when one of his coworkers needed his care.
But right now, the careful act of dissection wasn't doing much to calm his nerves.
He wished that Jack had had the good sense to officially make him second-in-command. After Suzie's death, it would have been natural. After all, nobody else had been named. It wasn't that Gwen didn't have the qualifications. Owen knew she was reliable and versatile, and she was a quick learner. If the situation was truly temporary, well, it could be worse.
But Owen didn't expect Jack to ever come back at this point. Eventually, they would need a permanent leader. They'd need to make it official, and then they'd have to deal with even more of UNIT's hounding.
He hurried through the dissection as carefully as possible. He took the samples he needed, cleaned up, and washed his hands. He felt like his nerves were a tightly wound spring. He needed to release it on something, or someone.
He took off his lab coat, and went to find Ianto.
When Owen found him in the shooting range, Ianto was reloading his gun. He had his goggles and ear protection still on, and he didn't notice Owen for a moment.
It was generally a bad idea to sneak up on someone in a shooting range, so Owen made sure to make himself seen.
When Ianto saw him, he uncovered his ears and asked, "What's going on?"
"Gwen says you're a crap shot and you need my instruction."
Ianto frowned. "Gwen would not say that."
"Yeah, well, she was thinking it. What are you doing down here? Jack never train you? I would've thought he'd want to-might've given him a chance to feel you up."
"Actually, we didn't spend much time on it. If I'm going to be going into the field regularly, I thought I should practice. If you want to give me advice, fine. If you just want to belittle me, then you can go away and wait until I'm not armed."
Owen snorted. "I'm here to help."
Owen got some goggles and ear protection, and rejoined Ianto.
"Now remember," Owen said, shouting so that he could hear himself through his earplugs. "I'm only doing this because Gwen thinks you need the practice."
Owen stood behind Ianto, and Ianto raised his gun to the target. He fired. The bullet hit the left side, which wasn't great, but wasn't horrible by any means.
"Here," Owen yelled, "try changing your stance. You don't look very balanced."
Ianto tried, but it became clear that Owen was going to have to touch him. Owen had meant to keep it chaste-he wasn't a pervert like Jack. He adjusted Ianto's arms, and then moved down to his hips. He moved his right hand up to Ianto's belly, and accidentally grazed it over the front of Ianto's trousers.
"Was that an accident?" Ianto shouted.
"Yeah, it was. Don't get any ideas."
He kept his hands on Ianto's hips while Ianto fired off the rest of the round. Somehow, Ianto managed to be even less accurate.
After a couple more rounds, it was clear that Owen's instruction wasn't helping much.
"Well," Owen said once Ianto was finished, "if we've proven anything, here, it's that you're even more inept than Gwen thought you were."
"Bastard. I'd do better if you hadn't put your hand on my crotch."
"The problem is you want my hand on your crotch." Owen shook his head, and walked out of the shooting range. He'd done his duty, and Gwen couldn't get on his case about it again. If she asked, he'd tell her Ianto as hopeless, which was probably true.
Upstairs, there was a note from Gwen saying that she'd gone to sort something out with the police regarding the sponge victim. Tosh was still downstairs in the new boardroom, where she'd been working since the security scare had been worked out.
Owen returned to the autopsy bay. The sooner he finished his work on the sponge victim, the quicker that case could get right out the door. Owen started getting his instruments out, again, and he realized that his scissors weren't in the usual place. He growled and slammed the drawer closed.
"Do you think, if I sucked you off or something, you'd be in a better mood for a while?"
Owen had just opened another drawer, and had hardly heard Ianto over the clang of metal instruments.
"...What the fuck?"
"You're very tense," Ianto explained, "and I will take it upon myself to fix that." He made it sound like some sort of threat.
Owen turned around and smirked. "If you want my cock so bad, you don't need an excuse." This was a scenario right out of some bad porno, but if this was how Ianto had to think, then Owen would humor him.
"True, but I'd rather improve your mood than deal with your temper any more today. It's either this or making you some coffee, and I just cleaned the coffee machine an hour ago."
Owen nodded slowly. "Somewhere more private, then?"
Ianto cocked his head. "I rather think it'd be best to stay close, but out of sight. We can hear the proximity alarms then, if Gwen comes back before I've finished you off."
"She's preoccupied. You want this?"
"Really? You gonna live up to your word?"
"I don't bluff, but I'm not going to do it unless it'll take the edge off your mood."
"If you're going to whore yourself out, do it for more than a bloody smile from me. If you wait, you can come home with me and get some free liquor, instead."
Before Owen finished speaking, Ianto was on his knees and opening Owen's jeans. Owen inhaled sharply and leaned back into the open metal drawer, slamming it closed. Stupidly, he was already getting hard. He closed his eyes and gasped when he felt Ianto's tongue.
He held the edge of the counter, squeezing until the edge bit into the sensitive backs of his knuckles.
Then, abruptly, Ianto stopped. Owen opened his eyes and looked down. Ianto's lips were moist and he was holding Owen's cock in one hand. He looked up.
"Would you do this to me?"
"Mate, if sticking it up your arse doesn't get rid of your tension, nothing will. And I don't suck cock, so no."
Ianto gave another lick, and paused again. "Have you ever done it?"
Owen groaned. Sometimes he liked a good tease, but there was nothing pleasant about Ianto's teasing.
"None of your business. Now come on, I thought I was going to get blown, here."
"Do you find it emasculating? Is that why you don't want me to fuck you?" Ianto asked. He started sucking again, moving his mouth down the length.
"No," Owen gasped out, "and you don't know the first fucking thing about me. And I don't know what you expect, considering I'm just not gay. What is this, a fucking interrogation?"
Ianto sucked, pulled back, and said, "Neither am I, but I manage all right. And I'm making conversation, is all. You can't really say you're a pillar of heterosexuality when you were the one who seduced me, you know."
Seduced. That was a laugh.
"Luckily for you," Ianto said, "I'm secure in my masculinity."
Luckily, that was the last thing Ianto said. If Owen hadn't wanted him to shut up, he would have argued. Instead, he pressed his back into the edge of the counter and let Ianto relieve his tension. If this was how Ianto would respond from now on, Owen thought he'd try to wind Ianto up more often.
Owen closed his eyes and rode it out. When it was over, he opened them to see Ianto stand up with a sigh, dabbing his lips with a tissue. Owen tucked himself back into his jeans and zipped his fly. He recovered his breath while Ianto left the autopsy bay without a word.
A few minutes later, Owen peeked upstairs to see Ianto at his computer, working nonchalantly. It was rather unnerving.
The nightmares were something Ianto hadn't anticipated. He'd really thought he was past that by now.
The hardest part was that he was happy. Or something close enough to it. At least, he didn't think he was unhappy. So, the intrusion of old memories was that much more unwelcome.
He figured out that it was worse since he'd been spending more time in the field, which was inconvenient. The worst thing would be to appear incompetent, or lose the team's faith. He didn't want to be relegated to the tourist office because he looked incapable of anything else, and he didn't want to be another broken object from Torchwood One, like one of the boxes of worthless tech in the basement that London had sent over years ago.
But it was hard to watch Gwen narrowly miss a Weevil bite without remembering how his old coworkers had died. The nights he spent alone, he would stare at the ceiling and remember things he'd seen, or ponder what might happen the next time a mission went wrong. His dreams were amalgams: one night he dreamt he was at Canary Wharf again and watched Tosh die in a conversion unit.
Then, in the morning, he would be thinking of work or whether or not to invite Owen out for a drink, and everything that plagued him at night felt insignificant.
Just the same, one night he took the bottle of medication from his medicine cabinet. It was mostly full and over six months old. After the Canary Wharf battle, Torchwood's idea of survivor counseling was to have him talk to someone for five minutes, and then send him off with a prescription to help him stay relaxed. He'd gotten in filled but had only taken a couple.
They were past the expiration date, now, and he poured them down the toilet.
At the Hub, he began practicing in the firing range when he could, which wasn't often. As it turned out, Jack was actually replaceable-they were able to fill in his duties fairly well. On the other hand, making do with four members rather than five was still proving to be a challenge.
But Ianto was motivated now to find time to train a few times a week. The only thing that eased his mind was assuring himself that he could back the others up when it came down to it.
After the first day, Owen mostly left him alone. Ianto would think that he'd scared him off, except that they still went home together some nights. But after a week, Owen starting showing up in the shooting range again.
He didn't really help. He stood in the back and watched with his arms crossed, and Ianto could feel him watching. It was almost more disturbing than being touched.
The only time Owen would talk was after Ianto finished. He would say, "You're tensing up too much," or "Don't freak out about your aim."
Ianto would nod and start cleaning up.
Gwen was covering her nose with her hand. "God, the smell..."
"Does the rift choose to make this difficult?" Owen asked.
Tosh sighed. "Look on the bright side. There's less chance of someone coming across whatever came through. Nobody wants to go through rubbish in the rain."
At the moment, that wasn't much of a consolation.
Ianto walked away from the SUV and toward the alley. He looked down at the damp rubbish plastered to the pavement. He saw a page from a magazine, a torn piece of a Vote Saxon poster, and a condom. Lovely. He hoped they wouldn't need to rummage through the rubbish too much.
Behind him, Ianto heard Owen start ranting.
"Why can't the rift drop something, I don't know, in a pub? Nothing dangerous. Just a little piece of tech that we can go in and get, and then have a pint afterwards. Is that too much?"
Ianto felt sprinkles on face, and turned around. "You guys, I think it's starting to rain again. We should probably get moving."
"Wonderful," Owen said.
"Right," Gwen said, "it'll be more efficient if we pair off. Ianto, with me. Tosh, with Owen."
Owen was double-checking his gun. Without looking up, he said, "Actually, I'll go with Ianto, if that's all right."
Ianto looked at Gwen and Tosh. If Gwen was surprised or bothered, she didn't show it. Tosh, on the other hand, glanced over at Owen with a questioning frown.
"It really doesn't matter to me," Ianto said quickly. Then, for good measure, he added, "Owen's been helping me with my marksmanship."
"All right," Gwen said, "fine. It doesn't matter as long as we're agreed."
Tosh picked up her scanner. "Keep your comms on," she said, looking at Ianto. "I'll let you know if the readings change."
Owen and Ianto started with the alley, while Gwen and Tosh went further on. It was only late afternoon, but everything was a bit dark with the weather, and the alley especially so. Ianto had to get out his torch.
"There's no reason you couldn't have gone with Tosh," Ianto said.
"Like you said, what does it matter? It's not like I'm forcing you. You could have gone with Gwen, if you wanted to."
Maybe Ianto was over-thinking things. He and Owen kept a professional distance during work for the most part, but that didn't mean they couldn't work side by side. It would be impossible to avoid that. Ianto was even willing to put some faith in Owen's motives.
There was no sign of anything suspicious in the alley, but sometimes it was hard to be sure. It was easy when there were police reports or screaming witnesses (of course, that situation also required lots of Retcon); it was a different matter entirely when all they had to go by was a peak of rift activity and a small energy signature. It could be anything, really. An object had to be a certain size before the equipment would pick up its traces, but small things still came through. So did the occasional mundane thing, like the crate of herring from 1967 that showed up in Bute Park one day a few months ago.
It was starting to rain harder, and Ianto could feel the cool water against his scalp where it seeped through his hair.
Owen sighed. "There's nothing down here. Come on."
They were starting to make their way back towards the street when Gwen's voice came through Ianto's earpiece.
"We've found something," she said.
Ianto pushed the button to reply. "Right. We're on our way. Where are you at?"
Gwen and Tosh weren't far. At least Tosh's sensor had judged the location fairly accurately. They were crouched by a gutter, looking down at something.
Ianto and Owen joined them, and looked to see what it was.
It was a metal cube. There was nothing particularly distinctive about it, except that there was a small, blinking yellow light on it that seemed to emanate from within it.
"This is definitely what's causing the readings," Tosh said.
"Do we have any idea what it is?" Gwen asked.
It didn't look like anything Ianto had seen before, and Ianto prided himself on being familiar with most of the tech Torchwood had salvaged over the years. Finding new tech always interested him. This was the sort of thing he'd worked on in London, and he didn't think he'd ever lose interest. There was something hypnotizing and beautiful about this thing, something to do with how the metal looked solid and yet the small light appeared to come from inside.
"I'm gonna try and pick it up," Owen said.
Gwen looked at him. "Be careful."
Owen slowly picked it up. When he did, the light went out and a brighter, white light illuminated the top. After a second, it dimmed and Ianto saw the hint of an image. Owen set the cube down on the pavement, and they all leaned in to look at it. The image was of a woman, apparently human. She had short red hair and was sitting on a beach, smiling. It was some sort of photograph.
When nothing else happened, Ianto picked the cube up. He carefully turned it in his hands, and on the bottom he found a small button.
He showed it to the others. "Should I push it?"
Owen shrugged. "One of us has to. Doesn't look like this thing is dangerous. Unless the bombs of the future double as photo albums."
Ianto turned the cube upright and pushed the button. There was a small hiss, and the top, which hadn't even appeared distinct a moment ago, popped open. He pulled the lid back and looked inside.
The hollow interior of the cube was filled with ashes. Ianto recognized them immediately, having seen too many spare ashes from the incinerator when he burned the bodies they needn't (or couldn't) store.
"It's an urn," he said, quietly. "These are ashes. Her ashes."
Gwen leaned over from where she knelt on the pavement. She put her hands on the cube and he released it into her grasp. "Oh my God," she said.
Perhaps it shouldn't have seemed extraordinary. It wasn't that odd to find bodies. Most common were aliens that were unable to breathe in Earth's atmosphere, dying minutes after getting sucked through the rift. Rarely, a body would come through that had clearly been killed prior to coming through the rift, which made Ianto uneasy, since what better method of disposal could there be for a murderer?
But this was different. This was both a body and a memorial.
"How could this have come through?" Gwen asked.
"Maybe someone threw it into the rift," Tosh suggested. Gwen looked at her, and Tosh continued: "Well, you hear about people having their ashes scattered. Maybe this was some futuristic way of doing it."
Gwen closed the lid on the cube. "What should we do with it?"
Ianto cleared his throat. "Take it back with us, I suppose. Put it in the morgue."
It wasn't the best suggestion. In fact, it felt rather wrong. Someone had cared about this woman, and they were going to store what was left of her away. But the morgue was better than putting the cube in the archives with the tech.
The rain was starting to let up, but their knees were wet from kneeling on the pavement. Ianto carried the cube, which was now shining its small yellow light again, back to the SUV.
That night, Ianto went home with Owen. He wasn't sure why, because he wasn't really in the mood for sex at the moment. And Owen seemed to be in no rush to head to the bedroom, either. He mixed some drinks while Ianto leaned back on the sofa.
"Thanks," he said when Owen handed him a drink. He took a sip, and said, "Do you agree with Tosh? That someone threw those ashes through the rift intentionally?"
For a second, Owen didn't answer. He was standing against the wall, with his head turned towards the window. "If they did," he said, "they did it wrong, didn't they? You're supposed to release the ashes."
"I wouldn't know," Ianto said. "I've never known anyone who was cremated." Though, Lisa's body had been burned. But that was another thing, entirely.
"My father was," Owen said.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know."
Owen just shrugged. "Don't be. Not like I ever really knew the man."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that."
Owen downed the rest of his drink and set it down on the bar with a loud clink. Ianto flinched. He was surprised it didn't break.
"Stop being fucking sorry, all right? The man had the good sense to get out while he could. You gotta respect that."
Ianto didn't know what to say to that. It wouldn't be right to complain about how his family had been more or less intact, and how much harder that made things when his mam wondered why he didn't call much. That would get him about as much sympathy as Gwen got when she talked about her relatively happy relationship. He finished his drink and rested his head against the back of the sofa, cradling the empty glass on his thigh.
"You look knackered, mate," Owen said.
"I am," Ianto admitted. "Don't know if I could sleep, though."
"Want me to wear you down some?"
Ianto scoffed. "That sounds more like a threat than a proposition." He closed his eyes. "No, I've just had some stuff on my mind. It's nothing."
"Thought a good shag helped with that."
"True, it does. But eventually you do have to stop shagging, and then your mind starts functioning again."
Ianto almost fell asleep right there. He really was knackered, but he didn't quite feel like going home.
"You really all right?" Owen asked eventually.
Ianto nodded. "I am. It's just...finding the ashes today reminded me of stuff. It's nothing."
"Right," Owen said.
"Not Lisa," Ianto said. He felt bad saying it, because it was like he was trying to minimize her, say that she didn't still occupy his every thought sometimes. But he didn't want her hanging over him, and he didn't want Owen, or anyone else, to assume things about him and what kept him awake at night.
"After the battle," Ianto explained, "they brought me in to help identify some bodies. The ones that were left were...mutilated and they'd been, um, burned in the fire. One of them was a friend. I hadn't thought it was possible for it to get worse."
"Shit," Owen said softly.
"Yeah. I think maybe they thought it was a mistake bringing me in, because they apologized and-" he chuckled. "They had me talk to this UNIT doctor for five minutes. She wrote me a prescription and that was the last they had to do with me."
He opened his eyes and saw Owen watching him. "I suppose I should be over it by now, shouldn't I?"
Owen shook his head. "Some shit you just don't forget. But you gotta move on, or you'll go bloody insane the next time things go to hell. I think that was Suzie's problem, if you want me to be honest with you."
"Next time," Ianto echoed. It was true; nothing had happened to him that was any worse than stuff that had happened before and would happen again. Strangely, that thought didn't terrify him as much as it should have.
"Well," Owen said, "sometimes you get stuff like the sex plant. Makes it worth it, if you ask me."
The next day, Owen didn't join him in the shooting range. Nor did he the next day, or the day after. Eventually, Ianto stopped practicing.
It was just as well. He and Tosh were nearly finished with the new boardroom, and he wanted to get it finished. All they had to do now was furnish and decorate it.
They were setting up the new table one afternoon when Gwen and Owen came down to check on the progress. Ianto was feeling rather smug: he and Tosh had done everything.
"Looks nice," Gwen said. "Don't you think, Owen?"
Owen looked around. "Yeah, not half bad."
Tosh looked up and smiled. "Not half bad? I say pretty good considering it's been the two of us."
Gwen looked sheepish. "I kept meaning to see if there was something I could do. We've all been so busy. You two did well on your own though, didn't you? I like the colors you chose."
Owen pointed at the pictures on the wall, and looked at Ianto. "Where'd you get those?"
"They're old staff photos I found in the archives," Ianto replied. "I copied them and got some frames. I thought it'd be a nice touch."
Owen grinned. "At least you're better at decorating than you are shooting."
"I don't know. Maybe it'd be more to your liking if I put up pictures of Tintin."
Owen wrinkled his nose and turned away. Gwen looked Owen, and then at Ianto. She smiled curiously.
"What's all that about?" she asked.
Before Ianto could reply, Owen said, "Ianto here has some perverted tastes, if you ask me."
Ianto smiled. "Nobody really asked you."
Tosh clicked her tongue. "Well, I for one would like to get this place furnished before evening."
Just for her, Ianto let it go.
"You've been avoiding me," Ianto said. "And you're being a bastard." He winced when Owen bit him on the neck, as though to prove the point.
"Not avoiding you now," Owen said with a growl.
They were at Owen's flat, the first night together since they day they found the ashes. Ianto would chalk up the period of absence to a coincidence, but he was too observant for that. He was glad that Owen had broken the ice-whatever it was-because Ianto wouldn't have.
Ianto was flat on his back on Owen's bed. His jacket, tie, and waistcoat were on the floor in another room. His shoes and socks were lying on the edge of the bed, ready to fall off.
Owen sat up and started undoing Ianto's belt. Ianto pushed his hands away and did it himself, pushing off his trousers and boxers. He reached for Owen's belt, but Owen grabbed his wrists and pinned them painfully to the mattress. Ianto pushed against his hands, but not enough to actually free himself.
Owen leaned in for a kiss, and Ianto humored it for a second before he bit down on Owen's lip. He was satisfied with the stifled gasp he heard, and he bit down until he tasted a trace of blood, when he let go and let his head sink down on the pillow.
Owen licked his lip. "You fucking bastard." He let go of Ianto's hands to work on his own belt.
The bite was the last bit of trouble Ianto felt like giving. He wanted this, and he didn't feel like pushing Owen so much that it turned into a brawl instead of sex. To show what he wanted, he wrapped his legs around Owen's waist as soon as Owen was ready.
"You're such a whore," Owen said. "Your shirt's still on."
Ianto wasn't sure why that made him a whore. Owen's shirt was still on, too, though unbuttoned.
"Then take it off," Ianto said.
Owen started undoing Ianto's shirt buttons, pulling at them so roughly that Ianto thought the thread would tear. He moved his arms when necessary so Owen could pull the shirt off, and he watched it fly across the room when Owen threw it against the window. If someone had been outside, looking up at the right angle at just that moment, they might have seen it. It was hard not to feel like an exhibitionist when surrounded by glass.
He saw Owen reach for the lube again, this time poising the bottle over his finger.
"It's okay," Ianto said. "I'm good."
Owen looked at him. "Yeah?" There was some hesitation, and a look that said Owen didn't really want to cause him harm, but Ianto decided that the lube spread over the condom was enough.
"Yeah, I'm good."
Ianto put his hands on Owen's waist and relaxed while Owen pushed forward. He could feel the stretch, and he wondered for a moment if he should have agreed to more foreplay. But it didn't really hurt, and he wanted this to happen quickly.
When Owen started moving, Ianto reached under Owen's shirt and pressed the tips of his fingers into his back, pressing his nails in and down until Owen jerked. Ianto's own back hurt, but he kept his legs clamped tightly around Owen's waist.
"Harder," Ianto whispered.
This was the sort of time Ianto didn't mind Owen being a bastard. He didn't mind when Owen grabbed his wrists and pinned them back onto the bed, and he didn't mind the vague insults and names that he heard Owen mutter: "Stupid bastard. You'd let me do anything to you, wouldn't you?"
Ianto wouldn't, but he wasn't going to say that.
When he came, he said, "I hate you sometimes."
That night, Ianto went to sleep without cleaning up. When he woke up, his back was stiff, he was sore, and his wrists were bruised. Owen was already gone. He'd left Ianto there alone. Ianto thought he should nick something, just to make Owen regret it, but it wasn't worth it.
At work, Owen ignored him, and Ianto spent the next week alone in his own bed.
This was what they'd agreed to, after all: a simple arrangement with no obligations.
At least Ianto was sleeping better. The dreams were getting less frequent again. He managed to sleep through most nights until early one morning, when he got a phone call from UNIT.
They were all still yawning when they gathered at the Hub. It wasn't even fully light out, yet.
"All right, what's going on?" Owen asked, looking accusingly at Ianto. It was Ianto who had called them all in.
Ianto yawned at him, as if to say that he didn't want to be there, either. What he did say was, "UNIT wants us in Pakistan as soon as possible."
Gwen sighed. "That's what you said. But why? I thought we only have jurisdiction here."
Tosh yawned and crossed her arms. "We do only have jurisdiction here. Why isn't UNIT on this?"
"UNIT is on it," Ianto said. "But they want us. All I was told is that there's some sort of rift activity in the Himalayas."
"Do the Himalayas even have a rift?" Tosh asked.
"Well," Gwen said, "we're not going until we know why. Who exactly contacted you? Did they give you a number?"
While Ianto gave her the information, Owen walked around, trying to wake himself up more. Far above, Myfanwy squawked. She probably wasn't ready to get up, either.
Owen realized Tosh had walked over to him.
"I'm not sure we should trust this," she said softly. "There's no reason for them to be calling us in."
In the background, Owen heard Gwen talking on her mobile. He sighed. "Who knows?"
"What if they want Jack," she whispered frantically. "What are we supposed to do then?"
Before he could reply, Gwen hung up. They all turned to her.
"They want us because they think it has to do with Abaddon," she said. "In other words, since they know it originated here, they think we're responsible."
Ianto put his hands on his hips. "How could that be? Everything reset itself. There have been no reports of anything too out of the ordinary."
"Wait a moment," Tosh said. "Did they actually mention Abaddon?"
"Yeah," Gwen said, "why?"
"We never mentioned Abaddon in the report we gave UNIT. And since the rift reset itself, they would never know about it. They would have had to have seen our internal reports."
Owen wondered if there wasn't something to Tosh's concerns. She had a point: it was odd.
"Could they really have seen the reports?" Gwen asked.
"I don't think we should get too far ahead of ourselves," Ianto said, "but if they know about Abaddon, there's no telling what else they've learned. I can tell they're getting annoyed that Jack's not around. The last thing we need is to give them an excuse to come in here and look around."
"And," Tosh said, "if they think we have something to do with Jack being gone..."
Owen sighed. "I really don't like where this is going. I'm not going to be UNIT's slave because they might have information on us."
Gwen stepped forward. "We can't do anything about it just now. We'll see what we can find out, but maybe it's best we don't raise the issue just yet. Besides-if this does have something to do with the rift, we should try to help."
Ianto nodded. "Looks like I'll need to book a flight, then."
After three connecting flights, Owen wasn't even sure where they were anymore. At the final airport, a man named Major Parsons, dressed in full UNIT uniform, was there to pick them up. Parsons had a handshake that was painful and lasted several seconds, and he grinned almost constantly, regardless of appropriateness.
After a hasty breakfast, Parsons drove them to the site, and they saw the mountain climbing equipment.
"Wait," Gwen asked, "are we going to be climbing?"
Parsons parked the jeep. He turned and grinned at Gwen, who was sitting in the front passenger seat. "Of course. You knew that."
Owen leaned forward. "No, nobody mentioned that."
As they got out of the jeep, Gwen said, "Today, though? I've never been mountain climbing before. Don't we need some sort of training? I watched a show on this once."
Parsons walked around the jeep and patted Gwen on the shoulder. He pointed upward and laughed. "It's not like it's Everest! Don't worry; it's all going to be easy going, and we've got all the gear for you. No challenge for Torchwood, surely."
Eventually, Owen started questioning that. They were able to take a helicopter part of the way up, but were told they would need to climb the rest of the way. Everything above them seemed like an eternity away. Earlier, Parsons had pointed out a ledge where the reports said the activity was centered. It hadn't looked far at all-a half hour hike, maybe. But it barely looked any closer now than it had two hours ago.
Owen's thigh muscles were beginning to ache. It had been hard going before, and now that they were in the snow, it was even harder and slower. Every now and then he would pause and look at the others: Gwen had managed to get ahead to the front with Parsons; the eight other UNIT officers escorting them were helping haul supplies and equipment; Ianto kept looking wistfully down towards the ground; Tosh was trying to climb while carrying her rift energy detector.
Owen stopped walking until Tosh caught up. "You want me to carry that for a while?" he asked her.
She handed it to him gratefully. "Thanks. Just be careful. I have it on to detect any unusual energy."
Owen looked at the screen. It didn't show anything.
They finally reached the ledge during mid-afternoon. Tosh scanned the area while the rest of them looked around for anything that looked like it didn't belong.
The wind was starting to pick up, and they had to yell to be heard. Gwen yelled at Parsons, "What did you say the activity was?"
"It was an odd sighting," he yelled back, "possible UFO."
Before Owen could yell something about how unspecific that was, there was a loud noise, and Owen got coated with a spray of flying snow. He heard the others yelling, and he turned to see Tosh lying in the snow, knocked over by whatever had happened. When he saw her sit up, he focused his attention on the source of the disruption.
Something had popped out from underneath the snow. At first, he couldn't tell what it was, but then he recognized it: it was an oversized jack-in-the-box. It had been buried under the snow, but now the top was open and a doll with a cloth body and large head was swaying back and forth on a spring.
Tosh pushed herself out of the snow and stood up. When Owen saw her wince, he asked, "You all right?"
"Fine, I think," she said. "I was scanning around there when it sprung open. My wrist is sore, but I'm fine."
He would need to check her out later and make sure she was okay. Right now, Gwen and Ianto were carefully stepping closer.
"It looks like Jack," Ianto said.
Before Owen could ask what he was talking about, Gwen moved closer and said, "Oh my God, you're right. It does."
Upon closer inspection, they were right-the doll in the jack-in-the-box looked like Jack. This realization didn't help any-it just served to make things more confusing.
Tosh started inspecting it while the others watched. Owen was content to let her do her work. After a few minutes, she managed to take off the side panel of the jack-in-the-box, exposing its inner workings. Owen couldn't see it from where he stood, but he saw Tosh's reaction to whatever was inside. Her eyes widened, and she moved back quickly.
"It's a bomb!" she shouted. "We've got to get out of here!"
"How long do we have?" Gwen asked.
"Not long enough. We have to run!"
Owen wasn't about to doubt her urgency. He turned and ran in the opposite direction as fast as he could, pausing only to make sure that the others were moving, too. It was hard to run; the slope was steeper here, and it wouldn't be hard to slip in the snow. But Owen kept running until there was a loud boom that shook the ground and made him tumble to his knees. Something flew past in his peripheral vision, and he looked to the side to see a large piece of painted metal, part of the jack-in-the-box, lying several feet away.
The first thing he did was look around to make sure everyone was accounted for and uninjured. Gwen and Tosh were lying in the snow, and Ianto was staring at where the jack-in-the-box had been. The UNIT people appeared to all be present. Though explosion hadn't been as bad as it could have been, it could have killed them if Tosh hadn't warned them. And it was good fortune that they hadn't been hit by the debris, which now littered the mountainside. Owen saw the Jack doll's head lying several feet away.
They barely had time to recover when Owen heard a rumbling sound. He looked up and saw snow moving farther up the mountain, disturbed by the bomb.
Parsons saw it, too. "We've got an avalanche," he announced.
That's obvious, you worthless bastard, Owen thought, but he was too busy moving again to say it.
"You can't blame UNIT-"
"You're the ones who led us into a trap," Gwen said, interrupting Parsons.
Parsons shook his head. "We don't know that it was a trap, yet."
Owen was standing next to Gwen, his arms crossed while he watched her argue with Parsons. Gwen never was someone to mess with. Owen had to give her that. He was fine with letting her take charge here, as long as she gave Parsons and his people hell.
"Of course we bloody know it was," she said. "Our entire team was jeopardized, and that trap was meant for us. I want to know who reported this supposed rift activity."
Parsons hesitated. Owen was glad to see that, finally, he wasn't grinning anymore. "We're trying to verify that right now," Parsons said. "We got a report yesterday, but it's not clear where it originated or who authored it."
"Well," Gwen said, "I want to know everything you know."
Owen shook his head and wandered back over to the UNIT tent. He was too knackered to fight right now, and it seemed Gwen was doing an all right job. After the ordeal of escaping the bomb and the avalanche, all Owen wanted was to go home and do his best to forget this trip ever occurred.
Ianto and Tosh were in the tent, sitting on folding chairs. When Owen saw Tosh rubbing her wrist, he pulled over a crate and sat down in front her.
"Still hurts?" he asked.
She smiled. "Not that bad, really. I think it just got jostled more, with all the running about."
Her wrist was slightly swollen and a little red, but it didn't look serious. He was still feeling her wrist when one of the UNIT officers came inside the tent and started poking in one of the supply crates. When he saw Owen examining Tosh's wrist, he asked, "Is everything okay?"
Owen frowned. "I don't know yet. I'll need to do some x-rays when we get back to Cardiff."
After the man left, Tosh said, "I don't think it's that bad."
"Yeah, well, considering what we've been through today, they can afford to feel guilty."
"I could manufacture a limp," Ianto said, "if you'd like."
Tosh playfully swatted at him with her free hand. "Don't even think about stealing my sympathy."
The tent flap opened again and Gwen stuck her head inside."If UNIT has any idea what's going on here, they're hiding it well. Let's get the hell out of here."
Owen couldn't have agreed more.
They got Parsons to drop them off at the airport. It was evening, and it was pretty clear that they wouldn't be getting a flight out that night, but the sooner they had tickets, the better.
Ianto went to book a flight while Owen waited with Gwen and Tosh by the door. Owen hoped it wouldn't take long, because if they had to stay here overnight, he wanted to get to the hotel and go to sleep.
When Ianto came back after only a few minutes, it seemed like a good sign. But Ianto looked bothered.
"Did you all bring your Torchwood credit cards?" Ianto asked.
They all murmured agreement, and Gwen said, "Yes, Ianto, why?"
"Uh, mine's being rejected for some reason."
Owen snorted, but pulled out his wallet. "You been using the card to buy your expensive suits or something?"
Ianto didn't retort. He looked too tired for it. Instead, calmly, he said, "There's no way any of us could've gone over the limit-I keep a close eye on the account. It's just a problem with my card, for some reason."
They all walked over to desk, and Owen handed over his card. After a moment, the woman frowned and handed it back.
They tried Gwen's, and then Tosh's, but both were also rejected.
"All right," Gwen said, "this trip is getting very odd."
"I think we're way past that point," Owen said.
Ianto looked concerned. "Maybe I should try to find out if there's a British embassy."
"Would that do any good?" Gwen asked.
"Well," Ianto said, "possibly. It depends."
Owen sighed. "Back up a moment, here. I'll tell you what. I'll use my personal card and buy the fucking tickets so we can get out of here, how about that?"
"Owen's right," Tosh said. "I'll be glad to help pay the expenses. We can compensate for it when we get home."
After a few minutes, it was agreed: they would all split the expenses on their personal credit cards. Owen breathed a sigh of relief when they finally succeeded in booking tickets.
Their flight, predictably, wasn't until the next day, so from the airport they went to a hotel for the night. After working out who would pay, they got two double rooms.
The rooms were next door to each other. Owen and Ianto said goodnight to Gwen and Tosh before settling into their own room.
Owen dozed off while he waited for Ianto to finish in the shower. When he woke up, Ianto was coming out of the bathroom in his boxers.
"It's all yours," he said.
Owen didn't feel like he could stand long enough to shower, but he didn't want to go to sleep like this. He forced himself to get up and go into the still warm bathroom.
When he finished, he came out and found Ianto lying in bed, holding something in his hands. When Owen got closer, he saw it was a condom packet and a bottle of lube.
Owen sighed and collapsed on his own bed. "It pains me to say this, but I don't know if I've got it in me tonight."
Ianto glanced at him. "Didn't say anything about wanting to sleep with you."
"Who else is there?" He snorted. "I don't know if it's charming or pathetic how you pretend you're not desperate. Or were you planning on using your hand?"
There was a pause, and Owen assumed that Ianto had given up, or fallen asleep.
Then, Ianto said, "Let me top you."
"I want to, and I think it'd be fun. I think we need it tonight."
Owen closed his eyes. Honestly, it didn't sound like a bad idea. Getting off tonight would be welcome, after everything, and maybe this way he wouldn't need to do much work.
"All right," he said.
He heard Ianto get up. "It's okay if you've never done it before," Ianto said.
"I already said all right!" Owen growled. "I want to do it. I'm agreeing with you, here." Why did Ianto have to make everything into an argument?
He opened his eyes when he felt Ianto sit down on the bed beside him. It was a single bed, but big enough for the two of them for a short while.
"We need to be quiet," Ianto said, nodding at the wall they shared with Gwen and Tosh.
Owen closed his eyes and breathed in deeply when he felt Ianto's bare skin on his. He really hadn't done this before, and he wondered what it said about him that he trusted Ianto enough to try it with.
He turned over, and he gasped when he felt Ianto's finger. The feeling was strange, but not unpleasant.
After several minutes, Ianto asked, "You still with me?"
"'Course I am."
"Glad to hear it. It'd be a bit of a blow to the confidence if you fell asleep on me. You ready?"
Owen tensed briefly when he felt Ianto's cock, but it wasn't bad. Once Ianto was inside him, it actually felt good.
"Okay?" Ianto asked. His voice was deep, and Owen could feel his hot breath on his cheek.
It was a bit of a thrill. Owen wondered why he'd never tried it before, why he hadn't considered that Ianto might be somewhat decent at it. Maybe it helped that Owen was exhausted, and relaxing came easily.
Ianto kissed Owen's neck and shoulder. He kissed and sucked at the skin, and wrapped an arm around Owen's waist to stroke his cock. Suddenly, he stopped, and Owen felt him tense and gasp. He pulled out, but started stroking Owen again.
After he came, Owen knew he should get up to clean himself off, but instead he curled his arms around the pillow and went to sleep. He didn't feel Ianto get up, and when he woke the next morning, Ianto was still squeezed next to him on the small bed.
Owen didn't care how long the flight was, as long as they got home. When they arrived back in Cardiff, they went straight back to the Hub. On the way there, it was a relief to see that Cardiff appeared intact.
When they entered the Hub, Myfanwy squawked, and Ianto mumbled something about getting her more food. Tosh said she was going to check and see what had happened with their credit cards.
"Do you want me to look at your wrist again?" he asked her.
She was sitting at her computer. She glanced at him, and then quickly looked back at the computer screen. "No, I'm fine. Thank you."
Gwen was on her mobile, apparently calling Rhys. Suddenly, she hung up and said, "We need to watch the news. Rhys just told me Harold Saxon has assassinated the American President."
"The authorities have officially stated that Harold Saxon is dead, though they declined to release further comment. There are reports that Lucy Saxon has been arrested..."
The news had been reporting the same facts and rumors for over an hour, but Owen couldn't pull himself away. They'd only been gone for a couple days-how could all this happen in such a short time?
Ianto and Gwen were watching the news with him, but Tosh was still at her computer, only half paying attention to the proceedings. Finally, she pushed her chair back and turned towards them.
"Something's wrong," she said. "It looks like someone may have hacked into our account and tampered with it. A hold had been placed on our cards."
"How could that happen?" Gwen asked.
"I don't know, but it doesn't stop there. Remember there was a possible security breach a while back? I wasn't able to detect anything then, and I assumed it was okay because it corresponded with the date I uploaded a program, and that can create a security flag sometimes. But I'm running further tests, and it looks like it's happened more than once. Someone's been gaining remote access to our programs and files for the last few months."
Finally, Owen tore his attention away from the news.
"There's hardly any trace," Tosh continued. "Whoever did this...they knew exactly what to do. I'll need to run full diagnostics of everything. I should have caught this."
Ianto stood up and walked over to her workstation. "It's not your fault."
She glanced up at him, but didn't appear convinced. In fact, she looked near tears.
"It must be same person who set the trap," Gwen said. "It's the only thing that makes sense. And this thing with Saxon, it can't be a coincidence, can it?"
Owen didn't have an answer for that.
"I'm going to call UNIT," Gwen said. "Get some answers from them. After what we've been through, they owe it to us."
But a half hour later, Gwen hung up the phone without success. UNIT was dealing with it, she reported, and they didn't want Torchwood involved.
Owen decided to read up on Harold Saxon, try to figure things out. But there was nothing suspicious about Saxon, except that, now that Owen thought about it, he seemed too good to be true. Even when Ianto joined him in his research, nothing helpful came up.
Tosh kept to herself, running diagnostics and scanning everything on the computers.
That evening, Gwen offered them a break from Saxon and the hacker.
"There's a police report," she said. "Someone says a blowfish stole their sports car."
"I'd like to talk to you," Jack had said when they checked into the hotel. "My room?"
Ianto had nodded, but now he had no intention of living up to his promise. His mobile was turned off, and he was taking a back hallway, just in case. He didn't want to run into the others, either-he just wanted to be alone with his thoughts.
After John Hart left, they had the mess of trying to avoid themselves until time caught up with itself. It was a good thing that Tosh had gotten the hold taken off the Torchwood account, because Jack was inclined to have them stay in this fancy hotel for the night. Ianto would have been fine with going back to his flat-after all, it wasn't like there was actually a risk of him running into himself, considering he'd spent all night trying not to get killed by Jack's ex.
But if Jack wanted to pay for a nice hotel, well, technically it was Jack's money.
Ianto finally reached his destination-the hotel bar. He needed a good drink. He sat at the bar and ordered a whiskey, and it was only after a minute that he noticed Tosh sitting on the other side of the bar, nursing a drink of her own. He hadn't noticed her at first in the dim light. He stood up and moved closer to her, mostly because he didn't want to appear rude. She looked at him, and glanced away.
"Are you hiding out, too?" Ianto asked.
"I don't know that I'd call it that." There was some wariness in her voice that he couldn't quite interpret, but he knew she was stressed, with everything that had happened. They all were.
"I...just need time to process things." He took a sip of his whiskey, and added, "He doesn't have any explanations for us. It's the same as before. I don't mean that in a bad way, Tosh. I just don't want to talk to him tonight if he's just going to make things more confusing."
Tosh nodded. "I know." She finished her drink, and pushed the glass aside. "I think I'll be going to bed."
Before she could get up, he said, "You've been quiet ever since we left Pakistan. Is everything okay?"
"Fine," she said. "I'm just tired. Maybe Owen's awake, if you want to talk to someone. You seem to be friendly with him."
He felt a rush of warmth in his head. "I wasn't aware tolerating him made us friends."
She pursed her lips and wouldn't meet his eyes. "The walls were very thin that night in Pakistan," she said. "You should probably think of those things in the future, if you want to be discreet."
He stared down at his drink. His first inclination was to deny it, but that would only be insulting; Tosh would know he was lying. He wished he could simply admit it without shame, but he was ashamed. He could feel his heartbeat in his ears.
"I didn't think you could hear," he said softly.
"I wasn't trying to listen." Her voice was accusing, biting. "Don't worry-Gwen was asleep. She didn't hear anything."
"Well, that's a small consolation. Look, I'm sorry." He wasn't sure what he was apologizing for, exactly. He just felt like he'd done something wrong.
"Do you even like him?" Tosh asked. She sounded disgusted, and her tone bit at him like acid.
"He's a bastard," Ianto answered, "but I think he has good intentions. It isn't like I'm in a place to judge." He turned on his stool to face Tosh, and he saw that she was looking down at her empty glass. "It's just an arrangement," he said. "We're not together or anything like that. Sometimes it's hard going home alone with everything in my head. It's hard when you can't share what you do."
She turned and faced him. Her eyes glistened and she kept her hands tightly clamped together. "You think I don't know that?" she asked. "Do you honestly think it's just you who feels that way?"
He knew it was true, and she didn't need to explain to him how she knew. He hadn't forgotten Mary, or the things Tosh had told him when he'd put together the report. And Ianto could guess why she was upset now. He was good at observing the others, and he'd seen how she liked to work with Owen and be close to him.
It wouldn't have done any good to tell her what he was thinking, that he couldn't steal Owen from her when Owen wasn't hers in the first place. Nor did he tell her that Owen wasn't worth it. What he did say was, "I mean it, that it's just an arrangement. Owen's complicated. I don't know if he's capable of making a connection. If you really need to know, sex with him is nothing more than mutual masturbation."
She stared at him, looking vaguely horrified for a moment, before getting up. "I don't want to talk about this anymore. It's your business-I only thought I'd mention it. I'm going to go get some rest."
Ianto continued to sit at the bar after she left. He ordered another drink, and then went up to his room, where he spent the rest of the night awake and alone.
A couple days later, when Ianto came in to work in the morning, there was a note on the tourist office desk, along with a donut in a bag.
The note said: I'm sorry. It's none of my business. You deserve to be happy.
Ianto folded the note and set it aside, and he ate the donut. Even though it was a nice gesture, he wasn't sure it was necessary. He wanted to go tell Tosh that Owen didn't make him happy, but he really wanted the topic to die.
At least with Jack back, there were other concerns. Jack was back in control, if Ianto could call it that. Jack looked lost around the Hub, now. That morning, when he called a meeting, he started going upstairs until they reminded him that the boardroom had been moved.
It didn't help that Jack's first order was that there would be no more investigation into Harold Saxon or what happened in the Himalayas. Jack sat at the head of the table while they gaped at him.
Gwen was the only one who argued. "Something was going on," she said. "We need to know what it was."
"No," Jack said, coldly, "you really don't. It's over and done. Be glad."
Gwen opened her mouth, apparently about to say something more, but stopped.
They were all careful around Jack. Ianto wanted to be happy that he was back, but it was too clear that something was wrong. Ianto found himself going to Gwen with forms that needed signing, not just out of habit but because Jack spent the afternoon sitting at his desk and staring at the far wall of his office as though in a trance.
At lunch, when they were out of Jack's earshot, Owen said what Ianto didn't want to admit: "Jack's not right."
"It's worse today," Gwen agreed.
She was right; Ianto could recognize delayed trauma.
The only time Jack left his office that afternoon was to look at the plants in the hothouse. The others joined him, and Ianto and Tosh stood back while Owen and Gwen pointed everything out to Jack. Ianto looked sideways at Tosh; they hadn't spoken about her note or what had happened back at the hotel, but she showed no signs of being upset with him. Ianto's thoughts were interrupted by Jack's voice.
"Oh, I recognize this," Jack said.
Ianto craned his neck to see what Jack was looking at it. It was the aphrodisiac plant. It didn't look quite the same as it had a few months ago; the flowers had shriveled up and fallen off. Ianto hoped that meant it wouldn't be producing any more pollen for a while.
"What is it?" Gwen asked.
"It's called a Mella plant." Jack smiled. "It's very unique. Its pollen actually acts as an aphrodisiac. On some planets, it's formulated into pills and serums and sold, but every year you get people going out to where it grows in the wild. The pollen comes out in thick bursts, and you can see these yellow clouds in the air. Breathe in enough and you'll have sex for days."
Days? Ianto thought. He and Owen had been lucky. It was a good thing they only had one plant. He looked at Owen and raised an eyebrow. Owen looked back at him, and then down at the plant.
Jack was still smiling at the plant when Gwen asked, "Isn't this dangerous to have?"
"Oh, it'll be fine," Jack said. "Once it starts flowering, you've just gotta stay away unless you're ready for anything." He chuckled.
"It had flowers when we got it," Gwen said. "I don't remember there being pollen."
"There was," Owen said quickly. "There was a bunch on the floor one morning when I came in. I just swept it up."
That seemed to satisfy everyone. Seeing the plant seemed to have cheered Jack up some, and Ianto wondered what his experience with it was.
They went back downstairs, and Ianto went back to his workstation. He saw Jack go past and take up his spot in his office again.
The room was dark, and Ianto could hear sirens through the open window. Jack had opened it, saying he wanted fresh air. They were in Ianto's flat, lying side by side on the bed.
Ianto was still surprised that they'd actually gone on a date. When Jack had asked, Ianto hadn't regarded it as a serious offer. But tonight they'd seen a movie and gone to dinner. It had been nice, but strange. It had been a long time since Ianto had been on a date, and he wasn't sure he was that sort of person anymore, or ever would be again.
When it had become clear that Jack wanted to come up to his flat with him, Ianto had said, "I'm not having sex with you tonight."
"I know," Jack had said. "That's fine."
They hadn't even touched each other. They'd just taken off their shoes and laid down. It seemed Jack simply didn't want to be alone. Ianto couldn't begrudge that-he had no idea what had happened to Jack while he was away. He wouldn't make Jack suffer for his own uncertainties.
Now, Jack asked, "Was everything really okay while I was gone?"
Ianto thought about how to answer that. "Yes," he said. "I think we did well. It was only a few months, though."
"A few months," Jack echoed.
"Was it longer for you?"
"Yeah," Jack said, chuckling humorlessly. "It was longer."
For a moment, Ianto just listened to the silence. Now that the sirens were gone, all he could hear was the breeze and Jack's breathing, which seemed to blend together.
"Are you ever going to tell us what happened?"
Jack didn't answer. Ianto closed his eyes and mentally cursed himself, and Jack. Did Jack think he was blind? That he honestly saw no connection between the hacking, the Himalayas, Harold Saxon, and Jack? Ianto could live for now not knowing what the connection was, but he hated Jack for not sharing.
But that was Jack. Ianto had known what he was getting into. He was just tired of being hurt.
"We were in danger," Ianto continued. "If we were still in danger, you'd tell us, wouldn't you?"
"Yes," Jack said, immediately. "I would."
That would have to be good enough. He could deal with Jack's secrets, if he had to. But he didn't want to keep his own.
"I'm sleeping with someone," Ianto said.
There was a pause, and then Jack asked, "Anyone I know?" He didn't sound bothered, just curious.
"No. I think I might be ending it soon, though."
"You don't need to on my account."
Ianto could have laughed. "Don't worry; I won't."
They didn't speak anymore. Ianto moved his hand over until it brushed against Jack's, and he closed his eyes.
Owen was leaning in the doorframe, looking at Ianto with heavy-lidded eyes. He'd tried calling Ianto twice without getting an answer, and now that he had several drinks in him, he'd worked up the courage to simply come on over. He was in the mood for a confrontation.
"What is it?" Ianto asked. He was in his pyjamas.
"You're not going to invite me in? So much for being a good, polite butler," Owen slurred.
"It's almost midnight, and you're drunk. What do you want?"
Owen snorted, and eased his way into the flat. Ianto stepped aside, but not until Owen pushed against him. "I tried calling; you weren't answering your phone. You aren't too big on answering your phone these days, are you?"
Ianto hadn't answered any calls or seen Owen outside of work since they got back from the Himalayas. At first, Owen had indulged him-Jack's return had thrown them all off. But it had been too long, and Owen wasn't going to let Ianto slip away quietly.
"Did you drive here?" Ianto asked.
"Why? You think I'm too impaired? I'm touched."
"Are you going to tell me why you're here?"
Instead of answering, Owen leaned forward and kissed him. Ianto barely returned it before pulling away.
"I'm calling you a cab," Ianto said.
"Not going to invite me to stay?"
"Not tonight, no. I want to get some sleep, and I can't do that if you're vomiting up however many drinks you've had."
Owen scoffed and leaned against the wall. "Why haven't you answered my calls? You're avoiding me."
"I've had a lot on my mind, lately."
"I can tell when I'm being given the piss-off," Owen growled. "I want to know why."
Ianto put his hands on his hips and looked down at the floor. "I think maybe we shouldn't do this for a while. I'd like to take a break."
Owen shook his head. He'd known this was coming. Of course, Ianto was too cowardly to say it in the first place. "It's Jack, isn't it? You're fucking him again."
Ianto glared at him. "I'm not, actually, but it's none of your business. You're not my jealous boyfriend, so stop acting like it."
Owen ignored him. "You know Jack doesn't give a shit about you, right? That's how Jack is. He makes you feel real important for about two minutes. Doesn't mean you are."
"You know what? You know nothing about me and Jack. And it doesn't matter anyway, so drop it. I've already said I'm not sleeping with him." Ianto sighed and ran a hand through his hair. When he spoke again, his voice was calmer. "I've been thinking a lot. In Pakistan, you said I was desperate."
"Yeah, well, don't know if I meant it."
"Well, I'm not desperate. That's why I think it's better for both of us if we take a break."
Owen walked closer to him, getting in his space until Ianto backed against the wall. "You're a bastard, you know that, Jones?" He shook his head, and turned away. "Fine, you want to be done, we're done! You won't have to screen your fucking phone calls anymore, 'cause I'm done. You're not even that good a shag. You want to know why I wouldn't suck you off? It's 'cause you've got a small cock. I was embarrassed for you."
Ianto swallowed. "You're being ridiculous. There's nothing wrong with it."
"I'm only telling you the truth."
Ianto scoffed. "No, you're not. You're drunk and you can't think of anything intelligent to say. Just get out. Wait by the street. I'll call you a cab so you don't kill yourself."
Owen turned away. "Don't bother. I walked here, I'll walk back."
He walked out the door, letting it slam behind him, probably waking up several of the neighbors. He didn't look back.
Owen thought that the one thing all relationships have in common is that they all end in loss. Owen was more attuned to what he'd lost than what he'd had. Even his memories of Katie, though great, were dull compared to the grief he still felt at times. And now, even though part of him would have killed to have had Diane for longer, another, colder part thought that it had been best that the pain had come quickly.
Losing Ianto was no great loss. It took a little more effort to get someone into his bed, but there was nothing spectacular about Ianto that should have made his absence in Owen's life noticeable.
They worked together, and they managed to laugh with each other when the team went out for drinks at the pub. Eventually, the awkwardness cleared.
Still, Owen thought about him, sometimes. Occasionally, he wished Ianto had meant it when he said it was only a break. But Owen had known all along that there was no such thing as a break.
Sometimes, he really hated Ianto, and he longed for an excuse to hit him or ruin his day with a cruel remark. But even that faded.
Mostly, there was nothing. Even the plant died, eventually.
It was late, and the Hub was empty. Everyone had gone home after seeing Martha off, but Owen returned. He was glad Martha was gone. He liked her, but it was only with her departure that he felt he could get his role back. He needed to be the Torchwood medic again-it was the only thing he had left.
He hadn't adjusted to the absence of his breath and heartbeat. Occasionally, when he realized he wasn't breathing, he would panic and try unsuccessfully to inhale. It felt like drowning.
Owen went down to the autopsy bay. He knew Martha had moved some things around, and he wanted to get things in order. There was nothing else to do with his time, and after a couple hours of lying sleepless in bed, he needed something to occupy his time.
There was a small noise, and Owen turned around to see Ianto standing on the steps, watching him.
"Thought you'd gone home," Owen said.
"I'm on my way out now."
"Right, you were with Jack, huh?"
Ianto continued down the steps. "He's asleep. I was finishing some work. Are you okay?"
He thought he saw Ianto roll his eyes. "Obviously. I meant aside from that."
Owen leaned against the counter. "There is nothing else."
Ianto put his hands in his pockets and looked at the floor. "I'm sorry."
"Nothing you could have done about it."
"Yes, well, in general." Ianto moved closer. "When you...died, I realized I'd assumed we'd talk more eventually, when things cooled down. We never did, did we?"
"It's been months. I've gotten over it."
Now that Ianto was closer, Owen could make out his face in the dim light. Ianto's eyes were glistening and his brow was tensed.
"I know," Ianto said. "But I'm sorry. I made it sound like it was something you'd done. It wasn't. I...I wasn't comfortable with myself. I don't know that what we did was healthy. I think, when you work here, it's best to be able to sleep alone."
"Well, if you get hurt now, it'll be by him, not me."
He saw Ianto swallow. "I just wanted to apologize. I never got the chance."
"Yeah, anyway, you're probably right. It was a disaster waiting to happen. But I'm not going anywhere, you know. I'm gonna remember this big confession of yours."
Ianto smiled softly. "I wanted you to know."
"Just don't make a point of it. I don't want people making confessions to me because I'm dead now. I'm a corpse, not a bloody priest."
Instead of answering, Ianto kissed him briefly on the lips.
If it was meant to be a goodbye, it was a good one. Ianto didn't even mention if Owen's lips were cold.