Disclaimer: I dont own Torchwood.
Warning: Bad language, Owen's got a filthy mouth.
A/N Massive thanks to Aelfgyfu for betaing.
Owen leaned back against his desk, looked around the Hub at his teammates and smirked as he was hit by yet another wave of Harper patented genius.
"Get your coats, ladies and Gwen, we're going to the pub."
Ianto looked blankly up at him from where he had collapsed boneless on the sofa; Tosh paused in her frantic typing to give him a look that was half reproachful and half disbelief. Gwen, however, wasn't going to settle for a look.
"Owen, we've only just got back. I think what we all need right now is a hot shower, a hot meal and bed. We can't all just go out and get pissed, we're all that stands between this planet and the Rift, we can't afford to be drunk on the job."
Owen rolled his eyes; they'd heard this speech exactly thirty seven times since Jack had buggered off a month ago, and it wasn't getting any easier to listen to. True, Gwen had managed to work out some of the pacing problems and a couple of contradictory phrases that had littered her spiel, but it sure as hell wasn't getting any more interesting.
Owen looked over at Ianto, who smiled triumphantly at him despite the fact that his entire body was limp, trying to sink into the uncomfortable, threadbare couch. Damn it. Ianto had bet that Gwen would get to forty before the first month was out— Three more times by Monday and Owen would owed him twenty quid and a week cleaning out the weevil cells.
"Come on, Gwen, one night out isn't going to kill us! Anyway, we need to celebrate."
Tosh looked up again at this. "What exactly are we celebrating Owen?"
"This is the first mission against a hostile alien intent on killing us all that we've beaten without any injuries since Jack left!" It was a rather pathetic reason to celebrate, and Owen knew it, but he could help but be relieved that for once he didn't have to patch someone up or have Ianto trying to patch him up. One severely ragged scar on the back of his leg was enough to convince him that Ianto couldn't stitch half as well as he could make coffee. But as the alternative was an overworked, underpaid NHS doctor in an unsanitary A&E, Owen was willing to suffer.
Since Jack had left everything had gotten that little bit harder: fewer people in the field, less information about what they were up against, less time off, less sleep, less food, less drink and yes, less sex. Owen did not like the new turn his life had taken, and he was determined to claw back as much of it as he could.
If that meant dragging the whole team out to a bar so that he could get drunk, then so be it.
Tosh smiled and turned to Gwen. "Owen's right, Gwen; Ianto's suit isn't even ripped or stained."
Ianto looked down at himself, startled, and ran his hands down the front of his waistcoat as if checking for holes. "She's right." He looked up at them with a joyful expression that was bordering on ecstasy, and Owen resolved that he was getting the younger man out of this Hub tonight if it killed him. If he got that excited about a bloody suit, it had been far too long since his last piss-up session.
Before Owen could say anything else, Ianto stood abruptly and tugged off his tie, throwing it onto the sofa.
"I'm with Owen."
Ianto smiled at Owen's scepticism. "I am."
"Me too," Tosh said as she swung her bag over her shoulder and came to stand beside the two men. The three of them looked at Gwen with expressions ranging from mutinous to hopeful to puppy-dog pleading.
Gwen sighed extravagantly and visibly folded. "Fine, but don't blame me when we're all too hung-over to stop the planet from being invaded."
"Don't worry, Gwen, we'll just blame Jack; as far as Torchwood One and UNIT are concerned he's still in charge." Ianto grinned as he handed Gwen her coat.
The bar Owen chose was too close to the city centre, too crowded, too loud and too warm, but Owen was grateful that Ianto seemed resolved to be good about it and not complain. After all, this was their first night out in a month and their first night out without Jack—they might actually get out of here without getting involved in a fight. Jack always managed to piss off someone's boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, friend, boss—and, on one memorable occasion—granddaughter.
Ianto led the way through the throngs of people, shoving his way towards an empty table; luckily most of the bar's patrons were dancing and there was not much competition over the few tables. Ianto selected a booth and slid into it, Tosh slipped in beside him and Gwen sat opposite with Owen opposite Tosh.
They had all changed into clean clothes. Gwen had on a sparkly top that she would never think of wearing to the office; had Tosh worn those heels at work chasing weevils, they would have led to a severely broken ankle. Owen was wearing his usual jeans and T-shirt. Except he'd applied a liberal amount of aftershave that could be smelt twenty meters away, Ianto handed stopped coughing pointedly since hey left the Hub. Ianto had changed into a pair of jeans that he usually kept for the more extreme fieldwork that was sometimes required of him and a clean blue shirt.
Owen clapped his hands and looked around at each of them expectantly until his eyes fell to rest on Ianto. "Your round, Ianto, mate."
Ianto raised an elegant eyebrow. "My round? Explain that logic to me, Owen, will you?"
"Well, back when you had no life, you never came out with us—too busy filing or cross-referencing or shagging Jack or whatever, so by my reckoning, you'll be buying me drinks till 2012."
A tense silence followed in which Gwen and Tosh exchanged worried looks and Ianto glared at Owen with such force that the doctor started to get phantom pains in his shoulder.
Then suddenly a slow smile spread on Ianto's face and he stood to get he drinks in. Gwen and Tosh smiled back at him, but the smirk did nothing but make Owen even more apprehensive. That was the kind of smile Ianto pulled when he was being especially ingenious.
Owen had seen that smile before someone had hidden every one of Jack's mirrors, making it impossible for him to groom himself sufficiently one morning and putting him in a bad mood for the rest of the day.
Owen had seen that smile on the day Tosh had broken up with a short-lived boyfriend and come into work distraught. That afternoon there was a special piece of tech in her desk that none of them had ever seen before but which played a beautiful piece of music that sounded like whale song when Tosh worked out how to open it a few hours later.
But the most infamous time Owen had seen that smile was when he had trespassed in the archives one day before the new security system had been installed and messed up some of the notes. Ianto had put him on decaf without telling him, Owen had fallen asleep at his desk every night for a week.
Owen had learnt to fear that smile and so was not too shocked when Ianto returned to the table carrying a tray that held only one pint glass. The smile was back as Ianto handed Gwen a double vodka and coke and Tosh a vodka tonic with a slice of lime. Ianto placed the pint glass at his own seat and slid into the booth.
"Yeah, they bring it over to you."
"What? They bring pints over now, do they?"
"Yeah." Ianto replied trying to cover a snigger by taking a drink of his pint, but failed miserably, spraying some of the drink over the table top.
"Here it comes!" Gwen exclaimed excitedly, laughing as she gave her hands a little clap.
Owen slowly turned his head in the direction of the bar, trying to fight down the overwhelming feeling of dread that was pressing on his stomach. He groaned.
The barman was making his way towards them, holding a silver tray in front of him reverently, like a crown. On the tray was the greatest monstrosity that Owen had ever seen in his life. There was a small dainty glass with a pink tinge to the glass sitting in the middle of the tray. Sticking out of the glass was a mixture of sparkling sticks and twisty straws. As the man came closer, Owen could see the shit-eating grin on his face. You bastard.
Owen swung around to give Ianto a filthy look. Ianto just smiled serenely at him, Owen opened his mouth to curse Ianto but was stopped when the glass was shoved under his nose and the sickeningly sweet smell of strawberries assaulted him. The rim of the glass was covered in glitter. Oh God.
Owen looked up in time to see Ianto shake the barman's hand and share a laugh with him, surreptitiously slipping him a fiver, no doubt; Owen glared daggers at the two of them.
Owen stared at the glass, as if the force of his hate and discomfort alone could make it disappear. Unfortunately, it wasn't working—the glass was still there, the drink was still bright pink, possibly poisonous and definitely disgusting. Still, there wasn't much fun in letting Ianto know that he was annoyed.
"No problem, Owen. I'll get the next round too, shall I? I do have a lot of making up to do after all."
"Naw, forget about it." Owen said as nonchalantly as he could, "Not fair, is it? I'll get the next round in."
"Whatever you think is best." Ianto said staring fixedly at Owen, waiting for him to take the first drink, daring him.
Owen lifted the drink to his lips and took a tentative sip, trying to make himself look happy rather than sickened, thinking that's disgusting. "Mmmm, that's gorgeous."
Owen grinned as the other three laughed. Jack who?
Two pints and one hideous pink drink later, Owen was at the bar, trying to signal the attention of the barmaid who was trying to deal with the entire pub's needs by herself. There were quite a lot of people around the bar at the moment and Owen was struggling to get her attention. Ianto's mate, George the barman, seemed to have disappeared, bloody typical.
Maybe I should have got Ianto to come up and bat his eyelashes at her, that'd get us served; maybe Tosh would do it, she has nice eyes—man, I've had too much to drink. God help me I'm turning into a lightweight.
Obviously the increased demands of Torchwood and his resultant forced abstinence had lowered his alcohol tolerance. Fantastic.
The barmaid finally got to him and Owen ordered his drinks, flirting lightly and giving her what he thought was a winning smile. She looked at him like he was a piece of dirt—why did this never happen to Jack? Women—and men—tended to throw themselves at Jack. In fact, in comparison to Jack's other conquests, Ianto had been, well for lack of a better word, frigid.
Owen remembered the moment when he realised that Jack and Ianto had started sleeping together, and frankly he'd been revolted, not that the two men were sleeping together, but that those two men were sleeping together.
Jack and Ianto should NOT have been having sex—after the whole stupid debacle with Ianto's cyber-girlfriend there should have been a vacancy at Torchwood and, if Jack had been fucking him beforehand he certainly shouldn't have been after.
Ianto had proven himself to be untrustworthy, conniving, calculating, too smart for his own good and emotionally damaged. All in all he shouldn't have been working at Torchwood and Jack certainly had no right to keep messing him around. God knows Ianto was fucked up enough as it was.
Plus he had revealed himself to be a very messy crier. Owen didn't want to drown when Jack finally dumped him.
He had discovered it at Christmas, just after Diane left him. He'd come into work to try and take his mind off it despite Jack's rather strict instructions to stay at home and enjoy Christmas unless something big came up.
Owen had moved to the autopsy bay to test some of the fluids that they had removed from a sick weevil when he heard Ianto's voice coming from Jack's office. Stupid little lap-dog, coming in on Christmas, no life, of course .Jumping at Jack's beck and call. Stupid fucking teaboy.
Owen shouted towards the office, "Ianto! Get me a coffee!"
Silence followed that, then a series of bangs and a hastily whispered conversation that Owen couldn't hear, so he started up the steps to see what was going on. Jack emerged from his office, shirt untucked, braces hanging loosely at his sides.
"Owen," He greeted; his tight, clipped tone belied his beaming smile. "To what do we owe this pleasure?"
"What?" Jack's face fell, and for a second he looked nervous.
"Why do you want me to leave, what are you doing?" Owen pushed past Jack towards the office, shrugging off the restraining hand that Jack placed on his arm.
Owen barged into the office and saw Ianto sitting on the floor, papers spread out over the floor.
"What are you doing?"
Ianto looked up at him with flushed cheeks and innocent eyes. "Taxes."
Jack appeared behind Owen, "Taxes."
"Yeah, right, whatever, I'm going home."
With that he turned and left the office, marched through the Hub and out into the cool afternoon air. It hit him in a flash.
Ianto's top button was opened.
Fuck me, they're shagging.
Owen laughed slightly at the memory; he'd underestimated Ianto. Owen had expected tears and rage and sulking when Jack left, but Ianto had just got on with it. Become better really, more fun, less uptight—to a small extent—and a much more confident field agent. Owen was more than happy to have Ianto at his back now.
The barmaid came back with his drinks, without a tray, and Owen cursed, four drinks, two hands, you don't have to be a genius, although I am, to work out that you need a tray. He turned to call her back but she was already at the other side of the bar.
Owen huffed in annoyance and turned to gesture to Ianto to come and give him a hand. He waved wildly at the younger man, but Ianto didn't look up from the conversation he was having with Tosh, no doubt about something dull, computers or filing or something.
The alcohol had dulled his coordination, though, and he managed to whack someone in the chest, hard. "Sorry, mate." Owen said without looking, still trying to get Ianto's attention.
Suddenly a hand was balled in the front of his shirt and his back was slammed rather forcibly into the bar, Owen's left arm shot back to balance himself and caused the glasses behind him to fall to the ground and shatter loudly.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" Owen snarled, shoving the man's hands away from him a force that was at odds with his wiry frame.
"I was about to ask you the same thing, mate."
"I'm not your mate, princess, so why don't you just fuck off with your girlfriend and leave me alone."
Owen realised that this probably wasn't the best thing to say to a six foot three guy who obviously played a lot of rugby and his equally huge mate who could probably have eaten Owen if he skipped lunch—at about the same time as a meaty fist smashed into his jaw.
Owen smacked his head against the bar as he fell and braced himself for the kick to the ribs that he was sure would follow. It didn't materialise; instead he heard a calm Welsh voice above him, a voice that had irritated, baited and humiliated him more times than he cared to remember. At this moment Owen finally understood what Jack had always said about beautiful Welsh vowels.
"Is there a problem here?" Ianto said. Owen could see him standing above him, between him and the two chavtastics who were glaring at the archivist.
"Yeah, we've a problem, that wanker just spilt my drink."
"Well, I'm sure we can get you another one."
"That's not the point, mate, it's the principle of the thing. So get out of my way or I'll go through you." The chav had a hand on Ianto's arm.
"I don't think so, mate." Ianto said, picking up the hand like it was a particularly disgusting bug and letting it go with distain. Owen couldn't see Ianto's face but assumed he was wearing that mocking half-smile he was so fond of.
The chav's face froze in a look of confused bewilderment, as if no one had ever said that to him before, for about two seconds, then he pulled back his right fist and swung it for Ianto's nose.
Fortunately Ianto spent most of his time these days dodging aliens and hadn't been drinking as quickly as Owen, so he managed to duck the blow and land a punch of his own into the man's stomach. The thug doubled up, his breath rushing out in a massive whoosh.
Owen leapt to his feet as Ianto took a step back, unwilling to continue hitting a man who could barely straighten up.
"Look, mate, I'll buy you another drink, just leave it, all right?" Owen offered.
"I don't think so, you smarmy little bastard; I'm going to wipe that smirk right off this sheep-shagging wanker's face."
Owen would have laughed if he wasn't so angry: it was perfectly all right for him to call Ianto, or Gwen, or the entire population of Wales sheep-shaggers if he felt like it. But he had earned that right, every time he stitched up a weevil claw mark on Ianto's side, or listened to Gwen fretting about taking over control of Torchwood, or saved the entire fucking world. This Obi Wan Kenobi skobie hadn't earned the right.
Owen didn't even look at Ianto before he flew past him with a yell, launching himself at the chav, fists flying. Within the flurry of fists and kicks and a surprising amount of hair pulling on both sides, Owen was dimly aware that Ianto had engaged the other man and that somewhere along the way a couple of the chav's friends had come to provide back-up. Fucking Neanderthals, always travel in packs.
Owen took a punch high on his cheekbone and fell back, knocking over a few of the other patrons as he did so. It took him out of the fight slightly and gave him a chance to assess the situation.
Ianto—obsessive compulsive, pole shoved up his arse so far he could barely bend Ianto—was trading blows with two of the men, using some dirty tactics that Owen had no doubt he had learned from Jack.
He seemed to be holding his own quite well; there was some blood on his face but he was grinning in an almost feral way. Tosh had told Owen after the cannibals that Ianto was confused by the rush they got off the adrenaline high, but it looked like they'd finally got their archivist well and truly hooked.
The man Owen had just been fighting was lying on the ground, Tosh bent over him spraying what was either mace or weevil spray into his face and yelling at him in a mixture of English and Japanese.
The fourth man currently had Gwen Cooper on his back. Gwen had her arms wrapped around the man's neck and was screaming violently, the gap in her teeth more noticeable than ever and her dark hair swinging madly around as the man tried to shake her off.
Owen noticed Tosh was now heading towards Gwen to help her out, mace at the ready, so he went to give Ianto a hand. The younger man had just floored the fat man with a well-placed hook and was turning to meet the second man when the rugby guy tackled him to the ground.
Owen reached them just as the guy had Ianto pinned and was about to deliver a blow to Ianto's ribs; he jumped and caught the man high on his chest, sending the two of them sprawling and giving Ianto a chance to get his breath back. Owen was struggling to his feet, preparing for his next assault, when Tosh tottered over in her heels and quickly sprayed the guy with mace.
Owen sat back on his heels and squinted up at her. "Thanks Tosh."
Tosh gave him a shy but happy smile. "You're welcome, Owen."
Gwen raced over to them, pulling Ianto with her. "The bouncers are on their way; we'd better get out of here before they call the police."
Owen frowned at her, "You can get us out of it anyway, PC Cooper; what's the problem?"
Ianto shook his head violently. "No no no no no, too much paperwork." A slow grin spread across his face that Owen couldn't help but return.
Tosh took Owen's arm and started to drag him towards the exit, which was now unguarded as all the bouncers were dealing with the four men at the bar. Owen craned his neck back and saw that Gwen was pulling Ianto along in a similar manner; Ianto kept glancing behind him, back towards the bar.
They stumbled out into the frigid night air, all of them swaying a bit as the cool air made them feel more intoxicated than the dull warmth of the pub. Gwen started off at a fast pace, practically dragging Ianto with her, and glared back at Tosh and Owen, urging them to follow.
Owen looked at Tosh and shrugged, pulling a face. Tosh giggled and Owen felt warmer despite the chill air. Ianto looked back to see what they were laughing at and made a face like a wounded puppy when Gwen tugged him and made him stumble.
Gwen calmed down once they were a couple of streets away from the pub and nearer to the Hub. She relaxed her death grip on Ianto's arm and even apologised when he rubbed it tentatively.
"I take it we're going to the Hub then," Ianto said dryly.
"I guess so," Gwen said with a small laugh; "I didn't really think about it."
"It's as good as anywhere." Owen said as he rubbed some of the blood off his forehead, clearing his vision a bit.
They made it to the bay and sat on a bench looking out over the sea in silence.
"So this is Torchwood then, getting into bar fights and bleeding all over Cardiff like hooligans." Gwen didn't sound angry, just resigned.
"Sounds like Torchwood to me." Owen offered.
"Jack would be ashamed." Gwen sighed.
"Jack would be proud." Ianto's voice was muffled as he was using his sleeve to stem the blood flowing from his nose.
"Proud of what?" Gwen sounded incredulous.
"We fought for each other, instead of with each other for once; it makes a nice change." Tosh said, and Owen could hear the grin in her voice.
"Jack would have been the first one to get sucked into that fight and you know it, Gwen." Owen reasoned.
"But Jack's gone."
Owen sighed at how tired Ianto's voice sounded; still, at least he wasn't crying…yet. Owen felt Tosh shift as she moved a hand up to rest on Ianto's shoulder.
"Yeah, mate, he's gone."
"Well, we'd best just get on with it then, hadn't we?"
They sat quietly for a while, contemplating Ianto's words and watching the lights of the city dance across the black expanse of water in front of them. After a half hour just sitting, Owen's hands were numb with cold and Tosh was shivering against his leg; against his other leg Ianto was a solid pillar of warmth. He felt Ianto's stuttering inhale of frosty air before he stood to face them.
"Anyone up for a coffee?"
Owen looked up at Ianto, standing in the orange glow of the streetlamp, blood on his face and a nasty bruise forming on his cheek, tall and unbowed, a small hopeful look on his face. Owen had the feeling that he was being asked more than if he wanted a cappuccino. He stood.
Ianto gave him a grateful smile and turned back to the girls.
Tosh stood stiffly. "Nothing better to do, might as well."
The three of them turned to Gwen who was looking up at them with a scrutinising expression; after a moment her face cleared and she gave a tentative grin. "How can I resist an offer like that, Ianto?"
"You can't," Owen said.
"No one ever does," Tosh added.
Ianto grinned and linked arms with Tosh and Gwen, they looked at Owen expectantly and he scowled and then opted in favour of linking with Tosh, thinking Gwen's elbows are too bony.
As they walked arm in arm back to the Hub, Owen ignored the knowing look that Ianto shot his way; sometimes that man knew too bloody much for his own good.