Summary: Owen gripped his stone wrist. Clearly he was slipping. Xanatos disagrees. Sequel to Could Have Been Worse.
Rated for very mild swearing.
No real Spoilers except for CHBW which you need to read first. Not a suggestion this time, because this won't make sense without it.
A/N: For VelleVette who made me fanart of Ten Minutes Past Noon. She wanted a direct link to Could Have Been Worse dealing with appropriate distractions for Alex and a destroying the evidence scene. Here it is.
Takes place several hours after the events of CHBW. Got the title from the song from Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog by the same name. Warning, I got a bit silly with it toward the end.
David Xanatos was distressingly easy to distract. Just point the man toward his wife or infant son and the man was thoroughly lost for a minimum of twenty minutes (two hours tops). Alexander had gotten that trait from his father.
Bubbles were a simple but exciting trick and when Puck had realized he needed something harmless to teach the baby to do, that had been the first thing that had come to mind. The problem with bubbles though, once you got the basic idea, it was incredibly easy to teach. And once lessons were over… there would be no more need for Puck. So he taught Alex all the variations of bubbles that he could think of and, being Puck, there were a lot of variations.
Oh the colors. By the time he was done he'd taught Alex the art of never-popping bubbles in every color, shade and pattern. There were bubbles the shade of Fox's hair, bubbles the shade of Brooklyn's skin. Bubbles so big Alex could – and did – sit in comfortably, bubbles smaller than the tip of a sharpened pencil. Pink, blue, green (Alex's newest favorite color), purple with white stripes, white with orange spots, argyle and tartan. Things were getting rather psychedelic.
The problem with never-popping bubbles was, like the name implied, they never popped. Not unless you made a special effort. Getting Alex to pop his new creations was difficult. So was getting him to stop making them. The nursery was so full by the time Puck had shown Alex the fun of popping bubbles that it was getting really cramped.
Oh well, it had been a blast. The trickster laughed as Alex made his concentrating face and popped the last, the biggest, bubble. But now, a voice reminded him (a voice with glasses and a stern look), now was time for paperwork. For meetings and project reports. Puck didn't want to go.
When Fox decided it was time to check on her son and his caretaker, the room was cleared of bubbles and Alex was being entertained by his guardian who was hanging upside down above the baby, making faces. Fox noticed how the fae's face fell in disappointment when he first spotted her. Quickly the disappointment was replaced by a bright, playful smile and it was disconcerting how she couldn't tell if it was real or not.
"Well hello there, M'lady," and suddenly he was flying across the room at her, his movements flowing and natural and just… right. She wondered how difficult it was for him to be Owen, always calm and still. "And what can we do for you this fine evening?"
"It's time for bed," she smiled and pretended not to see the down turn of Pucks lips. She looked past him to the baby waving his little arms in the air. "I hope you had a good time," her voice was pitched for Alex, playful and cooing, though the question was meant for the other as well. With twist and a graceful arc Puck had flown back to Alex and had sat on the ground, pulling the baby into his lap.
"Oh we had a marvelous time! Didn't we my prince?" Fox didn't like it when Puck – and occasionally Owen – called Alex a prince. She knew from anyone else it would be a reference to the luxury in which the family lived, or a simple term of endearment but from Puck it was a reminder of her mother.
She was distracted from those thoughts from Puck, who chose that moment to grin at her.
"We've learned a new trick, haven't we Alex?" the infant waved excitedly. Puck must have seen the apprehension on her face, because he made a calming gesture. "You'll like this one, I promise."
She doubted it. Fox had become a little phobic of magic over the course of her relationship with David, a lot of things tended to go wrong, and nearly losing her child to a magical monster from a Shakespeare play made it worse. But Puck insisted. Taking Alex's hands in his own, the fae clapped the boy's hands together.
"One… Two… Three!" there was a pause where nothing happened and then the room exploded with light. Or that's how it seemed to Fox. She blinked, shading her eyes and found herself staring at a rainbow. In the nursery. She blinked again. "Fancy isn't it? And no rain required."
It was pretty and harmless and she had to admit, yeah, she liked this one. After a moment the rainbow shimmered, the brighter more vibrant than life colors started to fade and then it was gone.
"It was beautiful," she felt that the praise was earned, and even if it wasn't, she was pretty sure that Puck had been silently asking for it with the display. The fae grinned at her and Fox was struck by how young he sometimes looked. It was easy to forget that Puck wasn't a child himself.
Alex was asleep in his pram, still and peaceful, when Fox finally returned her attention to the lingering fairy.
"You've rearranged that shelf twice," she noted softly. Puck looked up at her guiltily from where he was hanging in the air, a baby book in his hand. "Why are you stalling?" It was an innocent enough question, usually when the Puck's work was finished he was swiftly and efficiently replaced by Xanatos' majordomo.
"I'm just… stretching a bit," he sounded hesitant, a little sad and Fox realized how long it had been since Puck had been out and about. He straightened his shoulders and his face took on an uncharacteristically serious look. "But you're right, procrastination helps nothing," he frowned slightly and she couldn't blame him; those words didn't sound quite right coming from his mouth. "What I meant is really, it's time I took a nap," and then he was loose and flowing and floating across the room again, the moment had passed. "Just to warn you though, the kid might uh… flood the room with bubbles," he tried for an apologetic smile.
"He what?" But Puck was gone. No flash or ceremony this time, the fae had simply stopped being there. Owen wasn't there either, which wasn't uncommon; Puck often disappeared from one place only for Owen to appear in another and vice versa. She used to think it was to keep up the guise that they were different entities, but now she realized that it was just a clever way for him to get out of uncomfortable situations. She looked down and the sleeping infant and narrowed her eyes. "That had better have been a joke."
It was well past the time most Xanatos employees had already gone home for the day when Owen gathered the files from his office and decided it was time to return to his apartment. He was debating whether or not it would look odd if he took the stairs (could he convince everyone that he was on a health kick? Probably not, that would involve talking to people casually and surely someone would find THAT was odd.), when he realized that he'd never gotten around to gathering the security tapes from the elevators.
It would be easy to make it look like whatever had affected the elevators had also affected the security camera. Surely if someone had already checked the video (unlikely, there had been too many people walking on eggshells around him and trying to fix the problem to be bothered with that sort of thing) there would have been gossip by now. Owen wasn't 'in the loop' but it wasn't exactly easy to keep secrets from the man. No, no one had looked yet and there was plenty of time for him to detour and deal with that little inconvenience without rushing.
"You're claustrophobic," it wasn't a question. Owen might have winced but the room was dimly lit and if he did, Xanatos couldn't see it. On the screen in front of the man was a miniature of Owen and Miss Hopkins sitting on the floor of the elevator. The angle and red lighting weren't particularly flattering and Owen noted how undignified and rumpled he looked, splayed out on the elevator floor. "I didn't know that Owen," David Xanatos finally looked away from the screen, he was frowning in displeasure. He didn't like not knowing things. Owen didn't shrug, because he was too damn dignified for that, but he did nod. "You've never had a problem with elevators before," he paused and a look of worry crossed his face. "I never noticed-"
"It's very mild sir," Owen interrupted before the other man could start blaming himself for something. It wasn't something that Xanatos made a habit of, but if anything undesirable happened to or around Alex, Fox or Owen that he couldn't control, David tended to get mad at himself. "I reacted poorly do to the circumstances, not the small space."
"I didn't know, Owen," Xantos didn't repeat himself needlessly, which meant that this was a lead up to something else. Owen took the other chair and angled it toward his boss before sitting. "It seems there's a lot I don't know about you."
It was an invitation; gentle, coaxing, and easily refused. Like he was a wild animal that needed to be babied. Owen made himself stay calm, made his face stay impassive.
"What would you like to know?" It would be a short conversation. Owen was just what he looked, and efficient business man, cold, calculating and utterly boring. It was what he was supposed to be, it was what he'd been designed to be. Xanatos spread his hands.
"I thought I knew everything already," he said slowly. Owen opened his mouth but Xanatos kept going. "I don't think you realize how difficult this is for me, Owen. I thought I already knew everything," Owen blinked. "I have your personnel file memorized. I know what degrees you claim to have earned, I know what schools you claim to have gone to. I know where you claim to come from, I know what you claim happened to separate you from the family you claim to have. I know that all of that is a fabrication and I know why," Owen's eyes darted to the camera (there were cameras in every public area of the building except for the castle above which had its own security set up) and Xanatos made a dismissive gesture. "I turned it off."
Of course he had. He wasn't a foolish man and he'd clearly planned for this conversation. A pity that Owen hadn't had as much foresight. The dark haired man was watching him closely, examining his expression, the movement of his eyes, the speed of his breath.
"Nothing in all of the information I've ever gathered on you or him suggests claustrophobia. Is it new?" Owen looked down at his lap where his flesh and blood hand was gripping his stone one. Xanatos nodded. "Why? A new part of his game?" the game was a casual reference to the fact that Puck had developed Owen for fun and had only continued the charade because Xanatos had wanted Owen more than he'd wanted a catch free wish. Owen shook his head. No. This had not been fun for him. Puck had been pushing to be free, but he hadn't been laughing. "Then what is this?"
"I…" Owen clenched his jaw. "I don't know. I was upset," he'd been afraid but he didn't need to say that out loud. He thought about everything else that had happened and redirected his attention to that. "It was a bad day and appearances were the last thing on my mind. It won't happen again sir," he looked up at last and Xanatos was frowning at him.
"I've known you for ten years, you've never had a bad day."
"I had one today," he said heatedly. "That stupid-" he caught himself and shut his mouth with a click of his teeth. Xanatos stared.
"Owen?" the blond man pushed his glasses out of the way and dug the heel of his hand into his eye. "That wasn't Puck," not a question.
"Being mad at the coffee girl wasn't Puck either," Owen whispered. "I actively craved chocolate at lunch and that wasn't Puck," he straightened his glasses and looked at the man across from him. "She," he pointed at the screen behind the other man to the frozen scene, Lynn smiling at a disgruntled Owen "is very attractive, and not Puck's type."
Xanatos was nodding slowly. Owen looked down at his hands again. He gripped his stone wrist, squeezed as tightly as he could and felt nothing.
"I'm tired," he whispered, staring at the cold stone that was his left arm. He gave up on what little control he had over himself and let his shoulders slump. "I'm hungry, and sometimes I'm even bored. I don't know what this is," he looked up a little shyly, worried about what he would see on the other man's face. "It's… frightening."
"Owen," Xanatos almost sounded relieved, a smile on his face that Owen felt was totally inappropriate. He leaned forward and put a warm hand on the blond man's shoulder. "It's called living," his lips quirked at one corner. "Welcome to the human race."
Surely that little heart to heart filled their quota for the month, Owen thought mildly as he and Xanatos walked down the hall that would, eventually, lead them to the elevator that would take them the rest of the way up to the Eyrie Building.
"Puck probably wasn't expecting to play double agent for so long," Xanatos was remarking. Owen nodded. "In any case the creator didn't expect the creation to gain life of its own," Owen snorted mildly because the situation seemed to call for it and he wanted to know what it would be like. He decided it was the sort of thing he would limit to his private exchanges with Xanatos. "Out of curiosity, the video from your office shows you doing something to your tie and talking but the phone wasn't on…" Xanatos gave Owen a weird look. Owen didn't blush because he decided that was something he wasn't going to indulge in much, ever. It surprised him not at all that Xanatos had been looking at the video from Owen's office, the man had somewhat voyeuristic tendencies that he'd gotten used to long ago.
"There was a coffee stain on my tie, sir, as you well know," really, what else would he have been doing? And this wasn't the first time Owen had had to retire to his office to deal with stained clothing. Usually it was blood or chemicals though.
"Yes Owen, but you don't typically talk to yourself. What were you saying?" he was fishing to see if this was a result of Owen's new found humanity or if it was something to be concerned about.
" 'Out damn spot'," he deadpanned with as straight a face as he could manage (so, pretty straight). Xanatos came to a halt, staring for a long moment as Owen passed him before a bark of laughter broke its way out of his throat. Owen allowed himself an amused smile.
A/N: I think it's about time that I explained my Puck/Owen theory, in case any of you are confused (I kept myself up several nights in a row sorting this out). In the beginning Puck created Owen as a mask or a costume with no real thoughts or feelings. Then as time went on, when Puck moved on to work for Xanatos it would have been easier to give Owen a little spark of life; a little autonomy. You know, to do all the boring stuff and Puck could jump in when things got interesting (Elisa wants to check out the roof in the first episode? Against policy and Xanatos didn't seem happy about it but Puck thought it'd be hilarious). … And then Puck is stripped of his power except when around Alex and now Owen can't just stop being Owen when he gets home at night. He has to go home and eat dinner and shower and put on pajamas and go to bed. And yes, he's very dedicated to his work and all but there would have to be times when he wasn't needed. Fox and David out to dinner, Lexington looking after Alex, Owen would have a lot of time to slowly develop a personality. Preferences. Develop a taste in books.
So yeah. I literally think of this being a case of Split Personality Disorder and whenever there's a major 'slip'- Owen quoting Puck's lines from Shakespeare, Puck talking about responsibility or taking something seriously – it's a case of the one personality bleeding into the other.