This story takes place after Sleeper.
"Oi, Jones!" Owen stomped up the stairs from the medical bay, ignoring the glare both Tosh and Gwen sent his way. He smirked at them instead; it was sickening how protective they were of Ianto sometimes. Owen had learned on his own not to bellow for coffee or pastries whenever he wanted them, and it hadn't taken the girls to teach him the lesson; Ianto was well able to defend himself. Owen should have realized that the man who had shot him would have no qualms whatsoever about giving him warmed up Weevil piss as a cup of tea and serving it without batting an eye while Owen gagged and spit it out. It had been the single most disgusting thing that had happened to him during Jack's absence, but strangely enough, it had also firmly cemented his respect for the archivist, and their continuing antics had developed into a unique friendship.
Ianto was shutting down his station as Owen made it upstairs, which was surprising. Even though Jack had told them to go home early, Ianto usually didn't leave unless they dragged him out. "You're actually leaving this place when the boss says!" Owen exclaimed, clapping Ianto on the back. "Where are we off to then? Dockside? Celtic Dragon? The Red and Black?" He rattled off the pubs they had frequented the most after Jack had left them, bonding over their mutual sense of guilt, loss, and shame while trying to lose themselves in a cold drink or a warm body.
"Oh," said Ianto, turning toward Owen with a frown. "I'm afraid I can't tonight, Owen."
Now it was Owen's turn to frown. It was the third time Ianto had begged off since Jack had returned a month ago. Although he hated to admit it, Owen missed their boys' nights out. Turned out Ianto was a decent bloke with a dark sense of humor that Owen had come to appreciate, and they had always pulled a fair number of birds, even if Ianto had rarely left with one of them.
"Ianto, that's three times in a row now. Isn't your wrist getting tired?" Ianto rolled his eyes.
"Not all of us need a nameless shag every weekend to function the rest of the week, Owen."
"Then just come out for a pint or two, mate. You're working too hard again."
Which was how it had all started: Jack had swanned off with his Doctor, leaving the rest of them to pick up the pieces. Literally. The Hub had fallen down around them when the Rift had opened, and Ianto had seemed determined to rebuild it by hand, by himself. Although it was fairly obvious he was working out his grief over Jack's runner (because they'd figured that out fast enough, given the CCTV footage of him literally running across the Plass toward a large blue police box), Owen had let the Welshman work it out in his own way, until Ianto had started showing signs of extreme fatigue, depression, and irritability. He'd become a liability in the field and they had needed him too badly. So when Owen had offered Ianto a sleeping aid or a night at the pub, he had been slightly surprised when the man had picked the pub.
They'd walked to the Dockside and were three sheets to the wind before the night had really picked up. They'd laughed, they'd talked, they'd skirted on the edge of tears (drunken tears, of course, which didn't count), and they'd flirted outrageously with anyone and everyone they could. Owen had been shocked to see the teaboy in such a different light, suave and sophisticated even with enough pints in him that he should have been a blathering idiot. Owen couldn't remember if Ianto had scored that first night, but he did remember how much more relaxed Ianto had been after the hangover had cleared.
And so it became a tradition of sorts, especially after a bad week: hit the pub, put down some pints, pull a pretty girl, repeat.
Only now Jack was back, and for some reason they were all working harder than ever, and Owen and Ianto hadn't been out in weeks. What the hell was going on? Owen needed a break, and he wanted to vent with Ianto over the mysterious return of their equally mysterious boss. Certainly Ianto must need to as well, given his reaction to Jack's disappearance so many months ago. Not to mention it had been a long week, capped off by an emotional case involving alien sleeper agents that had required days of cleanup.
"Look," Ianto sighed, running a hand through his hair. "I'd love to go, I really would. But I already have plans."
"With your right hand? Or going with the left tonight?" Owen replied, throwing a wink at Tosh, who looked away in embarrassment.
"I have a date," Ianto replied evenly.
"A date?" Owen repeated, not quite understanding. When did Torchwood do dates?
"You know, that thing where two people go out to dinner, talk, maybe catch a movie before one invites the other up for a drink to see where things go." He stopped as his gaze went distant. "I should pick up something to drink." Shaking himself, Ianto offered Owen a sincerely apologetic look. "Sorry, but maybe another night?"
"Yeah, whatever." Owen waved him off, still slightly surprised that Ianto had a date. "Maybe I'll see if Jack's not busy on a rooftop tonight. Get him to give up something about that damn four month sabbatical of his."
A funny look passed over Ianto's face. "Good luck with that. See you tomorrow. Good night Tosh, Gwen."
"Have a good time, Ianto!" Tosh called. Owen glared at the man's retreating back. Gwen glanced up from her phone, confused.
"Where's he going again?"
"Ianto has a date," Tosh replied, grinning happily. Owen groaned. Gwen frowned.
"Ianto has a date?" she asked. "Like, with a girl?"
"That's usually how it works," Owen replied. "Although you never know around here."
Gwen still looked confused.
"You should be happy for him, Owen," Tosh reprimanded. She took off her glasses and twisted her chair around to face them. "It's going on a year since Canary Wharf and what happened to Lisa. He deserves to move on and find someone special." Gwen nodded in agreement.
Owen rolled his eyes. "He just needs a good shag."
"Probably," Tosh agreed to his surprise. "But there's no reason why it can't include dinner and a movie. Why it can't develop into something more."
Owen stared at her.
"You're just upset because he stood you up for a girl," she mock-whispered, which caused Gwen to giggle.
"Is he seeing someone then?" she asked. "Why didn't he say anything?"
"I can't imagine why," Owen drawled. "What with you two banging on about everyone's personal lives all the time."
"We're just curious," Tosh replied, turning back to her computers.
"You're a bunch of gossips, that's what you are. At least let the bloke enjoy one date before you hound him for all the sordid details."
"We won't hound him," said Gwen. "Right, Tosh?"
"Gently press," Tosh laughed. "Nothing more."
Owen threw up his hands and headed toward Jack's office. "Harkness! You want to hit the Dockside tonight or have you got another roof to—" He stopped as Jack came out of his office, dressed in a pair of khaki trousers and white undershirt and running a towel through his damp hair.
"What're you up to?" Owen asked suspiciously. Jack grinned.
"Ever heard of a shower, Owen? You should try it—hot, wet, and steamy." He waggled his eyebrows, and Owen groaned.
"God, Jack, how can you turn a shower into something so dirty I might never wash again?"
"It's a gift," Jack winked. "What's up? I heard you holler?"
"I'm heading to the Dockside for a pint. Want to shoot a game of pool or something?"
"I thought you only let Ianto clean you out at the tables," Jack teased. Owen pulled on a light jacket and stuffed his hands into the pockets.
"Yeah, well, teaboy has big plans tonight, so are you coming or not?"
"I don't know," Jack mused. "I do love being your second choice, after all."
Tosh and Gwen laughed behind him. "He's just sore Ianto left him for a girl," Gwen called. Jack gave them a lopsided grin.
"He did, did he?" Jack asked. "Is that what he said?"
"He said he had a date tonight," replied Tosh. She started to shut down her systems and pack up her stuff. "Dinner, movie, drinks after—that sort of thing. Sounds perfect. He deserves it."
Gwen hitched her arm through Tosh's elbow. "Rhys is out tonight, why don't we do dinner and a movie?" Tosh gave her a surprised look, and Gwen laughed. "All of us. So we don't begrudge Ianto his own date."
"God Gwen, I didn't even do group dates in primary school." Owen made a retching sound to emphasis his point.
"Think of it as team building, then," Gwen replied. "Come on, we can catch the new Incredible Hulk film."
"We could write it off as training for the next time a large, angry green alien attacks," Tosh suggested, and Jack grinned.
"As much as I'd like to join you in admiring Edward Norton without a shirt, I'm afraid I have to pass. You kids have fun, though." He turned back toward his office, whistling to himself.
"Jack?" called Gwen. "What's wrong? Why aren't you joining us?"
Jack turned, hands in his pockets and a grin on his face. "I have plans."
"That's what Ianto said," Owen muttered. "The two least likely suddenly have the busiest social lives of us all."
"You're not really going to go stand on a roof, are you?" asked Gwen, and Jack pretended to narrow his eyes and growl at her.
"No, no roof tonight. I happen to have a date," he said, trying to sound casual, even adding a shrug, but Owen could tell it was fake. Jack was crowing inside, and Tosh called him on it.
"Another date!" she exclaimed, and Jack grinned stupidly as Tosh clapped her hands together like a sixteen-year-old girl. "But that's wonderful, Jack! What are you doing?"
Owen snorted to himself; he would have asked Jack who he was doing.
"Nice dinner, maybe catch a movie before heading back to his place. I'm hoping for an invitation upstairs—you know, have a drink, see where it goes." He smiled to himself as if remembering something, then grinned broadly at the rest of them, obviously excited, and Owen couldn't help but shake his head. It was so unlike Jack, to not only be going on a date, but to actually be talking about it. The man kept his private life locked up tighter than the secure vaults; only Ianto offered less personal information. Gwen interrupted his thoughts, however.
"You're seeing a man?" she asked, and to her credit, she managed to keep her tone fairly steady, but Owen knew she was still surprised. It was no secret that Gwen fancied their captain, in spite of all her talk about Rhys Williams, not to mention the antagonistic confrontations she had with Jack. Owen couldn't blame her, really. He'd almost developed a crush on the man himself when he'd first started at Torchwood. Jack just had that affect on people until you shook it off and moved on with reality. Tosh looked up to Jack, and Ianto…well, who knew what the hell was going on there. Owen hadn't pulled any information from the Welshman about his relationship with Jack, no matter how many times he had brought it up under the influence of several pints of Brains. Gwen, though…Gwen had just had a tiny little bubble in her fantasy world burst apart, and Owen couldn't help but snort.
"You're surprised because?" he asked pointedly. Jack just stood against the doorway, smiling placidly. For some reason, the look on Jack's face reminded Owen of Ianto, and he started thinking about Ianto's plans that night…
"I'm…I'm not," Gwen stuttered, blushing furiously. "It's great. Have a good time, Jack." She turned to Tosh. "Still want to ogle Edward Norton?"
"Why not?" Tosh laughed. "It's as close to a real date as I've come in months."
"Owen, are you coming?" Gwen called as they bounded down toward the cog wheel door.
Owen hesitated, not entirely sure he wanted to put himself through this. He could just go out on his own, maybe head closer to the university for some variety. There was no doubt in his mind the two women would spend most of the night nattering on about Jack's date with a man, and Ianto's date with whomever he was seeing, and Owen was sure it would be as close to torture as humanly possible. He idly wondered where Ianto was going, and if he and Jack might run into one another on their dates. He pictured the awkwardness, Ianto all stuttering nerves as he introduced his date to Jack and Jack introduced his date to Ianto. Or maybe they'd end up at the same movie…
"Come on, Owen!" called Tosh. "We can go back to my place after and paint our nails and talk about boys!"
Owen shot a wide-eyed look at Jack, who simply raised an eyebrow as if he knew exactly what Owen was thinking. But it wasn't possible, was it? Ianto was going on a date. Jack was going on a date. Dinner, a movie, a drink afterwards…
Coincidence? Owen shook his head. It had to be. No way Ianto Jones had snagged an actual date with Jack Harkness. It was as likely as a sudden outbreak of Itraxian flu. Ianto may have snogged the boss before Jack had left them—hell, they had probably shagged, knowing Jack—but that didn't mean they were dating. Ianto had almost destroyed the Hub to save his half-converted girlfriend, and Jack had then shot that girlfriend after holding a gun to Ianto's head. Besides, Jack didn't date, as far as they knew. He was like Owen, heading out for a pull when he needed a warm body for quick release. Jack didn't do hearts and flowers and relationships, and certainly not with a straight man who'd once wished him dead.
"Bloody Torchwood," Owen muttered to himself. Because it was just twisted enough to be possible. The two men certainly flirted enough. Ianto was the only one of them beside Gwen to consistently call Jack out, but Jack actually listened to Ianto, as opposed to butting heads every time Gwen opened her mouth. Then there was the thing with the coat, and Jack's leering comments about Ianto's suits, and the looks they'd exchange over coffee…
Jack was watching Owen closely, as if to see whether he was going to actually say anything. By the door, Gwen and Tosh were calling his name again, entreating him to join them. Owen let his head fall as he took a deep breath. As much as he wanted to make a crack about it, he couldn't. Ianto was his friend, and Jack was his boss. And while that might not have stopped him six months ago, things were different now, for all of them.
If Jack was going out with Ianto, Owen might as well go out with Gwen and Tosh. Keep it all in the team. But first he wanted to make sure of one thing.
He nodded at the girls. "I'll be right there," he said. "I'll meet you upstairs."
They linked arms, giggled, and left. Owen joined Jack by his office, stopping a few feet away and crossing his arms over his chest.
"You sure you know what you're doing?" he asked, direct and without apology.
Jack's eyes widened for just a moment. "I usually do," he replied, the guarded tone to his voice an unspoken warning.
"I not sure you do, this time," said Owen, watching Jack closely and offering his own warning. "You better be careful."
"I—" started Jack, but Owen held up his hand.
"Don't hurt him," he said, making his meaning clear.
Jack nodded seriously. "I'll be careful."
"Tell him that I'm taking him out for a beer next time. He doesn't get to dump his mates just because you flitted back into our lives and swept him off his feet."
"I'll tell him," said Jack. "But I don't know about sweeping off his feet. I'm still trying."
Owen studied him, taking in the earnest expression on Jack's face, the honest look in his eyes. He'd never known Jack to have a serious relationship outside the Hub, but maybe he had changed in more ways than they knew while he had been away with his Doctor. Owen almost bit his tongue, but his curiosity and concern (though he would never, ever admit it) got the better of him.
"Are you trying to bed him or looking for something more?"
He'd crossed the line; Jack folded his arms over his chest, glancing away until he turned back with a defensive look on his face.
"In my experience, one often leads to the other."
Owen raised an eyebrow at that. "So do you want to shag him on the off chance it grows into more? Because I don't know if he works like that." In fact, he had no idea, but he could make an educated guess after working and drinking with the Welshman for almost a year.
"I was hoping for the other way around," said Jack, his voice quiet. "I want to do this right, Owen."
"So miracles do happen," Owen replied sarcastically. Now Jack was defensive and annoyed.
"Look, I don't need your approval, your consent, or your judgment. Frankly, it's none of your business."
That was when Owen knew Jack was serious. He grew defensive when he felt honestly wronged, and right now Jack was offended that Owen thought so shallowly of him, which meant that Jack was probably telling the truth about his intentions. Yet again Owen wasn't sure what to think about that, but Jack was right: it was not his place to judge.
"You're right, it's not. But I've grown fond of our teaboy, Jack, so do right by him or you'll have me to answer to." He paused and offered a wolfish grin. "And Tosh and Gwen, because if you really mess up, I'm telling them."
Jack stared at him for a long moment before throwing his head back and laughing. "I take back what I said about needing bigger balls, Owen. You've got quite a pair, don't you?"
"Damn right I do," Owen retorted. "Not that you'll ever see them. Go on, get dressed. Before this evolves into something even more awkward and embarrassing."
"Like a back-slapping, manly hug?" suggested Jack, raising his eyebrows.
"Forget it." Owen turned and stalked off, even though he didn't feel nearly as irritated and annoyed as he was pretending to play. "Save it for your date. Maybe if you do it right, he'll invite you up for a drink." A thought occurred to him, one he knew he should keep to himself, but couldn't. "Are you meeting him somewhere?"
"Picking him up, the proper way," said Jack. "Why?"
"Take a bottle of gin. Bloom's London Dry; it's his favorite. He tried to get me to drink a bottle with him, but I'm a vodka martini kind of bloke." Jack's eyebrows about crawled off his forehead, and Owen rolled his eyes. "Nothing happened, at least not the kind of things your dirty mind is probably thinking."
"You have no idea," Jack murmured.
"I don't want to know. And Jack?" Owen called him back as Jack turned toward his office. "He's a good man. Treat him like it."
"I know he is," said Jack, his voice soft with fondness and affection. "And I will. Thank you."
Owen snorted to break the far too serious mood. "For what? I'm taking the piss first thing tomorrow. I can give Ianto a hard time about his new girlfriend and watch him try talk his way out it with you standing right next to him."
"Thank you for caring," said Jack, ignoring Owen's attempt at a joke. "You go have fun with the girls. I'll send Ianto out for boys' night next time."
"You should join us." The words slipped out before Owen could stop them. "But no snogging."
"Just beer and pool," said Jack, laughing. "Thanks for the invitation."
"See you tomorrow, Jack." Owen hurried out before he said anything else he might regret. The conversation had already veered into extremely questionable territory, after all. Maybe a stupid movie with Tosh and Gwen would be just the thing to take his mind off it all, although he would have to be careful not to let anything slip. He would sit back, relax, and think of a dozen ways to give Jack and Ianto a hard time.
Oddly enough, he wondered if he could, because deep down he suspected Jack and Ianto were probably going to be pretty good together. He hoped so, because they both deserved it.
Even if he never admitted any of it.