Title: Frame of Reference
Rating: R (Mostly for bad swears)
Spoilers: S2 Torchwood, thru “Adam”
Characters: Owen, Ianto, Jack
Summary: Owen and Ianto hanging out in a pub and kind of talking about nothing
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
A/N: This is a embarrassingly late bday gift fic forblue_fjords. Having been Tosh before, pining over someone, I wanted to explore how Owen got to the place where he would have accepted her offer of a date. Thanks, as always, to ares132006 for looking over my stuff.
Owen couldn’t quite imagine the circumstances leading to the point in his life when the most exciting option for his Friday night was to self-medicate on the local swill with someone whose existence he barely tolerated, while they both pointedly ignored the interested stares from the local birds. And each other. At least Ianto had some usefulness back in the office when he could bring coffee, but here, Owen was left to consider the man, and god was that fucking depressing. But, considering the alternatives, Jack was on “not to be put off further” conference call with Unit and Gwen home to Mr. Wonderful. And Tosh was still in some kind of a mood, put off by the flowers he somehow sent her in the two days they all lost. So, Ianto it was. Ianto and rugby. Which, all things considered, was a bit of ok even if he could give a toss about either team. And, one of those dozy cows checking them out was quite the looker, although he really couldn’t kid himself that she was watching him. Ianto was rather actively watching the match on the telly and drinking with the gusto of someone looking to get good and pissed. Fantastic. Owen considered whether he was tossed enough to try and talk, but figured that would come naturally. Or not. This was Ianto.
“Who plays Cat Stevens at a pub?” Apparently, Ianto was feeling chatty, even though his eyes never left the screen. “Red legged chickens? Bloody fuck.” Ianto sounded uncharacteristically angry, his tone a shade different from the sarcasm that seemed to permanently tinge everything that he said. Owen really didn’t have an answer to that one so he let the silence spooI out long enough that Ianto flicked his eyes over and back. He shifted in his seat and slammed back his pint of Brains, draining it.
“He’s not called Cat Stevens anymore though. Some Shaw of Islam or something.” Owen decided to play. What else did he have to do, anyways?
“Yusef Islam.” Ianto answered tiredly, looking around for the barmaid and instead catching a smile from his admirer. He gave her a bit of a half nod in return before losing interest and swinging his head back and squinting towards the screen. He stood abruptly. “I’m getting another round.”
Owen watched him veer over towards the jukebox, vaguely impressed when Hendrix’s “Red House” started up. Now, that was pub music. Who knew Ianto had it in him? Owen had pegged him for emo crap or maybe a Glenn Miller fetish. He returned with the pints and Owen could see the girls gathering the courage to come over and chat them up. Now this could either turn into a welcome distraction or complete disaster when Ianto drove them away with a bout of extreme bitchiness. When had this ever been a good idea? He looked at Ianto appraisingly, maybe for the first time. Jack was a walking toothpaste commercial. Everyone fancied Jack. That he could understand. But Ianto? “Think those girls are keen on you.”
Ianto glanced over and then quickly dismissed them, eyes flicking back to the screen, the blue glow playing off of his face. “Why, you interested?”
Owen shrugged, a bit surprised by his own apathy.
“She's just trying to place me.” Ianto took a long look into his pint as if it held the answers of the universe before taking a large sip.
That was a bit unexpected. “You know her?”
“Knew, actually. Years ago.” Ianto quickly glanced in her direction before returning his gaze to the table. “Sharon Lawson. We sat A levels together. I fancied her for awhile.”
This was finally getting interesting. “Really? Anything ever happen?”
Ianto shrugged and took a big slug, holding the beer in his mouth a bit before swallowing. “Once we both got completely pissed at a footy match and snogged under the bleachers behind the pitch.” He gave Owen a rueful grin. “Until her punter of a boyfriend caught us out and beat the tar out of me. Wanker broke my nose.” He rubbed said appendage in sympathy of a long ago injury.
Things just got better and better. “Well, right. She should be able to remember you, then.” Owen threw an appreciate gaze in her direction, sweeping her from head to foot.
“Nup.” Ianto took another large sip, and Owen noticed his cheeks were tinged with red. Bloody Welshman. Although, to be honest, the good doctor was feeling a bit of his drink himself. “She prolly doesn’t even recognize me.”
Owen took Ianto in with an appreciative glance. “You look that different in a suit?” He tried and quickly failed to imagine a Ianto with strange piercings or a great big bloody tattoo.
Ianto self-consciously tugged on his waistcoat. “Well, I used to be blonde.”
Absolutely the first order of business tomorrow morning was to scour the photos in the archives. Hell, this might warrant a late night break in at the Hub tonight. Owen inclined his head in the girls’ direction. “You know, you’ve probably got a sure thing there.”
Ianto, predictably, rolled his eyes. The medic in Owen wondered briefly if Ianto was in danger of developing a repetitive stress injury in his ocular cavity. “Not all of us are relentlessly on the pull.”
Well, that was him told. He supposed that if he were shagging someone like Jack, who, all questions of sexuality aside, he just knew would be a good lay, he probably wouldn’t be on the pull either. “I wouldn’t be opposed to you chatting up your old friend over there and giving me an in.” Ianto just openly studied him for a few moments, so much so that Owen felt the need to twitch under such intense scrutiny. The moment was broken when Ianto’s phone jangled, letting him know he had a text message. Owen instinctually moved his hand over his phone in his jean’s pocket, checking its location in case this was an end of the world kind of message. Ianto opened his phone under the table, his demeanor completely changing as he read the message, smiling a small, private smile that Owen didn’t even know existed. Ianto texted furiously back, smirk still in place. When he looked up, he clearly registered Owen’s astonishment and seemed to remember himself, his face instantly becoming carefully neutral again. Owen took a long drink from his beer. “I take it Jack’s conference call is over?”
Ianto nodded once, then took up with the staring again, seeming to come to a decision. “What about you?”
Owen scrunched up his face in confusion. “I already told you, Tits McChesty over there would fit the bill just fine.”
There was that eye roll again, and he took on the air of someone ready to impart a great pearl of wisdom, a hallmark of someone good and drunk. Ianto let the silence build up a nice good bit of tension before speaking. “Gwen doesn’t get to corner the market on happiness, you know?”
Jesus fucking Christ. Was Ianto actually trying to give him relationship advice, having become an expert after a year of shagging Jack on the side? Owen’s tone went completely flat, derision evident in his reply. “Didn’t know you cared.”
Ianto studied him a bit longer, then shrugged. “Maybe it wasn’t your happiness I was referring to.”
Owen was suddenly struck with a memory of Tosh’s clumsy attempt to ask him out on a date that he deflected, feigning ignorance. He stood abruptly. “Whatever. I’m going to take a piss, and get us another round. What this conversation definitely needs is more alcohol so that I forget it completely.”As he fought his way to the toilets, he heard Ianto’s “You know they make pills for that” over his shoulder. He lingered a bit in the loo, and by the time he made it over to the bar, he noticed that Jack had arrived and was sat with Ianto at the table. Jack leaned in towards the other man conspiratorially, stretching his large hand comfortably across Ianto’s thigh. He said something that was most assuredly filthy, making Ianto laugh with abandon. Owen didn’t think he had ever seen Ianto open and relaxed like this. He was almost unrecognizable. All vestiges of the earlier anger were so completely gone that it was hard to imagine they had been there in the first place. Owen was struck that he was being granted a rare glimpse at the two of them together, alone, outside of the confines of the Hub and Torchwood. He felt something tighten high up in his chest as he was hit with a wave of loneliness so acute that he hadn’t felt since Diane. Since Katie. He realized he was staring when Jack winked at him and he remembered himself, walking over with the two pints and plonking them on the table so that they sloshed a bit on the wooden surface. “Nice of you to join us. You want one?”
Jack snagged Ianto’s glass and took a liberal sip, ignoring the other man’s put out frown. “Nah. We have that VIP visitor from UNIT coming by tomorrow, and I definitely want to be on the top of my game.” He waggled his eyebrows in Ianto’s direction and got an eyeroll in response, and Owen suddenly felt very much like a third wheel. Owen took a large gulp of his beer in an effort to end this party, twisting in his seat a bit to check on their previous admirers, whose attention had definitely shifted elsewhere. Jack looked expansively at the both of them. “So, you two spend the evening gossiping about me?”
Ianto reclaimed his beer and leaned back in his seat. “I realize that your ego may not survive the blow, but your name didn’t even come up once.” He looked upwards, fake contemplating. “OK, maybe the once.”
“Aha! I knew it.” Jack eagerly pointed his finger in Ianto’s direction.
“Don’t get too over excited. He just asked if your conference call was over.” Ianto jerked his thumb towards Owen. Owen, for his part, kept on with the drinking as quick as possible, eyeing his escape route longingly. When did this night take such a strange turn?
“That totally counts.” Jack promptly drained Ianto’s glass and stood, looking expectantly down at the two of them. “Well, kids, it’s been fun.”
Ianto gave Jack a diffident grin before standing and stretching. “Yeah, I need to get some sleep so that I’m not totally useless tomorrow.” Owen wondered who they thought they were kidding at this point.
“You good?” It took Owen a second to realize Jack was addressing him.
“Yeah, yeah, you two go on ahead.” He waved his hand, shooing them out. “I need to settle the tab.” Jack gave Ianto a salacious grin and received one last eye roll in response. Owen sat at the table and watched them go, weaving through the crowd towards the door. He watched as Jack put a hand on the small of Ianto’s back to steady him as the other man swayed a bit from the beer. He watched as Jack leaned whispered something to Ianto that made his cheeks burn red. He watched as Ianto smiled at Jack’s gallantry at opening the door for him.
Maybe it was time he took Tosh up on her offer.