Owen dragged a barely conscious Toshiko into her darkened flat. When he’d agreed to go out to ‘get some drinks’ after work with the gang, he hadn’t realized he was going to end up the designated driver. But since he was the only one who couldn’t drink, he supposed it made sense. They’d been near the hub, so Jack had dragged Ianto back there — probably their evening wasn’t over yet. Gwen had called Rhys in a drunken slur, leaving Owen to drive Tosh home.
It had been a very hard day for all of them. He didn’t even want to think about what they’d had to face. He rather wished he could have gotten blasted drunk himself. But drunken oblivion was not possible for the dead. He envied Tosh her sodden condition. She rarely drank, so it didn’t take much to get her totally sloshed.
Tosh had passed out the car, but he had managed to revive her enough to get her onto her feet and up to her flat. He realized he was going to have to take off her coat and shoes and get her into bed — lying on her side, in case she threw up in the night. Oh, the irony!
Owen found a light switch in her sitting room. As the bright electric lights flared, Tosh cringed. “Owen?” Tosh muttered.
“I need some water.”
Owen glared down at her. “Water?”
“Yes,” she whispered. “Dehydration is what... causes the worst... effects of hangovers, and tomorrow I need....”
“Yeah, yeah, I am a doctor you know.” He propped her against the wall and went into the kitchen in search of water. He couldn’t find a glass, but when he opened the fridge there was a large bottle of water already chilling. He pulled it out and closed the fridge door.
Only to find himself facing his own eyes. Owen frowned. What was his picture doing on Tosh’s fridge? He knew that picture, it was one of him and Tosh at New Years, years ago. Back when he was still alive. He had his arm around her flirtatiously — he couldn’t stop flirting with anyone, not even Tosh. There were no pictures of the rest of the team. He sighed. Tosh. Mad Tosh.
He went back to her and pressed the bottle of water into her hand. “Drink,” he said brusquely. He bent down and tried to get her shoes off.
Tosh was very drunk. With one hand she gulped at her water. Owen felt her other hand on his hair. Her fingers curled sensuously over his scalp, her nails lightly scratching at his skin. He pulled off her shoe, and she nearly lost her balance. Her hand closed on his hair. This was getting a little too familiar to Owen. It felt more like foreplay than business, and he was in no position for that kind of nonsense anymore. He pulled off her other shoe. “We got to get you down,” Owen said, standing back up. He dragged her into the bedroom.
“Your breath smells like metal. And blood,” Tosh whispered, and Owen frowned.
“Thanks,” he said sarcastically.
“Why do you still breathe?” she whispered. “No breath, no life, why do you breathe?”
“Habit,” Owen said. “Speech — can’t talk without breath going through your larynx. I can still smell a little, too.”
But she wasn’t listening. “I wish you hadn’t died.” Her eyes were half closed and her voice was slurred. “Your breath used to smell like Guinness. Your skin smelled like apricots and sex.”
Owen looked at her. She didn’t seem to know what she was saying. How often had he hugged her or touched her in the past few years? How could she notice such a thing? And how often had she been thinking about it to remember it now?
It didn’t matter. He stood her beside the bed.
“Come on,” Owen said. He wrestled with her coat buttons. “Let’s get this off you.”
“Owen,” Tosh whispered, and she sagged against him. She wasn’t helping.
“Tosh,” Owen said, trying to get her attention. “Come on.” He tugged on her sleeve.
Tosh moved her arm and allowed him pull the coat off it. He was pulling on the other sleeve when she lost her balance and fell onto the bed. Owen found himself pulled down on top of her, his face nearly in her cleavage. This was ridiculous! He had played in this scene before, many times, with dozens of nameless, faceless women. It was as if he was trying to actually do something, and he knew full well he couldn’t. He shifted angrily and looked down at her. “Give me a break, Tosh!”
Tosh’s eyes were open and she looked directly at him. He’d expected her to be passed out, but she looked more clear than she had in an hour. “I wish I wasn’t in love with you,” she said quietly. “It would make things so much easier.”
Owen wished he still had certain autonomic functions, because he was sure her words would have some kind of effect on his body. Probably quite a pleasurable one. As it was, his mind crashed down and down and down, and all he could do was stare at her.
She had meant it. What she’d said after he was brought back to this half-life. She was in love with him. Had been, probably, for a long time. Tosh was shy, he’d known that. Something of a late bloomer when it came to sex. But she was annoying. Annoying and brilliant and beautiful and kind, and it didn’t matter in the least, because he was dead, and there was nothing he could about it.
And then Tosh turned her head against the blankets, and while she didn’t cry, her face was so pained that Owen felt an ache in his unbeating heart. He knew it was psychosomatic. He knew it was only his mind causing him to feel something — anything. But even aching felt so good after such a long time of nothingness that he gasped as if it were pleasure.
Owen had thought he couldn’t feel. He’d thought he was beyond it. Lying on her bed, his body entangled with Toshiko, Owen felt something. It was tenderness. He didn’t want to name it anything more serious, but he couldn’t deny it was there. “Hey,” he said. He let his hand stroke Tosh’s cheek, smoothing away the pain he saw there. “I wish...” But she was too drunk to hear him, and there were too many wishes to list. He let his lips close again, sealing away his breath of metal and blood. He shifted himself so he was no longer atop of her and gently lifted her. He arranged her until her head was on the pillows, and she lay neatly on her side, facing him.
He smoothed the hair from her face and thought about leaving her. But he didn’t want to leave. He thought he should. He shouldn’t want to be here. He couldn’t do what he wanted, what he remembered. He couldn’t lick her all over and shag her senseless. Oh, God, what would she have been like? He wasn’t a fool. He knew actually being in love made for the best sex. If you could get over your inhibitions, of course — and Owen was good at helping women do that. He deeply, deeply regretted having never noticed before.
But that was a lie. He had noticed. He’d always kind of known how Tosh felt. Why hadn’t he done anything?
The truth nagged at the corner of his mind, but he ignored it. He thought again about leaving. But he was still feeling things. Not arousal, but there was something. He couldn’t put his finger on it. He didn’t want to stop feeling. He suddenly realized that if he got off this bed and left Tosh, he’d start to feel dead again. Which meant, what? He didn’t feel dead right now?
As Tosh shifted, falling into sleep, Owen realized he didn’t. Her arm snaked over his waist and her leg shifted until her knee rested between his thighs. She hummed a little and shivered, and the movement made her squeeze him gently. No. Owen didn’t feel dead. He didn’t feel alive — he knew if he was alive what he’d be doing, and it definitely wouldn’t have been letting Tosh sleep it off, as amoral as fucking someone this drunk was. (He knew he could be a fucking bastard when it came to sex.) No, he didn’t feel alive. But he didn’t feel dead, either. And that was simply a miracle.
Owen spied an afghan at the foot of Tosh’s bed and reached down for it, pulling it over both of them. Tosh heaved a deep sigh and snuggled under it. Owen gave up all pretense, and let his arm slide under her head, beneath her pillow. He caressed her shoulder and pulled her even closer, cradling her head against his ravaged, gunshot chest. Why not. He wanted to.
He wished he wanted more. He wished he’d let her in when there was still a chance. Why hadn’t he?
The truth nagged at him again, and he couldn’t hold it at bay this time. He hadn’t let Tosh in because he was bloody petrified, that’s why. Because he knew how much she loved him, even if he denied it. His heart had known, even if his mind wouldn’t see. And he was broken. He was angry and heartless and he couldn’t let her get hurt. Eventually he hurt everyone, and Tosh... Tosh loved so completely and so selflessly. He didn’t want to break her.
But there was lots more to it. He didn’t want to get hurt again. After what had happened to his fiancé, he just didn’t want to love anyone again. He didn’t want to lose them.
And now he had lost himself. And Tosh... Tosh had lost him. He was lying there beside her, holding her, and he was as lost to her as if he was dead completely. No wonder she was grieving.
And then Owen noticed something else. Another feeling. Not psychosomatic this time, not emotional, but real and physical and overwhelming. Heat. He could feel Tosh’s body heat, radiating through his cold flesh. “Oh, God,” he breathed. It was faint, now, but if he stayed... how warm could he get? How alive could he feel?
He pressed his head back into the pillows and stared at the ceiling. Tosh’s breath was even and steady, and her heartbeat pulsed in her chest. She was so ALIVE. Owen lay there, feeling her life pulse against him, until he was almost sharing her life. Until he almost felt real.
He had one last verbal thought; that this was probably the closest thing to shagging he was ever going to feel again. After that he lay in perfect meditative stillness, just feeling Toshiko Sato live beside him.
Tosh woke up slowly, tiny portions of her consciousness coming to muster with weariness. The first thing she noticed was that she had a hangover. But she’d had worse and still gone in to work. She’d sucked down quite a bit of water last night, so it wasn’t too bad. She actually felt really nice. She wasn’t sure why it was while she was unconscious, but as more and more of her mind and her senses rallied into awareness, she realized she was holding someone. A warm someone, or at least warm where she had been holding him. Someone perfectly and utterly still.
She opened her eyes and saw Owen. He was staring unseeing at the ceiling, and she had never seen anyone look more dead. He was not breathing. Or twitching. Or moving. Even his eyes looked dry and fake, like a corpse. Fear gripped her. She didn’t remember too much of last night — she knew she’d gotten very drunk, and she knew Owen had taken her home, but details were blurry. She knew they hadn’t had sex — both of them were still dressed, and Owen couldn’t anyway, right? But what had happened, and why was Owen still there?
“Owen?” she whispered, and for a split second she knew there would be no response. Owen was dead indeed, dead for good and all, and for some reason he had chosen to die in her arms....
Owen blinked, took a breath, and looked at her. “Yeah,” was all he said.
Tosh couldn’t decide whether she was relieved or grieved. She settled on the obvious. “You stayed.”
Owen shrugged. “Had to make sure you didn’t vomit all over yourself and drown in your sleep,” he said, and Tosh nodded. Yep, that was Owen.
Then regret shadowed Owen’s face. He closed his eyes for a moment, then looked at her again. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Say that again.”
“Just say that again,” he said. “Give me another chance.”
Tosh frowned. “You stayed,” she whispered.
He nodded. “I stayed.” He took a deep breath. “It was good,” he said, “to feel alive again. If only a little.” He swallowed. “You’re warm.”
Tosh only lay there and stared at him. She couldn’t believe the tone of his voice, the tenderness in his words.
“Hope you don’t mind,” he added.
Tosh shook her head. This was so dreamlike and surreal, her head still swimming with sleep and last night’s liquor. “Why should I mind?” she whispered.
Owen closed his eyes in pain and he took a deep breath. “For what it’s worth, Tosh,” he said quietly. “I’m sorry.” Then he pulled away from her warm body and left without looking back once.
Tosh took a deep breath and looked up at the ceiling herself. What had happened last night? She was sure she hadn’t done anything special. She was sure she hadn’t kissed him or grabbed him or cried. Had she said something? She couldn’t be sure.
A few minutes later Jack called on the cell to inform her that there was something fishy going on in an abandoned building, and he was calling in everyone. Tosh shook her head, swallowed a couple of aspirin, and forced herself to face her day. Her hangover was almost gone by the time she got to the hub.
Jack hadn’t been able to get hold of Gwen, but the rest of them were going to investigate the building anyway. As Jack and Ianto got into the front of the range rover, Tosh sat in the back with Owen. She was too shy to look at him at first, but she felt very awkward. Finally she glanced over at him.
Owen was staring out the window. There was something serene about him today, an expression she hadn’t before associated with Owen. “Owen?” she finally asked. He turned his gaze to her. “I... I didn’t... s-say anything last night, did I? ‘Cause I was drunk, and...”
“Nothing you need to be embarrassed about, Tosh,” he said. He turned to look back out the window, and then glanced at her. “Thanks,” he said, so quickly she almost missed it.
Tosh stared at him and then made herself look away. She was beginning to suspect that whatever had happened last night with Owen had more to do with him than with her. But it had meant something to him, and that was more than Tosh had thought possible. So really, there was only one thing to say.