Anyone meeting Owen for the first time would likely find him abrasive, uncomfortable to be around what with his snarky sarcasm and no-holds-barred insults. He likes to taunt people, push their buttons, get them to react, even make them lose their tempers. You might say he’s manipulative in that respect. He’s not an easy person to like, but that’s deliberate. By being offensive he can keep people at arm’s length, avoid getting too close to anyone because the last thing he wants is to open himself up to getting hurt again.
Once upon a time he was a nicer person, friendly, outgoing, a young doctor with a promising career ahead of him and a woman he loved with all his heart at his side. He’d had such plans for the future back then, until Katie had inexplicably fallen ill. Watching her mind, her sense of herself, fade a little more each day had chipped away at him, and her death had left him shattered.
He’d withdrawn into himself and started to build walls around his heart, because when you loved someone as deeply as he’d loved Katie only to lose them so senselessly… Well, one loss like that was more than enough pain for even the strongest person to have to endure, and deep down Owen had always known that Katie was the strong one, not him. With her death the best part of himself died too. How was he supposed to survive that without her?
So he’d pulled down the shutters on his heart and locked his finer feelings away, closed for business. He’d set up defences, a sharp tongue and an uncaring attitude, and he’d numbed his pain with alcohol, an effective if ill-considered palliative. He didn’t care what anyone else thought of him or his coping mechanisms. Let them think whatever they wanted, their words couldn’t hurt him, and if they kept pushing, trying to encroach on his carefully tended isolation, well, he knew how to make his own words sting.
He became adept at knowing what to say to wound well-meaning busybodies the most, and the barbs he used against anyone he really didn’t like he honed even sharper. If he hurt, then why shouldn’t everyone else? It angered him to see other people living happy, carefree lives when his own life had been torn apart and left in ruins. He resented people in happy relationships most of all, why should they have what he’d lost? Every happy couple he saw was like a knife in his gut, the universe taunting him, rubbing salt in his wounds, further hardening the shell he’d built around himself.
And yet despite all his efforts he’s learned he can’t keep everyone out. The people he work with have found little cracks in his defences, finger- and toeholds, and in most cases the bitter words he throws at them just bounce right off. The more he pushes them away, the tighter they cling on.
Like it or not, they’re his friends.