Written for m_findlow's prompt 'Torchwood, Owen, he acts like a bastard so you don't see how much he really cares,' at fic_promptly.
Spoilers: Any episode with Owen in it.
Losing Katie had been like losing a limb. Owen had felt as though something had died inside him; the best part of himself, all that was good and decent, happy and full of hope, ripped from him, leaving behind a gaping hole where it used to be. With the light of his life gone, he hadn’t been sure how he could carry on, or even if he wanted to.
He’d become self-destructive, drinking too much, picking fights, sleeping around with anyone he could persuade into bed just so he could feel a little less alone, even if only for an hour or two, all the time hating himself for betraying Katie’s memory that way. One night stands only though; he couldn’t afford to let himself start to care about someone new, didn’t even believe himself capable of it. His heart had belonged to Katie alone, and was too numb now to feel anything except the endless, crushing ache of grief. Nothing mattered to him anymore, not his job, not even his own life.
Then Captain innuendo had come along in his poncy coat, offering Owen a chance to do something worthwhile with what was left of his existence instead of just wasting away day by day, waiting to die. A chance to perhaps prevent other people from suffering the way Katie had, the way Owen himself still was. Fight the aliens and stop them before they could take someone else’s loved one from them. It was a noble cause, something worth doing, and better than wallowing in his grief, but it didn’t change Owen’s outlook much. He still drank to excess, still got into fights, still slept around, but at least now he had some sense of purpose, a reason to drag himself out of bed in the morning.
Harkness had a team, if you could call it that; two women, Suzie and Tosh, one brash and confident, the other quiet and geeky. Suzie sneered at him, told him to get over himself and stop acting like he was the only person who’d ever lost someone, while Tosh was sympathetic and tried to befriend him. Owen treated them both pretty much the same, making fun of them, even picking on them, when he wasn’t completely ignoring them. Playing nicely with others was no longer his thing; he didn’t care what anyone thought of him as long as they left him alone. He cultivated a reputation as a heartless bastard; it hid a multitude of sins.
He didn’t feel like he deserved kindness, compassion, understanding, or friendship, not after he’d failed Katie so completely, so he worked hard to keep his new colleagues at arm’s length. It didn’t deter Tosh in the slightest, she still went out of her way to be nice to him because that was the kind of person she was, so he started sleeping with Suzie and flaunting it in Tosh’s face, thinking maybe that would push her away. Deep down, he liked the pretty Asian tech, a lot more than he really liked Suzie who was too much like him, only looking out for herself, but Tosh deserved better than a broken wreck of a man like him. He’d only hurt her. Far better if she hated him, although he wondered if Tosh, gentle, warm-hearted soul that she was, could ever truly hate anyone.
A couple of years after Owen was recruited, a new guy joined the team and Owen turned his attention to taunting him; fresh meat to hone his skills as a total bastard on. But Ianto Jones turned out to be more than capable of holding his own in a war of words. Most of Owen’s pointed jibes and insults seemed to roll right off him, and he gave back as good as he got. Owen found himself starting to enjoy their verbal sparring. Trying to put a dent in Jonesy’s calm composure was a challenge to be relished, even though he failed far more often than he succeeded.
Then Suzie offed herself, new girl Gwen joined the team, and once again Owen had a new target for his own personal brand of bastardry. She had a boyfriend, was in a supposedly happy long-term relationship, so he wore her down and eventually got her into bed. Another slap in the face for Tosh, and proof that Gwen couldn’t love the poor sod she lived with anywhere near as much as she claimed to. If she did then she wouldn’t be cheating on him. She claimed it was because she couldn’t talk to her boyfriend about her job, but that was a crock. It wasn’t as if he and Gwen talked when they did the nasty.
Playing the bastard was easy, even if Owen often hated himself for it. His colleagues didn’t deserve the way he treated them, and yet he couldn’t seem to stop. Maybe it was a form of self-punishment, maybe he felt he didn’t deserve their friendship, maybe he even felt he didn’t deserve to care about them as much as he did; he didn’t really know. So he just kept right on, sniping at them even when they were injured and he was desperately trying to save their lives, and eventually he realised something; he wasn’t fooling any of them. Maybe he had at the start, but not anymore. They knew he cared, not just about them but about every poor bastard he had to treat or couldn’t save, and despite the way he behaved toward them, they treated him as a friend.
It didn’t stop him being a bastard; that was too much on an ingrained habit by now, but he finally knew for sure that he belonged. This little group of mismatched people were the family he’d never had growing up, and no matter what he did, what he said, or how he acted, they would always be there for him. They had his back and he had theirs.
Maybe, Owen thought, he wasn’t quite as broken as he had been. If that was the case, perhaps there was a chance that someday his shattered heart might heal enough for him to risk loving again.