Written for Challenge 397: Swallow at fan_flashworks.
Spoilers: Reset, Dead Man Walking.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow, and Jack is all but choking on it. Owen Harper, Torchwood Three’s medic, their healer, is dead, killed by a bullet to the chest, and Jack knows he’s ultimately to blame. He should have known Copley would be armed, but he hadn’t thought, hadn’t seen the danger until it was too late, hadn’t reacted fast enough… Shooting Copley is too little, too late, and it changes nothing. Owen is still just as dead.
The journey back to the Hub is made in a numb, disbelieving silence, because even though every member of the team is surely aware their lives will likely be cut short thanks to the dangers of their job, what happened to Owen was so sudden. There hadn’t even been a chance to say goodbye.
In the med bay, Owen is stripped naked, prepared for autopsy, although Jack doesn’t know why that’s even considered necessary; it’s not as if they don’t already know cause of death: a single gunshot to the chest. But just as Martha’s about to make her first incision, Jack stops her. He can’t do this, can’t let Owen be dead and not try to save him. Ianto said it long ago; gloves come in pairs. If Jack can find the other one and bring Owen back, however briefly, at least that will allow them a proper goodbye, a degree of closure. It won’t fix anything, but at least he will have tried and that has to be better than just giving up.
It's a bitter pill to swallow. They were all right there, all of them armed and supposedly professionals, and yet Owen is lying dead in the autopsy bay and Jack has run off to God knows where, because the whole team just stood around like a bunch of idiots while Copley shot their colleague.
Ianto leans his head back against the cushions of the battered old sofa, feeling more exhausted than he’s ever felt in his life, even after Lisa; he’s already lost far too many people. It shouldn’t have happened, and they’re all to blame, except for Martha, who was lucky to be alive herself. Why had none of them checked to see if Copley was armed? That should have been done as a matter of course but they’d ignored the possibility, behaved like rank amateurs, and Owen had paid the price for their incompetence.
Owen might have been a bastard, but he’d been their bastard. Ianto hasn’t always liked the medic, but the thought of never again trading snarky insults with him hurts more than he would have expected. It’s as if the world is suddenly a colder, darker, emptier place, all because they let one of their own die. How many more times are good people going to lose their lives because of Torchwood’s mistakes?
‘We screwed up. This is on all our heads.’
It’s a bitter pill to swallow. Owen is dead, and Gwen feels guiltier now than she had when she’d been having an affair with him. Guilty because it could have been her, but it wasn’t, and she’s glad. Guilty because Rhys was shot a few weeks ago and Owen had treated him, been totally professional about it, or as professional as Owen ever got, and she can’t remember if she ever thanked him.
She’d slept with him for months, even though she hadn’t been in love with him. It had just been an illicit thrill, a bit of fun on the side, an outlet for the frustrations of their job. Most of the time she hadn’t even liked him, and yet she knows she would have continued the affair if he hadn’t lost interest. She hadn’t even noticed when he’d taken up with Diane, so what did that say about her?
‘I’ve always thought I’m a good person, but I’m not. I cheated on Rhys, I used Owen as much as he used me, and now he’s dead and I’m not sure I ever really even knew him. I worked with him for two years and I don’t even know if he’s got any family. I never bothered to ask.’
It’s a bitter pill to swallow. Tosh has loved Owen almost since the day they met, despite his indifference, and sometimes downright meanness, towards her. But she’s never told him how she feels because she’s always been too much of a coward, too sure that he’d reject her because he’s never seen her that way.
To Owen she’s always been the brainbox who helps him out whenever any of his tech goes wrong, the sort of almost friend who listens when he wants to bitch about anything, and she’s so pathetic that she’s always gratefully accepted every crumb of attention he’s ever thrown her.
Now he’s gone and it hurts so much. The worst part is knowing that she wasted every chance she might have had, and that Owen died never knowing how much she cared about him.
She doesn’t agree with Jack using the second glove to bring Owen back; it’s a bad idea, and it’ll only give then a couple of minutes anyway, so what’s the point? She knows the rest of the team feel the same way, but even so, if the glove does work, she’s going to take the opportunity to tell Owen she loves him, because it’s the only thing she can do for him now that might mean anything, and he deserves to know.
It's a bitter pill to swallow. Maybe Jack meant well, or maybe he didn’t since it seems all he wanted was the poxy code for the alien morgue, but now Owen’s back and all is not good. Truth is, it sucks, because being back and conscious and moving around of his own volition is not the same as being alive. Worse, there’s no way of knowing how long his new walking dead condition is going to last. He could drop properly dead again at any moment, or he might go on being the way he is right now for the rest of eternity.
What right did Jack have to make this choice for him? He’d been peacefully deceased, lost in the blackness, even resigned to it, and now here he is, dead and not loving it. He can’t breathe, or eat, or drink, or shag, or sleep. He can’t even heal, so he can look forward to bits of himself eventually starting to fall off as they get damaged. It won’t hurt, there isn’t any pain, or any physical sensation at all for that matter, but emotionally he’s a wreck.
He hates Jack for bringing him back to this joyless travesty of life. He hates Tosh for telling him she loves him and being so NICE, kind, caring, and helpful. He hates Gwen for the way she tiptoes around him, trying to avoid hurting his feelings. He hates Ianto on principle…
Well, okay, maybe not. Teaboy is the only one who’s trying not to treat him any differently. Not always succeeding, but the effort is appreciated. He’s not walking on eggshells around him, and he’s as pissy as ever, so maybe Owen hates him a bit less than the others.
More than anything else, he hates that there’s a tiny part of him that’s glad to not be dead, even though he’s not anything close to alive either.
Torchwood fucked his life up before he was even recruited, so why shouldn’t it fuck up his death too? Turns out there’s something worse than being dead, and thanks to Jack that’s what Owen’s got to live with, whether he wants to or not.