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31 July 2008 @ 11:07 pm
[fic] Certain For the Dead 5/? (TORCHWOOD; Jack/Ianto, MA)  
Author's Notes: It should be noted that I am really, really nervous about posting this. I doubt if anyone remembers this fic, but I started it back in October, and hit a roadblock in December. I haven't written anything since February, but when the bug finally bit me again, it was this story that came to mind. "Small Worlds" is still one of my favorite Torchwood eps, story-wise, and season two only made me swoon over Ianto more. I revised some of my plot plans in light of season two, but really, this chapter is pretty much as I planned it in my head back in January. I just couldn't get it out. X_X;; I just really hope the break isn't jolting or noticable, and... yeah. I'm only making myself more nervous, so I think I'll shut up.

I would like to thank you for bothering to read my story. If I could trouble you a bit more for feedback, I'd be ever so grateful! ^_^

Spoiler warnings for 1X04 (Cyberwoman), 1X05 (Small Worlds), 1X06 (Countrycide), and 2x12 (Fragments).

Hopefully I'll be able to get the next chapter out a lot more quickly than this one. God will'n and the creek don't rise. *sheepish*

Previous Chapters:
[HERE AND NOW (I): Intersection]
[THEN AND THERE (I): Memoria]
[HERE AND NOW (II): Sweeter Than]
[THEN AND THERE (II): Each Small Piece]

Certain For the Dead 5/?
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory


Owen Harper no longer wakes as he once did, awareness spiraling out from the seat of intellect, into his limbs and extremities, and finally to the world around his stirring form. Instead, he wakes like a soldier in a foxhole; a reluctant sleeper in hostile territory. And isn't that what the whole world is, now? To say nothing of his bed, the contents of which are first to come to his groggy attention. Since Katie's death, the doctor has shared his bed with scores of partners. The wide, red-swathed mattress has been battlefield and anesthetic room; he has sucked and stroked and touched and petted before his high, night-darkened windows. Always, he fixes his eyes on the far line of the bridge over the quay for that critical moment, thinking desperately, 'This is a view Katie has never seen'.
Morning-afters are even less pretty.

As he comes to consciousness now, Owen is aware of two things-- the firm, smooth swell of flesh under his hand, and the incessant, tinny whine of his mobile. The phone is in the pocket of his jeans, somewhere halfway across the room. Perception and memory come back, but they don't override self-preservation. He is cautious, movements slow and planned as he rises, carefully removing his hand from the curve of Gwen Cooper's pale behind. She is all white skin and dark hair, arms akimbo as she lets out a heavy sigh of deep sleep. As she settles, Owen takes in the small, perpetual frown marring her features. 'She even pouts in her dreams!' he thinks, and stifles the urge to laugh. The mobile is still going-- no ringtone, just the harsh, insistent ring set for one caller and one caller only. He doesn't have to glance at the LCD screen to know it reads TORCHWOOD. Instead, he picks up the tangle of jeans and underwear wholesale, jogging down the hall. Naked on the stairwell, he fumbles and finally flips the phone open, muttering.
"What in fuck's sake do you *want*, Harkness?" he half-snarls. There hadn't been barest of light on the horizon, and a quick glance at the clock above the telly tells him its just shy of four am. "You said we had the bloody day off!" Even now, Owen's mind shies from the events of the past forty-eight hours, working at odd angels and tangents to avoid the thought of Brecon Beacons. His heart and stomach lurch together, and its like fresh swath of blood along his organs. Like the heat that rises from infected flesh.
"Owen." Just like that, Jack's voice cuts across the line-- somehow, it bypasses Owen's brain and halts the complaint already forming on his tongue. "I need to know what you gave Ianto last night."
Disgusted, Owen shakes his drawers free of his jeans, turning them rightside out and pulling on both in turn. "Whaddaya *mean*?" the doctor asks, perplexed. "I gave everyone a lot of things last night-- I was practically running my own snodd'n A&E! I gave Tosh and Ianto locals so I could do the stitches, tetanus shots, took blood for testing--"
"The pills!" Jack says matching and trumping Owen's aggravated tone. "I need to know what pills you gave him. He said he asked you to cut down the dosage because they made him ill."
"What, teaboy's a little woozy, so he wants to blame me?! They were sedatives, Jack. We all needed them, for god's sake."

There's a pause, brief but pregnant, in which Owen has just enough time to regret using his own derogatory little pet name for Jones. Even that small pang of trauma-inspired camaraderie can do nothing to prepare him to the utter chill that comes over the line.
"Harper." It's the merciless hand of winter, that voice-- as hard and comforting as the marble they use for tombs. "The names. of the. drugs."
"They were sleep aids and painkillers," Owen says, hating the way his voice sounds like that of a boy finally spitting something out to the headmaster. "I'm a *doctor*, Jack-- the only thing of any note was the Anthoxopam. That's--"
At what point does freezing become fire? Jack's voice is flat and oh-so-cold, past zero and into the land of sunless, dark moons. "The drug designed by Torchwood One." The sound of a deep breath, "That fascist bitch."
"What do you mean?" He's raking a hand through his hair now, throwing himself down on the sofa and staring, sightlessly, up at his own unremarkable white ceiling. "It's the perfect pharmaceutical, Jack. It doesn't interact with any other medication, no matter what the patient is taking; it builds up antibodies against three different non-terrestrial viruses. Hell, the prime minister has been looking into releasing it as a cure for the common cold!"
"Goddamn it, if I'd known you had that poison here, I would have destroyed it myself."
"It was in the stores when I joined up! Ianto's the one who gave me the files on it when I asked what it was!" Owen says, feeling less the schoolboy now. No, he was down to defensive child, bewildered and groping. Finally, the conversation penetrates past his intellectual assurance and the layers of his personal feelings (traitor traitor polite little sod) towards Ianto Jones. "Do you need me there? Is he alright?"
"He will be," Jack says. ('Marble,' Owen thinks again, and shivers without realizing it.) "Don't worry. Enjoy your day off."

Just a click and then the dial tone. Owen stays still on the couch, head tilted back against the armrest as he stares at the now silent phone.
"Oh, sure," he mutters. "'At ease, soldier,'" he mocks Jack's accent. "'Smoke 'em if you got 'em." Still groggy and more than a little punchy from the emotional conversation, Owen drifts, flicking the cellphone open and shut. Ianto Jones. Clean shaven, perfectly pressed, turned out like some perfect little butler and all the while seething, feeding and cosseting a monster right underneath their feet. 'I's crossed and 'T's dotted and, oh, did I mention I'm keeping my homicidal cyborg girlfriend in your basement? Of course not! And what was it all for?
"A week's suspension, and the Captain still trying to fondle his wrists and make love to his coffee," Owen informs the blank television screen, tossing the mobile onto the low table. "Christ on a crutch." He glances at the clock again, weighing the effort of moving against the sweet relief of a beer. It's these dark, quiet hours he hates the most; even the air feels quiet and still, slowing the mad whirl at the center of his mind.

Once he used these hours to study-- put the telly on mute and let the flickering light flash over his textbooks while Katie slept peaceful (dead) and unfettered by his side. Or they quizzed each other, drinking endless rounds of soda as they blinked and rubbed at their eyes, trying to prepare for their practicals. In these predawn hours, it does not matter that Katie never set foot in this apartment, or in the city of Cardiff at all. The safety of the sleek and impersonal decor (so different from their cozy London flat) dissolves; he can picture her here, and she haunts him. His eyes are closed before he realizes it, and now there's nothing for it. If he opens them again, he'll see her, perched on the arm of the sofa in that gaudy pink shirt she liked to sleep in. 'Real men date forensic anthropologists'-- that one always had tickled her so. And oh, it's merciless, it's completely unfair, but he can almost feel the over-washed fabric beneath his fingers, as if you can grab hold and pull Katie (it's sense memory, ya big bugger-all, just memory) close. He'll feel her slight hips and firm breasts-- Gwen's had been too small, they'd left room in his hands-- she'll tell him it's okay, baby, open your eyes.
"It's not, and I'm not," Owen says aloud. He wants Brecon Beacons now; longs for the moldering houses and gutted monsters with the faces of men. Fear is easy, anger too. The Beacons were awful, a lucid nightmare, but nothing will ever be as poisonous as the hope he will someday wake up and Katie will be okay.
"Don't you think that's how he feels?" Katie asks in his mind. That quiet voice, her pillow-talk one, stretching between them more intimate than skin-on-skin. Attached to this echo is a frighteningly detailed image of Ianto, sitting with his knees pulled up to his chest in the dark debris of the Hub. Rocking there in his expensive trousers, soaking in dirty water and bits of his own girlfriend's flesh. And Jack said, "You have to shoot her. Shoot her, Ianto, before I do it for you." He can almost feel Katie's arms around him, now, light yet real. Her touch is comforting, but her words are not. "
"I think," says this ghost, this malfunctioning cluster of neurons in Dr. Harper's masochistic brain. "I think you hate Ianto because you're so much alike."

"That's it!" Owen says, barely restraining himself from shouting. "Self-analysis is not healthy! Self-understanding is not healthy!" He shoots up from the sofa, making a beeline for the relative safety of the kitchen. The little digital clock on the microwave mocks him with its late-night numbers, but the beer is right there, it's handy in the cupboard. Stored right at eye-level, for the budding alcoholic Owen's been playing at. The snap of the can opening is satisfyingly loud in the stillness, Owen chugs and feels it rush towards his empty stomach. Oh well, what the hell. He should probably be able to write off his beer consumption as a work-related expense.
(Ianto, frowning at him, insisting drinks purchased while staking out clubs for their literally illegal alien are not covered in the supply budget.)
"And all the while, she was down there." The cyberwoman (Lisa), waiting, recharging. That spore, lodged in the soft tissue of Katie's brain, feeding and growing, stealing her away even before her body died. This just doesn't seem to be Owen's night.
Wouldn't you have done the same for me?" asks Katie. He pictures her leaning against the counter, chin in her hands. Those dark-brown eyes and her too-narrow chin."If you had known? If you had the chance?" Oh, it's pitch-perfect, but it's *not* Katie, because she would never ask that question. Owen finishes the beer, knocking it into the sink, and opens another. He's torturing himself-- he must be-- because only his own memories could conjure Katie so well. The smell of beer is thick in his nostrils, but there's something else there too, now. Hot house flowers; overwhelming and red even in the olfactory sense.
"Here's a better question," Owen argues with himself. "How about, 'Why does Hartman's wonder-drug, the pride of Torchwood One, make our little Jonesy-boy so sick?'" Not a question he would have bothered over too much, save in a strictly professional sense. Might have mulled over it when he returned to work, accepted whatever Jack passed it off as. Now, however, it's a thorn in his paw, and he'll pick until it bleeds, because it's a puzzle. Because Katie wore peach blossom perfume, nothing like these exotic, phantom blooms.
"Anthoxopam is perfect. Perfect enough for parliament, perfect enough for Hartman-- which is saying something." And the Jack he'd spoken to on the phone had been livid-- no give, no laughter, no compromise. A ranting Jack was just an indulgent drama queen, making a scene to get his point across. It was a quiet Jack was the dangerous one; Captain Harkness, with no trace of the friendly Boss. The kind of man who smiled at an eater of human flesh, and asked if it wanted to help him brush up on his torture.

For a long time, Owen considers these things, chewing his lip and occasionally sipping from what is now his third can of beer. He turns them over in his mind, the way a child does with blocks, picturing all the ways they might fit together. What pieces might be missing. The sun begins to barely brush the horizon with false dawn, and Owen ruminates on his safely academic puzzle, while Gwen lays in his bed upstairs, sleeping off her guilt. In her flat across town, Tosh wakes up screaming-- turns her head swiftly into the pillow so as not to wake the neighbors. She's left her bedroom lights on all night, unable to bear the thought of waking and not being able to identify her surroundings in the dark. And Jack, panicked and unable to admit the full extent of it to himself, sweeps pill bottles off their perches in a cascade of destruction. Owen's autopsy bay is littered with multicolored capsules; Ianto Jones lies on the sofa in the Captain's office, breathing shallowly and dreaming of Jack saying no no no.

Full dawn will come. Gwen will rise, finding herself alone, and gather her things. Owen will see her in the stairwell and think, for one insane and grotesque moment, 'Why is Katie wearing Gwen's clothes?'. They'll murmur vaguely to each other, and Rhys Williams will wake up to find that Gwen has made him breakfast-- all the fixings-- while he was sleeping. Blinking and guilty, Toshiko will call her grandmother's cellphone with a rerouted number, and listen to the older woman's voice on the recording, never leaving a message at all.
There will be four cans of beer in Owen's dry sink-- dead soldiers, as they sometimes say. There will be rose petals, too, the vibrant red of those just picked, laying near the drain. They won't be there when he wakes again, of course, but that doesn't matter. His dreams will be of Katie, asking him if he would not have done the same for her, and he will not under why she's laughing.

The damage has already been done.

(and remember, leading scientists now believe feedback to be more powerful than nuclear energy! ^_~)

Emotional Temperature: anxiousanxious
The Band Plays:: "All Along The Watchtower"-- by Jimi Hendrix
Rhi: bounty huntervipersweb on August 1st, 2008 03:38 am (UTC)
So yeah! Update! I was looking over my FFN alert list the other day and saw this and was wondering if it was ever going to be updated. :) Glad you got your muse back.

This was a really powerful chapter. You really go into Owen's head here and it was damn good. You did a really good job of using Katie as a way for him to perhaps sympathize with Ianto and also contrast with Gwen. I can't wait to find out more of what is going on.
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: zoegarnettrees on August 8th, 2008 02:36 am (UTC)
*grins* Thank you so much for the feedback! I was hoping at least a few people would remember this. I can't believe how long it took me. ^_^;;;

I was thrilled to read you thought Owen sounded right-- he's never been my favorite character, but I've felt considerably more warm towards him since 'Fragments'. I'm glad it worked.

It was so nice of you to take the time to comment!
(Anonymous) on August 1st, 2008 04:42 am (UTC)
Wow. Wow wow wow wow wow. I just read this entire series right now and am stunned by how amazing it is. Really and honestly you are a wonderful, wonderful author. Your description is flawless and the sadness that leaks into every story is never too overbearing but definately there. I don't have a livejournal but will be faving this page and checking often to see if you update soon. Please do!
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: violetgarnettrees on August 8th, 2008 02:38 am (UTC)
*blushes massively* Wow-- thank you for the incredibly sweet comments! I'm so glad the melancholy in the fic isn't too overwhelming. I really am a hopeless romantic. I'm just not a very nice one. ^_~

I hope future chapters don't disappoint! Thanks again for commenting.
hull1984hull1984 on August 1st, 2008 06:40 am (UTC)
I just read all 5 chapters (recent TW devotee,so missed this first time round).

This was beautifully written, so full of sadness, very atmospheric and haunting. Intriguing plot too.

I will be stalking this fic

Thank you for sharing :)
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: rosegarnettrees on August 8th, 2008 02:39 am (UTC)
This fic is unbelievably flattered to be stalked by you. ;-) I can' thank you enough for your kind words!
Pecos: Exit wounds hugpecos on August 1st, 2008 06:55 am (UTC)
Wow, this story is a literal gut-punch. I feel like I've been takenon a tour of some very damaged psyches, and that the only hope for each them lies in the compassion of the others.

Brava, darling, and thank you.
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: intentiongarnettrees on August 8th, 2008 02:40 am (UTC)
Thank you, for taking the time to leave such a nice comment. I'm glad the characters came across sympathetically. Owen is difficult for me to write. ^^;
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands: the pale man | peek-a-boosatora_chan on August 1st, 2008 04:11 pm (UTC)
Man, I have amazing timing. I discovered your fic about a few weeks ago, loved it, was sad that it seemed to be on hiatus, and then BOOM: update~!

I love your Owen in here. Owen, who's still hurting and broken over Katie. I love seeing the difference between the Owen of back then and the Owen now, and I love how deeply in denial he falls sometimes. The line "Self-analysis is not healthy! Self-understanding is not healthy!" actually made me laugh a bit.

The twisting of Owen's memories of Katie by the Faeries (I'm assuming, anyway) is foreboding; it gave me a chill.

I liked how you sort of "panned" across the characters at the end of the chapter. And I have to say that my heart hurt for Tosh the most in that "panning" (overall, it was Owen, but at that singular moment...). Ianto and Jack have each other, Gwen and Owen have each other, but Tosh? Poor Tosh, who is just as traumatized as the others, is completely alone with only a turned-on light as the most miniscule of comforts.

I hope you continue writing this story (and your other Torchwood one, too! The one in the Year that Never Happened. I like that one :) Just so you know). Can't wait until the next chapter.

nobody,not even the rain,has such small handssatora_chan on August 1st, 2008 04:13 pm (UTC)
Oh, one thing I forgot: Is it possible if you put a line between your paragraphs? The story is completely readable as is, but it looks much nicer and does read a bit easier if there are lines in-between.

And... that's it for now.
Meredith Bronwen Mallorygarnettrees on August 8th, 2008 02:46 am (UTC)
Re: Concrit
Is it possible if you put a line between your paragraphs?
Heh-- sorry if it's hard to read. I hand-code the entries since I save everything as html. I'll try to put more breaks in the future. Thanks for the pointer!
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: carolgarnettrees on August 8th, 2008 02:44 am (UTC)
*grins* I'm so glad you didn't have to wait too long to read more-- I can't believe how slow I was at getting to chapter five, but I was seriously blocked. I can't thank you enough for stopping to comment!

Owen was so difficult for me to write, so I'm glad he seemed real and sympathetic to you. And you're right-- the Faeries are messing with him. I've always had a huge soft spot for Tosh. She's so brilliant, and she's the one who gets the raw deal more often than not. All she wanted to do was save her Okaasan, and she was stripped of her rights for it. Poor darling. Add in Mary, Tommy and Adam.. *shudders* She can't catch a break.

Again, thanks so much for the feedback! It really made my day!
(Deleted comment)
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: badassgarnettrees on August 8th, 2008 02:45 am (UTC)
I'm pleased to see you remember the fic, and even happier to have received feedback. Thank you!
Amberminttown1 on August 1st, 2008 07:48 pm (UTC)
This is wonderfully written. I love the imagery surrounding the idea of 'cold.'
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: alicekatie2garnettrees on August 8th, 2008 02:47 am (UTC)
You're so sweet. *cuddles*

I've always been fascinated with the idea of 'cold burns'. It's so paradoxical, yet it makes perfect sense. I'm glad you liked it!
cageyklio on August 3rd, 2008 12:21 am (UTC)
Wow. I don't normally read WIPs, but this intrigued me and now I'm kicking myself because I want more! More! More! Lovely imagery, very lyrical, and fascinating retelling of season 1. Write quickly, please. ;)
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: ineedadrinkgarnettrees on August 8th, 2008 02:48 am (UTC)
Fortunately, I think I can promise you 'more' very soon! I'm so glad you're enjoying the story, and that you decided to give it a chance. I hope future chapters don't disappoint. ^_^

Thanks for commenting.
LadyPandora16: Janto dancingladypandora16 on August 4th, 2008 11:53 pm (UTC)

I set LJ up to notify me when this story update and I was so excited when I got an email about it! =)

This was great! You have everyone's voices down so well that I can hear them. <3

I can't wait to see another part! Thanks so much for updating.

Meredith Bronwen Mallory: dcgirlsgarnettrees on August 8th, 2008 02:49 am (UTC)
This was great! You have everyone's voices down so well that I can hear them. <3
See, that's the best compliment a fic-writer can receive! Thank you so much! *blushes*

I'm so glad you enjoyed this part. I hope the rest are just as good for you. ^_^
LadyPandora16ladypandora16 on August 10th, 2008 11:16 pm (UTC)
No thanks needed, hun! Just calling it as I see it. =)
missthingsplacemissthingsplace on August 23rd, 2008 11:43 am (UTC)
I was tring to think of what to say, but alas the word 'WOW' just keeps escaping from my brain, it's just brilliant.