Have some relevant meta that I wrote last night. Cutthechitchatandbegone messaged me and asked me what I think Jack and Owen’s relationship was like when Owen first joined Torchwood, and how I think Owen reacted when Ianto joined. So here’s what I wrote:
I think Owen’s relationship with Jack was very much father/son. I think that Jack was really the ONLY father-figure kind of person that Owen had ever had. I don’t think he ever had a proper parental figure in his life, or at least not one that was supportive and helpful and the kind of person he’d want to look up to. When Owen first came to Torchwood, he was very much wrapped up in his loss of Katie and all that, and I think Jack helped him through it and kept him occupied, but also gave him time. I think Jack understood that Owen was the kind of person that needs to start off dealing with something by himself, and then someone needs to step in if things start to go downhill. And I think Jack really stepped in for him, and led him and taught him and was the kind of person that Owen wanted to respect. I think that Jack sort of innately knew that Tosh was incredibly resilient and could be left alone to deal with things, while Owen was hyper-emotional and hyper-sensitive and needed a lot of hands-on work and support in order to keep him stable and okay. I think they spent a lot of time together, both when Owen was upset and unstable, and when he was okay, and I think they formed a very strong bond. I think this is part of why Owen is comfortable with slacking off in front of Jack or mouthing off or just generally being sort of an ass. Because he knows Jack knows him and he knows Jack knows he respects him. I think that even at uni and work, Owen didn’t really have someone to look up to because it was all so competitive and because he has such a strange personality because of his upbringing. So Jack became a teacher and a father and a big brother and a boss all rolled in one for Owen. And I think Owen relied on Jack for his emotional needs and all that. He wants so badly to be loved and accepted by Jack. He wants so badly for Jack to praise him. Because it’s something he never got as a child, and when he got it as an adult in uni and work, he didn’t believe it about himself, and I think Jack is the kind of person to inspire confidence in people when he praises them, and so Owen finally felt good about himself when Jack praised him. In some parts of my headcanon, I also think that Owen and Jack had a sexual relationship, but only in certain circumstances. Jack used sex in order to bring Owen back from the brink of breaking. He used sex in order to give Owen a less damaging form of release or catharsis, or as a gentle comfort. But mostly I think that there was a definite father/son relationship and that Owen looked up to Jack in a way that he never looked up to anyone else, and that he honestly NEEDED Jack’s acceptance and love and praise, and that’s why he treats Jack so much like a father rather than a boss when he talks to him or is around him. It’s why Jack hugging Owen or petting his hair, or Owen tugging on Jack’s sleeve, or Owen being sarcastic at Jack, etc etc, feels so normal and in place where it would be weird with any of the other characters. Because they’re basically father and son or little brother and big brother, or both rolled into one. (It seems like a weirdly Freudian relationship.)
I think that when Ianto first came, Owen probably didn’t care much, in a way. I think that he was still very much wrapped up in himself and in his grief and confusion at his loss of Katie and loss of a lot of his “doctor” identity and his familiar home base of London and stuff like that. At the same time, I do think that Owen did want Jack’s attention and all that. I think he did kind of react a little warily and leery of Ianto simply because Ianto caught Jack’s eye and therefore his attention was no longer on Owen. I think that is also probably when Owen started going out on the pull again and generally making really shitty choices. Because Jack wasn’t there as much to hold him up and coddle him, so he had to find some other way to cope with the pain and with his messed up brain and suicidal tendencies and low self-esteem and all that. Like you mentioned, “Stepmother Ianto.” Ianto was the new object of Jack’s attention, the new “caretaker” of the team in some ways. Owen wouldn’t have wanted to rely on Ianto or trust him with the things he trusted Jack with. But I think that Owen also kind of saw Ianto as another person in need of a leader. Especially after Cyberwoman. And I think after Cyberwoman, he saw a lot of himself in Ianto. Which is exactly why he was still so angry at Ianto: because Ianto had the chance to save Lisa and it went wrong, while Owen would give anything to have a chance to save Katie, but didn’t get one. But I honestly think that Owen and Ianto are insanely alike and that they’re sort of like two brothers vying for dad’s attention.
I think it was paperclipbitch who said it (knowing me, it probably was), but some TW writer said that Torchwood is very incestuous. They’re essentially a family. I mean, there’s not really any other word for it. They’re a family, and yet the relationships between everyone are very skewed and messed up and twisted. Jack is father/brother/lover to the same person because the Torchwood life is so insular that they have to be everything to the others all at once. Torchwood leaves almost no room for other relationships, so the team has to be all of the relationships for each other.