Summary: Owen isn't the same man but they all pretend and he goes along with it, superficially at least.
Spoilers: Up to Episode 2x07.
A\N: Betaread by fififolle.
At first he'd wondered if it was a punishment to “live” like this, with a body that was more an avatar. He could feel a world of pain, but all his joys taken away from him, leaving him with his thoughts. The brain is the only part that still works, a matter of energy that could dissipate any time. What does this life mean any more? However much time he has, its only use is to reflect on all he did wrong and the things he didn't do at all.
Ironically now he's dead he has to be careful. Oh so careful not to break what won't mend, healing once taken for granted and a process now woefully absent. The bullet hole is still there, acting like a dull ache in his chest, the sensation won't go away, phantom as it is. And he has to check himself, forever wondering if he's started to decay, if that thing might sneak back inside him, if perhaps that's what's keeping him alive, waiting for another chance.
But truthfully he doesn't know why he's still here. None of them do. The others seem grateful at first, because he's back, and they forget he's not who he should be, not the same man – probably not even human any more, a leftover from something gone wrong. Eventually they start to take him being there for granted and for them nothing much has changed.
He can't forget. He never sleeps. Owen Harper, all work and no play. Memories and thoughts buzz around his brain, haunting him the same as he haunts this plane of existence. It's insufferable, to not be able to turn off – can't shove drugs in his mouth and wave night night either. No respite from anything, just a hard slog towards...He's not even sure where he's going, apart from the death he's stalled in. How to end this limbo? Cutting off his head might work but he won't do that until his debt is repaid and more. Twelve people died for this, whatever it is and however it affects him, he's sticking around to make it up.
He might go nutty in the mean time. This could be hell or it could be his saving grace because he rather doubts he'd be getting any pearly gates, not to mention there's one pissed off demon who if it's not in him is likely to be waiting for him when death really comes calling. Hard to tell what it all means, it blurs into if's and maybe's and his thoughts cycle round, panic settling in. Usually he counts to ten calmly, thinks of a bad memory, anger flourishing in its place – not the adrenaline-laced aid but pure and simple emotional bitterness that keeps the fear at bay.
But sometimes, when it's the middle of the night and no one is around he lets it get to him, trying to let it out, racking his body, screams but not one bloody tear will come out. The pain is stuck, an emotional slug to match the one in his chest. Bottling up had always been his speciality, only now he can't avoid it and can't get a release either – punch a wall, kick a door down and he'd do too much damage, Martha would notice at his physical.
Instead he analyses his samples, studies and makes every effort to distract himself. For once he takes an interest in others because there's so much he can't do but he's here to give back. Owen tries to smile in the morning, followed by attempts at wittiness all day long that are half-hearted, the edge he had lost, and everybody knows it. He's nice and that's not normal. They know he's not right, have to be fools not to see it, yet they carry on, never saying a thing. They all carry on, him included, in a routine well rehearsed and designed to avoid another change. Dr. Owen Harper is dead, but their colleague is here. They like to think that so is their friend, and it was news to him they think that way and he can't be sure if that's grief talking or they mean it – but no, he's not here either.
This is a shell, empty; his brain activity bouncing off the walls of the jail. I think, therefore I am – yeah, right. He'd like to punch Descartes because never has anyone been so wrong. I think, I speak but I'm not here, I should have moved on. Owen Harper, a restless soul tied to the world and ready to finally break but the fall isn't coming. Here he is safe, because he's a static specimen, on the brink of death, burdened by the knowledge and denied even to close his eyes for a second and drift away to oblivion. Life's a race you don't want to win.