Dislaimer: I do not own anything.
A/N: Today is my birthday so as a gift to myself I'm posting my first multi-chapter fic ever. Yay!
Thank you to my wonderful beta jolinarjackson. You have been brilliant and I really wouldn't have a story to post without you. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy life and making this story the best it could be. You are really amazing to work with and I appreciate your amazing grammar skills, ideas, suggestions, and everything else you put into this story. On that note, I've been a bad girl and added a few things after my beta saw the story so all mistakes are mine.
I would also like to thank tardisjournal who talked me off the ledge when I was having a freak out moment over this story. You keep me sane, thank you!
Warnings: language, adult situatons, angst
This chapter may not seem angsty, but please beware this AU gets angstier as it goes (by chapter 5 the level of angstiness is pretty high and continues on).
Chapter 1 – Tuesday Evening
Ianto glanced at the clock; Lisa wasn't home yet even though the sun had already begun to set. She had been coming home late almost every night over the past couple of weeks due to last minute preparations for the wedding.
Before she started had planning it, Ianto had had no idea that there were at least twenty shades of white, God forbid one of them did not match, and that didn't take into account the many shades of purple… no, not purple, 'lavender' as Lisa would correct him. Then there were the matching dishes, utensils, many, many different types of glasses, flowers, table cloths, chair coverings, food (taking into account food allergies and, ugh, bloody vegetarians), decorations, picky bridesmaids (two of them his sisters), and all the little details that he wished he'd never had to encounter in his entire life.
Like any good fiancé and self-defined manly man (if you forgot the immaculate suits and ties, his slight obsession over cleanliness, odd fascination with Appletinis, and love for musical theatre), his involvement in the wedding included food and cake tasting and nodding... a lot and preferably in all the right places. The nodding resulted in a stiff neck, a necessary sacrifice for the greater good (i.e., Lisa's happiness). Although he sometimes wondered whether there should be a medical condition, such as 'Fiancé Planning a Wedding' syndrome, and whether he could argue paid disability leave from work.
He knew that tonight Lisa was at the tailors' shop getting last minute dress alterations and, thankfully, wanted to keep the dress as a surprise for him. This meant he would get a break from nodding and enjoy a badly needed beer and a rugby game.
Relaxing on the sofa, he was pulled from his slightly inebriated and sleepy state by the sound of a knock on the door. Not expecting anyone (did he miss the intercom buzzer?), Ianto opened his door and was thrown off balance while engulfed into a tight bear hug by a six foot two American with shaggy hair.
With his remaining breath, and it was hard to breathe with the compression against his lungs, he inhaled those familiar dizzying pheromones and managed to squeak out, "Jack! You're hurting me."
The arms loosened a bit but the scent of salty sea air, honey, and just... Jack invaded every pore of his being.
The excited American accent bellowed, "Congratulations! You're getting married! So happy for you!"
Jack's heart fluttered as his hands settled into a comfortable position resting on Ianto's hips. He breathed in deeply, filling his lungs with Ianto's scent, wondering how he ever forgot that delicious smell of coffee, cinnamon, and something so very unique that was just Ianto.
"Jack, you can let go now. Imagine how the neighbors will gossip," Ianto deadpanned.
Jack complied but produced an over-exaggerated pout. "Sorry."
"That doesn't work on me, remember?" Ianto gently pulled him inside by his sleeve and closed the door. "Not that I'm not happy to see you but I thought you couldn't make it until the day before the wedding."
Again, he sported the pout. "Gonna kick me out now?"
He received an eye roll in return.
"I moved around a few meetings, put in some all-nighters, blackmailed the boss about sleeping with his secretary behind his wife's back and was able to get a few more days off." Jack's glimmering smile lit up his entire face and made his eyes sparkle.
Ianto leaned in to give his friend a light hug. "You are terrible, Jack Harkness! But I really am happy to see you. Maybe now I'll survive until the wedding."
Jack's breath hitched at Ianto's light touch ghosting around his shoulders, his own hands wrapped around the younger man's hips again. "You'll do just fine, Tiger Pants."
"Oi!" Ianto smacked his head playfully as he pulled away. "Not again with that awful nickname! I'd thought you would get over calling me that after all this time."
"Never! At least it's better than teaboy. And what is this, Smack Jack Day? A new national Welsh holiday I haven't heard about?"
"I'm glad your ego hasn't suffered in all those years. And it would be a very pleasant holiday. The Welsh could get all their frustrations out by smacking insufferable Americans."
"Insufferable, am I?"
They met each other at college in Oxford seven years ago. Jack attended a year ahead, coming to study from America as an international student. Ianto moved there from Newport.
On the day of his move, Ianto took one look at the squalid, derelict room was renting (with filthy communal toilets and showers serving as the breaking point) and started a search for a new place to live. Fate intervened: Jack's roommate became pregnant and moved out mid-lease to live with her boyfriend.
Jack was desperate for a roommate with his rent coming up and not enough money to cover it himself. As it was after the start of the term, everyone's housing was already worked out and he was anxious to find someone, even for a lower rent amount.
Luck had it that a barista, Jack's friend, worked in a coffee shop that Ianto frequented (it was the only one that provided coffee up to his standards). After learning about Ianto's living conditions and knowing about Jack's predicament, Tosh introduced the two men.
They'd spent the next three years sharing a flat and becoming inseparable friends.
Following graduation, Jack had moved to New York City after being offered a job working in a large finance firm. Ianto had finished off his last year and even had had a job lined up in London, but due to his mam's accident, he'd had to move back to Cardiff. He'd ended up working at the local university library, a waste of his journalistic and writing skills.
Almost four years had passed since and the two men had lost touch except for erratic emails. Then, three months ago, Jack had answered his company phone, surprised to hear Ianto's beautiful Welsh vowels asking him to be the best man at his wedding. Even though they'd not spoken much over the last few years, Jack still considered Ianto the best friend he had ever had (among the other feelings that he hoped he'd buried years ago and would remain so), thus he agreed without hesitation.
They settled on the sofa, beers in hand, and Jack asked, "So how's the wedding planning going?"
Ianto groaned, "Can we please talk about anything but the wedding?"
The American guessed, "Lisa's turned into a Bridezilla?"
"They have this TV show in America where they show over-controlling, perfectionistic, stressed-out brides stomping over everyone to get the perfect wedding of their dreams. The brides freak out over the smallest inaccuracies, like the wrong shade of white. They call those brides Bridezillas, after Godzilla. The guys seem especially stressed and I never understood how they actually ended up marrying the monsters after they displayed those kinds of behaviors."
"Really? You watch that? That's so American!" Ianto gave Jack a disbelieving look. "Lisa's not… oh, I give in, she is awful!" Ianto was embarrassed by his admission, his face turning red. "I m-mean she is amazing, brilliant, except when planning the wedding."
Jack chuckled. "You must really love her."
A smile spread, illuminating Ianto's face and lighting up his stormy-blue eyes. "Yeah, I do. She's perfect, beautiful, kind, generous, patient, understanding, loving, and she's all mine."
Ianto sat there, his eyes glazed over, and described Lisa in every detail; expressed just how he loved and adored her. He illustrated how they first met through his step-sister, Gwen, right after he'd moved back to Cardiff. He beamed when reminiscing about their first kiss on the Plass and when recalling how he proposed at her favorite French restaurant on one knee with a gorgeous diamond ring, the most expensive thing he'd ever bought.
While Ianto was caught up in telling his stories, he missed the heartbroken look that flickered through Jack's eyes before being replaced with a wide smile that didn't quite reach his eyes as he nodded absently.
Jack had thought that maybe after all these years since Oxford, his feelings for Ianto wouldn't be as strong as he'd buried them deep inside years ago. But sitting there, so close he could practically feel the other man' body heat, and seeing the loving look in his friend's eyes felt like a javelin through his heart.
They talked all evening, the rugby game playing in the background, about everything and nothing of any importance, with the friendly banter that came to them so naturally.
After a day filled with work and wedding planning, Lisa made her way back to the flat lost in thought. She marveled that her white dress fit so perfectly, the almost bleach-white color making her skin glow. The caterers, DJ, photographer, flowers, and venue were all working in perfect synchronicity. It was all falling perfectly into place.
The wedding planning was stressful but she was excited to be only days away from the honeymoon with her new amazing husband. They had reserved two weeks in Alicante, Spain, staying in a beach-front honeymoon suite. She was imagining couples' spa days, blue waters and pale sand, and making love through the night.
Lisa walked into their flat and was surprised to see Ianto and a man she didn't know asleep on the sofa in each other's arms. A slight blush crept up her cheeks at their intimate position.
Sitting next to each other asleep, Ianto's head rested on the other man's chest, his hand still wrapped around his beer. The visitor's forehead rested on top of her fiancé's head, tilted to the side, lips lightly touching stray strands of hair; one arm was flung over Ianto's shoulder and the other resting on his knee.
She wasn't sure whether to be shocked, amused, or turned on. "Ianto?"
Her fiancé shifted in his sleep. "Hmgf…"
She walked up to him and nudged his arm. "Ianto wake up!"
Ianto didn't stir but the other man opened his eyes, they were the bluest blue she had ever seen, and grinned with a mouth full of perfectly white teeth. "You must be Lisa. Jack Harkness, nice to meet you."
Lisa shook the extended hand of the gorgeous American and quirked an eyebrow. As she smiled, amusement filled her voice, "So, you must be the best man I keep hearing about."
He grinned. "In the flesh. And did anyone tell you, you look like Ianto when you do that eyebrow thing?"
"I'm not sure if I should take that as a compliment or not. I also never imagined finding my husband-to-be in another's arms."
He mock-saluted. "No need to worry, ma'am, just keeping away all the groupies."
She laughed. "Groupies? I think he's the one keeping them away from you."
"Oh, really? Fancy a threesome?" Jack leered.
"Oi!" She smacked his arm and hid that she had actually considered the offer for a moment. Ianto had told her a few stories from his Uni days. However, after now meeting the main character from most of them, she realized that she'd probably heard only the tame ones. "You are as terrible as Ianto described."
"I think he calls it incorrigible."
"That you are! So, how about I make you the guest bed and we leave sleeping beauty to sleep on the sofa?"
"I don't mean to be an imposition; I'll get a hotel room."
"Nonsense, we have an unused guest room and Ianto would kick my arse if I let you go and fend for yourself. As far as I'm concerned you're family."
"Thank you," Jack whispered.
Jack smiled as he moved Ianto's head off his shoulder. Lisa placed a pillow under him and covered her fiancé with a blanket.
She made the guest bed as Jack washed up and changed into track bottoms and a vest. When Jack was done in the bathroom, he found her leaning on the desk in the guestroom.
She looked at him curiously. "We weren't expecting you for a few days."
"Was able to get away early, figured I can see some sights while I'm here; never been to Cardiff before."
"Ianto has one more day left at work before his wedding holiday. It would be nice if you could spend some time together." Her voice was filled with love and concern, "He doesn't have many friends here and he always recalls his time with friends from Oxford fondly. Sometimes he seems so lonely and I just don't know what to do. With his mam the way she is after the accident, it's like he doesn't want to be around others much."
Ianto didn't allow many people into his inner sanctum; she always thought it was just her and Rhi but was glad in the past he'd let others in as well.
"How could he ever be lonely with a woman as wonderful as you by his side?"
Lisa sighed but couldn't resist a small smile. "I sometimes feel like he's stifled here. Just… you are here such a short time, please just talk to him."
"I promise. He can be a pain in the ass wearing that mask of his, hiding from others."
She chuckled. "Yeah, always so hard to get inside, but what's inside is just wonderful. I won't keep you up. Sleep well and I'll see you in the morning for Ianto's perfect cup of coffee."
Jack lay in the guest bedroom, thinking about Ianto. He knew Ianto had chosen to give up his dream job in London but he hadn't realized that he had withdrawn from his friends, or from even trying to make friends in the first place. He was glad his friend had someone like Lisa in his life and he really, really liked Lisa, to the great dissatisfaction of his more selfish side. A side he buried deep within as he fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.