"The Flatmate" by riftintime
Summary: A compulsive neat-freak and a habitual slob make for unlikely companions. But when struggling author Ianto Jones finds himself in need of a new flatmate, photographer Jack Harkness arrives on his doorstep. Soon both their worlds are turned upside down. Jack/Ianto AU.
Warnings: Explicit sexual situations and adult themes, occasional coarse language, some angst.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters created and owned by the BBC. No profit is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Notes: This is an alternate universe story, using some of the Torchwood and Doctor Who characters, and set in a normal, alien-free world.
Well, I'm back with something that's a bit lighter and different, but hopefully still enjoyable. I plan to post a new chapter once a week. Please review if you're able to and let me know what you think. I greatly appreciate all feedback and I do my best to reply to all reviews. Thank you!
A huge thanks as always to my friend Prothrombintime for invaluable support, encouragement, and feedback.
Ianto closed the front door of his flat and leaned back against it, closing his eyes as he groaned in frustration. He'd had no idea that finding a new flatmate would be so utterly exhausting.
The obnoxious, foul-mouthed young woman he'd just said goodbye to was merely the latest in a long list of potential candidates he'd interviewed over the course of the past week – twenty-nine at the latest count – and he was still no closer to finding someone he could tolerate living with on a daily basis. Admittedly he was a man of exacting standards, but it wasn't his fault that Cardiff's motley pool of flat hunters failed to live up to his expectations. No matter how desperate he was, he refused to compromise. The perfect flatmate was out there somewhere. He just had to find them.
His ex-girlfriend, Lisa Hallett, had walked out of his flat and his life three and a half months ago. In hindsight, her abrupt departure shouldn't have been that much of a surprise. He'd somehow missed the warning signs and by the time he'd realised that the only woman he'd ever loved was leaving him, it had been too late. The subsequent fog of shock and denial had taken a long time to clear and when he'd finally accepted that Lisa wasn't coming back, he'd had no choice but to face the reality of his new circumstances. Without Lisa's income to contribute to the mortgage, utilities, and day-to-day living expenses, his aspirations for a career as a full-time novelist were in serious jeopardy. He'd decided that he had three options: sell his beloved flat and find a more modest, affordable place to live, return to regular employment and give up on his dream, or find someone new with whom to cohabitate. None of the options were particularly appealing, but he'd decided on the lesser evil. He just needed enough time to finish writing his second novel without the constant worry of his dwindling finances.
With a weary sigh, Ianto opened his eyes again and made his way over to the sofa. Slumping down into the thick cushions, he sighed again and gave his best friend a wan smile.
Toshiko leaned forward from where she was sitting in the adjacent armchair and patted his knee. "Don't worry, Ianto. You'll find someone soon." She gave him a warm, sympathetic smile.
Moses chose that moment to jump into Ianto's lap, butting his head against Ianto's stomach and issuing a plaintive meow. "Hello, sweetheart," Ianto murmured, pulling Moses into his arms and stroking the underside of his neck. He was rewarded with soft purring as the feline nuzzled his fingers. "Almost time for your dinner, yeah?"
Ianto had adopted Moses when his elderly neighbour, Estelle, had passed away the year before. Lisa hadn't been particularly happy about it, she was more of a dog person, but Estelle had been like a grandmother to Ianto. He hadn't been able to bear the thought of Moses ending up in some horrible place for unwanted animals, unloved and uncared for. It would have broken Estelle's heart. Besides, he'd always been very fond of the grey, short-haired moggy.
Moses could be aloof and haughty, and he didn't take to other people, usually conveying an air of vague disdain. He was a fussy and fastidious creature of habit and had only ever shown affection for Estelle and Ianto himself. Moses hadn't liked Lisa, and he even seemed indifferent to warm, kind-hearted Toshiko. Ianto wasn't sure how well Moses would adapt to having someone new living in their home. He could be a moody little bugger at the best of times.
"Sure I can't convince you to move in?" Ianto asked Tosh hopefully.
Tosh chuckled. "Somehow, I don't think Mary would be too happy about that. Actually, she'd probably be green with jealousy. She's always had a thing for you. You know she thinks you're adorable." She gave him a mischievous smile, the humour in her dark brown eyes matching her smile. "Which, of course, you are."
Ianto huffed indignantly and glared at her, but Tosh's smile only grew wider. It seemed to be his curse that every woman he'd ever known thought that he was the most adorable thing they'd ever seen. On rare occasions he'd get an upgrade to boyishly handsome, but most of the time he had to settle for cute or adorable.
He'd never been quite sure what to make of Toshiko's flamboyant, extroverted, blonde bombshell of a girlfriend. Mary was a stark contrast to the softly spoken, mild-mannered Toshiko. But it was obvious that they were happy and very much in love. Mary had moved in with Tosh a little over six months ago and Ianto had never seen his friend happier. He sometimes envied what they had. He wasn't sure he'd ever really had that with Lisa. He and Lisa had loved each other, he was certain of that, but in the end they just hadn't been a good fit.
"Besides," Tosh continued, her tone light and playful. "If we lived together, I'm not sure I'd last a week before I was trying to decide where to hide your body."
"You're probably right about that," Ianto agreed, rolling his eyes and attempting a half-hearted chuckle. He was under no illusions that he wasn't the easiest of people to live with. Lisa had told him that often enough, bemoaning and belittling his obsessive, fastidious nature. They'd fought a lot about that and he sometimes wondered if he'd driven her away. Even worse, he wondered if deep down he'd known exactly what he was doing, yet had been unable to stop himself.
Tosh's demeanour turned serious. "She was never good enough for you, Ianto."
Ianto simply nodded, not sure what to say. Tosh's uncanny ability to seem to know what he was thinking was sometimes unnerving. He considered himself to be adept at masking his emotions behind a guise of reserved impassivity, but he could rarely get anything past Tosh. And Toshiko was fiercely loyal to the people she cared about. It was one of the many things that Ianto loved about her. He pitied anyone who found themselves on the receiving end of the diminutive Japanese woman's ire. Although he didn't agree with her statement, he appreciated the sentiment behind it nonetheless. Lisa and Tosh had been friendly, but he'd always suspected that Tosh had made the effort for his sake, not because she had liked Lisa very much.
It took a moment for Tosh's expression to clear again. "You could always get a part-time job for a while? Just to help make ends meet? That way you could still devote time to your writing."
"I suppose." Ianto knew it was a sensible option. The income from a part-time job wouldn't be enough, but it would help to stretch his dwindling savings and meagre royalties further. It just felt too much like giving up and admitting that he'd failed. He wasn't ready to do that yet. He held Moses a little bit tighter, cradling him against his chest.
Tosh gave him an encouraging smile. "Well, you've still got this friend of Rose's. Maybe he'll be the one."
"Yeah, maybe." Ianto tried to keep the scepticism from this voice. He wasn't going to get his hopes up.
Rose Tyler lived in one of the downstairs flats with her mother, Jackie. Ianto had been surprised when Rose had knocked on his door the day before and told him that one of the freelance photographers from the studio she worked at was looking for a place to live. According to Rose the bloke wanted to find somewhere in a hurry.
Moses jumped from Ianto's grasp as the doorbell chimed, scurrying away into the kitchen. Ianto glanced at his watch as he got to his feet. "Speak of the devil," he muttered. "That's probably him."
Tosh stood up too, giving him an excited grin as she gestured for him to open the door.
Ianto sighed and made his way to the small alcove that served as the entrance to the flat. Opening the door, he was confronted by quite possibly the most ridiculously handsome man he'd ever his laid eyes upon. He stared at the man, momentarily dumbstruck. About the same height as Ianto at six feet tall, the man was solidly built, but trim, with a broad chest and shoulders. A stylish mop of unruly dark hair framed a classically handsome face with chiselled features, a strong cleft chin, deep dimples, and sparkling blue eyes. Dressed casually in dark jeans, a deep blue shirt, and a black leather jacket, the man looked like he'd just walked off a film set.
"Oh, hey," the man drawled in a pronounced American accent, beaming at Ianto with a toothy smile that was far too white to be natural. "You must be Ianto. I'm Jack Harkness. Rose Tyler told me you're looking for a new flatmate." He stuck out a large hand in greeting, wide smile remaining firmly in place.
Ianto blinked several times, cleared his throat, then offered his hand, which was grasped and shaken in a firm grip. "Er... hello. Yes, I'm Ianto Jones." He made of point of enunciating his name clearly. Jack had mangled it horribly by drawing out the first syllable in an exaggerated manner. He'd only barely managed not to cringe. "Come in, Jack."
"Thanks." Jack stepped inside, and Ianto closed the door behind him.
Jack looked around with wide, curious eyes as he moved into the living area. "Wow, great place. Did you do all this yourself?"
"Yep." Ianto allowed a small smile to pass over his lips. When he'd purchased the top-floor flat, it had been run down and neglected, but the layout had been spacious for a two bedroom flat and it was in a nice, quiet area with stunning views from the tall main windows. He'd renovated it from top to bottom, replacing virtually everything except the bare walls, choosing each and every fitting and piece of furnishing with careful consideration. He'd expended a great deal of time and money to bring his vision of his ideal flat to life, and he was quietly proud of his achievement.
Tosh stepped forward, staring up at Jack with wide eyes. Jack grinned at her and shook her hand. "Hi, I'm Jack."
"This is Toshiko Sato." Ianto rolled his eyes from where he stood just behind Jack's left shoulder. Apparently he wasn't the only one who had momentarily lost the ability to speak.
"A pleasure to meet you, Toshiko," Jack said smoothly. He glanced back at Ianto, eyebrows raised, then focused his attention on Tosh again. "Are you Ianto's girlfriend?"
"Oh, God, no," Tosh spluttered. "Ianto's my best friend. I'm just giving him a hand with finding a new flatmate." Ianto felt his eyes widen with incredulity as Tosh produced a breathless giggle. She actually giggled. He would have been less surprised if she had suddenly sprouted a second head. "It's nice to meet you, too, Jack." She was practically gushing.
Jack smiled at her, then dropped himself onto the sofa when Ianto stepped forward and gestured for them to sit down. Tosh took her seat again, and Ianto sat in the armchair across from her, leaving Jack sitting between them, in the middle of the sofa.
Jack continued looking around the room. "Well, I was about to say that Ianto is a very lucky man to have such a beautiful girlfriend. Now, Toshiko, don't break my heart and tell me you're not single?"
Ianto stared at Jack in disbelief while Tosh tucked a wayward strand of his glossy black hair behind her ear. There was no doubt about it, she was blushing. "I'm afraid not. I live with my girlfriend."
Jack affected a look of devastation, causing Tosh to giggle again. Ianto decided that he needed to take control of the situation. He cleared his throat, loudly. "Ah... so, Jack... Rose said you're in a bit of a hurry to find a new place to live?"
Jack nodded. "Kind of, yeah. I live with my buddy Owen at the moment. He's a doctor at St. Helens hospital. His girlfriend is moving in next week, so it's time for me to make a move. I don't want to be in their way and cramp their style. My other buddy Rhys moved out a while ago and lives with his girlfriend too. Rhys owns the photography studio where I do a lot of my work. That's how I know Rose." He exhaled a heavy sigh. "We're all going our separate ways now. The three of us have been almost inseparable since university so it's kind of sad. It had to happen sooner or later though."
Ianto made a non-committal murmur of agreement. "You're not in a relationship yourself then, if you don't mind me asking?"
Jack shook his head. "Nope. Free as a bird. How about you?"
Jack gaze was intent and appraising, and Ianto shifted uncomfortably, feeling ill-at-ease under the scrutiny of those searching blue eyes. "Er... no... there's no one."
"Two eligible bachelors then." Jack grinned and winked at him. Then his grin faltered. "You probably should know that I'm a flexible kind of guy. I'm assuming that's not a problem?"
Ianto looked at him blankly. Thankfully Tosh came to his rescue. "You're bisexual, Jack?" she asked.
Jack shrugged, his features clouding with a look of disdain. "I don't believe in labels. If I like someone, it doesn't matter to me whether they're male or female."
"It's not a problem," Ianto assured him quickly. He was straight, but he didn't care about anyone else's sexual preferences. Tosh was gay, Mary was bisexual, and a couple of the blokes he used to work with were gay, none of which had ever bothered him in the slightest.
"Good." Jack glanced around the living area again. Just as he seemed about to speak, Moses reappeared, sauntering up to the sofa. He brushed around Jack's legs, giving a tentative sniff, then to Ianto's astonishment, he jumped up onto the sofa and sat himself on Jack's lap, staring up at the man with his large golden eyes.
"Whoa! Who's this little fella?" Jack smiled with apparent delight as he stroked Mo's back, then proceeded to scratch between his ears. Mo responded by rubbing his head against Jack's hand, meowing with obvious approval.
Ianto glanced over at Tosh, who was gaping at Jack and Moses, looking every bit as shocked as he was. "His name's Moses. Mo for short," Ianto finally answered.
"Hey, buddy," Jack cooed, cradling Moses in his arms and smiling down at him. "Aren't you a gorgeous little guy, hmm?" He continued scratching between Mo's ears as Mo closed his eyes and began to purr.
Jack beamed at Ianto. "He's adorable. I've always loved cats. So, how much are you wanting per week?"
Still bewildered by the inexplicable scene in front of him, it took Ianto a few moments to recover. "Er... oh, right." He picked up a sheet of neatly folded paper from the coffee table and passed it over to Jack. "I've itemised everything on a monthly basis including a half share of each of the utilities and so on. Then there's just sharing the cost of food. Ideally, I'm looking for someone who's willing to help out with the cooking. I like to cook, but it's nice to have a break from it now and then. Take-away is fine on occasion, but I prefer to prepare home-made meals most of the time."
Jack glanced quickly at the figures, then handed them back. "Looks fair to me. I can hold my own in the kitchen, so that's not a problem. Like you, I don't want to do it all the time, but I'm happy to do my share. My hours can be a bit erratic though, so I'm not always at home for regular meal times. Plus, I go out with my buddies pretty regularly."
Ianto nodded. A flatmate who wouldn't be around too much sounded ideal. He needed as much peace and quiet as possible to work on his writing.
"Do you drink coffee, Jack?" Tosh interjected. "Ianto makes the most incredible coffee you've ever tasted. Would you like a cup?"
"Sure, I'd love some." Jack gave her a conspiratorial wink. "I'm a hopeless addict."
"Me, too. So is Ianto." Tosh stood up, catching Ianto's gaze and gesturing with her head towards the door to the kitchen. "Can you give me a hand, Ianto?"
"Of course, Tosh." Ianto inwardly rolled his eyes, however he stood up and followed her into the kitchen. He glanced back at Jack, but the man's attention was focused on Moses again. "Won't be a minute."
The door had barely closed behind them when Tosh grabbed hold of his arm. "Oh, my God! Ianto, he's gorgeous. He's like a film star, or even a model." She sighed in an overly dramatic and uncharacteristic fashion. "If I wasn't already in a relationship, I'd switch teams for him in a heartbeat."
Ianto wondered if Tosh had temporarily lost her mind. She was almost swooning. The man might be good-looking, but his charms were dubious at best and he was far too smarmy and sure of himself for Ianto's liking. If he was feeling uncharitable, which he was, he might go so far as to say that Jack seemed like an obnoxious, ostentatious git.
He retrieved three coffee mugs from a cupboard and lined them up neatly along the counter, then turned to the coffee machine, operating it with well-practised ease. "I suppose he is quite handsome," he allowed, albeit grudgingly, before turning around to face Tosh again. "But he's very..." He paused as he tried to find a word to sum up the man. "American," he settled on.
Tosh swatted him on the arm, none to gently. "Ianto!"
"What?" Ianto asked defensively, rubbing his wounded arm. "He is!"
"I like him," Tosh declared, her tone adamant. "Even Moses likes him. And he never likes anyone, except you. That has to count for something. And I don't think Rose would have suggested him if she thought he wouldn't be suitable."
Ianto wasn't sure that he was willing to choose a new flatmate based on the character assessment of his cat. But Tosh had a point about Rose. "I don't know, Tosh... I'm not sure we'd be a good fit. He's a bit much, isn't he?"
"Well, if you don't keep him, I'm taking him home with me." Tosh's eyes danced with mischief. "Mary would think all her Christmases had come at once." She sighed again, then looked thoughtful. "I wonder what that aftershave is he's wearing? Did you notice it? He smells incredible."
Ianto shrugged. He hadn't failed to notice how good Jack smelled, but there was no way he was going to admit it. "No idea."
Tosh rolled her eyes, shaking her head at him. "Just talk to him a bit more and show him around?" She took his hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Give him a chance. I've got a good feeling about him."
Ianto rubbed wearily at the bridge of his nose. He held Tosh's imperious gaze for a moment, then slowly nodded. "All right."
Fifteen minutes later, Ianto was showing Jack around the rest of the flat. Tosh had taken refuge in the kitchen, probably on the phone to Mary and whispering excitedly. He suspected that a dinner party was in Jack's near future, whether he moved in or not. Mary ran a catering business and loved to entertain. He just hoped that he wouldn't be invited too, but he knew it was a foregone conclusion.
The man had gone into near-orgasmic rapture over Ianto's coffee. Ianto appreciated the flattery, but he was finding Jack's unrestrained enthusiasm and complete lack of reserve rather irritating. He realised that a part of him was hoping Jack would find the flat unsuitable, thereby taking the decision out of his hands. But at the same time he was fed up with the search for a flatmate, and as much as he wanted to deny it, Jack was the best candidate he'd found so far. Plus, Tosh and Moses apparently thought that the man was the best thing since sliced bread.
"Only the one bathroom I'm afraid," he explained apologetically as he ushered Jack into the compact but luxurious room.
Jack stepped into the generously sized shower cubicle and spun around. "Very nice. Anyway, sharing a bathroom shouldn't be a problem for two guys, right?" He stepped back out, moving in close to Ianto. Those probing blue eyes regarded Ianto far too intently.
Ianto felt heat warming his cheeks. Jack's scent filled his nostrils and the room suddenly seemed far too small for two fully grown men.
Swallowing hard, he took a step back. "What are you looking at?" Then he had a disturbing thought. "I'm not gay, Jack. I don't like men. Not like that. So don't get any funny ideas."
Jack threw back his head and laughed. Ianto narrowed his eyes, failing to see what was so bloody funny.
"I'm not going to try to seduce you, Ianto Jones." Jack laughed again, raising his hands in a defensive gesture. "Believe me, you'd know it if I was. I'm standing here with a gorgeous Welshman right in front of me. I'm just admiring the view." He raised a challenging eyebrow. "A guy's allowed to look, isn't he?"
"Oh." The heat filling Ianto's cheeks intensified. At least Jack hadn't called him adorable, he supposed. "Um... well, er... thanks. I guess."
Jack gave him a wide grin, all dimples, twinkling eyes, and perfect, retina-scorching white teeth. "The flat's fantastic, Ianto. I'll pay you a month in advance for the rent and utilities. When can I move in?"