Rating: PG (will eventually be NC-17)
Word count: ~ 1,800 (this part)
Warnings: Angst, vague mentions of former trauma/imprisonment/normal Torchwood stuff.
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters are the property of their respective owners. I am in no way associated with the creators, and no copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: This is short. Like, really. But that’s how the first chapter wanted to be, and who am I to argue or force the bunnies? (And what am I doing, writing this when I've already got one WIP? I'm doomed.) This is very AU, and not at all my normal writing style (I think), but hopefully interesting. More to come…
Ianto Jones comes into existence in the middle of a rainstorm.
(Or, well, he comes into this existence.)
There is nothing around him, and no one coming. Ianto stands in the middle of an empty street, a good three centuries before he is actually born, as the Welsh sky tries to drown him and the gutters overflow around his feet.
It’s not the most auspicious beginning, but it could be far, far worse.
(Ianto knows this. He’s Torchwood, after all, no matter that reality he’s in.)
Back in the 24th century, Ianto Jones is no one particularly special, just another worker drone in the vast hive that is Torchwood.
(Well. That’s a bit of a lie, isn’t it? But he’s hardly singular, even if he is a bit more miserable than most.)
If he really wanted to, he could go back to being Torchwood in this time period. They’d accept him easily enough—falling through the Rift is always a danger in Cardiff—and from what he’s read Captain Jack Harkness is quite willing to take in strays.
He most vehemently does not want to, though.
Ianto is nothing if not adaptable. None of his contacts exist yet, but the concept is the same regardless of the time period, so he knows where to look for the kinds of things he wants.
Going back to Torchwood is out of the question, as is going home. He’s been trying for too long to escape to step willingly back into those traps.
So he finds some people, gets the minimum of necessary papers, and settles down to life in a century not his own. It’s not so bad, really, and the coffee is lovely. There's a bit of an adjustment on the technological side of things, but Ianto’s studied the 21st century before and knows enough to get by.
Really, at this point, just about anything will be better than the 24th century. And maybe, just possibly, this can even be good.
“Well, Mr. Jones, your resume looks fine,” the cheerful young woman says. She’s the manager, but she’s obscenely young, even compared to Ianto himself. She still has acne. “I think the Coffee Hut will benefit from a mind like yours.”
Ianto smiles thinly at that. His mind has always been his most valuable feature, his memory a steel trap that nothing escapes. Already he’s catalogued and analyzed every motion the current barista has made since he first stepped in for his interview. He knows the secret ingredient they add to their coffee from the smell and the taste of the brew in the single cup he bought while applying. He also knows that the Coffee Hut—and really, what a terribly unimaginative name—is already deeply in debt, and that the woman in front of him is one of four owners, all of whom are currently at loggerheads.
She’s pregnant, and trying to hide it.
It’s not her steady boyfriend’s child, but her other business partner’s.
(Ianto doesn’t know those last few things just because of his memory or attention to detail, though; he’s a bit more special than just that. Torchwood wouldn’t have kept him the way they did otherwise.)
Impressions, Lisa called them, before Torchwood killed her and Ianto nearly killed himself and a good percentage of the world’s population trying to find some way to save her. He gets impressions about things, vague ideas that can be easily verified by paying attention. Almost precognition, nearly retrocognition, with a good dose of clairvoyance thrown in—but not any of those, because those are human things, and Ianto Jones is not entirely human.
“Who knows,” the woman—nearly a girl, really—says with a cheery smile. “With that kind of head for detail, maybe someday you’ll be manager.”
Ianto doesn’t become manager.
(Within seven months, he’s managed to accumulate enough contacts and amass enough funds—the legality is somewhat sketchy, but bartering and selling information, especially among newly arrived aliens, is something Ianto’s always been good at, and has always done—to buy the place out one partner at a time.
He’s now the owner.)
He dreams of the twenty-fourth century, dreams of long, dark corridors and shining silver doors, each one opening onto a bare, immaculate white room. He’s walking, feet aching because there are far too many rooms to ever see them all, but he has to. He owes it to the occupants, the ones he was never able to save. Six hundred children of alien descent, trapped beneath Torchwood One, in the levels that are designated, where no one ever sees them, as Torchwood Four.
Records say that Four vanished sometime in the twentieth century. In reality, they simply went underground. Canary Wharf was a blow to them, the loss of the Tower setting their operation back decades, almost centuries, but they rebuilt in the end.
Ianto’s a product of that rebuilding, and their dubious hospitality. He’s been a part of Torchwood Four since he was five years old, which is longer ago than most people would think.
Most days, Ianto can't even remember a time when there was anything else.
There is another traveler in Cardiff who was displaced from the twenty-fourth century, an Arcateenian who fled war on his home world only to fall through the Rift. Ianto has met a few of his species, and many of them can't contain their contempt for humans, but Emrys (an adopted name, not his real one) enjoys being on Earth.
As soon as Ianto walks in his door, Emrys looks at him and Ianto can tell he knows.
(Only the very lucky or the very rich manage to escape Torchwood Four if they have alien blood. Ianto’s family was neither lucky nor rich.)
“Congratulations on finding freedom, son of Bandraginus V,” Emrys tells him, before Ianto can so much as greet him.
Not many are able to identify his mother’s planet just by looking at him—even fewer, now, because Bandraginus V was destroyed by Zanak, the pirate planet, for its mineral wealth. But Emrys is a star poet, and deeper than he appears. Ianto nods carefully.
“Thank you,” he answers, and if his throat is a little tight, neither of them mentions it.
By unspoken agreement, they never mention the twenty-fourth century, Torchwood Four, Arcateen V, or Bandraginus V again. Ianto would like to think that they get along rather well, even then.
Emrys is the first to pay him to deal with a group of troublesome blowfish. Because he kindly spreads word of just what Ianto is capable of, he’s most certainly not the last.
Business, to use rather passé terms, is booming.
The Coffee Hut closes four days after the sale is finalized.
Three weeks later, the Sun in a Cup opens in the same place, manned (more or less) by Ianto and the most qualified local to apply for the position, a young girl named Annie.
(Annie confesses that if she hadn’t gotten the job at the Sun, she’d have gone to Jubilee Pizza across the Plass. Ianto thinks about this bright, pretty girl being stuck delivering pizzas night after night as she works to pay for school and has to bite back a shudder. Really, she’s eminently more suited to being a barista. And he pays quite well.)
They don’t serve quite the variety of froufrou drinks the old shop used to, but what they do offer is of an immeasurably higher quality. Ianto loves coffee, and the blend of beans he uses is enough to convince the staunchest latte-lover to drink it black. Ianto also has a knack for knowing just what a customer wants, or recommending something they didn’t even know they wanted in the first place.
Some might call it abusing his powers, but Ianto’s always taken a rather liberal view of that kind of thing—a byproduct, no doubt, of never being allowed to use them at all the first few years after Torchwood found him.
Regardless of the how, Ianto soon has a steady stream of regulars and a good amount of new customers. His overheads aren’t too high, even after hiring a local immigrant from Barcelona (the planet, not the city) to bake for them each day. He works all day in the shop and digs ever deeper into Cardiff’s alien underbelly at night, his mother’s heritage opening one door after another.
Soon enough, Ianto is back in the position of knowing everything, standing at the crosscurrent of a hundred different streams of information. No one moves in the underworld without his knowledge, but almost no one knows his real name or can connect him with anything else.
He’s the most powerful ghost to walk the streets of Cardiff, and that’s just how he likes it.
And then, of course, Captain Jack Harkness shows up and tears down everything Ianto’s been trying so hard to build.