A/N: This is very much an AU, OOC fic. I wasn't planning on posting it until I'd finished "Ashes & Dust", but the muse had other ideas.
This basically looks at one possible consequence, had Jack refused Alice Guppy and Emily Holroyd's "offer" to work for Torchwood in 1899. The story begins in current times, approximately six months before the battle of Canary Wharf.
Ianto Jones hated being kept waiting. Whether it was in a doctor's or dentist's surgery, for friends or family, or for a new employer, he hated it with a passion. Being made to wait for someone else took the control out of his hands, and Ianto Jones hated not being in control.
Right at that moment, he was sitting in the office of one Doctor Robin Spence, head of the Secure Archives department in Torchwood, London. The object of his growing irritation, the reputedly eccentric Dr Spence, had yet to appear, and it was now nearly twenty minutes past the time scheduled for his interview.
He was there for what he believed was a final round interview for a job that, in all truth, he wasn't even sure that he wanted. He'd been with Torchwood for nearly two years now, and had been perfectly happy in General Archives. It was his girlfriend, Lisa Hallett — girlfriend being a fairly loose description, mind — who had pressured him to apply for the position, and subsequent promotion, when news spread that Secure Archives needed a new person.
Secure Archives had better status, she'd insisted, and though he hadn't argued, he couldn't help but wonder just why it was that he needed status to begin with. In the end, after days and nights of nagging, he'd caved. After all, the pay was much better, and he desperately needed a boost to his ever-dwindling funds.
Even so, he couldn't help but wonder whether a raise in his pay packet was worth the utter bizarreness that went with the job, not to mention the aggravation of working directly under a man who was alleged to be a few sandwiches short of a picnic.
Ianto was just getting ready to leave — raise be damned — when the door swung open and Spence strode in.
"Ah, Jones, good. No time to waste, up you get. Got lots to show you, including exactly what you'll be doing."
Ianto blinked, confused and at something of a loss. "I'm sorry...? I thought I was here for an interview..."
"Hmm? What? Oh! Thought you'd been told already. You've got the job. By far the best candidate. Now get a move on, Jones. We don't have all day."
Ianto followed him in a daze. He'd been all psyched up for an interview that he had fully intended to mess up, only to find out that he'd gotten the job regardless. A job that he was starting to feel more and more strongly that he didn't even want...
The tour was most certainly of the whirlwind variety. He was given a basic code that gave him entry to the Secure Archive Vaults, but not to any of the artefacts housed within. According to Spence, he had to work for Secure Archives for a minimum of six months before gaining just the basic clearances.
"If you don't mind me asking, Dr Spence," Ianto ventured, "exactly what will I be doing, if I'm not going to be working with any of the artefacts?"
Spence grinned, then, and it was an expression Ianto quickly decided that he did not like. The man gave him a strong impression of a piranha that had just spotted something nice and juicy to feast on. "Just coming to that. We've got a very special task for you, Jones. Very important. This way."
He led Ianto deeper into the vaults until they finally reached a solid metal security door. "The code you've been given accesses this specific area," Spence explained. "In this room is your assignment."
"And that would be what, sir...?
Spence grinned, and opened the door. Ianto peered inside the brightly-lit room, wincing a little at the assault on his senses. It took him a moment to be able to see clearly, and once he could, he gasped out loud in astonishment at what he was seeing.
Inside the room was a man, huddled in a far corner of the room and watching them with wild eyes. He wore filthy sweatpants and a torn, dirty tee-shirt. His hair was long and shaggy — although, Ianto was curious to note that he had no beard or any other sign of facial hair — and there were manacles around his wrists and ankles, as well as what appeared to be a leather collar around his neck. Five separate chains kept him secured to the wall.
Ianto felt a rush of anger at the inhumanity of the sight before him. "Is this some sort of joke? Since when do we lock up humans?"
"This is no joke, Jones, and we don't consider it to be human. Say hello to Torchwood's longest surviving resident."
Slowly, Ianto took a step towards the man, only to stop when he bared his teeth in a snarl, and a low, menacing growl rose from deep in his throat. Spence moved in, then, and brandished a stun stick. The man cringed backwards into the corner, whimpering pathetically. Spence nodded his satisfaction.
"Always carry one of these when you come in here, Jones. Your predecessor forgot, and the freak here scared the living shit out of him. Don't be fooled. It's a lot faster and stronger than it looks."
"He," Ianto said automatically.
Spence shot him a quizzical look. "What was that?"
"He," Ianto repeated. "Not it. He."
Spence's expression hardened. "Don't go kidding yourself here, Jones. Even if this freak of nature was human once, it isn't now. Guess how long it's been here. Go ahead, take a wild guess."
Ianto was at a loss. When he failed to answer, Spence spoke with a manic glee.
"A hundred and six years! Can you believe it? And it doesn't look a day older than when Torchwood Three captured it."
"Excuse me, Dr Spence," Ianto said tersely. "How do you know he's not human? He looks a hundred percent human to me."
The manic grin widened. "Oh, I was hoping you'd ask that." With that, Spence pulled out his gun, and shot the chained man in the head.
"What are you doing?" Ianto screamed in horror, breaking away from Spence's side to kneel beside the prisoner. "You son of a bitch, you killed him! You didn't have to do that!"
With the air of one who had performed the same routine time and again, Spence grabbed Ianto by his shirt collar, and physically dragged him backwards. "Trust me, Jones. You don't want to be that close to him when he comes back."
"Comes back?" Ianto choked out. "What are you talking about? You shot him in the head! He's not coming back!"
"Just shut up and wait. Should only take thirty seconds."
Ianto stared in shock at Spence, wondering if the director was aware that a lunatic was in charge of Secure Archives. He was still trying to work out how to get word to her when the corpse in the corner suddenly lurched upwards with a strangled gasp. Ianto gaped in disbelief. The bullet wound was gone, and the previously lifeless eyes were now staring at Spence with a feral hatred.
"How...?" Ianto whispered in a daze, barely able to believe what he'd just witnessed.
"We don't know," Spence answered. "Test after test, and we still don't know how it works. And of course, the freak here obviously can't tell us. We've tried nearly every form of execution you can think of... Well, except decapitation. The Director seems a bit reluctant to try cutting its head off. You know, just in case it's permanent. But anyway, we keep trying, and its body just keeps resetting itself. It's fascinating to watch, really, especially when we've killed it by beating it to death. You can actually see the bruises and injuries disappearing. You know, we slit its wrists once, and the cuts just healed up within seconds of us making them?"
Ianto silently seethed as he listened to Spence's heartless commentary. He couldn't comprehend how anyone could justify treating another human like this, but he knew that it would be pointless to argue.
"What," he asked tersely, "are you expecting me to do?"
"Take care of it, of course," Spence answered. "Although, when I say take care of, I mean that fairly loosely. Don't worry, though. It's a simple enough job, and you'll have plenty of time over to assist the other archivists in between. Basically, all you need to do is make sure it's fed and watered, and hose it down once a day... You know, to clean up the shit. Sorry, Jones, I know it's not the most prestigious of jobs, but it's probably the most important one in this whole place. The Director wants it looked after, and someone has to do it."
Ianto could barely control his anger by then. Never in his life had he witnessed anything so shameful and disgusting. "Fed, watered and hosed down? Dr Spence, he isn't a fucking horse! He's a human being, and should be treated like it! This is... is... hell, I don't have the words to describe this. I can't believe the Director approves of it."
Spence regarded Ianto intently. "Believe it, Jones. She even comes down personally every other week to inspect it. This... freak of nature is Torchwood's most prized possession. You may not like it, but you will do your job. Understood?"
Ianto did, and he could hear the unspoken threat in Spence's voice only too clearly. He knew as well as the next person that there were consequences for employees who didn't do their jobs adequately, and he had no desire to be a part of that statistic. No matter, he mused darkly, that this was a job he hadn't even wanted.
"Yes, sir," he conceded in a subdued tone.
Spence grinned again, once more satisfied. "Good. I'll leave you to it. The kitchen I showed you before? There's a fridge in the far corner where we keep stock of the food that you'll be giving it."
"What sort of food?" Ianto queried.
Spence's grinned widened. "Trust me, it's nothing fancy. All you'll need to do is fill a bowl and put it down on the floor. It's not advanced enough to bother with a spoon."
Ianto let his breath out in a hiss. He hadn't even started, and he already hated this job.
"Oh, and keep this with you..." He pressed the stun stick into Ianto's hand. "Keep hold of that, and it'll be docile as a kitten." He paused, and then added soberly, "It's not human, Jones. It's a freak that shouldn't even exist. Remember that."
And then he was gone. Ianto stared down at the stun stick in his hand, and then up at the figure cowering in the corner. A pair of pale blue eyes watched him warily, with a fear and suspicion that Ianto guessed had been wrought by years of systematic abuse.
"You poor bastard," Ianto murmured, taking care to keep his voice low and non-threatening. "I'll bet everyone you see uses these rotten things on you, don't they? Well, I'm not going to be one of them."
He tucked the weapon into his belt, and hid it from sight beneath his jacket. Then, he smiled at the man in what he hoped was a reassuring manner. "You see? I'm not going to hurt you."
It happened so fast that Ianto was barely able to get out of the way in time. The prisoner suddenly exploded out of his corner and lunged at Ianto with a snarl. Ianto threw himself backwards, hitting the wall hard enough to wind himself, while his would-be attacker strained against the chains that held him in check.
For just a moment, they locked stares, and Ianto suddenly felt utterly sure that he didn't mean to hurt him — that all he craved was freedom. Then, the door burst open and Spence strode in, gun in hand.
"No!" Ianto screamed, terrified that Spence intended on shooting the poor man dead again. "Don't! He wasn't going to hurt me!"
For just a split second, those pale blue eyes alighted on Ianto with an undecipherable look, but then Spence fired, and the prisoner collapsed in a heap on the floor, howling in pain from where he'd been shot in the shoulder.
"You didn't have to do that," Ianto growled. "He wasn't going to hurt me."
Spence dragged Ianto none-too-gently to his feet.
"This is not a place for bleeding hearts, Jones. Get that straight right now, and you might actually live to see your next birthday. Now, get yourself out of here, and when you come back tomorrow, you'd better be ready to do your job. Go on, get out of here."
Ianto went, silently fuming, with the pitiful howls of the unfortunate prisoner echoing horribly in his ears.
Ianto looked up in frustration at his girlfriend, Lisa Hallett.
He couldn't quite keep the irritation out of his voice, nor even bring himself to care whether she noticed. After his experiences that afternoon, he was feeling increasingly resentful towards her for pushing him into applying for the Secure Archives position. Ever since his induction to Secure Archives, Ianto's mind had been filled with visions of playing nanny to a man who apparently had the mental capacity of an infant, and the instincts of a wild animal. It was both disturbing and heartbreaking, and Ianto honestly couldn't see himself surviving long where he was. If witnessing the de-humanising treatment of the prisoner didn't destroy him, then the abhorrent Robin Spence eventually would.
Lisa, however, appeared oblivious to his mood, watching him with an irritatingly bright smile.
"So what was it like?"
"I assume you're talking about the new job," he said flatly, wondering if there was a way he could put her off asking without thoroughly pissing her off. A moment beyond that, he found himself wondering why he even cared whether he pissed her off or not. Lisa uttered an irritated huff, and dropped down onto the couch beside him.
"C'mon, Ianto. Everyone knows that Secure Archives is where they keep it."
Ianto's jaw clenched. If he heard one more person referring to the poor bastard imprisoned in Secure Archives as 'it', he was going to scream. "It?" he asked sharply. "What, exactly, do you mean by 'it'?"
Apparently oblivious to his growing aggravation, Lisa spoke excitedly. "You know! The Torchwood prisoner! Remy said it's an alien, and Don thinks it might even be him!"
"Him...?" Ianto asked, puzzled.
"You know! The Doctor! So tell me, did you see it?"
Ianto felt a hot rush of anger as it occurred to him that this was the real reason Lisa had pushed him into applying for Secure Archives — purely so that her own morbid curiosity could be satisfied. "That's why you wanted me to apply for Secure Archives, isn't it? Damn it, Lisa, you knew I was happy where I was!"
"Oh, don't be like that," she begged him. "Secure Archives is a great step up! And isn't the pay a lot better?"
Ianto had to grudgingly concede to that. Even so, he couldn't honestly say it was worth it for what he was being expected to do.
"C'mon," Lisa cajoled lightly. "Can't you tell me anything? Just a hint?"
"Fine," Ianto growled. "It has eight arms, no legs, blue and green skin, tentacles for hair, and eyes on great, long stalks."
Lisa's eyes very nearly bulged out of her head at the description.
"Yes!" Ianto burst out. "I am. It's not an alien, Lisa, and it certainly isn't the Doctor."
"Well, then, what is it? Tell me!"
He twisted around to stare at her. "Lisa, today I witnessed the worst abuse of human rights that I've ever seen. It wasn't alien, it was a man. Just a man. He's being kept chained up in this little room in Secure Archives, and the poor bastard probably hasn't seen daylight for years. And they all think it's okay to just torture him whenever they feel like it! He's being treated worse than any animal, Lisa. It's horrible."
Lisa contemplated that for a long moment before shrugging it off. "If he's there, then there must be something wrong with him. Now, c'mon! I want to celebrate!"
Ianto stared at her, incredulous that she could be so dismissive of another's plight. "Don't you care at all?"
"Of course I do. It's terrible, and you should complain to the Director. Now, will you hurry up? The restaurant won't hold our booking if we're late."
Ianto knew what he should have done. He knew he should have told Lisa to forget it, and not just about dinner. But he was tired, still a little in shock, and simply didn't have the willpower left to argue with her.
And so, he went to dinner with his girlfriend and made meaningless small talk over steak, wine and some decadent dessert that he couldn't even name. When they got home, he took her to bed and then lay awake beside her for the rest of the night, wondering when Torchwood had lost is soul — or, indeed, if it had ever had one to begin with — and why he hadn't noticed before now.