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The Memory of Time

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Prologue 

Rain pattered down the darkened alley in London, and he could barely see the tall robed figure in front of him. Jack Harkness was not sure why he was following the man, except that there seemed to be something strange about him, even from this distance. The most obvious being that not a drop of rain marred the black oilskin cape he wore, hood up to obscure his face.  

The man was walking very fast, though Jack could make no guess to where he was going, and he was very certain the man knew he was being followed. Jack had made no pretense this time to hide himself, preferring the pretense of stalking instead. They were approaching a busy, yet narrow road, and Jack closed the distance between them even as the man sped up.  

He did not appear to intend to stop for the traffic, instead stepping out into it without looking. Lights flashed and a horn blared, and without a second thought Jack pushed the man to the ground on the other side of the street. Something crunched under the man, and all Jack saw before the golden light engulfed them was his vortex manipulator, engulfed in golden flame.    

Jack woke with a start, looking around in mild panic, which ebbed when he found the small lane they'd landed in to be empty. It was still night, but...something was wrong. The world beyond the alley had changed, though subtly. Now, different shops lined the lane, and the few cars that drove by were definitely much more modern than he remembered. He swore. Figures he would cross his timeline again. Really, it was getting hard to keep track of it all!  

Jack looked to the man he'd saved from death by speeding vehicle. He was still unconscious, and the hood had slipped off in their fall, revealing a mane of perfect auburn hair and smooth, freckled skin. Jack grinned, perhaps this would not be so bad after all! He was not surprised to find the hair was silky as he brushed it back, searching for a heartbeat in the slender neck. The man's neck was warm, the beat of blood fast under the skin. So he is not dead then, good, Jack thought to himself.  

A low moan, and Jack pulled away, sitting back as the man pulled himself to sitting with difficulty. Looking up through a curtain of hair, he stared at Jack.  

What have you done?” He removed his hand from his chest, and Jack winced when he saw a ragged, vaguely star shaped wound in his chest. It was crusted with golden pieces that shown brightly in the dark.  

“What...” Albus seemed to notice the wound for the first time. It looked like it would have been serious, but it seemed to heal before his eyes, the red fading as he watched, strands of gold shimmering along the lines of a  blackened, star shaped core. He patted the wound absently before crying out, looking all over his person for something, patting and shaking his robes frantically, until his hands eventually rested on his bare neck.  

“My timeturner! What have you done?”  

“What are you talking about?” So this man wasn't normal after all.  

“My timeturner, what have you done?” He repeated, looking around Jack's shoulder and realizing the changes, “No...I can't...” He scrambled to his feet, and swayed, and Jack caught him before he could hit the ground again.  

“What's your name?” Jack asked. In the wan light from the street, he saw the man's eyes were a brilliant blue, wide and sparkling with tears.  

A blush coloured Albus' freckled cheeks as he realized how close he was to Jack, as he leered down at him. “A...Albus...”  

Albus trembled, partly from lingering pains that stabbed through his chest every time he drew breath, and partly from the closeness of the man that leaned over him. He was certain that this man was a Muggle, but there was something in his eyes that betrayed that he was no ordinary one. Albus could not remember the last time he'd been touched by anyone. This man's touch burned, and he could not stop the blush that crept across his cheeks. 

 “What....what...” His chest hitched and he gasped painfully, but could not get the words out.  

“Jack. Jack Harkness. Can you walk? We need to move, it's not safe here...” Albus leaned on Jack, his hand over the wound on his chest.   “My timeturner....”  

“I don't know what...wait...timeturner?” Jack looked at his vortex manipulator and the glowing numbers that now shined back at him. Suddenly what happened made sense. This “timeturner” of Albus' must have reacted with his own wristband and tossed them around in time. He picked up the oilskin cloak and draped it around Albus' shivering shoulders. Jack scanned the ground for the remains of the device, though he suspected that the wound in Albus' chest answered this question quite well.  

“Hold on to me, we need to get out of here.”  

“What...” 

“Just hold onto me” Albus complied, and Jack triumphantly pushed a button on his wristband and they cracked out of sight. 

One thing Jack had learned about immortality was the importance of having a safe place to return to, no matter what time, no matter what place. In fact, since being manipulated by Torchwood, he had several, and this one they did not know about.

They appeared with a crack in the alley before the passage, and Albus looked like he wanted to question him, but Jack pressed a finger to his lips. They walked in silence, Albus leaning wearily against him as he found the place that he desired. This place was not much, hidden and off the grid to avoid attention. It was here in case something like this happened again, specifically so. Jack would not admit to himself that it was his lonely hope for the Doctor to return that made this place what it was.  

Albus sat on the dusty bed, dazed and more than a bit tired, watching Jack as he lit old oil lamps, illuminating the spartan room. He patted his robes, belatedly searching for his wand, and sighed softly when he found it unharmed in a side pocket. This man was not what he claimed to be, and he was not entirely sure now that he was not a wizard. What they'd done was just like apparation, only he'd done it with the push of a button on his wrist, how curious. 

Albus did not want to reveal too much too soon, mindful still of the Statute of Secrecy and of the precarious position of being in an unknown time.  Something had went terribly wrong, and he thought I have failed. What will become of me now? He fingered the edges of his ruined robe, the healing wound at his fingertips. A ragged star of blackened flesh, dotted with shining pieces of what he assumed was the remains of the timeturner. Filaments of gold snaked out from the center at irregular intervals, pulsing just under his skin like veins. Around the outermost edge scar tissue had formed, and though the redness was nearly gone from the flesh, it was a permanent reminder of his failure. He had definitely noticed that they had come forward several decades in time. What can I do now? He thought, I have failed everyone, yet it seems the world remains intact...  Albus' thoughts were interrupted by the dip of the mattress as Jack sat beside him.  

“You're not the only one at a loss. Though I have the advantage of this happening to me before.”  

“I...I have failed.”  

“No, this was an accident. We will get it right.”  

“You don't understand, they had put their hope in me...”  

“I know how that feels. Though I also know that you are not a normal man.” Albus raised his eyebrows at Jack but said nothing. “So what are you?” Albus blushed and gaped at him, how could he ask such a frank question?  

“I'm....human, if that is what you're speaking of,” he said evasively.  

“Not any normal man.”

“Neither are you.”  

“You noticed?” Jack flashed Albus his best grin, noting the faint blush that it triggered.

“You...that device on your wrist...”   “Oh, this? It's my vortex manipulator.”  

“Your what?”  

“It allows me to travel through time and space. And you my friend have fixed it! I owe you a lot just for that.”  

No, not an ordinary man at all, Albus thought, reaching for his wand, but not like any muggle I have ever met either. Albus pulled out his maple wand and a small square device that looked like a lighter. He met Jacks eyes and flicked the device twice, and the room went black. To his satisfaction Jack said nothing and did not move. He brought his wand between them and whispered, “Lumos”, bathing their faces in white light. 

Jack grinned at him, “Interesting. I have heard about people like you during my time at Torchwood.”  

“Torchwood?”  

“We protect the world from alien invasion and other things.”  

“Like myself?” Albus could not help smiling.  

“Yes. Most are harmless, but they're always watching.”  

“We're called wizards.” Albus said quietly, eyes downcast.  

“The people that are born with the ability to manipulate the forces of nature via something they call magic.”  

“It's more complicated than just that.” Albus felt offended that Jack could put such a dear thing to him so...mundanely. 

“Is it really? The only difference between us is the method we use to manipulate it.” Jack gestured to his vortex manipulator and back to Albus' lit wand.  

“But...if that's true, there is no such thing as the non magical is there?”  

“Not quite, this kind of technology isn't even possible for another 30 centuries, so in that you are still ahead.”  

Albus narrowed his eyes at Jack. “Thirty centuries! Now you talk nonsense! You can't be....” 

“Not quite, but I come from the 51st century, so I know. I used to be a Time Agent, but I was stranded here because of this thing!” 

“I see....But, even so, wouldn't you age?” Jack laughed, a bitter sound to Albus' ears.  

“No, not swiftly anyways. You see, I cannot die either.”  

Albus glared at Jack, “You're playing with me!”  

“I'm not. I wish I was. It is a pain to think you are finally dead, and then wake up with the business end of a broken bottle imbedded in your chest.” Albus winced, unconsciously covering his timeturner wound.  

“But to have immortality....” he trailed off, the familiar wash of sorrow and hunger overwhelming him for a moment, and he swallowed thickly. “I would give anything, anything for that.” Albus thought of Gellert then, He would have liked to meet this man... 

 “You wouldn't if you were me. You haven't watched your comrades die and be helpless, knowing you won't share their fate. I should have died hundreds of times, and some of those times I deserved it. It's not the wonderful thing you think it is...”  

Hesitantly, long fingers caressed his cheeks, and Albus leaned close to him, some deep hurt shining in his eyes. “If you knew what I lost trying to attain it...”   “I think I can guess...” Jack twined his hands into Albus' hair and their lips met. Albus made a small sound, crushing his lips to Jack's.