Jack enters the bar and it’s not long before he spots her in the room. It’s not hard actually, she is the only woman in the place, and nobody can miss that mass of curly blond hair in a dark dirty café. The fact that she is the only one sitting at the bar makes her more obvious to locate.
The moment he closes the door is followed by a heavy silence. He can hear a pin drop and he feels every one looking at him suspiciously, and when he walks without any hesitation and sits down next to the cause of that heavy atmosphere, he can feel every breath becoming heavier and someone’s chair creaking as they shift in discomfort. The place is well-known for its dangerous clients, killers and robbers and mafiosi of all kind, but somehow they all seem to be afraid.
The barman looks at hims with frightened eyes and he know the man is trying to stop him from making a mistake, but Jack doesn’t care: he knows exactly what he is doing. He asks for a drink without looking at the woman next to him and the barman gives it to him reluctantly, glancing every few second at her, as if he was afraid she would suddenly jump on him and kill him -actually, it’s something that might happen.
Jack doesn’t look straight at her but watches her from the corner of his eyes as he sips his drink. She hasn’t moved yet, her hands clenched around her glass full of some strong drink -too strong for a normal woman, but she is not some normal woman, is she? It’s the first time he can see her with his own eyes but he has heard a lot about her, like everyone else in fact. River Song, the Woman who killed the Doctor. She has succeeded where anyone else has failed, Cybermen and Sontarans and even Daleks, who all fear her and admire her at the same time, whereas most human beings fear her and hate her at the same time . And now she has earned her pardon and has been released from Stormcage, and everyone just hates her.
He is one of the rare people in the whole of time and space to know that everything is a lie and that she never killed the Doctor that day next to Lake Silencio. But he is also one of the rare people to know that, even if there was a time when the Doctor came to her and took her out of prison every now and then, this time must have gone away for her and she is meeting him in the wrong order now. It’s like he is slowly forgetting her, and Jack knows the feeling -he is usually the one who forgets people, because he is so old that he can’t remember everything and everyone, even if he wants to.
He and she are not different. All the people they love fade away. At the end, they are alone.
He knows she is looking at him, studying him, even if she doesn’t seem to move. He knows she has already noticed he is carrying a gun, and he can almost hear her brain calculating how long it will take him to grab it and fire. He hasn’t planned to shoot her, but she doesn’t know that, does she? For her he is just another silly man annoying her, or trying to impress everyone by approaching her -and maybe trying to kill her, and in that case she has to kill him first. He can’t blame her to think about it, he knows she is just trying to survive.
She takes a sip and her glass clinks on the bar when she puts it back on it. It’s not a loud sound but it seems to echo in the whole silent room. “There are three solutions.” she finally tells him coldly, giving him a full report of what she has guessed while she was studying him. “First one, you don’t know who I am. But that would mean that you have been out of the entire universe for the last fifty years. And even if you have, you must be a fool if you haven’t noticed I am alone there and that none of those big dangerous men has dared to approach me -no that’s not exactly true, a few of them have already tried to approach me and you’re sitting on what remains of them.” she pauses, waiting for him to react but he doesn't move. “But you don’t look like a fool. So you must know who am I, or at least you must have understood that you should not come too close if you want to stay alive.” he turns his head at those words, and faces her for the first time. Her eyes are red from tears but dark, and despite the alcohol that she must have absorbed, she still looks like her mind is clear. “My second guess is that you know me, and you try to be a hero. That would mean that you are more stupid that I think. Don’t think that I did not see your weapon -well hidden, but not well enough. You could also use your fists, but don’t trust what you see, I’m far stronger than I seem. And if you really know who I am, and if you really know what I’ve done, you must know that you don’t have any chance to catch me alive -I’m talking about your life, not mine. Which leads me to my last option: you’re not a fool and you know who I am, and you just want to die. It would be some kind of a honor, don’t you think, if I allow you to be killed by me? Quick and efficient. Or longer if you want to suffer, you know I can do everything. Everything I want, if I’m in the mood. And you’re lucky, I am in the mood.” She stops then, waiting for him to react and confirm one of her hypotheses.
“I can’t die.” he simply informed her after a few seconds. She looks straight into his eyes, but she does not even blink. She doesn’t sound surprised, nor even suspicious. Eventually she pulls back a bit.
“If it’s true, you must be the saddest man of the whole universe.” she declares solemnly.
Before he can replies her he felt something crashing against his heart, and his blood seems to boil, and no air comes in his lungs anymore - and he dies.
Jack’s death never lasts long, and he finally comes back to life, a painful sensation as he can breathe again and it’s like the first time, each time, the most painful sensation of all. He is still sitting at the bar, and River is still next to him, sipping her glass. She doesn’t move when he gasps and lives again, whereas he can hear cries behind them, and some people rush out, the door slamming.
“How did you do that?” he asks her as soon as he can speak again.
“Poison.” she tells him but it’s not the answer he was expecting.
“How did you give it to me? You did not touch me, and you did not even approach my glass.” he is a bit cross that she kills him and he did even not see it coming.
“I’m a killer. I know how to kill someone.”
“You did not kill him though.” he lets out the words and he can see the tremble of her hand, but it’s all she will show him. The next second it has disappeared and she is acting like he hasn’t told anything that moves her.
“How did you do that?” she asks instead, ignoring his last sentence. He takes his time, raising his hand to ask for an other drink. The barman looks at him like he is watching a ghost -and he is in fact- his face blank, and for a moment Jack wonders if the man is not dead. But then he moves and fills his glass with shaking hands before pulling back as far as he can -which is not so far, a few meters behind the bar is all that he can get.
“Don’t ask when you already know the answer.” he finally replies to her after a sip. “That makes you sound stupid.”
He can see the barman opening his mouth wide and Jack gets prepared to die again. Insulting River Song in public is not the wisest thing to do, especially when she is “in the mood”. He waits a few seconds, but finally she laughs. “You’re not afraid of anything, are you?” she asks him and he knows that somehow the defying game stops here. “Come on, I’m sick of this place.” she jumps out of her sit and he follows her. They haven’t paid for any of their drinks but nobody will ask them. As soon as the door slams shut behind them, the barmaid faints on the ground.
They walk in the night for a few minutes and neither of them talks. He knows she has understood now who he is and what he is, but he gives her time to think about it. He won’t push her, not tonight, she has drunk too much and apparently she has also cried and it’s not a day to play with her. She can change her mind at any time and he doesn’t want to die again.
“Captain Jack Harkness.” she finally whispers, so quietly he can barely hear her. “We’ve finally met. I thought that it was never gonna happen. I have heard a lot about you.” she said, looking up at him and he smiled.
“I have heard a lot about you too.” he replied and there’s something in his voice he hasn’t planned, something natural to him, especially when he faces such an attractive woman. She smirks at him and seems pleased.
“What where you doing in that bar?” she asks him in the same tone. “Not your type I think. Only straight men.”
“What where you doing in that bar Doctor Song? That’s not a place for a woman, even for a woman like you.” he eludes her question by another and her face darkens at this. “What has he done?” he asked her when she doesn’t answer and he doesn’t have to name that “he”. She tenses next to him and he can see her blinking a few times, trying to stop tears. “Nothing I can blame him for.” she answers with a trembling voice. “He is just... he is so young now...” she stops and Jack says nothings, sympathizing. “Last time I saw him he barely knew me. He called me “Professor”” she laughed at that, a bitter and sad laugh. “Do you know how many years will be necessary before I can be a professor?” she sniffles and shakes her head, her curls flying around her and he wonders how such a beautiful woman can look so sad -because of what, fate, destiny, stupid coincidences? “He was with my mother” she continues softly “And she didn’t know me at all, it was the first time she met me. I don’t think I have many times left -one, two, maybe three, and then he will have completely forgotten me.”
“I’m sorry.” Jack eventually says, because someone has to be, and obviously the Doctor can’t, not anymore. She looks up at him and their eyes met for the first time since they left the bar. He can see the deepness of them, all the years she has already lived, all the knowledge she has acquired, all the joy she has felt and all the pain she has suffered -and all the things to come. He wonders if she can see the same things in his own eyes.
“It’s not your fault.” she places a hand on his arm and squeezes it gently. “At least I know there will be an end, even if sometimes I wish I could be dead before it happens. But I know I can’t, whatever I do, whoever I met, whatever happens, I always survive because he hasn’t met me yet. I know I surely won’t live long after that, I’m not sure that I can...” she says that without any emotion, like she was presenting some cold scientific fact, and he wonders for how long she has been thinking of that.
“River, why are you telling me this?” According to what he has heard about her, she is not the kind of woman to express her feelings like that, especially to a stranger. Well, he is not really a stranger, because they have both heard about the other from the Doctor and it’s like they have been known each other for years, but it’s still the first time they meet.
They stop front of a building and she fumbles about her keys in her pocket, opening the door before facing him again and answering his question. “Because you know him. You know what it feels when he leaves and you have no idea when he will come back. Because... I believe what I said, in the bar. You can’t die Jack, you know what it is, wishing for the pain to stop but it never does.” He looks silently at her. Of course he knows how she feels, as she knows how he feels. The only difference is that one day her pain will stop, when he will keep feeling it, again and again and again...
She shivers in the doorway and shakes her head, as she could wash away her thoughts by doing it. “Will you come up?” she finally offers. “I need company.” She highlights the last word and he swallows, but nods anyway. She takes his hand and drags him in.
Her hand is hot in his and it’s all he can focus on while the lift takes them up. Her hand, and her body leaning against him. The lift is large enough for them both but she seems to prefer to be close to him, her side pressing against his side and his chin tickles in her hair -because, even with her heels, she is still small compared to him. As soon as they still she rushes out in the corridor, still grabbing his hand until they are front of her flat (or so he thinks, but who knows if it’s really hers?). She frees his hand then to open the door and he steps in after her.
The moment the door is closed and they are safe inside he is pushed against the nearest wall and suddenly it’s River’s whole body against him and her lips on his lips and she is kissing him with passionate eagerness. For a second he doesn’t know what to do, but his body responds naturally to the pressure and he kisses her back, forgetting everything else. She is soft and warm, her skilled tongue licking the top of his mouth with passion, and he can’t focus on anything else but the physical sensations of her against him. Her hands cup his face, her nails scratching his cheeks teasingly. His own hands travel along her side without the agreement of his brain, but she is so attractive, and he is Jack, he can’t resist a glorious woman like her snogging him.
It’s only when she presses closer and moans, her hips rubbing in a non-innocent way against his groin -and when did he get so hard?- that he seems to realize where he is and what he is doing and with whom. He pulls back abruptly, and grabs her shoulders to keep her to a more decent distance. “River...Stop.” he breathes out sharply, and tries to sound convincing “What are you doing?”
She winces and curves her lips in a disapproving face, and he tries not to look at those lips, and not to remember how he loved how they felt against his. “I’ve heard a lot about you Captain, but nobody ever told me that you were the kind of guy to refuse a good shag.” And he isn’t the kind of guy to be embarrassed with direct language, but it’s River Song in front of him, and has she just asked him for a shag? It’s not her kind -or maybe it is, but she didn’t seem to be in that mood a second before.
“What? River, I... We can’t. It’s not like you’re not attractive or gorgeous and, oh, I would die to have you in other occasions, but... you... You’re married!”
“Since when does it make a difference for you?”
“Since we’re talking about him !” There aren’t many things that can make Jack “refuse a good shag” as she said, but thinking about the Doctor and imagining what he can do if he knows that the good shag was actually his wife is one of those.
“He doesn’t even know who I am.” she replies, her voice higher and about to break, and for a moment she looks so sad and so desperate that Jack doesn’t know what’s worse, the Doctor’s knowing, or letting River being so lost. He just wants to hold her and hug her and tell her that everything will be okay -but that’s a lie, isn’t it? So he just leans closer and he strokes her cheek gently in comfort. “I’m still not sure that this is a good idea.” he replies, softer.
“I just need to forget.” she whispers, tears at the edge of her eyes again, and she kisses him briefly. “I need my hands and my lips and my whole body to be so busy, to feel so full, that my mind won’t be able to think anymore.” She looks up at him and kisses him again, more insistently, and he finds himself kissing him back again. “Would you do that for me Jack?” she whispers, her mouth opening for him. Her tongue was teasing his lips again, and he can feel it now, the sadness and the pursuit of oblivion. It was his turn to cup her face and bring her closer, wiping away her tears and opening his mouth to welcome her. He does as he was told after that -as she almost begged him. He uses all his skills to keep her body busy, and makes love to her, desperately, widely, until he's so lost in her he can't think again -and if she feels the same, he knows he has reached his goal.
He knows it’s over when she finally slips between the sheets and hugs a pillow when a last sigh of satisfaction. He does not move for a few seconds, until he can breathe normally again. When he sits on the edge of the bed, ready to leave and let her alone, she suddenly grabs his arm. “Stay. Please.” she almost begs him, her voice tired and weak, and how could he resist her? He lies down next to her and she curls against his side. She sighs deeply and he thinks he can feel tears running down his chest -he hugs her tighter and they both fall asleep, limbs entwined.
When he wakes up she is gone.
A few years pass by before he meets the Doctor again, and they run together during a while. He is happy and joyful as usual and acting like everything is right. After a while he finally talks about River, about their latest adventure and how it was all fun. But Jack can’t smile and laugh with his friend, because all he can think about is the look she had on her face and the despair she had felt. So he uses a silence in the Doctor’s speech to ask the question he is dying to.
“What happens to her, in the end?”
The Doctor looks like he has been hurt to death, his face distorted in a painful grimace. He never answers Jack but Jack does not need the answer anymore.
He never meets River Song again.