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What The Mayflies Leave Behind

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It's another three hundred and fifty two years before she again hears the name Captain Jack Harkness. She's in a pub, dressed as a man, and at first it's just another name in the round of introductions being made at the next table over. But then it clicks and her head snaps around to see a handsome man with a large grin shaking another man's hand.

Her initial survey of him has her doubting if she in fact heard correctly. He is too cheerful, his eyes not containing the weight of someone such as herself. But then she cannot pretend to know him, and the Doctor is a time traveller who did not explain anything further about him. It could be that he is not immortal yet.

She waits a while, but when someone addresses him as Jack she knows in her gut that her hearing was right and that one way or another, he is the one the Doctor mentioned. A boisterous American is not what she had hoped for, but she'll take what she can get after having waited several centuries.

Due to a millennia of life, her patience is sometimes unparalleled, but this is not one of those times. She downs her drink and makes her way over to the table.

"Captain Jack Harkness," she says, to be absolutely sure, and he turns around to look at her curiously. The others guffaw at so small a young man addressing their companion out of the blue, but there is no lack of kindness in the captain's eyes.

"Who wants to know?" He asks.

"I believe we have a mutual acquaintance."

His eyes are guarded and give nothing away. "Oh yeah? Who?"

She holds his gaze. "The Doctor, of course." The transformation is instant - he sits up straighter and looks at her like she's some kind of angel. When she speaks again her voice is soft and paired with the smallest of smiles. "May I buy you a drink, Captain?"

"Make it two," he replies, before turning to the rest of his group, "Sorry, fellas. I'll have to love you and leave you. We'll settle this another time." He claps one of them on the back before ignoring their protests and following her back to her table.

She orders more wine and watches him examine her more closely.

"So what's your name?"

"Ash."

She'd started going by Ashildr again, after the Doctor had left her for the second time. Going without a name had been part of how she lost herself, she was fairly sure, and having one did tend to come in handy from time to time.

The captain sticks his hand out. "Nice to meet you, Ash."

Vaguely amused, she shakes it and takes a moment to appreciate his firm grip. "And you, Captain."

"You can call me Jack," he says, winking, and she takes a moment to note with interest how he apparently has no issue with flirting with someone he believes to be male. It certainly points to him not being exclusively of the current time period (a couple of other time travellers she's met over the centuries have informed her that in the future, discrimination based on choice in companionship is all but nonexistent, which is something she finds intriguing and rather looks forward to).

"Alright then," she replies, smiling, "Jack. How did you and the Doctor meet?"

Jack seems vaguely surprised by the question, but goes along with it and chuckles. "I tried to con him and it went wrong." The wine arrives and she sips hers while eyeing him curiously over the top of her cup.

"How so?"

"I ended up travelling in his ship with him and Rose after mine got blown up. Definitely not part of the plan."

"Rose?" The word escapes her mouth a moment before her mind answers the question it poses. "Oh. One of his other Claras. Of course."

"Claras?" Jack inquires, frowning with what must be concern, likely for this Rose girl he knows but who is unimportant in the big picture.

"His companions," Ashildr says, not blinking, "Mayflies. Fleeting, but not without point."

The frown shifts, but doesn't disappear. It seems he's intelligent enough to understand or at least guess what she means by that. "What about you? How'd you meet the Doctor?"

"He saved my village," she tells him, "And me. But more than that, I probably shouldn't say. From what I can make out, I met a Doctor far further along in his timeline than yours. Can't have you spilling foreknowledge when you next see him. I may not be personally experienced with time travel but I know such a thing would be dangerous."

"Then why are we talking?" He retorts, taking a large gulp of his own wine.

She ignores his question and instead regards him with narrowed eyes. "Tell me the truth, Jack, if I were to take my pistol and shoot you through the chest, would you live?"

He stares, before cryptically replying, "The fact that you're asking makes me feel like you know the answer."

Ashildr smirks. "I'll take that as a yes, then. Good."

"Yeah, I guess you could say it's been coming in handy," he says, shrugging, "After thirty years of dying and waking up after, I'm getting used to it."

That catches her by surprise. "You die and then come back?" She asks, intrigued.

"What else were you expecting?"

"Perpetual rapid healing that doesn't allow time for death, possibly," she says with a shrug, as mildly as she can, like it's just a theory she's thought up on a whim instead of a reality she's been living for a thousand years.

Jack laughs a little. "I guess there's more than one way someone could live for a lot longer than they're meant to, huh?"

It takes all of her self-control not to wince. He hasn't even realised what his current state means. Thirty years. Only thirty. She can remember when it had only been thirty years, when the prospect was just living for a long time. When the idea of forever hadn't even begun to sink in.

It's funny, because she will always look so young, but she looks at him and sees someone akin to a child, who has yet to learn of the real world and the hardships it will bring him.

"You know, I was told I'd have to wait over a hundred years to see the Doctor again," Jack tells her, some of his cheer having faded, "I thought maybe you were some stroke of luck telling me the creepy girl with the tarot cards were wrong, but you're not, are you?"

"I'm afraid I've virtually no idea what your future holds," she says honestly, "Only what you are. And so long as you do not even know that-"

"So tell me!" He demands, but she just shakes her head, eyeing him with an empathy she hasn't given to anyone in centuries.

"You're still waiting for him." Ashildr's voice is very quiet and he looks at her with a sadness and longing that she remembers all too well. "I'm too early. There is little I can do for you."

It wasn't until a few seconds ago that she had realised seeing him had made her hope for a permanent friend or companion, despite everything the Doctor had told her. After all, surely one could have someone who understood, and someone who helped them see and appreciate the things they might overlook? One permanent, one temporary. All at once it had become her most desperate wish and now she has to face the fact that today is not the day it will be fulfilled provided it ever comes true at all.

With a sigh, she gets up to leave and he grabs her arm the moment he realises her intention.

"Wait, you can't just-"

Calmly, she unpries his grasp. "I'll see you again, Jack. Just not for some time."

This time when she goes to leave he makes no move to stop her, and she turns around at the door to give him one last smile.

"A word of advice, Captain," she says, and he lifts an eyebrow in question. She just smirks. "Keep the name."

That makes him laugh, and he lifts his cup to her. "Why wouldn't I? You don't mess with perfection."

She laughs a little when he winks at her. "Until we meet again, Captain."

After walking out of the pub, she doesn't think of him again until war breaks out across the entire world and she enlists to fight as man as she has done many times before. When in the trenches and all of the filth (which makes her yearn for older, simpler warfare), she wonders if he is fighting too, and watching his fellow soldiers die all around him just like she is.

The war ends and almost instantly another begins. This time she works as a spy instead, but still she spares a thought for him, just once or twice, and hopes that he hasn't lost too many friends and lovers in the conflict, but knows he will have.

The new century comes. People in government and the special forces whisper of a thing called Torchwood, becoming more prominent all the time, and occasionally she hears his name mixed in there. She waits. It still isn't time.