Work Header

What The Mayflies Leave Behind

Chapter Text

The second time they meet is not part of her plan. It is still too early. But she'd been visiting Cardiff and crossed the path of a monster who had to be an alien, and naturally chased it. She's just cornered the thing and pressed a knife to its throat when his voice calls out to her.

"Who the hell are you?"

When she turns her head to see him standing at the mouth of the alley, he does a double take and comes to a complete standstill.

"You," he says.

"Me," she replies, her lips curling upward at what is a old joke with herself.

"How can you be here?"

It's difficult to hold a conversation and a rather large alien against an alley wall, so she slits the thing's throat to be done with it while making sure to dodge the spray of blood as best she can. She's had practice.

"If you haven't worked it out yet, I shan't be telling you," she tells him flatly, before taking a few steps towards him and analysing his face.

He actually seems as though he might have aged, just a fraction, and that's something she hadn't expected. What she had expected, however, she can see in his eyes - the time and the loss and the wariness. It's still only starting to set in with him, but it's still there, and a strange relief to see.

What year is it? 2008. Over a century since they had last seen each other.

"You look good," she says, giving him a small, teasing smile.

"You're a girl," is all that comes out of his mouth as his slightly widened eyes run over her. Her clothes are by no means hyper-feminine, but a jumper and jeans certainly don't disguise her sex like what she had been wearing at their first meeting had.

All the same, Ashildr rolls her eyes. "Usually, yes. I couldn't very well get a drink in a pub in 1903 as a girl, now could I? Not if I wanted any peace."

"Fair point," he admits, "But still."

They fall into a brief, uncomfortable silence. Ashildr is the one to break it. He, understandably, doesn't appear to know what to make of her yet.

"Has he returned for you yet?"

"Yeah, I've seen him." There's a sort of disappointment in his demeanour, and she gets the idea that it's very fresh for him yet, that second meeting, and that it went very similarly to her own.

"He didn't come for you at all, did he?" She asks, tilting her head at him. "He just happened to stumble into your path."

Jack blinks, and then nods. He seems tired, and she remembers the feeling well. She'd had time to harden herself before the Doctor had returned and rejected her. He'd not quite gotten enough.

"He did the same to me."

The captain looks up with shock, eyeing her in a new light somehow. "What did you do?"

"I begged him to take me with him. He refused. I was too much like him. He needed mayflies. Roses. Claras. Jos. Sarah Janes. Tegans. Aces. Marthas."

His eyebrows fly up at the last name and she sighs.

"Yes, I know about her. I'm keeping track of all of them, all of his leftovers," she explains, and his curiosity blooms visibly.

"Why? Who are you?" He asks. "Really."

Ashildr just gives him a miniscule and slightly apologetic smile. "I'm afraid, Jack, that we both have to wait a little while yet before I can answer that question."

He just frowns at her, face full of a disbelief that might have been amusing if it didn't make her feel sorry for him. She sighs and comes closer so that she can stretch up on her toes and press a fleeting kiss to his cheek.

"Until we meet again, Captain," she whispers, a hand on his arm, "And I am sorry for the losses you will endure before then, and all those that have already been."

As she walks away, she checks over her shoulder that he isn't trying to follow her, and sees that he is frozen, not having even turned around to watch her leave.

 Less than a year later, the Daleks invade Earth and she has quite a lot of fun blowing up some of the troublesome pepperpots with homemade explosives that she learned how to make from Ace McShane herself. She also doesn't realise how attached she has become to the sky above her until it is taken and then returned.

She learns of Donna Noble and goes out of her way to ensure the ginger woman encounters no alien threats that could endanger her mind. One time, she's caught by the grandfather and they end up having tea.

Then the children start speaking in unison. The whole world panics and she watches like a stone, all the while glad for her promise to never bear any more offspring. Within five days it is over, and Torchwood is rumoured to be destroyed.

When people stop dying, it's eerie. They are suddenly like her but still not, continuously alive but not whole because they aren't mended as they go. It's even more grotesque than her own condition. She shuts herself away in her big house with her money and food stocks and rides the whole thing out. It takes months but one day everything snaps back into place, and the world slowly recovers. She never thought she would be so relieved about humans having the ability to die, given how much she has cursed it in the past. Again, it is a case of not knowing the importance of something until it is gone and then, thankfully, brought back.

(Much, much later, she learns from Jack that during this time, he actually became mortal in a what had a been a flip in the morphic field of mortality. Whether the same had gone for her, she will never know, because she had actually managed to stay out of trouble and hadn't had a reason to notice any change at all.)

Seven years after Ashildr meets Captain Jack for the second time, the Doctor loses Clara Oswald, like he was always going to.

However inevitable, however similar to situations he has been in before, this one Ashildr is closer to, and it does - to her surprise - actually pain her to see how it breaks him. And yet, it doesn't stop him from eventually picking himself up and finding the next mayfly, as he always does.

Ashildr likes the mayflies, but still cannot quite bear to love and lose them (oh, she makes friends and has lovers, but never lets herself truly, properly, deeply love them).

Jack, she thinks, likely still tends to love them but is learning that one can only lose so many before taking a few steps back becomes necessary for continued sanity.

The Doctor, however, will never learn. He will throw himself in again and again, loving fiercely for that brief instant his mayfly is with him, not minding how each one's passing burns a new hole in him.

She can't be sure whether she admires or pities him.