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No Sugar

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Summary: Life after this moment and the next and the next. Life with Jack and life without Jack. Present for Anneliese.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Dr. Who/Torchwood > Buffy-Centered > Pairing: Jack Harkness(Moderator)FaithUnbreakableFR15111,52621272,69823 Dec 0923 Dec 09Yes
Disclaimer: I own neither Buffy, the Vampire Slayer nor Dr. Who and Torchwood. They belong to their respective creators, which are not me. I make no money off this.

Warnings: Ehm. It has Jack, so a certain amount of innuendo is a given. I think I managed to double that.

A/N: This is this year’s Christmas present for Anneliese, who wished for lots of Jack and if possible, an explanation for the missing years. Merry Christmas to you, and the rest of you folks, too, of course.

Also, I think I quite possibly just invented what I like to call wibble-crack. That is all.

Cheers.

+

No Sugar

+

1

+

She walks through Council headquarters in Cleveland like a sleepwalker. Eyes open but senses dull, her mind in a dream world, somewhere else entirely, where planets crash and burn and fall into suns that spin at speeds that could rip a human being to nothing more than molecules.

One of the girls, a redhead, nods at her and she nods back, on autopilot. The girl turns back to her friends and the gaggle of girls giggles quietly, hands in front of their mouths. Junior slayers. She’s gotten used to their behavior. Depressingly used.

In the beginning they gave her the creeps with their wide-eyed reverence and basically worshipping-the-ground-she-walks-on. After a while she stopped noticing but the stories never stopped circulating. The Original Slayer, Queen Slayer, The One Who Came Back To Life, the One Who Made Us. All capitalized.

And then, recently, another one was added to the ever growing list of titles.

The One Who Can’t Die.

She took a sword to the heart and got back up five minutes later, hungry and pissed off as hell. Before, they treated her like a god among men. Now she’s a god among insects and it makes her feel the tiniest bit hollow. What did she do? She survived, nothing more. She always survives. Always. You may take that literally. And now, this newest title, she doesn’t think anyone understands the implications of it.

She understands, mind you, has known since before she came back to Earth. But that doesn’t change the feeling that it’s official now, more real than it was before. She’s never going to die. Her friends will age and leave and fade away and she’ll still be here, surrounded by girls who worship her too much to be her friends, by people who blush and stutter to her face and mumble and giggle behind her back, overwhelmed by nothing in particular. It’s like living in a freaking glass house. Look, but don’t touch.

Tomatoes growing in greenhouses must feel terrible lonely.

She turns a corner, avoids one of the watcher apprentices who comes stumbling toward her, books piled too high in his arms, and knocks quietly on the second door to the right, still in la-la land.

Ten years since she came back from the dead, seven since Sunnydale fell. The excitement of being free – freedom? Where is it, she’s sure she saw it pass by on the way from the airport back to HQ – of changing the world. Turned out that being free and powerful enough to actually change things make for a boring life. She misses the hunt, the thrill, the danger. The danger of being able to die. Or, alternately, the thrill of running with someone who understands the madness that comes with being unable to die – of not caring if you do - someone who lives for crazy and wild and nothing else.

Her last real partner in crime died a quick death when Faith settled down and became a Mommy. She’s thirty one and feels like a relic of a bygone age. The lone warrior woman, from way back when.

Willow calls for her to enter and she opens the door, steps inside, deftly ducking the doll little Anya flings at her with deadly accuracy. Willow gives her an apologetic smile, sends her daughter into the neighboring room where she’s supposed to play and motions her best friend toward the high tech computer set up in the corner of her office. It’s all cables and monitors and whirring noises and blinking lights and looks futuristic enough to give Buffy pangs as memory tries to claw its way into her conscious mind and she stomps it down ruthlessly. Stomps on a spaceship and a world beyond imagination, stomps on crazy laughter and gun blasts following them through a narrow hallway.

“Whatcha got?” she asks Willow as the whiz-turned-witch-turned-whiz drops into her swivel chair heavily.

“A job offer,” Willow answers, carefully meeting her gaze, seriously and blankly. Or as blank as Willow ever gets, which isn’t much. It’s why everyone loves to play poker with her. She’s worried. Worried that what she is going to say is going to hurt Buffy, make her angry.

Buffy smiles and waits.

“Look,” the redhead starts, “We both know you’re not happy here.”

There’s a pause, meant for Buffy to insert her false protests, but the room remains silent. Willow looks guilty and turns away. No matter how many times the blonde tells her that it’s not her fault she is the way she is, Willow never believes it. She blames herself for taking away her best friend’s ability to die. But things are simply the way they are and that can’t be changed.

When the silence becomes awkward Buffy crosses her arms and Willow turns toward one of the monitors, pulling up a file labeled Torchwood.

“So I thought maybe you’d like a more permanent job, away from here. Somewhere you can just start new and be Buffy, who no-one knows and giggles at and does that strange half bow that Mei-Ling taught the girls last year and… you know what I mean.”

Yes. She knows. A new chance. A new life. “What’s Torchwood?”

“Huh? Oh. Them. They’re sorta like us. Used to be four of them, now there’s only one, based in Cardiff. Only instead of demons, they police aliens, if you can believe it. We thought a liaison with them might be useful. Someone who knows demons and can tell them when they’re dealing with one, you know?”

Buffy nods, heart beating faster, hands fisting in the fabric of her shirt. No reason to get excited. It’s a fluke. Coincidence. It doesn’t mean… - running, running, running, fast or we’ll get our asses fried, please tell me you didn’t steal the mayor’s wallet on top of everything else, you did, we’re going to die, you know you love it - it doesn’t.

“They’re also kind of understaffed at the moment so it’s the perfect opportunity to offer our services. They can’t really turn down a field agent like you ,can they?”

Not if they know all her references. Which they don’t. No-one does.

Willow double clicks on the file, opens a sub-folder and clicks on a picture there, saying, “This is their boss. He seems kind of Scooby compatible. Treats his team like family and stuff and – “

Whatever else she says is lost to the white noise in Buffy’s head as the picture loads and opens, revealing a grayish blue coat, a crisp white shirt, gun in hand and a handsome face, dark hair, smile like a razorblade –

“Jack,” she breathes and Willow falls abruptly silent.

+

”Are they gone?” Jack wants to know, still panting hard from their sprint to safety. Safety, in this case, consisting of a wall and not much more.

Buffy peeks around the corner, down the corridor where the guards of the place they just broke into have set up shop behind some kicked over office furniture. She whips her head back just in time to avoid a greenish beam of energy that singes the opposite wall something horrible.

“Err,” she tells Jack as she sinks to the ground next to him, “Not quite.”

“Guns?” the Time Agent wants to know, holding up his own to show the little colored bar indicating energy levels. It’s a shiny, glaring orange. Almost empty. Buffy shows off her own, red as a fire engine.

“Fantastic,” he beams at her, not the tiniest bit afraid under all the bravado. It’s what she loves about him. Jack lives free of fear.

More shots ring out behind them, more beams singe the walls. A picture of a very important and ugly man crashes to the floor in a shower of plaster. Footfalls race closer and Buffy has to throw herself to the ground as the angle of the shots changes.

“Plan B?”

Jack catches her, trying to pull them both to their feet with one hand while he uses his last shots to buy them a few seconds. “Plan B,” he confirms.

They turn and break into a dead run within a few feet, hands interlinking as she drops her useless gun and takes a deep breath. They jump and twist in the air just as the first guard rounds the corner. The glass of the window shatters, showers them in diamonds and falls with them, five stories into a pool of sparkling clear water. Jack screams his adrenaline rush into the sky and when they hit water, he kisses her amidst the broken glass and bubbles.


+

It takes two hours to secure a flight to Cardiff, thirty minutes to pack her stuff and only ten minutes to say her goodbyes. It’s as if they knew, all of them, that she has been on the brink of leaving for years. Maybe they did. They smile and Dawn sheds a few tears but they let her go, happy to see her happy. To see her with a purpose.

They let her go and she goes, to the airport, upupup and downdowndown, gets a taxi – excuse me, cab – and tells the cabby to get her to the Millennium Centre. He smiles at her in the rear mirror, indulgent. She smiles back and tries not to fidget like an over excited, lovesick teenager and she doesn’t think she quite manages.

Jack is alive. Jack is here. Jack is now. Jack, Jack, Jack.

She can almost hear him laugh. No-one’s ever laughed like Jack, not in all the worlds and all the ages.

She’s sure of that at least.

+

Jack rolls until he’s on top of her, heavy and real and sweaty, grinning like a loon. He takes one of her hands in his, bumping their wrist straps together in a silent reminder. They’re partners now. Officially.

He grinds his hips against hers and she can’t help but roll her eyes. “Again? Already?”

“What can I say? You just bring out the best in me, honey.”

He’s being corny again, but unlike with just about anyone else, she never minds with him because he actually means what he says.

“Five times in a row?” she asks and watches as his grin turns into a smirk of pure, male pride.

“Wanna try for a round number?”

“Five is round,” she offers, feigning disinterest even as she pushes up against him, biting her lip to hold back a groan.

“I was thinking a dozen.”


+

She would recognize him anywhere, now or a hundred years from now. His shoulders in that coat, the way he walks, offering, promising to everyone who wants him but at the same time, distant. Different. Better. There’s a new weight settled on him, a new slowness that she doesn’t know. He slowed down, sometime between then and now. He finally learned to breathe before jumping back in. He understands now, what he never understood before when it hit her unexpectedly and hard. The exhaustion of a fighter, the desire of a survivor to just lay down and rest.

This Jack, walking across the plaza with a dark haired woman to his right and a young blondish man to his left, he knows the silence that comes after the storm, when there is debris and bodies to sort through.

Before, he always ran as soon as the storm passed. He was never the one left behind. She loved that about him as much as she hated it.

But that was then and this is now and she calls loudly into the damp, dense sea air coming in from the Bay, “Jack!”

He whirls around, hand going for his gun. His companions mirror him, quick and hard. His eyes fall on her, sharp and darker, darker than they were. Heavier.

Oh, Jack, what happened to you?

He relaxes minutely after taking in her non-aggressive stance, the duffle bag over one shoulder, her slight build. He should know better than that and she smiles and opens her mouth to remind him when he beats her to it and asks, “Who are you?”

+

”Who are you?” She asks him quietly, hissing in his ear, one hand buried in his hair, the other one holding the shiv she found in the back of the… where the hell is she anyway? It looks like she got dropped into Star Wars.

“Whoa, babe,” he breathes, his voice honey and sunshine, hands in the air. No threat. Yeah, right. “Not that I don’t want to get up close and personal with you, but do you mind the blade? I don’t do bloodplay on the first date.”

“Who. Are. You?” She digs the blade in deeper and watches warm blood make flowers on the collar of his shirt.

His hands rise higher and he squeaks just the tiniest bit. “Okay, okay. Chill, alright? Name’s Captain Jack Harkness. I’m a Time Agent and I fished you out of the Time Vortex a few hours ago. No idea how you’re alive but here we are.”

Her hands tighten and he winces. “Lady, did you hear me? I
saved you. I’m the good guy here. Would you – “

He tries to twist out of her hold but he’s only human and she maintains her hold easily. Time Vortex? Time Agency? She heard the capitals but she has no idea what those things are or where the hell she is or what’s going on. She jumped. She died. She could
feel it. Why is she here?

This is no heaven. No hell either.

But this guy… Jack. He says his name is Jack. It’s a solid name, a real word in an explanation that is nothing to her but a jumble of mad science fiction ideas. So this is Jack. And he saved her.

She takes a deep breath, hopes she is right and lowers the blade, stepping back.

“I’m Buffy,” she says.


+

Very funny, she wants to say, but the words die in her mouth. The look in those new, haunted eyes isn’t mischief. It’s honest confusion.

“You don’t remember,” she whispers and the sea wind rips her words toward him and his friends, who seem startled at the utter loss in her voice. She is, too. She didn’t realize how badly she missed him until right now, right here. Not Jack. Not her Jack. He’d be swinging her around and kissing her into oxygen deprivation by now.

Unless… timelines. God, she’s been living linear for too long. Of course. Maybe he just hasn’t met her yet. Maybe… but she doesn’t believe that. You can’t fake a look like that, the weight he carries on his shoulders. You can’t fake that exhaustion she sees in the mirror every day, the one that Jack always tried to wipe away with a kiss and a mad plan.

Still, she has to try. “Did you… did you get arrested for streaking in the Vegas Galaxy yet?”

He blinks, frowns, thinks hard. And shatters the last of her hopes when he answers, “God, that was ages ago. How do you know about that?”

She smiles and she knows she looks broken when the other two take their hands off their weapons and straighten, unafraid of her now.

“You told me,” she explains. “Two months later you saved my ass. One night we got drunk and you told me. They didn’t give you any clothes before throwing you in jail.”

The guy rolls his eyes a bit and sighs something that might be, “Sounds like Jack,” but she can’t be sure.

Jack’s eyes widen and he hooks his thumbs into his belt loops. Nervous gesture. Posing for the enemy. She is not the enemy. But he doesn’t know that because for some reason he doesn’t remember.

“Two months after Vegas? But that’s…he points at her suddenly, index finger accusing and sharp. “You’re my two lost years!”

+

”What the heck is that, Jack?” She stands in the doorway, one hand extended, tiny white pills rolling around her palm, expression severe.

Jack jumps as he realizes just what she found and hurries over to her, trying to snatch the pills away from her. She pulls her hand back with that more than human speed of hers and shakes her head.

“It’s called Retcon,” he tells her, reluctantly. “Makes you forget things. Time Agency uses it to make people forget when they saw something they weren’t supposed to.”

“Such as?” she demands, sounding even more severe than before and he realizes that he might have phrased that better.

“Such as sixteenth century Earth, seeing an alien invasion? Things that would change the course of history.”

She relaxes minutely, before smacking the pills into his hand and waving a single digit in his face. “If one of these things
ever finds its way into me, I’m going to kill you. Are we clear?”

He swallows. “Crystal.”


+

“Two years?”

“Yeah,” he exclaims, arms waving suddenly, angry and open. Here’s the Jack she remembers. “I wake up and whoops, two years of my life missing. Time Agency retconned them right out of me. Never did find out why.”

She frowns. “But why would they? I was your partner. Nothing there to hide.”

He frowns right back, shrugging. The other two fall back, just watching now, curious. “Did we do anything illegal?”

Even here, now, faced with a Jack who doesn’t remember, she has to snort. “Illegal? Jack, we were Time Agents. We were paid for illegal.”

“How,” the dark haired woman interrupts before Jack can answer, “Do we know you’re telling the truth? Jack doesn’t remember, obviously. You could be anyone.”

The young man nods and the Captain visibly slumps, the excitement of his discovery gone, replaced by a world weary exhaustion. He expects to be deceived. He always did. But once upon a time, he looked forward to the game.

She closes her eyes, thinks hard. The others wait. After a minute she cracks open one eye and asks, hesitantly, “Is John still around? He can confirm my story.”

The angry noises Jack’s companions make tell her that yes, John is still around and as obnoxious as ever. The girl scowls darkly. “He killed Jack.”

Buffy’s first instinct is to check Jack over to injuries and her second is to freeze and run that statement through her head again. “Hold on,” she demands and from their flinches she knows all she needs to. “Did you say he actually killed Jack?”

The look on his face is guilt and shame and pain and longing. “Oh, Jack,” she whispers, hugging herself because she does not think he will allow her to hug him. “Not you, too.”

His head jerks up, eyes wide. “What?”

+

”So you found me in this Vortex thing, just floating around?”

He nods and she feels her world tilt a bit more.

“I have no idea why you are alive. Nothing living can exist inside the Vortex. Except maybe a Time Lord and those are only myths anyway. You should be scattered over the entirety of time and space. But there you were, bumping into my brand new shields. And alive.”

“Why?”

He shakes his head, runs a hand thorough his hair and shrugs. “I have no idea, honey. How’d you get out there anyway? Did your ship crash or something?”

It’s her turn to shake her head. “I jumped off a tower into a dimensional portal.”

“Wow. Dangerous.” He quirks a half grin and she tries and fails to return it. “Oh,” he says as realization dawns. She nods. Didn’t expect to survive then.

Trying to change the subject he pushes to his feet, stretches like a cat and concludes, “Well, here we are.”


+

“Impossible,” he breathes, staring at her like she’s a very interesting bug. “You can’t be… I’m the only one.”

“No you’re not. But since I have no way to prove that without you shooting me, can we take this inside?”

He looks her over, the kind of weighing look she’s not really used to from him. The old Jack never considered things for very long, always thinking on his feet and usually while he was using those feet for running. Fast.

“There’s a scar on your right arm.” She indicates the spot just below her own elbow, twirling her finger to mark the size. “Nasty burn. It’s from a bomb. I was standing right next to it. You got that when you pulled me out.” She smiles grimly, remembering.

Her first death. Well, the first she remembers after jumping off the tower. God. God.

+

And there is nothing but pain, nothing but the fire eating at her flesh, her bones, her very soul, tearing her apart. Literally. Her last thought is for Jack and the futile hope that he will just get his ass to safety, forget about her, far beyond saving.

She’s already dead. The fire’s just not quite finished with her.

And the next thing she knows is a great, gasping breath and Jack’s face above her own, aged a decade with worry and fright.


+

He flinches in sympathy and she understands that he knows exactly what she’s talking about. Bombs. Knives. Guns. Falling. Choking. Drowning. He’s done it all. She changed into this new creature, this deathless thing, long before him, but she can’t shake the feeling that he’s lived far more years since then than she has.

“You still haven’t proven you are who you say you are,” the other guy reminds them all, breaking her and Jack’s eye contact, breaking the moment and the memory.

She nods, sighs and hopes that Jack will forgive her. Then she says a single word.

She says, “Grey.”

+

2

+

The Hub is exactly what she expects from Jack. Grudge chic with a dash of high-tech thrown in. Anarchist headquarters. She gets used to the place a lot faster than the people but leaving is not an option. Jack is eager as a puppy, asking questions, a desperate need in his eyes to know as much as he can about his lost time, about who he was.

He was scared, so scared that he did something unforgiveable to be punished with memory loss. Now, knowing that he did nothing wrong, he lights up like the sun. A sun burning at its center with rage, blind rage directed at the Time Agency that stole from him without reason or regard.

She tells him everything he asks, carefully, in detail, tells all the stories she has saved for so long, waiting for someone who can understand. Still, the awkwardness from that first, stilted meeting remains. She opens her mouth to make a joke, some sort of reference and closes it again, knowing Jack won’t understand. She brushes her hand against his like she always did and he jumps, surprised at the contact.

He doesn’t remember her.

He doesn’t remember that he loves her.

+

She wakes to the feeling of being watched, studied, and automatically freezes. Her muscles still ache, every inch of her still burns with the memory of fire.

She died.

She knows she did. She
felt it, the end of light and life, felt herself slip into the endless dark. She remembers the echoes that rang in the emptiness, almost words, whispering secrets never meant to cross into the world of the living.

And yet here she is, the feeling of sunlight warm on her skin, of someone watching her, comfortable and safe. Jack. He was there, when the darkness came, his face above hers, his tears on her singed flesh. His hand burned, too.

She opens her eyes slowly, carefully, feeling new skin stretch and itch at the small movement. For a moment she is blinded.

Then, bit by bit, vision returns and the flames licking at her recede until she can blink, once, twice and see Jack lying next to her, propped up on his elbow, his blue gaze fixed on her like she is about to fly away.

Or fall to ashes.

She exhales a whisper of his name, her throat raw and bloody. She breathed fire and it burned her insides.

He smiles and slumps, relief in every fiber of his being. “Buffy,” he whispers. A prayer. “You should be… you were…”

“Ouch,” she hisses voicelessly, not because she hurts but to stop the words, to stop that one particular word -
dead - from leaving his mouth. She jumped off a tower and was sure she’d die. He found her in the Time Vortex and she should have been dead. She got blown up and was dead.

And now she’s not.

Jack’s smile lacks the energy it usually contains, but it is real. He bends over her, carefully, and presses a kiss like butterfly wings to her lips, light, weightless. So as not to hurt her raw skin.

“Don’t do that again,” he breathes. “Don’t ever leave me again.”

She promises she won’t.


+

Ianto and Gwen make things harder. They try not to, but conversations are stilted. They do not have Jack’s enthusiasm and hunger for the past. To them, she is a stranger who came and set herself up where she has no place.

Gwen is angry because Jack laughs at Buffy’s jokes and talks to her about things he never mentioned before. He talks about his past, finally, but his words are not directed at Gwen, who is so hungry for it.

Ianto grows more and more silent, which in turn makes Gwen angrier and Jack louder. Ianto loves Jack. A blind man can see that and Buffy sees more than people give her credit for. He loves Jack and waits, during every kiss and caress, to be left because he is mortal and fragile and his lover is not. Her arrival, the fact that she is like Jack, in Ianto’s mind, that is the last straw. In his mind, Jack is already leaving.

Buffy understands loving someone you think you can’t possibly deserve, can’t hold and keep and belong to and she tries, she really tries to show Ianto that she is no threat. Not anymore.

But Jack is Jack and Jack was born to touch and taste and feel. Flirting with him is like breathing and even though it lacks the intimacy it once had, she still remembers the days when they did not bother with clothes, simply staying in bed, losing themselves in each other.

It makes it hard to keep her hands to herself, to not smile and curl her tongue into a grin the way she knows drives the Captain crazy.

She loves Jack and beyond anything, she is happy to see him again, to know he is real. Alive. Whole. Mostly.

Ianto sees his failure in her, his shortcomings and faults. Perceived or real, he feels them like blows and it makes him avert his eyes.

Gwen sees Ianto suffer, sees Jack gallivant around with a stranger and it makes her angry, makes her want to bite and tear.

And Jack is spellbound by every word that pours from Buffy’s lips but has no memory or concept of the emotions behind them. He looks at her and sees information, sees two years of his life he thought lost in a horrible, dark secret. He doesn’t see the woman he held close when she sobbed for home and the familiar, the woman he kissed when they thought they had reached the end of the line and were about to bite it. He doesn’t see Buffy, who, quite simply, loves him.

+

”Jack?”

“Yeah, babe?”

She shifts so she can look at him, half of her face still buried in the pillow as he comes out of the bathroom, stark naked and proud of it. She’d tell him that he’s looking good, but his ego might explode.

“Why d’you think I landed in the Vortex of all places?” One simple question and a million ways to interpret it. Why did I land where you would find me? Why did I land where I would be changed beyond recognition? Why me? Why here? Why now? Why didn’t I just die, me, the epitome of the dying child, that warrior with an expiration date, meant to die young, terribly young. Why am I alive forever when I should have died at the age of sixteen?

Some of those questions Jack doesn’t hear because he still doesn’t know all about her. But the first and loudest he hears and that is what matters. Why did she land in his lap, of all places in the universe?

“I have no idea,” he tells her, face serious for once. “But I do have something else for you.”

With that he carelessly drops the towel he used to rub his hair dry and walks over to the dresser, pulling out a small black box, maybe three inches in every direction.

She sits up, curious. Jack’s presents may be raunchy and downright dirty at times, but they are always interesting. “What’s that?”

He smirks and holds the box out only to pull it back when she reaches for it. “Jack!” she growls after the third try and he gives in gracefully, throwing himself on the bed next to her and looking disappointed when she ignores the blatant invitation in favor of her surprise. Really, it’s a good thing she’s got superpowers. How do normal people keep up with him?

She idly guesses that that’s where the orgies come in and finds the latch that opens the box, pressing it briefly with a thumb. This high-tech futuristic life style bothers her sometimes. Presents that unpack themselves when you push the button just seem wrong. Where’s the paper ripping and the bows you decorate unsuspecting onlookers with afterwards?

There is the tiniest whirring sound as the black box folds into itself and leaves the brand new wrist strap sitting on her palm. It’s smaller than Jack’s and not as worn and dirty. Made for a woman’s wrist, if she had to guess.

She looks at her lover questioningly. He smiles at her, warm and honest and says, “Paperwork went through, you aced all the tests. This came yesterday, along with your detail.”

He gently takes the little computer from her and undoes the buckles before reaching for her left hand. She dumps the flat rectangle that used to be a box in the sheets and holds the limb out, watching as Jack puts the wrist strap on her.

He finishes, pats her hand once and then says, “Nice to meet you, partner.”


+

3

+

Jack sends Gwen home to her husband and shoos Ianto out half an hour later, oblivious to the man’s defeated expression. Buffy smiles at him brightly, trying to communicate that she’s sorry, so sorry and she didn’t want this. Ianto returns the expression for the briefest of moments, recognizing the message and sending his own back. Then why don’t you leave?

Because she can’t.

She’s physically unable to walk out on Jack again after having left him once. And look what happened? The Time Agency took his memories for reasons they still don’t understand and he went and got himself cursed with immortality, following in her footsteps without remembering that he was doing it.

She tries to tell Ianto with her eyes, tries to share the sorrow of loss with him and finds it reflected in his own gaze, for all to see. She’s doing to him what was done to her.

She looks away first and Ianto leaves with only a quick peck for Jack.

+

Jack is late. That, in itself, is not entirely uncommon. Jack finds distractions in the most impossible of places and has a willingness to follow them that she’s only seen in young puppies before.

But this is sixteenth century Spain and she’s a blonde woman standing on a street corner, alone. It’s a recipe for disaster, even if, for once, her dress is right and she has yet to do anything stupid enough to get her locked up or killed. It’s a plus.

So where the hell is Jack? She taps her foot impatiently and considers sending him one of those holo-thingies that their wrists straps do so well. But there’s a shady looking guy watching her from the other side of the street and she doesn’t dare pull out her computer. Instead she fingers it through her sleeve and curses Jack and his attention span.

Then she feels it. It’s a strange sensation starting in her feet and at first she thinks they are simply going numb from standing here for half an hour in shoes meant to kill. But it rises, that strange feeling, up and up, reaching her knees and her thighs, her hips.

Jumping in time is a strange feeling, warm and fuzzy, being squeezed and shoved at the same time. This is something else entirely. For one, it’s cold. It’s cold as hell, cold and tight as packed dirt in winter, pressing on her from all sides but at the same time,
stretching her, somehow. She looks down her body and finds, under the mass of skirts, a dim red glow. Almost like a dying fire but she knows what getting burned feels like, thanks heaps, and this isn’t it.

She moves her legs, tries to shake the feeling, to rub it away with hands on her stomach, but it’s not working. It’s spreading, growing stronger, eating into her. She feels like she’s… disappearing.

“Sorry!” A familiar voice calls to her right and she can just make out Jack in the twilight gloom, jogging toward her, clothes ruffled and dirty. He got in a fight. Well, she figures it’s better than getting into another person.

“Jack!” she yells as the feeling reaches her chest and the glow becomes visible to all. She holds her hands out for him, knowing that he won’t reach her in time. It hurts. It really, really hurts.

He speeds up his steps until he’s flat out running, calling her name, asking what’s happening. She can only shake her head, gasping as her lungs freeze and the air is pressed from her body. She doesn’t dare take her eyes off Jack, doesn’t dare look down because she can read in his face that something horrible is happening to her.

He’s almost there now, almost at her side and she smiles in relief, trying to breathe, to say anything at all, but words are lost and the cold closes up her throat and rises to her face.

The very last thing she sees is Jack’s wild expression as he lunges toward her. She imagines she can feel the tips of his fingers brushing against her arm and then she’s gone.

Just gone.

She wakes in a grave.


+

So when the alarm goes off an hour later it’s just her and Jack and she doesn’t even think before she grabs her jacket and follows him toward the cog door, the action too familiar to contemplate.

Jack opens his mouth to say something and she shakes her head before the first sound leaves his lips. “Forget it,” she tells him, “We’re not splitting up. That never ends well.”

His mouth clicks shut and she looks up as she realizes that she’s talking of things he doesn’t remember again. He smiles but it’s unsure and a bit confused, he doesn’t quite know what to do with her and she remembers Ianto’s eyes and her crazy love for a man that’s become the Jack that’s standing in front of her.

This is wrong, all wrong, him and Jack who’s not Jack and yet is Jack and the things they both lost. She shouldn’t have come here.

+

”Buffy?” Willow watches from the desk chair as Buffy whirls through the room, gathering clothes, weapons, toiletries, flinging everything on the bed willy-nilly, to be stuffed into a duffle bag. She moves fast enough to be considered frantic. At least she isn’t on the phone with the nice lady from the airport anymore.

“Yeah?” she acknowledges her friend, mind clearly on another matter as she tries to decide whether to take the short or the thigh length leather jacket. She opts for the short one with the priest collar and turns to look at Willow distractedly and a bit annoyed at being slowed down. “What?”

“What’s so special about this Jack guy? You looked like you saw a ghost and now you’re all gung-ho about him.”

“I knew him, long time ago,” she supplies, unwilling to stir up the old hurt of her resurrection, the guilt and recrimination and addiction that followed, the questions that will come now if she corrects their image of what her heaven was truly like. Spaceships and time travel. They’d laugh at her and she might hate them for that.

“Okay, sure, but he’ll still be there tomorrow, you know? You can slow down a bit.”

Buffy sticks her toothbrush into the little pink travel box it lives in and shoves it into the bag with a pair of rolled up jeans. Then come the shirts and a few stakes, wrapped to avoid clothes with holes poked into them. She zips up the bag, pulls on the jacket, grabs her things, purse and duffel and nothing more and turns to her best friend, not knowing how to put her need into words. In the end she just says, “I have to see him.”

Willow nods, confused but resigned and too old to fight her eternally twenty-year-old friend.

“Alright,” she says.

Alright.


+

Five Weevils are not that hard to trap, but the fact that Jack dislikes hurting them and tries to only immobilize makes it a bit more difficult than it has to be. Especially when your usual MO is kill first, pose questions to the bodies. But Buffy manages.

Mostly.

Except for the bit where she struggles to keep one of the beasties still long enough to strangle it into unconsciousness and another jumps her from behind, tearing out her throat with razor sharp claws.

Blood, screaming, crying, choking, encroaching darkness and then.

Dead.

Ouch.

She comes to to find Jack kneeling above her, his face inches from hers, pressing a hand to what was, a moment ago, a ruin of a throat, looking frantic.

She rolls to her side and coughs up a mouthful of blood, all that’s left of a mortal injury and then lies flat on her back, staring at the stars, breathing. In and out, in and out. Forget the darkness, forget the pull, the grabbing hands in the dark. Forget all but the here and now. Reality. Solid. A body and hands to fight with. Real, real, real.

Eventually she has herself back under control and looks around for Jack, who disappeared as soon as she moved. She turns her head to the left, feeling gritty concrete under her skull and not caring about all the crap she’s getting in her hair.

He’s sitting flat on his butt, staring at her with a sort of wonder she only saw the first time she came back from the dead.

“You,” he starts, trails off and pulls his legs closer to himself, almost curling up. “You’re alive.”

“Told ya,” she quips, struggling to finally sit up. His hand is there suddenly, at her shoulder, pushing, steadying. She looks at him around her hair and understands.

He didn’t believe.

Until the moment she returned to life with a great shuddering gasp, he didn’t believe. She clasps his hand, lets him pull her to her feet and into his chest. Then he wraps his arms around her waist like steel bars, trapping her there, in the circle of his body heat and kisses her.

Once upon a time, Jack tasted like fire and sunlight and happy-go-lucky manic energy. Now he tastes like burned things and loss, like shade and sunlight on a windy day, like memory and forgetting.

It’s not a bad taste.

But it’s surprisingly disappointing to find ashes where there was once only fire.

+

The first time Jack kisses her, she’s been with him for only two weeks.

Something is wrong with the ship he errr… borrowed and they have been floating for a while, two people sharing space meant for only one. They got over the little issues, such as being total strangers, rather quickly and have settled into a boring, tedious routine that involves a lot of talking and fumbling with the machinery on Jack’s part. Buffy spends her days sitting on the grating that is the floor of their little home away from home, watching the Captain work, learning more from him than anyone else ever managed to teach her about anything that’s not a weapon.

Jack asks for the sonic thingy and she hands it to him silently, not moving from her place. He uses the tool to weld something into place, closes up the panel he was working on and scoots backwards until he can sit up without hitting his head.

They were talking about her high school days and while he had his head stuck under there, unable to look at her, she somehow told him about Angel. And Parker. And Riley. When she was done she felt embarrassed and exhausted and he just grunted and kept on working.

Now he puts down the sonic whatever-it-is and looks at her seriously.

“They were dumb, you know?” He means it, he really does, but he’s Captain Jack Harkness, so it inevitably sounds like a corny pickup line. Especially when he adds, “If you were my girl, I wouldn’t let you go any time soon.”

And then he sort of grabs her by the ankle and pulls her across the hard metal floor until they’re close enough to breathe the same stale, recycled air and simply kisses her, right there, right then.


+

It’s a mistake.

She’s knows that while she’s doing it, knows it when she comes, gripping his shoulders tight enough to leave finger shaped bruises that fade within minutes, knows it afterwards when the edge of the desk bites into the small of her back and Jack starts babbling the way he always does after sex.

She cards fingers through his for once messy hair as he collapses on top of her and whispers the truth in his ear. He jerks back, wide-eyed, question on his face. “What?”

She smiles and scoots backwards until she’s sitting on the latest mission reports and says, “This was a mistake, Jack, and you know it.”

“You mean because of Ianto,” he realizes and pulls back, reaching for his undershirt. The moment’s gone anyway.

“Him. Gwen. Your entire life here. You don’t know me, Jack, and as much as I want to, I don’t know you. We’re strangers.”

“Now,” he points a stern finger at her, “You know that’s not true.”

“Yeah,” she deadpans, reaching for her own clothes, “We’ll always have the stories I tell you. About things you don’t remember. You don’t even remember that you – “

She bites her tongue and doesn’t say the words. Jack, on the other hand, has never had much tact. “That I loved you?”

She looks away, shirt clutched to her chest.

“I should leave,” she tells him and she doesn’t just mean walking out this office. Jack abruptly stops fumbling with his impossible belt and steps into the V of her legs, solid and strong in front of her. She leans her forehead into his shoulder, inhales his scent deeply, trying to connect it to the one she remembers from before.

He even smells differently.

“Please don’t go,” he says, too low for a human to hear. But he knows she will. He does those little things that are almost like he remembers but not really. They make her hope and she hates them for it. Her Jack is gone, disappeared behind a wall of little white pills.

“We’re hurting everyone,” she argues, words muffled in his shirt. She hooks a finger under his suspenders, in direct contradiction of wanting to leave, pulling him closer still.

“Stay.”

She is the only connection to those lost years that have eaten him for a century, the only other immortal he has ever met, the last tie to the stars he still misses fiercely after all this time. She understands. She understands all of it all too well.

She sighs. “Okay. But no more sex.”

She won’t be able to look Ianto in the eye as it is.

+

4

+

”You know, sometimes I wonder how I managed to spend twenty years stuck on a single planet. There’s so much to see.”

“So many species, so little time.”

“You’re a sex crazed manic, has anyone ever told you that?”

“Not today. Now, my fair lady, where would you like to go next? Vegas Galaxy, perhaps? They make great cocktails.”

“To the stars and beyond, Captain Harkness.”

“And they call me corny.”


+

She’s right. She can’t look Ianto in the eye and Jack pays too much attention to the man and everyone in the Hub knows what happened but nobody loses a word about it. It’s like being in high school again, with the looks and silent condemnation. Only this time she deserves it.

Gwen’s expression tells her to leave and she nods and keeps her gaze on the ground. She promised Jack she wouldn’t. So she’ll stay. For him. She’s pretty sure romantic reunions after a decade are supposed to have more happy and less anger, hurt, pain and heartache.

She spends as much time as she can outside the Hub, walking the streets of Cardiff, trying to find pieces of the new Jack in this windy city but managing to scrape together only a few. She returns to her hotel room early and sleeps too much.

She sleeps and dreams of a woman with snakes for hair, whispering in her ear. She can’t hear a single word because the waterfall they are standing under roars so loudly her brain vibrates.

Beyond the curtain of water that separates them from the outside world, she can see the outline of a man in a suit, running at full speed. Snakes twine around her arm and slither around her neck, choking her. She tries to escape and the woman smiles at her with rotten, black teeth.

She wakes clutching her throat with one hand and a knife if the other.

A moment later the world starts shaking. And it’s not even apocalypse season.

+

She wakes with a gasp, a stifled cry for oxygen down her burning airways, charred by the heat of fire, panting. The sheets twist around her legs, hindering her, holding her down, she tears at them, upsetting Jack next to her.

He wakes with a tired frown, cracking one eye open, looking at her. Looking at the panic on her face. He’s on his feet and reaching for his weapon in less than a second.

She watches, still trying to breathe, to convince her body that it’s not burning. There’s no fire, no air like liquid heat, to screaming agony. There are no shackles binding her to the stake. Only cool sheets and cool air, oxygen flowing freely into undamaged lungs. Her skin is whole, her hair unsigned.

She breathes.

Slowly.

Very slowly.

“Buffy?”

“We have to get off this planet, Jack.”

“What?”

She meets his confused gaze, green eyes hollow and feverish. “We need to go,
now!”

They go. He doesn’t know why or how or what, but they go.

Five minutes later, framed in the rear window of the space shuttle Jack won last week, an entire planet burns. He asks how she knew and she curls into the bend of his arm, the warmth of his chest and says, “Sometimes I dream.”


+

She reaches the Hub to find Jack holding Ianto and Gwen close, the tinny sound of the end of the world echoing from all speakers.

Exterminate. Exterminate. Exterminate.

“Daleks,” she whispers, remembering the stories she picked up in space ports and libraries. The armies of metal that laid waste to entire systems and eons. Certain death on tiny, invisible wheels.

Jack’s eyes shoot toward her, standing in the cog door, feeling a bit numb. A man running, a waterfall deafening her.

She closes the door, destroys the control panel next to it with a well placed kick. It won’t hold out a Dalek, but it makes her feel marginally better. Then she stops in front of one of the screens and watches the end of the world coming from above. She’d like to call the Scoobies, but she knows they will be fine without her. Lockdown, fall back, go underground. They can run their drills on their own and she has no weapon and no wisdom to offer them. She sends a prayer their way and makes no move to include herself in the huddle of humanity a few feet away.

Running. Water. A woman with snakes for hair. Choking her. What does that mean?”

Eventually, the silence breaks into pieces and wild activity starts all around her. Jack’s on the phone suddenly with a woman named Martha, getting the teleport base code for this planet from her. He’s leaving!

She jogs over to him, clamps a hand over his wrist strap – wondering idly where hers went, if he kept it, stored it somewhere safe for her to return to eventually and then despaired when she never came – and says, “I’m coming with you.”

He shakes his head, trying to pull away. She holds on tight, knowing he is no match for her. Even immortal, even a hundred years later, he can’t match her for sheer strength. She grabs his other wrist, too, and makes him face her. “I dreamed,” she tells him, low and urgent.

“You what?”

She tells him all she dreamed and he jerks at the mention of a man running, eyes widening in recognition. He reverses her grip, taking hold of her arm, pulling her along. A minute later they’re running through a burning London, running toward the man from her dream, who lies panting and dying in a blonde woman’s arms.

+

“Jack?"

“Yes?” he answers, ducking behind a nearby tree in hopes of losing the natives pursuing them. No such luck. He winces, sighs and catches up to Buffy, who never stopped running.

“How do we get into these situations?”

“Well,” he theorizes, jealous of the endless stamina of his lover, “I think it might have something to do with our job.”

“And maybe the fact that you like to flirt with everything that moves?” she suggests mildly. Weaving nimbly through the underbrush.

“Maybe,” he allows. “But admit it, you wouldn’t have it any other way.”

She snorts and puts on a burst of speed that leaves him eating dust. Behind him, the natives howl and wave their pitchforks.


+

The Doctor does his glow-y thing and then starts greeting and hugging people and she stands in the off, waiting for someone to remember she’s there. Once upon a time, she was Jack’s partner. Now she’s his tag along token blonde.

Eventually everyone is hugged and introduced and simply by default, attention turns to her. “And who might you be?” The Doctor asks, grinning madly at her, rubbing his hair.

She finds herself grinning back because she knows that glint in his eye, that hunger for new things and new worlds, knows it as well as the shadows moving behind it. Her and him, they’re not so different. Jack would know, if Jack could remember.

But Jack doesn’t remember.

That is rapidly becoming a fact of life. The world where Jack doesn’t remember.

It’s like the world with shrimp. You don’t know how precious shrimp is, until you land in the world without. She never knew how very much she needed to live in a world where Jack remembers, until she landed in the one where he doesn’t.

“I’m Buffy,” she introduces herself, waving. Jack does an awkward dance where he almost throws an arm around her and then doesn’t because he remembers wild sex on a desk and her threat to leave before he’s ready to let her go.

“Tell the Doctor what you told me,” he urges instead.

Medusa Cascade. That’s the how and when and where, the solution to the snake hair woman and the waterfall and the running man. Medusa Cascade.

The Doctor fairly coos over her for a moment before calling her brilliant and hugging her just because he can. Her little revelation doesn’t help much, or at all, but somehow that doesn’t seem to matter to the Time Lord.

And then they save the world. Planet. Universe. Universes, plural. All of it. The whole of creation. It makes her feel tingly and puts a smile on her face, a real one, for the first time in a long time.

It was supposed to belong to Jack, that smile, but Jack doesn’t remember. So she smiles for the Doctor and a safe universe. It’s reason enough.

+

She tells Jack that she loves him after they narrowly escaped certain death by exploding space ship and he grabs her around the waist, spins her around and kisses her until they are both about to faint from oxygen deprivation.

+

5

+

Once upon a time, Buffy loved Jack.

Once upon a time, Jack loved Buffy.

Once upon a time, they were happy.

Once upon a time, Buffy disappeared and found herself in a grave, six feet under, a million worlds away from him.

Once upon a time, the Time Agency took Jack’s memory of her for a reason neither of them can fathom.

Once upon a time, Jack became immortal.

Once upon a time, Buffy found Jack after ten years and a slew of meaningless affairs and she felt her heart beat faster for the first time in a long time.

And they lived happily ever after.

+

6

+

But that’s not how it works because all they were is gone and she lives next to a shadow of the man she once knew, interfering in the life he made for himself, after.

He thinks he needs her but he doesn’t and every time she looks at him, she wants to scream because he’s Jack, but he’s not Jack.

And there can’t ever be a happily ever after.

For some reason it takes saving the world for her to see that.

+

7

+

She pulls the Doctor aside somewhere in the middle of towing Earth back where it belongs and ducks her head. “Can I ask you for a favor?”

She can feel his grin without having to look, can hear it in his voice. So much energy. So much love for life. He makes her a bit dizzy. “Well, you did just help save the universe, so I guess there’s nothing wrong with a favor. As long as it doesn’t involve pears. Hate pears. Really do.”

She smiles against her will and shakes her head. “A trip. There and back, shouldn’t take more than an hour. I just… I need to show Jack something.”

He frowns, hearing in her voice what she doesn’t say in words. Hearing that this thing she needs to show the Captain is not sunshine and roses. But he told her she could have a favor and he stands by his word. He nods.

“I’ll pick you up in Cardiff in a couple of days, ey?”

“Thank you.”

+

”Come on, tell me where we are. You wouldn’t even let me look at our destination.”

“Nope,” Jack denies her request, shooing her into the bathroom of the hotel room he’s somehow managed to arrange in the thirty minutes they’ve been here. The question is, where is here? The accents say Britain, the clothes say twenty-first century, maybe early twenty-second. It’s winter. Around Christmas. But he steadfastly refuses to give her any details.

“Put that on.” He just about throws a clothing bag at her and shuts the door in her face. O-kay. She hangs the bag over the edge of the tub, opens it and stands there for a moment, blinking stupidly.

It’s a dress. A beautiful, dark green affair made of silk, almost shimmering black in the right light. Knee length, just the way she likes it. She pulls it out and finds matching shoes and a purse in there.

Whatever Jack has planned, they’re dressing up for it. She smiles at herself in the mirror and strips off her shirt, jumping in the shower. An effort like that must be repaid, after all.


+

The Doctor comes for them three days after the universes didn’t collapse. His hair is a bit longer, his suit less rumpled and his mood good. It’s probably been a few months for him, but she doesn’t mind. He’s keeping his promise and that’s good enough.

Jack lets himself be dragged along after putting up a token resistance, insisting only on giving his team a time frame for his absence. The Doctor grumbles about domesticity but waves his hand grandly and offers to take them back to today as soon as they’re done.

Then he closes the TARDIS door and starts tinkering with the consoles, getting them up and into the Time Vortex before asking Buffy where they’re headed.

She doesn’t hear him, distracted by the song and hum of the Vortex, the place where she landed so long ago, the blinding golden light that made her what she is today. It’s in Jack and in the Doctor, but nothing compares to the real thing, to having it around her.

It calls her ‘daughter’.

Then the Doctor repeats his question and she returns to reality with a guilty look and a feeling of loss in her chest. It’s only about to get worse. So much worse.

“London,” she tells the two waiting men. “London, first of January, Twenty-twenty-seven. Around two am, if you can.”

The Vortex makes sure they land exactly where she wants them to and the Doctor looks at her funny. Maybe he can hear its song, too.

Nevermind that now.

+

He’s taking her to dinner in London on New Year’s Eve. He went all out, James Bond look and all, opening doors, pulling chairs for her. She swoons and drinks champagne and feels like the most precious thing in the world.

They dance and drink and count down to zero, celebrating a year that neither of them will ever properly live. And then they drink and dance some more and everything is beautiful except her feet, which are killing her. This is the last time she lets Jack buy her shoes.

Just after two she drags Jack away from the bar by the belt loops, demanding to be carried home. He laughs and swings her into his arms, playing the knight to her damsel.


+

They land and she leads them through London’s streets, slowly emptying of party goers and stragglers, falling asleep after the noise and light of midnight. Then suddenly, at a random corner, she stops and looks around before pointing to a shadowed place at the side of a dark building.

They hide there and wait and watch for something to happen.

Thirty minutes later, they come.

+

They round the next corner, cross the street and suddenly, she feels a strange pull in her middle, drawing her forward, into the shadows of that building. She frowns and resists, looking at Jack to see if he feels what she feels.

He just shrugs and tells her, “I think we’re crossing our own timelines somewhere around here. Tickles, doesn’t it?”

She nods and because he lets it go, she does, too.


+

Jack gasps as he sees his younger self round the corner, an almost identical version of Buffy by his side, both of them decked out for a gala dinner. He stares, spellbound by the vision of his mortal self, so light, to full of mischief.

They stop briefly, exchanging words, then moving on. Their hands are linked and swinging between them and before long, a tug-o-war starts between them, as they bump and pull at each other, snickering when one loses their balance. They are so absorbed in their game they don’t notice the three elderly men heading their way until Jack bumps into them.

Immediately, one of them starts cursing them out, waving his cane threateningly until Jack, smiling like the sun, drops into a deep bow and apologizes without an ounce of sincerity. Then he grabs Buffy by the hand again and jerks her into his side, swinging her up into his arms.

He takes off running, looking like he doesn’t intend to ever stop until, in a show of inhuman acrobatics, his date grabs hold of a lamp post and swings herself around, landing on her feet just as he stumbles to a stop. He spins to face her giggles and pulls her close around the waist, one hand on her cheek.

It looks like he’s going to kiss her but instead he ducks his head and whispers in her ear, slow and sweet, without urgency or sex. Even from across the street, Jack can read the words his younger self whispers and he mouths them along with himself.

“I love you.”

Then the other him kisses Buffy and Jack has to avert his eyes because he understands. Beside him, leaning slightly into the Doctor but standing on her own, so very alone, Buffy watches the scene, tears on her cheeks, watches Jack remember what was lost for so long.

She remembers this night. Jack does now, too. And that is the point.

She’s grieving and for the first time since he met her – again – he understands for what.

“I love you,” he repeats, almost dumbstruck by the realization because he’s never seen himself like this, never acted like this. So gentle and careful and happy. He loves this woman.

“Loved,” she corrects, her voice flat and empty. “You loved me. Now you don’t.”

Then she turns and walks away, back to the Tardis, not caring if her younger self sees her.

+

”We’re gone,” Jack breathes into her hair, hugging her close against the winter’s chill. She nods into his shoulder.

“Wonder what we were doing here.”

“Maybe we were feeling nostalgic in our old age and wanted to remind ourselves what it’s like to be young and in love.” He smiles winningly at her and wraps an arm around her shoulders as they slowly resume walking.

“Maybe,” she agrees, felling wonderfully mellow and happy enough to burst.


+

The Doctor and Jack find her curled up next to the Tardis half an hour later. She doesn’t have a key, stupid her. The Doctor lets himself in quietly while Jack sits down next to her on the dirty curb, probably glad that global warming made white Christmas a thing of the past.

He drapes some of his greatcoat around her and stares into the dark. “I’m sorry.”

She snorts. She dragged him here and now, she’s not so sure why she did anymore. “For what?”

“For making you promise to stay. You said we’re hurting everyone, but I don’t think I realized that you were including yourself in that. It’s just…”

“You didn’t know.” How much she loves him. How much he loved her. How perfectly, obscenely, obliviously happy they were. And how much it hurts to look at him and know that’s all gone.

“I’d kill them all, you know?” he asks idly, his arm tightening around her shoulders.

She doesn’t have to ask who. The Time Agency.

“If I ever run into any of them, I’ll kill them for taking that away from me. They had no reason, no right to take that.”

No. They didn’t. But they still took it.

“I’ll hold them down for you,” she volunteers and he laughs breathily, agreeing.

Then he wants to know, “Where will you go?”

She shrugs, almost dislodging his arm. “Dunno. Not back to the Council. I think they knew that long before I did.” And they did. It’s why their goodbyes to her seemed so grave and final. They know she’s not coming back. “Lots of places left I haven’t seen. People I haven’t terrorized. Maybe I’ll check them out. Live a little, you know? If you’ll let me go, that is.”

She promised after all. Promised to stay.

“I have no right to keep you,” Jack speaks into her hair, sounding sad and resigned.

“Yeah, well,” a new voice suddenly says and they both whip around to see the Doctor sticking his head out the door. He grins and wriggles a few fingers at them in a wave. “Sorry. Couldn’t help but overhear your little heart to heart.”

He focuses his attention of Buffy. “You said something about traveling? Because, you know, just in case, maybe, if you want to, I have an opening as…uhm… a cook? Can you cook? Please tell me you can cook?”

Despite herself, despite the fact that she’s sitting on the cold ground with Jack on New Year’s Eve in twenty twenty-seven, trying desperately not to cry as they say goodbye, despite all that, she laughs.

When the Doctor offers her a hand up, she looks at Jack and finds her own emotions, sad and lonely and devastated and laughing, reflected back at her. He bends close suddenly, pressing a hard, close mouthed kiss to her lips.

Goodbye, Captain’s style.

She lets the Doctor haul her to her feet.

+

Sometimes she sits awake at night, tracing his dark outline against the whiteness of the sheets in the moonlight, measuring the space he takes up, the feeling of him, the dimensions. She’s never quite sure why, but she needs to know all that Jack is.

+

“Promise me something,” Jack demands as the Tardis whirs to a halt on top of the Hub, ready to let him go back to his life down there, with his wonderful, shining humans.

“Mhm?” Buffy hums, waiting for him to explain.

“Promise you’ll give us a chance. One day.”

She sighs, pulling away from him, not sure what he wants. “Jack,” she starts. He hushes her with a finger on her lips. He used to do that, once upon a time. The memory stings, but less than it would have twenty four hours ago. How strange.

“One day. I live forever. And so do you. And one day… I loved you. And I want to know why.”

Not a happy ending, because there are no endings. But maybe a happy beginning.

“One day.”

Jack smirks, slow and satisfied, the cat that got the canary, the whipped cream on top and the extra helping of stuffing to boot. She smacks him in the shoulder, shaking her head in mock disappointment. He winces at her strength but they part with slight smiles on their faces.

It’s more than she expected.

“Is there anything you want to pack?” the Doctor asks after Jack is gone and she thinks briefly then shakes her head.

“No,” she answers, “Nothing.”

“Good.”

And then they’re off to new worlds and new adventures and the Vortex sings around them.

+

8

+

(Jack stands at the foot of the bed, staring, bleary eyed and drunk. She’s never laid in that bed. She’s never even seen this room.

Because she’s gone.

He searched for her, high and low, forward and back, but she’s gone. Taken away by a strange reddish glow that has no origin and no explanation. Just gone.

He hates this bed, hates this room, hates this hotel and this planet because he’s here and she’s not. He takes another swig of the rancid alcohol he lifted from the bar downstairs, and swallows greedily, quickly, to drown out his own thoughts.

Three months, and not a trace. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Let’s face it, he tells himself.

She’s gone.

For good.

And that… that… He throws the bottle against the wall where it explodes in a shower of shards and amber liquid and sinks heavily onto the bed, staring unseeingly at the little white pills in his hand.

She’s gone and all that’s left is the memory of her and the burning, acid ache of her absence.

He rolls the retcon around his palm, counts the pills, jiggles them a bit.

Can you miss something you don’t know you lost?

He really hopes not.

And then he throws back his head and swallows the pills dry, except for the salty taste of his own tears.


+

“Jack?”

“Yes?”

“Where’s Buffy?”

“Gone.”

“I’m sorry,” Gwen says and Jack looks away because they both know she’s not.)


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9

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Worlds and ages, planets and centuries away, a blonde woman rounds a corner in a random city and runs into a man wearing an old military greatcoat. She stumbles and he catches her, his smirk like sex and guns.

She laughs.

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Fin

(Here’s to hoping you liked it.)

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The End

You have reached the end of "No Sugar". This story is complete.

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