A/N: I wrote this forever ago, not long after 'The Angels Take Manhattan' aired, and it's been gathering dust on my hardrive ever since. So here it is and I'm not even sure what it is? Headcanon, I guess.

Post-TATM

Lifeline

Jack liked attention, that was no secret, and he wasn't too picky about who the attention came from. Men, women, humans, aliens…However, he wasn't sitting easy about the attention he was getting currently. There was a young man leaning against the wall on the other side of the bar who had been watching him all night long. The young man hadn't spoken to anyone or ordered any drink. He just stood there, casually watching Jack through the throngs of people dancing and stumbling about the vicinity as they celebrated the recent moon landing. He was dressed a bit oddly for the location with a long green overcoat and a bow tie. Not really what people wore to go drinking at this time of night.

It seemed clear the man wanted to talk to him, but didn't want to do it in public. Jack was wary of the potential danger, and yet somehow he had the feeling that the man wasn't there to do him harm. Finally his curiosity got the better of him and he decided to find out what the man wanted. After all, it wasn't like he could get murdered. (Not permanently, anyway.)

Jack made his way to a somewhat secluded corner of the bar and slid into a small booth. Sure enough, the young man threaded his way through the crowd to Jack's table, but he didn't sit down. Jack gave him his most dazzling grin. "Oh, no need to be shy. You've been waiting all night to talk or whatever. And I'm perfectly willing to talk. Or whatever." He winked.

The man appeared to be trying to avoid rolling his eyes. He pursed his lips, and exhaled in a curt sigh through his nose before facing Jack, his expression serious. "I'm not here to chat. Far too dangerous that way and this is risky enough as it is."

Jack raised an eyebrow. "Dangerous?"

The man waved a hand in dismissal. "Oh, no, no; it's not something you need to worry about."

Jack took another sip of his drink and regarded the man with curiosity. "So what are you here for?"

The man smiled. "Just delivering a message," he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a simple, dark blue envelope, "from an old friend of yours." He dropped it on the table in front of Jack, who picked it up gingerly. Jack's eyes were wide as he ran a finger over the Tardis-blue paper. There was only one person this could have come from.

"He couldn't have delivered it himself?" Jack asked, somewhat breathlessly as he looked back at the mysterious messenger, who smiled.

"Well, you know him; always has his reasons." And with a last smile and a nod, the man turned around and strode out of the bar. Jack didn't bother to chase after him. He was right after all; if the Doctor was sending him a message rather than telling him in person, he must have a reason. After a moment to compose himself and stop his hands shaking, Jack carefully opened the blank envelope and pulled out a folded piece of letter-sized paper.

Jack,

I'm sorry I can't tell you all this in person, but if I did our timelines would get more tangled than fresh-from-the-attic fairy lights. I know you must be disappointed. Sorry, but I promise you will meet me again, and when you do, it'll be a much younger version of me than the one writing this letter. So make sure you never, ever, mention anything about this letter, or what it contains, or even that I contacted you, to him, EVER. He won't know anything about any of this yet. Our story isn't over Jack, and I know you have things you need to say and questions you need answered, and I promise that will happen, but it has to happen later (for you), because for me, this me, it's already happened, and it has to happen that way. You work for Torchwood, I know you'll understand.

The thing is, I need a favor. A really, really, really, big important favor. Lives and timelines depend on this, so even if you're still angry with me for leaving you on Satellite 5, I need you to do this. You're the only person I trust who would actually have the connections to do it. This must be done and I can't do it because it'd mess up a lot of crucial timelines. This is less a favor than an order dressed up nicely. I cannot impress upon you how important this is. Luckily for you, I'm not actually asking much.

My favor is this:

It's July 1969, yes? You got to live through the Moon Landing, at least there's that! Anyway, in six months, at 8.14pm Eastern Standard Time on 29th January, 1970, there's going to be a very, very young girl alone in an alley a few blocks from the Empire State building in New York City, New York.

I need you to find her.

She'll be very young, and very scared, but tell her you've come to take her home, and she will understand, young as she is. Don't mention me.

She'll need fresh clothes and a warm coat, size to fit a two-year-old. The address where you'll find her and the address where you need to take her are on the card. Just take her where she needs to go and they'll handle the rest.

Look after her, Jack. She's no ordinary little girl.

With my eternal (in the fullest meaning of the word) gratitude,

The Doctor

p.s. Her name is Melody Pond.

Collecting the girl had been easy enough. She'd been scared, but once he'd assured her he wasn't taking her back to Greystark (wherever that was) she'd come with him willingly enough. She was surprisingly articulate for such a small child, and Jack couldn't imagine what she was doing in an alleyway in clothes ten sizes too big, but if this was an errand the Doctor had sent him on, then unusual was to be expected.

The little girl was sleeping when the taxi arrived at their destination, a townhouse in Chelsea Village. Jack checked the address on the card one last time before ringing the doorbell. Little Melody squirmed in his arms, waking up. "Down," she demanded, and he set her down. She wobbled a bit on unsteady toddler legs, then reached up to hold his hand. Jack waited for a few minutes before ringing the bell again.

After a moment he heard angry muttering from the other side of the door, followed by a woman's voice asking, "Who are you, and what the hell do you want at this hour of the night?"

Jack frowned, and Melody hid behind his legs. "Captain Jack Harkness…Are you Scottish?"

"Yeah. So what if I am?" replied the voice behind the door.

"Uh, nothing. Uh, I was told to come here. Is this the home of," he looked at the card, "Rory and Amy Williams?" There was silence for a moment and he thought perhaps the woman had gone back to bed.

"Not many people know me by Amy. I go by Amelia professionally. Who sent you?"

"Not sure if I should say. An old mutual friend, I guess?"

The door opened slowly on a woman in her late fifties with bright red hair pulled into a loose bun on the back of her neck. She glared at him suspiciously, and then Melody peeked her head around Jack's legs and the suspicion melted into disbelief. Jack glanced between the two as the woman looked at the little girl as if she couldn't believe she was real.

"I was told to bring her to you. Her name is-"

"Melody," the woman breathed, saying the name softly, reverently, as if it were sacred. She knelt down, sitting on her knees, eye to eye with the little girl. "Do you know who I am?" she asked, her voice shaking and her eyes watering. Melody nodded and backed closer to Jack. The woman released a shuddering breath. "I'm sorry," she choked, "For what happened the last time we met…I didn't know. I didn't know who you were, and if I did I never would have-" she broke off, sobbing, and Jack watched, bewildered and helpless, not quite sure what to do. Then the little girl toddled forwards.

"Were you scarwed?"

The ginger woman sniffled and looked at the child. "Yes I was."

Melody nodded sagely. "Me too." She looked around then, like she'd been caught doing something she wasn't supposed to, then leaned in toward the woman. "Are they gonna come get me?" she asked with a frown, "Is the spaceman gonna come get me?"

"No," the woman said, reaching out a hand to cup the child's cheek. "No, darling, no I won't let them. I won't ever let them hurt you again." For a moment she seemed unable to do anything but stare at Melody. "Rory," she finally said weakly, then swallowed and tried again, "RORY!" she screamed, her head turned slightly back towards the interior of the house, though she never took her eyes off the little girl. "Do you know who I am?" she asked the child, who nodded and grinned. The woman's face lit up and grinned as well. "Then come here, love, and give your mum a hug." The little girl reached out and the woman swept her up into her arms, standing and cradling her close while the child buried her face in her mother's neck.

Just then a man came stumbling into the foyer in his dressing gown.

"Amy, what's going on, what's happening," he asked in a British accent. He looked from the man on his doorstep, to Amy, to the smiling child in her arms. "Amy…is that…?" The redhaired woman had tears in her eyes as she nodded in reply. The man continued to gape. "But, timelines, won't this-"

The woman shook her head, tears streaming down her cheeks and grin still splitting her face. "She never would tell us how she got to Leadworth," she said, and they both laughed and pulled each other close, the little girl giggling happily between them. Jack was beginning to feel like an intruder, so he turned to leave.

"Wait!" He looked back to see the woman, Amy, give the child over to her husband, telling him, "Go get a fire started and warm her up, and call Anthony, tell him to get over here first thing in the morning, and to bring Linda and the kids when he comes." The man nodded and carried the little girl into an adjoining sitting room, and Amy looked back at Jack.

"Did he send you?"

"Who?"

She smiled knowingly. "You know who."

Jack returned her smile. "Yeah, he did."

In a flash the woman was hugging him. "Thank you," she murmured, her voice breaking. She was crying even harder when she released him. "You have no idea what you've done."

"I brought you your kid back, I've got some idea."

Amy shook her head. "She's not adopted. I know you must think she is but she's not. It's complicated, but that is our baby, our flesh and blood and I never thought I'd see her again. I've always known she would be okay, but I never thought I'd get to raise her properly, and—and now I will." She laughed. "I can't thank you enough. And him. Tell him we said thanks."

Jack glanced up at the sky and the few stars visible. "I don't know that I can. Apparently the him who sent me is further along in his timestream than the next version of him I get to meet. Whenever that is." He looked back at Amy and sighed. "I waited so long to hear from him again, and when I do he just sends me a message telling me he needs a favor and a little more time. Not that I mind—the favor, I mean. I can see how important it is. But I wish I didn't have to keep waiting."

Amy gave him a reassuring smile. "If there's one thing I've learned about the Doctor it's that you may have to wait a long, long," she looked back into her house, into the living room where her husband and daughter were cuddling on the sofa, "long time…but he always comes through for you."

Jack nodded. "You sound like you've had quite a wait. And I've got quite a wait ahead of me, from the sound of things."

"Welcome to life with the Doctor." They shared a chuckled.

"Amy?"

"Mommy!"

Amy looked back into her home. "I better go. We've got a lot of catching up to do."

"One last thing," Jack asked, watching the woman carefully. He wished he knew more of her story, knew how she came to be separated from her child, how the Doctor had made her wait, how she survived what the Doctor did to her life. If anyone could help him come to terms with the way the Doctor could wreck your life it looked like it might be her. But there wasn't time for questions, so he settled for asking her just one. "Is it worth it? Worth the wait?"

She sighed, and closed her eyes, and for a moment she was back in a garden, a long time ago…She smiled and looked at him, and Jack couldn't doubt the sincerity when she answered, "Yes. Yes he is."

xxend