Characters: Jack Harkness, Harry Dresden, Toshiko Sato, Hrothbert of Bainbridge, Winnifred Ididn'tgiveherlastname
Summary: Jack finds himself a quest. Written for _medley_'s prompt for the Six Degrees meme. She wanted Jack Harkness and Hrothbert of Bainbridge.
Author's Notes: This one was trickier to write despite being a slightly easier connection than the previous prompt. It got wordy on me. I hope it ends up being coherent. The poem Jack mentions in the first part can be found here.
Alright, well maybe he needed to work on his teleporting, Jack reflected. He glared at his watch as though that would intimidate it enough to be fixed and marched along in the forest, wondering how in the galaxy he was going to find parts to repair it when he was stuck in Medieval Britain.
"This is exceedingly embarrassing," a voice muttered, from somewhere nearby. Jack stopped to listen. "By all means, Winnifred, fall down the canyon but do not die quickly, no, land on this Godforsaken ledge so that you will die slowly of starvation and boredom!"
Jack headed in the direction of the voice and looked down into a large ditch. About halfway between where Jack stood and the bottom of the crevice, a young woman sat on a jutted out piece of rock, looking miserable.
"Hello?" Jack called. "Are you alright, miss?"
The woman craned her neck back to look up at him. "I suppose that would depend on whether you have means to get me out of here, sir."
"Give me a few minutes and I will."
"Do not hurry yourself," she said, in a tired voice. "I am not going anywhere."
Jack grinned and set about making a makeshift rope. He may have missed the 'fixing broken time traveling watches in the pre-industrial age' lesson, but he had aced every survival test that the Agency put him through. He managed to bind together some rubbery branches and soon had the woman up out of the canyon again.
"Thank you, Sir..." she said.
"Jack," he filled in. "Jack Harkness."
"Sir Jack," she said. "I am very grateful. My name is Winnifred."
Jack insisted on seeing her home safely, but she was headed elsewhere and so insisted on seeing her there safely. As they walked through the woods, he learned many things about the woman. People always liked to tell Jack things. She was one of a local nobleman's daughters and had been attempting to gather herbs when the ground gave way and she fell.
"You have a strange manner of speaking," she noted, as Jack made up some story about getting lost in the woods. "And manner of dress. Are you Welsh?"
"Yes," Jack said, jumping on the out. "Yes, I am."
"They are very strange, the Welsh," Winnifred declared.
Jack, who had never met the Welsh, just nodded. He kept the conversation in her favour, learning about the area and its inhabitants. She seemed quite fond of some man called 'Hrothbert of Bainbridge'. Her eyes lit up when she mentioned him. She was quite intelligent, too, he surmised and there was something else about her...the child-like way her eyes glittered and the somewhat manic way she laughed. Something almost dangerous, but very intriguing.
He saw her to a small cottage which had the potent smell of herbs reeking from it. She didn't invite him in, which was a rarity for Jack. He supposed that it wasn't really proper for a woman to go inviting strange men into their homes in this time period. She slipped a ring from her finger and offer it to him.
"A reward," she said. "For helping me. I would be dead if you had not stopped."
"It was no trouble, miss," Jack objected.
"I insist," Winnifred said.
And he took the ring. It was almost unconscious, just a reaction to her tone. He took the ring and it tingled on his palm.
"Good Day, Sir Jack," she said, bowing her head to him.
"Good Day, Lady Winnifred," he replied.
She smiled and entered the cottage. As he left in search of a village, an old Earth poem came to his mind.
"La Belle Dame Sans Merci," he muttered. "Has thee enthralled."
Winnifred's ring sat in Jack's pocket for years. He didn't know why he kept it on him. He didn't know why he didn't pawn it off when money got low. Eventually he decided it was a good luck charm of sorts. So it stayed there through all his travels and adventures.
Several years after his encounter with the woman, he found himself on Earth again. A small compania of gypsies took him in for the night and threw a rather large celebration in his honour after he saved one of the young women from a gruesome fate. There was dancing and music and food and wine and a variety of partners for other activities.
As the party died down and people went to bed, the rest of the merrymakers gathered around the fire while a young man with a guitar sang. Jack was flirting with a cute guy across the fire and barely noticed when the song changed. Then his ears caught the words 'Winnifred' and 'Hrothbert'. He stopped smiling and winking and turned his attention to the song. It was a ballad - one of those tragic ones of love lost or betrayed or stolen or dead. It told of Winnifred, a beautiful witch and her lover, Hrothbert, who beat down the doors to the realm of death to bring her back to him.
Jack touched the ring in the pocket of his coat. Weird coincidence. Right?
During Jack's travels on Earth during its numerous centuries of existence, he came across the story of Winnifred and Hrothbert many more times in many more forms. Sometimes the names were changed and sometimes the details were slightly different, but they all basically said the same thing - Hrothbert brought Winnifred back from the dead and was punished for all eternity for it.
It wasn't that the story weighed on Jack's mind too much. He didn't dwell on it. It didn't become an obsession. He just thought about it sometimes; thought of the young woman with the intriguing air or of the ring in his pocket that thrummed faintly with energy each time he touched it. He became quite an expert on the legend, picking up bits and pieces of it as he wandered through time and space.
So, when he one day came across a new version of it - a version where Hrothbert was imprisoned in his skull for eternity, he was interested. Then it became a hobby. Whenever he ended up on that little planet in the Milky Way and had a bit of time on his hands, he asked questions and nosed around. The more he nosed, the more he began to believe that Hrothbert was still out there somewhere. And Jack always loved a quest. Not to mention a good love story.
"Hey, Tosh," Jack said, coming up behind his teammate and rubbing her shoulders. "How's it going?"
Toshiko tensed up before succumbing to the massage and letting her shoulders drop a bit. Her hands never left the keyboard, however, and the scroll of code reflected in her glasses as it flashed up on the screen. "Not well. I have been working on this firewall for hours. It just keeps anticipating my attempts to crack it. By the time I've brought one down, three more have come up in its place."
"Break time," he ordered. "Get some coffee. Take a shower. See the outside world."
Tosh shook her head. "I'm sure I almost have it. Just a few minutes more..."
"Do you remember how we had this conversation earlier?" Jack asked. "And how you said you almost had it then?"
"Yes..." Tosh said, vaguely.
"That was ten hours ago."
Tosh's fingers continued to clack on the keyboard while she made a noise of disbelief and looked at the clock. "That can't be...I..."
"Coffee. Shower. Outside world," Jack repeated. "Maybe even some alcohol and a mysterious stranger."
Tosh's cheeks pinked a little. "Just give me half an hour longer."
"In half an hour you have to be back at work," Jack said. "Everyone will arrive and see both of us in our clothes from yesterday, talk will start, rumours will fly..."
"Jack," Tosh objected.
"Suspicious will rise, angry past lovers will crawl out of the woodwork..."
"And, frankly, that's a lot of work on my part to get all that going."
"Alright!" Tosh said, throwing up her hands. "Alright!"
She shut the program off and removed her glasses, rubbing her eyes and yawning. Jack yawned in response. "Oh, I almost forgot. I want to show you something."
"It's not work-related," she assured him. She clicked her screen a few times, looking through file folders. "It's about that story you were telling us the other day. About Winnifred and Hrothbert?"
"Well, I did a bit of research and...well, I thought you might want to look at it."
Jack smiled a little. "Sure, I'll look it over."
Tosh smiled back and stood up from her chair, wobbling from the stiffness in her legs. "Good night, Jack."
Jack slipped into the warm chair and began to click. "Good night, Tosh."
It had only taken a few questions in the right places to find Harry Dresden. Turns out a guy who calls himself a wizard sticks out in people's minds. Jack didn't have much time left in Chicago - in fact, if the wizard didn't show up that night, he was going to have to give it up for lost. The third night turned out to be a charm, though.
Jack waited in the corner of the pub until the pretty policewoman left - called out on duty, it looked like. The wizard was left on his own and looked a bit put out about it. Jack wondered if either of them had realized they were totally hot for each other yet.
"Beer, please," he told the barkeep, sitting down on the stool recently abandoned by the cop.
"Urgh," Mac agreed.
The wizard's temple had a nasty bruise on it, in about its third or forth day of healing. He nodded to Jack and downed his beer, then ordered another.
"Who won?" Jack asked, conversationally.
"Hmm?" Dresden asked. Jack tapped his own temple. Dresden winced. "It was a tie."
Jack smiled. The wizard smiled back. Jack took a long swig of his beer. "Harry Dresden, right?"
Dresden nodded, immediately on guard.
"Jack Harkness. I need to talk to you about your skull."
The wizard was reluctant to leave him alone with the ghost. Jack could practically feel Dresden's ear pressed to the heavy door of the lab. The ghost himself looked politely disinterested in Jack. He stood near the skull, hands clasped behind his back.
"Harry informs me you wish to speak to me," Hrothbert said. "But he didn't say what about."
Jack took a breath and reached into his pocket, pulling out Winnifred's ring. He set it on the table next to the ghost's skull. Hrothbert's face froze and then went through about twenty emotions all in a row - few of them pleasant looking and none of them shallow.
"Is that...?" he asked.
"Yes," Jack said.
The ghost closed his eyes and swayed as though he were about to faint. Jack would have offered him a chair if it wasn't a ridiculous concept.
"How did you come to acquire it?" Hrothbert asked, eyes still closed.
Jack took another breath. "Well, it all started with a broken watch..."