Title: Where the Heart Is
Fandom: Torchwood and Doctor Who
Challenge: OT3 ficathon prompt: 10B: Ten/Jack/Rose: Upon returning to her home reality Rose discovers Jack and the Doctor have moved their relationship forward in her absence. Do not want: Everyone's immortal fix-it.
Disclaimer: Not mine, no claims, all property of the BBC.
Notes: 5648 words. Spoilers for Doctor Who episode 4x12 and 4x13, "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End". Since I wasn't sure what "everyone's immortal fic-it" means, I'm afraid I might not have quite met the prompt's requirements. With heartfelt thanks to my clever and efficient betas, rosiespark, xwingace, flautopiccolo, toraks and mmegaera. Cross-posted to my LJ and to better_with_3, with a reference at the master list.
Where the Heart Is
Going into the Void was like going on a picnic on a foggy day, Rose thought, trying to keep it light. Getting lost was part of the fun, and to be expected. The trick was to find the way out of it again.
The trick was not to let fear overcome her.
Rose was gambling her life on it this time. Life with the Doctor had accustomed her to danger, and she'd come close to death a time or two. Close as close can be. The Doctor's life, and his companions' lives, seemed full of near-death experiences. Exhilarating and terrifying, but when she was with the Doctor, it was part of the thrill-ride of life.
When she was alone... well. Being alone was never much fun, was it? Alone and frightened, alone and safe, it was still the experience of being alone. She was tired of loneliness, even while she was surrounded by friends and acquaintances and family. It wasn't what she wanted, and they weren't the ones she wanted with her. Not that they weren't good people, but it wasn't enough. She knew the difference.
It was worth the risk, to find Jack and the Doctor again. She was gambling that in all the universes and all the time-space patterns of the infinity of worlds, there was only one Doctor (the Doctor-doppelganger she was leaving behind notwithstanding) and only one Captain Jack Harkness, a man who shouldn't still exist at all. He existed now because of what she had done, and she was damn proud of that. If it weren't for her, he'd be among the atoms of Dalek-dust and the forgotten dead of the Game Station.
Stepping into the unknown was a little more frightening than it ought to be. She'd heard of the horrors of the Void. The first person to descrive the Void to her had been the Doctor himself, who'd freely admitted how much it scared him. To the Time Lords, it was anti-life; it was hell.
Well, she'd risked worse than that for the Doctor already, hadn't she? No problem, then.
It was always so much easier doing this kind of thing when Jack and the Doctor were with her. She'd often been scared almost to death by the things they pushed, pulled, and prodded her into - but they made her laugh even when she was terrified, and she'd eventually learned not to be afraid, hadn't she? Useful for Torchwood work, that. But now she'd left her Torchwood in that other world.
She'd been brave enough to cross the Void to find Donna and set the timelines right again. She'd seen the worlds with no Doctor at all, and how things had gone wrong. As long as that didn't happen again, she'd be all right in the end.
This time the technology was different, the approach was different, and the accessories were different, but her people had done their work well. Backed by Pete's money for the new technology, the scientists said they were confident of her success. When looking for Donna, she'd been, as it were, gatecrashing - jumping from one dimension to another. Now she was hiking cross-country, cutting through the Void itself, stepping through an infinity of possibilities which, since they were infinitely thin, took her no distance at all. She had no idea how long it would take her to cut across, and she could only trust the likelihood that her high-tech trail of breadcrumbs would lead her to the place she wanted and needed to be.
It was the path to the TARDIS, the home of her heart.
Her iPod didn't work in the Void. Stupid Void. Lifeless, cold, silent, bone-chilling. She kept her heart up by singing dirty songs Jack had taught her. The Doctor had tut-tutted, then taught them both the filthiest song of all, something about Pelagian shape-shifters. Jack loved it. Jack loved it all. Her eyes stung with tears to remember, so she pushed the memory aside, and threw herself into a different song. No point in being maudlin. She was going to find them again, and soon, and everything would be all right again.
Yeah, that's the ticket. Together forever!
She kept on walking.
Jack stood on a cliff overlooking the bay north of Lavernock Point. It was an uncharacteristically sunny day for Wales, and he could see the silvery-blue water of the Bristol Channel for miles. Not a bad day for a stroll, though he wasn't happy to be kept waiting. The SUV was a couple of miles behind him. Despite his impatience, there was a spring in his step, and he started singing, under his breath, an outrageous song the Doctor taught him and Rose, a song about Pelagian Shape-Shifters. It was more fun when there was someone else to sing the second part, but he wasn't about to teach the song to anyone in the twenty-first century. Only Rose, and she was gone.
Then on a snatch of wind he heard the sound of the TARDIS, the sweetest music he knew. He grinned - that goofy sound always made him smile - and, locating it, he began to run. His greatcoat blew in the wind and his feet covered the distance easily, without stumbling.
The TARDIS door was open and the Doctor was leaning on the side of the doorway, with that mischievous smile that was so flirty and so familiar. "Hello, Jack. Nice day."
"You're late," said Jack, enveloping the Doctor in a bear hug and swinging him around. "You elusive time-cheater."
"I'm not late!" protested the Doctor. "Or if I am, it's not my fault - I was caught up in a situation on Jupiter-Red. Ever been there? Terrific prune juleps, but they have no sense of decorum. Anyway, by the time I'd dealt with the palace coup - you'd have approved of my choice of Empress, she was as lovely as she was sweet - by that time, it would have been rude not to stay for the coronation. I'm here now, aren't I?"
"Are you?" Jack ran his hand through the Doctor's hair. "Sometimes... I can't believe it when you're actually with me."
"If it was all your imagination, I'd have got here on time, wouldn't I? I don't know what it is with you Earth people, always worrying about time, punctuality, time-clocks... Stopwatches..."
"Stopwatches?" said Jack. "Sorry, you distracted me. I'm not complaining. I missed you, that's all."
"Or you just wanted a shag," suggested the Doctor.
"That's the effect you always have on me."
"Overcome, are we?" The Doctor looked absurdly pleased. "Quite right, too."
"What a gorgeous day," said Jack, "for a cliff-top tryst in the TARDIS."
"Try saying that three times fast," said the Doctor, and then, quickly, before he could, "No, don't."
3. The Doctor
Jack was his weakness, his anomaly, his joy and his despair. Jack could always make him laugh; Jack could always excite him; Jack could always bring him a dose of happiness when the solitary travels of a Lonely God were on the joyless side. Which happened rather too often sometimes.
At the same time, Jack always reminded him of Rose, and that was a bittersweet pain. They'd been good together, before the Daleks came back, and before the Time Vortex, when circumstances got in the way. The thing about Jack was, he didn't change. Ever. He died without regenerating, time after time. He may have thought he'd turned over a new leaf since his con man days, or maybe even a whole forest, but the truth was he was the same old Jack he'd always been - beautiful, loving, and full of ideas. Loyal, too. The Doctor'd never known a friend or lover so loyal. Not monogamous, not ever, that wasn't Jack's way, but his faithful heart held the love over millennia, through betrayal, and through the world's ending.
And it always would.
In Jack's arms, the Doctor could forget his pain, and remember Rose, and take a break from his travels. From himself. From the relentless weight of the eons.
With Jack, for a brief time, he could feel as if everything was all right.
The thing about the Void was, there were no road signs. No roads, either. You could be going up, down, sideways or forward. You couldn't judge time, because time was measured by change, all those wiggling atoms in space. There was no change here. She had never figured out whether there was actually substance - she still had a body, right? Or not? Was she nothing but a formless idea in the Void, with hands and hair and breath purely because she thought she had hands and hair and breath? She'd have to ask the Doctor, who would explain, but she wouldn't understand a word he said. So then he'd put it in simpler language and she still wouldn't understand anything. Jack would make a joke, and ask why it mattered. Then they would argue about the philosophy of it.
How she missed them.
If a tree falls in the Void, is it really a tree?
Solitude was making her silly. She checked her fob-watch, which wasn't really a fob-watch, but a kind of temporal map. She looked again. The three hands were converging on noon, or the North position, or - or - well, metaphors broke down, but it meant she was where she needed to be. The time... the moment... whatever... had come. Time to fish or cut bait. Rose jabbed at the button on her hand-held. If it glowed mauve, she was at her destination. If it glowed any other colour, she was trapped in the Void forever.
In the Void, there is no death.
No life either.
She held her breath (if she had breath) and glared at the view-screen.
Then... faintly... a glow. Was it coloured?
Just a little, maybe.
It got brighter. It was - relief filled her all at once - mauve.
Mauve! Beautiful, beautiful colour. Colour of trouble and joy and return home.
Mauve. She was all right.
She fastened her metaphorical parachute, and stepped out of the Void.
It was Thursday, two days after Jack had left the Doctor and come back to Torchwood, while the Doctor went for more adventures in time and space. Jack had a cell phone to reach him with now, rather like the one Martha had. Twice, the Doctor had called just to hear his voice - that had put Jack in a good mood for weeks. And once he had called just to hear how Luke Smith had done in his science fair project - first prize, of course; Jack was delighted he was curious.
It was a quiet Thursday until suddenly the Rift alarms went off at once. Activity within the Hub. Jack went out onto the walkway to see what was going on.
"Rift breach," said Ianto, at his station, in the loud, calm tones of a man used to emergencies.
"Where?" asked Jack. Gwen came running in from outside.
"It's right here," said Ianto, looking around the Hub in bemusement. There were golden sparkles in the air. "Beside me. Around us."
"What's going on?" asked Gwen, staring at the lights popping and twinkling in the air. "Is Myfanwy setting off firecrackers?"
"Maybe it's New Year's Eve in some other timeline," suggested Ianto.
Jack frowned and waited.
There was a shaft of blue light reminiscent of a transporter beam. Ianto had a weapon at the ready but Jack held up his hand, "Wait. No hostilities yet." Not Daleks, not Cybermen, not an invasion....
"Someone you know?" asked Gwen. Her tone was sarcastic, but as the person materialized, stumbling onto the floor out of nowhere - blonde hair, pink hoodie, blue jeans - the sarcasm gelled into the expectation of certainty. This was no accidental Rift debris.
Jack was grinning now, leaning on the handrail, his heart singing. Trust Rose to make an entrance. "What?" he said. "A beautiful blonde drops into my living room out of thin air, and you think I must know her? Why would you think that?"
Rose looked up at him, where he stood on the walkway. "Jack! I made it!"
"Can't think why," muttered Ianto, rolling his eyes in Gwen's direction. Gwen laughed and put away her gun.
Jack came down the stairs, slowly. "More beautiful every time I see you," he said.
"I moisturize," said Rose, dismissively. "So, how's it going, hotshot? Saved the planet again yet today?"
"Twice," said Jack. "The coffee beans surrendered. Next challenge? Weather prediction. They never get it right."
"Idiot. They never will." She hugged him tight. He closed his arms around her, enjoyed her soft, warm presence. She felt solid. Not a hologram, not a figment, not a cruel impersonation. Simply Rose, his Rose, returned from so far away.
"Is it really you?" he murmured.
"No, I'm a Slitheen in disguise."
"Can't be. You smell too good."
"Must be me, then. Fancy that."
"Here for a minute? A day?"
"Forever. I've come home."
"Where's your Doctor?"
"Making a decent life back on Pete's World." She pulled out of his arms, looking apologetically at Gwen and Ianto. "I came back for the real thing. Introduce me to your friends?"
Jack kept an arm around her as he did so. "My... my team. My family. Torchwood. This is Ianto Jones, my solid rock. Gwen Cooper, avenging angel. Gwen and Ianto, this is Rose Tyler. We used to travel together."
Rose shook hands with each of them. Jack could tell she was enjoying their curiosity.
"Travelled together - where?" asked Ianto.
"Through time," said Rose.
Ianto pursed his lips.
Gwen grinned. "Congratulations on a memorable arrival. Care for some tea?"
6. The Doctor
It was Tuesday, and the Doctor was visiting a galaxy he had never explored before. According to the TARDIS readouts it was called Iscaliz; the Doctor renamed it Gemfield in his mind, because the stars shone in bright and glittering colours. On one planet, birds sang on the branches of trees made of mist; on another, strange serene rodents floated on the airstream and whispered their supersonic mating calls.
He wished he had brought Jack with him, especially when he found a city of festivals, music and sports. The people wore sarongs, laughing together as they composed their music in the sunlight. They welcomed the Doctor with cheery hospitality, so he stayed to learn to play a twelve-stringed lyre. His teacher, Kippi, wore a sky-blue sarong and danced with flowers in her hair. He wrote music for her, and her young friend Huy, whose sarong was purple. They wrote poetry for him, and he wrote more for them in return, and they called him The Travelling Madman. They laughed at his jokes, corrected him gently when he played a note wrong, and gave him their pungent fruit drink called the Explosion. It wasn't intoxicating, but it was good enough to be habit-forming.
Jack would like this place.
The Doctor half-expected the illusion of pleasure to fall away. Surely there was an evil for him to fight, an emergency for him to fix, a wrong to be brought to light and cured? He looked, but he couldn't find any of these things. The people were honest and kind, their kindness unfeigned. They weren't perfect - who ever was? - and were, in fact, totally dense when it came to post-Newtonian physics, but they were as peaceful, egalitarian, and creative as they appeared.
After a week, the Doctor could stand it no longer. Out of sheer boredom, he made his escape, explaining that he had places to go, people to see - people waiting for him, in fact -
"A lover?" asked Huy, her eyebrows raised in a way that reminded him of Martha.
"No, no, no, no," he said hastily, and she laughed, clearly not believing him.
"He's leaving us?" asked Kippi, coming in on the conversation.
"For a lover, far away!"
"Lucky lover," said Kippi mournfully, with a glance of reproach at the Doctor. Really, Jack would have lapped it up. But Jack would have been into their bed on the first day. And quite possibly would still be there.
They gave him his own lyre to practise on, as a parting gift. "You really need to practise," said Huy, waggling her finger at him.
"I will!" the Doctor promised. He was lying - he tossed the thing into his trunk and forgot about it. Not much point, when there was no one to hear him play, was there?
Companions. They all left him in the end. Sending them away first was the only way to control the pain. Otherwise they died or fell into alternate universes or got shot by Daleks or went home to London or -
Okay, he was thinking of Jack again. And Rose. It had been good, when they both had been on the TARDIS and the laughter was bigger on the inside.
It wouldn't ever happen again. But maybe it was important to garner and value what he had. What he still had.
Rose was loyal and brave, but she was gone.
Jack was loyal and brave, and would still be glad to see him.
Maybe it was time to refuel, anyway.
He said aloud to the TARDIS, "Feel like a tot of high octane, old girl?"
The TARDIS didn't answer. It might have been because of the insult - she hated being called "old girl" - but it might be because she saw the truth: he was the one who needed a booster shot, and he was going to get it.
Rose had figured it would be a few hours before she ended up in bed with Jack. Three hours, maybe four? She miscalculated by two and a bit: forty-five minutes and they could stand it no longer. Their lovemaking was intense and mindless and more exciting than anything she'd experienced since leaving the TARDIS.
They lay in each other's arms afterwards, sweaty and sticky and smiling. "You haven't changed," said Rose.
"Neither have you." He kissed her ear, lightly.
"Yeah, but for me it's been two years. Okay, two years and a bit. Maybe three. But for you - what, two hundred?"
"I won't stop loving you," he said, lifting her hand to kiss her fingers. "Not in two hundred years or two thousand."
She touched his face. "I did this to you. Made you what you are."
"You set my life on a different path," he said. "I'm still the person I always was. The Jack you knew. The man the Doctor knew."
"He changed," she said. "He regenerated. You saw him. New face, new body, new style. I never could figure out which parts of him were the same and which were different."
"Doesn't matter," said Jack. "It's still him."
"But he sent you away."
"And then let me come back."
"There's no one like him," she said.
"No? What about your friend in the blue suit?"
"He's the same in a lot of ways," Rose admitted. "But the Doctor said it himself. Not quite the same. The more I knew him, the more I could see the differences."
"Did he love you?"
"Yes. And I loved him. But not like the real Doctor, the Time Lord." Tears sprang into her eyes. "It was different for both of us. He looked and tasted and felt like the Doctor, but he was a stranger, too. And we agreed that what we had was good, but we weren't really happy. He didn't want to be my consolation prize. I didn't want to be reminded of my Doctor every day. So I decided to cross the Void and find you both, and I found a way to do it."
Jack kissed her throat slowly. "Brave."
"What did I have to lose?" she said bleakly.
He looked down at her. "Dear girl."
"You would have done it," she said fiercely. "You would have done more than that. You would have walked through hell."
There was a long silence.
"You would have," she insisted. He rested his head on her breast, heavy and warm. His soft hair tickled her.
"I did," he said, in a low voice.
She stroked his head. "He sent me away. D'you think he'll want to see me again?"
Jack thought carefully before answering. "I saw his face when he saw you, last time, one glimpse before the Dalek shot him. He loves you as much as ever. More. He just doesn't know if he can stand it."
She twisted her fingers in his hair, considering. "Can he?"
"He's stronger than he thinks. We all are."
"How is he, then?"
Jack didn't answer quickly. "Lonely. Angry. Lost. Needy. Irrepressibly himself."
"Was he sleeping with Martha?" The Doctor who had come back with her had refused to talk about it. That made Rose think he must have; that his silence came from guilt. Or maybe the guilt was for something entirely different.
"No, never. Broke her heart. But she's strong, too."
"Stupid git," said Rose, and she didn't mean Martha.
They lay in warm silence.
"Jack?" said Rose, at last. Her voice came out breathless; she felt nervous about what she was about to ask, or what he might say. Which was all the more reason to say it. "Why did he send me away?"
"I think he was frightened."
She thought about it. Jack understood the Doctor better than she did, sometimes. Other times he hadn't a clue. "Of me?"
"Of the power of his love for you. He had so much to lose... so much hurt, to remember losing you before. Since he lost everything with Gallifrey, he's afraid of losing anyone. He saw you cry over him, at Bad Wolf Bay. He never wanted to make you cry again."
If Jack knew about that, it must have been because the Doctor told him. But it had happened to him, too, hadn't it? "Why did he send you away?"
"I was wrong for him for a long time, because of what I was. Something impossible. But he found a way to accept me."
"What?" She thought this must be important. "Look at me. What do you mean?"
Jack looked at her. "He's been coming to see me," said Jack. "In the TARDIS. Sometimes we go somewhere. Sometimes we stay in Cardiff."
"Just ... visiting?"
"Yeah." He laughed. It must have been because of the look on her face. "Well, of course!"
She smacked his shoulder. "Not fair! Not fair, not fair!"
He held her wrist, smiling. It wasn't fair, that he was stronger than her. Too easy for him. "Easy, spitfire. What's wrong?"
"Years, three years I do without him, and then I try to live with a substitute, and then I think I'll never find either of you again, and you've been... you've been...."
"...You've been happy with him, and I wasn't there. I'm so jealous I could scream."
"Scream, then," he said, tracing her lips with his finger. She loved the touch, and the taste. She felt him move the finger around her face, and she melted towards the touch, like a cat.
"Was it like it was before?"
"No. You weren't there. And he'd regenerated. New body, new mind, whole new experience."
"But good, yeah?"
"Yeah." He took her hand in his, and kissed her palm. "Very good."
"So how'd you seduce him this time?" Maybe she could learn some tips.
"I was just... there. Waiting for him. I was ready to wait as long as it took. A hundred years, two hundred years, till the end of time... It had to be his choice, to love me again. He had a lot to recover from. He had to get over his fear."
"Let's call it an ongoing process."
"Bet you flashed your pretty blue eyes at him."
"Will you tell him I've come back?"
"You don't want to tell him yourself?"
"I'd feel better if you warned him first. So it won't be too much of a shock." She was brave enough to come through the Void to find the Doctor; maybe not quote brave enough to face him unannounced. "Is he all right?"
"On his own? No. He falls into darkness. He needs us to pull him out. He can't find his way, on his own."
"Okay. You push, I'll pull."
"I'll thrust. You lure."
"You're good at that."
"Want a demonstration?" His other hand, the one that wasn't still playing with her wrist, was reaching between her legs, stroking.
She said, "You can't be ready to... Oh!"
"Does that mean 'stop"?" He was kissing her shoulder, teasing her breast with his other hand. She could feel him smiling against her skin. That was Jack for you. True to form.
"No, it means - Ah! Jack!"
"What does it mean?" He teased, but she was beyond speech, gasping, and soon, so was he.
Jack took the path leading to the top of the cliff. The TARDIS was there before him, an unusual occurrence. The Doctor was waiting for him, grinning. "There's something I've been meaning to show you. I learned it a while ago. It's a wonderful trick. You'll love it."
"I've something to tell you, too."
"A surprise? I love surprises. Look at this, Jack." The Doctor closed the TARDIS doors behind him. He walked to the edge of the cliff, letting the toes of his trainers stick over the edge. Then he turned abruptly, walked back to the TARDIS, and snapped his fingers. The doors opened. "See!" he said, triumphantly.
Jack was confused. "We don't need a key anymore? You're leaving her unlocked?"
"No, no, no, no. It's a new trick she's learned, a beautiful new trick. Or maybe a new trick I've learned, except it's something I won't know until the future. River Song showed me. It was remarkable - I'd no idea what to make of it at first. Well, I still don't, not really, but I'll find out when the time comes. Meanwhile, it's the most unexpected thing."
"Who is River Song?"
"A very interesting woman. An archaeologist. You'd like her. At least, I think you'd probably like her, but I don't know who she is, or who she will be, she didn't say, but she's going to be very significant to me. Maybe."
Jack raised an eyebrow. He sometimes didn't know what to make of the Doctor's stories, with past and future intertwining in innovative ways. "Really?" He walked towards the TARDIS, and snapped his fingers. Nothing happened. He tried again. "Just you?"
"Just me. You still need a key." The Doctor looked smug.
"Rose'll need one, too, then. She's back."
The Doctor's face became as blank and expressionless as Jack had ever seen it. It was like the snapping of fingers: the Doctor switched from full vibrancy to total stillness in a nanosecond. Jack thought he could hear both hearts beating.
"Aw, c'mon, don't go catatonic on me. Aren't you glad she's back?"
The Doctor's head jerked, an odd gesture that might have meant anything. "She was in the other universe. She went with the other me. She was happy. She was safe. It was the perfect solution."
Jack waited patiently.
"She was, wasn't she?"
The Doctor expected an answer. Jack said, choosing his words carefully, "She was reasonably safe, but there is no safety in life. You know that. She was not happy, because she wanted you, and missed you."
"She had -"
"She didn't want your clone. She wanted you."
"But she -"
"She crossed the Void for you. She loved you that much."
"I love you that much, too."
That made the Doctor impatient. He shook his head. "No, no, stupid, I mean: she came here to be with you, too."
"Yes. She came here to be with me, too."
"The Cardiff Rift."
"It doesn't matter where," said Jack. "She could find me here, that's all. She wanted to be wherever we were. Whatever place, whatever time. She was ready to risk her life for that chance."
"And if we didn't want her any more?"
"She was ready to risk that, too," admitted Jack. He smiled. "Not much of a chance of that, really."
The Doctor raised his hand. It shook a little. Jack stepped closer, and the Doctor touched his cheek. "I would understand if she hated me, now."
"She doesn't hate you." Jack wanted to say, "She never will," but Rose could come and say that for herself.
"I never brought her anything but trouble."
"It's your specialty," agreed Jack. He pulled the Doctor closer, tenderly holding him. "you know that isn't true. You brought her many other things." He kissed the Doctor's forehead; his eyelids.
"Danger. Pain. Loss."
"Excitement and laughter. An appreciation of life. You saved her from lifelong boredom. Stop blaming yourself for everything that happens to us. You can't see it, from the heart of the light, but you are worth it. Every heartbeat of the way."
Jack was firm. "Our lives. Our choices. We want to be with you."
"She knows what I am," said the Doctor, a little wildly. "How can she still love me?"
"Same way I can," said Jack easily. "With all her heart. Take a risk, Doctor. How afraid can you be of happiness?"
9. The Doctor
The wind had risen. The sun was sinking over the water when Jack and Rose approached along the cliff-top path. Rose was wearing a red anorak that matched the colour in her cheeks. She and Jack were holding hands. She was squinting a little, trying to focus on the Doctor, with the sun behind him, and the TARDIS silhouetted beside him.
She let go of Jack's hand, and began to run.
She still ran as she always did. The Doctor was so glad to see her he couldn't breathe. He never remembered clearly, but he thought Regeneration felt a little like this, with the whole world stopping and then starting again, while his body tingled with light.
Last time she had run towards him, a Dalek had gunned him down. This time, he couldn't move at all.
There were no Daleks here. There was the sun and the clifftop and the TARDIS and Jack, their beautiful, loving Jack.
The Doctor held out his arms. Rose ran into them, laughing and sobbing. She started kissing him as if she had never stopped. She was talking - babbling - but he couldn't hear a word because of the wind in his ears and the pounding of his hearts and a sudden loss of hearing that had to do, it seemed, with the feel of her body in his arms.
He said, "Why are you here?"
"Because I love you," she said. It sounded rational when she said it, out loud like that, words in the air. His hearing seemed to have returned.
"Oh," he said.
"So?" she said. She had stopped kissing him and was looking at him expectantly.
"What?" He ran a hand through his windblown hair. Jack, no help there, was standing over between the cliff and the TARDIS, admiring the scenery. Just a little out of earshot. Letting them have privacy, rot his hide, what did he have to go and do that for? What did privacy mean between the three of them? It meant he was on his own face to face with Rose, and she was asking something he didn't understand, and he felt so confused and happy and loving and nervous he didn't know how to think, let alone talk.
"So can we be together again?" she asked, with a certain belligerent force.
"Us? You and me?"
"You and me and Jack."
"Yes. Well. Um. Why not?"
"No!" said Rose. Angry about something. Why was she angry? She was so beautiful when she was angry, it was confusing him again. But then, she was beautiful when she was happy, and beautiful when she was laughing, beautiful always because he loved her, and he didn't know what she wanted now, except that it seemed she wanted him. Which was more than he deserved but she knew that, too. And, like Jack, she didn't care.
The Doctor cleared his throat.
Rose raised her voice. "Jack? C'mere."
He was beside them like a shot. "Yeah?"
"Tell the Doctor why we should be together. You and me and him."
"Well," said Jack, seriously, "we make a damn good darts team."
This had the advantage of deflecting Rose's anger to Jack, in the form of a fierce glare. Jack grinned at her.
The Doctor said, loudly and clearly, "We should be together because we are all happier together than apart."
Jack smiled as if the Doctor had said something brilliant. Rose looked mollified, but still challenging. "And?"
"And because I love you both deeply, and you are part of me."
Rose stared at him in astonishment and then threw her arms around him. Jack's arms came around them both. "Yes!" shouted Rose. "Yes!"
She kissed him. Jack kissed him. They kissed each other. A certain amount of caressing and groping was happening; the sort of thing that could get out of hand if no one stopped it in time.
No one stopped it.
The wind was blowing harder, and the sun was almost down. It was cold, standing there on the clifftop, and Rose was shivering a little, though it might have been excitement of their touch rather than the cold. "Let's go in," said Jack.
"Let's go home to the TARDIS," said Rose, her eyes bright with laughter and tears.
The Doctor snapped his fingers, and the TARDIS opened its doors to them.
- end -