Partially inspired by aibhinn's request in the OT3 ficathon on eljay. Way too much fun to write, lemme tell you that.
(Time and Space, Love and Loss, Life and Death)
It had taken years to get back to her. Years of watching and waiting, insurmountable genius, and quite a bit of luck. But he'd done it—and done it well, too. Landed mere weeks after Bad Wolf Bay. There had been screaming and tears and rib-cracking hugs, and then a solemn farewell to her family (can't come back this time, he'd stressed, his eyes tired and hard and hopeful that she'd choose him and infinitely saddened for making her choose), and a rather rough reentry to the correct universe.
Four days later she was dead.
It was so sudden. He'd landed the TARDIS on a hill overlooking the besieged Troy (you do not know Achilles, she'd challenged when he'd mentioned it off-hand) but there was a slight miscalculation. After you, he'd said, swinging the door open majestically. She took a step out, then there was a dull thumping sound. She made a sound of weak surprise, her mouth a perfect little o. Then she was slumping against the side of the TARDIS and he was pulling her back inside, slamming the door shut as another arrow thudded heavily into the wood.
Her eyes turned glassy even as he was pulling out the sonic screwdriver to perform emergency first aid. But he tried anyway. Had too. All he got for his trouble was a blister from holding the screwdriver for too long and a bit of her blood on his hands (he was in shock, so the irony was lost on him). So when he rocked backwards and landed sprawled on the grating, he was understandably upset.
(Have a fantastic life, he'd told her once. And hadn't his one consolation after getting her trapped in an alternate universe been that at least she was safe? And look what he'd gone and done. Took her away again, gotten her killed. What would Jackie say? But Jackie would never know, never know her only daughter was dead at twenty-one, victim of a vain man's selfish want to impress her…)
And when he couldn't stand looking at her body any more (so much smaller in death than she'd ever been alive), he reached over and yanked on the arrow, the eyesore. Not sure why he did it, just knew it was marring her somehow. But he was sorry afterwards, because there was a distinctly sickening hole in her grey hoodie and he was left holding the cause.
He threw it away from him in disgust, and it rattled across the TARDIS floor. Then she took a yelping gasp and sat up.
"Was I dead?" she asked.
He was glad he was already sitting.
He's all alone underground when he hears the alarms going off. Everyone else is home, sleeping undoubtedly. He hops into a pair of cotton bottoms as he races down to the main consoles. Tapping a few letters on Tosh's keyboard, he brings up a picture. There, in the middle of the plaza, a blue box is materializing.
Jack freezes for all of a second and a half, then he's throwing open doors and taking stairs three at a time. The cold Cardiff air is like a slap, but at this point he's bolting and doesn't pay it any mind. He's only made it halfway across the distance separating him from the Doctor when the door creaks open and a blonde head pokes out (he doesn't notice, but this is done very cautiously). For a moment he almost checks himself, then recognition takes over—if you'd asked him seconds before if he could move any faster, he would've answered no but obviously that's been proven fallacious.
She's moving towards him, but only makes it a few steps before he's slammed into her with (what seems to her) enough force to take down a full-grown man. But his arms are circling her and she screeched at the impact but now she's shrieking with glee and indignation as he swings her around and they're both laughing at the sheer impossibility of it all.
He puts her down and she grins up at him, and there's a rush inside of him that's well over a hundred years in the making—so he covers her mouth with his own hungrily and he can feel her laughter as he does it. There's a rather pointed throat-clearing, however, and he looks over to the open door of the TARDIS. For a moment, with Rose's arms wrapped firmly around him, he expects leather and big ears, but it's brown that meets him. All the same, it takes next to no time for him to disentangle himself from the girl and firmly kiss the Doctor in turn—new feel, new taste, same Doctor. It's a supplicating sort of contact, the sheer delight of the one he'd just given Rose replaced by a reverence that he hasn't felt for the Doctor in a long time.
The Doctor's face, when he's pulled away, is impassive, but there's perhaps a hint of a smile somewhere there. He glances up and down Jack's body and raises an eyebrow. "Did we come at a bad time?"
Jack is suddenly acutely aware that he's wearing nothing but a pair of drawstrings. Smirking devilishly, he replies, "Not at all." There's a warmth at the small of his back, and he turns half-around to see that Rose has put her hand there and is biting down a face-splitting grin. Jack's mind reengages and he asks, "How? Where?" Eyes narrowing considerably, he adds, "When?"
"Oh, don't worry. Chronologically speaking, we've moved in a fairly straight line," the Doctor waves dismissively.
"So you've actually…?"
"Defied the bounds of reason and safety to cross into a parallel world? Yeah, that'd be 'im," Rose chirps.
Jack waffles between horrified and pleased for a moment, and ultimately decides on pleased. That feels different somehow, and he wonders at how much his exile in this past-Earth has changed him, and how much of it's reverting even as he stands in the doorway of the TARDIS again.
"But, er, there's a bit of a problem," the Doctor adds.
(I'm so sorry, he says, softly and seriously, when they tell him. It's…it's not something I would've wished for you.
She doesn't understand why it's a bad thing.
When he tries to explain it to her, her eyes speak volumes about the Doctor and security and the closest to forever you can get, and he forgets exactly why it's a bad thing himself.
The Doctor looks torn—but whether it's between his love for a little shopgirl and his terror of the Bad Wolf that's now a fixed fact, or between guilt for doing this to her and a selfish glee that he'll get to keep her longer, Jack isn't sure.
And when the Doctor asks him to come along, once more, and Rose wraps her fingers around his wrist, pulling him towards the TARDIS, what is he supposed to do? He's not getting any younger, and not that much older, and they could always put him back right here, and nobody'd ever be the wiser…)
The Doctor certainly isn't used to feeling like the most mortal being aboard his own ship. Sometimes, however, when Jack and Rose are squabbling with each other over the most inconsequential things, he remembers that humans are humans, no matter what's happened to them, and it's much easier to take it into stride.
Jack certainly isn't used to traveling around with this new bouncy Doctor who can shift from child-like fits to deadly seriousness in an instant (he didn't get a handle on him last time; his stay was far too brief), but it doesn't take long to adjust—he's always had a talent for discovering which buttons to push just far enough and which to avoid completely. And besides, Rose is excellently useful for alternately calming the Doctor down or whipping Jack into enough of a frenzy that it doesn't matter anyway.
Rose certainly isn't used to the darker moods of either man, but she gets that it's been years longer for them than it has been for her. So she occasionally calls them New-New-Doctor and New-New-Jack inside her head to remind herself. But when they lie together on their backs on some alien planet du jour and Jack's chewing a blade of grass on one side and the Doctor's babbling on about local culture and customs on the other, she forgets that there was a change at all.
And so what if the Doctor complains that they're gonna cause another regeneration from pure stress alone when Jack and Rose get into a "Most Elaborate Death" competition? (Rose wins, with an astoundingly complex Rube Goldberg machine stretching four hallways in the TARDIS and finally dropping a spare toaster into the waiting tub. Jack tells her he's impressed and forfeits; the Doctor is severely unamused.)
And so what if, every time Rose suffers a fatality, both the Doctor and Jack both sit motionless and pale until she starts breathing again?
And so what if, on the thirty-first time that Jack doesn't die with Rose next to him, he awakens to find that she's crying because it's been sixteen hours since they accidentally lost him and he froze to death? (Just took his body awhile to warm up enough to support life, the Doctor assures them both, but Jack doesn't miss the subtle relief in the Time Lord's voice as he says it.)
And so what if they all feel that it has to end at some point?
These are just darker spikes in an otherwise blissful existence, and you can't judge the whole by a few instances.