The Doctor sighed as the TARDIS touched down in Cardiff, bumpy as usual. She had been running ragged the past few days, what with--with everything that had happened, and the Doctor felt she deserved her break and a soak in some time energy before he headed off for new adventures. He didn’t acknowledge the stray thought that he also needed some rest. Adventure wasn’t as fun by yourself.
The Doctor frowned as the TARDIS hummed slightly. She only did that when--The Doctor paused, then hurried towards his doors, flinging them open, a smile beginning to curl at the edge of his lips.
“Doctor!” Jack Harkness cried as he hurried across the plaza. “What brings you to my neck of the woods so soon?”
The Doctor beamed at him, happier than he probably should have been considering he’d seen Jack only a few days ago. “The TARDIS needed some rest,” he said, patting her door. “And you know Cardiff is her resting place of choice.”
Jack smiled at him. The Doctor absently wondered if Jack would ever age. Then, abruptly, he remembered Jack’s comment about being the Face of Boe and stifled a laugh when he thought of his friend’s outrage at becoming nothing more than a wrinkly head when he got old. Jack would probably be more outraged at the loss of his body than the wrinkles.
“Well it’s good to see you both again,” Jack said, still all smiles. He examined the Doctor closely, then peered over his shoulder into the TARDIS. “Where’s Donna?” he asked. “I’d like to say hello--”
“She left,” the Doctor answered, quiet and tense. Jack’s smile faded. “After--well. She left.”
Jack cautiously put a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” he said genuinely. “I liked her.”
The Doctor remember Donna’s bright, eager eyes, her voice, the way she always wanted to save everyone, anyone -- “Me too,” he murmured.
Jack eyed him. “Did you want to stay for the day?” he asked.
The Doctor raised an eyebrow. “Oh?” he asked, intrigued. “And why would I want to do that, hm, with the universe at my fingertips?” He said it tiredly instead of teasingly, and Jack’s eyes softened.
Jack’s smile was slow and broad, but it withheld it’s usual sultry undertone that the Doctor had always found both amusing and annoying. “It’s Christmas Eve, Doctor,” he murmured. “Might as well celebrate it with friends, huh?”
The Doctor’s brow wrinkled. “Christmastime already, hm?” he murmured, more to himself. “Time has its way of playing tricks, even on me.” He eyed Jack. “Will there be eggnog?” he demanded. “Tinsel? A tree? It’s not Christmas if there’s not a tree, or so I’ve heard.”
Jack laughed and clapped the Doctor’s shoulder, his hand warm and broad. “There will be a tree,” he agreed. “Ianto is hosting it as his place - he’s got it as done up as it possibly can be. Tree in the corner, lights on every available surface . . . The whole shebang.”
The Doctor beamed. A little of the loneliness that had been building up in Donna’s absence, a little of guilt that had been piling on his shoulders, dissipated in the wake of Jack’s warm, easy smile and bright eyes. Jack, no matter what happened, would always be there. Jack was a fixed point in time, and while the Doctor had been a bit leery at first, he’d come to start to think of Jack as his fixed point in time. Jack would be there when his other, more fragile companions left him. And Jack, a small voice whispered in the back of his head, will always love me.
The Doctor shook that thought away. He could still remember the press of Jack’s lips in his last incarnation, the way Jack would look at him sometimes--like the Doctor was his whole world. The Doctor had gotten those looks from men every once in a while, but he rarely took a male companion, so he’d never had that kind of attention focused on him for so long. Besides, people being--in love with him, that made him uncomfortable. Humans shouldn’t fall in love with Time Lords: it always ended badly. Rose was example enough.
Of course, Jack was a bit more resilient than other humans, but the Doctor was tired of love. Love hurt his hearts and his head and made him want to curl up in his TARDIS and never take another companion again, not ever. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t accept Jack’s warmth and his invitation. Just one day, the Doctor promised himself, not really believing it. Just one.
“I’d love to come,” he said, meeting Jack’s eyes. “What time do we start?”
Ianto Jones had a very nice house for a Torchwood agent. The Doctor supposed that the pay for super-secret alien hunters must be rather good, but he hadn’t expected Jack’s right-hand man to be so well-off. He paused for a moment at the door, wondering if he should just bounce in or knock. He’d met Ianto briefly, and Jack had talked about him enough that the Doctor thought there might be something between him and Jack. If Ianto knew that Jack had--well, feelings towards the Doctor, than he might not be that hospitable to the Doctor just prancing in. Hesitantly, the Doctor knocked and wondered if this was what normal humans dealt with all the time. He wasn’t used to knocking.
The door opened to reveal Jack, who had a tiny, pink hat on his head. The Doctor was tempted to laugh, but Jack’s dark glare stopped him.
“Not a word,” he hissed. “Tosh thinks they’re cute and Gwen’s backing her up. Those two are scary when they work together.” Jack smirked suddenly. “And you’ll get one too, Doctor.” He bopped the Doctor on his nose. The Doctor blinked with surprise. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had done that.
“Jack? Who is it?” someone called from inside. The someone was male and Welsh, so the Doctor assumed it was Ianto.
“The Doctor’s here, Ianto!” Jack yelled back over his shoulder before turning back to the Doctor, smiling. “Come on in,” he said. “They’re all dying to meet you in person.”
The Doctor smiled a little. “Well I am very impressive, so I could see why,” he teased and Jack laughed.
Jack led him into a living room that was, true to Jack’s word, completely decorated in Christmas lights, a huge tree tucked into the corner. On the couch, two women were talking - Gwen and Tosh, if the Doctor remembered right, which he always did. Off to the side, a young man was sitting on an armchair, legs crossed and a moody expression on his face - the Doctor remembered Jack mentioning an Owen at some point, and since this man was definitely not Ianto, he could only be Owen. Ianto, however, was nowhere to be seen.
“Probably in the kitchen, making coffee,” Jack said before the Doctor could ask. He was smiling slightly. “Wait until you have some - Ianto’s coffee is to die for.”
“More of a tea man myself,” the Doctor murmured.
“Hello again Doctor,” Gwen - he remembered her from before, the one who looked so much like Gwenyth - said, eyes warm. “Nice to see you when we’re not all saving the world.”
“It does make the evening more pleasant, if less exciting,” the Doctor agreed, grin quirking at the edge of his mouth. It had been a while since he’d smiled so much.
“I’d much prefer the death and despair to Christmas, thanks,” Owen muttered from his corner. Jack slapped him upside the head and Owen glared at him indignantly. “Oi! What was that for!”
The Doctor’s heart hurt for a second. He’d half-expected Owen to finish that off with a watch it, space-man ! He could still see, clear as day, the look on Donna’s face every time she’d ever called him that, affectionately or not.
“Get into the Christmas spirit a bit,” Jack told Owen, the chiding tone gentled by his smile. “Happy days, right? Remember how to be happy, Owen?”
Owen made a face and Jack rolled his eyes, cuffing him around the head again. Owen half-stood, mock outrage on his face, just as Ianto stepped in from the kitchen, tray of glasses in his hands. Ianto raised an eyebrow, all cool disinterest that said, silently, what are you fools doing now? The Doctor knew there was a reason he liked Ianto.
“Stop abusing people in my house,” Ianto told Jack sternly. “And stop ruining my Christmas party,” he added to Owen, who had started to look smug.
Ianto looked over at the Doctor and smiled. “Nice to see you again, without the live or die circumstances,” he sad genially. “Would you like some coffee?”
The Doctor’s, “Yes, might as well,” was drowned out by the doorbell. Ianto frowned and set the coffee down on his table.
“Did you invite anyone else?” he asked Jack, who shook his head, brow furrowing.
The Doctor tensed a bit. Things always went a bit--awry on Christmas. He never meant them to! But some big bad always seemed intent on ruining the Christmas holidays for humans by destroying the world or some such. So the Doctor had learned to be a bit wary when it came to Christmastime on Earth, because he never knew what was going to happen.
Ianto left to get the door. Their group sat in silence, all curious about who the mystery guest was, waiting for Ianto to return with them. The Doctor could hear the sound of talking in the hall before footsteps finally sounded, approaching the living room.
Ianto entered the room first, a puzzled look on his face, and was followed closely by--
The Doctor’s jaw dropped.
“Hello, sweetie,” River purred.
“What are you doing here?” The Doctor hissed, pulling her to the side, glaring.
River blinked at him, all innocence. “Just dropping by to say hi,” she murmured. “It ‘tis Christmas after all, sweetheart. The time to be with loved ones.” She pursed her lips in a mock kiss.
The Doctor stared at her, long and hard. The last time he’d seen River, she’d--she’d--
He took a deep breath. This must be a younger version of that self. She didn’t look any younger, but then again, neither did he.
“Where are we?” he asked abruptly.
River blinked at him, then smiled. “Well, I’ve never met this incarnation of you, but I know your older self quite well. Quite well,” she added again, with a wink. The Doctor could feel the beginnings of a blush curling around his ears. “He was the one that told me about this, actually. Reminiscing about old days, all that. Time’s funny that way, isn’t it? If he’d never told me, I’d never come and our history would have changed, just a tiny bit.”
The Doctor made a face. “So you’re just here to visit with people you’ve never met before?” he asked skeptically.
River grinned, slow and wicked. “Now, now. I’ve met them all before, they just haven’t met me.” Her grin softened a bit. “Well, except for Tosh and Owen. But Jack’s told me about them often enough that I feel like I know them.”
The Doctor stared at her. “You . . . know Jack,” he said, unable to comprehend them both being in the same room, together .
“In the future,” River agreed, smiling still. “He’s quite the charmer, our Jack.”
The Doctor didn’t quite know how he felt, being a co-owner of Jack. It seemed like too much work.
“He likes to think he is,” the Doctor said, not quite agreeing even though he was well aware of how charming Jack could be, when he wanted to.
River’s eyes crinkled in amusement. “Oh, sweetie,” she murmured. “You know all too well that he’s not just talk.”
The Doctor huffed and then looked over at the rest of the room. Tosh and Gwen had gone back to their conversation, though they had lowered their voices and kept sneaking glances. Owen was staring back into the fireplace and Ianto seemed absorbed in his own thoughts, absently drinking coffee. Jack, though, Jack--was staring straight at the Doctor, smile sharp and dangerous and amused. The Doctor shivered, just a bit, then turned quickly back to River. Who, to his absolute disgruntlement, was looking at him like he was the funniest thing to grace the universe.
“Well, I’ve yet to introduce myself!” River cried, gathering the attention of the room once more. She looked at the Doctor out of the corner of her eye and winked. “I’m River Song, a . . . friend of the Doctor’s, shall we say? I decided to crash your small Christmas party to get my visiting hours in.” River looped her arm through the Doctor’s and beamed at the room, who were all eyeing her with various amounts of surprise.
Jack stood. “Ianto, I think it’s time to break out the eggnog,” he murmured, eyes fixed on River and the Doctor.
Ianto looked up at him, blue eyes steady, then turned away to go get the drinks. Jack moved over to where the Doctor and River stood, his walk--slower than usual, almost predatory. The Doctor swallowed, tension rising, his shoulders stiff.
“ Hello , I don’t believe we’ve met,” Jack all but purred, holding out a hand to River as he approached. “I’m Captain Jack Harkness.”
“Jack,” the Doctor muttered under his breath, “ stop it .”
Jack grinned at him, the predatory look fading from his face. “What?” he said, faux-innocent. “Just saying hello to your pretty lady friend, Doctor.”
“Oh, I knew there was a reason I liked you,” River said, smile as bright and charming as Jack’s. “You know all the right words to say. This one,” she tugged on the Doctor’s arm, “wouldn’t know how to compliment a lady if Casanova himself taught him.”
“Ah, Casanova,” the Doctor said, smiling fondly. “Nice bloke, got into so much trouble with the ladies--” He paused, looking at River and Jack, who both were staring at him, smiling. The Doctor cleared his throat, caught off-guard by the open affection in their faces. “Anyways, who wants to hear such silly stories on Christmas. Where is that eggnog?”
“You know, River, I think the Doctor might be uncomfortable with both of us in here,” Jack said, leaning into the Doctor’s personal space. The Doctor was reminded that Jack was his height--and maybe even a bit taller. He was certainly wider.
“I think you may be right, Jack, darling,” River murmured, pressing against the Doctor’s side. “Why would that be, sweetie?”
The Doctor hurriedly darted away, breathing in deep when he had his personal space back again. “The two of you together are dangerous ,” he announced, to the amusement of Gwen and Tosh, who started laughing. “And this is before you even really know each other!”
River smiled up at Jack, who was looking down at her, amusement fading to puzzlement. “We know each other in the future then?” he asked, touching her hand.
River’s amusement softened into something more like affection. The Doctor paused, watching closely.
“Yes,” she murmured. “We do. The only two people who will be with him until the end, the very end--of course we know each other.”
Jack’s eyes sharpened. “What are you?” he asked, an edge to his voice. “You look human, but--” The Doctor knew what he meant, what he didn’t say. There’s something off about you. Something strange. Maybe Jack could recognize strangeness in others because he was so unusual himself.
The Doctor perked up. Maybe she would answer Jack, if she wouldn’t answer him. But River, to the Doctor’s disappointment, just grinned.
“Spoilers,” she murmured, stepping up on her toes to press a kiss to Jack’s cheek. “You’ll learn soon enough, darling. Sooner than he will,” she added, waving a hand at the Doctor.
“How is that fair?” the Doctor asked himself, pouting. He was so curious about River, who knew him and who he was and his secrets , but had never told him how or why in the short time they’d known each other. And now, apparently, she talked with his older self and travelled in time and never aged a day. There were so many things she could be, so many possibilities. The Doctor loved possibilities.
“Eggnog, anyone?” Ianto asked, returning the living room with glasses and a pint of eggnog. Owen cheered.
“Eggnog,” Owen said to the Doctor, more because he was the closest one, “is the best part of the holidays.”
Privately, the Doctor thought the tree was the best part of the holidays, and the snow, but Owen seemed the moody sort, so it seemed best to just nod and agree.
The Doctor looked over at River and Jack, who were standing together, heads bent close, smiling. His eyes on them, the Doctor took a deep swig of eggnog.
Later that night, the Doctor found himself alone with Ianto in the kitchen. In the living room, Owen had left, Tosh and Gwen were singing off-key Christmas songs as loudly as they could, and Jack and River were still in their corner, talking in low voices. The Doctor had watched them all night, unable to look away. It was strange seeing them together--Jack, who he knew so well but who barely knew him, and River, who he barely knew while she obviously knew every detail about his life.
“Tired of the three-ring circus?” Ianto asked, smiling a bit.
The Doctor shrugged. “I’ve seen worse,” he said. “Just needed to--” He sighed, shrugged again.
“Jack seems to like your friend,” Ianto said, tone even.
The Doctor eyed him, then said, “You know, Jack talked a lot about you, the last time he came along with me.” Ianto’s back stiffened. “You and the rest of the team, but mostly you. He had nothing but praise for you, and I sometimes thought he must be a little bit in love with you.”
“Jack’s in love with everyone, Doctor,” Ianto said, relaxing a bit.
“Some of us have more of a hold on his heart more than others,” the Doctor corrected gently.
Ianto raised an eyebrow. “Yes,” he agreed. “And you know that you’re on that list just as much as I am, Doctor, which makes me wonder why you ignore it so much.”
The Doctor blinked, caught off-guard. “You know?” he asked, confused. He thought Ianto probably had some sort of idea, but he’d thought--
“I know,” Ianto agreed. “It’s not like Jack’s ever hidden what he feels for you from me. Normally it doesn’t matter anyway, since you’re--” Ianto waved a hand, a vague symbol for out there , “and he’s here.”
“But now I’m here,” the Doctor murmured, eyeing Ianto closely. “You’re saying it doesn’t bother you? That he might want me?”
Ianto shrugged. “I had an idea of what I was signing up for when I started this with Jack,” he explained. “He’s never hidden that he has a huge sexual appetite. The thing is, though, he doesn’t cheat--he flirts like mad, but he’s never actually done anything with anyone else but me for the past few months. But I’ve known he loves you since the moment we started--maybe even before. He used to tell us stories about the Doctor, you know.” Ianto smiled. “I suppose I’m happy that you’ll be there for him when I’m gone. That he’ll always have you.”
The Doctor regarded Ianto for a long moment. Humans, he thought, affection rising up in him. Just when I think I have them figured out . . .
“You’re a good man, Ianto Jones,” the Doctor said. “Jack’s lucky to have you.”
Ianto regarded him solemnly, not even reacting to the compliment. “Doctor, outside there are two people who, from what I can see, love you very much. I think you’d be a fool not to at least think about taking them up on what they’re offering.”
The Doctor shook his head. “I don’t do--” His words failed him, for the first time in ages.
Ianto laughed. “No threesomes allowed for Time Lords?” he asked with amusement.
The Doctor laughed a bit, tension loosening. “I haven’t done--sex,” he admitted, “not in a very long time. There was--someone who I felt I could do it with, but we never had the chance. And before her, it was--” He shook his head, wry and resigned, “ complicated .”
Ianto patted him on the shoulder. “They both love you,” he murmured again. “And you’re obviously lonely, Doctor.” The Doctor started--he thought he’d hidden it well enough. “If they want to and you want them to--why not?”
The Doctor looked out into the living where he could see, just barely, Jack and River standing in a corner, still talking. Jack was dressed in his usual military coat, silly pink hat still pinned to his head. River was in a dress, dark green and low cut, her hair loose and wild around her shoulders. They were both beautiful and they both loved him, of that--of that, the Doctor was sure. Jack, as far as he could tell, had loved him from the beginning, and River--
Well. She knew his name. He wouldn’t tell his name to anyone who didn’t love him. And the look on her face when she realized that he didn’t know her, had no idea who she was . . . .
And he was lonely, and so guilty because everything that had happened to Donna, to Martha, to Rose , it was all his fault and he just kept bringing people in and hurting them, all the time. He destroyed lives and soon the guilt of it was going to destroy him. And here he was, in a bright, warm kitchen, staring at the two people who, as far as he could tell, weren’t leaving his side any time soon, and they both wanted to be with him. For a moment, the Doctor felt a terrible, aching weakness. Maybe I should just go with them, he thought. What harm can it do? One night?
The Doctor took another swig of his eggnog and then set it down on the counter. Without looking at Ianto, he marched out to the living room, to where Jack and River were sitting. They both looked up as he approached, twin smiles on their faces.
“Can I speak with the two of you please?” the Doctor asked, gesturing. “In private ,” he added, when neither of them moved.
They exchanged a look, then got up to follow him. He saw Ianto give him an approving raised eyebrow (did such a thing even exist? If it did, Ianto was capable of producing it) as they passed by the kitchen and into the hall. The Doctor didn’t stop until he found a bedroom. Thankfully, it appeared to be Ianto’s guest bedroom.
The Doctor sat down on the bed and looked up at River and Jack, who were standing close together by the door. The Doctor cleared his throat, once, twice, three times--A blush was beginning to climb up his neck. How did he--how could he--
“You know,” Jack said, observing the Doctor’s blush with curiosity, “I do believe the Doctor brought us in here for something more than a talk.”
River raised an eyebrow, smirk curling at the edge of her lips. “Oh?” she asked, mock curious. “What on earth,” she added, slinking--that was the only word for it, slinking --towards the Doctor, all hips and leg, “would he want us for besides talking?”
Jack started forward too, grinning. “You know, Doctor,” he murmured as slid on to the bed next to the Doctor, who was staring at them, wide-eyed and blushing, ever so slightly, “River here was telling me a story before you interrupted us.”
The Doctor cleared his throat, tried to control his facial expressions. “A story?” he asked, his voice reasonably level.
“About what happens tonight, actually,” Jack added, putting a hand on the Doctor’s knee. The Doctor stared at it, tan and broad against the pinstripes of his pants. “Do you want to know the details?”
The Doctor’s hearts were thudding against his ribcage, and his words were caught in his throat. Hesitantly, he nodded.
“First,” Jack whispered, leaning in, “we kiss.”
The Doctor had kissed people before - Jack included - but this felt--different. Jack’s mouth was overly warm and his lips were dry, chapped. For a moment, the Doctor was frozen, unsure of how to proceed. Then Jack moaned, opened his mouth a little, and pressed a hand against the Doctor’s neck, tilting his head back. The Doctor took a deep breath through his nose, closed his eyes, and let go.
Jack was a very good kisser, the Doctor thought dazedly. His lips parted and Jack wasted no time in moving his tongue into the Doctor’s mouth, twining it with the Doctor’s lazily. The feeling of the two slick muscles sliding together was surprisingly erotic and the Doctor moaned before he could stop himself.
“Now, now,” he heard River say behind him. “The boys shouldn’t get all the fun.”
He felt her press her lips to the back of his neck as she slid his suit jacket off for him, throwing it to the side. As she untied his tie from behind him, her arms stretching around his chest, she continued to kiss his neck, the underside of his chin, the place where his hair met skin. The Doctor shuddered at the sensations, everything over-hot and sensitive.
Jack moved away from the Doctor’s mouth to his neck, kissing his way down the exposed throat. The Doctor tilted his head back and River, before he could move, caught his mouth in a kiss. Her mouth was softer and fuller than Jack’s, but just as confident and skilled.
“Suits make everything harder,” Jack murmured against the skin of his throat, hands working on the Doctor’s button-up shirt.
“Preach, darling,” River said, smiling into the Doctor’s mouth. “I’m so pleased that he changed to blazers.”
“Yes, blazers are easier,” Jack said, kissing down the bits of chest he was exposing as he worked to get the Doctor’s shirt off. The Doctor arched suddenly when he found a sensitive spot and Jack paused, pulling away to smirk up at him. “Hm, sensitive? Who’d have thought?”
The Doctor mock glared at him, tension and uncertainty fading away little by little. “Stop being a brat, Jack,” he complained and threaded his fingers through Jack’s hair, pulling his head back down.
“Bossy,” Jack murmured affectionately, but he was kissing the Doctor’s stomach again, so the Doctor was sure he didn’t mind.
River pulled the Doctor towards her, kissing his lips gently before moving away. The Doctor watched her go, puzzled, then watched, wide-eyed, as she shrugged out of her slip of a dress, grinning as it bared her completely.
Jack looked up, eyebrow cocked. “No underwear?” he asked, grinning again. “Naughty, naughty.”
River smirked and posed, hands in her hair, leg lifting. The Doctor, flummoxed by parts he hadn’t seen bare in a very, very long time, tried to look away but found he couldn’t.
“Thank you, darling,” she murmured. “I do try. Oh try not to look so alarmed, sweetie,” she added to the Doctor, laughing. “I promise that even if you don’t know what to do with this,” she gestured to her body, “ I do.”
Jack pulled the Doctor’s shirt away from his body and started working on his pants. River stalked over and took Jack’s hands, pulling up. Jack smiled, dropped his hands to her bare hips and kissed her on the mouth, open and wet. The Doctor watched, wide-eyed, face burning. As Jack deepened the kiss, hand slipping down to grip the underside of River’s thigh, lifting her leg over his hip, the Doctor moaned a little bit, making him blush harder.
Jack and River pulled away, both of them mussed, wild-haired and grinning. “I think our Doctor feels a bit lonely,” Jack said, letting River’s leg drop to the ground.
“I think,” River said, slipping into the Doctor’s lap, all bare skin and laughing eyes, “we can fix that, don’t you?”
Jack moved forward until he was pressed against River’s back, crowding into the open space between the Doctor’s knees, bending down to press a kiss to the Doctor’s lips. “I think we can,” he murmured.
The Doctor woke up in a tangle of bodies. For a moment, he froze, but then he recognized the thick curls spilling across his shoulder and the smell of the hard, warm body behind him and relaxed.
Jack was snoring softly in his ear and River’s breaths were deep and even. The Doctor was firmly tangled around both of them and he didn’t think he’d be able to get out of bed even if he wanted to. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a flash of movement and he turned to see snow falling outside through the crack in the curtains.
The turn of his head must have woken up Jack, who was a light sleeper. “Doctor,” he murmured against the Doctor’s hair, voice sleep thick and ragged. “‘m awake.”
“You can go back to sleep,” the Doctor whispered.
Jack shook his head. “Can’t,” he muttered, more awake. “Ianto and the others--”
“They can wait,” the Doctor whispered, placing his hand over Jack’s. “It’s Christmas Day, Jack. Nothing’s happening.”
“Not true,” River said, startling both of them. She lifted her head and grinned at them, her hair a wild halo around her head. “I’m afraid I’m a busy woman today, gentlemen.”
She pressed a kiss to the Doctor’s mouth, made a face, shrugged, and pressed a kiss to Jack’s as well before she stood and stretched, naked. The Doctor, before he could block it, found himself remembering the warmth of her body the night before, the sounds she had made--
He looked away, blushing again. He’d gotten over his shyness of sex last night, in the throes of passion, but he found it was returning.
Jack sighed and stood as well. The Doctor rolled over, watching him stoop to gather his clothes and remembering, again with a blush, Jack’s mouth on him the night before, the stready thrusts he’d made--
Stop it, he scolded his brain. One romp in the sheets and all the sudden you’re a nymphomaniac!
The Doctor got up and felt gratified when both River and Jack paused in the process of gathering their clothes to give him a once-over. Slowly, with a bit of stiffness, he gathered his crumpled suit and hurriedly put it on, wondering if anyone would be left in the house to see his, as they called it on earth, walk of shame.
River reached over and pulled him to her side when he was dressed, pressing a kiss to his mouth. “As much as I would love for round two,” she murmured against his mouth, “I have an appointment to keep in the past.”
The Doctor raised an eyebrow. “Oh?” he asked, curious now.
“A man contacted me,” she told him--well, both him and Jack, who had come to the Doctor’s side and curled a hand around the back of his neck. “Said he’d heard about me from an outside source and wanted to use my services. I’m fairly certain I’m busy during this time in another place, so I’m going back to help him.”
“Who’s the man?” the Doctor asked, curiosity rising.
River shrugged. “Strackman Lux,” she answered and a cold ball dropped in the Doctor’s stomach. “He wants my help getting into a certain place.”
The Library, the Doctor thought, but couldn’t say. He’d managed to find River right before she went to the Library, before she died there. His throat ached. He wanted to tell her, beg her not to take the job, to keep living so that, so that--
So he’d have her. So she’d never leave him.
The Doctor took a deep breath. Time cannot be rewritten, no matter what humans think, he reminded himself. So instead of telling River exactly what happened to her there and how, he smiled.
They met again outside of the TARDIS. Jack was back in his usual gear, but River was wearing a heavy suit, a helmet tucked under her arm, looking almost exactly as she did the day the Doctor met her.
“Here,” Jack said, handing her a blaster gun. He ignored the Doctor’s disapproving look. “I had one back when I ran with him,” he flicked a thumb in the Doctor’s direction. “Had to get a new one, even though it wasn’t quite the same. But I prefer old-fashioned guns nowadays, and it might serve you useful on this job you’re doing.”
River beamed at him, leaned up on her tip-toes and kissed him on the mouth. “Thank you,” she said as she pulled away, tucking the gun under her arm. “We’ll see each other again,” she reminded Jack, smirk pulling at the edge of her lips.
“If what you’ve told me is true, we certainly will,” Jack laughed. He straightened up and saluted to her. “Ma’am,” he said, half-teasing and half-serious.
“At ease,” she told him, eyes bright, then turned to the Doctor. Her eyes softened as she took in his face and she drew him in, kissing him as well.
“Be careful,” the Doctor told her, quiet and soft. “Be very, very careful.”
“Oh, sweetie,” she said, lifting her wrist and starting to prepare for her time jump, “I never am.” She blew a kiss and was flashed away, gone forever.
Jack turned to the Doctor, took in his face. “She’s not coming back from that trip, is she?” he asked.
The Doctor shook his head. “No,” he muttered, throat tight as he remembered River sacrificing herself to save him. “No, she isn’t.”
Jack smiled. “Well, at least we made her last days exciting,” he said. “And at least your future is just starting with her, Doctor. You’ll have all of space and time with her yet.”
“And you?” the Doctor asked before he could stop himself.
Jack’s smile turned sad. “You know I can’t leave my team, Doctor,” he answered. “They need me.”
The Doctor’s heart dropped. “Ah,” he whispered. “Of course, obviously.”
Jack put a hand under his chin and lifted his head. “This is only a no for now, Doctor,” he told the Doctor. “In the future, when my team is gone--well, I’d say I’d be ready to leave this earth behind for a while.” He drew the Doctor in and hugged him, tight and warm, then kissed him full on the lips. “I will always be here, Doctor, whenever you need me. And soon enough I’ll be with you in the TARDIS too, understand? I’m not going anywhere.”
The Doctor nodded, smile growing as his tension left him. Donna’s absence, her amnesia regarding him and what she’d done for the world, the continued guilt of what he’d done to Martha and Rose--that faded, just a bit, in the knowledge that there was someone who loved him and wouldn’t leave him, not if they could help it. And in the future, he could see Jack with him in the TARDIS, with River too.
“Goodbye, Jack,” he said, stepping into the TARDIS door.
“Not for long,” Jack said, more to himself, as he watched the TARDIS slowly fade away, engines whirring.
Whistling under his breath, Jack turned and walked across the plaza, back to his team.