"Oh, I love this," Rose said, hugging Jack's arm as they walked down the path. "I'm so happy we're all back together."
"Team TARDIS, at it again," Jack replied with a grin.
Rose laughed, and glanced back at the Doctor, who flashed her a tight smile as he trailed behind them with his hands in his pockets. He'd been acting strange ever since they ran into Jack not long after leaving New Earth, though if Rose was honest with herself, she still wasn't quite used to this new Doctor, so she wasn't quite an authority on what 'strange' was for him. But given how close the three of them had been before, his standoffishness around Jack could still be counted as strange.
Maybe he was still just getting used to his new body; Rose had no idea how all of that worked.
All she knew was that she was happy to have Jack back, and hoped that the Doctor would snap out of whatever mood he was in, and they could go back to how things were before.
The three of them slowed to a stop when the path they were on, which had taken them through wide-open countryside, led into a densely wooded area. They could see underbrush taking over the path as it disappeared into the woods, and the Doctor appeared on Rose's other side, a frown creasing his brow.
"I thought you said there was a great big city here," Jack said, raising his eyebrows.
"Supposed to be," the Doctor murmured. "But it's a big planet," he added, his hand rising to tug on his ear as he lifted his gaze to the tall trees. "Could be on the wrong side, I suppose. There are lots of small villages on this planet too, mostly in wooded areas like this, though they tend to be better taken care of. This one seems abandoned." He started to wander off, still staring thoughtfully at the trees, and then turned back towards Rose and Jack. "Oh, be careful, this lot are fond of traps to keep intruders out. Village may be abandoned, but the traps could still be up."
Rose and Jack watched him walk away, and then glanced at each other, both smirking as they turned their attention to the woods in front of them.
"Traps, huh," Jack murmured as they stepped forward, hands joined between them. "Wonder what kind of traps."
"Indiana Jones, maybe?"
"Watch for giant rocks," Jack said, just as there was the unmistakable click of a foot landing on a trigger.
There was the tiniest frozen moment, a held breath between heartbeats, and then Jack shouted, "Get down!" as he shoved Rose to the ground. She hit the path, swearing she felt something whizz by just over her head, and heard several more whizzing noises as she covered her head with her arms.
It felt like forever before it ended, though she guessed it hadn't even been a minute, and she took a breath when everything fell silent again.
"Jack?" she said. "Is it safe?"
He didn't reply, and Rose removed her arms from her head, looking up just in time to see Jack collapse beside her, three arrows protruding from his torso.
Her eyes widened as she stared at him, unable to quite comprehend what she was seeing, and she stretched one trembling hand towards his shoulder.
"Jack?" she whispered, swallowing hard as tears rose in her eyes. "Jack!"
He still didn't respond, didn't move, his eyes open and unblinking in the bright sunshine, and then Rose was screaming for the Doctor. He came at a run, and skidded to a stop beside Jack's body, and Rose looked up at him, tears streaming down her face.
"We – we were just walking, and then one of us – I think it was me – I stepped on a – a trigger or something, and he pushed me down –" She took a breath, squeezing Jack's shoulder, and shook her head. "Can't you help him?"
"There's no point," the Doctor replied. "He's dead."
Rose looked up at him again, and was shocked at how cold and uncaring he seemed, staring down at Jack with his hands in his pockets.
"He's – he's your friend, he's my friend, there has to be something –"
"There's nothing I can do, Rose."
Rose stared at him a beat longer, and then looked back at Jack, unable to bear the look on the Doctor's face.
The arrows were still sticking out of Jack's body, though Rose thought that the one in his heart seemed to have moved slightly. She dismissed it as her imagination, and reached forward to grasp it.
"No, leave it," the Doctor said.
"Why?" Rose asked incredulously.
"Just leave it."
Rose's hand fell to her side, and she stared at Jack, her chest aching as she cried. It didn't seem fair, they'd only just found him again, and now –
Jack sat up suddenly with a loud, violent gasp, and Rose shrieked as she fell back, clapping her hands over her mouth.
"Oh, that hurts – What the hell?!" he exclaimed as he looked down at himself, eyes wide at the three arrows in his body.
"You can pull them out if you like, but I have a feeling your body will expel them on its own."
Rose and Jack looked up at the Doctor, who stared back impassively, and Rose frowned.
"Did you know this would happen?"
"The arrows? I told you the traps could still be active –"
"You know damn well what I'm talking about," Rose snapped. "You knew he would come back, didn't you?"
"I wasn't completely sure, but I suspected."
Rose huffed angrily, and turned her attention back to Jack, who was grimacing as he pulled the first arrow from his chest. The other two followed, and he flung them to the ground along with the first one.
"I can feel the wounds closing up," he murmured. "Very slowly, but they are."
"C'mon," Rose said, pushing to her knees. "We should get back to the TARDIS, and maybe the Doctor will explain what the hell is going on."
Jack slung his arm around Rose's shoulders, and together they slowly straightened, Rose's arm tight around his waist as they started down the path, the Doctor trailing behind.
Once they were in the TARDIS infirmary, Jack removed his shirt so the Doctor could inspect his wounds with a scanner.
"Yes, they are definitely healing," the Doctor said, peering at the display. "Wounds are much shallower than they should be, given the length of the arrows, and there's increased cellular activity."
"And was he – was he really dead?" Rose asked.
"Yes, it appears the arrow in his chest punctured his heart."
"But he's alive now."
"Yes," the Doctor said again.
"And you knew this would happen."
"More or less, yes."
Rose folded her arms over her chest and raised her eyebrows. "Well?"
"Well what?" the Doctor replied, running the scanner over one of the other wounds on Jack's torso and peering at the display.
"He wasn't always like that, was he?"
"No, he was once just as mortal as you."
"So, what happened?" Rose asked, exasperation in her voice. "How did he get like this?"
"Yeah, I'm curious about that myself," Jack said, poking at one slowly healing wound.
The Doctor sighed. "We all remember the Game Station, right?"
"Intimately," Jack muttered.
"Kind of," Rose replied, and frowned. "Some parts are a bit... vague for me."
The Doctor looked at her a moment, his lips in a tight line, and then said, "I sent Rose away, but she came back. She... You took the Time Vortex into yourself, into your mind, so you could come back and save me."
Rose's eyes widened. "I – What?"
"The heart of the TARDIS. You remember in Cardiff, with Margaret the Slitheen? That bright light that turned her back into an egg?" Rose nodded. "That's the Time Vortex. It's what powers the TARDIS, enables it to travel through time. You must have been persistent, for her to willingly pour her heart into you. But it's how you came back. You were full of time energy, glowing golden..."
He trailed off, and there was a beat of silence before Jack said softly, "I bet she was beautiful."
"Oh, she was gorgeous," the Doctor whispered. "And powerful. Too powerful. You destroyed the Daleks, and Jack... He had been killed by a Dalek, and you brought him back to life. But you couldn't control it. You essentially made him immortal. He can die, but he'll always come back."
Rose stared at the Doctor, her mouth open slightly, and her gaze flicked to Jack. Her eyebrows knitted together, and she shook her head.
"I – I had no idea. I'm so sorry."
Jack gave her a crooked smile. "Well, don't be sorry just yet. Have to say, at the moment I'm glad for it."
Rose gave him a shaky smile back, and he reached for her hand, giving her fingers a squeeze.
There was another beat of silence, and then Jack frowned at the Doctor.
"But wait, if you knew she brought me back, why did you leave me behind?"
"You left him behind?" Rose repeated. "You knew he was alive, and you left him there?"
"I had to!" the Doctor replied, throwing his arms out at his sides. "He's not meant to be here! I can barely even look at him, because he's just wrong."
"He's just Jack. He is our friend," Rose said fiercely. "Your friend. He's more than that, how can you say that he's wrong?"
"He just is, Rose," the Doctor replied.
"So, what if I was like him? Would you say I was wrong too?"
Rose's expression was angry, her mouth set in a hard line, and the Doctor stayed silent, his gaze on the scanner still in his hands. The room was silent, and thick with tension, practically crackling with it, and finally, Jack shifted.
"I'm gonna go lie down," he murmured as he slid off the table.
"I'm going with you," Rose said, letting Jack pass through the door first before following after him. He held his hand out towards her, and she took it, grasping it in both of hers as they walked down the hall.
When they reached his room, he changed out of his dirty, bloody clothes into a plain white t-shirt and a pair of sweatpants, and then climbed into bed. Rose curled up beside him, hugging his arm and resting her head against his shoulder.
"Do they hurt?" she asked quietly. "Your wounds?"
"Nah, not really," he replied. "It's kind of achy, but mostly just itchy."
"Well, don't scratch, you might scar."
"Wouldn't want that now, would we? Mess up this perfect, unblemished canvas."
Rose giggled, and Jack gave a low laugh, the sound warm and comforting to Rose's ears.
"Mostly it just feels weird," he continued when they'd calmed. "I can feel the wounds closing up, and it's just a weird sensation."
"I can imagine," Rose murmured.
They were silent for a moment, and then Jack took a breath.
"Do – Do you think I'm... wrong?"
"Of course not," Rose replied without hesitation. "Of all the things we've seen, all the places we've been, I don't buy that you're wrong. Maybe not meant to be, sure, but that doesn't make you wrong. You're still just Jack. That's all you are."
Rose tipped her head up to look at him, and he smiled down at her for a moment before lifting his hand to her face. He ran his fingers along her jaw, and she pushed up to kiss him, her palm resting on his cheek.
"I did miss this," he said as she rested her head in the curve of his neck. "Being with you. Being with both of you, but now he –"
"He's just... different now. He's the same, but he's different. We just have to get used to him again, and maybe he's still getting used to himself."
"Yeah, maybe," Jack said softly.
Rose snuggled closer to him, sliding her hand across his chest to hug him tighter, and closed her eyes when she felt his arm come up around her waist.
They hadn't had a chance to do this since being reunited, and she didn't realize how much she'd missed it, lying here and feeling Jack's comforting warmth. Before, this would've led to something much warmer and more intimate, but right now, she just wanted to be close to him, and it seemed he wanted the same thing.
They laid together for some time, not speaking, and Rose was starting to feel drowsy when she felt Jack take a breath to speak.
"You know, it's not many people who can say they were brought back to life by a goddess."
Rose laughed quietly, and shook her head. "I don't know if I was a goddess –"
"You were," came a voice from the doorway, and they looked to see the Doctor standing there, hands in his pockets. "All of that power... all of that beauty... Goddess is the accurate word."
Rose and Jack stared at him, and he lowered his gaze to the floor.
"I'm sorry," he finally said. "I'm fighting 900 years of who I am, but Rose is right. You're just Jack. My friend, my – my companion. Just like Rose. I've missed you, and I know she missed you. This ship isn't the same without you."
"Thanks, Doc," Jack replied, and the corner of the Doctor's mouth rose in a faint smirk.
A beat passed, and then he slipped off his shoes and walked around to the other side of the bed to climb in behind Rose. Though this new body felt different against hers, the sensation of being sandwiched between these two men she loved so much was so familiar, and contentment filled her chest as the Doctor pressed a light kiss to her shoulder blade. He reached over her for Jack's hand, and their fingers wove together, resting on Jack's stomach, and finally, everything was as it should be.