If there were any advantage to being immortal, Jack thought it should be that he was exempt from minor physical annoyances. He was immune to viruses - what Time Agent inoculations hadn’t already taken care of, the TARDIS did - but apparently not to random, inexplicable headaches.
It was baffling at first, and then, when nothing seemed to make it go away, deeply irritating. And the Doctor would not shut up, instead going on about this place to go or that person to see, while Jack sat on the steps of the TARDIS console room with his head in his hands and thought about killing himself just to make the throbbing in his head go away.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Jack finally snapped, when the Doctor paused to take a breath. He stood up and left.
River found him a few minutes later, stretched out face-down on his duvet. “Poor Jack,” she said, climbing onto the bed beside him. “What do you need?”
Jack knew what she was really asking. Unlike the Doctor, River didn’t flinch at the grittier aspects of his immortality. If he asked her to, she’d find him a painless, deadly concoction in the medbay. The two of them could take care of it without the Doctor ever knowing. Or at least, with the Doctor able to lie to himself if he wanted to.
“Nothing,” Jack mumbled into the duvet cover. “It’s not that bad.” It was just a headache. Dying could be painless, with the right drugs, but coming back wasn’t.
River sighed. “There are other options, you know,” she said, and slid off the bed.
Jack closed his eyes and listened to the sound of water running in the huge bathtub in his ensuite. She came back and manhandled him into sitting up, then efficiently stripped him of his clothes. “Come on, up,” she said, and prodded him into the dimly lit bathroom.
She’d put something in the water, some sort of oil, and the scent instantly relieved some of the pain in Jack’s head. He climbed in while River stripped off her own clothes and put her hair up. Then she climbed in after him, slipping between Jack and the tub so that he sat cradled against her body. Jack relaxed even further as River’s strong, sure fingers traced patterns on the skin of his chest, before drifting up into his hair to rub slow circles against his scalp.
He was barely aware when the door to the bathroom opened. There was a faint rustle and whispered voices, and then splashing and displaced water as the Doctor slid into the tub with them, albeit at the other end. Jack slitted his eyes open as the Doctor picked up one of his feet. “Sorry I snapped,” Jack murmured.
The Doctor gave him a smile. His hair was already curling a little in the steam of the bathroom. It made him look even younger than usual. “Sometimes I deserve it,” he said. “Wish you’d told me you weren’t feeling well, though.”
Jack shrugged and closed his eyes. The truth, which he didn’t say aloud, was that he wasn’t used to having anyone to tell. But with River’s fingers gentle in his hair and the Doctor’s hands firm on the sole of his foot, he thought he could get used to it.
Jack wasn’t accustomed to coming back to life in safe places. Coming back left him disoriented, cold, tired, and hungry, but usually when he died, he came back to a situation that was just as bad or worse than the one he’d left behind, and he had to deal with it no matter how he was feeling.
To wake up warm, then, in his bed, with the Doctor on one side and River on the other, was . . . surprising. It was even more surprising to realize that he was clean, when Jack knew that he’d been covered in blood when he died.
“There you are,” the Doctor said. “Took your time about it, didn’t you?”
“Oh hush,” River said - to the Doctor, Jack realized, not to him. “Welcome back, Jack,” she added.
“Um, thanks,” Jack said. “Is . . . is everything okay?”
“Mostly,” the Doctor said, with a rather dark look. “More okay for some than for others, but I didn’t have much sympathy left after they sliced open some of your more vital arteries.”
“He oncoming storm’d them,” River said to Jack in a fake whisper. “And then he carried you back to the TARDIS. It was very sexy.”
“I’m sorry I missed it,” Jack said. He snuggled a little closer to River. He was glad to have the Doctor there, but he wasn’t terribly warm.
“Are you hungry?” the Doctor asked. “I’m always peckish after a regeneration. Not the same thing, I realize, but it’s not like there’s anything that is the same.”
“I could definitely eat,” Jack said. “Something with protein. Steak. Rare, but not blue.”
“I can do that,” River said, and to Jack’s regret slid out of the bed. “One rare steak, coming right up.”
She padded out of the room, and Jack rolled over, tucking himself closer to the Doctor. “How’re you doing?” he asked the Doctor.
“How am I doing?” the Doctor said. “I’m not the one who bled out.”
“No,” Jack said. “You’re the one who watched me do it.” And that, for the Doctor, was almost worse.
The Doctor was quiet. “I’m fine now,” he said, and pulled Jack closer. “And you, Jack?” he asked, in the quiet, intimate voice that Jack had only ever heard from this Doctor. “How are you?”
Jack kissed the Doctor. “I couldn’t be better,” he murmured.
The first thing Jack became aware of was coolness. He was lying on his stomach, and someone was rubbing ointment into his upper thighs, over the marks that River’s riding crop had left on him. The marks were hot, but the ointment was cool, and Jack relaxed, feeling strangely both at home and not at home in his body. He’d gone down, down, down, deep into that peaceful place inside himself, and it was taking him a while to come back up.
He slept for a time, or perhaps just drifted, but when he woke again, he was lying on his back. The Doctor was there, murmuring softly in a language Jack didn’t know and the TARDIS apparently didn’t care to translate. Jack opened his eyes. The Doctor smiled.
A weight settled on Jack’s other side, and he looked over to see River climbing onto the bed, a glass of something - an electrolyte solution, Jack guessed - in her hand. “Good?” he asked her.
“Very good,” she replied, sliding her hand into Jack’s hair. Her nails scratched lightly, and she pulled a little at his hair, but not hard enough to hurt. “You were very good, Jack. Do you think you can sit up and drink this?” she asked, holding up the glass.
“Yeah,” he said, and let them help him sit up. Between the ointment and Jack’s own healing abilities, the marks would be gone soon. For now they twinged and burned a little, but in a good way. “Thanks,” he said.
He gulped down most of the electrolyte solution, which tasted faintly of oranges, in one go. He hadn’t realized he was so thirsty. When it was gone, River took it from him and set it aside, then turned on her side to drape herself over Jack. Jack held onto her, feeling them both slipping back into themselves, the way they usually were.
He looked at the Doctor, then. The Doctor, who had yet to say a word. He was watching them. Jack frowned, suddenly a little worried. The Doctor didn’t like to mix pain and sex and didn’t really understand why Jack and River did, sometimes. Jack wondered if the Doctor had seen the marks and was bothered by them.
But when the Doctor spoke, it wasn’t anything Jack had expected. “Is there room for three there?” the Doctor asked, sounding uncharacteristically hesitant.
Oh. Jack often forgot that the Doctor was still feeling his way around the polyamory thing. He was used to being their center, and he might wonder whether he was really welcome at the moment. “Always, Doctor,” Jack said, holding his arm out to the Doctor.
“Yes, Doctor,” River said, and reached across Jack to kiss the Doctor. “Always.”
Held firmly between the two of them, Jack smiled.