"I watch you watch him, sometimes."
Jack turned on his heel and almost bumped into Rose, she was standing so close behind him. "Huh?" It wasn't the most dignified sound he could have made, but she should never have gotten so close without his noticing. He'd been far more absorbed than he should have been, watching the way the Doctor's shoulders moved under his jumper while the Time Lord fought with a critical junction behind an access panel.
Rose shrugged and gave him a little half-smile. "Come have a cuppa," she said. It sounded less like an invitation than an instruction.
Jack was pretty sure he wouldn't like where this was going, but he'd have to find out sooner or later. "If it's all the same to you, I'll make coffee."
She grinned. "Fine. You make coffee, I'll make tea. I'll bring the Doctor his out here--if whatever's wrong is bad enough he took off his jacket, I'd be forever tryin' to pry him away from it."
At least she didn't look like she wanted to chuck him out an airlock, the way the Doctor mostly looked at him when he admired Rose. He smiled at her and followed when she led the way down the corridor to the TARDIS's kitchen. "Nice view," he commented.
She glanced over her shoulder with a blank look on her face, and he let her catch him appreciating her backside. "Oi. One-track mind, Jack."
"I like this track," he said, cheerfully.
"You fancy us both," Rose agreed, stepping into the kitchen. "Be more flatterin' if you didn't fancy everything that breathed." She picked up the kettle.
"I'm stung," Jack said, mock-hurt. He reached into a cupboard for the coffee packets he'd bought on Belerat Prime and split the seal on one, inhaling the aroma. "I appreciate a lot of people. I don't fancy all of them."
Rose filled the kettle. It put her back to him, so he couldn't see her expression. He shrugged and threw a packet of ground coffee into the coffee processor. "So how d'you feel about the Doctor?" she asked.
Jack's throat tightened a little. I've fallen for him--like the idiot I am. But that wasn't something he wanted Rose to hear. He was safe here, on the TARDIS, in a way he hadn't been in a long time . . . as long as they both felt like he wasn't serious. Oh, he was allowed to flirt with them, and he'd happily shag either one senseless if they were up for it, but the moment they thought he was serious . . . it would change everything. He'd gotten to a very small, strange place of liking his life. He didn't want to risk that.
He added water and pushed the button on the coffee machine. "I want him in my body as much as you want him in yours." Since she wasn't looking at him, he put the leer into his voice.
She almost dropped the kettle. When she'd settled it on its base and flipped the switch, she took a moment to glare at him. "Your timing, Jack," she complained. She was blushing a little. "Wouldn't that be . . . uncomfortable?" she asked.
It was so far from the reaction he was expecting that he almost laughed. He managed not to, but decided it was okay to smile. Rose Tyler had a way with deft questions, but she was still nineteen and from a time and place that clung to the kind of bizarre sexual code they warned Agency recruits about, but which no rookie ever believed till he'd tripped over them the first time. Jack didn't want to make her feel bad, so he just answered her. "Maybe I should've picked a broader way of phrasing that, but no, it's not. Not if you're doing it right. Not unless you want it to be." He grinned and leered. "Some of us like it rough, once in a while . . . "
"Oi!" Rose said, holding up a hand and cutting him off mid-sentence. "Don't need to hear 'bout your kinks--I'm not involved."
Jack said, "I'd be happy to--"
She rolled her eyes at him. "Don't offer. You're not helping."
She seemed faintly distressed by something, and he was pretty sure it wasn't his running his mouth. He kept the grin, but lost the leer. "So what would help?" If it kept her off the topic of the Doctor, he was all for it.
Rose looked away from him and opened a cupboard. Jack leaned back against the counter while she looked through boxes of tea. He was never sure why there were so many boxes--they all looked pretty much the same to him. "Dunno. My life's gone pretty confusing, lately. I had a job, I had a boyfriend, and I thought I had a life. The Doctor blew up the job, I don't know about the boyfriend anymore, and this life--this life I love--I can't really explain why I need it. What it means to me."
Jack shrugged. "It happens to some of us. One day you turn around and discover you just don't have much in common with the people around you." It had been easy for him, there was so little left to hold him by the time he joined up. But Rose had a mother she still saw regularly (who intimidated the Doctor, as far as he could tell), and he'd heard rumours about the boyfriend (the Doctor kept referring to him as "the idiot," although as far as the Doctor was concerned, that seemed to describe most humans). "This life isn't for everyone." Living on adrenaline and artron energy. It suited her--he didn't know what she'd been like before, but even in the short time he'd been aboard the TARDIS, he'd watched her blossoming just like her namesake.
She selected a box of tea and set it on the countertop. "So why me? What makes me different to Mum or Mickey? And while I'm at it, do I really love Mickey? Did I ever, or was he just safe, after the mess with my ex-? What makes you different from your people, whoever they are? And how can you look at the Doctor like he's water in the desert, and then look at me like you want to get into my knickers?" Jack froze his face in its small smile. Deft questions and all-seeing eyes, Rose Tyler had, but right now, those eyes looked only at the tea in her hands. She went on, in a quiet little voice, "And is the Doctor so alien he doesn't even notice stupid apes?"
That one, he could help her with. Because it really was about the Doctor, after all. Like satellites orbiting their sun, for them, everything moved around the Doctor. "He notices," Jack said, gently. "Don't you see how he looks at you?"
She shrugged and busied her hands putting tea bags into two cups. "He doesn't look at me, he's just tryin' to protect me."
Jack made a rude noise. "He looks at you like a man starving. And since you're not shagging--"
"Jack!" she interrupted, blushing furiously.
"--and damned if I know why not--it's got to be love. And love is . . . " his breath caught in his throat, "so much worse."
She went silent a moment as he gave himself away. "You too, huh?" she said. Then she smiled, and his heart swelled, unexpectedly. Suddenly, all that blond, youthful radiance had the special glow that only ever surrounds the people you love. Jack swallowed hard, and knew he was doomed.