Rose Marion Tyler, former shopgirl and current companion of a bristly, enigmatic time traveler known only as 'the Doctor' and resident of a space-and-time ship that was bigger on the inside was slouched on a park bench, reading a newspaper. Well, Jack amended, she wasn't exactly 'slouched,' but she wasn't perched, lady-like, either. She rather looked like she was balancing on the point of her heels, which accentuated her legs nicely, he had to admit. The dress helped. 1920's fashion suited her, although she'd invariably complain that it was difficult to run in heels and a skirt. Still, Jack understood why the Doctor insisted on authenticity. He would too if it would get a pretty girl like her to dress up for him.
Of course, then she'd turned those big brown eyes on the Doctor and asked him to dress up, and after a huff and a puff he'd given in. The strange man seemed unable to tell her 'no.' Jack wasn't objecting. He got to watch two beautiful people wear beautiful clothes–why exactly would he object to that? Of course, if the Doctor and Rose were going to wear period clothes than he was as well. He didn't mind, but the whole episode threw one more wrench into his attempt to figure out what the hell was going on.
He was good at reading people. He knew how they thought, what made them tick, which buttons to press. It was a natural gift that the Time Agency had honed into an artform. Give Jack Harkness ten minutes alone with someone and he'd be their best friend; he could get them to tell him anything. That skill saved his life more times than he could count. He could analyze the dynamics of a relationship at a glance and find a suitable niche in less time than it would take to say Raxicoricophallipatorious. Except with these two. When he first met Rose and heard about her 'partner' he thought they were shagging. It wasn't uncommon for two Time Agents to hook up for the duration of a mission. When he met the man he revised his opinion in the direction of a long-term affair. The Doctor was an alien–his Vortex Manipulator might be broken but the computer still worked well enough to do a basic life-form scan–but that didn't mean anything. Plenty of humans mixed with aliens, himself included, in the fifty-first century.
Later, well–he was being serious when he told them that most people noticed being teleported. They made a striking image, standing oblivious in his ship. The Doctor was holding her hands but looking at her face, she was leaning in, her lip caught between her teeth. And then he'd come aboard the good ship TARDIS and Rose had emphatically assured him that she and the Doctor "weren't like that."
It was all he could do to refrain from asking why the hell not. They were obviously attracted to each other. A man would have to be blind to miss the "keep away" stares and the possessive way the Doctor had danced Rose around the console. They obviously had a great deal of affection for each other, and loyalty as well. He'd woken one night to the sound of screaming. He'd heard men being tortured, seen them break down in the face of grief or disaster or fear. He'd never heard anything quite so chilling as the shouts that echoed through the TARDIS corridors. It took him hours to get back to sleep and the next morning he'd encountered an exhausted Rose Tyler exiting a bedroom that was most definitely not hers. He'd tried to find out what ailed the Doctor, but she refused to say anything about it. It wasn't her story to tell, and she wasn't going to betray his trust like that.
The unresolved sexual tension was going to drive him mad eventually, he thought. Because while Rose appeared to be reading the paper, she wasn't. Her eyes were fixed just over the top of the broadsheet on the scene opposite.
The Doctor was surrounded by children, mostly boys ranging anywhere from three or four years old to ten or twelve. He was making paper hats out of the rest of Rose's newspaper and handing them out to delighted youngsters. He scolded and cajoled, bantered and grinned, and looked like he was having a fantastic time. And that's when it hit Jack. Nobody was that good with kids, not unless they'd had practice, and suddenly his standoffishness made perfect sense. He'd lost a hell of a lot in his life–the nightmares were a testament to that–and when everything you love gets ripped away from you, there are two options. One: (the option he chose) you form no lasting attachments by taking no relationship seriously, or two: you form no lasting attachments by isolating yourself from anyone who has the potential to become serious–say a young, blonde woman from the twenty-first century who gave up everything she knew to travel with a broken madman with a box.
The Doctor glanced up and Jack could tell the moment his eyes met Rose's. Something passed between them, something like electricity (or unresolved sexual tension), but more. They spoke without words in a language that only the other could understand. It was beautiful and heartbreakingly intimate–the sort of moment that he almost felt guilty for catching, because even though it was the three of them it was always the Doctor and Rose, and Jack. They were a pair and a plus-one, not a trio.
And that was okay. He'd been an Agent and a con-man; he'd been a lover and a fighter (occasionally at the same time). He was a bit out of practice, but he was adaptable and it'd had been a while since he'd been a friend. The Doctor waved the boys away, his eyes still locked on Rose. She folded the newspaper demurely and cocked an eyebrow at him. A slow smile spread across his face as he sauntered up to her. Then they were talking–bantering, probably. Having a straight, simple conversation with either of them was next to impossible, a fact that would have been highly annoying if they weren't so adorable.
Did he just think that? Yes. Yes he did. He just described an alien who apparently saved the world (and the universe) on a regular basis 'adorable.' He shrugged. If the shoe fits…
"How's holdin' up tha' tree goin' Harkness?" The Doctor's warm, slightly sarcastic Northern burr pulled Jack out of his reverie.
"It's still standing," he replied, cheeky as always, "so I'd say it was a job well done."
Rose laughed. She had one arm threaded through the Doctor's and she leaned into him, beaming. "Come on, you two. I'm starving."
"Your wish is my command," the Doctor replied grandiosely.
"Too right," Rose agreed. "An' you can pay this time, Doctor, since I pay for chips, lessee, always."
The Doctor grinned mischievously. "I think it's the Captain's turn to pay, let him earn his keep an' all."
Jack smirked. "You supply the psychic paper, Doc, and I'll take care of the dough." He fell into step behind them, partially to appreciate the sight of two gorgeous bottoms walking away, and partially to gather his thoughts. Yes, he could be a friend, and if one day they were interested in more, well, he could be that too.