Jack stretched languidly, as he drifted back to wakefulness, but kept his eyes closed for the moment – unwilling to give up sleep completely just yet – and snuggled back into the pillow. The combined scents of Rose and the Doctor – and sex – still lingered on the fabric and Jack hummed, as he inhaled deeply. Even after ten days of sharing their bed, it was still a novelty for Jack to wake up surrounded by the evidence of their activities. Usually, it didn’t even take more than a week for Jack to get bored with a lover – or lovers, as the case might be – and prepared to move on. With Rose and the Doctor, though, Jack doubted that it would ever come to that. There was simply no scenario, he could imagine, in which he would leave them willingly.
Jack turned onto his back and folded his arms behind his head, as he blinked up at the ceiling. If anyone had told him, a few weeks ago, that he would ever consider settling for merely two lovers – even if one of them was a Time Lord – while the whole galaxy with his numerous species was just one hop away, Jack would have advised them to get their head scanned – after proving to them, why that would be a waste of his talents. Now though, the idea set comfortably with him. After all, Rose and the Doctor weren’t simply his lovers, but also his beloved friends.
The smile on his lips wavered, when the meaning of his own thoughts took Jack by surprise. Beloved implied that he didn’t only fancy them and care about them, but that there was a depth to his feelings, that he hadn’t experienced in a long time – or at least, he hadn’t allowed himself to admit to it, before. Loving someone was an invitation for them to hurt you and Jack had done his best to protect himself… until now.
Gnawing on his lower lip, Jack considered the geometrical figures on the ceiling. He had only come aboard of the TARDIS about a month ago, but in that short a time, Jack had come to trust his lovers more than he had ever trusted any partner at the Time Agency. They wouldn’t hurt him on purpose or kick him out, because he had dared to see them as more than a casual fling. Even if they didn’t return his feelings completely, Jack was certain that they cared about him, therefore it was safe to allow the warmth to settle in his chest.
The TARDIS hummed happily around him and Jack stroked her wall with a smile and savoured the moment, before he finally jumped out of bed. If one of his lovers had been with him, Jack would have lingered longer, but for once not just the Doctor, but even Rose was up already and Jack had never been one to laze around in bed, all day. It was different if he had someone to cuddle up to. He could have spent hours simply holding Rose – or being held by the Doctor – without even needing to have sex to keep him entertained. Maybe one day, he could convince them to spend a whole day in bed with him, but today wasn’t that day.
Jack hurried through his morning ablutions with long-practiced efficiency and was on his way to the console room, only ten minutes later – freshly showered and shaved and ready for a new adventure.
“My Mum called,” Jack heard Rose say as he neared the console room and he entered it just in time to witness the Doctor roll his eyes, in reply. “What does Jackie want now? Is her video recorder broken again?”
Jack stifled a snigger behind his hand and leaned casually against a coral strut, with his arms folded over his chest, while he watched the show. For whatever reasons, the Doctor was afraid of Rose’s mum, although he would never admit it and it was always entertaining to watch him wriggle his way out of seeing Jackie. Somehow though, Jack had a feeling, that he wouldn’t get out of it this time – not if Rose’s determined stance was anything to go by.
“She wants us to come over for Christmas dinner. I missed the last one as you might remember.” Only Rose could make the Doctor look chagrined and annoyed, at the same time, Jack mused, as the Time Lord stuffed his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket.
“No problem, give me the exact date and time and I’ll deliver you at Jackie’s doorstep and…”
“You’re invited, as well, Doctor,” Rose interrupted him and tapped her foot impatiently. “Mum said that she wants us with her.”
“I don’t care what Jackie wants,” the Doctor growled, “I’m not doing domestics and that’s it.”
“Really?” Jack was impressed that the Doctor didn’t cower, when Rose glowered at him. “Then what’ve we been doing the last couple of weeks? And don’t tell me, that’s different because we’re still running for our lives on a daily basis. If you can stand to share a bed and endure having breakfast together, you can spend Christmas at my Mum’s.”
Jack almost expected the Doctor to argue farther, but understood why he gave in with a resigned nod. When Rose had decided on something, it was almost impossible to change her mind and while that wouldn’t stop either man from arguing with her, if the situation warranted it, Christmas dinner with her Mum simply wasn’t worth the effort.
Christmas, Jack cocked his head to the side in thought and only half listened to his lovers’ bickering about when they should go. He had read about Christmas and how traditions differed from country to country and how they changed throughout the ages, but he had never celebrated it. In his time – and in his colony – the celebration, towards the end of the year, wasn’t motivated by religion anymore and Jack doubted that he would find many parallels to how Christmas was celebrated in the 21th century. Therefore, it could only be informative to participate in the festivities for a time traveller. Besides, and here Jack’s lips curled up, he hadn’t been part of a celebration that involved families, in decades and there was no way to pretend that he wasn’t looking forward to it.
His eyes flickered back to Rose and the Doctor, who were both looking at something on the monitor screen, with their heads close together and their fingers intertwined, and warmth settled in his chest. They were still so cute together – now even more so than before they had admitted that they actually were a couple in all but name – and sometimes Jack couldn’t believe that he was allowed to be a part of their relationship. But he was and even if Jackie turned out to be an absolute dragon – which Jack couldn’t imagine looking at Rose – he was still looking forward to their Christmas celebration. It had been so long, since he had been part of a family and he hadn’t known how much he had missed it until now. He would make sure that this would be a memorable celebration – one that everyone would look back to with a smile, even years or centuries later.
“We can’t just go right away, we need to get presents first.” Rose’s amused, if slightly exasperated, voice brought Jack out of his musings.
“I’m sure, you’d find something in the TARDIS that your Mum would like,” the Doctor argued, but the tilt of his head told Jack, that he didn’t think that Rose would go for that. And rightly so.
“I’m not going to give my Mum something, that’s sat on a shelf for the last few centuries. We’re going shopping.” Rose’s words brought no argument and the Doctor gave in with a sigh.
“Fine,” the Doctor moved to a lever on the console and cocked his head to the side, when he spotted Jack. “What are you doing all the way over there? Come here and help me fly her. We’re going to the biggest bazar in this part of the galaxy,” the Doctor informed Jack, when he joined him at the console. “Rose needs to get a gift for her Mum. Apparently, Jackie’s decided that she wants to celebrate Christmas with her. I just don’t know what I did wrong to deserve that I’ve to come as well. Oi!” The Doctor slapped Rose’s behind in retaliation for the punch to his shoulder. “No hitting the designated driver!”
Jack chuckled, as he pushed the buttons, that had been assigned to him as the Doctor demanded a kiss as compensation for the punching and received it, accompanied by a giggle. “Don’t worry, Mum won’t slap you again – not at Christmas.” Rose winked at the Doctor and then sauntered over to Jack to kiss him.
He returned the kiss happily, even as he kept part of his attention on the controls. When the time rotor started to move, Jack allowed himself to focus completely on Rose, who was grinning as she held onto the railing to keep upright. She winked at him and Jack waited for her to extend her invitation for Christmas to him as well, but his heart sank when she kept silent.
Swallowing, Jack pushed the disappointment to the back of his mind, as he held onto the console to steady himself, too. His hope that they wouldn’t exclude him from the family celebration swindled with every minute, that passed in silence. By the time, they landed at their destination, only years of practice allowed Jack to keep his smile in place, as he exited the TARDIS after Rose and the Doctor.
Neither one of them noticed. They were walking a few steps ahead of him – hand in hand – with the Doctor pointing out various stands to Rose and her stopping every so often to marvel at some of the offered items.
Jack pushed his hands into the pockets of his trousers to keep from reaching for either of his lovers and kept on looking around like he was interested in some of the goods. A stand, that offered various items made of leather, actually made him halt and a few minutes later, Jack found himself the proud owner of a pair of soft leather gloves. They would fit well to the Doctor’s jacket.
Grinning, Jack turned slowly to look for his lovers and when he spotted them at a stand nearby, he wandered over to another merchant, that offered the finest silk in this part of the galaxy. It didn’t take him long to decide on a scarf for Rose and store his purchase in the inside of his jacket.
By the time, he joined his lovers at a stand, that sold all kinds of jewellery, Jack felt more confident, again. Just because Rose hadn’t invited him yet, didn’t mean that she wouldn’t get around to it, eventually.
“What do you think of this one?” Rose held up an oval brooch, with a turquoise gem for inspection.
“It’s nice.” The Doctor shrugged and crossed his arms. A sure sign that he didn’t plan on participating in the selection of something as boring as jewellery.
“Does your Mum wear brooches?” Jack slung his arms around Rose’s waist from behind and glanced at the jewellery selection over her shoulder.
“Not really.” Rose frowned and placed the brooch back on the stand, with an apologetical smile to the merchant. “She prefers earrings and necklaces.”
“How about a pendant for a necklace then?” Jack’s eyes roamed over the pendants on display – dismissed the fake ones – and came to rest upon the merchant. “A really special pendant for a special lady, something you can’t find everywhere.” Rose nodded along to his words, although they were more for the benefit of the merchant, who – after Jack subtly flashed Rose’s credits – hurried to the back of the stand.
“You won’t find anything like this, anywhere else.” The merchant carefully opened a wooden box and presented a variety of highly expensive pendants to them. “It’s as special as it gets.” They both ignored the Doctor’s snort, as they inspected the goods and – after some debating – settled for a delicate model of a solar system, with rare gems as planets and stars.
“An excellent choice,” the merchant congratulated them and wrapped the expensive purchase carefully, before he handed it to Rose. “Please, come again.”
“Don’t get your hopes up,” the Doctor muttered and put the gift in one of his pockets, as he stirred Rose and Jack away from the stand. “Ready to go now?”
“You haven’t got anything for Mum yet,” Rose protested, but the Doctor only raised an eyebrow at her stern look. “You just paid the gift with the credits I gave you, I think I’ve done my part.”
“Fine,” Rose gave in and pressed herself against the Doctor’s side to squeeze his arm, “It’ll be a gift from us together, then.”
A rare smile lit up the Doctor’s face. He slung an arm around Rose’s waist to steady her, as he claimed her lips in a long, deep kiss, in the middle of the street, while Jack could only stand and watch.
Oh of course, he could have joined their embrace and he had done so in the past, but he would feel like an intruder if he cut in, now. His lovers were practically glowing with happiness, caught in their own, little world and Jack didn’t see how he could fit into it.
Swallowing, Jack shuffled his feet and glanced at the ground, while he waited for Rose and the Doctor to finish snogging, so that they could go back to the TARDIS. He was suddenly more exhausted than a day at a bazar warranted and he only wanted to crawl into bed and forget about all the ways he didn’t belong anywhere.
“Back to the TARDIS and then a short hop to Christmas Eve,” the Doctor announced and Jack looked up, just in time to see Rose shake her head. “I want to have a relaxing evening first. Time machine,” she added with a smirk, when the Doctor opened his mouth to protest. “Let’s go tomorrow and spend the evening, in the jacuzzi.” Her free hand found Jack’s and her tongue poked out between her lips as he grinned up at him. “We could test who can hold their breath longer.”
Jack squeezed Rose’s hand, but shook his head at the offer. “I’m tired, I think I’ll turn in early tonight, but you two go ahead and have fun.” Not even he could pretend to enjoy himself, when every forced smile already felt like a huge effort.
“You alright, lad?” Blue eyes peered critically at him and Jack detected real worry in the Doctor’s words. It was almost enough to make him share what was bothering him, but before he could open his mouth, his lover added: “I didn’t think, I’d ever see the day when you passed up the chance of a good shag.”
The remark was obviously meant in jest, but it hit too close to home for Jack to smile at it. “You make it sound like that’s all I’m ever thinking about,” Jack retorted. “It’s not like I’m always in the mood for it either.” When he glanced back over his shoulder, as he unlocked the TARDIS, the Doctor wore a chagrined look.
“Sorry, lad, didn’t mean to imply anything. If you need to rest then you better get some sleep.” Cool lips were pressed to first his forehead and then to his mouth and Jack savoured the kiss for a few seconds, before he stepped away.
“Really exhausted,” Jack explained with a tired smile, when twin expression of confusion were directed at him. “Goodnight, Rosie. Doctor.”
He kept his posture straight and his steps relaxed, until he reached his room and closed the door behind him. Then finally, Jack allowed the smile to slip from his lips as he sank down onto the mattress and hid his face in his hands.
Fuck, but it hurt almost worse than when his mother had told him, she wished that he had died in his father’s state. Or maybe, it just felt that way, because Jack hadn’t allowed anyone close enough in so long to give them the chance to hurt him like this. Anyway, it was his own fault for fooling himself into believing that Rose and the Doctor wanted him as more than an addition in bed. They had never promised differently and it was Jack’s own fault, if he was stupid enough to confuse sex with something else. It was an absolute rookie mistake and Jack should have known better.
At least, Jack thought with a wry smile, even as he choked on his next inhale, he had realised where he stood with his friends, before he had embarrassed himself and confessed his feelings to them. Therefore, it was good that he hadn’t been invited to Christmas dinner, it had been the most subtle way to show him, that he wasn’t part of his lovers’ perceived family.
Jack curled up on his side, on the bed and slung his arms around a pillow, that still held the scent of his lovers and hid his face in it. Given some time, he would be able to pretend that the discrepancy in their feelings for each other, didn’t bother him at all. Tonight though, he needed to grief for something, that had never even been within his reach.
“When do you want to go to Jackie?” The Doctor appeared resigned to his fate, as he sipped his tea, while Rose buttered her toast.
“I’ll need to get ready, so,” Rose frowned in consideration, “In about three hours would be good.”
“Three hours.” The Doctor shook his head in disbelief. “Trust a human female to take so long to get ready for a simple dinner.”
“Oi, it’s not just any dinner, it’s Christmas.” Rose brandished her piece of toast at the Doctor. “Besides, you’ll have to get ready yourself.”
“I’m not going to dress up.” There was pure distaste in the Doctor’s voice at the mere suggestion of wearing anything but his favourite jumpers. “It’s enough, that I agreed to an evening with your mother.”
Jack focused his whole attention on his cup of coffee while the conversation carried on. He had managed a convincing smile, this morning, but he didn’t trust himself to open his mouth for fear of what would come out if he did. For a few seconds, when Rose had started to needle the Doctor about dressing up, Jack had dared to hope again, that she would say something to him as well and invite him belatedly. More the fool he was.
Jack finished his coffee, just when Rose wrung the promise from the Doctor that he would at least wear a red jumped, in the spirt of Christmas. Any other day, Jack would have inquired what the colour red had to do with the celebration, but he didn’t feel like torturing himself with talk about a festivity, that he wasn’t invited to.
“I’ll be in my room,” he announced to Rose’s understanding smile and the Doctor’s gruff nod, before he fled from the kitchen at a steady pace.
Back in his room, Jack plumped down on his bed, with a book, but gave up reading after a short while, when he couldn’t remember what had happened in the last ten pages. With a sigh, he laid back down on the mattress and checked the time on his Vortex Manipulator. A little more than two hours, before the TARDIS would land in the backyard of Jackie Tyler’s flat, followed by many more hours of celebration.
Jack bit down on his lower lip to hold back the burning sensation in his eyes, when he imagined how his lovers would have dinner with Rose’s Mum, while he would have to wait back here for them.
Actually, Jack mused wryly and curled up underneath the covers, he didn’t have to wait for them. He wasn’t overly familiar with the traditions of Christmas Eve, in Rose’s time, but experiences told him that even – or especially – on a holiday such as this, the pubs would be open. There had to be an option for people, that didn’t have loved ones to celebrate with.
Jack closed his eyes, but couldn’t prevent a single tear from escaping down his nose. If he could find it in him to get up, after they had landed, he could find himself a place to drink the pain away. Rose and the Doctor wouldn’t even know that he had gone out. In fact, Jack wondered if they would even notice or care if he didn’t come back, at the end of the evening.
The thought of leaving the TARDIS forced a bitter laugh from him. Right, as if he could ever simply walk away from these two. It would be like ripping out his own heart. Jack wouldn’t – couldn’t – leave them, although they didn’t return his feelings. Still, what he had got with them, was more than he had ever dared to hope for and one day, he would be able to be grateful for it, but not today.
“Jack?” A knock sounded at his door and he pressed his face into the pillow and drew the covers closer around him. Three hours were probably up, but Jack didn’t want to compliment Rose on her choice of dress and wish them a great evening. It would be the cruellest form of torture imaginable.
“Jack?” He squeezed his eyes shut and evened out his breathing, in an attempt to appear asleep when the door was opened.
“Oh Jack!” Rose’s light footsteps echoed through the room, followed by the Doctor’s heavy tread, until they reached his bed. “I think he’s really ill.” The words were directed at the Doctor and Jack wasn’t surprised, when the covers were pulled back from his face, a second later.
“Hi there,” Jack cursed the way his voice cracked, even as he attempted a smile. “I’m fine, don’t worry, enjoy your evening.” It warmed his heart when Rose shook her head at this and the Doctor scoffed in disbelief. Despite being grateful that they apparently cared about him to an extent, Jack truly didn’t want them to stay. Having them postpone going to the dinner, only for him to have to suffer through the whole heartbreak again, was more than Jack thought himself capable of enduring.
“Just go, I’ll be fine.” This time, Jack believed that his smile came out at least partly convincing, although it still didn’t work on his lovers.
“We’re not going without you.” Rose sat down on the edge of the mattress with her arms crossed. “We haven’t landed yet, so it won’t be a problem to go on another day, right Doctor?”
“Right, we’ll go when you feel better.” A cool hand was pressed against his forehead and Jack could only stare at his lovers in disbelief, certain that he had misheard. “You want me to come with you?”
“Of course, we do. Why shouldn’t we?” Pure disbelief was written all over Rose’s face and mirrored in the Doctor’s eyes.
“You don’t have a fever, but I’m still worried about your brain, lad.” Two steep lines appeared on the Doctor’s forehead, as he waved his sonic screwdriver over him. “If I’ve to endure Jackie’s cooking, you will have, too.”
“Stop it! Mum isn’t that bad at cooking.” Rose glared at the Doctor, only to frown at Jack a second later. “Why’d you think that we’d celebrate Christmas without you? We belong together, after all.”
“What gave you the idea that we’d leave you here?” There was real curiosity in the Doctor’s voice and Jack ducked his head, when his cheeks flushed in embarrassment. “I didn’t think I was invited,” he murmured to the pillow to the shocked inhales of his lovers.
“Why would you think that? ‘Course you’re invited. It wouldn’t be Christmas, if we weren’t all together.” Now, Rose sounded hurt and Jack wanted nothing more than to take his words back. Since that wasn’t an option, he tried to explain his reasoning. “You didn’t say anything about wanting me to come along.”
“But,” Rose protested, “We chose a gift for my Mum together, just yesterday.”
“I thought, it was only meant as a gift from you two,” Jack murmured, even as it started to sink in just how badly he had misinterpreted the situation. “Sorry, I should’ve asked.”
He expected them to scold him for his grave miscalculation and was surprised, when a large hand settled on the top of his head and gentle fingers carded through his hair. “Was that, why you didn’t want to join us, yesterday evening? Because you were hurt and you thought, that we didn’t want you with us?” Jack lifted his head and peered up at his lovers. Rose looked distraught at the possibility, while the Doctor’s eyes were filled with pained understanding.
“Yes,” he admitted quietly. “I’m sorry, I made a real mess out of things.”
“No,” Rose shook her head and reached for him, with a trembling hand, “You didn’t. I should’ve invited you officially. I simply thought that you knew, that we’d never exclude you. We love you, after all.”
The statement was delivered like an universal approved truth and took Jack’s breath away. His surprise must have been written all over his face, because Rose gasped painfully and clouds gathered in the Doctor’s eyes.
“I didn’t think…” Jack twisted the sheets in his hands. “I know you care, but I assumed it was just about sex for you. Not for you two,” he added hastily, afraid to create another misunderstanding, “But for what’s between you and me.”
“Is it just about sex for you, Jack?” The Doctor’s voice was carefully controlled and Jack shook his head in denial. “No, of course not, just…” He shrugged helplessly and closed his eyes again. He knew, that he had messed up big this time. Instead of jumping to conclusions, he should have talked with his lovers to at least prevent the misunderstanding about Christmas dinner. There was no way that he would have ever thought to bring up his feelings, though since even the possibility that they might love him, had seemed laughable to him. Even now, he couldn’t quite believe that they meant it.
“Oh Jack!” Suddenly, with no idea how it had happened, Jack found himself upright and enfolded in the arms of his lovers. Desperately, he clung to them and the sensation of being held and forgiven.
Jack was grateful, when they didn’t let go of him completely as they drew back a little. He didn’t think he could have stayed upright, without them as his anchor. Embarrassed he wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and directed a shaky smile first at Rose and then at the Doctor. “Thanks for that, it’s fine now.”
“No, it’s not.” The Doctor sighed next to him and rubbed his back soothingly, when Jack tensed. “You believed the whole time that you weren’t an equal partner, in this relationship. You probably still do and we can’t let this continue.”
“The Doctor’s right,” Rose agreed from his left, “Is there something we can do to help you believe, that we really love you?”
“I, well… sometimes you’re so focused on each other and I just… I don’t mind, you’re lovely together, but I…” Jack winced at his stuttering and trailed off.
“You feel left out,” the Doctor summarized and kissed his cheek. “I should’ve realised, but it’s been so long since I was in a relationship and I haven’t yet got the hang of it.”
“And I’ve never been with two blokes before, at the same time,” Rose added quietly and pressed close to his side. “I just thought, I’d show you during sex how much you mean to me, but that’s… rather stupid.” An edge of self-loathing entered her voice. “It’s exactly what I always hated about guys, back home. They’d ignore me all day and then thought, they could make up for it, in bed. I’m so sorry, Jack. I promise I’ll do better in the future.”
“Me too, lad.” Stubble scratched over his skin when the Doctor rubbed his cheek against his, in a small caress. “But you’ve to promise us to talk with us, when there’s a problem again, okay?”
“Yes.” Jack was glad, that no one remarked on the catch in his voice and they simply continued to hold him. He was aware – just like his lovers probably were – that this was only the first step to improve their relationship, but it was still a start. And Jack hadn’t even believed that a relationship, that consisted of mutual love, was an option. His suffering, during the last day, had at least been good for something.
“Shall I get ready then?” Jack broke the silence when it became too heavy. “I promise to dress up.” He winked at Rose, who only looked at him with incomprehension, while the Doctor shook his head. “We’re not going to Jackie’s tonight. I think we need some time for ourselves, first.”
“But you’re all made up.” Jack gestured towards Rose’s lovely dress, her impressive hairdo and the carefully applied make-up.
“I can do that again.” Rose shrugged. “I don’t think I’d be able to sit through one of my Mum’s meals, tonight.”
“Finally, you see reason.” The Doctor jumped up, before Rose could slap at him. “Dress in something warm and meet me in the console room.”
Jack frowned at Rose in confusion, but when she only shrugged in reply, he decided it best just to head the Doctor’s order and see what he had in mind. Rose seemed to agree with him and they both dressed in warm jumpers, coats and scarves – which the TARDIS helpfully provided – before venturing out to join their lover in the console room. They were just in time to hold onto the railing when the TARDIS landed with a thump.
“Where are we?” Jack didn’t hold out much hope for an informative answer as he took Rose’s hand and joined the Doctor at the door.
“See for yourself.” The door was pushed open with a flourish and Jack gaped in disbelief at the sight before him. They had landed on a beach, at night although the bonfires everywhere drove the darkness and the cold away. People – humans or humanoids – were milling around on the beach. Most were standing or sitting around one of the bigger fires with plates of food and drinks, in their hands. A few were dancing although it was obvious that the celebration hadn’t progressed to that stage yet. At least, it was obvious to Jack who could still vividly remember how such festivities went from his childhood.
“I couldn’t risk to land on your home world at a time, when such celebrations had become tradition,” the Doctor apologized as he guided them farther down the beach and towards the bonfires, “But we’re on a planet close by, with similar traditions, although this one has three moons instead of just two.”
“It’s perfect.” Jack drew the Doctor close and kissed him deeply. “Thank you.”
“Humans, always getting so sentimental,” his lover muttered, as a colour rose in his cheeks. “Find somewhere to sit, I’ll get us something to drink.”
Laughing quietly, Jack stirred Rose towards a huge trunk that served as a bench and sat down next to her with an arm around her waist. “I never thought, I’d have that again,” Jack murmured as he watched people sharing food and drink with their loved ones.
“Is this traditional where you come from?” Rose was looking around curiously, but remained snuggled against Jack’s side although the fire was keeping most of the chill away.
“Yes, every time the two moons were full at the same time, there would be a celebration, down by the beach just like that.” Jack nodded towards the three full moons in the sky. “It seems to be the same here, although I don’t know how often they get to celebrate. On the Boe, it was thrice a year – in the spring, the summer and the winter – and the last celebration of the year came closest to what you would call Christmas. It’s got nothing to do with a God, but it’s all about being with people you love, sharing food and drink, exchanging gifts if you want to and generally trying to chase the darkness and cold of the season away.”
“Sounds like Christmas to me,” Rose murmured, “I’m glad the Doctor brought us here.”
“Me too.” Jack curled a loose strand of blond hair around his finger and leaned forward to claim Rose’s soft lips in a deep kiss. They only broke apart when heavy footsteps announced the return of the Doctor.
“I see, you’re already getting in the spirit of it.” A huge grin split their lover’s face, as he jumped up onto the trunk next to Jack, while balancing a huge, steaming mug in one hand.
“What’s this?” Rose leaned over Jack for a closer look at the mug and sniffed the air. “Smells spicy.”
“It’s similar to spiced wine in your time, Rose although with different ingredients. Perfectly safe for human consumption.” The Doctor inhaled deeply and smiled appreciatively.
“Why did you only get one of these then?” There was a light pout in Rose’s voice and Jack found himself explaining, before he could think better of it. “It’s tradition. People share the first drink of the evening with their partners, to show them how much they love and trust them.”
Rose’s eyes widened at the explanation and Jack snapped his mouth shut with a click. There was no way for him to know if the Doctor had intended their drink to be so symbolic. He glanced sideways at the Time Lord – an apology ready on his lips – and found his lover grinning proudly at him. “Spot on, lad. Will you do us the honours?” If Jack’s hands shook a little when he accepted the mug from the Doctor, no one commented on it.
For a few seconds, Jack simply cradled the mug in his hands and inhaled the familiar aroma that brought with it all the happy memories of his childhood, before he finally took a sip. The drink was strong, hot and spicy and left a trail of warmth on its way down his throat.
“Rose, will you do me the honour of sharing this drink with me?” Jack almost expected her to giggle at the formality of his question, but like so often Rose surprised him.
“Yes, I’d be happy to.” The words weren’t traditional, but the feelings behind them made more than up for it, as Rose accepted the mug from him and took a sip.
“Woah, that’s hot… but delicious.” Rose grinned approvingly at them and then looked a little lost at the mug in her hands. “What do I do now?”
“Offer it to one of us. The mug is passed around, until every member of a partnership has offered and received the mug from everyone,” the Doctor advised her and smiled when she handed the mug to Jack, repeating his earlier question.
Jack’s eyes burned with happiness as he accepted the offering and turned towards the Doctor afterwards, who frowned worriedly at him even as he took the mug from him. “Lad, are you alright? If that’s too much…”
“No, it’s not. It’s perfect. Why?” Jack blinked and felt warm moisture running down his cheek, before a cold finger wiped it away. “You’re crying.”
“Happy tears,” Jack admitted with a smile and felt even more escape down his face, when the Doctor offered the mug back to him, instead of turning to Rose first. “I’m honoured to accept this drink and the feelings you harbour for me from you.” Jack sniffed and drank.
“You humans,” the Doctor murmured in fond disbelief, while Rose and he handed the drink back and forth between them, “Only you’d think of starting to cry, because you’re happy.” The fondness was apparent in his voice and as soon as the tradition was completed, the Doctor took the mug aside and draw Jack against his side. Rose followed his lead and Jack found himself sandwiched between his lovers.
This, Jack realised, as he slung an arm around each of his beloved, was what the celebration at the end of year was all about. Sharing warmth, love and hope for an end of the dark days with each other and facing the future together. And for the first time, in a long while - held securely by the two people he loved most in the world and surrounded by the smells of his childhood - Jack looked forward to the future and to what it would bring.