Rating: soft R (by which I mean, this is failed smut.)
Word count: ~1500
Author's notes: neadods posted about this this lot's OT3ness and to be honest I couldn't really see it. And then this morning my subconscious presented me with this idea and it demanded to be written. Three warnings: it's unbeated, present tense, and has horrendously overworked skience metaphors.
They are woken from their tangle of limbs and flesh by the sound of reality being rewritten, the screeching of the universe as it is once more ripped in two, separated permanently into before and after his arrival.
They have both been living in their own personal afters for a long time.
Sarah kisses Jack's neck, rubs her left hand idly along his chest, the layers of contradictions it embodies: the baby-soft skin over firm, tight muscle, the both seemingly impossible in someone well on the way to his second century.
Jack rotates under her arm to lie on his back. He savours her warmth, and the anticipation of what will happen once the Doctor comes in. By common consent, he no longer lands the TARDIS directly in Sarah's bedroom. They all found it just a little too disconcerting.
His footsteps are coming up the stairs, taking them in bounds -- four, five at a time, the same enthusiastic energy with which he approaches everything. And then they stop, for a moment, before the door springs open, as though it cannot contain the force of nature behind it.
The force of nature takes in their bleary-eyed post-coital entwinement and says, mock-accusing, "You started without me."
"You're late," says Sarah Jane, ever so slightly primly. "Which is rather remarkable, given we only knew you were coming because of the letter you'll send once we're done."
"That is a little odd," the Doctor says. "I am sorry I'm late."
Jack winks. "You'd better start making up for lost time then."
* * *
He is the fixed point around which their lives turn, the hot bright star whirling its planets round their orbits, the neverending whirlwind in whose walls of wind they are swept up. He picked each of them up in his vortex, and their lives have never been the same since.
* * *
Sarah Jane is in her favourite place: lying between her two lovers, each of them resting against her, momentarily all still in the aftermath.
"So how's little Mr Smith?" the Doctor asks.
Jack jumps in, quick as lightning. "Very well indeed, if that performance was anything to go by."
Sarah Jane thumps his upper arm. "Jack!" She turns to the Doctor. "Luke's very well, thanks. He's sleeping over at Maria's tonight."
"Oh really?" says the Doctor. "Is there anything going on there?"
"No! He may have got better socially this last year, but he's not remotely ready for that sort of thing."
"He's more likely to end up with that Clyde boy anyway," Jack interjects.
The Doctor ignores her. "Why should it be either/or? Maybe they have an arrangement like ours."
This earns the Doctor a punch in his turn. "You're putting me off now."
"Oh," says the Doctor.
"Sorry," says Jack. "Is there anything we can do to reverse the effect?" He strokes the hair away from her eyes gently.
"Anything at all?" says the Doctor, his hand finding her lower thigh.
With a wry smile, she relents, and is soon submerged in an ocean of hands and lips and ...
* * *
She is the fixed point by which they navigate their lives, the North Star they use to set their moral compass, the beacon of normality -- family and friends, love and laughter, their exemplar for the extraordinariness of the everyday, the symbol of the simplicity they can never have. She is the nucleus at the heart of their atom, the dense core of humanity that their eldritch electrons can approach but never reach.
* * *
Jack flops back onto the covers with a heavy exhalation. "You're going to wear me out," he pants.
"I thought that was impossible," Sarah says.
"Jack's just impossible, full stop," the Doctor points out. There is a tiny silence, and then one of those looks that Sarah Jane still can't interpret passes between the two, the one that seems as though a distance has opened and they are determined to close it again. When he speaks again it's slightly too loud, slightly too cheerful. "Any apocalypses hit Cardiff lately?"
"Just the usual. We had a plague of frogs last week, but that was just an innocent accident with a cloning vat. Well, that's what the insectoid guy who owned it told us, anyway."
They fall to discussing old times, the stories of their past adventures. As always, they rehash the incident in Cardiff that finally brought them together like this, as three of a kind rather than two pairs. And as always, they rehearse older adventures, even though all have now become intimately acquainted with events that they never themselves participated in.
"I can never get over the part where he used to have white hair," Jack laughs.
"A huge shock of it!" Sarah Jane mimes the size of it around her head. The words are familiar, worn by use from their literal meaning into signifiers of so much more, transmuted by the rituals of storytelling into the very structure of the bonds between them.
Suddenly, Sarah feels an insistent firmness behind her knees. She gasps slightly.
"Sorry," Jack says. "I thought you wanted to be shocked. Did I mishear?"
"Oh Jack," she signs, "you really are impossible ..."
* * *
He is the fixed point. The lone fact, that remains true no matter how the universe changes around him. Ever the same, as empires rise and fall, as stars ignite and gutter out, as galaxies fly apart from one another ever faster into the eternal dark, as humans die and Time Lords regenerate.
* * *
As he watches his lovers enjoyed each other, contemplating how to join in, some small dead end in the labyrinth of the Doctor's mind knows with absolute conviction that some day they will die. Even Jack. Especially Jack.
It is right that mortals should die. That's what the word means, after all. But it was always painful to him that it happened so suddenly to his companions. Each and every one, as soon as they left the TARDIS -- each for their own reason, however good or bad. As soon as they were reabsorbed into the structure of history once more, their fates became fixed, their lives written out all the way to their deaths. He could skip forward and discover what happened to them. Sometimes he knew before they ever came on board. And sometimes he was there. He will be there with Jack, he knows.
He'd always hated goodbyes, but the ones that were like funerals were the worst.
It had taken Jack and his impossibility to make him see that it didn't matter, to make him believe his own rhetoric about seizing the day and living for the moment. And now that he could see that, there was comfort, somehow, in the fact that these two were no longer travelling with him. He has offered them both the opportunity, several times, singly and jointly, but they always say no and he is always a little relieved when they do.
He looks at them both, blinks away the tear forming at the corner of one eye. Overwhelmed with gratitude for all he has but has not earned, he grabs Jack's cheeks and kisses him long and hard, then does the same to Sarah Jane.
"Wow!" Jack says. Sarah just breathes, fast, shallow. "Was that for anything in particular?"
Lies come easily to him, but the easiest are the ones half-based in truth. "Just for being you," he says.
* * *
Three fixed points, each the centre of their own universe and yet when joined so much more. No two alone can remain stable for long, yet when each provides the balance to the bond between the other two, they are still in the very constancy of their eternal motion, the equilateral triangle of the Lagrange point, the three colours of quark combining to form blinding, blinding white.
* * *
Dawn creeps under and round the curtains to illuminate a scene of contended slumber. Sunlight filters through the Doctor's eyelashes as he blinks to wakefulness.
Jack starts suddenly, rising from unknowable dreams to a half-sitting position and rubbing his eyes. "Huh? Wha?"
"Oh, is it morning?" groans Sarah, face buried in the crack between the pillows.
"Busie old fool, unruly Sunne," the Doctor begins to quote, only to find a pillow hitting him squarely on the top of the head.
"Shut up," says Jack. He turns to Sarah, who seems slightly shocked by his actions. "You just know he was going to start showing off about having met Marvell, don't you?"
"Donne," Sarah corrects him.
"Well, I suppose I'd better be going," the Doctor says. "I'm sure the Acteon Galaxy is in dire need of saving. At least they appreciate metaphysical poetry there."
"Don't forget to go back and send the letter telling us you're coming last night," Sarah says.
It's a small bending of the Laws of Time, but given the hectic schedules of three busy 21st/51st/Nth century people, one he can forgive himself for. There's no one else left to mind.
"What time did I get here anyway?"
"I can't actually remember," Sarah says.
Jack smiles. "Well, now we know why you were late."
"Back to Cardiff?" the Doctor asks.
"I suppose I ought to make sure my team hasn't unleashed some Evil from the Dawn of Time. Again."
"And what about you, Sarah Jane Smith?" the Doctor asks. "Where are you going to go?"
"Exactly nowhere. I deserve a lie in, dammit. Let Mr Jackson make sure Luke's shirt's on the right way round for once."
They exchange kisses and part, each already looking forward to the next time they meet, whenever it will be.
Sarah Jane sinks back into the mattress and lets the roar of the TARDIS engines lull her back to sleep.