Maybe time was still broken. Nights in the TARDIS seemed impossibly long, at any rate, Jack reflected. After the fifth or sixth time of jerking back from the borderline of sleep into full-fledged panic because of imaginary terrors, Jack flung the covers aside and left his bed.
Though it wasn’t his bed, really. He was not feeling up to facing his old room in the TARDIS yet. He didn’t want to think if he would ever be. He didn’t expect that to be an option, probably ever. At least the Doctor wasn’t flinging him away immediately but was tolerating his unwanted Factness for the time being. Maybe it was Jack’s reward for helping to save the world. Maybe the Doctor just wanted to look better for Martha’s sake. Maybe, like Jack, he was too tired to care much.
In any case, Jack was grateful he could be here. He didn’t feel he could face his team before he had rested. After a year of little sleep, much death, and constant torture, he was drenched in exhaustion, and erasing the year hadn’t erased it.
When hanging from his chains by the roaring engine that radiated heat and noise, Jack had dreamed of sleeping for a month once he was free. Now that he could, his mind and body wouldn’t let him sleep even for an hour.
Whenever he drifted close to sleep, his mind filled with flashes from the past year, knives cutting into his skin, engines roaring into his ears, a crazed Time Lord coming up with endless new ways of killing or torturing him. Of dead friends (who were alive now, thank God), dead strangers, razed countries. Pain, pain, pain.
The year that never was, yet it still was, it seemed that it had crawled out of existence by crawling underneath Jack’s skin. It didn’t help he knew he was safe. He’d been through enough wars that his rational mind knew what this was all about. Unfortunately that didn’t help much.
He sighed and got up, stumbling towards the door. Just in time, he remembered that the Doctor wouldn’t approve if he went around naked. Jack asked the TARDIS to turn on the lights. His clothes, torn and dirty, smelling of gunpowder and dried blood, were lying in a heap on the floor where he had thrown them. He was definitely not wearing those. He pulled open a closet door, and was relieved to find an assortment of clothing of his size. He grabbed the first pair of comfortable trousers and a sleeveless shirt, pulled them on, and sauntered out.
He was in the kitchen, making tea and toast — and then he heard odd sounds, sudden and loud. He froze.
He spent an indefinable length of time covered in cold sweat, heart hammering and muscles shaking with readiness to fight or flee or endure, before he realised the sounds must be the Doctor working on something on the TARDIS. He had been doing that all evening before ordering Jack and Martha to the bed. Apparently he was still at it. Guess Jack wasn’t the only one who couldn’t sleep.
He inhaled deeply, and hung on tightly to the ache inside brought by memories those sounds gave him, memories of a past gone forever for him. Even that was better to dwell on than more recent memories.
He reached for the strawberry jam and realised he was shaking. His vision was clouding from uninvited tears. Damn it. He gritted his teeth, focused on breathing in and out, and then began to ferociously spread jam on toast after toast. He made about five. He stared at the pile on the plate and didn’t feel hungry anymore.
He was so focused on controlling himself that he didn’t hear the noises stop. Only suddenly he froze, aware of nothing except that there were footsteps behind him and all his senses were screaming danger.
When a hand touched his back, he spun around. Before he knew what was going on, he had the Time Lord pinned to the wall. A surprised yelp made him come to. He stared at the Doctor’s shocked face and widened eyes. The Doctor. Not him.
The Doctor made another noise, and Jack let him go, stunned at himself. ”Oh. It’s you.”
”Jack, Jack, I’m not surprised you like it rough, but this is a bit forward even for you.” The Doctor’s voice was flippant, but Jack saw he was pretending to not be scared.
”Sorry, I thought…” He crossed his arms across his chest for protection. ”Give me a warning the next time you sneak up on me, okay?” God, this was embarrassing.
The Doctor regarded him quietly. He opened his mouth, and Jack expected an irritated comment. But instead, the Doctor closed his mouth and reached for Jack’s hand. Jack’s mouth was dry. The Doctor’s hand closed around his own. Startling. Cool. But gentle. Gentler than he expected. He barely remembered gentle.
”What are you doing up, Jack?” the Doctor asked softly. ”I thought I told you and Martha to get a good night’s sleep.”
Jack made a face. ”That would be ideal. But can’t sleep.”
The Doctor’s face filled with sympathy that Jack couldn’t bear. He tried to shake off the Doctor’s hand, but the Doctor wouldn’t let him. ”What are you doing up?” Jack asked instead. ”You need sleep, too.”
The Doctor shrugged, avoiding his gaze now.” Lots of repairs to do,” the Doctor said.
Jack knew well enough when someone was faking lightness. He might as well join in. ”I thought I heard you working. The old girl needs quite a bit of attention, doesn’t she? I could lend a hand, if you like.”
The Doctor stilled, letting go of his hand. He resolutely looked anywhere but at Jack.
Jack stepped back. ”Forget it,” he muttered, and stepped back. He noticed his plate full of jam-covered toast, and stuffed one piece into his mouth, chewed without really tasting it. He managed not to choke on it as he swallowed it. He grabbed the plate and strode towards the door.
The Doctor blocked his way. ”Jack.” His name rang out in one clipped, commanding syllable. He had no choice but to stop or walk straight into the Doctor’s chest. ”Where are you going?”
Jack tried to push past him. ”I can figure out when I’m not needed.”
The Doctor grabbed his free hand. ”Never said you weren’t.”
”You didn’t need to.”
”Jack.” The voice was gentler now. The Doctor took the plate from Jack’s hand with his other hand and set it back on the table. He said nothing else, but Jack found himself obeying the unspoken plea.
The Doctor stared at Jack intensely with those brown eyes, and began to rub Jack’s hand. Jack felt resistance and anger drain from him. He exhaled, and slowly felt his body unknot. The Doctor’s fingers massaged Jack’s palm, each of his fingers, the back of his hand, finding their way into the small muscles between the bones of the hand and softening them, loosening them up. His eyes never left Jack’s. Jack did his best to keep gazing back, though he wanted to close his eyes. To hide or to enjoy, he didn’t know.
The Doctor stopped, but he left his hand in Jack’s. It felt heavy with meaning that Jack didn’t understand. The Doctor smiled, a flippant smile that belied the tension in his eyes, and suddenly reached with his other hand to rub at Jack’s cheek, close to the corner of his mouth.
”You’ve got some jam on your face.” The Doctor’s voice was surprisingly tender. Then he stuck the jam-stained finger into his mouth and sucked it with a smirk. Jack felt it shoot straight into his groin.
The Doctor pulled gently on Jack’s hand, stepped back, and guided Jack to follow him. Jack obeyed. Step by step he was led from the kitchen, towards the console room.
They stopped only when they were at the console. There were still scorch marks on the metal surface, but the Doctor had fixed many of the bolts and levers back into place. Now he placed Jack’s hand against the surface. Jack felt a strange vibration, and the sounds in the room seemed to shift their pitches. The TARDIS was waking up, or adjusting. He felt a nudge in his mind, like being prodded by the paw of a giant benign tiger, and then… A wave of sensations/memories/something washed over him, he felt his mind enveloped in an embrace, he shook in fearterrorsurpriseloveregretexhaustionwonder that surged over and through him.
Then it was over. The presence withdrew. He was left bereft, barely standing, shaking. He felt the Doctor touch his cheek, wiping away the tears that Jack only now noticed he had shed. ”She isn’t afraid of you anymore,” the Doctor murmured.
Jack instinctively leaned into the touch. The caress was soft, strange. He opened his eyes a fraction, peeking through his eyelashes past the Doctor, at the softly glowing amber light of the TARDIS. She was still wounded, but she was alive, both of them were alive. Reborn from the wreckage. He felt her wrap around him in comfort. The TARDIS found her way through the borders of Jack’s mind with ease, wrapping herself around him in apology and forgiveness.
She was suffusing him with the love he had long stopped believing he deserved, she enveloped him in warmth. He missed home, while at the same time feeling he had arrived home at last. Pain and hurt flooded through him, but he stopped fighting. The TARDIS knew all of him, he had no need to hide from her.
Finally the sensations relented, and Jack sagged against the console, his breath heaving.
He felt hands on his shoulders, steadying, supporting. It took him a moment to become aware of his physical surroundings. At last, he recognised sound of the Doctor’s breath, his tantalizing, familiar yet unfamiliar scent.
”Are you all right, Jack?” The Doctor asked. He circled around Jack so that Jack saw him, could tell it was him and not the — the other one. He was here, and now. This now. The only now that existed.
His mind still felt raw from the mental contact with the TARDIS, and he stared at the Doctor. Many unsaid things bubbled in him, wanting to be said. He didn’t know how to say them. Finally, what came out was: ”You cried for him.”
He didn’t need to explain who he meant. The Doctor’s face closed off, and he stepped back. ”Yes. So?”
Breathe in. And out. ”Doctor, I know he was your friend once, but everything he did —”
”I know what he did!” The Doctor’s voice cut angrily through his words. He grasped Jack’s lapels, pressed his face close. ”That is why, don’t you see?” His voice softened, pleading. ”Don’t you see, Jack? I wanted him to change. He still could have chosen.”
”That’s the problem with you.” Jack’s voice felt rough. ”You never stop hoping.”
The Doctor pulled back, looking hurt. Jack couldn’t bear it. He stepped up and swept up the Doctor in a tight hug. The Doctor tensed first, then relented, allowed himself be held.
”I’m sorry, Jack,” the Doctor whispered.
”Yeah.” Jack didn’t let go. It felt good.
The Doctor wrapped his arms around Jack. ”You’ll be all right, won’t you?”
How to answer that? ”Ask me again tomorrow,” he finally replied. ”Or the day after.”
”What about you, Doctor?” Jack asked.
”Of course I’m all right. I’m never not all right,” the Doctor answered with a faltering voice.
”Yeah, right. Like I’ll believe you.” Jack nuzzled the Doctor’s cheek, hoping to rile him up. Or maybe just touch him. Comfort him. He felt the Doctor squirm, then settle. ”You said the TARDIS isn’t afraid of me anymore. Are you?”
”Oh, you know me.”
I’m not sure if I do, Jack thought. The Doctor tensed as though hearing him.
Then the Doctor pressed his face against Jack’s. ”Of course I am,” the Doctor said against Jack’s cheek. ”Never anything but terrified.”
”Good to know,” Jack murmured, and brushed his lips against the Doctor’s temple. He meant it. For once, an honest answer. Not running away.
”Mm-hm.” The Doctor pressed himself against Jack with a sigh.
Jack swallowed. He seemed to still be capable of arousal. Nice, if inconvenient. ”Um. What about this? I thought it’s difficult to even look at me?”
The Doctor was quiet for a moment. ”Everything is different. Since then. Of course it’s difficult. And not.” The Doctor squeezed against him. ”You’re solid. You’re there. Everything’s been… disintegrating… splintered, hurting, for a year, but you are there.” The Doctor’s breath caressed Jack’s skin. ”Always.”
”Always,” Jack replied. He could finally relax his hold of the Doctor, as something inside him relented.
The Doctor drew back to look at Jack. Still so sad, wistful, and Jack didn’t want that, but he lacked a clever remark or a bad joke that could make the Doctor smile and forget.
So instead, he leaned in and kissed the Doctor. Lips against his, sudden intake of breath, and he instinctively tightened his hold of the Doctor. He gently probed with his tongue, the lips parted to let him in to explore the mouth, a taste familiar and strange at the same time, familiar from so long ago and strange because it was a new body, a new Doctor…
It was about then that his brain kicked in, and he froze mid-kiss. But before he could withdraw and apologise, he was assaulted by the Doctor plunging into the kiss, taking control of his mouth, exploring and tasting and kissing him breathless. His fingers dug almost painfully into Jack’s sides. When Jack finally came up for a breath, the Doctor nibbled on his lip, and pressed their hips together in evidence that Jack wasn’t the only one still capable of arousal.
The Doctor threw himself into kissing and groping with the same enthusiasm as he did anything else. His hands grasping Jack’s ass, his erection brushing Jack’s, his hands running against Jack’s sides. He slid his hands underneath Jack’s shirt, and damn, those deft fingers caressing his skin, tracing the contours of his muscles, ridding him impatiently of his shirt. The Doctor pressed his mouth to Jack’s bared skin now, caressed a nipple with his tongue until Jack cried out, then moved lower, tracing the lines of Jack’s abdomen with his mouth. He dropped down on his knees, and his deft hands began to undo Jack’s trousers.
Jack stared at him in disbelief. He wanted to ask what on earth was going on and what had happened to the Doctor. Although he didn’t want the Doctor to stop, come to think of that.
The Doctor must have sensed his confusion, for he looked up at Jack. ”I want it,” he whispered. ”You evidently want it. Let me.”
Jack nodded. The Doctor buried his face in Jack’s crotch. Jack felt the Doctor mouthing his cock through the thin layer of his pants, and he decided to stop thinking or asking questions. Jack was burning, desperate to be touched properly. He arched his hips against the Doctor’s face.
”Impatient, aren’t you?” The Doctor chuckled, his words pressing irritating caresses against Jack. Jack smiled. He hadn’t heard the Doctor laugh or be playful in so long. ”Fine, let’s get you naked.” The Doctor proceeded to remove Jack’s trousers, fondling him in return and clearly taking amusement from Jack’s arousal.
Jack didn’t care if they were just hiding from everything. It was his favourite kind of hiding. And then the Doctor was licking his hip, his thigh, and nibbling his way upwards. His hands curled around Jack’s erect shaft, and Jack’s hips jerked forward as a sharp pleasure jolted through him.
”Mmm, hungry for it, huh?” the Doctor muttered against him, and chuckled low in his throat. Then he took Jack in his mouth. The Doctor’s mouth was cool and strange and wonderful on him, his lips wrapped tightly around Jack’s shaft and his tongue moving rapidly and with skill. Jack’s hips began to move of their own volition, rolling against the Doctor’s head, and he cursed and moaned and pressed the Doctor’s face against himself. It was so good to feel pleasure again and Jack let himself revel. The Doctor sucked and licked Jack like it was the air he needed to breathe. His fingers dug painfully into Jack’s butt and thighs. Jack responded by pulling his hair. Enough to make the Doctor whine, but not so hard the Doctor would stop. He let waves of pulsing pleasure wash away every memory, every moment except now, every touch except this.
Jack felt the hard edge of the console press against his back as he arched and moaned. Finally he came, shouting out he didn’t know what. The Doctor’s mouth still around him, drinking in every drop.
When it was over, Jack was left breathless, sated, and strangely cold and bare. The Doctor got up to his feet, licked his lips, radiating smugness.
”Whoah,” Jack breathed out.
”Yeah.” The Doctor splayed his hand on Jack’s chest, stroking his skin. Jack leaned against him, breathing in contentment, feeling safe and firmly lodged in the present.
It took a while before his pride kicked in again and reminded him of the pain of decades that couldn’t just be washed away. He withdrew sharply. The Doctor looked at him in surprise.
”So, is this it?” Jack asked. ”I’m supposed to forgive you for leaving me behind when you give me a blowjob?”
The Doctor flinched. But then he poked Jack in the chest. ”Saving the world and a blowjob. And it was a good blowjob. Don’t pretend it wasn’t.”
”Fair ’nough,” Jack muttered. He could see the Doctor knew it never would be fair. Neither of them would be really all right. But he wanted them to be. So he pressed against the Doctor and kissed him, long and tender, tasting himself in the Doctor’s mouth. The Doctor was surprisingly sweet in response.
The Doctor didn’t pull back when the kiss ended. ”If you wanted, I could always shag you as well,” he suggested nonchalantly. The darkened pupils and the evident bulge in the front of his trousers betrayed that had some real interest in the idea. ”Would that help?”
”Maybe,” Jack said. ”Or I could shag you.”
The Doctor shrugged. ”Possibly. You don’t seem quite up for the task yet, though.”
Jack half closed his eyes, leaning back. He felt the TARDIS curl up comfortingly against his mind. She evidently didn’t mind what was going on. He wondered lazily if she liked it.
”We could find out. But Doctor? Beds, ever heard of them? Grand old things. They’ve got mattresses and everything. Comfy for this sort of thing.”
The Doctor eyed him up and down, slowly, savouring him. ”Mmm. Could test that out. It’s getting a bit intrusive in here.” He cast a half-hearted glare at the TARDIS.
Jack waggled his eyebrows. ”She telling you I’m hot?”
The Doctor shoved him. ”Captain, show me this bed you speak so highly of, or I will have you right here.”
Jack grinned. ”Is that a promise?”
The Doctor smacked his butt. ”Go!”
”If you’ll follow.”
The Doctor held his gaze. ”I will.”
It was good. It was good, weird, and exhausting, and brilliant, just the way the Doctor was. Also, a lot of fun. He had missed fun. He had especially missed fun with the Doctor. Afterwards, they lay tangled in a sweaty, messy heap of limbs. Jack felt warm, and cared, and vulnerable. He would have preferred to stay close and be quiet, but the Doctor soon sat upright and looked at him thoughtfully.
”What?” Jack asked lazily. ”Got more wicked plans for me? Feel free.”
”Come with me?”
Jack arched his eyebrow. ”Thought I just did.”
The Doctor swatted his arm. ”Stop it! This is no moment for bad innuendo.”
”Every moment is a moment for bad innuendo.”
The Doctor snorted, then looked at him levelly. ”Travel with me again.”
Jack closed his eyes. He had been waiting for those words for over a hundred years. He had spent the last year finding out that they weren’t the answer. He considered punching the living daylights out of the Doctor for saying those words now. Only he had had quite enough of useless violence for a while.
”You don’t mean that,” he said dully.
”I do,” the Doctor said.
Jack opened his eyes. He looked at the Doctor. Everything was at his reach. All of time and space. The man who had changed his life in every way. The dream that had sustained him in the exile of a hundred years. The light that he had been bound to follow, whether he wanted or not. Adventures every day, laughter, running and never stopping. The Doctor approving of him again.
”No,” he said.
The Doctor stared at him, incredulous. ”No?”
”Why? I mean it, Jack.” The Doctor was sounding petulant now, hiding the hurt in his eyes. That made it easier.
”I doubt it. But even if you did, no.”
”I can’t.” Jack shrugged. He knew the answers, but didn’t have the power to explain them to the Doctor. ”Please. I can’t have this conversation now. Let’s just sleep.”
”Yes. Sleep. You need to sleep on it. Think about it tomorrow.”
”Maybe.” Jack knew his mind would stay the same, but he was too tired to argue. He shifted to make more room for the Doctor. ”Stay here, with me.”
The Doctor looked at him uncertainly. Finally he lay down. ”I’ll be a while,” he murmured. ”You’ll sleep better.”
”Sweet of you to care.” Jack pressed a kiss to his temple. He felt more peaceful now. He finally stood on his own terms with the Doctor. He closed his eyes.
”You’ll visit me sometimes, at least?” Jack heard the Doctor ask.
”Count on it,” he replied.
The Doctor sighed and burrowed closer to his chest. Jack smiled. He knew the Doctor just wanted reassurances that he wasn’t alone. Jack was glad he was counted among friends now. It made up for some. Not everything, but some. Enough, even.
He was always going to love the Doctor. He probably would regret his choice sometimes. But he had lived over a century as a shadow, waiting for the Doctor. He needed to find what else his life could be. And the Doctor didn’t really need him before he had found that out.
Feeling the Doctor quiet down beside him, he drifted off and slept.