Roses and Musk

 

 

Martha's still outside with her family as Jack helps the Doctor carry the body into the TARDIS.

The remnants of the paradox machine hiss and spit. The light pulses odd colors, shifting, still sick; Jack pants as they lay the body out, winces, pats a strut in sympathy, and collapses on the steps. He hasn't sat in two months. His hips creak; pain roars through his feet.

The Doctor stares off, not even at the body, for a long while, grim as anything, then bounces on his heels and calls brightly over his shoulder. "You'll be wanting a shower, I suppose? Third door down on the right, if her innards aren't too off. I think she'll be all right, won't you, old girl? Sorry about the coordinates..."

Jack startles. He'd never gotten quite used to the man's mood swings even the last time around; this time they're far more pronounced. He declines comment, hauls himself to his feet. The ache is bonecrushing.

The Doctor follows him.

He looks over his shoulder; the Doctor's expression is unreadable, blank, eyes empty as a galaxy's rim. It makes him shudder like the old piercing blue never did.

He finds the bathroom--big old place, ornate, bench in the shower. Infinite hot water, probably, and there'd better be. He's pretty sure he had wet dreams about showers a couple of times back there. He's almost forgotten what it's like to have skin instead of a protective casing of muck. The Doctor's still following him.

He waffles. Any other time he'd say something. Do something. But now--

He brushes his teeth, rinses thoroughly, spits away a year's worth of bloody aftertaste and things dying. One bit clean at least. Rinses again, and again. Takes a long drink of water. And the Doctor's still there, hands in his pockets, head tilted back a little, distant.

The Doctor takes off his coat, hangs it up. Just his coat. And then reaches for him.

"Doctor--"

One finger over his lips, unmistakable. Jack's instincts war; the one to obey the Doctor wins, but he can't fight the bewilderment as the Doctor slides the remnants of his shirt off his shoulders. Strips him the rest of the way, tearing open his worn undershirt with barely a hint of exertion instead of wrestling it over his head.

The soot got in under his clothes, of course, mixed up with blood and piss and gunpowder, caked onto him in streaks with worn furrows, established riverbanks, where the sweat would run. He thought he'd gotten used to his own stink by now, but it wallops him as the Doctor peels off the rest of his clothes and shoves him back with gentle but unmistakable force to sit on the bench.

There's dirt on the suit. The Doctor's on his knees before him, untying his boots, and then he's peeling off his crusty socks without a hint of distaste, standing to turn on the shower--and not once does he look at Jack's face.

The water catches the Doctor across the side, spattering his face, shining droplets in his hair; it's going to soak him to the skin, and he doesn't pay it any notice.

He never speaks. He never looks at him. He commands him in gestures--a finger pointing down for kneel, and Jack's on his knees with blessed warm water sheeting down his back and the Doctor working soap into his hair. A hand on his elbow to steer him, turn him, as he lathers up one of the big poofs hanging like jellyfish from wrought iron hooks and goes to work, meticulous, scrubbing every inch of him raw.

Eventually Jack stops questioning, lets the Doctor turn him this way and that, relaxes into the cool hands and warm water on his skin and the sheer relief of being clean.

The Doctor only looks at his face to clean it, flaking dirt off with his fingertips as the soap cuts through it, no reaction at all when it stings in his eyes and he flinches.

He almost questions again when the Doctor positions him against the wall, hips out, legs spread. Soap down the sensitive skin between ass and balls, cleaning every crack and fold, and it's then that he realizes--remembering how to smell again after all those months doing his best to ignore the sense--that it smells of roses. Roses upon roses. He aches.

There's something else in it, too, he thinks, another note of scent, some sort of edge --something white and acrid and musky, and he can't place it, not quite. It nags at the back of his brain as the Doctor works his way down his thighs, scrubbing with almost bruising force at tight-strung aching muscles, and for a moment something cramps and there's nothing but white-hot pain.

The Doctor turns him back around and goes to work on his cock--he's more than half hard, he can't help it, but there's no judgment, no notice, no mockery. Nothing but those hands working him clean, scrubbing through hair and soft skin just gently enough not to hurt, and roses and that scent he can't place--and it's then that he remembers--

That smell, that fierce white musk, boiling off a double pulse point under the collar of a fine white shirt as the Master leaned over him in the engine room.

He understands, more or less. The stranger the man, the stranger the ways of mourning. He sits at the Doctor's gesture, watches that old-new head bowed, hair plastered to his forehead, as he works soap between his toes, rubbing smooth and strong over aching soles--bites back groans of sheer pleasure, because it's not his place to make noise. Lets the Doctor finish with him, compliant as a doll, until he's scrubbed shiny clean, fingers dimpled from the water, skin a little red and raw.

The Doctor's left him kneeling. He ventures to stand, and the Doctor almost, almost looks at him.

"I'm so sorry," Jack whispers, and opens his arms.

Neither of them turns the water off. Jack rocks his Doctor back and forth on the bench, soaked fabric squelching against his skin, as roses and musk waft by on the steam and the last Time Lord sobs, alone.

 

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