Title: Finding Comfort
Characters/Pairings: Jack/Martha, mentions of the Doctor and the Master
Spoilers: Last of the Time Lords
Summary: Set at the end of ‘Last of the Time Lords’, Jack is exhausted but cannot rest. Martha can’t stop trying to help.
If one good thing could be said to come from being chained up in the bowls of a ship for a year it was that it certainly made you appreciate the little things in life. Lying down for one. Especially lying down on something soft. ‘Soft’ was a word almost lost from his vocabulary in the last year and he was very happy to become acquainted with it once more. He was certainly going to be revelling in the comforts of a bed, even an empty one, for a few weeks yet. And the TARDIS, bless her, had seemingly sensed this need, making him the most comfortable, soft and inviting bed he’d ever lain upon. Or maybe it was the Doctor’s doing; he after all had been the one to lead Jack here and insist that he get some rest. Either way he was grateful even if actual sleep was an impossibility right then.
The knock on the door was sharp and quick and the person didn’t wait to be asked to enter, just a perfunctory warning before they did. He sat up slightly as Martha walked in, smiling at him reassuringly, still dressed in her black travelling outfit and with a green box under her arm. She didn’t look like she’d stopped for a moment since they’d reversed time and put everything right again. She probably hadn’t.
“Hey,” he said quietly in greeting, still feeling somehow slightly uneasy around her, worried that he was intruding whenever he hazard a guess at what her private thoughts really were.
He hadn’t really noticed it when he’d first seen her aboard the Valiant. She was brilliant then; bold, assured and confident. Laughing when facing death, totally at peace with the knowledge that whatever happened to her now she had achieved what should have been the impossible. That she had given the Doctor exactly what he had needed to end all this sheer devastation. But later, after all was done and the bridge of the Valiant was under their control, he’d taken the time to go and hug her, relieved that she was okay and immensely proud of all that she’d done. She’d clung to him in return, slightly shaking fingers fiercely gripping his shirt as she’d closed her eyes and surrendered just for a moment. He didn’t know why she felt like she could do that with him but he was glad for it. She’d looked steadily at him when she’d pulled back, her eyes weary and troubled, hinting at how much she’d been through and what a weight it had all been on her. Then she’d taken a breath, seemed to compose herself once more and had gone back to her family, back to being their strength. To being the Martha Jones that everyone had whispered about in that vanished year.
Even though she was putting on a powerful front, he couldn’t shake the feeling that all of this had affected her more than she was letting on and it made him feel a tad uncomfortable. He wanted to ask but he didn’t think he knew her well enough to do so.
“How you feeling?” she asked kindly, more than a doctor’s pleasant bedside manner, placing the box she was carrying on a chair as she herself sat delicately on the edge of the bed next to him.
“Not too bad,” he said, shuffling to sit up further even if his weary muscles protested, “Bit bruised and battered but I’ll live. Which was pretty much a given anyway.”
She smiled half heartedly at his attempt at humour.
“Well not to upset you but you look a wreck,” she said bluntly, her fingers pushing firmly at the pulse point on his neck. Not that there was really much physically wrong with him but he supposed it was in her nature to check.
“Talk about hit a guy where it hurts,” he said with slightly forced humour, knowing it was no laughing matter but not really up to being so serious.
Her smile was a tad more genuine this time.
“Sorry but to tell you the truth, that whole ‘Bruce Willis in Die Hard’ look isn’t really appealing in real life. But at least you went for the tattered t-shirt rather than vest though. I hate vests.”
Her words were casual but somehow almost absent, like a rehearsed script that she was forcing herself to say for his benefit rather than hers. Jack was silent as her fingers worried at the holes in his ruined t-shirt, round ones from bullets and thin slices from the Toclafane. She seemed thoughtful as she studied them, her mind half elsewhere. After mere moments her fingers surreptitiously found his skin, her light, explorative touches making him draw a slightly ragged breath. It had been a long while since anyone had touched him with tenderness. On the night’s he had actually slept, he’d dreamt about such bliss and it had only made waking up to iron shackles all the harder.
He wondered what she was searching for, if it was anything at all or just a confirmation that this was real. If she needed a bit of caring human contact as much as he did.
She paused on one of the long, thin slices.
“Toclafane?” she asked, her large dark eyes looking up at him.
He nodded, realising that she looked so much older than before.
“Thought so,” she confirmed all too knowingly before looking back down again.
He wondered how often she had seen those slices on unfortunate victim’s clothes over the year that never was. Something in her expression said ‘too often’.
He winced slightly as her curious fingers hit a sore spot and she frowned, pushing up his shirt a few inches to check it out.
“Any excuse to undress me, huh?” he bantered but his voice was a little strained. Part of him didn’t want her to know what had happened to him, didn’t want anyone to know.
She ignored his attempt as distraction, inspecting the half sealed cut.
“But don’t you...?” she paused, clearly still not quite sure how to refer to his seemingly indestructible nature, “I mean, shouldn’t these heal?”
“They will,” he reassured, trying to make it sound ordinary and commonplace to counteract the worry in her voice, “They won’t even leave a scar. Just they’re non-fatal so they don’t go as quick. Weird, huh?”
“Well,” she said, suddenly all business, reaching across to pick up the green box she’d brought with her which turned out to be a large first aid kit, “Good job I got this then.”
He pushed away the moment of regret at losing her touch - even the brushes of her fingers against his bruised and sore ribs having felt like welcome relief – and shook his head.
“You don’t have to. I’ll be fine. You should be with your family.”
“We dropped them off at home,” she answered, brushing aside his objections, “The Doctor will take me back there later. Besides, I haven’t really had much medical practice for a year. I don’t want to get rusty or anything.”
“Oh so I’m your guinea pig,” he said with a slight laugh.
“Yeah,” she replied with a challenging grin, “Practice dealing with bad patients. Now go and take a shower first then I’ll dress these so you’re a bit more comfortable.”
He raised an eyebrow at her.
“Well the state you’re in it is kinda hard to tell what’s dirt and what’s injuries,” she explained, before wrinkling her nose in slight disgust, “Besides, you really stink.”
He laughed, loud and full at that, somehow highly amused by her bluntness but realising that she was probably right and went to the adjoining bathroom without further argument.
He returned ten minutes later, clean and fresh – two more feelings he’d almost forgotten in the last year – to see her sitting in the arm chair, an all too serious look on her face as she stared at the unlit fireplace. Alone with unknown memories. Not for the first time he wondered what she’d faced to do what the Doctor had asked of her and what kind of person could take them with such determination and spirit as she had. He couldn’t help but be impressed at her resolve.
Whatever thoughts she was trapped in she shook herself out of them as soon as she glanced up and saw that he had returned and was only wearing a bath towel about his waist.
She rolled her eyes and shook her head as though it was utterly expected and nodded at the clothes awaiting him on the bed. He grinned a little as she stood up and crossed over to the mantelpiece, clearly keeping her back to him while he dressed.
“Don’t worry, I’m not shy.”
She snorted a laugh, “No, I gathered that.”
By the time she turned back he was decent below the waist and she nodded in professional approval, telling him to sit down on the bed.
“You’ve gotten very bossy,” he noted, “Not that I’m adverse to playing a little doctor/patient of course but still...”
“Don’t start,” she ordered with the merest hint of a smile as she sat down next to him, opened the first aid box and set to work.
She dressed the few remaining wounds on his chest, commenting that they were indeed healing remarkably well and that he was lucky he didn’t scar before insisting that he put a t-shirt on, not wanting him to catch his death. He pointed out that that was impossible but she said that was neither here nor there.
He sat in utter silence as she cleaned the cut hidden at his hairline, feeling the warmth of her breath on his face, so close he could smell the faintest hint of her skin between the mixture of industrial fumes and sea air that seemed to have permeated her jacket. Intimacy was something he’d sorely missed in the last year and he found himself biting the inside of his cheek to quell the occasional surge of instinct.
“Where’d you get this anyway?” he asked as a distraction, indicating the kit as she brushed some liquid that smelt sharply of surgical alcohol across the cut, making him wince.
“Just found it,” she said with a shrug, her voice tinged with concentration, “In a cupboard. I think the TARDIS has this thing where she just knows what you need. Doesn’t exactly seem like something the Doctor would have popped into Boots for.”
“Where is he?”
“Finishing repairs to the TARDIS. Last I saw him he was cooing at her and saying that he was very sorry the nasty man hurt her. Thought I’d better leave the pair of them to it.”
Jack chuckled lightly.
Silence reigned for a few moments as her attention turned to his red raw wrists, several layers of the skin there gone.
“That’s gotta hurt,” she noted.
“Stings a bit,” he conceded.
For a moment she seemed to get distracted, running her thumb in soothing circles over the palm of his hand. Quickly though she shook herself out of it and got back to the task. In some ways he wished she hadn’t.
She never asked him how it had happened. He guessed she knew.
She focused solely on her work, applying a soothing cream, then dressing and bandages over that, her work neat and precise. It was obviously a skill you didn’t lose even though she must have been out of practice. He hardly imagined that she’d been tending to those injured by the Toclafane on her travels after all – the way they operated, no medical intervention in the known universe could have saved anyone they’d got to.
She was working on his second wrist with equal care and attention before she spoke again.
“I thought about you,” she said, almost a guilty confession, “About what the Master was probably doing to you.”
She very deliberately didn’t look at him.
“It wasn’t too bad,” he insisted, making light of the matter to reassure her.
She didn’t buy it.
“He repeatedly killed you for fun,” she said bluntly, “I don’t really think you can classify that as ‘not too bad’.”
“Dying didn’t scare me,” he admitted with quiet honesty, surprising himself with how much he trusted her, “Not any more. It hurts but that doesn’t last. The only thing that scared me was giving up. And while you were still out there I had no reason to do that.”
At first he really hadn’t been sure about her, about whether she had what it took to survive. He barely knew her after all. But, he should have remembered that the Doctor only took the best. When a week went by and the Master still hadn’t found her, he began to hope. By the time the month was out and the rumours started of a woman called Martha Jones rallying a resistance movement he was a fully paid up member of her fan club.
“Oh come on,” she muttered, a little embarrassed by his eulogising, “You make me sound like...I don’t know, Winston Bloody Churchill or something.”
“I met Churchill. I’d go with you. He’s not as pretty as you.”
She smiled a little, shaking her head fondly, packing away her things.
“I think you need to rest.”
Before she could stand up however, impulse finally caught him unawares and one of his hands slid to the back of her head and pulled her to him. Her lips were soft and inviting and like damn manna from heaven after all that had happened but he reigned himself in, his kiss gentle, lips barely moving, just savouring the contact.
“And what was that?” she asked with gentle bewilderment once he’d pulled away. He resisted the urge to tell her how incredibly cute she looked when she was confused.
“Just a thank you,” he said solemnly, “For caring.”
She smiled simply, running her fingers through his still damp hair before placing a tender kiss on his forehead as she stood.
“Rest,” she ordered.
His hand caught her wrist lightly, stopping her with barely any force at all as though part of her really didn’t want to go.
“Stay,” he insisted.
“I’m all right,” she reassured, reading his reasoning easily.
“Maybe you are. But I’m not,” he confessed, “No funny business, I swear. Just company.”
She looked hesitant for a moment but then she nodded as if deciding that ‘company’ was by far the best choice right now, sitting on the bed next to him. He watched in silence as she unlaced her boots and slipped them off before discarding her jacket too. He noticed a cut on her shoulder, the edge of it peeking out from under her vest top, obviously healing but not that old. Too jagged to be from the Toclafane, he wondered how she’d got it but didn’t think now was the best time to ask. Whatever she’d been through in the past year, this was not the moment to drag it all up. By the time she turned to him, he was grinning.
“What?” she asked suspiciously.
“Nothing. Just enjoying the fact that I get to say I spent a night in the same bed as the famous Martha Jones.”
She laughed hollowly as she lay down next to him, not bitter exactly, but still obviously trying to take it all in.
“People wouldn’t be very impressed. They don’t know who she is any more.”
“Well I do. And I consider myself pretty lucky.”
She shook her head in fond bemusement, somehow uncomfortable with his praise.
Jack slept deep and dreamlessly. When he finally awoke, for the first time in a year it was in comfort and, more importantly, in peace. For once he was not dragged from his dreams by the pain in his arms and wrists or by the Master so frustrated by his inability to stop one little human that he took it all out on the man he could keep killing until his black heart’s content.
Martha was curled up next to him, her head resting softly against his chest.
He’d had many a tormentingly pleasant dream in the last year, many a fleeting vision of the tenderness that so brutally contrasted with his life as the Master’s second favourite prisoner. Not once, if he was honest, had this been one of those dreams but he found he liked the reality of it more than he would have thought.
Carefully he wrapped an arm around her, dropping a soft kiss into her hair. He stilled as she stirred a little and then breathed out in relief when she didn’t wake, desperate and determined to remind himself fully what ‘tender’ really was.