Title: The Smell of Death
Pairing: Tenth Doctor/Jethro Cane
Fandom: Doctor Who
Prompt: 36, Smell
Disclaimer: This is entirely a product of my own imagination, and I make no profit from it. I do not own the Tenth Doctor or Jethro Cane. Please do not sue.
***Jethro wrinkled his nose as he and the Doctor walked out of the Tardis, making a face. "What is that awful smell, Doctor?" he asked, resisting the urge to hold his nose. He wanted to go back into the ship and get a handkerchief to cover his face with.
The Time Lord looked around soberly, his gaze finally coming to rest on the young man. "That's the smell of death, Jethro," he said, his voice heavy with sadness. "It's all around us, isn't it? I think we're here too late to help anyone that might have needed it."
The young man nodded, his eyes widening as he looked around. He couldn't actually see any dead bodies, but he could definitely smell them. He had no idea where the stench could be coming from, but he definitely didn't want to stay here breathing it in.
"Doctor, can we leave?" he asked, looking at the Time Lord. "I don't know about you, but I think I'm going to feel lightheaded and pass out if we have to stay and actually see what we're smelling. You may be used to it, but --"
He broke off as the Doctor nodded, looking around him with a heavy sigh. "I think you're right," he agreed, squinting in the sun and raising a hand to shade his eyes. "There's no need for us to stay here. I doubt there's anything we could possibly do."
Jethro moved back to the door of the Tardis, taking a last look around before he stepped into the interior of the ship. At once, the cool air inside seemed to rush at him, enveloping him as though the Tardis couldn't wait to chase that lingering smell away.
He was relieved when the Doctor closed the door of the ship behind them; a little of that horrid smell still lingered, but Jethro was sure that once they were gone from this devastated planet, it would dissipate and be gone within a few minutes.
But it was a smell that he would never forget as long as he lived, he told himself, taking a deep breath of the clean, fresh air of the ship and feeling grateful that she definitely didn't seem to like that stench. Here, he could breathe without that smell making him choke.
The Doctor moved up the steps to the console, pressing a button and sending the Tardis back out into the timestream. Jethro wanted to breathe another sigh of relief when he felt the slight displacement of time and space, but it seemed rude to do so.
Instead, he held on to the console until he felt that he could easily walk again. That smell had indeed made him feel dizzy and lightheaded; it had been so sudden and unexpected, taking him by surprise and clouding his perceptions.
"You never get used to it, Jethro," the Doctor said in a low voice, not looking up at him. "No matter how many times you see death, or smell it, somehow it's just as new and terrible and horrifying every time it comes around. It's not something that ever quite sinks in."
Jethro nodded, feeling humbled by the Doctor's words. "I didn't mean that the way it might have sounded, Doctor," he murmured, hoping that his lover hadn't been offended by what he'd said. "I only meant that you've seen death so many times in all the centuries."
"I've seen it far too many times to ever be comfortable with it," the Doctor sighed, slumping against the console. "It still always makes me feel helpless -- and angry. I always want to do something to prevent it, even when I know that I'm too late."
"I didn't mean to make you feel bad, Doctor," Jethro said in a low voice, coming to stand beside his lover. He felt awkward, wanting to wrap his arms around the Time Lord, but not knowing if his embrace would be wanted or appreciated at this moment in time.
To his surprise, the Doctor turned toward him, sliding those thin arms around his waist and holding tight to him. The Time Lord rested his forehead on Jethro's shoulder, taking a deep breath as his grip on the young man's waist tightened.
Jethro was even more surprised to feel the Doctor trembling; he supposed that it was a delayed reaction to what that planet had been like. They might not have actually seen any dead bodies, but it had been obvious that they were there somewhere -- in multitudes.
That smell of death wouldn't have been so foul and overpowering if there hadn't been a lot of bodies. Jethro was glad that they hadn't seen those; he'd seen a dead body before, but seeing a lot of them, up close and personal, was an experience he'd rather avoid.
"It's all right, Doctor," he whispered, wishing that he had the right words to soothe his lover. "It wasn't your fault. You couldn't have foreseen what was going to happen there. You had no way of knowing. And I doubt that you could have done anything to stop it."
"I know that's all true," the Doctor said with another heavy sigh. "But that doesn't stop me from feeling the regret -- and the guilt. I know what death is like, Jethro. I've experienced it nine times. And I'll go through it a few more times before the final end."
Jethro could only nod at that; he couldn't even begin to imagine what that was like. Death wasn't one of the things he liked to think about; it always seemed as though it was a long way off for him, something that he didn't need to keep at the forefront of his mind.
He didn't have to, he thought soberly. But it was probably a thought that was never far from the Doctor's mind. It was sad that something like that had to weigh on the Time Lord so often, but Jethro hoped that he could distract his lover, at least for the time being.
"This isn't something you need to dwell on, Doctor," he said softly, raising a hand to stroke the other man's hair. "Let's find something to do that'll take your mind off it. I know that seems abrupt, but thinking about this won't do you any good."
The Time Lord raised his head, nodding and managing a slight smile. "You're right, love," he said softly, taking Jethro's hand in his and squeezing it gently. "What's done is done. I can't save everyone. I should know that by now. What did you have in mind?"
"Well ...." Jethro tilted his head to one side, pretending to think. In actuality, he already knew just what he was going to suggest, but he wanted to give the illusion of thought. "We could always go back to bed. Just to hold each other, if that's what you want."
"That sounds like a good idea to me." The Doctor smiled, pulling Jethro close in a hug. "You always know the right thing to say, don't you, love? I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have you here with me. I'd probably wallow in guilt and regret far more than I should."
"I'll keep you from doing that," Jethro said softly, stepping back and taking the Time Lord's hand in his own. He intended to keep his lover's mind far from the thought of death -- and he had no doubts about his ability to do just that.
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