Title: Numbers Don't Count
Pairing: Tenth Doctor/Jethro Cane
Fandom: Doctor Who
Table: Epsilon, challenge_the
Prompt: 38, Old
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, do I ever seem old to you?" the Doctor asked as the two of them lay in bed, his head pillowed on his young lover's shoulder. "I don't see myself in that way, because this is one of the youngest bodies I've ever had. But how do you see me?"
"I don't think you're old, so that's something you don't have to worry about!" Jethro answered with a laugh, trailing gentle fingertips through the Time Lord's hair. "What would make you think I see you as being old? I know that I'm young, but you're not old."
"I'm probably just being paranoid," the Doctor said with a sigh, closing his eyes and letting himself relax in his lover's embrace. "I shouldn't have such a bad image of myself as compared to you, should I?" he asked, the words sounding a bit wistful.
"Why should you compare yourself to me?" Jethro asked, frowning and shaking his head. "Doctor, I may be young, but I've got more experience of life than most people twice my age, thanks to you. And I don't want you to be my age. You'd seem like a kid."
"I suppose that I can't help worrying how you might look at me," the Doctor said, opening his eyes to gaze up at Jethro. "Don't I seem horribly old to you? I know that this is an attractive body, but just knowing how old I am -- does that ever bother you?"
Jethro shook his head again, a frown creasing his brow. "Do you really think that I believe in all that crap about having someone as a lover who mirrors my shining youth?" he asked, his tone betraying his disdain. "I don't want anybody but you, Doctor."
"And I don't want anyone else, either." The Time Lord rolled over onto his stomach, propping his chin on his hands and studying his lover. "Jethro, what you just said -- has anyone ever tried to convince you of something so silly? That age actually matters?"
"A lot of people have tried to tell me that," Jethro said with a shrug. "But I've never believed it. You know that old saying, 'you're as young as you feel'? Well, I believe that. And I believe that people who worry too much about their age are old before their time."
"It's not just the way I look, you know." The Doctor sighed softly, and Jethro frowned and inclined his head, urging his lover to keep speaking. "It's the fact that I'm over nine hundred years old. I may not look old, but in years and experience, I am."
"And you think that matters to me?" Jethro asked, his frown deepening. "Doctor, I never dated any guys my own age, even when I was away from my parents, because I never found any who appealed to me. Younger men don't interest me at all."
"Is that because you're actually attracted to older men -- or because you developed that fascination with me from the first time we met on Midnight, and that colored the way you looked at everyone who could have been a potential lover?" the Doctor asked, his voice quiet.
Jethro's mouth snapped shut; he'd been about to say something, but those words stopped him before any of them could come out. The Doctor knew that he'd given his young lover something to think about, and he hoped that Jethro would consider what he'd said very carefully.
He knew that Jethro loved him; he didn't doubt the strength of the young man's emotions for a moment. Jethro was an empath; he knew how to channel his emotions, but he hadn't been able to with the Doctor. That proved that his emotional attachment was stronger than his control.
The love between them had only grown since they'd been traveling together. He loved this young man with all of his hearts; he wanted to be with Jethro forever, even though that wasn't possible because Jethro was human. But if it could have been, he would have made it happen.
Still, he wanted Jethro to assess the reasons that he was here. That he was in love was certainly the most compelling reason -- but what if there came a time when Jethro felt that the man he loved was too old for him, and decided that he'd made the wrong decision?
It could easily happen. It could have happened with any of his companions in the past -- and with some of them, the outward age that he'd appeared to be may have had something to do with their leaving, even though none of them would ever have admitted that fact.
He didn't feel old, even though he was older now than he'd ever been. Maybe it was because he was in an attractive, vigorous body. Maybe it was because this body was so handsome, and the looked younger than he'd been in centuries.
He looked younger -- but he wasn't. Still, he felt an energy with this body that he hadn't felt for a long time. He felt renewed, as though he was springing back into life after a long rest. Maybe that was how he was supposed to feel, with this younger body.
"I'm attracted to you," Jethro said finally, his voice bringing the Time Lord out of his thoughts and back to the present. "I've met other people who I thought were attractive, but no, nobody's ever lived up to you. Not in my dreams -- and not in reality, either."
The Doctor couldn't help but feel gratified by his young lover's words; it felt good to know that Jethro held him up as some kind of ideal. But still, he couldn't help feeling a little worried that his boyfriend might regret his choices one day in the future.
"Jethro --" he began, only to have a finger pressed against his lips to quiet him. Jethro shook his head, a small smile curving his lips, his gaze meeting the Doctor's. Neither of them looked away, both pairs of dark eyes riveted on the other's intense expression.
"Doctor, meeting you changed my life," Jethro began, taking a deep breath before he continued speaking. "But I don't think that was a bad thing. I didn't like who I was at the time -- or where my life was going. You turned it all around for me. You made me question the status quo."
The Time Lord nodded, keeping silent, waiting for his boyfriend to go on. He didn't know what Jethro was going to say, but he had the feeling that the words would be something he needed to hear -- and that they would make him feel better about the questions he'd asked.
"Yes, I compared everyone who I could have potentially been with to you," Jethro said softly, his gaze never leaving the Doctor's face. "But that's because I knew that I would find you. I never gave up hope, Doctor. Never. Not even when it seemed hopeless."
"And you didn't think I was old then?" the Doctor managed to ask. It was something he had to know, a question that he'd wondered about for a long time. To most people Jethro's age, he would seem ancient, and the fact that he didn't seem so to this young man amazed him.
"Of course not," Jethro said, his voice soft and loving. "How could I think the man I gave my heart and soul to is old? To me, you'll always be a knight in shining armour, Doctor. I know you don't look at yourself like that -- but maybe you should."
The Doctor laughed, shaking his head and turning over onto his side, letting Jethro snuggle up behind him. The younger man's arm moved around his waist, pulling him close; he could feel Jethro's soft breath against his bare shoulder, a comforting sensation.
"I only need to think of myself as two things," he whispered, feeling contented with the answers he'd gotten. "A Time Lord, and a man in love. And even if I might be older now than I ever have been before -- you keep me young, Jethro. I'll never get old with you around."
"Age is only a number, Doctor," Jethro told him with a soft laugh, pulling the covers up around the two of them. "And numbers don't count with us, do they? The only thing that matters is how we feel -- and you know, you feel pretty young to me."
"As long as you're the one doing the feeling, then I'm happy," the Doctor said, turning over in Jethro's arms and wrapping his arms around his young lover's shoulders. As their lips met, he was glad to have a young body, as it seemed that it was going to get quite a workout tonight.
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