rynne: (the tenth doctor)
[personal profile] rynne
Title: The Milk of Human Kindness
Author: Rynne
Rating: PG-13
Fandom: Doctor Who
Summary: The Carrionites were banished, and the next morning, the Doctor and Martha left. What happened in between? Ten/Shakespeare, background Ten/Rose.
Notes: Many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] beck_liz for the awesome beta! Also, the title is from Macbeth, and the rest of the quotes are, in order, from Henry IV Part I, The Merchant of Venice, and Romeo and Juliet.

"Aren't you coming to bed?" Martha was already lying on her side, taking up the same half of the bed that she had the previous night. The Doctor absently noticed this before shaking his head.

"No, I'm not tired. Think I'll have a bit of a wander. Better for you anyway--that bed's not very big, and you can have it all to yourself."

"You sure?"

He frowned. He'd said so, hadn't he? But no, she was probably just concerned for him. She was a doctor, after all, and he'd had one of his hearts stopped earlier. Sleep was good for healing, and she couldn't know that he was already back in tip-top shape.

"Yes, I'm fine," he told her. "Good night."

He left, shutting the door behind him, not sure if he heard an answering "good night" or not. But no matter. He stuck his hands in his pockets and started walking, without any particular destination in mind.

Far from being tired, he actually felt rather energized. Well, getting his heart stopped had taken some of that energy away, but there was one thing that perhaps Lilith had never considered. The power of words could be used to stop a heart and kill a man, but the right word could be used to revitalize him as well.

Lilith had at least been right about his word of power aching. Not that she would have known exactly how right she was, but he had to give her points for accuracy. Her problem was she just hadn't known who she was dealing with. She'd assumed he'd be crippled by his pain, rather than (somewhat perversely) strengthened by it.

He didn't blame her for that. She didn't know Rose, after all. She didn't know the man he was when he was with Rose--or remembering her, either. The lack of Rose hurt, but his feelings for her were strong enough that they outweighed the pain. Lilith had tried to use that pain to destroy him, but the feelings were stronger. They saved him.

Oh, Rose. Saving him again, even when she wasn't even there.


A voice from behind him made the Doctor turn around. "Will! What are you still doing up?"

"My head is aching and my mind too awake for slumber," Shakespeare replied. "And you, Doctor? Your day has been as full as mine. Why do you not sleep?"

"Oh, I don't sleep much," the Doctor said. He waited for Shakespeare to catch up, and then fell into step with him as they walked.

"Have you an explanation for me?" Shakespeare asked, as they walked around the inn's courtyard. "You have dodged almost every single question I've asked you, but now the crisis is over, is it not? And still I don't understand what happened."

"No guesses?" The Doctor glanced at him. "A man with your imagination should surely have a few guesses."

"Guesses, yes, in abundance. But I would like to know the truth."

"Tell truth and shame the Devil," the Doctor said, amused.

"Precisely! But come now, Doctor," Shakespeare said, turning to face him. "So many of the things you have said are things I might write--I can imagine myself finding situations for each one. How can you say these things? The truth will out."

The Doctor found himself laughing unexpectedly. "I loved that play," he said. "Well, I say that, but I've loved all of them, really. Sheer genius, that's you, Will."

"And again you dodge the question," Shakespeare replied, raising an eyebrow. "Do not think me so easily distracted by compliments. Perhaps this courtyard is too open for your tastes? Let us go where none might overhear us, then."

"Oh. Really, Shakespeare, that's not necessary. I'm just fine out in the open. Look at those wonderful constellations! Smell that night air! Isn't it lovely? It's fresh and--well, maybe not so clean, but there are those nice honest smells, horse and human and moderate temperature not far from precipitation. Brilliant!"

Shakespeare merely looked at him, unfazed by his babbling. "You really are quite different, Doctor," he said. "I will not compel you to come, but I would like it if you did."

He started up the stairs, and the Doctor looked after him, debating whether or not to follow. He was sure he'd be able to put Shakespeare's questioning off indefinitely--man as brilliant as Shakespeare, it wouldn't do to give him too many ideas. He might use them and set the planet decades, even centuries, ahead of its time.

Then suddenly, part way up the stairs, Shakespeare turned to glance at him again--and, with a mischievous look, winked.

Well. The Doctor blinked. That was...odd. And intriguing. And, really, what would be the harm if he did go with him? He wouldn't let anything too important slip--and he could do with some company right now.

Shakespeare had already disappeared upstairs by the time the Doctor made his decision, but the door at the end of the hall was open, and Shakespeare was already seated before the newly-kindled fire when the Doctor arrived and shut the door behind him. Shakespeare’s chin was perched on his fingers, his elbows on his knees, and he did not look up.

"I was going to call for Dolly Bailey to bring us beer," Shakespeare said. "But then I remembered."

The Doctor dragged another chair closer to the fire and sat. He also stared into the fire, not looking at the man beside him. It was never easy, finding what to say in the face of sudden death. But then Shakespeare spoke again, sparing him the effort of finding the right words.

"Why are you not with Martha?" he asked.

The Doctor lifted one shoulder and let it drop in a half-shrug. "She needed to sleep and I didn't. Why stay?"

"Why, indeed," Shakespeare murmured. "Then you and she are not lovers?"

The Doctor closed his eyes and held back a sigh. Somehow, with humans, it always came back to this. "No," he said, trying not to be too short. Shakespeare's genius came from his humanity, and sexuality was...just another part of humanity. He kept forgetting that, and not remembering until it was too late. "I've only known her for about two days, anyway. She'd helped me out, and I thought I'd take her to see one of your plays, to thank her."

Shakespeare nodded. "I thought it was something like that," he said. "Your body language is all wrong for lovers. I thought it best to make certain, especially since it seemed as if there was more on Martha's part than a simple exchange of favours."

"More? On Martha's part?" the Doctor repeated, taken aback. "No, no. She told me just yesterday that she wasn't interested in me. You're more her type. Oh, that's right," he continued, recalling Shakespeare's appreciation of Martha. "Well, far be it from me to interfere. I will have to take her back home soon, but if you two would like to spend some time together before that, I've no objections."

One corner of Shakespeare's mouth quirked. "Good to know, Doctor," he said, "and I thank you. But that was actually not what I was thinking at the moment."

"Oh? What were you thinking, then?"

Shakespeare's smile reached fuller definition. "All this day I have been amazed at your perception, yet now I find that on certain subjects you seem so ignorant. I am fascinated."

So. That was it, then. "You're flirting with me," he said, and it wasn't a question. He was...not that incredulous, really. The wink alone should have been a big clue.

Shakespeare's gaze flicked to him, then back to the fire. "You said we could flirt later," he murmured. "The crisis is ended, the witches trapped in your crystal. Is there a better time?"

"I didn't mean me," he pointed out. "I meant you could flirt with Martha later."

"And I will," Shakespeare said. "Later. Unless--I did not have the impression you objected to my being a man..."

"I don't," he replied. He found it puzzling, how so many of the people in the time periods of Earth with which he was most familiar reacted to the idea of anything but one man and one woman. Especially when they called it unnatural, as if it didn't happen among so many different species right on their own planet. Still, it was just another baffling thing about humans.

"I will be honest, Doctor," Shakespeare said, shifting his chair to face the Doctor and pinning him with an intent, intense gaze. "We two are alike, I think. Your eyes are so old, and though you jest about reading many books, you cannot hide your pain. Martha is bright and genuine and refreshing and I will certainly want to get to know her better come morning, but right now I think you understand me better than she would--and that goes both ways. Can you tell me I am wrong?"

"I can't," the Doctor said. He took a few moments just to breathe. In Shakespeare's eyes he could see understanding, and echoes of grief.

The silence stretched a moment longer, then Shakespeare said, "You have lost someone, recently. I can see the mark of it on you."

"Can you?" the Doctor murmured. His eyelids dropped to half-mast. "What can you see?"

"Old pain," was the quiet reply. "The kind of pain that is the most faithful companion a man may have. But I see also new suffering, of the kind that has not yet had time to become so familiar."

The Doctor slowly nodded. "No wonder you write so well."

Shakespeare smiled and shook his head, as if to say "no matter". Then he leaned forward, his chin once again upon his clasped hands. "Are you reluctant because of the person you lost?"

The Doctor tilted his head back to look at the ceiling, not wanting to face those penetrating eyes any longer. "I never got to tell her.... Words are so powerful, but I lost my chance to tell her the words she most wanted to hear from me. Words I would have liked to be able to give her."

His earlier energy seemed to drain from him, the pain starting to overwhelm the strength he normally got from the thought of her. The power that aches, he thought. If Shakespeare wanted truth, there it was. Everything came to pain and loneliness in the end.

But then a large, warm hand covered one of his, and as he looked down at it, it curved around until their hands were clasped, palm to palm. Holy palmers' kiss, he found himself thinking, and winced.

"I am not asking to replace her," Shakespeare said, not letting go. "I don't want that, and I'm certain you don't either. But for tonight, can we not let loose our sorrows and find some measure of joy?"

"Ephemeral," the Doctor commented.

"All joy is that," Shakespeare countered, "but it must be grasped where it may or we would never feel its blessing. Have you an answer, Doctor? If you say me nay, I will not hold it against you."

In the end, he didn't have to think about it too much. Part of him had known, when he'd followed Shakespeare upstairs after that wink, what would happen. Part of him welcomed the idea of loosening his grief, if only for a time, before taking it up again. Welcomed the idea of a warm touch, of a willing body offering pleasure.

Holding himself back had doomed him before, had left him with the pain of words unspoken and actions not taken. He did not want to do that again.

Deliberately, he slid his free hand to Shakespeare's knee, then leaned forward until he could smell human breath, stale with the lingering aroma of beer, meat, and the surrounding air of a human body that had not recently been washed. He found he didn't mind too much; human scents were natural and still somehow appealing. Then he closed the last distance.

Shakespeare's lips were rough against his; his beard against the Doctor's chin felt a mix of very light tickle and scratch. His response was quick and focused, and when they opened their mouths, the Doctor could taste, among the remnants of Shakespeare's last meal, his humanity, his age, his maleness.

As they kissed, the Doctor freed his hand, then started undoing the buttons of his jacket, quickly shrugging it off. He made short work of his tie and shoved it in a pocket. Shakespeare drew back from him, his lips wet and glinting in the fire light, a small smile twitching them up at the corners.

The Doctor's hearts pounded in anticipation as Shakespeare removed his vest and started on his boots. The head bent over to see his feet reminded him, and he asked, in a voice that surprised him with its huskiness, "How's your head?"

Shakespeare looked up at him, his head tilted. "It aches," he baldly replied. "But not so badly any longer. I believe I should be fine tomorrow after a good night's sleep."

"And if your sleep is not so good?"

Shakespeare stood up, and drew the Doctor with him. "Well then, Doctor," he said, "perhaps my head will still ache tomorrow. It will not be the first time I have woken up with a sore head, and I am quite certain it will not be the last. Have no concern for it."

The Doctor nodded, amused at what humans would put up with for sex, but also relieved; he would take Shakespeare at his word. Still, although he'd decided, he felt curiously frozen in place.

Shakespeare raised his eyebrow at the Doctor, nodding toward the bed in the corner. "Shall we?"

His reply was simple, but, he thought, powerful in its own way. "Yes."
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