Jack woke with a start and leaned over the side of the bed, just in time for his dinner to make a reappearance. His insides cramped painfully and Jack’s eyes watered, heaving once more. He should have never eaten that curry, back on Earth. His stomach had never been good with spicy food, but Rose and the Doctor had kept teasing him until Jack had wolfed down his portion.
A whimper fell from his lips when his stomach cramped anew and Jack swallowed hard to keep the rest of its contents down. Logically, he knew that he would probably feel better in the long run if he let everything out, but… he simply couldn’t. It wasn’t just that his throat felt like it was on fire and that every movement made the muscles in his lower abdomen cramp, but also that Jack didn’t believe he could make it to the bathroom without an accident. Merely shifting his head seemed dangerous and Jack didn’t even want to imagine what would happen if he attempted to get up. He didn’t want to make more of a mess than he already had.
His vision blurred when another cramp twisted his insides. Whimpering, Jack pressed his lips together and clenched the sheets in a desperate effort to hold on to something. If he could just get through the next couple of hours like this, he would be fine.
“Jack?” A knock sounded at the door and a surge of adrenalin shot through Jack’s body. “The TARDIS seems to think you need help.” The door handle hadn’t sooner started to move than Jack had scrambled to his feet. Bad mistake, his body informed him and Jack just had time to lean forward before he lost the battle against the churning in his stomach. He was still heaving, when the light flickered on and a quiet curse sounded from the doorway of his room.
Heat rushed through Jack’s body, even as he shivered at the same time. He didn’t dare turn around to look at the Doctor. It was enough to imagine the look of utter disgust on the Time Lord’s face, without seeing it directed at him. For the first time in years, Jack regretted that he had gone to bed naked. At least, if he had worn a shirt and pants, he wouldn’t feel quite as exposed, standing amidst the mess he had made.
“Looks like dinner didn’t agree with you.” The Doctor’s voice was bare of any emotions and the tissues on Jack’s nightstand blurred before his eyes, as he reached for them. The Doctor only ever sounded like that, when he was truly pissed off and one step away from unleashing the Oncoming Storm onto his enemies.
Jack’s hands shook and he almost dropped the box of tissues. His throat felt like someone had taken a torch to it, the muscles in his abdomen were sore and alternating flashes of hot and cold had him shivering on his feet. Everything in Jack was screaming at him to lie down and curl up underneath the covers, but he couldn’t – not before he hadn’t cleaned up this mess. This time when he pressed his lips together, it was to hold back a pathetic sob as he kneeled to wipe the floor.
“What do you think, you’re doing, lad?” The Doctor’s voice sounded much closer than expected, but Jack still flinched when cold fingers touched his shoulder.
“I need t-to c-clean up.” Jack hated himself for the way his teeth chattered and gave his weakness away.
“No, you don’t.” Strong hands pulled him upright and Jack’s mind only caught up with what was happening, when he found himself propped up against the headboard of his bed with the covers drawn up to his chest.
“What,” Jack started, but was distracted by a glass that was pressed against his lips. The water was flat and lukewarm and Jack couldn’t remember ever tasting anything more wonderful.
“Slowly,” cold fingers rubbed his arm soothingly, “or you’ll make yourself sick again.” The words hit Jack like a bucket of cold water. His head jerked back and away from the still half-full glass.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to…” Swallowing still hurt, but at least it didn’t feel like someone was pouring acid down his throat anymore. “Just give me a minute and I’ll… I’ll clean it up.” If he moved extremely carefully, he should even be able to make it to the all-purpose closet on the corridor, to get a mop.
“There’s no need for that, lad.” A thumb rubbed the base of his neck gently. “I’ll take care of it.”
“What? No!” Jack’s head shot up and he thanked his lucky stars that nothing came up at the sudden movement. “I can’t ask you to clean up my mess. It’s my fault, I’ll…”
“Hush.” Cold fingers stroked his cheek and Jack couldn’t help but lean into the contact. “Firstly, you aren’t asking anything of me, I’m offering. Secondly, it’s not your fault. You’re human, you get sick. If anything is at fault, it’s your inefficient biology.”
Jack’s lips twitched at the familiar insult and some of his tension drained away at the reassurance. “Thanks, Doctor. So, I take it, you aren’t going to throw me out for puking all over your floor?” Jack aimed for a casually joking tone, but missed by a mile and ended up sounding pleading and much too serious, instead.
“Do you really think, I’d throw a friend out for being sick?” A steep line formed between the Doctor’s eyes, to go with his irritated voice.
“No,” Jack hastily assured the Doctor, although he was unsure what had brought that question on. “I know you’d never do that. I was just wondering,” Jack glanced at the Time Lord, who sat perched on his bed and then back down at the covers in his lap, “I just… I just wanted to ask… I know I’m just a conman, but… would you… forgive me, too?”
There was a sharp intake of breath next to him and Jack ducked his head in shame. He knew, he was asking too much of the Doctor, but he would hate himself if he didn’t at least try to sway the Time Lord. He didn’t want to give up his new home, just yet.
“Lad,” there was an odd note in the Doctor’s voice, “look at me.” Fingers nudged his chin and Jack gulped before he raised his head to meet ancient, blue eyes. They softened when they gazed at Jack. “I’m not sure what’s going on in that head of yours, but,” the fingers stroked the side of his face and then cupped his cheek gently, “I don’t just let anyone stay on the TARDIS. She’s my home and I only share my home with people, I like and trust.” A soft smile, the kind that had always been reserved for Rose, touched the Doctor’s lips. “You’re so much more than a conman, Jack.” A hand was pressed against his chest, right above his wildly beating heart. “Trust me, I wouldn’t throw you out of your home, lad.”
“I,” Jack blinked furiously to clear his blurring vision, “Thank you.” It sounded like too little to say to such a gift, but the Doctor only smiled again. “Of course.” Fingers stroked his hair and Jack leaned into the contact and… yawned.
“Think you can go back to sleep, now?” At Jack’s nod, the Doctor helped him to lie down. “Alright, you close your eyes and get some rest, I’ll just,” blue eyes shifted to a spot behind him and a soft chuckle fell from the Doctor’s lips. “Thank you, old girl. She’s cleaned the floor,” the Doctor explained when Jack blinked up at him in confusion.
“Oh, thanks,” Jack murmured and a warm hum sounded in reply.
“She cares about you,” the Doctor replied gently and from the look in his eyes, Jack could have sworn that the TARDIS wasn’t the only one.
“Sleep now.” A hand stroked his hair. “The worst should be over, but I’ll stay here, in case you need me.”
“Thanks, Doc,” Jack whispered hoarsely. There was more, he had to say. Jack wanted to tell the Doctor how grateful he was to him and that he couldn’t remember the last time, someone had taken care of him, but his body had different ideas. Exhaustion overtook him fast and Jack was already half asleep when cool lips kissed his forehead tenderly.
Jack sighed happily and relaxed further into the pillow. For the first time since he had come abroad, Jack closed his eyes with a smile on his face, feeling that he had finally found a place to call home, again. Tomorrow, he decided, already half asleep, he would buy the Doctor that drink. He had heard that Kyoto in the 14th century was famous for its sake.