Will was no fool. He was a great many other things, certainly. Enormously talented, devilishly handsome, a grand success with the ladies (and the very few lucky lads remarkable enough to warrant his attention) and a brilliant playwright. But Shakespeare was far from a knave. Some moron to be led fruitlessly along by the desires of his baser natures, particularly not when he could have anyone he wanted with no more than a beckon and a few choice whispered words.
Well, almost anyone. But not this Martha, this beautiful, daring, dark woman who came from a foreign time and possessed an independence and skill the likes of which he had never seen in the fairer sex. She was remarkable, different, special, this spirited girl with the stars in her eyes and the gate to the future in her mind.
And she did not want him.
An anomaly, this creature!
Never before had he felt such divine torment, such wistful longing! Oh, he wanted her. Tried to woo her, to entice her in his usual manner — to find the perfect combination of the most exquisite words to make her realize how desperately she (like they all, really) needed him.
But never, he made certain to note, to affirm the way he needed them. Oh no. Will loved and lost something far more precious than a mere woman (or man) to truly need anyone in such a manner ever again.
Children outlived their fathers so that the elder generation did not have to suffer the loss that only the young could sustain with any success. If relief for his old bones came in the form of a warm body next to his own, who was he to deny the cravings? The baser, carnal, things that a broken man such as himself could want to soothe his spirit, but could never really need. A soul that needed healing was a soul that was still present in his host’s chest — and Will had long since learned that the spirit had been carved out of him.
Except it was different, with this Martha. He lusted after her, certainly, but there was more to her appeal than her physical gifts. He did not want her solely for comfort, for forgetfulness. He wanted her for the beautiful aspects of her that were independent of her looks, of her face and skin. He wanted all of her beauty for itself, not for what release it could offer him.
And a man who could desire in such a manner perhaps still had the remnants of a soul left within his broken shell.
But his words, his brilliant words, could not sway her. She would not, could not, be enticed, of that he had enough insight to be certain of. None could tempt her now expect for the one who had unintentionally snared her, and it was clear that the fellow’s heart was not up to such a game. He too, was lost to another.
And so Will watched Martha flee with the man she loved, the man who did not love her in return, with a heaviness in his heart, grieving over which each of them longed for, and what they had all had long since lost.
There is no evil angel but Love.
… He’d used that, hadn’t he?
Frank was a simple, true man. He didn’t want nor expect much from anybody, knowing that in times like these wanting at all was bound to leave folks disappointed. So Frank had done his best to live without his whole life — have not, want not, need not. It was tough and more than a little distressing to the spirit, but a man has to get on getting on, and wanting things… That just led down a nasty road one wasn’t likely to pull himself off of.
And so Frank did his best not to pay too much attention to that Martha Jones, at first. Oh, he was polite and socialable. He treated her nice enough and was friendly as anyone would please. But none of that extra attention of the sort he hadn’t allowed himself to consider in a mighty long time. None of that undo warmth and affection of the kind that one only handed out willy-nilly when one was getting stupid and not thinking of the good of others. He couldn’t have any of that selfish kind of warmth that he’d been eager to share again for so long now…
It was easy enough to ignore. Pretending not to notice how she made his palms go sweaty, the way her eyes sparkled when she did something that she knew she shouldn’t have and how everyone she met seemed to be a bit blessed by her presence.
But then there were those machines who’d taken him for some experiment or another, when he could have sworn he was going to die, and he had, for just his few last hours on this good earth, stopped pretending. (A dying man should be allowed to have a few wants that the living can’t be granted.)
And then, like he had called to her, she was suddenly there.
It was then he had thought, jut for a bit, that wanting Martha Jones could be all right. If he was going to die and Martha Jones was going to die with him, he’d let himself warm to her for a spell. Let himself admire how appealing she was, even in trash of Hooverville, looking beautiful in the wreck where nothing pretty had been in ages. He let himself realize how brave she was, standing up to these creatures that could kill her with half a thought, being terrified but standing anyway when it would have been so much easier to crawl.
And he let himself take in her hope. Her hope that seemed to flow from her, even when everyone else had enough sense to see all was lost. It was like water, that hope. A nourishment that he (that they all) hadn’t had for years and years.
She was truly amazing, that Martha.
So he stayed by her side. Fought pig-men, ran from those fearsome machines and scaled buildings just to keep a little closer, daring to hope (hope - him hoping like some kid too stupid to see the world for what it was) that maybe this one big want would be his to have.
But she wasn’t, of course. Cause Martha had this want of her own. He’d heard her — talking to Tallulah all quiet-like about that Doctor. And then he saw, when that man took her in his arms. When she was yelling at him with all the passion of a woman in love enough to be mad with her man.
So Frank did the thing he should have kept on doing from the start. He smothered that warmth that had been glowing in his chest and he kept on keeping on, not wanting anything at all. It wasn’t easy and it hurt to do it (Frank was true enough to admit to that), but he did it anyway, adding one more little pain to the load that had been building for a decade.
Frank knew plenty, see, about what Martha had been discussing with Miss Tallulah.
Sometimes a body just wants to be seen.
Riley wasn’t what one would traditionally call a good person, and he knew as much. Not to say he was a particularly bad person either, mind. He was a fine enough mate, as long as nobody was anticipating all that much, he did his best to be honest (extenuating circumstances excepted) and he didn’t steal from small children or anything.
But he could have been better. And it wasn’t just the nasty business with his mum. He could have, had he really wanted to, put the smallest amount of effort to any number of the relationships, of all sorts, he had over the years. He just chose not to.
People, or at least the smart ones, cared for no one but themselves. Those who let others take advantage of them were saps, asking for any and all misfortune that came their way. They were weak, they were stupid, and they were people that Riley had no interest in emulating, or even knowing, for that matter. Those types tended to bring out the worst in him, as if they were taunting his pathetic attempts at decency merely by existing.
No, the smart ones kept to themselves. Were nice enough for as long as it suited them and then went and did what was best for number one. The universe made sense operating under these rules, people made sense under them, and Riley had never been faced with anyone who had defied these guiding principles.
And then, one day when the crew had gone about doing what people always did (doing what benefited them most, regardless of the cost), something had gone wrong and she had come. Come in a box with a man and had, without even trying, proven him wrong.
It had taken a bit for him to figure it out, how extraordinary she was. At first he assumed she just wanted to live. Hardly unreasonable. She was like everyone else on that ship, fighting for her life.
And oh, she was brilliant at it. Clever and funny, even cute on occasion. She tackled the task set before them with utter determination, unbowed by the odds stacked so heavily against them. She was dazzling. Just as selfish and shallow as the rest of them, of course, but strong and capable. She knew how to face the harsh universe for what it was and then fight it for every inch she could.
But then they were about to die, with no hope for survival and nothing left to gain, and she became weak. Foolish person that she was, she dared to believe in someone other than herself. Had the audacity to have the absolute conviction in another being in a universe where such belief was only to be turned on you in the end.
Except in her it wasn’t a weakness — it was another strength. She believed and that belief sustained her in a way that he had never known. In a way that challenged everything he had ever thought before. Strength and weakness, all embodied in this slip of a girl, resolved to take on a sun and win.
And so it had all been quite natural, to pull her into his arms when she wept. To recognize her strength while she cried and to find even that vulnerability awe-inspiring. She was amazing, strong and soft all at once with enough spark to make it all meld together to form the brilliant perfection that was Martha Jones.
And for the first time Riley wanted to be better. To be better for her.
So he kissed her forehead and held her close, and when they were saved from their narrow brush with the great beyond he tried to tell her what she meant to him. Amazing, that less than an hour with her could restore a man’s faith in humanity.
Except she had no time for the praise, and the instant they were out of harm’s way she was another man’s side, fighting for him with a ferocity that far outmatched the way she had been fighting for herself.
And that made her even more beautiful.
He should have known then, of course. But Riley was blind to defeat until it was staring him in the face, and when she left with barely a blink after he kissed her, he knew that it was too late.
Riley had finally found someone to believe in, but so had she. So much so that there was no belief left in her heart for the likes of him.
In another world, Tom had been a successful man living a successful life. Nothing too glamorous or flashy — he wasn’t the sort to flaunt or brag, even in the subtle ways that society deemed acceptable — but he had been comfortable and content with existence and his place in it. In part, such satisfaction had been due to the knowledge that he had only more things to accomplish from his, already impressive, station in life. A career as a doctor working with the sort of people he liked best (children), a stable income, noble aspirations for the future (becoming the Dean of Medicine wasn’t an immediately attainable goal, but that was what made it worth the effort) and complete autonomy and independence. Life for Tom Milligan had been grand.
Until one day it wasn’t anymore, and everything changed. Suddenly life wasn’t good for anybody, and he found himself in a world that no longer made sense.
He had continued on the best he could — what else was he supposed to do? Stepping over the disintegrated bits that used to be people, watching humanity slave away at the trappings of a war they weren’t meant to survive. What could anyone do in that madness but live in it as best they could? Patching people up here, making his way to the top of the lackey ladder there. They were small, insignificant things in the face of the wreck that had become his reality, but Tom was convinced that there really was nothing more to be done to defy the oppressive weight that had conquered them all.
Until one day he couldn’t fool himself anymore, and he smuggled bits of food to a struggling family housed down the block from him. It wasn’t much, hardly a gallant gesture, but it was enough to make him feel something other than helpless again. From there it was no time at all before he became a part of the resistance.
There was nothing glamorous or flashy about Tom’s poor attempts at heroics, but that was just the sort of success he had always been drawn to most. Generally, he transported people. Getting refugees from one point to another quietly and quickly enough not to cause any trouble. He almost never knew who these people were (computer technicians for the most part, he suspected), and he was smart enough not to ask. He had a small, only mildly important, task, but he carried it out diligently, determined to throw in his own pathetic effort towards changing the tide, even while a part of him was utterly defeated and resigned to the existence that had been rewritten for him.
Life had once been grand but it wasn’t anymore, and Tom had been ready to accept that fact absolutely. Until, that is, she had come.
Martha Jones, the closest thing to a champion humanity had left. He had been more than a little surprised when his leading operative told him he was to pick up the legend. Normally, it would have been strictly the higher ups who were aware of her return, but everyone in charge thought it best that Tom understood the importance (and the danger) of his latest mission. He was to transport Ms. Jones to wherever it was that she needed to be, and to help her in any way he could. His cover would be blown as a consequence, and for better or for worse, there would be no return to his comfortable position as a medic, either within the resistance or without, should he accept this task.
Having decided to give up anyway, Tom agreed readily enough. At least, he had thought with grim humor, he would get to die alongside an idol.
But when he met her on the beach, Martha Jones hadn’t been what he expected. A small little thing with a scowl on her face that didn’t match her delicate features, she looked like a child dressed up in her daddy’s war things. Hardly a heroine that inspired much confidence. Of course, he clearly hadn’t been what she was expecting either, the woman sizing him up with a glance and dismissing him just as quickly. He would have been more insulted, but Tom was well aware what a year in a world like this could do to one’s faith in their fellow man. So he had dully got on with it, taking her orders and following her instructions, curiously inquiring about the stories he had heard about her. He believed them all (even the bit about her seeing space, crazy as it was. Although that thing about Shakespeare was much), everyone did. Or, at least, everyone wanted to, even him.
Perhaps especially him. Because, initial expectations be damned, she was everything they said (everything he had been hoping but never dared to believe) she was and more, and as tiny, tired and hardened as she seemed, he knew when he looked at her that she would save him, save them all.
What’s more, it was clear that she wanted to. Not because she sought revenge or freedom, and not just because she had to or it was the right thing to do. Martha Jones still thought that the world — the destroyed and mangled world left in the Master’s wake — was worth saving, and humanity along with it.
And it was with that realization that he fell completely in love with her.
It was sudden and stupid, and inspired not in small part by some addled but subdued sense of hero-worship. He knew that, and there was nothing on the shattered heap of this earth that would get him to admit it to her either, especially not with the knowledge of that ‘someone’ she was doing this all for lurking in the back of his mind.
Because if humanity was merely worth saving then he, this other doctor, was the one that must be rescued. He was utterly essential to Martha in the most basic, desperate, manner, and he knew better than to step in the way of that.
So instead he stepped in front of the gun that was trying to kill her. Because this world still needed its heroes if it had any hope of surviving, and Martha was nothing if not heroic.
She was the champion he had been waiting for, and so he decided to be hers, if only for a moment.
He never looked at her twice.
It wasn’t because he was trying to be cruel, although he was oblivious enough that he couldn’t help it. And it wasn’t because he didn’t like her, because he certainly did.
No, the Doctor simply didn’t love Martha Jones.
It had taken her too long to accept it. Oh, she had realized it quickly enough, his shouting about ‘just one trip!’ enough to tip her off that he wasn’t up for anything that resembled commitment from the get-go.
But in spite of his warnings and her own internal protests, she did love him. Irrationally and wholeheartedly (with just the one, though) and did it with a reckless abandon that made her foolish, made her blind.
Because while he was around she never looked at anybody else.
And there were so many good men to be seen. Men who had written the most moving of words for her, words that would go down in history as some of the most beautiful ever put to paper. And there had been men who had scaled sky-scrappers, who had fought monsters they didn’t even know the name of and that could have killed them in an instant. She had met men who had held her at her weakest and who had the courage to believe in her when she couldn’t even believe in herself.
There had been the man (the good, brilliant, unexpected man) who had died for her. The man who had given everything he could have given to her, and done it without a thought.
(And he was still alive.)
But she had dismissed them all, just as she had been dismissed, because the only one she could see, that she would let herself see, was the Doctor.
Perhaps he wasn’t the only one who had been cruel to those who loved him.
And so, doing a thing far braver than traveling a broken earth, she left the amazing man who lived throughout time and who wandered amongst the stars.
For all the uncertainty that she had met while with this Time Lord, nothing he could ever offer her would be more perilous than opening her heart to a man who might love her back.
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