Hope by LN29 [Reviews - 6] |
This is it! I did it! Considering I conceived the idea for this series while I was sick in bed, the fact that I've sustained it to the end is pretty darn impressive, if I do say so myself.
We've come full circle. My very first story for this series, "Broken" utilized actual dialogue from the show, and now this one does the same. The dialogue for the scenes where Jack and Martha actually leave the Doctor is taken word for word from the show, but I tried to work the characters up to a point where the dialogue from the show makes sense based on the past I've established in these stories. And I also tried to make the transition from my dialogue to the show's dialogue, and back, as seamless as possible.
Using the actual dialogue was a challenge, but also fun, and I'm proud of the result. I like writing happy Doctor, and hadn't realized how much I missed it until I wrote some of these conversations. But angsty Doctor is a lot of fun too, so I try to blend the two.
It's entirely possible I will at some point go back and write more from during the actual Year, but the recovery stories are over, and for the moment, so is the series. Thank you so much to everyone who read, favorited, or reviewed. Hope you enjoy this addition, which, for any newcomers, can also be read as a standalone.
Jack Harkness knew why the Doctor hated goodbyes so much. He felt similarly, much of the time. There was so much that needed to be said, but it was impossible to find the words. How could just a few final moments speak the volumes of emotion that were behind them? To look into the eyes of someone who had come to mean so much to you, and see the pain they were trying desperately to hide…it was difficult. So, so difficult, and part of Jack wished they had just left the night before.
But most of him was glad that they didn’t.
At first, Clive and Francine had protested hotly at the idea of Jack leaving. They offered up many excuses as to why he should stay longer, and it would have been so easy to take them up on it. So easy to stay, to be a part of this family for a little longer. But they were as healed as they could ever be, and it was time to go.
Deep down, he could see that they understood this too.
“I can drive you,” Clive offered, but the Doctor shook his head.
“I’ll take him in the TARDIS,” he said. “We’ve got some stops to make along the way.”
Jack caught Martha’s eye and she shrugged, clearly not knowing what stops the Doctor meant either.
Francine embraced Jack as though he were her son, holding him close.
“Take care of yourself,” she urged him.
“I will,” Jack promised.
He looked from her to Clive, his voice slightly hoarse with emotion.
“I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done for me.”
“It’s the least we could do,” Clive replied, holding out his hand. Jack shook it. “You’ll always have a home here, son.”
He glanced over at the Doctor.
“That goes for you as well,” he added.
“Thank you,” the Doctor said, and his eyes shone with hearts-felt gratitude.
Tish kissed Jack on the cheek.
“Thank you, Jack,” she whispered.
Jack grinned at her. Tish looked better than he’d ever seen her. The cares of the Year had mostly melted away, leaving a beautiful woman, just like Martha.
“If you’re ever in my neck of the woods,” Jack told her, “look me up.”
“It’s a date,” she smirked, matching his flirting with her own.
Even Leo had come to see him off. Leo was the only member of the family to not remember the Year, but his family kept no secrets from him. While it was impossible for Leo to truly understand the scale and the enormity of what they’d endured, he had grasped enough to comprehend how much Jack and the Doctor had done for his family, and he was clearly grateful.
“Bye, Jack,” he said, shaking Jack’s hand. “Thank you for everything.”
“Thank you,” Jack replied.
He looked around at all of them.
“Really…” he trailed off, not knowing how to put his thoughts into words. “Just…thank you.”
Maybe that was all he needed to say.
Francine hugged Martha as well, looking from her to the Doctor.
“Are…” she asked hesitantly. “Are you coming back?”
Martha glanced over at the Doctor.
“Yes,” she said. “We’ll both be back.”
The Doctor intercepted her glance and nodded agreement.
Francine seemed to relax a little, and released Martha.
After one last round of hugs, the three of them approached the TARDIS.
The Doctor looked seriously at Jack.
“Not really,” Jack admitted. “But as ready as I’ll ever be.”
“If you want to stay…” Martha offered once more, but Jack shook his head.
“No. It’s time, Martha.”
She nodded slowly, and he knew that she felt it too.
The heaps of scrap that were all that was left of the paradox machine still lay piled in the corners of the console room, but other than that, the TARDIS looked better than ever. Martha couldn’t remember a time when she had looked more beautiful, the console room bathed in the glow of the time rotor, the lights of the console adding their own soft glow to the mix.
The coral-like walls looked more alive than ever, or maybe Martha just finally had a better grasp of just how alive the Doctor’s time machine really was. She couldn’t feel her like Jack could, and wasn’t bonded to her like the Doctor was, but she’d seen and felt enough to know that the TARDIS was just as alive and sentient as any other creature, and she had suffered just as greatly as any of them. It didn’t take a telepath to see how happy the TARDIS was to be whole again.
The Doctor bounded up to the console, and the eagerness in his movements spoke volumes about his desire to fly again. Martha could never express how grateful and glad she was that the Doctor had stayed with them, but she was also aware that it had been difficult. It was not in the Doctor’s nature to be stationary, and especially after a whole year’s captivity, being Earthbound must have been a struggle.
Jack looked calm enough, but she knew that it hurt him to leave. The selfish part of herself wished that he would stay longer, but he was right. It was time to leave.
For all of them. She swallowed hard. She knew what was coming, knew what she had to do, and in some ways, she was dreading it. The Doctor had put himself back together, and while Martha shuddered to think of him alone, she now believed that he was capable of looking after himself, until he found someone else. Still, she didn’t know how to tell him…but now was not the time.
“So,” she said aloud. “You mentioned that we had to make some stops?”
“Yup,” the Doctor said. “Well, one in particular.”
“Where?” Jack asked, unable to completely conceal the eagerness in his voice. It had been so long since he’d travelled in the TARDIS. (Martha assumed that clinging to the outside didn’t really count, especially since it had killed him).
“There’s one more thing we have to do,” the Doctor said, his smile giving way to a more sober attitude.
“Which is?” Martha prompted.
“You’ll see,” the Doctor said. He looked from one to the other. “Ready?”
“Yes,” they replied in unison.
Jack grabbed Martha’s hand, and she squeezed it happily.
Martha had never heard a sound more wonderful than the sound of the TARDIS engine grinding to life. The lights pulsed, and everything began to shake. A huge smile lit up the Doctor’s face, and in that moment, he looked so at home with the world.
Jack whooped as the shaking intensified, patting the console with his free hand.
“That’s my girl!” he shouted.
The Doctor tore his eyes away from the controls for a moment, to glare balefully at Jack.
“That’s my girl,” he called back. “And don’t you forget it, Captain!”
“We could share,” Jack parried.
“Not a chance.”
Martha stifled a laugh and laid a hand on the TARDIS console.
“Boys,” she grumbled, and she thought she heard the TARDIS hum with laughter.
They came to a stop, and all three of them were grinning.
Martha hadn’t even realized how much she’d missed TARDIS travel until that moment. Jack’s eyes were shining, and the Doctor looked more youthful than he had in a long time. He and his time ship really were two halves of a whole, Martha reflected. Neither one complete without the other.
But when the Doctor opened the TARDIS doors, the good cheer vanished, as both Martha and Jack instantly understood where they were, and why they were there.
The Doctor looked from one to the other.
“I thought…” he paused. “I think it’s important that we all do this together. You’ve earned that right, no question.”
Wordlessly, Jack and Martha joined him at the door, gazing down on the blazing supernova below. They were far closer than would ever be safe, but the TARDIS shields and air shell protected them to the point where all Martha could feel was a slight heat, like standing in front of a radiator.
The TARDIS was clearly also protecting their eyes somehow, for Martha could look right at the dying star and not even blink.
For a long moment, none of them moved. Martha’s throat constricted with emotion, and one look at the others told her that they were thinking similar thoughts.
But finally, Jack stepped back, towards the heap of scrap left over from the Master’s terrible machine, and picked up a large chunk. Crossing back to the doors, he hurled it outside, and it drifted right towards the blazing inferno.
This was all the encouragement they needed, and for the next ten minutes, they proceeded to dump the entire mess of equipment into the supernova. Cables, wires, mesh, machinery, you name it. Some pieces so large that it took both Jack and the Doctor to fling them away.
It was surprisingly cathartic, destroying the machinery that so represented the Master’s cruelty. Martha found herself venting her anger as she hurled pieces out into space, taking immense delight each time the pile grew smaller. Jack was cursing under his breath in several different languages that the TARDIS did not see fit to translate, and even the Doctor’s eyes were blazing. All three of them, while relatively healed, were still so angry. But at least this gave them a constructive outlet for it.
And to Martha’s surprise, as the piles dwindled, she felt her anger dissipating with it.
Oh, her hatred of the Master remained, and likely always would, but the leaden fury that had sat dormant inside of her all these weeks slowly lessened. It was as though she were feeding her anger into the inferno below, along with the remains of the paradox machine, and with each throw, her heart lightened a little.
When at last the final piece had been thrown away, all three of them stopped, staring at each other.
They were all out of breath, exhausted from exertion and anger, but the mood had lightened, and impulsively, Martha stepped forward to hug the Doctor. He returned the hug, and Jack moved to wrap his arms around them both.
“That felt good,” Martha finally said.
“Yeah,” Jack agreed. “Thanks, Doctor.”
“Don’t mention it,” the Doctor replied, extracting himself from the tangle of arms and closing the doors. "Chucking things in supernovas can do wonders for your attitude. Personal experience."
The console room was finally clear, the last traces of the Master’s cruelty finally gone, and Martha smiled at the thought.
“So,” the Doctor said, walking back up to the console. “Anywhere else we want to go, before…?” he trailed off.
Something occured to Martha, her dissipating anger reminding her of something she’d been wanting to do for a while. And now that they had the TARDIS, she could do it.
“Actually, yes,” she said.
Both men looked at her expectantly.
“I’d like to look someone up on the computer, if that’s all right.”
“Sure,” the Doctor said, looking a little puzzled.
He pulled the monitor over towards him and pressed a few buttons.
“English,” he said, pushing it back towards her.
Martha smiled at him.
“Oh,” she added, “and we’re going to need some flowers…”
“I can’t believe it,” Jack admitted, as Martha left the TARDIS, bouquet in hand, promising to be back in a few minutes. “I can’t believe she actually thought of that.”
“She’s got a big heart,” the Doctor said. “A very forgiving heart.”
“But that woman sold her out to the Master!”
“It was a different world, Jack,” the Doctor reminded him gently. “Everyone was forced to become different people…and the change wasn’t always for the better.”
Jack nodded reluctantly. Of course he knew that, and he knew that Martha was right to forgive Professor Docherty for what she’d done. After all, the woman had only been trying to protect her son, and in any case, the reversal of the Year meant that she had never actually done those things.
Still, he couldn’t help marveling at Martha for not only thinking of the woman, but also wanting to do something for her. After all, it wasn’t as though the woman would even remember what she’d done during the Year.
Idly, Jack wondered what sort of people his Torchwood family had become. He knew that the Master had murdered them, at some point. But what had they done before then? He’d never know, and maybe it was better that way.
“So,” the Doctor said, and Jack recognized that tone. It was the tone the Doctor used when he had something serious to say, before their time was up.
Jack looked up, and saw the Doctor leaning against one of the coral supports.
“Yes,” Jack nodded. They’d had similar conversations before. “It’s a different place now, Doctor, I swear it. We are not Torchwood One, and you are not Enemy Number One.”
“I know,” the Doctor replied, surprising him. “And I shouldn’t have doubted you. I’m proud of what you’ve done, I really am.”
This was one of the best compliments he’d ever received from the Doctor, and Jack was taken aback, but also unspeakably pleased.
“But here’s the thing, Jack,” the Doctor continued seriously. “A place like Torchwood…you’ve got the fate of the whole planet in your hands.”
“I know that,” Jack told him.
“The Rift had been active,” the Doctor said quietly. “I saw it when I came.”
His dark eyes bored into Jack’s, seeking answers and assurances.
“I know,” Jack nodded. “But,” he added, “in my defense, I was dead when it happened. I was against it, tried to stop it."
“Your people opened the Rift.”
It wasn’t a question.
“Yes.” Jack thought of trying to make excuses, but what good would it do? “Yes, they did. But they regretted it, we stopped it, and put things to rights.”
“You did,” the Doctor nodded. “I can see that, considering the planet is still here. But things like that cannot happen, Jack.”
Jack understood the Doctor’s position. He was the defender of the Earth, the last of the Time Lords. This planet was the only home the Doctor had left, and he would protect it with every ounce of his strength. He'd watched it be destroyed once. The Doctor wasn't going to allow that to happen again.
Jack understood that, and he not only respected it, he identified with it.
“They won’t,” Jack said firmly. “Never again.”
“You’ve put yourself in a position of high, high authority,” the Doctor said gravely. “And there’s no one I’d trust more with the planet than you. But that also means you have a responsibility. A responsibility to this planet, and to these people. And mistakes have a high cost.”
His eyes had that faraway, alien look, but at the same time, they regarded Jack with both honesty and sympathy.
“And that responsibility is a heavy burden.”
The Doctor was clearly speaking from experience, and Jack honestly valued the advice. Because the Doctor was speaking to him as an equal. He wasn’t trying to sugar-coat things for Jack. He wasn’t going to lie to him or make him think things would be easier than they were. He was telling it like it was, because he believed that Jack could handle that truth.
“I’ll take that burden,” Jack said. “After all, I learn from the best.”
The Doctor flashed him a wan smile.
“Besides,” Jack added, “I’ve been doing this job for over a hundred years now, and haven’t managed to destroy the world yet. I know what I’m doing.”
The Doctor actually flinched at the mention of how long Jack had been on Earth.
“Jack…” he died off, staring resolutely in any direction that wasn’t Jack’s. “I am so sorry.”
“Leaving you behind. Making you wait all those years for me. It was wrong.”
While Jack knew that the Doctor regretted what he’d done to Jack, and had long since forgiven the Time Lord, this was the first time he’d stated the facts so bluntly.
“It’s all right.”
“No, it isn’t.” His voice was firm, and he met Jack’s eyes. “It was very, very selfish of me.”
“Hey, you were dying. Rose had nearly died. You weren’t exactly at your best. And the last thing you needed was someone like me around..."
“Don’t call yourself that!” the Doctor almost snapped.
“I am, though. You said it, and so did the Master. I’m a fixed point, I’m a fact, and that’s against your very instinct. Hey, even the TARDIS tried to dump me at the end of the universe.”
Apology/ sorrow/ Jack/ regret/ guilt…
“Don't ever think about yourself that way.” His eyes were like stormclouds, completely serious. “It was wrong of me to call you that, and wrong for me to leave you. It was selfish, and utterly unfair to you. I’m sorry.”
“Doctor…” Jack suddenly stopped himself. The Doctor wasn’t looking for reassurances, any more than Jack would for some of the things he’d done. He knew they were wrong, and nothing anyone said would change that.
No, the words Jack always wanted to hear, and, he suspected, the Doctor did, was that he was forgiven.
“It’s okay. I forgive you. I did that a long time ago.”
The Doctor relaxed almost imperceptibly, and some of the guilt faded from his eyes.
“And besides,” Jack added, trying to lighten the mood, “I didn’t turn out too badly, did I?”
“No, Jack,” the Doctor said with a small but utterly genuine smile. “You turned out brilliantly.”
They fell silent. A question that had been nagging at Jack ever since Malcassairo, and had only been confirmed by some of the things the Master had said to him, surged to the forefront of his mind.
“Does it hurt you? To be near me?”
He was afraid to hear the answer, but he couldn’t bear not knowing.
“Of course not.”
“Doctor…” Jack urged. He was pleased to see his friend mostly back to normal, but that also meant it was harder to get an honest answer out of him. “Please tell me the truth.”
The Doctor seemed to think for a minute.
“It was a shock at first,” he finally admitted. “By all the laws of the universe, you shouldn’t exist…” he shrugged. “Looking at you is like staring into a sun.”
“It…it is?” Jack’s heart sank. He’d been constantly around the Doctor ever since the Year. Had he been hurting him, without intending to?
“Sort of, but you get used to it. The more I’m around you, the more I can control my instincts. Like sunglasses, if you want to continue the ‘sun’ metaphor. It’s not bad at all anymore.”
“Does..." Jack swallowed hard. "Does it hurt for me to touch you?”
“What would make you think that?” the Doctor asked, honestly curious.
Jack couldn’t meet his eyes.
“Oh,” the Doctor said, as the realization must have struck home. “What did he tell you, Jack?”
“Nothing,” Jack muttered.
The Doctor put a hand on his shoulder, turning him so he was looking him in the eyes.
Jack hesitated, but the Doctor spoke with that calm authority he could summon at a moment's notice.
"Tell me, Jack."
“He said that just being near me would hurt you,” Jack managed to get out. “That for you, touching me was like touching fire. Like poison. That my very existence caused you physical pain, and...that I’m only hurting you worse by staying with you.”
The Doctor’s eyes blazed with powerful fury and he spat out a phrase in a language that the TARDIS didn’t translate…a distinctive, complex, lyrical language Jack had only ever heard spoken by the Doctor. A language, he suspected, was Gallifreyan, the Doctor’s native tongue.
“He lied.” The Doctor said firmly, when he’d gotten himself back under control. “He lied, Jack. Physical contact is fine. A little disconcerting at first, but not painful.” To prove his point, he touched Jack’s hand, skin on skin. “Once you get used to it, it’s no big deal. It's not painful. I don’t mind.”
It was as if a large weight had dropped off Jack’s shoulders. A weight he hadn’t even realized he was carrying until it was gone. With a relieved, slightly hysterical laugh, he threw his arms around the Doctor, who hugged him back.
“You should have just asked me, Jack,” he admonished. “What took you so long?”
“You’re one to talk,” Jack replied. “You hide stuff until it all comes bursting out.”
“Do as I say,” the Doctor told him. “Not as I do.”
It was at this moment that Martha returned, stepping into the TARDIS.
“Hello, boys,” she said, smiling.
“Hello, Martha Jones,” Jack said, turning to greet her. “How’s the good professor?”
“Fine,” she replied. “Didn’t even recognize me…I think I freaked her out.”
“That wouldn’t take much,” Jack pointed out.
Martha glared at him, and the Doctor, to his credit, tried very hard not to laugh.
“All right,” the Doctor said, after they’d all gathered around the TARDIS again. He looked at Jack. “Cardiff?”
“Cardiff,” Jack replied.
And with a throw of a lever, the rotor sprang to life.
When things were still, Jack stole a glance at the monitor. His heart leaped at the sight of the familiar landmarks, and he couldn’t help but smile. He realized how much he'd missed Torchwood.
He was going home.
“How long have I been gone?” he asked.
The Doctor peered over Jack’s shoulder at the Gallifreyan writing covering the screen.
“A month,” he said.
“Ooooh…” he sighed. “They’re gonna kill me.”
“You want me to try and get you back earlier?”
“No,” Jack shook his head. “I’m just glad we hit the right century. With your driving, your next attempt might land us on Mars in 3000 years.”
The Doctor actually pouted, and Martha giggled.
“No, this is reasonable. We’ll stick with it.”
“Oh ye of little faith,” the Doctor sighed, flipping a switch. He glanced up at the rotor. “He doesn’t trust us, girl.”
“I speak from long, hard-earned experience,” Jack said.
“I’m with Jack on this one," Martha put in.
“Mutiny,” the Doctor muttered.
Before he left, Jack placed a hand on one of the columns.
"Bye, girl," he told the TARDIS. "I'll miss you."
Jack/ friend/ fact/ love/ farewell...
Once they stepped out of the TARDIS, both of them turned expectantly to Jack, awaiting his move. But Jack didn’t know what to do. The thrill of being home was mingling with the heartbreak of leaving behind two of the most important people in the universe, to him. He couldn’t just walk away from them. But what on Earth could he say?
Without even realizing they were doing it, they wandered over to a railing overlooking the people below. He turned his attention to the people moving about, oblivious to the dimensionally transcendental police box sitting nearby, the ancient alien and the immortal man standing before them, and the horrors that had been wreaked on this world not a month before.
Everyone went about their business as though nothing had ever happened…and for them, nothing had.
“Time was,” Martha spoke softly, as though echoing his thoughts, “every single one of these people knew your name.” She looked at the Doctor. “Now they’ve all forgotten you.”
“Good,” the Doctor said simply.
Jack took a deep breath. If he didn’t leave now, he never would, so it was best for him to do it quickly. No drawn out, emotional goodbye. He'd never be able to handle it.
“Back to work,” he said, and his voice sounded brisk and careless, even to his own ears. He ducked under the railing.
“I really don’t mind, though,” the Doctor’s voice stopped him, and he turned to see his friend smiling at him. “Come with me.”
The words Jack had been longing to hear for over one hundred years now. The words he never thought he’d hear again. At one time, those words were Jack’s deepest and most fervent desire. But now that the time had come, Jack knew that he couldn’t.
“I had plenty of time to think that past year,” he tried to put his thoughts into words. “The year that never was.”
He looked over to where he knew the Hub would be, hidden beneath the surface.
“And I kept thinking about that team of mine.” Ianto, Gwen, Tosh, and Owen. His family. He’d abandoned them, and while he knew it had been necessary, he knew he had a lot to make up for.
He looked back at the Doctor, willing him to understand, and deep down knowing he would.
“Like you said, Doctor. Responsibility.”
“Defending the Earth,” the Doctor agreed. “Can’t argue with that.”
Before Jack could react, he’d reached out to seize Jack’s wrist, where he’d tried to conceal the vortex manipulator under his coat sleeve, in the hopes that the Doctor might not notice. He should have known better than to doubt the Doctor’s eyes.
“Hey!” he protested. “I need that.”
“I can’t have you walking around with a time travelling teleport,” the Doctor said firmly, pulling out the sonic and aiming it at the vortex manipulator. “You could go anywhere…twice.”
He gave Jack an impish look.
“The second time to apologize.”
“And what about me?” The question slipped out before he could stop it. The one question he hadn’t dared to ask in their entire time together, because he feared he already knew the answer. But this might be the last time he ever saw the Doctor, and he couldn’t just not ask. “Can you fix that? Will I ever be able to die?”
“Nothing I can do,” the Doctor said frankly. Again, not sugar-coating things or giving him false hope. “You’re an impossible thing, Jack.”
Jack had to laugh.
“Been called that before.”
He turned and began to walk away. Then he turned around. Unable to completely shake that military training, even all these years later, he couldn’t help but salute the Doctor. Besides, he knew the Doctor always got uncomfortable around salutes. Which just made Jack want to do it all the more.
The Doctor smiled and returned the salute amiably. Jack winked at Martha.
“Ma’am.” She grinned and returned the gesture.
He turned and took two steps away.
“But I keep wondering,” he blurted out, turning back around. “What about aging? Because I can’t die, but I keep getting older. The odd little…” he indicated, “grey hair, you know? What happens if I live for a million years?”
“I really don’t know,” the Doctor admitted, looking slightly amused at the thought.
Jack had to laugh at himself.
“Okay, vanity, sorry,” he said.
He was blatantly stalling now, and he honestly didn’t care. Anything to draw out their companionship just a minute longer.
“Yeah…can’t help it. Used to be a poster boy, when I was a kid. Living in the Boeshane Peninsula. Tiny little place. I was the first one ever to be signed up for the time agency.”
He sounded like the Doctor, rambling to keep the emotions at bay. But the Doctor and Martha were listening patiently, and he got the impression they were in no rush to end this conversation either.
“They were so proud of me. The Face of Boe, they called me.”
He finally brought an end to his ramble. It was time to go.
“I’ll see you,” he said.
And as he turned, he could hear the sound of their laughter echoing across the square. Maybe they were laughing at him, maybe not. He didn’t go back to see. Because the sound of their laughter was one of the best final memories he could have of them.
And Captain Jack Harkness ran forward into the future.
They headed back to the TARDIS, still laughing in utter disbelief at Jack’s final revelation.
“Do you really think he could be?” Martha asked when she finally caught her breath. “I mean…really?”
“I suppose it’s possible,” the Doctor admitted. “Legend says the Face of Boe lived for billions of years.”
“It explains how he seemed to know you,” Martha added. “I mean, really know you, not just in a casual “we’ve met a few times” kind of way.”
The Doctor nodded distractedly.
Martha couldn’t help but shiver at the thought of that disembodied head, so huge and foreign, and utterly alone. Was it possible that Jack…their Jack, handsome, charming, and energetic, could ever become that? How must it have felt?
She stopped in her tracks.
“What?” the Doctor asked, peering at her from around the console.
“If he is…if Jack really is the Face of Boe, then it explains how he knew you weren’t alone. He knew there was another Time Lord because he lived it.”
“More than that,” the Doctor added. “If you want to really give yourself a headache, think about this. Jack was standing right next to you when you repeated the Face of Boe’s final words. ‘You are not alone.’”
“You’d think he’d have commented on the use of his old nickname,” Martha observed.
“We were a bit distracted,” the Doctor reminded her.
She conceded the point.
“Anyway, Jack heard you say that the Face of Boe’s final words were ‘You are not alone.’ So now he knows what his last words will be, because he heard us repeat them, because we'd already heard him say them in the future.”
Martha shook her head dizzily.
“Okay, I’m lost.”
“Gotta love a good ontological paradox every once in a while,” the Doctor said cheerfully. “Remember Sally Sparrow?”
“How could I forget? 1969…working in a shop, while you sat around at home!”
“Oi! I was trying to get us rescued!”
“Which meant I had to support you!”
They both laughed at the memory. Then Martha sighed.
“Will he be all right, though? Jack?”
“He’ll be fine,” the Doctor nodded. “Even if he isn’t the actual Face of Boe, he’ll be just fine. He’s Jack. How can he not be?"
"And he’s got a family at Torchwood. People who need him, and who he needs. That’s the best thing a man could ask for.”
“You’re needed,” Martha told him.
The Doctor met her eyes, and he gave a small smile of gratitude and just a hint of ruefulness.
They both fell silent, lost in their own thoughts. Then the Doctor straightened.
“Well, Martha Jones, where to?”
“Home,” Martha told him. “Remember, we promised Mum.”
“Yeah,” he nodded. “Right then, home it is.”
She decided not to comment on the fact that he had called it home too.
Because if she thought too much about it, she’d never have to courage and strength to leave him.
He leaned against the TARDIS, watching the figures moving around inside the house. Martha, Clive, Francine, Tish, and Leo…all together, the way it should be. A family, battered and broken, but piecing itself back together again.
He hadn’t gone back inside this time. He hated goodbyes, and while he was more grateful to the Joneses than he could ever express, he didn’t want to endure the pain of saying goodbye to each of them. Saying goodbye to Jack had been hard enough…and unless his instincts were wrong, another goodbye loomed in his future too.
He took a deep breath, inhaling the fresh air. It was a beautiful day, the kind that made you happy to just be alive. Just to be here, now. The world was as it should be…almost.
The aching emptiness in his mind, the slight stiffness remaining on his scarred shoulder, new lines on Jack's face, the added shadows in Martha’s eyes…remnants of a past suffering that even a paradox machine could not erase. He would have given anything for his friends not to remember what had happened during that Year, but it was not his place to decide.
Francine paused in the window, catching his eye. He held her gaze, risking a smile. They’d certainly come a long way from the night they’d met, at Lazarus’s exhibition. Always, she’d looked at him with such hostility, blaming him for stealing her daughter away, and rightly so. Blaming him for the troubles they endured…and rightly so. But the Year had changed all of them, and there was no hostility in her eyes. Only a kind of gentle warmth and sympathy that the Doctor both craved and resisted.
She looked at him sympathetically, and he wondered if she too knew what was coming.
It was all the goodbye they needed.
He turned and walked into the TARDIS, allowing her warmth to sweep over him, inside and out. He could feel her in his mind again, not as close as she’d been on that first day, but back to their comfortable, typical distance. Together, yet still separate. He tossed his coat to the side and walked up the ramp, gazing about him at the newly restored ship. He couldn’t help but remember how horrible she’d looked, when he’d first seen what the Master had turned her into, but she was whole again.
A little bruised, a little more weary, but whole.
He walked around the console, his spare hand bubbling cheerfully at his feet. He was never letting that out of his sight again.
With a small sigh, he sat down on the seat. He propped his feet up on the console, stubbornly ignoring the TARDIS’s mental complaints. She didn’t mind it that much, he knew.
And, alone with his thoughts and his TARDIS, he waited.
Jack had told her not to tell the Doctor she planned to leave him until the right time. And now, Martha knew it was the time. She’d waited long enough, she couldn’t wait any longer. He was ready to leave, and he needed to know that she would not be going with him.
Trying to distract herself, she pulled out her mobile and dialed the number she and Jack had looked up the previous day. Jack had urged her to ‘go for it,’ but Martha also knew Jack would tell her to ‘go for it’ if she had romantic inclinations toward a fence post.
Still, he had a point, and Martha finally dialed the number. Heart beating inexplicably quickly, she spoke into the phone.
“Yeah, could you put me through?”
She heard someone else pick up.
“Hi,” she spoke quickly, before she lost her nerve. “I’m looking for a Dr. Thomas Milligan.”
“Yeah,” a very familiar voice came through the phone. “Hello?”
Martha couldn’t suppress a smile as she heard his voice, and memories surged up. Memories of a year that never was, and yet had been.
“Hello?” Tom repeated.
Of course he wouldn’t know her. Still, hearing his voice again made her surprisingly happy, and she hung up the phone on a no doubt very confused Tom.
Right. Enough stalling. It was time to do this.
Her heart picked up speed, pounding in her ears, but she knew she was doing the right thing, no matter how much it hurt. This was the right thing to do.
She pushed open the door to the TARDIS and stepped inside.
“Right then, off we go!” the Doctor sprang up from the seat, all nervous, manic energy. Talking so quickly his words practically tripped over themselves. “The open road. There is a burst of starfire right now over the coast of Meta Sigmafolio. Oh, the sky is like oil on water. Fancy a look?”
He wasn’t going to make this easy for her, but she found she couldn’t really resent him for it.
“Or…back in time! We could…I don’t know, Charles II? Henry VIII?” Martha couldn’t get a word in edgewise, and she got the distinct impression this was intentional on the Doctor’s part. “I know! What about Agatha Christie? I'd love to meet Agatha Christie! I bet she's brilliant!”
He suddenly stopped and looked at her. Really looked at her, and she saw the look in his eyes. And she knew that he already knew what she was going to say. Had known, the whole time he was chattering on, and probably for much longer than that. He might be dense when it came to some things, but he was very observant when he wanted to be.
“Okay,” he said quietly.
And she heard so much more in that one word than what he was actually saying.
It was acknowledgement, apology, acquiescence, and acceptance, all in one word.
“I just can’t,” Martha finally forced herself to say.
“Yeah,” he agreed softly.
She had to give him a reason. After everything they’d endured, she couldn’t just walk away without giving him a reason, though she knew he’d never ask her for one.
She thought quickly, and settled on the simplest of her reasons. It was honest, too.
“Spent all these years training to be a doctor,” she told him. “Now I’ve got people to look after.”
The Doctor dropped his eyes, radiating guilt, but she had already assured him a hundred times that it was not his fault. Whether he believed it or not was his own choice.
“They saw half the planet slaughtered, and they’re devastated.”
It was true. While they had pieced themselves back together, the wounds still remained, and would for a long time. Martha’s family needed her with them, needed her help.
“I can’t leave them.”
“Of course not,” the Doctor agreed.
For a long moment, she looked into his eyes, trying to read his emotions. Trying to judge how much she had just hurt him. But he was hiding them well, and she saw only the surface. She held his gaze, fearful of what he might say or do.
But all he did was smile.
“Thank you,” he said, and with those words, he spoke volumes. Honest, hearts-felt gratitude for everything she’d done for him, not only in these past three weeks, not only during the Year, but everything. And with those words, it was all worth it, just to see the pride and gratitude in his eyes.
He stepped forward and she hugged him tightly, not wanting to ever, ever let go. He showed no inclination to do so either, and it was a full second before they broke apart.
“Martha Jones, you saved the world,” he said with a smile.
“Yes, I did,” she agreed. “I spent a lot of time with you thinking I was second best, but you know what? I am good.”
He chuckled at this, which was what she’d been hoping for.
“You going to be all right?” she asked, trying to show him how much she cared. How worried she was about him.
“Always, yeah,” he confirmed quickly. Maybe a little too quickly.
Liar, Martha thought. He was not 'always all right', and she knew it. However, for the moment, she really did think he was all right. At least, as all right as he could ever be.
“Right then,” was all she said out loud.
Impulsively, she stood on her toes and kissed his cheek.
She turned and walked away, out of the TARDIS and back into the light of day. She took a deep breath, determined not to cry.
However, she hadn’t gone more than a few steps before she stopped.
What was she doing? After everything they’d gone through in their months of travelling together, after the Year, after the past few weeks? Everything he’d confided to her and Jack, everything he’d done to help her move towards healing? They’d promised to be honest with each other, and here she was, hiding her deepest motivations from him. It would be frightfully embarrassing to go back now, and to admit those feelings, but she owed it to him. He deserved at least the whole truth.
Determinedly, not at all sure what she was going to say, she turned around and reentered the TARDIS. She saw him turn around, but didn’t dare meet his eyes, so she wouldn’t have to see the hope that no doubt filled them for a moment.
“See, the thing is, it’s like my friend Vicki,” she blurted out, the words spilling out before she had time to really think about them. She didn’t let herself think too much about them. “She lived with this bloke. Student housing, there were five of them, all packed in, and this bloke was called Sean.”
The Doctor looked completely confused by this outburst, but Martha soldiered on.
“And she loved him, she did. She completely adored him. Spent all day long talking about him…”
“Is this going anywhere?” the Doctor inquired.
Idiot. Wonderful, stupid, amazing idiot.
“Yes!” she said, and the Doctor nodded, crossing his arms, waiting for her to continue.
She took a deep breath. This was it.
“'Cause he never looked at her twice.”
She saw the realization dawn on his face and in his eyes.
“I mean, he liked her, but that was it.”
He dropped his eyes, unable to even look at her, and she had the most horrible feeling, like she’d just kicked a puppy.
But she was in too far to stop talking now. She’d faced down Daleks, Carrionites, living suns, and the Family of Blood. She'd walked the entire planet as it had died. She’d performed surgery on her own knee, she’d walked across continents in the freezing cold, she’d outrun soldiers and Toclafane on a daily basis, she'd stood before the Master and laughed in his face…she could face telling one man about her feelings.
“And she wasted years pining after him, years of her life, ‘cause while he was around, she never looked at anyone else. And I told her, I always said to her, time and time again, I said: Get out.”
He gave the slightest of nods, and she knew that he’d heard her. Finally heard her, and understood what she’d been trying to say for so long now.
She didn’t even love him that way anymore, not completely. Oh, she still adored him, and she had to admit that if he asked, she’d be right there. But she’d grown up in that Year, and she knew it was time to move on.
But she could never fully move on so long as she was with him.
So she had to follow her own advice: get out.
“So this is me. Getting out.”
He held her gaze, and she saw his apology and regret clearly in his eyes. She’d said what she wanted to say, but now she was realizing anew that she didn’t want to lose him completely. She cared about him too much to do that.
She reached into her pocket, and pulled out her mobile. She tossed it to him, and he caught it expertly.
“Keep that,” she told him. “’Cause I’m not having you disappear.”
He wasn’t going to be able to just slip away from her, to go off and disappear into time and space. She wanted to be able to contact him, not just for her sake, but for his. She didn’t like the idea of him being completely cut off from them. This way, she could check up on him. Make sure he was doing as ‘all right’ as he claimed to be.
“If that rings…” no, not if. “When that rings, you better come running, got it?”
“Got it,” he agreed, and somehow, his mood seemed to have lifted a bit. As for Martha, it was as though an enormous knot in her stomach had just untied, and the result left her feeling a bit lightheaded.
She turned once more to leave, but couldn’t resist one more glance back.
“I’ll see you again, mister,” she informed him.
He smiled back at her, that wonderful smile of his that she hadn’t seen nearly enough of in these weeks. But it finally seemed to have made a permanant return.
This time, when she left the TARDIS, she did not look back. She walked back to her family, head held high, unable to completely hide a smile even as her heart broke a little at the sound of the closing door.
And Martha Jones walked forward into the future.
It was strange. Perhaps he should have been feeling sorrowful and bereft. In a way, he was. He already missed Martha, regretted what had happened while he was oblivious. He would miss her, and Jack. In these past weeks, they had become as close as family to him, and he knew he could never adequately express how very grateful he was.
But for some reason, he felt lighter than he had in a long time. With the comfortable weight of Martha’s mobile in his hand, and the memories of his two friends still foremost in his mind, he felt more hopeful than he could remember feeling since before the Year.
He set Martha’s phone down on the console, determined to never lose it. Moving around the console, he felt the TARDIS nudging happily at his mind. He sent back his own feelings of love and contentment and bright, shining hope, and took a deep breath. He pulled the lever, dematerializing the TARDIS.
And the Doctor and the TARDIS flew forward into the future.