His trainers were shredded. His favorite pair — the white. He might not even have noticed if it hadn’t been for the sharp stones that lined the streambed, jabbing his feet brutally as he pounded through the cold, shallow water. It was all he could do not to slip on the slimy, moss-coated rocks. He knew he should be worried about breaking his neck, but the stream seemed like the best chance to throw off that damned keen sense of smell.
Still, it was the state of his trainers that infuriated him, and he put that at the top of his list of grievances. He’d make her very, very sorry for that.
Then the Doctor remembered that vengeance had gotten him into this mess in the first place.
The little girl stopped, and with a deep snuffle, turned 360 degrees around. She smiled, a sly, knowing smile, and set off again at an all-out run, faster than should have been possible for any child her age.
A stream. Did he think simple water could cover that scent — a scent so potent and utterly unique on this backward little world?
How she hated this world where her family had been torn apart. It enraged her, and she treasured that rage, stoked it to an inferno that powered the hunt. She was determined to finish the job alone that they had all begun together. Then, when she’d taken from him what she craved, she’d have plenty of time to find the others. They would be a family again. And he would be dead.
The trail was fresh. Her prey was close. The hunt would soon be over.
The Doctor cursed himself for the thousandth time for running into the jungle instead of back toward Boca Da Valeria, where he’d left the Tardis. But by the time he’d realized who was stalking him, it had been too late — she was close on his heels. If he’d turned back, he would have led her directly into the heart of the small, indigenous Amazon community that knew nothing of alien hunting species and Time Lord vendettas. He’d never have made it back to his ship before she caught up — and he knew also that the presence of innocent bystanders would have been no deterrent to Sister of Mine.
That hadn’t stopped him last time. But now…the face of a woman twice widowed, hard with grief and accusation, hung before him. He wouldn’t repeat that mistake.
That was his last thought before his foot slipped across the slick surface of a submerged rock, and he fell hard.
Whorls of red danced among the boulders where his limp form came to rest. The rush of blood and water filled his ears, along with a deafening staccato rhythm and a rushing wind. There was shouting, running feet crashing through underbrush, and then a bright blue flash. He heard a furious shriek of defeat, the horror in the little girl’s voice in the moment before she was vaporized.
The Doctor felt a thread in the complex web of his universe go slack, cut suddenly and hanging loose, death removing it from the pattern of all living things.
Strong hands lifted him, and he shivered as they carried him, dripping with water and blood, and laid him on dry, hard ground.
A face appeared before him, serene and dark, and he was sure he was delirious, because it was more than he deserved.
“What…?” he gasped through bloody teeth.
“Don’t try to talk. You’re going to be all right,” she said in her reassuring way.
He knew it really was Martha Jones in the moment before everything went black.
He woke to a throbbing he might have thought was in his head if he hadn’t felt the matching vibration all through his body. He recognized it as the racket of a primitive flying machine — helicopter, most likely.
The aircraft banked, and he heard the pitch of the engine change as the rotors tilted to change the vehicle’s trajectory. Helicopter, definitely, he thought.
Then he remembered, and his eyes flew open.
“Martha,” he croaked, his arid throat not ready for speech.
She was there, hunched over him, her hands on his pulses and her face creased with concentration.
“Don’t talk. I’m here,” she shouted over the din of the rotors.
“Sister…” he tried again.
“Taken care of. Just rest.”
“You couldn’t have…”
“We could, and we did. You have to trust me. You’re safe.”
“Where are we going?”
“To the Tardis. I’m taking you home.”
He let his eyes slide shut, and consciousness slipped away once more.
When next he woke, the hum that greeted him was familiar and comforting, and he sat up.
“Whoaaa…Slowly,” Martha said, rising from her seat.
“I’m fine,” he said, his voice crisp as ever. “Never better.”
She smiled. “Amazing. That was quite a head injury.”
“Nah. Well, yes. But no permanent harm done.”
Martha held up a finger. “Follow with your eyes.”
The Doctor swatted her hand away. “It’s not necessary.”
“Do you know where you are?”
“I was hoping for something more specific.”
“I’m fine, Martha. Time Lords have…”
“…impressive neurological regenerative abilities?”
The Doctor took in his surroundings — the Tardis medical bay.
“How did I get here?”
“I had the chopper take us directly to the Tardis. Some of my lads helped me carry you in.”
“Your lads? Who…hang on…How did you find it? For that matter, how did you find me? What are you doing here? And what are you…” He froze. Martha smiled as he stared, speechless.
“UNIT?” he said at last.
Martha crossed her jungle-fatigue-clad arms and laughed. “What did you think I would do after that year? Hang out a shingle and treat stomach viruses and plantar warts?”
The Doctor dropped his eyes and he showed a sudden interest in examining the floor. “You haven’t answered my questions,” he said quietly.
“Torchwood called me,” she said. “Or more accurately, Jack did. There was a spike in rift activity.” The Doctor looked at her again, his curiosity piqued. She went on. “Last week his people spotted a little girl with a red balloon fall through. They lost her in a crowd, but when they reported it to Jack, he contacted me right away.”
“You two must make quite a team.”
“Yes. We do.” She volunteered nothing more, though he sensed there was more to be said.
There was an awkward silence until he asked, “Is she dead?”
“Torchwood has quite a collection of alien weapons tech. UNIT has the manpower to put boots on the ground. We collaborate on operations of this kind all the time.”
The Doctor shook his head sadly. “I never wanted…”
“Don’t.” Anger flashed in Martha’s eyes. “You have no right. What did you expect us to do, me and Jack? Even Sarah Jane…”
“Sarah Jane’s in UNIT?”
Martha laughed. “No. She’s not the type. She’s more…freelance.”
He nodded. There was another silence, this one longer.
“Well, I’d better…” she began at last.
“Don’t go. Not yet.”
She raised an eyebrow. “All right,” she said.
“Good.” He hesitated. “Tea?”
“That would be nice.”
The Doctor observed in silence as Martha gently stroked the edge of the console, her back to him in the doorway.
“I missed her,” she said. He didn’t realize she’d heard him come in and wondered if she knew he’d been standing there for several minutes.
“She’s glad to see you,” he said, crossing to join her and putting two steaming mugs down.
“Is she?” He heard a hitch in her voice and ducked his head to see her face. Her eyes were bright.
“You all right?”
“She still feels more like home than home does,” Martha whispered, then laughed, swiping at her eyes with the back of her hand. “You must think that’s silly. I hadn’t been here that long…when I left.”
“Long enough,” he replied.
Her eyes went cold. “Right. Well. Thanks for the tea…”
“Martha…I meant, long enough to make her your home.” He sighed. “I wish you hadn’t left. I understand why you did -- but it’s not what I wanted.”
“You didn’t know what you wanted.”
“You’re wrong. I knew. I just never said.”
Martha turned and leaned back on the console, crossing her arms. “What did you know?”
“That you would have been better off if I’d never brought you along.”
He barely had time to register the change on her face before he felt the full force of her palm across his cheek.
“Ow! What was that for?”
“You’re a right bastard, Doctor, you know that?”
He rubbed his face and pouted. “What did I say?”
“Who the hell are you to say what would have been best for me? You’re nowhere near as smart as you think you are. You think I didn’t realize the choice I was making? I may not know the future, but I know my own mind, thank you very much. And I also know you need to just get the hell over yourself and stop thinking you always know what’s best. If you did, I wouldn’t have had to rescue your skinny arse from a godforsaken jungle today. For that matter, I wouldn’t have had to rescue my planet from a genocidal maniac.”
“You know damn well what I mean. Harriet Jones, Doctor? Jack and I have done some extensive research into Harold Saxon’s rise to power. It wasn’t hard to figure out that you had a hand in creating the power vacuum he so conveniently filled.”
He had never seen her so angry.
“You’re right,” he said. “I shouldn’t have…”
“Forget it.” She turned and headed for the door. “They’re waiting for me.”
He was between her and the exit in three long strides, and before she knew what hit her, he was kissing her. Hard.
“I’m sorry,” he said when he finally broke away. “For all of it. Please, Martha.”
“What do you want me to say? That I forgive you?”
His hands fell away from her shoulders, and she could see him deflate like a balloon with a slow leak.
“No,” he said quietly. “Of course not.”
She shook her head sadly. “I do forgive you,” she said. “But my forgiveness isn’t going to help you.”
“Then whose?” he said forlornly, like a man asking the same question for the hundredth time.
“Yours,” she replied simply.
“No you haven’t. You’ve lied and run away and postured and denied.”
“I’ve done what I can.”
“Maybe.” She stroked his cheek gently, the same one she’d slapped moments earlier, her anger transformed. “If you’re going to go on traveling, leading this dangerous life, looking for people to share it with — you’d better find a way to do more.”
Reaching up to him with hands and eyes and lips and everything she had, she kissed him, his lips cool and soft against hers. His arms came around her and pulled her tightly against him.
“Martha,” he said when their lips separated. “Will you come with me? Please?” His forehead rested against hers, and he closed his eyes. After a beat, and then two, and two more, he opened them and raised his head, ready to let her go.
She was looking at him, her forehead creased in thought.
“Why do you want me to come with you?”
He looked up at the ceiling and blew out a long breath before answering.
“Because,” he said, and lowered his eyes to hers, “you’re brilliant.”
She smiled. “Then yes.”
His grin lit the room.
“Will you make love to me?”
He tensed. “Why?”
“Why?” It was her turn to do some ceiling-gazing. Then, finally, “Because I want you to. Isn’t that enough?”
He kissed her again, long and deep, the tip of his tongue curling up to tickle the roof of her mouth.
“More than enough,” he replied, and took her hand.
They walked together through quiet corridors, neither speaking, each feeling that they’d said more in the last quarter-hour than they had in years.
The Doctor brought her to his room, dark and cluttered with seemingly random objects, books and bits of machinery and unidentifiable knickknacks covering every surface.
Taking the duvet by two corners, he swept it up and off, bringing a cascade of objects clattering to the floor and clearing the bed without ceremony or care.
Martha smiled. “Eager?”
He turned to face her. She waited for him to say something about time and patience and not being human.
But instead, he said, “Yes.”
She matched him in a frenzied rush to strip, and then pulled him along as she fell backward onto the bed. He rocked his hard cock against her thigh like a desperate teenager, and she gasped.
She watched his face as he kissed her, passion turning to hunger, hunger turning to pure, unthinking lust.
“Just do it,” she groaned.
“Do it now.”
“I don’t want you to…”
“I won’t. I promise.”
He plunged inside her without another word, hands on her knees, pushing them up to her ears, opening her as wide as she would go. His narrow hips pistoned back and forth, his control shredded, driving in and out of her scented heat with the force of sheer desire.
She came first, suddenly and hard, and he seemed barely to notice, pounding into her right through the orgasm, and then right through the next one.
When at last he emptied himself inside her, he had no energy left, collapsing onto her in a sweaty, breathless torpor. She stroked his hair and ran her fingertips down his spine until he began to move, burrowing his face into the soft curve of her neck, cradling her cheek in his hand.
“Can you breathe?” he whispered.
“You’re much better than that,” he said, smiling against the pulse in her neck.
She laughed, a deep, throaty sound that quickened his hearts and his cock.
“They’re still waiting for me, you know,” she said.
Reaching between them, he slid two fingers into her dripping cunt and said, “Let them wait.”