The Doctor watched Martha Jones' quick hands as she deftly stitched up the right leg of the young man who was her current patient. They had been stuck on this backwater moon for two weeks, stranded because he needed a part for the TARDIS that no one could supply owing to the civil war that had broken out just two days before their arrival.
He couldn't help thinking that it was typical of their travels: he'd offered her a quick trip to celebrate her birthday since she and Tom had broken up a few weeks ago, and two weeks later they were still here on Borgerkrig's second moon, trapped by the TARDIS breaking down and a petty war over mining rights.
Martha had immediately volunteered her services as a field medic and he'd gone off to try his hand at diplomacy; he'd only seen her twice since and both times he'd been harassed and on the verge of losing his patience, if not his temper. Each time she had made him tea and let him sit quietly in the corner of her little field hospital until he was in a better humour.
The second time, as he'd been about to go back to the council chamber, he'd stopped for a moment. "Martha Jones, you're a blessing and a pearl of great price, do you know that?"
She gave him a puzzled look. "I am?"
He knelt in front of her chair and put his hands on her arms where they rested on the chair. "You are," he told her softly. "I really don't know where I'd be without you."
"Oh you'd manage," she answered, suddenly feeling uncomfortable because of the intent look he was giving her.
"Just don't work yourself too hard here," he said as he got up, then he kissed her forehead before disappearing again.
* * * * * *
As Martha finished inserting the stitches, a hand stroked gently down her back. The Doctor took immense pleasure in seeing her absorbed in her work, but now it was time to leave.
"How are you?" he asked quietly.
"A bit weary," she answered, straightening up carefully and nodding to the waiting nurse to let him know that he could move the patient.
"Well that's your last patient." He saw surprise in her brown eyes as she looked at him over the top of her face mask.
"I've brokered a peace deal."
"Oh good." She pulled the mask off and gave him a smile, but he could see she was more tired than elated.
"Come on," he said gently. "Let's get back to the TARDIS and you can get some sleep. I'm sorry your birthday trip turned out a bit rubbish."
She shrugged as she pulled off her cap, gloves and gown. "These things happen."
He slipped his arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze. "I'm going to make it up to you," he told her as he led her out of the tent, towards the spot where the TARDIS was waiting for them.
"I'm not going to argue with that," she answered.
* * * * * *
The Doctor had cooked her a lavish dinner, after establishing that Martha would rather eat on board the TARDIS than anywhere else, then she had taken a long bath and slept for seven hours before he'd dropped her off at home, with another apology for the way the trip had turned out.
"Honestly, Doctor, I don't mind," she assured him, giving him a tight hug, "at least I was able to help."
He gave her a warm smile. "That's my girl." He kissed her on the forehead. "Take good care of yourself for me," he said softly.
"Take care of yourself too." She kissed his cheek, then let go of him and went indoors, leaving him to head back to the TARDIS with a fond smile on his face.
Six months later.
"Honestly Doctor, I do think it's about time you started looking after yourself a bit better," Martha scolded.
He gave her a dazed look, one hand holding a bloodstained handkerchief to his brow, as he leaned against one of her porch pillars. "Sorry," he answered huskily.
She shook her head. "You'd better come in," she said, her tone one of resigned affection. She stepped out onto the porch and took hold of his arm, hoping no one was around to see her in pyjamas and slippers, helping a strange man into her home at 1 am.
She got him inside and guided him down the hall to the kitchen. "Sit there," she said, then disappeared briefly to fetch her first aid kit from the bathroom.
"What have you been doing this time?" she asked as she opened it up and began taking things out the box.
He stole a glance at her face. "You probably don't want to know," he answered.
She frowned. Usually he was only too happy to tell her what he'd been up to and laugh about it with her. He'd come to her for medical assistance several times since their unfortunate trip to Borgerkrig and he'd only once before refused to tell her the cause of his injuries.
"How long is it since you last saw me?" he asked, changing the subject and trying not to wince as she began to swab the blood and dirt from the gash across his temple.
"Two months," she answered, her face a mask of concentration as she began to pick bits of grit out of the cut with a pair of tweezers.
"Are you on your own?" Martha asked. Every time he'd been to see her in the last nine months, he'd come alone; she'd gained the impression from things he'd said that he hadn't had a regular travelling companion since Donna had left and Martha herself had turned down his offer to travel again.
"Yes." His tone was the one she'd learnt to associate with an intention not to discuss something, so she didn't push him further.
"This is going to sting," she warned him after a few moments. He pulled a resigned face and allowed her to bathe his head with antiseptic, wincing slightly when it did sting.
A few minutes later she taped a dressing above his right eye. "Right then, mister, bedtime for you. I don't want you gallivanting off anywhere for a few hours yet."
"Yes Doctor." His tone was meek and his eyes downcast.
She quickly cleared up after herself. "Come on then." She helped him up from the kitchen chair and guided him out into the hall.
"You'd better have my bed," she told him. "My sofa's not nearly big enough for you and my spare bed's covered in piles of books and paperwork at the moment. I'll sleep on the sofa."
"Oh no," he said, a look of dismay on his face. "I'm not kicking you out of your bed, I can sleep sitting up on the sofa."
Martha gave him a look, the one that brooked no arguments. "You'll sleep in my bed," she said. "Doctor's orders." She tugged on his arm, pulling him towards her bedroom, and he followed reluctantly.
He hadn't been in her bedroom before and he immediately noticed it was painted a green-gold colour which made him wonder if she'd been trying to recreate the colour of the TARDIS' Control Room. There was a scent of jasmine and sandalwood in the air, which he'd always associated with her from her room on board his ship.
The Doctor looked at the bed, which was a King size one, and then over at Martha, who was digging through clothes in a drawer.
"Here you go," she said, holding out a pair of green striped pyjamas. "I think they should fit you reasonably well."
He raised an eyebrow, but didn't comment as he accepted them. "Thanks."
"They're not Tom's," she said quickly. "Leo left them here a couple of months ago and I keep forgetting to take them back to him."
"OK." He put the pyjamas down on the foot of the bed, below where Martha had thrown back the duvet when he'd woken her up earlier.
"Why don't we share the bed?" he suggested. "It is big enough for two after all."
She opened her mouth to answer, but he rushed on. "I feel guilty enough that I woke you up in the early hours," he said, "I'll feel even more guilty if you give up your bed for me."
"Fine," she answered, with a shrug. She kicked off her slippers, then slid under the covers, closing her eyes to give him some privacy.
The Doctor quickly stripped off his clothes, then pulled on the borrowed pyjamas. They were a little short in the arms and legs for him, but he'd be more comfortable in them than sleeping in his trousers and shirt. He piled his clothes on top of Martha's on the chair in the corner, and then shuffled around the bed to get in beside her. She reached out and turned off the bedside light.
He lay flat on his back, his head turned towards her as she lay on her side with her back to him.
"Stop staring at me," she said softly.
"Sorry," he whispered.
She rolled onto her back, then over to face him. "Come here," she said.
He shuffled across the space between them and she shifted to lie with her head on his shoulder, and felt his left arm wrap around her.
"Go to sleep," she said.
"Yes ma'am." He heard her huff out a soft laugh and smiled in the darkness. He lay awake for a few more minutes, listening to her quiet breathing, then he allowed himself to sleep too.
* * * * * *
When Martha woke the next morning she found she was lying on her side with the Doctor spooned against her, his arms around her middle. She started to move and he immediately pulled back to give her space to turn over.
"Did you sleep?" she asked.
He nodded. "I've only been awake a few minutes," he assured her.
"How's your head?"
"A bit sore," he admitted.
"I'll take another look at it before you go," she said, "but it'll probably be OK, given how fast you heal."
She saw his expression fall and frowned. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," he answered as rolled away from her and sat up on the edge of the bed, his back to her.
"Liar," she said, sitting up. "I know that kicked-puppy look. It's the one you usually give me when I refuse to travel with you again." She looked at his stiff, unresponsive back. "What's wrong?"
He mumbled something indistinct, so she moved across the bed to kneel behind him, resting her chin on his shoulder.
"I didn't hear a word you just said."
"I just observed that you're not usually so quick to kick me out."
Martha wrapped her arms around his chest, her chin still resting on his shoulder. "I'm not kicking you out, you silly alien," she told him. "I just thought you'd want to be off, you don't normally hang around."
He settled his arms over the top of hers. "Would it be terribly inconvenient if I stayed for a bit?" he asked quietly.
"It wouldn't be at all inconvenient," she answered.
"You're welcome." She kissed his cheek, then moved away. "I'm going to grab a shower. Do you want go and put the kettle on for some tea?"
Half an hour later, they were both showered and dressed, and eating breakfast in Martha's sun-filled kitchen.
"What do you normally do on a weekend?" asked the Doctor as he finished his second cup of tea.
She shrugged as she finished her third slice of toast. "Not a vast amount, if there's no reason to be at work." She picked up her mug. "If the weather looks like being good, I occasionally go for a drive."
He glanced out of the window. "Fancy a drive and a picnic today then?" he asked. "I'll pay for the food, if you can provide a car?"
She quirked an eyebrow at him, a fond smile on her face.
"What's funny?" he asked.
"A picnic and a drive?" she teased. "Anyone would think we were dating."
"Do people still call it dating?" he asked.
"Well I do." She got up and began gathering up their breakfast things. "All right then, mister, if you want to go on a picnic, we will. Do you want to go and get some food, and I'll wash up and make a phone call?"
He gave her a sketchy salute before he left, and Martha rang her mum to let her know where she was going.
"You're going on a picnic?" asked Francine, sounding as surprised as her daughter.
"With the Doctor," Martha clarified.
"Well try to avoid aliens then, and give him my love."
"I will." She couldn't help smiling as she put the phone down. She had persuaded the Doctor to join her for a family dinner a couple of times, and Francine almost counted him as one of the family after all this time. As a result, she always passed on her love when she knew Martha was seeing the Time Lord.
* * * * * *
They got back from the picnic at 6.30 pm; the weather had been good all day, the food had been simple but very good, and Martha had managed to get somewhat tipsy on the wine the Doctor had bought so he'd driven them home.
She was curled in the front passenger seat, sound asleep, and he wondered if he could lift her out and carry her inside without waking her, but as he parked the car, she opened her eyes and stretched.
"Sorry about that," she said with a yawn. "Must have been all that fresh air and good food."
He grinned at her. "I believe the wine had rather more to do with sending you to sleep," he observed.
She stuck her tongue out at him, eliciting a peal of genuine laughter.
"Come on, Doctor Jones," he said, "time for you to go home and this old man to be on his way."
"Thanks for a lovely day," she said, as they got out of the car and headed towards her front door.
"It was my pleasure," he assured her, smiling at the memory of the two of them lying on the grass and talking as they hadn't done for a long time.
"Take care of yourself, and try not to come back needing my medical assistance in a hurry, eh?" She stood up on tiptoes and kissed his cheek.
"I'll do my best," he answered, giving her a quick hug. He watched her as she made her way up the steps to her front door, then let herself in, before turning away and heading for the TARDIS.
Martha's 30th birthday.
The Doctor wiped Martha's brow, then dropped the cloth into the bowl of ice water again; she'd been ill for two days now and he was worried because the fever still showed no signs of breaking.
He cursed himself, yet again, for bringing her to Opwinden; just as on her birthday trip to Borgerkrig, everything had gone wrong, only this time it was far worse. He couldn't bear to think of losing Martha after all this time, and after all they'd been through together.
He clasped her hot hands in his cool ones. Please Martha, don't die, he begged silently. I'm nowhere near ready to lose you yet.
He desperately wanted to take her back to the TARDIS, but the ship was down in the valley several miles away, and he wasn't confident he could get her there without her becoming even sicker; they'd left the ship there to hike through the mountains for a few days, staying at lodges along the way, and Martha had fallen ill within a few hours of them setting off. He'd had to dump their packs and carry her to the lodge, then go back for their things after he'd got her into bed and she'd fallen unconscious. Since then she'd been feverish and delirious, and he'd spent the past two days struggling to get her temperature back down.
He felt his eyes closing and jerked his head back up, then carefully laid Martha's hands back on the bed, and got up. He stretched, feeling his muscles creak, then paced up and down the bedroom, trying to refresh himself.
"Tea," he said softly. "That's what we need." He bent over his companion, brushing her sweaty hair from her brow. "I'll be back shortly," he told her.
He went through into the main room of the lodge and opened the door to breathe in lungfuls of the fresh air outside, then he made his way to the small kitchen to brew up some more tea. As he was waiting for the kettle to boil, he ferreted in his pack and pulled out some of the rations they'd brought along; he was too worried to be very hungry, but he also knew he needed to stay fit and well if he was going to look after Martha.
A few minutes later he returned to the bedroom and set down the tray he carried. He eased his left arm under Martha's shoulders and lifted her head up, then he picked up the mug and blew on the tea a few times before bringing the mug to her mouth.
"Here you go. Peppermint and elder flower tea. You can curse me for its taste when you're better," he told her as he carefully tipped a few drops onto her lips. He watched as her tongue lapped at the liquid, and sighed with relief when she opened her mouth a little, allowing him to get more of the tea inside her.
Once she'd swallowed half a mugful, he put it aside again and lowered her carefully back down onto the bed.
"If you don't wake up soon, I'll have eaten all that raisin and banana loaf you like so much," he told her as he picked up a plate from the tray, "and just imagine how annoyed you'll be then." He gave a weak laugh. "You'll give me such a scolding, I know, and I can't wait for it."
He rubbed his free hand across his moist eyes, then picked up the thick slice of fruit loaf from his plate. He drank his tea, then placed his hand on Martha's brow. It didn't feel quite as hot as it had earlier and he hoped that was a good sign.
* * * * * *
Three hours later, the Doctor was dozing at Martha's bedside when a croaky voice spoke out of the darkness.
"Martha?" He reached out and snapped on the bedside light, which was angled away from her, and found his companion looking blearily at him.
"Thank Rassilon you're awake!" he exclaimed. "How are you feeling?"
"Wrung out," she croaked.
He nodded. "I'm not surprised. You've had a high fever for the last two and a half days."
She frowned, looking confused. "Where are we?"
"Opwinden," he answered, wondering if she remembered him picking her up three days ago for her birthday trip.
She scowled. "I don't remember," she said, her tone fretful.
"Don't force it," he said. "It will come back to you in time." He reached out and took her hands in his, stroking his thumbs over her knuckles.
"I'm very glad you're awake again, Martha Jones," he told her softly. "You gave me quite a scare."
Martha looked up into his dark eyes and saw immense relief there. "I'm sorry," she said contritely.
"It's OK. I was just terrified at the thought of losing you."
"Oh." She hadn't realised she'd been that ill. She shifted in the bed, then realised that she was naked beneath the thin sheet. Her eyes flew to meet the Doctor's and he saw she was embarrassed.
"I'm sorry. I had to try to get you as cool as possible."
She saw he looked embarrassed too. "It's OK," she said. "I just didn't realise at first."
"Now you're awake, do you want to have a bath, and I can change the bedding for you?"
They quickly discovered that Martha's fever had left her too weak to stand up, let alone walk, so the Doctor carried her, wrapped in a sheet, through to the bathroom; he ran the water for her, being careful to make sure the temperature was neither too hot nor too cold, then helped her into the bath. He was careful not to look too obviously at her since he didn't want to embarrass her, but he did note that she'd lost quite a bit of weight in the last three days.
"I can see I shall need to feed you up again before I take you back home, or your mother will want my guts for garters," he observed.
"She won't get them," Martha assured him.
He gave her a gentle smile. "Let me go and sort out the bed. I'll be back shortly."
She nodded and watched him go out, then turned her attention to washing herself.
About ten minutes later he knocked on the door. "How are you doing?" he called.
"You'd better come in," she answered.
He stepped into the bathroom and found her looking slightly brighter. "Feeling better?" he asked.
"Cleaner, certainly," she said. "But I can't get out of the bath on my own."
He nodded. "I'm not surprised. You've not eaten for three days, you've had no exercise, and you've lost weight. I'm afraid you're going to have to resign yourself to a period of convalescence, rather than a couple of weeks of hiking."
She shrugged and let him lift her out of the bath; he set her down on her feet, then picked up a towel, knelt down and began to rub her dry. Martha couldn't help being reminded of when she was small and her mum used to do this; she focused on that thought as a way of stopping herself from being too embarrassed. It was silly, she knew, after all the times that she and the Doctor had taken care of each other over the years, and she put her embarrassment down to having fallen so ill so suddenly.
"OK?" he asked, his soft voice pulling her out of her reverie.
"Yeah." She let him help her into her pyjamas, then he picked her up and carried her back to the bedroom and lowered her into the freshly made bed.
"Now then, I expect you're hungry?" he asked as soon as she was settled. "Think you could manage some soup?"
"Back in a few minutes, then." He gave her a bright smile, then hurried out.
* * * * * *
After Martha had eaten she and the Doctor both slept, sharing the bed as they had so often in the past for convenience or comfort. It was the first proper sleep either one of them had enjoyed since they'd arrived on Opwinden, and the Doctor was only slightly surprised to find he slept deeply for several hours. When he woke, Martha was curled against his body, her head tucked under his chin, and he felt comforted by the familiar weight of her body resting against his and the sound of her breathing.
He wondered if she would want to stop taking birthday trips with him; they never seemed to turn out as he intended, yet whenever they celebrated her birthday on Earth, things seemed to go fine. He couldn't help wondering if that was a hint from the Universe.
Martha stirred and he loosened his arms, waiting to see if she was waking up. A few moments later she moved, then opened her eyes.
"Morning. How are you feeling?"
She rubbed a hand over her face. "Rather more human this morning," she answered.
"Good." He gently pushed a loose strand of her hair off her face.
"What time is it?"
"About 6 am. Do you want some tea?"
"Please." She watched as he unfolded his lanky form and climbed out of the bed to go and make it. She realised that some time ago she'd lost count of the number of times they had shared a bed, literally sleeping together; it had become so normal to them both that they didn't even bother to discuss it any more.
The Doctor came back carrying two mugs of tea which he set down whilst he rearranged her pillows so she was sitting up; he passed her a mug, then settled onto the bed beside her with his own.
"Can I ask you something?"
He quirked an eyebrow at her. "You don't normally ask my permission to ask questions," he observed. "What do you want to know?"
"Why haven't you had a long term companion since Donna? From what I can tell, you seem to pick someone up, take them on a handful of trips, and then return them home."
He looked surprised by the question; whilst she always asked him if he was on his own when they saw each other, this was the first time she had directly asked him about it.
"I don't know," he said. "I think after what happened to you and Donna, I just don't want to put anyone else through that sort of thing. It seems safer somehow."
"Yet you keep inviting me to travel with you again," Martha observed.
He shrugged. "You know what you'd be letting yourself in for," he said, "and you're more than equal to coping with it."
"So while we're asking personal questions, why are you still single?"
"Excuse me?" She looked quite astounded at the question.
"Why are you still single? As far as I can tell, you've not seriously dated anyone since you and Tom split up." He gave her an appraising look. "And that's practically criminal."
"Doctor, what are you saying?"
"I'm saying that a gorgeous young woman like you, Martha Jones, should be in a loving relationship, or at the very least, dating on a serious basis." He grinned at her, clearly amused by her shocked reaction.
"Not that it's any of your business," she said, "but after I split up with Tom, I decided to concentrate on my career."
"I thought friends talked about such things," he said softly. "Or am I not that kind of friend?"
She shrugged. "No, it's just that we've never discussed it before." She gave him a shrewd look. "You didn't think I'd been pining for you, did you?"
The Doctor snorted. "If you'd been pining after me, you'd have agreed to come with me on one of the fifteen occasions that I've asked you in the last six years."
He took the empty mug from her and put it aside, before sliding his arm around her shoulders. "Between you and Donna, I've no ego left on that score."
She frowned. "I never said you weren't desirable."
"No, Donna did that. But you've made it quite clear that your life on Earth is more important to you than travelling with me."
"So why do you keep inviting me?"
"Because you might change your mind one day," he answered, as if it was obvious. "And you, Martha Jones, taught me a long time ago to live in hope."
"Me?" She gave him a puzzled look.
He nodded. "You were humanity's hope, and mine, for a whole year," he said. "Therefore, where you're concerned, I always live in hope."
"You're a strange one," she said softly.
"But would you have me any other way?"
"No, I don't believe I would." She snuggled against him and he grinned, unseen.
* * * * * *
A week later, Martha followed the Doctor into the TARDIS and he programmed the coordinates to take her home. She'd made a full recovery from her fever and had finally declared herself fit enough to risk being seen by her mother, so they'd hiked back down the mountain to where the TARDIS was patiently waiting for them.
"Ready?" he asked, his hand hovering over the handbrake.
"Ready." She gave him a grin as he took the handbrake off and the ship jerked into life.