Martha bolted out the shop’s back door and into the alley as soon as she heard the familiar wheeze and groan, the cries of her boss echoing against the brick walls. She followed the maze of back passages until she was standing before it, her eyes shining with thoughts of home and space. She paused before the door, reaching out a hand to touch it, to make sure that it was, after all these weeks of waiting, solid and real. The Doctor wasn’t there, and she really ought to get him first, but she couldn’t help herself, and she had her key, and one peek wouldn’t hurt…
Four blocks away he was tinkering. The detector was still not working, although it wouldn’t matter if it had been, not right now; she sensed him here, and she was hiding from him. It wasn’t yet time.
Martha stepped through the door and was immediately struck by how altered it was, how cold. The glow of the column was a sickening green against the harsh and sterile fittings, and she was flooded with a sense of annihilation. She didn’t understand what the Angels had done, exactly, to the TARDIS–especially since he’d promised her they wouldn’t be able to get through her doors–but she knew that whatever it was, it was bad. She ran her hands along the console, anchoring herself for the other changes she feared she’d find. How would the Doctor react?
A groan from a nearby corridor sent her running, and she found a man dressed in shredded clothing that anyone else would mistake for costume, but Martha thought of as time’s robes. For a fleeting moment, she hoped she was looking into the face of another Time Lord, but then she touched the gash on his cheek and saw a flash of burnt orange sky, a showering of silver leaves, cataclysm and darkness, and she knew that this was and was not the Doctor.
He coughed and sputtered, a small bit of a golden shimmer escaping from his lips before his eyes snapped open. He grabbed the hand at his cheek, roughly pulling it away, muttering, “you brought me to these apes?” before dropping her hand as he passed out on the floor.
Martha ran in the direction of the med bay and found herself in a futuristic field hospital–the space she remembered as the size of an exam room was now vast, with rows of empty beds waiting for wounded warriors who’d never arrived. She swallowed the cry in her throat and grabbed a wheelchair, stethoscope, and first aid kit before leaving the cavernous room.
He lay unconscious in the corridor. She checked his hearts–both beating–then surveyed the damage to his body. This body was so different from the one she knew; he hadn’t told her much, if anything, but after the experience with the Chameleon Arch, she’d thought about what it meant for a species to be able to rewrite its DNA, to so alter its genetic structure that it could literally become another species altogether. She hadn’t asked him, but surmised from the sight before her eyes that this change was somehow related.
There was a gash on his cheek and other cuts which peeked through the shredded bits of material on the torn clothing. They weren’t quite bleeding–it was as though they were suspended, trapped in that moment of surprise and shock when the body isn’t quite certain whether to laugh for its survival or weep for the coming pain. His skin was, as ever, colder to the touch than normal, and though he was not responsive, he was breathing. Even as he slept, she sensed a cold and impenetrable barrier surrounding him.
She couldn’t leave him lying on the floor. Satisfied–or rather desperately hoping, given she had no real way of examining him or even knowing what she’d need to watch for if she did–that he had no other unseen injuries (save those she knew had shredded his spirit), Martha slowly dragged him into the chair, then wheeled him down the corridor to the med bay. She was surprised to find it again changed, still not quite the room she remembered, but one better suited for a single convalescent. She nodded her thanks to the ship and felt what she could only perceive as a slight and subtle softening of the cold and hard edges as she lowered the bed in the room, then helped the man into it. Martha worked quickly, cutting and ripping and tearing away the clothing on his body. Seeing no damage save the cuts which would not heal, she turned to get a basin of water and a towel.
He was on her before she could finish her preparations, his right arm nearly crushing her throat as his left hand held her arms behind her back.
“Where have you taken me? What do you intend to do with me? I won’t be your lab rat, no, not after everything I’ve–“
“Doctor–Please!” Martha choked out her cry. The terror in her voice snapped something inside him, and he slightly relaxed his hold on her. “It’s me, Martha. I’m here to take care of you.”
“You lie.” His voice was guttural and chilling in her ear.
“No. Listen to me; I’m your friend. You’re in the TARDIS. You’re home.” Martha’s voice grew calmer as she felt the tension in his body slowly ease, whether from her words or the efforts of his ship she didn’t know. He let go of her arms and released her throat; when she turned to face him, she saw him, naked, the cuts slowly beginning to disappear.
“Home?” His whisper was ragged, and Martha worried she’d misspoken, said the one word that might trigger some other, more awful response than the one she’d just experienced. She guided his now-pliable body to the bed, helping to settle him beneath the sheets. He was catatonic, his eyes open but not seeing. The cuts were nearly gone now, and Martha retrieved the towel, wiped up the spilt water, refilled the basin, and returned to the task she’d set for herself. She wiped his hands, gently cleaning the dirt and grime from his fingers, then his feet, which she massaged before turning her attention to his arms, legs, torso, and face. When she’d finished this small and gentle bathing, she sat on the bed next to him and held his hand, waiting for some sign of responsiveness.
She heard her voice before she realized she’d spoken. “It’s OK. I’ve got you.”
Moments later she felt a gentle squeeze on her hand. His eyelids closed, and he grasped her hand tightly as a slow stream of tears washed his cheeks.
Martha didn’t know how long she sat there with him, watching him shifting into and out of consciousness, wiping away the cold sweat that appeared on his brow when what she could only imagine was a nightmare overtook him. When he finally awoke, his mood was sullen and ice. He pulled the sheet from his body, lowered himself to the floor, and strode from the room without glancing back at her. Stunned, Martha began to clean up the mess in the med bay, wondering what she should do next.
“You’re still here? Can’t get rid of you lot; like bloody warts you are.” He sneered, then turned to leave the room, his body entombed in black and leather. “Get out and don’t come back.”
She took a deep breath before she exited the room. She walked past him, past the console, never looking back. As she passed the threshold, she heard the graveled whisper of his voice. Martha.
She hesitated, then closed the door. There was a wheeze and a groan. She felt the wind at her back and he was gone. She could hear her boss yelling through the alleyway. She went back to work.
When she walked into the flat that night, weary and confused and more thoughtful than normal, more broody than even he could be, she did not expect the lavish meal and the attention she received, but she did not question or fight. She neither objected nor resisted when he ran her bath, then slowly undressed her, kissing bits of skin as he exposed them. He helped her into the bathtub before removing his own clothing to join her, and she relaxed into him as he gently washed and caressed her body. Once he’d dried her skin and carried her to the bed, he kissed and stroked and warmed her, murmuring his thanks for her now-remembered gift. He moved above and within her, mourning what he’d lost, loving what he’d gained. Spent, they lay together, hands clasped, eyes fixed on the ceiling’s frosted glass light fixture.
They never speak of it again, the Doctor because it’s easier to forget, and Martha because it’s impossible to remember, his slender fingers having first probed, then removed, the memories of the day as she slept. He kissed her skin as he dressed her in the pajamas, then tucked her into bed. “Can we go home soon?” she mumbled from her sleep, and he brushed her hair from her cheek and whispered “as soon as I can get us there.” He put on his own pajamas before returning to the kitchen.
In the morning she found him asleep at the table, the device now complete. She made tea, then gently ruffled his hair to wake him. She started as his hand seized her wrist, then calmed as he relaxed when he realized who was touching him and why. She brought him the tea and they sat in companionable silence as they watched the sun rise over London, just as they’d done so many mornings before.