Nor any drop to drink

by Lady Mercury [Reviews - 4]

  • All Ages
  • None
  • Angst, Character Study, General, Hurt/Comfort, Introspection, Standalone

He dreams he’s standing in a lake, cold even in summer. Water up to his hips. Goosebumps under his trousers. Just standing.

The kettle tips in his hand and he doesn’t even notice until Martha yelps and rushes to take it from him. He looks down to see his hand already an angry, blistering pink, bathed in the steam that rises from the burner. It’s more than a week before he can work the console properly again.

He dreams he’s underwater, lying on the stones at the bottom of a river. The trees and sky above look wavy through the streaming water. He wakes up curled under the console, eyes fixed unsteadily on the grating of the floor. His mouth is dry.

He mislays his screwdriver and spends the better part of a day trying to find it. When he finally discovers it on Martha’s dressing table, he has no idea how it got there.

He’s soaked, clothes and all, and shivering uncontrollably. He’s been fished up and dragged to dry land, where he crouches on hands and knees. Someone is striking him on the back, between the shoulder blades where it hurts. He chokes and splutters, retching up saltwater that stings in his nose and his lungs. Wakes up. Martha is there, pounding on his back, shouting Doctor, wake up! Breathe! With that first gasp, he can feel his muscles spasm. When she brings a glass of water and sets it on his nightstand, he can’t bring himself to drink it.

How many hundreds of years has he traveled in this ship and he’s never been so lost. The corridors he’s followed more times than he can count are suddenly empty, devoid of meaning. There’s no telling where any door will lead, and the TARDIS isn’t saying. It takes him a full twenty minutes to find the kitchen, where the sink’s been left running. He steps into a puddle several centimeters deep, and his trainers are filled before he realizes what he’s done. He yanks them off, socks too, and flings them into the water. Turns out the door and slams it behind him.

She dreams she meets him at the seaside. She’s in a rowboat and he won’t come aboard, rather keep floundering in the undertow of his coat.

The door seems off, smells different. Instinctively, he licks it. Spends the next hour pulling splinters from his tongue. Never finds out what was wrong.

He told Martha he had business to take care of. Told her to go off and see the sights. Finished early, and now he’s huddling outside the TARDIS in one of those Cardiff downpours. Miserable, drenched. He can’t think how he could have lost his key, and the old girl isn’t any more ready to forgive him than he is to forgive himself. He can make a duplicate, but that’s not the point. Martha shows up oblivious and late, gushing on about shopping or whatever tourist trap she’s been in. She catches his eye and stops mid-sentence. He blinks the rain out of his eyes and the moment is gone.

Martha makes him tea. An hour later, she finds it spilled across the control room floor.

She finds him hunched on the floor next to the console. Lays a hand at the base of his neck and sinks to kneel beside him. Pulls him in toward her.

“How many years ago today?” she whispers along the crown of his head.

“I didn’t–”

“I know.”

“All of them–”

He presses in to the curve of her neck. He doesn’t cry at first, only heaves great dry sobs against her collarbone, gulping in air like a man nearly drowned. When the tears start to slick his face, Martha cards a hand through his hair reassuringly.

He knows she loves him. Realizes then that she’s going to leave, soon. Holds on to her collar and pulls himself back to here, to now.

Takes his first deep breath in weeks.