She remembers the feel of his jacket most of all.
Sitting beside him on a couch in the office, trying to work on some maths puzzles instead of sharing her feelings like the usual counselor wanted her to, the arm of his jacket kept brushing against her own bare arm. It was quite scratchy and, she didn't want to be rude, but she didn't like the feel of it very much. Then again, this new counselor was just strange, anyway — all wild hair, tweed, and a bowtie — so, she wasn't so sure she even liked him either at that point.
Part of her missed her usual counselor, Dr. Ladd, and wondered why he wasn't there that week, why she had this stranger sitting next to her instead, asking her about her life, and her family, instead of just letting her (mostly) fob him off with her usual, curt non-answers, so she could focus on her puzzles instead.
(Martha doesn't like talking about her life, really, about the kids that tease her for being the class swot. And she doesn't like talking about her family, either, with her older sister Tish getting all the attention from boys — ones she's started to notice, though she'd never admit it to anyone — or her young brother Leo just running around the house like a hellion all the time. And she certainly doesn't like to talk about how her mother always drives her incessantly to want to succeed in everything and be perfect, or how her dad just likes to take her out to the ice cream shop now and again or buys her some new record, but never really gives her much in the way of actual affection.
But Dr. Ladd never pushes her. And she never gives. Much. It's like a game, a puzzle. Fun, in a way. And, really, she's always liked puzzles.
Plus, she already knows how embarrassing it is for her family to have her in therapy in the first place — 'just not something you do' -- and if it wasn't for her hippie Aunt Kath, who lives in New York, finally getting her Mum to begrudgingly agree to it, she wouldn't even be there anyway.
So it's not as if she's going to let herself open up easily, give them all that pleasure, she often thinks to herself with a triumphant half-smile.)
"Almost got it, but really that should be an 85/62. I can see why you'd think 82/62, it's a common mistake, but trust me on this," he said, reaching over to tap on her booklet at the calculations she's just made, breaking the silence between them.
"What are you, a maths teacher?" she asked, trying not to sound annoyed (even if she sort of liked it) by his interruption, and still not looking at him.
"No, not really, not anymore, even though I have done. Well, not on Earth, exactly. It was an Earth colony, to be precise, but there was a war and times were desperate, and, well, it's not important…do you know what I like?"
"What?" she asked, now daring to look at him, though bemused by his odd ramble.
"Yeah, you want to go get some? My treat," he asked, nudging her arm conspiratorially.
"Why not?" he scoffed, "I'm sure we can get some somewhere around here. If not, I've got transport."
"Really, I can't."
"Why?" he asked, looking expectantly at her, eyes wide, almost like a child. He reminded her of Leo a bit in that moment, especially when he was begging their Dad for sweets.
"My mum. She's just out there sat in the lobby, remember? It's not like she's going to let you drag me off somewhere. That's dangerous, going off with strangers."
"Good, good. You’re completely right. But not. I'm not a stranger. I'm…the…your doctor."
"Doesn't matter. Still a stranger."
"Oh," he replied, sounding deflated, picking at a loose thread on his sleeve.
She frowned, the idea of ice cream had actually sounded nice, to be honest, even if it reminded her of —
"My Dad always likes to take me to get ice cream," she confessed quietly, though just as the words came out, she flexed her fists in aggravation at giving him such personal information.
"Because you're such a good girl?"
"I don't know," she replied with a shrug.
"Well, I think you're absolutely brilliant."
"You've only just met me."
"Perhaps, but you're really good at maths. I can see that. What do you want to be when you grow up, Ms. Jones?"
She bit her lip. "A doctor. It's silly, but — "
"No, not silly at all. You're going to be an amazing doctor and save the world one day. Or many days, really. I just know it."
"Save the world. Right."
"You will and no matter what you think of yourself, now or later, no matter if you think you're not being appreciated by someone or seen, you are. Trust me. You're going to make a big impact on people's lives and hearts, Martha, I promise you."
"So, you're psychic now?"
"No, I just have a good idea of what's going to happen in the future. Call it a talent."
"So…are bowties going to be popular in the future? Because I don't think they are now, mate," she asked with a cheeky smile. She didn't know why, but within minutes, this doctor had put her at ease enough to banter with him a bit.
"Hey, bowties are cool," he corrected her, with a big smile, straightening the tie and preening.
+ + +
It's the jacket that brings the flood of memories back.
Until now, she'd forgotten that strange day at the therapist's office, herself all thirteen and awkward, and him so reassuring, going on about how brilliant she was and how brilliant she was going to be. She'd told him all about her life that day, all the truths that had been locked inside spilling out without her control.
But it didn't bother her then, not with him, and when he kissed her forehead sweetly (which was probably quite inappropriate in hindsight, even if it didn't feel naughty at the time) at the end of their session and wished her all the best, her heart raced and her cheeks blushed at the mere thought of him for days afterward.
She'd never seen him again (or so she'd thought, it seemed) and honestly just eventually forgot about her daydreams of him when other pressing things, such as spots and tests and boys, became more prominent in her teenaged thoughts.
But he's here now, back again — a different/the same man.
She's still reeling a bit -- they both are — having almost just died, all alone on an alien ship, stuck in a bad situation due to a busted UNIT-reclaimed alien transporter device, but out of nowhere, he was there for her and saved her. Just like that, just like always.
She'd almost not even recognized him at first, of course, with his new face and body, but when she saw the familiar glimmer in his eyes as he'd offered her his hand to run with him, just like he always used to in pinstripes and trainers, she knew who he was immediately — her Doctor.
The escape from the ship that followed had been a challenge, hours long and filled with several harrowing obstacles, and it left the two of them visibly shaken and weary in the end from the near-death (for her, at least) of it. But now, finally safe in his familiar-yet-unfamiliar TARDIS, floating somewhere out in the vortex, they take the time to simply stand just inside the doorway as he just holds her to him, quietly letting their breathing finally begin to slow and their hearts (his two beating hard against her chest, with a fierce thump-thump) stop racing.
The material of the jacket now scratches a bit at her face, but she lets the memory of it and her past (both of them) with him wash over her, as she rubs her cheek against it this time, her face buried in the safe cocoon of his embrace. It's so nice and perfect, and so much better than all the daydreams of her youth, back when she tried in vain to recreate that texture in her head.
And then she fully realizes, as things finally come into focus again, that he's still holding her to him, holding her longer than he ever has before, tighter even —
And it's heaven to her.
"I remember this jacket, now. That day at my therapist's office, when I was just thirteen," she observes, her words mostly muffled by its material.
She's stroking his back now, just to feel it more against her skin and she really can't remember now why she didn't like it very much at first before. She then blushes when she remembers how often she used to dream about it.
"We never did get that ice cream," he replies simply, and really, he should, by rights, be letting go of her by now (his other self always would), but he doesn't, and so she doesn't.
Part of her wants to see who will let go first. It's like a game, a puzzle.
"Mum was there, remember?"
"Oh yes, Francine. Perhaps she might've come along?" he asks, but then laughs, laughs with his whole body, it's movement rumbling against her and she is so very surprised, because she's never seen him laugh like that (and, really, never thought he could). "Who am I kidding? That would've never worked."
She wants to ask him why he was there back then (or even why he's here now), why he had made a special trip to visit her at such a tender age when he'd always warned her about the dangers of crossing timelines. She wants to ask if the Martha that she is now is different than the Martha-she-might-have-been without that visit that day or if he'd even made a difference at all.
She wants to thank him for helping her confidence, even if it feels silly, and how he made her feel so brilliant with his words that day, even if it dissipated a bit with the high emotion of her late teens and the emotional struggles of always being the mediator of her family, especially when things began to fall apart between her parents.
And, honestly, she wants to kiss him, more than she ever has before, and it frightens her a bit, even if it feels right somehow. And part of her wonders, with the way he is holding her against him so long, if he might too.
She doesn't do any of that though, but instead just relaxes in his embrace, memorizing how that jacket feels against her skin, remembering how the memories of the feel of it comforted her in nightmares when she was still young and how it comforts her even now, as she finally calms down from the danger they've just evaded. It feels daring, but she lets herself deeply breathe in his scent as well, a scent she is sure must hold time and space and so very many years of experiences, along with the ashes of civilizations lost and the stains of happy tears from civilizations saved.
It might be the closest she'll ever be to him and she doesn't want to let the opportunity pass.
He finally pulls away, but he seems almost reluctant, his arms still loose around her, hands linked together at the small of her back. He looks a bit younger than his old self, now that's she getting a proper look at him, but as she studies his new features, she sees his eyes still look so very ancient and unfathomable.
She smiles to herself when she thinks of how he's been in her life even longer than she'd originally thought, guiding her, molding her. And maybe he'll tell her why sometime, but right now, it doesn't feel important enough to her to know.
She then notices that he's smiling, too, reflecting hers, and something in her belly drops at the sheer look of affection he's giving her.
"So…that ice cream…still wanna go?" he asks, his words almost nervous, as if they mean something more. And maybe they do. She's no longer sure.
"Sounds like a plan," she replies, reaching up to straighten his now-askew bowtie.
Her fingers linger there, not wanting to stop touching him for some reason, worried a bit that if she does, he might just disappear again. "What?" he whispers, cocking his head in confusion as he looks down at her hands.
"Bowties are cool," she replies with a smile, repeating his words from her childhood, and then slips her hands down to reach around for his hand. Her fingers interlace with his, palm to palm, and while it feels different than the touch of her last incarnation, it feels good. "Now, let's get some ice cream."