Martha breathed a sigh of contentment. For the first time in what seemed like ages, there was a chance to relax on the TARDIS. No pressing emergencies, no exciting historical phenomena, just Martha, the comfiest chair in the TARDIS library, and the chance at long last to read the seventh Harry Potter. With a shiver of anticipation, she cracked open the cover and flipped to the first page. At that moment, she heard a loud cry from somewhere on the other side of the couch, and a split second later, a book came flying through the air. She felt the rush of air as it whooshed past her nose before it hit the shelf behind her with a resounding smack, then clunked heavily to the floor.
Martha gave a resigned sigh and shut her book. “Doctor? Are you alright?” she called. His cry hadn’t been one of pain. Frustration, anger maybe, but she didn’t think he was hurt. Although what the book had done to him, she had no idea.
“No, Martha, I am not,” he snapped. “And I’m not having it.” At that moment he appeared from wherever he’d been sitting. He was flustered, his hair was in more of a mess than usual, and he didn’t pause as he stalked right past her to the door. “I’m just not having it!” And with that, he was gone.
Quickly Martha put down her book and got to her feet. Tempting as the Deathly Hallows were, she knew this was one of those times that she needed to follow him. She did pause to pick up the book he had thrown, hoping for some sort of clue as to what had made him so upset. It had closed when it hit the floor, however, so all she could tell was that it was a book about the history of Scotland. That didn’t help at all, (and how that qualified as light reading, she would never know) so she put it back down and hurried after him.
As she had suspected, she found him in the control room, pushing buttons and twisting dials. “Doctor?” she asked cautiously. “Is something wrong?”
He gave a short, humourless laugh. “Oh yes. And I’m tired of it.” He paused, and Martha could have sworn she saw his shoulders sag a bit. “I’m so tired of it,” he repeated, a bit softer. The fire came back to his eyes, and he shook his head. “I thought he was safe, Martha. I was promised that he would be alright! But he’s not. I saw it, in there,” he pointed accusingly behind him towards the library. “List of the dead,” he said coldly. “They sent him back to die.” The suppressed fury with which he spat out those last words frightened Martha, and made her realize why some people called him the Oncoming Storm.
He slammed down the final lever with far greater force than was necessary, and the TARDIS lurched violently as it changed course. He somehow kept his feet, but Martha was thrown to the floor, just catching the railing in time to keep from flying across the room. The TARDIS leveled back out, and without looking away from the controls, the Doctor extended a hand to help her up. “Sorry,” he said absently. His eyes remained focused on the console.
“What are you going to do?” she asked him.
“Like I said,” he replied firmly. “I’m not having it.”
“Alright.” That didn’t really answer her question, but this didn’t seem the time to press it. She shrugged–she would find out soon enough anyway. “Where are we going?”
Martha stepped out of the TARDIS onto a green, grassy hill and sighed. A tiny little part of her had been naïve enough to hope he had just meant the field, the memorial maybe, and not the actual battle. The rest of her knew she should have expected no less. The book about the history of Scotland should have tipped her off, she supposed. Because that was exactly where they were–Scotland, 1746, at the Battle of Culloden.
Despite all her medical training, her stomach lurched at the sight of the countless bodies strewn across the landscape. Clansmen and Redcoats littered the grass, weapons, flags and abandoned cannons interspersed among them. The fighting seemed to have ended, or at least here it had. She thought she could hear shouting and the irregular cadence of gunfire drifting in on the wind from somewhere over the next hill. She closed her eyes and turned back to the TARDIS just as the Doctor stepped out. He slung a leather bag over his shoulder as he shut the doors behind him. Looking out over the field of bodies, he hesitated for a long moment, then seemed to make up his mind, turning away from them towards the trees behind him. “Best we start there,” he muttered softly. He put a comforting arm around Martha’s shoulders and gave her a gentle squeeze. “It’ll be alright,” he assured her. “Come on.”
They slowed their pace as they approached the trees, and Martha saw what the Doctor had been aiming for. How he had seen it from back at the TARDIS was beyond her, but there was a small group of Clansmen hidden in the brush. “Best if you don’t speak,” he whispered to her. “This is quite possibly the worst time in the world to sound English.” Martha looked at the men in the wood. What little she could see of them was dirty, bloody and obviously fresh out of combat. She nodded quickly.
The Doctor moved forward again, and suddenly the Clansmen were on their feet, pointing an impressive array of swords, dirks and revolvers at the two of them. They quickly raised their hands. “Don’t worry–it’s okay,” the Doctor assured them. “I’m no’ here t’ hurt anybody.” Martha barely managed to keep from raising her eyes at his perfect Scottish brogue. Always full of surprises, he was.
The men lowered their weapons a little, but still studied them with suspicion. “Who are ye, then?” demanded their leader, an older man with grey hair and only one eye. Martha found herself hoping that it hadn’t been just this morning that he’d had two.
“John Fraser,” the Doctor replied steadily. It would seem ‘Smith’ hadn’t been the name to use in this case, but Martha was surprised when the men lowered their weapons completely.
“Well, tha’s alright, then,” the man said. “But what are ye doin’ all the way over here, man? Fraser’s regiment was right round on the eastern side.”
“The two of us had some trouble wi’ the Redcoats,” the Doctor started. “I’ve no’ seen the Frasers for hours.”
The men all nodded in understanding, and before he could say more, the leader clapped him on the shoulder. “I don’t know where they are now either, but you’re welcome to kip up wi’ us for the night, lad. Looks to be a long night, and we could always use an extra pair of eyes.”
“You’re very kind,” the Doctor said, raising his hands in polite protest. “But we really cannae stay. Y’ see, I was hoping you could help me find someone–a young lad named James McCrimmon. He’s a piper, would have been wi’ the McLarens.”
The leader shook his head, but turned back to his men with a questioning eyebrow, inviting them to help. A young man with his arm in a makeshift sling timidly raised his good hand. “Pardon me sir,” he said. “I don’t know any McCrimmons, but the clan McLaren had set up camp just that side.” He pointed to the north past another woody patch. “Least tha’s where they were last night.”
The Doctor smiled warmly and thanked the young man, then grabbed Martha’s hand and hauled her off in the direction they’d been shown. “So,” she said. “You can do a Scottish accent?”
“Oh, aye, Martha,” he said with a wink. Then his normal voice returned, along with his solemn face. “And I promise to tell you all about it later, but right now we need to hurry. Come on!” With that he doubled his speed, and it was all Martha could do to keep up with him, never mind asking questions.
When they reached what remained of the McLaren’s camp, he gave the same name, asked the same questions. The McLarens were a large group–Martha’s heart sank to learn that they had started the day with even greater numbers–and it took them a long time to find anyone who knew anything about the piper. Martha wondered, not for the first time, who this James McCrimmon was, and why he was so important to the Doctor. Any time she started to ask though, the Doctor would shush her with a warning glance at the surrounding Scotsmen. It was a pity the TARDIS didn’t change your accent when it was translating language for you.
They finally met a man who knew James McCrimmon, but he didn’t know where he was. Martha could see the struggle in the Doctor’s face as he tried to quell his frustration. They were so close! The man was in no condition to walk, but he sent them in the direction of some others who might be able to help. Martha itched to do something for the man’s leg, but the Doctor was already moving away. She caught up with him in time to catch the end of the conversation–no luck there either. They continued on, finally meeting people who knew him, but no one seemed to have seen the piper since that morning. She caught the Doctor throwing a nervous glance back behind them, in the direction of the field of the dead. Martha said a silent prayer, asking that wherever this boy was, that he wouldn’t be out there.
It was starting to get dark, and it looked like they were running out of people to ask. The Doctor sat down on a bench and sighed. Martha sat down beside him, catching for a fleeting instant a look of haunted defeat in his eyes. That scared her more than anything she’d ever seen him do. She reached up and put a hand on his shoulder.
“We’re running out of time, Martha,” he sighed.
“I don’t suppose,” she started softly. “The book said anything about how he died? That might give us a place to look.”
The Doctor shook his head. “No,” he murmured. “And that’s just it. He could be caught and executed by the Redcoats at the end, which would still give us some time, or he could be out there, dying right now.” He gestured in disgust back towards the field.
Martha desperately wanted to comfort him, to say the right words as he’d often said them to her, but none came. Just then, a young boy, dirty, bandaged, and smelling strongly of horses, appeared out of the shadows. He coughed softly to get their attention. “Pardon me sir. But they tell me you’re looking for Jamie McCrimmon?”
The Doctor’s eyes lit up, and he turned to face the boy eagerly. “Aye lad, tha’s right. Have ye seen him?”
The boy nodded hesitantly. “Aye sir. We…well, it was in the fightin’. In the thick of it, he told me t’ get away, tha’ he’d come along behind me. But he didn’t. There were so many Redcoats, but he fought them all, so as I could get away.” The boy sniffed, and tears began to well in his eyes. “It was there, sir,” he continued shakily, pointing at one of the nearby hills. “Tha’ hill wi’ the cannon on it. Oh sir, I do hope ye find him. If he were to die because o’ me…” he sniffed again, and the Doctor patted him gently on the shoulder.
“I’ll find him lad, don’t you worry,” he assured the boy. “Thank you. Thank you so much.”
The Doctor got to his feet, and as he was turning away, the boy added, “Ye’d best be quick sir. The Laird said we’ll be going soon, before the English can come back looking for us.”
The Doctor nodded his thanks, then sped off into the quickly fading sunset. Martha gave one last smile of gratitude to the boy, then hurried off after the Doctor. She caught up with him on the hill, wandering purposefully among the bodies. She was about to ask him what the piper looked like, so she could help with the search, but the desperation in his eyes made her forget how to speak. “Come on, come on!” she heard him whisper. “Not when I’m this close…please…” She trailed along silently behind him, ready to offer comfort, and hoping against hope that she wouldn’t need to.
Suddenly, the Doctor stiffened, then darted forward. “Jamie!” he exclaimed under his breath. He rushed to kneel beside one of the bodies, and Martha ran up behind him. He had his head down on the boy’s chest, listening for a heartbeat. The boy was covered in blood and dirt, although underneath it, Martha could see a deep gash on his temple, another one running down the length of his calf, and a deep, ugly wound across his stomach. It didn’t look good, but the Doctor looked up at her, a tear in his eye and a smile of disbelief on his face. “He’s alive, Martha. He’s still alive!” He leaned forward and kissed Jamie on the forehead. “Oh, bless you, James Robert McCrimmon! I should have known you would hold on. Now just hold on for me a little bit longer…”
He reached into his bag suddenly, pulling out a torch and tossing it to Martha without any warning. She was just able to catch it. “Well, come on! Hold it up for me!” he demanded, already digging in the bag again. He came up with some sort of scanner and immediately began waving it over Jamie. Martha turned on the torch, banging it against her palm several times to stop it flickering. She studied the boy in the torchlight. His kilt and what remained of his once-white linen shirt were ragged and covered with blood. He had dark hair that fell across his face, though the Doctor had brushed it aside to study the wound on his head. Covered though it was in blood and grime, he had a soft, kind-looking face. The longer Martha looked at him, the younger he seemed–she wouldn’t have thought he was older than eighteen at the most. It broke her heart to see him out here like this.
She knelt beside the Doctor, still holding the torch steady. “Can I help?” she asked.
The Doctor thrust a thick cloth into her free hand. “Hold that just there on his head–try to stop that bleeding while I fix this.” He was spreading some sort of greenish gel over and into the wound on Jamie’s stomach.
“What is that?” Martha asked, nodding at the green stuff.
“Atraxian willow sap. It’ll stem the bleeding and stop it getting any worse until we can get him stitched up,” he explained. “Here. Put some on that cloth and put it back on his head.” He tossed her something rather like a ketchup packet filled with the green goo. “Careful you don’t get it in his eyes.”
Jamie moaned softly, wincing a little as she applied the cloth to his head. She dabbed gently at the wound, making the same soothing noises she used to make when they were kids and Leo was sick. “Ssh, ssh…You’ll be alright. It’s all okay…” she whispered. The Doctor spared a moment to look up and shoot her a grateful look.
A few minutes later, the Doctor had finished. A couple of loose bandages were wrapped over Jamie’s injuries, just to keep everything in place. The Doctor had repacked all his gear into the leather bag, and he handed it to Martha. “Take that, will you?” His hands now free, the Doctor bent down and gathered Jamie gently into his arms. “Come on.” He set off into the darkness, his steps slower and more careful than before, but no less purposeful.
“Doctor?” Martha asked, stumbling slightly in the darkness. “The McLaren’s camp is back that way. Where are we going?”
“If I took him back there, he’d be dead just as soon as if we’d left him on that hill. I wouldn’t trust a broken arm to eighteenth-century medicine, never mind the state Jamie’s in. No, we’re going back to the TARDIS.”
This was the first time Martha had ever been in the TARDIS infirmary. In fact, until just now, she hadn’t even known that there was one. It was down one of the many corridors that she had passed but never been in, and at the moment it was a lot closer to the front than she last remembered it–specifically, it was right where her bedroom should have been. In the middle of an emergency was hardly the time for dimensionally transcendental mechanics, however, and she followed the Doctor into the surgery room without giving it another thought.
The Doctor lay Jamie down on the operating table carefully, as if he was afraid he would break him. As soon as he was down, however, the Doctor was a flurry of motion again. In the blink of an eye his trench coat and suit jacket were in a heap in the corner, his tie was off and his sleeves were rolled up. Martha raised an eyebrow as he stuck his hands out in front of him, rotating them underneath a blue light on the wall. “What’s that, then?” she asked.
“Sonic wave sanitizer,” he replied. He turned and strode back to the table, reaching behind him to drag along a wheeled tray of surgical equipment. “Loads more sanitary than soap.” Back at the table, he stopped and looked up at her expectantly. “Well, go on. Scrub up then.” He nodded towards the blue light. “Can’t stand around all night.”
Martha blinked in surprise. She still didn’t know who Jamie was, but he was obviously important to the Doctor. She knew he trusted her, but not until that moment did she realize just how very much he did. “You want me to help?”
“Of course,” he said, not looking up from the tools he was inspecting. “You know what you’re doing.” He began taking off Jamie’s bandages, but paused and looked up at her as she cleaned her hands. “I know you weren’t exactly training to be a nurse, but…”
“Not a problem,” she said, casting off her own jacket and joining him at the table. “What do you need?”
“For starters, give him a shot of that,” he told her, indicating a syringe on the tray. “Last thing we need is him waking up in the middle of this.” She did so, and the effect was almost instantaneous–Jamie’s breathing evened out, and the pained look on his face softened into calm. “Right,” the Doctor said. “Let’s get started.”
The surgery was like nothing Martha had ever seen before. The Doctor began with just his bare hands, carefully probing the wound in Jamie’s stomach and muttering to himself about human anatomy. Suddenly he switched to a futuristic sort of scanner that pulsed in different colours, and when it started to chime, he set it aside and went back in with an ordinary pair of tweezers. The switch between technological levels was constant, and so Martha was perfectly content to pass him things, read scanners, and hold back the occasional bit of muscle or intestine (although a horrified little voice in the back of her mind that sounded remarkably like Mr. Stoker chided her for not wearing gloves). He stitched and scanned, poked and prodded for about an hour, and, after removing a bullet that seemed to have gotten in before the sword tore everything up, the Doctor began closing up the wound. On his instruction, Martha held the damaged parts together, and he went over them slowly with a mysterious green instrument. Everything it went over fused back together as if it had never been injured. After cleaning up the inside of the wound, he did the same to the outside, which healed up without leaving a hint of a scar.
“Well, that’s the worst done,” he exhaled, allowing himself a brief moment to breathe. “All right, Martha?”
“Mm-hmm,” she nodded.
“On we go, then.” Working on Jamie’s leg didn’t take nearly as long. Once all the blood was cleared away, Martha realized it had been a fairly neat cut. In fact, after cleaning it out thoroughly, the Doctor left Martha to stitch it up while he moved on to the gash on Jamie’s temple.
Martha worked slowly and neatly, taking pains to make her stitches small. She had always rather prided herself on her stitching and how little scarring it left. Finally finished, she dressed and bandaged the leg, then moved up to join the Doctor. He was still closing up Jamie’s head injury, and she couldn’t stop her eyes widening as she watched his stitch work. She had thought hers were small, but this was almost ridiculous.
He caught her glance and raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“How can you even see what you’re doing with stitches that small? Surely you’ve got well over a hundred there.”
“Two hundred and thirty-seven,” he replied. She made a small surprised noise and he continued. “I just…Well, I hate for it to leave a scar, being right there on the side of his face and all.”
“No, no, that’s alright,” she assured him, leaning in to get a better look. “Blimey, but that’s neat. I don’t understand why you didn’t use that green thing, like you did on his stomach, though.”
“Well, it’s great for big things like that, but it’s a little dodgy working near the brain,” he explained, not taking his eyes off his stitching. A few minutes later he was done, and set to work binding it up neatly with bandages. Martha began cleaning off all the surgical tools, and as she was finishing up, he joined her at the sink to wash his own hands. He looked exhausted. It had been a tricky operation, although Martha had seen worse at the hospital. She suspected the day of wandering the hills and constant worrying had more to do with it than anything.
“Well done, Martha,” he said suddenly. She looked up. “You’re very good. You’re going to make a fine doctor.” He paused, and met her eyes. “Thank you,” he said sincerely. “I know today’s been a rough day, and I’m sorry, but you were great.”
She smiled. “Thanks. You weren’t so bad yourself.” He smiled back at her, tired but genuine. “Can I ask though,” she started carefully. He raised a questioning eyebrow, inviting her to go on. “Who is he?”
The Doctor sighed. “I guess I never really explained that, did I?”
“No. It was all a bit of a rush after you nearly hit me with that book.”
His eyes widened in surprise. “Oh. Sorry,” he said sheepishly. “Well, it’s a bit of a long story. Tell you what…let’s get him in here, and I’ll tell you all about it.” He nodded towards the next room, where a row of beds lined the wall. “Although if you wouldn’t mind making some tea…” He looked at her hopefully and she smiled.
“Sure. Do you want help moving him first?”
“No, I’ve got it.”
“Right. Back in a mo’.”
Martha returned a few minutes later with two steaming mugs of tea. The Doctor, meanwhile, had moved Jamie into one of the beds, and taken advantage of Martha’s absence to change him out of the remains of his clothing and into something that seemed to be a much more sensible version of a hospital gown than anything Martha had ever seen on Earth. They each took a seat on either side of the bed, and the Doctor accepted his tea with gratitude.
“So,” Martha said. “Jamie McCrimmon…”
“Right. Well…the short of it is that Jamie here used to travel with me. Such a long time ago, that was.” He paused and sipped his tea. “Hundreds of years it’s been–over half my life since I saw him last.” He said the last bit as if it surprised him.
“I met Jamie, as you might imagine, here in Scotland. 1746. As far as he’s concerned, it was only a day or two ago. He was a piper, for the McLaren clan–the Laird had taken him in when his father died. And, as so often seems to happen in my life, we got into trouble. They thought we were with the Redcoats, the Redcoats thought we were with the Clansmen–”
“We?” Martha interrupted him.
“Hmm? Oh, Ben and Polly and I. They travelled with me for a bit as well. Haven’t seen them in ages either…you know, I think they’re married now. It was partly Ben’s accent that got us in trouble with the Clansmen, by the way, hence my caution with you today. See; don’t tell me I don’t learn from my mistakes.” He looked at her as if he expected her to argue, but in the interest of keeping the peace, Martha merely smiled and nodded for him to continue. Satisfied, he did. “Anyway, I saved the Laird, so the McLarens decided that we were alright, and by the time we’d managed to get things sorted out, Jamie had ended up on the TARDIS.”
“You mean you didn’t ask him along?”
“Not exactly. I think Polly may have done, but in those days I did tend to get a fair amount of stowaways on the TARDIS.”
“Sounds like you had quite a crew back then,” Martha commented.
“Well, I’ve always liked to travel with people. The thing is, when you’ve seen as much of the universe as I have, after a while, you stop really seeing it. That’s why humans are so wonderful. I mean, you lot come out here and see things I’ve seen hundreds of times, and it just amazes you! And I watch that and…well it starts to amaze me again.”
He paused, and Martha said nothing. This was one of those rare glimpse into who the Doctor really was, and she was afraid if she said anything, it would stop. After a moment he continued.
“If there were ever anyone’s eyes to see the universe through, it was Jamie McCrimmon’s. He had such an aura of innocence about him–everything was new and magical. Sometimes, the stuff we ran across seemed bit out of his depth. I mean, it’s a long way to come from a small village in 1700’s Scotland to, you know, the universe. Scared him half to death the first time he saw an aeroplane.” The Doctor smiled fondly down at Jamie. “Aah, but that never stopped him. Undaunted, he was. And a braver soul I’ve never met. The times I saw him chase down Yetis, Cybermen and sea creatures…This is hardly the first time he’s been in this infirmary. I think I lost count of the times I had to stitch him up after he got himself shot, or poisoned or knocked out. Always getting himself into trouble, trying to keep other people safe. Sometimes you just wanted to tell him to stop being quite so chivalrous and to think about his own skin for a change. It’s awfully hard to fault a man for a thing like that, though.”
“I know what you mean. I’ve met one or two people like that,” Martha said, casting a meaningful look at the Doctor that he missed completely.
“He was terribly protective of the girls, you know. Polly, of course, and then later Victoria and Zoe. If any of them looked to be in the slightest danger, he was willing to throw himself in harm’s way to protect them. And not just them. He was always looking out for all of us,” the Doctor sighed.
“Believe it or not, Martha, back in the old days I wasn’t quite the runner I am now.”
“Somehow I find that hard to believe.”
“No, it’s true! Sure, running is sort of an occupational hazard of mine, but, well, I was older then, you see, and didn’t run as well as I do now.”
Martha narrowed her eyes. “You were…older then? Hundreds of years ago, you were older than you are now?”
“Sort of. That particular regeneration was an older body than this one is.” Martha stared at him uncomprehendingly. “See, it comes and goes with regeneration. It rejuvenates you, yes, but it doesn’t always give you a younger body. At that point in time, I hadn’t hit my second wind of regenerating yet.”
“Mm-hmm.” She still didn’t understand, but she very much doubted it would help at all if he kept explaining.
He opened his mouth to continue, when Jamie stirred on the bed between them, moaning softly. The Doctor leaned over him, checking for fever, checking his pulse and breathing, carefully inspecting all the bandages to make sure they were secure. Martha watched him–the care with which he moved, the gentleness of his touch, the concern in his eyes–something about it all touched her heart.
“You loved him, didn’t you?” she asked.
“What?” he said in a distracted sort of way. He seemed to have decided Jamie was fine, and looked up at her.
“Jamie. You loved him, didn’t you?” she repeated.
His eyes went back to Jamie. An affectionate smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. “Yes,” he said softly. “I did. It…” He trailed off, searching for the right words. “Jamie was…it was like having a son again.” Whatever Martha had been expecting him to say, it hadn’t been that. He never spoke about his family, and the raw honesty of the statement shocked her.
The Doctor, still looking at Jamie, didn’t catch her surprise. “He was my best friend, one of the best I’ve ever had…but it was more than that. I was a father without a son, and he was a boy without a father, and we sort of…made each other whole again.” He looked up at her then, his eyes glistening slightly. “Oh, you should have seen him, Martha! For years we travelled together, and I got to teach him, to watch him learn, watch him grow…That little Scottish boy who was afraid of aeroplanes grew up to be one of the best men this galaxy has ever seen. And you know, for all the bad that’s out there in the universe, it never even made a dent with Jamie. His soul was just as brave, just as kind as the day I met him. He was brilliant.” His voice trailed off quietly, and he looked back down at Jamie. “You really were, Jamie. Absolutely brilliant,” he murmured, so softly that Martha almost didn’t hear.
Watching the Doctor with Jamie, Martha was suddenly reminded of her own father, and the way he used to sit by her bed and hold her hand when she was sick. The Doctor had told her about the Time War, and what had happened to his people and his planet. Martha knew that the War had damaged him, more deeply and irreversibly than he would ever let on. But right now, Martha also knew that saving Jamie and having him here now, that was healing a little piece of the Doctor’s broken soul.
As the Doctor had been speaking, telling her about Jamie, she had been dreading the next question she would have to ask, and now, more than ever. “Doctor?” she asked softly, apologetically. She hated to even finish, but she had to know. “What happened?”
“What do you mean?”
“With Jamie. Why is he back here, fighting…almost dying at Culloden?”
The Doctor drew in a deep breath, and sat back in his seat. For a long moment, he stared down into his cold cup of tea. When he looked back at her, his face was hard, his eyes far away. “The Time Lords happened. We landed on a planet one day, Jamie and Zoe and I. People were there from all over Earth’s history, stolen and tricked into fighting war after war. It was terrible, and in the end, too much for the three of us to stop. I tried, I really did,” he told her desperately, his eyes almost pleading with her. “But in the end, I had to do it. I had to call the Time Lords in to help.”
He looked down, and Martha reached over and took one of his hands, squeezing it encouragingly. “That doesn’t sound so bad.”
He snorted scornfully, but made no move to shake her hand away. “The Time Lords,” he informed her. “Did not interfere. They only came that time because TARDIS technology had been stolen and was being used illegally to kidnap all those people. And so they came, and as I had feared they would, they kept the three of us from leaving as well.”
“Well, as I said, non-interference was their highest law. And, well…you know how I am about keeping my nose out of things. And, many, many years earlier, I had stolen the TARDIS and went out to…interfere.”
“You stole the TARDIS?” That didn’t surprise Martha as much as she thought it would have.
“Well, they certainly wouldn’t have given it to me. Especially since they knew I wanted to go out and change things. So I…took it. I’d been on the run from them for years, meticulously avoiding Gallifrey. But they finally caught up with me. Jamie and Zoe had no idea, of course, and I tried to get them to leave with all the other Earth people. It would have been safer for them. But they insisted on staying. Even when they knew the Time Lords were going to punish me, they…they wouldn’t go.” The Doctor’s voice cracked, and he looked back down at his tea. Martha squeezed his hand again, and this time he squeezed back and didn’t let go.
“As part of my punishment, I was banished to Earth. The Time Lords forced me to regenerate, disabled the TARDIS so it couldn’t travel any more, and sent me to Earth. Such a long time I was there, before I could get it to work again,” he said wistfully. “The other part of my punishment was that Jamie and Zoe were not allowed to come with me. The Time Lords sent them back to their own times–and the worst of it was, they sent them back to the point in time where they first met me, so that they would remember nothing of our time together,” he said bitterly, glaring at the teacup as if it too had been on the tribunal that day. “Zoe they sent back to the Wheel in the 21st century, and Jamie back here. It was Jamie I was most worried about, being dropped back into a war like that. But they assured me that he would be alright. They promised me…! And I believed them. I never went back to find him, because like an idiot, I believed them.”
He said no more, and Martha looked down at Jamie. His brow was furrowed slightly, as if he were having a bad dream. “So,” she started slowly, trying to think through the horror the Doctor had just described to find the right words. “He doesn’t remember any of it?”
“No,” the Doctor said coldly. “None of the things he saw, none of the things he became. Because the one time when he really needed it, the one time it really mattered, I couldn’t keep him safe. He stuck with me and look where it got him.”
“I’m sure he didn’t blame you,” Martha assured him.
“He didn’t,” the Doctor replied. “But I do.”
“Oh, Doctor.” Martha looked over at him sadly. She took both of his hands in hers and held them earnestly. He met her gaze and she saw the depth of the pain in his eyes. She could tell that he’d been holding on to that guilt for centuries, and it broke her heart. “Doctor, it isn’t your fault. If he was as clever as you say he was, then he knew the Time Lords would be trouble. And did it ever occur to you that he wouldn’t leave because he loved you just as much as you loved him?” The Doctor said nothing, but Martha thought she might be getting through to him. “And he never got sent back to die, did he? You’ve changed all that. You saved his life. It mattered, and you came through for him.”
The Doctor looked back down at his hands, still entwined with hers. For a long time, he said nothing. Then softly, suddenly, he said, “Martha Jones, you’re amazing. Have I ever told you that?” He looked up and met her eyes. “Absolutely amazing.” He pulled her forward into a crushing hug. “Thank you.”
She closed her eyes and hugged him back. “That’s why I’m here,” she said kindly. After he let go, she stood and walked around to his chair, putting an arm around his shoulder. “You should get some rest,” she added, after a moment.
“Nah, I’m alright. Besides, someone’s got to stay here with Jamie.”
“I can do that,” she offered.
“You need your sleep,” he told her. “It’s been a long day.”
“It has,” she agreed. “Not just for me.”
“I’m fine, Martha. Really I am.” He looked up over his shoulder at her, and she saw that he was okay. She also saw that he was most certainly not going anywhere.
“Okay,” she gave in. You had to pick your battles, after all. And, as always, he was right. She was exhausted. “I’ll come back in the morning.”
She patted Jamie’s arm as she walked by, out into the corridor that had rearranged itself while they’d been inside. It seemed to be back where it was supposed to be. “Good night, Martha,” the Doctor called from inside. “Sweet dreams.”
Martha got up early the next morning, and set out to find the infirmary again. When she did, she had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. Jamie was still asleep, snoring softly. And right next to him was the Doctor–fast asleep. His feet were propped on the edge of Jamie’s bed, and the chair he sat in was leaning back precariously on its two back legs. His hands were folded in his lap, and his head was down, chin resting on his chest. It seemed she wasn’t the only one who was tired. It was a little disorientating to actually see the Doctor asleep, but Martha hated to wake him up. He looked so peaceful.
She leaned over Jamie, checking his vitals and changing out his bandages. He was looking much better, and she was pleased with how quickly he was recovering. She went around behind the Doctor, softly putting a hand on his shoulder. She squeezed it gently, and he moved, then started suddenly as he came awake, and would have knocked the chair over if she hadn’t been standing right behind him.
“Good morning,” was all she said, valiantly ignoring his near-mishap.
“ ‘Morning,” he replied. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine. Jamie is too, by the way,” she added, as the Doctor made to start looking him over. “Just finished checking.”
“Oh, and you changed the dressings too! Well done, you,” he said with a smile. On the table behind him was the flashing scanner from the night before, and the Doctor grabbed this and began waving it slowly over Jamie. “Oh, that’s brilliant, look at that!” He held it out to Martha, who had no idea what the pulsing blue and yellow lights meant. “Not a trace of infection!” he continued. “And there,” he added, pointing to a series of little red lights flashing in a circle. “Everything’s healing up just fine. He’ll be right as rain in a day or two.” He stood back, grinning.
“Great,” Martha said, returning the grin. “Well, if you think he’s alright to leave alone for a bit, I can fix us some breakfast.”
“No, not just now,” the Doctor said.
“Why not?” Martha asked, suddenly concerned as she watched his grin fading.
He inhaled deeply. “Because I’ve got to take him home first.”
“Home? You mean he’s not staying with us?”
“No,” he said softly.
“But I thought–”
“He can’t,” the Doctor told her. “More than anything, I wish he could, but he’s got to go back.”
“This is an established time line, Martha” he explained. “It was locked in those hundreds of years ago when the Time Lords sent him back. I’ve already stretched the boundaries more than they should be by coming here and saving his life. They can’t stretch far enough to let him leave.”
“But what about what you said about eighteenth-century medicine? He has to stay at least until he’s better.”
“At this point, all he needs is sleep, and some time to regain his strength. He can do that just as well in 1746 as he can here, and the longer he stays here, the more dangerous it is.” The Doctor looked down at Jamie sadly. “I–” he lowered his voice as it threatened to start shaking. “I have to let him go again.”
Martha came over and put a hand on the Doctor’s arm. “I’m sorry,” she said quietly. He nodded. “What do you need me to do?”
He took a deep breath and squared his shoulders. “Would you mind getting his things?” He nodded towards the next bed where Jamie’s kilt, apparently laundered during the night, lay alongside his boots and dirk. Martha gathered them up as the Doctor picked up Jamie once more, cradling him in his arms like a child. “Come on,” he said resolutely, starting for the door.
When they exited the TARDIS, Martha couldn’t keep in a small gasp of surprise. They were no longer on the grassy hillside, but inside a small, stone room. Light coming through the window hinted at the arrival of dawn, and showed the faint outline of a bed and chair in the corner. “Moved the TARDIS last night,” the Doctor said over his shoulder, hearing her surprise. “We’re in the keep of the McLarens.” He lay Jamie down on the bed and clicked his sonic screwdriver at the hearth, where a fire roared into being. He tucked Jamie in carefully, then pulled an envelope out of his coat pocket, setting it on the table by the door. “It just says that we found Jamie and cared for him, then brought him here so he could get some rest. It’s been a few months since Culloden,” he explained to Martha. “I jumped us forward some so that the trouble would be over. Didn’t want to leave him in the middle of another mess.” The Doctor rested a hand gently on Jamie’s head. “We should go, before someone finds us here.”
Not quite able to pull herself back to the TARDIS, Martha said, “I just can’t believe we have to leave him. Isn’t there anything we can do?”
The Doctor didn’t move, but Martha thought she saw a spark leap to his eye. “There is one thing…” he trailed off, thinking. “Yes, there is one thing I can do!” With renewed energy he grabbed the chair and pulled it up by the bed, plopping down next to Jamie.
“What is it?”
“I may not be able to bring him with us, but I can at least do this for him.” He reached down and took Jamie’s head with both his hands, carefully positioning his fingertips on the sides of his head. “Jamie McCrimmon was absolutely brilliant, and he deserves to remember that.”
“But wh–” Martha began.
“Ssh!” the Doctor said, and he closed his eyes. A look of deep concentration spread over his face. In the early morning light, it was hard to tell, but Martha thought, just maybe, he might have been glowing a little bit. The Doctor’s brow was furrowed as he focused. Just then, Jamie sighed. Martha looked down at him and saw his face relax. The troubled look that he had worn the whole time, one that Martha hadn’t quite been able to put her finger on to identify, was replaced by one of peace. Jamie shifted slightly in the bed, and the Doctor pulled his hands away, exhaling deeply as he opened his eyes. “That’s better now, isn’t it?” he said softly. He reached up and brushed Jamie’s fringe out of his eyes, stroking his hair fondly.
“What did you do?” Martha asked him quietly.
“I let him remember,” the Doctor said simply, resting his hand on the side of Jamie’s face.
“You mean he’ll remember everything?”
The Doctor nodded. “Everything. He deserves at least that much.” He paused for a long moment. “Martha?” he asked hesitantly. “Could you–could you give me a minute?”
“Take all the time you need,” she said kindly, and she backed away to wait for him in the door of the TARDIS.
The Doctor let his hand linger a moment longer on the side of Jamie’s face before pulling it away. There was so much going through his mind, he couldn’t think where to begin. Suddenly Jamie stirred on the bed, muttering as he rolled over. “Doctor,” he whispered in his sleep.
“I’m here, Jamie,” the Doctor said, laying a hand on his arm. “It’s alright, I’m here.” He sighed. “I’m so sorry. None of this was supposed to happen. Oh, Jamie, I’m sorry for everything.” His voice wavered and he closed his eyes, drawing in a deep breath. “But you’ll be alright now. You’re safe. I know it may not be quite what you wanted, but this is the best I can give you. You can have a proper life now…one thing you could never have had if you’d been able to stay.” The Doctor opened his eyes, and a sad smile crossed his lips. “Oh, but we had some times, you and I, hey? The best of times. And, you know, you were wonderful. Absolutely fantastic. I was so proud of you. All that time, I don’t think I ever said it…I always sort of figured maybe you knew. But I wanted to say it now. I wanted you to know…You brought joy back into an old man’s life, and I can never thank you enough for that. I can only hope I did half as much good for you as you did for me.”
The Doctor sighed again and got out of the chair to kneel by the bed. Taking Jamie’s head in his hands once more, he leaned forward until his forehead was touching Jamie’s and closed his eyes. “Good-bye, Jamie,” he whispered. “You’ve always meant the world to me. Never forget that. And know that I will never, ever forget you, my dear boy. Thank you for everything. Now go out there, and be magnificent.” He planted a kiss firmly on Jamie’s forehead and stood, wiping a single tear from his eye.
The Doctor studied Jamie a moment longer in the growing light. He couldn’t help but smile at the contented look on his face. Jamie would remember. He would remember everything. Even this moment, though it might drift in and out like a dream, the Doctor knew Jamie would remember it too. He cast one final look down at his companion, then turned and strode back to the TARDIS, where Martha was waiting.
As he walked in and shut the door, Martha followed the Doctor to the centre console. He said nothing, and she grabbed his hand before he could start pushing buttons. “Hey. You alright?”
Without a word, he pulled her into a warm hug. She hugged him back tightly, and after a while he pulled back, his hands on her shoulders. “I’m fine, Martha. I really am.”
She studied his eyes, and was a little surprised to see that he really was. The sadness of leaving an old friend still lingered there, but she could also see a lightness there, like a great weight had been lifted. As if hoping to convince her, he smiled, and she was relieved to see that this one reached his eyes. He was worn out, emotionally drained, and physically exhausted, but he really was alright.
“I’m glad,” she said, hugging him again. She knew he was okay, but she also knew that what he really needed now (other than a good sleep) was a good friend She knew she might never mean to him what Jamie did, but she was determined to be at least that for him.
As if he had read her mind, he smiled down at her and said, “You know, Martha? You are exactly what I need right now. Jamie was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. And you know what?” He met her eyes sincerely. “So are you. Don’t think for a moment I don’t know that.” Still hugging her tightly with one arm, he reached out the other and flicked some switches on the console. The floor beneath them started to vibrate as the TARDIS began to take flight. “Come on, then. Let’s go!”
On the other side of the room, Jamie stirred as a familiar grating sound filled the room. Blinking sleepily, he opened his eyes as the faint outline of the TARDIS shimmered out of existence. “Doctor?” he muttered, sitting up quickly then wincing. He put a hand to his head as he gingerly lay back down. What was going on? He’d been at Culloden, and then…In a flash it all came back to him. Daleks, Cybermen, monsters, the past, the future (aeroplanes?), space ships, Yetis, aliens, the Brigadier, Ben, Polly, Victoria, Zoe…The Doctor. He remembered the War Games, he remembered the Time Lords. He remembered the ache in his heart and the pained look on the Doctor’s face as they said good-bye. And then he remembered…a great sort of…emptiness. Feeling lost. And then the Doctor was there again. Somehow a different face, but still Jamie’s Doctor. Still taking care of him. Still coming through when he needed him. Just as he had always done.
Jamie didn’t know quite how he knew it, but he understood why the Doctor had left him here. He knew there were rules that bound him, and he knew the Doctor had very nearly broken them, coming back to save him. He chuckled softly to himself. The Doctor had always been very good at bending the rules. Especially where Jamie had been concerned.
Jamie looked out the window, up into the sky where he knew the TARDIS was whizzing away somewhere. “Good-bye, Doctor,” he said. “Thanks for comin’ back. And for lettin’ me remember. This time, I really won’ forget you.” He paused, and a smile crept to his lips. “I know you never said it, but you never needed to. I knew. And I hope you know that, wherever you are, I’m right proud of you too. You’re no’ half brilliant yourself.” He smiled up at the sky, then shifted back down into his blankets. As he drifted off to sleep, dreams overtook him, and this time they weren’t dreary and empty, but filled with a lively old man and a young Scottish boy, flying among the stars.