“…And if I can just reverse the polarity of the neutron flow in this regulator here–which isn’t working by the way, it keeps shorting out and I think it’s missing a bit. Ooh! You know what I need? A radio! I can get the transistors out of that, attach them to the solonator I found in my pocket, and then that should hook up to the capacitor and bypass the regulator altogether. Oh, yes, that’s just brilliant! Anyway, so if we get a radio tomorrow, I can get this finished, start looking for Detective Inspector Shipton, and we’ll be out of here by Tuesday! Well, we should be. Saturday at the latest. What do you think?”
After a few seconds of no response from Martha, the Doctor finally looked up from his tinkering. On the other side of the table, Martha was slouched with her head down on folded arms, fork abandoned on her plate of half-eaten spaghetti. She was fast asleep.
The Doctor blinked in surprise, then smiled. Carefully, he rose from his chair, setting the nearly-completed timey-wimey detector down next to his as yet untouched spaghetti. “Oh, Martha, they do work you too hard, don’t they?” he said softly. Being chucked back in time without a TARDIS certainly had its disadvantages. With no money and no means of supporting themselves in 1969, Martha had taken a job in a shop. Even the meager flat they shared required her to pick up as many shifts as they would give her, and any others she could beg off co-workers besides. Three weeks they’d been here, and being a shop girl was wearing her out more than being a maid had done. Every day, she left at the crack of dawn, rarely returning before it was dark. The Doctor had gone to see her at the shop once, and had left after getting told off by her boss. The floor-clerks weren’t supposed to have visitors, he’d been told.
“I thought you were a cashier,” he asked her that night.
“I am,” she sighed. “And a floor-clerk, and I stock the back, and do the sweeping and mopping up. Basically, whatever they ask me to do.” She sighed again, and he looked at her carefully. He knew that sigh.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, putting a hand on her shoulder.
“Sometimes, they’re just a bit...You know in 1913, right? Everyone treated me differently because I’m…well, because I’m black? It bothered me, but I sort of expected it there, I guess. Here it…I just thought people would have gotten better about it by now. Some ways, it’s even worse here. At least in 1913, they said it outright. Here, it’s all underhanded and subtle, like they think if they say it cleverly enough, I’ll be too stupid to notice.” She grimaced.
“Oh, Martha,” he said, his hearts breaking at the hurt he saw in her eyes, at the strength he saw her trying to summon to squash it back down. He pulled her forward into an embrace, and she buried her head in his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, stroking her hair. “I’m so sorry.”
“It’s alright,” she said after a while, mumbling into his chest. “I’m a big girl. I can handle it.”
She started to pull back, but he held on to her. “I know you can,” he said. “But it shouldn’t be alright–not for something like this. Is there somewhere else we can find you a job? Or, oh! I could get a job instead, and you could–”
“Oh please,” she said, looking up at him with a grateful smile. “With your attention span, you’d be lucky not to be fired by the end of the first day. And what am I supposed to do in the meantime? Finish building this flux capacitor thing of yours?”
“Timey-wimey detector,” he corrected, glad to see a real smile returning to her eyes.
“See? I can’t even get the name right. I’ll tough it out in the shop, and you just finish building that thing and get me out of here. Deal?”
“Deal,” he told her with a smile.
Since then, he’d stayed away from work, not wanting to give them any more reason to give her trouble. He’d worked furiously on the timey-wimey detector, eager to get her somewhere she’d enjoy for a change. The past few months had been rough on her.
“I suppose most of that’s my fault, isn’t it?” he mused quietly, carefully shifting her plate and glass to the side. “The things you have to put up with for me.” He shook his head and sighed. “I’m sorry,” he said, laying a gentle hand on her hair. “You’re brilliant, you know? I don’t know what I’d do without you.” She sighed contentedly in her sleep, and he stroked her hair gently.
“Let’s get you some proper rest.” Ever so carefully, he lifted her from her chair, and, cradling her in his arms, he made his way down the hall. The one bedroom at the end of the hall was small, but he had insisted she take it. He’d originally been sleeping on the dingy fold-out couch in the sitting/dining room, but recently had found a pillow and blanket in the bathtub to be more comfortable. Oh, the fright he’d given Martha when she came in for a shower the next morning.
He laid her down on her bed, and with the practiced, almost subconscious ease of a father, he took off her boots and jacket and tucked her under the blankets. He kissed her lightly on the forehead, and she snuggled down into her pillow with a peaceful smile. “Goodnight, Martha Jones. Sweet dreams.” He smiled down at her fondly. Turning to go, he snatched her alarm clock off the bedside table and took it with him.
Back in the kitchen, he inhaled his cold spaghetti as he dialed the phone. “Yes, Mrs. Pallister? Just phoning to say Martha won’t be in tomorrow…” First thing tomorrow, he was going to get that radio, finish the timey-wimey detector while Martha slept, and then they were going to hunt for Billy Shipton. They’d have the TARDIS back in no time, and it would be back out to the stars. He’d have her out, and they’d be free. Because he’d promised her. And he always kept his promises.
The Doctor ran up the hill, steadily ignoring the angry shouts and cries behind him. He could see the TARDIS nestled into a patch of trees, drawing closer all the time. Just as he was sure he’d managed to outrun them, he heard a gentle whoosh of air and felt a sudden, sharp stinging in his shoulder. His arm went numb. He felt another series of stings, down across his back and one in his leg, but he stumbled on. He thought about going left to get out of their line of fire, but his feet were already veering off to the right. Before he had time to wonder why he was going right, his feet over-corrected and he shot off to the left, nearly running into a tree. Swerving and stumbling, he made his way clumsily up the hill, still feeling the occasional sting in his back and neck. He finally slammed ungracefully into the TARDIS.
Leaning heavily on the door, he staggered into the console room as the door swung open. It swung shut again as he tumbled to the floor, and Martha came rushing over from where she’d been waiting by the centre console. “Doctor! Are you alright?”
He swayed as she pulled him to his feet, and she put out her hands to steady him. “ ‘m fine,” he mumbled. She raised an eyebrow, but removed her hands, reaching out hurriedly to grab him again as he rocked unsteadily.
“You are not fine. What happened?” Her hand that was on his back felt something odd, and, keeping a firm hold on him, she moved carefully around to see what it was. It was a small, metal dart with a red feather sticking out the back. A whole series of them were embedded in the fabric of his coat like so many porcupine quills, and a few strays stuck out from his leg, arms and neck. He winced ever so slightly as she pulled one out. “What are these?” she asked, holding the dart up in front of him.
He blinked furiously, as if trying to focus on the dart. “Which one?”
“I’m only holding one.”
“Oh. ‘s a hunting dart,” he said, slurring his words together a bit.
“A hunting dart?! Is it poisonous?” she asked with deepening concern.
He shook his head, then stopped quickly and shut his eyes, regretting the action. “No. Paralytic. Or a sedative. Something like that. What’s the thing those safari vets on TV shoot elephants with?”
“That’s the one.”
Busying herself with pulling out the darts, she ran a quick tally. “And how did you come to get hit with, let’s see…twenty-seven of them?”
“They were chasing me.”
Martha stopped removing darts for a moment and fixed him with a stern look. “You touched the rock, didn’t you? I told you not to.”
“Well, how was I meant to know it was sacred?” he asked defensively.
“They told us,” Martha replied with a sigh, returning to her work. He mumbled something incoherent and she ignored it. “There! All finished,” she said, tossing the last dart to the floor. Still holding on to him firmly, she began walking towards the centre of the room. “Why don’t you come and rest a bit?”
“Don’t need to rest,” he said with a snort. Pushing away from her, he lurched towards the controls, falling the last couple of steps and catching himself heavily on the console.
“You can’t even stand up!” Martha said, exasperated.
“I can drive the TARDIS without standing. I can lean,” he said, grinning manically.
“Oh, no you don’t, mister,” Martha said, snatching his hand away from the button it was hovering over.
“Oh, come on, Martha!” he whined.
“That’s what they call driving under the influence, and we’re not having any of that,” she declared.
He rolled his eyes, and the rest of his body listed to the side as they moved. “I’m not drunk.”
“Maybe not, but you’re in no condition to drive. I’m surprised you’re even still conscious.”
“ ‘s ‘cause I’m not human,” he said, pointing a finger at her. “My metabolism is metabolizing the chemical ‘cause I can metabolize things quicker than you can.”
“So you’re…metabolizing it?” Martha asked, unable to keep a small smile off her face.
“Yep,” he said, popping the ‘p’ and nodding sagely. He slid a few inches further down the console and closer to the floor, but didn’t seem to notice.
“Right. So, in theory then, you’re getting better?”
“Tha’s right,” he said, not noticing the slur in his voice either.
“Okay. Why don’t you stand up for me?”
He smiled and pushed away from the console and stood upright for all of half a second before collapsing into a sitting position on the floor. He was still smiling. “See?”
Martha grinned. “You’re on the floor.”
“Well, yeah, alright, but I’m working on it.”
“Sure you are,” Martha assured him, leaning down and hooking an arm under his shoulder. She hoisted him to his feet and slowly started for the corridor.
“Where are we going?” he asked.
“You’re going to bed.”
“There’s all sorts of beds on the TARDIS, you know,” he told her airily. “There’s bunk beds, and a water bed, and a couple of anti-gravity ones as well. Romana liked those. She said they were good for her posture.”
“Did she now?” asked Martha, with no clue who Romana was, and slightly surprised he wasn’t arguing.
“Yeah. And there’s a hammock as well. In the garden, I think. I like hammocks. Ooh! Look at that!” He was staring at the ceiling now. “Look at that pattern. ‘s like a...a...what’s that thing that bees make?”
Martha glanced up quickly. “No it’s not.”
“Not even close.”
“Oh.” He stumbled then, half-dragging her to the floor. With her help, he’d been walking along (sort of), but now his feet seemed to have given out completely.
“Are you alright?” she asked him.
He was staring at his shoes. “I don’t think my feet work anymore.”
His face was very like that of a little boy who can’t figure out why his toy isn’t working, and Martha bit her lip to keep from smiling, staring at the ceiling until she regained her composure. “Well, we’re almost to your room. Would you like me to drag you?”
He blew out a puff of air. “My feet might have stopped, but I still have some dignity left, thank you very much,” he told her, his slur becoming much more noticeable.
“Of course you do. What was I thinking?” she said soothingly, and he nodded, appeased. “Let’s get you up then.”
With some awkward manhandling, she managed to get him to his feet again. His arm was over both her shoulders, and all of his weight was leaning on her now. Thankfully, they really were close to his room, and after kicking the door open in a somewhat unladylike manner, she sat him down on the bed.
“Hey!” he said, slumping over until he lay on his back. “We’re in my room. You’re not s’posed to be in here!”
“Well, you’re not supposed to be in my room either, but that doesn’t stop you barging in and waking me up at 4:30 in the morning when there’s an alien rabbit or some other nonsense that you want me to see,” she told him matter-of-factly.
He sniffed and considered this. “Fair point.” His eyelids finally started to droop, and Martha carefully lifted his feet up and put them on the bed. He twitched as she began unlacing his trainer. “No, don’t do that!” he protested, eyes coming half open again. “ ’s hard to run if you take one of them off.”
“I’ll take them both off then, shall I?” she said gently, dropping one to the floor and starting to unlace the other one.
“That’ll work,” he mumbled.
He grunted, but said nothing as she pulled him partly back up into a sitting position and wrestled him out of his coat and jacket. She took them to hang on the back of the door, grabbing a spare blanket off an armchair on her way back. By the time she reached the bed, his eyes were closed, and she gently laid the blanket over the top of him, tucking it in around his feet. A thought struck her before she turned to go, and she leaned down over him and began fumbling with the knot on his tie.
“Martha?” he said dreamily, his eyes opening ever so slightly.
She looked down, her face inches from his. “Yes?”
He smiled as his eyes fluttered shut again. “You have pretty eyes.”
“Thanks,” she said softly, smiling to herself. She finally got the tie undone, slid it out carefully from under his neck, and undid the top two buttons on his shirt.
As she rose to go, he caught her hand lightly in his own. “Thanks for looking after me,” he murmured, smiling peacefully as sleep finally claimed him.
“It’s my pleasure,” she whispered. She kissed him gently on the forehead, tucked the blanket in a little more securely around his shoulders and stood, flicking off the light on her way out.
As the Doctor strode down the corridor, he could feel the slight vibrations in the floor growing steadily stronger. Something burst in the wall behind him with a hiss of steam, but he carried on. The research station was shaking itself to pieces. In ten minutes, it would be nothing but hunks of metal floating in space. He didn’t care.
Two days ago, the TARDIS had landed on the planet below, and the Doctor and Martha had come across a research outpost outside one of the villages. The locals were terrified of the scientists, and when the Doctor found out why, when he found out about the kidnapping and the cruel human experiments they were running, he was appalled. He had confronted the scientists, and, as calmly as he could manage, warned them to leave. That night they had taken Martha.
It had taken him far longer than he would have liked to track her down. In the remains of the planet-side outpost, there had been vague records of a secure location that he had had to find–the research station that was now shaking itself to bits around him. Once the scientists figured out what was going on, they should have had time to make it to the escape pods. If they hurried.
Rounding the corner, the Doctor ran smack into the lead researcher, running the other way. “You!” he cried. “What have you done?”
Instead of answering his question, the Doctor stared coldly down at the man. “I gave you a chance,” he said, quietly, dangerously. “A chance to pack up and leave, and instead of taking it, you took Martha. Now where is she?”
“Years of work! All our work destroyed!” the man ranted.
“WHERE IS SHE?” the Doctor bellowed, his lips drawn back in a vicious snarl, his face white with rage. The wrath of the Oncoming Storm blazed in his eyes, and the little man jumped back as if he had been burned. Eyes wide, he pointed a trembling finger down the corridor to the left, and the Doctor swept past him without a word.
The vibrations in the floor grew stronger, and he could feel them moving up through his trainers and in his bones. The station would soon be floating in pieces, the survivors in pods with nowhere to go but down to the planet where a group of vengeful, recently-liberated villagers waited. He doubted they would be kind. For a brief moment, the Doctor wondered if perhaps he had been too harsh. That was before he opened the door to Martha’s cell.
Inside the dark little room, Martha jumped as the door clanged open. She sat on the floor in the far corner, knees drawn up to her chest, fingers clenched in her hair. She buried her face in her knees as he stepped into the room, but not before he heard her whisper, “Please, no…”
He crossed the rooms in two steps and knelt down in front of her. She flinched as he put his hands on her shoulders. “Martha?” he said softly. “It’s me. It’s the Doctor.”
Slowly she lifted her head, her eyes wide and frightened. She stared at him for a long moment before a spark of recognition flickered into life. “Doctor?” she asked, shakily, hopefully.
“It’s me. It’s alright, I’m here,” he told her, giving her a reassuring smile, even though the despairing look on her face made his hearts clench with pain in his chest. She tried to smile back, failed, and collapsed forward into his arms, sobbing into his shoulder. “Shh, shh. It’s okay. I’ve got you. You’re alright,” he said gently, stroking her back with one hand and placing the other protectively over her head. He held her tightly for a few minutes, making soft, soothing noises and rocking her gently back and forth.
Finally he pulled carefully away, keeping his hands firmly on her shoulders. Her eyes, red from crying were still wide and worried, darting nervously from side to side like a cornered animal’s. “What did they do to you?” he asked her, his voice coming out a little roughly over the catch in his throat.
“I…” she trailed off, moving her hand in a helpless gesture as she tried to find the words. None came, and she looked down at her feet, her hand now toying absently with the hair above her ear.
The Doctor took her hand in one of his own, and with the other he reached up and touched the side of her head, parting the hair she had been playing with. Three tiny puncture marks glared up at him in a little triangle. Tenderly, he brushed a finger over them and she flinched again. “What happened?” he asked roughly, and she jerked her head up quickly to look at him, startled at the menace in his voice. He bit his lip and forced himself to calm down. He managed a small smile. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly. He put a hand to her face, rubbing her cheek softly with his thumb. “You’re not the one I’m angry with. Did…Did they hurt you?”
She nodded, tears brimming in her eyes again. “In my head,” she whispered. “They came and…” Her hand kept touching the side of her head erratically and her breathing quickened. “Don’t let them do it again!” she pleaded, grabbing on to his sleeve.
“I won’t,” he said, just managing to keep his voice from shaking as he stared at her frightened, tear-stained face. “I promise.” Cupping her face with both his hands, he tilted her head up so she was looking in his eyes. “Can I take a look?” he asked, quietly, cautiously.
She wrestled for a moment with indecision, and he knew that however much she trusted him, she was afraid of anyone touching her mind again. Finally she swallowed, bit her lip and gave a tiny nod. He moved his hands up, placing his fingers precisely on the sides of her head. He heard her sharp intake of breath as he touched her mind. He found no physical wounds, but a great psychic gash tore across her mind, bleeding pain and fear and confusion. Letting go, he opened his eyes to find her staring at him, tears trickling silently from the corners of her eyes.
“Oh, Martha, I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m so sorry.” An explosion sounded in the corridor outside and Martha jumped again. He put a calming hand on her shoulder, glanced quickly outside, then turned back to face her. “Martha, look at me. I can fix this, I promise, but right now we have to go. We have to get back to the TARDIS. Do you think you can stand up?”
The Doctor looked at her warmly, encouragingly, and she found the strength she needed in his eyes. “Yes,” she said shakily. Holding on to his hand tightly, she rose unsteadily to her feet. Wrapping both his arms firmly around her for support, he led her out into the corridor.
The floor lurched violently underneath them, and she grabbed out at his coat, stumbling. “It’s okay, I’ve got you,” he assured her, holding her close to him.
“Wh…what’s happening?” she stammered.
“The station’s falling apart,” he said coldly, steering them to the right to avoid a small fire bursting out of a nearby wall panel. The TARDIS came into view as they rounded the next corner, parked snugly in what was probably a storage closet.
The Doctor kept one arm securely around her as he unlocked the door. Martha looked up at him. “I knew you’d find me,” she said, her voice still shaking. “They told me you wouldn’t, but I knew you would come.”
He paused with the key still in the lock. Looking down, he met her eyes sincerely, and for a moment, her eyes were clear and focused. “I will always come for you,” he said, the slight tremor in his own voice doing nothing to undermine its conviction. “Always.”
He led her inside, and after shutting the door against the station dying around them, he guided her to the jump seat by the console. He crouched down in front of her so that their eyes were nearly level. “What are you going to do?” she asked, unable to quite keep the nervousness out of her eyes.
He smiled. “I’m going to make it all better,” he said softly. “Just like I promised.” He placed his hands carefully on the sides of her face once again, and she swallowed uneasily. “Don’t worry. This won’t hurt a bit.”
She drew in her breath sharply as he began, and this time, so did he. Her eyes widened for a second, and then a relieved smile shone briefly on her face and in her eyes for just a moment before her eyelids fluttered shut and the Doctor lowered her head carefully down to the seat.
As he let go, the pain that had flooded her mind raged suddenly across his own, and he gasped and staggered back, leaning against the console for support. He closed his eyes and clamped his mouth shut, willing himself not to cry out, and just as quickly as it had come, the pain vanished and was gone. He wiped a lone, involuntary tear from his eye and looked down at Martha. His mind had healed itself in a way hers never could, but for a brief instant, he had felt the full intensity of what she had endured over the last day. “Oh Martha,” he whispered sadly, placing a hand on her hair. “My poor, brave Martha Jones.”
Carefully, tenderly, he lifted her from the seat and gathered her in his arms. She breathed in deeply and snuggled her head against his chest, and he smiled. He could sense the peace in her mind, could see it in the softness of her face, and he knew he had stopped the wound in time. She was healed. And she would be fine.
He carried her to her room and laid her gently down on her bed. He tucked the blankets in around her with care, then sat down lightly beside her. He stroked her hair fondly for a moment, then reached out softly and touched the edges of her mind one more time. She would sleep soundly now, peacefully and without dreams, and when she woke in the morning the pain would be a distant memory.
“Goodnight, my wonderful Martha Jones,” he said quietly. Gently he leaned forward, kissed her softly on the forehead and smoothed back her hair. “You’re safe now. Rest well.”
Martha made her way down the corridor, her eyes growing wider in disbelief the further in she went. Each side of the wall was lined with large glass tanks, and, inside each tank was what could only be described as solid fog. Protruding from each block of fog were human hands and faces, screaming, frightened, frozen.
“So this is your justice system, is it?” she snapped in disgust.
The girl walking beside her looked down at the floor. “It’s not like it was my idea,” she mumbled. Her eyes snapped back up to meet Martha’s. “In case you’ve forgotten, I’m on your side, remember? I’m trying to help.”
“It’s alright,” the girl said. “And you’re right, it’s a horrible system. Although it is an effective crime deterrent, I’ll give it that.” Martha raised her eyebrows and the girl went on. “I mean, we’re in a public forum. Anyone can come in and see these guys. And if you knew you were going to end up like this, you’d certainly think twice before breaking the law, wouldn’t you?”
She looked up at the tank they were passing which held a woman, arms raised to protect her face, mouth open in horror. Martha had to admit she had a point. “So, I guess that’s why your rebellion is having such trouble taking off?”
The girl nodded. They walked on in silence for a few minutes, and Martha tried not to look at the faces around them–they made her think of what the Doctor’s face might look like when they found him.
As they often found themselves doing, Martha and the Doctor had been trying to help the local population overthrow a corrupt, tyrannical government. Things hadn’t gone well, the Doctor had been caught, declared an enemy of the state and sentenced to be frozen, like all the other criminals. The whole process had gone remarkably quickly, and the sentence had already been carried out before Martha and the rebellion even knew there had been a trial. There were several of these “Halls of Justice” throughout the city, and Martha and her companion had been searching them since dawn trying to find him.
The rebellion had told her about the stasis freezing process, and it sounded horrible. The freezing happened quickly, but not fast enough to stop you feeling the pain of every single cell being frozen and everything in your body just stopping. It was an agonizingly harsh system, and an imperfect one at that–the body’s functions were suspended, but there was only so long you could be kept alive before the cold and the lack of food and oxygen shut everything down completely. Nobody had ever survived more than two years in stasis, and many weren’t lucky enough to make it that far. She knew she had plenty of time to get the Doctor out, but just the fact that he had to go through that in the first place…She shivered.
“Here we are,” the girl said suddenly.
Martha looked up. There at the end of the row was a new stasis tank, and the Doctor. Only one hand was visible, reaching out imploringly in the fog. As she got closer, Martha could just make out the features of his face through the fog, frozen with his eyes wide and his face tight with pain. “Doctor,” she whispered, her voice catching in her throat. She put her hand to the cool glass, just millimetres from his outstretched fingertips, but it may as well have been a mile. She looked up into his eyes hoping to see some spark of recognition or a sign of life, but they remained wide and desperate, staring ahead unseeing. “I don’t know if you can hear me, Doctor,” she said, determination overcoming the tremble in her voice. “But I’m going to get you out of there. I promise.”
The girl tugged on her shoulder and Martha turned to see a guard approaching. “Closing time, ladies. And miss,” he fixed Martha with a stern glare. “There’s no touching of the exhibits.”
Martha removed her hand from the Doctor’s tank. “Right. Sorry,” she said, surprised at how cheerful a false smile she managed to muster. ‘Exhibits, my foot! Those are people in there!’ she wanted to scream. He escorted them to the door, Martha casting a last anxious look back at the Doctor.
The next night she found herself in an air vent, lowering herself into the Hall on a wire like some sort of cat burglar. Despite all her pleading, the rebellion had refused to go back for the Doctor the day before–they needed time to plan a proper rescue, and Martha grudgingly saw their point. She just couldn’t bear the thought of the Doctor trapped alone in that thing for another minute.
Lightly, she touched down on the floor and unclipped the wire, which was reeled back up into the vent. She made her way cautiously through the halls, lit only by an eerie blue glow coming from each of the stasis tanks, intensifying the feeling that their occupants were half-formed ghosts looming out of the fog.
Her feet quickened as she arrived in the last hallway, and she rushed to the Doctor’s tank. “Told you I’d come back,” she whispered, pausing to touch the glass once more. She dropped to her knees and began searching the bottom of the tank for the control mechanism. She found it round the back and blinked in surprise. She’d been expecting something far more complicated, and even had a radio clipped to her belt in anticipation of needing instructions. Instead, the little device had only three buttons: ‘Wake’, ‘Scan’ and ‘Standby’. She hit the ‘Wake’ button, scuttled hurriedly back to the front and stood, waiting.
For a moment nothing happened, then the machine began to click. The clicking sped up, and just as Martha began to worry about the noise, it stopped altogether and the glass case shot up into the ceiling. The fog was…well it was either melting or turning back into a gas, Martha couldn’t quite tell. It seemed to be doing both. The fingers on the Doctor’s hand began to move slowly as they were freed from the fog, and Martha reached out and grabbed them. They were freezing. As the fog thinned, she could see the muscles in his face starting to move, twitching, then relaxing, his eyes closing in relief as the fog rushed away. Suddenly, the fog was gone, and he gasped and dropped like a puppet with its strings cut, pitching face first towards the floor. Martha leapt forward, catching him just before his head hit the ground. She rolled him over, and he lay with his head in her lap, coughing and spluttering as air returned to his lungs.
His hand began groping blindly in the air, and Martha took it, holding it tight in both of hers. “It’s alright, I’ve got you, it’s okay. Just breathe.”
“Ma…M...Martha?” he stammered through chattering teeth. He was soaked through to the skin, cold as ice, and his whole body was beginning to shiver.
“It’s me, I’m here.” His hand was shaking, but he tightened his grip on her fingers, and she squeezed back reassuringly. His face was deathly pale, and Martha didn’t think all of it had to do with the eerie blue light. She pulled him up until he was sitting on the floor, propping his weight against her. With one hand, he held on to her arm, and she hugged him tightly to her as he gave an almighty shiver, trying to share her body heat.
He cast his eyes wildly about in the semi-darkness and took a deep breath. His breathing had begun to even out, but his teeth still chattered as he spoke. “M...Martha? I c–I c…c…can’t–I can’t see.”
“It’s okay,” she told him, hugging him closer to her. They’d told her to expect that. “You’ve been in here for three days; it’s just sensory deprivation, that’s all. Don’t worry, it’ll come back.”
“Th…th…thought–thought so,” he managed through trembling lips, and she smiled. Frozen half to death, he still had to be the know-it-all.
“Let’s get you warmed up,” she said. “Do you think you can stand up?”
“Let me help,” she said kindly. She was able to get him to his feet, and though he was leaning heavily against her, his legs were staying up of their own accord–although Martha felt that independent movement was probably beyond them at the moment. “There we go. What say we get out of here, hey?”
“Read my m…m...mind, Martha J–Jones,” he said with a smile that was aimed, mostly, in her direction.
She checked her watch. They had five minutes before the diversion at the main gates would run out. That left plenty of time to get him to the back door. Carefully supporting him with both hands, she half walked, half dragged him down the corridor. She took each step slowly and deliberately–he was still shivering uncontrollably, and hard enough to knock her off balance if she wasn’t paying attention. At least he was doing more of his own walking now–some of the strength seemed to be returning to his legs.
They reached the back door with a minute to spare, and, since his legs seemed to be holding, Martha propped him against the wall so she could search the pack on her belt for the signal device. He kept a hand on her shoulder, and Martha knew his temporary lack of sight was unnerving him, no matter what else he might say. She pulled his hand from off her shoulder and held it warmly in her own, clicking the signal device and putting it away with her free hand. His hands were still freezing, but they were shaking a little less than they had been. “Doctor?”
“What I said just now, about you being in there for three days…I’m so sorry it took me that long! I should have gotten you out sooner, but I…” She trailed off, and was momentarily glad that he couldn’t see her–it made it easier to hide the tears prickling in the corners of her eyes. If she had been the one trapped in that stasis tank, he would have wasted no time in getting her out. Not that she’d wasted her time, by any means, but she still couldn’t help feeling she could have done better. “I’m sorry.”
He smiled though, and his hand felt its way up her arm until it found her shoulder again, and he pulled her forward into a hug. “Don’t apologize,” he whispered in her ear. “Don’t you dare! You were absolutely brilliant!” She hugged him back gratefully and he went on. “And I think you’ll find it was only two and a half.”
She pulled back and raised a questioning eyebrow, then realized that he couldn’t see it. “What?”
“Don’t question the internal clock of a Time Lord,” he said with a cheeky grin. Suddenly serious, he added, “Thank you.” There was a weight of gratitude in those two words that said more than anything else could have ever done. She stood up on her toes and kissed him lightly on the cheek, and he hugged her again with all the strength his shaking arms could muster.
There was a small pop at the door, and it creaked open slowly, revealing her companion from the night before. “Now’s not the time, you two,” she said with a grin. “Twenty seconds more and that alarm goes off.” She hopped back into the waiting car and sat expectantly.
“Come on,” Martha said, positioning herself back under his shoulder to help him walk. She said nothing of the fact that he was now farther down the wall than when she had put him there–perhaps his legs weren’t quite as up to the challenge of independence as she’d previously thought. “Watch the step!” she said suddenly, remembering just in time that he didn’t know it was there. She bundled him into the back of the car, and they were off with seconds to spare before the alarms began to sound.
The drive wasn’t long, but the Doctor slumped down in the seat, allowing his eyes to flicker shut. He drew his knees up to his chest until he was curled up like a child, lying with his head on Martha’s lap. She held his head gently with one hand, stroking his hair, her other hand rubbing his arm vigorously in hopes of working up his circulation. The heat was on full blast in the car, but he continued to shiver. “Should he still be this cold?” she asked the driver softly.
Before the driver could respond, a tired voice spoke from her lap. “I did just have every cell in my body individually frozen, Martha,” the Doctor said, not unkindly. His eyes were still shut. “Takes a bit of time to thaw out.”
“That it does,” the girl agreed. “You’re lucky you weren’t in there long enough to get frost bite. Er, are you sure this is where you wanted me to drop you? We’ve got a great medical facility back at the base, you know.”
Martha looked out at what must have seemed to the girl like a deserted street and smiled. “Thanks, but this is great.” In the corner under a broken street light, the TARDIS waited. They could have had the best medical facility in the galaxy, but the Doctor and the TARDIS were connected. Martha knew that, though she didn’t pretend to understand how it worked, and she knew there could be no better place for him right now than his beloved ship.
She ushered him out of the car, steadying her grip on him as the car drove off. He stood there staring and blinking into the darkness with great concentration. “What are you doing?” she asked.
“Looking,” he said, his voice just as weary as it had been in the car. He gripped her hand a little tighter as he wobbled on his feet a bit.
“You mean you can see again?”
“Sort of. Really just the difference between where it’s light and where it’s dark. Still, that’s a start, isn’t it?” He looked down with a tired but genuine smile, and whether he knew it or not, he was looking straight at Martha.
“It sure is,” she said, returning the smile. “Come on. Let’s get you inside.” He said no more as she steered him carefully into the TARDIS, although as soon as she had closed the door behind them, she felt the tension lift immediately from his shaking muscles. “Better?” she asked softly, and he nodded, closing his eyes again.
She led him deeper into the TARDIS, a firm arm around his shivering shoulders. They had told her that most people took days to recover after being released from stasis, and although Martha had a feeling he would bounce back a lot quicker than any human would, she couldn’t help but worry. The only thing keeping him up right now was Martha under his arm, and all his weight leaned heavily on her. His skin was still so cold, and he was so quiet–the Doctor was a force of nature, and it unnerved her more than she would ever tell him to see him so…passive. He was relying totally on her guidance, moving along like a dreamer, and suddenly she found herself hugging him closely, as much to keep him steady as to reassure herself. She was relieved when the arm he had on her shoulder gave it a comforting squeeze. It was weak and a little shaky, but authentic.
“Don’t worry about me, Martha Jones,” he said, his head resting on her shoulder and his voice nearly a whisper. Seriously, could he read her mind? It really weirded her out when he did that, worried or not. “I’ll be fine,” he went on. “Just fine. Thanks to you…”
They reached his room and she sat him down on the bed. He sank down heavily, although he remained sitting up, somewhat to her surprise. That made it much easier to peel off his sodden coat and jacket. Undoing his tie, Martha flung it over a nearby chair and grabbed the pair of orange and blue-striped pyjamas that were lying at the foot of the bed. “Can you manage these, or do you need some help?” she asked, placing them in his lap.
“I’ve got it,” he mumbled, waving her hand away.
“Good. I’ll be right back.” She stood, patting his shoulder before she left the room. When she returned a few minutes later with a large, steaming mug of tea, she saw the remains of his clothes in a soggy puddle on the floor, and a pyjama-clad Doctor lying on his side on the bed, as if he had tried to get under the blankets and given it up as too much work. She sat down next to him and pulled him up gently until he was sitting beside her. “Here, have some of this. It’ll help,” she said kindly, pressing the mug into his trembling hands.
His face lit up like Christmas had come early, and he held the tea up to his face, deeply inhaling the rich aroma. He took a long, appreciative sip and sighed. “Oh, Martha Jones, you are an angel. An absolute angel, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” She held him up as he finished the tea, pleased to feel the tremors in his back lessening as the warm liquid did its work. Tentatively, she let go, and he listed a little to the side, but remained more or less upright, draining the last contents of the cup. He turned to face her, lowering the mug to his lap. “You know,” he said sleepily. “I can see you now. A bit blurry on the edges, maybe, but there you are. My Martha Jones. Don’t know where I’d be without you.”
He smiled at her then, that smile that made her forget how to breathe, and that was when Martha knew he really was going to be okay. His eyelids started to flutter, and his eyes began sliding slowly out of focus. Martha held on to him with one arm, keeping him upright until she had taken the mug and pulled back his blankets. Keeping her hand behind his head, she lowered him gently down to the pillow, pulled his feet up onto the bed and tucked him in snugly. “Goodnight, Doctor.”
“ ‘Night, Martha,” he said dreamily. His voice tailed off to a whisper. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” she whispered back. She kissed him softly on the forehead and sat back, running soothing fingers through his hair as he drifted off to sleep. She knew that tomorrow would blaze with the Oncoming Storm, heroes would rise and governments would fall…But tonight the Time Lord slept, and Martha tip-toed from the room, wishing him sweet dreams.
“Ow.” Jolt. “Ow.” Jolt. “Ow.”
“It’s alright, we’re nearly there,” the Doctor said.
“Yeah, easy for you to say,” Martha said, gritting her teeth as the cart jolted over another pothole. Broken. That ankle was definitely broken. She and the Doctor had managed to stop a horde of super-intelligent space-lizards from taking over what would be called the state of Georgia in a few years, but in the process, Martha had been forced to leap out of a hay loft before it exploded. The landing, obviously, had not gone well.
“No, really we are,” he assured her. “We parked just over the top of that hill, remember?” He signaled the driver, who pulled the oxcart to a bumpy halt, and leapt to the ground.
He held out his arms to Martha, and she smiled and shook her head. “Thanks, but I’m not having you carry me up the hill. Just help me down, will you, and I can lean on your shoulder.”
“I promise I won’t drop you.”
Martha eyed the rocky hill apprehensively. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust the Doctor, but carrying someone was always awkward, and that hill looked pretty uneven. Then again, the odds of her getting up it on one foot weren’t all that appealing either. “Okay,” she said, scooting towards the back of the cart. “Just be careful.”
He scooped her off the edge of the cart. “Oh, I’m always careful with you,” he said, grinning warmly. He thanked the driver and started up the hill slowly.
She smiled and put her arms around his neck, savoring the feel of his arms around her. She had accepted by now that a romance with the Doctor was never going to happen. Didn’t mean she couldn’t enjoy this, though. She shifted into a more cozy position and rested her head on his chest, listening to the soothing double beat of his hearts.
“Comfy?” he asked, smiling down at her, amused.
True to his word, the Doctor was careful as he made his way up the hill, never stumbling once. Arriving at the TARDIS was a bit more awkward, as he realized he had no free hand with which to open the door. After some deliberation, he looked down at her. “A bit ungallant of me to ask, perhaps, but would you get the door, Martha?”
She smiled and pulled the key from around her neck, wishing she could have held on to him a bit longer. She opened the door and he edged through sideways, nudging the door closed behind him with his foot. “Thanks. I think I can manage now,” she told him.
“Nonsense! We’re going straight to the sick bay–I’ve got just the thing for mending that ankle.” He swept off down the corridors, much more sure-footed now that he was back on level ground, and soon Martha found herself sitting on an exam table in what looked like a perfectly normal doctor’s office.
“This is the sick bay?” she asked, confused. Last time they’d been in there, it had been much more high tech.
“It’s the exam room,” he told her, his head deep inside a cupboard. “The TARDIS realized we didn’t need the whole thing, so it just brought us this bit.” His voice was a bit muffled now as his entire upper body seemed to have vanished into the cupboard. “I think the rest of it’s downstairs.”
“What are you doing?”
“I’m looking for–ah hah! Here it is!” He emerged triumphantly from the cupboard, his hair sticking out in more directions than seemed possible in only three dimensions. He was brandishing what looked, to Martha, suspiciously like an electric toothbrush.
“And that’s meant to mend my foot, is it?” Martha asked sceptically.
“Yep,” he said, coming back to the table. “Got it on Praxis 5. It’s supposed to–oh no!” He frowned down at the device then whacked it against his palm several times.
“Was that meant to do something?”
“Well, it’s supposed to be on now. Battery must have died. Oh, I’ll have to find the charger now,” he sighed, looking back at the cupboard dejectedly. “It’ll take a few hours to charge after that. Should be ready around midnight. I’m sorry, Martha. Do you want some pain killers until then?”
“I’ll take the pain killers,” she said. “But I’m not waiting up till midnight for that thing. I’m exhausted. Help me get to bed, and we’ll just do this in the morning.”
He handed her the promised pain killers, warning her somewhat ominously not to take them before she brushed her teeth, then scooped her back up and breezed into the hall. At her room, she tried to get him to leave her at the door, but he refused. He was going to be a gentleman whether she wanted him to or not.
Inside, his eyes widened at the state of the room, and he seemed about to say something but changed his mind and coughed instead. “It really doesn’t look like this all the time,” Martha said, compelled to explain. She cast an embarrassed eye at the clothes scattered across the floor and draped over every available bit of furniture. “Actually, I’m usually very tidy…I was just in a rush this morning, and I couldn’t find my jacket.”
“There’s only one jacket in all of this?”
“Yes. And you were pounding on the door saying we needed to go, so I didn’t think you’d appreciate my taking the time to put everything back where it went. Although, now I’m wishing I had.”
He smiled. “Don’t worry about it. You should see my room on laundry day. Actually, no you shouldn’t. I won’t have my laundry tainting your good opinion of me. Forget I said anything.”
She laughed. “I will if you’ll forget this.”
She snatched her pyjamas off the bed and he took her to the bathroom at the other side of the room, sitting her down on the side of the bath tub. “Don’t worry, I can manage this bit on my own,” she told him.
“Okay.” He remained in the doorway, waiting patiently.
“So if you could maybe close the door?”
He stared at her uncomprehendingly for a moment, then suddenly his eyes went wide and Martha could have sworn he was blushing. “Right! Yes! Of course! Sorry!” He backed quickly out of the room and shut the door.
Martha shook her head and smiled, then set about the awkward task of changing out of her jeans without toppling over. Having done that, she hobbled over to the sink, wincing with each step, and began to wash her face. “Ow!”
“Are you alright?” the Doctor called, his voice tinged with concern.
“Fine,” she gasped. “Hit my foot on the bin. Oh, blimey, that hurt.”
“Can I come in?”
“Yeah.” He edged the door open, peeking cautiously into the room. Martha was sitting on the floor by the sink, cradling her injured foot. She managed a brave smile. “Can you hand me those pain killers you gave me? They’re up there on the sink,” she said.
“Did you brush your teeth?”
“Better do that first,” he cautioned her. He grabbed her under her arms and lifted her gently to her feet. Putting his arms around her waist, he held her carefully upright by the sink.
She felt very aware of just how messy brushing one’s teeth can be, and tried to do so in as lady-like a manner as possible. “You know,” she said, rinsing out her toothbrush after spitting awkwardly in the sink. “This, what we’re doing here, is probably the weirdest thing I’ve ever done. And that includes everything else I’ve done since meeting you on the moon.”
“I did promise you new experiences on the TARDIS,” he said with a cheeky grin.
“Oh, shut up,” she told him. She swallowed the pills, which tasted awful, and he carried her back to her bed. “Why was it so important that I brush my teeth before taking these?”
“Nasty side effects otherwise,” he said, using one foot to sweep a pile of clothes off her bed before setting her down on it. “Besides stopping the pain, they would have made your eyebrows fall off.”
“As it is, now they’ll just stop it hurting and make you a bit sleepy.”
“Good thing I’m in bed, then,” she said, yawning as he pulled back her covers.
“Kicking in already?” he asked, smiling.
“Either that or the adrenaline’s wearing off. Probably both.” She stretched out on the bed. “Can we not have anything exploding for the rest of the week?”
He chuckled and pulled the blankets up to her shoulders, tucking her in carefully. “We can try. I make no promises, though.”
“Fair enough,” she said with a sleepy smile. She looked up at him gratefully. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” he said warmly. “Don’t you worry. We’ll have you good as new in the morning.” He patted her fondly on the shoulder and made his way to the door. He flicked off the light and made to shut the door, pausing before it closed all the way. “Nighty-night, Martha.”
“Good night, Doctor,” she said, and the room faded into peaceful darkness.
“No! Martha, stay back!”
As Martha burst into the room, the Doctor flung out a hand as if to ward her off. Against all her instincts to help, she paused just inside the door. The Doctor turned back towards the darkness in the centre of the room. Martha still couldn’t see what it was they were meant to be fighting, but she could feel it now. As soon as her foot crossed the threshold, it had been like running smack into a wall of malevolence. Whatever it was, it was powerful and it was angry. Martha was suddenly glad she’d heeded the Doctor’s warning–she found herself battling down the urge to run away, never mind getting any closer.
“Where is it?” she whispered.
“There,” the Doctor said, not taking his eyes off the centre of the room.
“In the dark?”
“It is the dark,” he told her. “Pure energy–and not the good kind either. It causes fear and pain and then it feeds on it–that’s how it killed all those people. Whatever you do, don’t let it know you’re afraid.”
She stared at the blackness that she now knew was alive. The longer she looked, the less like solid darkness it seemed–it pulsed, moving like billowing clouds of smoke, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that it was watching her. “Yeah. Sure,” she said, almost succeeding in keeping her voice steady.
“Just stay calm,” he told her, sparing a second to turn and give her a reassuring glance. “I’ve got this. Just stay out there.”
She nodded, backing up slowly until she was out of the room, lingering in the doorway. Suddenly she screamed–her brain felt as if it was on fire and a thousand voices were shouting in her head.
“No! Stop that! Stop it right now! This is between you and me; you leave her out of this!” The Doctor was yelling, but his voice seemed distant and faraway through the flames that intensified in her head, making her blood boil.
“I SAID STOP!”
The Doctor’s voice echoed loud and clear, and the noise in her head was suddenly silent, a cool coral glow soothing away the fire. In an instant, her mind was clear again, and she realized she was leaning heavily on the doorframe, clutching it with shaking hands.
“Are you alright?” The Doctor didn’t turn around, but Martha could hear the worry in his voice.
“I’m fine, yeah,” she said, pushing herself off the doorframe. She eyed the darkness warily.
“Good. I need you to go now.”
“What? No way! I’m not leaving you here!”
“Martha, please. It attacked you to get to me–I’m holding it off right now, but I can’t keep this up forever.” There was a slight strain in his voice now, and Martha noticed a lone bead of sweat trickling down the side of his head.
“In my head just now, that was–”
“That was me, yes. I’ve extended my mental defences to cover you as well, but I can’t protect the both of us and fight it off at the same time.”
A second drop of sweat joined the first, and Martha realized that keeping her safe was making him lose. He turned to look at her and she met his eyes, nodded, and backed away. The coral glow vanished from her mind, but her head remained clear, although she could still sense the creature in the next room.
For several long minutes she stood, waiting at the end of the corridor. The longer she waited, the more nervous she grew. The silence stretched on and on, and it was killing her. It had been quiet for too long, and she knew that was a bad sign. Unable to take it anymore, she squared back her shoulders–the Doctor was in there alone, and she was going to help! She took a few steps towards the room and stopped. She could still feel the creature, and a trickle of fear entered the back of her mind. She had seen what was left of the people the creature had fed on. She shuddered and made to step back, but stopped abruptly as a thought struck her. She’d seen what was left of those people, but if that thing thought she was going to let it do that to the Doctor, it had another thing coming!
Martha walked resolutely back to the door and peered into the room. For a moment, it seemed as though the Doctor had the upper hand. He stood stock still in the middle of the room, staring doggedly into the darkness, a look of great concentration on his face. On second glance, however, she realized that he was just barely holding on. His hands were balled into fists at his sides, shaking and clenched so tight the knuckles were turning white. Sweat ran freely down from his hair, and his teeth were gritted in pain, his breathing ragged. Neither of them seemed to have noticed her, and Martha hesitated, suddenly unsure of what to do. She wanted to help, but if she broke the Doctor’s concentration now, he might lose what little ground he had left.
The question was answered for her when the Doctor dropped to his knees with a sudden cry of pain. The darkness seemed to expand, billowing out in steadily larger pulses, and a tendril of it reached out, almost teasingly, towards the Doctor’s face. He let out a low, pitiful moan, and in her head Martha felt the darkness laughing.
“Doctor!” she called, and the two of them noticed her at the same time. The Doctor turned his head at the sound of his name just as she felt the creature pushing at the edges of her mind.
“Martha,” the Doctor rasped, and for a moment she thought he was going to tell her to go again. Then his eyes locked on to hers, and she knew she wasn’t going anywhere. Instead of the resolution she expected to see, he stared back at her with a wild desperation. His face was white; his mouth gasping as if each ragged breath had to fight to find its way out. He lifted one shaking hand from the floor helplessly, reaching out for hers. “Martha, I need–” was as far as he got before he crashed to the floor with a gut-wrenching howl of pain, clapping both hands to the side of his head.
Martha leapt towards the Doctor, and she instantly regretted not having a better plan as the fire exploded across her brain again. She heard someone scream, and as she collapsed to the ground, she realized it was her. She lay on the floor in agony, fire and laughter burning in her head, and she forced her eyes to open. The Doctor was lying on the floor too, unable to speak, but he was staring at her, his eyes wide, pleading with hers. One hand still stretched out towards her. With what felt like the last of her strength, she began to move her hand.
The laughter in her head changed from mocking to cruel, and the fire burned down out of her brain and into her arms, raging through her veins and she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t move. Her eyes met the Doctor’s again, and her lips moved, though no sound escaped them. “I’m sorry,” she mouthed.
His fingers stretched out imploringly, beckoning hers to join them. His dark, soulful eyes were glistening with pain and desperation, but deep, deep within them glimmered a spark of hope, and Martha found that she had the strength after all.
Her outstretched fingers locked with his, and he gripped them back as tightly as if their lives depended on it. Martha suddenly realized that they did, and she squeezed his hand, feeling a sudden warmth running through her veins that had nothing to do with the fire in her head. Strength returned to her limbs, and she flung out her other arm, locking both her hands around the Doctor’s. In her mind’s eye, she saw the coral glow again–just a spark, but there it was. She opened her eyes and the Doctor was smiling at her. Sweat still poured from his hair and spasms of pain still rippled across the muscles of his face, but he was smiling, renewed determination burning in his eyes.
She felt the coral glow starting to grow, and she wondered if she couldn’t help it along. It began to grow faster, and suddenly the darkness was back, surrounding it and pushing it back down. It hurt–oh, bloody hell, it hurt!–but somehow it wasn’t as overpowering as it had been before. A sudden tug on her hands told her the Doctor was moving, and she looked up to see him climbing resolutely to his knees. “Push it back, Martha,” he said, his voice grating in his throat. He squeezed her hands with both of his as another spasm of pain wracked his body, but he held on. “We can do this.”
Martha could feel his determination seeping through the coral glow in her head, and she found she had the strength to nod. She focused on the glow, imagining it cooling the fire in her brain, glowing brighter and brighter until it pushed the darkness away. After a moment, the darkness did start to lessen, and Martha felt as though a great weight were being lifted slowly off of her body. She thought she might have the strength to move, and suddenly the Doctor was grabbing her arms, pulling her up to her knees. He hugged her closely to him, and with trembling arms, she hugged him back. The coral glow exploded in her mind then, expanding out to the edges of her brain, and she imagined it pushing out the last scraps of darkness. For a moment, the darkness held on, screaming in her head as it fought back, and her hands were clenched tightly in the fabric of the Doctor’s jacket as she screamed along with it…And then it was gone. The silence that replaced it was so sudden that it was almost deafening. Her mind was cool and clear again, calm easing in as the coral glow slowly faded.
The Doctor put his hands on Martha’s shoulders, looking deep into her eyes as he slowly pulled out of the hug. “Are you alright?” he asked.
She tried to answer, but only managed a cough over the dryness in her throat. She nodded. “Yeah,” she finally managed. “I…I think so. What happened?”
“Well,” he sighed, taking his eyes off of her and looking around the room which suddenly seemed a lot brighter. “I think…we beat it.”
“You mean we won?” Her smile of relief quickly changed to a look of concern as she cast her eyes quickly about the room. “Wait, where’s it gone?”
“It’s gone. Dried up. Pfft!” He made a gesture with one of his hands that vaguely resembled smoke evaporating.
“It used up all its energy trying to take us down. It was the two of us together that did it–individually, we were easy prey–well, I was making it work for it a bit, but I did go in seriously underestimating how powerful it was–but once we started fighting back together, it was putting out more energy than it was taking in trying to bring us down. We held on long enough that it used up all the energy it had and it ended up consuming itself.”
Martha smiled. “I guess that says something about teamwork then, hey?”
The Doctor grinned back at her broadly. “It sure does. Come here, you!” He pulled her back into a hug, and tired, relieved laughter bubbled up from her throat. He pulled back out, his face serious again. “Thank you,” he said. “Like I said, it had gotten stronger than I thought, and I…well, I wouldn’t have been able to stop it by myself. Thanks for coming back.”
Martha smiled and leaned forward to kiss him lightly on the cheek. “What are friends for?” He smiled back warmly, then grabbed her arms and pulled her to her feet as he leapt up. The blood rushed to Martha’s head and she swayed on her feet, not noticing as the Doctor rocked back slightly as well. “Whoa,” she said, putting a hand on his shoulder to steady herself.
“Easy there,” he said, taking her hand. “We may have won, but that was a hell of a psychic battle we just fought. They tend to be kind of draining.”
“But I thought you said we stopped it.”
“We stopped it taking enough energy to kill us, yeah, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t take anything. You must have noticed how tired you are?”
“I did, actually, thanks. So…”
“Nothing a good night’s rest won’t cure,” he assured her. “Come on.” He took her hand and they made their way out into the corridor.
By the time they reached the bottom of the stairs, Martha had slipped her arm around the Doctor’s waist and was leaning against his shoulder. He threw his arm over her shoulders, as much to comfort her as to prop himself up. They walked along in companionable silence for a while, winding their way through the streets towards the TARDIS.
Martha’s feet stumbled somewhat as she stepped awkwardly over a grating in the street, and she realized her eyes were closed. “Doctor?” she asked, not opening them yet. “You know where we’re going, right?”
“Sure,” he said airily. “Why do you ask?”
“It’s just that I’m not really watching.”
“Oh,” he said, and she felt them stop. She opened her eyes and looked up at him in time to see him force his own eyes open. “What?” he asked as she smiled.
“I…I will have you know, I know exactly where I’m going,” he said defensively, and she grinned wider. “I do!”
“I’m sure you do, but shouldn’t you be watching where you know you’re going?”
“Oh, you’re one to talk! Don’t think I didn’t see you doing a bit of sleepwalking yourself, Miss Jones!”
“Fair enough,” she said, still smiling. “Maybe we should both watch where we’re going.”
He nodded, and after a moment, they started walking again, still leaning heavily on one another. By the time they rounded the last corner, the only thing keeping either of them upright was the weight of the other one leaning against them. They stopped at the door of the TARDIS and the Doctor sighed. “Martha, do you have your key?”
“Somewhere in my pocket,” she said drowsily. “Why, have you lost yours?”
“No,” he said with another sigh, his free hand fishing lazily in his own pocket. “I just didn’t want to have to look for it.”
She was too tired to come up with a snappy reply, and settled on “Mmm” as he stuck the key into the lock.
They stumbled inside and slowly made their way across the room, their feet dragging on the metal grating. They paused by the control console, and the Doctor stared down at it for a long minute before deciding he had the strength to flick a little switch on the side of one of the panels. With a familiar grating sound, the TARDIS slowly took off to float in the Vortex. The two of them stood by the console, leaning heavily on each other and feeling the trembling in the floor settle into a gentle vibration.
“Right,” the Doctor finally said with far less than his usual zest. “Time for bed, I think.”
“Sounds great,” Martha said sleepily. “Can we just…can we just wait here a minute? It’s such a long way down the hall to my room.”
“It is that,” the Doctor agreed. Another few dragging steps and they found themselves sinking down onto the jump seat. “Just for a minute then.”
“Yeah,” said Martha, closing her eyes and leaning over until her head rested on the Doctor’s shoulder. “Just a minute…”
“Then we really should…” The Doctor’s voice trailed off, his head drooping over until it was resting on top of Martha’s.
“We should,” Martha agreed softly.
“Yeah,” the Doctor said as his eyes flickered shut.
The TARDIS floated peacefully through the Vortex, humming to herself as she danced among the stars. Inside, she dimmed the lights in the console room until nothing remained but the gentle green glow of the central column. She began to hum something softer, more melodic. On the battered jump seat, Martha lay curled up like a cat, her head in the Doctor’s lap. The Doctor lay with his arms folded up on Martha’s back, his head resting on top of them. The TARDIS smiled down at them. No matter the adventures and the dangers, they always returned to her, and she flew on, watching over her thief and her human child as they slept.