Martha held it together until the TARDIS was safely in the Void. She’d gotten them through, she’d offered to help with Nurse Redfern, she’d said goodbye to Timothy, and finally, the oppressive weight of 1913 was off her shoulders.
She’d intended to make it back to her room and then have a good cry, but her legs just sort of folded under her and she was sitting on the floor, her back resting against the gently humming wall of the TARDIS. Everything she’d been holding inside turned into hot tears in her eyes and a lump in her throat.
“Right, where shall we go next?” The Doctor asked as he jumped around, pressing buttons and twirling knobs and pulling levers. “Shall we check on Tim-Timmy-Tim as an adult? I’ve got a feeling he’s going to grow up splendidly! Or maybe we’ll save that for later, hm? Get off Earth for a little while? Don’t like being in one place for too long, y’know, and that was much too long to stay at one boarding school, even if it wasn’t really me that was doing it…what do you think, Martha? …Martha? What’s wrong?”
Oh, he’d noticed her. That made for a nice change. She wanted to give him a royal telling-off, but the tears were coming too fast and she didn’t think she’d be able to get words past them, so she just shook her head.
“Are you all right? Well, no, obviously you’re not, but are you injured? Did you, um, hit your head or something?” She shot him a glare through her tears, and he recoiled slightly. “Right, silly question of course, I’ve seen you get hurt before and you always just take care of it...Did something happen?”
“Did something happen, he asks,” she said, laughing bitterly. “Turns himself into a human and gets me stranded in nineteen-bloody-thirteen working as a maid for months, and he asks me if something happened. Of course something bloody well happened, Doctor! You made the worst plan that anyone in all of space and time has ever made! And don’t start making a list of other people who you think have made worse plans. I’m not at all in the mood.”
“Right,” he muttered, not looking at her. “People died because I was there. That maid, Jenny, she was a friend of yours, wasn’t she? Martha, I’m sorry.”
“Well, yes, that’s one reason why your plan was the worst plan,” she agreed bitterly. Her anger was drying her tears now, and she stood up, glaring at the Doctor. “The fact that you didn’t give me any instructions on what to do if you started falling in love with a human, that was another reason. But you still don’t get it, do you? Look at me, Doctor. Tell me what you see.”
“I see Martha Jones,” he said, meeting her eyes. He sounded uncertain of what she was asking. “Brilliant, capable, brave Martha Jones, who’s saved my life and–“
“Yes, yes, that’s all well and good, but you know what else you ought to see, Doctor? Someone you should not get stuck living in 1913!”
“What?” He looked even more confused. “Martha, I don’t–“
“No! You don’t! You don’t understand why stranding a black woman in the past is a terrible idea! You didn’t even think about it, did you? Didn’t even think ‘If we’re going to be stuck on Earth for a while, I’d better make sure it’s in a time and place where people won’t see Martha as subhuman.’ Didn’t think ‘Gosh, if I’m going to turn into a typical person of the day and age we show up in, I’d better make sure that doesn’t involve being terrible to Martha.’ Do you know how it felt, bringing you your breakfast every morning, scrubbing the floors, getting taunted and pinched by those damn boys and letting you explain the concept of fiction to me, and having to say yessir and nossir and right away sir to it all? And that wasn’t even as bad as it could’ve been! You changed so much that you were worried you’d hurt someone, so much that you became someone who would happily teach little boys how to use machine guns. What if you’d turned into someone who’d happily grope the maid? What was I supposed to do then?”
He was staring at her, open-mouthed, and she wondered how long it had been since he’d gotten properly told off. Far too long, by the looks of it.
“Martha…I don’t remember everything, I’m still sorting through the memories…please tell me I didn’t hurt you.”
“No, John Smith was a decent enough bloke,” she said. “But as soon as I realized how much you’d changed, I was worrying about it. Half the other masters at the school would make a go at me when I brought them breakfast. ‘Come sit on my lap, Martha dear, I like a little chocolate in the morning.’ None of them pushed it, but they could have. You can’t imagine what it was like, worrying about that and dodging that every day for months straight. I mean you literally can’t imagine. You just have no idea. Because if you had some idea, you never would’ve put me in that position. There wasn’t any reason we had to be in 1913 instead of, I don’t know, 2913 or something, was there?”
“No,” he admitted. “I just didn’t think.”
“Yeah,” she snapped. “I noticed.”
She stormed out of the control room and into her bedroom, not wanting to even look at the Doctor any longer. If he knew what was good for him, he’d have parked the TARDIS in some sort of racial-equality paradise by the time she got out of her room. Or better yet, somewhere that she’d be considered normal and he’d be subhuman.
If not, well…maybe it was time for her to start thinking about getting out.
She didn’t realize she’d fallen asleep until she woke to the sound of knocking on her bedroom door.
“Martha?” the Doctor called, sounding much more tenative than usual. “Can I come in?”
She was not in the mood to have a man in her bedroom just now, even the Doctor. Especially the Doctor. She walked over to the door and pulled it open, glaring up into the time traveler’s contrite face.
“What?” she snapped.
“You were right,” he said. “About everything. You were right, and I am so, so sorry, Martha. I acted a complete fool.”
Had she ever heard him apologize for anything before? He said ‘I’m sorry’ all the time, but it was usually an expression of sympathy, not of remorse.
“Yeah, well,” she muttered, not ready to let him off the hook just yet. “Better to realize it late than never, I suppose.”
“I’ve set the TARDIS to take us to Egypt,” he said. “Way back before anyone had thought of the whole daft ‘race’ idea. Thought maybe you’d like to meet Cleopatra.”
“Could be fun,” she conceded.
“Yeah?” He gave her a hopeful grin.
“Yeah. Just let me shower and change.”
He swept her up in a hug, and she resented a little bit how good it felt to have his arms around her, even after everything.
“Allons-y, Martha Jones!” he said, and headed back to the control room.
She shook her head, and went to get in the shower. It was going to be a bumpy ride, with him piloting. But it would be worth it, for now.