Title: Sew It Up, But You Still See The Tear
Fandom: Doctor Who
Pairing: gen, mostly, with some Martha/Tom
Word count: 3,687
Summary: She's realized that she wants to build herself a new life, a bigger one, one that can fit people who aren't the last of the Time Lords. Martha Jones in the aftermath.
Notes: Many many thanks to zulu for shortening my sentences and deleting the extraneous commas. Takes place in the time period between The Last of the Time Lords and The Sontaran Strategem.
Martha leaves the TARDIS with a promise extracted from the Doctor, a pack of gum, twenty-three pence in change from buying flowers, the keys to a flat that is now simply a charred hole in the wall, Jack's number in Cardiff, and a family to take care of. She leaves with her head held high.
She doesn't listen for the sound of the TARDIS dematerializing as she walks inside the house, that loud, familiar blaring; this hurts enough as it is.
Her mother looks as if she'd like to ask her if she's all right, but Martha smiles and shrugs and heads upstairs to the room that used to be hers a long time ago. She doesn't want to talk about it. Eventually, she'll listen to her family, know their stories. Everyone on Earth seemed to know her story. No one knew theirs.
But that can wait until tomorrow. Right now, she sleeps.
Her father is the first to talk to her. He tells her what it was like mopping the decks of the Valiant, the heat and grueling hours, the soldiers that would walk by and spit on the floor next to him, just so that he'd have more to clean. The Master had kept him out of sight and that had made things easier for him, in the end. Possibly worse, because he'd known what Tish and Mum had to go through day after day and had been completely incapable of stopping it.
It's a gift, his story; Martha can see how hard this is for him to say. She repays his gift in kind, telling him about 1913, the months of scrubbing floors on her hands and knees, while puffed-up school boys looked down on her and mocked the color of her skin.
Her father hugs her tight, after that, and kisses her hair.
She wakes up one morning, and the sky outside her window is dark, and the world isn't ending. It takes her body a moment to realize this. Her heart beats too rapidly, her breath coming too fast. She breathes and breathes and breathes, reminding herself that it never happened. Her family is right here with her, and not on the Valiant, held hostage by a madman. Earth is not burning all around her, and she doesn't have to make it to Canada or Australia or Germany by the next night. Her blankets are warm, and her food is substantial, and she's not a fugitive, not anymore. She doesn't have to listen for the quiet, mechanical hum of the Toclafane, the subtle whirring of their engines. She can breathe and breathe and breathe, and the only thing she hears is a dog barking, halfway down the street.
She can't quite fall back asleep, so she pores over the medical textbooks (remembering the way she'd recite these things in her head -- the bones of the hand, the procedure for performing an intubation, symptoms of a cardiac arrest -- as she worked her way through 1913 and 1969, as she walked the Earth, so that she wouldn't forget them, so that she'd remember where she came from) as the sun rises, promising a new day.
Martha Jones is twenty-three years old and a medical student, and there are scars on her body that weren't there a month ago. She doesn't like the taste of licorice and is secretly still fond of the Spice Girls. She has an older sister who was always prettier than her and a younger brother who was never quite as smart as her, and even though they've grown out of those labels, they still stick. She fell in love for the first time at fifteen, and she hid herself in her room for weeks listening to bad pop music because he was dating someone else. After that, she made a vow never to fall for someone that unavailable again, but then she broke that very same vow nine years later. She likes wearing brightly-colored knickers, because they make her smile, because they make her feel happy and goofy and fun. She wants to visit New York when the world isn't in danger and stare at the neon of Times Square. She wants to climb up to the top of the Empire State Building without being distracted by an impending Dalek invasion, visit Broadway and see a show, visit the Statue of Liberty again (as she was in 1930 and not knocked over so a statue of the Master could take her place).
Martha Jones is twenty-three years old. When she was nine, she wanted to be a doctor because she wanted to help people, and during a year that never happened, she saved the world.
She meets Tom by accident, running into him on the Tube one morning (which she takes because it's too far to walk and she still hasn't gotten her car back), and after the first time, which is probably just a coincidence, she sees him more and more often, until seeing him becomes part of her morning routine. They fall into a conversation about their favorite medical textbooks when her sees a copy of Pocock's Human Physiology under her arm. After that, it's easy.
Tom's happier, more relaxed, than Martha remembers. He flirts with her openly, without the weight of that year on his shoulders, but he's still the same man, that quiet strength she remembers just underneath the surface. He's the one who asks her out to coffee, and of course she says yes. They sit by the window on a busy, sunny morning, the hustle and bustle of a city street right next to them, outside the window. She could tell him that all this is here because of him, because of what he doesn't remember doing, because of what he doesn't remember dying for, but that doesn't seem fair, so she tells him medical student horror stories -- staying up too late studying; her first, disastrous autopsy -- and she listens as he tells her his. They laugh together, and it occurs to her that she's never heard him laugh before.
She's not Martha Jones anymore, not the savior of the Earth, not anything more than a medical student, but he still seems to like her. He asks her out to dinner right after coffee, and maybe that's enough.
She thinks of the Doctor, sometimes (of course she does), and of the way he'd grin over the TARDIS console while he pushed buttons and flipped switches, manic and strangely joyous, as if there was nothing more than this, one adventure after another. And maybe it is, for him. It was true for Martha, once, but it isn't anymore, and it surprises her how much better she likes it that way.
She misses the Doctor, sometimes (of course she does), especially when her new flat feels too quiet and the lights feel too yellow and not green enough and her world feels too small compared to the vastness of the universe. But she also remembers the way it felt to build her whole life around him and how it made her world so much smaller, because most of the time, it felt like he was the only thing in it.
She's realized that she wants to build herself a new life, a bigger one, one that can fit people who aren't the last of the Time Lords.
And that's what she's doing.
Her mother is the next one to talk. Martha had always admired her mother, her mother's poise and dignity, and she'd always wanted a bit of that for herself. Her mother has stories of the way the Master would sneer at her, make her polish the table until it glowed, then dump his dinner all over it, so she'd have to clean it again. He liked to ask for tea at odd hours of the night and then never drink it, clearly enjoying her irritation. He made her family watch as Japan burned.
Her mother's poise never breaks, not once, as she tells Martha this, and Martha knows she was waiting until she knew it wouldn't before telling Martha her story.
Martha decides to tell her mother about the good times she had with the Doctor, visiting huge cities made entirely of ice, beautiful and strangely warm, hearing all of New New York sing together in joyous celebration, watching a star supernova at the edge of the Andromeda Galaxy. The stories make her mother smile, and Martha squeezes her hand tightly, happy to give her even this.
UNIT calls Martha up out of the blue (a Tuesday night, right before she makes dinner). It's not a job offer quite yet, but they do imply that they'd do almost anything to bring her in, tell her flat out that she'd been highly recommended by a trusted source, and ask her if she'd like to do an interview.
She hesitates, because it's military, and it's aliens, and she's not sure about getting mixed up in all of that again. But it's also about protecting Earth, something she knows is important, something she knows how to do.
Her interviewer is an older man, a Colonel, wrinkles beginning to line his face, gray beginning to show in his hair. There's a formality to him that makes her uncomfortable. She's not used to it.
But then he shakes her hand and says, "I was being kept prisoner on the Valiant the day that year was erased. I still remember what you did for us, and I wanted to thank you."
It's genuine, if a bit stiff, and it cracks her open, exposing parts of her that she'd thought she'd sealed away forever. For a moment, she thinks she could cry, for her family, for Tom, for the Doctor, for all of Earth and the things it no longer remembers, but she keeps herself together and says, "You're welcome."
She wants to hug him, this Colonel, because that missing year binds them together, connects them in some indefinable way, but she doesn't, and the rest of the interview goes smoothly.
When the job offer is official, she doesn't tell anyone before she accepts.
She keeps in touch with Jack, nothing too serious, just a few e-mails back and forth. He flirts with her shamelessly, but not in any way that means anything, and she realizes she loves him a little, just because he remembers that year, because he's traveled with the Doctor and fallen in love with him, and because he learned that he needed to walk away, too. Her family likes him after that year they spent together (she suspects that he told them colorful stories about his time in the twentieth century), and it cheers her to know that they have one other person they can count on.
After she accepts the offer from UNIT, she calls him up to tell him about it. He sounds pleased. "Now I know who to call when we have medical issues," he says, his voice light and teasing.
Martha laughs. "Don't you already have a doctor?" she asks.
"Two is always better than one," Jack says, and she thinks she can hear the grin in his voice.
A comfortable silence rests between them.
"You only have to ask," she says, eventually. She means it, one hundred percent.
UNIT ends up doing a lot for her, more than she expected. They buy her a new mobile, teach her to shoot, pull some strings to let her take her exams early. They give her something to do, something solid and real, to keep her from remembering too much, to keep her from feeling utterly powerless. Tom takes her new job in stride. Her family doesn't, but they come around eventually.
The mobile is nice, sleek and silver with plenty of extraneous buttons. She puts her old number in her contacts list under "Doctor," but she doesn't put it on speed-dial. It's a temptation she doesn't want or need.
Weapons training is less intense for medical personnel than it is for the soldiers, but they're still expected to know how to handle themselves if it comes down to a fight. As she practices, watching her bullets tear through paper, she thinks of the oath she will one day take and of the phrase they repeated over and over to the students in medical school, primum non nocere -- first, do no harm.
She worries over her exams for weeks, studying until her eyes go a little blurry. The old knowledge comes back quickly, almost like she never left. After she passes her exams, she flips open her phone, scrolls to a familiar number, and bites her lip as her finger hovers over the green 'call' button. It wouldn't be anything, just a social call. It would only take five minutes at the longest.
When she comes to her senses, she calls Tom instead.
She visits Jack in Cardiff and ends up with an alien mayfly stuck in her stomach and feels like something else was torn out of her when yet another person dies while protecting her. She watches as Jack wrests Owen back to life with a glove, and she gets aged seventy years in the blink of an eye, and she kisses Jack before she leaves.
When she gets back to London, she sits Tom down at the kitchen table of their now-shared flat and tells him the truth about UNIT (which he believes almost immediately) and about traveling with the Doctor (which takes him longer). She doesn't mind breaking the confidentiality agreements she's signed, because it's not fair to him to not know this part of her. (She keeps The Year That Never Was to herself, because she doesn't think she's ready to tell him about it, and she doesn't think he's ready to hear about it, either.)
"It's just a lot to take in," Tom says, and he can't quite meet her eyes, which hurts more than she thought it would.
"I know," she says, before leaving him alone to absorb it all.
The next morning, he kisses her on the forehead and hands her a piece of toast and says, "Be careful out there," and doesn't mention their conversation at all. She knows that he's accepted it. The thought warms her all throughout the day.
She's running again, this time through UNIT's science wing as a huge orange alien that looks a like a dragon chases them through the hallways. She was examining some cells they'd found on a meteorite that landed in the Thames, something she'd done dozens of times before, something that could have, should have been harmless, but then the cells started multiplying, and they started forming teeth and claws and wings, and Martha, with good instincts honed from dozens of alien encounters with the Doctor, grabs the arm of the young UNIT soldier who responded to her shout of surprise and runs.
It's night, and the wing is mostly quiet. When they duck into a chemistry lab, it's empty. The soldier beside her looks young, oh so young, but she knows he's not more than a couple years younger than she is.
They wait, listening for the alien as they catch their breath, but the alarms are blaring, alerting everyone to the possible alien threat.
"You all right?" Martha asks. "What's your name?"
He's regained some of his composure, some of his training, as he says, "Private James Summers, ma'am."
"Nice to meet you, James," Martha says. She peeks through the window, trying to get a sense of where this thing is. It's stopped, just standing there in the middle of the hallway, its head bobbing back and forth.
She thinks it looks a bit sad, a little lost. She cracks the door open.
"Ma'am?" James says, sounding a bit panicked.
"I'll be fine," she says, waving him off, even as her heart's beating too fast.
The alien doesn't attack her as she approaches it, but she moves slowly, trying not to startle it. "Hello," she says. "I'm not going to hurt you."
The alien just blinks at her with huge, black eyes.
"You just spooked us, is all. It's not every day something like you shows up." She gets close enough to touch it, so close she can feel it breathe. It doesn't shy away or snarl at her as she places a hand on its beak.
And then it's in her mind or she's in its, because she can feel its fear and surprise and desire to go home which is not here but is far away where it is covered in wide deserts and bright sun and the food lives beneath the sand, and it doesn't like here.
I'll figure out a way to get you home, she thinks into its mind. It'll be all right.
It sends her the sensation of flying through space, soaring amongst the stars, and of the wound on one of its wings, preventing it from leaving. It's all so strange and alien but also so familiar.
"What the hell is it?" James asks from behind her.
"I've got no idea, but it's telepathic. It's not going to hurt us." She feels a bit like the Doctor, explaining things, and it reminds her of how much she's done, how much she's seen.
I'll get you home, she promises it, and the absolute trust it feels toward her stuns her, and when the cavalry arrives, she argues with the Major in charge for twenty minutes until he gives in to her demands to let her treat the alien and set it free, letting it find its way home.
Tom doesn't make a big production out of asking her to marry him. He just slides the ring box across the table after he says he's going to start doing work in Africa and expects her to sort it all out. Martha thinks Tish would give him a right bollocksing for not being more romantic about it, but Martha likes that Tom's not fond of grand gestures except for when they count.
She likes lots of things about him. She likes the way he's not a morning person, monosyllabic before his first cup of coffee. She likes his fondness of colorful, cartoonish ties, which he claims he wears entirely for his patients' benefit. She likes his smile. She never really saw it during those first, too-brief days together, and it looks all the more beautiful because of it. She likes his laugh.
"I wanted to ask before I left," he says as she turns the box over in her hands, watching her for her reaction.
Martha stares at the ring, beautiful but not ostentatious. She really does love him, not in the same fierce, all-consuming way she loved the Doctor but in a way that's warmer and gentler and no less real because of it. "Yes," she says.
It doesn't surprise Martha that Tish is the last to speak to her. They'd been close, growing up, but never quite close enough, and it was always Tish's way to unload her smaller miseries on everyone else but not say word to anyone about her bigger ones.
When she finally talks to Martha, properly talks to Martha, she tells her of the way the Master used to touch her, a hand on her cheek, underneath her chin, of the way he would look her up and down, considering. He never went farther than that, not once over that entire year, because it wasn't the doing of the thing that thrilled him but her fear of it. She smacked him once, early on, out of anger, and he'd hit her back, harder, before having her chained to the same pole as Jack for four days, so that she'd have to watch as they killed him over and over again.
In return, Martha tells her the entire story of her year walking the Earth. She doesn't hide or whitewash one bit of it. "It was ugly, seeing what he'd done to the planet. You remember all those silly nature programs we used to watch? It was like seeing all that in person except twisted and corrupted. Most of the forests were cut down to make more room for the factories, and people warned me not to touch the water of the rivers and lakes because they were so polluted -- they smelled foul, worse than that time we hid eggs under Leo's bed. But it wasn't all bad. I met some of the most amazing people. They were hungry and miserable and yet still so strong. They'd sing songs at night, after the last work shift, and they'd tell stories to make each other laugh. They'd listen to me talk about the Doctor, and they'd believe me because they didn't have anything else, but he never really broke them, in the end. They were always so strong."
She tells Tish more, about seeing the Amazon River, the forest all around it razed, about walking through the ruins of Chicago, about crossing the Australian outback with just a pack and a vortex manipulator. She teaches Tish the bits and pieces of foreign languages she picked up along the way, how to say "hello" in Russian and "goodbye" in Chinese. She tells Tish about the way she'd look up at the stars, remembering how it felt to travel among them, but also how she'd always search for Polaris, the North Star, first, so that she'd always be able to orient herself, so that she'd always know the way back home.
Martha Jones has been around. She's seen the end of the universe, she has. She's been on the bright side of the moon, looking down on the earth. She's met nice aliens and evil aliens and morally ambiguous aliens. She's seen the outer reaches of space, and she's breathed the air of 1913. She's been places she never dreamed of, and she's done things she'd never thought she'd need to do. She's watched the moon landing five times, and she's met William Shakespeare, and she's fought lizards and pigmen and living suns, and she's seen how strong and resilient the human race really is. She's loved something too alien to fully love her back, and she doesn't regret any of it, not a single moment.
In the end, the call is easy. They have an Atmos, and they have a factory, but they can't figure out how it works, and it's Colonel Mace who asks her to make the call.
She stands in an alley, phone in hand, ready for anything. Her fingers don't hesitate in the slightest as they scroll through her contacts list. She has a two-way radio strapped to her belt, the keys to the flat she shares with Tom in her pocket, and a medical license that proves she's earned her title in her office.
She presses the green 'call' button.
"Doctor, it's Martha," she says when he finally answers. "And I'm bringing you back to Earth."