"Oh, I'm a terrible baby-sitter. Never leave me alone with small children," he assured her.
"You can save the universe, but you can't change a nappy, you mean?" She grinned at him, climbing into the car.
"Just...anything to do with kids! They're terrifying little monsters! Always running around in packs and looking like they could attack you at any minute, and jabbering on in that strange language of theirs. Very suspicious, small children." He nodded sagely.
"I'm a genetic anomaly created by fusing the DNA of two completely different species. Of course I'm mad." Martha could hear the self-loathing in his voice, and she sighed quietly.
"So I've got a sofabed – it might be too short for you, I dunno. I've never slept on it, actually, but I suppose it's comfortable enough. Or I'll sleep out there and you can have my bed. It doesn't matter to me, really." She didn't even sleep much when she tried to, not with everything that haunted her dreams. "Did Luke get you any sort of pyjamas?" She hoped the clothes actually fit - this wasn't exactly the best time to be clothes shopping, not when there were probably bug-eyed green creatures roaming the high street shops. (On the other hand, it might result in some killer sales.)
"I think so?" He shrugged. "There's a t-shirt, anyway; I imagine that'll do. Do you ever wonder why you stop to think about such mundane things when the world is going mad around you?"
"Not really." Martha was a little surprised by the question seemingly coming out of nowhere, but she answered it as best she could. "I think it sort of helps to ground you, make you remember that there are perfectly normal things out there that have to be done, like life isn't all about saving the world and doing heroic deeds. Sometimes, you've just got to spend a day at home doing the laundry."
He smiled, maybe for the first time since Martha had found him. "It's a bit strange sometimes, with the memories, you know? There's the bizarre and the mundane in this weird dichotomy, and I just...haven't got the memories of my own to go by. It makes it hard to tell what's real."
Martha glanced out her window, where armed soldiers were chasing after a large yellow avian. "Yeah, well, lives like ours, it's all a bit strange. To be honest, it still seems weird that this has become normal for me. I used to just be concerned with things like keeping the peace in my family and studying for tests, and now I capture aliens without even thinking twice about it. I've met Shakespeare. I don't think I could go back to the way things were if I tried."
"Would you want to?" He looked up, meeting her eyes in the mirror.
She turned her head and tore her eyes away from his gaze. "I thought so for a bit. After I first left, and everything was so different - I just wanted to fit in again, 'cos I felt like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. It was all so weird, going from saving the universe to worrying about paying bills – not to mention that I had to replace all my belongings, so, uh, thanks for that."
"I didn't do anything!" he protested. "That was all the Master. Nobody expected him to plant a bomb in your flat."
"Nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition, either, and look how that turned out."
"Oh, sorry, this is the bit where I list the Master's weapons, isn't it? Or is it cake or death?"
"Cake or death?"
"Sorry, we're fresh out of – oh, never mind."
Martha shook her head; she knew a bit of Python – the classic lines, obviously – but her knowledge was far from encyclopaedic. "Who knew you had time to sit around and watch telly?"
"That's Donna, actually. Well, the last bit is Eddie Izzard – but Donna watched Monty Python with her granddad when she was younger." He shrugged. "I could tell you about the actual Spanish Inquisition, but it's rather less entertaining. Almost got burnt, actually."
"You can stop right there, thanks." Martha grimaced – he'd clearly inherited the Doctor's ability to ramble on about the strangest topics, and she did not want to learn about methods of torture. "You said 'you' that time," she pointed out a moment later. It seemed strange, since the rest of the time, he seemed determined to keep his identity separate from the Doctor's.
"They feel like they're my memories, though." He furrowed his brow, propping his chin on his hand. "There's not really any differentiation between them – it's like being him and Donna and me all at once, except I haven't got any memories of my own. But their memories – it's like I've lived them."
"Makes sense," Martha agreed, shrugging, because she didn't really know what else to say. It wasn't as if she had any experience in the matter. "Well, here we are – not quite as posh as my old flat, but I like it." Besides, she was paying the rent now, not her dad, and her budget was a fair bit smaller.
As they entered the flat, she automatically glanced at the bowl of cat food, which she'd filled that morning – and, sure enough, it was empty, though there was no sign of Shadow. Martha shrugged and opened another can, plopping the chicken and liver food into the bowl.
"You've got a cat?" John peered over her shoulder, wrinkling his nose at the smell of the food.
"Sort of. Well, I haven't seen him in a day or two, but the food keeps disappearing, and it's not like anything else could be eating it. He's probably just hiding somewhere." Martha certainly wasn't going to tell him about her pet's tendency to show up in the strangest places. Besides, Shadow was the least of her worries right now, especially because he was still eating. For all she knew, he could turn invisible, too.
"I hope your mystery cat doesn't decide to surprise me in the middle of the night," he commented over his shoulder, heading for the toilet. Martha rolled her eyes as she started unfolding the sofabed. She wasn't entirely certain she had a spare set of bedding, but she figured they could make do somehow. Of course, 'somehow' might involve giving him the bed and curling up somewhere with a pillow and blanket – but that didn't matter.
After a quick search for more sheets, which proved to be fruitless, Martha took a few moments to change into a tank top and pyjama pants, then returned to the front room, plopping down on the sofabed with a sigh and a creaking of springs. John had already been there, stretched out on the bed without paying any heed to the lack of bedding and staring at the ceiling.
"Is something the matter?" he asked, turning his head to the side to look at her.
"Well, I haven't got any sheets for this." She gestured to the sofabed. "I mean, if you'd like, you can take my bed, and I'll sleep out here."
"Mm. No, this is fine." He sat up and moved next to Martha, dangling his legs over the edge of the bed. The t-shirt he'd changed into only made him look bonier – his elbows jutted out, and she could see the sharp angles of his shoulderblades pressing against the thin fabric. She was pretty sure the Doctor had never been that thin; John very nearly resembled a walking skeleton. "You never asked where I came from."
To be fair, they'd all been a bit preoccupied – but it was a rather large oversight, Martha thought, if the two turned out to be linked. "Yeah, all right. So what happened to you after we all left, anyway? I mean, I can't picture you staying with him."
"I went with Rose – well, it was his idea, mostly. He said I was too dangerous to have around – too dangerous, Martha! This from the man who destroyed two species when he blew up his own planet by collapsing a black hole! It all seems a bit hypocritical to me, really."
Martha couldn't exactly offer her opinion on the matter, as she'd been prepared to do the same thing as the Doctor had – but she didn't think John was in the wrong, either. He'd done what had needed to be done with the tools at hand; if not for him, they'd all have been destroyed in the Crucible.
"So I stayed in the parallel universe with her," he continued. "I guess I was meant to be his parting gift to her, a consolation prize instead of the Time Lord she couldn't have. I didn't mind at first, but then...well, the problem was that I wasn't him. Just because I've got part of his genetic material doesn't mean that we think and feel the same way. It's an interesting bit of sociology, actually, especially because I have his memories – but throwing that part of Donna into the mix really changes things quite a lot."
"It made you human," Martha observed.
"Mostly human. If you want to get technical about it, I'm still half-Time Lord, but biologically human, if that makes any sense."
"It doesn't." Martha smiled up at him.
"Can't help that." He shrugged, but Martha saw the hint of a smile tug at the corners of his lips. "Anyway, I wasn't the man Rose wanted me to be. I tried for a bit, I honestly did, but it just made things worse. We kept fighting over stupid things, and every time, I could see it in her eyes: 'the Doctor wouldn't have done that'. Even sleeping with her...I was too hot, didn't have enough hearts, didn't live up to the fantasy in her mind. Mind you, I'm not sure the real thing could have done that, but she wouldn't have held it against him the way she did me." John looked down and fidgeted awkwardly with his hands.
Martha suddenly felt the urge to put an arm around him or hug him or something. He looked alone and pathetic; she fancied that even his hair was starting to droop. And, well, he hadn't deserved to be treated like that, by the Doctor or Rose – though she could certainly see Rose's side of the situation and how uncomfortable it must have been for her.
"I guess being part human was supposed to make me more domestic, but, well, Donna doesn't exactly have that trait, either." He gave Martha a tight, closed-lipped smile. "I wasn't the easiest person to live with – the problem was that I didn't have anywhere else to live. I didn't have any qualifications to work, any identification...I didn't exist. Pete offered me a job with Torchwood, but I didn't want to take it, not after I'd already taken so much of his charity – not to mention that it was Torchwood."
"Sometimes it's hard to reconcile the ones at Canary Wharf with the rest of them," Martha agreed, shifting a little closer to him. Maybe just close proximity would make him feel better about things. "I've worked with Jack's team – but in the back of my mind, I was always thinking about when I found out that Adeola was dead. And I didn't even know that she'd been working for Torchwood till I joined UNIT and started reading their files; my entire family thought it was just a normal corporation, not a secret organisation trying to open a void between universes."
He chuckled wryly. "What do they think about you following in her footsteps, then? I don't think your mum wants her youngest daughter to be sacrificed for her leaders' stupidity. She'd probably prefer it if you worked in a nice, safe NHS clinic."
"It's not the same!" Martha protested feebly, but she wasn't so sure of the truth herself. "At least we try to keep people safe; Torchwood just wanted to use alien technology to fuel their own ridiculous imperial ideals. I mean, the British Empire? Really? It’s like they’re living in the bloody nineteenth century."
"But your superiors aren't as determined to help people as you are, are they?" John asked softly. "UNIT is starting to fill the void left by Torchwood, and you know it."
Martha glanced down at the mattress, refusing to dignify him with a response. "You never finished telling me how you came here," she said instead, preferring to steal one of the Doctor's favourite tactics and change the subject.
"I'm not really sure, though – I've got theories, but nothing concrete. Nobody seems to have enough information on the situation to formulate anything more, and I find it hard to believe that humans would have technology capable of breaking through the wall between universes – well, more technology, and the Void Ship was the only thing that helped them do it last time." Shaking his head, John turned to look at Martha. "It's obviously connected to whatever's happening with Donna, though – at a guess, I'd say that it's peaked, or is close to peaking, if it's that powerful. The only thing that doesn't quite fit is the location, 'cos, theoretically, if the locations have been closer and closer, I should have landed practically right on top of her." He ran his fingers through his hair till it stood on end again.
"So were you on a nude beach when you came through, then?" Martha couldn't help but tease him.
"No, I was reading a book, actually. Fully clothed, Martha, so don't you think anything dirty." He looked down at his hands, holding them out and looking at the backs, where the veins and tendons were prominent. "And I wasn't nearly so thin, either, which is really bizarre, but spatial-temporal transportation without a capsule can do funny things sometimes. I'm lucky I didn't end up as a bunny rabbit – that would've been terribly inconvenient."
"D'you think you'll go back when all this is done?"
"I don't even know if it'll be possible – it could have all been a one-time fluke in the first place." He grimaced a little. "I don't know, though. I've got the same problem here, with the lack of identity. I wouldn't even have any place to live – I'd be out on the streets, and still relying on charity."
"Come on, if the Master can convince everybody that he graduated from Oxford, surely you can concoct something less preposterous." Martha shrugged; it made sense to her, anyway. "Besides, Torchwood there ought to have been able to provide you with false identification and records – I'm fairly sure Jack could arrange it, and if he can't, then I can probably do something, assuming I've still got a job then."
John tilted his head to one side, regarding her with interest. "I'm not sure what I would do, though, to be honest – I obviously couldn't be a doctor. And I'd prefer to avoid jobs like frying chips, thanks. Employment's never really been an issue before, you know? I haven't got much in the way of qualifications. I could do something with books – research, maybe. Certainly not write one as wretched as the Master's; he used to have dramatic readings on the Valiant, did your family tell you that? Possibly the worst piece of propaganda I've ever seen, but it did his work for him, I suppose. Makes you wonder if J.K. Rowling could've gone into politics after publishing the seventh book."
"You were right about that, by the way – I sobbed when Dobby died," Martha admitted. "And teared up a few more times during the rest of the book. That epilogue was ridiculous, though – everybody was all married and happy with children. Utterly unrealistic. I hate it when people feel like they have to pair all their characters off and make them live happily ever after. It just doesn't work like that in real life."
He frowned for a moment at that. "...are your mum and dad all right, then? I mean, you just sort of made it sound like, well...never mind." The springs creaked beneath him as he shifted awkwardly.
"It just, well, reminded me of when they first split up, that's all," Martha explained. "I'd just come back from my first term at uni, and the house was so tense. I'd never felt anything like it before; I'd always just sort of had this view of a happy, idyllic family, you know? Like, I knew that people got divorces and split up, but it just didn't seem like it would ever happen to my family. Which turned out to be naïve and idealistic, 'cos I clearly didn't expect my dad to end up shagging some blonde bimbo. Makes you wonder how often that sort of thing happens – well, you see it on telly and in films all the time."
That still wasn't quite answering his question, though, and it was certainly more concern for them than the Doctor had ever shown. "They're doing – as well as can be expected, I suppose. Tish hasn't recovered quite so much, and she's gone back to living at home. We were all there for a bit – I didn't get a new flat right away, since Mum wanted me close, and I felt like they needed me there in case anything happened. They just won't open up to me completely, you know? I really wish they could get proper care. Mum doesn't sleep much anymore because she's afraid something will happen." Martha's hair fell and curtained her face as she looked down at her lap, smoothing the fabric of her pants.
John fell silent for a few long moments before lifting a hand to Martha's back, tracing the raised flesh of one of the long scars revealed by the low cut of her tank top. "I've never seen these before," he said quietly. They were perfectly straight, as if the skin had been sliced with a scalpel, and it was obvious the wounds had been quite deep when first inflicted.
Martha tensed when he touched her, though she wasn't sure whether it was because of the touch or the question he'd asked. It was something she'd tried to keep secret from everybody; the only other person who'd found out was Tom, and she'd told him they were from a car crash. She'd never confessed the truth to him, never told him about the Doctor, and she always wondered if that had been a mistake. Maybe then he would’ve known about the Daleks, known what they were and what they did, and not got in their way.
"Toclafane," she said finally, a little brusque. "They'd attacked a girl and her brother in Sydney – the boy was already dead, and they were playing with the girl. They did that sometimes, toyed with their victims before killing them. I couldn't let both of them die, and I managed to get the perception filter around her neck just in time – except the Toclafane got a little too close to me. They got infected in the Outback, because I didn't have anything to bandage them with except my spare shirt, no antiseptics or anything. I couldn't even stitch them, and the wounds kept pulling open. I had to stop for a day or two when I finally found some water to try and get them properly clean – I should have tried to cauterise them, but I didn't have anything to do it with. Honestly, I'm lucky I didn't die. I had to spend a week after that in the bed of a sheep farmer's lorry; I could barely move. His wife nursed me back to health before he drove me to the city." She hadn't meant to say so much, but once she'd started, the words just kept coming and coming, like she couldn't hold them back any longer. Objectively, she knew that it was catharsis, but she still didn't like talking about anything that had happened to her during that time.
She stood up then, turning her face away from him so he wouldn't see the tears in her eyes. "I probably ought to go to bed now, otherwise I'll never hear the end of it from Jack." The excuse even sounded lame to her ears, but she didn't know what else to do.
"Martha." He reached up to touch the back of her hand, brushing it with his fingertips. "I'm so sorry."
"Yeah, I've had more than enough empty apologies to last a lifetime, thanks." Martha pulled her hand away from him abruptly and walked stiffly into her bedroom – he could just deal with using throw pillows and the blanket she kept on her sofa.
It's not his fault, the rational part of her pointed out. She had no right to make him into a scapegoat for the Doctor, not when he so desperately wanted people to think of him as a different person. Maybe he would have come back to check on them – not that he would have been able to help, but it would have been better than being ignored entirely.
Martha buried her face in her pillow and tried very hard to ignore her rational side in favour of sulking. All right, so it was immature and self-centred and she knew perfectly well that she wasn't the only one with problems, but she felt like she ought to be able to indulge herself for once in her life. It seemed as if she spent all her time worrying about other people and ended up with no time to care for herself. Which, she figured, probably made Jack right, as much as she hated to admit it.
She heard the doorknob turn and, a few seconds later, the sound of a cup being set down on her bedside table – tea, probably. Martha worried her lip for a moment and lifted her head a couple of inches. "You can stay," she offered quietly, her guilt obvious in her voice.
The mattress shifted beneath her as he sat down, placing his mug next to hers. "You just take milk, right? No sugar? I wasn't quite sure, so I brought some sugar with me, just in case. Well, and in case I felt like putting more sugar in my tea."
Martha couldn't decide if he sounded ridiculous going on about tea, or just incredibly awkward. Probably both, she thought, but she also found it rather endearing. It hadn't even really been his fault, but he was still trying to make it up to her – something most blokes would never even think of doing. She pushed herself up and took her tea from the table, blowing on the fragrant steam that curled up from the tea in transparent wisps. "Just milk," she said finally.
John turned to smile at her, and Martha suddenly felt incredibly self-conscious – they were in her bedroom, she was wearing pyjamas that revealed the mess on her back, and she had this horrible suspicion that her eyes were embarrassingly red and puffy from the tears she'd shed. All in all, it wasn't how she wanted to present herself to anybody, let alone a –
She squashed that thought down before it had a chance to even take shape in her mind. "I'm sorry," she told him, sighing and deflating a little. "I overreacted and blamed you for something that wasn't your fault. I didn't mean to, really, it's just...hard, you know. And I'm sorry for that, too, because I know how much you want to be separate from him, but when you start talking with his memories, the line sort of blurs."
"Perhaps I should just talk about Donna's memories, then. I doubt anybody would confuse the two of us. I'm definitely not ginger." His lips compressed into a thin line. "I don't want everybody to look at me and see him, Martha. I don't want to be blamed for the things he's done, because maybe I would've done them differently. Maybe I would've come back, for you and for Jack and Sarah Jane and everybody else. I can tell you're all bitter for one reason or another, and I don't want to be a target for that. I don't deserve to be a target for that."
"No," she agreed, taking a sip of the tea to gauge the temperature, "you don't. I just reacted badly. I've never really talked about any of that before. I never had anybody to tell; my family had their own problems, and I didn't see any need to burden them with mine, too." She wasn't the only one in the Jones household with a tendency to wake up screaming in the middle of the night. "And Tom – well, I sort of avoided telling him about anything. It was still a sore subject when we first met, because I was still trying to forget, and then it was just never the right time to tell him."
"Er." He paused for a moment. "This is probably completely the wrong time to ask, but...what happened, anyway? You were so happy about it, and now –" John looked away, embarrassed – not that there was a good time to ask someone what had happened to their fiancée.
"The Daleks happened," Martha replied shortly. "He was in Africa, and – well, you know what they do. He was trying to protect his patients, and they didn't much like that. He was always foolishly brave, though – when I met him the first time, he tried to save me from the Master, and got killed for his pains. He didn't know that being captured was part of my plan. So many people died because they were trying to help me. I know they came back to life, but their deaths are still there in my mind. Tom was – well, he stood up to the Master for me. He had to know that he was going to die." She smiled sadly. "It was like something I would have done."
"Except – and no offence intended, really, I swear – you've got common sense. You wouldn't have thrown your life away like that. That was why you walked the Earth, Martha, because you wanted another way to save your family. Staying on the Valiant, that would have been brave, but stupid. Yeah, you could've died any time during that year, but it wasn't suicidal. Well, I suppose most people probably would have seen it as suicidal in the beginning – but you, Martha, you always had the potential to do it."
"That was what he saw in you, Martha," he continued, placing his hand over one of hers. "From the very beginning, you were the one who stayed calm while the whole world went mad around you. Even when you panicked, or when you were afraid of something, you still knew that things had to get done, and you just kept going."
Martha sort of wanted to punch him, but she also had to admit that he had a point. It was a really annoying, insensitive, Doctor-esque point, but a point nonetheless. (Also, she was partly mollified by his flattering; the Doctor had never really praised her for what she'd done, but it was nice to know that he'd noticed it, at least.) "The Energizer Bunny, that's me." She rolled her eyes good-naturedly. "What else would I have done?"
"Given up. Panicked. Lost your head. Run away, even." He grinned at her, the sort of smile that made him look like he had more teeth than was actually possible. "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you – are you sure you never met Kipling, Martha? Forget being Shakespeare's Dark Lady, 'If' suits you far better, I think."
"You are a shameless flatterer," she scoffed, but ducked her head to hide her embarrassed blush all the same. Nearly everybody in Britain was familiar with the poem, Martha included – though it was decidedly masculine, the comparison was still a favourable one and, in Martha's mind, completely inaccurate. (Though she'd also learnt about the imperialist leanings and Victorian undercurrents of Kipling's work at school, which, perhaps, made it a barbed compliment.)
"Well, I think we both know where I don't get that from," he remarked drolly, which made Martha burst out laughing. "Ah, see? There we go. You look much better when you smile. Not that you look bad in the first place, I mean. Quite the opposite, in fact. I'm not very good at this, am I?"
"You should've stopped while you were ahead," Martha agreed with mock solemnity. She placed her other hand over his, tracing along the lines of the tendons and muscles with her fingertips as she automatically named them in her head. – it was nearly second nature by now, the consequence of studying for anatomy tests with a particularly attractive classmate. (On the other hand, she'd done very well on all her exams.)
He licked his lips nervously as he watched her; the look in his dark brown eyes was unreadable – but then he pulled his hand back. "You still ought to get some sleep," he told her.
"Yeah," Martha agreed, a little relieved, but dismayed at the same time. "If only 'cos I've been snapping at everybody lately, and a good night's sleep ought to improve my mood." She paused for a moment to toy with an idea that had popped into her head – she still wasn't entirely certain how she felt about John. Even though she'd only known him for a short time, she was attracted to him, but she was worried that it was for all the wrong reasons, and she didn't want to subject him to the same thing twice. He'd gone through more than enough already; he certainly didn't deserve more trouble.
"You could stay in here if you wanted," she blurted out finally. "I know the sofa isn't exactly comfortable, and not having any bedding doesn't help. And, really, we're both responsible adults, and we ought to be perfectly capable of sleeping in the same bed without anything happening, you know?" That sounded like a rejection, which was untrue, because she certainly wouldn't mind things happening once she got to know him better. "I wouldn't mind the company," she added, a little hesitantly, though she thought he was probably nearly as lonely as she was, if not more so.
He almost looked afraid of the prospect, but he shifted to slip under the duvet anyway. "I think the sofabed is too short for me – though if you hadn't turned up when you did, I probably would have been in a jail cell or a hospital bed by now, so I suppose I can't exactly be picky." Once Martha was settled, he reached over and switched off the lamp.
The real problem, Martha thought, was that they felt like they knew each other intimately already, like they'd picked up a friendship right where it had left off. It was almost true, sort of, except that she didn't know yet how he differed from the Doctor – but he knew nearly everything about her. It was a strange and complex situation, and one that was best handled gently, despite what her instincts (and hormones) were telling her. Everything else aside, she was still only twenty-six, and sometimes her body liked to remind her of that fact.
"And everything comes full circle," John commented to the darkness, interrupting her train of thought. "Though this is quite a bit more comfortable than the bed in that inn. Less flea- and lice-ridden, too, so that's a definite plus."
Martha remembered that night, too - squeezed into a bed with an attractive bloke who'd snogged her earlier in the day, looking into his eyes as they talked – and then having her hopes utterly crushed. It had only been the first time of many.
"Having human blood – or maybe it's just Donna – makes me a bit different to him, though," he commented idly, his hand finding Martha's underneath the covers. "For one thing, I'm not half so oblivious."
"You don't sleep in a suit and trainers, either," she added, lacing her fingers into his. Holding his hand was all right, wasn't it? She'd done that often enough.
"And I can tell how much it hurt you," he continued quietly. "Every single time. You deserved so much better, Martha Jones. You still do." He squeezed her hand before rolling onto his side to face her. "Not many people are as fantastic as you – and you just let him ruin your life. You would have done anything for him, and he took it all for granted."
Martha's pulse quickened and she hardly paid attention to what he was saying – she knew what was coming next, and she didn't know what to do. It was awkward – completely and utterly human in a way that a Time Lord would have ignored entirely, and she couldn't help but be a little enamoured by that vulnerability. She could see his eyes shining in the darkness as he fell silent, and Martha decided that, for once in her life, she was going to make the first move.
Wrapping an arm around him, she shifted to kiss him – and landed solidly on his cheekbone due to a navigational error (well, it was dark, after all). "Sorry," she apologised; she could tell he was trying not to snicker at her error. "Ugh, mouthful of beard." That did make him laugh, and Martha scowled indignantly for a moment before silencing him by covering his mouth with her own.