She's colder. She goes into work for the first time since she left traveling with him and the Doctor watches the reactions of her peers. She looks different, they say. It's been two years of her growing and changing and hardening and they haven't seen her for the last few hours. She's not young and hopeful like them. And even though she raised humanity's hope, she's still lost her tender bedside manner.
When she comes to the TARDIS that evening without her white lab coat, he doesn't doubt that she's been sacked. Idiots.
She circles the console, running her hands over the wires and the bleeding bits of machine that the Doctor has so lovingly tried to clean and heal. It's not going to be easy, he knows, but he's spent the last year in hell waiting for a countdown that he wasn't entirely certain would come. If there's one thing he knows, it's patience.
Martha knows it too. She just walks the console, staying a safe distance from him and not speaking. Not interrupting. She's in those jeans and that little purple tank he first met her in but she is not the woman he met almost two years ago.
He hasn't seen her in a year. Back on the Valiant---hell, since the Valiant, he hasn't looked her over. He can feel how much she's changed in her sharp gaze and in the clipped, bruising way she talks. But now, gazing at her from over the rim of his glasses, he can see the Year That Wasn't has taken a toll on her body, too.
.The tops of her fingers are dark and wide with healing sores and callouses. Her back is stiff, even as she tries to casually lean against the console, and her shoulders are lean and tight with muscle. She's got tiny stretch marks on the insides of her arms showing that she was much thinner and not too long ago The tiny bit of belly that shows between her tank and her jeans has a vicious, off-pink scar that bisects it, though her clothing covers where it begins and ends.
She's stopped pacing, and he realizes that he's been staring. He straightens and pulls his glasses off his face.
"Toclafane raid in New York," she says without preamble. "Had an EMT worker put me back together. Scars are worse on my back." Her words are flat and scripted-sounding. She's giving him a diagnosis for her wounds, explaining where they came from and why they look so bad.
"I'm sorry." And he is. Oh, but he is. When he put the world on her shoulders he knew it would bruise but he didn't think she'd have to hold onto wounds like that forever. But no, no, he just wasn't thinking. He should've sent Jack. Should've…could've…
"Time Lords don't scar, is that right?" Her question is said just as suddenly as her explanation, but this time the words have a hint of emotion to them. A mild sort of desperation. He can't tell what she's hoping for and he wishes he could because in this moment he'd do anything to make it better. Even if it's only a little bit better.
"No, we don't," he admits with a slow nod. Every slice of the Master's tools (and he had so many tools) left a wound but the scars were only psychological. He likes to think that those'll fade eventually but he knows that won't ever happen. The Master cut too deep.
Martha nods, curtly, and he once again can't read her. Part of him misses the predictability of Martha; of knowing that she'd always ask the most irritating and endearing question and then pull an obnoxious and adorable expression at his lack of an answer. Now she's just…she's different.
"Jack said you gave Saxon a funeral fit for a king." It sounds like an accusation. She has every right to hate the Master, he supposes. She has every right to not understand like Jack doesn't understand. Maybe that's why he's parked the TARDIS where he has: the disapproving looks from Martha's family are enough to remind him of the fact that he really, truly is alone.
"Well, he's the last Time Lord who'll ever be buried properly, then." At least he buried one. Billions of others are floating as atoms out in the cosmos, but one was buried properly.
He wonders if he should feel guilty for his grief. But the idea is so silly, so human that it startles him. The Master was right; he's been around them so long he's forgotten that he's different. He'll never be quite like them.
It's at this point that he realizes Martha hasn't replied for a while, just stares at him, watches his reactions. That's something she used to do, back when they were traveling together properly. Watched him to try to figure him out, like a mouse in a cage. This time it's different, though. It's like her eyes are cutting off a slice of him to put on a slide and stick under a microscope.
For the first time, he looks away first.
"Do you love him?" she asks in that same sharp tone.
He wants to lie. The urge to lie is there, right there on his tongue. A universe without the Master feels wrong. It's as if some part of his own personality leapt off a waterfall and left him crippled. It's not the right way to think, it's not healthy in the least. Yet, it is the only way he can imagine it.
The universe is off, now. There's no Master to balance the Doctor. And no light can exist without darkness.
He sighs. "In a way."
"Like a brother or like a lover?"
While her voice is sharp, his is, in contrast, very soft. "Martha, where is this coming from?"
He imagines a year ago she would've crossed her arms and been quiet. Now, she puts her hands to her hips and faces him down. "You realize that's more of an answer than a question, right?"
Probably. More than probably. He fidgets and tugs on his ear.
Martha is nothing if not straightforward, so she takes a breath. "Remember how you said you had telepathic abilities? Reason why you never wanted to go back in time to certain eras; you couldn't handle the wavelengths?"
"Was that the excuse I used?" he goes for flip, but it falls flat.
"Saxon had that ability too," she says, and for some strange reason, he hears her voice crack a little under the pressure of saying that. She grinds her back teeth and the muscles in her jaw twitch. They're stronger too, he can see. From a year of using the spoken word to wage war.
The Doctor takes a breath, keeping it as calm as possible. He doesn't want to ask, because he already knows the answer. He knows what the Master can do to a human mind with very little effort. He's seen it happen to friends and enemies alike. And Martha…he doesn't want to think what he did to her. He doesn't want to know. Doesn't want to---
"How do you know?" he asks, his voice defeated. This past year's been a lot of defeat. Even as he worked to silently merge himself with the matricies of the Archangel system, he's felt defeated. And holding his oldest friend and dearest enemy in his arms--and knowing he can't hate him, no matter what Martha says next—feels like defeat.
"I used to dream about him," she says quickly, her voice embarrassed. "Quite a few nights. Figured it was stress and thinking about you up there with him and all the horrible things he did and I've never been a psychology major---"
He can't help but perk up just the smallest bit at her rambling. It reminds him of the old Martha, the Martha that vanished that day on the Valiant and never returned.
And just like that, she's gone. It's like her features become crusted with ice. "It took me a while to work it out, but they weren't dreams invented by me. He was trying to figure out where I was and what I was doing. He was trying to make me hate you." She looks the Doctor up once. "I think if I knew there was truth to what he said, I would've."
The Doctor straightens, trying to exhibit some dignity in the face of her words and that gaze. He doesn't want to know what the Master said about him. Doesn't want to imagine the teenage embarrassments that might've been shared, though whatever it was it was enough to tell Martha that they had been…well, experimental was a good word for it. But he doesn't want to know. Doesn't want to know.
"What did he say?" the words come out before he can stop himself. Martha's on the wrong side of this conversation, she needs to be stopping him. Isn't that what Donna said? He needs someone to stop him. Stopping him right now would be good.
Martha takes a step towards him, then another. That gaze, always with that look that pins him with guilt. The gaze that Martha Jones never had. It's not until she's pressed against him, one hand atop each of his hearts and her lips against his ear that he realizes she hasn't answered him.
Her whisper is painfully calm. Achingly resigned.
"He showed me."
The Doctor pulls his head back enough to look down on her. Her lips brush against his ear and jaw as he does and he can feel that some of her waxy lipstick has been left behind against his stubble. She never wears it thickly, but when he looks down he can see that the bottom of her lip is clear, scraped away. She looks less composed. The ice is melting, her eyes are getting red but she doesn't cry. He wonders if she even remembers how.
"I wouldn't show him what I was doing," she says. "But he saw…things. Things about you." She smiles a small, rueful smile. It's worse than tears in some ways. "He told me he was the closest I'd ever come to you. Like passing a germ from one to the next."
She curls her hands against the Doctor's chest and her nails dig into the fabric of his shirt. He doesn't want to know. The way his stomach churns at her words, he just doesn't want to know what the Master did to her. If it is what he thinks, then it's the equivalent of rape and he still would not be able to hate the Master and Martha deserves someone who would hate him for that.
Apparently this shows on the Doctor's face, because Martha shakes her head. "Not…he didn't show me like that. Just gave me impressions. Very…vivid impressions. Described in absolute detail what he'd do if I gave him half a chance." Her voice takes on an odd, slightly off quality and she lets out a breath. Like she's hovering somewhere between desire and disgust.
"There's nothing to be ashamed of if you wanted to," the Doctor says. "He was always…hypnotic. Seductive."
"You would know," she says. Her lack of an answer is an answer in itself, just as his was.
"Yeah, I would." He wants to regret that, but he doesn't.
Martha takes in a sharp breath, as if the admission was completely unexpected. Or maybe she didn't expect him to actually say it. Maybe she thought she'd be able to live in some sort of limbo between knowing and not knowing. But now it's out. Even if the explicit words the Master said in Martha's mind aren't repeated, they have validity.
Her right hand slides up his chest and around his neck and, for a moment, he thinks she's going to hug him. That would be nice. It would be a strange ending to this conversation, but he thinks he could use one. She might, too.
Instead, her palm slides to the side of his neck and her nails graze over the nape and he knows with that action that she isn't lying about the Master. Sensation shoots down his spine and his eyes go wide. Something he hasn't felt in a very, very long time bubbles through his veins: sexual attraction.
Entirely inappropriate is a rather blatant understatement for that sensation and this situation.
"He said that was your spot," she says, her voice detached. Scientifically curious. "That your species aren't very sexual but your primary sensation comes from stimulating this area here. He said he'd never share exactly what you looked like during that sort of bliss."
"Stop," the Doctor says, and he is immediately embarrassed by how breathy his voice is. He's had lovers in the past, but none since those of his home world ever knew about that area. There was never a really appropriate time to bring it up.
She moves her hand slightly and he thinks she's going to do as he instructs. Instead, her nails dig into his skin at the nape of his neck. Sharp and piercing and good and even as he winces his head lolls forward to rest against hers. It's a familiar and painful sensation and it's both disorienting and arousing all at the same time.
"Doctor." Her head shifts and suddenly her mouth is on his, kissing him fiercely, firmly. It's not his best kiss; all teeth and an oddly vicious edge that he knows isn't Martha's style. It feels familiar, feels dark and powerful in ways he doesn't associate with the woman before him. He wonders if that's what the Master showed her or if that's how much she's changed and then her nails scrape that spot again and he loses all thought.
His arms slide around her waist then up her back as they kiss. He can feel those scars beneath her shirt, heavy and thick against skin that was, at one point, soft and smooth. Skin he would never see, now. It died along with the Martha Jones he knew. The Martha Jones with a silly little smile and a sense of innocence that was oddly endearing. That's the difference, he thinks even as he breaks the kiss to trace his mouth along her throat, this Martha isn't innocent anymore.
And he can't blame the Master for that. It's the Doctor's fault that Martha Jones isn't as innocent as she was.
She hisses and her lower body shifts closer to his and she doesn't stop with her nails and he should stop. He should stop right now. Martha should be telling him to stop.
"Don't stop." Martha gasps and her head falls to the side to give him more access He slips his hand from behind her to slip under the front of her shirt. Forward, yes. But she started it, he figures, what with all that nape-scratching.
He traces over the scar. It goes up her stomach and ends just below her right breast. By the time his fingertips touch the end of it she's gasping against him. He takes a step forward and presses her back against the side of the console and he thinks he wants her. Yes, yes, right now he wants her.
"I don't feel anything there," she says, suddenly. Her voice isn't icy this time, it's pained. Broken.
He realizes he's been massaging the skin at the nape of her neck in a rhythmical, unconscious circle. It's as if he's been doused in ice water and the look on her face isn't judging. It's hurt. He takes a step back and she stands there, clothes and hair askew and her lipstick smudged and she's every bit as vulnerable as she was the first day he met her.
"You weren't alone that year," she says. "I would've given anything to feel someone care about me. Even if it was false like what Saxon was offering."
"His name isn't Saxon."
"Well, he's not my Master. And I don't care. I wanted him to pretend so that I could pretend." She shakes her head firmly and he sees that he was also wrong about her ability to cry. "And I didn't. Because I thought that it wouldn't be worth it. Learning how to seduce you like him even though he said that if I talk about him, touch like him, kiss like him, you'd want me. I didn't want to because if you wanted me, I wanted you to want me for me."
Now that the spell is broken, the Doctor finds himself embarrassed, with strange waxy lipstick on his lips and his hearts pounding and Martha's there and he, once a-bloody-gain can't make it better.
She gestures to him. "But you never will, will you?"
He doesn't have an answer for her. That's answer enough.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 2,897