One Doctor Who ficlet for you.
A Martha-viewpoint set immediately following the events of the episode ‘The Family of Blood’. Contains, ergo, spoilers.
Fire, Ice and Rage
“He’s like fire and ice and rage…”
Tim Latimer’s words would more than likely echo around in his skull for many years to come, if not forever. The Doctor knew that. And if there was one thing he understood, and to which he could relate with no difficulty, it was the concept of ‘forever’.
Most humans couldn’t even begin to get their heads around such a thing, of course. The human lifespan was measured in blinks to an ancient race like the Gallifreyans. To be a Time Lord meant that forever was just that. Forever. Always. From here to eternity.
No, hang on, that was a film.
‘I’ve brought you a cup of tea.’
The voice behind him was soft and with a faintly apologetic undertone. Martha smiled as he turns, holding up the two steaming mugs of tea held expertly by the handles in one hand and the plate of biscuits in the other.
Tipping his head slightly, he studied her intently for a moment or two and she shifted uncomfortably under his steady gaze. Tentatively she tried to break the ice.
‘My mum always says that there’s no problem so bad that chocolate bourbons and a cup of tea won’t help soothe it.’
It was the right thing to say.
‘Your mother, Martha Jones, is an astonishingly perceptive woman.’ The Doctor grinned infectiously, accepted a mug of tea from her and helped himself to a couple of biscuits which he crammed into his mouth cheerfully. ‘Overbearing and bossy, but perceptive nonetheless.’ Biscuit crumbs sprayed.
Martha visibly relaxed. Since the unpleasant business with the Family, life had become delicate. She had felt as though she was walking on eggshells around the Doctor who had slid into a state of brooding. He’d dealt with it in his own way, throwing himself into repairs and maintenance around the TARDIS like there was no tomorrow – even repeating jobs he’d done already. She had tried talking to him in those early, difficult hours after they had departed 1913 Earth.
Those early, difficult hours when he’d stood staring at the Chameleon Arch for extended periods with undisguised longing in his eyes. It had made her heart ache to see that expression. And always,
At first she’d been fearful that he would decide to undergo the change again; that she’d lose him to John Smith like she’d already done once before. Then the mood had shifted almost seamlessly from obvious misery into anger and then always, always he would turn and give her his brightest, toothiest grin as though nothing was amiss.
The doctor in her had tried to treat the situation with a certain clinical detachment, something which had not proved to be easy. She’d tried though. She’d assessed that child-like vulnerability in his eyes. The look that could change without warning into one of an ice-cold fury.
“He’s like fire and ice and rage…”
All three words were suggestive of primitive, basic drives. All of those things she saw in his actions and his words during his solitary phase. But he never directed the rage at her. No, it was all directed either at the TARDIS, which received more belts with the mallet than usual. Otherwise, he kept his fury locked up, turned in on himself.
Had the Doctor been human, she concluded, she’d have diagnosed serious depression. If he’d been human. But he wasn’t.
Over the past couple of days, that fact had repeatedly reared its head. Never, since she had taken his offer to travel with her, had she felt more keenly the insurmountable distance and the impossible differences that formed the unbridgeable gulf between them.
‘So… how are you feeling?’ The question was tentative, but asked with an encouraging, reassuring doctor-trained warm smile.
‘How am I feeling… how am I feeling… Never better! You know, I have to say that these are really good biscuits.’ The Doctor reached for another chocolate bourbon and waved it around as he spoke. ‘I always liked those lemon puff things, myself. Lemon puffs. Marvellous, really. Give humans a bit of sugar and some dodgy artificial flavourings and the world’s their biscuity oyster.’
‘There’s something fundamentally wrong about a biscuity oyster.’
Having made this important declaration, he dove back below the TARDIS console, where Martha could hear a faintly tuneless humming as he yanked out a handful of wires and then shoved them back in again for no apparent reason. But he was doing something.
Martha slid into one of the squashy, comfortable chairs strewn haphazardly around the console room and rested her feet on the rail, watching him as she sipped at her tea. For some reason which as of yet she’d been unsuccessfully able to fathom, the whole Joan Redfern incident had left her deep in thought about her feelings for him.
A small sigh escaped, unchecked, from her lips, bringing the Doctor out from beneath the console to peer up at her.
‘Never better,’ she replied, with a grin almost as infectious as his own. It was a grin that certainly carried about as much conviction as his had done only moments before – which was to say, none at all.
‘Good,’ he said, smiling warmly. A genuine smile for the first time in two days. It sent a flood of relief through her to see that face. She admitted it to herself – she’d worried about him. Before the Family, she’d often catch him brooding, staring down at the console, lost in memories that he wouldn’t share. She suspected that many of them were memories of Rose, who she still knew little to nothing about.
She suspected that he’d loved her though and despite her best efforts, she felt frequent surges of jealousy towards this mysterious Rose. And that was crazy behaviour.
In her quieter moments, she would try to analyse just what it was she’d found attractive in him. He was pretty easy on the eyes, there was no denying that. He made her laugh – and that was a big ‘plus’ in her ‘book of reasons to date men’. And when he was nice, he was very, very nice.
But when he was bad, he was frankly terrifying.
“He’s like fire and ice and rage…”
Tim Latimer’s words would stick with Martha for a very long time, too.
The Doctor had not expanded on the various fates that had been ascribed to the Family of Blood and she honestly didn’t want to know. She’d observed the boiling fury in his eyes and it wasn’t something that she felt she could bear to witness again. He’d returned from his task looking grim and sober and had then he had gone off to talk to Joan.
He came back even more grim, even more sober and had thanked her for looking after him, for looking out for him and for making everything right. Hollow. So very hollow.
And then he’d hugged her.
She relished those tactile moments. There was something deliciously exuberant about them. They filled her with all flavours of hope and every time she gave up a silent prayer to a God she’d long ago stopped believing in for them to mean more than she knew they meant.
Do you love him, Martha Jones?
Yes, she acknowledged silently. Yes, she did. But she was starting to come to an understanding with herself. This wasn’t a girlish infatuation. This was something more profound. She was more in love with who he was, what he was, rather than an adoration of the man himself. He represented all that she was not. A rebel, who fought against the system where she had always, according to her mother, been a ‘good girl’, whatever the hell that meant. He threw caution to the wind and acted on impulse. She tended to consider the consequences of her actions. He was a free spirit and what was she next to that?
An boring, dried-up old stick in the mud, that’s what.
“He’s like the night and the storm and the heart of the sun.”
Yes. He was dark and mysterious, staggeringly unpredictable – and there were times when she felt that if she gazed on him for too long, his radiance, his brilliance, would dazzle her.
She finished her tea and slid off the chair to collect his empty mug. There was a quiet companionship between them which was pleasantly relaxing. She no longer felt compelled to try and impress him, no longer felt the urge to try to be someone she wasn’t, nor could ever hope to be.
For now, at least, it was okay to just be Martha Jones. She was fine with that.
She watched him a little longer.
“He’s ancient and forever.”
He’d tried to explain the concept of forever to her only a few days before they had encountered the Family of Blood. They’d been circling around a veritable ballet of space dust and charged particles, a dancing whirlwind of motes that had been so beautiful that tears had sprung into her eyes. Lights that spun and shone before her. A scene a million times more outstanding than the Aurora Borealis, the thing she had always considered the most beautiful natural phenomenon she would ever see. And she had said to the Doctor that the memory of that breathtaking sight would stay with her forever.
‘Forever?’ he said, his voice uncharacteristically melancholy. ‘You have no idea what that word means.’
And in that moment she had started to understand him, to begin to get a real taste for his terrible aching loneliness. Her heart reached out to him, but he didn’t notice. He wouldn’t ever notice. She could declare her love for him, paint it in letters fifteen miles high and until he moved on from all he had lost, he would never see what was right there in front of him.
Moving on, he said wistfully during their conversation, would take forever.
“He burns at the centre of time and he can see the turn of the universe.”
Such things he’d shown her. Such concepts he had introduced her to.
And such heartache.
She remembered standing there, staring into the swirl of the dust cloud, her heart filled with the song of a thousand particles and she had, for a moment, touched infinity.
For that, she would always love him.
‘Hey, Martha, if you’re making more tea, I wouldn’t say no to another cup.’ She smiled at him.
‘You’ll be lucky. Besides, it has to be your turn. Do you really expect me to make the tea forever?’
She paused, bit her lip.
The Doctor studied her and smiled that smile.
‘Oh, I dunno,’ he said with a laugh and a twinkle in his. “It wouldn’t be that bad, I suppose.’