Characters/Pairings: Ten, Martha/Tom
Genre: Gen, I guess a bit of angst
Spoilers: Through Journey's End, with some minor shout-outs to Torchwood: Children of Earth and 3x05 and 3x06 of The Sarah Jane Adventures.
Summary: The night before her wedding, Martha says goodbye to an old friend.
Excerpt: “I’ll drive you there. Get you to the med bay, patch you up. You’ll be fine.” She grins. “You’re in good hands. I’m a proper doctor now and everything, you know.”
Author's notes: Regeneration fic! With Martha! I... don't know either. I'm also pretty sure none of this will go down in the December specials, so there shouldn't be any spoilers. Unless "it probably won't be like this" reverse-spoilers count.
Martha Jones wakes up because she’s nervous.
It takes a lot to make Martha Jones nervous these days, but in some ways she likes the feeling. It’s nice to know there are still things that can stir up the butterflies in her stomach which have nothing to do with aliens or end-of-the-world crises. As far as nerves go, she supposes, it doesn’t get any more normal than pre-wedding day jitters.
Still, she can’t seem to fall asleep.
She slips out from under Tom’s arm – sleep through anything, he would – and pulls a housecoat on over her nightgown, tying the sash tight around her waist before she nudges open the curtains of the window. It’s quiet outside, late enough that the streets are mostly deserted of both cars and people. She shivers and pulls the housecoat tighter around her shoulders. She doesn’t like deserted streets.
She leans her forehead against the window and exhales slowly, watching the condensation spread along the glass. It’s not cold feet; she loves Tom, she really does. But there’s a nauseous feeling her stomach that won’t leave, the bizarre but undeniable sensation that something’s gone wrong. As much as she wants to ignore it, Martha Jones has learned to trust her instincts.
She bites her lip. Maybe she ought to check her phone? Tom’s threatened to hide it tomorrow morning – “There are other people who can save the world while we’re on honeymoon,” he says – but it’s not tomorrow morning yet, and surely it couldn’t hurt to check in with Jack…
She closes her eyes and exhales deeply, lifting her head from the window. No, she thinks, Tom’s right. The world can manage on its own for a couple weeks. She opens her eyes and reaches for the curtains, just about to pull them shut when she catches sight of a man in a long brown coat staggering down the street. She watches him take a few steps and then stop, leaning heavily against a lamppost.
Martha stays at the window just long enough to pull the curtains shut, and then she races out to meet him.
He hasn’t made it much farther by the time she gets outside. He’s still leaning against the post as though he’s trying to catch his breath, his eyes shut and his breathing laboured.
Martha Jones doesn’t need her medical degree to know that he’s been hurt.
“Doctor?” she calls, more out of surprise than honest inquiry. By the time he twists his head to look at her in surprise, Martha is halfway across the street.
“Martha Jones,” he says in greeting, his voice strained. “Fancy meeting you here.”
“I live here,” she points out, eyebrows raised. “What are you doing here?”
“Oh, you know.” He smiles, trying for casualty and not quite succeeding. “The usual.” He shoves himself away from the pole and tries for a grin but winces instead. He presses one hand to his side and waves his free hand as flippantly as he can manage. “Saving the world.”
The last word comes out between a hiss of pain, and Martha closes the distance between them, pulling his arm over her shoulder. “You’re hurt,” she says plainly, because she knows asking it as a question would only give him the chance to deny it.
“Oh, it’s a flesh wound,” he says, true to form – but his arm tightens painfully around her shoulders as he leans into her, and she wraps her arm around his waist.
Martha barely conceals a sigh. “’Course it is.” She peers around him as best she can, squinting down the street for any hint of blue. “Where’s the TARDIS?”
He gestures to his right with a shake of his head. “Few more blocks. I can—”
He takes an uneasy step and stumbles, and Martha grips him tighter. Though she’s long since removed him from the mental pedestal he’d once occupied, it still unnerves her to see him so vulnerable. “Right.” She nods firmly, and already she can feel herself slipping into battle mode. “I’ll drive you there. Get you to the med bay, patch you up. You’ll be fine.” She grins. “You’re in good hands. I’m a proper doctor now and everything, you know.”
The Doctor doesn’t grin back; instead he stares at her solemnly. “Martha,” is all he says.
The implications hit her at once, and for the first time she feels the chill of the night air under her housecoat and a reprise of the butterflies in her stomach. He looks old, she notices suddenly, ancient in that particular way that always accompanies a deep, chilling loneliness. It’s a marked difference from when she last saw him, surrounded by friends in a TARDIS that had never been fuller, and it breaks her heart.
“Isn’t anyone with you?” she asks, even though she knows the answer. “Donna? Rose?”
“No.” He sways in her arms and looks away, staring at some far-away spot down the street. “Just me.”
She wants to ask why not, certain that neither Donna nor Rose would leave of their own volition. Instead she swallows down the lump in her throat and squares her shoulders. “And me,” she says firmly. “Let’s get you inside. Don’t want you regenerating in the street.”
The Doctor sinks into the sofa with an exhausted sigh, his eyes slipping shut, while Martha fumbles with the lamp on the end table. In the light she catches sight of a dark stain, spreading out across his pinstriped jacket from beneath the hand he keeps pressed to his side. It shouldn’t startle her – she’s a doctor, after all – but it does. She’s never seen the Doctor bleed before.
She stands awkwardly in front of him, folding her arms to stop herself from stubbornly inspecting the wound. There’s nothing she can do, and truthfully she knows there’s nothing she needs to do, that the Doctor’s body will take care of it in due time, in the most alien way imaginable.
But Martha Jones is a doctor, and doing nothing while her friend is in pain contradicts her very nature.
She stays quiet for a moment, unsure of what to say. “How long?”
The Doctor shrugs half-heartedly. “Not long.” He lifts his free hand over his head and squints at it. “A few minutes, maybe.” He closes his eyes again and tilts his head back, grimacing. “Usually it’s quicker than this. Not a death I’d recommend, Martha.”
Martha stares at him – really, properly stares at him, with his pinstripe suit and his long brown coat and his unruly hair. It dawns on her very suddenly that she’s never actually seen a regeneration before, and that in a few minutes a someone else will be sitting on her sofa.
She swallows again and sits down next to him. “What happened?”
Before he can answer – or brush her aside, which Martha supposes is the more likely of the possibilities – there’s a creak from the staircase, and then a very confused, very sleepy Tom calls her name. “Martha?” He crosses into the room in only boxers and a t-shirt, but stops short at the sight of the Doctor. “What – oh, my God.”
The Doctor lifts his head and grins, waving. “You must be Dr Milligan! Hello!” He sits up straighter, flinching as he does. “Normally I’d come over and shake your hand, but…” He shrugs apologetically.
Tom stands in the doorway, eyes wide, looking totally bewildered.
Martha supposes that’s her cue. “Tom, this is the Doctor.”
The Doctor wiggles his fingers in greeting.
“Seriously?” Tom’s eyes go even wider and he takes a tentative step forward, his head tilting to the side. Martha wonders what he’s imagined all this time. “But you’re bleeding, shouldn’t we—”
“It’s fine,” the Doctor says. “I’ll be fine.” He draws in a breath through his teeth. “In a manner of speaking, anyway.”
Tom looks unconvinced, but he stands awkwardly by the doorway anyway, arms limp at his sides. It must be strange for him, Martha knows; it’s one thing to hear stories about aliens and another to have one bleeding on your sofa.
The Doctor looks at Tom with a mixture of suspicion and curiosity. “You don’t happen to be particularly close with any giant spiders or creepy things in cloaks, do you? No? Good man.”
For a moment there’s an awkward silence; then Tom gestures towards the hallway. “I think I’ll go… make tea,” he finishes lamely.
They both watch him go, and then the Doctor looks at Martha. “I think I scared off your fiancé.”
Martha raises an eyebrow. “Creepy things in – oh, never mind.” She watches him struggle to shift into a comfortable position and frowns. “Are you sure there’s nothing I can do?”
“Not a thing,” he says resolutely.
She shakes her head, suddenly irritated with his insane desire to martyr himself. “You should have called us – me or Jack or Mickey or Sarah Jane. We could’ve helped.”
“I don’t need help.”
“But you do! How many times when we were together did you need my help? Or Donna’s, or Rose’s? Just because people aren’t living in the TARDIS doesn’t mean they don’t care. And don’t tell me you like being on your own, I know that’s not true—”
“Martha.” It’s a warning, low and firm, and she sighs. He tries to smile and doesn’t quite succeed. “I’m fine, Martha. Really.” She opens her mouth to argue but he shakes his head. “Oi. It’s bad form to argue with a dying man, Dr Jones.”
She wants to argue anyway. Instead she smiles back, almost as weakly, and reaches out to hold his hand. She squeezes it in solidarity, and he grips her hand back tight enough to hurt.
“I’m getting married tomorrow.” Her smile stretches a little wider. “You could come. You’ll have to change out of that suit anyway.”
The Doctor shakes his head. “Oh, you don’t want me there. I’m terrible luck at weddings.”
She’s not sure if it’s the truth or an excuse or a bit of both, but she decides not to press. The Doctor hides most of his bad memories behind flippant excuses, she knows. Will that change when he does, she wonders? Will he still wear suits with trainers? Will he be older, younger? Will he still call everyone by their full name, and will there still be that hint of pride in his voice whenever he does? Will he still do his best to hide behind manic smiles and endless energy?
“I’ll miss you,” she says abruptly, before she can think about it long enough to hesitate.
He looks at her strangely, like he can’t quite figure out what to say. Finally, he says, “Regeneration isn’t death, Martha, it's different packaging. I’ll still be me.”
She nods, doing her best to ignore the blurriness in her vision. “Right. I know.” She looks down at their hands and gives his another squeeze, and her eyebrows rise. “Doctor, you’re… glowing.”
He sits up at that, and with strength she didn’t imagine he had left, he pulls his hand out of hers and shoves himself to his feet. He staggers back from the sofa but manages to stay upright. “Stay back!” he says when she moves to help him, outstretching the hand that’s covered in blood. She sees the bizarre shimmer of golden light beneath his skin.
She should say something, she thinks, but she can’t think of what, and so she settles on, “Good luck, Doctor.”
“Yeah.” He nods. “Thank you, Martha Jones. For… well, just about everything, I suppose.” He grins at that, and finally it seems sincere.
Martha does her best to blink back her tears. In an instant, she knows, the man in front of her – a man who’d changed her life and her world, who’d taught her better than anyone how to stand on her own two feet, a man she’d once loved with every ounce of her being – will be replaced by a stranger.
Still, she thinks. Different hair, different face, different mannerism – but the same man, she supposes, underneath all the packaging.
So she grins back. “You’re welcome, Doctor.”