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Drift

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Drift

She was in Paraguay when they told her. Two quick text messages one and then another about 45 minutes later. The first to let her know he was dead. The second to let her know that due to the circumstances in which he died he had been cremated almost immediately. Something about contamination. The urn would be waiting for her when she returned.

PLEASE ACCEPT THE CONDOLENCES OF UNIT, DR. JONES.

UNIT was many things but sentimental was not one of them.

And like that she was a widow. Like that she was just Martha Jones again...well, she had never changed her name to Smith so she was always Martha Jones, wasn't she?

Their life had always been neat and orderly and spartan. It had to be. They were far too often on the move or on the run to maintain a proper household. It was ridiculous to try and the flat they kept was more of a home base than a home.

That had all been fine when he'd been there. But when she had returned, months later because after Paraguay there had been Bahrain and after Bahrain there had been TexArkana and after that things got a bit foggy because she spent a week being interrogated by a small rogue group of Triskele...but all that was beside the point.

The real point was that after months she returned to a flat that was non-descript, barren, empty. His clothes were there, a satsuma he'd bought had turned into a fuzzy gray and black blob in the fridge, a few weapons of course and one picture of the two of them together. That was it. That was all the physical mark that Mickey Smith had, in the end, left on the world. His contributions, the countless times he'd saved it and her, the times they'd saved each other existed only in memory or as some figure jotted down in UNIT notes.

They'd never gotten a chance to have a posh wedding but she did have that picture taken after they'd said their vows. Standing there at Angel Falls in Venezuela, the mist rising behind them, huge smiles on their faces. When she closed her eyes she could still hear the rush of the water...hear him laughing happily in her ear. Each night without him she had gone to bed clutching that picture in her arms and that memory in her heart.

His clothes she sent to a charity shop. The weapons she kept. The satsuma she tossed. The flat she broke the lease. Her mother wanted her to come home but that was the last thing she needed. Francine seemed a bit too eager to play the two-old-spinsters trope with her and she was in no mood to go full out Grey Gardens, thank you very much.

Instead, she moved into UNIT barracks. They were sparse, even more so than the flat she'd just left and she liked it that way.

She missed him. Missed the way he smiled, the way he made her laugh, missed the way he teased her about the things she apparently said in her sleep. He'd thought it was funny to write down one thing she said at night on a Post-It and then stick it on the fridge in the morning for her to find. They could be nonsensical and those always made her laugh. But sometimes they were dark. Sometimes they were sad or worried. Sometimes angry. By the end they were causing more fights than laughs and eventually he went to sleep in the lounge. It wasn't just the notes, of course, but they were an interesting way to show how things had twisted.

But she didn't like to think about that. Not then and not now.

After he died and she was on her own she'd threatened to go freelance again, really threatened and they'd reluctantly given her time to grieve. When she demanded that she pick her own assignments again they balked and this time she threatened to seek out Jack and actually had half a mind to do it.

She started to vanish for weeks at a time. She followed her own leads and interests. She started ignoring UNITS calls the same way she'd been avoiding her parents. She hopped from country to country, helping when she could, learning when she couldn't and always running from that small, blank little barracks flat which waited for her.

She ran for five years.

She knew eventually they'd send someone after her. Someone to bring her to heel and back into the fold.

It would be someone friendly. Someone she knew.

This was the way people thought about an assassin.

Maybe it could even be Jack. Though she wasn't sure he was planetside anymore.

No matter what, it would be someone with a familiar face.


 

She'd done this long enough to know that most cases which supposedly involved the paranormal usually were based on lies, superstition, drafty houses or, in certain cases, off world involvement. Case and point the ghosts that were visiting everyone all those years back which of course turned out to be bloody Cybermen.

This was a bit different but the outcome was the same. Small village in Cornwall, reports of a young girl and a house haunted by a poltergeist.

The poltergeist turned out to be the burgeoning telekinetic powers of little Ellen. Martha had wound up spending a few days educating the family, alleviating them of the idea of ghosts and taking Ellen shopping and for a bit of girl talk. UNIT would follow up and create a file for the girl and Martha promised to keep in touch. And just like that, ghost busted.

After she had said her goodbyes and was walking to her car she noticed a strange figure just standing there in the yard not far off.

He didn't look like he was there to see the family. Then again he didn't look right for much of anything. He was tall and slim and dressed in a rather posh looking Crombie coat. She stood still and stared at him for a moment. As he approached she turned slightly and headed to her car paying as little attention as possible when he came to stand next to her.

"UNIT send you?" She asked.

"Er no." His voice was deep, a bit gravelly and definitely soaked in what sounded like a Scottish accent. "Well yes, but I was coming anyway."

"I'm not going back. If they want to strip me of my clearance they're free to do so. I always preferred freelance work anyway." She replied with a shrug.

"Hunting ghosts?" He asked, gesturing towards the house and side stepping her statement.

"No such thing as ghosts. Puberty and early onset psychic manifestation. Hairy combination but not at all supernatural." Martha replied shortly. "I'd recommend she contact Torchwood...if Torchwood still existed anymore."

Shielding her eyes against the sun she turned to get a better look. He was older than she'd imagined when she first saw him and his hair was a thick, tousled silver. His gaze was intense but somewhere...in the shadows, or maybe in the light, was a kindness. You just had to look a bit...and not let the eyebrows frighten you off.

She dropped her hand and leveled her gaze with his.

"What are you doing here, Doctor?" She asked blandly.

He paused and she realized he hadn't been expecting her to recognize him.

"How did you know it was me?" He asked with a surprised frown.

"From the way you looked at me."

"Affection?" He asked and she could hear a surprising amount of hopefulness in his voice.

"Detachment." She said frankly. "It's how you always looked at me. I can spot you anywhere."

She saw that it wounded him and that both pleased and surprised her. It wasn't personal. At least it didn't feel personal. She'd gotten sharper around the edges over these last few years, snarkier, ruder. Niceties had died somewhere along the way. She'd always meant to go back and pick up her manners, her ability to care, her heart from wherever she left it along the roadside of life but she'd never found the time. She doubted she'd be able to find her way back now.

"You never answered my question." She continued. "Why are you here?"

"I got two letters."

"From UNIT?"

"No. Well, yes from them as well but that was just coincidence. No, a letter from my wife."

"Your...wife?" She blinked and blinked again.

"Yes." He cleared his throat.

"Rose?" Martha asked and was pleased there was no lump in her throat when she said it.

"Beg, pardon? Oh, no...no, not Rose. You never met her. I hadn't met her yet when we were traveling together. I suppose I had but I forgot. She slips me something, you see, when she meets up with my earlier selves. They... we , have adventures and then she erases their memory."

"Lovely. As interesting as this may be-" She gestured to her car in no uncertain terms telegraphing she was ready to head out. Reunion over.

"I wondered if we might talk. If you had the time that is." He seemed unsure, maybe even a bit nervous. It was odd but then again she didn't know this Doctor or what constituted odd for him specifically. Maybe this was normal.

She resumed loading items into her car. There was nowhere in particular that she had to be. Technically she had all the time in the world. For years she had wished he'd turn up like this again, to save her, to take her away or just to bring a smile back into her life. But she'd put that idea out of her head long ago.

"Talk? You want to talk?"

He nodded.

"Where's your TARDIS?" She asked peering around him, her heart yearning to catch a glimpse of that blue box.

"Back in town. I walked. I felt like a walkabout."

"Alright, well, get inside." She said with a casual shrug she half meant. "One trip. Just one trip. You get one trip then back home. I'd rather be on my own." She narrowed her eyes and watched as the words, his words, landed on him.

They hit their intended mark.

"Yes, right...yes." He walked to the passenger side and glanced at her with a look she couldn't read before getting in.

Moments later they were on their way. She'd had her music blaring for Ellen, something bright and poppy from the latest boy band but turned it to a dull roar when he entered.

"Different accent, different face. Been kicking about alone?" She asked him.

"Yes, you have." He said looking at her askance. "Your accent is the same though. And don't get me wrong, it's an interesting look for you. The sort of lone wolf thing. Not sure how I feel about it yet. How long have you been cultivating it?"

"What look? What are you talking about?" His reply having perplexed her.

That feeling returned, the one she hadn't experienced since they'd parted. The Doctor had a way of switching your words around on you. It was disorienting, like the way the ground feels during an earthquake, unsteady and soupy.

"The one that says, I don't need anybody anymore."

"I..." She sputtered. He had reassessed. She'd seen him do it a thousand times. A situation presented itself which caught him off guard. He started thinking, his mind working at faster than light until he fashioned a working hypothesis and course of action.

Half of her was hell bent on not letting him get the upper hand. The other half of her suspected it was already too late.

"Five or so years." She said before amending. "Maybe a bit more." The truth was she and Mickey weren't always assigned together. A good deal of the time when they had reunited it had been a lot of stepping on each others toes before they developed a rhythm again. She'd been without him longer than he'd been dead. "And you? When I called you awhile back about the kids in Japan turning gold you didn't sound like this. I never got to see your face but you seemed, well, less Scottish and-"

"Younger? I was. At least in the beginning. Towards the end that face would have made this one look positively boyish."

She paused at a stoplight and glanced at him. "Back then you mentioned a girl named Amy."

She watched as his face almost imperceptibly shifted. It was clear to her that whoever Amy was they weren't together anymore.

"Yes, Amelia. She and I traveled together for awhile. I was a different man then. Big chin. Stupid tie. Always talking."

"What happened to him?"

"What happens to them all." He said shortly and glanced out the window.

She nodded and headed through the light.

"And Amy?" She asked. But he didn't answer. "Is she your wife?"

"No, she's my wife's mother."

"Oh..." That made even less sense to her than usual but she decided not to pursue it, telling herself she really didn't care. "So what did the letter from UNIT say?"

"That you'd gone rogue. That you were impossible to contain and were roaming the countryside solving problems like Father Brown."

She laughed in spite of herself. "Are you here to take me in hand then?"

"I'm still on staff. UNIT security visa 710Apple00. So this is my assignment." He sighed. "Martha, they cannot have you bounding about unchecked."

"I'm not bounding about." She snapped. "I'm doing my job. What's required of me. I don't need them nursemaiding me through everything. I can handle this on my own. Got it?"

She turned a corner sharply and spotted his ship at the end of the road. Giving the vehicle some gas she arrived next to it a moment later and put the car into park.

"Here we are. End of the line I'm afraid. Thanks for popping in, Doctor." She forced a smile, unconcerned with whether or not it appeared sincere.

"Are you cross with me?" He asked.

Such a simple question and yet she struggled for an answer. Was she? Perhaps...but why? Why was it easy...alright, easier to keep the hurt and the rage at bay on most days but just seeing him brought it all back up again. He had disturbed her hard fought calm as usual by running helter skelter over the ocean floor of her emotions. All the flotsam and jetsam had floated to the surface and it was his fault. And still, she said...

"No. Not you, exactly."

"Good. That would have made the rest of this so much more difficult." He stepped out of the vehicle and stood there waiting for her to apparently do the same. "Come on." He said bending down and peering at her through the window. "Haven't got all day."

"It's a time machine, Doctor."

"It's a figure of speech, Doctor ." He countered.

She gripped the steering wheel. Sometimes she fantasized about the life she had intended to have. Graduate from medical school, do her time in hospital. Open a private practice. Husband. Babies. Fulfilling work. Ordinary and wonderful. Just ordinary.

"All my troubles started in that box." She muttered.

"Nonsense. Now, get out of the car. We have unfinished business." He started to stride to the TARDIS with a confidence that just screamed that he knew she'd follow.

Of course she grabbed her bags. Because of course he was right.

Her surprise upon entering wasn't exactly like the first time she'd stepped inside but it was close. She felt silly for being amazed but then again the ship seemed so sturdy, so set. She had no idea it could change.

"It looks nothing like before." She said in a soft voice.

"Every few years I just decide to give her a makeover." he said as busied himself at the controls. "She says welcome home, by the way."

"Who says?"

"The TARDIS. She always liked you very much. She calls you all strays but truthfully she'd like to have every one of these rooms filled with the lot of you. She'd love someone to chat with when I tire her nerves."

"Thank you." She replied quietly.

"You're welcome."

"Not you. Her."

"Ah."

"So, what unfinished business do we have?"

"I promised you a trip, if memory serves, to Meta Sigmafolio."

She smiled recalling the memory. Recalling that face, the last face she remembered him wearing as he spoke excitedly, already knowing she was going to leave.

"The sky is like oil on water you said." She said a touch dreamily.

"Indeed. You deserve a starburst, Martha Jones. And a starburst you shall have."

Things moved fast as they often did. One second Earth. The next, God knows where or when. And then they were sitting at a cafe, offworld with proper aliens breathing proper alien air and sipping what tasted like liquified candy floss. She watched him closely and was surprised to feel those spikes and flares of attraction rear their heads. She'd never been one to fancy complete strangers or men so many years her senior. But he wasn't a stranger, he was the Doctor. And as for age, she knew better. His face had always been a mask. She'd never known him young, not really.

"You're being weird." She said.

"How do you mean?" He glanced up at her in surprise.

"You're acting so normal. Well, normal for you. Is the new you normal?"

"This is normal? Sitting on a strange planet beneath a perpetual exploding star that is spreading colors across the sky that no human has ever seen. Some colors that your retinas can't even register? You have gotten hard to impress."

"That's all true, Doctor, but at the end of the day we're sitting in a cafe sipping... something just like any woman and bloke might. No grand adventure then?" She stopped to rephrase not intending to hurt his feelings. "I don't mean this isn't lovely. I just mean that by now, back in the old days, we probably would have already been locked away in an alien prison."

"I just wanted something quiet. I think I developed an affinity for quiet...and dusk." She watched him gaze off into the distance. He seemed contemplative and a touch sad. She knew that look. She often wore it herself when she wasn't careful. "I have a confession and a question and this seemed like as good a place as any."

She waited for him to say more but he appeared to be done for the moment. For some reason she found herself in no rush to hear either thing.

"So, you're married?" She tried to ask cheerfully. It was still a bit hard for her to believe. Her own marriage had been about as far away from traditional as could be and still they phoned and texted, they set up places to meet, occasionally they even had a meal together. She couldn't imagine the Doctor doing those things. Things like that required a schedule and keeping a schedule was something he was rubbish at. "I don't see a ring."

"I don't believe in rings. Rings symbolize ownership or some sort of cattle brand. I don't need a piece of jewelry to remind me of where my hearts are." He glanced at her left hand. "I see that you agree."

She didn't wear her ring anymore. Instead of being a pleasant reminder it started to hurt a bit more day by day until finally she took it off. It was in a keepsake box in the flat. Far, far away from here. It sat next to his and they both sat next to his urn. She quickly removed her hand from the table and let it rest in her lap.

"Is she nice, your wife?"

"That always depended on which side of her weapon you found yourself on." He said with a dry chuckle. "Nice...yes, she was nice. Clever, funny, brilliant, annoyingly so at times."

"Never really imagined you as the marrying sort. Why did your wife send you a letter?"

"Not a letter. Many letters. She's hidden them all over the galaxy and throughout time for me. Must have had the TARDIS to help her out. It's her way of still being here...even when she's not. There's no map. No way to know when I'll locate one or where it will be. But on certain days, special days, there she is."

"What do these letters have to do with me?"

"The letter was about you." he said simply as though it made perfect sense.

"But she never met me."

"No, but she heard me speak of you enough."

"Y- you speak of me?" She was truly shocked. Honestly, she imagined the Doctor worked on a sort of out of sight out of mind level. Martha figured it was probably easiest for him that way.

"From time to time."

"Well, what did it say?"

"Dear Sweetie-" He began as though he were reading though he was, of course, reciting from memory.

"Sweetie?" She couldn't help but blurt out.

"May I continue?" He asked archly.

"Sorry."

"Dear Sweetie. Sometimes the only salve we have for regret is time. We cannot heal it or fix it. We simply must live with it, alongside it, forever nursing this wound which won't heal. But sometimes if we're lucky and time is merciful there is a medicine. Find, Martha. Go back to her. Heal thyself. All my love. River."

Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment and she suddenly felt very small and a bit childish. What had he been telling his wife? God, what cringeworthy details about poor, stupid lovesick Martha had he spilled? For a moment, she considered beating a hasty retreat until she remembered they were on another planet.

"Doctor...if this is about Rose or the confession I made when I left I-"

"No. It isn't. You spoke frankly and I respected that." He put both hands on his mug, his fingers worrying a crack that ran down the side. "He was attracted to you but he wasn't in love with you, Martha. He was never going to be."

His words both stung and soothed, something only he was able to do even after all these years.

"I don't think I was really in love with you...him either. It's all fine and well to fall for a good looking guy when your heartbeat never has a chance to level off and the adrenaline never stops flowing. But would I have feel the same after a day, a week of ordinary? Didn't much care for John Smith, I have to say." She stated with defiant raise of her chin. "I may have confused being in love with the adventure with being in love with you. The thing is the TARDIS is built for this to happen. It's a cathedral of sorts with you as the center. It's no wonder we wind up worshipping you. Name one person you've taken along who hasn't fallen for you?" She asked. There was a pause and she laughed when at the same time they both said "Donna."

"This is an apology tour then? Kinda like AA when they send you out to make amends with the people you've hurt through your addicted behavior?"

"I suppose it is."

"So this is much more about you than it is about me?"

"Aren't most apologies?" He countered. "Doesn't make it any less sincere."

He had a point there. Altruism aside everyone, both of them included, all just went along trying to drop some of the guilt and baggage they'd picked up along the way.

"What are you apologizing for exactly?" Martha found herself hesitant to hear his reply. With the Doctor it was best to never assume what he was going to say. That was a one way road to disappointment.

"I've had a few lifetimes and several hundred years to think...about how poorly I treated you." He had begun to look away from her again and she watched as he willed his eyes back to hers. "You came in second best. You never had a chance to be anything but." He concluded bluntly.

"Tell me something I don't know." She tried to sound nonchalant but even after all this time it hurt.

"It's hard to remember passionate feelings lifetime to lifetime. The memory remains but the emotions behind them dim. They can almost become rather clinical. In fact there's only been one person in my life for who that wasn't true." He cleared his throat before continuing. "When you and he met, he was mourning Rose. He had lost her and yet he never... In any case, you came along and he thought he could have his cake and eat it too. He wanted the attention. He wanted to be adored but he wanted none of the attachment. He made sure to let you know in no uncertain terms there were places he would never let you traverse. Even in his thanks he was reserved, detached. You never left her shadow, Martha. He never saw you, never even bothered, not really."

Her chest had started to ache. Everything he was saying was what she'd feared, what she'd known, what had circled round and round in her head at night.

"Did your wife tell you to say this?" She asked trying so hard to keep her voice from showing even a hint of strain.

"No." he said indignantly. "But I suppose she helped me realize it. River has always been good at that. I'm sorry, Martha. He said those words a lot didn't he?" He paused and frowned for a moment as if trying to remember. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

Martha gasped and released a ragged breath because the voice that came out wasn't the Scottish brogue she was becoming accustomed to but rather the voice she remembered from so long ago. That south-eastern accent. His voice. Her Doctor. There just for a moment, flickering like a flame before the wind blew it out and away.

"That's what he used to say isn't it?" The Doctor asked as what served as his normal voice returned.

"Yes." She said over the lump in her throat. "That's what you used to say."

She'd dreamed of this moment. She'd moved past him, beyond him, beyond the physical pain of the hurt and the anger. It was mostly technical now. It was an unresolved bit of trivia that bound them together and she used to plan out her examples and counterarguments that she was going to present to him one day when he returned and whisked her away to a quiet spot for alien tea and strange sunsets. But in her imagination she always thought she'd have to fight him, browbeat him into hearing her, put up with the arguments and the deflection only to finally receive what she just knew would be a terribly unsatisfying mea culpa. She had never expected this and so she had never expected the next words out of her mouth to be so truly meant.

"I forgive you, Doctor."

He looked at her with surprise and that face that had appeared so very serious moments before and truly for the entirety of their acquaintance broke into a surprisingly bright smile.

"Mates, then?"

"Mates." She agreed and took a sip of the saccharine drink feeling so much lighter than before. "That wife of yours seems as though she's a good influence. Don't suppose I'll get a chance to meet her?"

"I'm afraid not." He said and she watched as the light again retreated from his eyes.

"Off on an extended holiday?" She asked hopefully...though she had a good idea of the answer that was coming.

"She died."

"Oh Doctor...I'm so sorry. When?"

"When?" He said flatly. "I don't know exactly. Time travel and all. 1000 years ago. Yesterday. The last time the sun rose. It all feels the same here." He said and pointed not to his hearts but his head. "Till death do us part, eh? Except you never actually part do you?"

She swallowed hard. Everything he'd said was true. If there was one vile promise of death, one awful deal that vows and the grave offered it was a parting. But he was right. You never really part, whether you give away their clothes or try and forget your ring or run and run and run... They're always there and nothing so small as death can keep them at bay.

"How is Mickey the idiot, Dr. Smith?" He asked with a small smile.

Her face fell and she felt the dam she held back start to fracture and crack.

"Have you ever heard of the Korraliss?" She asked not answering him directly.

"Yes, beings native to the Thanta system. Their homeworld is so close to their sun that it is constantly scorching hot. They evolved to exist in that climate which includes dizzying levels of radiation. They're so toxic that exposure to one could even knock me on my arse for a few days. As for what it would do to a human, well imagine feeling all your organs being infected with cancer at the same time combined with a thousand chemo treatments occurring all at once. It would incinerate you or liquify you, I'm not sure which. In any case even your bones, what would be left of them, would best be shipped to Yucca Mountain. Why do you ask?"

Her tears were flowing now. There was no way to stop them. There never had been.

Idlly, she wondered just what, then, was in the urn?

"I see you've got a silver tongue to match the hair. At least that explains why they had to bury him so quickly."

He inhaled, as usual realizing his mistake far too late.

"Martha..." The Doctor swallowed. "When?"

"Five years back." She said brusquely, pushing her drink aside. "It's Dr. Jones and it always has been."

The silence returned, heavy with loss, far too heavy for either of them to lift alone.

"You said you had a confession and a question. We're 50% done. What's the question?"

"I think you already know if you go back to UNIT you'll have to face certain consequences."

"Of course." She said with a short nod. As removed as she acted she knew that her behavior over the past 5 years might have ended her career. Almost certainly she'd be court-martialed or some such equivalent, with a strong likelihood of discharge.

"I've spoken with Kate but her hands may be tied."

"I understand and I think I know what the question is now."

"Do you?"

"Yes. Will I agree to go back with you and face the music?"

For the second time she saw this Doctor start to laugh.

"We've been apart too long, Martha. It's like you don't remember me at all. No, the question, Dr. Jones, is will you come away with me?"

To pretend there was any part of her that wouldn't accept would be disingenuous. But that didn't mean she didn't assault him with questions the entire walk back to the TARDIS, once they were inside and once they were in flight.

"There isn't some sort of rule? No repetition when it comes to companions?"

"I make the rules, Martha."

"I'm not the same person, you realize. Not some starry-eyed medical student. I've seen my fair share of things, gotten into plenty of scrapes and didn't have you to help me out of them. If I come along it's not as some consolation prize. I'm not going to be in anyone's shadow."

"You're here because I want you to be here. River didn't ask me to take you along, this is my idea." He put the TARDIS in flight and they were off again. Just like that she was being whisked away. Though her troubles tugged at her she truly thought if they traveled fast enough and far enough she might just be able to snap their tethers.

Is this selfish on your part?" She asked him. "Like the apology, is this just to make you feel better?".

"Completely. I'm lonely. I've lost my friends. My wife. My family. My planet. I'm doing this strictly for me. If you benefit, well, so much the better. And you?" He stated honestly.

"Same." She replied. "I'm angry and frustrated and bored...and lonely. You're offering me the familiar and I'm damn sure going to take it."

"Good then, two selfish people acting only in their own best interests promising to be nothing but truthful with one another. We have an accord then?"

"An accord." She agreed and left to head to her old room. They allowed their words which were both all truth and all lies to hang in the air.


 

He was 12 she came to learn. There had been 11 before him and the one she had known was 10.

12 was nothing like 10.

Then again she wasn't the same either.

What she thought would be the pain of getting to know one another again, for the first time turned out to be a pleasure. She'd held her tongue a bit more around his tenth. Not wanting to offend him or embarrass herself. When she replayed those moment in her mind all she saw was a constant stream of doe-eyed fawning on her part. But this time it was different, she was so rooted in her personality, her understanding of self, so unmovable in her convictions and confidence that he didn't intimidate her anymore. Not that he tried.

Somehow, this time, they meshed, they fit. And while she didn't feel that he saw her, Martha did feel a great deal less invisible.

The Doctor never told a straight story or gave a straight answer, neither were his style and still she was able to piece together bits about the others. The married couple who were his wife's parents, the Clara girl he could and couldn't remember, and Donna...dear God, poor Donna. The last one hadn't been a surprise though. She'd bumped into Donna once at Harrod's when she and Mickey were on the trail of her latest case. The redhead had been shopping and Martha couldn't help stopping, just for a moment to say hello. The reply she'd gotten had been a bewildered stare. It all finally ended in a polite "You must have me confused with someone else." Mickey had finally drawn her away mumbling an apology on their behalf. "Something must have gone wrong." He'd whispered in her ear and she nodded because something always seemed to have just gone wrong.

To this story the Doctor only asked, "Did she look happy?"

"She did." Martha said truthfully, though she realized had it been necessary should would have lied to spare his feelings.

He didn't tell her what happened and she didn't ask.

He never told her she was a star and she didn't miss it one bit. He only called her Martha or on some occasions Dr. Jones. He never said brilliant or allons-y or molto bene. He could be grumpy or short tempered, he was terribly anti social and sometimes she'd yell at him and sometimes he'd shout right back. He was always real, always straight and when there was darkness he didn't hide it under a smile or a joke, he stated it plain and true. She was different too. Her tactics had changed. It wasn't so much good cop-bad cop anymore but bad cop and chaotic neutral cop. Oh but she could be bad as well. UNIT had just as many rules as the Doctor but they were completely different. Force was authorized and encouraged in some cases. She felt an urgency to things now and an impatience every now and then with people who weren't forthright or brave. She'd discovered that things could get done with a lot less talking, a lot less diplomacy and bit more brute force or if not actual force just the implied threat of it. She caught him looking at her now and again. If he was displeased he never said anything and for that she was grateful.

She set an app on her phone to just count off the days for her. She always left it in the TARDIS so she'd know just how long she'd been there. Two months in she knew she was home. She no longer felt that tug to return to her family that had always been there the first time around. They could tend to themselves. This was life now. This could always be life so long as she wanted. Six months in and she knew she loved him. Seven months in and she knew he loved her. They were bezzie mates the way she had always wanted.

Just as he'd said, there were letters from River, his wife, along the way.

He rarely if ever read them aloud to her though sometimes a bit of information did eek out. A suggestion, a request, a demand. Most of it he kept private. There were times when she could send his spirits soaring and others when he sank into a deep melancholy that, try as she might, Martha found hard to pierce. That wasn't surprising considering what he'd lost. What was surprising was when the letters started arriving for her as well.

For his part the Doctor didn't seemed nearly as shocked when he thrust the envelope into her hand as she was. But she could tell he was incredibly curious as to what it said. Something about holding it in her palm though told her this was for her eyes only and she excused herself to read it in private. She wasn't sure what she was expecting, what tone there might be. No, that wasn't true. She expected the script and demeanor of a Time Lord to leap off the page. She expected staccato, erudite, elevated language. Hell she expected calligraphy.

What she got was entirely different.


Hello Martha,

Traveling with him then? Good, that's what I wanted. My name is River Song and I doubt my husband has told you much about me as at all. Tight lipped one isn't he? That's alright. We'll just have to get to know each other this way won't we? And just think how crazy it will drive him! You are, perhaps, the only one of the Doctor's friends that I've never met. I even managed to pop over to the parallel universe and meet Rose. But never you. I wonder why that is. So you see you've become a bit of a mystery to me. I've built you up in my head, what you're like, how your voice sounds, how you handle him indoors. After so many years there aren't very many mysteries left for me. I knew that eventually, after he left Darillum, after he mended a bit he'd decide to travel with someone new. So much of the time he's spent in this body has been about going home again, in one way or another. All the ways he can and all the ways he can't. I figured the best way for him to do that now was not with someone new but rather someone old. I hope you don't find my machinations too presumptuous. You're of course free to act on your own will. If he's too grumpy, too frustrating, too unbearable I absolutely understand. But if you stay with him, if you choose to journey on with him I would be ever so grateful. He misses you though don't hold your breath waiting for him to say it. If I'm right you may just miss him. If you stay with him, in whatever capacity that winds up being, please know you have made me very, very happy. Look after him for me, won't you? And don't for one moment let him not look after you.

All the best,

River


It was a nice letter and Martha was happy to receive it. She puzzled over the "in whatever capacity that winds up being" part but decided not to worry about it. Now she was terribly curious about River. What did she look and sound like? How long had they been together? Was she a Time Lord as well? She didn't sound like one. And why, out of all the people this man had traveled with, why her? Why Martha? What made the fences she had so special as to need mending.

"What does it say?" Asked the Doctor, unable to hide his urgency once she'd returned to his presence.

"Nothing for you, nosy." She said teasing him gently. "It was just between us girls."

There was no one particular incident, nothing that exactly changed the flow of the tide. But she could feel that traveling this time was as different for her as it was for him. They were both running all the while pretending they weren't. Though the causes were different than what propelled them their first time, it was running just the same.

Eventually, it caught up with them.

It got her first. They wound up on Earth, somewhere in the 34th century trying to stop a fusion reactor after it had already gone critical. It was eerily similar in ways to their time on the Pentallian but so much worse. She'd seen people die before. Which is not to say her heart was hardened to it but... it happened. But this death, this boy who she watched cook from the inside out before the corium swallowed up his body, broke something inside her. Something within she had thought was thick as steel cracked like dry kindling. She cried for the boy, Ravu was his name and she cried for Mickey as thoughts of how painful it must have been came flooding back.

She needed to lock herself away in her room for a bit after that, a decision the Doctor respected. He respected a lot more of her decisions nowadays.

When she wasn't in her quarters she liked to go exploring just like in the old days. She discovered that while the console room may have changed the rest of the ship remained the same. Martha would have liked to flatter herself with the idea that she had become an expert at navigating the corridors. But she knew it was much more likely that the TARDIS was guiding her, taking her where she wanted or where she needed to be. She found several wardrobes, the pantry, storage, a few bedrooms here and there, the swimming pool, an astronomy lab, a medical bay and finally the library. She knew if anyone had to have a library onboard it was the Doctor but she'd never been able to find it until now. As with nearly everything on this ship it managed to surpass both her dreams and imagination. It was lush and cavernous and six full floors which contained row after hallway after row of books. She was completely smitten and it quickly became her go to place when he was absent, distant or just needed space.

"You wander about far more than you used to." He said one evening completely surprising her as she balanced on a ladder.

"Sorry." She said feeling almost instantly guilty. She grabbed the book she'd been trying for and made her way to the floor. "I've been getting a bit antsy."

"I know the feeling. Mind if I join you?" He asked politely.

"Of course not." She said with a grin. The library was equipped with stuffed, soft reading couches and she often found herself curling up on one just to get lost. "I've been looking for this everywhere. Grimm's Fairy Tales. My mum took a university class and she had to buy this book. I found it in her closet long after the class was over and went to bed with it every night. Best of all it was this particular edition. I know by the pictures on the cover. What are the odds?"

"Question; Why do all fairy tales begin with 'Once upon a time.'" He sat down on one of the uber-comfortable couches and she joined him.

She thought for a minute before answering.

"Because as much as the human mind wants to believe in magic and fairytales and happy endings, we intrinsically know it's impossible. It's easier for us to accept 'happily ever after' if we remove it from linear time."

He stopped and regarded her and she studied his face. He was growing his hair out and she had no complaints at the mess of curls that seemed thicker by the day. His eyes hovered just in between blue and gray often seeming to turn mid conversation if she paid close attention.

"There was a time when me posing a question like that to you wouldn't have yielded such a cynical answer."

She shrugged and pushed away his question replacing it with one of her own.

"I've had a list of things I always wanted to ask you."

"Lucky you, I'm at your disposal."

"Bermuda Triangle, real or not?"

"The Triangle is the result of what happens when a malfunctioning TARDIS and its Eye of Harmony smack into the ocean floor."

"Yours!?" She asked, eyes wide.

"No, a very old, very ex-friend called the Monk."

She chuckled. "Do you all have such showboat-y names? Are none of you just named Ralph?"

"Yes." He said and she saw the mirth in his eyes.

"Yes, what?"

"Yes, there are those of us who had less showboat-y names."

"Alright who?"

"Well, Ralph for instance."

She laughed outright and shook her head. "Next question. Time traveling guy also known as the Time Traveling Hipster. You've seen the photo, the guy at the opening of the South Fork bridge, 1941, cool haircut, modern sunglasses, screen print t-shirt he sticks out like a sore thumb."

"That's Ralph!" He insisted with a grin.

"Alright, it's a woman this time. Time traveling lady in the Charlie Chaplin stock footage for The Circus, 1928, she clearly reaches for her mobile phone and takes a call as she's walking past the camera. Have you see it?"

"It's all over the internet but I did have the added bonus of being there."

"Of course you were." She said with a delighted shake of her head."

"Shall I really blow your mind?" Clearly excited about whatever he was about to reveal.

"Try me."

"If you recall when you left me you tossed me your mobile and said that when it rang I was to immediately head back to earth. Well, of course I didn't want to run the risk of missing your call so I carried it about with me."

Martha's eyes widened as she listened to him.

"Doctor you're kidding."

"Naturally when the nice little old lady approached me and asked where she could find a druggist who might have a communal phone I said, Here, you can borrow this one. Martha Jones, that was your phone. Look at you, carelessly mucking up the timeline." He teased.

"Everyone online said it was a hearing aid!" She exclaimed.

"Trust me, it was your phone. Which you would have been able to have indisputable proof of on your bill had I not made sure the charges were reversed."

""You have an answer for everything don't you?"

He grew serious for a moment before speaking.

"Would you like to hear a story? It's one from your book there."

"Always." She said and settled back for this rare treat.

"Once upon a time, there was a man named Crab. Mr. Crab, they called him. One day Mr. Crab saw how well the richest man in town ate and he asked him, "What can I do to live like you do."

The man told him, "Buy an ABC book with a rooster on the front. Sell everything you own buy doctors equipment and start calling yourself Doctor Know-All."

Mr. Crab did just that and what do you know, Bob's your uncle he's a doctor.

Not long after that a wealthy man came to him with a problem. He suspected his servants of stealing money from him and he wanted help in rooting them out."

At this point in the story she stopped him.

"Why would the rich guy go to a doctor for help?"

"Doctors get tasked with all manner of unusual jobs." He said with a twinkle in her eye. "Now, Doctor Know-All agreed to visit the rich mans house with his wife. As they sit down for dinner the Doctor nudges his wife when each course comes. 'That's one." He says. Then, 'That's two." And finally, 'That's three!' Three servants, each of which had brought one of the courses overhear him and think he's identifying them.

The fourth servant now comes out and brings with him the last meal under a glorious silver dome atop a silver tray.

The rich man, wanting Doctor Know-All to prove that he does in fact know all say,

"Tell us, Doctor, what is under the tray?"

Mr. Crab, was for all his finery and pretended degrees was still just a man and a man who was especially good at feeling sorry for himself. When presented with this problem, as he had no idea what was under the tray exclaimed, "Ah, poor Crab!"

As luck would have it that was precisely what was beneath the tray.

The four servants now found themselves at sixes and sevens. To them here was a man who knew all their sins. They pulled the doctor aside and offered him a deal. They admitted their guilt to him and promised to return all the money they'd stolen and even give him a bit of the finders reward. He agreed and they showed him where the cash was hidden.

Returning to the table he picked up the book and said. 'My good host, I will now consult my book so that I discover where the purloined cash is hidden.'

He picked up the book and started searching through it under the pretense of locating the answer. At some point he exclaimed, 'I know you're there. Come out this instant!'. The fifth servant appeared from the fireplace and shouted this man knows everything!

Crab then showed the nobleman where the money was without revealing who had taken it. He got a reward from the noble as well as money from the servants and Doctor Know-All became famous throughout the land."

Martha applauded when he had finished.

"So what's the moral of the story, Doctor?"

"If you want morals you go to Aesop. The Grimm brothers are for pure entertainment."

"Do you know them then?" She asked.

"They're on my darts team. Jacob is great but we're thinking of replacing Wilhelm with Kafka." He paused. "I suppose if you must have a moral it would be that I don't always know everything sometimes I'm just lucky."

"You're Doctor Know-All, aren't you?"

"Of course not. It's just a story." But she saw the amused crinkle around his eyes.

"Whatever you say, Mr. Crab." Martha said as she settled deeper into the comfort of the couch. "Tell me another story."

He smiled and to her surprise launched into another tale without a hint of protest.

She awoke to find he had covered her with a blanket. She also awoke as just the wisps of a dream she'd had was drifting away. It was simple enough. The two of them on this very sofa. Not curled up. Not kissing. Certainly not shagging. It was nothing, nothing like the dreams she'd had about his previous incarnation. Those were so scandalous they still made her cheeks flame with heat. In those fantasies she was completely at his mercy, a willing servant subsisting off an attention and a touch that even in her dreams was remote. He had her everywhere, in every way and every position. She would awaken and still feel his hands on her skin and it would take a minimum of five full minutes before she could process what he was saying while piloting the ship without picturing what she imagined was the face he made when he orgasamed.

But this wasn't at all like that. In this dream they were together, barely touching except for their hands. Just their hands. Only their hands. And he was reading to her, quietly.

It was the most intimate experience she'd had since Mickey died.

"Fuck." She muttered to herself.


 

This TARDIS was so unlike the one she remembered though that memory was fading. She hadn't liked this new one at first. It was darker, starker, a touch more clinical. Less steampunk rebel and more streamline 50's Lost In Space-y. He didn't seem to like that description when she said it and his consternation made her laugh.

"What written up there?" She asked pointing to the ceiling. "The spinning things, that has your language."

"Your names." He said and that was all.

Your. That special group that she was a part of. Those few, those happy few who'd been lucky enough to travel with him.

"Where's mine?" She asked. "Can I guess?"

He stepped around the console and stood at her side.

"If you like."

She choose half randomly and half based on feeling and of course she was wrong.

"That one." She said raising her arm and pointing towards a panel on the second row.

"No, that's Charley." He put his hand atop hers guiding it to a different area completely. "Wait for it, it's about to come round...there. Martha."

She smiled as she watched her name pass in the unfamiliar circular script. She tried very hard not to be distracted by the touch of his palm on hers.

"Thank you." She said quietly.

"Of course."

It had been a little over a year and half now, at least according to her phone, since she'd arrived. So much longer than she'd ever traveled with his predecessor. She had always felt as though she had been trailing him. Trailing 10. Hoping to prove herself worthy, hoping for applause, hoping for an approval that never truly came.

That approval was unwanted now. She had entered the TARDIS this time behaving and proclaiming herself an equal and he had treated her as such. They'd had their rows, their battles, their fiery disagreements and he had forbade her from this and that and lectured and ignored and she had shouted and argued and demanded and pushed and doubted and refused to be silent.

And in all of it, they had only grown closer.

She had kissed him. Once. They'd saved a planet...it was awhile back and she couldn't remember which one and in the midst of the celebration, the kind of celebration they didn't usually stay for beneath a pyrotechnic display she imagined would be unrivaled in her lifetime she grabbed his face and kissed him.

She thought maybe he blushed but it could have been the light from one of the fireworks.

The story he told her about the TARDIS taking corporeal form didn't make a lot of sense. She followed it. She understood it. But it still didn't make a lot of sense. What did make sense was when he informed her that he was less in control of their destination that he had let on. He'd liked to blame it on his ship and truly it was her fault but not in the way he said. It wasn't because she was old, it was because she took him where he needed to be. Where he wanted to be was irrelevant.

This likely explained why his mood had at times turned fouler and fouler when they set off for somewhere new and it was never where he wanted.

He was looking for letters. Trying to anticipate where the next one might turn up. But it seemed like he was always wrong and the TARDIS was always unhelpful.

When Rivers next letters did arrive it was an abrupt surprise. The one addressed to Martha began with little preamble.

"What exactly are you so worried about?" It said.

Martha recoiled a bit from the paper she held.

"Alright. This is too weird."

Setting it down on her nightstand she left her room, intending to come back to it at the end of the day. Heading to the console room she saw the Doctor engrossed in a letter of his own.

"Everything alright?" She asked cautiously.

He started a bit and looked at her for longer than usual.

"Yes, fine. Of course fine."

"Did she say something nice?" She asked with a smile.

"She said something ridiculous." He replied. "Shall we be off?"

They didn't speak more about it and by the time she was able to return to her room a few days later (they'd been imprisoned on a skyship...again) she'd all but forgotten about the note. She picked it up hesitantly.

"Feel better now that you've had a breather? " It read.

"How are you doing that?" She asked aloud.

"It's not magic, Martha. I'm not psychic and I'm not there with you. I am indeed quite dead. Tits up, as they say. I just know and understand people. And because the TARDIS has always been very gracious in providing information I know a bit about you. There won't be anymore letters for a good long while. I made a miscalculation. The last time...the last night the Doctor and I were together I thought all of that was for me. As time passed I thought it was for the two of us. And I was so happy about that. But on the very last minute of the very last hour on that very, very last of days I suspect I'll realize in certain ways it was just for him. I know I'm going to die. He knows I'm going to die. But I don't think he'll accept it until that very last moment. And because he may not truly accept it, even then, I wanted to somehow ease the blow. Hence the letters. But he's become a bit too dependent on them hasn't he? It's just a feeling but I suspect I'm right."

Martha nodded silently. It was true. She'd seen them move from pleasant surprise to obsession. It had become less about enjoying them when they turned up and much more about desperately seeking them out.

"It's time to start to slowly wean him off. I know that the Doctor you knew, the one I haven't met yet wasn't very forthcoming. So you may not know that a Time Lord can only regenerate 12 times, allowing for 13 lives. This Doctor is on his 13th regeneration and his 14 life. As for how that happened...well, it's a long story and it's his to tell if he wishes. The point is, he's begun a whole new cycle. Nothing but life and life and more life stretches out ahead of him and I don't want him to live it chasing after the dead.

Why do I think that if you're traveling with him, permanently, that you've lost someone too? Am I right? Someone close to you? Someone, you're not certain you can do without?

I'm afraid, yet again, you've caught him on the rebound, Martha. But don't be deterred. Help him. Let him help you too."

Martha bristled at that.

"I hate to break it to you, strange woman who I've never met but I'm fine. Perfectly fine."

"This is the point in the conversation where you, of course, are compelled to say, You're fine and you don't need any help. Are you? Because I'm pretty sure there's a big difference between not needing to go home and not wanting to go home. Trust me, I know a thing or two about running. And I think maybe its time both of you stop. I have to fade from need to novelty. No cause to tell him. He'll figure it out. It won't be easy, what I suspect is ahead. But chin up. Please know, I'm not demanding you stay with him. I can't and won't do that. He's not mine to keep and he's not mine to pass along ownership of. You owe me nothing. You owe him even less. I can only tell you what I think and hope and believe would be the best for both of you. I believe there's going to be a point where you think the right thing to do will be to leave. I believe you should resist that urge. But I won't fault you for whatever you do. I have faith in you, Martha Jones.

All the best,

River


She was right. It wasn't easy.

As the days and months passed she watched him pinball from planet to planet looking for the next letter, the next clue, the next trace of her. But he never found it. She watched as his temper grew shorter and their arguments...and sometimes their silences grew longer. He was getting reckless, relegating her to a few steps behind him, ignoring her opinion and constantly needing to be calmed down and talked down. She saw more and more of that strange and powerful and alien judgment and vengeance. Perhaps worst of all he started having them split up. They'd land, discover the problem and he'd send her off. It wasn't on menial errands, quite the opposite, sometimes she was overwhelmed with what he demanded that she do. But she accepted it and rose to the occasion. They'd return to the TARDIS, argue and retreat. It was cyclical and exhausting. One lone jibe was always on the tip of her tongue. "You know sometimes, you behave as if you don't want me here at all." The only reason she didn't say it is because she feared what his answer would be.

Until one day she'd had enough. Or perhaps they both had.

She slammed back into the ship and turned on her heel to face him as he followed behind.

"When I tell you to stay in one place that is precisely what I mean. I give the orders and you follow them . You endangered your life and the lives of everyone in that village." He raged.

"When you give me orders? Are you referring to what you said three days ago before you vanished without a trace. I saved those people and my own skin because you weren't there. As usual."

"This is not the way this arrangement works, Martha." He said gravely.

"Forgive me for not cowering at the angry deity act. You have been behaving foolishly for far too long now and I've kept my mouth shut. But no longer."

He suddenly threw the ship into action and the motion nearly knocked her off her feet but she grabbed hold of the console.

"Where are we going?" She asked suddenly. "Do you even know?"

His heavy brows were knitted and he didn't respond.

"Look at you! You're like an addict. What are you doing? Following a hunch, a feeling, did you read it in the tea leaves? Just because your dead wife wrote you a string of love notes does not mean you can go following her ghost across the universe to the exclusion of everything and everyone else!"

She knew she had gone too far.

And then he went farther.

"And just because I am doing my best to put as much distance between us as I can does not make me your husband."

He said it quietly, incisively and it cut through her swift and true like a surgeon's blade.

She didn't speak to him for three days and he made no inroads to speak to her.

Martha ventured to the console room on a few occasions during those days but he was never there.

When she finally did catch up with him all she said was, "Take me home."

He nodded.

She nodded in reply. This was over. Prescient letters from River Bloody Song be damned.

He had never come to her room. Not in this incarnation or his previous one. Not ever, until now. It was so unusual in fact that she jumped at the knock.

"Who is it?" She asked out of habit and then scrunched up her face at how ridiculous that sounded. "Just...come in."

He stepped inside but not very far. Martha could feel his eyes upon her as she filled her bag.

"Nearly packed?"

"Yep. Be out of your hair presently."

Out of the corner of her eye she saw him flex his hands for a moment, clench them in determined fists and then release. It meant he was about to say something but hadn't yet worked it out.

"When I told you I didn't believe in ghosts that was a lie. I do."

She stopped what she was doing and glanced over to the doorway at him.

"What?"

"My wife was a ghost. River was here on this ship for years, for ages. She existed as a psychic echo. I lived in fear each day that this would be the moment, the hour she would vanish and leave me for good."

She hated to admit this piqued her interest.

"Did she?"

"No. But just to be on the safe side I never spoke a word to her. Even when she spoke to me."

Martha stared at him agog.

"She was here, properly here after you'd lost her and you never uttered a word."

"It only sounds cruel...because it is. I've...never known how to say goodbye. I don't think I ever really have. I don't like endings."

"If you expect me to soothe you with regard to the terrible, selfish choices you've made you've got the wrong girl." She shook her head and returned to the task at hand.

"I just wanted to explain before you go. The first time I met her she died. The first time I met River is the last time she saw me, the last day of her life. That was, in effect, the day she had to let me go. But I knew the day was coming when I would have to let her go." He ventured a bit further into her room. "It doesn't make much sense, I understand. We were a bit back to front, she and I.

I spent a great chunk of my life running away from her because I knew each time we met was drawing us closer to the end. Eventually, it was inescapable. These letters are the last I have. After so many lifetimes of running away from her now I'm running to her."

Martha sighed. He was expressing his grief with surprising candor and she wanted to give him the benefit of a heartfelt reply.

"River's letters were meant to be a salve, Doctor, you weren't supposed to consume them and then immediately go in search of your next fix. They're meant to be savored. They're meant to help you let her go. One day...one day that last letter will come. You have to be prepared for that. You must be ready to say goodbye or...it could destroy you. And as furious as I am with you right now I don't want to see that happen. Isn't that what she's been saying to you in her letters?"

"More or less." He replied with a sigh.

"Well then you should probably listen." She said as she fastened the clasps on her suitcase. "Alright, so have we landed?"

He tilted his head to the side curiously.

"You're still leaving?"

Martha let out a small exhale of disbelief followed by a much louder scoff.

"You are thick, aren't you. A big thick alien. You're finally starting to look a bit closer to your age and still you haven't figured one thing out have you?"

"But I thought we-" He began looking truly confused but Martha cut him off.

"We did nothing, Doctor. I made you feel better which I don't begrudge. But it doesn't change the fact that what you said to me was horrible."

"Where will you go?" He asked stepping aside as she left her room without a backwards glance. If she glanced back at it or at him she'd be far too tempted to stay.

"I'll go back to business as usual. I don't mind freelance. It was working. I can stay under UNIT's radar. They're too cumbersome and overstretched for their own good.

She said all this striding through the corridors. She made a left certain that she'd arrive in the console room but it was just another hallway. That was alright. She wasn't thinking straight, trying to regroup and pull up the map of the ship in her memory she barely heard his words.

"I've heard it said that certain types of people shouldn't travel alone. They get careless, thoughtless, rash, they lose their humanity...they get mean."

"What sort of people?" She said as she stopped short. This hallway didn't seem right either. With a sigh she turned around and headed past him in the other direction.

"People like us."

"Like us?" She repeated. "You think I'm anything like you?"

"You weren't, not before. Not before I did to you what I do to people. But you are now. Did you think I didn't notice? The rules you were willing to break? The bones you were willing to break? The weapons, the threats."

"I don't know what to tell you, Doctor. Life hardens you. That's what life does."

"But you stopped. I noticed that too. You came aboard one person and you're leaving another."

"It's an illusion!" She shouted surprising herself. "I don't know what's real anymore. I don't know who Martha is anymore. The cool headed doctor at UNIT. Your tag-a-long. The grieving widow. The freelance mercenary-"

"I never called you a mercenary." He said quickly.

"You didn't but Mickey did. UNIT has a very long, very dark arm, Doctor. They do things that perhaps even you don't know about. Things I refused to do...at first." She swallowed hard and shut her eyes trying to push the memories away and failing. In the end she slumped a little against the wall letting her bags drop to her feet. " The Osterhagen Key..."

"What about it?"

"You don't...you don't just come back from something like that. You can just hold life and death in your hands like that and be ok. These projects, they don't end once you fly away. After Project Indigo came Project Excelsior and then Project Nightshade and Project Tidal and Project Omnibus. On and on and I was there for everyone. Mickey never had the clearance level I did but I trusted him and you trusted him so they were happy to bring him aboard. But in a limited fashion. I liked working with him, alongside him initially, I did. But we had different methods and tactics. There were things I needed to do that I didn't want him to see. There were times...he slowed me down. And then after awhile-"

"After awhile you started wishing you were alone."

She sniffled. "I did. I'd explain it away. Say we had to be split up because it was a special assignment. Sometimes that was true but not always and not often enough. He started to notice. We'd fight, we'd make up and it would all start all over again. But Doctor, it was worth it because I could breathe away from him. I could take risks, I could be myself."

"But then when he began to pull away as well you took issue."

Martha looked at him with surprise. "Y-yes. And that just lead to more arguments because I wanted it both ways. The last time we fought was right before he went to Paraguay. I was free on a sort of mini-holiday and feeling antsy and I asked him if he wanted me to come. He said no. No, Martha. We both know we'd just get in each other's way. And he was right. It hurt but he was right and I just let him go and that was the last I ever saw of him. I cut my holiday short, grabbed an assignment and then he was dead."

Admitting all this out loud was exhausting and frightening but neither her emotions or her mouth seemed content to let her stop just yet.

"I...rushed into marrying him." She blurted out. "I wasn't ready. It seemed the right thing to do. It seemed practical and sensible but I wasn't ready. I have never said those words out loud before."

The Doctor, this Doctor in particular was uncomfortable with emotion and she had expected him to check out either mentally or perhaps even physically long ago. But he just stood there facing her, hands behind his back, a slight frown on his face.

"I was replying to you, you know."

"What?" She asked through her now free flowing tears.

"What I said about doing my best to put as much distance between us not making me your husband. You said that, in the library in your sleep. When you nodded off you were lying on my screwdriver. I reached beneath you to get it, you rolled a bit and for a moment I was caught until I tugged myself free and you said, 'There you go, leaving just like Mickey.'"

Martha flushed, her cheeks hot with embarrassment. It wasn't the first time her mouth had gotten her in trouble when she was unconscious and likely wouldn't be the last.

"I'm sorry I said that to you."

He shrugged.

"There's not a problem I'm aware of that can't be made 100 times worse when you add guilt to it. The dead can offer us a great many things, pleasant memories, renewed sense of purpose, winning lottery numbers. What they can't offer is absolution. So you got tired of him, so what? I grow tired of people all the time. There hasn't been a single person that I've traveled with that I haven't, at one point, wanted to leave on a planet comprised of nothing but quicksand. I haven't found a particular planet like that yet but once I do, look out."

"Comforting as always, Doctor."

"My point being, the feeling passes. Or if it doesn't pass you make changes to adjust. You just didn't get that chance. You feel guilty because you pushed him away and you worry he never knew why. I feel guilty because I had hundreds upon hundreds of years to think of a way to save my wife and I never did. At least not in the way I wanted. We'll have to live with that, Martha. Their ghosts aren't haunting us, pointing an accusing finger like Hamlet's father. In the end only we can forgive ourselves. Or not."

"No such thing as ghosts, right?" She asked quietly.

"Right. I suspect that Mickey wouldn't want to remain such a foreboding and condemning figure in your memory."

"I don't imagine River would want you to spend all eternity chasing her memory."

He didn't answer but instead gave a short nod.

It wasn't as though no one had said similar things to her before. Her mother, Tish, friends here and there. But never quite as blunt or with as much heart. Grief was like a car wreck, she had found. People wanted to stop and gawk but no one really wanted to get out of their vehicle and get their hands dirty.

"It hurts." She said simply.

"Damn right it hurts. Sometimes pain is the only thing we have to keep us moving. It will go on hurting, I imagine, until one day it doesn't."

"Right. Shall we attempt to move on then? Honestly and with as little reservation as possible?"

"Right." He agreed.

"I can't seem to find the exit in any case." She joked.

"That's the TARDIS. She apparently didn't want you to leave. Kept sending us about in a circle. Until we worked it out I assume. Have we worked it out?"

"We have. As best we can."

He paused and leaned over to pick up both her bags.

"I'm not your husband, Martha. And I won't leave you again. I'll only leave if you ask me to."

Confession is good for the soul and so it worked with both of them. Things seemed altogether lighter on the TARDIS now. He seemed to be making an effort for a while to take her on experiences as opposed to actively seeking out trouble. Trouble still found them, of course, but she was able to greet it now with the excitement of the old days.


 

When you save the last sovereign of the Drogan Empire his imperial majesty Prince Arthitex the 17th, custom apparently dictates that he throw you a ball.

Despite the Doctor protesting more than once that is was "Quite alright, no thanks necessary." The Prince wouldn't take no for an answer.

"We could still technically pass along our regrets in a heartfelt note of apology." He said once they were back on the TARDIS.

"We're going." Martha replied with excited finality. "Why don't you want to go to a party?"

"Do I strike you as the partying sort? "

She narrowed her eyes and peered at him theatrically.

"Somewhere, deep down, yeah. I think you'd be the last one to leave a party as a matter of fact. Just the unassuming bloke who in the end shuts the place down. Now, what are they wearing in Drogan this season?"

The Doctor was of course no help there but the TARDIS wardrobe offered up the perfect selection, as always. Drogan seemed to be in their own sort of Edwardian period and in the end she choose ball gown with a wide skirt and a nipped in waist. The sort of thing she would have gone mad for as a little girl.

"How do I look?" She asked as she reentered the console room knowing the answer would be comical. He of course was wearing what he always wore.

"Your hair is higher than normal. And your dress is...nice."

"You like my dress?" She asked with surprise.

"I know that when a woman appears in shiny clothes and sparkly jewelry it's a mistake not to compliment her."

"You really don't have a judgment of your own?"

"Some versions of me were better than others. I don't put much stock in looks." He said with a shrug. "Martha is kind and clever and nice. Martha is sharp and strong. Martha is occasionally amusing, frequently amazing. Martha Jones keeps me from going mad on a regular basis and I desire her company above all others. That is what I see. What else could possibly matter? "

His summation which he rush through with his trademark near irritation touched her.

"Now shall we go so you can dazzle them all?" He said with a smile.

"You know I'll dazzle them though you have no idea how I look?" She laughed.

"Lower species," He said with a shake of his head. "If you really think attraction is solely physical you have so much to learn."

They exited the ship directly into the ballroom and Martha barely had time to consider the fact that she'd not said a word about attraction.

Martha didn't expect to see the Doctor pissed. She also didn't expect him to appear a bit later with an electric guitar. And she certainly didn't expect him to launch into a Bowie retrospective which included rousing covers of Rebel, Rebel, Space Oddity (which she joined in on) and finally Heroes which if she didn't know better he seemed to be singing directly to her.

But that was likely just the mead because my God was there a lot of mead. And since she wasn't driving she had her fill. But nothing like the Doctor because it seemed as though every time she glanced at him she was either seeing the bottom of his mug or watching it being refilled. It must have been near a holiday season for them or the equivalent of their solstice judging by the decorations and the sweets table. She helped herself to something that tasted delightfully like gingerbread. She laughed and danced and talked and danced and sang and danced and drank and danced until everything was a bit of a whirl. She was passed from partner to partner until finally she wound up in the arms of her travel mate.

"Having a nice time?" He asked and she thought she only heard a slight slur.

"Delightful but I must admit I'm knackered, Doctor."

"Well then let us bid our goodnights."

With all the grace they could muster as two tired and intoxicated people they thanked their hosts for a lovely evening and vanished into the TARDIS.

"Have you always been a rock god, then?" She asked playfully.

"Not a rock god, perhaps a low level deity of sorts." He was blinking slowly as he stroked the ships panel.

Martha hopped up on the TARDIS console letting her legs swing. She felt unburdened in a way she hadn't for a very long time. The Doctor busied himself with the controls, circling around her as he spoke.

"Where shall we go now? The universe is our oyster. We could see the oceans of Vendara Prime. The rolling forests of Nebannon Exerteran. The singing fish of the waterless shores of Lortha Alvarian Dularr."

She'd brightened as he spoke and her smiled bridged into a laugh. He had been moving closer and closer to her flipping switches and yanking levers and finally he found himself before her standing between her legs.

"So, where to?" He asked.

Martha was gazing at him, at this face. So different from the face she remembered. She'd been intimidated by his old face. It was handsome but dangerous. She heard others talk about him, his humor, his jocularity, his carefree spirit. But she had seen the flip side. The darkness, the rage, the naked power. He had frightened her on more occasions than she could count and on more than she cared to remember. She didn't feel that coming from the man before her. Not from this Doctor. He was different. Yet he was the same. She wasn't afraid of him anymore.

Reaching out she ran her fingers through his curls. She'd never have dared do that before. 10 was always, always remote. Even when he was near he was too far away to touch. But not now.

"I...I have to reach that lever just behind you." he said quietly but she noted he didn't pull away. She watched his gaze flit from her face to the hand that was currently winding his hair around a finger and back to her face.

"Couldn't we just...drift?" She asked him and damned if he wasn't inching closer to her.

"Is that a euphemism?" He asked cautiously.

"Would you like it to be?" She replied quickly on the heels of his statement.

"Some people are disturbed by the change of faces." He said hesitantly.

"It was never about the face." She said with a laugh just this side of sad. "That was something I don't think you ever got. And even if it was, you're still you, right? Still my Doctor?"

"Martha?"

"Yes?"

"Are you intoxicated?"

"Absolutely." She said with a giggle.

"Hmmmm..." Reaching in his pocket he removed a small pill. "Open your mouth."

"What is it?" She asked even as she was doing as he bade her.

"It'll dissolve on your tongue. Now, there may be a slight-"

"Bollocks!" She shouted as all the blood in her body seemed to rush towards her head threatening to shoot out her ears or so she felt. Following that was the headache. Not a headache but the headache. The headache to end them all. It was essentially like condensing the entirety of the hangover she expected tomorrow into 5 seconds or less.

"What was that?"

"Something meant to sober you up." He stated as he peered at her. "The nausea suppression always seems to work but can't quite avoid that-"

"Throbbing, blinding pain!? Why didn't you at least warn me?" She demanded crossly.

"Are you sober?"

"Disgustingly so." She said with a sigh. She had been enjoying the pleasant buzz. Though now that the headache had passed admittedly at this point she did feel better.

"And your hand is still in my hair." He said slowly.

"So it is. What does that tell you?" Undeterred, she leaned in closer ready to kiss him when her mind interrupted them. "Hang on. You're drunk. What's the point in me being sober if you're not."

"I'm not drunk."

"Uh, yeah you are, mate. I saw you. Stumbling about, words running into one another."

"Yes, I was drunk and for a bit longer than I expected because of the gingerbread. But I haven't been drunk for the past 52 seconds."

"Time Lords get drunk from gingerbread?" She asked with confusion.

"The ginger causes my body to break down the alcohol a bit slower than normal. But I'm done now. From drunk as a lord to sober as a judge."

"So we're just two non-drunk people then, eh?"

He started to fidget and Martha feared she was losing him.

"I suppose."

"You're a plain talker, aren't you? So you probably want someone to speak plainly."

"I-" He began but she didn't give him a chance to answer.

"I fancy you. I'm not in love with you. I mean, I do love you. Always have. I thought I was in love with you for awhile but...anyways..." She took a deep breath before starting again. "Okay...plain talk. I'm going to my room. I'm going to get out of this lovely but ridiculous dress, take a shower and crawl into bed." Hopping down from the console she leaned in and gave him a kiss, not on the lips but just to the corner of his mouth. "You are welcome and encouraged to join me. I am not asking you to join me for tea or chess or for a lecture on microbiotic life on the third moon of Wherever. I am asking you to join me in bed and to partake of all the privileges of doing so. If you don't, I'll see you tomorrow and no hard feelings. If you do, so much the better."

She didn't let him speak. There wasn't anything left to say so she gathered up her skirts and made a dignified exit.


 

"He's not going to show, Martha." She said aloud as much to herself as the empty room. She'd stripped down and was already standing in the shower, eyes closed as the water splashed against her face. "So just get it out of your head right now."

She knew it was true and she tried to be alright with it. She wasn't going to leave because this wasn't like last time. Their first time around she'd always felt like carry on luggage, an afterthought, an impulsive decision he grew to regret more and more every day. Now, they were both in each others lives because they wanted to be. That was enough. Anything more was just icing on the cake.

Martha laughed to herself and the sound bounced off the echo-y walls of the room.

"For God sakes, that's what vibrators are for, eh?" She chuckled to herself, finished her shower and stepped out.

When she came out of the loo and found him standing in her bedroom she nearly jumped out of her skin and her towel.

"What are vibrators for?" He asked, confusion apparent on his face.

Then he got distracted.

His eyes immediately widened, partially she imagined, because the towel nearly went slipping from her hand. Also, because he feared he had misinterpreted her meaning.

"I-I'm sorry! I thought you invited me- ... I can leave."

"No, no, Doctor, you just gave me a fright. I was in my head. Don't go."

"You were talking to yourself."

"Erm...yes, I was, I suppose. Did you hear everything I said."

"Not exactly. I mostly stopped listening. The things we say to ourselves out loud when we're alone are the usually the things we'd least like others to hear."

"Right you are." She replied though she noted he did say mostly. "Well, come in. Make yourself comfortable."

He obliged and to her surprise he carefully took off his jacket, setting it on a nearby chair before sitting down stiffly on the bed. Hardly an earth shattering moment for most but for the Doctor it was tantamount to him plunking down in a chair, kicking off his boots and cracking open an ale. This was casual-Doctor and she was all for it.

After a moment she joined him on the bed. Though she expected him to bolt he stayed put his blue eyes regarding her furtively.

"You ok?" She asked him as she noticed his hand resting practically white-knuckled on his knees.

"King of ok."

She seated herself beside him on the bed and put her smaller hand over his.

"You can relax. There's no firing squad in here." She teased.

He smiled in response.

"I'm notoriously bad at this part. The before part. Never quite know how to initiate it. Never know where my hands are supposed to go. Never know what to say."

"Alright, we've gone over what you don't know. What do you know?"

He raised his hand slowly and she watched it's progression until it reached her cheek to rest there softly.

"I know I want to be here."

She smiled and pressed against his palm.

"I think that's a good starting point. We'll figure out the rest together." She stopped before adding softly. "I'm not your wife." She said softly. It wasn't an apology or a revelation. It was simply acknowledgment. A recognition of fact and an acceptance of what can't and can be between them.

"And I'm not your husband." He replied.

"And that's ok." They both said together. It felt good to Martha that they were of a similar mind. Dead spouses. Lost loves. The ghosts in this machine walked the halls. Even if they couldn't exorcise them, perhaps just for tonight they could put them to rest. Maybe, for once she could leave the past behind without abandoning it. Isn't that what a time machine was for?

She kissed him. Just a quick peck for starters. Just to finally get that knot of anticipation in her stomach gone. As she pulled away she noticed his lips were still slightly puckered.

"You smell minty."

"It's my soap." She said with amusement.

"You taste minty as well." He nodded.

"That's my tooth paste. Doctor...if we're categorizing all the things your senses can pick up then let's go with touch, shall we?"

She had decided not too long into this second journey of their that he had the wrong idea about his face. He once told her that his eyebrows were in a perpetual state of disapproval. "They are, in fact, so disapproving that if I can't get all my disapproval in before bedtime they leap off my face to continue the work as I sleep." But that wasn't what she saw. She saw a face that was kind, frequently amused, brave, open and handsome. Martha put her hand to his cheek and kissed him again. He met her halfway this time and the kiss drew out longer and slower. Her fingers crept up to again trail through his hair. God, but she was starting to love that feeling of the curls as they unwound about her fingers.

"Martha?"

"Yes, Doctor?"

"I'm bloody terrified."

"So am I. I figure we have a choice. We can either be terrified together or terrified apart. What shall it be?"

"Together." He said after a terribly long moment and in a voice so quiet she was scarcely sure she'd heard him. And this time he kissed her.

"That was no simple genetic transfer." She said against his lips before diving in again.

"That comes a bit later." He said. "Should things go according to plan. May I divest myself of some of my clothes?"

"Divest away, Doctor."

Martha watched as he removed his shirt quickly tossing it aside the care he'd shown to his jacket seemingly forgotten. Martha gave a little shiver and he noticed immediately.

"Are you cold? It's likely the wet towel not helping matters."

"You're right. I'll just pop it off then, shall I?" Hooking a finger to where she'd secured the towel she gave a tug and it opened falling away from her body.

He blinked a few times as he gazed at her and lest he cemented himself into a holding pattern she crooked a finger beckoning him to her. The Doctor obliged and after a moment she felt his weight press down on her body. Her arms drew him closer, they resumed kissing and Martha let her hands roam destinationless over his body. Beneath her palms she felt tense muscles relax and she knew, she understood because the first brush of his hand against her breast made her clench right before releasing as well. How long had it been since either of them had been touched, had allowed themselves to be touched. She'd essentially lost interest after Mickey and things hadn't been so great in what turned out to be the twilight of their marriage. How long for the Doctor since River. This version was much less likely to quote his age than the first one she knew. He usually mumbled that he didn't know, "One of the things you lose due to time travel and all that." But she suspected that even if his massive brain didn't know his hearts had become experts at ticking away the minutes and the years. This revelation that they both had to sort of unwind into all this made her feel better.

"Martha?" He whispered into her ear. He'd been planting kisses down her neck and she was craned towards him to allow as much access as possible. It felt wonderful and she'd only noticed that she'd closed her eyes to enjoy the sensation when she opened them to look at him.

"Y-yeah, Doctor?"

"You're thinking very loudly."

"What?"

"Thinking, I can hear you. Am I doing so poor a job?" He asked and she could hear the concern in his voice.

"No, Doctor, sorry..." She reached out and caressed his cheek. "They were good thoughts. I promise."

"That may well be." He said his eyes flashing. "But I'd like to be the only thing occupying your thoughts at the moment. I'll have adjust my actions appropriately."

Before she could ask what he meant he started to creep down her body. First he painted kisses across her clavicle, his lips soft and gently puckered as he pressed them against her skin. Inching lower he kissed between her breasts before veering off to unexpectedly take her right nipple between his teeth. She gasped, her body flooding with warmth at the attention he lavishing upon her. Lest it feel neglected he shifted his focus to her left breast, the nipple already hard and wanting his mouth. When he'd moved she'd felt him against her thigh, firm and familiar. She'd doubted he would have begun this process were they not physically compatible but still it was a welcomed sensation. She was dying to know what it looked like, what it would feel like, hell what it would taste like. In her distracted thoughts she hadn't noticed he'd moved lower, skating lips and tongue and teeth across her midsection, belly and hips.

Martha groaned and squirmed, wondering how low he was going and hoping he had no intention of stopping anytime soon. Glancing down she saw only the top of his head as he made a slow beeline towards her inner thighs. She bent her legs, digging her heels into the mattress at the same time he settled between her legs his destination unmistakable.

Honestly, she wasn't expecting much. Even when she'd craved him so badly the first time around she thought it would be somewhere around 90% enthusiasm, 5% skill and the rest consisting of elbows and apologies. She gathered it from, of all things, his waxing poetic about Rose. When she thought about it, really thought about it, it was spoken with a reverence, a distant reverence at that. The way you talk about a woman you've never even touched, not really. A woman who's absent from your life now so you can imagine all the things you would have and could have done with her but never actually dared to try. Rose had been unattainable for him as he had been unattainable for her. What a silly merrygoround had been her younger days.

But this Doctor, her Doctor as it turned out was far from unskilled. The first swipe of his tongue against her lips and she was moaning his name, pleading for more. With the second swipe she tenses, balling a tight fist around a mass of bedsheets. He's patient and slow and the first "Mmmm" she heard from him made that warm feeling of delight and arousal pool in her stomach.

Eventually but not before she was gasping and fidgeting on the mattress he parted her lips and then there was that first electric touch of his tongue to her clit. Her hands found his hair again, sometimes ruffling it encouragingly others giving it an appreciative yank. She opened her legs wider to him and was surprised to feel her orgasm rapidly approaching.

"Yes...Doctor...please, please, please, please..."

And then it was there, that beautiful, blinding moment where everything stopped and sped up at the same time. She came loudly and without even a spark of embarrassment. The Doctor, for his part didn't stop but she did feel the vibration of his groan against her flesh. He didn't pull away too soon and he didn't linger too long, focusing his attention on her long enough to coax forth those last remaining delicious little tremors.

Ye Gods someone had taught him well.

He shot back up her body and into her arms a new man. Gone was the person who'd sat nervously on her bed and he was replaced by a bloke who knew what he wanted and better yet, what she wanted.

"I've been given full marks on my cunnilingus skills in the past. Would you agree?" He asked cheekily.

Martha giggled at his bravado.

"Always needing that ego stroked, eh? Take off your trousers and I'll stroke something else." It was admittedly corny but she'd tried her best. Dirtyt talk with the Doctor was still new territory. In any case, she reached down between them seeking and finding his cock.

The Doctor released a breathy sort of sigh and she preened at having elicited that response.

"Not your best word-play..." She gave him a squeeze and he gasped again. "But considering the circumstances I'll give you a pass. He worked his way out of his trousers so quickly and so out of sight she didn't have time to see what kind, if any, pants he wore. It hardly mattered because soon she was kissing him again, sliding her hand down to his arse to give it a proprietary squeeze and feeling his hearts thundering in his chest.

"Shall I...?" Martha trailed off still unsure of how to make the words 'Suck you off?' leave her mouth in reference to the Doctor.

"Perhaps later, for now I just want this. I want you." He whispered and she nodded happily.

"I only want you as well." She said and meant. This was her Doctor. This and no other.

"Ready?" He asked as he pulled the blankets up and over them.

"Ready." She said resisting the urge to close her eyes, to perhaps selfishly turn inwards. She kept them open, locked with his while he parted her legs and positioned himself between them. A slight rustling of his hand between them and beneath the sheets as he took his cock in hand. A brush of his knuckles against her inner thigh as he set himself just outside her entrance. That slow intake of breath from both of them as he thrust gently inside her. The unsteady but relaxed "mmph" from both of them once he was fully sheathed. Oh it was bliss. It was perfect and everything Martha was feeling she saw reflected in those old and lovely eyes. Well, perhaps not everything but certainly close enough.

"Ok?" He asked and she nodded. He wasn't too large or too small, just on the high side of average and all in all absolutely perfect. He filled her, hard and strong and she tilted her hips upwards wanting more of him and not needing to bother with catching her breath. The Doctor took her cue and started a dizzyingly satisfying rhythm. He wasn't hurried and instead with long measured strokes he worked his hips against her. It was intense but not in the way she'd expected or feared. He was present and lost and seemingly just as adrift and swept away in the moment as she was.

The Doctor kissed her lips and then her neck leaving love bites along the way. He whispered her name followed by a string of words she found unintelligible but the intimacy of it made her shiver just the same. He glanced her g-spot and she whimpered unable to help digging her nails into his back. He hissed but she knew it was more from pleasure than pain. Nonetheless she brought his lips back to hers for apologetic kisses.

His hand slid down to her bottom, cupping and squeezing it and positioning her just as he wanted. It seemed he was even better at piloting her than the TARDIS because she was again slowly climbing that glorious peak. She clenched around him and the pace of his cock which had been steady as a metronome faltered a bit. It thrilled her to knock him off his rhythm and she did it again as much for her satisfaction as for his.

He laughed at her cheek this time and it sounded as welcome to her ears as music. She held him tightly, skin against skin speaking, whispering groaning the only name that mattered in his ear.

"Martha...may I try something?" He asked in a hurried sort of pant.

"Of course." She said without thinking. She trusted him and if he wanted to switch positions that was alright with her. But he didn't change his position or his speed. Instead after balancing on his right arm he brought his left hand up to the side of her face.

"Close your eyes." He said and she did as he asked.

And then he was there, still above her, still pressed with his body against her, still inside her but also he was in her mind. It was an experience like no other, to suddenly be sharing that intimate space, far more intimate that the other place he was currently occupying, with another being. It was erotic and comforting and scary all at the same time. She felt, because there were no words here, him apologize for the unnerving intrusion and she did her best to communicate that he was welcome there.

He was big. He took up a great deal of space in there and she found herself hugging the edges to give him room. But then there was the word, "No." It appeared clear as day in her mind and she knew it hadn't come from her. It was followed by the word "Together" and Martha understood. She pulled herself away from the wall of her psyche and joined with him mentally as she still was physically.

He was keeping it simple, she knew that. If she'd been a higher life form they would probably be having lengthy conversations. But as it was, when whatever part of him touched and coalesced with that part of her, the results were explosive. Within, it was as if there was a burst of color and they swirled around each other intertwining, rising and falling like a cyclone. Without, she heard them both cry out in unison, he was moving faster now and they were both careening towards climax.

"Drift." He said without speaking and she tried to follow the word. As she did that tornado of color and electricity in her mind that represented the two of them started to slow, she stopped chasing him and let herself just be caught in the perpetual motion that didn't need her help.

She let herself just drift.

Their voices were rising higher and higher, sometimes on the same beat, sometimes alternating but with each vocalization growing faster, hoarser until...

"Gods...Martha..." He groaned.

"Doctor..." She came beneath him with a lengthy and happy shudder gripping him rhythmically as he pumped erratically inside her. Within her mind, at that blissful moment of climax they united together. For a moment there weren't two beings, just one and in a way she couldn't articulate she was so happy to have lost herself in him and he in her.

Martha kept her arms tightly about his body though he seemed in no hurry to move in any case. Panting and sweaty they kissed and kissed again. After a moment she felt him start to pull back from her mind.

"No, stay." She said suddenly. She didn't want to lose any of these feelings just yet.

The Doctor smiled at her. "Ok."

The room smelled like sex and the bed smelled like him. She hoped he'd linger though she wasn't quite certain how to ask. Now that they were finished would he be bored? Would he want to get on to the next adventure? Would he-

"Martha?"

"Yeah?"

"You're thinking too much again and this time I can hear every word. I'd like to stay if you'll have me." He supplied.

"Oh yes, please do."

He nodded, kissed her again and slipped out of her physically. His absence felt lonely but soon enough he pulled her against his body and the ache of it all ebbed.

"What was that?" Martha asked and she knew he knew what she meant.

He was silent for awhile, perhaps gathering his thoughts before starting. It was strange but as far as his inner workings went their connection was a bit of a one way street.

"You think I don't see you. Because I don't know when you're wearing an expensive dress or when you've painted your face with colors males are meant to find appealing for their mimicry of vitality and youth or when you've put on a scent that's meant to soothe and entice. I don't see those things. I don't care about those things and I likely never will. But I do see you. What you experienced, what you're still experiencing that's us, that's who you are connecting with who I am. When I look at you, Martha, I see your courage and your strength, your wisdom, your humor, your loyalty, your trust, your bravery. That's what all those colors are, that's what comes out of your pores and sets your skin alight. That's how you perfume my TARDIS. I see you, Martha Jones and you are beautiful."

She willed herself not to cry. Or at least she tried to. It was of course unsuccessful. He didn't so much tense but as he was still in her head his confusion was clear. These words hadn't been intended to make her cry. Little wonder, she was a cloud of contradictory emotions that likely confused his pragmatic sensibilities. It didn't matter, though. What mattered was that instead of pulling away he drew her closer.

They lay like that for a bit and she became entranced by the steady thump of two heartbeats. Heartbeats she hadn't heard so clearly since before the Judoon took them to the moon.

"I believe this is yours." He said quietly, handing her an envelope that as far as she was concerned had just appeared out of nowhere.

She took it from his hands sniffled a bit and then laughed.

"Well this is quite formal even for a Time Lord. From you, is it? A letter of official thanks for the sexual encounter?"

He smiled but there was sadness at the edges.

"It's from River. She wrote to me and said I'd know when to give it to you. Then she made a crude joke about 'giving it to you' and... Well, in any case, it makes it quite clear the time is now."

"Oh..." This was the last thing she expected and a large part of her wanted to toss it away and leave it somewhere forgotten. "Instead she broke the seal and opened it. The Doctor pulled away from her mind to give her privacy but his arm remained about her body.


Dear Martha,

I hope you'll forgive me for intruding on such a private moment. I promise I won't be long. To clear up any misconceptions this isn't just what I knew would happen. It's what I wanted to happen. The Doctor loves trouble but sometimes he tends to pick the easier puzzles to solve. Oh he'd hate me saying that but it's true. And he'd always rather dash off after the shiny, new companion than deal with what he's left behind. The more he knows he's hurt you the farther away he runs. And he did run from you, Martha. He ran far and wide.

Sometimes you have to wait for just the right Doctor. I did. There were so many times where we sort of matched up and other times where we didn't match up at all. But this one, next to you, this one was mine. For 24 years he was mine. We fit together like puzzle pieces. Now my time is over and at this moment I think he fits best with you.

You see I didn't know when, Martha. When he and I would part, what would precipitate it. I thought and calculated and tried to figure it out until I realized finally the 'when' didn't matter. Only that this be done, for him, one last act of love for the man who loved me so much he ran to the ends of the universe just to get away from me. Because, selfish though he is, he knew every time he saw me we were one diary page closer to the end. He decided it was better to never see me at all than to push us ever closer to that end. So...before I ran out of pages I decided to give him a few.

You might be wondering what sort of wife busies herself with setting her husband up? Especially when from my perspective he's right here, lying next to me, asleep and content and loving me in a way I never thought possible. I'm writing to you from the flipside of the coin where he and I are healthy and happy and full of life and plans and it seems the promise of a thousand summers lies before us. But try as I might, lie as I might, I know it's temporary. And it's a poor companion that doesn't make provisions for the days to come when her partner must travel alone. I don't want him alone. I don't want him to just...drift... That's not what he was meant for, or you either.

I don't know how things have worked out. You may be at his side in front of that grand fireplace in the library, resting your head on his shoulder. Perhaps you're somewhere on a strange planet in a quiet meadow watching the sunrise. Perhaps there are boundaries your relationship may never ever cross and the idea of sharing your bed with him, despite all else you do share, is laughably silly to you. However the two of you end up is exactly as it should be. Don't be afraid to make the TARDIS your home. Don't be afraid to make him your home. There's no finer place or person to belong to or with. Make him earn your company. Make him earn a place at your side. Make him earn you, because you, Martha Jones are a marvel and a wonder and he should count himself the luckiest man among the stars that the Woman who walked the Earth chooses to walk by his side.

So, to answer the question posed, what kind of woman sets her husband up? One who treasures and loves him more than she loves some silly notion of keeping him long after her own time is up. However the two of you end up is exactly as it should be. Don't be afraid to make the TARDIS your home. Don't be afraid to make him your home. There's no finer place or person to belong to or with. Make him earn your company. Make him earn a place at your side. Make him earn you, because you, Martha Jones are a marvel and a wonder and he should count himself the luckiest man among the stars that the Woman who walked the Earth chooses to walk by his side. 

I've scattered several more letters for him about and he'll find them by and by, I suppose. But there's no further information or advice I can give you so I believe our time is up. Except for this, Be happy. Not for me. Not for him. But for yourself.

Be happy, Martha Jones.

Always yours,

River Song


Martha folded the letter and slipped it back in its envelope, trying to swallow hard over the lump in her throat.

"What did it say?" He asked. "I know you likely won't tell me but I figured I'd ask in any case."

"She said...be happy."

"Sage advice." The Doctor replied with a nod. "It's just what she said to me."

Martha was resting in the crook of his arm and took this moment to glance up at him.

"You ok?" She asked placing a hand on his chest as it rose and fell. She looked up at him, worrying that his thoughts were taking him away from her.

"Of course. Are you ok?" He said taking her hand and bringing it to his lips for a kiss.

"Better than ok, I think. No regrets, then?"

"Not a one."

"So, how exactly will this work? Provided this isn't a one off." It was a bold question but she didn't pull it back. She wanted this again...and again and again and again.

"I didn't intend for it to be a one off. As for how it will work, I suppose we'll just take it as it comes." He said more casually than she could have imagined. "I will annoy you. I'm not the most sensitive sort. I'll likely injure your feelings on occasion or say something rude. I might forget your birthday. But I won't hurt you, I won't take you for granted and I won't leave you behind. "

Martha suspected he might very well do all of those things. She might not even be above accidentally doing them right back. All except leaving one another behind. She did in fact believe those days were long gone.

"That's good enough for me." She folded the letter up and placed it on her night table. She could do this. However it turned out. However things progressed from this point on...she was happy.

In the spirit of happy she turned in his arms and started to kiss down his chest. He let out a breathy chuckle tinged with a bit of wonder and a dash of nervousness. "

"Martha Jones, you are going to put me through my paces aren't you?"

She didn't give him a chance to respond and instead took his cock in her mouth. She brought him just to the point of orgasm before pulling back, straddling his midsection and riding him like there was no tomorrow. He was even more vocal this time around and the firm grip of his hands on her hips was commanding and delicious. By the end of it all he was panting, whimpering and gazing at her with eyes full of need and want. When it was over they lay there in a happy, sated tangle of limbs.

"Tell me a story." She said and he almost immediately obliged.

"Once upon a time Doctor Know All formerly known as Mr. Crab set off into the woods. Now, as it happened, Mr. Crab hated the woods and he always had because for as long as he remembered he'd felt like he was being watched and followed. It had been broad daylight when he'd first set out, noon in fact, but as he went deeper and deeper into the forest it grew darker, chillier and altogether more frightening. He was beginning to despair when suddenly, seemingly from nowhere a little girl appeared before him.

"Who on earth are you?" He asked.

"My name is Happiness. May I travel with you?

Happiness, you say? Mr. Crab asked with a grin. Why yes, you should make a fine traveling companion. I should like that very much."

"Good then." Happiness said with a smile. "Shall we set off?"

And so they did. And where it had been dark before Mr. Crab now noticed a bit of light parting the dense branches and leaves of the trees. Where he had been cold he was now warmed. He had thirsted and now found himself and his horse and Happiness by a cool and lovely stream and they all drank deeply. Mr. Crab was so happy, so wonderfully content that he began to sing a merry tune.

"Things have never been this good, not ever. The air is cleaner, I move easier, my burden is lighter. Surely we shall reach the end of the wood soon. Truly you are a wonderful companion."

"Thank you, Mr. Crab." Happiness said. "I have a traveling companion of my own who's usually not far behind. Sometimes he takes his time but others he is fast on my heels. Can he travel with you as well?"

But Mr. Crab was suspicious.

"What's is this friend's name? I should need to know it before I agree."

"His name is Sadness." Happiness replied. "He is my brother and we travel as a pair. Without Sadness I have no balance. I'd be lost without him!"

But Mr. Crab would have none of it.

"Away with you!" He cried. "I have no use for Sadness! If it's a choice between traveling with you both or traveling alone I shall free myself from these woods on my own."

Happiness only smiled at him sweetly if not without a touch of melancholy.

"As you wish, Doctor." She said and darted away.

So Mr. Crab again set off on his own. The light faded, the air grew colder and clearings he had thought he saw ahead that spoke to an ending of the forest seemed to have disappeared. But he was suddenly weary and found that he hardly even cared whether he left the forest at all. He wasn't angry or depressed. In truth he felt not much at all. Nothing really. Taking the blanket from his horse he bundled it up as a makeshift pillow and lied down at the base of a tree and fell into a deep sleep.

When he awoke it was still dark and still cold and he sat up with a fright as he noticed he wasn't alone. A small boy with a down-turned face sat at his side.

"Hello." The boy said. "Have you seen my sister? I've been looking for her."

But Mr. Crab barely heard him because as he looked around he noticed his horse was gone.

"Aye me!" He cried. "My horse had wandered off. I forgot to tether him and he's taken with him all my food and clothes, everything I own. Who cares about your sister when I have nothing left in the world."

And with that Mr. Crab began to cry. His body was wracked with sobs and the small boy at his side extended an arm around his shoulders.

Suddenly Doctor Know All jerked away from the child.

"I know who ye are! You're Sadness! Your sister warned me you'd be coming and look what's happened! My horse has run off, I've lost everything and I'm in tears. This is what you bring with your arrival. Nothing but misery! Go away and never trouble me again. I'd rather feel nothing at all than ever feel like this again."

"If we find my sister I promise things will be alright. She evens things out, you see. That is why we're best when we travel together."

"No! For even if we catch up to her she shall dart away again and I'll only be left with you. Things are bright and happy when she is here but that is a misery unto itself. Leave me, I say. Leave me and never return!"

"As you wish it, Mr. Crab. God by you." Sadness replied and disappeared into the woods.

Mr. Crab traveled on and as the days passed more and more color bled from his world. He found his horse eventually. He found a blanket sturdier than the one he'd been using discarded in the brush. He found plump ripe berries ready for picking. But he took no joy in any of these things. They didn't matter to him one bit as he had no Happiness. After even more travel his horse grew ill. It rained something terrible and there was no dry wood with which to make a fire. He injured his arm climbing a tree to pick a solitary apple. But he took no misery in this because he had no Sadness.

For the duration of his journey good things happened followed by bad things which were then again followed by good things. His life went in circles as did his trip around the woods and he began to suspect that he would never get out. But none of it mattered. None of it made him feel much of anything. In fact, Mr. Crab felt nothing at all.

One day as he was trudging along he saw a familiar little girl sitting next to a brook and it seemed that the sun itself was shining above her head. Playing a bit further down was a little boy and above his head were clouds both glum and gray. But when he approached her, flowers in hand and they were near enough to touch, her sunlight became a bit diffuse but his clouds brightened and they both smiled.

Mr. Crab found just enough spark within to call out to them.

"Happiness! Sadness!" he shouted as he ran towards them. "Forgive a stupid, foolish old man. I pushed both of you away for fear of the other. But with just one of you I feel incomplete and with neither of you I feel nothing at all. Can we not walk together? Can we not traverse the woods hand in hand and hand and find our way clear?"

To Mr. Crab's delight, the children beamed at him.

"We should like nothing better." They cried and running to either side of him they each took his hand.

And so Mr. Crab walked on his journey side by side with Happiness and Sadness. And he no longer felt he was being chased and he no longer felt he had to run and he no longer feared the woods or the darkness or the two children at his side."

And he lived happily ever after?" Martha asked with a question in her voice.

"No, but he lived. And really, that's a much better ending don't you think?"

"I like when you tell me stories." She said softly and he kissed the top of her head.

"I know."

She would have liked to hear another but her eyelids were already so heavy and she felt herself drifting off towards sleep. The Doctor felt steady and solid and decidedly like he had no plans of moving from this spot.

And she felt safe.

"Goodnight, Mr. Crab." She murmured softly.

This was followed by only the smallest of pauses before the Doctor answered.

"Goodnight, Happiness."