Disclaimer: "Doctor Who" is the BBC's property. No infringement is intended.
Special thanks to Sonic Jules for her unflagging encouragement.
This is my first, and likely only, attempt at writing Martha. The dynamic between her and the Doctor doesn't speak to me as did his and Rose's. That said, I still felt an interest in challenging myself to feature her in a story, just to see if I could manage it. All feedback is most welcome!
If she hadn't been up to her elbows in blood, Martha might have actually allowed a mordant laugh to bubble up from her aching chest. The Doctor had an infallible knack for walking smack-dab into the middle of trouble, and rarely was it some little piddly issue like a family squabble or a sinking lifeboat. No, it always seemed to be something monumental, often involving maniacal monsters or avenging aliens. It was usually messy, often sticky, and nearly always dangerous.
This time was no exception. He'd managed to land them right in the midst of a war. Within ten seconds of stepping out of the TARDIS they'd heard the concussion of heavy artillery. Within ten minutes they'd walked close enough to see the fiery, smoky blasts. Now, ten hours later, they were a part of the battle. It had quickly become clear that the stronger side was employing unfair tactics and using superior, alien-influenced technology. The weaker side—the ones in the right, she'd quickly determined, due to their desire to do nothing more than defend their homeland from the invaders—was in substantial peril. Most of their soldiers were dead; nearly all remaining were wounded.
She and the Doctor had dodged several explosions to make their way across the battlefield to the losing side's front lines. She'd been knocked to the ground twice, once hard enough to leave her dizzy and gasping for breath with dull pains between her shoulder blades and in her arm. But she'd got to her feet to find the Doctor in a similar position about five meters away. The blast had thrown him back, but he managed to scrabble up and join her, apparently not much worse for the wear.
They'd found the make-shift hospital in a large tent just behind the line. Martha had immediately entered and begun helping with the wounded. The Doctor had given her a single curious look and asked, just once, if she was all right. She'd responded affirmatively and gotten to work.
He had sought out the commander, anxious to offer whatever help he could to mediate an amicable cease-fire or perhaps even an end to the fighting. Barring that, she was sure he'd come up with some brilliant plan to drive the invaders away. But that was his domain. Hers for the last nine hours had been the hospital tent.
She'd found only two medics still able to work on the wounded, and one had shrapnel in his leg. Martha had removed it and bandaged the wound; he had insisted on immediate return to service. There were more than two dozen injured soldiers with varying degrees of damage. She had sutured over twenty bullet and shrapnel wounds, treated a dozen serious burns, and examined two men with severe head trauma who would not survive the night.
She'd wished for the Doctor's help with each passing hour. He'd poked his head inside once to ask how things were going, casting a cursory eye over the beds. She'd told him that another pair of skilled hands wouldn't be refused, but he'd given her a brief reply about "the bigger picture" and departed as quickly as he'd come.
Well, she supposed he was right. After all, stopping the fighting would benefit everyone in the end. But damn, she could've used his deft fingers to hold the clamps over that shredded iliac artery…
She barely realized that the blasting had stopped. Her head buzzed with exhaustion, and her chest and legs ached dully. Her fingers were growing numb, too, she supposed from continued stress and pressure on the nerves as she repeatedly applied clamps and held needles a bit too firmly, but no more so than required to keep her hands steady.
She was just suturing the last of the wounds, this one a fairly minor leg laceration, when the needle slid from her fingers. She reached for it, but her digits felt heavy and awkward. She lifted her hand, frowning at the deep crimson stains that saturated her skin. Her eyes moved upward, and she found blood on her arm beneath the sleeve she'd pushed up over her elbow hours ago.
There was a large, dark stain on her upper arm, too, and suddenly it occurred to her that she hurt. She gestured to the medic to complete the suturing for her then stepped toward the back of the tent to the small, littered desk. Her legs felt shaky, and she wobbled as she walked. Martha sank down onto the edge of the desk and slid up her sleeve with fumbling motions to reveal a deep gash just above her bicep. It had not yet closed, and it seemed to be bleeding still.
There was that heaviness in her chest again, and damn it, her hand barely responded when she reached for a roll of bandages.
The Doctor's voice penetrated the fog that was suddenly surrounding her. She looked up.
He still had a smudge across his cheek, and there was a raw scrape on his forehead; he must've hit his head when he fell that second time.
"We got to them all," she said dully. "We lost four, but all the rest—"
"Yes," he replied, and now he was standing before her, looking down at her with a strange expression. "You did, Martha. You helped save many lives today."
"Is it over?" she asked. Her hand flopped uselessly on the desk, the roll of bandages impossibly far from her feeble reach.
He nodded. "We've negotiated a cease-fire. There're stipulations—no one crosses the line for forty-eight hours until the commanders have had a chance to sort things fully—but the fighting's stopped for now. There won't be any more injuries, and I think this will effectively end the war."
"Tha's good." Why did her tongue seem so thick? Her gaze locked on the remnants of blood on his forehead. She needed to clean it, to wipe away any debris and germs remaining. She tried to lift her hand to touch his face.
"Need to attend to that," she rolled her eyes toward his brow.
He caught her wrist in a soft grasp and lowered her hand. "It's all right."
Her arm was stinging now, drawing her attention away from the Time Lord. She wondered that she hadn't felt any pain before. She glanced down at the deep cut and said, "Need a suture kit, I think."
His hand slid up her arm, fingers well away from the wound. "Yes."
Martha blinked hard and took a deep breath then pushed herself to her feet. Her legs immediately gave way. He eased her back to sit on the desk, keeping his hands at her waist.
"Sorry," she muttered. "Long day. Just gotta take care of this and clean up your head, then I'll check the bandages on that skull fracture." Her eyes flicked to one of the soldiers lying in a nearby bed.
The medic who'd suffered the shrapnel injury was now reclining with his leg up. His eyes were closed, and she thought that he was asleep. The other medic—he'd told her his name was Tava or Teva or something like that—was standing a few meters away, watching her.
She tried to rise again, but her legs refused her. She shook her head in frustration.
"Help me up," she said rather shortly, because the Time Lord was just hovering in front of her, and even though he'd helped to broker the peace deal, he hadn't been of any use to her as she'd stitched and cut and cleaned and bandaged the countless wounds…
"Martha." His voice was soft yet firm. "Stop."
She'd managed to haul herself half-way up and realized that she was clutching ineffectually at his sleeves with unwieldy motions.
"No, gotta check his bandage—could be bleeding, wound was really deep—"
"Martha," he bent in so that his face was very close to hers, "it's time for you to stop being a doctor for a little while."
"But I have to—"
"No, they'll be fine. Sergeant Taya will take care of them. Right now we need to take care of you."
She stared at him blankly. "Me?"
She felt her body sinking down, suddenly realizing that she was going to fall and there was absolutely nothing she could do about it.