emBeep. Beep. Beep-beep-beep. Beep-beep-beep-beeee.../em
"Rassilon, I'm dead. I'm really dead."
"You're not dead, and you're not going to die, not on my watch."
The Doctor's eyes fluttered wide open at the sound of a female voice as its owner began to chuckle good-naturedly. His sudden movement made him wince and the Doctor let his left hand wander upwards to shield his eyes from the fluorescent light overhead.
"Feeling better, Mr. Smith? You've been asleep for quite some time; you'll feel lightheaded for a few moments but you should be alright by the end of the day."
"Mmmm." The Doctor did not know where he was and how he got there, but the soothing sound of the now-restored pulse monitor (replaced by the warm hands of his still unknown guest) eased his mind somewhat. He once again attempted to open his eyes, slowly this time, and his breath hitched at the sight of the woman before him. "Hello."
Martha Jones smiled, a clipboard in one hand and a cup of water in the other. "I'm Dr Jones; I was the one that performed your emergency appendectomy. Ms. Tyler rushed you here late last night, and it was a good thing too. You gave us quite a scare."
As Martha Jones continued to speak and look over the patient's chart, all the Doctor could do was stare. This was Martha Jones, but of emthis/em world. Brilliant Martha Jones, a full-fledged doctor and taking care of him. The reality of it all made his head swim.
There were many instances when he was tempted to search for her. Though he knew that this Martha wasn't emhis/em Martha, he'd wanted to see how she was and if she was any different from the one he left behind. She was somewhat older but certainly no less beautiful. Beyond that not much had 'changed', except for the fact that she didn't know -- emreally/emknow -- who he was. He realized that he was glad of that.
"Earth to Mr. Smith. Everything okay?" Martha waved a hand before his face and the Doctor shook his head to focus his eyes on her.
"I'm sorry, Martha. Still a bit woozy."
"I don't recall telling you my first name," she said, surprised.
The Doctor bit his tongue at his carelessness. He cleared his throat and croaked, "Oh you know, in and out of sleep, I hear things - bionic ears." He pointed lamely at the side of his face.
Martha squinted her eyes and nodded, the explanation seemingly enough for the meantime, and she moved closer to offer him a cup of water. "Here, drink up. I'm afraid you can't ingest any solid foods as of yet. I'll inform the nurse as soon as you're allowed."
The Doctor nodded as she helped him to raise his head forward to take a sip. In spite of the sharp pain on his abdomen and the dizzying sensations he felt as he swallowed the cool water, he couldn't help but smile as he recalled moments in the past when Martha (not this one, but his) took care of him in almost the same way as she did now, albeit in less controlled circumstances.
"Thank you," he managed to whisper as he lay back down on the pillows. Martha smiled and resumed writing on the clipboard. A few moments passed with the Doctor drifting in and out of consciousness. He fought the temptation to go back to sleep, though, to continue to talk to Martha. "Martha - I mean, Dr Jones - tell me again what exactly happened?"
Martha looked up from the clipboard and seeing that the Doctor was once again awake, she grabbed the seat by the window and placed it by his bed, setting the clipboard down by his feet. "Ms. Tyler rushed you here screaming hysterically. She said that she was unaware of your illness, that you never told her anything. Last night she found you on the floor moaning, curled into a ball, and she promptly called for an ambulance. She kept repeating that you 'don't know how to be human' yet," Martha answered, forming quotation marks in the air with her fingers.
"So that's what that was. I thought I just had some bad curry," the Doctor shrugged, a sheepish look on his face.
"Tell me, Mr. Smith, do you live a very active lifestyle? Does your job entail a lot of physical activity, like let's say, running?"
"Not as much as it used to," he said with a sigh. Martha quirked an eyebrow but opted not to ask what he meant by his answer.
"Well Mr. Smith, I suggest you take it easy from now on. You've had a particularly difficult operation and you should have plenty of rest." At those words it finally registered with the Doctor that he had been cut open and his insides sorted out.
"I'm in the hospital and I'm – I'm properly emill/em," he stuttered weakly.
"We get many cases like yours everyday, so we're very capable with dealing with them. Appendectomies are not comfortable to be sure, but you'll be okay, I promise," Martha patted his shoulder and offered a smile. Martha made a motion to leave and the Doctor reached out and held on to her hand that was still on his shoulder.
"Martha – Dr Jones, do you mind staying for a while longer? I'm not… good at being alone." Martha looked at her watch, then at him, clearly debating with herself about acquiescing to his request. The Doctor continued to look at her, using up as much strength as possible to stay awake. After a beat Martha relented, seeing his eyes beginning to droop.
"Alright, Mr. Smith."
"Please, call me John."
"Okay, John. I'll stay – I have a dinner date with some mates but I'm not up for it tonight; easily re-scheduled. It'll be our little secret," she whispered, a mischievous glint brightening her eyes. The Doctor grinned and whispered a silent 'thank you' before closing his eyes to sleep some more.
"Are you sure you'll be fine by yourself? I can always tell Ben that I'll meet him some other time."
"Really Rose, I'll be fine. Go on and see Ben. You've been holed up in the flat with me for days, he might get ideas," the Doctor quipped. Rose rolled her eyes before punching the Doctor lightly on the shoulder. He yelped in mock pain, then grinned.
"Enjoy your night out." Rose kissed the Doctor on the cheek before giving him a hug.
"Thanks Doctor. I'll be home later, there's food in the kitchen and mum said she'll pop by in a bit to see how you are." The Doctor nodded and Rose blew him a kiss. He resumed fiddling with the remote control, prepared to spend another night in front of the television while Rose spent time with her boyfriend. Rose had been seeing Ben for a couple of months now and the Doctor was so glad to see her happy after months of seeing emhim/em.
They tried to make it work, him and Rose - they went out on countless dates and movie nights, they made love a few times and tried to get to know each other that way, and at times they would simply sit in bed (when they still shared one) and talk for hours, trying to find common ground. They did all of that, but there were just too many things that were different. She loved him, he knew. But he also realized that she loved the idea of him and not the person that he was, here and now (she still called him 'Doctor' out of habit, and he couldn't bear to ask her to call him John).
He loved her too, but as the days passed he began to discover new habits and new emotions within him that weren't of the Doctor, but all his own. For example, he drank more coffee and less tea, he enjoyed long, idle walks (though he always ran halfway home each time), and he could sit still for hours watching the sun fade and the city lights take its place. But one thing hadn't changed: he was still very much afraid of being alone.
He once thought that being with Rose erased that fear, but it was not to be that easy. The longer they stayed together, the more they fought, until they both agreed that they could be nothing more than just friends. In the end, Rose invited him to stay with her at her flat until he could save up enough money from his job as a professor (his credentials neatly fabricated by Torchwood) and move on -- and he accepted.
After many months of tension between him and Rose and the added pressure of holding down a job for more than a day, the Doctor began to feel less invincible and more human. It did not help that he was also physically hurting, and though he knew that by ignoring the stabs of pain he was only making it worse, he chose to go on as if nothing was wrong. His stubbornness finally took its toll, though, and he was brought to Royal Hope and into the hands of Martha Jones. He couldn't have come up with a better plan if he tried.
He knew that she wasn't the Martha he knew, but she was still emMartha/em, flesh and blood and hope. The prospect of getting to know her, more like the prospect of her knowing about emhim/em, frightened him but also strengthened his resolve to start a new life in his new world. Seeing Martha again for the first time revived something within him that he thought had vanished - a chance at a new beginning, and he intended to grasp it with both hands.
"Goodbye, Dr Jones."
"Goodbye Cecilia, please page me if there's any development with Ms. Marshall."
"I will. Enjoy your day off, Martha!"
"Thanks Ces, I intend to do just that!" Martha waved once and made her way past the revolving doors of Royal Hope. It was her first day off in weeks. She could not wait to spend it in her pyjamas with a tub of her favorite frozen yogurt and a pile of DVDs she had purchased, but never had the chance to watch. It had been a while since she had a free schedule; ending her draining relationship with Sean gave her more time for herself to do with it what she will.
In her rush to get home, she walked quickly around the corner block without looking at where she was going, and thus crashed face first into a bouquet of white lilies.
"Martha, I'm sorry, so sorry!" The Doctor kneeled on the ground, apologizing profusely and began to pick up several stems that fell, trying to fix the bouquet into its former arrangement. When he was done, he straightened his back and brushed the dirt off of his jeans, wiping the same hand on the front of his blue jumper.
"Mr. Smith?" Martha managed to say after massaging her right eye where a petal had poked her. The Doctor gave her a weak grin and held out the now somewhat limp bunch of flowers.
"emJohn/emSmith. Hello," he answered, fingers wiggling.
"John, I'm so sorry! I didn't see you. And really, these are for me?" Martha accepted the bouquet and added, "What are you doing here anyway?"
"I came to see you, actually," the Doctor replied, his grin wider than before. It was so contagious that Martha found herself smiling back.
"Me? What for?"
"Oh, you know. To thank you for cutting me up and not letting me bleed to death," he then leaned in and, in a stage whisper said, "Regenerating wouldn't have been an option." Before Martha could reply he spoke again, this time fast and low, em"And to hopefully, maybe, ask you to join me for lunch."/em
"Regenerating? Lunch?" she repeated, those two words the only ones she was able to decipher from the Doctor's rapid delivery. He nodded excitedly, his hands deep in his pockets, and his entire body rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet.
"Yes, lunch. If you're not doing anything...?"
"No, I'm not. I was just on my way home; it's my day off. But, ah," Martha shook her head and took a deep breath. She looked up and smiled again, "I'm sorry. Thank you for the flowers, they're lovely – but I don't think it's proper for me to go out with you for lunch, or anything else, really."
The Doctor's manic grin started to fade and, in its place, a pout began to form. "Why not?"
"Well, seeing as I was your overseeing physician…"
Before Martha could finish, the Doctor interjected, "But you're off duty, and you emwere/em my overseeing physician, Dr Jones, but not anymore. I'm perfectly healthy now, see?" The Doctor opened his arms wide and hopped in place for emphasis.
"Come on, Martha – it's lunch," he added. "I assure you I'm completely harmless, you can ask anyone! Well, I'm rubbish at being human, but you know, work in progress."
"You say the strangest things," Martha shook her head in disbelief.
The Doctor winked. "You don't know the half of it. So what do you say, Dr Jones? Lunch is on me."
Not easily persuaded, Martha tried another line of questioning. "Wait a minute, don't you have work today? It's the middle of the week."
The Doctor shrugged and leaned on the steel gate at their side where they had stopped to talk. "Nope. I let my students out early. I do have a faculty meeting to attend, but it's all right; easily re-scheduled. It'll be our little secret."
Martha laughed despite herself, remembering her own attempts at avoiding dinner with her friends. Unable to come up with further questions, and truth be told she was hungry, Martha finally conceded.
"I guess it's okay, if lunch is on you," she joked.
The Doctor beamed. "You've made this old man very happy."
"You don't look a day over 35."
"In this body, I don't."
"You really emdo/em say the strangest things."
"You're completely daft!"
"What? It's true! I emhave/em met Shakespeare. Twice, in fact."
"I think you've had one glass of wine too many, John. That or I operated on the wrong part of your body," Martha remarked, tapping a finger on her forehead. John stuck his tongue out as Martha snorted into her own glass.
As their laughter died down to soft chuckles, John sighed and stretched his legs out. He rested his weight on his elbows, as Martha sat with her legs crossed under her, their two bottles of wine lay empty on the grass beside them.
Two months later, it was now their tenth date since Martha had accepted John's offer to have lunch together. At each subsequent date she had with him, they would always end up at the same spot (a secluded area of the park across from Martha's flat), drinking the same brand (and progressively more amounts) of wine, and sitting on one of Martha's old blankets, as their conversations lasted long into the night.
Martha was surprised at how quickly things had developed. Though she liked to take time out to get to know people outside of her circle of close friends and her colleagues from work, Martha had become more careful of whom she let into her life since things with Sean ended horribly - a 20-second voice mail citing 'boredom' as one of his main reasons for breaking up with her was his parting gift to her for their one-year relationship. It took her five months before she contemplated going out on dates again.
But it was different with John. There was something about him that made Martha experience a range of emotions she had never realized she could feel before. John made her feel safe, yet at the same time, so out of her element. She felt as if she knew everything she needed to know about him, but she also felt like that with every moment she spent trying to understand him better, she was barely scratching the surface (for example, he'd once told her that he was from somewhere else – far away, like another universe, he'd said).
Whatever it was she had with John (they hadn't talked about their relationship yet -- he didn't push and she didn't press the issue either), she intended to see where it would lead, even if it might mean jumping feet first into the unknown.
Her days off were now spent with John, drinking wine at the park until one in the morning, and just enjoying his company. Her DVDs were left still unwatched.
"Okay, you've told me about Donna, Sarah-Jane, Jack, and Rose. Tell me, who else do you know that had a particular impact on you? Anyone you took a fancy to, anyone special?" Martha urged, but before John could respond she added, "People that you've emreally/em met."
John's unspoken objections were preempted by Martha's stern look. He pouted for a second before a contemplative look came over his features. "Well, there was one person. I met her at the same place I met you, you know."
"At the A&E?" Martha teased. The Doctor rolled his eyes theatrically at her continued ribbing.
"No. But yes, I met her at Royal Hope. She saved me, you know? More than once – more often than she needed me to save her," the Doctor uttered softly, as if talking to himself. Martha thought it best to let him gather his thoughts and resume his story, which he did after a brief shake of the head.
"Anyway, she traveled with me for a while. Then something happened. She saved me then, too. She didn't have to but she did, because that's just how she was. She helped me one more time before she decided she had had enough, and left."
"You really cared for her," Martha replied, a slight trace of jealousy in her voice, though John didn't seem to notice.
"Oh yes, more than I ever admitted to her, or to myself. She was brilliant. In fact," John turned to Martha, "You remind me of her."
Martha blushed and ducked her head, suddenly conscious of the heat and just how close they were sitting next to each other – she could almost smell the alcohol on his breath as he spoke. After a sip of wine to hide her embarrassment, Martha finally succeeded in replying.
"I doubt I'm half as brilliant as she seemed to you."
At this John sat up to face her, mirroring her position. He tucked a finger gently under her chin, urging her to look up. "But you are, Martha Jones. You're every bit as brilliant as she is. You're beautiful and kind and patient, and I love that about you."
John leaned forward and touched her cheek lightly with the tips of his fingers. "By taking a chance on me many weeks ago and by being here with me now, you're saving me," he added. "You emhave/em saved me. If nothing else, believe that much."
As a doctor, Martha could always determine from a glance when a patient was not being honest with her, and at that moment it unnerved her just how much John's eyes were telling her the truth. John blinked, tears drawing a path down his cheeks, and with that Martha closed the gap between them and placed her lips on his.