"Running on Adrenalin" by ellijay
Summary: Tag to "Evolution of the Daleks." The Doctor takes care of some unfinished business with Lazlo, and Martha discovers the Doctor has driven himself physically up to and right over the edge during their time in New York.
Author's Notes: Huge thanks to aranhe for beta reading and making me take a harder look at some of my assumptions. I'm much more satisfied with the story because of her input.
Chapter 1 – "Running"
That, Martha berated herself as she walked up the ramp toward the control console of the TARDIS, is definitely one of the most insensitive things I've said in recent memory. There's someone for everyone? She felt nauseous. After she'd learned in New New York how completely and utterly alone the Doctor was, in a way she couldn't possibly imagine – her stomach twisted into knots if her thoughts even tried to go that way – she had to go and remind him of it? She hadn't meant it that way, she'd truly only been referring to Lazlo and Tallulah, but the way he'd reacted, all life draining out of him and that quiet "maybe," told her he was thinking of something else entirely, and she couldn't imagine what else it would be.
Her head was throbbing and tears pricked at her eyes as she recalled the singing floating through the air in that dark, damp alley. She remembered with painful clarity the way he'd admitted he'd lied to her and the heartbreaking reason why he'd done so, just so he could imagine his people, his loved ones, his friends and family were still alive. All of it gone, completely and irrevocably, sacrificed to save the universe from an unrelenting evil.
She slowed down as the reality hit her in a way it hadn't when they were running for their lives. She had come face to face with the enemy he had told her about in that New New York alley – the Daleks, the very ones the Time Lords had fought and laid down their lives to defeat. The Doctor had been so quiet and melancholy then as he told her about the wonders of his lost home. Now, though, she had seen his rage, despair and desperation as it burned and boiled through that gentle sadness. When he had faced down the Daleks in Hooverville and again in the theater, she had both feared him and feared for him.
As the Doctor brushed past her now, she resisted the urge to catch him by the arm. To do what, she wasn't sure. Hug him? He'd probably only stand there stiffly and tolerate her efforts to comfort him. Maybe he'd hug her back, but right now it would likely be more of a reflex on his part. Did she think she could look into his eyes and say something deep and meaningful to ease the pain? But what could she possibly say to a loss as all-encompassing as his?
She stopped at the top of the ramp and watched as he walked around the console, one hand in his pocket, the other flipping levers and half-heartedly pushing buttons, starting the dematerialization sequence. Her feet automatically carried her to the edge of the control console, and she waited for him to do or say something. She hoped he would take the initiative since she was completely lost for words and couldn't bear standing there in silence for much longer.
When he finally looked up at her, there was still an echo of all that rage and despair in his eyes, enough to make her flinch, to feel as though fire had swept past her just inches away. After a moment of paralysis, she looked away.
He said, "Sorry," very quietly. Sorry for what? Sorry for bringing her here? Sorry he wasn't dead? She jerked her mind away from that thought. No. He was probably sorry for letting her see the slightest hint of what he was feeling. That was a much safer mental route for her to go down. He'd let her see he could be hurt, that he did hurt, that there was what amounted to an inferno behind his cheerful façade.
He was the complete polar opposite of Lazlo, who wore his heart on his sleeve, what he felt for Tallulah shining through even that horrible face the Daleks had left him with. Martha had nothing but respect and admiration for Tallulah in accepting Lazlo as he was, but she couldn't help but wish that Tallulah could've had her old Lazlo back, complete and whole, with a face he wouldn't have to hide. Tallulah was the Gawain to his Rangell, only there was no magic to make him beautiful again. Or was there?
She resisted the urge to blurt her idea right out. She wasn't quite sure how to deal with the Doctor in a dark mood, and she still felt as if she were on tenuous ground as far as her welcome on the TARDIS was concerned, despite or maybe because of all they'd done together since she'd met him. But if she knew one thing, it was that it was in his nature to help, to save, to protect. Maybe this was what he needed, what they both needed to turn away from dark memories and even darker thoughts.
She tentatively said, "Doctor?" When he looked up at her, the anger seemed to have passed, but there was such a weary sadness in his eyes that she hesitated. Instead of jumping right into the heart of the matter, she backed off a bit and only said, "Can I ask you a question?" Leaving it up to him whether he even wanted to engage in conversation at that moment.
He stared at her for a moment as if trying to determine what she was going to ask, then nodded and replied, "As long as it doesn't have anything to do with Daleks." A muscle twitched in his cheek as he said the name.
She hesitated again, but then reminded herself that she only wanted to help Lazlo and Tallulah and maybe help the Doctor a bit in the process. "Isn't there some way to put Lazlo's face back to what it was? I know you had a struggle to even keep him alive, and I'll completely understand if you say it isn't possible, but seeing as this is a time machine, I was hoping there might be some place in the future where that sort of thing might be possible."
He blinked at her for a few moments. She could've sworn he was struggling to stay upright and awake – who could blame him, considering the physical and emotional turmoil he'd been through recently – but then something flashed in his eyes that had nothing to do with anger or grief. A grin spread over his face and manic energy flowed back into him. He hopped up and down a bit, hitting his forehead with his palm. "Oh, I'm thick! Thick, thick, thick."
Martha was a bit taken aback by the sudden change in his entire demeanor. "I'll take that as a yes?"
"Oh, yes, definitely yes." He went flying around the console, hitting levers and buttons, until he pulled up short in front of her and said with his face inches away from hers, "Thick as thick is thick, that's me." He took her by the shoulders and gently moved her away from the console, then continued his crazed dance.
She was beginning to fear for his sanity when he slammed down one last lever and gave one more knob an emphatic twist. The TARDIS jolted and shook, and Martha had to make a frantic grab for one of the railings to keep from being thrown into the control console or onto the floor.
The Doctor didn't seem to be the least bit affected. Like a sailor on the deck of a ship in a heaving ocean, he skipped lightly over to stop in front of her as the TARDIS stilled. "Did I mention I was thick?" He grinned and pointed a finger at her. "And you're very clever, my medical-doctor-to-be."
He ran down the ramp and yanked the TARDIS doors open, bursting out into the sunshine. She trailed after him with a worried frown on her face. Of course, she'd seen him before now running around like a kid who'd had far too many sweets, but this was extreme. Combined with the degree of change in his energy level and how quickly it had happened, she was beginning to be a bit concerned.
As she stepped out onto the grass, she saw that he had landed them in the park where they'd said their farewells to Lazlo, Tallulah and Frank. Frank had gone, but Lazlo and Tallulah were sitting next to each other on a bench, holding hands. They both stared in utter confusion at the Doctor as he strode purposefully over to them, grabbed Lazlo by the arm and yanked him off the bench. "I'm not done with you yet," was all he said to Lazlo as he pulled him into the TARDIS and slammed the door. Martha was left standing next to a startled Tallulah, who had jumped to her feet as Lazlo was pulled away from her.
The door of the TARDIS popped back open a few seconds later. The Doctor stuck his head out, grinning from ear to ear, said, "Back in a tick," then slammed the door again. Martha and Tallulah both flinched, then watched as the TARDIS dematerialized.
As the wind whipped up by the TARDIS's departure faded, Tallulah gasped, "Wow! That's some kind of magic trick."
Martha smiled. "Yeah, I suppose you could say that."
"What's that Doctor of yours up to now? And he's crazy, by the way, in case you hadn't noticed."
Martha gave a slight bark of laughter. "Yeah, I had noticed that actually. But it's a good kind of crazy. Usually." She frowned as worry wormed its way back into her thoughts, but she pushed it aside to deal with later. "As for what he's up to, wait and see." She could barely hold in her delight at what she hoped was about to happen.
Martha was expecting Tallulah to start asking more questions, but she waited silently, shifting a bit from foot to foot with a concerned look on her face. Martha shook her head, marveling at how well Tallulah had taken so many strange things in stride. Maybe she was just beyond the point of wanting to understand or even caring about anything but Lazlo's safe return.
This left Martha with a few moments to turn her thoughts back to her earlier concern about the Doctor's behavior. This wasn't the first time he'd had such a radical swing in mood and energy since they'd been in New York. After the gamma radiation strike on the Empire State Building, he'd barely been able to move, or even open his eyes for that matter, but he'd sprung right up when she'd pointed out there was still Dalekanium attached to the mast. Then in the lab when Lazlo was dying, the Doctor had been so quiet at first, but then popped to his feet, ripped off his coat and began to wildly bounce from one side of the lab to the other, stirring and pouring and lighting Bunsen burners like a veritable Doctor Jekyll. It all seemed a bit odd to her, even though she had to admit she really knew very little of the Doctor. She just had an unsettled feeling about his behavior.
She didn't have time to pursue that train of thought any further since the TARDIS was already rematerializing, this time a bit further across the park. "That was fast," Tallulah said, walking quickly towards the TARDIS. Martha smiled as she followed. If all had gone well, this was going to be amazing.
The door of the TARDIS slowly creaked open, and the Doctor stood there holding the door and looking back into the TARDIS. "Go on then," he said, leaning his head towards Tallulah, then turning to give Tallulah a subdued smile. When Martha saw the Doctor's face, she stopped walking and frowned. He looked absolutely exhausted – dark circles under his eyes, his shoulders sagging. She even thought she saw him sway a bit as he stood there. She'd never seen him truly tired; quite the contrary, actually.
Then Lazlo emerged from the TARDIS and started walking towards Tallulah, his head down with his hat still on. Tallulah was standing very still and was looking at him with a mixture of curiosity and what Martha thought might be fear. "Lazlo?" Tallulah whispered hesitantly.
Lazlo stopped, lifted his head, and smiled the most amazingly joyous smile Martha had seen in recent memory. A smile with straight, human teeth, nothing but teeth with no tusks, and a normal human nose and ears in place of the snout and pig ears he'd had before. His face had been completely restored.
Even though she'd been expecting it, Martha felt tears welling up in her eyes as Lazlo walked quickly to Tallulah and gathered her carefully into his arms. He smiled affectionately at her and said, "Hello, Tallulah with three l's and an h. Remember me?"
"Oh, Lazlo!" she cried as her eyes darted back and forth across his face, one of her hands resting on his shoulder while the other ran down his cheek, across his lips and back to his ear, all the while staring at him in absolute wonder.
Martha wrapped her arms around herself and walked around them, giving them a wide berth. Her worry came back full force as she got a closer look at the Doctor. He really did look absolutely knackered. As she stopped beside him, he swayed and bumped into her with his shoulder. "Oh, sorry," he muttered, then quickly added, "We'd better be off then."
Martha nodded. He wasn't moving, though. He was holding tightly onto the doorframe of the TARDIS, his knuckles white. Then he took a deep, shuddering breath and pulled himself upright.
At that moment, there was a small gasp of pain from Lazlo, followed by Tallulah desperately asking him what was wrong. Martha jerked around to see what was happening. Lazlo was still holding Tallulah in a careful embrace, but his face was creased in pain. Martha looked quickly back at the Doctor, but he was smiling as he said, "You might want to wait a bit on the kissing, give him a little more time to heal."
Lazlo was gently brushing a bit of hair away from Tallulah's face. "It's all right. I'm fine." Tallulah nodded, her expression still concerned while Lazlo looked over at the Doctor, not letting go of Tallulah for one moment. "Thank you," he said with tears glimmering in his eyes. "I just…" He shook his head, apparently lost for words. "Thank you," he said again, even more solemnly than the first time.
"Aww, not a problem," the Doctor said, as if he turned pigs into men on a regular basis. Then he added with gentle sincerity plainly evident in his voice, "Good luck to the both of you. You'll be brilliant, I know." He turned and disappeared into the TARDIS, stumbling and knocking into the doorframe as he went.
Martha watched him just long enough to make sure he kept to his feet, then took a moment to turn back to Lazlo and Tallulah. She didn't know what else she could add to what the Doctor had already said, though, so she simply said, "Goodbye."
"Goodbye, Martha," Tallulah replied with a little wave, then she gave Martha a stern look and shook a finger at her. "Don't you keep lettin' that man look right through you, you hear me?"
Martha nodded as she said, "I hear you." But really, she wasn't quite sure how she felt about that particular subject at the moment. She set it aside to think about later, then turned, went into the TARDIS and closed the door.