Chapter 4 – "Waiting"
Over the following hours, Martha could do little more than watch over the Doctor as he writhed and shook on the floor through bout after bout of pain. She did her best to soothe him, rubbing his arm and murmuring to him over and over again that it would be okay. That was a platitude she normally hated, but she couldn't think of anything else and she doubted he was really registering what she was saying. It was more so he would hear the sound of a voice and know he wasn't alone.
She put the pillow back under his head whenever he squirmed off it, smoothed and tucked the duvet back around him when he flung it off or his legs got tangled in it. Took his shoes off after he gave her a good crack in the shin. Mismatched socks, one red, one blue. That surprised her a bit since his clothing was usually so well coordinated, but it also didn't surprise her at all when she considered his attention to fashion detail seemed to stop at his ankles.
She kneaded impossibly tight muscles in his legs and back when they cramped. Held his hands tightly when he tried to claw at himself in the insanity of a particularly horrible series of spasms. Cradled his head in her lap when he started banging the back of his head so hard against the floor that it didn't matter that there was a pillow in between. She even resorted to singing odd bits of songs, mostly things her mother sang to her when she was small. Oddly enough, that seemed to calm him more than anything. One time he even started to hum along a bit.
There were brief periods of calm when the Doctor slept or possibly passed out. She wasn't sure which, not that it really mattered, but he did finally fall into a deeply exhausted slumber, lying bonelessly on his back with his head turned into the pillow and one hand resting slightly curled next to his cheek, angry red fingernail impressions denting his palm. Only then did she tuck herself sitting up into the corner of the cabinets and allow herself to tumble headlong into fractured dreams.
When she woke what felt like some time later, she found the duvet spread over her and the pillow wedged between her head and the cabinets. She looked around, blinking groggily, and realized she smelled tea. She finally focused on the Doctor sitting at the table, slowly sipping at a cup and apparently lost in thought. He looked every bit like he'd slept on the floor in his clothing, all wrinkled and rumpled and mussed, but his face was relaxed and his eyes were clear. She even thought she could detect a faint flush of color in his cheeks.
She cleared her throat as she pushed the duvet aside and started to stand up. He took a deep breath, breaking off from whatever it was he was thinking about, then smiled at her and nudged another mug that was sitting on the table. "Made some for you." His voice cracked a little as he spoke and he had to swallow hard and take another sip of tea. He looked at her over the rim of the mug with a ghost of worry in his eyes. Worry for her? That was ridiculous considering what he'd been through. Worry that she would think less of him after seeing his vulnerability? Again, ridiculous, not that he would necessarily see it that way.
She brushed and tugged self-consciously at her clothing – she was more than a little rumpled herself – as she walked over to the table and sat down. She noticed the tea was fresh and steaming, and raised an eyebrow at him. "How did you know I was going to wake up just now?"
He smirked and said enigmatically, "I know these things. Time Lord, remember?"
She leaned over to look a little more closely at him. "Hmm. More like lucky timing. You just woke up yourself."
His smile faltered. "How did you know that?"
She poked a finger at his cheek. "Pillow creases."
"Oh." He rubbed at the side of his face, chagrined.
She leaned back and took a peek under the table. "And you haven't put your shoes back on. Did you know your socks don't match?"
He sat up straight and gave her an indignant look. "I'll have you know they're supposed to be two different colors. Not every race in the universe thinks their socks have to be the same color."
She laughed and reached for her mug. "Fair enough. I'll bet some of them even have more than two feet."
He wagged a finger at her and smiled. "Now you're learning." He said it like he planned on keeping her around for a while. If he wasn't going to send her packing after this, then maybe she could stop worrying that she'd overstayed her welcome every time she said something less than brilliant or felt like she was only getting in the way.
The first sip of tea was heaven – Darjeeling, just the right amount of milk and sugar, so points to him for remembering how she liked her tea. Mid-sip she noticed a plate of biscuits on the table and quite a few crumbs scattered on the tabletop in front of him. "Ooo," she said in delight, "Biccies for breakfast. How decadent." She helped herself to one drizzled with chocolate, then added, "Assuming it is breakfast time."
He shrugged. "Time is relative. If you just woke up, it's breakfast."
She swallowed what she was chewing and said, "Clever. Very clever."
"Yes. I am." He nodded sagely.
She rolled her eyes, then threw the rest of her biscuit at him. It caught him squarely on the side of the head, eliciting an offended "Oi!"
Carried away by the refreshing playfulness of the moment, she sat up straight and put her hands on her hips. "Oi? I sit up all night with you while you're ill, and that's what I get? Oi?"
He immediately sobered and looked straight at her, his eyes warm and gentle. "No. No, you get a thank you. A very sincere thank you."
Her smile faltered. It was very disarming, the amount of sincerity he could put into "thank you" and "I'm sorry." She muttered, "You're welcome," as she looked down and self-consciously tucked a stray bit of hair back behind her ear. She swore she was blushing and was very annoyed at herself for doing so.
Then he added, "And all the tea and biccies you want, chocolate-covered or otherwise. Plenty more in the cupboards. Help yourself. I'm going to take a shower."
She watched him get stiffly to his feet and flinched as he tipped his head from side to side, causing his neck to crack. That reminded her... "Doctor?" she said hesitantly. He looked at her with a raised eyebrow. She clearly remembered his berating her earlier for asking too many questions, but she felt like she had to ask now, while he seemed to be feeling especially generous towards her. "Something I've been meaning to ask. I can't quite figure it out, very much not being an expert in Time Lord physiology." He didn't comment on that, just nodded at her to go on. "With the Plasmavore. I was sure CPR wasn't going to work on you, but obviously it did. I didn't think you'd have enough blood left in your system to get your hearts started again."
"Ah," he said as he gingerly sat down again. "I still had plenty of blood left. I stopped my hearts after she poked me with that… straw." He grimaced and rubbed at his neck. "It was very sharp and pointy, by the way, don't know if I ever mentioned that. In any event, without blood pressure, she had to work for it. Still managed to get enough that I sort of… passed out without getting my hearts started back up again. There's another thank you I owe you."
She gave a crooked smile and took a moment to digest his explanation. "You've got quick a few tricks up your sleeve," was all she could think to say. Oh, but she was tired, mind and body.
"No, nothing up my sleeve but an arm. Although," and he started to roll up his sleeve, "there's this – thing – I can do with my left elbow." He stopped and frowned. "Nah, don't think you want to see that."
She sat back and crossed her arms over her chest, "Oh, I do, I do. Go right ahead. I'm not at all squeamish."
"Yeah," he said thoughtfully as he rolled his sleeve back down. "I noticed that. Arm's a bit stiff right now. Probably wouldn't work."
"Oh, I see," she replied sarcastically. She leaned forward and put her elbows on the table. "But it seems to me you might want to fill me in a bit more on your physiology, seeing as we're three for four with me having to look after you in some way."
"You have not had to – " He stopped and looked up at the ceiling, apparently reviewing their brief acquaintance and probably trying to figure a way he could insist he would've been fine without her. Which honestly he would have been, probably, except for that first time, in which case there wouldn't have been the other times. "Fine," he said as he looked her sternly in the eye. "But we're not going to sit here with you looking at me like I've sprouted another head, and no, before you ask, I've never had more than one head. There's a book in the library, if I remember correctly. You're more than welcome to poke around in that all you want. Just… don't do it while I'm around."
"Agreed." She'd look for the book later. The prospect of having questions answered that she hadn't even thought of yet definitely had its appeal, but right now, a shower and sleep were more enticing to her.
"So are you done with me now?" he asked with plainly evident impatience.
She made a show of thinking for a moment, then smiled. "Yes, quite finished. For the moment."
"Good," he said as he stood up again. "Then here's me off to the shower." He turned to go, but then paused and rubbed his cheek as he looked back to frown at her. "Pillow creases? Really?"
She nodded. "Yep. Pillow creases. One really big one," she pointed, "running from the corner of your eye to your chin. You drool when you're asleep too."
He stopped rubbing his cheek, glared at her in offense and said, "Time Lords do not drool."
"Well then, you were salivating if that sounds any better to you. Salivating copiously." She laughed as he opened his mouth, then snapped it shut and left the room without saying another word.
She smiled to herself. It all felt so right, and so comfortable to her at that moment. Then she recalled what Tallulah had said to her, about not letting the Doctor look right through her. But he didn't always look right through her. She really did feel he was coming to appreciate her in many ways. Maybe he didn't look at her in the way she might've liked, but this was more than good enough for now. She could at least be his companion, she could hold his hand, and that mattered a great deal to her. A very great deal indeed.