Author's Note: As everyone who's been reading my stuff before well knows, I'm a hurt/comfort freak. I'm also totally in love with the 10th Doctor. Thus, here we have yet another cliched and unoriginal h/c story where he's in a world of trouble, this time in a cave, with Martha Jones. The story takes place in the 3rd season, before Blink. Be warned: this is a real WIP, not an "already finished, posting one chapter at a time" thing, like the stuff I've posted before this.
1. The Chasm
"Ah, here we are! The Sixties! The Age of Aquarius! Peace, love and understanding, and men on the Moon!"
"Not barefoot, though," Martha said, with a wink.
"Hmm." The Doctor grinned smugly. "Not in several decades, no. Still, an exciting time! Come on, let's go!"
Still facing Martha, he backed away through the doors. After a few steps, he gave a surprised and rather alarmed "Oh!" and disappeared from view.
Unable to understand what exactly had happened, Martha rushed towards him. The moment she was out of the TARDIS, she saw something was wrong. Except for the light shining out through the windows of the police box, it was pitch dark everywhere around them. She couldn't make out any walls. The floor, or ground, under her feet was stone, and just a few paces in front of her, it ended in darkness.
"I could use a hand here, preferably two," came the answer in an uncharacteristically timid voice.
Martha could just see the tips of the Doctor's fingers where he was clinging to the ledge. Slowly, cautiously, she moved closer and crouched to the ground, taking in the situation. There was no knowing how deep the dark pit beneath him was. Obviously his hold was far from firm, because he hadn't even suggested that she could go back to the TARDIS for rope.
She clutched one of his hands between both of hers, muttering, "All right, all right. I've got you. Easy does it," as much for her own comfort as for his.
He loosened his grip of the edge, grasping her hands. "Careful, I'm not quite as light as I look, and the ground's slippery," he said.
It was obvious that she couldn't actually pull him up. She was sitting on the ground and leaning backwards, and his weight still threatened to drag her over the edge. She tried to dig her heels into the ground, but it was solid rock. Luckily, what help she could provide was enough that he was able to move his other hand, to get a better grip of the edge, and support more of his weight himself.
"Okay, have you got a proper hold now?" she asked.
"Yup, hanging on. No footholds, though. So, now, on count of three... One, two, three."
She heaved with everything she'd got, and he did his best to pull himself up. He managed to get one elbow over the edge, then the other, looking up at her with a very strained smile on his lips, but then, she heard the most terrible sound. She'd seen documents about the Polar regions, and she'd heard the sound of ice falling apart. This crack was somewhat similar, but even more grinding.
"No, no, no, no, no! Martha, watch out! Stand back!" the Doctor shouted, but it was too late.
The ground beneath their feet was moving, the part of the ledge they'd been standing on crumbling under their combined weight and the stress put on it by their struggle. Martha felt herself sinking, and she couldn't hold her balance. With one hand, she still clung to the Doctor's, with the other, she tried to reach for a handhold, a solid part of the ledge, the doorstep of the TARDIS, a rock, anything, but it was no good. There was nothing she could do.
In a way, they were in luck. Instead of an endless free fall into the abyss, they hit the ground so soon that it was almost anticlimactic. Of course, it wasn't level ground. Even though the cliff face was no longer vertical, it was still very steep, and extremely slippery. Martha couldn't find a footing, but kept tumbling downhill, as did the Doctor. His hand slipped from hers.
She knew that trying to grab at everything around her would only make things worse, so she gave in to gravity, doing her best to relax, as absurd as the thought was. She couldn't tell how long they fell, but it felt like a very long time, first sliding, then rolling on the surprisingly smooth surface, every now and then scraped and pummelled by rocks, until finally, after what must've been at least a hundred feet, the ground levelled out.
She was too dazed to do anything to stop herself, so she kept going round and round until the momentum died away. Once she had come to a halt, she just lay there, waiting for her racing pulse to settle, so shocked and so amazed to be alive that she could barely feel anything at all.
After a few minutes, she had calmed down enough to be actually able to think. She could feel the pains of a dozen bumps and bruises, but nothing really bad. Tentatively, she tried moving each limb. Her right wrist protested strongly. Hissing at the pain, she probed it with her other hand. It was swollen, most likely sprained, but not broken. She could barely believe that was the worst of it. Her head was spinning and she was covered in dirt and aching all over, but incredibly enough, she had survived the fall without any major injuries.
She tried opening her eyes. She couldn't see a thing. The darkness was perfect, exactly like it had been around the light of the TARDIS. She was sure the police box hadn't fallen down with them, but looking up, she saw no trace of that glow. It was eerily silent as well - there was nothing but the soft sound of dripping water.
The relief of having survived the fall quickly gave way to an entirely new dread. She had never really been afraid of the dark, but this wasn't like any darkness she'd ever faced. It wasn't just complete, it was alien. After all, they could be anywhere in time and the universe.
"Doctor?" she said, softly at first, afraid of catching the attention of who knew what that might be lurking in the darkness. When she didn't get an answer, she raised her voice, and repeated her call several times, but the near-perfect silence remained unbroken.
She got up on her knees and her good hand, and began feeling her way around. Even though she had the distinct picture that they had tumbled down a cliff and were now lying on the ground at the foot of it, she wasn't going to risk falling into another chasm. The ground felt muddy and damp, and the knees of her jeans were soon soaked through.
She found a wall of solid rock, but her sense of direction was all gone. It might've been the cliff they'd fallen off from, or another one entirely. It came to her that she had no way of actually knowing where she was going or where she'd been before. She might be moving away from the Doctor, and she might get lost. She desperately needed light. She searched her pockets, and found her mobile phone - of course! She should've thought about that right away.
The light was tiny, but it was better than nothing. At least it would make her search slightly faster. She dug a small hole in the mud to mark where she'd started from, stood up, and continued her search in a widening circle, holding the phone in front of her as a sad excuse of a torch.
Soon, she could make out a figure sprawled on the ground, and she only needed to see the shoes to confirm his identity. It didn't take her long to ward off her worst fears: she rested her hand on his chest, and felt it rise and fall steadily. He didn't react to her touch at all, though. Neither did he respond to her shaking his shoulder and shouting at him to wake up. He clearly wasn't dying, thank heavens for that, but he wasn't all right, either, and she still hadn't got as much as a candle for light.
"Sorry about this," she told him, and plunged her hand into his coat pocket. That was the psychic paper, and a pair of glasses, and what was that, a piece of tubing? No, a stethoscope - she could use that, she decided, and picked it up. Finally, she found an object that could only be a torch.
Deciding safe was better than sorry, she pointed it away from both of them, and turned it on. It wasn't some alien device, but exactly what she'd thought it was. The bright white light was soothing, even though it revealed nothing but rocks around them.
She turned the light towards the Doctor. She needed to find out what was wrong with him, and to get there, she needed to stay calm. Try and think of him as a patient, not as a friend, let alone as the only person who might know what to do in this dark place. This was the sort of thing she'd trained for, except that she had no supplies, they were who knew where, and the Doctor wasn't a human, and - she swallowed and took a deep breath, forcing herself to concentrate. She could do this. He needed her.
She ran the beam of the torch along his body, looking for any obvious signs of trauma. His clothes were grimy and torn, just like hers, but none of the injuries she saw seemed major. Of course, that was no guarantee. The most terrible things could come with no clear signs. She tried not to think about the worst case scenarios for a human in such a situation, like life-threatening internal bleeding or paralysing spinal injuries.
She moved around him, to get a better look of his other side, and found the reason why he'd passed out. The Doctor hadn't been as lucky as Martha. The hair on the right side of his head seemed darker than the rest, matted against his scalp. Gently, she probed the area with her fingers. There was no telling whether the wound was merely superficial, or an indication of something far worse. She didn't feel any obvious fractures, but his continued unconsciousness wasn't a promising sign.
She listened to his hearts and lungs - everything all right, as far as she could tell, nothing suggesting internal injuries - and pried his eyelids open to check the pupils. Nothing worrisome there, either. Then again, she had no idea what symptoms traumatic brain injuries would cause in Time Lords.
Martha cleaned and bound the wound the best she could under the circumstances, using tissues and the Doctor's tie. He actually complained once, in a voice so low that she couldn't make up the words. For a while there she thought he might be waking up, but he just fell silent again.
Once she had finished tending to him, she sat back, leaning against a rock face. She pointed around with the torch, from the muddy floor to the rock walls surrounding them. They were in a wide passage between two cliffs disappearing into darkness above - at the bottom of the chasm they had fallen into. The wall she was leaning on was vertical, and looked like any other precipice to her. The one opposite her, the one they'd slid down, was strange, like a huge cascade of pale, molten rock, unlike anything she had ever seen. There were several tunnels and cracks in both walls, offering paths out of the main passage.
As much as she hated the idea of leaving the Doctor behind, even for a short while, and as scared as she was of this dark, unknown place, she couldn't just sit here. They needed help. It wasn't just that the Doctor was injured. They had no food or water, no warm clothes, and no idea of where in time and space they were. The TARDIS was somewhere high above them, and she doubted they could've climbed that strange, smooth rock face all the way to the top even if they had both been fine.
She did her best to memorise every possible landmark around them, took one last look at the Doctor's unmoving form, and turned her back to him. Clinging to the torch like a lifeline with her good hand, she set out to the left, along the main passage.