Disclaimer: I do not own these characters.
Summary: Drs. Sullivan and Jones tend to the patients at St. Bridget's Home for the Mentally Ill. But some of the patients' stories are starting to sound alike, and starting to resonate with the doctors….
Note: I've been writing Doctor Who since 2007, but I've never posted any of my stuff here, for various reasons. (It can be found under the penname crushedmidnight at A Teaspoon and an Open Mind.) If this is well accepted here, I'll start keeping both accounts up to date. Enjoy!
St. Bridget's, Ward Seven
The patients in low security ward seven at St. Bridget's Home for the Mentally Ill are a subject of some fascination for the doctors on the staff. It's one of the first things that Harry Sullivan warns the latest recruit about when she arrives to her new assignment one blustery morning in September.
"It's really the most amazing occurrence," he enthuses, ushering her up the bleak, echoic staircase. "Patients accept and build upon one another's stories." He shakes his head. "I've never seen anything like it at all."
Martha Jones nods, eager but skeptic-- the perfect combination for a young doctor, in her opinion. "I'll keep my eyes open."
There's a common room for the ward, which Dr. Sullivan explains almost had to be taken away at one point. It seemed a main source for the interactions in which the patients encouraged one another's delusions. There could be no real justification for it, however, as most of the people in Ward Seven are model patients-- calm, nonviolent, even seemingly sane, beyond the one main factor.
"Every last one of them," Dr. Sullivan informs Martha as they stand outside the doors to the central corridor, "believes that he or she has traveled with an alien man called 'the Doctor'. Every last one. Truly incredible phenomenon. And they were all admitted separately, and mentioned him before meeting any of the others." He swipes his access code then, and pushes the doors open.
Martha reads the names on the doors of the patient rooms as she trails the man down the hallway to the common area: S. J. Smith, J. Grant, M. Bush. Some doors are decorated, some are plain; it looks more like a dormitory than an insane asylum.
"Now when you say 'traveled', what do you mean, exactly? Not world traveling, I take it?"
"Time and space," Dr. Sullivan says seriously. "I'll show you." They're at the end of the hallway, then, and he opens the final door.
"They want you ta forget," Jamie McCrimmon warns her, his hands becoming fists at his sides, though his manner remains casual. He's a young man, handsome, wearing a kilt and seated on an understuffed couch next to a small, doll-like girl. "They want you ta forget, but we promised to remember." Zoe Heriot nods her agreement, and Jamie slings an arm around her shoulders. A sinking feeling starts in Martha's stomach, like she's left the tap on at home, but much, much deeper.
"That's enough for today, Martha," Dr. Sullivan says gently, rousing her to stand with a hand on her shoulder. "Just wanted to give you a taste for it. Come along. I'll show you your locker."
"Today we're going to ask them what he looks like," Dr. Sullivan tells her a few days later. He smiles, without meanness but with a great deal of enthusiasm, and Martha knows that he and the patients have been over this before. She follows him into the common area once again, not sure of what to expect, as usual.
"Short," Jamie MacCrimmon tells them, grinning. "Black-haired and sort o' scruffy."
"Tall," Jo Grant tells them, smiling. "White-haired and rather well dressed."
"You have to realize," Dr. Sullivan reasons, the devil's advocate, "that your stories don't exactly match up."
"Aye, well," Jamie drawls uncomfortably, and Jo winces.
Peri Brown says what neither of them wants to.
"Actually, he can change his body."
Martha misses the brief look of utter enthrallment on Dr. Sullivan's face. It is lost in her own fascination at such a perfectly simple answer.
"Today we're going to ask them about some of the places they've been with the Doctor," Dr. Sullivan tells her, a week later. Of all the doctors at the asylum, not many pay attention to the stories the patients tell, but Sullivan does, and Martha gets the sense that he's genuinely interested. It's like watching a film for him, maybe; he listens so intently that it seems he wants to know the ending, more than just collect patient data.
"Oh!" Jo Grant squeals. "Let me tell you about the killer daffodils! Oh, that was awful! Or the time I was shrunk down this small!" She indicates her temporary height with her fingers. None of this seems terribly enjoyable to Martha, but Jo is grinned as she recounts her various misadventures. Other patients join them as her stories get louder and more delighted, and soon many of them are chattering away, eager to have their stories told.
"One at a time, please," Dr. Sullivan calls firmly, and a hush falls over the room. "This is the first time Doctor Jones is hearing most of these, so why don't we tell her in an orderly fashion, please."
"God, you sound like a schoolteacher." The gripe comes from a young woman whom Martha has been instructed to call Dorothy, though she won't respond to it. Sullivan frowns at her, but neither of them seems to take the exchange seriously.
"Thank you all," he says, when there is silence. "Now, how about you, Miss Brown?"
Martha has found a seat on the sofa, pressed in between Zoe and Mel, and for a moment she forgets that she's meant to be a caretaker to these people. At the moment she just feels like the most recently arrived peer.
"We went everywhere," Peri Brown begins wistfully. "All across the universe. And Earth. Varos and England and Scotland and Karfel and Sarn…. Of course sometimes it didn't end up so well." She pulls a face, then laughs. "But he always saved me in the end."
"What's the last thing you remember?" Sullivan asks gently. Peri blinks. The illusion shatters, and Martha remembers what she's doing there.
"I… I had to, but… that can't be right." Martha looks on, not breathing, as Peri's face twists up in pain. "You're confusing me, Doctor Sullivan, stop it. Please."
It takes its toll-- all jobs in the field do-- but St. Bridget's is different. She's not exactly dragging herself home every night trailed by the stench of latex and the guilt of unsaved lives, but still she's tired, worn, sleeping uneasily. These patients-- they're with it, still; there should be enough left to save them. But there isn't.
Maybe, she thinks now and then, they just don't want to be saved.
It's October. An Australian woman named Tegan is not taking it well. At the sound of her screams, some of the patients cover their ears, and Vislor Turlough leaves the common room. "You're not my doctor! You're not my doctor!" She shrieks, her eyes roaming wildly.
One of Tegan's flailing limbs catches Martha in the face and unprepared, she falls backwards into Dr. Sullivan's arms. Before either of them can recover and return to Tegan's side, another patient takes over.
"I know," Jack says soothingly. "I know. Don't worry your pretty little head about that, Sheila. None of them are, here. Don't waste your energy on it."
"Don't you get smart on her, Jack Harkness," Nyssa warns him, but Tegan is already curled in his arms. Despite Jack's reputation, Martha can't complain; he's calmed her down, at the very least.
Sullivan excuses himself quietly, and leaves Jack to handle it.
It's wearing on Dr. Sullivan too, Martha knows. He hides it well, but she's a doctor, and a woman, and his friend. Every few weeks, another cup of coffee works its way into his daily schedule, and another lock of hair turns up grey.
When he stifles three yawns in five minutes one morning during rounds, Martha's had enough. Subordinate or not, she's asking after him. He smiles wanly and thanks her for her concern. Still, he dismisses it. Of course.
"Haven't been sleeping well these past few weeks. It comes and goes. It'll turn around soon. With a life like mine, it's hardly surprising," he adds, tone joking, eyes sober. He's having nightmares, Martha understands.
"How so, sir? What did you do before you worked here?"
Sullivan freezes for a moment, like his words have run out on him. Then he shakes it off. "I was in the Navy, of course, Martha. I've told you that before."
But he doesn't seem convinced.
"Today we're going to ask them the date," Dr. Sullivan tells her one morning, after all the leaves have fallen. Something feels different about this question, like she's had to earn the right to hear the answers, and like he's been putting off hearing it for himself, as well. His eyes, his posture, warn her of something, something distant and dark, and she tenses her shoulders so that she won't shiver.
Responses vary greatly, from the 1700's to the far distant future, until a young woman named Sarah Jane Smith interrupts gently.
"It's all a matter of relativity, or something like that. I know what came before and after what else. Anything more than that stopped mattering, really." Sarah offers a smile, shy but genuine, and shrugs. Martha can't argue with that.
"When is this, relatively?" Dr. Sullivan asks Sarah. His words, his expression, are all muted and stilled.
"After," she tells him, simply.
Martha can't mistake the sound in their voices for anything other than sadness.
A young girl with bright blonde hair is admitted during the first snowstorm of the season. Frightened, angry, she doesn't speak until she's spoken to.
"Have you ever met a man called the Doctor?" Tegan finally asks her. There's no reason but chance for her to even suspect, but she starts to cry, and they take it as a yes.
"I keep thinking he'll come back for me," Rose Tyler admits, many weeks later.
"I wouldn't give up hope," Zoe assures her. "It's what's gotten us through." At her side, Jamie nods.
Spring is coming. Outside the grass is visible for the first time in weeks.
"Martha, old girl," Dr. Sullivan says suddenly, one night, and at the clatter of Martha's clipboard being laid down on the counter, he winces. "I think it might be best for us all if you would go on and admit me."
Martha is at his side in an instant. "Harry? What is it?"
She grabs hold of his shoulder, gently yet impatiently, but Harry Sullivan merely leans forward over the table and covers his face with his hands.
Harry's face is military-straight, and in Martha's opinion, if a man with such lucid eyes and such a practiced voice can be insane, then everyone alive should be in fear for their sanities.
Though most of the patients wear pajamas or lounge clothes, he has requested his old Navy uniform, and Martha couldn't find a reason to deny it. Now, going over the paperwork one last time, she looks over at where he sits, guarded but unrestrained, on a plastic chair by the asylum door.
"I'm gonna miss you, you know," she ventures, and he laughs.
"Come now, Martha. You'll see me all the time."
Her voice catches as she protests weakly, "Yeah, yeah, but you know what I mean." He nods. She stands.
"Well, that's it, Doctor. You're um, well, welcome to Saint Bridget's." There's not much else to say, so Martha holds her arms out. The guards wordlessly curtail an embrace, so they shake hands, solemnly. Then the doors are opened and the newest patient enters.
Harry Sullivan steps into a room that he's entered hundreds of times before, but everything seems different, completely new. He knows he should feel perturbed, even angry, but he doesn't. Not now. What would be the use in that?
He takes a seat on the sofa, crossing his legs comfortably and turning to his fellow patient. "Sarah, old thing?" She looks up at the sound of her name, and Harry sighs, and smiles.
"Would you tell me more about the Loch Ness Monster?"
End note: "Hey! Hey, where's _____?" Sadly, I could not include all the companions, due to their sheer quantity, and the fact that I haven't seen all of them, to be honest (Dodo, for example… what?). Also, some, like Susan, would not have made much sense in the story. I'm sorry if I left your favorite out; I did my best to include those that seem the most popular.