Author's note: I have long felt that Martha had an unique role to fill. Her function as the Doctor's emissary reminded me of the work of a missionary and I have an essay that I could write on that subject. But I was remembering a verse from John, Chapter 1 the other day and this came out of that memory.
Most places, there wasn't a safe haven. Martha had camped everywhere from the Italian Alps to a forgotten parking lot in Queens. In Nice, there were seaside resorts that had been left intact to mock the devastated and decimated population and she had shared the Presidential Suite in the Hôtel Massena with nineteen factory workers. On one memorable night, she had been chased into what had once been the Florentine Boboli Gardens and had hidden for a few hours in la Grotta di Buontalenti.
Most nights, she had no place to rest her head. She taught herself how to sleep in one-hour shifts and in a variety of positions.
Tomorrow, she would stow away on one of the ships headed for Hiroshima, where the Master was exercising a bit of irony in building a nuclear reactor. Tonight, however, she was in San Francisco and waiting on the corner of Geary and Gough for her good Samaritan.
She knew nothing about the man except that he was the nephew of her last host, a kind RN in Denver. She would know him by a pair of wire-rimmed glasses, a leather-bound book and the tendency to hang out well after curfew.
In the last six hours, only two people had passed wearing those kinds of glasses, neither of them carrying a book. Maybe the message had never gotten to him. Maybe he had recognized the danger of harboring a fugitive and turned tail. She wouldn't blame him if he had; the acts of violence committed against freedom-fighters and allies of the Doctor were legendary by now. She only needed to be at the port by nine a.m. and she could certainly sleep once they set sail.
No, there he was. A lithe, unsmiling man carrying...
Her host in Denver had not mentioned that her brother was a priest. Martha nearly lost her nerve right then and there, but the man chose to sit calmly on a front stoop and wait. If he waited too long, he would be at risk for arrest. She couldn't let that happen, so she reluctantly slipped the string of the TARDIS key over her head and shoved it in her jacket pocket.
His dark eyes focused on her immediately with a level of suspicion that seemed to be universal these days. She kept her stance as benign as possible and took a seat next to him before unslinging her backpack.
"Bit late for a stroll, isn't it, Father?"
He kept his expression neutral, but she could almost feel his fear. She was hardly dressed like a refugee and for all he knew, she was one of the Master's enforcers. The Toclafane did just fine as guards, but there were humans who thought they could save their own skins by being just as brutal and they tended to police the streets when there were no Toclafane in sight.
But the enforcers were the types to shoot first and ask questions later. When the good Father still didn't respond, she reached into the front pocket of her pack and extracted a strange talisman: a Barbie doll.
"Martha Jones," he greeted after a moment. His voice was strangely roughened by emotion as he considered the cheap plastic toy. "I'm Father Davison. Come with me."
She didn't question, but was silently grateful to Sarah Conley of Denver, Colorado who had convinced her that the doll would buy her a place to stay for the night. Martha hadn't been able to find out why.
Their first destination was, unsurprisingly, a church. A sign out front announced it to be the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, but he led her to an office and unlocked the door before turning on a low light near the door.
"Come in," he invited. "I'm sorry we can't offer you much, but the rectory is already functioning as a homeless shelter and I think you want some privacy."
"I'll stay wherever you like," Martha assured him. "Are there many people awake there?"
"I shouldn't think so," Davison responded. "They have to work pretty early around here."
Of course. This part of California didn't have it as bad as some parts of the United States. In the plains states, across the prairies, there were the same shipyards that could be found in Europe, but the Master recognized the need to leave some parts of cities standing as housing for his workers. Here, there would be no shipyards, but there would be slave labor all the same. She should have been earlier. She didn't like to leave a place without spreading the word.
"If you'd like, I can let you speak to them at breakfast," Father Davison suggested as if reading her thoughts.
"I'd appreciate that," she said. "For now, I'll just curl up on any spare bit of floor that you've got."
"I think we can do better than that," he said. "We don't have a shower that you can use discreetly, but there's a bathroom back there. You clean up and I'll get your couch ready."
The bathroom felt palatial after so many days on the road. The basin of the sink was just large enough for her to wash her hair in and she finger-combed her damp hair, leaving it down for once. She gave her skin a perfunctory scrub with a bar of Dove soap and allowed herself to miss Tish, who was famous in their family for collecting scented soaps from across the world. On past trips, she had stocked her backpack with something different from every country she'd gone to, but there was no place for luxuries like that here. She did have a bar from the Massena that she kept tucked into a pocket next to her torch.
The final task of the evening was to scrub some of the sweat out of her clothes. She changed into a pair of sweats that she had been given in Boston and a spare t-shirt that Father Davison's aunt had passed on to her and did her best to launder her clothes in the sink.
A knock on the door startled her, but if it was someone other than Davison, there was no means of concealing herself. They would have heard the water running and seen the light on and if she hid, he would likely get into trouble.
"You aren't allergic to any foods, are you?" Father Davison called.
Her stomach relaxed a little and she set to work wringing out her shirt. "Not that I'm aware of, thank you."
She opened the door to find him standing there with a few slices of bread and some beef jerky. "It's all I could scrounge tonight," Davison said apologetically, "but we'll have something better for you in the morning."
"Thank you," Martha repeated, taking the plate of food. "Do you mind if I..."
She gestured to the t-shirt and jeans dripping forlornly on the counter and he smiled. "I can spare a towel for them to dry on," he offered.
He treated her as a normal house guest, as if she were just a friend stopping over instead of a wanted fugitive. The couch was covered with several thin blankets that could have probably been used for the people in the rectory and one luxury-a throw pillow.
"Might I ask?" she called in the direction of the front desk. "Who did the doll belong to?"
He took such a long time to respond that she thought he hadn't heard her. Finally, he reappeared and he looked, if possible, more weary than the first time she'd seen him.
"My sister Lauren," he said quietly. "When the human race was decimated, she was one of the ten percent killed."
She had heard such stories from most of the people who had helped her. If they weren't family of the ten percent, they were friends of someone killed by the radiation in Europe or the only survivor of the attacks on Tribeca. Almost everyone she met had a reason to fight back, but she knew that there were many out there who fought out of nothing more than compassion for their fellow human beings.
"I'm sorry," Martha said just as quietly.
"The shifts start at seven," he said to change the subject. "Would you like me to wake you at six?"
"Sure." She sank onto the couch and restrained a sigh. Davison took a chair nearby and sat at attention, apparently ready to spring into action if she needed anything. "Is there anything I can do for you?"
He shook his head. "You've given me proof that my family is alive," he commented. "That's enough for tonight. Would you like me to hear your confession while you're here?"
She thought of all the things she could tell him. Not just the people who had died for her, but the rimes she'd committed to keep her freedom and the crimes she hoped to commit yet.
"I'd rather not," she said. "Thank you for offering."
He rested a hand upon hers for just a moment. "We are not deaf to the stories here, Martha Jones," he said. "We know why you're here."
She shook her head. "Whatever stories you've heard are probably exaggerated. I'm little more than a messenger."
He shook his head in turn, but there was a kind of bemused smile on his face now. "That is the translation of the word 'angel,'" he stated. "And your words have come before you."
Before she could ask what he meant by that, he reached for the Bible that he had been carrying when she met him. He flipped through to the second half and began reading.
"John testified to him and cried out, saying, 'This was he of whom I said, "The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me."' From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace..." He skimmed down a few lines and continued. "And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites (to him) to ask him, "Who are you?" he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, 'I am not the Messiah.' So they asked him, 'What are you then? Are you Elijah?' And he said, 'I am not.' 'Are you the Prophet?' He answered, 'No.' So they said to him, 'Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?' He said: 'I am 'the voice of one crying out in the desert, "Make straight the way of the Lord."'"
"From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace..." Her own words, ones that she's spoken hundreds of times, came back to her. "There's someone else. The man who sent me out there, the man who told me to walk the Earth. And his name is The Doctor. He has saved your lives so many times and you never even knew he was there."
"In this time of lies and desperation, when all of us have been brought low by war, there are few people who still dare to tell the truth," Davison continued. "You may just be a messenger, but you are the voice crying out in the desert. You are someone who doesn't hesitate to speak the truth and that is why I took the risk of giving you refuge tonight. That is why I hope you will speak to all of us in the morning. You bring truth and you bring hope and we have waited a long time for both."
It had been many days since she felt the urge to hug someone, but she embraced the good Father now, hoping that it would not offend him. His words were a greater kindness than anything she had received in weeks and they drove some of the weariness from her mind. He didn't pull away until a few moments later.
"We had some money left over from the missionary fund," he said after a long minute of silence. "We haven't been able to use it since the Toclafane arrived, but we'd like you to have it for your travels."
She wanted to protest that she was anything but a missionary, but to him, she was. She was someone sent to persuade and convert, to bring hope where there was none. If nothing else, she was sent by the Doctor to remind people of the fullness they had all received. And while money didn't mean much these days, it might be exchanged for food or supplies, things that she could use herself or pass along to people in more dire straits.
"Thank you," she said for the third time that night.
"I'll let you sleep now," Father Davison said before standing up. "No one will bother you here."
She had no doubt of that. Tonight, she would sleep in safety. Tomorrow, there would be work to be done.