Someone To Stop You
By Laura Schiller
Based on: Doctor Who
He should have known there was no hiding it from Martha. She was a determined woman – a quality he'd always valued in a companion, exasperating as it was. She had simply folded her arms, sat down in the console room, and watched him pointedly with her sharp brown eyes. In another life, he thought, she'd have made a fine policewoman.
"I got rid of them, that's all," he hedged, sticking his head underneath the console for some unnecessary repairs.
"What's that supposed to mean? Did you kill them?"
"Nooo … look, if you're worried about them coming back, suffice it to say, they won't. Seriously. I've just granted them their dearest wish, after all."
He peeked up from under the green console to flash Martha a casual, everything's-all-right sort of smile. The look on her face, however, made his smile peter out into more of a grimace. It was a look of dawning comprehension … and horror. She knew the Family of Blood's dearest wish as well as he did. Immortality.
"Doctor. What – did – you – do?"
He scrambled to his feet and glowered back at her. "What do you know?" he snapped. "You couldn't possibly understand! Immortality is disgusting to a Time Lord, it's a thing that shouldn't exist! And they wanted it, they killed for it, even posessing innocent people for it!"
"Well, talk about pots and kettles, then!" She threw up her hands. "Aren't you immortal yourself?"
"I regenerate, that's different! I die and come back to life. I've got only three more lives to go, and I could end it earlier any time I wanted. And let me tell you, Martha Jones – " He shook a finger at her, "That nine-hundred-odd years of life are nothing to envy. Anyone who went looking for this would have to be insane."
"So you – what, you locked the Family away somewhere for all eternity?"
"Basically, yes. The father in unbreakable chains; the wife in the event horizon of a collapsing star; the daughter behind every mirror; the son as a scarecrow guarding the fields of England."
He rattled off the list with methodical calm.
"You knew how to stop them all along, didn't you?" Martha's voice rose until the console room rang with her fury. "You weren't scared. You turned yourself human, pushed me around as your little black maid, almost lost your own identity – and for what? To stop yourself from throwing a giant Time Lord tantrum. And it didn't even work!"
She walked up close to him, supporting herself on the console with one hand to draw herself up taller. "You tried to help Lazarus, and he was eating people. Even in the end, all you did was kill him. But the Family, what you did to them … my God … "
"They deserve every second of what they get," he said coldly.
"Even if they do, you shouldn't have done it." Martha's voice was now as cold and quiet as his. "I thought you were a better man than this."
Her eyes and her voice brought back a memory from his previous incarnation. Rose Tyler, her blond hair and white T-shirt glowing in that single ray of sunlight as she stood between the Doctor and (as they had believed) the last surviving Dalek. The Doctor had wanted to shoot the thing, considering it justice for all the atrocities the Dalek race had committed. Rose had stopped him. It's the sunlight, that's all he wants! Can't you see, he's changin'. And you,Doctor, who are you changin' into?
One accusing pair of brown eyes faded into another, this time in a coffee-colored face.
"You don't know me at all, Martha Jones."
"You're right. I really don't. 'Cultural differences', I suppose."
With one last disappointed look over her shoulder, she left the room.
Cultural differences, indeed. He had told himself a dozen times over that he was not to blame, that it was nothing but the ignorance and prejudices of 1913 which had made him treat her as he had. But the fact remained that John Smith, his human alter-ego, had talked down to Martha as if she were retarded, dismissed her warnings as delusions, and physically thrown her out of his room.
What in Rassilon's name had made the TARDIS choose such a backward time and place in Earth's history to deposit them both? Was she perhaps trying to call attention to the Doctor's attitude by pushing it to the extreme? While he never had, and never would, racially discriminate against Martha while in his right mind, he had been decidedly unfair. Martha was not Rose, and never would be. But she was here, now, ready to risk everything for him – her future, her dignity, her very life. And what had he given her in return, besides life-threatening danger and a broken heart?
Martha! What did I tell you about entering unannounced? He had been implying that, to various degrees, ever since taking her on as a companion. He had treated her as an intrusion on his memories; a replacement who could never measure up. Rose would have known what to say. But what would Rose say if she saw him now?
His lost love, not knowing what a Dalek was or what they had done, had listened to the dying creature's story with instinctive human sympathy. By touching its metal shell for comfort, she had caused it to develop emotions, even a conscience, in a way no Dalek had before. That was Rose's strength, her compassion, and one of many reasons why he'd fallen in love with her. If she knew that her Doctor was using her memory to hurt another companion, she would be appalled. If she knew what he had done to the Family of Blood, well … she probably wouldn't recognize him.
"I get your point, my girl," he told the TARDIS, beginning his usual wrestling match with the controls. "Now turn around."
He found Martha in the library, where she often went. She was reading All Quiet on the Western Front, which was fitting, considering it was an advance taste of World War One they'd gotten into with the Family. In that cavernous room, with its five storeys of shelves, its carved walls and sliding ladders, its computer consoles and scrolls of ancient parchment, Martha's customary beige sofa with its tall reading lamp looked like a little island of tranquillity. The light touched her face with gold and her sleek black hair with silver. He had never before allowed himself to observe how beautiful she was, which rather amused him; surely after nine hundred years, he should remember that blonde was not the only hair color worth looking at?
She looked up. That flaming anti-war novel had paradoxically calmed her down, as if she'd left her anger and disappointment between its pages.
He sat down in an armchair opposite her, elbows propped on his knees. "There are two things I need to tell you. First … I killed the Family."
She gave a tiny nod, her expression unchanged except for the flicker of her eyelashes. The silence stretched on into something awkward. What was there to say?
"I did try reasoning with them first," he continued, "But, y'know … obviously they weren't in the best position to understand. So … I took the most lenient option. Relatively speaking, I mean."
"Right," she said quietly, nodding again.
"And the second thing is … well … the fact is, Martha Jones, you deserve a medal for putting up with me. I don't know how you manage it."
For the first time today, a small crooked smile touched her face. "Oh, I think you know, Doctor. "
"Hey now, I'm trying to apologize here," he mock-complained, taking heart from that smile. "Don't go throwing compliments, it's distracting!"
"What makes you think that was a compliment?" Her smile grew. Oh yes, she was definitely teasing him; and if she did that, he was well on the road to absolution.
"As I was saying, Martha – you've been fantastic. You saved my life, and you saved my identity. No matter how obnoxiously ungrateful I get, you never give up on me. I don't know how to repay you … a simple 'thank you' doesn't seem enough … so if there's anything you want, any request, just name it. As long as it's in my power to give."
He added that last sentence as a caveat, remembering how she felt about him; she knew quite well that one of the few things he had no power to give was his love. Not now, and not to a companion.
She frowned thoughtfully for a moment, smoothing the dog-eared cover of her book. When she met his eyes again, she looked happier than he remembered seeing her in a long time.
"That's nice of you, Doctor," she said. "Really. There are three things I want … one of them is to see a Remembrance Day service."
"Wha – oh! You mean – " He gestured towards the book. "Is that all? Easy! Which one, then? The first one in 1919?"
"Anytime, as long as it's in the town where you taught. I want to do something for Tim."
Tim Latimer was the young schoolboy who'd unwittingly picked up the powers of a Time Lord through the Doctor's watch and handled it more gracefully than John Smith himself. Without his intervention, the Family would very likely have prevailed. Considering his age, there was a high possibility of his having been drafted as a soldier. No wonder Martha wanted to pay tribute.
"Right-o, Martha. Allons-y!" the Doctor bounced up from his chair, scurried away, and dashed back at the last moment to come to a stop in front of her sofa. "Hang on. What were the other things?"
"Oh, that." She stood up, flicked that ever-present unruly strand of hair off her face, and looked up at him with steady determination. "Next time, warn me before you lose your temper. And for God's sake, stop comparing me to Rose."
He sensed the TARDIS singing her emphatic agreement. The ship had been very fond of Rose in her way, even allowing her to look into the Time Vortex so they could rescue their Doctor together. But the old machine was wise enough to know that, though mourning had its necessary place, that regrets over the past should not overshadow the joys of the present.
"You have my word on both counts, Miss Jones," said the Doctor, taking Martha's arm to lead her back to the control room.
Only days after his last goodbye to Rose, a brassy middle-aged redhead in a wedding dress had barged into the TARDIS, bringing chaos in her wake and doing him a world of good in the process. Her last words to him had been, Find someone. I think you need someone to stop you.
If he ever saw Donna Noble again, he'd tell her she was absolutely right.