Author's Note: Here's the next chapter! Disclaimer remains: I own nothing.


"—hopelessly stupid—alien—!"

Martha turned away. The motion was less furious than it was defensive.

For a moment the Doctor was silent. Then, soft as a whisper,

"Martha."

She ignored him.

"Martha, look at me."

Martha's eyes were on the ceiling, her lips compressed.

"Please."

She breathed a silent prayer for strength. She couldn't face him and remain withdrawn, not knowing how hurt he would be. She would apologize, and whether he would forgive her or not, the upset would end. She didn't want that. She wouldn't fall into the old routine again.

"You're right, you know."

This caught her by surprise. "What?"

"I have been a bit thick. A bit off. A bit, well, hopelessly stupid."

Martha rotated despite herself. "What?"

The Doctor's smile was crooked. "There you are. Hello, Martha."

She stared at him incredulously. "What are you saying?"

"I didn't know," the Doctor said. "Actually—did a little—but I thought—" He stopped. "I'm sorry, Martha. That's what I'm saying. I haven't an excuse for asking you to join me, except that I was lonely. So lonely. Whatever the reason, it doesn't matter. Should've known better. Been places, done things. You, you've got a life ahead of you, all thrilling and new. May not look it but, you know, older and wiser. That's me. Will you forgive me?"

Martha's throat constricted. His light tone was forced. She could still read the tension in his taught features, in the tense arc of his shoulders. She thought again of what she had seen and realized that some of the Doctor's pain was not unfamiliar, as if it had always been there. And as cruel as he may have been in his deliberate naiveté, Martha knew some of the fault was hers, too. How had she not noticed before that shadow of hurt and grieving? Hadn't she noticed how quiet he was, their first voyage together? Had her own excitement really blinded her—?

"Please." The Doctor's voice started her from her reflection. Focusing on him again, she saw that the grey in his face had deepened. He moistened quivering lips. "Please, Martha, forgive me."

"No."

His too-bright eyes widened. The Doctor straightened but his arms were barely able to hold him, palms braced against the table behind him.

"I—I promise—" His voice broke.

"I don't want to hear it. I won't forgive you. Not unless you forgive me."

She caught him when his knees gave out at last. They sank to the floor together. The Doctor's fingers twitched on her arms and his chest heaved with labored, constrained breaths, as if he were trying to suppress the emotion she knew was fast overwhelming him. Martha held him firmly.

"It was my fault, too, not just yours," she said. "It was wrong of me, to say you were to blame. So was I."

He gripped her tightly but could not speak.

Martha laid her palm on his back. "That Rose must've been some girl," she said.

He relaxed slightly. Turning his cheek against her shoulder, Martha could feel laughter, only half-hysterical, catching in his throat.

"She was, she is," he said. "My Rose."

"Have you ever considered getting her back?"

"I can't."

"Why not?"

"It's—it's a question of time." The Doctor drew back slightly.

"But you travel back in time—er, all the time."

"Different," said the Doctor. "I can't go back to a time I've already visited. That would cause all sorts of problems, lines crossing that shouldn't—a tangled mess. And there are so many strings. It would be impossible to undo the mess without, perhaps, making it even worse than it was before."

"So you can't do it."

Martha's emphasis was obvious.

The Doctor glanced at her, frowning. "Wot?"

"You can't fix this."

"No. I expl—"

"But, under the right circumstances—" She held up a finger. "—I can."