The Promise

Martha Jones stood next to the Tardis console, stamping her feet and rubbing her arms.

She was cold. In fact she was dithering.

What seemed like a bare few minutes ago (but had now been snatched away into the space/time vortex), she had watched Amundsen beat Scott to the South Pole. Although Martha had been protected by layers of winter clothing from the Tardis' wardrobes, it hadn't stopped a penetrating numbness invading her entire body.

Her teeth chattered.

The Doctor entered the room from the interior of his ship, preceded by a comforting aroma. Heat and chocolate. He balanced a small tray containing two plastic beakers. They were steaming.

Whether it was psychological or not the mere smell seemed to heat Martha's blood.

"T-thanks," she said, taking one of the beakers. She cupped it in her hands for a moment, allowing warmth to flood into her. Then she sipped at the scalding drink gratefully.

"Better?" asked the Doctor, cocking an eyebrow as he swallowed his own mouthful.

"Mmm!" was the descriptive reply as Martha drained the last dregs."God, that takes me back. Winter in the infant school when the snow came over the top of my wellies. Mum always had a steaming cup of cocoa waiting."

The Doctor placed his drink down half-finished. He gave Martha one of his far-away, frowning looks. "Say that again."

"What? About the cocoa?"

A slideshow of emotions flittered across his face. Confusion, realisation, guilt...

"...cocoa..." His lips pursed and he turned towards the controls.

.

Like any other day in this place the sun beat down on the garden, its heat fanned through the trees by an occasional breeze. In the far corner stood a low building. Flat-roofed, constructed of sandstone blocks it was unobtrusively placed in the overhang of several tall trees, desiring anonymity.

It was the place where the dying went.

Today, there was a gaggle of people outside the entrance. Men, women and children dressed in their multi-coloured finery. They were not milling about. They stood in respectful silence.

Inside the building, in its single room, incense burned. Prominent local dignitaries lined the walls, facing inwards. In the centre of the room, on a raised cot lay a dying old woman.

She had been beautifully regal once. But age and pain had lined her face and her eyes were glassily blind. At her head stood the High Priest, gently massaging her hands and whispering words of comfort.

They waited.

At length they came, framed together in the doorway. The man dressed in a brilliant suit of feathers with the helm of a bird of prey. The woman a vision of glittering colours, topped by a circlet of wild flowers.

The audience gave a collective sigh.

"He is here," whispered the High Priest and the woman's eye-lids fluttered.

The newcomers approached and the High Priest took the man by the arm, speaking in a murmur. "We will have to be quick. There is little time."

The man nodded and stood by the cot. He took the woman's gnarled hands in his.

"Is that you, Doctor? My beloved?" Her voice was a barely a croaked whisper.

The Doctor looked down for a moment, hesitating. It seemed to Martha that he was preparing for something.

When he spoke it was in an altogether different voice. Old, almost ancient. Martha was unnerved.

"Yes, Cameca. I am here, my dear."

The old lady smiled and her grip tightened.

The ceremony was short. There was some chanting from the assembly. The couple gave their assent.

Finally the High Priest raised his hands. "The joining is complete," he proclaimed loudly. "Two as one."

There was a smattering of applause , echoed by the crowd outside.

Cameca sighed happily, then her hands went limp. Her eyes closed for the last time.

"She has expired," said the High Priest.

Carefully, tenderly, the Doctor pressed his lips to the forehead of his late wife.

.

At the Tardis doors they paused a moment, looking back down the hill at the Garden of Rest.

Martha tried to lighten the mood. " So, married eh?"

"Widowed." said the Doctor, quietly.

"Sorry."

"It was the cocoa that reminded me. Cameca and I became engaged because we drank cocoa together."

"And she waited for you for all that time..."

The Doctor looked sharply at his companion. "Life can be cruel. I can be cruel. But maybe I'm at a time in my life where I have to tie up loose ends. Keep promises."

Martha touched his shoulder. On the next breeze, from far away, came the faint smell of cocoa beans.

Fin

Author's note: The Doctor and Cameca became engaged in the 1964 TV story 'The Aztecs'