Featuring the Doctor and Martha

"It was hard," she admitted, finally. They'd barely spoken in days now.

"I know," the Doctor said, meeting her gaze; their eyes locked, and she refused to look away. That was new, he realised. She'd always been the one to blanch.

"No, you don't," Martha Jones countered. "You were John Smith, a high and mighty teacher. I was Jones. The maid. Your maid. Your black maid."

"Oh," the Doctor frowned. "It's been a week, Martha, and I..."

"You lost Joan, I know," Martha said, "and I know how hard that is for you, Doctor. I do. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry about what happened with her, and with the Family, and all of it. You need to understand, though, Doctor, I spent months being systematically treated as less-than-human by, well, everyone. Even you."

"It was the times, Martha," the Doctor began to explain.

"I know it was the times, Doctor, I know that everyone was like that back then. Only, it's not back then. Even when I was a kid, London in the nineties, I got it all the time. Not every day, but every few days. Every now and then. I need to know, Doctor, you in your magical machine... you must know. You must be able to show me when it ends."

The Doctor looked at her for a few minutes, across the TARDIS console. Around them, the great control room shone with its familiar, intrinsic light, the time rotor rising and falling rhythmically. Then, inspiration seemed to hit him.

"I have an idea," he said, grinning, and began to spin around the console.

Despite the memories of her time at the school, Martha couldn't help but smile as the TARDIS began to buck, the decking beneath her feet shaking this way and that.

It was over in a few minutes, and the Doctor marched across the decking to the TARDIS doors, pulling his coat off a support beam and over his slim shoulders. Pushing open the doors, he stepped out.

Martha followed, and shivered in the sudden cold.

They were standing in an alleyway, complete with a dumpster and door, padlocked. There was graffiti and posters stuck to the wall, and it was absolutely freezing; so cold that there was muddy, partially frozen slush all through the alley. Wrapping her arms around her midsection, Martha said "Where are we? It's bloody cold!"

"Earth, twentieth of January, two thousand and nine. Washington, D.C. Five seconds into your future." the Doctor said, looking back at Martha Jones with a smile. "You're pretty much home."

"Okay," Martha said, studying the posters stuck to the brick. They were fraying and wet, but still legible. There was a man on them, handsome and dark-skinned, with slogans printed beneath his smiling face. "I've read that name before..."

"Barack Obama, forty-fourth President of the United States of America," the Doctor said proudly. "Good man. Reasonable. Bit of a swot."

"He's black," Martha said, simply.

"Father was Kenyan, mother was Kansan. Hell of a man, hell of a story," the Doctor went on. "First black President. Not the last. Probably not the best, but that's a few centuries off, now."

"So... the day racism ends is the day a black President is elected?" Martha said, eyebrow raised in disbelief.

"Ends? Oh, no. Of course it doesn't end. In fact, for a while, things look a little worse. At least in America," the Doctor explained. "But things do get better, Martha. They always will get a little bit better. And he's not being elected today. He was elected weeks ago. Months. He's being sworn in today. Largest turnout ever. Now come on, we don't have long!"

As they walked through the chilly streets, the Doctor and Martha, it seemed that the TARDIS' alleyway was the only part of the city not completely thronged with people.

Despite the cold and the police officers on every street corner, Martha couldn't help but grin at the outpouring of fellowship that seemed to surround them, that was in the very air. It was, for lack of a better word, nice.

On the National Mall, under the shadow of the Washington Memorial and a jumbo screen and surrounded by people of every skin colour, Martha and the Doctor got as close as they could; the crowd was simply too massive. "I could get us in, you know," the Doctor said, lifting his psychic paper from his pocket.

"No," Martha said, smiling. "This is fine. This is more than fine."

As the minutes ticked by, as people applauded the speeches and the musicians, Martha reached for the Doctor's hand, and clasped it tight.

The Doctor gripped her fingers between his, and said quietly "Things get better."