Ok, so another chapter. Not going to lie, writing the one-sided Martha/Doctor in this story is kind of painful, mostly because I just feel really sorry for Martha. Ah well, she finds somebody in the end (go Mickey!). At any rate, enjoy the chapter!
Dobby's Polka-Dotted Sock
Martha was behind the register late afternoon when the little bell attached to the door jingled, announcing she had a customer. She looked up and smiled at the tall, broad-shouldered man who entered.
"Can I help you, sir?"
"Yeah, only you can leave off the 'sir'. I just wanted a cuppa before I went on duty, miss," he replied with an easy grin.
She returned it with an equal smile as she began to make the requested drink. "Well, if we're being informal, it's going both ways. I'm Martha Jones, not 'miss'."
"John Benton, sergeant," he offered without being asked, but Martha raised an eyebrow.
"Sergeant of what, exactly?" The coat he was wearing did have some type of marking, stripes in a sort of v, on the arms, but she couldn't think of what a sergeant would be on duty for in London in 1969.
He gave a slight grimace, as if used to the question, but answered politely enough, "UNIT. That's the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce," Sergeant Benton added before she could even try to puzzle it out.
"I've never heard of it," she remarked, not completely surprised. It wasn't as if she was incredibly knowledgeable about that sort of thing. Still, it sounded like a rather important type of organization.
"We're fairly new, mi—Martha," the man corrected midway at her pointed look.
"That's funny," she said lightly, with a smile tugging at her lips. "I'm fairly new here, too." Martha didn't allow him to question her on that, instead asking, "What exactly does UNIT do? You said you were going on duty."
"Oh, well, that's the thing about this sort of job," he began, seeming a bit unsure of how to explain. She left him to come up with a proper answer as she retrieved his freshly brewed cup of tea. "You might laugh, really. Most people do."
She offered a warm smile. "How about I promise not to laugh, alright?" He nodded after a moment. "Sugar?"
"Please, I'll need the energy if it's another boring shift. Or if it's not, really." Sergeant Benton considered this as she stirred in the sugar. "See, you might not know if you haven't been in the city long—and most people who have still deny it—but there've been some funny things happening lately."
"Really?" She interjected, not even feigning her interest. Because she knew better now than to dismiss 'funny things'. Especially in their situation now. In fact, what if the Sergeant was referring to the very same thing? Perhaps this UNIT had come across the other victims of the Weeping Angels, much more lost than she since they didn't have the benefit of having the Doctor with them.
Sergeant Benton had continued with his explanation, however. "Yes. And we've found that the sources of these things are not always…of this Earth." Here he seemed hesitant, so she nodded to encourage him on. "So the UN created UNIT to deal with these sorts of incidents—these extraterrestrial incidents." She'd passed him his cup, and he took a sip, seeming to be distracting himself from her potential negative response.
"An organization specializing in aliens?" She realized right away, astounded at the very idea. And yet it made all too much sense. If aliens had been coming here and making all sorts of trouble since Shakespeare's day—and even earlier, according to the Doctor—why wouldn't people have formed some group to deal with it? Not even the Time Lord could be there all the time.
But this man had said UNIT was practically brand new, and she'd never heard of it in the present. So either it had gone underground, or was given up. Still, perhaps this was just the sort of help she and the Doctor needed now.
"Well, yes," Sergeant Benton admitted, adding with a weak chuckle, "Sounds barmy, doesn't it?" When she didn't laugh, however, he seemed to regard her with a new interest and maybe even respect.
"So what do you and UNIT do when these incidents happen?" Recognizing that this was probably beginning to sound like an interrogation, Martha added, "You said your shift might be boring. Are there really boring aliens?"
He grinned at that, but shook his head. "Not so far. But these incidents don't exactly have a schedule. Sometimes we think we've found something and it's a prank or not alien, so we never quite know when something will happen. Well," he seemed to reconsider, "we usually get sort of an advance warning."
"Oh?" She was rather confused by that vague statement. Having a device or indicator like that would be awfully useful—it might even keep her and the Doctor out of trouble.
"The Brig- er, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, he founded UNIT- has got a consultant of sorts. Always seems to turn up when it's something really serious. That's how the men know we're in for trouble," he clarified with a grin, taking another gulp of his tea.
The bell tinkled once again, but Martha was far too absorbed in this conversation to be bothered with even calling out a hello. Not only was she becoming more and more convinced that Sergeant Benton, and his superiors, could actually provide some type of assistance, she was also incredibly interested in UNIT itself. Here was an organization were people like this man got paid to do something she loved—helping people, especially when facing the unknown. What a thrill!
"But aside from that, it's desk work?" She asked, more to temper her growing excitement than anything.
He nodded with a chagrined expression. "That or patrols, reports, security detail. Afraid I can't be too specific—"
"Quite right, too," a familiar voice snapped, and Martha's head jerked up to see that it had not been another customer who had entered, but the Doctor. And though his face was blank as stone, his eyes were flashing with anger. He was practically livid. "Haven't you got a shift to get to, Sergeant?"
"Er, yes, sir," Sergeant Benton stammered, and the poor man seemed close to saluting her friend. As it was, he stood, placing the correct change on the counter for the drink. "Thanks very much, Mar—miss," he changed his mind once again, darting a look at the Doctor and then nodding to him properly with a, "Sir." The soldier then hurriedly exited the shop, under the steely gaze of the Time Lord.
Before Martha could demand some sort of explanation for his rather uncharacteristic coldness, the Doctor rounded on her. "What were you talking to him for?"
"Excuse me?" She replied, bewildered. What was wrong with talking? "He came in the shop, it's not exactly policy to ignore a customer!"
"Oh, but you can ignore me just fine," he countered, and it hurt, because she often wished she had the courage to say the same to him. "Too busy chatting up about UNIT." The title sounded like something distasteful on his tongue.
"Well, I was only asking—and hang on, mister, how do you know about UNIT, anyway?" He'd known the other man was a Sergeant, too, though maybe he'd gotten that off the markings of his uniform.
"Martha, UNIT handles all things extraterrestrial, and I happen to fall under that category," the Doctor reminded. "Why wouldn't I know?"
"Well, you've never mentioned them," she pointed out, unable to help the slight accusatory edge to her voice.
"Because I'd rather not bother with them, and neither should you," he replied firmly, the warning clear.
But Martha's head titled and she raised an eyebrow in challenge. "Are you telling me to stay away from them?"
"And who said you could make that call?"
They glowered at each other over the countertop, and she wasn't sure who was going to break the tense silence first. But neither of them did. Instead, a loud ding! rang through the air.
"What—" Martha began, certain it was nothing in the shop.
The Doctor's eyes had lit up in excitement, though, and he reached into a pocket. "Finally!" Impossibly, he withdrew the timey-wimey detector, which had presumably made the noise, and seemed to have come to life. "A temporal anomaly—big one, too. Just what we need. Right then," he looked up with a manic grin, all traces of earlier anger at her or UNIT gone. "Allons-y!"
"But—" she started to protest, yet stopped when he glanced at her with a slight frown, not understanding. Marlene had left earlier, as she'd had an appointment, and had told Martha to close up at eight. It was just about a quarter till.
Marlene wouldn't mind, though, would she? And wasn't their eventual escape from here more important than her menial job? Martha had asked to help and here was the opportunity. Had she really been about to turn it down?
So instead, she nodded and set about turning off the lights and locking up. The Doctor was waiting impatiently on the front walk, practically bouncing on his heels when she finished. "Where to, then?" She inquired.
"No idea," he returned bluntly. He then lifted the timey-wimey detector. "This'll tell us, though. It'll lead us straight to Billy." And with that, he took off, his long strides covering a great distance.
Martha, however, needed a moment before she could begin. And then she was running to catch up, calling to him in bafflement, "Who's Billy?"
She felt a great deal of sympathy for the former DI Shipton once they'd met him, and that was only increased by the admiration he earned for readily agreeing to help the Doctor. Within a week, Billy was relatively settled into 1969 and had bought the equipment necessary for what the Doctor had planned.
"How exactly does this work, again?" Martha couldn't help asking as she and Billy assembled the autocue.
The Time Lord sighed. "I told you, Martha. Sally—and her friend—watched a video of me explaining everything to them, and were able to have a conversation with it because I was responding to what they were saying. That's because I've got a completed transcript of the conversation we're going to have," he waved the all-important packet of information once again. "Sally and, in some cases, Larry's words will appear on the autocue, which I will then respond to. Simple, see?"
"Not really," she and Billy both said at the same time, and they grinned at each other. The Doctor merely waved a dismissive hand.
Billy then went to the camera, starting it up. "Could you get the lights, Martha?" He requested, and she walked out of the camera's field of vision. "Ready, Doctor?"
"Whenever you are, Billy," her friend replied, and the man started recording. The Doctor placed his glasses on and watched the autocue for a moment before interjecting when it was his turn, "Yup, that's me." He paused for a moment, then dutifully added, "Yes, I do," quickly followed by a rather cheeky, "Yup. And this."
It was incredibly odd, only hearing half the conversation, and having to read the rest of it off the autocue. Martha slowly tiptoed closer to the edge of the camera's sightline, wanting to be able to understand what was happening. She was glad she had; she was learning far more about what had happened to them with the Weeping Angels through this than through asking the Doctor previously.
She also couldn't help beginning to note the Time Lord's use of the singular 'I'. It probably wasn't that important, and would likely just complicate things, but didn't she matter? Martha Jones was stuck in 1969, too, and she felt people ought to know. Just in case, after all, what if they didn't get back?
So she darted forward, leaning into the frame. "We're stuck. All of space and time, he promised me. Now I've got a job in a shop. I've got to support him!" Those few short words just summed up everything that had been frustrating her this whole time.
But the Doctor turned to her with an affronted look. "Martha!" He practically scolded, and she instantly felt sheepish.
"Sorry," she muttered, ducking back out of view. Billy offered a shrug, and she looked away, heading back to the wall. Of course he'd react that way, she'd likely very soundly wounded his pride, and if the Doctor was anything he was prideful. But it was the truth. Didn't he appreciate her efforts at all? Or was he too busy saving the day with Sally Sparrow?
At last, she heard the Doctor call in a louder voice, "You can cut it off there, Billy." The other man nodded, stopping recording, and the Doctor stowed his glasses away again, jumping up from the chair. "Now, you've got to make sure this gets on these DVDs—all seventeen, and no others. Understand, Billy?" The Time Lord handed the former DI a list, and he nodded.
"Yes. Is that the message I'm giving to Sally?"
"Not quite. You're going to tell her exactly this: Look at the list." The Doctor fixed the man with a meaningful look, and it was not lost on Billy.
"You mean, I'm going to see her again?" He asked, a hopeful light to his eyes that suddenly changed to fear as he began, "You don't mean she—"
"No," the Doctor shook his head. "She doesn't get sent back."
Billy looked visibly relieved. "So I will see her in the future? My old time, I live that long?" Her friend nodded this time, and Billy smiled. "I'll look forward to seeing her, then. I'm glad I'll be able to spend time with her."
"It won't be long, Billy," the Doctor cautioned. "You'll see her one more time…and you'll have until the rain stops."
The smile faded from Billy's face as that sunk in. "I see," the other man said in a low tone. He walked to the door and held it open for them. "I'll make sure she gets the message. Goodnight, Doctor, Martha."
"Goodbye, Billy," the Doctor replied, and exited. Martha shot one sad, almost horrified look at the man before hurrying out herself.
When she caught up to the Doctor, she asked quietly, "Why did you tell him that? When he'll die?"
"Because he tells Sally," was the simple explanation. "She stays with him, until the end," he added, as if that might cheer her up. And while it comforted Martha to know that Billy would not be alone, she couldn't help her shock and even grief from turning to indignation.
"He tells Sally because you told him."
"Yes, because I know that he tells her! Has to tell her, Martha, because that's what Sally wrote to me. I only know when he'll die because she told me, and told me that I told him. You see? Ontological paradox," he defended, sounding just a little frustrated by the end.
But Martha was just as annoyed, if not more. "Why do we have to bother with the stupid paradox anyway? Why can't we just break it? You know he likes Sally, why can't we bring him with us when we go back?"
"Because it doesn't happen, Martha," he replied shortly. "And we need Billy to deliver the message."
"So we're just using him?"
"No!" He gaped, seemingly astonished she would think that of him. "But it's an established event in the timestream of the paradox that Billy Shipton delivers the message to Sally Sparrow and then dies. There's no getting around that."
She stared at him for a time, causing him to stop and look at her with some worry. They'd reached their apartment building, and so finally, Martha just marched away from him, inside and up the stairs.
"Martha. Martha!" He called after her, running up but not quite making it to the door before she slammed it shut and locked it. He'd forgotten his key, she was sure, he always did. So the Doctor was reduced to knocking and pleading with her to let him in.
"You're not even going to try to save him?" She inquired coolly, and was met with silence for a moment.
"Don't you think I would if I could?" His voice sounded so small, as well as muffled by the wood, and she could practically picture his big, sad eyes. "Don't you think I would take them all back—Kathy Nightingale, every single one of the owners of that house? But I can't. For better or worse, they all have to remain and build new lives where and when they've been sent.
"But Kathy gets married and has a family, kids and grandkids. Billy marries, too. And maybe he likes Sally Sparrow now, but so does Lawrence Nightingale. Should I deny Larry's happiness by bringing Billy back with us, and leave Billy's wife alone in the past? I can't make those choices, Martha, no one can."
Of course he was being reasonable, and his arguments made sense, but she still felt it was all so unfair. Why did they have to even be tempted to make these choices?
She unlocked the door and pulled it open to reveal a rather weary-looking Doctor. The few lines on his face became even more pronounced at the sight of her. "This is why I didn't want you involved," he sighed, shaking his head and likely berating himself.
But Martha didn't want to be seen as weak, or unable to handle it. She'd meant what she'd said on the video; she had to support him. So Martha drew herself up and willed herself to calm down and reign in her emotions. "No Doctor, it's alright, I understand. You do what you can."
It seemed a small weight was lifted from his shoulders, for the Time Lord relaxed ever so slightly. "Right," he agreed softly, before his expression took on a determined edge. "And I will save you, Martha. I can do that. Everything, all this, is to get you back. I promise." She nodded reassuringly, and he pulled her into a tight hug. "I'll make it all up to you," he murmured from somewhere above her head.
"Just get me to some nice, fun, safe planet, Mister, and that'll be apology enough," she commented, holding onto him just as much. He chuckled at that, and she smiled into his shoulder. She tried not to get her hopes up when he held her there longer than was strictly necessary. There would be time to think about that once this was all behind them.
Ok, so just one more chapter to wrap it all up. We got the infamous DVD-filming scene, which was what mostly inspired me to write this story, and is where the title comes from. Any lines you recognize come directly from "Blink". And yes, Sergeant Benton in this fic is the same Sergeant Benton from the Classic Series, a member of UNIT, which happened to be founded in—you guessed it—1969! I thought it'd be fun to have Martha sort of accidentally stumble onto it, just as a way to introduce her to the idea, since we never actually saw her learn about it/join it in the show. At any rate, let me know what you thought. Thanks for reading, and please review!