Title: I’ll Meet You on the Other Side (14/14)

Characters: alt!Doctor, alt!Martha, Jackie Tyler, OC, Jack Harkness & other DW/Torchwood folk

Word Count:

Rating: NC-17

Spoilers: S4 through Journey’s End

A/N: Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] persiflage_1 for the beta and [livejournal.com profile] radiantbaby for some plot advice!

Thanks to everyone who has shared this story with me; this was my first story, and it's always going to have a special spot in my memory.

Disclaimer: I don’t own the Whoniverse.


Index Post





and be my love


Refreshed from her nap and a long soak in the tub, Martha dried off slowly, luxuriating in the feeling of her mother’s plush towels. When she was dry, she wrapped herself in a thick bathrobe, then surveyed the collection of scented lotions and oils her mother kept on the dressing table in the master bathroom. After selecting a jasmine scented lotion, she returned to her bedroom.

Martha enjoyed small physical indulgences; they were all she could usually give herself time to experience between her busy work schedule and her travels with Jack. She poured a bit of the lotion in her hands while surveying her feet, and sighed over the missed spa appointment. She felt the slightest bit of guilt for wanting that indulgence, but as she massaged the lotion into her skin, she felt the waning tension of the last few days finally leaving her body for good. The rest and the hot bath had gone a long way to relaxing her, and this final indulgence would restore her so that she could deal with what was ahead.

Two thousand people lived in that village, each a part of a family, each part of the larger community. Martha was anxious about what she’d find there; regardless of how much or how little exposure the villagers had received to the accelerator, they were unlikely to be excited once they were told exactly what had been in the water they’d consumed. Panic, fear, and outrage were the most likely emotions she’d be dealing with, and Martha took comfort in the knowledge that her sister would accompany her on the journey. She wouldn’t have to do this alone.

But no time to dwell on what was to come; Martha focused on the moment, and at the moment she was feeling relaxed and she was alone, her mother and sister having gone to the shops while she slept. She smoothed the lotion into the skin of her calves, then her thighs. She grinned mischievously before slipping out of the bathrobe, then resumed her personal anointing. Martha focused on the skin of her arms, lingering at the elbows, her fingers rolling over the soft skin covering the hard protuberance of bone. Hard and soft angles, she thought, the tiniest hint of a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth as her experience of her own body became linked to her memories of John’s. As she ran her hands over her shoulders, she warmed at the remembered feeling of his feathery kisses there, of his tongue plying the skin at the nape of her neck before his teeth began to gently nibble at her. Her hands slid down the front of her neck, and her fingers stroked the clavicle before resting at the hollow of her throat, a spot he had yet to exploit, but one to which she couldn’t wait to introduce him.

She warmed more lotion in her hands before relaxing against the pillows as she rubbed the lotion on her belly. Her fingers circled her navel and she toyed with it as John had, exploiting her sensitivity there until it began to radiate outward. Her hands slid up her torso; when her fingers brushed the skin at the bottom of her breasts, she lightly stroked them before focusing all of her attention on teasing her nipples as they stiffened. A small moan escaped her throat, her skin longing for John’s tongue and lips and the heat of his breath.

One hand remained to mind the shop while the other went exploring for hidden treasures, her fingers gently smoothing and twirling the curls between her legs before circling her now-wet entrance. She pushed aside the technical terms, preferring instead to indulge in the words she could hear herself whispering in John’s ear as she imagined some future time when he’d position his head there, when he’d circle her clit with his tongue and suck until it swelled, when he’d thrust his tongue into her pussy, tasting and teasing her.

Martha traced and rubbed and plunged her fingers into her body as she invoked the feeling of his cock filling and stroking her. She imagined the weight of him atop her, his mouth claiming hers while he thrust into her, building the ball of energy at the base of her spine. She hovered there and allowed her breathing to calm for a moment, wanting to draw the experience out just a bit longer. Martha delighted in the tension as she conjured phantom images of another body which was now becoming so familiar to her.

Across town, in a third floor flat in a nondescript London building, John struggled against the surface of consciousness, wanting to remain in the delicious dream world he’d been inhabiting. His hand had slipped beneath the waistband of his pyjamas and was sliding along the slippery surface of his cock, while his tongue and mouth hungered for the taste of smooth skin and his nose filled with the scent of jasmine, everywhere jasmine. Intoxicated, he reveled in the sensations produced by the dream and the memory of her body and her skin. As he stroked himself, he tried to conjure the taste of her, longing to dip and plunge his tongue into her as he breathed in her scent. Jasmine, everywhere jasmine—

—and she could hold it back no longer, the pressure spreading from the base of her spine through her buttocks and thighs, the small, swollen kernel of her sex poised to explode as soon as she gave it permission. He convulsed as she pressed the button, their climax hitting them in waves that resounded over rooftops across the city.

Martha curled the soft cotton bathrobe around her body as she coaxed the aftershocks to their end. A slow smile spread across her lips, and she wondered whether John would accompany her to the village. She felt a surge of teen-aged energy and desire pulsing through her, then a flash of anxiety when she thought he might not call. She laughed after a moment, the woman returned, still desirous, still hungry, but secure in her self-worth. It's this room, she thought. She'd spent almost half her life away from this room, and while most of the more childish items had been removed, it still felt like the bedroom of a young girl, not a grown woman. Not where she wanted to be, really, but this is where she'd have to be for a while.

John stroked his button-less belly, his breathing returning to normal after a few moments. Fully awake now, he marveled at the intensity of the physical sensations he’d experienced. He shivered a bit as his body cooled; the air in the room was chilly against his sweat-dampened clothing. The scent of jasmine was now fading, and while he struggled to hold on to the sensory memory, he knew that he had to have the real thing again soon.

He tugged the bed covers higher as he turned to his side and pulled the pillow closer. His eyes were trained on the space where Martha had lain the day before, a stray hair still clinging to her pillow, the faint hint of coconut from that shampoo on the case. He placed his hand on the cool fabric and wondered what she was doing at that moment, if she’d had a restful afternoon. Waking to such an intense manifestation of her memory had shocked him; he knew that he was becoming attached to her, but this seemed almost a bit too strong an attachment, a bit too sudden.

She’d be leaving in a day or so anyway, and he knew that he might not see her for several weeks, if not months. He rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling. He considered how quiet the flat was, how silent and empty when it had so recently been so full of life.

The clock read six p.m. He rolled toward the bedside table to retrieve her card before rising to go to the living room. He’d promised to call that evening, and after that dream, he wanted to hear her voice.




Francine and Tish had returned from their excursion with clothing and shoes for Martha, takeaway for supper, and a host of questions about the events of the last two days. As she sat at the family table, Martha smiled, joyous to be with her loved ones, her father and Leo having come for a late supper to celebrate her survival and return. When the inevitable tense conversation between Francine and Leo regarding his latest love interest overtook the mood, Martha rose to clear the dinner things and put on the kettle and a pot of coffee. She then prepared a plate of biscuits and cut a few slices of the cake Clive had picked up from the local bakery. John was coming for a late dessert, and she wanted things to be perfect.

He’d called shortly after she’d recovered from her explorations, his voice low and hoarse, a nice complement to her own throaty response to his greeting, and she’d wondered whether he’d been up to similar shenanigans after his nap. A frisson of pleasure had run down her spine every time he’d said her name over the phone, and he’d seemed to repeat it more than necessary during their short conversation. On impulse she’d suggested he come to the house after supper, and he’d quickly accepted.

Her mother and Tish had returned almost simultaneous to the end of the phone call, and after the initial hugs, worried questions, and strong reassurances, Francine had turned her attention to the “recent unpleasantness” and the question she’d been turning over since her daughter had called her the previous afternoon. She’d been relieved that her family was safe, but Francine was also annoyed that they’d been so put upon for several days. “I certainly hope that UNIT will compensate us and you for this misery, especially the loss of your possessions and your home,” she’d said. “I’ve already contacted your cousin Oliver, and he’s looking into grounds for suit if necessary.”

Martha had seen Tish rolling her eyes in sympathy, and she’d smiled wanly at her mother. It was no good to argue when she was in this sort of mood, and though she was thirty, at times Martha still relied on the methods of coping with her mother she’d developed in her teen years. Better to sit this one out.

“So,” Francine had moved to the next topic, her hands resting on either side of the mug she’d set on the kitchen table, “who is the stranger?”

Martha had blushed as Tish shot a knowing glance from her position at the counter, and Francine had taken a sip of her tea while her eyes had remained focused on Martha’s face. She wanted the best for her children, and while Tish had seemed enthusiastic about the dark-haired man she’d seen Martha kissing from the kitchen window, Francine remembered the urgency in her daughter’s voice when she’d asked about her father.

Martha’d accepted the cup of tea that Tish had offered her, and carefully considered her answer as she’d taken a sip. “His name is John Smith and he saved my life.”

Francine had nodded, and was about to ask another question when Martha continued talking.

“He’s an investigator, sometimes works with Torchwood. He’s kind, brave, gentle, passionate—“ Tish had raised a brow at this note “—caring, intelligent, and resourceful. You can find out more tonight, as I’ve asked him to come later for dessert.”

Martha had swallowed a drink of her tea while the awkward silence settled around the table. Tish had stared intently at her mug, desperate to contain the laugh that threatened to erupt from her lips at the sight of her mother’s shocked face. Francine had alternated between anger at her daughter’s impertinence and pride at her audacity; she’d always felt that her middle child could be a bit more conciliatory than was healthy. She’d decided to land on the side of the latter, and had reached her hand across the table to clasp Martha’s.

“Call your father and ask him to pick up a cake from Cassini’s,” she’d said. “We want to make a good first impression.”

The sound of the doorbell shook Martha from her memory, and she smiled as she brought the tray of cake and biscuits out to the table. The argument had quieted with the ringing of the bell; she hoped that all would go smoothly.




John paid the cab driver, then walked up the stairs to the front door. In his hand he held a bottle of wine, and he could hear the familiar sounds of a Jones family row through the glass panes surrounding the doorframe. He sighed, bracing himself for the inevitable tensions as he lifted his finger to press the bell.

He was hopeful when he saw Clive and Francine open the door together, thinking that perhaps the marriage was at least intact, until they’d introduced themselves. The way that Francine called Clive “Martha’s father” more clearly communicated the status of their relationship than the missing rings on their hands did. The greetings were at least cordial, and Clive took John’s coat while Francine graciously accepted the wine before leading John to the dining room where the family waited.

He received an enthusiastic handshake from Leo, was grateful for Tish’s warm hug, and could barely contain himself as he kissed Martha’s cheek, the now-erotic scent of jasmine wafting from her skin. He willed the desire surging through him to control itself, and he was pleased to finally be seated at the table, Martha to his right, while Leo and Tish sat opposite. Francine and Clive managed to take their respective spots at the ends of the table in a sort of carefully orchestrated détente.

John was glad to have Clive at his end; this Francine was as formidable as the other one, and Clive’s jovial personality put him a bit more at ease, even with the tension surrounding the relationship.

No one at the table really believed Martha and John’s tame version of the story of the last two days, the furtive glances and lingering brushes of fingers and arms between the new pair clearly indicating more intense moments in their very short past. In fact, by the time the final cup of tea had been swallowed and the last crumb of cake consumed, four of the five Joneses felt like vestigial appendages at the table. John and Martha had answered many questions, had shared a few daring stories, but by the end of the conversation, it was clear that the only speaking they wanted to do was meant for the privacy of a room with closed doors.

Francine came into the kitchen as Martha and Tish were finishing the washing up. She slipped a house key into Martha’s pocket. “Just in case you decide to go out,” she said, and Martha stiffened with surprise and a bit of embarrassment. “Just wait until your father leaves; indulge him a bit.” Martha swallowed hard and nodded, and Tish finally erupted in peals of laughter as her mother left the kitchen to return to their guest.




John’s hand ached a bit from the vigorous and tight handshake Clive had given him as he’d said goodnight. Leo and Tish had left shortly after he did, deciding to share a cab ride home to, he assumed, compare notes. As Francine prepared to lock the house for the night, she’d softened the somewhat hard look in her eyes as she took his hand and thanked him for taking such good care of her daughter. He’d been silent from the shock of the depth of feeling in her voice, and had smiled not a little as she pulled him into a warm hug. He sat on the couch while Martha said her goodnights to her mother, turning over the evening’s events in his mind.

The family was much the same, well, the same as they would have been had they not spent a year under the sadistic thumb of the Master. Clive wasn’t in a relationship with a young gold-digger, but the tension between him and his ex-wife was palpable. They’d put on a good front for Martha’s sake, but he could tell that cold hostility simmered just beneath the surface. Tish was warm, but uninterested in the mainly scientific discussion that he, Leo and Martha engaged in around the table. Leo was charming as ever, and John was pleased that he’d got the chance to get to know something of the family in a relaxed setting. They may not be perfect, but they were real, warm-hearted and generous people. The gooey chocolate cake had been an added bonus.

“Ahem.”

He looked up to see Martha standing before him, her hand extended as she cleared her throat. He took her hand, then surprised her by pulling her onto his lap. She yelped, then giggled as she settled into her new seat, and he could feel his arousal quickly growing from her proximity and movement. He buried his nose in the side of her neck and inhaled deeply, the jasmine triggering a primal urge that only grew in intensity as she began to lightly scratch at the tender flesh on the back of his neck.

He groaned before rasping out the word “jasmine.”

“Mmm, yes. You like it?” She smiled and kissed his neck again. “One of my favorite scents.”

“I could smell it,” he moaned. “Earlier—when I woke—it was everywhere.”

“Everywhere?” Martha pulled away in confusion. “What do you mean?”

“Everywhere—in my bedroom, in my flat—I smelled jasmine.” He was thoughtful for a moment. “I believe, Martha Jones, that you were projecting.”

Martha wanted to kiss the crinkle in his brow, but restrained herself. “Projecting? What—my thoughts?”

He nodded. “Yes—thoughts, feelings—“ he paused, then quirked an eyebrow upward “—desires—“

Martha’s downcast eyes and the blush rising in her cheek signaled her embarrassment.

“Martha, what were you doing before I called?”

Her eyes shot to meet his and she said, a bit reluctantly, he thought, “I took a bath, and then—“

“And then?”He stroked her back to encourage her.

“Well,” she began, her voice coy as she touched his sideburns with her finger, “hot water takes a lot of moisture out of your skin.”

“Yes.” His fingers burned a slow trail up her spine.

“So I try to replace what’s taken as soon as I can.” She lowered her head and planted small kisses along his jaw line before whispering in his ear. “Today I made sure to get the full body treatment.” She pulled back, her eyes challenging him as she placed her fingers at his temple to share the memory.

He was in her childhood bedroom, on a bed almost too small for a fully grown person, a room too young for an adult, but the sensations running through his body were not the feelings of a child. The lotion was cool and sweet in his hands, which were stroking and lingering over his chest until he could resist no longer, moving them down his torso and belly, imagining Martha’s mouth kissing a trail downward until she was licking and sucking—

“I want you,” he groaned softly, pulling himself from the experience of memory so that he could indulge in reality.

“I know,” she half-snickered, half-moaned, as she wriggled her arse over his crotch.

He rested his forehead on her shoulder, his breathing becoming increasingly rapid and strained. “Tease,” he whimpered, before brushing at her mind. Come home?

The question hung between them, Martha uncertain whether he’d forgotten a word or two, John wondering why he’d stopped there.

Come home with me? he asked again quickly. He hoped that she couldn’t see the flush in his skin.

Martha considered the question for the briefest of moments, then kissed him slowly before answering. “Let me get my things. I’ll be back in a minute.”

He nodded and called for a cab while he waited for her to return. He thought about the words he’d said to her, and what they revealed to him. “Come home,” he’d asked, and he’d meant it exactly as it must have seemed to her in that instant, that he was inviting her into his home, offering her a place there. The ache he'd felt on waking and coming down from the high of just the thought of her had not dissipated, and the experience of her memory had only intensified it; he yearned to enter the flat with her at his side, his companion.

This must be genetic, he thought, a bit of the Doctor hardwired into me. Always looking for a companion. Always afraid of being alone. He hoped, however, that it wasn't just a remnant of the Doctor, that the longing he now felt indicated something less isolated and interior, not so cold and scientific as genetic predisposition, but a richer, warmer, deeper connection developing between him and Martha.




The cab ride was uneventful, the lack of a shield between passengers and driver keeping John’s hands from roaming too far over Martha’s frame. They talked quietly instead, Martha’s head resting on John’s shoulder, John’s arm holding her close enough that they could simply murmur to one another.

“Loads to do in the morning,” Martha said.

“Can you reschedule with Sarah Jane?”

Martha nodded. “Tish told me that she’s already agreed to postpone for a couple of hours.” She grinned when she felt John shift his body in surprise, and she lifted her eyes to meet his. “Perceptive one, my sister, and when it comes to her work, always one step ahead. Besides, once my mum slipped me that housekey, Tish figured she’d just take care of the inevitable.”

John let her words sink in for a moment, then slowly asked, “What do you mean your mum slipped you a housekey?”

Martha giggled. “She has eyes and she knew that I was unlikely to stay at her house tonight, so she made sure I’d have a way out—or back in.”

“Interesting. It’s not every day that a mother is practically pushing her daughter into illicit activity.” He allowed his hand to drift in the direction of Martha’s breast.

“Well, I am thirty,” she replied, gently moving his hand back to rest on her arm, “and I think she’s just happy to see me doing something other than working.”

“Too bad you’re off in a couple of days,” John sighed.

“Why bad? Cholderton’s not that far away. And besides,” her voice grew playful as she started gently stroking his knee, “I’m sure Pete will spring for a room big enough for the both of us.”

John froze, his heart pounding from the unexpected inclusion in her plans. “You want me to come with you?”

“Of course—I mean, if you want to, that is.” Martha realized that they hadn’t discussed this, and she hoped he didn’t feel cornered by her assumption that he’d accompany her to the village.

“Oh yes!” he said, with a relish that nearly spooked the driver. “You, me, the fresh clean air. Stonehenge is nearby—did you know that? Haven’t been there in, oooo, centuries.”

She laughed, relieved and caught up in his enthusiasm, and pulled him into a kiss. The cabbie kept his eyes on the road, eager to get this fare dropped off. He’d certainly had his share of odd birds, but none of them spoke of time in such large units.




They’d wasted precious little time when they’d arrived at John’s flat, as evidenced by the pile of clothing near the flat’s front door. They were panting on the couch, Martha resting slightly on top of John, who’d landed on his back when she’d push him down before mounting him. Their coupling was rough, frantic, and hungry, a greedy appetizer for a banquet that would extend well into the night. John’s fingers slipped along Martha’s side, while she rubbed his belly as she rested her head against his chest.

“I think I’m going to take my time next go,” he murmured, and she nodded and mumbled, “you’d better.”

“Oi!” he cried, lightly patting her bottom before giving her a pinch. She wiggled just a touch, and he started to wonder what little kinks Dr. Jones might be interested in exploring. “Who pushed whom onto the couch before ravishing his helpless frame?”

She lifted her head to meet the challenge in his eyes. “Oh, I don’t know. I could ask whose hands kept pulling whose hips onto his cock while yelling, ‘Faster, Martha, faster!’”

“Touché,” he nodded, then stroked the back of her head before kissing her.

On their way to the bedroom they stopped in the kitchen to procure a bottle of wine, grapes, cheese, and glasses. Martha ran a bath, dropping in the scented oils she’d included in the bag, while John arranged the tray on the bed before uncorking the bottle and pouring the wine. He brought a glass to her, then joined her in the tub, seating himself between her legs while he rested his head at her chest. They shared the glass slowly, savoring the wine and the sensation of the slick scented water against their skin.

Martha took a drink before handing him the glass. “Two baths in one day. I’m going to be a prune if I’m not careful.”

“Mmmm, can’t have that.” John placed the wineglass on the floor next to the tub. “What can I do to help?”

She drummed her fingers softly against his chest, then dipped her hand into the slick water to smooth it on his skin, her fingers gently stroking the still-bruised site of his recent injuries. “I did remember to pack that jasmine lotion. I have a hard time reaching my back, though.”

“Well,” he drawled as his hands massaged the bits of her legs he could reach, “I suppose I could help out a bit there. Pretty good with my hands.”

Martha wrapped her arms around his waist, then leaned forward, kissing the skin at his shoulder while she stroked his inner thighs.

“Of course, you’re quite good with your hands too,” he stammered before turning his head and body to kiss her. As their tongues tangled, the water in the tub rocked and swayed, moved by bodies shifting and straining to extend their range of motion in such a confined space.

“Bedroom,” she panted, and they kissed while they lifted themselves from the tub. John took a large towel from the rack and wrapped it around their slippery bodies. Martha’s arms circled his neck, while his hands sank into the plush cotton curved over her bottom.

We’re not exactly moving in the direction of the bedroom, she noted.

We’re not really drying off either, but I’m not complaining, he responded, then groaned as Martha sucked on his tongue.

I don’t want to sleep in a damp bed, Martha thought, then gently pulled away from him. They dried each other quickly before heading to the bedroom, where they sampled and tasted and lingered over each other long into the night.




In the morning they shared a shower, then prepared and devoured breakfast before heading to the Torchwood offices. Martha spent her morning carefully answering Sarah Jane’s questions, and John spent his working with Ianto to set the containment strategy for the village. The mood was strange, everyone trying to shift gears from the emergency footing they’d been operating under to the kind of thinking that went into long-range planning. Jack and Jake strolled in shortly before lunch, claiming a bit of “late-night reconnaissance” as the reason for their late arrival. Ianto shot John a knowing glance, and John’s mind wandered back to his own recent nocturnal activity.

Martha, Tish, and Sarah Jane went out for lunch around noon, then the two sisters returned to finish preparations. Martha found in Tosh an able lab assistant, and they spent the afternoon mixing small batches of the accelerator and the inhibitor, as well as preparing the testing solutions and equipment she would need once they’d arrived at the site. Martha was reluctant to create too much of either the accelerator or the inhibitor until she had a better understanding of the actual level of exposure, but had requested enough of the supplies for both to cover the entire village population.

John found her shortly after six o’clock. Ianto was finishing the preparations and had suggested he get Martha so that she could eat supper and get some rest. They were scheduled to leave for the village at ten the next morning, and Ianto could tell from John’s increasingly sluggish behavior that they’d likely gotten little sleep the night before. Martha was more or less ready to leave, and she stopped off at Tish’s workstation, where her sister was giving last-minute instruction to the young woman who’d be monitoring activity in London while they were away. Martha and John bid Tish their goodbyes, then headed back to John’s flat.

Martha called her mother while John made a great deal of noise in the kitchen.

“What’s that racket?” Francine asked after the sound of a skillet hitting the floor rang through the flat.

“I think he dropped a pan,” Martha giggled. “He’s cooking dinner for me.”

“Sounds like you might want to order in, dear, just to be safe.”

“Oh, mum,” Martha sighed. “I think he’s just nervous is all.”

“Hmph. Well, it’s always a good to know where the local takeaways are,” Francine advised, “although I suppose you won’t be needing them for a while. When do you and your sister leave for that village?”

“Tomorrow at 10. Why don’t I meet you at that café near your office at 8:30? We could have a quick cuppa before I go.”

“Sounds lovely.” Martha could tell that her mother was pleased by the gesture, and she was glad to make the arrangements with her. After another clatter of pans followed by a short burst of cursing, Martha said her goodbyes and I love yous before hanging up the phone.

“Is everything alright in there?”

John stuck his head out the kitchen door. “Oh yes, just fine. Game hens—a bit slippery.” He grimaced, then grinned, and Martha shook her head and took a drink from the wine glass she’d put on the coffee table. The blue book was next to it—John had suggested she dip in and read around a bit—and she took it and her glass to the leather chair by the window.

The book was thick, but had only eleven pages, each page an intricate combination of origami folds, hidden doors and panels, and audio and visual additions. One of the first things she’d learned from John was that the Doctor changed his body when he was about to die, and John had drawn them all, one each for ten of the eleven pages. As she turned the pages, the faces looked out at her, some inviting, some off-putting, all enigmatic and as different as she knew each set of recorded experiences was. With each new face came a new set of possibilities, new companions, and new adventures. Sometimes she heard John’s voice or a song as she pulled a tab or opened a door; he'd embedded chips in the book like the ones in greeting cards. There were no photographs; this was a book of memory, not an archive. Everything in this book he’d created for this book, made to tell this story. Martha was struck over and over and over again at this other self of John’s, so fantastically alien, so sadly human.

She knew that the other Martha’s story was in this book, as was Rose’s, and maybe even a bit of John’s, but she refrained from digging into those for the moment. She was interested in the page without a picture, the one he’d hurried over before dashing into the kitchen. She’d only seen two words on the page, and when she’d uttered them, his face had gone pale, and she could see him struggling with a lump in his throat. She took a sip of the wine and turned to the pages she sought.

Martha was so engrossed in her reading that she didn’t notice him peeking out the door. He knew what she’d gone to the book to find, and while he hadn’t wanted to talk about this quite yet, he was glad of it. He tried to let the cooking take his mind from what she might be thinking.

In the book, the Time War happens on two unremarkable pages. They are fixed, a fact in a book of flux, and the details are spartan and bare. She tried to fill in the blanks herself, but his words gave her no space to maneuver, no option to play with possibility. It was a solid mass of immovable information. She looked back at the face that had gone into war; the Doctor seemed handsome, dashing, and romantic. But war and romance, while they work well in imaginings, don't do so well in reality, and when she closed the book she was surprised that her eyes felt so empty, every tear having rolled down her cheeks as she’d read and reread the sparse text on the page. He’d done what she couldn't dream, had borne what she couldn't imagine, and nothing that John had done or said before could have prepared her. All the sacrifices he'd made, all the pain he'd felt and caused. It cut her just to read about the war, and she could imagine the ache in that beautiful face as the Doctor realized what had to be done, what he must do, and what the whole of space and time would be like when it was finished. Always the last, resigned to a life of running—to nothing.

She thought back to that conversation they’d had, only a few days ago, a lifetime ago. If these were his memories, this book the sum total of what John carried into his current existence, what would he become?

She took another drink from the glass and looked at the paper again. She hadn't noticed before, but there were more than words on the page. The lamplight cast sidelong shadows, and she could see that the pages were textured throughout. She gently ran her fingers along the paper, trying to sort out the pattern, but found it too complex, too irregular. She went to her backpack and got a piece of paper and a pencil. She placed the paper over the upper left corner of the page, then rubbed the pencil over the paper; a face emerged. Continued rubbing revealed more faces with strange symbols beneath them—names, perhaps, in the language of Gallifrey?—and she knew that these pages were a headstone. She traced their faces with her fingertip. Death, love, and sacrifice, and in the end there's only an etching, a memory, a relief. Martha felt, in what she knew could only be the smallest way, the Doctor’s loneliness, and she thought of John abandoned in a parallel world on a beach. He’d been separated from the only thing left of the world he might have claimed as his home, his own, and he’d been left there by the last of his people.

She closed her eyes, a hollow ache filling her chest as she tried to imagine that ocean of pain, sorrow, and loss. It was too big—she couldn’t contain it—and she thought her heart might break from trying, but she wanted to understand. She was startled when she felt his hands taking the book from hers, then sad when he sat on the floor next to the chair and placed his head on her lap. She stroked his hair gently, and though he didn’t make a sound, she felt his tears dampening her jeans.

I’m sorry

What for? You didn’t kill them, you didn’t end it, you didn’t leave--

No, she interrupted. I’m sorry for suggesting that you didn’t share his feelings. You carry the memories of everything he’s done, and you can’t turn those memories over without feeling the weight of them. I was insensitive. I’m sorry.

She could feel him shielding his mind, and though her natural impulse was to be hurt by the exclusion, she knew that he needed to be able to think privately.

“He only has memories too,” he finally said, his voice barely above a whisper. “After the war he changed again—couldn’t look at the same face—and the memories were so hard to bear.”

Martha continued to stroke his hair while she took another sip of the wine, the rich liquid bracing her. John looked up as she leaned to replace the glass on the table. “May I?”

She handed the glass to him, and he emptied it in one long draught before rising. He motioned for her to stand, then replaced her in the chair before gently pulling her to sit on his lap. She rested her head on his shoulder, and as he stroked her hair, he showed her what was on his mind.

She stepped out a door onto a beach, cold damp wind whipping around her. Jackie was there, as was Rose, the Doctor, and a woman she’d never seen, but knew was named Donna. Hands in trouser pockets, she strolled, inhaling the breeze and feeling the bliss of being and living.

His words surprised her, the Doctor’s voice biting out “genocide,” and she was hurt that he couldn’t understand why she'd done it, until it became clear that she was meant to stay, to stay and be with Rose, to be for Rose what the Doctor could never be. She thought “I can do this. I can be this. I can love her and have her.” She whispered in Rose’s ear, she kissed Rose’s lips, and she felt Rose running toward the Doctor as the wind groaned.


Martha blinked as she came out of his memory, then pulled back to survey his face. His eyes were closed tightly, and she kissed each eyelid in turn before returning her head to his shoulder.

“They left me, Martha. They both did. They just left me there. He was so angry and I didn’t understand. And she didn’t want me. None of them wanted me.” He was silent for a moment, his mind again shielded. She could sense his hesitation as he moved his arms, vacillating between wrapping them around her and resting them on the arms of the chair. He finally placed his right hand at her waist while resting the left on the smooth leather. “I understand about Rose—that's long done—but the Doctor and Donna, they left me. Why didn’t they want me?”

Martha wasn’t sure what all of the words meant, and she wasn't certain who Donna was, but she knew enough of the story to piece things together. She put her arms around him and held him close.

“I don’t know about Donna—you’ve never told me about her—“ she began slowly, as though she were still making up her mind to speak the words, “but I think that maybe the Doctor had been the last for so long that he didn’t know what to do with the first.”

John closed his eyes and nodded before burying his face in her shoulder as he held her tight. His grief, heavy at first, grew lighter and softer as Martha’s words dissipated, and he felt the relief of having someone give name to your private sorrow. When he’d quieted, he sniffed a bit, then settled back in the chair while he studied Martha’s face.

“I felt you.” His voice was soft, but strong and clear. “In the kitchen—I could feel you trying to connect to what he and I felt.” He smiled at the confused look on her face, then gently brushed her hair behind her ear. “You were projecting again. We’re going to have to figure out what that’s all about.”

She closed her eyes as his fingers traced the curve of her jaw before lightly stroking her lips. This was new, this idea that she could share an emotion from across the room, the thought of a scent from the opposite end of town, and she concentrated on sending him the smallest hint of her desire to fold him in her arms and love him.

“I feel you,” he exhaled, overwhelmed by the wave of her untrained embrace.

“I know you,” she replied, and he grinned wild and wide as he crushed his lips to hers.

The sound of the oven timer broke the moment, and they reluctantly rose to share the meal John had prepared. Before retiring to the bedroom, Martha had scribbled something on the wall, then joined him in bed, where she made love to him, celebrating the newness that was him, something no universe had seen, someone dear and special to her for being capable of embracing that change. After, as she relaxed, he returned to the kitchen and quickly washed up the dinner things. On his way back to the bedroom, his eyes fell on the book.

He’d intended for the book to tell her everything about him, but now he wondered if it said anything about him at all. The book told the Doctor’s story, and those memories John bore carried trace amounts of emotional attachment and physical knowledge. This new nervous system stretching through his body responded to Martha’s touch, his olfactory system to Martha’s smell, his tongue to the taste of her kisses. The body, the beautiful, flawed, fragile body knew things that the mind didn’t; the Doctor had gone through many bodies, and perhaps had forgot the ways in which his body had to draw new connections to the memories in his mind.

He returned the book to the safe, then turned out the lights in the flat after adding his own note to the wall. Martha was dozing in bed, and he noted with no small pleasure that she’d opted for another of his flannel pajama shirts. Her arms embraced his pillow and he indulged in the pleasure of watching the moonlight shimmer on her skin.

He marveled at her calm, at the way she’d handled everything thrown at her and still kept going. That resolve was nothing new—he remembered the other Martha’s capability and resolve too—but time and experience had made this Martha, his Martha, who she was, and he loved her for it all, even the dark spots he suspected were in the story of her research. He knew that life was messy—he had nearly 1000 years worth of memories to reinforce that knowledge—and he knew that Martha’s choices emanated from a heart and soul that desired only good.

Her words echoed in his mind—“the first”—such a change from that voice always whispering “the last” to him. Gallifrey was gone, the Doctor was gone, Rose was gone, and Donna—some things still were too raw—but he was here and something new. He hadn’t dared to think of himself as new, not since that day on the Crucible, and as he slipped into the bed next to Martha, he whispered his thanks to her for showing him how new he was.

She was eager to trade the pillow for his chest, and he could feel her gentle breathing warm against his skin. He wanted to wake her with kisses and caresses, but he knew there would be time for more loving and knowing and caring in the days and weeks to come. He pulled the bedding around them and kissed her forehead, smiling as she mumbled a sleepy “I know you” into his chest. Content in being known, he closed his eyes and fell asleep.




In the hallway the faintest outline of the drawings on the wall would be visible to the discerning eye, but only the most gifted with sight would see the conversation developing in the small history they’d begun just days before.

I’m falling.

I’ve fallen.

I know you.

We love.


Epilogue

The morning sun warmed his skin, and John smiled sleepily as Martha buried her face against his chest, hoping to ward off the light. He lazily stroked her hip, feeling himself stirring again at the memory of their evening together. It was 7:12 a.m., and for a moment he expected to hear Simon rustling about the flat, making preparations for breakfast and setting up the day’s work. He pulled Martha more tightly against his body when he remembered that Simon was gone now.

The sun was blinding, and while she had to meet her mother soon, he wanted Martha to get as much rest as possible—they’d both need it, and he was sad they didn’t have a few more days, at least, to hide out and recuperate before the circus that would govern the months ahead began. John gently pulled away from his lover, and walked to the window to draw the curtain closed.

Martha’s eyes could remain shut no longer, the sun’s light forcing her to wake. The bed was colder, and for a moment she was disoriented. John’s presence was becoming more and more familiar to her, and his absence was more jarring than the bright light. As her eyes adjusted, she saw him standing naked before the window, his body silhouetted by the morning sun. A grin played along her lips, until she realized that he wasn’t moving, his form almost rigid, his hands gripping the sides of the windowsill. She rose to join him, gently placing her hand at the small of his back so as not to surprise him out of his thought.

He placed his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close; Martha could hear his heart pounding in his chest. As she looked out over the city, hers began to match his rhythm.
“Blimey,” she gasped, “what—how—where? What’s happened?”

His response was slow and measured, a stark contrast to the increasing pace of his heartbeat. “I’m not entirely sure,” he replied, holding onto as well as holding her, “but I believe we’re in the fifty-first century.”


*************************
Martha & John will return late spring, but watch this space for a series of short fics about Simon's time with Mr. Smith.

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