Title: A Matter of Perspective
Fandom: Doctor Who
Character(s): Martha Jones
Prompt: Sometimes, it isn't aliens.
Word Count: 2005
Author's Notes: ctorres , I really hope you like this. I'd been wanting to write Martha fic based on these two episodes long before I got your prompt, so thanks for giving me the perfect oppurtunity to do so. A big thanks also totheepiccek for the beta.
Summary: But here’s the thing: what scares Martha the most about the Family of Blood is that they look so human.
Sometimes, it isn’t aliens.
The Doctor says that aliens ruin the world. Martha knows there’s a kind of personal history that needs to be considered with these things – the destruction of Gallifrey and the loss of Rose, a long timeline of despair that all stems back to them. Martha understands that; everyone has their own personal history with these things. The Doctor’s is just longer than most.
But here’s the thing: what scares Martha the most about the Family of Blood is that they look so human. They look like everyone else, just another family with their features molded into distaste, but worse: they look like people she once knew. They look like Baines and Jenny, and just like John Smith who’s not really John Smith but the Doctor; she can see the truth escaping. Somewhere beneath the leer and the change in speech, Martha can still see the Jenny who’d comforted her, once. We’ll never know what the future will hold, she’d said. I don’t see why you get so hung up on what’s coming Martha, instead of what’s happening.
At the time, Martha had scoffed. Now, she knows the truth – time is dangerous, travelling not in a straight line but round in circles and sometimes she can’t see around the bend. Sometimes, she can’t see what’s straight ahead. Aliens might cause roadblocks, tearing at stitches in the fabric of time, but it’s always the humans left blind sighted. Like New New York and Shakespeare and 2007, it’s humans who make things worse for themselves. John Smith is no exception, and that’s the thing that hurts the most.
Everyone here is so fragile, and so dangerous, the best and worst of human nature all at once. There are people – no, boys – laughing and fighting and the thing that pains her is that they don’t understand the danger of it all. Their faces blur in front of her, laughing, mocking, and she smiles back with a strange sort of pity. They don’t understand that sometimes, people die, and that sometimes, the world isn’t as carefree and innocent as it seems. They don’t understand the things Martha’s seen.
It’s 1913 and war brims on the horizon, but they all seem so contented. Sometimes, Martha thinks knowing the future’s a blessing. Other times, it’s simply a curse.
In fact, in the future, this will ruin her. In 2007, she’s seen the scars from an adventure she never knew, even if it happened so long ago. In 2007, she’s braver, wiser, a woman on her way to become a doctor, to helping people, saving them. Sometimes, she wonders if she chose that path for all the people who died before, from aliens like this, but then she laughs – from everything the Doctor taught her, one of the things she remembers the most is that she can’t control time anymore than she could control disasters or love.
The history books will talk of the Doctor and Joan and the brave boys who went to war like they were paper dolls – delicate, and ready to be broken. They will speak of boys who became men, and as Timothy runs through the class, textbook in hand, Martha realises – they are the future, but she doesn’t want them to grow up. The Doctor’s right about some things – aliens have changed her, twisted her features without completely varying them. She’s the same as she always was, but she’s different too. In some ways, that’s scarier than the actual presence of aliens – the fact that they can have such a profound effect on her, one that lasts so long.
These people from this era, they will speak of her with disdain, the black girl with the black hands and how dare anyone suggest she was a doctor, she will be a doctor? Her name will curl under the tongue of those who remember her; it will sound like white-hot fire from those who will live to tell the stories of the strange maid who went crazy over a stopwatch, crazy over a man; she went crazy and it was because she was black. That will be the defining moment of a past she wasn’t even supposed to have, and it makes her sad to see what a difference time can make.
She wishes that she could stop blaming them – it’s not like they know any better. But she comes from a world where it’s not quite the same, and time leaves marked differences on them that she can’t quite explain. Prejudice isn’t a new thing, but there are different rules now. In 2007, there will be anti-discrimination legislation and equal pay and people will talk of the day in history when everybody’s rights became the same. They will speak of it as an intangible thing, wistful sighs and wouldn’t it be something, time spread out in front of them like the horizon, melting into the hills. Martha, she’s seen that day and despite all the hope for the future, there’s still a hint of sadness, simmering just beneath the surface.
Maybe this is why the Doctor didn’t include her in his list of rules; he didn’t expect racism anymore than he expected to fall in love. It makes her sad, his naïve view of the world, so travelled and yet so blind. She likes the way he sees the best in human nature, but she also hates it – the Doctor’s a contradiction and she can’t understand him. Martha likes tangible things, the number of bones in a hand and the right amount of garlic to put in pasta sauce, things she can make sense of.
The part that makes her scream: the fact that she trusted him. Contrary to popular belief, she didn’t trust him because she loved him, but because he was the Doctor, passionate and crazy and so easy to believe in. He’d seen the furthest reaches of the universe and still managed to reach out to her, believe in her, make her feel like she was safe.
He made her feel safe, and then he was gone. There’s something to be said for the unfairness of it all, having him so close, yet so far away.
“Martha,” he says, about a week after they arrive. “I need your help.”
She sighs – the last time he said this was a week ago and now she’s a black maid in 1913 with a war on the way.
“What?” she says. “Anything you need. Sir.”
The obedience shames her. 1913 will leave scars on her that won’t fade until long after they leave.
“I’ve been having the strangest dreams,” he says. “I need you to notify Matron in case there’s a remedy.”
A remedy – it all seems so simple, like a disease he can cure. She’d be good at that, she thinks, and he doesn’t even recognise it.
“What are the dreams about?” she asks, before she can stop herself. The Doctor frowns curiously and Martha remembers there’s a reason she supposed to think before she says these things.
“Strange, impossible things. There’s a flying police box, Martha. A police box. That flies. Isn’t that amazing?” They both check themselves, the Doctor containing his wonder in compartments of his mind he never used to have. Martha chokes back a sigh of relief; the he looks at her curiously as she gulps. Even now, he can sense how she feels. It makes her sad – he’s so different and yet so the same. The memories prove it.
“Get Matron, Martha. I don’t pay you to stand around all day and do nothing, so go get Joan.”
“But sir, they’re just dreams. They can’t hurt you – maybe you should just enjoy them.”
“They feel…” he pauses again. “They feel too real.” Like magnets, he’s still attracted to her in a way he shouldn’t be, something just beneath the surface reaching out to a girl he shouldn’t want to confide in at all. There’s something that brings them together, defying the laws of history as she tries to make sense of all this. Maybe the thing under the surface is the Doctor, the real Doctor, just bursting to break free. Or maybe she’s just reading too much into this.
“Maybe,” she says, pretending not to think about it too much. “Just maybe, they are.”
“I still think I should see Matron.”
She feels sick to her stomach. It’s not jealousy, but more the fact that, for the first time in history, Martha finds herself truly alone.
She keeps the TARDIS key around her neck. In times like this, she finds herself irresistibly drawn to it, like she was once drawn to medicine and once drawn to the Doctor, the individual parts of herself gravitating towards a higher power. The forces at work inside her body amaze her, the way they push and pull, backwards and forwards, with a strange kind of control. If the Doctor were here, she thinks, he’d be able to explain it, long twisting sentences and run-on adjectives in a voice like the world was on fire. There’s something intangible about his presence that she misses – he’s still has the run on sentences and the strange little inane facts and he still eats bananas and jam on toast for breakfast, and maybe all that’s missing is the spark. All that’s missing is the fire that raged in him, the uncontrollable burning, the thing that makes him not John Smith but the Doctor, a Time Lord with an infectious grin and two hearts.
But maybe what’s tangible is just a case of perspective, she thinks. Once, tangible meant the number of bones in a hand and the click-click of shoes in the hospital corridor at night, the smell of old textbooks and two-minute noodles, bubbling over in the microwave. Now it means time travel and paradoxes and the thought that, if she doesn’t save the Doctor, the world will end.
The sad part is that she’s not sure which perspective she prefers.
“I’m going home,” she tells Jenny, before Jenny becomes Mother-of-Theirs, her speech peppered with a strange distaste so unlike her own. “I’m going home, Jenny, I’m going home.” There’s a strange kind of sadness in Martha’s voice – she doesn’t really know what home means anymore.
“You’ve said that a thousand times, Martha Jones, but you’ve never actually mentioned where home is.”
“Far, far away.” She leaves it at that – if John Smith can have his secrets, then surely she can too. Home is something she can’t explain these days. It’s just a word, something she uses to create boundaries when the excitement of travelling becomes too much, when she has those rare moments where she realises she can’t travel with the Doctor forever, no matter what she’d like to believe.
But, if the Family of Blood get their way, she’ll never go home. If they never stop chasing the Doctor, never give in, she’ll be trapped here, caught between two worlds – the one she’s come to know too well and the one she wants too much.
It’s all her fault – Martha became too attached to these people, too caught up in their worries and her fear about the war ahead, and she forgot to do her job. She forgot that it was less about watching John Smith kiss Joan with a wistful sigh and watching Timothy run from his tormentors. She forgot that it was less about watching the world and hating what it had done to her, and more about saving it.
Suddenly, she realises: sometimes, it isn’t aliens that ruin in the world. Sometimes, it’s humans themselves. Sometimes, people just need to change their perspective.