Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters: Martha; Jack, Mickey, Tom, Sarah Jane, Ianto, the Doctor
Word Count: 4300
Copyright: Title is a play on a song by Cole Porter. If you don’t know which… *sighs*
Summary: “I’m happy with the anti-climax,” Martha says, finally admitting it aloud.
Author’s Notes: Spoilers for the Who season four finale. I don’t want anyone to come crying at me because I ruined [bits of] it for them. And tiny spoilers for the Torchwood S2 finale, though they were in Who so it’s not utterly major. Martha & Sarah Jane should totally be best friends, it would be so sweet (and once again yay for Luke/Clyde hints). Love & kisses to wiki, the only website I could get onto at work to help me double check finale plot details.
Come on now little darling
We’ll see how brave you are.
“I kind of want a coffee,” Jack decides, head tipped back to appreciate the sunlight. “Think Ianto will make me one?”
“You should abuse your employees less,” Martha suggests, without much conviction.
Mickey Smith has one arm around Martha’s shoulders and one arm around Jack’s, and Martha barely knows him and it doesn’t matter because the Doctor somehow brings people together. Sometimes, it’s not for the best of reasons or occasions, but it does help make instant, desperate friendships.
“He likes it,” Jack drawls.
Mickey groans, laughing, and Martha shakes her head.
“I don’t want to know any more,” she informs him firmly.
“You never sent me a UNIT beret,” Jack reminds her.
“I didn’t want to encourage you.”
“He doesn’t need encouraging,” Mickey snickers.
Martha grins at him. “I think I’m going to like you,” she decides.
Mickey grins back, though there’s an edge in his eyes. It’s that look you get when you’ve forever walked away from something that you think maybe you shouldn’t have walked away from, though you’re resolute now. Martha had it in her expression for weeks, once upon a time.
“Coming to Cardiff, Martha?” Jack asks brightly, though it’s possible he’s sensing the awkwardness in the air and is trying to diffuse it. The regret mingles with the relief reasonably well, but it’s still there.
“I have to go home,” she replies, buying herself some time.
“I’m not letting you off the hook,” Jack warns. He wraps an arm around Mickey. “Looks like it’s just you and me then, Mickey my man.”
“If I’m ever going to work with you, we’re laying down some ground rules,” Mickey warns, though there is slight discomfort under his laughter.
The poor sod isn’t going to know what’s hit him when he walks into Torchwood Three.
When Martha finally gets back to the flat, Tom has returned from Africa. He pulls her close and can’t stop murmuring fuck against her hair, and she closes her eyes and squeezes him back.
“I was so scared for you,” he admits quietly, and their home is a mess, everything on the floor from the earth’s constant movements.
“You couldn’t have been safe either,” Martha reminds him.
“But this is what you do,” Tom says. “I knew you’d be right in the middle of everything, like you always are.”
“I’m sorry,” Martha offers, and it sounds tired and weak.
“I still have to get used to it,” Tom replies, attempting a smile.
Martha doesn’t ask if he thinks that he ever can get used to the fact she’ll always be there, right at the heart of every form of destruction. She’s not sure she can stand to hear the answer, and anyway, at that moment, Tish calls. It’s a welcome distraction.
The Doctor texts her, a simple message: Don’t contact Donna.
If he can’t even speak to her, whatever’s happened to Donna must be bad. Martha contemplates texting back, asking for details, when she gets another message.
She doesn’t remember any of it. And she’ll die if you remind her.
Martha bows her head, a sigh escaping her mouth.
Do you want to talk about it?
It takes a while for the reply to come.
By that, Martha infers he actually means not ever. It’s kind of to be expected.
Sarah Jane makes her coffee. Martha sits at the kitchen table and isn’t entirely sure why she’s here, but Harriet Jones put together the subwave network for a reason, and it seems a good idea for them all to stay in touch. Just in case. Upstairs, Sarah Jane’s son and his best friend are doing whatever it is that teenage boys do in their bedrooms with the door firmly shut, and the street is quiet. It seems that normality has returned to Bannerman Road more quickly than it has to other places.
“Something’s on your mind,” Sarah Jane says, passing Martha a mug and sitting down too. Martha opens her mouth to protest, but Sarah Jane just raises an eyebrow. “I am a journalist,” she points out, “And I have a teenage son. You can’t get anything past me.”
Martha smiles. She’s kind of AWOL from UNIT right now, but it was one of those afternoons when things are more difficult to cope with than usual. The first thing she could think of was calling Sarah Jane; they’ve only known each other a week or so, but shared experience means that that doesn’t actually matter.
“Really?” she asks, raising an eyebrow. “Nothing at all?”
Sarah Jane smiles, eyes twinkling slightly. “Well, for one thing, I happen to know that my son is well on the way to getting his first boyfriend.”
“Oh.” Martha did have those kind of suspicions herself, but then she thought that maybe it was just the Torchwood mindset she can’t quite seem to shake. “Jack will be so proud,” she adds.
“Jack is not coming anywhere near my son,” Sarah Jane says firmly, but she’s grinning.
“He’s very…” Martha attempts to find a suitable adjective for Jack that will make him seem responsible, but although she can think of a dozen ways to describe the captain, she can’t think of anything that will make him sound like someone you’d want coming near your apparently open-minded child.
“Yes,” Sarah Jane agrees. “I dread to think of some of the things he could tell my son. Luke’s incredibly impressionable, you know.”
Martha smiles. “I think you’re a very good mother,” she informs Sarah Jane.
“That’s what made it so easy,” Sarah Jane replies. When Martha frowns, she continues: “Leaving again. Walking out of the Tardis and away from the Doctor.” She fixes Martha with a firm stare, letting her know that she’s aware exactly what’s been preying on Martha’s mind for the last few days.
Martha looks down at her hands. “You’re good,” she murmurs a little shakily.
“Yes, I am.” Sarah Jane doesn’t sound proud about it; just matter-of-fact. “We all have something now,” she adds. “Something more that makes the idea of not travelling with the Doctor seem bearable.”
“I’m happy with the anti-climax,” Martha says, finally admitting it aloud. It’s been bothering her since she first made her choice, but she hoped that if she never fully acknowledged it, it wouldn’t matter.
“This isn’t the anti-climax,” Sarah Jane tells her firmly. “We’ve got what the Doctor can’t have, and we’re still right here, saving the planet a piece at a time. It really isn’t second best.”
Martha cocks her head to one side. “You really believe that, don’t you?”
Sarah Jane smiles, a little sadly. “I do. But don’t worry; it took me a while to get there too.”
Midnight, Martha wakes up screaming from a nightmare. She’s never done this before, never, managing to suppress the Master’s year of terror, the Sontarans and the Hath, and the myriad atrocities she’s witnessed in her time. But not now.
Tom crushes her against his chest, cradling her like a child as she sobs unashamedly against his neck, while he makes soft noises of comfort in his throat. Martha can’t tell him what’s wrong and never will; while she’s ignored things like security clearance to give him the truth about everything, she can’t tell him this.
In her dream, the Osterhagen Key slipped into its lock, and her own hands ripped the world into thirty-two separate pieces.
“So,” Mickey laughs down a phoneline; it’s two a.m and Martha just wants to sleep, “When are you coming to join us?”
Martha thinks about Torchwood, and Owen who was alive until he wasn’t and who then just became complicated, and wonders if she can step into his shoes without feeling guilty. She didn’t kill him the second time, but she remains convinced that she killed him the first time.
“I don’t know,” she replies, trying to keep uncertainty from her tone.
“Well hurry up, would you?” Mickey says. “I need to be around someone who’s not trying to sleep with Captain Smartarse.”
Martha thinks that she hears Jack in the background saying actually, that’s Captain ReallyGreatAss, and can’t help a small smile.
“Gwen’s married,” she says.
“Someone should tell her that,” Mickey remarks.
“I really don’t know when I’m coming to Torchwood,” Martha mutters after a moment. “I think I still need time.”
She just isn’t sure what to do with it.
“Can I ask you something, Martha?” her mother asks one wet Wednesday afternoon.
“Of course.” Martha smiles at her in an attempt at encouragement.
“What was the Osterhagen Key?”
They had blazing rows when Martha was a kid, all the time, disagreeing on every little thing. Her mother is an amazingly strong woman, but she’s so sharp, so determined. Tish was the one sneaking out of the house with her skirts rolled up and wearing too much black mascara, and Leo just used to hide out in his room with his headphones on while mum and dad yelled at each other. Martha was the one who looked after the family, though this responsibility just served to make the rift forming between her and her mother run deeper. They’ve always loved each other, but understanding each other? That’s a whole different matter.
At least the Master’s year of destruction fixed something.
“Just a stupid idea,” Martha replies, avoiding the question as best she can. “Just someone’s bad dream.”
The Rift has been behaving itself since it was used as a metaphorical towrope to get the Earth home, and Jack comes up to London to take Martha out for afternoon tea. It’s the kind of old-fashioned thing that really appeals to him. She’s once again skipping work with UNIT, but sooner or later she’s just going to walk out on them.
“Tell me everything,” Jack says, pouring Martha a cup of tea and pushing cakes towards her.
So she does. She tells Jack about teleporting to the schloss, about the German woman’s advice, about the terrified people at the other Osterhagen stations. She confesses her nightmares and the fact that really, for a minute, she could have done it. She’d psyched herself up to pull the world to pieces and she would honestly have gone through with it.
Jack listens in sympathetic silence; although everyone says that he’s as self-absorbed as they come, it’s not entirely true.
“Say something,” Martha says, wiping hastily at her eyes.
“I’ve just got one question,” Jack tells her calmly.
Martha grits her teeth, steeling herself for admitting whatever truth it is Jack wants from her.
Jack breaks out into his matinee idol grin. “Since when do you speak German?”
“How do you feel about Cardiff?” she asks Tom over stir-fry one night.
“Are you transferring to Torchwood?” he responds, tone so neutral that she can’t tell what he’s actually feeling.
Martha twirls beansprouts through the tines of her fork, unable to look him in the eye.
“I’m thinking about it,” she admits. “I don’t think I can stay with UNIT much longer.”
Tom reaches across their tiny dining table to take her left hand in his, warm fingers against her palm, thumb stroking delicately against her wrist.
“What did they make you do?” he asks quietly.
Martha smiles, and feels nauseous as she does so. “It’s not that,” she begins.
“Something’s broken you,” Tom replies determinedly, though his hand on hers is still so gentle, and his voice is soft, not accusing. “You don’t go to work half the time, you’re not sleeping, you’re having nightmares so bad you wake up crying. Please, Martha, talk to me.”
Over time, she’s told Tom everything. About travelling a burning world with one story on her lips, about Owen Harper, who couldn’t stay alive and couldn’t stay dead, about travelling with the Doctor until she walked away. But she can’t tell Tom about the Osterhagen Key and the decision that she was so prepared to make. He can’t know about her willingness to sacrifice the Earth and everyone on it; and he can’t know that she was even capable of ripping the world apart.
“UNIT’s cold,” she says instead. “Torchwood won’t be any safer, but at least I trust the people.”
Tom lets go of her hand and turns back to his cooling dinner. He seems disappointed, but Martha’s happiness with him depends on him not looking at her with that look in his eyes; the one that the Doctor gave her as she held up the metal Key and threatened Davros with it. She needs Tom not to look at her knowing that she’s Martha Jones, the girl who was willing to destroy the world.
“Cardiff it is, then,” he says after a moment; at least his smile is warm and genuine.
The house is quiet, and Sarah Jane brings iced tea out into her back garden.
“Luke’s out with Clyde,” she explains when Martha glances around them. Martha raises an eyebrow and Sarah Jane laughs, nodding. “I don’t know whether to be proud or terrified,” she admits.
“Call Ianto,” Martha suggests. “Jack will just scare you more, but I think Ianto will be reassuring.”
“It was only a few weeks ago,” Sarah Jane sighs, tipping her head back to stare at the sky, blue but with scattered clouds. It’ll probably rain later; this is England, after all, and for all that it’s a cliché, it’s perfectly true that a good storm is always around the corner. “A few weeks ago the Daleks stole this planet and were set to turn the whole universe to dust. And now everything’s back to normal, as though it never happened.”
“Well,” Martha concedes, smiling, “Whatever passes for normal around here, anyway.”
Sarah Jane looks at her, narrowing shrewd eyes. “One day,” she says, “I hope you’ll come to see me because you just want a chat.”
That’ll probably be around the time Martha learns to sleep through the night without waking up in terrified sweats, though that’s a conversation to have with Jack, or possibly just never.
“The Doctor’s disappointed in us, isn’t he?” she says, and it comes out flat. “Me with my nuclear warheads, Rose with her giant guns, you and Jack and that explosive star.”
“I’m as against weaponry as anyone,” Sarah Jane tells her, “I don’t want Luke unnecessarily exposed to guns, that’s not what I want him to learn about the world. But what the Doctor doesn’t understand is that we’re not him. We’re just people and that can be the best thing in the universe, but when it comes to defending ourselves we don’t have that capacity to forgive. And we only have one life, and we’re less willing to risk it.”
“I don’t want him to be disappointed in me,” Martha admits. She knows that she’s not the medical student who met him on the moon and sometimes she thinks he hates that; hates who she’s become.
“I think he’s more disappointed in himself,” Sarah Jane replies after a long moment of silence.
“It’s not his fault!” Martha exclaims quickly, though after a moment she rethinks the statement and isn’t so sure. Sarah Jane just looks down at her hands, a funny little smile tugging at her mouth. Martha sighs heavily. It’s a nice afternoon and she’s got so many fears and memories that she just doesn’t know how to deal with any more.
“Do you know everything?” she asks, only half-joking.
“I wish I did,” Sarah Jane laughs.
Martha grins. “You’re too modest,” she remarks.
Sarah Jane just winks.
Osterhagen shot himself on an autumn afternoon. He left what have I done written on a piece of torn-out notepaper, and blood on the floor. He lives on in the damned project that UNIT seems almost proud of, proud of what they’re capable of achieving.
When Martha hands in her notice, she gives back her lab and her gun and her uniform and her security clearance, purging her life of something that once seemed like the only answer and now makes her sick to her stomach.
“And the Osterhagen Key?”
Martha shrugs in a would-be casual sort of way.
“I must’ve lost it,” she lies.
She tunes out the shouting on how it’s Earth’s best form of defence, that they must always have that last resort, and instead suggests that maybe UNIT pour some money into finding a defence project that doesn’t involve blowing the Earth apart.
She does, however, steal a red beret on her way out. It seems the right thing to do.
Ianto manages to get Tom a job in the hospital in Cardiff, and Martha assures him that he’ll enjoy himself because people are always getting themselves attacked by Weevils and so on, which means there are all sorts of interesting injuries to treat. Tom rolls his eyes at her, but at least he smiles.
Packing up their flat takes a depressingly short amount of time, and Ianto has also procured a new flat in Cardiff for them, with great views and a couple of spare bedrooms to fit in Martha’s family when they inevitably come to visit.
It’s another wet afternoon when Martha’s driving home from Ikea, the back of her car full of extra furniture for transporting down to Cardiff. She and Tom are having fun with her new Torchwood credit card, and although Martha knows that it’s shameless abuse of her privileges, she doesn’t care.
Stuck in traffic, Martha turns up the radio a little, windscreen wipers smearing water across the glass. She stares at them, half-hypnotised, and therefore almost misses the woman hurrying down the street. Vivid red hair, a bent black umbrella, talking animatedly into a mobile phone in spite of the pouring rain.
Martha’s wound the window halfway down before she remembers, and manages to swallow down her shout of Donna! before she does any real damage. Instead, she winds the window up again and turns off the radio, sitting in silence in the car and silently mourning the pain of coincidence.
The first thing Martha does when they finally get to Cardiff is to get Tom to drive them around the Bay to a nice quiet spot. She fumbles in her bag for the small plastic box she retrieved from Germany when things were still kind of fluid and she still had the teleportation device, and gets out of the car. Tom follows her, and together they stand and look down at the water.
“What is that?” Tom asks, looking at the box in her hands and the metal object inside.
“It’s called the Osterhagen Key,” Martha explains.
“What does it do?”
“Now? Nothing.” Martha opens the box. “I’m going to make sure of that,” she adds, mostly to herself.
“What did it do?” Tom continues, voice soft and reverential.
“It doesn’t matter any more,” Martha murmurs, and it’s going to take a while for him to trust her again but she can’t and won’t tell him the truth. Instead, she draws her arm back and throws the key as far as she can. It plops into the water and sinks without trace. It’s not going to bring a complete end to the Osterhagen Project, but it’s a start. Martha’s done her bit, and it’s out of her hands now.
“Hey,” Tom whispers, turning her to face him. Martha smiles, mouth trembling, and shuts her eyes. They stand together for a long moment, and Martha can feel the tears of guilt and relief and remembrance seeping out from under her closed lids. Tom presses his mouth against her wet cheeks, and she’s so relieved that he exists, so damn relieved, that she tips her head back a little and kisses him properly. His lips are damp and taste like salt, but stood there, the wind whipping off the water and sliding through them both, she finally begins to feel alive again.
It’s a start.
“Where’s my teleportation device?” Jack demands when she walks into the Hub.
Martha rolls her eyes, but smiles as Ianto hurries across to her and presses a mug of coffee into her hand.
“I kind of agree with the Doctor; you’d only abuse a fully-functioning teleportation device. So I gave it back to UNIT,” she says in a long-suffering tone. “It is theirs, after all.”
“So you didn’t steal me any good stuff?” Jack looks almost hurt.
“UNIT would have noticed,” Martha points out. “And they know where I’ve gone; they’d only have sent a load of soldiers down here to get it back. Which wouldn’t have been fun for anyone.”
“No presents?” Jack is starting to sound like a whiny child, a pout settling over his mouth.
“Well,” Martha smirks, “Since you’ve been such a good boy…”
She opens her bag and throws him the red beret she took. It’s kind of disturbing the way Jack’s whole face lights up, a wicked grin stealing across his lips.
A few feet away, Ianto stops handing morning coffee to Mickey and Gwen, and stares in consternation at the beret. “Oh dear God,” he says.
Martha thinks that she could quite enjoy working full-time for Torchwood.
“I liked Rose,” she offers to Mickey.
He smiles ruefully, a trace of bitterness in his eyes. “So did I,” he replies quietly. “Then the Doctor came along, and suddenly I wasn’t enough. None of it was enough.”
“I’m sorry,” Martha offers, though it was never her fault.
“Yeah.” Mickey sighs. “Fuck it,” he decides under his breath.
“I expected to hate her,” Martha confesses. “The Doctor was never over her. I wasn’t enough. No matter what I did, it didn’t seem to matter, because I wasn’t Rose.”
“I was never the Doctor,” Mickey says.
They give each other the tainted smiles of the second-best; though they’re both just about over it, it’s taken a while.
“But I met her,” Martha continues after a moment of reshuffling her emotions, “And we didn’t have this huge bitch fight, which is kind of what I expected would happen.”
“I was holding out for naked mud wrestling,” Jack calls, as he heads past.
“That’s because you’re depraved,” Martha yells after him. She turns back to Mickey. “But she liked me and I liked her and we hugged and now I feel I can’t hate her any more.”
“She’s a great woman,” Mickey mumbles, as though it still stings somewhere along the line to even admit it. “You shouldn’t hate her.”
They laugh awkwardly, shared experience from both sides joining them together.
“Maybe trying to claw each other’s eyes out would’ve been easier,” Martha suggests. She’s not entirely sure how she feels about this new level of maturity.
Martha’s phone rings when she’s on a train up to London to see her family and Sarah Jane (and maybe Donna, at the end of a street; but she won’t ever admit it, because she’s not supposed to be doing that). A couple of months down the line, and she’s sleeping better, and she and Tom have started to really plan their wedding. She’s loving her anti-climax, she really is.
“Martha!” the Doctor sounds overexcited as always, voice bright and clear.
“Doctor.” She smiles, the smile that only he can provoke, leaning her forehead against the window. “How are you?”
“…Ok,” he replies. “I’m ok. Aren’t I always?”
“Good.” Martha worried about him from time to time, though she couldn’t work out when would be a reasonable time to call and check on him; when would be too soon to a nine-hundred-year-old Time Lord already well-acquainted with loss.
“How are you?” The Doctor almost sounds awkward, though Martha dismisses that as a trick of the phoneline or something.
“I’m good,” she says. “I’m working for Torchwood now, with Mickey. I go to Sarah Jane when I need advice. And Tom and I are planning the wedding. You’ll be there, right?”
“Wouldn’t miss it,” the Doctor tells her brightly, which Martha takes to mean that he will miss it, but he won’t mean to, which is very nearly ok with her. “…So you’ve all connected,” he begins after a moment.
“Well,” Martha says easily, “Who else knows you like we do? Who else will understand?”
“And you’re ok?” The Doctor sounds genuinely concerned now, which is sweet. Really, really sweet. “The Osterhagen Key-”
“I got rid of it,” Martha explains quickly.
“I know the way your mind works,” the Doctor says firmly. “I know what you must’ve been thinking…”
“I’m ok,” Martha assures him. “I’m getting there, anyway.”
She thinks about Tom and Jack and Mickey and Sarah Jane and Ianto and Gwen and her mum and her dad and Tish and Leo, and all the people who’ve slowly but surely helped her put her mind at rest, even if they didn’t know they were doing it at the time. Martha has had so many people to talk to, to laugh with, to cry with. The Doctor hasn’t had anyone, and she aches for him.
“What about you?” she asks. The first time she walked away, she didn’t even think about him, she was so caught up in her own personal trauma. The second time she walked away, he had Donna. But the third time, she’s still worrying about him. About how alone he must be.
“I’m all right,” he sighs. There’s a long pause which says everything that needs to be said. “Martha…” the Doctor begins.
“Yeah?” The carriage is nearly empty, and quiet. Martha presses the phone harder against her ear.
“I am… I am proud of you,” the Doctor admits so quietly that she almost doesn’t hear him. “Of all of you. I know I don’t always seem it, but… I am proud.”
Martha can’t find her voice. She swallows thickly, and manages to smile.