Chapter Ten . . .
The Doctor stood anxiously behind Martha as they prepared to enter her mother’s home. After their ‘date’ Martha had finally called her family and let them know she was fine and would be coming home in a day or so. Francine was full of questions but Martha promised to explain everything when she arrived. So after receiving a promise from her mum to have the whole family there when she arrived, Martha begged off. She then asked a favor of the Doctor that he was very reluctant to acquiesce.
Martha walked into the TARDIS console room hesitantly. He looked up from the monitor as she came towards him and could immediately see she was anxious. He figured it was because they were planning to return to London later that day. He gave her a reassuring smile as she made it to his side and softly said, “It will be OK. They’ll be so happy to see you the other stuff will be minor.”
Martha gave him a smirk, “This is my mum were talking about.”
His grin brightened, “Alright, maybe a bit more than minor but not more important than having you back home.”
“Even if it’s only for a visit before I’m off with you?” she apprehensively returned. He just nodded at her assessment this time.
She sighed and then continued, “Doctor, there’s something I want to ask you but I know how you generally feel about it so I’m not sure if I should.”
He lightly nudged her and replied, “Try me.”
She turned and looked up at him and slowly began, “I am nervous about seeing my family and it would help calm me if I had at least one person, or Time Lord, there with me.”
The Doctor instantly cringed at the suggestion. It wasn’t just that he was dreading the exchange with her mother but it was just against his nature to become so involved in human domesticity.
“Martha, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Your mum and I have a tentative truce at best. My being there will probably be more of a hindrance than a help.”
“I don’t believe that. If you’re there it will show them that this time is different, that this isn’t some spur of the moment decision but one we both have come to thoughtfully,” she passionately replied.
“Martha . . .”
But she cut back in, “I promise you won’t have to say anything.”
“Then why do I need to be there?” he returned.
Martha stood before him and gingerly placed her hands on his chest before looking up into his eyes and quietly stating, “Because I need you there.”
He gazed into her eyes for a long moment and saw the meaning of her words there. He’d asked so much of her when they were together and now she was asking something, relatively small, of him. Could he really say no? He sighed quietly and placed his hands on her shoulders as he replied, “Okay . . . for you.”
She gave him a brilliant smile, “Thank you.”
He pulled her into a warm embrace which he savored while also realizing he was changing more and more for her and not minding nearly as much as he thought he would.
Now as the pair was poised to face her family, he could see she was right about needing him. Even from behind he could see how tense she was. He gently rested his hands on her shoulders and lightly squeezed. She briefly turned back to him and gave a smile of gratitude. Then with as much resolve as she could muster, she took in a deep breath and rang the doorbell.
After all the hugs and smiles had died down, Martha sat across from her concerned family members and attempted to explain why she handled things the way that she did. She went through her whole thought process for them and attempted to explain that it wasn’t her trying to punish them but her trying to figure out what to do with the rest of her life. Francine, of course, was the first to sound off when she was done.
“But, Sweetheart, why didn’t just come and talk to us . . . to me?”
Martha sighed, “If you recall, you and I haven’t been seeing eye to eye on much of late. There were just some things I needed to figure out on my own.”
Her sister Tish finally joined in, “And did you?”
Martha paused and looked into the eyes of each of her family members before resolutely replying, “Yes.”
“So . . . don’t leave us in suspense,” Leo tweaked.
Martha gave her first smile since their reunion, “I realized that running from who I am is not the answer. I needed to face the things that pushed me to this point and now I understand that its ok for me to say no and step back when the situation calls for it. For so long, I’ve always looked out for everyone else and forgot about me but I feel like it’s now time for me to reverse that . . .” She paused briefly and continued, “I’ve decided to go back to doing what I do best, helping others the best way I know how.”
This pronouncement brought a smile from her brood and her father finally spoke up, “Does that mean you’re going back to your work as a physician?”
“Yes . . . but not in the way that you’re thinking.”
Her mom furrowed her brow, “What do you mean?”
This time Martha inhaled deeply and threw a quick glance over at the Doctor, who sat at her side on the loveseat. He’d been quiet throughout the exchange but he now offered her a small smile of encouragement as she turned back to the group and dropped her bomb, “I plan to continue to use my skills wherever they are needed, be it here on Earth or elsewhere in the universe.”
Everyone immediately caught her meaning but, always one for stating the obvious, Leo spelled it out. “So you’re going back on the road?” He offered with a nod towards the Doctor.
Martha nodded, “The Doctor asked me to rejoin him in his travels and I have decided to take him up on it.”
The quiet shock of her admission was quickly broken by her mother rising abruptly and harshly replying, “That’s ridiculous!”
Eyes rose all around with Martha being more shocked than she expected she would be by her mother’s reaction. Her father reached out to try and soothe her but Francine would not be denied. Looking down at her middle child, she spoke as coolly as she had the day they had their last major row, “You can’t be serious. After everything, you would go back to that life? If it weren’t for everything you went through the last time you went along for a ride with him, you wouldn’t have felt the need to disappear.”
She shook her head, “I just don’t know you anymore, Martha. You are not the child I raised. You’re willing to throw away everything you’ve worked so hard for to follow after some alien that probably sees you as nothing more than a pet.”
The Doctor tensed at her accusation and finally attempted to speak up, “Mrs. Jones . . .”
Francine, though, cut him off, “You stay out of this! I knew I shouldn’t have trusted you but I won’t be making that mistake again.”
She then turned her gaze back to her daughter, “Martha, don’t do this. Please.”
Martha closed her eyes briefly trying to find her own voice before returning her stare to her mother, “Mum . . .”
But Francine could see in those same eyes that her mind was already made up and she threw her hands up in frustration and defeat, “Fine. Do whatever you want.” She then turned and stormed out of the room much to everyone’s dismay.
Martha rose and looked from the Doctor to her father and siblings, “I better go talk to her.”
They all nodded and she quickly followed after her mother. Meanwhile the tension in the room was briefly broken by Tish’s cell ringing. She looked at the id and noticed it was her job and so she excused herself to take it, leaving the men alone.
Clive and Leo eyed the Doctor closely now and the Time Lord began to recall all of the reasons he didn’t do domestic, with a major reason being the situation he found himself in now. He then sighed inwardly at his thoughts because he recognized that was beginning to change because of Martha. Though this was anything but pleasant or easy, for her he was willing to endure whatever was coming. And not unexpectedly the eldest Jones turned his questions to him.
“So you and Martha are planning to travel together again?” Clive asked.
The Doctor nodded, “Mr. Jones, I understand your and Mrs. Jones’s concern. What I do is inherently dangerous but Martha is very capable of taking care of herself and I will always do my best to keep her safe.”
Clive inhaled, “I know what my daughter is capable of but I’ve also glimpsed what your life is like and that concerns me. You say you’ll try to keep her safe but there are no guarantees and as my wife, rather rudely, pointed out while Martha may just be another human to you to carry around for a spot, she is our daughter and a sister and her life is immeasurable to us.”
“You’re right, there are no guarantees but that’s true in regular life too. And as far as how I view your daughter, she isn’t, and has never been, a pet or some human I’ve asked along out of boredom. Martha is one of the most brilliant, amazing people I’ve ever known and also one of the most forgiving. She and I have fought through some of our own demons and I trust her implicitly and I would lay down my lives for her if it was necessary. No, I can’t make promises but I can swear to you that I will do everything in my power to keep her around and with me for as long as she wants.”
Both Clive and Leo seemed to study him intensely for a long moment before her brother calmly stated, “I believe you.”
Clive nodded his agreement. “So do I but I wouldn’t be much of a father if I didn’t press and also if I didn’t tell you that if my daughter is hurt senselessly while she’s with you, Francine’s wrath will only be a drop in the bucket.”
The Doctor held the patriarch’s gaze and could see he was dead serious and so equally as seriously he replied, “I would expect nothing less.”
The three men then turned their attention to the doorway that Martha and her mother walked through and Leo offered, “Now Martha just has to convince mum and were home free.”
He glance at the other two men, who each had on a smirk, before he joined them, “We could be here awhile.”
Inside the kitchen, Martha stood in the doorway watching her mother noisily wash dishes. She knew she would have the hardest time with this announcement but had hoped the time apart would have helped to cool some of the stress between them but that obviously was not the case. She sighed, as she knew this would not be an easy sell. Finally, though, she decided to break through the symphony of china and speak, “Mum . . .”
Francine paused her action but didn’t turn around. “Mum, please say something.”
She turned sharply and spoke in kind, “I don’t understand. You have so much potential . . . so much to offer the world but you would throw it all away so you can go following after him like some love sick puppy. I raised you better than that.”
Martha cut her mother a cool gaze, “That is not what this is. I’ll admit that the first time I went with him I had a bit of a crush but I’m not blindly following after the Doctor this time. I’m going in with my eyes wide open. This is about me and what I need.”
She sighed again before finding her way into a chair, “You always talk about my potential and promise but that was part of why I left. The weight of those expectations were starting to take a toll. The past few years I have felt like something was missing from my life. Yes, I had a promising career and people who cared about me but I realized while I was away that even those things could not fill the void I felt. I needed that feeling of discovery and the excitement of seeing and experiencing something new again. With the Doctor, I have an opportunity to rediscover that again and in the process help not just Earth but numerous other planets.”
Francine had joined her at the table as she more softly replied, “What about the people who need you here?”
“What about what I need?” she quickly retorted.
Martha reached across the table and covered one of her mother’s hands and was quite relived that she did not pull away.
“Don’t I, who have done everything that was expected of me, deserve the chance to do something that fulfills me and makes me happy?”
“But this? The last time nearly destroyed you . . . destroyed us all. Are you willing to risk that?”
Martha never even hesitated, “Life is too short to worry about what could happen. I’ve learned that embracing it is the only way to have real joy. Besides, I believe in the Doctor and know he won’t allow harm to come to me or anyone I care about if he can help it.”
“I wish I could share your faith but you’re my daughter and I can’t take that chance.”
Martha quietly returned, “I will always be your daughter, mum, but you have to let me live my life the way I see fit. Even if you can’t understand and accept my choices, can you at least respect that they are my choices to make?”
Francine looked away from her daughter’s gaze and blew out a breath of her own, “It doesn’t look like I have much of a choice myself.”
Martha squeezed the hand she’d been holding bringing her mother’s sights back to her before she softly implored, “Yes you do. You can respect my decision or not. My hope is that you choose the former because I would hate to feel like I couldn’t come home. I would also hate for us to part ways again in anger. I love you, mum, so much and I know, have always known, how much you love me. Can we hold on to that and let the other stuff work its self out?”
Francine finally reached out to her daughter, placing a gentle hand on her face, “Sweetheart, no matter what is going on you can always come home. And I definitely don’t want our last words to each other to be words of anger but you just have to understand that to me you will always be my baby and I will always be scared for you.”
She paused and gave a small smile, “But I also know you are a grown woman now and I have to let go . . . a little.”
Martha returned the smile, “So does that mean?”
“It means I’m still not happy about it but for your sake, I will try and support you decision,” her mum concluded.
Martha knew, for her mother, this was a big concession and she immediately showed her appreciation for it by reaching for her. Francine returned the gesture and the two women leaned in to a long overdue hug. As they held each other, the mother added one more thing, still concerned that it could be the last time, “I love you too, Martha . . . more than you could ever know.”