Chapter Eight . . .
The Doctor arrived at the base of the Shakespeare Gardens in Central Park and began to carefully scan the beautiful, majestic area for the woman who had summoned him there. Very few people were about as it was late morning but when his eyes began to trail higher, they eventually came to rest on a solitary figure standing near the top of the stone pathway that led upward. He smiled once more at her mere presence and also at her choice in location. It was not only named for the bard they had visited on their first trip together but was also breathtakingly picturesque and quite secluded. He intently began to make his way up to join her as she watched on. She appeared to be in a thoughtful demeanor but when he had nearly made it to her side she began to move higher, briefly causing him alarm. He thought she might be having second thoughts until he noticed her find a vacant log bench which she soon made use of. He quickly joined her there and both sat staring down at the majesty of the blooms as well as the serenity it afforded.
The Doctor finally broke the silent reverie with his typical impish disposition, “So . . . Shakespeare Gardens then?”
Martha gave him a half smile, while still gazing out on the scene, “Yeah, I thought you’d appreciate that.”
“Indeed,” he said with a bit more subtly as a brief memory of their time back in 1599 passed between them.
Then there was another long silence before Martha began, “Look, I know we have a lot we need to discuss but before we do can I ask something of you?”
Without hesitation, the Time Lord replied, “Anything.”
“I need you to promise to be honest with me . . . no matter what. Can you do that?” she asked.
The Doctor paused briefly and studied her expectant expression. He had been trying to figure out how to explain his actions without causing her anymore undue pain but as he looked into her sincere eyes, he knew he could do nothing but honor her request and so softly he replied, “Yes I can.”
She sighed and turned her view back to the quiet gardens while she carefully measured her next words. Then with little warning she began, “Tell me everything about Rose.” She paused and caught, what she knew would be, his stunned gaze before she continued, “I want to know all of it. How you two met, the adventures you had, how she ended up in that parallel universe . . . “ she hesitated again, nervous about pressing further but remembering her vow to demand more from him this time as she concluded, “And why she was so special to you.”
The Doctor looked at his former companion in surprise and awe. He knew that they were going to have to discuss these things but to have her blatantly ask about it first thing put him off balance a bit. When they had traveled together he was always so good at shutting down whenever she tried to get to personal but he recognized that would no longer fly. Martha deserved to know about everything she was asking and he would have to suck it up and share it or risk her walking away from him again.
So with her eyes still intensely on him, he sighed deeply and quietly returned, “Alright. If that’s what you want.”
She only nodded this time giving him the floor and he promptly began his tale of a cherished companion and friend. He shared about how his previous incarnation had rescued Rose from an alien attack in the shop where she worked, how after they had dispatched with the threat that he had asked her to join him in the TARDIS. From there they shared numerous adventures that proved to bring them closer and closer and culminated in her taking the time vortex into herself to save him and, he, in turn taking it into himself to save her. He told of his eventual regeneration into the current Doctor because of that and the deepening of his bond with Rose after that.
He shared some of the adventures they had including their trip to New New York and their bout with homicidal Santa’s as well as them facing down the Daleks and Cybermen in what would turn out to be their last adventure together. He then solemnly recounted how after everything that happened on Canary Wharf that he and Rose had thought they would have the chance to continue their journey only to have her cruelly ripped from him as they attempted to dispose of the Daleks using the pull of the Void. Unfortunately, Rose, while trying to help, lost her grip and was sucked through as well, only being saved from floating in oblivion by her dad from the alternate reality. He recalled with emotionally thick monotones, resting his head against the wall that had moments before been a swirling vortex, hoping that somehow he could wake up from that nightmare.
He finally paused to see how Martha was reacting to all of this and noticed that she remained focused on him but with little emotion etched on her face. He thought about letting that be the ending but when he paused too long Martha narrowed her eyes as if to say go on and so he did. Closing his eyes both to focus and also to cover any residual emotion that might come he described to her the scene on the beach where he and Rose said an emotional goodbye. How he never got the chance to tell her how he felt before the Void closed, what he thought at the time, was for good. When he was done, he again found Martha’s gaze but this time it was clear she was affected.
“Martha . . . Rose was the first real contact I had after the Time War . . . she pulled me out of the darkest moment of my life. Losing her, the way I did, so soon after that I was so broken . . . I didn’t think I would ever fully recover,” he softly recounted.
Martha slowly rose and moved to a railing that overlooked the garden without a word. He remained seated a moment longer before finally joining her. He could see that he’d done the thing he wanted to avoid but she had asked for his honesty.
“Martha, I . . .”
She, though, cut him off, “I get it, Doctor. I do.” She paused and glanced over at him as she continued, “What I don’t get is why you never told me this. Did you think I wouldn’t understand or did you just enjoy watching me making a fool out of myself?”
The Doctor gritted his teeth, pushing down his reflex to become defensive. He knew from Martha’s perspective that was probably how it felt. So quietly, remembering his desire to help her heal, he tried to soothe, “That was never my intent.”
Martha eyed him for a bit, as if assessing his sincerity before sighing and returning her gaze to the garden, “I know . . . I know you didn’t intend to be cruel. I just . . . I just wish you could have been upfront with me, ya know? We could have saved each other a lot of grief and tension. If I had known . . .”
She paused for a long moment as if unsure how to complete that sentence. Would she have really given up on him had she known? Probably not, but she definitely would have handled things differently. Their gazes eventually drifted back to each other as she finally found the words to finish her thought, “If I had known the whole story maybe I wouldn’t have spent most of my time with you thinking I could never measure up. My confidences in my abilities and myself as a person were shaken, especially when you invoked Rose’s memory. I never considered myself a genius but I was always one of the smarter people in the room and by no means was I a supermodel but I never had trouble attracting the attention of the opposite sex but with you all that changed. Suddenly, I felt like nothing I was or did was up to par.”
She paused again and looked at him intently as she continued, “I hated that feeling and it took me a while after I left you to get over it . . . I won’t go back there, Doctor. I won’t.”
“Nor would I expect you to,” he quietly returned. He then turned and gave her a small smile, “You’re brilliant, Martha Jones. You always have been and I always knew it but I was just so caught up in my own stuff that I rarely took the time to acknowledge it.” He hesitated a moment before becoming a bit more solemn. “I thought about you and our time together a lot since you walked away. I wish I could say that I was just too thick to see how it was affecting you but that wouldn’t be the truth and you did ask for my honesty.” Martha only nodded in response so he continued, “I enjoyed the attention. The flirting and banter between us kept me from having to deal with everything that had happened. I knew it wasn’t fair to use you in that way but, initially, I figured we’d take a trip and that would be it but once you came aboard with your wonder and energy, I knew it wouldn’t just be one trip. Unfortunately, I also knew the flirting and tension would remain as well and because I was still refusing to face everything that came before we met, I continued to use you.”
He glanced away not ready to see her react to his words. Martha, for her part, was using everything in her not to show how much his revelation hurt. It wasn’t that it was a complete shock but still . . . This, though, is what she asked for, complete honesty, so she had no choice but to grin and bear it. When it became clear she was not going to respond, the Doctor looked back to her and could see he’d wounded her again. She was fidgeting and glancing everywhere but at him. He briefly thought to reach out to her and take one of her restless hands but resisted knowing there was more to tell.
So with a deep sigh, he went on, “But the more time we spent together I began to concede that it wasn’t just about attention but about you. You, Martha Jones, made me want to live again. Your exuberance and thirst for knowledge awakened the same in me again. Martha . . . my brilliant Dr. Jones, you are everything you ever thought you were and so much more and it never should have taken me so long to say so. Alas, I knew then that if I did there would be expectations of things I just couldn’t give, just like with Rose.”
Martha again resisted the urge to react. Instead she remained focused on the point at hand. “What things? What is it you think I wanted from you besides your respect and acknowledgement?”
“Come on, you know what I mean. Marriage, kids, a house in the city . . . what all human women want,” he smartly returned.
This time Martha did react. With an eye roll and a bit more volume, she retorted, “Blimey! You sound just like my mother.”
The Doctor looked genuinely hurt by her statement but Martha didn’t care. This right here was why she and her mother were barely speaking now and why she had left London. She was sick of the expectations.
“You think you know so much but for being the cleverest person in the universe, you can sure be clueless. Not every human female is running towards an alter or motherhood or any of the other things sprinting through your mind at the moment. Some of us are content to have a career we care about, good friends and possibly someone to spend time with. I’m tired of everyone painting me into a corner and telling me what I should want. You know the thing I wanted from you the most? It was just for you to see me . . . not as a replacement but as someone worthy to be your companion and friend. I don’t think that was too much to ask, do you?”
“Of course it isn’t but can you honestly tell me you never thought of those other things with me while we were together?” he softly replied.
Martha paused a beat before answering, “Maybe, a passing thought but I knew who you were. I knew you were different from any man I’d ever met and that who you are is tied to traveling through space and time. I would never expect you to give that up for me. What I did expect and deserve was to feel like what I do and who I am is appreciated and I honestly hardly ever felt that way when we were together.” She then sighed and turned to return to the bench they had shared earlier.
The Doctor turned and studied her for a long moment. Again, he knew she was right. He had been so tightfisted with his praise and awe for her that it was little wonder she’d finally had enough and walked away. He eventually rejoined her and stealthily took one of her hands into his. She looked down at their joined hands and then back into his earnest face as he sincerely said, “I’m sorry. For never saying it enough, for never showing you just how much you mattered to me. You sacrificed so much for me and if you thought for one instant that I didn’t appreciate it, all of it, I want you to know I always did.”
Martha held his gaze, as if searching for anything but the genuineness she felt emanating from him. When she didn’t, she gave him a soft smile of her own and quietly replied, “Thanks for that.”
Then just like old times, the two former companions gravitated into a warm hug. Both melted into the hold and seemed content to linger there for a while. Martha absorbed the feeling of his arms around her again while the Doctor immersed himself in the scents and warmth he had missed so much. It wasn’t until they were startled from their embrace by a barking dog coming towards them leading its owner that both loosened their hold.
Martha pulled back first and stared at him before asking, “So what happens now?”
His usual easygoing smile returned as he held her gaze and said, “Well, I was hoping that maybe you might consider rejoining me on the TARDIS.”
Martha’s wide eyed stare betrayed her shock instantly. “You want us to travel together again?”
“Why are you acting so surprised? I know we had our issues but we also had some great adventures and I would love to show you more of this universe.”
Martha was still in mild shock at the turn in conversation. One moment they were putting their issues to rest and the next he was asking her back. She felt like she was caught in a whirlwind.
“Doctor, I don’t know what to say.”
“Say yes and I promise you won’t regret it,” he returned with light squeeze of the hand he was still holding. Her first instinct was to do just that. To once again traverse the universe seemed like a distant fantasy come true but she quickly caught herself. She had meant what she said to him about not being the same person that followed him blindly the last time. With the Doctor, Martha had learned, one must often look before they leapt or be blindsided by something later. So gently she removed her hand from his and slowly rose once more.
Then looking down at him with deep emotion, she said, “I need time to think about this.”
The Doctor stood as well and with a smile that refused to waver, he retorted, “Then it’s lucky for you I’m a Time Lord.”
Martha couldn’t help but join him in that grin as she shook her head at his levity. Then with a bit more seriousness, he continued, “No pressure but while you thinking things over how about having a mini adventure right here on Earth.”
She narrowed her eyes suspiciously, “Go on.”
“I was thinking of a few things that are distinctively New York that I think you might enjoy,” he retorted.
He tapped her on the nose, “I guess you’ll just have to agree to join me to find out.”
Her own smile returned and with a playful retort of her own she replied, “Why, Doctor, are you asking me out?” She almost cringed the moment after the words left her mouth. Her mind immediately flashed back to the first and last time she made such a suggestion and wished she could take it back.
Much to her surprise, however, unlike last time, the Doctor didn’t deny or contradict her claim but instead retorted, “If I were would you accept?”
Martha’s smile fell slightly with surprise. Damn, she wasn’t expecting that. Again she was left perplexed by her encounter with the Time Lord. Neither said anything for a long minute before the Doctor decided to break the stalemate by lowering the stakes for them both.
“How about we just call it two good friends getting reacquainted while taking in the city?”
Martha hesitated just a second more before finally conceding, “Alright, let’s do it.”
His buoyant smile returned, “Smith and Jones ride again.”