Characters/Pairings: Ten/Martha, briefly mentions John Smith/Joan Redfern
Disclaimer: Definitely not mine
Summary: Snippets from 1969. Mutual manipulation. A bit dark.
The Future as Predicted by Richard Nixon
'Hm, space boots,' he says, mouth half-full with popcorn, 'the old style. I've missed those.'
It's 1969 and Apollo 11 is all over the place, all stations following Neil Armstrong as he imprints himself forever in moon dust.
Black and white telly at 4 am isn't quite his definition of live, but there's something electric about the event; even in their small London flat he can feel the air buzzing with energy, and it makes him giddy. Martha's grinning at him from the other end of the bed, and he realises he's been humming Space Oddity. It's good. It's fun. At least it's a bit of a change, and maybe this time they should have gone to Trafalgar Square, pick their song for the night and dance.
Richard Nixon's mouth on the screen is blurred and slightly out of sync, he's talking about peace and tranquility and the future, the future, the future; it's quite ironic, really, and the Doctor laughs. He wonders if she makes him watch it to remind him.
Their flat is ridiculously small, one room only, all wood panels and no curtains, with a lingering smell of lavender from the woman who lived and died in it. He remembers the excess of colour in Martha's flat and half-expected her to decorate, but maybe he's just thinking about Rose again.
She bought him pyjamas. He doesn't sleep, but that's not the point. It's odd, she says, to be the only one in the room wearing jim jams. He's beginning to feel claustrophobic and doesn't know if it's the flat, the time, or the planet that does it.
Nights are tricky. He spends the nights in bed with Martha, mainly because she needs to sleep and there isn't much he can do without waking her. And there's the fact that she likes it. He puts his arms around her for some empty comfort, some bits of hey, I'm the Doctor, I got us out of worse, and lets her fall asleep with her head on his chest. No harm done there, he feels he owes her something and it's all he can do.
(In 1969, humans still trust bodies over machines, and while his screwdriver doesn't work on anything, his body works so very well on hers.)
Sometimes, he dozes off from sheer boredom and dreams he's John Smith again. Sometimes, there's Joan, too, asking God for forgiveness before giving herself to him. Sometimes, there's Martha, licking popcorn butter off her fingers.
'Power corrupts,' she says and sounds a bit like Richard Nixon.
He wakes then, feeling her lie beside him, and wonders just how much his power over her corrupted him.
One morning, he catches a glimpse of a red balloon in the mirror. There's something in him that cannot forgive, and he's not entirely sure if it's John Smith.
When Martha comes home that day, he's put the bathroom mirror to a different use. He's building a telescope with it and some other things - old jars, a cereal bowl, several parts of the kitchen sink, and a sock. One of Martha's. The Doctor doesn't wear socks.
'It's not the best,' he says, carving the glass into shape with his screwdriver. 'Well, it's the best in this sector until 1977. Have a look.'
'There are no stars yet.'
'There are always stars. More, even. There's a crescent Venus that looks a bit like a second Moon from this angle, and Mercury is a tough one to spot... Copernicus never managed to, did you know that? Called it the greatest regret of his life.'
'I'm pretty sure Copernicus never worked double shifts in Soho.'
'No, I'm sorry,' she says, leaning against the panelled wall. 'My boss says no more jeans. I've got to wear a skirt now. One of those skirts.'
The night feels like early autumn and she lies close to him, sliding her fingers underneath his shirt just so.
He closes his eyes to the sensation of her fingertips on the small of his back, drawing fine lines and circles, and he wonders if there's a secret message in the figures, something she wants to tell him but never would. He knows he can't give her what she wants, is neither willing nor able to, but kisses her anyway, a bit without thinking, and it feels all sorts of awkward. It's not the way a beautiful young woman should be kissed, it doesn't say I want you, it's more like I don't mind so much, you know, or you were brilliant, get your consolation prize here. And she knows, oh this Martha Jones, she knows. In the dark he can see her, laughing quietly to herself, her eyes closed, and she turns around without a word. He bites his lips and resists the urge to run a hand through his hair, afraid of making any move at all.
'I'm sorry,' he mumbles, reaching for her elbow and then decides he maybe shouldn't touch her.
He wonders if she's crying.
She leaves early for work, and he spends the day wandering the streets, trying to recreate the sensation of travelling. It occurs to him, then, that he got it all wrong the night before. Martha doesn't cry. She snaps, she broods, she mediates, she fights like a madwoman, she smiles and she forgives, but she doesn't cry. And really, he's known it all along. A hospital full of screaming people, and he picks the one who smiles at the stars.
He picks her up at the shop when her shift ends, the skin on his nose peeling slightly from walking around all day in the sun.
'Let's go painting,' he says (and, oh, I need some money). He offers his arm and she takes it, smiling. Two of her co-workers are chatting by the door, ignoring Martha as she says goodbye.
'Not exactly Freedonia, aye?' he tries, but she doesn't laugh.
She presses him hard against the wall, into the drying paint, right where it says Love from the Doctor in his handwriting. Her fingernails leave fine red lines as she tears his shirt open, dragging her teeth across his neck and shoulders. He runs a hand along the curve of her waist and she stops him, grabbing his wrist so tightly he can feel his fingers go numb.
He knows. He knows what it's like to be an outsider and he tells her, says I'm so sorry, his lips brushing softly against Martha's forehead. He can feel her tremble a little just before she lets go of his wrist.
They walk home in silence. When he holds the door for her, she stops and picks an old piece of newspaper from his shoulder.
'Oh look,' she says, 'it's Richard Nixon.'
That night he loves her, really loves, kisses her like he means it, and tries not to think about the last time he lied to her so he could pretend.
He worships her body and betrays her anyway, his tongue between her thighs and his fingers inside her writing the names of stars and galaxies in languages that are dead. He leaves a trail of kisses on her body, mapping every taste, whispers her name like someone who's seen a single word cause whole universes into being, and feels her shudder against him. He thinks he should tell her. That he feels a little too human, occasionally. That sex will never be the same for him; more like an alien sport, really, a bit like Cricket, something that he might or might not pass on to a future regeneration. He should run his fingertips along her temples and show her what he really feels, time and space dancing in the back of his mind, and how little compares to that. He should tell her what he did to the Family of Blood, quietly in that little blue box of his, so she would not want him anymore. He doesn't. Instead, he kisses her, slides into her with his eyes squeezed shut and hopes at the very least she'll feel his friendship.
That night, he dreams of John Smith again.
When he wakes up, Martha is already out for work. His clothes from the day before lie neatly folded on her side of the bed, and there's a note on the table:
Meeting Billy today, just catching up a bit. Don't wait up.
He's beginning to fear that maybe, for once, he's going to be the one who gets left behind.