for [livejournal.com profile] charloft: Friendship

Jan. 13th, 2009 08:08 pm
martha_jones: ([text] the year that never was)
[personal profile] martha_jones
Ministers spread the Word. They go from place to place, person to person and tell them what they know of the Word and give others the belief they need to continue living. It requires persistence, patience, and unwavering faith.

In that way, Martha is a minister. Only the Word Martha spreads is "Doctor" and her congregation is the whole of humanity.

And right now, she's spreading the word of the Doctor to a huddled group of survivors in a bunker in Australia.

Above them, nuclear fallout is destroying what was left of their country. Children sit motherless in a circle at her feet, families hold small ceremonies before radioactive bodies are unceremoniously thrown from the shelter.

If Martha's faith wasn't so strong, if she wasn't so certain, then she isn't sure she could keep telling the story she's telling.

"And then, right when the Bard himself couldn't figure out what to say, the Doctor exclaimed 'Expelliarmus!' which just so happened to fit into the rhyme perfectly---"

The kids at her feet whoop with excitement. There's a copy of Harry Potter somewhere between them and they've all taken turns reading it to each other since Martha found it above and brought it down.

The kids love this story about Shakespeare and the witches. The parents love it, too, and Martha's had her tellings of lines corrected so often she's gotten used to saying it wrong, just to make sure her audience is truly listening. Sure, she's removed herself from the climax of the story, but that makes the Doctor more of a hero. And what they need right now is a hero.

She's learned a lot about telling stories. Martha was never the storyteller of her group of friends, she often left that position to her eternally-in-P.R. sister. Tish always knew where to raise her hands and where to pause for drama. When she first started telling her stories, she would imagine she was her sister and the stories would come out as a fairly bad parody of Tish's usual performances.

But people need the stories. Even now, crammed in the basement of an elementary school, they're all listening. They all need this.

"And when the countdown comes around, that's when you need to call out to him. He's there, he'll come and save everyone."

"Even my mom?" One little boy asks. Martha remembers watching them toss his mother's deformed body out of the shelter two days earlier.

"Everyone," she promises.

Almost everyone nods, desperate for some hope. Almost everyone, as one woman makes a rather loud harrumph at Martha's words.

It's a very tall, very thin woman. Her hair is a huge mass of red curls and her face is set in a scowl. Martha imagines the woman might've been pretty once, but now she's just angry. Martha's seen a lot of angry people in her time; she knows what it's like when they interrupt her stories.

First thing they do is accuse her of lying.

"This is idiotic," the woman says. "Nothing like that could've happened."

Then, Martha counters.

"I bet you would've said the same thing about an alien invasion."

Then, they say---

"That's not the same thing!"

Then, Martha says---

"How isn't it the same thing?"

It's all pre-processed. Everyone's begging for the same hope, everyone's hurting in the same way. They're all the same human refugees, just different locations. Martha watches people cry, babies cling to their mothers, and young people fall in love. It makes her feel both very big and very small all at the same time.

"You're telling us that he's going to give us some sort of a miracle." This isn't normally what they say, but it's something Martha can deal with.

"Yes." It's a simple enough answer. It's something Martha has to believe. And she does. Of course she does. The Doctor's never failed her. He won't now, either.

"I stopped believing in miracles the moment the bombs started falling," the woman says. She turns away and starts back towards the sleeping areas.

There's a rustle of commotion. Martha's not sure what she's supposed to say, but she can't give comfort to everyone. She has to do what she does for the greater good. Because where she's sitting now, it's all about the greater good.

Martha gives the children a smile and shoos them away. They run off to play with broken toys (which would be the only toys one might find in the basement of an elementary school).

"Excuse her," one of the principals, who has become a default leader of the group, says, stepping forward. "She just lost her mother. They were very close."

Martha nods. "Who is she?"

"Elsie Jovanka. Used to be a math teacher here." He shakes his head. "It's harder for us than it would be in London, Miss Jones. We were all sleeping when the Toclafane dropped."

"A lot of people were sleeping," Martha says. "In more ways than one."

"But when the Toclafane---"

Martha sighs. "That's not what they are," she says.

"What are they?"

She doesn't know. Not yet. She will, though. One day, she'll walk right up to Saxon---he's not her Master---and spit what she knows in his face.

A little girl in the hospital-area of the basement cries out and Martha rushes over to her. She's a storyteller and a minister, but she's a doctor, first and foremost.

*~

She's also, occasionally, a peacekeeper.

400 people crammed into a basement with a max-capacity of 150 is enough to cause anyone claustrophobia. Some people, especially the children, take the tight grouping well. They cling to each other for support and sleep on each other for warmth like dozing ferrets.

Others fight.

They can't strike out at Saxon and they can't strike out at the bomb that's kept them trapped here for two weeks, so they strike out at each other. Martha steps between two teenage boys and one of them shoves her over. Her wrist makes an unpleasant snapping noise as she falls, but when she picks herself up the room is silent.

No one meant to hurt the great Martha Jones.

None of the school nurses survived, so Elsie ends up with the job to set and wrap Martha's wrist. Martha needs it wrapped tight, it has to heal quickly. She can't go to the next place with an injury like this. She can't show weakness.

"Quit squirming. We've all got at least another two weeks down here 'fore the radiation's low enough to even go outside for a few minutes." Elsie snorts, then gives another tug on the wrap. "Blimey. Hero-types are all fidgety, aren't you?"

Elsie, now that Martha can see her properly, is in her early thirties. Clear green eyes framed by feathery red lashes and all that hair, like a mane on a lion. She's even thinner up close, but her cheeks are splashed with freckles and she has the look of someone who loves to run out in the Australian sun. The Australian sun that's blacked out with a cloud of radioactive ash, now.

"Stop that."

"What?"

"Staring." Elsie ties a knot in the wrap and pulls out some tape. "All the makeup's been gone for months, now. I manage with what I've got."

Martha snorts out a half-laugh. "You're always in such a cheerful mood."

"World's gone to shit, in case you didn't notice. I've got nothing to be cheerful about. No hope, no clean water, no bloody mascara. And I won't have none of your Doctor shit, either. No doctor never did me any good."

"He's different." Martha says. She looks over to the doors, the ones that have a great big notepad with the number of days until anyone can go outside. Two weeks and one day. There's not enough time in this year to waste in a nuclear fallout shelter.

"Yeah, yeah, he's different. Heard the same thing from my best mate, Joey, about the bloke she wanted to take her to the Harvest ball."

Elsie sounds serious, but Martha can't help but laugh. The sentiment isn't too far away from her own, she supposes. After all, the Doctor has always been that one she can't have, the one just out of reach. He's her bloke-who-won't-take-her-to-the-Harvest-Ball. She'll have to remind him to put that on a namebadge.

Elsie looks at Martha as though she's got five heads, but the laugh is apparently infectious because that stone-wall expression starts to crack, just slightly. After a moment, she laughs, too. The situation is just ridiculous enough.

It feels good, to laugh.

There isn't enough laughing in this world, now.

Elsie pats Martha's shoulder and nods. "They're waiting for you to tell another story."

*~

There's more laughter between Elsie and Martha as the time goes by. Elsie has the mathematical skills Martha lacks, and together they work on creating water-pully systems to get the fresh water collected in the bins on one end of the basement to the hospital area on the other.

Horrible things happen to the people down here, but human nature prevails. Martha makes a friend. It's a bittersweet feeling, because Martha knows she can't take Elsie with her when she leaves. So, while they're here, they connect. They talk, they laugh. For all the terrible things that are happening above them, Martha's shoulders feel lighter.

Elsie still won't listen when Martha tells her stories of the Doctor, though. The stories remind her of the bedtime stories her mother used to tell her when she was young. Martha imagines a very small Elsie with that very big Australian accent giggling and pointing and making obnoxious commentary about her mother's stories. Of fantastic worlds and time travel and billions of other things that were gone with her mother's death.

So Elsie grabs one of the books Martha brought and hides away, those words taking her away from the life they're in.

"He has saved your lives so many times, but he never stays, never asks for thanks. He doesn't need thanks, he just wants to help everyone." Martha smiles at the people---more each time---listening to her story. This is a speech she's said many times, coming off the tale of 1969 and the brave human Sally and how the Doctor knew it was going to happen.

"I know him," she says. "I love him." It's a fact she's long since admitted to herself. It's far beyond a schoolgirl crush, far beyond a simply bloke-she-wanted-to-take-her-to-the-Harvest-Ball. She truly, genuinely loves him.

And the people here, their eyes shining with unfiltered desperation, they all love him just a little bit, too.

She goes back to her sleeping area, leaving the people to sit around and talk. This is how most of her stories are spread: talking. Humans never stop sharing information. The Doctor's message will get out.

If only Martha could know, for a fact, that he was still alive. The longer she stays in one place, the more she worries that he isn't. The more her faith in herself crumbles. Maybe that's why the Doctor doesn't stay in one place. He moves on because staying in one place means thinking about what might happen next.

"They love you, you know," Elsie says, leaning against the wall.

Martha shakes her head. "They love the Doctor. And they should. He's going to save them." They never love Martha. They'll shoot the messenger, but she's only a voice. The Doctor is the one they need.

"It's you," Elsie says. "You give them all a reason to fight. You hand the whole stinking world hope like it's candy in your pocket. Don't you see that?"

Martha looks away, over to the cracked concrete wall adorned with children's drawings. Two children have drawn pictures of a blue box with a man coming out of it holding hands with Harry Potter.

"It's him," she says. "The Doctor."

"You're so certain," Elsie shakes her head. "How can you be so certain?"

"I've seen him save the world from worse," she says, and she checks the binding on her wrist before finding a blanket to wrap up with. "He'll do it again."

Elsie nods. "I believe you."

"He will."

"No." Elsie's voice is firm. "Martha, I believe you."

Martha turns, and Elsie isn't leaning against the wall anymore. She's standing there, arms spread apart, open and vulnerable.

Martha smiles.

Elsie smiles back.

It's enough to renew Martha's faith, just for a little while.

*~

It's four days until the doors open to the outside. Four days, that's all that's left. Four days, and suddenly sixty people drop within twenty-four hours. Radiation poisoning. Some hot particle somewhere in the basement. Forty children and most of the teachers. They search the basement and eventually they find the Harry Potter books had radioactive ash in the covers.

And no one loved those books more than the children. Except, maybe, for Elsie. Desperate to listen to anything but Martha's stories, she'd kept the books close at all times, reading them during the stories, finding places to hide and read.

And somehow, to the people here, it isn't Martha's fault. She couldn't have known, she was only trying to help. The Doctor will save them.

It isn't Martha's fault to anyone, except Martha.

The radiation illness is acute. She's been poisoned for so long it's impossible to reverse. Martha can't do anything. She can't do anything but put a rag to Elsie's mouth and drip stale water to her cracked lips.

Elsie puts a pale hand onto Martha's and tries, desperately, to smile. For a woman who tried so hard to keep herself cold as ice, it's strange to see her struggle to smile. She coughs and cries out and Martha knows it hurts.

The term for this deterioration is "predictable". It's listed in all the medical books Martha's ever read on the subject. Her internal organs are shutting down and internal bleeding is causing her body to go septic. She's dying and it's painful and hard and it's happening so fast because it's been happening all along.

And predictable in that Martha should've seen it coming. She can never make a friend here, not without Saxon's work destroying them.

"Won't the book banning communities have a field day with this one?" Elsie asks.

"I think Saxon made sure they were the first to go."

"Can't hate him for everything, then."

"Yes, I can." Martha can hate Saxon as long as he's alive. And she will.

Elsie nods, then tilts her head a little. "Tell me a story about the Doctor," she asks, and her voice is very small and very young with that big accent and it sounds exactly like Martha imagined it would.

Martha bites her lip and nods. There are so many stories she's told these last few weeks, but there's one she's kept to herself. It's the story of the hospital intern who went back to 1913 and saved a man from losing himself. It's not a story she can write herself out of, so she doesn't tell it often. But she tells it to Elise.

Elsie looks up at Martha with such devotion, such utter adoration. It's not for the Doctor. It's for Martha, and that hurts. It hurts because now that she has it, she doesn't want it. She doesn't want to feel loved. Being loved means being hurt because there's not much time left.

It isn't until Elsie wipes Martha's cheek that she realizes she's been crying. She doesn't cry anymore, she promised herself she wouldn't cry anymore. She hates crying, she hates the weakness. She hates the pain and the effort.

"Don't cry," Elsie tells her

"I'm not," Martha lies, and it's a very bad lie considering the hiccupping and sniffling behind it. There's no heart monitor in this hospital, just Martha's finger on Elsie's pulse, feeling as it slows. Slows. Slows.

Elsie nods, and her head lolls limply. "There's nothing to be afraid of," she says, her voice quiet, very nearly a whisper. "The Doctor will save us."

Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 2,687
For [livejournal.com profile] handysparehand who has been requesting The-Year-That-Never-Was ficlets

Date: 2009-01-14 01:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] handysparehand.livejournal.com
OHGOD. I love this. You made me cry. I love how you used Tegan's daughter for this. Also, again, CRYING. Thank you so much for writing this <3333333

Date: 2009-01-14 02:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ambitious-woman.livejournal.com
Dude that was hard and sad and wrong and I hate you a little. :(

Date: 2009-01-14 03:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] savagestime.livejournal.com
I think the story was beautiful and, sad as it is, not without hope. "You hand the whole stinking world hope like it's candy in your pocket" is the perfect line because even as terrible as the ending is, it ends in faith and hope.

OOC

Date: 2009-01-14 04:50 pm (UTC)
ext_145631: (Default)
From: [identity profile] shot-my-shoes.livejournal.com
That's so horrible and so sad.

Date: 2009-01-15 06:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alien-catcher.livejournal.com
Add me to the list of people you made cry!

It is so sad, but at the same time so wonderful, only because we know they succeed. I just love this perspective on Martha, and I love her whole role in the "ministry." Just such a nice, heartbreaking look into the Year that Never Happened. Really, just a gorgeous job here. And kudos too, for having such a colourful supporting character in Elsie!
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