Characters: Martha Jones, Rupert Giles
Spoilers: The Sound of Drums, Last of the Time Lords
Written For: chocfic Round II, February 10
Prompt: we might die tomorrow - during the year that never was, Martha gets some help from an old hand at apocalypses
Britpicked by: HistorianHeidi
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters or the world they live in.
The first thing Martha did after fleeing the Valiant—the absolute first thing, no matter what her heart cried out to do—was find a good hiding place. The whole plan would fall apart if she were killed, and there was no back-up plan, because this was the back-up plan. She’d never expected to actually have to use it; after more than a year of traveling with the Doctor she knew she was smart and strong and could save the day because she’d done it before. But this was bigger than anything she’d faced so far, and Martha couldn’t help but think that for something this big, wasn’t it the Doctor’s job to fix things? As she lay in the back of the crawl space she’d found, fighting the urge to go back to the Valiant for a frontal assault, she comforted herself by planning out, in her head, what she’d say to him the next time she saw him. Assuming there was a next time.
It wasn’t until she heard the first faint screams that she realised why she was concentrating so hard on planning her speech. Because whatever it was that was making people scream so loudly she could hear them all the way back in this space, behind steel and concrete and whatever else went into foundations, had her family. The Doctor and Jack knew how to take care of themselves; they’d both faced madmen before, faced danger, faced death, faced destruction, faced the end of the whole damn world. Her family—she loved them, knew they could be strong, but that was strong like normal people counted it, faced with normal things. Martha was the only one of them who had experience surviving the unsurvivable, and here she was running away while they were held by the Master, hostage to his whims.
She clenched her fists as tightly as she could, resisting the urge to emerge from her hiding place and either confront the Master or flee so far even he couldn’t find her. She cursed the darkness that surrounded her; she’d been grateful for it, on the way in, because it meant she didn’t have to see how filthy her surroundings were. But she needed to see what was going on outside; wondering was infinitely worse than knowing. Martha lay there until the screams had died down, then counted to 1,000 slowly—twice—before crawling out to the panel with the broken lock that led out to the alley-way, hidden by wheelie bins.
She glanced around, seeing no one, before checking that the Tardis key was secure under the guise of trying to wipe the worst of the grime off her clothes. The key was supposed to help people not notice her unless she wanted them to, but it was probably best to back that up by acting inconspicuously. Finally, she took a deep breath and straightened her shoulders, heading out of the alley. She had a story to tell.
Two days later, Martha was close to panic. To make the Doctor’s plan work, she had to make people really believe it, deep down. So far, she hadn’t even been able to get people to listen to her. Everyone was still in shock from the horrors of the Master’s rule enforced by the Toclafane, from the suddenness of it all. But Martha had the whole world to cover on foot and only a year to do it in, and she didn’t have the time to wait for people to get used to the new reality.
Most people stayed off the streets when possible, and she did, too, wary of the Toclafane, but she went from door to door trying to tell people what they needed to do to save the world. Most places didn’t answer, the family dead or fled, or just too scared to open the door to a stranger. She was escorted in quickly through those doors that did open, with a furtive glance up and down the street. And often escorted out again just as quickly, if they decided she was a nutter or something. She prayed the Master hadn’t taken the time yet to set up a network of informers; if he had, well, it certainly wouldn’t be hard to find her.
By the third day, she didn’t even know where she was, besides somewhere in England. A door opened, she stepped in, started her spiel; she didn’t even see the people she was talking to, any more, not really. It was only after she’d reached the end of it, and realized that she’d only ever been able to get through it all once or twice, that she really looked at him.
He was middle-aged, in good condition, brown hair starting to fade to grey. His eyes were green behind his glasses, and he was worn and tired but nothing like as devastated as everyone else she’d seen in the last few days had been. She was sitting on the couch in his living room across from him, old musty books scattered across every available surface around them, and he was giving her a look very similar to the one the Doctor had given her sometimes at the very beginning, the one she’d learned meant “can I trust her not to bend or break when the fate of the world is at stake?” It was so familiar she felt like crying, and she realized she hadn’t cried, yet. For her family, for the Doctor and Jack, for all the people killed by the Toclafane, for herself and her fears. She blinked, rapidly. If there was a chance of finally getting to someone, she couldn’t afford to blow it.
“Would you like some tea?” he asked.
“Tea?” she said stupidly.
“It will only take a minute to heat the water, if you’d like some,” he said. “I would. There’s something about a good cup of tea that makes unpleasant things much easier to deal with, don’t you agree?”
“Yes,” she said finally, “I’d love a cup of tea.”
“Good,” he said.
It wasn’t until the water was heated and the tea brewed and they’d both taken their first sip that he spoke again. “I take it this is your first apocalypse?”
“I—what?” Martha asked. She flushed, not liking to seem stupid, but it wasn’t the question she’d been expecting. But he was looking at her seriously, as if it were a completely normal sort of question. Which it was, for her, but not for most people who didn’t travel with the Doctor. She considered. Emergencies and potential disasters and worlds at stake, she knew; her home destroyed and on the verge of extinction was something far worse. “Yes. At least, the first one this bad.”
“Do you believe this plan of yours will work?” he asked, watching her calmly over the rim of his teacup.
He didn’t say a word, but lifted one eloquent eyebrow in disbelief.
“The Doctor says it will,” she said sturdily.
“And you trust the Doctor, obviously,” he said. It wasn’t a question. “But do you believe the plan itself will work? Most people don’t believe in psychic phenomena these days. Even with the proven existence of aliens.”
“Of course I believe it will work!” she protested, but he was right, the whole thing smacked of Deus Ex Machina and for all that the Doctor didn’t always seem to realize it, he wasn’t God. He couldn’t always make things work just because he wanted them to.
“I see,” he said, and she gritted her teeth. “But for this plan to work, you need to be so certain of it that you can make everyone else believe in it. Half your work is done for you; people are desperate, now, looking for something to cling to.” He said it matter-of-factly, like it was her first day working with patients and he was her advisor telling her how to act like a doctor. “Your Doctor could be that something. But that’s not enough. You need to be so certain they can see it in you, hear it in your voice. You need to believe in the Doctor, in his plan, so much so that you make it real for the people who listen when you tell the story. Be so certain that when they see you they see hope, see victory, even if it is an insane plan, and they will go out and make it happen. Because when you have nothing left, that kind of certainty will make … a world of difference.” He smiled, self-deprecatingly. “Take it from someone who has survived too many apocalypses.”
“You’ve experience with apocalypses?” Martha asked bemusedly.
“Unfortunately, yes,” he said. “Although it’s usually demons and occasional hell gods, not aliens; aliens quite took us all by surprise. It is good to know that someone is looking after the alien apocalypses, though; none of my books on demonology have been a help in the current circumstances, sadly.” He gave her a wry smile.
Startled, she gave a closer look to the nearest book; the cover was in a language she couldn’t identify, with a picture of a being she didn’t recognise on the cover. She’d assumed it was an alien, but given what she’d seen over the last year, were demons really such a stretch? “I suppose not,” she said, trying to return the smile and doing better at it than she’d have thought possible, an hour ago.
“Now, on to the practicalities,” he said. “My people can help spread the word, though as you know the Doctor and we don’t, you’ll obviously have to be the spearhead. We should be able to provide you with supplies at least some of the time. Also, we may be able to provide distractions, should you need them. We may even be able to teleport you from one continent to another, once or twice, though the Toclafane and their incursion have greatly disturbed all things mystical. I shouldn’t like to try it if there’s no other choice, but given the state of the planet’s infrastructure it may be the only way to reach the Americas. Have you a plan for where to go?”
“No,” Martha admitted, head spinning at the idea of having help. Of not being alone. “So far I’ve just been putting one foot in front of the other.”
He nodded. “Understandable, if only viable temporarily. Would you care for some assistance in plotting out your route?”
“Yes, please,” Martha said. Geography had never been her best subject in school, and she itched to figure out the details of her mission.
He rose and went to one of the many bookshelves that lined the room, pulling out what looked like atlases. She blinked. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t remember your name.”
He turned to smile at her. “Rupert Giles,” he said.
She smiled back. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mister Giles.”