Fandom(s): Doctor Who
Characters: John Smith, Martha Jones
Word Count: 2014
Summary: While Martha is toiling over the result of his clumsiness, Mr. Smith collaborates on lessons with the languages teacher.
Prompt: #34 Not Enough
It amazed Martha how dirty a room could get in just one day. Her duties as Mr. Smith's maid were the same every day: bring him breakfast, set out his clothing, clean up his apartments (an office with a bed and a book room) once he left to teach his classes, bring him his tea in the afternoon, clean up his tea things, and turn down the bed and build up the fireplace in the evenings. And then once a week, do his laundry. It didn't sound like much when she signed up for it, because how much of a mess could one bachelor teacher make? Apparently quite a bit. She didn't realise he would be a product of his time and circumstances, the younger son of a genteel family, used to having servants and not noticing how much work he might be creating for her. He cared not if he scattered his papers about or left half of his hundreds of books piled on the table. He was absent-minded, which meant she might find a half-eaten apple drying out on a bottom shelf of the book room, and he was clumsy, as evidenced by the ink spill across the mahogany desk that she was currently scrubbing. To top it off, the infuriating man had left the ink to dry on the desk for a couple of hours before telling her. This was only the fifth day of her three-month tenure of serving as his maid. Her duties serving the school required more menial work and she knew she was lucky to have part of the day for the light work of serving Mr. Smith, but she swore, once the three months were over, she was going to let him have it.
The soapy water in her small pail was nearly black, so, grabbing it, she headed downstairs to the kitchens to refresh it. Upon returning, she was surprised to find the door to Mr. Smith's office wide open. The voices of two men drifted into the hallway.
"No, I do not see that any of these books are written in Latin." That was Mr. Smith's familiar tenor voice, speaking in a slow, pleasant, formal accent that Martha still found strange to her ears. "I daresay that it has been many decades, possibly centuries, since history lessons were conducted in Latin, anywhere in the kingdom."
"Oh, I'm not looking to teach in Latin." Martha didn't recognise the second speaker; she had so far met only two of the school's other teachers. "I believe that if a student can read something important in Latin, if he can engage with the subject matter, he will find the language itself will be learned much more easily. Much better than simply memorising words and tenses." Must be the languages teacher, she thought. She had not even seen him yet, as far as she knew.
"That is a fascinating concept, Hawkins. Using one subject to teach another. I should expect that the pupil, whilst reading in Latin, shall also find it easier to learn the history."
Although she was supposed to be cleaning the ink splotch, Martha knew what she'd be expected to do, with a guest in the room, and, depositing her soapy pail just outside the history teacher's door, she turned to run back downstairs.
Martha returned to Mr. Smith's room in ten minutes, carrying tea for two on a tray. Balancing it all on one hand, she knocked on the open door.
Standing in the book room with the other teacher, Mr. Smith turned towards her. "Come in." Seeing the tea things, he smiled approvingly. "Splendid, Martha! Care for some tea, Hawkins?" He nodded at his maid and his eyes flicked at the small table near the fireplace, where she was to deposit the tray.
"Yes, please. Thank you." Mr. Hawkins was a younger man with short sandy hair, a wide, freckled face, and enthusiastic gray eyes. Like Mr. Smith and all the other teachers at the Farringham School for Boys, he wore black academic robes over his suit. Mr. Smith motioned his fellow faculty member to one of the nearby chairs, then, after Mr. Hawkins had sat down, took his own seat on the other side of the table. Martha began pouring the tea as the men selected pastries.
"Please excuse the use of this awkward table. I had a bit of an accident with the inkwell this morning and my desk is currently quite sopping." Though embarrassed, Mr. Smith grinned at the humor of the situation.
"This is perfectly adequate." As Martha retrieved the pail and returned to scrubbing the ink stain, Mr. Hawkins resumed the interrupted conversation. "So, do you think that we could introduce some history readings in Latin?"
"I don't see why not," Mr. Smith replied after swallowing a bite of scone. Though I will have to beg your help. I don't know if I could write essays in proper Latin."
"I can certainly proofread your work. How much Latin do you know?"
Mr. Smith didn't answer right away, and the pause in the conversation made Martha look up at him. Teacup halfway to his mouth, he was staring at nothing, confusion on his face. "I don't rightly know."
Mr. Hawkins gave a short laugh. "Well, you must have studied some."
"Yes, I'm sure I did." Mr. Smith had that look on his face that Martha had seen far too many times in the last few days, when he started trying to remember something and got lost within himself. However, before Martha decided to try to help Mr. Smith, Mr. Hawkins spoke again.
Martha understood some of what he said only because of the number of Latin terms she'd had to learn in medical school, and she realised that with Mr. Smith hidden the way he was, the TARDIS' telepathic translator must not be working for her. Mr. Smith immediately answered, and while Martha continued her scrubbing, the two men shared a couple of minutes' conversation before returning to English.
Mr. Hawkins was wide-eyed in amazement. "Your Latin is impeccable! I've not heard such perfect grammar since I last spoke with my professor at university."
Mr. Smith seemed pleased, if still a bit confused. "I suppose I did study some."
"Such modesty! Your only true difficulty is pronunciation. With the strange way you pronounce the letters, I had some problems understanding you."
"Well." Mr. Smith drawled the word, then the next sentences burst from him. "Phonemes will shift, over the years, between groups of people, even due to geographical barriers. A language can sound completely different in just a century." The speed of his words and the shift in accent made Martha freeze her work in concern, and she dropped her rag and wiped her hands on her skirt. "Spoke like this with Pliny the Elder. Well, he was just Pliny at the time; his nephew hadn't been born yet."
Martha noted Mr. Hawkins' confusion as she darted over to the two men. "Mr. Smith, sir, shall I refresh your tea?" She distracted both men with the process of topping off their cups.
"Ah, yes, thank you, Martha." His speech was back to schoolteacher-normal.
Mr. Hawkins had obviously decided to dismiss the strange episode. "You have the most interesting sense of humor, Smith. I think, however, as long as we keep you to the writing and away from the speaking, there shouldn't be any problems. If you are willing, let us toast to our success!" They clinked teacups together and sipped. "I must say, you are a breath of fresh air after Davenport. He wouldn't even entertain the idea that there could be other methods of teaching."
Martha returned to the ink spill as Mr. Smith replied. "One must keep an open mind. We are shaping a whole new generation of fine young men, after all."
"Exactly! Farringham is fantastically lucky to have got you, Smith. With Davenport suddenly leaving less than a month into the school year, we had thought all the talented teachers to be employed and that we would only have the unemployable as applicants. And to have you apply and arrive at the school only three days after we'd advertised the position!" He leaned forward over the table. "If I may ask, how did you come to be available for employment at such an odd time?"
Continuing to scrub, Martha glanced up at Mr. Smith, and she could see the confusion setting in again. What was wrong? The TARDIS had given him an identity, as an experienced boys' school teacher. Why couldn't he answer such a simple question? Then it hit her: he had an identity, but no life, no history, no memory. As a person, from birth until seven days ago, Mr. Smith was a blank slate except for a few fabricated "facts." He wouldn't be able to answer this question, and she hoped she could creditably fill in the holes.
"Oh, Mr. Smith," she interjected as she dropped the rag and bustled over to the table. "I'm sorry! You told me to remind you to write to your brother once you settled in here." She bobbed a curtsey to Mr. Hawkins. "You see, sir, his brother had taken ill during the summer. Almost died, he did, and Mr. Smith had to return to Nottingham to look after him. He got better, but too slow for Mr. Smith to return to his old school." She glanced at Mr. Smith and she could actually see, in his expression, his mind filling in the flesh around the skeleton of Martha's invention.
"Yes, this posting came at just the right time for me. Another two months without income and I would have had to rely on Tom's kindness. Quite embarrassing at this time of life. I certainly would not have been able to keep Martha." He smiled up at her, and she curtseyed and returned to her work.
"Well, as I said, we are lucky to have you. I think this project will turn out very well." Mr. Hawkins stood and bowed. "Thank you for the tea. Let us start working on this next week, shall we?"
Mr. Smith stood up as well. "Yes. I am looking forward to it, Hawkins." They shook hands, and Mr. Hawkins took his leave.
As Martha finished removing the ink spot from the desk's surface, Mr. Smith gathered his lecture notes and textbooks for his next class, humming idly to himself. When he finally left, Martha plopped down in the desk chair and sighed loudly. There was no way Mr. Smith could keep up this charade, if he was unable to fabricate the answers to personal questions on the fly. Someone would eventually notice that he didn't seem to know anything about himself, and even if they couldn't uncover the truth about him, they could investigate him, maybe discover that there never was a John Smith who graduated from the University of Birmingham and taught at King Edward's School. Or they might simply toss him into an asylum.
Martha yanked open the top drawer of the desk and pulled out some paper, then wet a pen with ink. If he couldn't create his own life, she could. At least the basics. Then she'd have a consistent story to use when he got into trouble. She couldn't watch him all the time, but she'd be ready when she could, and perhaps, when they were alone together, she could seed him with bits and pieces that he could work with. Scribbling quickly, she spent the next fifteen minutes creating an outline, inventing friends, noting down events - the biography of John Smith. When she'd used all the time she could spare from her duties, she hid it in a place away from everyone's eyes: behind his bed, a place only a maid would look. She'd return to it later, when she could. The Doctor had charged her with protecting him, and she was finding that the job required far more resourcefulness and foresight than she'd expected. But she was learning, and she wouldn't fail him.