Fandom(s): Doctor Who
Characters: John Smith, Martha Jones
Word Count: 3881
Summary: On the run from the Family, Martha helps the Doctor make the transition to John Smith.
Explanation: I seem to be enjoying writing stories about John Smith's and Martha Jones' life at the Farringham School for Boys before the events of "Human Nature"/"Family of Blood", and this post today is my most recent piece of this type. So, I guess I need to get all of them out here, so that I can continue to add to them when I write more.
Though they are all consistent with each other, these stories are meant to be related one-shots, and not chapters of an overall story.
Martha wrapped her arms around herself and shivered, but her chills had nothing to do with the nip in the autumn air, and the warmth of her long wool coat could not comfort her. The screech of the dematerialising TARDIS faded away, leaving her standing in an alley in some town in England, with the Doctor five feet to her side, a battered trunk and two Gladstone bags piled between them. From here, she could see the entrance to a railway station, about five hundred feet away down the street.
Biting her lip, she glanced down at the trunk and bags, then surveyed the distance between them and the station. She’d dragged the trunk out of the TARDIS on her own, but there was no way that she could get it down the cobblestone street to the railway station in any reasonable time, especially with the two extra bags. And the Doctor wasn’t going to be much help.
Circling around to stand in front of him, Martha looked him up and down, appraising his current state. He looked strange in his gray coat and scarf and black fedora, so unlike his usual garb, colourful in comparison. His complexion was ashen except for his swollen eyes, tinged with red, lingering evidence of the agony he had endured only a half hour ago. Staring blankly into the distance, he took no notice of her.
“Doctor?” she called softly, tugging on his sleeve. No, she chided herself. Wrong name. “Mr. Smith?” No response, so she tried a little louder and more aggressive. “Mr. Smith?” Still no answer. On her tiptoes, she called into his ear as she yanked on his arm, “Mr. Smith!”
Blinking once, he turned toward her, though his unfocused eyes weren’t seeing her at all. “Mr. Smith! It’s me. Martha. Your maid.”
His eyes flicked about, as if he were trying to process what she was saying. A hint of a smile played at his lips for a moment before confusion clouded his face again. Martha decided to take that as a sign of recognition. “Mr. Smith, we need to get to the railway station. You’ve got to help me with the trunk.” She spoke loudly and deliberately, as if she was teaching something to a slightly deaf child.
His lack of response drew a frustrated “Oonh!” from her and she stamped her foot, fists clenched. She caught his hand and pulled it down to the trunk and wrapped his fingers around the handle on its near end. She encircled his hand with both of hers. "Got that? You need to help me carry this. Can you help me carry it?" Raising a hand, she caressed his cheek; it was much warmer than his skin had ever felt, at those times when he'd grabbed her hand and urged her to run. With a gentle voice, she encouraged him, "You can do it. Just lift when I say so."
Taking one bag in her left hand, she tucked the other under the same arm, then moved to the other end of the trunk. The Doctor was still bent over, hand around his handle, staring at the ground. She bent and took a hold of the handle on her side, then, inhaling deep into her lungs, called with a firm voice, "Lift!" Her end rose, but the other remained on the ground.
"Mr. Smith! Lift!" The second attempt had the intended effect: the Doctor straightened, carrying his end of the trunk in his dangling hand. Since he was nearly a foot taller than her, between them the trunk slanted downwards and its contents slid towards Martha, placing most of the burden on her. She had to position her arm to brace under it, and she knew she wouldn't be able to hold it for very long. "Come on! Let's go!" She started walking, watching him. He stayed in place until the trunk pulled him forward, and he followed it like it was a frisky dog leading him on a leash.
By the time they made it into the station, Martha's arm was aching and it was a relief to drop the trunk and bags. The Doctor still held on to his handle, so his maid had to unwrap his fingers from it and ease that end of the trunk to the ground. "Okay. You stay here. I'm going to make sure everything's in order." As she pulled the papers out of her pocket, she noticed that two women in rich embroidered dresses standing nearby were eyeing her.
She stepped up to the ticketing window. "Excuse me. I want to make sure we're getting on the right train." She handed the tickets to the man seated behind the grating, who looked them over.
"Yes, you'll be heading to Norwich. That train will be boarding here in about half an hour, right out there. You've any luggage you'll want loaded?"
"Yes. A trunk."
"Bring it here then."
Martha spent the next five minutes dragging the trunk to the counter and getting it checked for loading. When she returned, the Doctor was still staring straight ahead, oblivious to his surroundings. She sighed. "It's about twenty minutes until we get to board the train. Then we'll be on our way to Norwich, and that should be a good long ride. Maybe you'll wake up a bit by then." She knew she was talking to fill the silence, to distract herself from thinking too much about what was happening.
"Excuse me." Martha turned to see one of the two women looking down her nose at her. "If I may ask, what's wrong with him?"
Martha was glad to have thought up an excuse for him beforehand. "Oh, he's taken some medication that leaves him dazed for a while. He's fine."
"Ah, I see. I must say, he might be not be paying much attention, but he is still your master. You should not be taking liberties with him just because you think he can't hear you. You will call him 'sir', and," she added with some asperity, "you will call me 'ma'am'."
Martha's first instinct was to respond in anger, but she realised she hadn't been playing her part, as a lowly servant to this gentleman. The woman was right. This was early twentieth-century England, September in 1913 according to the train tickets, and in order to fit in and stay with Mr. Smith, given her skin colour, Martha had been forced to adopt the role of his servant. She had to conceal the intelligence and confidence of her 2008 medical student self and feign ignorance and subservience to everyone. She needed to adjust her speech and attitude. How did they used to speak back then? Lots of "ma'am"s and "sir"s, complete deference, and saying as little as possible to their superiors, to not waste their time. "I'm sorry, ma'am. Please forgive me."
"Good. Mind your place. Your master will thank me for this." She nodded, then turned on her heel and strode off with a self-satisfied smirk.
Martha glanced around to see if anyone was watching. As the woman's companion was staring in her direction, the maid stepped behind the Doctor and shot a sarcastic, defiant sneer in their direction, then composed herself. Stepping back out in front of him, she turned to the Doctor and curtseyed to him. "I'm sorry, sir."
She looked up at the tall man. According to the TARDIS' information, of which there was little, he was now Mr. John Smith, a newly-appointed schoolteacher at a boys' school in Farringham, a village near Norwich. She didn't know much more than that, but she was certain he would, when he recovered from the harrowing process of becoming human. He'd said the TARDIS would take care of everything, and she trusted him. She'd just have to wait to see how things would play out. She moved to stand by his side.
Fidgeting a little, Martha longed to take a seat on one of the many benches in the station, but she spotted the two women still watching her with a supercilious air, and she decided that the effort wouldn't be worth their mockery. It would be hard enough to get the Doctor to move where she wanted him to go, and then, how to get him to sit without resorting to knocking him in the backs of his knees?
Fifteen minutes of people-watching and twiddling her fingers had passed when the train pulled into the station, its horn and rumble piercing her through. The knots of passengers began milling about, gathering their bags and preparing to board, but Martha didn't bother, figuring that the luggage needed to be loaded first and that she'd have plenty of time to grab the two small bags and push the Doctor towards the train. She hoped she could enlist the help of a conductor to get him seated.
"Martha?" The Doctor's soft, gentle voice was laden with confusion and uncertainty, so unlike his normal exuberant, confident timbre, and it wrenched Martha's heart.
She stepped in front of him and gazed up into his eyes, trying to diagnose his mental state. "Yes, sir? How are you feeling, sir?"
"You... you're Martha." His eyes roaming over her face, he was still barely seeing her, but he was starting to show some general awareness. A little colour had returned to his complexion, and perhaps his eyes were less puffy.
"Yes, sir. Good old Martha, right here, sir."
"Where am I?" His eyes wandered the station, periodically locking onto objects and people, but Martha could see in his expression only faint glimmers of recognition. He was having trouble piecing the scene together.
"At the railway station, sir. Waiting for the train."
He brightened a bit. "A train? That's good. Always wanted to drive one."
She arched an eyebrow at him, not sure if he was in earnest or had actually cracked a joke. "Well, sir, maybe we can convince the engineer to let you have a go." His lips curved into a contented, boyish smile, and she had to stifle a laugh. "It's almost time to board, sir, and then we can get you seated and you can rest."
"I... I'd like that. I..." He frowned. "I'm... I'm John. Aren't I?"
"Yes, sir. Mr. John Smith, you are, sir."
His mouth slightly open, she saw his tongue flick behind his teeth a couple of times. "I'm not... someone else?"
Martha’s heart leapt into her throat, and she swallowed before she replied. "No, sir, you're not. Never you mind that. That's the draughts talking, sir."
"Oh. The medicines. Yes." He nodded. "They hurt."
Martha blinked back a tear. She had hoped that at least he wouldn't remember that ordeal. “Yes, sir, they did. But that’s all done now, sir. It won’t hurt again.”
From outside on the platform, a man's voice crowed, "All aboard!"
"Sir? It's time to board the train." She picked up the bags and jerked her head toward the train. “Come along, sir.” At least he was responding. He began walking in the direction everyone else was, and she fell in behind him. At times when the line came to a stop, she had to nudge him to start him moving again, but it was no great problem to slowly herd him onto the train. She found him a compartment, then, stowing the bags in the rack above, Martha finally closed the sliding door and plopped down in the seat across from him. “There, Mr. Smith. That wasn’t so bad. We’ll be on our way in no time, sir.”
“Hmm? Oh yes.” He smiled absently.
“Close your eyes, sir. You’ll feel better with a little sleep.”
“Ah, yes. Of course.” But his eyes remained open, lost and dull. Martha decided it was not worth pushing further.
The ride was smoother than what Martha had expected from a turn-of-the-century steam locomotive, but the lack of bumpiness only made the monotony more unbearable. She couldn’t see anyone from their closed compartment so she couldn’t people-watch, and the scenery rushing past soon became boring. In the chaos of preparing for this adventure, she hadn’t thought to pack a book, but she figured that as a servant, she’d stand out a bit if she were literate. She sighed and stared out of the window again, glancing back at the Doctor every so often. He sat still as a stone, staring at a spot off to her right.
Without anything else to do, she mused on her task ahead. The Doctor was recovering and considered himself to be Mr. Smith, and that was going according to plan. Hopefully, by the time train arrived in Norwich, he would be aware enough to take the lead, and he would take up his position at the Farringham School for Boys, with Martha as his servant. There, they would live as ordinary humans, among everyone else, waiting for the Family to live out their short lives and die off in three months.
The Family. Cunning, vicious, and persistent, they were hunting them down, and they’d caught the unique scent of the Doctor, the last of his people. Martha hadn't even gotten a glimpse of them when he’d grabbed her hand and they'd bolted into the TARDIS. The Family had pursued them through time as well as space, and this was his plan to flee them. The Doctor had turned himself into a human so that they couldn't track his Time Lord essence.
She shivered. She'd only once before seen the Doctor terrified, and that was when he couldn't stop a solar entity from taking over his mind. This time, he had been so scared of the Family, he'd chosen to endure the intense pain to transform himself into another species and taken everything that made him him and stowed it away inside a pocket watch. Her imaginings of what this Family must be able to do unnerved her, and she forced her thoughts away from them.
The task that the Doctor had given her was to protect him, to help him survive as a human for three months while watching for signs that the Family had found him. This was going to be difficult, playing maidservant in a world that had only just discovered electricity and ran on coal. She wasn’t even sure if she’d have to draw water from hand pumps and clean out chamber pots; did they have indoor plumbing at all? But she’d definitely have to set aside her twenty-first century sensibilities and endure the discrimination of class, race, and sex without complaint, as already demonstrated by the woman in the station. Everything about this was going to be tough. It had been less than two hours since they’d started on this path, but she already felt that the only thing keeping her going was the man she had to protect. His safety was paramount, and she could endure anything to keep him secure.
Martha’s eyes fluttered open, gazing at the joint where the wall of the compartment met the ceiling. She had been fast asleep, who knew how long. Snapping her gaping mouth shut, she straightened herself in her seat.
“Ah, you’re awake. I hope you had pleasant dreams.” Mr. Smith’s eyes were bright and kind.
Martha hoped she hadn’t drooled all over herself. “Oh, I’m sorry, sir! Hardly proper of me.”
He smiled and shook his head. “Oh, Martha, think nothing of it. You must be exhausted, what with this long journey and you taking care of me so well.”
Now that he was alert and speaking normally, the maid noticed that the schoolteacher had a slow, formal drawl, so different from the quick, clipped accent she was used to. “Are you feeling better, sir?”
“Top hole. Though…” He gazed out of the window for a moment. “Do you ever get the feeling like you’re forgetting something important? I feel like there’s something I’m supposed to get back to.” Tugging at his ear, he shook his head. “Can’t be, though. Everything I own is in my bag and my trunk. I left my old life in Birmingham, and I’m starting a completely new journey here.”
Martha nodded. Yes, those were in the details the TARDIS left me. Birmingham, King Edward’s School. He knows at least that much. He seems to think he’s who he’s supposed to be. Maybe this will all work out just fine. Her voice shook with that thought. “It’ll be splendid, sir. You’ll love it, I’m sure.”
He gazed at her with concern, one eyebrow cocked. “But you don’t think you’ll like it, eh, Martha?” He frowned, then patted his pockets. “You have my papers, don’t you?”
“Oh, yes, sir. Right here, sir.” She brought out the sheaf of papers and handed them to him. She waited as he stared at them in his hand, until she noticed the haze in his eyes. Waved a hand in front of his face to no avail, then called to him. “Mr. Smith? Are you all right, sir? Mr. Smith?” She tugged on his arm, and that seemed to wake him.
“What?” He looked up at her. “I’m sorry. I was just thinking.”
Martha knew that he wasn’t “just thinking”. “What about, sir?”
“Oh, nothing important. Let me see here.” As he began paging through the papers, Martha wondered if what he had been thinking about was truly not important, or if he had fallen back into his previous daze.
Mr. Smith pulled out a paper out of the stack. “Here. Yes. This school pays a lot less than King Edward’s. A country school will always pay less than a school in town. Hm.” Pulling out a pen, Mr. Smith unscrewed the cap and scribbled a few notes in the margin of the paper. “Yes, tight.” Pursing his lips, he replaced the cap on the pen before continuing. He stared at her, his wide brown eyes solemn. “I’ll be honest with you, Martha. I won’t have much to spare. I really can’t afford to keep you.”
Martha’s eyes widened with horror. She had to stay with him. There was no way she could protect him if she couldn’t remain near. “Oh, sir! You can’t…”
“However!” Interrupting her protest, he laid a comforting hand on her arm. “You’ve been ever so faithful and you mean a lot to me. I promise I will take care of you.”
“You will, sir? I really can’t leave you.”
“Yes. I’ll figure it out. I promise.” He tapped the pen on his chin as he stared at the paper. “It might mean a tighter belt than I’m used to, but I’m sure I can make do. You’d think a younger son without much inheritance would have learned some frugality by now.”
This was a lot more detail about his life than the TARDIS had given her, and she didn’t know what to say. She had no idea what kind of economic situation he was supposed to be in, or even that his memory included an older brother. Was his subconscious mind constructing details to fill in the blanks? She didn’t know, but she needed to learn to play along and keep him going. “You’ve always been frugal, sir.”
He replaced the paper in the pile and, folding the sheaf, tucked it and the pen into his inner breast pocket, a gesture very familiar to his maid. “Well, my tastes are not expensive, but I’ve never been careful with my money. It’s never too late to learn, is it now, Martha? We’ll manage, you and I.” He grinned with affection for his servant.
A knock drew their attention to the door, and Martha spied the women from the station. Mr. Smith rose to his feet and, fiddling awkwardly with the latch, slid the door open. “Good afternoon, ladies. Can I help you?”
Stepping into the cramped compartment, the woman who spoke to Martha earlier eyed her with contempt until the maid also rose in polite deference. Martha looked at Mr. Smith to see if he noticed, but he was busy smoothing his jacket.
“We just noticed you here and stopped in to see if you were feeling better. You looked rather ill in the station.” Her accent dripped with upper class breeding.
“I am much better. Thank you for asking.” Mr. Smith didn’t seem quite comfortable with her, and had backed away a bit, one hand braced against the back of his seat. The compartment ceiling was low enough that he was hunched over to avoid bumping his head.
“So glad to hear it.” Her tone did not betray any actual concern for his health. “Are you travelling all the way to Norwich today?”
“Yes. I am moving to a nearby village called Farringham. I’ve a post at the boys’ school there.”
“Oh, a schoolteacher.” She didn’t bother to hide her disappointment, and her inflection changed to boredom. “I’m quite sure you’ll love it there. The country is beautiful.”
“I expect I will. Thank you.” If he had meant the phrase of gratitude to convey that the conversation was over, the woman didn’t notice.
“I should tell you, however, that your servant is less than reliable.” She glanced over Martha and wrinkled her nose. “Whilst you were under your medications, she was quite disrespectful.”
Mr. Smith looked at Martha before replying. “Martha has always taken good care of me, and I have no issue with her behaviour.”
“She is disgraceful. I should not trust her.”
Bristling, Mr. Smith drew himself up to his full height, his hair brushing the ceiling, and stared down at the woman. “I trust Martha with my life. You may go now.” Snorting softly, the woman cast one last mocking glance at Martha and withdrew with her friend. The schoolteacher shut the door firmly behind them.
As they resumed their seats, Martha hastened to explain. “You didn’t have to do that, sir. She was right, you know. I knew you couldn’t hear me and I was out of line, sir.”
“Shush, Martha.” He shrugged and leaned back. “That was presumptuous of her, telling me how I should treat you. And it doesn’t bother me, not one jot. So you were a bit rude. That doesn’t hurt anyone, and I certainly don’t remember it. Just make sure that next time, no one else can hear you.”
Martha hadn’t expected this. Mr. Smith was a man of 1913. She thought he’d be just like the woman, concerned only with rank and appearance. She stared at her hands in her lap. “Thank you, sir. There won’t be a next time, I promise.”
“Oh, there will.” Her head snapped up at the amusement in his voice. “We’ve known each other how long now? I know you. You’re full of fire. It’ll happen again.” He laughed, and she cracked an embarrassed grin. Leaning toward her, he took her hand. “You see, I will look after you, Martha. Just like you look after me.”
Her eyes shone with appreciation. “Thank you, sir.”
Mr. Smith laid her hand in her lap and patted it, then leaned back in his seat. Their eyes held each other’s gaze for just a moment more, then they both fell silent, losing themselves in their own thoughts as the train rumbled on toward Norwich.
Author's Note: Just in case it's not clear, in this piece, Martha's thoughts about the Family mirror what she thought the Doctor was running from at the beginning of "Human Nature"/"Family of Blood". She (and the audience) do not find out why the Doctor ran from the Family until the very end of the episode (and I'm not even sure she ever found out the real reason).