Spoilers: For the overall shape of the rest of S3.
Word count: ~1500
Summary: Martha discovers what the Doctor really likes.
Warnings: Some borderline consent stuff (no actual non-con), rather dark in places.
"Are you sure this is what you want?"
He always asks her that. Sometimes they are making love tenderly and the answer comes with a smile. Sometimes they are in the throes of animalistic passion and it comes with a grunt of frustration. Sometimes they have already done all manner of other things and it comes with heavy sarcasm.
But the answer is always, always "Yes".
Which makes her wonder why he feels the need to ask every time. Perhaps he just likes to be completely sure. Perhaps he is not confident in his reading of non-verbal signals. It took him long enough to notice she was interested, after all.
She decides to ask him.
"I want to be sure it's what you want," he tells her.
"Yes, yes, very New-Man-ish of you." She looks at him. "But you're not a New Man, you're an Old God."
"What are you getting at?"
"Gods need worshippers, don't they?"
"Funny, that's what Alistair said once. Well, not in so many words. He said I needed someone to pass me my test tubes and tell me how brilliant I was."
Martha laughed. "But seriously. When you wanted to prove to me that you could travel in time, you went back and took your tie off in front of me before we met from your point of view."
"Yeees," said the Doctor slowly. "Where are you going with this?"
"Because it doesn't matter if I say 'Yes' or not when you ask. You're a godlike time traveller. If I said no, you could always go back in time and change my history so that I did want to. In fact, for all I know that's exactly what you've done."
"OK. But what if I told you that I didn't need to? That there are squintillions of people between the Dawn of Time and the End of Everything, and that just by the law of large numbers some of them are going to be compatible with me without me needing to do any complicated manipulations?"
"I'd say 'Charming!' And then I'd say that 'squintillion' isn't a real number."
"So what if I told you that I didn't want to? That what makes you precious to me--" she knows this is the "you" that means her, uniquely and individually, but also encompasses all the others who have gone before and will come after "--is your independence, your different perspective?"
"What if I told you that I wanted you to?" Her heart is beating faster; even saying the words is exciting her in unexpected ways. She props herself up on an elbow and turns to him, emboldened by this sudden arousal. "What if I told you that I wanted to be yours, wanted you to make me however you wanted?"
She reaches out a hand, stroking up and down his skinny frame. But he convulses, and wriggles away from her touch until he is almost falling out of the bed. She pursues him, reaches out, finds the hardness between his legs. "What's wrong?" she asks. "I can tell this is turning you on."
"Of course it's turning me on." He sounds irritable, almost snappish. "Exercising that sort of power is what being a Time Lord is all about. Of course it's exciting to think about it. But it would an abuse of that power." He pauses as he searches for a way to describe it that she will understand. "It's a rape fantasy, Martha."
There is silence.
Until she says: "We could always pretend ..."
* * *
Here is how the game is played:
She tells him an early memory, a formative experience. He explains to her how he could manipulate it to change her personality.
They both become excited.
At the crucial moment, he asks "Are you sure this is what you want?"
And she says "Make me, Time Lord."
* * *
"Your history is a statue, carved from a block of marble. With each intervention, I chip away at the marble -- carefully, precisely, controlled. Each time the possibilities are constrained, but the statue comes closer to perfection, closer to my vision."
* * *
Jack is very experienced. He has seen much, sinned much and, lately, forgiven much. It does not take him long to work out what they're doing. Despite his broadmindedness, it gives him concerns. When he's alone with Martha he tries to express them.
"I know what I'm doing," she responds. "We know what we're doing."
"Really? How can you really know what he thinks? He's lived a dozen lifetimes. Humans are ... pets to him."
"I'm not the one who spent a hundred-something years just waiting for him. How many lifetimes is that? I know which of us I think has the bigger Doctor problem."
He doesn't -- can't -- respond directly. Instead, he says simply, "Be careful, Martha."
"Go back to your pets in Cardiff, Jack."
* * *
"Your history is a river, flowing from the mountains of your birth down to the endless ocean. The river is broad and deep, difficult to divert. But if I climb up into the mountains, and put a rock in just the right place, its whole course changes. Valleys dry up and plains flood, at my merest whim."
* * *
They have defeated his oldest adversary, the devil to his god. But the victory is bittersweet, as all victories are that come at such high cost.
Their lovemaking after is part celebration, part desperate affirmation of continued life.
And it slides, as it so often does these days, into the structure of the game. But somehow it is awkward, strained. They are haunted by the spectre of one for whom the game would be serious.
They stop. Their physical conversation turns into a verbal one, but becomes no less awkward.
"What's wrong?" she asks.
The green light of the TARDIS bounces harshly off the angles of his face. She has never felt his alienness more strongly. "Power, Martha. That's what it's all about."
"You mean this, or ... ?"
"That's what he wanted. What they all want in the end." He turns to her. "I'm opposed to power. Freedom is opposed to power. I shouldn't want it."
"But you do."
"But I don't want to."
She kisses him on the cheek. "It's OK. I understand." But Jack's words come back to her. Can she really understand him?
For a while, they stop playing the game.
But only for a while.
* * *
"Your history is the manuscript of a poem, that I draft and redraft endlessly. I scribble out a word and replace it, or change a single comma, and your whole meaning changes. You are a palimpsest, overwritten with a hundred different possible versions."
* * *
The game escalates, as such things do.
He starts to weave elaborate tales around the stories she tells him, suggesting that he has already been involved in them, has already intervened to make her a more perfect acolyte.
He starts to take side trips, a habit he had dropped a couple of regenerations ago. He walks out onto some alien shore, waits a while and comes back inside, then pretends that he has been in her past, making minute, precise adjustments to her timeline. She pretends that she has grown more willing, more eager, more pliable. And perhaps she is; perhaps the game, by itself, has wrought the change.
* * *
"Your history is scarred skin, grown back in a new form after I have cut it. And yet I cut it, again and again, to mark you as mine. My creature, my creation."
* * *
One time, she suggests an elaboration: that she be complicit in the changing of her history, that he include her in the story of his manipulation.
His eyes grow pale and distant. He becomes colder, withdraws.
At length, he explains to her. About the other Miss Jones. Sam, who he met when she was already the end product of such a process. Whose other self -- whose real self -- had then appeared and been forced by desperate circumstances into making the choice to create her alter ego. No, not even a choice -- a leap of faith. It had not been a game then, with a world in the balance and the masked, shadowless ones waiting in the wings.
He explains to her that a paradox is the worst thing possible. Better an eternity of tyranny than a moment of acausality. He explains that in the end, their game is inescapably about paradoxes. And then he falls silent, staring at his shadow on the wall as though it will disappear if he looks away.
They do not play the game again.
* * *
One day, she enters the console room to find him taking off. It is the first time since the game stopped that he has been out into the universe without her. Her heart thuds with the possibility that he is resuming their play.
When the noise of the engines has faded, she asks "Where have you been?" She tries to make the question sound naive, but cannot stop desire creeping into her voice.
"Changing your history," he tells her. But his tone is not the playfully masterful one of the past. It is the tone of the man that the monsters have nightmares about. "What we've been doing isn't healthy. It has to stop permanently. I've gone into the past to arrange things so that you'll want to leave."
She feels suddenly as though she has become a monster to him. "Don't you dare try and blame me. You know you wanted it."
"Good," he says sadly. "It's working."
"Bastard!" She slaps him, a sudden, shocking physicality amongst the mind games. "You utter bastard. Take me back right now. London 2008. Right now."
He starts flicking switches, turning knobs. She goes to her room, suddenly sickened by the paraphernalia of the time-travelling lifestyle. She grabs a bare minimum of belongings and stuffs them into a bag.
When she returns to the console room, the doors are open onto a London street. She is on the threshold when he calls out her name. She turns to face him.
* * *
He cannot explain to her. It will not work if he does. He needs to be rid of the temptation she poses. He knows she is right, that she is not to blame for his desires. But nonetheless she has become the nexus of them. It is not her fault, but it is still the case. To change history to suit himself would cross a line he dare not. He has not done it, even now. But he is not above manipulating her into thinking that he has. And that is enough.
He can express none of this. In the end, all he can think of to say is "Are you sure this is what you want?"
"Screw you, Time Lord."
She turns and walks back into reality.