eloriekam: (Martha Human Nature by beccaplusicons)
[personal profile] eloriekam
Title: One Village's Treasure
Author: [personal profile] eloriekam/[livejournal.com profile] eloriekam
Rating: Teen
Disclaimer: Not mine!
Characters: Ten, Martha
Word Count: 1650
Summary: The Doctor has what appears to be some odd ideas about what constitutes a good Christmas present.
Author's Notes: Written (belatedly) for the 2014 [livejournal.com profile] bad_wolf_rising Seasonal Ficathon. Prompt: Picture of pieces of coal on a really beautiful background.


"Ah, Martha," the Doctor greeted as she came into the room. He was crouched behind the sofa, rearranging something out of sight. "There you are. Good morning!"

"Good morning," she replied automatically, cupping the mug of tea in her hands. Then she blinked a few times. "Doctor? What are you doing?"

He looked up at her with a wide-eyed expression, one that could mean half a dozen different things (most of them involving trouble), but there was a slight upward turn to his lips. "Oh, just... getting something ready. For you. Is that a new robe?"

"It's from the TARDIS wardrobe, and I've been wearing it for weeks," Martha reminded him.

"Right. Err." He stood, and scratched the back of his neck, eyes darting between her and whatever it was he'd been fiddling with when she came in. Martha sipped on the tea and eyed him warily. "I don't think I like Christmas anymore, at least for right now... aliens invading and all that, but it's hardly the only holiday around that time of year, and err, well, I know it's not Christmas on Earth right now, but it is here on the TARDIS according to a particular calendar I commonly use, and I never thought to ask, do you celebrate Christmas?"

Martha stared at him for a moment before answering. "Yes," she said, nodding. She could have said more, but the Doctor had already seen how Leo's birthday party had broken up.

The Doctor grinned and bounced over to her, extending one hand. Martha took another long sip of tea, then pried one hand away from the mug to clasp the long fingers.

"Happy Christmas!" The Doctor led her around the sofa and forward a few feet, until she could easily see what it was he was giving her.

Martha could do nothing but stare at the objects on the floor for some time. Finally, she counted to ten, forward and backward, and drank some more tea.

"Martha?" She wasn't looking at him, but she could hear the uncertainty and lack of a smile in his voice.

"You gave me coal," she finally said, after counting to ten once more, her hand pulling fiercely away from his.

"Yes," he confirmed, that one word conveying that he thought it was fairly obvious what was in front of them.

Martha gripped the mug very tightly, eyeing the pieces of coal atop gently coiled strings of blue. "Doctor, do you know what coal means in this context? And what exactly are the strings of fabric and sequins supposed to be?"

He ran his hands through his hair. "Martha, these are gifts and treasures. Honest. I swear."

"That's not what it looks like."

"There are a lot of worlds in the universe without Earth's rich resources, either naturally or following significant exploitation. There are time periods during which less than 30% of human-settled worlds alone have fuels that can be reasonably extracted from the planet for temporary use before terraforming takes hold or a supply ship visits."

"One person's junk is another's treasure," Martha said softly, blinking, but still not sure what she was supposed to do with the coal.

"And these," the Doctor continued, crouching to hold up one end of a sequin-decorated strand, "are actually currency on a major trading world. Well, one part of it, but it's the part with the market." He looked up at her. "I thought you might like to go and visit."

"Now?"

"Fluffy robes aren't the usual dress there, but if you want..."

"I meant today, after I get dressed, thank you." But she smiled down at him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


"Martha! We need to hurry!" The light swung around in the darkness.

"I am!" She shouted back. The beam swept over her, and she heard the sounds of retreat behind her.

The lump of coal was heavy in her jacket. She always carried a piece now, just in case, except for the one time so far the Doctor had specifically told her not to.

Ahead of them, something snarled and moved away, breaking foliage as it did so. Little evergreens, tiny Christmas trees, Martha thought inanely, trying to keep up with the Doctor's long, frantic strides. The planet's moon gave enough light to see by, but not enough to discourage predators when they were genuinely interested. That took a brighter light.

She thought she should be able to see the village's lights by now, and hoped they hadn't all gone out. The people there had no hope of repelling even half of the potential attackers prowling through the forest.

The inhabitants had all been fairly vague about how they received the power source for the lights that helped defend them, but they had been incredibly clear on one thing: it wasn't working as well as it used to, and they hadn't been able to replace it. The Doctor had walked around, poking at everything, and then explored the power source itself, muttering the whole time, before volunteering both of them to join an expedition--during daylight, naturally--to look for another power source after informing them that really, the one they had wasn't going to last much longer at all.

Martha, for her own part, had taken one look at the odd arrangement of great chunks of wood for long-burning torches next to the metal and glass and rock with the Doctor's slim form kneeling next to it, glasses atop his nose, and asked about injuries to the sentries and anyone else.

She passed a taller tree, briefly lit up by the tiny lantern the Doctor had told her to keep attached to her at any cost, and recoiled from the deep, thick claw marks she saw there.

The natives that had let the exploration had already hurried back to the village ahead of them, to join the defense.

Martha heard screams and roars and growls ahead of them, and pushed herself harder, a burst of speed that almost made her trip over the Doctor as they reached the outskirts of the village.

Unlit outskirts. The Doctor glanced around quickly at the scattered remnants of the village's torches, then grabbed her hand.

"What if it's already broken?" She gasped out.

"It won't be!" He shouted back, with the unspoken, and if it is, I'll put it back together floating between them.

There was a circle of light ahead of them, torches blazing, partially masked by dark prowling shapes. The Doctor swung his light around, and pulled Martha through the gap to behind the safety of the torches. Faces filled with fear and hopelessness and fierce refusal to surrender flashed past her, and then the Doctor stopped sharply before the power source, which was clearly depleted.

"You don't know this will work," she whispered as he held out a hand.

"The structure is extremely close."

"We could have just," Martha stopped for another deep breath, waving her hand between the piece of coal and the power source.

"There was a choice then." His face looks terribly drawn and ancient in the light around them, their own illumination casting extra shadows so he looks like a starved sketchbook page come to life.

"The TARDIS would have something closer to what they need."

"They'd already looked out in the direction we landed." He peered at the glass column, then at the small platform where the power source would sit. "Hold on to this, and don't breathe on it," he added suddenly after a long moment of exploration.

"What--"

"Ashes of the last one. Did you see the top earlier, where they lighted the torches?"

"Yeah. It was covered in... oh." Martha stared down at the delicate, essential burden in her hands.

"They've tried lighting torches from each other, but they don't last as long." As if to confirm this, two of the ones nearby went out, to a dismayed chorus of gasps from the villagers and the sound of a hastily rearranged defense. "Come on, come on, come on..."

"The animals haven't attacked again yet," she said softly after a moment.

"They're waiting until it's easier." The Doctor tapped the metal in a few places, then there was a soft clinking sound and the glass started to radiate a soft glow. "Ashes on top, Martha, quickly!"

She hastily scattered the fine, dark particles, just finishing as the Doctor thrust one torch in. It lit up, and he shoved it into her hands as he lit another one.

The fearful, exhausted faces near her grinned as she passed the first torch over to them, and shouts of excitement and relief spread quickly through the crowd.

"We'll go back to the TARDIS in the morning," the Doctor commented quietly, still lighting torches in quick succession and passing them along to her. "Find something that will help them a bit longer." He flicked a glance at her. "I visited here, when I was younger."

"Did you install the power source?"

He smiled wryly. "No. Well, at least not yet. It sounds like something I would do, but the design doesn't look exactly like something I'd make. I visited in their future. They're not as geographically segregated as they are now, and have far better ways of keeping the predators back, but they'd kept a few things." He nodded at some rock outcroppings nearby. "The carvings over there, for example. This place is still the center of their city. It was a bit of a nasty spot, that visit, but they saved me from a death that probably... well, it would have been unpleasant. And permanent."

"If you didn't save them now," Martha realized, "they wouldn't be able to save you."

"Yep."

"It was an amazing present." She looked up at him and smiled, the face lit from all angles in a soft, orange-yellow glow. "Merry Christmas, Doctor."

"And to you, Martha." He leaned into her a little as he passed the next torch over and kissed her gently on the forehead. "I'll try to make the next use of it a little less exciting."

"Not on your life, mister!"

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