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Backwards in Time | Forwards in Time

Title: Spirit Lifter
Fandom: Doctor Who (2007)
Characters: The Tenth Doctor & Martha Jones
Prompt: # 068 - Lightening
Word Count: 2'830
Rating: G
Summary: There’s a book, it may surprise you to hear, that’s completely devoted to lightening the mood of a 900 year old alien from the Planet Gallifrey. Trust Martha to find it by accident. 10Martha.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Doctor Who. Thank RTD and the BBC.
Author's Notes: Post-Gridlock. Minor spoilers for that episode. A bit of a complex one-shot.


v. tr. Light-en-ing
1. To lesson the oppressiveness, trouble, or severity of.
2. To relieve of cares or worries; gladden.

The Book had grabbed her attention the moment she’d spotted it.

Standing alone and relatively inconspicuous atop a shelf in the TARDIS library - its dust-covered black binding glinting with an aged beauty - its nameless face had been the epitaph of ‘intriguing’.

And there, on the first page, flipping open the cover with precise care, Martha had found nothing but the definition, standing alone in the middle of the yellowing page, the parchment upon which the scrawled, amethyst lettering was written seeming as fragile as glass beneath her fascinated fingers.

Glancing over her shoulder at the half-open doorway, she’d hesitated, wondering if the Doctor would miss her. She’d come for a book. Any book, Martha wasn’t fussed. She’d said she wouldn’t be long, and that she’d bring one back to the Console Room and read it in there while he did ‘repairs’, or whatever it was he did when his mood slipped.

And it seemed she’d found one, granted not a book she’d originally have chosen to read, but still…

A few minutes of peaceful reading would be guaranteed to her, would they not?

Sinking into a conveniently placed armchair, Martha Jones drew her legs up underneath her body and rested the Book carefully on her thighs, gently running her fingers over the untitled cover before inserting a thumb and flipping it open again, eyes drinking in the ‘lightening’ definition a second time before she turned the page.


Four hours later, and she’d read the entire thing.

A broad smile on her face, she glanced at her watch before bolting to her feet in shock, snapping the Book shut and carefully sliding it back onto its dusty shelf. Running down an aisle, Martha plucked a different book at random from another, slightly less-dirty shelf and hurried from the library in silence, the door clicking itself gently closed behind her.


He’d asked her where she’d got to.

She’d told him she’d fallen asleep in the library.

He’d bought it, telling her calmly that he’d managed to ‘reconfigure the stasis controls’ and ‘alter the matrix in such a way that it’ll allow for random co-ordinational search journeys’. Or something.

She’d switched off after that, mind drifting to the pages she’d been thoroughly engrossed within minutes before.

And for a moment, she’d found herself wondering if he even knew of the Book.

Then she realised that if he did know of it, he wouldn’t be so neurotic. And wouldn’t be so psychotically chipper in the moments when he wasn’t neurotic. And wouldn’t have the strangest, most hormonal mood swings of anyone she’d ever met.

Quite obviously, she admitted to herself, he knew absolutely nothing of the Book.

Her little secret, then.


She’d returned to the library again, that night.

Not quite prepared to whisk the Book from its surroundings and read it in the comfort of her room, she’d caved and improvised, bringing with her a cup of tea and reading by candle-light, appropriately enough, a small but sufficient wax candle resting on the side-table beside the leather armchair.

Dressing gown hanging down over her shoulders as she became absorbed once again in the violet-coloured-ink handwritten words splayed out before her, she’d finished the Book a second time three hours later.

A bright smile on her exhausted features, she’d replaced it, much as the first time, onto its shelf and hastily departed for her room, marvelling slightly at how vivid each page was beginning to become for her, even when she wasn’t pouring over it.


He’d noticed the dark circles under her eyes. He’d heard her frequent yawns and watched in silence as she raised a wobbly hand to her mouth in a vain attempt to disguise them.

And he’d asked if she was okay.

She’d replied that she’d slept badly the night before.

He’d bought it.

Sinking into a stupor as he prepared breakfast, she’d found herself wondering vaguely if he’d agree to letting them have a ‘lazy day’.

Much to her surprise, he’d agreed almost immediately, placing a full-English breakfast down in front of her before helping himself to her bacon, telling her he could get on with some more ‘maintenance’ and she could catch up on the sleep she’d apparently lost the previous night.

She’d nodded her thanks and eaten promptly, talking when he encouraged her to, but otherwise devouring her breakfast in silence.

And with a suppressed yawn, she’d smiled a grateful smile at him and vanished from the room.

Heading for the library again.


It only took her an hour and a half to read from cover to cover, that time.

And as the broad smile had stretched the entire width of her face, she’d realised, then, just what the Book was doing to her.

Returning it to its home, Martha had quelled the butterflies in her stomach and swiftly steered herself from the room, collapsing on her bed minutes later only to give herself up to the darkness, the content smile lingering.


He’d asked her what she was so happy about.

She’d said she’d had a good night’s sleep – well, good day’s sleep, really - and felt much better for it.

He’d bought it.

She’d sensed his mood and later discovered that he was feeling homesick.

He’d told her of Gallifrey, of the War and the fight against the Daleks during their time in New New York, but he’d never admitted weakness before. Biting back tears, he shrugged sadly and sank onto the sofa, staring almost wistfully at the console, as though hoping it could magically take him back to his planet, if only for a minute.

Just to see it, in all its glory, one more time. One final time.

Vowing not to return to the Book that night, she’d spent the evening with him, the two of them curled onto the sofa, Martha leaning against his chest, soothed by the double-heart-beat beneath her cheek as he gently stroked her hair. They’d simply sat there, watching as the emerald column rose and fell before them, its iridescent light dancing like fireflies around the Console Room.

She’d fallen asleep there, her last conscious thought a delighted realisation that she’d done just as page two had suggested.


After the fourth reading (which only took an hour and a quarter), she’d accepted the fact that she knew it by heart.

Automatically replacing the Book on its no-longer dusty shelf, she’d smiled fondly at it and left the library again, glancing back at where its bookcase stood for a second before pulling the door closed and meandering through the maze of corridors towards the Console Room, humming to herself.


Running from a family of blood-thirsty dragons on a distant and ancient planet, they’d found themselves hiding together in an old, abandoned farm house, the odd creak of the windmill sounding in their ears as their feet silently boiled, dragons torching the barns around their hideout in anger that their prey had escaped.

Thinking they were done for, he’d confessed to her at last, told her all about ‘Rose’ and their relationship as they leant side by side against a gradually-heating-up wall, listening to the furious roars of their pursuers and the frequent rustles of mighty wings as the dragons swooped and dived around outside.

She’d listened.

Listened in silence, drinking in every single word, an arm wrapped comfortingly around his shoulders as he silently trembled, tears leaking beyond his notice as he spoke of the events at Torchwood One, the pain of remembrance too much for him to handle alone.

She’d learned about Addie, that day, too.

Learned about how the Cybermen had taken her, and of how he’d had to … well, do what he did. How he’d done it to help her. To save her.

And while a tiny part of her wanted to be angry with him for killing her cousin – even though she fruitlessly told that tiny part of her it ‘wasn’t even his fault’ and that ‘the Cybermen had killed Addie long before he could’ – she ignored her own worries and bit back her own tears.

She’d told herself that they could wait.

And as he’d gone on to describe his and Rose’s final goodbye, the goodbye that was left unfinished and the words that were left unsaid, she’d listened.

Under siege from angry dragons on a foreign planet, hiding together in a stranger’s house and leaning against a brick wall that was slowly melting under the pressure that their fire-breathing pursuers were putting it under, she’d listened.


Hours later, after realising that they weren’t done for, he’d apologised for going all ‘manic depressive’ on her. And he’d thanked her.

Thanked her for listening.

She’d told him to think nothing of it.

She hadn’t added that page thirty-three had suggested it beforehand.


The fifth reading took her an hour and four minutes, though partly to blame was a sudden craving for chocolate that had struck about two hundred pages in. She’d given in and vanished to the kitchens, returning a couple of minutes later with a bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and another cup of tea.

The rest of the reading had been plain sailing.


He’d asked her where she kept vanishing off to.

She’d told him the truth, albeit partially, telling him she’d found great entertainment in reading, lately.

He’d bought it, smiling to himself at that, nodding his agreement and commenting quietly that he’d have to get around to cleaning out the library properly, some day. ‘The dust just doesn’t do it justice,’ he’d said, shaking his head sadly.

Martha had silently agreed.

Then she’d offered to help him.

He’d smiled at her warmly but then shaken his head, telling her it’d take a millennium at least for him to clear it out to a decent, worthy standard.

He’d politely declined her offer, yet the thanks in his eyes had said more.

Just asking had been more than enough.

She’d let the day pass as it wished, then, deciding that it hadn’t been a wasted one, after all. For she’d successfully accomplished page three-hundred-and-twenty-six’s suggested task.


The days had passed, and it had gone on.

She would read the Book in silence, smiling in delighted confidence as she replaced it delicately, almost lovingly onto its shelf.

Then with her spirits at an all-time high, the buzz the Book had given her running like poison through her veins, she’d feel a sudden need to pass it on.

And with her only company being the Doctor, it wouldn’t take her long to find somebody to pass it on to.

Every day, she’d follow just one of the Book’s many instructions, mentally reciting just one of its hundred-fold pages before acting upon it.

And every night, she’d sleep soundly, knowing that she’d done what she could to help him. Knowing she’d made him smile, if only once that day.

Once was enough.

If he’d ever suspected, he’d never asked.

And she’d never said.


Three weeks in, down to the day - three complete weeks since she’d first discovered it - and Martha had returned to the library again, just as she had done every day bar that first one.

But she’d returned to find the Book was no longer there.

She’d completely upended the entire library before admitting defeat, tears welling over a ‘book’, of all things.

Biting back a sob, she’d run from the room, slamming the door shut behind her with enough force to send the layer of dust that had gathered on the library floor over the years jumping skywards before floating back down and settling again.


He’d asked her why she was so upset.

She’d simply clung to him, sobbing into his shoulder, already feeling the weight of the Book’s absence in her heart as she gripped painfully tightly to the arm that was resting comfortingly around her.

She’d felt him smile into her hair, apparently content to just sit with her while she composed herself, over the moon that she’d come to him in the first place.

And in doing so, she’d successfully but inadvertently achieved the goal set down on page one-hundred-and-eight-five.

Prove to him you need him.


Three more weeks had passed, and she’d soon come to realise that she could remember less and less of the Book’s passages with every passing day.

And yet not a day went by when she hadn’t somehow made the Doctor smile.

The Book may have gone, with her memories of it slowly following one by one, but she hadn’t given up on the task she’d set herself during all those delightful readings.


Weeks later still … and she’d forgotten the Book completely.


Sitting cross-legged on the sofa, a pen tapping absent-mindedly at her teeth as she studied the Doctor’s abandoned crossword, she frowned and reached for a dictionary.

“To relieve of cares or worries … ten letters, first letter - ‘L’,” she said out loud, a small, concentrating frown creasing her forehead.

The Doctor’s head popped up from beneath a floor panel, a medley of wires and cables clutched in one hand while the Sonic was carefully enclosed within the other.

“Lightening,” he answered immediately, shooting her a small smile.

She raised an eyebrow.

“If you knew that, how come you didn’t write it in?” she enquired dryly.

He shrugged.

“Must have missed it,” he replied, sinking back into the hidden depths of his ship. Martha rolled her eyes in silent disbelief and promptly set about filling in the blanks on his crossword.

Curling the ‘g’s tail with a flourish, she felt her smile slip clean away as her pen dropped into her lap, eyes fixed on the word staring up at her from off the page.

‘Lightening’ …

With a flash, she recalled an ancient, dusty tome, hundreds of pages long, it’s first parchment page glistening with amethyst words … a definition to a word she’d never have expected to find a book solely dedicated to.

Her bright smile returning, she carefully folded the paper in half and climbed to her feet, strolling around the console towards the Doctor. Crouching beside the open grate, she grinned down at him.

“Doctor?” she called quite calmly, smiling innocently as he straightened up and studied her dubiously. She paused, then said, “I think I have something you may want to know about.”

“Oh?” he replied airily, eyes narrowing slightly. “That sounds ominous.”

Struggling out of the hole and gripping her hand for balance before finding his footing and leaning against the console, eyes on her and a small smile tugging at his lips, he waited as she stared at the word looking up at them from the folded newspaper on the seat behind her.

“Well, not exactly ominous. See … it’s about a Book …”


A day later, she returned to the library again.

The Book wasn’t there, not that she’d expected it would be.

Instead, there was a slip of paper, sitting alone on the shelf where the Book had once stood. Curious, she plucked it from its lofty perch and blew the dust clear, staring at the parchment with raised eyebrows, recognising the purple hand-writing immediately.

For it was quite identical to the tidy hand that had scripted the mysterious Book’s many detailed passages.

Her smile stretching, she read it in silence, dropping into the armchair and glancing momentarily at the half-open door before giving the note her full attention.

The Spirit Lifter.
A companion’s guide to all things ‘Doctor’.
To those who need a starting point, the Book is there to guide. But to those who have the gift themselves, it need not hang around. Digest the words and drink in the feelings it gives, but don’t forget to pass them on to the one who needs them most.
Remember not its teachings, for there are too many,
far too many to learn. But if you can make him smile but once a day, the Book has served its purpose a thousand-fold.

Read and understood, the note was replaced onto its shelf, and Martha left the library beaming, a finger absently curling a stray lock of hair as she pulled the handle after her to close the door behind her.

But before it could click shut, the note was gone.


A week later, and nether Martha nor the Doctor remembered even remotely of her mystifying Book.

But curled up together on the sofa, staring at the column as it gently rose and fell before them, its iridescent light bouncing around the room like a family of fireflies, Martha had the distinct impression that he was smiling as he ran his fingers gently through her hair, the soothing double-heart-beats beneath her cheek more than assuring her of his present contentment.

So here was another day when she’d managed to lighten his spirits.


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