(Five times Martin felt the need to be kind, even if he didn't actually do it.)
Fandom: Doc Martin
Word Count: 1,242 words.
Notes: Martin/Louisa. For ausmac. Title from "Parasite" by Nick Drake. No, I haven't forgotten about my 'five things' pieces. They'll be coming, slowly but steadily.
Edith Haybridge was ninety-six, half-blind and suffering from arthritis and even that didn't stop her marching up the hill. Martin watched her from the window. She was the only person he had said he would make house-calls for. The only one and what did she do? She refused him point-blank and told him to shove it. Manners in Portwenn were akin to leprechauns in Ireland. People talked about them all the time, seemed to think they were fascinating, professed to wanting to see them --- but they didn't actually exist.
Martin frowned to himself and wondered what the old bat wanted now. It was just past opening hours and she hadn't made an appointment for that day; he'd checked. He could have relied upon Elaine to have told him, but then he could also take up Polka dancing and neither was a particularly attractive prospect.
He opened the door promptly upon Edith's impatient banging and stepped to the side. Edith huddled in, head bowed.
"Doc," she said without preamble. "I've a problem."
"Yes, I didn't expect that you were here for a night of good times and fireworks," Martin sneered as he ushered Edith into his surgery.
"No need to be a malicious young whippersnapper!"
It was quite possibly the only time Martin had ever been called a whippersnapper. He rather relished it.
"What's wrong?" he asked as he sat down behind his desk.
"I think I'm losing my mind."
Martin leaned forward. "What makes you say this?"
"I keep losing my keys. The other day I left a tap running until the sink overflowed. And I couldn't remember the name of that annoying little tosspot down the Post Office."
"Right, well, I'll do a series of basic tests to assess your short term memory capabilities. But you should know that it's perfectly normal for a person of your age to experience these types of lapses."
Edith tilted her head back, looking down at Martin through narrowed eyes. "I never have before."
"Edith, you're a very old woman. You're damned lucky you're not already in the ground."
Edith opened, then shut her mouth once more. She only opened it again when her cheeks had flushed. "Do you treat all of your patients this way?"
Martin raised an eyebrow. "Yes."
"Impertinent sod, aren't you?"
"No, just honest."
"Five O'Clock tomorrow suit you?" Edith queried perfunctorily. She stood and wavered, tilting precariously to the side. Martin scrambled to reach out and catch her arm, but she batted him away.
"I may be losing my marbles, but I'm still steady on my pins."
"Won't be if you fall and break your hip."
"I'll see you tomorrow. Make sure you make me a tea and have some biscuits ready, or I'll tell everyone your nasty little secret."
Martin's eyes widened. "And what on earth would that be?"
Edith practically leered at Martin, the hint of a smile on her lips. "You're really not that bad."
Martin was left speechless.
Louisa supposed she shouldn't really get angry at Martin for being the way he was. No one had taught him basic survival tactics like diplomacy and discretion, that was all. It wasn't like he had no compassion; she'd seen it. He was just appallingly bad at showing any form of sensitivity.
She felt Martin was mostly misjudged. Everyone thought he was a superior git, but in quiet company he came off more as awkward. Martin could be kind --- when it occurred to him. And that was the thing; kindness so rarely seemed to occur to him. He simply didn't have the same perspective as most others around.
But, there was the time she was running late, for instance. Martin had appeared almost like a knight in shining armour as she'd been trudging along the street, a basketful of boxes for creative play in one hand, collection of marked books clutched to her chest with the other. He'd stopped his car and gestured for her, and she had climbed in beside him after some kerfuffle and felt --- like she might love Martin, just a little bit, even though she knew she was crazy and he was bad with people.
He had almost scowled and stiltedly told her he hadn't actually been offering a ride, was just saying hello, but was happy to drive her anyway. And she knew she was doomed.
Martin would never fully admit to himself that he liked Bert, even though he did. In general and on principle, Martin didn't like anyone. They didn't like him either, so it didn't matter much.
No, usually, Martin went straight from indifference to love. He loved Auntie Joan. He loved his parents. And he loved Louisa.
But like? It didn't exist in his emotional vocabulary. It was a superfluous feeling. Better to keep people at arm's distance until you felt inclined to hold them tight.
Yet Bert, with his foolish schemes and idiocy was not completely horrible to spend time talking to, and since Martin emphatically did not love Bert, he supposed, grudgingly, it must be like.
So when Bert asked him for a favour, Martin considered very carefully before saying a decisive, "no." After all, at least Bert was asking politely, and it probably wouldn't hurt too much.
"No, Bert, I am not going to let you borrow my stethoscope so that you can use it on the pipes down at Elizabeth Trotter's. This is important medical equipment. Now kindly leave this room before you get to see the rectal thermometer in action."
The night was young and Louisa stood on her balcony staring out at the newly risen moon. It was romantic, there was no denying it. Martin was going to be arriving for dinner at any moment. She shouldn't feel so full of anticipation, but she couldn't help it.
When he arrived he looked crestfallen and was holding something in his arms. It took Louisa a moment to realise what the something was.
"Martin, what happened?"
"It dashed out in front of my car. I couldn't brake in time."
"So you brought it here?"
"I wanted it to die in a warm, comfortable place."
Louisa looked down at the kitten, unable to stop herself from frowning. It was such a unMartinish thing to do and she felt callous, but part of her couldn't help wondering if it was an avoidance tactic. She looked up to see Martin studying her, and there was such a look of pathetic sorrow on his face, she pushed her cynicism down deep and went to fetch some blankets.
Martin had few pleasures in life. He wasn't self-indulgent. He usually wasn't indulgent at all.
He was indulging in this. He could afford to. He sat on the bench overlooking the expanse of green and watched Louisa as she danced with her class, summer dress billowing slightly with the twist and twirl of her movements.
She was beautiful. Before he came to Portwenn he'd forgotten beauty could exist --- bogged down by grey buildings and red blood. No, he wouldn't think about the blood. But it did. In soaring coastlines and a perfect sky. In Louisa's laughter and warm gaze.
He allowed himself this moment in which to revel. He deserved it once in a while. And when Louisa's eyes met his across the grass, he felt the corners of his lips tugging up and he waved to her with a short flip of his hand.