(London, Earth, 2009)
JONES & SON: HARDWARE AND RETAIL, BOUGHT AND SOLD is in a state of total organized chaos.
Clive and Qworenn are hovering over Clive's laptop with the inventory list; Clive announces each item and Qworenn checks it off on the computer. Jack's only known her for about twenty minutes, but he can already tell she feels much more comfortable with all these humans around when she's doing something useful. (She does keep shooting him uncomfortable looks, though. Yeah, yeah, Jack Harkness the human fact. At least she's attractive, so he doesn't really mind the staring.) Tish, Gwen, Tosh, and Ianto are in charge of sorting through all the items that Owen, Martha, and Jack pull from the shelves under Leo's direction. It's actually sort of fun: here they all are, the seven people in the world that Jack really trusts and knows, and Martha's brother, and a Time Lord. Once in a while someone's mobile rings; the first time, it's Leo's wife, and he tells her he's just stuck in shop but casserole would be great, thanks honey. The second time it's Francine; she demands a full explanation from Martha and a few minutes later turns up in a sharp suit and sets about helping them take things from the shelves.
"Let me get this straight," she says to Martha, passing an opaque thermos to Jack. "The Doctor figured all of this out on information from the Master?"
"Yeah," Jack says. He's been sort of wondering the same thing.
"That's right," Martha says. "I don't know, none of it seems dodgy until-- well. It's not like I knew them well, but I got the impression that the Master and his wife were on the same side for a while there. I'm thinking maybe she's still under his control and doing all of this on his orders." She shrugs. "As long as we don't open any of this, though, we should be fine. And the Doctor can take care of himself."
"Can he?" Francine asks quietly. "Last time he needed you."
"Yes," Martha says, "and this time he's got me too."
Her mobile rings.
"Hang on," she says, and answers. "Hello. --Tom!" She backs away from the commotion, but everyone goes momentarily quiet anyway. Martha makes a 'keep going!' hand gesture at them, but Jack's damn well not going to keep going until he hears this conversation, and the Joneses seem to think so too, although Jack's team looks a bit puzzled.
"Yeah," Martha says. "Yeah, I'm at Leo's shop-- No! I mean. We're just doing inventory stuff, there's no need-- I'm fine. Yeah. I've been sleeping okay. No, I have. No, you don't. No--" she laughs-- "no it isn't, don't be silly. ...No. Honest. --No, wait, Tom! Look, all right, you can come over but this is all going to sound absolutely mad. Yeah. All right. See you."
She puts her phone away.
"Hey, does that mean we get to meet the boyfriend?" Jack asks cheerfully into the silence.
"Yeah," Martha says, and lets out a breath. "He was-- in London at the end. He'll be all right. He'll believe me."
"Yeah, you've got a whole load of mad people to back you up," Owen says.
"Yes she does," Jack says. "Okay, back to work, then."
At this point they've more or less entirely cleared the shelves, so Jack, Owen, Martha, and Leo go over to help the others sort through the stuff they've found. Martha is frowning to herself; Jack thinks it must be about Tom Milligan until she says abruptly, "Qworenn, this-- Matrix. The Doctor said it was all-- information about Time Lords and that. Is there other... information in it too?"
"Oh yes," Qworenn says, pausing in the inventory checklist, placing one fingertip against the screen to keep her place. "It's also a repository for the knowledge of all the Time Lords who have died. It's a pretty comprehensive survey of the entire breadth and history of the universe, really-- and some parallel ones as well, I think."
"And did the Master know enough that he'd be able to-- to access the Matrix with that ring he had?" Martha asks.
"I think so," Qworenn says. "Why?"
Martha considers this. "All right, forgive the cliché-- knowledge is power, right? He was wearing that ring for a year." She glances around at her family and Jack. "Do you know if he ever used it?"
"I wasn't usually graced by his presence," Jack drawls, but Tish, Francine, and Clive all shake their heads.
"Then," said Martha, "I think he might actually be telling the truth."
There's a moment of silence; puzzled, surprised, indignant. Tosh is looking very uncomfortable about the whole thing and Francine looks as though she'd like to give both the Doctor and the Master a very thorough talking-to and probably a few slaps.
It's in this moment that Tom Milligan chooses to walk in the door.
"Wow," he says. "Uh. Jones family get-together with some friends? I can come back another time, Martha."
"No, that's all right," Martha says. "Come on in."
Jack sizes the guy up. He's sort of scruffy, which is surprising, and is still wearing his doctor's clothes, complete with stethoscope, which is just funny, and has an aura of friendliness about him, which probably helps when it comes to working with kids. He comes in and shuts the door behind him, and after the round of Torchwood introductions are made, he says, "Okay, what's this all about?"
So Martha explains.
Jack shoos everyone back to work, but he keeps an ear open, just in case Martha needs someone to back her up. He hears her talk about the Doctor, and about the Time Lords. He hears her talk about the Master and the year that never was. "That's the first time I met you," Martha says. "We did an operation taking down one of the Toclafane together, and then you took me into London. It was the first time I'd been in England for a year. I only-- I only knew you for about two days, but you were really helpful. And--" Jack can hear the smile in her voice and glances over to see Martha giving Tom a look that makes him hope like hell Tom's not about to call her crazy-- "When I told you I'd been in space, you said-- you said, was there anything else you should know. And I said yeah. I've met Shakespeare. And you just-- I don't know, the world was so mad. You believed me."
"...Martha," Tom says, "look, I'd like to, but--"
"Proof," Martha says. Jack starts to open his mouth and step in, but Martha calls, "Qworenn, can you come over her for a moment?"
"Sure," Qworenn says, looking rather puzzled, but she comes over.
"Time Lords," Martha says, "have two hearts. Qworenn's a Time Lord. Check."
So Tom Milligan puts on his stethoscope and presses it to first one side of Qworenn's chest and then the other, while she stands there, looking more amused than anything else. "Wow," Tom Milligan says, and "Right then," Tom Milligan says, and "So what can I do to help?" Tom Milligan says, and that's when Jack gives in and decides maybe the guy's good enough for Martha after all.
"You can help us sort through this stuff," Jack says. "We've still got a long way to go."
The Doctor parks the TARDIS in front of the townhouse the Master had lived in for eighteen months with Lucy. That's really sloppy of her, really; she might have thought to change residences, but then, she always did like luxury. Lucy. The Rani too, the Master thinks, recalling the interior of her TARDIS. Lucy the Rani. He rolls it around in his mind, and it doesn't quite fit, one syllable too many for the drumbeat. He bounces impatiently as the Doctor takes a moment to conscientiously lock the TARDIS behind them. Actually, none of his thoughts are fitting quite right, like there's flashes of completely sane of laughter at the edge of sight, or the steam rising from a teacup just at the edge of hearing. Or is it the other way around? He's still got the Doctor under his skin and he's feeling far too smug still to start feeling disgusted or panic just yet.
He rings the doorbell with enthusiasm.
It's a long moment before Lucy answers. Her hair is up and she's wearing her best nylons, and she gives him a look of perfect vapid surprise, her mouth a little o. "Harry!" she says.
He hits her.
She stumbles back, her face still blank, and the Doctor runs up. "Master!" he snaps, and even though it's only annoyed the Master feels a little thrill anyway. "What are you doing?"
"Doctor!" Lucy says breathlessly, clutching the doorframe.
"Rani," the Doctor says mildly. "Might we come in? I'd like to have a chat."
Lucy's eyes dart to the Master for a moment; then she shrugs and holds the door wider. Now that the Master's looking for it, he notices something else about her too: faint and metallic, like a distant sun. "So you're back," he says. "Dear."
She smiles. "Yes, Harry."
"Inside?" the Doctor reminds them impatiently.
"Jealous?" the Master murmurs, following him in.
"Not a chance," the Doctor hisses back.
They sit down in the breakfast nook where the Master ate every day for months. Lucy-- the Rani, oh, if he thinks that he'll probably start hitting her again, Lucy-- pours tea for the three of them, pointedly in front of them, and sips her own to demonstrate its safety. "Please," she says. "Chat away."
"What do you think you're doing?" the Doctor asks without preamble.
Lucy studies him for a long moment, and then studies the Master for a long moment as well, lingering on the Doctor's skewed collar, the Masters hastily done-up tie, how disordered their hair is. "Serving you tea," she says.
"The Time Lords," the Doctor says, "in that psychiatric ward. What are you planning to do with them?"
"It's the safest place for them," the Rani says. "After Harry's little paradox stunt, quite a few of them were starting to attract attention. I thought it best to keep them together. After all, imagine if here and there panicked Academy students started turning up! The ideas they might get."
"But not all of them remember that year," the Doctor says. "You must have found them other ways."
"Oh, they come in groups," the Rani says, sipping her tea, pinky up. Her nails are painted a pearly cream today. She hasn't lost Lucy's silly vanity. "I'd just ask them to turn out their pockets."
"And then take away their Time Lord essence," the Doctor says tightly, "put something in it, and sell it to the Jones family, is that it?"
"Ah, Doctor," the Master puts in, "generally it's bad practice to let the enemy know how much you know."
"Oh, but I know," the Rani says. "Since you didn't die, Harry, I assumed the two of you would have gotten over your little differences long enough to work it out."
"So then why aren't you being a smart little girl and killing us?" the Master asks, leaning forward.
"Because I'm doing nothing wrong," the Rani says, her eyes going vapidly wide. She turns to the Doctor. "The drug I've inserted in their watches and trinkets won't mutate them horribly, you know. I've made very careful calculations. Last time, we weren't smart enough, or quick enough, or brave enough. Only you were, Doctor, and that was merely adrenaline and desperation. All the same, that hand of yours is very helpful-- I took a few samples, but there's nothing in your genetic code that makes you exemplary."
"Last time," the Doctor says flatly.
"The new Time Lord race will not be a species that could possibly lose a time war," the Rani explains. "More tea?" It's an empty question; neither the Doctor or the Master have actually touched theirs. "When those children open their trinkets and become Time Lords again, it will be at thirty percent increased brainpower-- quicker reflexes, more synapse connectivity, increased calculated aggression."
"But there are no Daleks left to fight!" the Doctor snaps. "They don't need those things. And-- thirty percent increased brainpower? They'll go mad!"
"I don't know, that's not so bad," the Master puts in just to be unhelpful, tapping out the drumbeat absently against the table. The Rani shoots him a dirty look and the Doctor ignores him entirely, which means at least one of them is learning.
"And even if your drug does work, and no one goes mad from it," the Doctor presses on, "a lot of young Time Lords can't live on twenty-first century Earth! Romana was going to evacuate them to the thirty-first century, but I imagine even that would have been temporary, since they would have still had their TARDISes--" He turns to the Master. "Did Qworenn say where they'd left their TARDIS?"
"I imagine it looks like one of those red phone boxes that are all over this city," the Master says dryly. "That would be in keeping. And no, she didn't."
"Are you just trying to take my TARDIS?" the Doctor demands of the Rani.
"Please, Doctor," she says. "That old clunker?"
The Master snorts softly.
"She's wonderful," the Doctor says indignantly. "And she won't work for you anymore either. She's completely on isomorphic now."
"I don't want your TARDIS, Doctor," the Rani says, setting her teacup down daintily. "I want your support. I can't even begin to imagine how difficult it will be to make the new Time Lord race with you opposing me."
"All right," the Doctor says, leaning forward, face hard. "Try me."
The Rani smiles graciously. "The use of your TARDIS would, of course, be a great help. And if we don't find any of the others, it might be a little difficult to grow new ones. All the same--" She shrugs. "Are you sure you don't want a bit of tea, Harry?"
"Please," he says, giving her a false smile, "continue digging that pretty grave."
She shrugs again and turns back to the Doctor. "I confess I did take your TARDIS on a short tour after I'd made Harry human. I wanted to see if you'd discovered any habitable planets. I must confess some disappointment-- so many were uninhabitable! The radiation levels on a few of them-- well, I went back to one and it only got worse, just water and bacteria everywhere, but when I went back to the other it got better after a few millennia. That's the wonderful thing about radiation that's nuclear rather than solar." She gives the Master a slightly mad smile. "Wouldn't you agree, Harry?"
The Master experiences, not for the first time in Lucy's company, a sudden horrible sinking feeling.
"And it's such a... New Gallifrey sort of place," the Rani goes on thoughtfully. "Only the one star, but there are two moons. The sky is silver and it's absolutely covered with red vegetation."
"...What's it called?" the Doctor asks.
"Asterion," the Rani says brightly.
"Asterion had a nuclear war?" the Doctor demands.
"Oh yes," the Rani says. "Well, naturally, I wanted to know how it had started. It's always good to know the beginnings of things. And would you imagine--"
"No!" the Master cuts in. "Stop it. Stop talking."
"Shush, Harry," the Rani says. She's clearly enjoying herself immensely. "You see, Doctor, someone had just happened to carelessly drop a jar of charged nuclear particles on the ground outside the human settlement on Asterion in the year 3218. Can you imagine!"
The Doctor turns to the Master very slowly. "What did you do?" he asks, very quietly and steadily.
"Oh, as though I was just going to untie you and go," the Master says with all the contempt he can muster. "Keeping me will be misery. It will be difficult, and trying, and it will always, Doctor, be difficult and trying. Or don't you remember?"
"But what did you gain?" the Doctor demands. He looks as though the Master has killed someone he actually cares about.
"A tiny, momentary bit of power," the Master says matter-of-factly. "Listen to the nice Rani, Doctor."
The Doctor keeps staring at him for a long moment, as though trying to read his mind. It's a useless exercise; he'll only hear the drumming. At length he wrenches his gaze from the Master's and looks back at the Rani. "Asterion," he says. "New Gallifrey. What year?"
"Roughly 800,000," the Rani says. "I checked-- the radiation levels are down by then." She leans forward. "Just think, Doctor-- a new Citadel of the Time Lords! A new empire!"
The Master starts laughing, quietly. Both the Rani and the Doctor turn to stare at him. "Oh, come on," he says, still chuckling. "A Time Lord empire? Founded by the three of us? There goes that policy of neutrality!" They keep staring. He finds he cannot actually stop laughing. "No, wait, I've got it! I can make more black hole converters, you know. I can be Rassilon. Lucy, my dear, you get to be Omega, that would be fitting. Oh, Doctor, that leaves you as the Other. Yes, that sounds about right. I can rule for a thousand years of terror and the new Eye of Harmony will have all sorts of gadgets to keep it in check and they'll all be named after me! The Sash of the Master and the Key of the Master and the Seal of the Master. While we're at it we might as well have a bloody Trouser Press of the Master. Does that sound nice? Does that sound fun? Yes, come on, let's build a new Time Lord empire!"
The Doctor reaches out very gently and presses a hand to the Master's arm, pain in his face. The Master's laughter subsides, mostly from angry shock; all this and the Doctor is still forgiving him. He wrenches his arm away.
"Well," the Rani says, looking disconcerted.
The Doctor stands. "The Master's right," he says, and ignores the twin looks of astonishment that are thrown at him. "Whatever this is, we-- we're all guilty exiles of the old society." He takes a shuddering breath. "Up, both of you, and in the TARDIS. Now."
And the Rani follows the Doctor outside too, for the same reason the Master does: where else, really, can they go?
The Doctor's shunting them back out of the TARDIS almost as soon as they're in it; he's only made a spatial leap, the Master sees at once, not a temporal one, because they're now parked outside the Jones' retail shop. The Rani shoots the sign above the window display a look of trepidation, but goes inside anyway. Perhaps she really thinks she can't win without the Doctor's help. The Master can't decide if this makes her a defeatist or a realist.
The scene inside the shop is, more than anything, crowded. The whole checkout counter is littered with hundreds of hinged knickknacks-- jewelry boxes, music boxes, cosmetics cases, glasses cases, little handbags, and of course watches. It's quite impressive, in fact. And oh, it does warm the Master's hearts to see the looks of hatred and fear crossing the faces of the Jones family and Jack when they look at him. He smiles and gives them a little wave.
"Right," the Doctor says, grabbing the Rani's elbow and pulling her up to the counter. (The half of the crowd that has never seen Lucy become visibly confused.) The Doctor takes one of the knickknacks-- a fob watch, perhaps for nostalgia's sake-- and presses it into the Rani's hand. "Open it," he says.
"But--" says the Rani.
"Open it," the Doctor repeats, very quietly.
The Rani opens it.
She opens it away from her, and a dart thuds into the floor.
"I thought so," the Doctor says. He takes the fob watch from her unresisting hands, gazes down for a moment at the swirling gold in its depths, and shuts it, setting it on the counter slightly apart from the rest of the knickknacks. Then he picks up a second, gives it to the Rani, and says, patiently, "Open it."
And so it goes.
The Master wonders idly why the Rani doesn't open one of the knickknacks right in the Doctor's face, purely out of spite; then again, perhaps even he wouldn't, not with the looks ranging from curious to venomous trained on her by their human audience. All except Martha Jones, he sees: she's watching him steadily, rather than the proceedings. He raises his eyebrows at her. She raises them back.
Well, what the hell, he's bored.
He waggles his eyebrows. Her eyes narrow. He rolls his. Hers narrow further. He winks at him. Her eyebrows shoot back up. He grins. She looks skeptical. He considers this for a moment, and winks again.
Miracle of miracles, Martha Jones cracks a smile.
Then she tilts her head at the Doctor, looks back at the Master, and give him a look that plainly says, Well? He shrugs, makes the universal gesture for He's quite mad, and nods. Martha winces a little, shrugs too, and goes back to watching the Rani, which definitely concludes possibly the most surreal exchange of the Master's life. He's left with the distinct sense he's just gotten a strange skewed sort of blessing from Martha Jones, and decides that it's best to just blame this on stupid babbling human Harry. That's the only explanation.
She must really want the Doctor to be happy. Oh, he is winning today.
The extraction of the Rani's drug from the chameleon arch components winds to a close, and the Doctor looks around. "Leo, Mr. Jones, where do you keep-- baskets? Things to carry things in?"
"Round the back," Leo says, running for the back room. After a moment Tish and Ianto follow him.
"Right," the Doctor says when they've returned with baskets and bags, taking a firm hold of the Rani's elbow again, "all that stuff into those bags, and into the TARDIS-- we're going to the hospital."
So off they all go again, four Time Lords and eleven humans piling into the TARDIS console room for another short spatial leap across London. The Master hasn't enjoyed himself this much since-- well, since a few hours ago in a bedroom in the TARDIS, but that's hardly the point.
Evidently not wanting to cause too much of a commotion, the Doctor takes them into the hospital through a side entrance ("Nice Seal of Rassilon on the front doors, by the way," he says cheerfully to the Rani as he unlocks the side door) and all fifteen of them walk up the eight sets of stairs en masse, although the Master finds himself in the front with the Doctor and the Rani. No one, even Qworenn, seems to want to get too close to any of them.
When they reach the eighth floor, the Doctor pulls out his slightly psychic paper and flashes it at the bewildered doctors and nurses who rush to see what all the commotion's about. That gets them through, but only barely. Eventually the Doctor finds the man in charge. "I'll need all your patients in one room," the Doctor tells him. "The biggest room you've got, all sitting in a circle. And quickly."
The man hesitates and turns to the Rani. "Ms. Ingram?"
The Rani sighs and makes a defeatedly bored gesture. "Do as he says."
Ten minutes and they're in the largest room in the ward. Quite a few of the patients are shooting Martha awed looks, as is the slightly scruffy man who looks very vaguely familiar and seems to have attached himself to Martha's arm. This all strikes the Master as rather annoying, so he lounges in the doorway and waits for something interesting to happen.
For a while nothing interesting seems forthcoming. Lacking any other means of giving the right Time Lord essence to each human sitting there, the Doctor asks them to pass each of the trinkets around in the circle, opening each one before handing it to the person next to them. For a while there are nothing but small noises of surprise as the humans see the funny glowing stuff inside each opened item, and then half way around the circle a boy opens a music box and the gold suffuses his face. He closes it in astonishment, all the other patients staring at him, and his face breaks into a grin.
"We're okay!" he says.
"Yeah," the Doctor whispers. "You are that." It appears he has tears in his eyes.
The Master looks away.
At length every trinket has been opened and a hundred young Time Lords are sitting there quietly, apparently trying to absorb everything that's happened. Then a girl with short brown hair turns to the Doctor and says, quietly, "Thank you."
"Of course," the Doctor whispers.
"But where are the others?" the girl asks.
"I don't know," the Doctor says.
"And you won't!" the Rani says, standing unexpectedly. "I have this knowledge, but you've all scorned my help."
And the Master is overcome with a sudden sweeping sense of having been here before. At the time the figures might have been anyone: a man in a suit, a woman with blonde hair, all those scared upturned faces. "If I can't have it," the woman is saying (has said) with cruel petulance, holding up-- it doesn't matter what she's holding up; the Master had understood then that if he took it, he would become the most powerful man in the universe, and that he sees now it's his ring and the key to the Matrix makes no difference. Just as he did in that room on Kigkrywui, he snatches it from the Rani's hand; in that room, he'd felt power starting to solidify around him, and then everything had flickered and he'd found himself in a cave with the Kigkry nervously shunting him out. Now, here, the ring in his hand is not a quantum possibility but a fact.
"Master," the Doctor says, very softly, and the clenched-teeth quiet terror in his voice-- should make the Master laugh, turn, blow him a kiss and slip on the ring with the thought of opening and of knowing.
He holds it tightly and watches it glitter and thinks, absurdly, of King Louis VII tapping out a drumbeat on the arm of his chair and saying, And it came to me that if I could comprehend the place in which I found myself, I would be gifted with knowledge as great as God's. And this, gentlemen, was the point at which I believe I triumphed over temptation. He thinks of the Doctor saying, as though he really believes it, It can be controlled. It doesn't have to be obeyed. He thinks of the Cephei wrapping his legs in shivery joyful hugs and gazing up with amber-eyed admiration. He thinks of the look on the Doctor's face, watching him wash the dishes. He thinks of the Doctor staring at him across his lab on Malcassario and telling him he's brilliant. He thinks of the swordfight he remembered even as Harry. He thinks of a thousand stupid things they've done together and he sees the pleading fear in the Doctor's face, and the rage in the Rani's, and the hard determination in Martha's that tells him he will have another thing coming if he pulls that taking-over-the-world stunt again.
He holds onto the ring very hard for a moment, so that it digs painfully into his palm, and then he hands it to the Doctor.
The Doctor looks back at him as though he's not at all surprised that the Master would give it to him, and for the first time in nearly forever, the Master doesn't feel resentment for his compassion.
"It shouldn't be me using this," he says, looking around at the assembled Time Lords. "Have any of you ever accessed the Matrix?"
Nearly every head shakes, but a man near the back raises his hand. "I have, Doctor," he says. "Only-- only for a bit of thesis research, but I think I might be able to use it. A little."
"Right," the Doctor says, and tosses it to him.
"...Wait," a timid voice says.
Everyone, the Master included, turns to stare at the woman who spoke; one of the Torchwood humans, the Japanese one. She looks slightly alarmed at the sudden attention, but says, "I-- I think I might have something that can help." She clutches nervously at her computer bag. "It's in one of my files. Um. 'Follow the infinite road'. An alien inscription we found in Tibet. It-- it talked about sacred rings and sacred knowledge."
"Oh, that's brilliant, Tosh!" Martha says. "Doctor, do you think?"
"It's worth a try, anyway," the Doctor says.
"And here's the next problem," the Master puts in; the Rani's trying to edge past him. He grabs her arm. "What do we do with little Lucy?"
"I'll take her," Qworenn says unexpectedly. "I don't know about her motivations, but she knows her stuff. If Gallifrey's gone and we need to start out on a new planet, we can use her for simple things. She'll provide the science and I can provide the scruples."
"Brilliant," the Doctor says happily, and actually goes so far as to give Qworenn a hug.
The Master hands the Rani over willingly enough and says, "And I do so hate to keep raining on this parade, but where will they live? Stranded on Asterion?" He looks around. "Does anyone remember where your TARDIS is parked?"
"Oh dear," the Master says, and rather means it. All these Time Lords are not allowed on his-- on the Doctor's-- on the TARDIS. That's all his freedom gone, all chance to change the universe, and when he glances at the Doctor he sees the Doctor has thought of the same thing.
And then there's a noise in the corridor almost but not quite exactly like that of a TARDIS materializing. Everyone immediately leaps to their feet and piles out into the corridor, where a puzzling sight meets their eyes: a large, purple-brown, amber-eyed octopus is climbing out of a slightly larger conch shell and looking around at them all. "Hello, Doctor and Master!" it says cheerfully.
No one in the crowd screams, which says something about present company.
The Cephei trundles over to them. The Doctor beams down at it. "How did you get here?" he asks in delight.
"Your ship taught our ships interesting and valuable things," the Cephei says. "Many of our ships are extradimensional now, and capable of temporalspatial travel." It pats the Doctor's trainer fondly with a tentacle. "But don't worry, we do not interfere. We merely observe."
The Master can nearly feel the Doctor's hearts constrict.
"Xeph," the Doctor says, "a lot of these people here are temporally sensitive refugees of my own species. They've lost their living ships. Your planet-- the one you're on now-- what's it like?"
"New Cephei?" Xeph's tentacles wave in a complicated way that's probably a shrug. "The oceans are deep and vast, but there is land too, with oxygen and flying creatures and vegetation. Most of our new living ships are grown there."
"Could you--" the Doctor says, and cannot go on.
"Could you take them?" the Master asks. "Could your planet support another species?"
"If it is yours?" Xeph says. "Yes, of course. Will there be more refugees?"
The Doctor glances back at the man who took the Matrix key, and then at the Cephei again. "Yes," he says. "Quite a lot."
"Well," Xeph says, its skin rippling with amusement, "New Cephei has quite a lot of land."
"Thanks for the tea, Mrs. Jones," the Doctor says, getting to his feet and folding his napkin neatly.
"Come by any time you like," Martha's mum says, but she says it in such a way that implies that, like this time, the Master will never be invited. Martha can't really blame her.
She follows the Doctor outside. The Doctor hears her and turns on the street, standing at some precise halfway point between the TARDIS and Martha's mum's house. It's funny, the way a blue police box doesn't look odd standing there in the middle of the road. It looks solid, like it can stand through anything; like she's starting to realize the Doctor can too. It doesn't matter that she didn't make him better all on her own: she's a doctor. It's just her job to do enough to help people help themselves, and she's done that. She looks at the Doctor and the Doctor looks at her and he smiles a little, crookedly.
"Still have that phone?" Martha asks.
"Of course," the Doctor says. "Never go anywhere without it."
"You think they'll be all right?" Martha says.
The Doctor's smile grows a little. "Torchwood? Your family?"
"The Time Lords," Martha says.
"Yes," the Doctor says. "And Torchwood, and your family."
"You are not alone," Martha says, grinning a little.
"No," the Doctor says, "no," and he looks at her, really looks at her, and says, seriously, "I've got you."
Martha steps up to him and shoves his chest lightly. "Told you."
"Mm." The Doctor leans down a little and hugs her tightly; Martha grins against the fabric of his suit and breathes in the smell of cloth and metal and a faint whiff of tea. He pulls back to grin at her again, holding onto her arms for a moment, the corners of his eyes crinkling up a little.
"So you and the Master," Martha says, "you're just-- travelling on."
"So we are," the Doctor says.
"And that's all right?"
The Doctor contemplates this for a moment. "It will be difficult, and trying," he says, nearly as though it's a recitation, "and it will always be difficult and trying. But that's what makes it fun."
"You're completely mad," Martha says, laughing, and lets him go.
She watches the TARDIS fade from view, and then she goes back inside to her family.
Previous: 4x12: The Watch Shop