(London, Earth, 2009)
When Martha gets to the coffee shop, the Doctor's already there, his trenchcoat draped over the back of his seat. He spots her in the doorway and waves with such happy enthusiasm that Martha finds herself grinning back as she wends her way over to the table.
"Martha Jones," he says, beaming at her as though he's quite proud of her for just being here. "How are you?"
"You're very chipper, Doctor," she says, sitting down across from him. "What's the occasion? Saved a particularly nice planet, have you?"
"Saved a particularly nice species," the Doctor says. "Well, two, actually. The Cephei-- these sort of purple octopi-- and their ships. The TARDIS taught them to fly."
Feeling it's probably prudent not to ask whether it was the ships or the octopi that learned to fly, Martha accepts the coffee the Doctor slides across the table to her. "How is the TARDIS, then?" she asks.
"Good, good, quite good," the Doctor says, and then, to Martha's absolute astonishment, "and the Master too. I've got him locked up for a bit-- I didn't think you'd much like it if I brought him along." He catches the look on Martha's face and his own softens a little, out of the manic cheer into a gentle seriousness. "And I'm all right too," he says, and Martha understands that somehow the Master's actually been a help. She'd rather thought the pure evil would more or less cancel out the potential helpfulness of a shared cultural background, but apparently she's wrong.
"I'm glad," she says, and thinks she probably means it.
"I am too," the Doctor says, and looks at her. Really looks at her, exactly the way Tom sometimes does, like she's the most important thing in the world, and Martha's heart turns over, because a year ago she would have given anything for the Doctor to look at her like that. But she knows he's able to look at her like that now because the Master-- the Master-- has done something for the Doctor that Martha Jones can't.
"Don't," she says. "Listen, I'm dating this bloke called Tom Milligan."
"Oh." The Doctor looks confused. "Is that what you wanted to talk to me about?"
"No," Martha says, rolling her eyes in fond exasperation.
"...What, then?" the Doctor prompts after a moment.
"Oh. Um." Martha stares down into her mug. "I-- keep having nightmares," she says a little awkwardly. "Variations on the same dream every night for a month now, which is getting a bit ridiculous." She looks up at him; he's listening closely, with a faint frown, not as though he doesn't think this worth his time but simply as though he's concentrating, and it heartens her. "They're-- dreams about the year that never was, or that's what I thought at first. I mean, I guess that's not too strange. I know my family sometimes still dreams about. But they didn't-- they didn't see all the blood and the burning." Martha swallows.
"I'm sorry," the Doctor says softly. "That's not something anyone should have to see."
Martha gives him a grateful look but waves this away. "But I hadn't been dreaming about it, Doctor. Not for months, not until I stopped by the Ingram psychiatric ward." She realizes she's not presenting this in any sort of clear order, so she takes a deep breath and says, "I don't always-- dream I'm me, is the funny bit. I started that way-- you know, I'd just dream I was myself, running through a burning city. But then-- sometimes I'm really little, and Mum is telling me to hurry up or we'll be left behind. Or I'm trying to make sure Leo and Tish are with me. And we're trying to get somewhere, quickly, before-- before we get killed, I suppose." She looks up at him and spreads her hands. "And I wouldn't've bothered you, but I've gotten to the point where I can't sleep well and it's interfering with my life."
"May I see?" the Doctor asks.
It takes her a moment to figure out what he means, and when she does, she surprises herself by actually hesitating a little. Then, "Yeah, all right," she says, and leans forward a bit, closing her eyes. The Doctor props his elbows on the table and touches his fingertips gently to her temples.
It's very weird, more than anything else; she can feel the Doctor kind of sorting politely through her thoughts as thought they're private files stored up in synaptic links, and when he reaches the relevant memories he pulls them out to examine carefully: the burning orange sky, the silvery trees, the bodies sprawled out on the street.
"I don't know, Martha," he murmurs, still probing gently through her thoughts, "it looks like it's just trauma. I can fix it if you like, but--"
He stops very suddenly, having gone far enough back to reach the recollection of the first dream, and the funny Celtic knot she'd seen on a stone. The Doctor's shock doesn't actually hurt, but she feels it, and, "Martha," he says, tightly, "is there anywhere else you might have seen that symbol? Anywhere at all?"
"Sure," Martha says in faint surprise, and blinks her eyes open to look at him. He's staring straight at her with an alarming intensity she'd only really seen him have around the Master. She swallows a little and thinks of the design on the handles of the hospital doors.
The Doctor drops his hand; Martha feels a brief flare of loss, but ignores it. "So... probably a good thing I came to you with this, then?" she asks.
"That Celtic knot of yours is the Seal of Rassilon," the Doctor says, and when Martha stares at him blankly he adds, impatient, "Rassilon, one of the founders of Time Lord society. You shouldn't be dreaming it and it definitely shouldn't be etched into the doors of London hospitals!"
"One London hospital," Martha says.
"Any!" the Doctor says, and rakes a hand through his hair. It stands madly on end. "And you say you started having these dreams after visiting a psychiatric ward?"
"At the hospital with the Seal of Whatsit," Martha says, nodding.
"Rassilon," Martha repeats dutifully. "It's all a bit complicated."
"You have my complete attention," the Doctor says, quite seriously.
So Martha takes a deep breath and explains. She tells the Doctor about Tish's suspect job offers, about Rosamund Ingram, about Miss Ridley, and about the ward. She tells the Doctor all about the conversations she had with the patients, and how a few of them had remembered the year that never was. "How is that possible, anyway?" she asks when she has brought up this last point. "I mean, I suppose if they'd been right under the Valiant, but it was over Norway or something, not London!"
The Doctor has been quiet and still all through this recitation, but at these words he stirs a little. "No," he says. "Even if they've been right under it-- only temporally sensitive beings can clock an erased paradox properly. Humans can't do it."
"So maybe they weren't human," Martha says. "I mean, they looked it, but that doesn't mean much."
"No," the Doctor murmurs. "No, it doesn't." He grins suddenly. "Want to go over and see?"
Martha finds herself grinning back. The Doctor leaps to his feet, shrugs on his trenchcoat, goes over, and offers him her arm. "Miss Jones?"
Technically it's 'doctor', Doctor, Martha thinks, but she gets to her feet and takes his arm. "Thanks, Mr. Smith."
They take the Underground; Martha pays for both tickets and doesn't mind the price at all because the faintly bewildered look on the Doctor's face during the whole ordeal more than makes up for it. Back on the street, the Doctor remains fairly bouncy and cheerful, but he keeps darting little sideways glances at Martha, and Martha is weirdly reminded of the way she used to look at him. Not with quiet soulful looks or any rubbish like that, but warily. As though she's the alien.
She supposes she is, after a fashion. The human doctor who saved the world. She smiles lopsidedly at him and feels overwhelmingly happy that he still turns up in her life now and again.
She leads the Doctor to the front doors of the hospital; he studies the door handle Seal of Whatsit, but lays a hand on her shoulder when she actually reaches for it. "Not the front door," he says, catching her hand, and takes off around the side of the building. Martha comes readily enough, grinning. She recalls suddenly one of her first memories of Jack: he's beaming like mad, laughing as he runs down a slope, and he says, "Oh, I've missed this," more a laugh than words. That's Martha Jones now: running hand in hand with the Doctor, realizing all over again why she was really mad enough to consider travelling around with this man.
"If we're going to break in," she says a little breathlessly as they skid to a halt by a side door, "remember I'm a medical professional and this will look really bad, yeah?"
"Oh, yeah, sure, got it," the Doctor says, unlocking the door with his sonic screwdriver. He grins at her. "Don't worry, I've got this slightly psychic paper. Anyone asks, it'll say we should be here. Besides, we're doctors."
"Yes," Martha says patiently, following him inside, "but I've been here. If anyone recognizes me, they'll know I don't work here."
"So we're visiting," the Doctor says, and locates a sign that says STAIRS. "Come on, this way!"
Martha doesn't bother suggesting they take the lift. It's more conspicuous, and she suspects the Doctor not-so-secretly enjoys leaping up staircases. Still, eight floors later, she's a bit out of breath and her legs ache. The Doctor's unabated enthusiasm makes her hover for a moment between amused and annoyed, but amused seems the way to go, so at the top of the last set of stairs, she gives him a slightly breathless grin. He goes to the door onto the ward, opens it a little, peers out, and goes very still. A moment; he shuts it again slowly and turns to Martha, his grin gone.
"Lucy Saxon," he says. "What's Lucy Saxon doing these days?"
Martha stares at him. "I told you, the only thing she's done in public in all this time is given money to the place that used to be Lazarus Labs. They call it something funny now-- er, Prydonian Labs?"
Shock spasms across the Doctor's face again. "Prydonian Labs?"
"Yeah," Martha says, watching his face carefully. "That means something too?"
"Yes," the Doctor says shortly. "We should go. We should go now."
"What, back down all those stairs?" Martha says, laughing a little.
"Yes," the Doctor says. "Listen, in that ward right now is a blonde woman-- short hair--"
"Miss Ridley?" Martha says, not feeling terribly surprised. "Yeah."
"Martha," the Doctor says, very quietly, "she was holding your parents hostage on the Master's orders. She ordered the military to shoot at your car."
And Martha very suddenly remembers why Miss Ridley looks so familiar.
"Right," she says, a little breathlessly, although it's horror this time rather than exertion, "right, we can go now."
"Want to explain a bit?" Martha asks, when they're safely back on the street. "Fancy explaining how this stuff adds up?"
"I've got a theory," the Doctor says, staring back up at the eighth floor of the hospital. "Actually, I have a few."
"And one of them has to do with Lucy Saxon?" Martha says. "You saw her, Doctor. She said your name too."
"I know," the Doctor murmurs. "That's the bit that doesn't add up. Actually. One of the bits that doesn't add up, there are a few of those." He glances over at Martha. "And someone's been trying to get at Tish but not at you? Not at the rest of your family?"
"No," Martha says. "But none of the rest of us are looking for jobs, and it would look a bit suspicious if someone came poking around our houses, wouldn't it? Although I haven't had any funny patients trying to do me in, either."
"What do your parents do?" the Doctor asks. "Your brother?"
"Dad and Leo are in retail," Martha says. "Mum's a lawyer. Why?"
"I don't know," the Doctor murmurs. "Thought it might be good to know, just in case."
"In case of what?"
"I don't know that either," the Doctor admits, and looks over at her. "I know a lot less than I should about this, whatever this is, but I think the Master might have an idea. Coming with me?"
"Oh yes," Martha says grimly.
"Right," the Doctor says, turning, "then--"
A Rubik's cube hits him very hard in the back of the head and shatters.
"Ow!" The Doctor claps a hand to the back of his head and stares down in astonishment at the shattered Rubik's cube, then turns around and stares up at the hospital. "Given trajectory," he says, "eighth floor."
"Are you all right?" Martha asks, more concerned about concussion than trajectory.
"Yeah." The Doctor gives her a brief crooked grin. "Thick skull."
Martha doesn't quite have the heart to laugh.
"If it's from the psychiatric ward," she says slowly, "it belonged to that girl I told you about. Annie. She said she used to be able to figure it out. Maybe she got frustrated with it."
"Funny thing to say, isn't it," the Doctor murmurs. "Good throwing arm, too."
"That was deliberately aimed," the Doctor says.
"But why would a teenage girl throw something at you?" Martha asks, bewildered.
"I don't know," the Doctor says, "but if your Miss Ridley saw me, maybe she was hoping to give me that concussion you're so worried about. Still. Good aim."
"Yeah, but then why didn't she try to hurt me?" Martha wants to know, not because she doesn't believe the Doctor but because very little of this is making any sense at all.
"Because you didn't recognize her," the Doctor says softly, and bends down to pick up the shattered pieces of Rubik's cube. He slips them into the pocket of his trenchcoat. "I did."
"Then we'd better be talking to the Master," Martha says. "Now."
They get back on the Underground; the Doctor keeps rubbing the back of his head absently, but when Martha takes a few surreptitious glances at his face, there's nothing to indicate he does have a concussion, so she lets it go. Beginnings of sentences start running through her head. Doctor, the Master said-- Doctor, when you were back on your planet-- Doctor, at the end of the Time War-- Doctor, could you tell me--
But she says nothing. There's a lot she doesn't know about the Doctor but she's always known that, and she trusts him.
They're getting off the train at their station when the Doctor stumbles and grabs Martha's arm so hard she nearly screams. For a moment she thinks perhaps he's tripped on the space between the train and the platform, but when he straightens, he's so drained of colour a spike of alarm goes through Martha. "What, Doctor?" she asks, pulling him away from the train doors and towards the wall of the tunnel. "What's wrong?"
He stares at her wildly without seeing her and she's reminded, a little irrationally, of the way he looked when they were on the spaceship that was about to crash into a sun. That scares her too, but she steels herself and asks again, quite calmly, "What's wrong, Doctor?"
"He's gone," the Doctor whispers.
"Who?" Martha asks, with a distinct sinking feeling.
"The Master," the Doctor says. "He's gone."
"What, he took the TARDIS and--?"
"No," the Doctor says, a little impatiently, a flicker of something less intense and more like normal annoyance crossing his face. "No, even if he'd gone back to the end of the universe I'd sense him. He's gone."
"...Dead?" Martha hazards.
"Can't be," the Doctor mutters, "that doesn't make sense," and takes off for the stairs. Martha resigns herself to more running and takes off after him.
The TARDIS isn't far from the station, for which Martha is grateful. She nearly smacks into the Doctor, though, because he skids to so abrupt a halt right in front of it, and glancing around his side she sees immediately what's brought him up short: the TARDIS' door is slightly ajar.
"Did you lock it?" Martha asks.
"Yes," the Doctor says, but it's nearly a wail of anguish, and Martha feels terrible.
"All right then," she says. "Let's go in and see what's happened."
They go in.
Everything is absolutely completely intact and as it should be, as far as Martha can tell, except that the Master is lying on his back on the floor of the control room, and definitely not locked up somewhere like the Doctor said he was. But also not gone, because he's definitely breathing, if asleep.
All the same, the Doctor's face is tight with worry; he kneels by the Master, checks his pulse, and goes even paler. "Martha," he snaps, "is there anything here? A watch? Some-- some useless trinket?" But before Martha can answer he's sprung to his feet again and is tearing around the room in some frantic futile search.
Martha kneels down by the Master and checks his pulse too. It feels normal, but the Doctor must have noticed something, so she presses a hand down over his heart. All in working order. Then she slides her hand over to the other side of his chest, and--
"Doctor," she whispers, and stands. "Doctor?"
He turns to her, his eyes wide. "What?"
"He doesn't-- he-- why?" Maybe the Doctor's panic is catching. She takes a steadying breath. "Doctor, I think he's human."
"Yes," the Doctor says shortly. "But he wouldn't have pulled something like this twice, and there'd be no point, not unless he took the TARDIS somewhere else and hid first-- but he wouldn't hide from me, so someone else must have done it. And-- and taken the thing that has his Time Lord essence in it."
"You mean a fob watch?" Martha says, trying to carry on speaking calmly in the face of the Doctor's short sharp breaths and shaking hands.
"Anything!" the Doctor says. "It doesn't-- it's a convenient form, that's all. Lots of the older chameleon arches came with them, but some of the newer ones--"
Martha nearly wants to say that perhaps it's a good thing they don't know where or what is keeping the Master's Time Lordly essence. That perhaps this is the only kind solution to the problem of a universe with the Master in it. But she doesn't.
"So we could be looking for anything," she says.
The Doctor rakes a hand through his hair. "Yes. Essentially yes."
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