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Wonders of the Universe

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It starts in a market on Bergezet in the Teragi system, during one of the Doctor's suspiciously normal outings. Martha thinks she has the hang of the outings that start with distress signals or the TARDIS being pulled mysteriously off course, the ones that start with that glint in the Doctor's eye and his here's a mystery; fancy taking a look? The ones that start with going innocently to a concert and end up with aliens chasing them, those are the outings Martha's learned to be wary of.

So here they are in a market under the glittering evening sky of Bergezet, the Doctor walking on ahead in an enthusiastic trench coat sweep and Martha trying to peel something that has at least a passing relation to an orange, when an alien in a corner stall foists a digital flyer into Martha's somewhat fruit-sticky hands.

"Doctor," Martha calls, "I think someone just gave me alien email spam."

"Really?" The Doctor turns back and snatches the flyer deftly. It flashes with enthusiasm and his eyebrows go up. " 'Wonders of the Universe!' " he reads. " 'See your hopes and dreams brought to life'. What do you think, Martha?"

"Well," Martha says, finally managing to get the orange-like fruit open and pausing to take a bite, "I dunno, my dreams are mostly to finish my medical degree, and I seriously doubt a degree from another planet is going to be much use."

"Yes," the Doctor murmurs, "but think: if it's not a hoax ... There are people out there with much more harmful dreams than yours, Martha Jones." He folds the flyer and slides it into a pocket. "Fancy taking a look?"

"Why not," Martha says, grinning.

The Wonders of the Universe are, apparently, housed in a museum-esque building at the other end of the market. The Doctor and Martha take an air tram, which gives Martha time to finish her fruit and think about the advertisement a little more.

"Hang on," she says, watching colourful stalls sail past, "what if it's not dreams like wishes, but dreams like nightmares? What if we get there and suddenly it's all -- I dunno, Daleks, or the monster that chased me down the hall when I was little?"

"A monster chased you down the hall when you were little?" the Doctor repeats, surprised.

"In this nightmare I kept having," Martha explains, a little impatiently. "Point is, Doctor, what if we create Daleks or something just by going to see this Wonders of the Universe thing?"

"Good thinking," the Doctor murmurs. "Still! Best to find out before anyone else does."

Martha shrugs. It's not as though she isn't curious.

As it turns out, the Wonders of the Universe are mostly beautiful asteroids and a few rare animals from other parts of the Teragi system. The Doctor and Martha share neon purple candyfloss and watch a light show; Martha gets her fortune read by a cheerful old gentleman who tells her that she has a long and winding journey before her. The Exhibition of Hopes and Dreams is closed for renovations, the management regrets to inform them when the Doctor enquires after it, but he and Martha are both given blinking little compensation slips.

"Bit of a disappointment, really," Martha observes as they head back to the TARDIS that evening on the hover tram.

"Did you think so?" The Doctor grins at her. "Never had neon candyfloss before. I'd call that a good day, Miss Jones."

Martha concedes the point and walks arm-in-arm with the Doctor to the TARDIS door. Inside, she washes the last of the candyfloss and orange from her hands, changes jackets, and falls comfortably asleep on a sofa until she's woken up by a violent lurch that is the TARDIS coming in to land.

She tumbles off the couch and runs up the stairs to the console room. It's empty. She goes to the monitor readout: it shows her a normal-looking city, probably Earth, maybe even Martha's own time. She types in a request for a readout; the TARDIS gives it to her in the funny circle-writing the Doctor likes, but she tells it, "Don't be difficult," and after a moment it gives her the readout again: Aberdeen, Earth, 1998. "What's in Aberdeen?" Martha mutters. "Doctor?" Her voice echoes. "Doctor?"

The TARDIS really does feel peculiarly empty. Maybe the Doctor was letting her sleep. The really sensible thing would be to just stay here and wait for him to return, but he's only just left -- and the idea of the Doctor getting into trouble on his own seizes at Martha's heart. Martha takes a deep breath and goes out.

It's easy to find the trouble; the TARDIS is parked near a bridge, and Martha can hear screaming down by the river. She runs toward the noise, and leaning over a railing can see the Doctor engaged in a sort of earnest shouting match with a six-foot netting-wearing green fish thing. The fish thing holds up a sort of round iron in a very businesslike way, and the Doctor obligingly raises his hands, still talking rapidly. Martha hesitates; it looks like she'll be more a hindrance than a help at this point, so she shouts for the small group of panicked humans to follow her, and makes sure they're well out of danger before she goes back towards the bridge.

The Doctor and the fish thing are both gone.

Martha takes a couple of deep breaths and reminds herself that the Doctor might not have noticed her. Probably didn't, in fact; he spends a lot of time not noticing her. So she sets back towards the TARDIS, and has nearly managed to calm down when she hears the unmistakable wheeze of the TARDIS taking off. She breaks into a run. "Doctor!" she shouts, "Doctor!"

She comes into sight of the TARDIS just before it fades out entirely.

Martha stands there and tries to breathe normally and can't, because she's starting to hyperventilate with panic. Down in London, right now, she's thirteen; being stranded somewhere familiar is far more terrifying than being stranded on an alien planet. But any minute now the Doctor is going to notice she's gone, of course. She'll be fine. She'll be fine, but she doesn't believe herself, and slides halfway down the nearest brick wall to hug her arms and keep trying to breathe.

Ever since her months in 1913, vague feelings that the Doctor doesn't quite notice her have turned into an awful quiet conviction that he deliberately chooses not to. Martha isn't much given to self-pity, but in less admirable moments she entertains the idea that one day the Doctor will just leave her; just get bored, or not care, and leave. It had seemed so ridiculous, but here Martha is; the Doctor still hasn't come back, and she's beginning to get really frightened, not rationally but in the way of dreams.

Hang on.

Hand slightly shaking, Martha slips a hand into the pocket of her jeans and comes out with the compensation slip for the Exhibition of Hopes and Dreams. She'd hoped the Doctor wouldn't leave her; she's suddenly in a nightmare where he has.

Very decidedly, Martha rips the compensation slip in two.

Almost immediately her hair flies back from her face in the outrush of air as the TARDIS lands. Trying not to do something embarrassing like bursting into laughter or tears, Martha runs to the doors. The Doctor, upon opening one and peering out, is treated to an armful of relieved Martha, although almost at once she lets go.

"Hello," the Doctor says, pulling her in. "Are you all right?"

"I found out what that Exhibition was about," Martha replies, waving the torn compensation slip at him.

"Yes," the Doctor agrees. "I thought there was a reason some old friends of mine turned up. I always had a sort of worry they might come back, and I remembered what you said about Daleks -- so I tore my slip, and they were gone." He sets his hands seriously on Martha's shoulders, looking at her closely. "What about you?"

"Oh, I just --" Martha feels herself flushing a little. "Well, you left me behind." It comes out much more accusatory than she meant it to.

Understanding flashes across the Doctor's face. "Oh, Martha Jones," he says, quiet, more affectionate than Martha's used to. "I am not leaving you." And he leans down to press a kiss to her forehead. Martha tilts her face up in sheer astonishment. The Doctor gives her one of those wonderful soft infrequent smiles that are meant for her and her alone, and this time the Doctor kisses her properly.

It's at about this point that Martha realises maybe the compensation slip was good for something after all. Wonders of the Universe indeed.