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It's a long, dark stone corridor with a door at the end, and you feel like you've been here before. You're scared and excited, rushing towards the door to see what's on the other side. Sort of thing he'd do, really. Sort of thing you'd do as well, but you know this place is familiar, and suddenly your anticipation is mixed with fear--

You reach the door, and it's opening. You catch a glimpse of the other side, but--

 

Martha woke up.

 

"How'd you sleep?"

Martha found the kitchens with no problem, and the Doctor inside, sitting at the table in the same suit he'd worn the day before.

"Not bad," she said. Coffee, yes, proper coffee, even, and toast, butter that was soft without being disgusting. "Weird dreams, though."

"That'd be the TARDIS," said the Doctor. "She's a bit telepathic, you know."

Martha put her cup down.

"So your ship," she said slowly, "is ... messing about in my brain?"

Her voice was cold, but the Doctor was – as usual – oblivious.

"Language centres, mostly," he said, "she translates for you." He must have seen the look on her face because he added quickly, "it's harmless. Just an automated system."

"So it's not alive, then?"

He looked scandalised. "Of course she's alive!"

"It's made of wood." Martha ran her hand over the bench top. It was cold and inert, like stone. "On the outside, at least."

"You're made of meat," said the Doctor. "Plenty of people are made of wood. I hope you're not prejudiced. I knew a very nice tree, once. Tropical rainforest. Beautiful." He became serious. "She's dead."

"I'm sorry," Martha whispered. There it was again, that shadow that followed him. She had googled 'Rose Tyler' while she was at home. Missing, presumed dead, one of the casualties at Canary Wharf. Like poor Adeola.

She sipped her coffee and said, as casually as she could manage, "So would it turn up on a CAT scan? The changes the TARDIS is making to my brain?"

The Doctor looked genuinely surprised. "I have no idea. No one's ever ... maybe. If you know what to look for."

"Pity there's no baseline. Be interesting." Martha joined him at the table. "I could write a paper."

"If ever I had a friend in need of a holiday, Martha Jones, it's you." The Doctor's casual tone sounded slightly false, but he had visibly relaxed. "Where should we go today?"

"Surprise me."

"Oh," he grinned, "I will."

 

When she was alone, she leaned against a cool TARDIS wall and whispered, "If I get a tumour, you'll be firewood. Understand?"

No answer, not even a change in the ship's vibration.

"Then we have a deal," said Martha, and she went to find the Doctor and the next adventure.

 

"Have we broken down?"

Another day, another adventure. Or not.

Martha sat down, put her bare feet up on the console and watched the Doctor scrabbling around on the floor.

"Minor adjustments," he said, or so she assumed, because he had the sonic screwdriver in his mouth. Martha leaned back, smiling absently.

"What?" he asked.

"Nothing."

Because she wasn't going to stroke his ego by telling him how attractive he was when he was focused on one tiny detail, one particle in all the universe. Like the surgeon she'd had a crush on in her third year of uni, a friend of an older friend. He did the same thing, although he concentrated on the organic and the Doctor was fixated on ... something else.

Come to think of it, that surgeon was similarly oblivious to people when he chose.

Martha couldn't even remember his name.

"Wave inhibitors are fine ... Artron accelerators are all online..."

"Is the TARDIS sentient?"

"More than some humans. Have you seen my pliers?"

"I don't know, are they sonic?"

"Hope not, I bought them in 1989. There'll be trouble if they are."

"But seriously," Martha pressed, handing him the pliers, "can you communicate with her?"

"Sometimes. When she lets me."

The Doctor ran a loving hand over the edge of the console, his long fingers barely touching the surface. Despite herself, Martha shivered. She couldn't think of anything more stupid than being jealous of a man's time traveling ship, although Tish had once dated a guy more concerned with his car than his girlfriend. Was a car better or worse than a time ship? Martha didn't know, and she sure wasn't going to ask the Doctor. Instead, she stood up and stretched.

"I'm going for a walk," she said. The Doctor muttered in reply, but he had the screwdriver in his mouth again.

She always followed the same path, and always ended up in different places. Today it was a swimming pool, vast and deep. She found swimsuits hanging neatly in a changing room, men's trunks and old-fashioned striped bathers at one end, and women's one-pieces, bikinis and something frilly and unspeakable at the other.

Martha shed her clothes and shimmied into a one-piece that fit as if it had been made for her. Then she walked out to the edge, took a deep breath, and dived.

 

The dreams, she remembered, as the water closed over her head. Warm, salty water, pure and fresh. Like a Caribbean beach, or at least how she had always imagined a Caribbean beach. And on a time ship. Martha surfaced, laughed, drew another breath and dived again. She should ask the Doctor to take them to the Caribbean. They'd probably end up in the Bermuda triangle. With aliens.

It was the same dream, every night. Why had she only realised that now? Because she was traveling through time and space with an alien, and that wasn't exactly a lifestyle conducive to long, introspective conversations about dreams.

The same dream, about a corridor and a door. Where had she seen that before? It was so vivid, like something from her childhood. She used to have recurring dreams about swimming pools. A corridor and a door and a secret on the other side---

She shot to the surface. "Bloody Harry Potter," she said.

It was nothing at all, she'd just been plagiarising Jo Rowling in her dreams.

It didn't mean anything.

She submerged again.

The water was getting cold.

 

Martha entered the TARDIS with relief. She felt like a snake, shedding 1913 and wearing a new skin. She tried not to come here too often; it was increasingly hard to leave.

"Hello," she said to the empty room. There wasn't even an echo. She rolled her eyes. "I'm talking to a machine."

It had not escaped her attention that, in the entire two months they'd been on Earth, she'd not had the corridor dream once. Dreams about losing the Doctor, yes; nightmares about forgetting her place and slapping the headmaster, yes. But the corridor dream hadn't visited once.

She was beginning to miss it.

 

"There is one thing," she started to say, when the Doctor was the Doctor again. But he was distracted, caught up in guilt and loss and self-directed anger, and didn't hear.

"Never mind," she said. "Not important."

 

Here it is again. The corridor. Stone walls, cold and smooth and utterly dead beneath your hands.

The door.

"No," you say.

It's coming closer, and you're terrified and excited, and the prophecies and the battle and death, it's all on the other side--

"No," you say again. "It's just a book. It's just a dream." But you know what's here, and who, you know all these people, all these memories--

Your voice echoes off the walls, and in the distance you hear another voice, crying, "Grandfather!"

In the distance?

No, behind the door.

 

"Coffee," said Martha.

"You sleep too much, you humans." The Doctor was tweaking a glowing power unit. "Catch me spending eight hours a day unconscious."

"You slept for twenty hours last week." Martha stirred sugar into her coffee. "In a single block."

"On the other hand, someone once said that consciousness is just the tedious period between naps."

"That was an anonymous quote in a book of pretty cat pictures."

"Do I like cats? I can never decide. Do you want a kitten?"

"No," said Martha. "It'll end up being a brain-eating mutant, or aliens will kidnap it, or you'll forget to feed it. I don't think this is a pet-friendly TARDIS."

The Doctor was bending over his little glowing bauble, so Martha didn't quite catch his next words. For the sake of their continued partnership, she decided, she was going to assume that he hadn't said, "It's had enough humans over the years."

 

"Have there been many?" Martha asked. She was wringing her hair out, leaving a trail of water on the grilled floor of the console room. Another planet, more aliens, and the kind of rain that could inspire an ark. "Humans, I mean."

The Doctor was staring at his coat. "Dry clean only," he said mournfully. "It'll never be the same again."

"Can't we go forward and find some advanced dry cleaning technology?"

"It's one of a kind," he said mournfully. "It'll never be the same again."

"But it wouldn't be mouldy." Martha leaned against one of the twining pillars. It was cool; she suspected it was the same temperature as the Doctor's skin. But she didn't like to ask, and he kept changing the subject whenever she tried to ask him about things like body temperature and blood samples and genetic structure.

"True. Mould is a fashion statement on some worlds, but you wouldn't want to go there." He was cheerful again, like a little kid with a new distraction. Throwing switches and flipping levers. Martha braced herself for the shift into the vortex.

"So how many?" she called over the noise of the engines. "People, I mean, traveling with you?"

"Thirty?" He kicked a switch. "No, probably more. Do multiple personalities count?"

"No!"

"I can't remember. Lots." A grin spread across his face. "Soon as my coat's fixed, I'll take you on a tour. Meet the family. Well, the metaphorical family, anyway. I promise none of them will slap you."

That was a trip worth taking, and Martha said so, and she let him talk while they landed and headed out into the city of the future, which was clean and shiny and full of chic little galleries and cafes, small parks and public art.

"Where are the slums?" she asked, looking around the little park, all neat grass and trimmed hedges.

"Desert communities. Rats, the city dwellers call them, because the desert people live in the packaging discarded by the city. There'll be a revolution in fifty years, want to see?"

"Maybe later. Which one brought his granddaughter along?"

The Doctor stopped.

"Excuse me?" he asked.

"Of your friends. Did one of them bring a granddaughter? Or was it the other way around, she wouldn't see time and space without her old granddad?" Off his stare she added defensively, "I've been having these dreams. Like memories, but not human memories."

The Doctor was serious now, and his eyes were so cold – old and bitter and a little lost – he was thinking; she wasn't Martha, she was a problem--

He blinked, and he was the Doctor again, but still unsmiling. He looked worried. That was bad.

"Martha," he said, "I need to..." He pressed his hands to her temples. "It won't hurt," he said. His face was so close – dark eyes that drew her in, she couldn't look away. "If there's anything you don't want me to see," and suddenly she wasn't alone in her own head, he was there, God, it was closer than anything she could have imagined, "just seal it off, like a door closing."

She wondered if he, too, could hear the echo of doors slamming all through the corridors of her mind. Yes, that was why he was smiling; oh, he liked this Martha Jones, all her questions and ideas; she was self-aware and hungry to know everything, and her skin glowed with life and he sometimes wondered what she'd taste like--

A door slammed in her face, and she laughed.

"The TARDIS has been talking to you," he breathed. "She's trying to say something ... why won't she speak to me?" He sounded hurt. "She needs you. Why does she need you? You're just a human. What can you do for her?"

"She's been in my head? All these weeks?"

Dreaming every night, finding a new room every morning--

"She won't hurt you. She'd never hurt you."

"But why? Why me?"

"I don't know," he said. "What did you see?"

"The Department of Mysteries." She pictured it and let him see, and he chuckled. "And a girl, calling for her grandfather."

Dark hair and bright eyes in an elfin face, his magnificent Susan--

"Oh," Martha said. "Your granddaughter. I didn't know."

"I didn't tell you."

And now it was all closed off, every part of his mind, and he had let her go.

"I'm sorry," Martha said. "For bringing it up, I mean."

"Not at all." He tucked her arm through his. "She was a bit like you," he said, "keen and clever. She wanted to take the world apart and see how it worked, and then put it back together, better than when she found it."

"What happened to her?"

He shrugged. "Kids grow up. Move away. Get married." He looked up at the vast buildings shining in the light of an alien sun. "I went looking for her, after the war. I couldn't find her. I don't know if she's dead, or ... maybe she never existed, except in the mind of a senile old Time Lord."

"And the TARDIS," Martha said, "the TARDIS remembers her."

"True. And the TARDIS never lies." He seemed slightly cheered.

She reached out and took his hand, squeezing it.

"Whatever the TARDIS needs," she promised, "I'll help her."

He gave her a broad smile. A mask, but a convincing one. "I wouldn't expect anything else," he said.

 

Later, she found him leaning over the console.

"What's wrong?" he was asking, "what do you need?"

He hadn't heard her come in, and she left without making a sound.

 

"Doctor?"

"Yes?"

Martha sat up, rubbing her eyes. "I really hope you haven't been watching me while I sleep."

"Well, not watching. Just ... keeping an eye on you. Worry and all."

"You're in my bedroom." And she was wearing nothing but a baggy white t-shirt with a garish geometric design. Pure '80s, and it barely covered her knickers. She pulled the blankets up to her neck.

"I was just ... well, watching you while you slept, but it wasn't to steal a heart, or drink your blood, or unravel your genes and find your name. I was just ... worried." In the half-light of the TARDIS's night, he looked rather boyish.

"Doctor," Martha said, "that's very sweet. And I don't know what kind of bedtime stories they had on Gallifrey, but they're obviously not suitable for children."

"I could tell you the one where Chaos destroys the first clock and unravels Time?"

"Maybe later." She pulled the blankets over her head. "Doctor?"

"Yes?"

"Bugger off, please."

She heard him get up and walk out, and she was already half-asleep as the door closed quietly behind him.

 

There's no hesitation this time, you're rushing through, feet pounding on hard stone. The sound echoes through the corridor, drowning out the cries of the people calling for the Doctor.

You pause at the door, hesitating. But just for a moment.

"Doctor, where are you?"

"Doctor!"

"Grandfather?"

You reach for the handle. The door is unlocked, as you knew it would be. It opens, and you go inside.

 

"What?"

You speak without thinking, and your voice echoes through the near-silent room. A woman looks up from the book she's examining.

"Excuse me," she says, "but this is a library."

"I know," you say. "Sorry," you add, modulating your tone. "What's the Royal Free Hospital Library doing in the TARDIS?"

The woman raises a supercilious eyebrow. In her long white dress and high heeled boots, she doesn't look like a medical student. "Just the sort of question I would have expected."

"All right," you say. "We're in my head, right? So this is my dream. The library's here because it's in my head."

"Bravo." You turn. A small man has appeared behind you. He's disheveled and exhausted-looking, but his eyes are dark and ancient. He's not the man you know, but nevertheless, you recognise him.

"Doctor."

He raises his hat, revealing thinning dark hair. "Martha Jones," he says, caressing every syllable of your name. "At last."

Others have begun to gather. A ragged group of people: a young man in a kilt, scarcely more than a boy, sits on a desk. "I'm Jamie," he says, and his accent is reassuringly familiar. Homelike, even.

A small, fair woman in an old-fashioned man's suit takes a seat. Her name is Romana. The superior woman in white sits beside her, clutching her hand, and she, too, is Romana. The Doctor remains standing, watching. He is joined by a girl, a dark-haired sixties mod girl with knowing eyes and a fey smile.

"Grandfather," Susan says, taking his hand, and the Doctor's worn face lights up with a smile.

And then they're all looking at you, five expectant faces.

"I don't understand," you say. "If this is the TARDIS communicating, then you're ... the memories of the people she's carried?"

The blonde Romana gives an encouraging nod.

"But what do you need me for?" you demand. "I'm sorry, you're going to have to spell it out for me. Simple words for a simple human brain."

"She thinks it's simple, being human," says the Jamie to Susan, and they both laugh.

"This is my dream," you say plaintively. "It's not fair, having in-jokes in my dream."

"Quiet," snaps the Romana in white.

"Listen," says the Doctor.

All you hear is silence. The hum of the air conditioners and the computer screens. Electronic white noise.

"Close your eyes," Susan says.

You obey. Now you can hear the deep heartbeat of the TARDIS. Hearts. It's a double beat. But it's out of time. Not two hearts, two people. You hold your breath. There's something else.

This room, which is not really a room, is a refuge, and something out there is lying in wait. It's vast and ancient and it wants to consume them all--

Opening your eyes, you ask, "What is it?"

"An anomaly," says Susan.

"A co-dependent hybrid entity," says the blonde Romana. She smiles suddenly. "A lunatic."

"A faulty code in a poorly maintained, obsolete machine," says the dark Romana.

"A lost child," says the Doctor.

"The big bad wolf," says Jamie.

"Well," you say. "That's as clear as mud, thank you."

"I shall elucidate, if I may," says the Doctor.

"Oh," says Romana (the blonde one) with a quick half-smile, "elucidate away."

"If a Time Lord is the sum of his memories," says the Doctor, speaking quickly and quietly, so that you have to lean in to hear, "then a TARDIS is even more so. A vast, sophisticated computer, a growing machine that builds itself from the very people who travel in it. But this TARDIS is old, and she's carried so many people ... not merely Time Lords, as her creators intended, but aliens, alien minds integrating themselves into this vast computer. So many people, so many years..."

"Is that what's happened?" you ask. "A sort of computer virus?"

"Much worse than that," says the dark Romana. "There was an – incident. A corruption."

"I have been accused of corrupting young minds," the Doctor murmurs with a gleeful little smile.

"The TARDIS was forced open." Disapproval makes Susan seem older. "And she looked into the Time Vortex."

"Who?" you ask.

"It was a mistake," says the fair Romana. "A reasonable one, under the circumstances, but the corruption is spreading."

"She's hunting us," adds Jamie. "Poor girl, she thinks she's doing the right thing."

"How many wars have been started for love?" the Doctor asks. "I've lost count. Or perhaps that's just the best excuse."

"Can't the Doctor fix it?" you ask. "I mean," you add with a respectful nod at the man standing in front of you, "the current Doctor?"

"He's as much a part of it as the TARDIS," he says. "It was a bad regeneration. Shortsighted," he adds with a disapproving sniff, as if this is the worst possible insult he can offer.

"We're part of it, too," Jamie says.

"That's why we need you," says Susan. "You're new. You can save us all."

"How?" you ask. Your mouth is so dry you can barely speak.

"That," the Doctor says, "is up to you."

And you really don't think that's fair, but you're waking up now, you're being pulled out of the dream.

 

"No!" Martha shouted, but she was already awake. Her t-shirt was damp with sweat, and her pulse was racing.

She sat up slowly, and rested a hand on the wall of the TARDIS.

"What are you?" she asked. "What's in there with you?"

There was, as usual, no answer.

 

"You know that feeling, that something is wrong with the universe on a subtle yet fundamental level?"

"Yes," said Martha. "It usually means I've forgotten to buy toothpaste or toilet paper."

They were on a planet where the cities were carved out of crystalline rocks, and hooded figures walked amongst shimmering water sculptures.

She had said nothing to the Doctor about the dream. Several times, she'd opened her mouth to say, "There's something wrong within the TARDIS, and it's affecting you as well", but she hadn't been able to make the words come. And he hadn't asked.

"I have that feeling now," the Doctor said. She gave him a sidelong glance, another check to see if there was some subtle problem that she'd never noticed. But he was staring at an engraving in a crystal wall, a stylised version of a man's face. A human face.

A voice behind them cried, "The Cursed One has returned!"

Okay. Not a human's face.

Martha grabbed the Doctor's hand. "Run," she said.

 

"Don't mess about with paranoid theocrats. Remember that, Martha."

"I'm not likely to forget."

"And if you do – if you absolutely must, and have very good reasons for it, then don't go back to the same planet."

"I'd already figured that out." Martha tried to lean back, but the dungeon's crystal wall was cold, and her muscles were hurting. "But thank you for the advice." She stretched. "Got any plans for getting out of here?"

"Maybe. I'm thinking. Why, do you have any plans?"

"Nothing at this moment."

Martha stood up and stretched properly. Tish had tried to get her into yoga. She'd only gone to three classes, because they ate into her study time, and anyway, she couldn't really afford it, but she'd picked a couple of things up.

"Do you know the story of Little Red Riding Hood?" she asked suddenly.

"La Petit Chaperon Rouge?"

"Show off."

"It's one of those funny universal stories," the Doctor said. "You humans have versions of it everywhere. It tells you what to be afraid of."

"Mum gave Tish a book about fairytales when we were little," Martha said. "Mum was very big on us knowing where stories came from."

"Quite right, too."

"Tish never even opened it, but I loved it. The original Red Riding Hood gave me nightmares when I was nine."

"Did you think you were going to be eaten up?"

"No ... well, a little. The original story, or the earliest, it was a warning to young women. Don't get into bed with strange, hairy men, or they'll consume you." A message, Martha thought, that her mother would really get behind these days. "Later, it got softened. Riding Hood was rescued by the Huntsman. The Victorians said she was rescued by her father, which is even less threatening, and used it to teach children not to dawdle on their errands."

"The Victorians were a lot more fun than most people give them credit for," said the Doctor. "I knew a pornographer once ... but never mind. I'll introduce you one day."

"Thanks," said Martha, "I think."

"Is this folktale discussion part of your cunning plan to get us out of here?"

"No. It's just interesting."

"Thought I'd better ask. I have a plan now, didn't want to interfere with yours."

"Oh no," said Martha, grinning. "Plan away, Mr Smith."

 

Back in the TARDIS, out of breath, sore and exhausted. But alive. Ready to fight another day and all that, or at least run like crazy and hope the aliens were referring to a metaphorical execution. Well, it had happened once.

Martha leaned against the console and watched the Doctor at work. And the weird thing was, she was beginning to understand it all, switches, dials, helmic regulators and dimensional adjusters.

"So when are you gonna teach me to fly this thing?" she asked.

"Next Tuesday, after lunch."

"Excellent. Don't suppose I should tell you about the time I crashed Dad's car into a fire truck?"

He looked up, worry written all over his face. Martha laughed.

"Kidding," she said. "Passed my test on the first go."

But he wasn't listening, he had turned his attention to the TARDIS. And she couldn't blame him; she was beginning to perceive her moods, and she was hesitant. Afraid.

"Be careful," Martha snapped, but she was too late; an arc of light and energy had surged over the console and the Doctor himself. The Doctor was falling, unconscious, and the console had gone dead. But the ship was shaking still, and it was impossible to balance as she tried to reach the Doctor's side. The floor tilted crazily; something hit her head, and the rest was darkness.

 

"Right," you say. "I've had enough. We've got to stop meeting like this. It's not healthy, it's not cool, it's really not romantic..." Your voice trails off. You're not in the library, and this clearly isn't the time.

You are standing in a darkened room, littered with cords and shattered screens. The Doctor takes your hand.

"It's time," he says.

The Romanas are clutching hands; Susan is clinging to Jamie. You clench your fists and wonder what the hell you're supposed to do.

You hear the distant throb of the TARDIS. A wind has risen from nowhere.

"She's coming," Jamie says. Susan muffles a sob.

And the TARDIS is materialising. Every hair on the back of your neck is standing up, because the TARDIS is aglow with energy, and suddenly you have the oddest sensation, like you're about to enter the presence of God.

The doors open.

You blink, blinded by the light. You can make out the figure of a person, standing at the centre of all that energy. You had been picturing a monster, but it's just a girl.

No. A goddess.

She's holding out her hand, and you look behind you and realise that the others are holding each other back. They want to go to her, to complete themselves within her. They think she's rewritten their code, but you understand. You almost feel the same way. But there's something eerie in this goddess's eyes. You think that perhaps, if she could, she would be screaming.

"I create myself," she says, and there are eons in her voice. "I assemble myself from nothing and everything. I am forever."

"No," says Romana, the blonde one. You think she's disagreeing with the Wolf, but then you're thrown out of the way. It is the dark Romana who pushed you aside; she's approaching the Wolf, aglow in the reflected light of the goddess. The Wolf holds out her hand, and they're laughing together. The Wolf has so much love, a person could burn up in it. And one day, there'll be nothing left but a few memories and a mad timeship. They spin each other in a dance, and Romana vanishes in a wave of light and particles.

You pick yourself up. Romana is on the floor, tears streaming down her face. The Doctor strokes her hair, and Jamie takes her hand. She's shaking as she climbs to her feet, and you can see the effort it takes to prevent herself from following.

"You made it look easy," she is saying to the Doctor, through hiccups and tears. You stroke her back, recognising the double heartbeat beneath her skin.

"Don't worry," you say. "I know what I have to do."

And you do, and it terrifies you.

You run forward, before they can stop you – the Doctor is calling your name, but you ignore him. The Wolf watches you, a trace of puzzlement on her face: you're a new component; she doesn't know what to do with you yet.

And that's all the advantage you need. You snatch up the nearest weapon, a sharp and broken piece of metal. And you keep running. She's getting scared now, golden eyes becoming wide with fear. She watches you, and you can feel your molecules beginning to separate as she tears you apart.

But she's too late.

You're screaming with pain and desperation and anger, but you have just enough strength to plunge your makeshift weapon into the Wolf's heart.

You never thought, when you studied anatomy, that you'd use your knowledge for anything like this.

You have just enough time to note that she has but the one heart.

Then she's dying, separating herself into a million golden pieces, and they're carrying you away, drawing you into the TARDIS—

And then you're somewhere else.

 

You're standing in a flat, the most mundane place you can imagine. A Jodi Picoult novel lies on a table beside a copy of Heat magazine from 2005. Outside, you can hear traffic, kids' voices, the thump of footsteps in the flat above.

Inside, you can hear someone crying.

You follow the sound, opening doors, exploring this new space. You've never been here before. It's messier than your flat, but somehow warmer.

It's a girl crying. You find her in the second bedroom, a pink and golden space that's warm with afternoon sunlight. She's crouched on the bed, blonde hair in her face, make-up running. She looks so young. She looks so broken.

She looks up when she sees you, instantly wary.

"I don't know you," she says.

"My name's Martha."

"Did the Wolf send you?"

"I killed her," you say, although she doesn't seem to hear you. "I'm here to help."

You sit down on the bed, carefully, so as not to intimidate her.

"I was going to save him," she says. "I did save him. Then I killed him." She bites her lip. "It was too strong for me."

"What did you do?"

"I looked into the TARDIS." She gives you a weak grin. "And the TARDIS looked into me." She twists her hair around her finger. "I'm all that's left. The rest is the Bad Wolf."

"I'm sorry."

"It's okay. I'm just a shadow, anyway. The real me is ... away. I don't know. It doesn't matter if I'm not real, right?"

"I don't think it works like that," you say, thinking of Romana's sobs as the Wolf took her other self away.

"No. Me neither." She bites her lip. "My name's Rose, by the way."

"Yeah," you say, "I figured that."

And she's just a girl, scared and brave and so normal it hurts. You reach out and take her hand.

"I think you need a doctor," you say.

She manages a smile. "Know any good ones?"

"Funny you should say that."

 

Rose begins to rally in your presence. She's on her feet now, and words are tumbling out of her. She's been alone with the Wolf too long. She tells you about the Doctor, how he needs her, how he sent her away to keep her alive.

"You protect the people you love, right?"

"Of course," you say, and marvel at how young she is. What were you doing at nineteen? Going to uni, practically living in the library. You went to a party once, didn't so much lose your virginity as mislay it temporarily, to a very nice man who is now almost a gynaecologist, which you still think is ironic and potentially embarrassing.

Rose came back to save the Doctor. You can't blame her, but something went wrong. All the energy of the Time Vortex, combined with the vast and ancient love of a TARDIS for her Time Lord and the strength and intensity of a young woman's passion.

 

"It's over," you tell her. "I killed the Wolf."

"She can't be killed."

You're losing patience with her fear. Some bedside manner, whispers a small part of your mind, but she's like the Doctor, she needs a shock to wake her up. You take her hand.

"Come outside."

"I can't leave." She's looking at you like you're stupid.

"Rose," you snap. Making people believe in the impossible is the Doctor's game; your job is to put people back together afterwards. But in this case, you'll make an exception. "Try."

You push her towards the door. Her first steps are hesitant. How long has she been a prisoner here? Maybe you're pushing her too hard. But now she's growing in confidence. She's starting to smile. She opens the door herself.

 

And you're both stepping out of the TARDIS, hand in hand, you step out of the TARDIS and into the console room. It's crowded with faces, both familiar and new. Most of them don't even notice you, they're too caught up in their own freedom to see. But you catch Susan's eye, and return her smile.

"Rose!"

And the Doctor, your Doctor, is there, catching her in his arms and twirling her around. Time for you to be going, you think, but then he sets her down, and she rushes into the arms of another man, another Doctor.

You blink, and now your Doctor is standing in front of you.

"Martha," he says, and then he stops. "I don't have any words. Is that normal? I don't like being speechless."

"Doctor," you say, "maybe you should enjoy the experience. I doubt it comes up much."

He's confused, and you take advantage of it to kiss him. Slowly, no genetic transfers this time. Just two people.

"There," you say when you pull away. "Sorry. Couldn't resist."

He's holding your hands in his, and you're still barely inches apart. He pauses for a second, then moves closer—

 

Martha woke up.

"Damn," she said.

She sat up slowly. Her head was throbbing – swollen, her fingers told her, but the bleeding had stopped and her vision was clear, so she probably wasn't concussed. The TARDIS was quiet and still.

The Doctor lay on the floor, eyes closed. For a second, Martha nearly panicked, but then she saw the rise and fall of his chest. She knelt beside him. Hearts were steady, breathing was even.

"I don't believe it," she said. "Of all the times to fall asleep..."

The Doctor said nothing.

In the end, she hoisted him up in a fireman's lift and carried him to his room.

"'Come with me,' you said, 'see the universe, travel time, tuck me into bed with my teddy bear when it all gets too much...'"

There was no response.

She had never seen his bedroom before, but she found it quickly, and she knew exactly why. It was a sparse room, containing little more than a bed and a pile of discarded shoes. Martha put him to bed fully dressed, pausing only to remove his shoes. Sleeping, he looked like another man. The slight assymetry in his features was more obvious; he looked younger and weaker.

"Martha," he murmured.

"Don't wake up," she whispered. "It's okay now."

He caught her hand. "Thank you," he said, bringing it to his lips. "'Magnificent'. That's the word I was looking for." His words were thick with drowsiness.

"I bet you say that to all the girls who save your TARDIS," she said, retrieving her hand.

He smiled. "You're the first, I think. Maybe the second. I can't remember."

"Oh, well." She was smiling too hard to find words. He opened his eyes and returned the grin.

"Help me sit up," he said.

"You should rest."

"I will. Just give me a moment."

He raised himself on his elbows, and she took his shoulders. "How's this?" she asked.

"Just fine," he said, and leaned forward and kissed her.

It wasn't, she thought with the last rational part of her mind, the kiss of dreams. It was much, much better.

"There," he said. "Done."

He was asleep again before his head had returned to the pillow. Martha sat for a minute, tasting him on her lips and laughing silently.

Then she left him alone, and closed the door behind her.

"He's being reset, too, isn't he?" she said to the empty console room. "Is that it?"

The TARDIS offered no answer. Martha smiled and settled into the chair beside the console.

"You keep your secrets, then," she said. "I would." She ran a hand over the console, newly-aware of the consciousness resting within.

"Sleep well," she said.

 

 

end