Martha’s been all over time and space, and, contrary to what some might think, it’s given her a belief in some kind of universal guiding force. In such an unimaginably enormous universe, throughout all of time, the things she’s seen could not have happened by chance. Martha no longer believes in coincidence.
For such a momentous occurrence of chance, the day she meets Mickey Smith for real is astonishingly plebeian.
She’s back at UNIT, after the events of the planetary alignment and the Osterhagen Key, though she’s not sure if she’ll be sticking around. There’s a place for her at Torchwood, Jack said, but even if UNIT’s clean lines and comfortable bureaucracy are no longer comforting, Martha knows she doesn’t belong amidst the perplexing, quirky underworld her friend has built himself in Cardiff. Still, she’s not sure where to go next. This time, there’s no blue box appearing mysteriously out of the air to surprise her with her next adventure.
So it’s more paperwork, and dreaming about space and other worlds, when a man finds his way into the workshop she shares part-time with a few other creative scientist types who can’t be shoved anywhere else. Martha is fiddling with a prototype one of the R&D labs came up with, supposed to be a short-range teleporter. She’s no engineer, but she’s seen more than the average Earthing has of technology like this, so they like to run things by her on the off chance. She looks up when someone clears their throat in front of her desk.
The stranger looks a little worse for wear, but Martha’s used to odd appearances around UNIT. His clothes are dark camo, dusty and torn, well-used, and there’s an empty holster on his thigh. His face is tough, lips down-turned in a way that indicates hard times, but there’s something soft to his eyes that makes Martha second-guess her assumption that he’s a soldier.
Something familiar, perhaps.
“I’m looking for Jac Gordon? Someone pointed me in this direction.”
“You’re in the right place. Her area is right over there. She’s out getting lunch, you can wait for her if you’d like?” Martha offers the chair in front of her desk. “I’m Martha Jones.”
Mickey Smith’s voice is striking something in the back of her head, an instinct she’s gotten used to following. Perhaps they met during the Year? She could swear she knows him from somewhere.
Martha thinks she sees him give her an appraising glance before he sits in her offered chair, but maybe she’s projecting. If they had met during the Year, there’s no way he’d remember her.
Mickey’s gaze drops to the teleporter and his expression, until this point tired and run-down, shifts to a sharp interest. “You tryin’ to fix that?”
Martha glances down at the teleporter. She’s taken the panel off the back and removed a few components to inspect its innards for any obvious issues. “Just checking it out. My experience is in time travel and alien biology, no tech, but no one around here seems to understand the difference.” She shrugs.
Mickey offers a fingerless glove-clad, somewhat grimy hand. “Let me see?”
“I’m not sure you have clearance,” Martha excuses. She checks the paperwork R&D sent down with the teleporter. “What’s your security level?”
Mickey leans back in the chair. For the first time he cracks a smile, and it’s more of a smirk. “Don’t know that I’ve got one. Seems unlikely.”
Martha’s suspicion has grown. “Why did you want to see Jac?” She casually twists in her seat as though settling in a new position, but it leaves her unimpeded access to the firearm strapped to the underside of her desk.
Mickey’s smirk shrinks and he holds his hands up. “No worries, Ms. Jones. I come in peace. I'm supposed to consult with her on parallel universe theory.” The corner of his mouth quirks up, ironically, and Martha should not be finding a potential alien invasion of UNIT headquarters an attractive prospect- neither because of the invader himself, or the possibility of a real adventure. He looks much more like an invader than some professor or theoretician, in his clothes designed for combat, but her instinct says he’s not a threat, or at least not one she has to be worried about.
“Well don’t try anything funny,” she warns, smiling back at him. “I’ll have you know, I know space kung-fu.”
Mickey grins for real and lowers his arms. Martha senses he’s not entirely relaxed, either, just as she isn’t. Jack showed her how flirting could be used to control situations, but Mickey’s not an easy mark.
On some level, it’s nice to be playing the game again, and Martha feels a bit guilty that this probably nothing-to-worry-about scare is going to be the highlight of her week.
“Not to go above my station,” Mickey says, with just enough fake obsequiousness that Martha fails to hide a small smile, “but that thing won’t work.”
“Why is that?”
“I’m assuming it’s a two-piece system? One controller takes you to the anchor piece, so you don’t end up going just anywhere?”
Martha nods, intrigued.
“Well you’re missing a directional limitation buffer. Something to make sure that device grabs everything within a limited range, or touching it.” Mickey points at a specific part of the prototype, keeping his distance over her desk. “From here, it looks like they tried to cap the amount of mass it can grab, to minimize displacement on the other end. But the downsides to that, see, are you either don’t grab enough, and you just end up missing molecules that you won’t notice, or you grab not enough but still too much, and end up with an arm in one place and the rest of you in another. Sorta Harry Potter, that.”
By the end of the lecture, Mickey has softened, clearly enamoured with the technology. It’s extremely cute, how his cheeks plump up when he loses the scowl he’d come in with, that had lingered right up until he got to talk about stuff that went right over Martha’s head. Even cuter was the way he noticed that he’d relaxed, and the scowl returned, along with a challenging jutted-up chin.
“So yeah. Might want to look into that.”
Martha has to smile at him, the pout is way too endearing. It only deepens, and she grins.
“I’ll let them know, up in R&D,” she says professionally. “You probably saved someone from a nasty dressing-down, at the very least.”
“Where I come from, people’d know better than to mess around with tech above their paygrade,” Mickey grumbles, crossing his arms over his chest.
Marth is not looking at his forearms when Jac comes in.
“Mr. Smith!” she says earnestly, in her way. “They told me on the way in that you were here, and- I’d like to say, it is such an honor to meet you.”
Mickey stands, and, somewhat trepidatiously, shakes Jac’s hand. “Never heard that before,” he says. Martha tilts her head in interest.
“That’s because you’ve been in another universe. And because details on the Doctor’s Companions are kept to the highest security clearances. Not many know who you are, but we all think very highly of you.”
Mickey looks supremely uncomfortable, and something is curdling in Martha’s stomach. Her colleagues at UNIT were like this with her for the first few months, before they figured out she was a real person. Just a few months out from the Year, it was terrible, distancing her once again from the population she thought she’d be allowed to rejoin. It looks like Mickey is no happier at the attention.
“Well… thanks.” He clears his throat. “They said I should tell you about interdimensional travel?”
Jac pushes her glasses up her nose and drags a pad of paper out of her bag. “Yes, certainly, I’d love to hear everything. But first, while you and Martha are both here- perhaps you could compare your experiences?”
Martha’s eyes widen and Mickey gives her a confused look. “About what?” he asks.
“Why, your travels with the Doctor!”
Martha and Mickey lock eyes, and she can see the disappointment rising in him, a mirror to her own feelings. It’s not that she doesn’t love the Doctor, or enjoy travelling with him: for all that it cost her, he truly opened her mind, her horizons, her entire future. But he does manage to creep into every area of her life, like an old friend who shows up when they’re not quite welcome anymore.
Somehow, she can see that Mickey is feeling the same way.
“Perhaps- both of you assisted the Doctor, Ms. Smith, Captain Harkness, Ms. Tyler, and an unknown woman recently when the planets appeared in the sky,” Jac continues. In her excitement, she doesn’t notice that her listeners have gone frosty. “We have a limited knowledge of what happened there, but we know that’s more assistants the Doctor has had with him for a long time- possibly ever! What can you tell me about the experience?”
Well, at least she knows where she recognized Mickey from. It doesn’t diminish Martha’s desire to go curl up in a ball on her bed or redraft her letter of resignation.
She’s resigned to talking about the whole terrible time all over again, and hearing from another person who- statistically- probably worships the memory of Rose Tyler, but Mickey is shaking his head.
“You know, Jac, I’m pretty bushed. Travelling through dimensions takes a lot out of you, you know?” He gives Jac a half-smile that has her fumbling with her pen, a blush barely showing on her dusky cheeks.
“Well, I suppose-”
“Got anywhere in this place that does a good cuppa tea, or coffee?”
He speaks over her casually, taking command in a way Martha has watched Jack do a dozen times. It’s railroading, but done pleasantly and reasonably enough that the other person usually capitulates without making a fuss. Mostly it would annoy her, but Martha would give so much to avoid this conversation. She hops to her feet, putting the teleport down on the table.
“I’ll show you!” she says, just a hint too brightly.
Mickey steps gracefully around Jac, giving her a polite nod, and gestures Martha toward the door. “Lead the way, Ms. Jones.”
“It’s Doctor Jones,” Martha corrects. Then she tilts her head and smiles wickedly, the way she perfected in med school. “But you can call me Martha.”
Mickey grins back.
Martha doesn’t believe in coincidence anymore. The universe is just too big for that. But she does believe that sometimes, a cute guy will appear mysteriously out of the air and surprise her with her next adventure.
She drops her UNIT ID on her desk as they leave.