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What We've Become (the Mt. Saint Helens Remix)

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The private lives of surfaces
are innocent, not devious.

 

When she first saw the body Martha thought it was a piece of old wood. A figurehead for some old boat, would be her guess, carved by some aging shipwright and cracked by sea-water, the rapid expansion and contraction twisting the wood, so that even when it lay in the neutral position - palms down, limbs flat - there was still a sense of something warped about it. Its face was covered. She thought, I came for a dissection, and they're playing a bloody joke.

That was when one of her classmates turned to the instructor, retched, and then nearly passed out.

"Jesus," the instructor said. "If you can't stand the dead people get out of the morgue, yeah?"

He took off his vomit-stained lab coat and stuffed it into the biohazard bin. His assistant handed him another, clean and folded by the door, as if they had been expecting something like this to occur, though the nametag on the new coat said NANCY. There were still a few flecks of vomit on his dark grey slacks. The assistant walked the student out into the hall, rubbing brisk circles on his back, and the instructor turned to Martha's class and said, "As for the rest of you, does anyone feel hot, dizzy, or nauseous?"

They shook their heads; no. He passed around a box of disposable gloves. The smell of latex briefly overwhelmed the room's formaldehyde reek. "Right then," he said. "Meet Mr. John Doe. Eighty-two years old, I'd about guess, though he's in very good condition for an eighty-two year old. See those muscles?" As if he pointed out an optical illusion her vision snaps into place, and Martha doesn't know how she ever mistook the corpse for a piece of wood, something hard and impersonal. It has fingernails.

"Post-mortem hypostasis," he says, gesturing towards the vivid bruising on the corpse's lower half. "Does anyone know what that is?"

"It's caused by the uncirculated blood," Martha offers. "It drains downwards, under its own weight, and saturates the blood vessels."

"Good," he says, though he's scowling, as if he'd wanted her to be wrong. "We'll start with the head," but the corpse's arm is bent up at the elbow, like a wing, and he forces it down with a sound like knuckles cracking, to lay back on the table. The assistant brings over a wooden block, about the size of a brick, with a semicircular notch cut out, like the Japanese pillows Martha remembered from when she'd seen Memoirs of a Geisha with a few of her mates. He uncovers the face with a flourish - a magic trick, revealing an old man where there had only been a body - and slides it under the head. Their John Doe looks peaceful, as much as anything dead ever does. Really, he looks like Martha's grandfather, if he had been a good twenty pounds lighter, a sort of smiling Father Christmas kindness written in the wrinkles around his eyes.

With a small-bladed scalpel, the instructor makes a straight cut across the top of the scalp, from one ear to another - like a Glasgow smile made by a drunk, though the line is thin and precise - and then runs the knife along the cut edge on both sides, working the top halves of the scalp free from the skull. "Watch carefully," the instructor says, and Martha stares, fascinated, as if looking down the muzzle of a cocked gun, as the assistant grips the front flap and pulls it down, with the ease of a Scooby Doo villain being unmasked: the face of the kind old man peels off to reveal the fatty yellow subcutaneous tissue underneath, marred by broken blood-vessels, wet and glistening. The assistant settles the flap of face around the corpse's neck, like a lady's scarf. He notices Martha staring and smiles, nervously. "We sew it back on, at the end," he explains.

She is feeling a sense of sharp, irrational betrayal: how dare the corpse pretend like that, how cruel. She's young. This is her first autopsy.

"Don't you cremate the bodies afterwards?" she asks.

"Well, yes," he says, "but we like to keep up appearances."

There is a placard, above her anatomy instructor's door: Medicus Teneo Verum.

Doctors know truth.

 

*

 

Their first date is not really a date, though she learns afterwards that Donna thought of it as such: Martha takes her to a coffeeshop that she likes to frequent, when the day's been too long and she needs a Mocha Latte to balance out the alien blood under her fingernails. It's not a Starbucks - thank God, Donna says; according to her, that particular chain is the handiwork of the devil, mostly because the baristas never smile when they give her the change and won't let her get free refills - but a hip young place with yellow walls and artfully mismatched furniture. The front of the building still reads HAMMONDS GROCERS, ancient white paint on the brick. When Donna let the door slam shut, a few white flakes fell into the gardenias.

"God," Donna says, "I'm famished. I think you owe me more than another coffee."

Martha snorts. "Oh yeah?" she says, smiling.

"That was grievous bodily harm," Donna teases. "I could bring you to the police, lady. But throw in a muffin and I probably won't press charges." Martha laughs; Donna's not at all what she was expecting.

"Two - chocolate, yeah?" nod, " - chocolate muffins," she tells the barista, and gives them both to Donna.

She doesn't remember much of the conversation that follows. They probably chatted about family and jobs, standard fare for hungry strangers, and Martha probably ordered coffee after coffee, to keep the world from blurring out at the edges in exhaustion. She has a vague feeling that Donna looked pretty in her office clothes. There was that one thing, though - one sharp, crystalline thing. The barista had announced her drink was ready. Donna got up to get it, and there was moment, just a breath, when the sun and the woman collided in exactly the right spot and she loomed over Donna, features thrown into shadow as she was framed in the glare, a holy corona, an eclipse of man, exactly what Martha had seen on that ship - a revelation - and she could only stare and think: oh God, he's back - and then Donna shifted, probably because Martha was staring at her, and suddenly became herself again, slightly puzzled and vaguely pretty in the weak morning sun.

Martha excuses herself by saying this: it was a mistake anyone could have made. She was tired - another one of the damn blowfishes was on the loose, and somehow it had become UNIT's job, and thus Martha's, even though it was really Jack's jurisdiction. Less than twelve hours ago she had been in a top-secret basement cutting into the left skull of a two-headed alien shoplifter, wearing a hazmat suit and hoping to God that nothing would explode, and now she was having coffee and talking about filing systems with a woman who had saved an infinity of worlds and had once had the Doctor inside her, part of her, more intimate than sex. Martha remembers thinking, André Breton had nothing on this. She wasn't really paying attention to much of anything at that point.

"Well, Donna," she started, brushing the crumbs off her jacket.

The thing that really kills her about the whole thing is, how her last damn words to Donna could have been, Have a nice life.

 

*

 

She still takes Donna to the coffeeshop, sometimes. They play the board games the owner leaves out, silly childish things like Clue and Chinese checkers. Winner gets unspecified sexual favor, usually something daring or kinky or difficult. It's too early in their relationship to play over who gets to do the dishes.

They try to play Monopoly, once. Donna remembered enjoying it as a child, and was eager to give it another go with someone who wasn't her grandfather, who had mostly let her win. Martha wasn't as big a fan, but she had just won two nights of light bondage; she was feeling generous. Besides, as a child Martha had possessed great affection for the game's pewter dog, if not the game itself. She figured she couldn't love part of a thing so fiercely without loving the whole of it at least a little.

"Funny how the pieces seem so much smaller now," she says, gloomily.

"Bad day at work?" Donna says, knowingly, as she sorts out the money. She never cheats, except when it counts, and Martha's not sure what she feels about the fact that so far, in their games, Donna's played strictly to the book.

"Tell me about it," Martha says.

"I can't. Remember?" Donna says, "It's classified," and perhaps slaps the bills down a bit harder than she means to, because they go flying out of her hand and all over the floor. Martha helps pick them up, wordlessly. They fight about a lot of things - music, cleaning the bathroom, Martha's practice of the fine art of scattering in regards to towels and textbooks - but this particular fight comes around with the regularity of rain in England, soon turn spring. Soon it will become The Argument. "Oh," she could call her mum and say, "we just had The Argument again," and her mum would know exactly what she's talking about, except that she wouldn't, because Martha doesn't have those sorts of conversations with her. Not, for once, because of the top-secret thing: her mum is one of the few people who actually know what Martha does for a living. It's one reason why they don't talk much.

"I'm sorry," she says, finally. "I'm really sorry. You know that."

"Oh, I know that, all right," Donna snaps. Martha's worst nightmare is that one day, Donna will follow that with: Though sometimes I'm not so sure.

She thinks she may be crediting Donna with more insight than she actually has, but it's a terror she can't shake. Donna doesn't even have to know, Martha thinks, not really; she feels like it's written all over face, and Donna's nothing if not literate in the ways of Martha's body. Sometimes she wants to throw down all her secrets, go down on her knees and beg forgiveness for her sins. Seek absolution - but never redemption - from a god long gone. She thinks she's still one up on most worshippers; no Catholic has Mary arching up, wordless, in their bed.

"You can be the boot, if you like," Martha says, instead, and offers it to her.

"Only so I can kick you with it," Donna says, but she takes it from Martha's hand, fingers warm on the pewter, and strokes her palm when she goes; possibly an accident, but Martha would like to take it as a détente.

"On my mark," she says, after they've set it all up and Donna's groomed her ruffled feathers back into place, "get ready."

"May the best woman win," Donna says, "winner takes all, and by winner, in both cases, I mean me."

Martha laughs, low, flirtacious. "You talk a tough game, Miss Noble. Do you know the stakes?"

"Yeah," Donna says, and reaches over, draws one finger up Martha's wrist; lightly, purposefully. Martha shivers. "I guess I do."

Donna's just trying to decide if she really needs a hotel on Kentucky Avenue - "You already have six!" Martha says, grumpily; "Yes, but I do so love taking your money," Donna replies - when Martha's phone starts to ring. "Hello," she says, trying to talk into the phone and check her caller ID at the same time. She has two phones, work and pleasure, but they look exactly the same, and she forgot which she grabbed on her way out, when Donna was out in the car honking like a crazy person. "Hello?" The reply is muffled. She motions to her phone - I have to get this - and Donna rolls her eyes, but nods - Fine - and jerks her head towards the door - Go outside, less noisy. The eternal pantomime of working partner and silent rage. Outside, with a few butts still glowing orange in a sand-filled flowerpot, the air smells like smoke.

"Martha?" she hears Jack say, anxiously. "Are you there? Hello?"

"Captain Harkness," she says, reproachfully, "If you're calling to ask me about the crossword again, I'm hanging right up."

"I still say thirty-four down could have been 'orgy'," he says.

"Jack," she says, "Focus." And then: "If this is anything less than an alien invasion, I'm going to get Ianto to put cyanide in your coffee."

"Oh, he does that already," Jack says airily. "Don't you, Ianto?" he calls; she must be on speakerphone.

"Yes, Jack," she hears Ianto say, very faintly - there are some crashes in the background, and he sounds strangely muffled, but his tone is unmistakably insolent. "I put poison in your half-and-half. It is my fond wish to make you very dead. I can't imagine why it hasn't taken yet."

"I'll feed you to your ridiculous pterodactyl," she threatens.

"Martha Jones," Jack says, "Miss Martha Jones. If this doesn't make you kiss me, nothing else ever will."

"Well, go on," she says, after a minute of silence. "What is it?"

"We found it, and you'll never guess where," he says, clearly thrilled with the deliciousness of a success he didn't have to shoot anybody for, and so she's not ready for the sadness that sweeps through and over her, burying her completely; choking her in ash.

 

*

 

Except, no. That's not right.

Stop; rewind; rewrap; recover.

To the beginning, as these things generally start there.

 

*

 

When she was still back in secondary school, Martha took Geophysics instead of Physics for her Sixth-Form science credit. She was on the pre-med fast track - her transcript was crammed with chemistry and biology and math, spilling over with As and little artistic effort - but she hated Physics with the passion of someone not quite fully grown, and if she took one more Biology class, her head was going to explode. She thought, at least it's not velocities and trajectories and bloody Newton. In fact, if she was honest, it sounded a bit like fun.

"Oh, Martha," her father sighed when he saw her class sign-up form, "Couldn't you have just taken an Art class or something? Literature? You're going to be death of yourself from coursework."

"I think it's lovely," her mum had said, scowling at her future former husband. "That our daughter wants to make something of herself. You just keep on doing what you're doing, sweetheart," she said to Martha, and signed the form with red pen, an angry spiking slash of a signature.

As it turned out, neither of her parents needed have worried; Geophysics was a stoner class, an easy A, looked impressive on a transcript but was held in a classroom in the arse-end of the school, where everything went to die, including the students. Two of them shot themselves before they even finished Meteorology. As she explained often to her Dad, their teacher ran the unfortunate combination of being unconfident, badly socialized, and still caring about his students. Martha was his darling, for that year. She was the only girl who didn't put glue on his chair or scratch fuck on her desk or offer to blow him after class if he'd just bump up that test grade to a D.

Really, she felt sorry for him more than anything else; the thrill of pitying an authority figure. The only time he ever seemed animated was when he was talking about rocks.

"Does anybody know anything about volcanoes?" he asked. He was a big man, but unusual, because in the way of big men he threw his body around, but was timid, shy, almost afraid of his students - he threw himself around, but never dared to hit anything, and so gave the impression of a pinball; always hitting invisible walls.

"Yeah," someone shouted, "They go big fucking boom," and the class laughed. The same people who took Shop took Geophysics. It showed.

"They're wrong," he said to her after class, head in hands. "They're so wrong."

By general consensus, Martha was a good child. She didn't do drugs or fail classes or swear at her parents, even though sometimes she very much wanted to. She also drank beer and kissed Laura Stein in the girl's bathroom, inexpert hands coming up to cup Laura's small breasts, but they - in her head, that was how it sounded; the teenager's eternal they - none of them knew that; she kept those secrets folded into herself, proudly, as if they were precious. The Martha Jones that the majority of the world knew was perhaps not the person that sometimes slid in underneath: they knew her by her surface, her pretty gawky face.

(This is the general problem with facades. Crush a pearl; it's powder.)

"Tell me about it," she said, because that's what Martha Jones would say, and he did.

 

*

 

Start with plate tectonics, he says. Start with the plates themselves: eight to twenty-four major and minor pieces of Earth sunk into the mantle, jostling like pedestrians on a crowded sidewalk, you go this way, I'll go that way, no, now we're both going the same way. Dipping briefly into the mantle to emerge, gasping and new, into the crust, everything re-pulverized, recycled, reincarnated. It's a shame Christians gave up on the idea of a physical hell and instead embraced the metaphorical, he says, because at the center of our planet there's a core of molt and pressure 10,000 degrees hot: our very own hell on earth, driving the shakes and quakes and squirmings that move the plates and everything on them. Lighter, hotter rock is driven upwards with the core's frantic desire to let off excess heat, as cooler, heavier rock sinks, usually under more rock. Most people associate plate tectonics with earthquakes and gorges and volcanoes - destruction, destruction - but it's important to remember the root of things. From the Greek τέκτων, tekton: meaning builder.

Start with volcanoes, he says: born from the collision of two plates, usually oceanic and continental, when the oceanic plate subducts, submerges under the continental plate. Water released from it lowers the melting temperature of the overlying mantle wedge, creating magma. Like everything else in life, it's a power play, the submission of one to the other: Volcanoes are the loser's defiance. They are the children grown to kill the King. They come in three sexes: shield, cinder, and strato. Shield volcanoes are formed by the eruption of low-viscosity lava; they make islands. When a shield volcano explodes, you can stroll to safety. Cinder-cone volcanoes are the result from eruption of the small pieces of scoria and pyroclastics that build up around the vent. Most explode only once.

Stratovolcanoes are a different animal entirely - they are the one in a million chance, the sociopath living in your tree-shady neighborhood, the berserker of volcanoes. Sometimes called composite volcanoes, they are composed of hardened lava flows and other ejecta from past explosions: the strata that give them their names. Lava on cinders-and-ash on lava on cinders-and-ash. A stratovolcano is the deadliest of its kin. This is Mt. Vesuvius, Mt. Fuji. This is Mt. Saint Helens.

 

*

 

Sometimes Martha thinks the world is like that: composite. Layers on layers, and no foundation in sight.

 

*

 

Their first date that Martha thinks of as a date is dinner at a restaurant Donna takes her too: not posh, but not trashy, either, a place that probably got most of its revenue from its helpful ambiguity. It's a business dinner, anniversary dinner, night-with-the-relatives dinner sort of restaurant. A fill-in-the-lines, color-book affair, where one could scribble in the orange and indigo of one's own expectations. The walls are painted a moody yellow, but the paint is cracked, in some places, and Martha can see through to the wooden bones underneath.

"You are aware that this is a date, right?" Donna asks, blustering to cover up the nervousness. "I don't want you to get the wrong idea."

Martha laughs. "Yes, I am," she says. She wonders what Donna would do if she had said no.

"Good," Donna says, and starts fishing around behind the saltshakers, for the drinks menu.

She expected Donna to be manic and brilliant, and probably put out a few cooking fires before the entrees even come - a Doctor with breasts, she admits, a little guiltily - but she's loud and clever, no brilliance, but wit. Not hard to talk to if you don't mind being steamrollered. Just fun, really. It's all very puzzling. She has an idea that there might be something not quite right with Donna's recollection of events, but a part of her is worried that Donna's fine, and actually expecting Martha to - do something. Declare herself, maybe? Challenge her? Play along, if there is actually anything to play? The Doctor was never one for games of subterfuge, unless he could let someone onto them, but Donna might be different, or exactly the same. The point is, she doesn't know, and it's bothering her. She has a maddening sense of something under the surface, the feeling she gets when she passes people on the streets, and knows, with complete surety - something about the eyes, or the way they blur at the edges - that they're aliens under concealment shields.

Strip, she has the sudden urge to say. Down to whomever, whatever she is. She's never been much of a voyeur, but this time, Martha wants to see.

 

*

 

" - and then he yelled, 'I'm a doctor, not a marine biologist'!" Martha says, practically howling into her water glass.

Donna snorts and giggles and finally calms herself enough to say, in a laugh-shaky voice, "This one time, my boyfriend and I went to the movies, The Blair Witch Project if you can believe that, and he kept screeching out loud, right there, in the movie theatre. He wouldn't let go of my arm," and she pantomimes: angry woman shaking off biting dog. "Afterwards, he tried to pass it off as if I was the one who was scared!"

"Did you break up with him after that?" Martha asks, trying to get her breathing under control. The last time she was this out of breath, she had been on the coastline of China, running for a mile and a half with Toclafane on her tail. She still remembers crawling beneath a pile of probably-irriadiated beach rubbish, frantically trying to push down the harsh panting sound of her breath: Eye to a hole in the pile, half-watching for more Toclafane, but mostly just watching what was left of Japan burn.

"Of course I did!" Donna says, indignantly. She has such self-possession. Once, Martha would have envied that.

When Martha drives her home that night, there's a brief, senseless scuffle at the door, like two plates colliding, you go this way, I'll go that way. Neither is quite sure what the protocol for this moment should be. Martha goes to shake her hand, Donna half-moves to hug her, and Martha gets an elbow to the ribs before Donna grabs her and pulls her into kiss like something from the movies - a heroine's desperate farewell - her hands fisted in Martha's lapels, mouth clumsy and sweet. For a moment, it feels like they're getting somewhere. It's over far, far too soon. Like a guest, Martha thinks, Donna will not overstay her welcome, and expects her to step back, move away, but instead Donna stays like that, half-embracing her, speaking into the heavy space between their lips.

"You'd better call me," she murmurs, and Martha grins, sharp and suddenly reckless.

"Of course I will," she says.

 

*

 

In the end, their next date is actually the first plan she works out. It would be romantic, she thinks - as if it were important, dinner that comes before life and death and remembrance - except the only reason she's speaking to Donna first is because she couldn't get through to Jack.

"Hey, Donna?" Martha asks, her hands idly twisting up the phone cord, looping it into rings and manacles. She likes corded phones, after so much of her life being wireless; they make her feel connected. "It's me, Martha Jones."

"The doctor, right," Donna says, sounding distracted, and Martha's not ready for the way her heart stops, just for a moment, before she has time to process the word.

"Just the doctor?" Martha says, finally. She's teasing, but she's not sure if it's even a joke, or even funny. "That's it?"

"I'm sorry," Donna says, "The really, really sexy doctor. That alright?"

"Alright, I'm satisfied," Martha says.

 

*

 

"I don't know what happened, Jack," Martha says; that's the thing she's forgotten about the Doctor, how he keeps you in the dark so he can bring around a light. It irritates her that she forgets the way of his deeds far more than the fact that he does them. "I'm guessing that he was the one who did it, in the end, because he needed to; I can't see it happening any other way."

"Oi! Is an alien invasion getting in the way of our dinner plans?" Donna asks, poking her head around the doorframe. Martha doesn't jump, though it's a close thing.

"I'll talk to you later," Martha mumbles into her phone, and then smiles, looks up. "Not at all," she says to Donna, clearly and precisely, a touch of humor, how Magumbo talks hostages over the radio: don't panic, isn't it a little bit amusing that you're here, but don't worry, it'll be all over soon. "The aliens can wait."

But she can't stop thinking about it, that night. She watches Donna pick up her water glass, watches her smooth graceful wrists, and when later she leans over the gearbox to kiss her, she's thinking, the Fountains of Sucolyph? The crystal moon of Nhe? Barcelona? Did the Doctor ever show you those?

She wonders what it would like to do that: just forget. No nightmares, no days where Tish refuses to go outside. No UNIT, no Jack. No looking up into the sky and feeling the hugeness of connectivity, that somewhere thousands of years and miles away the S.S. Pentallian is soaring through space and Shakespeare is going to bed dreaming of his dark lady. These things occupy so much of her; she might have had a life outside of them, once, but it seems as unreal to her as the Pyramids, everything dry and dead, buried under the weight of the hot oppressive sand. Entombed in herself: waiting for a resurrection. What would be left of her, she wonders, after the memory was gone? A pile of ashes? Less? She kisses Donna, in the car, and again on her doorstep, but doesn't stay the night; she'd turn it into a funeral. Somehow, Martha can't imagine forgetting as anything less than a death.

 

*

 

"Please!" she hears, some sort of commotion out in the hall, voices and the sound of a scuffle. Martha pokes her head out of her lab just in time to have it nearly kicked off by a writhing, struggling, green-bubbled quadruped, being held down by two UNIT guards. "I've done everything you asked, just let me go home! Let me see my kids!"

"This is not your home and they are not your children, Mr. Ck -" Dr. Gallagher says evenly as he readies the sedative, seemingly unconcerned by the quadruped's frantic tone "- they were the late Mrs. Lodge's, and I regret to inform you that UNIT cannot entrust children to an unregistered alien from a species that is a well-documented consumer of human flesh."

"I'm a vegetarian!" the alien screams.

 

*

 

Touching Donna is - strange. Not because she's older than Martha, or because it's her first time with a woman; as Martha tells her at the beginning, slipping Donna's shirt off over her head - fingers catching lightly on Donna's nipples and feeling the full-body shudder - it's really not that different. It's not as if Donna looks bad, either - she's just what Martha was expecting, what she had already seen, long hands and full lips and heavy, gorgeous hips.

"What do you think?" Donna asks. "A five? Six point eight? 'Cause you're absolutely gorgeous, if you don't mind me saying. I'm sorry if I don't measure up to a twenty-five year old."

"Stop it, you're beautiful," Martha says, crossly, and Donna says, "Well, of course I am, I'd be insulted if you didn't notice." She pauses for a moment, and then: "Really?"

"Now you're just fishing," Martha says, "but yes," and sets back to the business of kissing her. It's good - and of course, she should have known Donna would find a way to be mouthy and loud even when she's completely silent - but it feels... wrong, somehow. Like touching a child. She tries to remind herself that even if Donna doesn't remember aliens she's still a grown woman, hardly innocent.

(Maybe that's why the Hindus are so into reincarnation, she thinks, fuzzily, in the press of lips and hands and skin. They get new bodies for new lives. Whether cow or priest or princess they're all thousand-time virgins, forever rediscovering their own sex.)

Sometime later, when she's got her mouth on Donna's breast and her thumb rubbing over her clit, she remembers herself enough pull off, briefly, and ask, "This is okay, right?"

Donna stares at her, mouth open, panting. It's an unattractive angle. She looks gorgeous.

"What do you think?" she says, and then deadpan, "No. Not at all," but ruins it all by dragging her back up into another kiss, until Martha's drowning in it, these multitudes of sand, and even in the hot, soft well of Donna's body, never any water.

 

*

 

"There has to be something we can do, Jack," she says, an angry undertone; it's doubtful that Donna can hear her from all the way on the other side of the apartment, with the shower running, but starting to yell would raise questions she's just not prepared to answer.

"Martha, I'm sorry, but I couldn't find anything. Ianto couldn't find anything, and he finds things I didn't even know were lost!" Let's just restate the facts, shall we?" he asks, tinnily. Their connection is awful. "We don't know what the Doctor did. We don't know what he used to do it, or how that actually worked. We don't know why he did it. And all of this is assuming he did actually do something, which, frankly, I'm not convinced he did! It could have just been a side-effect from the metacrisis. I don't know. Maybe she asked for it."

"Why would she do that?" Martha asks, frustrated.

"You heard what Davros said," Jack says. "The Doctor changes people, most of the time for the better - I mean, look at me - but you know as well as I do that it's hard, sometimes. To be what he makes you." She can practically hear the shrug and disarming smile over the phone line. "Maybe she wanted out."

Martha twists the cord in her hands. Finally, she says, "He said, once, that the reason there weren't a lot of Time Lord-human marriages was because of the children. Something about their brains - most of them couldn't handle the Time Lord parts of them, and they died. That hybrids were really rare. I think it might have been something to do with that. Her brain just couldn't handle those Doctor thoughts running around her head, so it just - got rid of him. But here's the thing. All those memories? I bet they're still there, in her head. The neural pathways just can't access them."

"So, what, we give her brain an upgrade?" Jack says.

"Exactly," she says, "Like giving a computer more RAM."

Jack's quiet for a while. He's not breathing heavily, like some people do on hold, but she can hear the faint, unmistakable sound of boots on metal grating, 1-2-3 turn, 1-2-3 turn. Pacing, sprinkled with the occasional keyboard tap.

"I may have found something," he says. "There's something in the Archives about an augmentation device, but it's - unclear."

"Unclear as in dangerous or unclear as in unclear?" she asks.

"Unclear as in someone spilled a coffee on the original report," he says. "But still generally ambiguous."

"Send me a copy," she says. "I'll have Dr. Taylor look it over."

"You're bringing UNIT into this?" he asks, surprised.

"I don't have a choice, do I," she says. "I'm going to need their resources."

"I'm hardly the type for bad-mouthing," he says, "of course, subtract the bad and -"

"Jack," she says,

"UNIT doesn't play well with others," he says. "And they certainly don't like sharing their toys."

"They like the Doctor," she says, "sort of. And it's for him, sort of."

"That's a lot of sort-ofs," Jack says.

"I'll figure something out," Martha says, and turns to smile at Donna as she emerges from the bedroom, wet hair and uncaffeinated expression and still so horribly, gloriously ignorant.

 

*

 

As it turns out, Dr. Taylor is - per usual - ecstatically happy to help, and his military guard is just as happy when he overhears what they're planning. "I can't say for sure," Dr. Taylor says, "Torchwood Three is right, these specs are a mess, but if it does what it's supposed to, I don't see any reasons right now why it shouldn't work." He pushes his glasses up his nose. "You really think that the Doctor's got a - a copy of himself running around there?"

"Yeah. I'm pretty sure," Martha says.

"That's brilliant!" he says. "Does this copy know anything about quantum physics? Because I've been working on this wormhole problem, right, just this little side project, but I can't seem to get the containment equations for the y-loop right -"

Generally, Martha likes Malcolm Taylor. He reminds her of the Doctor, in the most superficial and cerebral of ways - on the surface, they look very much alike, all these geniuses with a tendency to babble. If she had been a little less smart - a little more desperate - she might have fallen into his gravity, but thankfully she's neither of these things, and a bit more perceptive besides; she's quite content to remain an independent satellite.

Perhaps in this case the surface is immaterial; not so much substance as depth. If the Doctor's an ocean, then all the men like Malcolm Taylor are like little wading pools: Transparent.

Beside her, the guard snorts. "He's a real something, our Dr. Taylor is," he says. He sounds proud. "But he's like a dog with a bone, Miss. If that device is out there, he'll find it."

Martha tries to smile. "I'm sure he will," she says.

The guard claps her on the shoulder. "You'll get a promotion for this, I expect," he says, kindly, and they had three bodies in the morgue this morning but this, perhaps, is the worst thing anyone's said to her all day.

It feels like there should be some announcement made, some grand, obvious chain of events kicked into motion - they're finally getting somewhere, brushing some of the sand away, or rebuilding what had been cracked away from it - but in fact life goes on at a steady stomp, with little fanfare. The higher-ups approve her little side-project, with much bickering; there's a large faction who thinks it's far too much of a risk. Her father buys a new dryer after the old one kept him up with the banging. Donna's contract with the Soulless Corporation - which, if you listened to her, you'd think was written in blood at a darkened crossroads - runs out on the fourteenth. She and Martha have steadily been getting more serious, which seems to mean that she spends a greater amount of time hanging around Martha's flat, drinking Martha's hot chocolate and complaining about her new job, a secretary position at one of the local hospitals. It's hardly international intrigue - most of her office dramas seem to revolve around Ian the snitch and her continued battle with the hospital's organization, or lack thereof - but Martha likes listening to it. She enjoys the sheer pettiness of it all. It's nice, when you've saved the world once or twice, to know that people have the peace to squabble over stupid things and lead wasteful, irrelevant lives. Under the Toclafane, Martha traveled the world, and saw perhaps two arguments that weren't, in some way, over survival.

"Oi!" Donna says, irritably, startling her from her woolgathering. "I've seen enough filing systems to know when one's rubbish."

Martha looks up from her pathology reports. She's halfway through typing the world CRANIUM, as in, it looked like a melon someone had took a hammer to, only phrased a bit more professionally.

"I believe you," she says, fervently. She thinks she might have been waiting a while to say this. "You are that good, Donna, and don't let anyone else tell you otherwise."

"I am that good, aren't I?" Donna says, loudly, though she looks puzzled, as if she's only just trying out the concept.

Martha pulls her down into a hug, holding on tight, and says, softly, honestly, "Yes. Yes, you are."

 

*

 

Donna likes things orderly, and that's a surprise. On the surface she's such a disorganized person, passionate, all over the place messy; she doesn't seem like the type of woman who enjoys straight lines, square corners, rows and rows of cataloged files, accurate weather reports. She seems like the type that would enjoy walking in the rain, after she got over her snit about not bringing an umbrella. Instead, to Martha's horror, she color-codes her socks. Even her lovemaking is methodical. Sometimes Martha feels like Donna's made a graph of her body, somewhere in her head, reduced her to nothing more than a library layout - hands start at N1, sweep down through N2-5, fondle N7, suck N8. Other times, when she's pleasure-drunk and rug-burned and essentially riding Donna's face, she wonders how she could have ever been that daft.

It confuses her, this eternal Jacob's Ladder of organization. Perhaps the rigidity lies beneath the chaos; perhaps the order is just the surface layer, a clever hood, or indicative of a previous time, a surface that outlasted the underside, like a reef. Perhaps this is actually Donna; perhaps this is what she clothes herself in. According to Jack it's immaterial and it's driving her up the bend. Martha's never been very good with either/ors.

"That's brilliant!" she says, instead, when Donna phones her up to inform her of Donna's upcoming promotion, courtesy of the hospital records she practically crippled herself reorganizing.

(Martha's really not kidding about the back injury. She was there to hold the hot-pads.)

"About time they noticed," Donna says, complaining, though she's obviously very pleased. "I thought maybe they'd give it to Karen, but she's always been a bit useless, or Ian - no one knows what the hell he does -"

"Besides be a rat bastard?" Martha finishes, and Donna laughs.

"Yeah, besides that. But I'm the one who got it, not Ian, the snake-in-the-grass! They gave it to me!"

"We should go out tonight, to celebrate," Martha says. Elisa Magumbo is making angry, bitten-off hand gestures in her peripheral vision; obviously, she wants Martha to get off the phone. The good Sergeant Magumbo is no Ian, but she's very much the management's man, and it's best not to make her angry. "To the pub. The one that you like, with the orange drink napkins. The one I can never remember the name of."

"I thought doctors were supposed to have good memories," Donna says.

"Yeah, so we can fill them up with all the useless stuff we learn in med school," Martha says. "I've got to go, alright? See you tonight."

"Dr. Jones. So glad you could take time from your busy schedule to join us again," Magumbo says, sourly, when Martha hangs up, but Martha can't be angry for very long. It's been a long week; alien activity has been increasing, as it usually does right before another attack, but there's no pattern to it this time, no rhyme. It's put everyone on edge, the Sergeant included, and if Martha's completely honest, it's probably responsible for the current green-light on the DoctorDonna Project, codename LORDLING. If desperate times call for desperate measures, then eerie ones call for security.

"Do you need me for something?" Martha asks.

Magumbo cracks a smile, though in her case the emphasis would be on the crack.

"The director wants to see you," she says. "Something about Lordling."

"Wish me luck," Martha says, gloomily, and across the lab, her assistant Dr. Fahim calls out: "Mazel tov!"

"That means congratulations," Sergeant Magumbo corrects.

"Good luck, then, and hopefully mazel tov too," Dr. Fahim snaps.

 

*

 

She needs their resources - even with the occasional help of Torchwood Three, Martha can't find the device on her own, but the fact is, her employer is anything but cooperative. As in any profession that depends on limited funding, doctors get used to factions and department wars, but this is beyond the level of anything she's ever seen before, factions on factions, alliances seemingly changing with the day of the week. There's a Junior Secretary of Defense that she swears only votes Yea on Tuesdays.

And as much as Jack does to try and change it, the modus and mission of Torchwood One has, unfortunately, left its mark. Extremes prevail. There's a faction that wants anyone with any bit of the Doctor - hand or foot or ear or soul - as far away as possible, but on the opposite side of the spectrum, there are those who would throw open the gates of the world to him, in exchange for whatever gifts he'd give. Left hand pushes him away and the right hand holds him close, Martha had realized with disgust. Sometimes the Doctor's relationship with Earth seems to be nothing more than one great tango, passion and blood and sex, whirling away, spinning in, the hand goes out and the audience hears a slap, but none of the blows ever seem to connect.

Allegro, she thinks. Allegro with guns. Jack says that every alien race has their version of the tango, somewhere. Sometimes it's sacred and sometimes it's profane, danced with prostitutes or priests, but the underlying principles are always the same. "Sex," he says. "Sex and power." Not beauty. Nothing that crass.

"Director?" she says, poking her head around the door. It looks like a bad day; he has a bit of a paper tornado building in his office, UNIT-grey files flapping like dying buzzards from every available surface.

"Dr. Jones," he says. That's one thing she likes about him: he never calls her Miss. "Sit down."

 

*

 

Some days, Martha thinks she's gotten in over her head. She's gotten to the point that saying she saved the world is as tiresome as bragging that she won the fourth-grade spelling bee; she's on a different elevation than the rest of them, higher or lower, hearing things in dogs' decibels, everything colored by a different wavelength of light. All holy men are blind. She misses things. There's a reason Jesus scattered moneylenders and was killed by bureaucrats; they don't.

These people she works for, they want insurance. They still dream of that elusive Übermensch, of chaining down Prometheus. They want to turn the woman sleeping in Martha's bed, face pillow-creased and frowning, into something inspiring, they want to light her on fire and declare her a torch. A mortal Time Lord without a TARDIS: she can practically hear them thinking, this is the perfect ace. "Your relationship to her will be quite useful for the task at hand, I'd think," someone says. As if she'd let a nuclear bomb into her bed, and has been flirting with the detonator. It's the Osterhagen Key all over again. Why does she always get stuck with the things that go boom?

 

*

 

At the pub, Martha buys the drinks and holds Donna's hand. Their fingers twine together like a spark of recognition. She tells herself that she'll never have to let go.

 

*

 

"Yes," she tells her mother, "I am eating my vegetables."

"No," she tells her father, "I am not walking home by myself in the middle of the night through the most dangerous parts of the city."

"Yes," she tells Tish, "my 'significant other' " - she makes finger quotes and rolls her eyes at Donna, who snorts and turns back to her crossword - "is doing well."

Martha knows that Donna thinks she's lucky, that her parents don't call to check up on her much. "They must really respect you," she says, laughingly, and Martha thinks: no, they fear me. Except that's not true - they hate her, for what she did, and love her, for what she did, but also because she's their daughter, and two reasons trump one; it balances out in her favor, but the taint is still there, like lemon in water, mold in meat. Maybe they do fear her a little, or at least the person she's become: the woman who owns a gun with a silencer, who deals daily with things they will never, ever understand, and now will never want to.

Then again, she tells herself, that's silly. The truth is hardly that sinister. They trust her, that's all; they trust her not to need protection, babying. She's a grown woman now. She has a lover and a job with a just-in-case gun and a planet that she occasionally saves, sort of a side hobby, one might say, a part-time gig except for the fact that it's consuming her life.

"We'll just have to keep looking," she tells Jack. "I can't not."

"Does she even want to remember?" he asks, tiredly; it sounds almost an absent question, the Jack Harkness version of elevator music, but something about it rubs her the wrong way.

"I would have wanted to remember," she rebukes, hot with desert-dry conviction. "Even the bad parts. I would have wanted to remember it all."

 

*

 

They're in the habit of leaving trails when they go to bed, piles of clothing that mark their lovemaking as obviously as the bite-red bruises on Donna's neck. Donna likes pants and soft tunic shirts - "I don't have the figure for layering," she says of her wardrobe - but Martha likes her in business-wear, jackets and pants, layers of protection she's begging to be burst out of, a sea-thing in too small a shell, searching for a better home, and finding Martha's body. An erotic exercise in displacement. They toss aside pinstriped jackets, and the people they are in them, the professionals, are revealed to be friends. They slither out of pants and shirts, and they are revealed to be lovers. Martha unhooks Donna's bra, letting Donna's breasts spill out into her hands, and thinks, now what?

She wants to peel Donna's body down to her bones. She wants to kiss her and know they're kissing, really kissing, each to each, not through screens of gauze and silk and skin. She wants to make love to that essential part of Donna, whatever makes her who she is, if only Martha could find it.

"I love you," she surprised, "I really love you." She's not quite sure why she's saying it, but she can't seem to stop.

Donna looks shocked - almost repulsed, even, and a little embarrassed, as if she had offered something of herself and Martha had rebuffed her. As if Martha had dropped one of her saw-toothed knives into bed and said, here, use this, and pointed to her own chest.

"You don't have to sound so surprised about it," Donna says, finally, a pale imitation of her usual crossness, but at least she's trying, so that's a start.

Martha puts on a smile, and starts her slide downwards, mostly so she doesn't have to talk to Donna's face. "It's okay," she says to Donna's collarbone, "don't feel obligated" - tongue swirling around one rosy nipple - "or anything, you don't have to say it back" - to her abdomen, pale and smooth - "I just" - kiss to her right thigh - "wanted" - kiss to her left - "you" - slow lick - "to know."

"Martha," Donna chants, as if in incantation. All embarrassment forgotten. Her hips are thrusting, minutely; she's trembling with the effort of holding them still. "Martha, please."

"After all," Martha says, chin resting on Donna's thigh, "I wouldn't want you to feel pressured."

"I've been working out, you know," Donna said. "I can crush your head, and I temped at a police station once. They'll never find the body."

"Really, it's been known to be the death of many a good relationship," Martha continues, wickedly.

"You insufferable woman," Donna groans. "I hate you. Please, please get on with it. I am begging you."

"Now that's not very nice," Martha says, and because she's essentially speaking into Donna's leg, she doesn't see Donna narrow her eyes, and hears too late, "Right, then, if that's how you're going to play it," and so is very, very not prepared for when Donna drags her up and flips them over, her hips settling onto Martha's, weight and heat and wetness.

"I'll show you not nice," Donna growls, and Martha closes her eyes and hums, contentedly.

"I'm sure you will," she says, and sometime later, decides fuzzily that she is never, ever telling Jack that his story about his distraction of the sentry on Yan-Ylan actually came in handy.

("Deny, discredit, distract," he had said when he told her. "It's so much easier - and so much more fun - than breaking their necks.")

 

*

 

It would be easier if her clothes didn't fit, if her makeup looked wrong, if she wore her face like a mask, but the fact is, Donna is just Donna. She inhabits her skin like certain tribes inhabit the landscape. She's loud and petty and endearing and seems like she could never be anything other that what she is.

Nothing less, and certainly nothing more.

 

*

 

"Martha Jones," Jack says, "Miss Martha Jones. If this doesn't make you kiss me, nothing else ever will."

"Well, go on," she says, after a minute of silence. "What is it?"

"We found it," he says, "and you'll never guess where."

But when he shows up at her door the next day, coat flapping like the wings of some prophetic bird, the very first thing he says to her is, "I'm sorry."

 

*

 

"Let me get this straight," she shouts, "it was in a volcano?"

"Explosion must have pushed it to the surface," Jack says, over the wind. "It must have been in the magma chamber before that. Even our sensors couldn't pick it up, that far underground."

They're standing on the lip of Mount St. Helens herself, staring down into the smoking abyss. An artist, painting them, might entitle his portrait Lovers At the Apocalypse. He's sharing his coat with her, to protect from the sharp, strong winds that come at this high an elevation, and she has her hand wrapped around his wrist, fingers curled into the leather strap of the personal transporter. The hum of working machinery is steadying.

The view up here is breathtaking, literally, the wind whipping her steaming breath right out of her mouth and fanning it past her like a pennant. The land looks so minute spread out below them, smears of paint, as if she'd stepped into a Van Gogh; at this elevation she could never believe the details - all the cellphones and skyscrapers and people - were anything but unreal. It's beautiful, in the manner of dangerous things. She wonders what Jack's seen that could compare to this; surely something. She wonders if he's wondering the same thing about her.

"I wonder how it got there in the first place," she muses.

"Maybe it's dangerous," Jack says. "Could be that someone tried to destroy it."

"It doesn't matter now," she says, and turns to stare out at the vastness of the land underneath them. "UNIT has it, and they're not giving it up."

"Maybe you could -" he starts, but she cuts him off.

"No, Jack," she says, flatly, and then a moment later: "You can't imagine - The way they talk about her - They think she's a bomb, Jack," she says. "A weapon. They'd lock her up and throw away the key! Or worse, they'd make her their attack dog. Can you imagine being treated like that? Like you're not even human, just some thing to be used whenever Mother England thinks it needs some help on the front lines?"

"Yes," he says.

"Oh, Jack," she says, "I'm so sorry. I'm so, so sorry for whatever they did to you, because I know it was horrible. But she's not like you, or me. She's like the Doctor. You wouldn't lock him up, would you? God, you had his hand on your desk but you wouldn't lay a hand on him unless he said you could, and you're probably the only one who had a snowball's chance in Hell of actually keeping him! I can't do that," she finishes. "That's worse than murder, Jack. That's worse than rape."

"They're different," Jack says. His voice has gone cold, and hard as rock; he barely resembles the man he was a few minutes ago. She could have sworn that Jack Harkness loved mirrors, but apparently he only likes the ones made of glass.

"They're not," she says. "They're really, really not."

He might have said something in reply, but whatever it was, it was too quiet; the words get eaten by the screaming-around wind.

It's amazing that he's let her get this far into his armor, really. Once upon a time, she knows, he would have fucked her and forgot about her and watched her mouth without ever hearing a word she said, except one ordinary, inconsequential day, she stepped into a little blue box that ripped pathways in space and time, and came out burnished, lacquered, cracked by fire and so very different, and somehow, he's taken the layers on layers the Doctor painted on her, and in them, found depth.

"Something fell through the Rift last week," Jack says, finally. "We don't know what it is. Even I didn't recognize it. It was almost dead. You know what it said, until the minute it died?" He laughs. Not kindly. "Name, rank, serial number. And that its armies would burn our planet to the rock."

"You get one of those a week," she says.

"We think it was an advance scout," he replies. "I've never seen it before, but I can always tell."

"The Doctor will come," she says, automatic comeback. Fuck you. God exists. The Doctor will come.

"He will," he says; absolute conviction, like a child insisting his parent would live forever, or that the sun would always rise, and he shrugs. "But you know what they say. Two is always better than one."

"We're not talking about a threesome," she snaps. "We're talking about a woman's life."

"What if it comes down to that?" he asks. "She's a human, she can't regenerate. If this is really as serious as we think it will be, she could die."

"She could die crossing the road," Martha says.

"Exactly," Jack says.

"Do you remember the Master, when we first met him? The fob watch?" she asks, suddenly; it seems very important that he understands. Jack nods. "He was just this - old man, but he had these beautiful dreams. Build a rocket. Just like that. Save the world, without the Doctor, even, all by himself. I really liked him," she admits, "and he turned out to be this - monster. And sometimes I think, that old man, that was who he was underneath, all that time. That he was just wearing the monster on top. I don't know. Maybe I'm just naive."

"You are," he says.

"Except," she argues, "the thing is, it happened again, did I tell you that? When I was traveling with the Doctor," and she's breaking all sorts of Companion rules here - the first rule of the Doctor is you don't talk about the Doctor, she thinks, a little hysterically, but she doesn't care, she'll put all her cards down, guns up, "we ended up at this boarding school. He put himself into a fob watch, became John Smith, professor. Had a little diary where he drew about his past lives; thought they were something he'd made up. Just, a dream or something. And it was breaking my heart that he didn't remember, but he fell in love. Almost got married. He was going to stay with her," she says. "He was going to stay with her in England, and never go traveling, and have kids, and die of old age in their bed, and never remember - " She stops; turns to the wind.

"I just keep thinking," she says, "They're always so happy when they forget."

 

*

 

The thing is, Martha sometimes thinks she fell in love with Donna the moment she set eyes on the glowing mass of her, rising up from the floor - regenerating! - so beautiful she could almost forgive Davros for trying to end the universe, if it resulted in that.

The thing is, Martha sometimes thinks she's falling in love with Donna, with this lovely irritating petty passionate person who color-codes her socks and gets excited over promotions and falls asleep with her hand on Martha's hip, fingers curled lightly over the bone, like a comma, like punctuation, like a pause for breath.

The thing is, they're not the same person, these woman, any more than bedrock is the ocean that pounds over it, or lava the mountain that it explodes over, racing to claim the town below, and Martha's never been very much into bigamy.

 

*

 

"That's it," Donna says, the next time Martha rolls over at night and reaches for her boots. On the bedside table, her pager is buzzing, and her cell phone is lit up in urgency. 28 NEW MESSAGES, it says when she checks the screen.

"I'm tired of this," Donna continues. "I'm tired of you never telling me anything. I'm tired of you treating me like a child, like I won't understand. I'm not an idiot. Stop treating me like one."

Her tone is accusatory, angry. Yet another thing reached its boiling point. Funny how they all seem to happen at once.

"You have to believe me when I say there are things I simply can't tell you," Martha says. She grabs Donna's hand and squeezes it, as if to say: please let this be enough. Don't pull when I'm already pushed.

"Bull. Shit," Donna declares, pulling her hand away and folding her arms across her chest. "You could tell me everything if you wanted to. You just don't want to."

Her phone beeps, insistently, into the silence. 28 NEW MESSAGES, it reads. Elisa's been calling her again. At first, back when Martha could still pretend that the missed calls were an accident, it was during the day, business hours - not a minute before nine or after five - as if anything about this whole affair was polite, or civilized. After the first fourteen missed calls, though, Martha lost all plausible deniability, and Elisa started getting crafty: calling at four in the morning, ten at night. Annoying, but the calls aren't the problem. It's when they stop that the real trouble starts.

Martha bites her lip.

28 NEW MESSAGES, her phone says, but when she flips it open, the last message from Elisa was left two days ago.

"All right," she says. "Tomorrow morning. I'll tell you everything tomorrow morning. I promise."

Donna says, "Fine."

Martha closes her eyes, just for a second. Sewing this moment up inside of her, like a treasure, a missive smuggled through enemy lines. "Thank you," she says, kisses Donna on the cheek, and goes to collect her thirty pieces of silver.

When she gets to UNIT headquarters, the red phones are ringing off the hook, and the room is a mess, papers and people everywhere. The prime minister's in the room, looking frightened and overwhelmed (what a first hundred days in office, Martha thinks, not uncharitably); there's the American president, up on the telly.

"Doctor Jones," Magumbo says over her shoulder, sharply, "You haven't been answering your phone."

"I'm sorry," she says, even though she's not, really. "Are we sure that's it's really happening? That it's an emergency, not a false alarm?"

The Sergeant turns to her, eyes wide. Elisa's really been a good friend to her, Martha realizes, and feels unaccountably sad for what she's about to do.

"Do we look like this when it's not an emergency?" Magumbo asks, aghast.

"Doctor Jones, unless you've revised your previous position sometime within the last few days, you are just extra personnel and we don't need you here, clogging everything up," the UNIT director interjects. He looks exhausted, ground-up, like bones rubbing together. "Leave, or I'll have the Sergeant escort you out."

"Has the Doctor shown up?" Martha asks.

"He hasn't been sighted yet," the director says despite himself, tight around the mouth.

"Then I have," she says.

"Have what?" the director asked.

"Revised my position," she says. "Where's the device?"

 

*

 

Like a gentlemen, Jack stays the night with her, handgun carefully concealed under his coat ("Just in case," the director had said, as he watched Martha buckle hers on). They drink strong tea out of Martha's grandmother's porcelain pot, the one whose cracks Donna patched up with rubber cement. As benefits a wake, they don't talk much.

"Maybe this will be a good thing," Jack says, during one of the rare moments of conversation.

"Just like old times," Martha jokes, excepting the fact that there never was a Donna and Martha show; they didn't have any old times, just new ones, every day, a whole pile-up of dizzying firsts. First kiss, first fuck, first night over, second time saving the world. First betrayal. Sixty-fourth act of love. The numerology is bitter with irony.

 

*

 

In the end, Martha will not be witness to the moment of transformation. When Donna puts the device to her temple, Martha is holding her hand, but her face is turned away. Either way it goes, she can't bear to watch, and moves, instead, to look out the window. Underneath, she knows, in its dark and secret places, England is preparing for war, but on the surface it's a beautiful day, tranquil, just like the day they met. Sky as blue as the nitrogen ice smashing circles around a Korilian moon. It all seems so silly, now, anyway - so irrelevant, with gold lighting up the corners of her peripheral vision - but her memory of their first encounter is a patchy blur. They bumped into each other, didn't they? Donna spilled her coffee, and Martha said something asinine in return, something about visiting family.

"Donna Noble," Donna had said. "If you're going to be asking me rude questions, we might as well introduce ourselves first."

And her hands, she remembers; her hands were so warm.