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"Very interesting, Mr Smith," said the Brigadier, closing the manila folder and putting it to one side. "Miss Smith evidently thinks very highly of you. She doesn't usually have a good word to say for Torchwood people."

"I wasn't really Torchwood, sir," said Mickey. "Not in this universe, anyway. In the other one, they were a bit more..."

"Competent?" suggested Lethbridge-Stewart, a twinkle in his eye.

"I was going to say accountable."

*

It was the weirdest set-up for alien-fighting he'd ever seen, and he'd seen a fair few in his day. An old house in the country, a bit posh in a sort of going-to-seed-Dad's-old-tweeds sort of way. The place was a private residence, home to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, his wife, his dogs and his private army.

Some people, Mickey understood, took up gardening when they retired.

"He got bored," said Doris, when he asked.

*

He'd turned up on Sarah Jane's doorstep three months after he'd left the other universe. She'd taken one look at him and said, "Come in. Tea's on. The kids are at school."

It was probably being a journalist that made her so easy to talk to. Jack's people in Cardiff were bound up with their own grief, and anyway, they hadn't been part of it, not really. What he really wanted was to park himself on Jackie Tyler's sofa and spill his guts, but that door was closed, and that had never really been home anyway. So he went to the next best thing.

Sarah Jane heard him out in silence. When he was finished, she said, "Yes. I know what you need," and driven him down to the Brigadier's place. Where, he'd quickly realised, they'd been expecting him. Just when had Sarah Jane sent that dossier, complete with her personal recommendation? Months ago? Years?

Either way, if this was how the Doctor's old friends wound up -- well, there were worse jobs.

*

"You should have a partner," Doctor Shaw told him as she put in stitches. "It's not safe, working alone."

"Yeah," said Mickey. "I'll put an ad in the paper, will I?"

He was sort of the odd man out, and in a way, he liked it. He'd spent the last few years playing happy families with the Tylers, swallowing his distaste for Pete's easy ruthlessness, because he was Rose's dad, and Rose was Mickey's best mate, and this was the fairy tale ending she had always thought she wanted.

Well, now she had a whole new fairy tale, and this time, Mickey didn't have to play along.

Still, he thought a few weeks later, as the Vervoid venom flooded his veins, there was probably something to be said for having an extra pair of hands (and legs, and eyes, not to mention an extra brain that could, hopefully, come up with better ideas than FIND DANGER, RUN TOWARDS IT SHOUTING).

He was lucky; if the homicidal house-plant hadn't been injured, he'd have died instantly, instead of being able to half-hobble, half-drag himself to an A&E. He made it as far as the triage desk before his legs gave out.

"Sorry," he said, "I've been attacked by a giant alien plant."

"I'll call the psych ward," said the nurse.

"Hold that," said a familiar voice, and the nurse stepped aside to reveal the most unexpected and beautiful face that Mickey had ever seen.

"Martha Jones," he said as he collapsed, "I think I love you."

*

While he was recovering from the transfusions, the surgery and the occasional craving for compost, Martha came and visited him.

"I thought you were with UNIT," Mickey said.

"I'm on extended leave."

"Bit of a busman's holiday, then?"

"I feel like I'm doing good."

"Fair enough."

Martha had lost weight. There was a faint indentation on her left ring finger.

"I thought--" Mickey nodded at the place where a ring had sat.

"He died," she said. "In the invasion." Her voice was flat. "I could have gone to him," she said. "But I thought -- well, I was wrong. And he died."

"You can't know that you would have saved him," said Mickey.

"Easy to say," said Martha. "Not so easy to remember." She stood up, examining the cards his team-mates had sent. "Sir Alistair's name has a sort of magic in UNIT. The brass all talk about what he'd want of them. But when it comes to policy," she shrugged. "I got tired of compromise. I got ... tired." She sank down on Mickey's bed. He pushed his tray table away and sat up, giving her a hug.

"I know," he said. "Believe me, I know."

*

He wasn't sure if it was something she'd want, but he mentioned her name to the Brigadier anyway. A few days later, he saw Doctor Shaw reading a UNIT file over lunch. And it wasn't that Mickey was some kind of sneaky over-the-shoulder reader, but -- well, you didn't work at Pete Tyler's Torchwood without picking up a few tricks.

*

"There's a three-month probation period," said Martha as she wiped her shoes and hung her coat up. "For them, I mean, not me."

"Of course, dear," said Doris.

"Welcome aboard," said Mickey.

*

Of course they were partners. When bio-mechanical robots invaded the planet, you wanted a doctor and a mechanic on your side. And Mickey took to inviting her down the pub of an evening. She beat him at darts. It was the first time he'd seen her laugh properly since they'd piloted the TARDIS together.

Nevertheless, he hadn't been planning to marry her.

The thing was, the Capulchet were big on rituals, and they needed a ritual of joining to seal the treaty they'd just signed, promising to cancel their invasion plans in exchange for exclusive rights to humanity's radioactive waste.

"Iiiiiiiiii dooon't seeee whaaat theee prooooobleem iiis," said the Capulchet negotiator, zir antennae twitching curiously at the assembled group. "Iiiiiii wiiiiiill joooiiiin wiiiith my eeeeegg-beeeaaareeeer. Oooone of yooouuuu doooo theee saaame."

Jack Harkness opened his mouth.

"Absolutely not," said Doctor Shaw, Sarah Jane and Clyde at the same time.

"I could call Rhys, we could renew our vows," said Gwen.

"No," said the Brigadier, squinting at the treaty, "according to this, it has to be a new joining."

Martha caught Mickey's eye.

"I won't say 'obey'," she said.

"I wasn't going to suggest it."

"And we get a divorce before my mother finds out."

"That's only fair."

All in all, it was the easiest world-saving he'd ever done.

*

Hiding in the hold of a space ship en route to Raxacoricofallapatorius, Mickey whispered, "We've been married for four months. Shouldn't we be thinking about getting a divorce?"

"Probably," said Martha, "but there's so much paperwork. Maybe when we get back to Earth."

"If we get back to Earth."

"Mickey," said Martha, leaning against him, "we'll get back to Earth."

She put her head on his shoulder and, with the ease of one who has trained herself to take advantage of any opportunity to rest, fell asleep.

*

"So," said Francine Jones, "you're the husband Martha's been keeping secret for six months."

"It's a bit more complicated than that, Mum," Martha began.

"Yes," said Francine, "but you're not divorced yet, are you?"

Later, while Martha was searching for an old diary she claimed needed to be located and destroyed at the earliest possible opportunity, Francine took Mickey aside.

"I realise you're just friends," she said, "but she seems happier now than I've seen her in years. I hope she doesn't lose you."

"I'm not going to let her go," he promised. And he realised, with the sort of dawning realisation that he'd thought only happened in books, that it was true.

*

"Mickey?"

"Yes, Martha?"

"Do you get the feeling that we're being watched?"

He consulted his little energy-scanning-doohickey. "Automated probe at three o'clock," he said. "Got a strange energy pattern--"

He ducked just as the bolt of plasma sliced through the air previously occupied by his head.

As they were running for their lives, he said, "So, do you want to get a drink sometime?"

"We get a drink all the time," Martha shouted. "Or do you mean, like, a drink-drink?"

"Like, a couple of drinks, some dinner and a movie?"

"Are you asking me out on a date?"

"Well, yeah." He took cover behind an outcropping of rocks and returned the probe's fire. "Why not?"

Martha grabbed his little energy-scanning-doohicky from his pocket and began inputting commands. "We've been married for seven months, two weeks and three days. Don't you think it's a bit late to start dating?"

"They say that just 'cause you're married, you shouldn't let the romance die."

Martha flipped a switch. The probe exploded. As tiny bits of alien technology rained down around them, she laughed and kissed him, her hands cupping his face, her fingers tracing his ears and cheekbones and jaw.

"All right," she said, and her smile lit up her face. "A couple of drinks, some dinner and a movie."

"And if it doesn't work out, we can always get a divorce."

Martha tucked an arm around his waist. "Now who's killing the romance?"

*

The wreckage of the space cruiser was still burning, but Mickey ran towards it regardless.

The weird thing was, he wasn't the only one.

"What are you doing, you idiot?" the girl shouted. She probably would have been pretty, if not for the tears streaming down her sooty face. "You could be killed."

"My wife's in that ship," Mickey called.

"So's my husband!" She pushed her singed red hair out of her face. "If he's dead--"

"She can't be dead--"

There was a noise behind them. They both froze and turned.

"If that's--" she started.

"Can't be," said Mickey.

A skinny young man in a stained tweed suit emerged from the TARDIS.

"This sort of thing is why it's a miracle humanity managed to survive for more than a generation," the Doctor called. "Amy, Mickey, heartfelt reunions are for after we're out of the radiation field."

Despite himself, Mickey hesitated on the threshold of the TARDIS.

"What are you waiting for?" the Doctor asked. Behind him, Martha appeared, singed, dirty and alive. She held out her hand.

"That," said Mickey, and let his wife pull him into the TARDIS. The doors closed behind him; the Doctor threw a lever with a flourish, and he felt the old, familiar vibration of the engines.

"Where to?" the Doctor asked them. "Home?"

"She's my home," said Mickey, and Martha squeezed his hand.

 

end