Author's Notes and Disclaimer: DW belongs to Uncle Rusty; I own nothing. Well, very little. Very, very little. Anyway, this story comes about as the result of the Rose & Martha Ficathon at LiveJournal. My prompt was for Rose to get injured in some Torchwood shenanigans and for Martha to be the one treating her. Hope you enjoy! Thanks to Selena and Dr. Tamwe for the beta.
Under the Skin
Martha Jones, intern, grumbled quietly to herself as she made her way through the hospital toward her latest assignment. Why, she thought, did I get stuck with this? Maya was the one who came in crowing about how Rose Tyler got brought into the ER after collapsing.
Unfortunately, Dr. Caroline Taylor, a handsome middle-aged woman with graying chestnut hair and no discernable sense of humor, had entered the lounge just as Martha had voiced her opinion that young Miss VitEx Heiress's case of "exhaustion" was probably caused by "drugs or bulimia--isn't that what all the rich girls are doing these days?" That had led to Dr. Taylor deciding that since Martha knew so much about rich young ladies, perhaps she'd like to add Miss Tyler to her caseload.
Worse, Martha knew very well it was her own fault. Mostly. Gossiping about patients like that was strongly discouraged by all her mentors, and Martha was generally very good about it. Getting caught with her metaphorical pants down wasn't Maya's fault. She blamed the ever-present intern exhaustion for her fit of cattiness and resigned herself to doing penance.
Rounding the last corner into the ward, Martha spotted Dr. Daniel Weber talking with a man and a woman. Martha recognized Pete Tyler right away and waited at a respectful distance until Dr. Weber spotted her.
"Dr. Taylor sent me," Martha said.
"Excellent," said Dr. Weber. He was a bit of a stiff, but Martha liked him; he was patient with the interns and occasionally betrayed a delightfully dry sense of humor. "Mr. and Mrs. Tyler, this is intern doctor Martha Jones. Miss Jones, would you be so kind as to get a complete history on Miss Tyler?"
"Why are you stickin' us with an intern?" Jackie Tyler demanded. "What're you going to be doing?"
"I'll be supervising your daughter's tests," Dr. Weber explained patiently. "Miss Jones is more than competent to take a history, Mrs. Tyler. Your daughter is in the best possible hands."
Jackie didn't look terribly mollified, but Pete Tyler wrapped an arm around her and murmured something in her ear, and she put up no further protest as Martha ushered them into a quiet lounge and began asking questions.
Drugs? "I don't know exactly what happened when she ran off with Jimmy Stones, and God only knows what he was up to. I told her he was no good, but no, she had to go and find out for herself. Anyway, that was years ago, and since then, no drugs I know of. She's a good girl, Rose."
Eating disorder? "Heaven forbid she goes without her chips!"
Has she been acting any different lately? "Not that I've noticed, though Lord knows she's not been by the house nearly enough. I'm lucky to see her once a week."
At that point, Pete spoke up. "I didn't think anything of it, but yesterday at work, Rose said she was feeling tired. That's not like her; Rose is always full of energy."
Jackie looked at him. "And you didn't think to tell me anything? I'm just her mother, you know!"
"I didn't think anything of it. Am I supposed to give you the full Rose Report every day after work?"
"Might help! You know how hard she works when no one reminds her to take a break."
Martha just barely managed to get a word in edgewise. "Is there any history of illnesses in either of your families?"
"Well, my mum and dad both died of lung cancer," said Jackie, "but they smoked. Rose never did. Except maybe with Jimmy Stones. If this has anything to do with him, I'm hunting him down with a butcher knife!"
"Not much point to that, Jacks," said Pete.
"No, but it'd make me feel better," sniffed Jackie.
Pete got back to the subject, telling Martha, "There's diabetes in my family."
"That might be helpful," said Martha, marking it down. "Has Rose ever been tested?"
Pete looked at Jackie, who shook her head and said, "No."
"What about her job?" Martha asked next. She looked at Pete. "She works at VitEx Industries, right?" Pete nodded. "Has she been exposed to any chemicals there?"
Jackie gave Pete a look that said her job had better not be the cause for her illness. Pete looked thoughtful. "That's a possibility," he said. "She doesn't work in my division--it's a bad idea to have family reporting directly to you, if you get what I mean--so I'll talk to her supervisor and find out what I can."
The rest of the interview with Rose's parents yielded little more than the conviction that Jackie Tyler might just be able to take Martha's mother in a cage match, and not many women could boast that. Martha bade the Tylers farewell with a relieved mental sigh and went to find Dr. Weber.
When she did, she learned that Rose had been taken in for an MRI scan. "Dr. Weber? I have that history you asked for," she said.
Dr. Weber took it from her without taking his eyes off the progress of the MRI, frowning. "Thank you, Miss Jones."
"Have you--do you know what caused her collapse yet?" Martha asked tentatively.
"Possibly," said Dr. Weber. "She has a mass on her brain stem. It appears to be hard or bony, but it's not yet known what kind of mass it is."
"Oh." Martha was feeling worse and worse about her earlier dismissal of Rose Tyler as another bubble-headed rich girl. "Can I do anything?"
"You'll be up to your eyeballs in test results shortly," the doctor said. "But for now, I'd like you to gather all of Miss Tyler's medical records. See if there's anything telling in them."
A few hours later, Martha had come to the conclusion that Rose Tyler hadn't existed before two years ago.
That, at least, was what it looked like. The earliest medical record Martha could find was an ER visit for a couple of cracked ribs when Rose was twenty-one. Nothing exotic about the injury itself--she'd gotten it while rock climbing, according to her own statement--but Martha found the doctor's notes interesting. They said that while Rose was physically healthy, she was also depressed. "Friend says she lost the man she loved," read the final note.
The same chart said that her earlier records had been lost, as Rose had been living out of the country. While that was credible enough, when Martha had looked Rose up on the Internet trying to find out where she'd come from originally, there was nothing. Absolutely nothing before she'd come to live with her parents two years earlier. Martha even went in to a few tabloid archives, as they'd been fascinated with the VitEx Heiress when she first appeared. According to those, Rose had lived with relatives on the continent most of her life. Five years ago, her mother, injured in the Cybus Industries Disaster, had joined Rose while rehabilitating, and then the two of them returned to England. Rose had lived with her parents for a time before moving into her own flat.
The pictures Martha found certainly bore out the earlier doctor's diagnosis of depression. Not one candid shot caught her smiling, not for a good six months after her return to England. There were all kinds of outlandish theories, from the common (and apparently correct) one that she'd lost a lover to the bizarre one that Jackie Tyler's young daughter Ava was actually Rose's, and Rose wasn't a relation at all, but Pete and Jackie had supported her in exchange for her bearing a child for them.
Martha rather doubted that last one. She knew mothers, and Jackie Tyler was most definitely a mother.
In any event, after researching Rose Tyler for most of the day, Martha had completely discarded all her preconceptions about the young woman. Everything she read said that Rose wasn't a partier and worked hard rather than riding on a rich dad's coattails. The earliest photos of Rose smiling had been taken after her little sister was born--and they were stunning. Her facial features, though not model-perfect, somehow worked together to make a beautiful girl, especially when she smiled.
That smile was in Martha's mind as she entered Rose's hospital room. Rose was hooked up to all kinds of monitoring machines and an IV to keep her hydrated, and her pale face looked very young. She suddenly reminded Martha just a little of Tish.
Perhaps it was that big-sister instinct kicking in, but Martha couldn't help but think Rose looked uncomfortable. Her head was at an odd angle on the pillow. Martha slipped one hand under her head, just at the base of her skull, and used the other to tug the pillow down a bit. Just as she was setting Rose's head back down, she felt a sharp sting on her palm.
When she looked at her hand, though, there was nothing out of the ordinary. She shook her head and decided that if she was feeling phantom pains, it was a sign she was just way too tired. Fortunately, her shift was almost over. Not a moment too soon, as far as she was concerned.
Martha knew she was dreaming. Odd in itself, since she wasn't generally prone to lucid dreams, but odder still was the place she found herself in. It was a bizarre mix of styles, what with the metal walls with circular cutouts and the metal grate floor alongside what looked like coral support struts, and the whole thing was bathed in amber and green light. In the center was some kind of console, again looking like nothing she'd ever seen.
Then there was the matter of Rose Tyler standing there looking at her like Martha had no right to be there, which Martha thought was awfully presumptuous for someone invading her dream.
"Who the hell are you?" Rose demanded.
"You should know," said Martha. "You're in my dream."
"No, you're in my dream," explained Rose with exaggerated patience. "We're in the TARDIS; therefore, my dream."
"What the hell's a TARDIS?"
Rose made a "there you go" gesture, saying, "See? That proves it. Now, who are you?"
Martha decided to just go with it. Apparently, her subconscious thought Rose Tyler must be rude. "My name's Martha Jones. Dr. Martha Jones, actually, even though I'm only an intern right now. I got assigned to you."
"Assigned to me?" Rose asked. "What's that mean?"
"You're in hospital," said Martha. "Some sort of brain tumor."
Rose blinked. "Brain tumor? That's . . . no, I've been fine, haven't I? Just a touch of the flu, maybe." She bit her lip. "Come to think of it, what was I doing today?"
"Mostly getting a bunch of tests done," said Martha. "You collapsed this morning and haven't woken up yet."
It was odd, but dream-Rose was looking distinctly shaken. Martha felt like she'd just delivered bad news, which was ridiculous, since this Rose was just a figment of her subconscious, but the look on Rose's face made Martha's heart go out to her.
"I felt sick," said Rose. "I was really tired after I woke up, but I went in to work anyway. Felt nauseous and started to get dizzy, Dad told me I ought to go home--what happened after that? I can't remember. Oh, God, what if I really do have a brain tumor?"
Perhaps it was ridiculous, but Martha felt the need to comfort her. "Hey, don't worry; you've got Dr. Weber on your case, and he's the best diagnostician in England. If anyone can help you, he can."
Rose leaned against the console, digesting the information, and then looked at Martha again. "So what've you been doing, intern Dr. Martha Jones?"
"Researching you, mostly." Martha went over and leaned on the console beside Rose. It was strangely warm, like human flesh. "Been trying to piece together your medical history. I had to interrogate your parents."
"Oh, that must've been fun," said Rose with a laugh. "Did you manage to get a word in edgewise with my mum?"
"Just barely," said Martha, laughing too. "Your dad helped. What's not helping is the fact that I can't find anything on you previous to the last two years. Care to explain where your medical records got off to?"
"Those? They're in a different universe."
Martha threw up her hands. "That does it. I'm definitely dreaming."
Rose gave her a speculative look. "You know, I wonder if you are."
"What, there's a question?" Martha laughed.
"Well, the truth is, I usually don't have conversations that make this much sense in my dreams," said Rose.
Martha raised an eyebrow. "This conversation makes sense?"
Rose grinned cheekily. "The way my life has gone? Makes more sense than most conversations I have when I'm awake."
"Right." Martha chuckled a bit.
"You don't believe me? Try life at Torchwood. Or living with my mum, one or the other." Rose suddenly snapped her fingers. "I just thought of a way for you to check."
"Whose dream this is. If you're in my dream or if I'm in yours, whatever," said Rose. "Did you see me naked?"
"Erm, no," said Martha, wondering where this was headed.
"Did you see my tattoo?" Rose pressed.
"Didn't know you had one."
"I do." Rose pulled up the left-side sleeve of her t-shirt, revealing a tattoo of a wolf's head howling in front of a full moon with the words "Bad Wolf" below. "My mates Mickey, Jake and Chrissy have the same tattoo. We're the Bad Wolf Squad."
Martha was still nonplused. "Okay, so why are you showing me this?"
"When you see me tomorrow, check for the tattoo," said Rose. "If you find it, you'll know this isn't just a dream."
"But it is just a dream." Martha felt oddly angry. She didn't like dreams that tied her brain in knots. "Basic psychology--I spent a good chunk of my day researching you, and now you're showing up in my dream. Simple."
"Check anyway. Just for laughs," said Rose. "What can it hurt?"
The rest of the night was dominated by menacing household appliances chasing Martha and Tish around their childhood home, which was also university and the hospital, while Leo got mad at them because he wanted to bake a cake. Her mum and dad were too busy arguing to notice.
Still, it was the lucid dream with Rose that stuck with Martha, and the first thing she did as her shift began was to go to Rose's room. She spent a little while reading Rose's chart and talked briefly with the overnight charge nurse, discovering that Rose's condition remained unchanged, and she hadn't awakened at all.
Finally, feeling a little foolish, Martha decided to have a look at Rose's left shoulder. I won't be able to get that stupid dream out of my head until I do, she thought, and pushed up the sleeve of Rose's hospital gown.
The tattoo was there, inked in black on Rose's pale skin, exactly as it had appeared in Martha's dream.
Martha backed away, feeling suddenly unsteady on her feet. Must've seen it yesterday, she reasoned. Yet when she tried to think of points at which she could've seen Rose's tattoo, there was nothing. It hadn't even been in any of the pictures on the Internet. The only place she'd seen the tattoo before had been in her dream.
How's that possible?
She turned to leave and practically ran into a young man entering. "Sorry," he said. He was a good-looking, rather nicely built black man probably around Martha's age.
"No, really, it's my fault," she said automatically. "I wasn't paying attention to what I was doing."
Another young man, a blond, and a young woman with curly brown hair were behind him. The first man indicated them. "We're some of Rose's mates, come to see her. That all right?"
"Certainly. I'm Dr. Martha Jones." She stuck her hand out.
"Mickey Smith," said the first man.
"Chrissy Cavanaugh," said the girl.
"Jake Simmonds," said the blond man.
"My mates Mickey, Jake and Chrissy have the same tattoo. We're the Bad Wolf Squad."
In the half-second it took for Martha to remember that, she caught sight of Chrissy's upper arm, left bare by a sleeveless blouse. Her tattoo matched Rose's.
Chrissy caught her looking. "Something wrong?" she asked.
Martha shook her head. "No, I just realized you have the same tattoo as Rose," she said, surprised her voice was as steady as it was.
"We've all got it," said Jake, entering as Chrissy set a vase of flowers by Rose's bed. "We're the Bad Wolf Squad."
"Deadly pub quizzers," put in Chrissy.
" 'Cept for Jake. We just keep 'im around 'cause he's so pretty," said Mickey. Jake punched his arm. "Ow!" Mickey sobered as he looked down at Rose on the bed and squeezed her hand. "How is she? Do you know what's wrong with her?"
"I'm afraid I can't give out any information except to immediate family," said Martha apologetically.
Mickey gave her a lopsided smile. " S'okay," he said. "I'm sure her mum'll tell us more than I want to know next time I see her."
"I'm sure," Martha agreed. "I'll leave you alone with her now." She left the room and went to find Dr. Weber.
Later, she sat in while Dr. Weber updated Rose's parents on her condition.
"We don't know what the mass is composed of at the moment," said Dr. Weber. "I sent a sample to the lab for a biopsy. We'll know more in the next day."
"Can't you just remove it?" asked Jackie.
Martha watched Dr. Weber try to come up with a way of telling the truth without removing all hope. "Because of the mass's location, surgery to remove it poses what I consider to be unacceptable risks. Right now, Rose is stable. Unless that changes suddenly, it would be best to explore our options and determine the best course of action."
"Do you--do you think it's cancer?" Jackie asked, face a little pale under her makeup.
"That's what we're trying to determine," said the doctor. "Once I get the lab results back, I'll know more."
The rest of the conversation didn't cover much different ground. Dr. Weber was reduced to answering the same questions several times in several different ways, always saying the same thing. Martha couldn't really blame the Tylers. The lack of information was frustrating enough for Rose's doctors; how must it be for her parents?
Finally, Pete Tyler thanked Dr. Weber and Martha for their help and left the office. Martha shut the door at Dr. Weber's signal.
"What is it?" she asked.
Dr. Weber sighed deeply. "The material I took from the mass--it doesn't look like anything I've ever seen."
"Do you think it's artificial?" asked Martha.
"That's the odd thing--it looks organic, but not like anything you'd think to find naturally occurring in a human body. Believe me, I've seen nearly everything that can be grown inside or inserted into the human body--remind me to tell you about my residency sometime--but this is something I've never seen." He folded his hands. "And unless the lab can give me better information, I genuinely have no idea what to do to help Miss Tyler."
Martha decided to drop by Rose's room one more time before going about her rounds. As she reached it, she heard voices from within and stopped short.
". . . can't think of anything that might help. The rest of us are fine, and if it's something we were working on, you'd think Rose wouldn't be the only one affected," came Chrissy's voice.
"I know," sighed Pete. "Nonetheless, I've got the Torchwood lab looking in on Rose's tests. If any of you starts feeling ill, I want you to report it directly to me, understood?"
"Understood," said Mickey.
Martha backed away. Torchwood--hadn't Rose said that in her dream last night? The coincidences were stacking up, and Martha had no idea what it might mean.
World's getting to be a strange place, she thought to herself as she walked away from Rose's room. Cybermen, that big spaceship over Toronto last year--and now I've got an heiress in my head.
When she got home, Martha decided to do some digging. She plugged "Torchwood" into a search engine on her computer.
And hit Crackpot Conspiracy Central. Aside from one reference to a nice bed-and-breakfast in Scotland, the rest of the links led to pages expounding on aliens and UFOs and Cybermen and how Torchwood was right in the thick of it. After looking through a couple of the pages, however, Martha started to wonder if perhaps these people weren't as crazy as she might ordinarily think.
According to the least-hysterical site, Torchwood was a secret government agency that dealt with aliens, paranormal phenomena and threats such as the Cybermen. The agency's cover was none other than VitEx Industries, and it was headed by Pete Tyler. Interestingly, the site also had some theories on Rose Tyler. According to it, Rose wasn't Pete Tyler's daughter; she was his protégée, a gifted young operative who was being groomed to take over as director at some point in the future. The page further speculated that Rose had actually lived on another planet until two years ago, at which point the Tylers took her in. It was even possible, the site went on to say, that Rose was an alien herself.
That much, at least, Martha could discount. She'd seen Rose's x-rays and MRI scans and could say with some degree of confidence that Rose Tyler was completely human. The rest? She wasn't sure. For all she knew, Torchwood could be code for the super-secret new formula for low-calorie VitEx.
She yawned. Really, she was far too tired to be trying to figure this stuff out, and besides--if Rose Tyler appeared in her dreams again, Martha could always ask her what the truth was.
Martha was cold as she stood on a gray, lonely beach looking out over the surf. She hugged herself tightly and looked around, sensing that she had company.
She did. Rose Tyler stood about ten feet away, also looking out over the bay. "Hello, Rose," Martha said.
Rose looked at her and gave a little half-smile. "Hello, Martha. I'm glad to see you. It gets lonely, bein' in a coma."
"Listen, I-I don't know how," said Martha, "but I'm pretty sure you're really you. I mean, that somehow, I'm in your brain or maybe you're in mine. God, is this making any sense?"
"No, but I know what you mean," Rose said wryly. "I believe you're really you, too."
Martha shivered a little. There was a sadness that lingered over this place, echoes of raw pain and loss. "Where are we?"
"Bad Wolf Bay. This is--this is the last place I saw him. The man I loved. Still love." Rose looked up at the sky.
"Did he die here?" Martha asked gently.
"No, he's not dead," said Rose. "I'm the one who died. For all I'll ever see him again, I might as well have."
"Where is he?"
"A universe away." Rose swallowed visibly. "A literal universe away. I . . . fell."
Martha couldn't have said why, but she believed Rose. "Could we go somewhere warmer?"
Rose looked thoughtful. "Maybe. Let me try something."
A moment later, the strange room they'd been in before was around them. Rose sat down on the grating, still shivering, though Martha no longer felt cold. Martha crouched down in front of her. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm still so cold," said Rose.
There was a soft sound, and then someone was settling a leather jacket around Rose's shoulders. Rose looked up and smiled. "Thanks," she said.
Martha looked up as well. A tall man stood over them. He looked like he was about forty. His face was strong-boned under very short, dark hair, and he had striking blue-gray eyes. Though he wasn't conventionally handsome, Martha found herself powerfully attracted to him. It occurred to her that part of the attraction might be coming from Rose--and from the look Rose was giving the man, Martha could guess that this was Rose's lost love.
"Who is he?" Martha asked, tucking her legs under her as she sat.
"The Doctor," said Rose, and a wealth of emotion flowed through the words. "I traveled with him for two years. He showed me space and time, every corner of the universe. I promised him I'd never leave him."
The Doctor was moving around the console now, flipping switches and turning dials. Somewhere along the line, he changed into a brown-haired, brown-eyed man in a brown pinstriped suit, but somehow, he was still the same person.
"That was in another universe," Rose went on. Tears pooled in her eyes and ran down her face. "There was a war. The Cybermen and the Daleks, with the Earth caught in the middle. The Cybermen punched through from this world to that one, and we had to send them into the Void, the Doctor an' me. But I-I just about got sucked in, too." She sniffled softly. "Dad caught me and brought me here before the breach closed forever."
"Your dad?" Martha asked.
Rose wiped at her face. "It's hard to explain. In my old universe, my dad died when I was a baby. Here, I was never born, and Jackie Tyler died in the first Cyberman war. Mum and Dad found each other when the breach was open, and . . . at least I've got a family, if I can't have the Doctor. I thought it'd kill me at first, losing him. Sometimes, it still hurts."
Martha looked at her sympathetically. "Like now? In your dreams?"
"Yeah." Rose nodded, wiping away another tear. "He'd know what to do, what to say to make me feel better." She drew in a shuddering breath. "I'm scared, Martha."
"I can understand that," said Martha, reaching out to take one of Rose's hands, which was cold in this dream-space. "Dr. Weber really is the best, though. You have a lot of people looking out for you."
"I know." Rose seemed to pull herself together. "An' while I don't know why you're in my head, I'm glad you are. Least I've got someone to talk to."
Martha smiled warmly, and then remembered a question from her waking life. "Rose, what's Torchwood?"
"Secret government agency. We keep track of aliens and paranormal phenomena," she said. "Dad's the director. Since I traveled with the Doctor for so long, I came in with more knowledge than just about anyone else there, so I'm head of my field team."
"The Bad Wolf Squad?"
"The Bad Wolf Squad," confirmed Rose, grinning.
"Take it you're not just pub quizzers, then," Martha laughed.
Rose laughed as well. "That what they told you? Every time anyone notices our tattoos, it's something different. Chrissy once had a couple of blokes believing we were an S&M foursome. Truth is, we go out to sites where there have been UFO sightings or just weird things happening--there was a time flux not long ago that landed a whole ship of pirates from the 18th century at Dover--and do field research there, collect samples to bring back to the Torchwood labs, whatever's needed. Just a couple of days before I started feeling ill, we chased down a meteorite and ended up bringing the whole thing back to the labs because of some strange energy readings. Wish I knew what happened with it." She bit her lip.
"Your dad said he had people from Torchwood looking over your test results," said Martha.
"Doesn't surprise me. We've actually had people planted in local hospitals for years in case anything comes through that might be related to aliens."
"They can do that?"
Rose gave her a tight smile. "You'd be amazed."
Martha thought about it a bit. "You don't suppose you came across anything at work that did this to you, do you? Dr. Weber said the sample he took from the mass on your brain stem didn't look like anything he'd ever seen."
"Maybe," said Rose. "I don't know. I keep trying to think of anything unusual that might've happened--I mean, more unusual than usual, if you get me--and it's just so hard to think when I'm all locked up in here like this. You're keeping me focused right now, but otherwise, it's like I keep falling asleep inside my brain." She rubbed at her face. "How about my team? Are they all right?"
"I met them last shift," said Martha. "They were fine then. They're really worried about you."
"They're good friends." Rose smiled. "Them an' my parents and little sister--they make things good here." She got a faraway look. "I should've known I couldn't stay with the Doctor forever. He's the one who taught me: everything ends. Nothing's forever."
The dream drifted away then, and Martha was left floundering about a part of London that didn't exist, looking for something she couldn't name.
The next day at the hospital, Martha started her shift by checking on Rose. What she found was not encouraging.
"She had two seizures last night," said Dr. Weber. "We had to put her on a respirator because she stopped breathing."
"Have you gotten the biopsy results back?" Martha asked. Rose's chart blurred in front of her, and she blinked, clearing her eyes. She felt like she really had stayed up half the night talking to Rose. More coffee was needed.
Dr. Weber made a discontented noise. "They took a second sample this morning. I couldn't get a straight answer out of the lead technician, which leads me to believe they have no idea what it is."
For a moment, Martha seriously debated the merits of telling Dr. Weber about Torchwood, but she stopped herself. How was she to explain it, anyway?
Dr. Weber? I've been talking with Rose--we're in each other's dreams--and she says she works for this place called Torchwood, which investigates UFOs and aliens, and I think maybe she might have some alien disease. What do you think?
That would add up to a quick trip to the psych ward. Martha made a mental note, though, to keep an eye out for Pete Tyler or any of Rose's team. Given their work, they might just believe her when she said she'd been visiting Rose's head.
Absently, she scratched at her left palm, which was itching. Dr. Weber asked for the chart again, and Martha took a look at her hand. Right in the middle of her palm was what looked like an insect bite. She wondered vaguely where she'd gotten it.
She belatedly realized Dr. Weber was calling her from the room. With one look back at Rose, Martha followed him.
Stay strong, she told Rose mentally, hoping it would get through. We'll get through this, you and I.
By the middle of her shift, Martha was practically dragging herself through the hospital hallways. She'd poured five cups of coffee down her throat, and each one had less effect than the last. Her head was buzzing unpleasantly, too, like she had a serious headache on the way.
Suddenly, she found herself on the floor in front of a nurse's station in the critical care unit, having tripped over her own two feet.
"You all right, sweet'eart?" asked Brenna Johnston, charge nurse, as she helped Martha to her feet. Maya Randall, the intern who'd gotten Martha in trouble by gossiping in the first place, was right there as well.
"I'm just so tired," said Martha. Her head spun.
Brenna was sympathetic, as always. "They keep you interns goin' way too long, you ask me. Why don't you nip off for a kip? It's slow business right now, anyways."
Martha hesitated, and Maya, apparently feeling guilty for her role in heaping more work on Martha, added, "I'll cover for you if Taylor starts poking around."
"Thanks, Maya," said Martha. "I really could use thirty or forty winks right now. Feel like I'm coming down with something."
She was a little unsteady on her feet as she headed to the lounge where one was most likely to catch interns napping, but even so, she felt compelled to check in on Rose again.
It seemed somehow wrong, given what Martha had seen of the animated young woman in her mind, that Rose was so still and silent, save for the noise made by the respirator. You're not going to die, Rose Tyler, Martha promised her mentally, taking her hand. As she did so, she felt something that struck her as odd: a hot spot in the middle of Rose's otherwise cold hand. She turned it over to look at it.
In the middle of Rose's palm was an inflamed red spot, like an insect bite. Martha's exhausted brain informed her that it looked like something she'd recently seen, and Martha had to prod it fiercely before it also coughed up the information that, in fact, her own hand bore a bit of a resemblance to Rose's. Martha laid her hand next to Rose's, palm up. The spot on her hand wasn't quite as swollen or as hot as Rose's, but there was no denying the similarity.
How odd, she thought, and also thought that perhaps she should be very concerned about this, but was too tired to put in the effort. She left Rose's room and continued on to the lounge, where she flopped down on a couch and immediately fell asleep.
She was inside the TARDIS again, but this time, she was alone. "Rose?" Martha called. "Rose, sweetie, where are you?"
There was something calling her, something she could feel rather than hear. It felt urgent, and Martha had to follow it. She descended further into the TARDIS, following the call through Byzantine hallways until she found herself in a perfectly round room. The floor under her feet was bare wood, and there was a huge pattern on it--a stylized infinity symbol of some kind. High overhead were a couple of bells. It felt like a chapel of some sort.
"It's the Cloisters," said a weak voice from behind her. Martha turned to find Rose, pale and red-eyed, sitting against the wall. "Doctor would bring me here whenever I was upset or hurt. It made me feel better." She hugged her knees to her chest. "I'm so cold."
Martha went over to kneel in front of her. "Rose, you have to hang on. Please don't give up now."
"Do you know what's wrong with me yet?" Rose asked.
"No, I . . ." Martha rubbed her forehead. "I'm not feeling that great myself. Think I may be coming down with something."
Rose's forehead crinkled. "I get ill, you start treating me, we're joined at the brain, and now you're fallin' ill, too. Martha, I don't like the coincidence."
Martha looked at her, alarmed. "God, I hadn't even thought of that. I thought I was just getting the flu."
"You're tired and dizzy? Feel like you'll be sick?" Rose asked. Martha nodded. "Came on suddenly?"
Unconsciously, Martha's hand went to the back of her head. And suddenly, pieces started falling into place.
"Oh, God, Rose," she breathed. "I'm not sure what exactly is going on here, but I think it is the same thing." She turned her hand up, showing Rose her left palm. The spot there lingered on her dream-self. "See that? You've got the same kind of spot on your hand, only bigger. Do you know how you got it?"
Rose opened her hand and found the wound Martha was talking about. "How did I . . ? I think--no, I remember! It was the meteorite we brought in. I was examining it when I felt something like an insect bite, but I didn't see anything when I looked at my hand. Didn't think anything of it."
"First night you were in hospital, I went to adjust your pillow," Martha said, aggressively following her line of thought. "I cradled your head in my hand, right at the base of your skull, and that's when I felt the same thing you describe."
"Base of my skull--brain stem--that's where the tumor is!" Rose abruptly stood, energized by the realization. "All right, listen to this: meteor hits the atmosphere, breaks up, we find the meteorite, but it's got something in it."
"Ooh, I know this one!" said another voice. It was the Doctor in brown. "Hi, I'm standing in for Rose's brain, hope you don't mind. She always identifies stuff like this with me, but I digress: the meteorite has something in it, but it's dormant, you see, probably to survive the rigors of traveling through the vacuum of space and entry into the atmosphere." He paced rapidly, ruffling his hair as he spoke. "Then it senses life, and when Rose--who really should've been wearing gloves, careless girl--"
"--when Rose, who really should've been wearing gloves, touches it, it takes the opportunity to inject itself into her--spores, perhaps, or something of the like. It's a parasite, you see. Like a virus, only on a larger scale. The spores settle on her brain stem, perhaps as a bid to use her body, or maybe that's just what the parasite does, but then it takes the opportunity to infect Martha as well. Oh, and the parasite can communicate with others of its kind, piggybacking on your brainwaves, the side-effect of which is that you two get joined at the brain!"
"All of which means I'm in the same fix as you," said Martha in horrified realization as the Doctor abruptly disappeared. Was she already in a hospital bed surrounded by puzzled colleagues with no clue about alien parasites?
"No." Rose's voice was firm. "No, not yet. You said you were just starting to feel ill. But you don't have much time, Martha. You've got to wake up."
"What do I do?" Martha asked. "Torchwood?"
"Torchwood," said Rose. "Go to the VitEx building at Canary Wharf. Ask for my father, and tell the receptionist it's about me. Tell him everything, but you've got to hurry. Wake up. Wake up now!"
"Martha, wake up!" Maya's voice was insistent. "Taylor's coming. Get up!"
Martha struggled back to consciousness to find Maya leaning over her, looking concerned. "Martha, you okay?"
A wave of nausea crashed over Martha the moment she moved, and she barely managed to shove Maya out of the way and stumble to the bin before throwing up everything she'd eaten for the past few hours.
"Good day to you, too, Miss Jones," said Dr. Taylor, whom Martha hadn't even noticed entering the room.
"I don't feel good," said Martha weakly.
"I'd never have guessed." Dr. Taylor escorted her over to a sink and turned on the cold water. Martha rinsed her mouth out while Dr. Taylor laid a cold, wet cloth across the back of her neck and felt her forehead. "You feel a bit warm. Any symptoms other than stomach upset?"
"Tired, dizzy." Martha winced as she straightened. "Muscle aches."
"Go home," ordered Dr. Taylor. "It sounds like the flu that's hit the pediatric ward. You won't be much use, and your patients don't need a virus on top of their other problems."
"Yeah." Martha swallowed hard against another wave of nausea. At least she didn't have to worry about running out on work. "Yeah, I'd better go."
Getting dressed in her street clothes was a trickier maneuver than usual. Not only was Martha dizzy, her brain was screaming at her that she had to hurry or she'd end up passed out on the floor with no one having a clue what was happening to her and Rose. She finally managed and made her way unsteadily to the hospital entrance, where she flagged down a cab.
"The VitEx building at Canary Wharf, please," she said, "and I'll double your fee for getting me there in ten minutes or less."
"Whatever you say, luv!" said the cabby with relish.
What should've been the most frightening cab ride of her life didn't make much of an impression as Martha closed her eyes against another wave of nausea--and promptly found herself drifting into sleep.
The mental scream could only have come from Rose. Martha jerked awake just as the cab came to a stop in front of the VitEx building. She dug a couple of notes out of her purse and passed them to the cabby.
The steps up to the building were a cruel obstacle. Every muscle threatened to give out on her, and she had to stop more than once as her stomach heaved again and again. By the time she finally entered the building, she was sure she looked downright frightening, but at least she was finally there. The receptionist watched her with a wary eye as Martha approached her desk.
"I need to speak with Director Tyler," she said. "It's about his daughter."
The receptionist picked up the phone and relayed the message, watching Martha the whole time. "Mr. Tyler says he'll be down directly," she said as she hung up. "Please have a seat."
The room tilted as Martha tried to move. Darkness lapped at the edges of her vision. Hold on, Martha, just for another few minutes, a voice whispered in her mind. She clung to the edge of the reception desk in a desperate bid to stay upright.
It seemed like an eternity before the lift opened and Pete Tyler stepped out, Mickey Smith at his side. "You have news about Rose?" he asked. From the expression on his face, Martha knew she looked about as good as she felt.
"Message from her," said Martha, barely getting the words out between lips that had gone numb. "The meteorite you picked up--there was a parasite. It got her, it got me. You have to . . ." The world wavered in front of her eyes. "Hospital won't know. It's in the meteorite . . ."
The last impression she had was of Mickey darting forward to catch her as she fell.
Sounds filtered in first as Martha slowly regained consciousness, feeling like someone had stuffed her entire body with lead. The sounds were all too familiar--hospital noises like the soft hum of machinery, the whir of air filtration and the shuffle of rubber-soled feet.
"Hullo, you wakin' up at last?" asked a voice, and Martha opened her eyes to see an older woman's kind face.
"Rose," Martha whispered.
"She's fine, dearie, and so are you," said the woman. "I'm Dr. Sarah Cross. Don't try to move; you've been through a lot."
Dr. Cross's face faded from view as Martha sank back into unconsciousness.
The next time Martha awakened, it was to the sensation of a warm hand wrapped around her own. She opened her eyes and immediately recognized the woman sitting at her bedside.
"Hello, Rose," she murmured, smiling.
Rose smiled back. "Hello, Martha. Fancy meetin' you in the world of the waking!" She looked pale and tired, but her eyes sparkled with life. Martha saw that she was actually in a wheelchair, and Mickey stood behind her.
"She insisted on comin' to see you," said Mickey with an "It's not my fault" gesture. "Wasn't gonna get any rest 'til she did."
"If she hadn't insisted, I would've," said Martha.
Rose squeezed her hand. "Thank you. You saved both of our lives."
Martha tried to shake her head and discovered her neck was incredibly sore. "No," she said instead. "We saved our lives, you an' me together." She cleared her throat. "Can I have some water?"
"Help her out, Mickey," Rose ordered.
"Bossy," Mickey teased, but moved to Martha's bedside, raising her up a bit, and offered her a cup of water with a straw in it. Martha drank greedily.
"So what happened?" she asked after slaking her thirst.
"It was more or less what you and Rose deduced," came Pete Tyler's voice from the doorway. He entered and immediately offered his hand to Martha. She took it, and he said, "Thank you, Dr. Jones. You saved Rose's life--and mine, considering what her mother would've done to me if she'd found out about the meteorite." Rose giggled, and Pete went on. "There was a parasite inside the meteorite. It resembles a kind of lichen, actually, and our scientists think it must seek out warm-blooded vertebrates for its hosts. It injects them with its own genetic material, which gathers on the brain stem and attempts to gain control of the brain and body. If it had managed that with you and Rose, who knows how far it could've spread through the human race?"
"That's frightening," said Martha. The idea of not being in control of her own body was downright horrifying, actually. "How'd you get it out?"
"The asteroid had a lot of lead in it," said Pete. "It blocked most kinds of radiation. We found that even low doses of gamma radiation would kill it. Once the clumps of cells were dead, they started to break down and were comparatively easy to remove from your bodies. Nonetheless, we'll need to keep you both here for at least another couple of days to make certain you're completely free from the parasite."
"Which brings up the question of where we are," Martha noted.
"You're inside Torchwood," said Rose. "We're in the medlab. As soon as you collapsed, they sent a team over to fetch me from the hospital and brought me here. Dr. Cross worked with the lab, and they figured it out." Her mouth twisted impishly. "Don't worry; we've got your absence from work covered. They think you and I have a highly contagious form of--what was that again?" She looked at Pete.
"Encephalitis," he said.
"Right, that. The team tracked down everyone at the hospital who came in contact with the two of us and tested them for the parasite, too. I'm pretty sure we were the only ones, though." Rose grinned. "Otherwise, it would've started getting very crowded in our heads."
Martha opened her mouth to ask more questions, but a yawn came out instead. Rose echoed it.
"All right, get back to sleep, both of you, or Dr. Cross will have me," said Pete.
Martha gave Rose's hand a squeeze. "I'll see you later, I hope."
"Oh, you definitely will," promised Rose. She let go of Martha's hand, and Mickey rolled her out of the room. Within minutes, Martha was sleeping again, this time at peace.
"No, Mum, that's not fair to Tish. I don't care how obnoxious Dad's new girlfriend is, if you skip Tish's graduation, you're only punishing her and yourself, not him. She's worked hard for this degree. If you don't go, she'll never forgive you for it." Martha rolled her eyes, grabbing a tin of tea. "All right, I'll talk to him about it, but one of you has to be the grown-up, and you know how reliable Dad is that way. You don't even need to sit with him. Leo and I will happily play Switzerland. Just come, be a minimum of polite, and let Tish know you care. All right?" She smiled as her mother finally gave way to logic. "I'll see you there. Love you, Mum!"
She hung up just as the door to the flat opened. "More family fun," she announced to her flatmate.
"Tish's graduation got everyone in an uproar?" Rose guessed, slinging her handbag to the floor and shutting the door behind her. "Well, there's a cure for that--Haagen-Dazs!" She proudly lifted a pint of chocolate-caramel ice cream out of one of her shopping bags.
"Hand that over," said Martha. She dug out two bowls and divided the ice cream between them. "God, you'd think they could set aside all this--this wankery for one evening. This is so important to Tish, and all they can think about is themselves. I love my parents, I do, but times like these, I wish I could just smack them both until they see sense."
"Believe me, I know what that's like," said Rose.
Six months ago, Rose and Martha had been in hospital together, recovering from their run-in with the alien parasite. Martha found it hard to believe they'd only known each other that long. Perhaps it was just the mental connection they'd had for those few days, but she felt like they'd been friends forever, and she knew Rose felt the same way. Sisters under the skin, so to speak. These days, they lived together, and as soon as Martha finished her internship, she was going to work for Torchwood. She'd never quite figured out what she wanted to specialize in before, and for some reason, cracking alien diseases now appealed to her more than anything.
She handed one of the bowls to Rose. "How was your day?"
"Mostly boring," said Rose. "The lab was all excited about this alien device they'd found. They thought it was a weapon or an energy generator of some sort--and then I had to tell them that it's a musical instrument. Saw one with the Doctor once." She took a bite of the ice cream. "Oh, that's brilliant. How about you? Anything terribly exciting happen?"
"Aside from Alex getting a tongue-lashing from Taylor? No, 'fraid not," said Martha. "He very nearly gave a child an adult dose of morphine. That would've been unfortunate."
The two women ensconced themselves comfortably in the flat's living room and turned on the television. There appeared to be nothing on. Rose made a disgusted noise. "Tuesday nights are crap since the Firefly season finale."
Martha swallowed a bite of ice cream and cleared her throat. "Speaking of adventures in space . . ."
Rose looked at her wryly. "Is this Martha Jones calling for storytime?"
"Your stories are better than the telly ninety-nine percent of the time," said Martha. She gave Rose puppy-dog eyes. "Another TARDIS tale? Please?"
She hardly had to beg, and she knew it. Rose liked telling about her travels with the Doctor as much as Martha enjoyed hearing about them.
Rose settled back, licking ice cream off her spoon. "All right. Want to hear another with Captain Jack?"
"Ooh, my favorite!" Martha said. Their cat, startled by her exclamation, jumped down from her cat condo onto Martha's lap and sniffed at her ice cream. "No, that's not for you, Reinette. Go on, Rose."
"How about I tell you about the time Jack nearly got married to an alien despot with tentacles?" Rose asked. At Martha's nod, she continued. "Well, we landed on this planet called, and I'm not kidding here, Fannykesopratimitus, and . . ."
Martha settled in for the story, alternately eating her ice cream and stroking Reinette, as Rose's words made her feel like she'd traveled with the Doctor herself.