Jo Grant sighed as she dropped down into the nearest chair, pulling her legs under her. It was stifling hot inside the laboratory and even the open window wasn't helping in the slightest. She could feel beads of sweat gathering on her forehead, and she knew that she probably looked completely disheveled after their mad dash earlier. What was supposed to have been a safe bit of information gathering had turned into a dangerous alien threat within seconds, leaving her and the Doctor running from the apparently-no-longer-abandoned warehouse and jumping into Bessie as fast as they could.
Speaking of the Doctor. . . .
Jo let her gaze drift over toward him, smiling despite herself as she watched him work. The heat didn't seem to be affecting him at all, and she wasn't really surprised by that fact. He was still standing in front of the table, his attention focused on various bits of machinery and such they had found in the warehouse before their presence had been noticed. At the moment, he was holding one of them over an open flame, seemingly testing to see if it would melt.
"I still could help you, if you'd like," she offered, trying not to let herself think about how much hotter it most likely was closer to his experiment.
The Doctor glanced over at her for a second, and Jo couldn't help but notice the slight twinkle in his eye. "All you would do is faint from this heat," he replied lightly. "No, I can handle this part on my own."
She started to protest that she wouldn't faint, even though she'd actually thought she was going to just a few minutes earlier. The Doctor had seemed to think so as well, since he had practically ordered her to go sit down. Before she could say a word, though, he smiled at her - albeit a bit distractedly.
"Be patient, Jo," he said, his attention already turning away from her and back toward his work. "You can assist me once I'm finished."
Jo bit her lip, but she didn't argue as she settled back in her chair. It really wasn't worth the effort. Besides, by the time she'd convince the Doctor to let her help, he'd already be finished with his current experiment and ready to begin the next. And when was the last time she had actually gotten a few seconds' breather?
Of course, considering it was UNIT headquarters, the odds of it remaining calm long enough for her to get any kind of rest were slim.
Jo turned her attention to the laboratory's door just as the Brigadier came storming in, Sergeant Benton trailing behind him. Lethbridge-Stewart froze just inside the doorway, a disbelieving look on his face as he stared at the set-up on the table. "Good lord, Doctor, what on earth are you doing in here?"
The Doctor glanced up at him with a raised eyebrow. "I'm trying to determine the chemical properties of the substance Jo and I discovered this afternoon, as I've already told you twice," he said matter-of-factly. "Is there a problem?"
Before the Brigadier could reply, Benton coughed. Loudly. "Humans have limits when it comes to heat, Doctor," he said patiently. "And this isn't the only room on this floor."
The Doctor stared blankly back at them. Jo sighed and pushed herself to her feet, making her way toward where he was standing. "I think the Brigadier wants you to turn off the flame," she said softly.
He blinked at that before giving the Brigadier a bemused look. "Brigadier, a single Bunsen burner wouldn't even raise the temperature of the room it's in," he said. "If you want an explanation for the heat, I'm afraid that you will have to take it up with the weather."
Jo reached out to tap his arm. "But it has gotten warmer in here ever since you started running that experiment."
The Doctor turned to her, surprised. "Has it?" he asked.
"Compared to the hallway," Benton said, "it feels like an oven in this laboratory."
The Doctor's surprised look faded into a thoughtful one.
"You've fiddled with that burner, haven't you?" the Brigadier asked, his eyes narrowing in suspicion. "Made it produce more heat for some reason or another."
Shaking his head, the Doctor reached out and turned the Bunsen burner off. "That's absolutely ridiculous," he said, glancing over at the Brigadier. "As I said before, it is impossible for a burner to produce any significant amount of heat."
"Then why is it so hot in here?" Jo prompted, her gaze focused on the Doctor's face.
He let out a sigh and gingerly picked up the material he had been testing, holding it up for all of them to see. "I believe this was magnifying the heat from the flame," he explained.
Benton raised an eyebrow. "And that's causing this miserable heat?"
The Doctor nodded. "Exactly," he said, "though obviously the actual device is much larger."
No one said anything for a moment.
"So aliens are controlling the weather?" Benton asked disbelievingly.
The Brigadier reached up to rub his temple, an action that seemed to increase exponentially whenever he was around the Doctor. "Do you know what it is we're dealing with then?"
The Doctor nodded, his face darkening a bit. "I'm afraid so," he replied. "It looks as if our mysterious visitors are Ghaiju."
For a few seconds, the three humans just stared blankly at him. The Brigadier glanced over at Benton, who shrugged.
"That's not good?" Jo hazarded.
"No," the Doctor replied, frowning, "it's very much not good."
Rose burst out laughing when she saw the innocent look on Jack's face. "I'd still like to know how they mistook you for a woman," she managed to choke out after a few seconds, leaning back so that the front two legs of her chair were up in the air.
Jack smirked as he leaned forward, resting his arms on the table. "Well, I'll admit, my hair was a bit longer back then," he said with a wink. "But I think it was prob--"
He was cut off abruptly as the Doctor came up behind him and clapped him on the shoulder. "Forget about the mistaken identity," he said, grinning broadly down at Jack. "I'm more curious about the pregnancy part. Last time I checked, humans aren't typically known for gestational vivipary."
A puzzled look appeared on Rose's face. "Gestational vivipary?" she repeated slowly. "What do you mean by gestat. . . oh!" Rose jerked in surprise, letting out a yelp as her chair went crashing out from under her. She sat up instantly, though, apparently not even noticing that she was sitting on the floor as she gaped at the two of them. "Wait a second, are you telling me that Jack was the pregnant one?"
Jack blinked. "Obviously," he said, puzzled. "What did you think I meant?"
"I don't know," Rose shot back as she reached up to grab the edge of the table and pulled herself to her feet, "but not that!"
The Doctor grinned as he walked over to where Rose was standing and gave her a gentle pat on the head. "Humans," he said, shaking his head. "You can be such small-minded creatures when you want to be."
"Hey!" Rose mock-glared at him. "I take offense at that."
"I think that I do too," Jack said slowly, his arms still resting on the table. "Was that supposed to be an insult, or was he just being rude?"
Rose shook her head. "With him?" she asked, gesturing at the Doctor. "Who knows?"
The Doctor let his gaze drift between Jack and Rose. "Now I think I should be the one taking offense."
"You started it," Rose shot back, sticking out her tongue.
He grinned back at her, but his reply was cut off by a loud claxon.
The TARDIS started to shudder, sending Rose sprawling back onto the floor. Jack's chair slid out from under him and he frantically grabbed at the edge of the table to keep himself from joining Rose. The Doctor stumbled just a bit before regaining his balance, then he practically dashed toward the control room as the shuddering stopped just as quickly as it had began.
Jack quickly made his way over to where Rose was and offered her his hand, helping her up. They shared a look before hurrying in the direction that the Doctor had gone.
When they made it to the control room, he was standing in front of one of the screens with a puzzled look on his face. "This can't be right," he muttered.
"What can't be right?" Jack asked, glancing over the Doctor's shoulder in order to skim the screen. "Alien communication device broadcasting from Earth in the 1970s. Looks pretty normal to me."
The Doctor kept frowning. "It's the date," he replied. "I'm certain that's the exact same day I helped stop the Ghaiju invasion."
Jack shrugged. "It's a big planet."
"The communication we're picking up is coming from less than a kilometer away from where I was the first time," the Doctor tersely replied.
Rose glanced between the two of them, a puzzled look on her face, then she pointedly cleared her throat. Neither of them even glanced at her.
"Oh, I see what you mean then," Jack said, his gaze becoming more intense and he glanced over the read-outs again. "You're sure that you didn't have to deal with two different things that day? Someone of your advanced age, they always say that the memory's the first thing to go."
The Doctor glared at him. "There's nothing wrong with my memory," he snapped. "I barely managed to stop the Ghaiju as it was. I'm pretty sure I'd remember if there was another alien race in the mix, especially one powerful enough to send out communications like these."
Jack raised an eyebrow. "Do you think that's because a future you dealt with the other alien presence?" he asked doubtfully. "Bit of a long shot, isn't it?"
"It wouldn't be the first time," the Doctor replied slowly. "It's been a while since it's happened, but it is possible."
With a shrug of his own, Jack clapped his hands together. "Are we going then?" he asked. "We'd have to be careful to avoid not to change anything that's already happened for you, but it might be a fun trip."
"It wouldn't hurt," the Doctor replied. "And avoiding running into another me shouldn't be too much of a problem. The Ghaiju were all in one area, and I distinctly remember not meeting me." He paused for a moment. "Or any of the locals, now that I think about it."
Jack raised an eyebrow. "Think that's because they were involved in something else?"
"Hmm." A thoughtful look appeared on the Doctor's face. "I hadn't even thought of that, but it would make sense. It was a little suspicious that none of them were there, especially considering the size of that explosion."
"Explosion?" Jack looked more than a little amused. "Why am I not surprised?"
Rose cleared her throat again, this time even louder. "Want to fill me in?" she asked dryly when they finally looked at her.
Jack grinned. "Basically, the Doctor stopped an alien invasion a while back. Now we're picking up a call from around the same time and place but from a different species."
"So we're heading to Earth and hoping that we don't run into another version of me," the Doctor added. "And, trust me, it's never fun when that happens."
"You make a habit of it then?" Jack asked teasingly.
The Doctor rolled his eyes, but he didn't get a chance to reply.
"Wait a minute," Rose cut in, holding up her hand. "I thought crossing your own time stream was a bad idea, with a capital 'B.' One that ends with Reapers showing up and trying to destroy the world."
Jack blinked. "Reapers?" he repeated. "If you know about them, then I think there's an interesting story behind it."
"We met them a while back," the Doctor replied, waving his hand. "Long story, not interesting in the least. And it's a completely different situation than that one."
Rose raised an eyebrow. "How?"
The Doctor gave her a reassuring grin. "We're not going anywhere near this previous version of me," he said. "In fact, it looks like we're going to be in a completely different area altogether. Trust me, I remember everything about my meeting with the Ghaiju, and the only odd thing was. . . . oh."
He trailed off, startled realization appearing on his face.
"Oh?" Jack prompted, suddenly sounding suspicious himself.
The Doctor stared at Rose for a second, and she got the oddest feeling that he was gaping at her.
She bit her lip. "Doctor, is something wrong?"
He blinked several times. "No, nothing's wrong," he replied, coming back to himself. "Something that happened back then . . . suddenly makes more sense."
Rose still looked confused, but Jack just groaned. "Oh, don't tell me that you just realized we're involved in some kind of predestination paradox. I absolutely hate those things."
The Doctor didn't reply for a moment, but then he grinned broadly. "Fine then, I won't tell you," he said, grabbing a lever on the control panel and pointedly ignoring the dirty look Jack was shooting him. "Now, let's get to the 1970s and see what's going on."
"Hold on a bit," Rose cut in. "I actually know what that paradox thing is. That's where you go back in time and kill your grandfather before you're dad's born or something like that, right? How's that fit into this whole mess?"
Jack winked at her. "Actually, a predestination paradox is more along the lines of: you go back in time, kill your grandfather, sleep with your grandmother, and only then do you find out that your grandfather was never actually your grandfather. You were actually your own grandfather the entire time."
"Which explains a lot about Jack if you think about it," the Doctor cut in, winking at Rose as he switched on the lever he was holding.
Martha leaned against one of the TARDIS walls, shaking her head. "Okay, Doctor, you need to explain this to me one more time," she said, a confused look on her face as she watched the Doctor fiddle around the control room.
"I've already explained it three times!" the Doctor shot back, looking back at her.
"You've told me once," Martha replied, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. "And you stopped somewhere in the middle because that alarm went off."
He opened his mouth to argue, but she held up a finger.
"Besides," she said pointedly, "any kind of explanation that includes the words 'predestination paradox' needs at least a few run-throughs before it stops making my head hurt."
The Doctor tried to keep his face serious, but he ended up grinning despite himself. "Fine, you win," he said, walking over to her, "but this is the last time!"
"Fine with me," Martha replied.
"Okay, from the beginning," the Doctor said, leaning against the TARDIS wall himself. "There are two of me already at the same time and place that we're headed, both of them - well, me - dealing with a different alien presence."
Martha nodded thoughtfully. "Do you mean two of you, as in rude and in a pinstripe suit. . . ."
"Hey!" the Doctor protested.
She continued as if he hadn't said a word. ". . . . or two of you as in two of your past regenerations?"
He gave her a disgruntled look, but she just raised an eyebrow and stared right back at him. "The latter," he finally muttered. "And I haven't been rude in ages."
Martha raised her other eyebrow.
A hint of sheepishness appeared in his eyes. "Well, a few days at least," he amended.
"Doctor," Martha said patiently, "you called me a stupid ape less than ten minutes ago."
He gaped at her. "I did not!" When she didn't reply, he frowned. "Or did I?" he muttered under his breath, a thoughtful look appearing on his face.
"You did," Martha said, not even trying to hide her amusement. "And you were explaining why we're heading to the 1970s."
"Yes," he said quickly, "yes, I was. Where was I?"
Martha just shook her head. "Two of you dealing with two different groups of aliens."
The Doctor nodded enthusiastically. "Ah, yes," he said. "Anyway, you're going to run into one of my former traveling companions. Well, several of my former traveling companions. And a few acquaintances. And possibly a few enemies. It's complicated."
"Tell me about it," she muttered. "And you know all this . . . how?"
"Which part?" he asked innocently.
Martha groaned and reached up to rub her temples, closing her eyes for a second. "Seriously, Doctor, all of this is already giving me a headache and you haven't even explained anything yet," she griped. "Could you just spell it out for me?"
When she reopened her eyes a moment later, the Doctor was staring at her with a fairly serious expression on his face. "You're going to meet one of my previous selves," he said matter-of-factly. "Don't let him know anything about the Time War. You're going to meet someone who's traveling with the other me who's going to be there. Don't let her tell him about the Time War either, but - just as importantly - don't let her know that he's me."
"I'm lost again," Martha said with a sigh.
"She won't know about regeneration yet," the Doctor explained patiently. "Make sure that she doesn't meet anyone going by the name of Dr. John Smith, and whatever you do, don't let her see his TARDIS . . . that would ruin everything."
Martha let out a quiet chuckle. "Dr. John Smith?" she repeated softly. "I guess some things never change."
The Doctor frowned. "Did you hear what I just said?"
"Don't let anyone find out anything that they shouldn't know about," Martha replied dutifully. "Can you at least tell me who she is? How am I supposed to know not to let her know about regeneration if you won't even tell me who this woman is in the first place?"
He stared at her for a moment before pushing away from the wall and heading over to the controls. "We should be there by now."
"I guess that would be a 'no,'" Martha muttered under her breath. Then she raised her voice as she started following him over the console. "You're not going to tell me anything else? What if I mess something up?"
The Doctor turned just enough to give her a reassuring smile. "Don't worry, you'll be fine. And don't worry about knowing who I'm talking about. You'll know her when she see her, trust me on that."
She snorted. "I wish that I had your confidence. What makes you so certain that I'm not going to accidentally bring about the end of the universe?"
"Because all of this has already happened for me," he replied, shrugging. "As long as you're in the right place at the right time, nothing should go wrong."
He didn't stop smiling, and Martha felt a little bit of her worry start to fade away.
"Hopefully, at least," he added after a few seconds' pause.
Martha resisted the urge to swat at him. Barely.
"This is the dangerous alien threat?" Rose asked, raising an eyebrow. "A bunch of people building a bonfire? It's probably Bonfire Night."
The Doctor glanced over at her. "Does it feel like November to you?" he asked, shaking his head. "It's the middle of summer, so I'm afraid Bonfire Night isn't a likely explanation."
"Their calendars could just be off," Jack said teasingly, throwing his arms over both of their shoulders. "I mean, it is the 1970s."
Rose giggled, but the Doctor just shrugged out from under Jack's arms. "You're not helping," he said dryly.
Jack grinned broadly at him, but a hint of seriousness still appeared in his eyes. "It looks like a Rhadwemiud female to me," he said slowly. "It would definitely fit. She's drawn to the heat created by the Ghaiju, settles down in the middle of a populated area, uses mind control to get the locals to build her a huge fire, and then. . . ."
He trailed off when the Doctor shot a pointed look in Rose's direction.
"Then she what?" Rose asked, shooting them both a suspicious look. "Do you really think anything you could say would surprise me?"
The two men shared a look, and the Doctor shrugged. Jack leaned over and whispered in her ear for a second, until she pulled away with a disgusted look on her face. "Oh, god," she said. "Please tell me you're making that up."
"Afraid not," Jack said, his grin all but faded away. "So, Doctor, what's the plan?"
The Doctor seemed lost in thought for a few seconds before he finally met Jack's gaze. "We split up," he said firmly. "Take it from different sides."
A thoughtful look appeared on Jack's face. "That could work. Rhadwemiuds get confused when people actively fight them, especially when they're spread out, but there aren't many weapons that work against them."
"We'll improvise," the Doctor replied. "You two, go on around the back side of the park. I'll take this side and see what I can come up with."
Jack mock-saluted him before turning and starting to jog away, and Rose rolled her eyes as she turned to follow him.
"Rose," the Doctor said softly, "do me a favor."
She stopped and glanced back at him, a confused look on her face.
If you happen to run into anyone who knows me," he said, obviously choosing his words carefully, "don't mention the war. It's still in their future, and it would be a really bad idea to let them know what's coming."
"Reapers and the end of the world?" she asked tentatively.
The Doctor nodded. "Reapers and the end of the world."
Rose's face grew suspicious. "Is there a particular reason you're telling me this?" she asked. "Something you forgot to mention?"
He started to say something, but then he just shook his head. "You better catch up with Jack," he said, gesturing in the direction that the other man had gone in. "He's waiting for you up at the corner."
She stared at him for a moment before finally shaking her head. As she jogged toward where Jack was waiting, though, she couldn't help but glance back over her shoulder. The Doctor was still standing there, staring at her, and she couldn't help but think that he wasn't telling her everything.
Martha pulled at her shirt, more than a little thankful that she'd listened to the Doctor when he suggested that she not bring her jacket. "Is it supposed to be this hot?" she asked, exasperated.
"Unfortunately, it is," the Doctor replied, glancing back at her. "Both the Ghaiju and the Rhadwemiud like heat. Between the two of them, the entire area had several months of extremely high temperatures this year."
She sighed and kept following him.
The Doctor stopped suddenly and Martha would have run into him if past experiences hadn't sharpened her reflexes. He slowly spun around a few times, his eyes darting over the surrounded buildings, before he nodded. "You need to go that way," he said, pointing toward the outskirts of the town.
Martha shrugged and started to walk in that direction, but she paused when she noticed that the Doctor was going the opposite way. "Where do you think you're going?"
The Doctor paused mid-step and turned back toward her. "To help stop the Rhadwemiud," he replied, a puzzled look on his face, as if it should have been completely obvious what he was doing. "Someone drove a fire truck through the middle of her bonfire, right before using the hose on both it and her, and I'm starting to suspect that it was me."
Martha just stared at him. "So you're not coming with me?" she asked.
The Doctor shot her an incredulous look. "Of course not," he said. "If one of the old me's met the new me, he'd know in an instant who I was. Besides, that would completely mess up my timeline. I distinctly remember not meeting any rude, pinstripe-suit-wearing people today."
She kept staring at him, unamused. "And you're just telling me this now?"
He shook his head. "Martha, you'll be fine," he said, shooting her a reassuring grin. "You've dealt with bigger problems than this without me."
The Doctor winked at her before turning around and jogging off in the opposite direction from where he'd directed her. "Yeah," she muttered as she started walking off herself, "but every single one of those times could have gone a lot better."
Jo let out a shriek as another ball of flame shot through the air, landing just a few feet away from her. She ducked as far down as she could, trying to disappear behind the parked automobile she was hiding behind.
Beside her, Sergeant Benton let out a weak chuckle. "I know that the Doctor said that these Ghaiju were the ones causing the heat wave, he didn't mention that they could actually create fire."
"Or that they could throw it at us," Jo added, flinching as another fireball flew just a few feet over their heads. "Can you see him?"
Benton risked a quick look around the car, yanking his head back instantly as more flames went flying by. "He and the Brigadier are still pinned down," he said grimly.
Jo bit her lip. "Shouldn't you be trying to help them?"
He shot her a brief smile. "I'm supposed to be protecting you, Miss Grant," he replied. "I can't do both at once, but back-up should be here any minute."
She frowned, her gaze quickly scanning the surrounding area. Although they were in the middle of a fairly large town, they had yet to attract a crowd. Most of the locals were at some gathering taking place at a park several miles away, leaving the streets in the area they were in abandoned. "I think that I could make it around the corner and out of their line of fire," she said thoughtfully. "Then you could go help them without having to worry about me."
Benton turned toward her in an instant. "No," he said firmly. "You're going to stay here with me until help arrives."
"By that time it might be too late for the Doctor," Jo shot back. After a second, she quickly added, ". . . and the Brigadier."
He frowned at her before risking another glance around the automobile. His frown only deepened with whatever he saw and he quickly looked back at her. "Are you certain you can make it?"
Jo couldn't help but take another look behind her. It wasn't that far, not really, but the aliens were shooting fire. If one of those fireballs were to hit her. . . .
When she didn't reply, Benton reached out and touched her arm. "We'll wait for the back-up to arrive."
She took a deep breath. "No, I can do this," she said matter-of-factly, pushing herself to her feet and dashing away before the sergeant could grab her by the arm.
Jo could hear him calling her name, but she didn't pay any attention to anything but the quickly approaching corner. All she had to do was duck around it, then she'd be out of their line of fire and Benton could focus his attention entirely on the Doctor and the Brigadier.
"Hey, look out!"
Jo felt something heavy hit her, pushing her to the ground, just as what seemed almost like a wall of flame shot overhead. She rolled over with a gasp, only to find herself staring right into the face of a blonde girl who couldn't be any older than her. "Thank you," she managed to gasp out.
"No problem," the girl replied, grinning weakly. "I'm Rose, nice to meet you."
Jo managed a slight smile of her own. "My name's Jo," she said, nodding.
Rose started to push herself up into a sitting position, only to let out a groan and sink back to the ground. Jo quickly leaned over and grabbed the girl's shirt, frowning just a bit at its odd appearance, before letting out a startled gasp as she pulled it up. Several inches of her lower back were red and already starting to blister, and it was instantly obvious that she'd gotten hit with by the flames.
"You're hurt," Jo said, her voice shocked.
Rose chuckled dryly. "I figured," she said, coughing. "I swear, this is the last time I ever listen to Jack when he's giving directions. I'm pretty sure that I'm not even supposed to be on this side of town, but he was so sure that this would be a shortcut."
Her eyes slowly closed, and Jo felt a shiver run down her spine when she grabbed Rose's wrist to check her pulse. There was just something . . . odd about the girl. And familiar, as if she knew her, even though she was fairly certain that they'd never met before in their lives.
After a few seconds, Jo's ears perked up. Several cries of "Jo!" and "Miss Grant!" were coming from the direction she had run from, and they sounded like they were getting louder.
"Over here!" she called out, pushing herself up into a sitting position. "I'm over here!"
Martha muttered several choice words under her breath as she ducked down behind the first car she saw, careful not to let the fire throwing aliens see her. Purple and orange aliens, with feathers, throwing fireballs. Now she'd seen everything. "The Doctor carefully forgot to mention that I might end up becoming a barbeque," she muttered under her breath. "I wonder what else slipped his mind."
She heard a shout come from nearby, and she quickly glanced in the direction it was coming from. A young woman was running away, a soldier half-rising from his own hiding spot and obviously fighting the urge to run after her. He kept glancing in Martha's direction, though, as if he was torn between going after the woman and coming toward her.
Martha quickly looked around, trying to see what it was that the soldier had seen. She doubted that he'd actually seen her, so that meant that there must be someone - or something else - nearby. Then she saw them. There were two men huddled behind a nearby vehicle, one of them in a soldier's uniform and the other in one of them in a fairly ridiculous get-up. "It's the seventies alright," she muttered, glancing around and trying to see if there was anything nearby she could use as a weapon.
Her eyes lit on a fire hydrant, and she started to grin as she glanced down at the heavy rock laying at her feet. She glanced over at the warehouse that the aliens had apparently claimed as their own, making sure that none of them had noticed her yet. Their attention seemed to be split between the two men and the soldier, though, so she took a deep breath and picked up the rock. Then, without giving herself to think about the potential stupidity of what she was about to do, Martha pushed up from the ground and started running toward the hydrant.
She heard a startled exclamation coming from where the two men were hiding and realized that at least one of them must have noticed her. And if they had seen her, then the odds were that the aliens had as well. Martha bit her lip and dove, an instant before one of the huge fireballs went flying over her head. She tightened her grip on the rock and bashed it down on the hydrant with all her might, throwing herself to the ground when it made a worrying groaning sound. She let out the breath she hadn't even realized she was holding as the top practically exploded off, sending a high-pressure stream of water spewing in everything direction.
"Thank god for shoddy workmanship," she said, laughing as she watched the aliens hiss and disappear back inside the warehouse. It looked like her hunch had been right; they didn't seem to like water all that much.
Martha started to push herself back to her feet, hurrying up when she heard the sound of footsteps coming up behind her. She quickly turned around, only to find herself face-to-face with the two men she'd seen earlier.
The older man smiled at her, and she was hit by a sense of déjà vu by the familiarity of it. "That was a brilliant idea!" he said, almost as if he was congratulating her. "Much more than I'd expect from most of the humans here."
The soldier - a Brigadier, Martha realized with a start, judging by his uniform - cleared his throat warningly. "And you are, Miss. . . .?"
"Jones," she replied quickly. "My name's Martha Jones."
The older man was staring at her now and Martha felt a shiver run down her spine. There was something about his gaze that reminded her of the Doctor, even though his eyes didn't have quite the same darkness in them. "And where are you from, Martha Jones?" he asked thoughtfully. "Or should I say when?"
She froze, her eyes widening as she took a closer look at the man. Of course he wouldn't have the same darkness in his eyes now. The Time War hadn't happened yet, not for him. "Doctor John Smith, I assume?" she asked slowly.
His eyes widened a bit, but he merely nodded. "I sometimes go by that name," he said. "It's not actually mine, but it is a fitting substitute."
"Wow," Martha said, her gaze moving over him. "He wasn't kidding when he said he'd changed a lot since . . . well, now."
The Brigadier stared at her warily, and Martha recognized the "oh dear, she must be insane" look that was starting to appear on his face. She'd seen it quite a few times while traveling with the Doctor, and it was starting to become fairly commonplace. The Doctor - and it was definitely going to take some getting used to seeing him looking like that - just shook his head in amusement. "I'm fairly certain that I already know the answer, but who was it that made that comment?"
"You," she said matter-of-factly. "Well, he used to be you. Or, I guess, you're going to be him."
The Doctor nodded. "A future regeneration then?"
"Quite a few from now, I expect," Martha said. "Of course, he wasn't exactly all that forthcoming on the details."
"That sounds like me," the Doctor replied.
"Of course it does," the Brigadier said, his eyes moving back-and-forth between the two of them. Judging by the look on his face, Martha was fairly certain that he was starting to question her sanity. And possibly the Doctor's as well, come to think of it.
The Doctor went "pfft," shaking his head as he turned away from the Brigadier and toward the other soldier that Martha had see, who was hurriedly making his way in their direction. "You can tell me why you're here in a moment," he said, suddenly sounding distracted. "Let me see what Sergeant Benton here has done with my assistant.
His assistant. Martha suddenly remember the young woman she had seen dashing off a few minutes earlier, the soldier - Sergeant Benton, apparently - obviously torn between going after her and helping the two men pinned down under fire. Oh.
"Sergeant," the Doctor said, his voice suddenly sounding much cooler than it had moments before. "Where is Miss Grant?"
The soldier shook his head. "She can be as stubborn as you when she puts her mind to it," he said breathlessly.
"Benton?" the Brigadier asked, turning his attention toward the younger man as well. "Where is she?"
"She went running off that way," Benton replied, gesturing in the direction Martha had seen the woman going in. "I told her that I was supposed to watch out for her, not the two of you, and. . . ."
He trailed off as the Doctor pushed past him, his face expressionless other than the hint of worry in his eyes. "Jo!"
A puzzled look appeared on Benton's face as he glanced at Martha. "Sir?" he asked, gesturing toward her with his eyes.
The Brigadier glanced over at her and shrugged. "She claims to know the Doctor, or she will know the Doctor, or something along those lines," he said, starting after the Doctor. "Keep an eye on her, Benton."
As the Brigadier hurried off, the sergeant looked at Martha and raised an eyebrow.
Martha wasn't sure how much he knew, but - judging by the casual way that the Brigadier had mentioned "will know" - she guessed that he at least knew the Doctor wasn't human. "I know him in the future," she said, shooting him a weak smile that she hoped would convince him she wasn't entirely insane.
"Ah," Benton said, eying her again, "well, that explains the clothing."
Martha glanced down at her clothes for a moment. Maybe wearing a 26th century shirt in the 1970s wasn't the best idea she'd ever had, but she didn't think it was that obvious that it was made from a material that wouldn't exist for another five hundred years. She mentally shrugged and chalked it up to the fact that this soldier knew the Doctor.
Benton hadn't moved yet, so Martha pushed past him. She hurried to catch up with the other two men, whether they wanted her there or not. Considering she still didn't know who the woman she was supposed to be looking for was, it was probably a good idea for her to keep near this other Doctor.
The Doctor cursed as one of the locals grabbed a burning stick and thrust it at him, hitting the sleeve of his leather jacket but not leaving a mark. "Still laughing at me for wearing this thing?" he called over his shoulder, ducking as the same local tried to his him again.
Somewhere behind him, Jack laughed. "Definitely!" he called back. "And don't you dare start complaining about scorch marks wh--"
Jack cut off abruptly, and the Doctor quickly spun around. Two women, most likely mind-controlled but with Jack it was difficult to tell, had jumped on his back and knocked him to the ground. He was struggling to get up, but the women weren't letting him have the chance. One of them glanced in the Doctor's direction, letting him see her bright red eyes. Mind-controlled it was, then.
The Doctor didn't even hesitate at Jack's order, instantly dropping to the ground. Another flaming stick, or possibly the same one, flew over him, right where his head had been moments earlier.
"Thanks!" the Doctor called out, already pushing himself back up to his feet. He quickly glanced over at the spot where he had last seen Jack.
"No problem," Jack replied, distracted as he tried to spin off the woman who was still on his back. "Any idea where Rose is?"
"I'm sure she's fine," the Doctor said, making sure that Jack couldn't see his face as he answered. "She probably just took a wrong turn."
Jack finally managed to dislodge the woman, and he turned toward the Doctor with a doubtful look on his face. "If you say so," he said slowly.
Then his gaze focused on something behind the Doctor, and his eyes widened. "Move!"
"What?" the Doctor asked warily, turning around. "Should I duck again?"
He barely had time to dive out of the way as a fire truck came barreling straight at the bonfire.
Jo didn't even try to hide her relief when the Doctor came running up to her, the Brigadier just a little behind him. "I'm fine," she said when she saw the worried look on his face. "A few scrapes and bruises, but nothing else."
The Doctor quickly knelt beside her, running his gaze over her for just a second before turning his attention toward the unconscious girl laying on the ground beside her. "And who is this?"
"She said her name was Rose," Jo said, frowning as he gently pulled up Rose's shirt. "She pushed me out of the way before. . . ."
She trailed off as the Doctor obviously filled in the blank for himself. His frown deepened when he saw the burns on Rose's back, and he glanced up at the Brigadier. "We should get her back to UNIT headquarters."
The Brigadier frowned as he knelt down as well. "We don't even know who she is, Doctor," he pointed out. "Is it really necessary that we take her back to headquarters instead of a regular hospital? She's probably just some local who was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"Considering her clothing, it's doubtful," the Doctor replied.
Jo turned to him in surprise. "What about her clothing?" she asked. "I thought it was just the newest fashion for girls her age."
"Oh, it is," the Doctor said, nodding, "just not for another two hundred years. At least, that's when the material her shirt's made of will be created."
She stared at him and then glanced back down at Rose. "She's from the future?" she asked doubtfully. "How would she be here then?"
The Brigadier met the Doctor's gaze. "Do you think our other guest might have some answers?"
"It's a possibility," the Doctor replied, his eyes focusing somewhere behind the Brigadier. "She and Benton will be here in just a moment, so we can ask her then."
Jo stared to ask them who they were talking about, but then she noticed what the Doctor's gaze was focused on. Sergeant Benton was hurrying their way, a dark-skinned young woman that she'd never seen before several steps ahead of him.
Martha frowned when she saw the Doctor and the Brigadier kneeling on the ground beside an unconscious girl, and it took her a moment to realize that it wasn't the same woman that she's seen a few minutes earlier. The woman that she'd seen, who must have been the Jo Grant that they'd been talking about, was sitting on the ground, scraped up but otherwise fine. Which meant that there was a good chance that the other girl was the person her Doctor had wanted her to look for in the first place.
"Let me take a look," Martha said, hurriedly kneeling down beside the unconscious girl. The Brigadier started to protest, but she rolled her eyes and cut him off before he could even say a word. "I'm a doctor back home. I know what I'm doing."
She quickly took the girl's vitals, letting out a relieved sigh when she felt how strong they were. Her relief faded a bit when she saw the nasty burns on her lower back, but she'd seen far worse both before and after she'd met the Doctor.
Martha gave the other woman a gentle smile. "I'm Martha," she said, nodding. "Nice to meet you."
"Jo," the woman replied, smiling back. Then her smile faded a bit. "How is she?"
"Well, she could use some real medical attention," Martha said, looking around at the people surrounding her. The Doctor was watching her, an almost smug look on his face, while the Brigadier looked as if he still considered her a threat. Sergeant Benton was just standing to the side, his face unreadable, though she suspected he believed she was who she said she was.
The Brigadier's eyes drifted between her and the Doctor for a moment before he sighed. "Fine," he said, "we'll take her back to headquarters."
Martha couldn't help but feel that something had just gone over her head, but she pushed the feeling aside and instead focused on the girl in front of her. "Who is she?" she asked Jo, her curiosity getting the better of her.
Jo shrugged before resting her hand protectively on the girl's arm. "I honestly don't know," she replied. "She pushed me out of the way, but this was the first time I'd seen her. All I know is that she said her name's Rose."
Martha didn't even realize that she'd gasped until everyone's eyes focused on her.
She ignored the others, instead staring down at the blonde girl in shock. Her eyes widened as she realized just why the Doctor had been so tight-lipped about who he wanted her to find. And why he had insisted that he not be there to help her.
"You know her then?" the Brigadier asked suspiciously.
It took her a moment to answer. "Yes and no," Martha replied distractedly, her gaze focused on the unconscious girl. After everything that she'd heard about Rose Tyler from the Doctor, she'd been expecting . . . more. Not a teenager who had to be at least five years younger than her. "I've technically never met her before in my life."
The Doctor leaned down to meet her gaze. "But you know who she is?" he prompted gently.
Martha closed her eyes a moment, going through the Doctor's orders in her mind. Don't let Rose find out about regeneration. Don't let this Doctor find out about the Time War. Don't let history be rewritten. She smiled to herself: at least this checklist didn't have twenty-three items on it. Just three.
"Don't let her know who you are," she said, opening her eyes. "I can't say anything else, not without messing up a lot of things, but just . . . don't let her know you're the Doctor. Let her think you're just a friend of his or something." She stared down at Rose, remembering the few brief things she'd heard about her. "In fact," she said slowly, "maybe you shouldn't spend too much time with her at all."
"What on earth are going on about, Miss Jones?" the Brigadier asked, raising an eyebrow.
Martha started to reply, but the Doctor beat her to it. "Brigadier," he said warningly, "she's already told us that she can't say anything else at the moment."
The Brigadier stared at him in surprise. "And that's enough for you?"
The Doctor look back at Martha, studying her face closely. She met his gaze head-on, not even blinking. "Yes," he said, starting to smile, "it is. Though I may have some questions for her later, if she's willing to answer them."
Grumbling under his breath, the Brigadier pushed himself to his feet. "Benton, get on the radio and find out where our reinforcements are," he ordered the sergeant. "Doctor, if we're taking these two back to UNIT headquarters with us, I'd like a few explanations."
"Certainly," the Doctor said, standing up as well.
As the two of them walked off, Martha couldn't help but stare. Then she turned around to look at Jo. "Wait a minute," she said slowly, "you're with UNIT?"
"I swear, nothing's going to surprise me anymore," Martha muttered under her breath. Then she forced herself to smile as she gestured toward the Brigadier, who was still shooting suspicious looks in her direction every few seconds. "Could you tell me what his last name is?"
"The Brigadier?" Jo asked, surprised. "Lethbridge-Stewart. Why?"
Martha nodded, not surprised to have her suspicions confirmed. Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. Now that was definitely a name that she'd heard the Doctor mention from time to time.
"It was just a hunch," she replied, turning her attention back toward Rose. "Can you help me prop her up a bit? I'd like to make sure that she doesn't have any other injuries."
The first thing Rose noticed as she slipped back into consciousness was that her back felt like it was on fire. She let out a soft groan and tried to slide her hand back to feel under her shirt, but it was gently caught before she could.
"You probably don't want to do that," an unfamiliar voice said.
Rose frowned as she struggled to get her eyes open. The last thing she remembered, she'd been on Earth in the 1970s. She was supposed to be helping the Doctor and Jack, but then she'd gotten lost and seen that woman. . . .
Oh, that's right. Fire-throwing aliens.
The same voice from earlier laughed softly, and Rose realized that she must have spoken out loud. She forced open her eyes, blinking for a second at the harsh, artificial light. As her vision cleared, though, she saw a young black woman sitting in a chair next to her bed and smiling at her.
"What happened?" Rose asked, her voice cracking a bit when she spoke.
The woman picked up a glass of water from a nearby table. "Like you said, fire-throwing aliens," she said. She smiled as she carefully helped Rose sit up enough to take a few sips. "Is that better?"
Rose smiled back. "Much," she replied. "So, who are you?"
Several different emotions flashed across the woman's face, but they all faded away almost instantly. "Martha," she said simply. "My name's Martha."
Martha shook her head. "Jo actually told us that already."
Rose's smile faded, and she frowned. "Jo?" she asked, puzzled.
"The woman you saved," Martha prompted gently.
"Oh!" Rose looked a little sheepish, and she ducked her head a bit. "I think that I must have been a little out of it by the time we got around to introductions."
The sound of quiet laughter drifted in from the doorway, and both of them looked in that direction. Jo hesitantly peeked her head in and gave them a slight wave.
"Mind if I come in?" she asked hesitantly. "The others are trying to figure out the best way to stop the Ghaiju right now, and I got the impression that the Brigadier wanted me out of the way for a while."
Martha chuckled. "I get the impression that he does that a lot."
Jo didn't say anything, but her eyes twinkled as she made her way to Rose's bed. She dropped down in a chair opposite Martha and sat there quietly for a moment.
"I never properly got a chance to thank you," Jo stared slowly.
Rose waved her hand. "Oh, don't worry about it," she said lightly.
Jo frowned. "Still. . . ."
"Really, you don't have to thank me," Rose cut in, her voice firm. "I mean it."
Another unreadable look had appeared on Martha's face, but Rose decided to ignore it. Instead, she tried to remember what the Doctor had told her about his first trip to this particular time. He'd been vague on the details, but she did remember him mentioning that she might meet people who knew him.
"Do either of you know someone named the Doctor?" she asked curiously.
Jo and Martha quickly glanced at each other, and Rose knew she wasn't imagining the worry in their eyes. Reapers and the end of the world.
"Never mind," Rose said quickly. "I probably shouldn't meet him even if he is here."
Martha didn't even try to hide the relief on her face. "That's probably a good idea," she said, nodding. "Besides, I'm not even sure if he's here right now. The last I saw, he was trying to figure out how to get rid of that alien invasion going on nearby."
Rose frowned, remembering the conversation Jack and the Doctor had been having earlier. "I'm pretty sure it's going to involve some kind of explosion."
"Doesn't it always?" Martha snorted.
Rose couldn't help but grin at that, but Jo didn't even smile. "What makes you think that?" she asked.
Martha glanced between the two of them, her own smile fading. "Rose, do you know something that we don't?"
Jo ran down the hallway, heading straight toward the laboratory. She wasn't sure if it would help the Doctor any to know that it would take some kind of explosion to take out the Ghaiju, but it could possibly be useful.
"Doctor!" she called out, as she rushed through the open door.
The Brigadier frowned at her, but the Doctor just smiled and gestured for her to come over to where he was standing. "Yes, Jo?"
She quickly took a few breaths. "Rose woke up a little while ago, and she told us something that her Doctor told her about the Ghaiju."
"Really?" the Brigadier asked, suddenly looking much more interested in what she had to say. "And what might that be?"
"I'm curious myself," the Doctor added, raising an eyebrow.
Jo smiled. "She said that he mentioned an explosion," she continued. "A large explosion. A very large explosion, in fact."
The Doctor frowned. "I'm not sure if. . . ." He trailed off, a thoughtful look appearing on his face. "Sergeant Benton?" he asked, glancing over at the soldier. "Do we still have those three red boxes that we found in Cardiff a few months back?"
"The ones that we had to sneak out from under Torchwood?" Benton asked.
The Doctor nodded. "Yes, those."
Benton shot the Brigadier a confused look. "We have them," he confirmed, "but didn't you tell us they were children's toys?"
"Oh, they are," the Doctor said, slowly starting to grin. "Sontaran children's toys. Of course, considering the Sontarans, they're also bombs."
The Brigadier glared at the Doctor. "They're weapons?" he asked, disbelievingly. "And you told us they were toys?"
The Doctor met his gaze. "They are nothing more toys," he said calmly. "It's not my fault that you humans--"
"Yes, yes." The Doctor quickly turned his attention toward her. "Please thank your friend for her help. It never even occurred to me to actually use heat against the Ghaiju, considering they typically thrive on it."
"I'm afraid that I don't follow you," the Brigadier cut in.
The Doctor frowned at him. "The Ghaiju draw their power from heat energy," he said slowly, as if he was speaking to a child. "If they were to be forced to take in an immense amount of heat at once. . . ."
". . . like with an explosion," Jo said, grinning.
"Like with an explosion," the Doctor agreed, "then it would literally act in the opposite manner, drawing their energy from them instead."
Benton picked up his radio. "I'll have someone get those toys out of storage," he said, shaking his head as he said the word 'toys.'
"Do you think it's going to work?" Rose asked, grimacing as Martha helped her out of bed and into the wheelchair that the Brigadier had left her. Her back was still killing her, and she couldn't wait to get back to the TARDIS and its advanced medical technology.
Martha nodded. "It should," she said slowly. "I mean, for your Doctor, it's already happened."
Rose looked up and carefully studied Martha's face. "You know what I think?" she asked after a few seconds had passed.
Martha raised an eyebrow. "What do you think?" she asked, amused.
Rose settled in her wheelchair, flinching a bit as her injured back complained again. "I think," she said slowly, "that you've met me before."
"You remember meeting me sometime in the past?" Martha asked lightly.
"Hey, I didn't say that I've met you before," Rose protested. "Your past, my future."
Martha smiled. "So you think I've already met you, but you haven't met me?"
"Exactly," Rose said with a grin. Then it faded into a frown. "Wait a second. . . ."
They stared at each other for a second before they both burst out laughing.
Jo stuck her head in the door, an amused look appearing on her face as she took in the scene in front of her. "Did I miss something?"
"Nothing important," Rose said, reaching up to wipe her eyes. "Any news?"
"They just got back," Jo said, grinning broadly at them. "It worked."
Rose looked up at Martha and winked. "Mind helping a girl out?" she asked teasingly.
Martha just started to laugh again as she got behind Rose's wheelchair and started to push it through the door.
Martha glanced around the room again, making sure that the Doctor wasn't there. Jo had whispered to her that he'd decided to stay in his lab, and - even though she knew that it was probably the right thing for him to do - she couldn't help but feel a little disappointed. The difference in appearance had taken a little getting used to, but she had enjoyed seeing what the Doctor was like before the Time War. He seemed less raw, less broken . . . and more alien.
Benton stepped into the room, smiling at Martha before he caught the Brigadier's eye.
"Sir, there's an American at the gate looking for a young woman named Rose," Benton said, nodding in Rose's direction. "The description he gave fits our guest."
Rose's face broke into a broad grin at Benton's words. "It's about time he found me," she said, shaking her head. "Someone mind giving me a hand to the gate?"
Jo laughed. "I'll help," she said. "I still owe you, no matter what you say."
Rose rolled her eyes at that, but she didn't protest as Jo walked over behind her wheelchair. Before they could go, though, Martha walked over in front of Rose's chair and knelt down.
Martha held out her hand, her smile warm. "It really was a pleasure meeting you."
"You too," Rose said, smiling back as she shook her hand. "Maybe we'll meet again sometime."
Martha's smile wavered just a bit. "Maybe."
Rose shook her head. "You're horrible at bluffing," she said teasingly.
"So a friend of mine keeps telling me," Martha shot back.
They stared at each other for a moment before they both started to laugh. Martha stood back up and moved out of the way as Jo pushed Rose toward the door.
"Do me a favor, Rose Tyler," Martha said suddenly.
Jo stopped pushing and stepped aside so that Rose could turn around enough to see Martha's face. "I never told you my last name," she said, not looking surprised.
"I know," Martha replied. "Still, one favor."
Rose slowly nodded.
"Live your life," Martha said, her smile not quite reaching her eyes, "and enjoy it to the fullest. They both love you, you know."
Rose stared at her, a slightly suspicious look on her face.
"I've probably already said too much," Martha said, shaking her head. "I'm sorry, but. . . ."
Letting out a sigh, Rose nodded in understanding. "Reapers and the end of the world?" she hazarded.
Martha shrugged. "Sounds about right to me," she agreed.
They stared at each other for a moment before Jo quietly cleared her throat. Martha winked at Rose. "You better get going," she said teasingly. "If your American friend's who I think it is, he's probably flirting with every soldier that walks by."
Rose laughed. "Probably," she agreed, twisting back around so that Jo could push her out of the room. "I might never convince him to leave."
As Jo and Rose disappeared out the door, Benton shifted a bit and cleared his throat. The Brigadier glanced at him curiously. "Yes, Benton, what is it?"
Benton reluctantly met the Brigadier's gaze. "The man outside, sir," he said slowly. "It's Jack Harkness, I'm sure of it."
"Harkness?" The Brigadier turned his full attention toward Benton, a surprised look on his face. "Captain Harkness from Torchwood?"
"That's a younger version of him," Martha said quickly, before they could say anything else. The Doctor wasn't there, but he might come back at any time . . . and she was pretty sure Jack was one of the things she wasn't supposed to mention to him. "The man standing out at the gate doesn't know anything about Torchwood."
Both of them turned to stare at her.
The Brigadier raised an eyebrow. "Are you quite certain, Miss Jones?"
"He looks exactly the same as the man we know," Benton added. "Not a day younger or older."
Martha laughed. "He always does," she said lightly. "Trust me, a lot of this time travel business makes my head spin but I am starting to figure some of it out. He's not the man you know, not yet."
"Someone I know?"
"Not yet," Martha replied instantly, smiling as she turned around to see the Doctor standing there. Then she quickly spun back around to face the Brigadier and Sergeant Benton, a stern look on her face. "And neither of you tell him who we were talking about."
The Brigadier shook his head. "We won't, Miss Jones," he said tiredly. "Now, if you're excuse me, I think I might need to pay a visit to the gate. Especially if the man there really is who you say it is."
He nodded at them before heading out the door. Benton gave Martha another half-smile before following him out.
The Doctor and Martha stood there in silence for a moment.
"I guess that I better be going," she said finally. "I've done what my Doctor told me to do, so he's probably expecting me back."
"Yes, of course," the Doctor said, nodding at her.
Martha sighed and turned toward the door, but she didn't get very far.
"Do you know when I'll get off this planet?" the Doctor asked suddenly, the rawness in his voice reminding her of the one she was used to hearing. "When the Time Lords will lift my exile?"
After slowly turning around, Martha stared at his face for a moment. "No," she admittedly finally, "I don't know when. All I know is that they do."
He met her gaze unwaveringly, and then he nodded. "Then I suppose that's enough."
She reached out and took his hand, smiling as she gave it a gentle squeeze. Then she let it drop as she turned and walked out the door.
Jack's eyes narrowed when he saw Rose, his gaze immediately focusing on the wheelchair she was sitting in. He could see a hint of white bandages poking out from under her shirt, and her face looked paler than he would have liked. The Doctor hadn't said anything about her being hurt.
He started walking toward her, his flirtation with the various soldiers guarding UNIT headquarters already forgotten. The woman pushing the wheelchair stopped walking, and Jack knelt down so that he was face-to-face with Rose. "What happened to you?" he asked, not even trying to hide his worry.
Rose shot him a reassuring smile. "It's nothing," she replied firmly. "Just a couple of burns on my back. The Doctor will be able to fix me up in no time."
Jack knew he wasn't imagining the hint of recognition on the soldiers' faces when they heard the Doctor's name, but he ignored them. "That might be right," he said, pushing himself to his feet, "but I'll still feel better once we get back."
He gave the woman pushing the wheelchair a wink. "I'll take this off your hands," he said with a grin.
"Ignore him, Jo," Rose said, leaning her head back so that she could meet Jo's eyes. "Remember what I told you about him?"
Jack flicked Rose's ear. "If you've been telling stories about me, I hope they were good ones."
One of the soldiers standing next to her, a brigadier by the looks of his uniform, snorted. The sergeant standing beside him just shook his head, though, as if he knew something that Jack didn't.
Forgetting about his hurry to get Rose back to the TARDIS for just a second, Jack stuck out his hand. "Captain Jack Harkness," he said, his grin widening as the sergeant took it. "You have no idea how much of a pleasure it is to meet you."
"John Benton," the soldier replied, a hint of a smile on his on face. "And, as I will tell you many times in your future, you're not my type."
Well, that explained the "knowing something he didn't" feeling that Jack had gotten a minute or so earlier. Jack grinned at him, purposely turning it into something more akin to a leer. "I'm sure that I don't let a pesky little thing like that stop me."
"Play nice, Jack," Rose said, reaching up to swat his arm. "They've been helping me, remember?"
Jack's grin faded, and he quickly got behind her wheelchair. "That's my cue to leave," he said, glancing at the three people still standing just a little behind Rose. "Thanks for taking care of her."
Without waiting for a reply from any of them, Jack started pushing her.
Rose glanced up at him. "Why was the Brigadier staring at you like that?" she whispered.
Jack glanced back over his shoulder, almost flinching at the piercing look the Brigadier was giving him. "I'm not sure," he said slowly, "but I can't wait to find out."
Winking at her, Jack suddenly spun around and blew the Brigadier a kiss. Rose started giggling as Jack turned back toward her and grabbed the wheelchair, pushing it forward as behind them the Brigadier spluttered in indignation.
Martha kicked at a loose rock as she walked down the street, her eyes on the ground. When she heard the sound of footsteps coming up behind her, she didn't even look up.
"You could have told me it was her," she said quietly as the footsteps started walking in rhythm with hers.
The Doctor reached out and grabbed her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. He didn't let go. "No," he replied, just as quietly, "I couldn't."
They walked in silence for a moment, hand-in-hand, before Martha finally looked up. "She was nothing like I expected," she said, smiling a little. "I can see why you miss her."
"She was special," he admitted with a smile of his own.
Martha stared at him for a second, a thoughtful look appearing on her face. "You know, Jo seemed like a nice woman."
The Doctor's small smile slowly turned into a full-fledged grin. "She was special too," he said, his eyes starting to twinkle.
"And that Sergeant Benton. . . ."
He started to laugh. "I'll have you know," he said, winking at her, "that he mooned for a month after you left."
Martha quickly met his gaze. "You're having me on!" she said, swatting at him with her free hand as his laughter just got louder.
The TARDIS waited for them in the distance.
It didn't surprise Rose that Jack left the wheelchair outside the TARDIS.
As Jack carried her into the sickbay, Rose was only a little startled to see that the Doctor already had everything out needed to heal the burns on her back. "You knew," she said, her earlier suspicions confirmed.
The Doctor didn't meet her eyes as he turned on one of the devices.
Rose sighed and glanced up at Jack as he sat her down on one of the beds. "Were you in on it too?" she asked. "That's why you gave me the wrong directions?"
Jack stared at her. "There was nothing wrong with my directions," he protested. "Go down two streets, make a left, make a right, make another right. . . ."
"You told me left," Rose cut in.
"No I didn't," Jack shot back.
Rose met his gaze without blinking. "You told me left," she repeated.
Jack started to protest, but then a thoughtful look appeared on his face. "Oops," he said sheepishly.
Rose playfully swatted at him, expecting her back to start hurting from the movement. When it didn't, she glanced over at the Doctor in surprise. "You're already done?" she asked incredulously.
"Like you said, I already knew what to expect," the Doctor replied, still not meeting her eyes.
She glanced over at Jack, who was watching them both with a carefully neutral look on his face. "How'd your alien fighting go?" she asked.
"Pretty good," he said with a shrug. "Some lunatic drove a fire truck right through the middle of the main bonfire and then turned the hose loose, so it wasn't too difficult for us to finish up."
Rose smiled at Jack, then she gestured toward the Doctor with her eyes. "Has he been like this the entire time?"
She rolled her eyes before turning toward the Doctor, who was still avoiding her gaze. Without warning, she reached out and grabbed him, pulling him down onto the bed with her in an undignified heap.
From where he was standing, Jack started to laugh. "That looks like fun," he said. "Mind if I join in?"
The gesture the Doctor gave him was universal.
Rose started laughing as the Doctor pulled himself up into a sitting position. "Did I get your attention?" she asked.
"Possibly," the Doctor said, his mouth twitching at the corners.
She grinned up at him. "Good," she said, "because after all that, I'm in the mood to go somewhere cool."
"We could go to Iceworld," Jack said, shrugging. "It's definitely cold there, and it used to be pretty popular before some idiot found out that it was really a spaceship."
The Doctor pointedly cleared his throat, and Rose laughed as comprehension dawned on Jack's face.
"Some dashingly handsome idiot?" Jack quickly suggested.
Jo settled down in one of the chairs in the laboratory, smiling as a cool breeze blew in through the open window. It was still a bit warmer than usual, but the unbearable heat had disappeared with the Ghaiju.
Something that looked like a smushed metal ball came flying out of the TARDIS and skidded across the floor to land at her feet. Jo shook her head in amusement as she leaned down to pick it up, waiting patiently. A few seconds later, the Doctor stuck his head out into the lab and shot her a hopeful look. "You wouldn't happen to have seen. . . ."
She held up the item that she'd picked up. "Another bomb disguising itself as a children's toy?" she guessed. "You might want to try not throwing it if that's the case."
The Doctor chuckled as he walked over to take the machinery from her hand. "Hardly," he said dryly. "It's part of the TARDIS communications system."
"Is there a problem?" Jo asked, raising an eyebrow as she glanced at the innocuous-looking object.
He actually looked puzzled as he met her gaze. "I'm not sure," he said slowly. "It's acting almost as if it picked up some type of signal earlier, but there's no sign of it now."
Jo frowned. "Do you think it was anything serious?"
The Doctor glanced down at the piece of the TARDIS in his hand for a few seconds before finally shrugging. "It most likely wasn't," he said with a reassuring smile. "If it had been something serious, the signal wouldn't have died."
Despite his smile, he still shot one last worried look back at the TARDIS.
Jo shook her head. "Don't worry about it, Doctor," she said gently. "If it was important, I'm sure you'll find out about it eventually."
This time, the Doctor's smile actually reached his eyes.