Disclaimer: How I wish I owned them! Anyway, I don't; they're the property of the BBC.

Turning 24, again

He hadn't replied to her text, and she had hardly expected him to. But despite the fact that by now she had firmly resigned herself to him not showing up, Martha found herself glancing out of the window and looking past the shoulders of the arriving guests.

Tom, looking tall and solid, appeared behind her and put his hands on her shoulders.

"Why so fidgety?" he asked.

Martha turned, and smiled at him reassuringly. "Just, you know, party nerves. What if someone's wearing the same top as me? What if the drink runs out? What if someone doesn't come?"

"Then they're missing a great party," Tom said. "Anyway, if someone was wearing the same top they wouldn't look as good as you do in it." He grinned down at her. "Suits you. Now come on, let's get a drink and you need to relax, Miss Birthday Girl."

She let him take her hand and tug her across to the bar, where he ordered her a vodka and cranberry and a pint for himself. The room was filling up already, though nobody had yet started to dance, and Martha admitted to herself that it was probably going to be a pretty good party anyway.

Her sister bounced over and gave her a hug. "Happy Birthday!"

"Thanks, Tish."

"Better than the last one, eh?" Tish said, seriously.

Martha, with a pang, remembered the last time she had turned 24. She had been in Russia, alone; it had been cold and she had been running for her life after telling a group holed up outside St Petersburg the story of the Doctor.

"Much better," she agreed.

Tish glanced at Tom, and leaned in closer. "Is he coming? Did you ask him?"

"Course I asked him," Martha said. "I don't know. He didn't reply. He's probably off somewhere glamorous with whoever he's picked up recently. He could be billions of years away."

"He'll come," said Tish, with certainty.

"Who'll come?" Tom asked, joining them.

"This bloke I met," Tish said smoothly. "Martha reckons he won't …"

"… He's not worth you," Martha added. "Tell you what, you should meet Ben."

Tom nodded. "Actually, she should meet Ben. I think they'd get on just fine."

The party went on. There was drink. At some point a cake arrived, and Martha blew out too many candles and Tom fed her a slice. There was dancing, and more drink. Tish and Ben seemed to be getting on pretty well, despite the fact that Ben had only been a cover for the one person who had failed to turn up at all.

The dance floor was beginning to empty, and Martha was watching Tom and wondering if she could leave her own party early and drag him off to bed, when Tish squeaked and gestured wildly at the door. Martha spun around - a bit too fast, given the vodkas - and to her eternal delight saw a skinny brown figure leaning nonchalantly against the door frame.

She was across the room and hugging him before she had really thought about the fact he was here.

"You came!" she said, once the hug was over and she had disentangled herself.

"Of course I came," said the Doctor, looking quizzically down at her. "Why wouldn't I?"

"I dunno. I thought you'd be fighting aliens somewhere."

"I was. I came as soon as the fight was over - or, well, as soon as I'd run away from them." He grinned. "Why change the habit of a lifetime? Several lifetimes?" He appeared to remember something, and dug in a pocket. "Here. Happy Birthday."

Martha took the small package and unwrapped it. "What is it?" she asked, holding up the turquoise cube to the light, where it glittered.

"Just a trinket from Flammerdus," said the Doctor. "Doesn't do anything. I thought it was pretty."

"Where the hell's Flammerdus?" asked Martha. "It is pretty, thank you."

"Three thousand light years south of the Horsehead Nebula," the Doctor said, scratching his ear. "Nice place. Pink trees. Have you ever seen pink trees, Martha? They're … well, pink."

Martha shook her head at him and tucked the trinket in a pocket. "Drink?" she suggested.

"Oh … I suppose I might be able to manage a drink," he said, and followed her obediently across the floor to the bar. "Do you have any nibbles?" He began picking at peanuts.

Tish appeared as Martha was ordering, and greeted the Doctor almost as enthusiastically as Martha herself had.

They wandered over to the chairs and sat down. Martha found herself gazing at the Doctor, trying to convince herself he was really there.

"So," he said, putting down his beer and leaning back, one sneaker-clad foot resting on a gangly knee, "twenty-four, eh. Positively ancient."

Martha hit him, but gently. "Ha ha," she said. "I feel older, if that helps."

His face lost some of the laughter. "Yes, you would. I'm sorry."

"Don't be," Martha told him. "Don't ever be sorry."

"What about?" asked Tom, appearing from the bathroom and squeezing her shoulder. The Doctor, she noticed, raised an eyebrow at the gesture.

"Sorry about me being late to the party," the Doctor said.


"Oh!" Martha exclaimed. "Tom, this is the Doctor; Doctor, this is Tom Milligan."

"All doctors together, apparently," said Tom, shaking the Doctor's hand. "Or nearly." He gave Martha an affectionate look, and then his phone rang. He excused himself and headed outside.

The Doctor leaned over to Martha. "Tom Milligan. That name … you told me about him. You said he sacrificed himself for you. He was killed."

"By the Master, yeah."

"And now he's your boyfriend?" The Doctor's voice was, Martha realised, vaguely accusatory.

"Yes." She held her chin up and met his eyes. "So?"

The Doctor shook his head, standing up. "And yet again," he said, cryptically. "Meddling creatures."

Martha stood too. "I didn't meddle. I didn't tell him anything. We met at the hospital, and he asked me out."

"And would you have said yes if you hadn't met him before … after ... when you met him?" the Doctor asked. "Of course not. Happy Birthday, Martha. Great party. See you."

He turned on a heel and walked out, coat flapping behind him, as Tom came back in.

Tish, who had watched the whole exchange silently, looked at Martha. "Go on," she said.

Martha picked up her coat and bag and ran, with Tom after her.

The TARDIS was parked two streets away, and she caught the Doctor up as he reached the ship. He must have known she was there, but busied himself digging his key out of a pocket and putting it into the lock.

"Wait!" Martha called. "Doctor! I'm sorry."

"Sorry?" The Doctor paused, his hand still on the key. "Oh, that's great, that is. Sorry. Of course you're sorry."

"I didn't do anything to you!" Martha said. "As far as I know, I didn't break any of your silly laws of Time. I met a guy, I fancied him, I like him."

"Off you go then," said the Doctor. "Go and be with him. Go on. And don't ask him what he dreams about."

"Death," came a voice from behind them. "Emptiness. Mostly."

Martha swung around to see Tom, Tish hanging a few paces behind. Tom's face told her he had heard most of the conversation, and that he did not understand it.

"I have these dreams," he said, coming closer. "I'm running after you, Martha, and then I die. I just keep dying."

The Doctor gave Martha a significant look, and pulled the key out of the TARDIS lock. He put it away in a pocket, and stood looking at her seriously. Martha glanced at Tom, and back at the Doctor.

"So what do I do?" she asked, helplessly.

They went to her flat - the Doctor, Tish, Tom and Martha - and Martha made tea for everyone. The Doctor, having shed his coat, paced and looked generally too big for the room, but took his tea and sat down after Martha gave him a pointed look.

"All right," he said. "Tell me about your dreams, Tom Milligan."

She had known Tom had been having bad dreams, of course; once or twice he had woken up in the middle of the night, and been irritable the next morning. But she had not known exactly what he had dreamt of.

"I dream of a few things," said Tom, cupping his mug between his hands. "In one of them I'm standing on a beach at night, waiting for Martha. In another I'm being chased by this silver ball thing. In another there's this man, and a flash of light, and I die. Sometimes they all merge. I don't understand them, but then they're just dreams. Aren't they?"

The Doctor raised an eyebrow at Martha. "Are they?"

She shook her head. "No, that's what happened. All of it. But why's this happening, Doctor?"

He stood up and started pacing again. "Time's a funny thing," he said, frowning, "and when you mess with it funny things happen. We were at the centre, the eye of the storm, so we remember. Most people wouldn't. Your Tom Milligan," he threw an arm out in the direction of Tom, who blinked, "wouldn't remember, or wouldn't be having those dreams, if you hadn't gone and got yourself involved with him."

Martha opened her mouth.

"And don't give me that stuff about not seeking him out, Martha Jones," the Doctor said.

She closed her mouth.

"Is he why you decided to stay?" the Doctor asked, suddenly stopping the pacing and turning an intense gaze on her.

Fiddling with her necklace, Martha shook her head. "No, not really. Like I said - Mum, and Dad, and Tish, they needed me. And I couldn't stand …" She looked at Tom, who appeared to be trying to take in whatever was happening. "I couldn't stand you, not noticing me," she finished in a rush.

"What d'you mean, not noticing you?" said the Doctor. "I took you with me. I don't take many people with me."

"You know what I mean," Martha said, perfectly aware he was being deliberately obtuse.

Tom said, "I don't understand. I don't understand any of this. Who the hell is this guy, Martha? You never mentioned him, and all of a sudden he's turning up at your birthday party and it sounds like you …" he spread his hands, helplessly, "like you love him."

Martha got up, and went to sit next to him, perching on the edge of his armchair. "I … I did." The Doctor fidgeted; she ignored him. "But then I met you. You're different."

"I'm different? He's the odd one," said Tom.

"He has a point," agreed the Doctor.

"But I still don't understand," Tom continued. "You seemed to be saying, just then, that what I was dreaming was real. That it happened."

"Because it did." They both looked at the Doctor, who was leaning his elbows on his knees and looking at them intently. "Think, Tom, think hard. Remember Harold Saxon?"

"Of course I remember Saxon," said Tom. "That horrible accident, just after the president was assassinated."

"Think harder," said the Doctor. "Remember the Master?"

Tish stood up suddenly, gathering her things. "I'm sorry," she interrupted, "I can't hear this. I can't do this again. Martha, call me?"

Martha rose, and hugged her sister. "Of course. Speak tomorrow."

"You understand?" asked Tish, looking at both Martha and the Doctor.

"Oh, I understand," the Doctor agreed. "I understand completely."

Tish touched his shoulder. "I know. See you."

She left. The Doctor ran a hand through his hair, making it stick up, and turned his attention back to Tom. "The Master. Think, Tom."

Tom shook his head. "I don't remember. I have no idea. I remember the news that Saxon was dead, and that was kind of it. Apart from the dreams."

The Doctor sighed. "All right. Do you want the dreams to stop?"

"Yes." Tom, Martha thought, sounded very certain on this point.

Loosening his tie, the Doctor flexed his fingers. "I don't do this very often," he said, looking at both of them. "Martha, you can watch but don't interrupt."

"Watch what?" said Martha.

"I want you to relax, Tom," said the Doctor. "This is a two-part operation. Think of your mind as a series of corridors, rooms, compartments, all with doors. Just open them all up for me. We'll get the memories out, and then we'll lock them away again."

"Are you a psychotherapist?" Tom asked, looking bemused.

"Nope," said the Doctor. "Nothing of the sort. Just the Doctor. Close your eyes."

Martha watched as the Doctor lifted his hands and gently placed them on Tom's temples. There was utter silence for a moment, and then Tom's brow creased.

"You're inside my mind!" he exclaimed.

"Shhhh," said the Doctor, soothing. "Open those doors. Open all of them. Go past your childhood, past school …" Both of them seemed to be concentrating intently. "There, that one!" the Doctor said. "Open that one."

"Doctor?" said Tom, and the Doctor took his hands away from Tom's temples.

"Remember now?" he asked.

"You're the Doctor," Tom said. "Martha's Doctor. The one she travelled for."

"Yup, that's me," said the Doctor, scratching his neck. "Hello."

"I died," said Tom. "At least, I must have … the Master, he was going to kill you." He turned to Martha. "He'd have killed you."

She shook her head, her eyes unaccountably wet. "No, he wouldn't. Not there, anyway. He wanted the Doctor to see."

"His one fatal error," the Doctor put in. "Well, one of his fatal errors. Keeping me alive was the other one."

"So what happened?" Tom asked. "What did you do?"

They told him, the Doctor letting Martha do most of the talking for once. At the end, Tom said nothing, and Martha held his hand and let him take it all in.

"And afterwards?" Tom asked her.

She looked at the floor. "I, erm, checked you were alive. Said goodbye to him," she jerked an elbow in the Doctor's direction. "Went back to work. And, erm, eventually made sure we bumped into each other at that party." Martha looked at the Doctor. "Was that so wrong, Doctor?"

He shook his head, something deep in his eyes. "It's so very human," he said. "So very, very human. A chance at happiness, perhaps."

"You understand, don't you?" Martha asked, and pushed a little harder. "Because of Joan Redfern?"

The Doctor stood up, and turned away. "That wasn't me. That was John Smith. That has gone."

She realised she had pushed too far, and changed the subject.

"So we've established what I did wasn't so bad, Tom's remembered everything - what happens now?"

He turned back, grinning his manic, Doctorish grin. "We put the memories away again. For good, this time. Close the doors, lock the doors, throw away the key. You won't ever remember, Tom Milligan; nothing that happened after Harold Saxon," he said the name as if it tasted bad, "had his accident. All right? Good."

Tom nodded, and took a deep breath. "All right. I suppose it's for the best. And I won't have the dreams?"

"You'll sleep like a baby. Well, not quite like a baby, because I don't want you waking up screaming in the middle of the night and I'm sure Martha doesn't either … you'll sleep like a Narcolepsis, and let me tell you that's saying something."

Martha held up her hand. "We get it, Doctor." He subsided.

Touching her cheek, Tom met her eyes. "I just want to do this while you know I understand," he said, and kissed her, his lips warm and familiar. "Thanks for bumping into me," he murmured.

They did the reverse operation in Martha's room, because the Doctor said Tom would need to sleep afterwards. Martha watched from the doorway as Tom closed his eyes and the Doctor concentrated, silently. It took only a few minutes, and then Tom was deeply, peacefully asleep.

Afterwards, the Doctor put on his coat and held out his hand. She took it, and followed him silently all the way to the TARDIS. Once inside he flung off the coat again, targeting it accurately as ever, and settled down with his feet on the console.

Martha hung back, just inside the door, gazing again at the wondrous, glowing interior of the ship.

"Come on in," said the Doctor, "don't be shy!"

"I'd forgotten how beautiful it is," Martha said, coming over to him and taking the other seat.

"So, tell me about your Tom Milligan," the Doctor said.

She leaned back, and gazed upwards at the central column. "He's a good man," she said. "A good doctor. He's funny. Drinks too much. Loves his curries." Remembering him standing on a beach with a lantern; rushing into a street to certain death, she added, "and he's brave. Not sure he knows it, not now, but he is."

"I'm glad," said the Doctor, getting up and fiddling with switches. "And the family? How are they managing?"

Martha sighed. "Well, you saw Tish. She's okay. Mostly. Dad's back with Mum. We have good days and bad ones. Jack helps - he'll listen, if any of us want to talk. If we don't want to talk, he'll talk, about other stuff. Flirts with Tish. And Mum. Even Dad, sometimes."

"Captain Jack Harkness," said the Doctor, nostalgically.

She touched the column close by. "But I miss you. I miss travelling with you."

The Doctor, circling the console, looked up. "Then come back."

"It's not that easy," she said. "You know it's not that easy. There's Mum and Dad and Tish, and Tom, and work - I've almost qualified now, you know. Almost a proper doctor. I have a life here."

"Settled down," said the Doctor, somewhat wistfully, pausing in his fiddling for a second. Then he shrugged, flicked a switch, and kept going. "Nah. Not for me. Mortgages, and laundry, and having to worry about things." He shuddered. "The constant traveller, that's me."

Getting up, Martha smiled at him. "It's not me. But maybe the odd holiday? You know, instead of two weeks in Barcelona …"

"Don't knock Barcelona!" exclaimed the Doctor. "The dogs there have no noses." Martha frowned at him, and he gave her a look. "Planet. Where dogs have no noses. Extraordinary place. You were talking about the city in Spain."

"Listen," said Martha. "I'll call you. And if you're passing, stop by for tea. Or something." She looked at him. "What am I saying? You won't stop for tea."

Passing by him, she paused, gave him a hug, and left with a single backwards glance. The Doctor was standing, just watching her, expressionless.

She had rounded the corner of the street before she felt the familiar breeze on the back of her neck and heard the sound of the TARDIS leaving; she halted for a second to listen to it, to soak it in, and then hurried back to the flat.

Tom was still asleep, curled up on the bed with an arm over Martha's pillow. She pulled off his shoes and managed to tug the covers over him, before changing out of party gear and throwing on one of Tom's old, baggy t-shirts and climbing in beside him. In his sleep he grunted something, shifted, and kept on sleeping.

Martha settled down so she could see his face, and closed her eyes.

When she woke up, many hours later, Tom was watching her sleepily. He was still mostly dressed, his hair tousled, but he looked … happy, somehow, happier than he had since she'd known him.

"What?" she said.

"Mascara," he returned, running a thumb under her eye. "Forgot to take it off."

"You can talk!" she said, waving a lazy hand at his jeans.

Tom looked at them. "God, I must have been hammered. Mind you, I slept well. Haven't slept that well in ages. What time did we leave the party?"

"Late," she said. "I think it was a good party."

He rolled over and kissed her, tasting of sleep and stale alcohol but still Tom. "Course it was a good party." Sitting up, he ran a hand through tousled hair. "Coffee? Then let's go out for breakfast."

"Coffee would be lovely." She pushed pillows up behind her head and appreciatively watched him stretch.

Tom paused in the doorway. "Who was that guy who turned up late - skinny bloke with too much hair?"

"I did introduce you," said Martha. "Don't you remember?"

"Beer," said Tom, succinctly.

She threw a pillow at him. "Alcoholic. He's nobody special. Just a friend."

"Oh." Tom headed towards the kitchen. "Coffee, then."

Martha sank back into the pillows. All in all, she reflected, not a bad birthday.