She's re-starting a little girl's heart on Galanthranos, and climbing mountains on one of Jupiter's moons, and watching the red sea (red not just in name: a deep vibrant scarlet like wine or blood) crashing against rocks on a planet whose name is almost completely impossible to transcribe. She's being shot at and threatened and sentenced to execution, and she's running and the stars are wheeling past her as though she's the only fixed point in a universe of moving infinities, and it's wonderful. It's so very wonderful. Wonderful and a little bit terrifying, and -- she's beginning to lose track of the number of days.
That tends to happen.
"See, the point. The point. The point is, right, that people are unpredictable and small and enormous and it's better that way, because there are some things you aren't supposed to think and also because everyone's sort of their own universe. Keeps it interesting
, doesn't it? If I knew exactly what you were going to say and what I was going to say back, and -- what do you mean, what's that thing on the console? That's the gravitic anomaliser, it -- oh. That thing. That's the kettle."
"Gallifrey? That's in Ireland, isn't it?"
And so he does what he always does: makes it up as he goes along. Which is probably why they're currently experiencing the myriad wonders of the Glorious Traxan Empire ('no, really, Martha, it's wonderful. Well, when you aren't in here, anyway. They really do pave the streets with gold, you know.') from within a prison cell whose appearance can really only be described as 'dank'. And 'dark'. And 'replete with unpleasant shadows, dubious-looking metallic implements, and strange noises in the nebulous gloom which suggest that vermin are currently discovering all this cell has to offer'. Unfortunately, 'comfortable' and 'cosy' and 'lit by the wonderfully warming wood-fire' are not, in this case, applicable.
The Doctor, most annoyingly, is humming.
"You've been locked up lots before, then."
"Loads of times." He grins. "Insane dictators, evil empires, cops of all sorts, ordinary run-of-the-mill madmen. I get around."
"What about this one, then?"
"Ah--" he grimaces slightly, and waves his hands around a bit to suggest eloquence; "Just grumpy palace guards. With a spot of existential angst. Incurable halitosis. The universe isn't falling to bits around our ears, so I've been in worse."
She makes a small noise of disgust, that is not so much to do with the eventual heat death of the universe as it is to do with the fact that something ominously slimy has just crawled over her foot.
"I resent that. My fashion sense is excellent. You're just saying that because it hasn't caught on yet."
"--this room didn't always look like this, you know. Before the -- well, a while ago, anyway, it was all very nineteenth-century. There was a skeleton just there, lovely chap, can't seem to remember what for, not all that good for conversation anyway. And I did have a strange thing for chandeliers. But I do like this one because if you stand just there your face is half green and half orange, and no that's not a metaphor for anything but it's amusing isn't it."
She's met a man who survived the Holocaust (two floors down and the door on the right; she visited him, sometimes, just to talk, because he was old and tired and lonely and she wasn't) and there was always something about his eyes. Oh, he'd laugh and laugh, and he was polite and gentle and pleasant in a mildly absent-minded way (he tried his very best to blur out little corners of an accent to his speech, she'd noticed, and it was at once endearing and terribly sad); but behind his eyes, somewhere, someone was screaming.
See, what she doesn't want to admit to herself is that sometimes the Doctor's eyes look like that. And she hates the comparison, but it's true.
(People don't win wars. Wars win wars.)
"Are you all right?"
"I always am."
"You always say that."
"Then it's probably true, don't you think?"
"You can't be serious, Doctor."
"Yes I can. For minutes at a time. Managed a couple of hours, even. Once. Somewhere." He's on the other side of the console banging on things which should probably not actually be banged upon, which naturally means that he's hidden behind a gigantic rotor and she can't tell what he looks like, but she has a horrible suspicion that he's grinning his head off.
"Yes. Yes, Martha, we have just arrived on the planet of the lizard-librarians. This is me being serious." He ducks out from behind bits of console and gives her a pleased glance. "Look, not smiling. Much."
"Should I even ask what the lizards want it for?"
" Martha, a little species tolerance here?"
" It's just -- when you imagine the wonders of the universe, giant lizards with a taste for Kafka don't really come to mind."
He frowns. She's missing the point, he informs her, though he doesn't elaborate.
--And here they are in a library-- the library, the Doctor explains, wild-eyed and alien in the diffuse light-- and bizarrely enough no-one's trying to kill them or tie them up or do any sort of nasty thing at all, which makes a nice change. So then they're wandering around rooms of books with vaulted ceilings and ornate doors with the sort of strange handles that were never really made to be used by a humanoid hand, and Martha's just drifting about trying to take it all in; the Doctor's already settled down in a corner with a towering stack of books and a vague mumble about how terribly charming it is not to be at the receiving end of any death threats for a change, and he's whistling tunelessly: a song he can't forget but doesn't quite remember.
"--surrealism. It's either surrealism or madness, not sure which -- Dali was like that, actually, at least if you hadn't met him, and -- want to? Spain's nice this time of year. Not that we need to go this time of year. A lot of planets don't measure time in years, you know. It's horribly primitive trying to measure anything at all by the orbital period of a lump of rock around a medium-sized star, I'm surprised the trend didn't die out sooner -- anyway. Where was I. Dali. And the surrealists. Not a bad name for a band. So, then--"
(And what she doesn't ask him is what his people, his vanished people, what they measured their time by, though she wants to know; she imagines the turn of a galaxy (and do galaxies turn? Do they spin and whirl about some greater centre?) or the shift of a continent or the beat of a butterfly's wing. And she wonders whether they measured time at all; perhaps they didn't need to. Perhaps. Perhaps a lot of things.)
How many miles to Gallifrey? Can I get there by candlelight? Starlight? Moonlight?
--it's night, and the Doctor's there in the shadows, shadows which are also the orange skies that he dreams about, and when he looks at her it's a little bit like burning (except that his eyes look exactly the same), and: "A pair of ragged claws," he says, out of nowhere. "Claws. Scuttling across the floor of silent seas." There's a look on his face that's old and terrified and terrifying and she doesn't know what it is, doesn't know anything except that she never wants to see it again (silver trees, he says, and she says -- what? what?) and then she wakes up--
It doesn't make sense and nothing makes sense and she's butchering Eliot anyway. And so she forgets about it. Forgets about it. Easy when you know how. (But see, the problem is, you hear about a war, and you don't forget about that, not even when it was a million light-years away and a universe ago. It's just not done -- no, not that. You just can't do it. And it lingers, lingers, malingers.)
"Basic political theory, Martha. Very fundamental. Never -- I mean, never. Never never. -- annoy the large bodyguard in the tight suit. Specially not when he has enough weapons to power a small nuclear war -- what do you mean, I was annoying him? I was only being friendly. As one does. Hello there, how do you do, there's a good chap, excuse me a moment while I disable all your security systems with my sonic screwdriver --"
So he takes her to a planet of ice, a sparkling frost-world. Her breathing forms little clouds of steam like it might on a snow-covered winter street in the evening, and she looks at the ragged mountains of ice and thinks of the crash of icebergs brushing impatiently past each other in the night. The cold is very full of memories.
And he takes her to the Eye of Orion, which is, perhaps, also the eye of the storm: peaceful and gentle and existing only to let everything else roil around it like angry thunderclouds. It hangs still, quiet, caught in what might be a neverending moment.
And he takes her to a planet which has no name because it has never needed one, and the sky is dark and boiling green, and the tempest is all around them singing strange songs about the universe and howling with ceaseless ferocity, and the dark oceans are roaring, waves capped with white foam. At the heart of it all she can see a single seagull flying into the heart of the thunder.
She dreams that she stayed at home, dreams of exams and a cup of tea and the positioning -- the allure of ordinary things. She dreams that she left him on a space-station a million light years and five thousand chronological ones from where she was born: and that she didn't regret it, not for an instant. She dreams that she's flying, flying, falling. She dreams that everything's burning.
Sometimes she can't tell the nightmares from the rest, and that frightens her.
"--It's mad, this thing, this enormous crazy wonderful universe thing. Universe. Reverse. Just verse. Freeverse. Rhymingverse. No, that isn't it. Adverse. No, no, no, where was I? --it's brilliant, isn't it? Brilliant."
The Doctor sets the coordinates for Barcelona ("the planet, not the city. You'll love it, really, they have dogs with no noses and the best quiche this side of the Mutter Spiral--"), but somehow contrives to bungle it up in a marvellous manner and land on what he later discovers is Balanus Minor. It's a world of giddy rock-spires and dazzling shafts of light and lost cities carved in ice; the air feels cool and clear, almost crystalline in a strange sort of way, and Martha can almost taste the delight of it like something smooth and delicate on her tongue. Right at the foot of the highest mountain, there's a little rambling marketplace in incongruous reds and golds tinted with smoke and spice, and since there doesn't seem to be any political uprising or bloody battle or cosmic unfairness in evidence, Martha slips away from the Doctor and wanders through the labyrinth of stalls. They're makeshift things, but surprisingly lovely, dark hangings low overhead and brushing against her with the scent of something wild and strange; and all around is the sound of haggling and laughter.
She runs into the Doctor just as she's beginning to find the heat and light oppressive; he's grinning, and almost drags her into the open to show her an armoury of coloured silks (or something softer than silk, airy and translucent and featherlight) stretched onto elaborate frames. "Look," he says, delighted, "kites." They swoop and dive and pirouette in the frost-clear air, tugging at the light strings that tether them to the ground, and Martha wants for a moment to be among them: suspended in the sky.
"You're completely mad."
"Only when the wind's north-north-west."
It's not Earth: the sun is too red, too cold, and the seas are the wrong shade of blue, and the sand on the beach is a strange shade of silver like an ocean of glass; but it doesn't need to be Earth, does it. Does it. The sky is bright, and the waves are breaking upon the shore with a sound like the quivering hum of strings, and it's not going to last but just for a moment it's perfect.
Written a fair while ago, better formatting on Livejournal (where 'better' reads 'actually readable, and also not completely ugly'), et cetera et cetera ad. inf.
Note: near the end, in 'Universe. Reverse. Just verse. Freeverse. Rhymingverse.' & etc., the Doctor is taking off on himself, specifically himself in the Eighth Doctor novel 'City of the Dead' (which is fantastic and which you might want to read). Context and phrasing are, I fancy, sufficiently different, though -- the ramblings are only alike in general direction (and rhyme).