A forest at night:
Martha Jones sat under a tree, freezing cold and exhausted and close to tears. There were two pieces of paper in her hand. One was from some anonymous, faceless person who was almost certainly dead by now; it contained instructions on how to reach her next destination. The other was a note in her sister's handwriting. Jessie, gone down the shops, plz clean the fucking bathroom, it said. The note was nothing to do with her, it belonged to another time, and Jessie, her sister's flatmate, was probably dead. But it was all she had left of her sister, and she clung to it.
She had picked it up on her first frantic run through London, on her way out. It had been a dangerous thing to do, but she had to do it. She hadn't gone into the flat itself, picturing Jessie's body on the floor. She had just grabbed the note from where it was stuck to the door and ran. Ran all the way out of London and hid herself away. Her mind had been a mess.
Her sister was going to be okay. Surely she would. The Master wouldn't kill her, he'd keep her around to torment her, her parents too, and her brother...So far she had avoided thinking about her brother, and her sister-in-law and her niece. Her little niece. God, what might have happened to her?
Martha fought back the images in her mind, forced herself not to think about her family or about the Doctor or anything. She got to her feet. The leaves around her rustled, and her bones ached. Everything hurt. She needed sleep. She needed to be safe in her bed with nothing more on her mind than getting up for work the next day. This was horrible. So horrible. Why wasn't she crying more? Why hadn't she gone completely insane?
Something flew overhead. She could just about make it out, a black ball with spikes and blinking lights, floating above the treetops. She remained where she was. It went away.
She clutched the TARDIS key around her neck, clutched it tight, and kept walking. She forced herself to think of nice things. She thought of the Doctor taking her hand and running with her across a beach, across a beautiful sunny paradise beach, with no other person in sight, running and laughing and lying in the sun. Eating ice cream, maybe, and leaning against each other, happy and content and warm.
Such a thing had never happened.
She imagined him kissing her.
The thoughts of warmth made her feel even colder. She was climbing uphill now, treading through mud which her boots sunk into, and she felt so cold and wretched. She hated that she was thinking so much about herself and how tired and horrible she felt, instead of thinking about the destruction that was even now still raining down. What about her friends? Perhaps Vicky was dead, perhaps Julia was. Perhaps they died screaming like so many had done. Perhaps the streets beyond the forest were littered with the dead, corpses clutching handbags and headphones in their ears, their normal lives unexpectedly and hideously cut sort.
Suddenly, she threw up.
It took her by surprise and knocked her to her knees. When she finished she felt worse. She knelt in the dirt, wiping her mouth. She should have known she would likely be sick. She was a doctor, for god's sake, why couldn't she take care of herself? She took a drink of water from a flask, and got back on her feet again.
To keep herself going as she walked she named the bones of the hand. She remembered the last time she had spoken them out loud, and felt a cold, angry, slightly jealous sting that she had been too anxious to feel at the time. Joan was a woman of the era, she reminded herself. It was just the way she learnt things. Of course she would look down upon a young black maid who knew far more than she did. But why, why, why, did he choose her and not me?
She forced the thoughts out of her mind. Think of something else, she told herself. Don't think about your travels, don't think about the Doctor. It'll only make you sad or worried.
The thoughts didn't leave. They buzzed around her brain. Why, why, why, why was it never me?
You're a shitty selfish person, said her inside voice in a harsh, angry tone. Almost everything you ever loved is dead or in danger, and you're whining about the Doctor not loving you! People are dead! Think about them, why don't you, instead of yourself.
She was so tired. She had been walking for ages with only very short breaks, and she had eaten almost nothing. Her water was running out. She wanted to do nothing more but lie down and sleep. She felt so, so...
She felt into a swamp. She hadn't seen it in the dark. She was so shocked she actually screamed, and loathed herself for doing so. She dragged herself out, holding the papers she still held high up in the air, to stop them getting wet, even though they probably were anyway. She collapsed in a heap on the grass.
It took her a while to realise she was sobbing. She looked at the note from her sister, and saw it was splattered with mud and barely readable. Choking on her tears, she tried to clean it, but it ripped in two instead. She left it to one side, desperately trying to cry quietly, and turned her attention to the other note. It was, fortunately, still readable. If she followed the instructions she would soon reach a safe place. There would be food there. Food and a bath and a drink and people.
She tried to get up and found she couldn't. Her arms and legs just wouldn't move. Disregarding all her medical training, she tried to force herself up, even though her muscles ached. It didn't work, and she lay on the ground, soaking wet and covered in mud and still crying.
Sorry Mum, sorry Dad, sorry Tish, sorry Leo and Shonara and Keisha, sorry Doctor and Jack and sorry entire world, you're all going to die, because I just wasn't strong enough. That's the end of it.
She tried to picture the Doctor turning his back on her in disgust, in the hope that it would motivate her to move, but she couldn't even picture his face.
Sleep. Just for a few minutes. You have to. You know you can't keep going.
She closed her eyes. Why had she been stupid enough to fall into that swamp? Without that she might have been able to carry on for a few more hours.
She had been afraid of drowning all her life. She wasn't even sure why; it was simply one of those things. The fear had subsided as she'd grown older, but she was still wary of rivers and lakes, especially quiet watersides where nobody would hear you if you fell in and screamed. Now that had happened to her. She had fallen in and screamed and nobody had come to save her.
The note from her sister lay next to her, in pieces. She would have to leave it. What if that was the last thing she ever had left of her sister? What if the Master killed her? Something like that would be nothing to him.
She was drifting in and out of sleep now. Anxious, exhausted sleep. What if you fall into a river or something and you drown? You can't swim very well at all, even though Dad was always telling you you should learn, you're a fucking awful time traveller you know, why did the Doctor even bother with you, he'd have been happier with that Rose girl, she's the one he loves...
She was not surprised that she was able to imagine Rose, looking at her with a sort of disgusted pity. It wasn't really Rose, though, she was quite sure of that. She was blonde and young but she looked like another blonde Martha had known, a girl from high school called Claudia, a spolit little brat who came top of all her classes and thought little of those who weren't up to her standards. She singled Martha out for special attention at times, jealous of her sucesses and instantly latching on to her failures. You failed Art, Marth? Art's the easiest subject in school, how do you fail Art? I've never seen anyone do that, that's really special, Marth. Martha was sure Rose was nothing like Claudia (and she would have blown her top if Rose had called her Marth, she hated being called Marth with a passion), but yet here she was, Rosedia, looking at her lying in the mud.
"You're not real," Martha muttered, half asleep by now. "You're just a manifest...manifestation..."
When she woke up she still felt tired, and she was still wet and the mud was caking on her hands. She felt able to walk again, though, and she did. She buried her sister's note in the ground, although she hated to do so, as it brought up images of burying her real sister, and walked. It was still dark, although getting lighter, and she could see the ground a bit better. She was almost at the top of the hill now.
When she reached it, she recoiled in horror.
All she could see was fire and smoke. Far off in the distance there was smoke spiralling into the sky, the little black balls spinning around it like they were laughing and dancing madly. There were glowing sections of redness where towns had once been, and she was sure she could hear faint screams, although perhaps it was her imagination.
She turned and ran away. She sat down under another tree, gasping for breath.
Come on, you idiot! All you have to do is walk down the hill, through the smoke. That's it. That's all you have to do.
She tried to think of her mother and father. Her parents had always encouraged her, putting her through medical school and making sure she had everything she needed. What would they say now, seeing her hiding here? Would they be disappointed? Maybe they would. She hated for her parents to be disappointed in her. Especially her mother. Her mother would just look at her, a harsh, withering look, and when she was younger it could reduce Martha to tears.
She had always been the glue that held her family together. Her parents had told her as much. I don't know what I'd do without you, Martha, her mother had told her after her father had confessed to an affair, after Martha had run to the shops and bought tissues and ice cream. I don't know what I'd do without you, Martha, Tish had sobbed after breaking up with the only serious boyfriend she'd ever had. I don't know what I'd do without you, Martha, Leo had said in relief after she had hurried Keisha to the hospital, correctly guessing that her cough was something more serious.
I don't know what I'd do without you, Martha, she imagined the Doctor saying.
You can do this, she told herself. What have you done so far? You lived for months in a time where people treated you like dirt. You fought off monsters. You saw distant planets and far off futures and a man who couldn't die. You met the Doctor.
She thought of the Doctor and Jack and her family, and she got up. She walked down the hill, trying not to breathe. The smoke was thick and it was very hard to see.
Think of good things.
First day of school. Playing in the sandpit. The feel of lying in the sand with the sun overhead.
No, more recent things. Think of your family. Think of the Doctor. They'll keep you going.
Keisha being born. Being an auntie who could spoil her niece, buying her toys and helping Dad and Leo decorate her room, all pink and purple. Her first day at the Royal Hope hospital, terrified and excited all at once, going off with Julia who was terrified too but a very good doctor, helping Martha find veins for injections and set broken bones and cheering her up when she got her questions wrong.
You didn't like what the Doctor said to her, that first time you met, but he was so...
He kissed her. In her head he kissed her over and over again.
She made her way around the trees. It was silent and still muddy and she squelched as she walked. She felt disgusting. Earlier she had had to pee in the trees, since there was obviously no toilet around, and that had made her feel disgusting even though she had had no choice but to do it. Once more she felt selfish to think of those things. You're alive, aren't you? So many people aren't.
Very quietly, she sang. She had to listen to something, the silence was crushing her. "You make me feel like dirt, and I'm hurt," she sang. "If I start a commotion, I run the risk of losing you and that's worse. Ever fallen in love with someone..." The irony, that that was the song in her head. That song had been in her head for ages.
"Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn't've fallen in love with," she sang quietly.
She had never felt the way she felt about the Doctor before. She had lost her virginity at the age of twenty to a boy called Brian Robinson. They had done it at his parent's house while his little sister slept in the room next door: she had felt guilty at the time but also, if she was honest with herself, somewhat thrilled. Nobody expected her to do such things. She was the sensible one, the one who had claimed she would never jump into bed without getting to know someone first, and she hadn't even known Brian's surname then. She had gone on two more dates with Brian. The first time he had given her a proper date, candlelit dinner and everything, and a speech about how he thought he was falling in love with her. The second time he had given her an STD. "I can't believe you did it with him," Tish said, eyes wide, later. "He's the worst kind of shit. He'll do anything that moves. He broke Andrea Brown's heart when she caught him doing two other girls the night she said she loved him."
"I see," Martha said wearily, and put him out of her mind.
She had so far in life not had her heart broken. Not quite. Not yet.
She had reached the street now. It was so quiet. There wasn't a single person in the street, and all the houses had their curtains drawn. She looked at her instructions once more, and followed them, turning down a side street and walking to a big house at the end. She rang the doorbell. It seemed a little foolish, somehow.
Nobody answered. She pressed it again, and hammered on the door. Nothing.
She sank down on the doorstep, too exhausted to move. The sun was starting to rise now. She was cold, alone, tired, dirty and afraid. She felt like the last woman on Earth, with no company except her thoughts.
What if the Doctor dies? You haven't thought about that yet, have you? You know it could happen. Or your family, all of them, just being killed because of you and if you fail doing this, if you die, everyone dies. It's all up to you.
Bizzarely, she thought of Rose. But this time around she was a crying girl, younger than Martha and sitting with her head on her knees, sobbing. The thought was gone in an instant, and Martha didn't know what it meant, and barely cared anymore.
"Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn't've fallen in love with," she sang quietly.
She got to her feet and walked around the side of the house. There was another door there, but it was locked, and too heavy to break down. She doubted she'd have the energy anyway. She returned to the front of the house, and sat back down, and waited. She didn't know what she'd do if nobody appeared.
You're such a failure.
Shut up, she thought.
She thought of her sister's grinning face, her brother swinging Keisha round his head, her mother and father in the days before the affair. She thought of staring out over the moon with the Doctor at her side. Light crept over the street and it scared her. She was more visible now.
The door behind her swung open suddenly and made her jump. She almost screamed again, but somehow managed not to. An old man stood there, dressed in ragged clothes and a bloodstained jacket.
"Jones," he said slowly. He sounded ill.
"Yes," Martha said, climbing slowly to her feet. "You're the man I'm supposed to be meeting here, aren't I?"
"There's seventeen of us here," the man said. He seemed to be looking right through her, his eyes tired. "Women and children."
"Is anyone needing medical attention?"
He laughed. "What can you do?"
"I'm a doctor. Doctor in training, anyway. Let me do something."
"Okay," he said, and turned away from her. She followed him through the front door and down a corridor, where a trapdoor stood open. She followed him down the stairs, being careful not to slip. Many tired faces looked up at her.
"Have you come to save us?" a small boy asked, before his mother shushed him. Martha didn't know what answer to give him. "Are there any doctors here? Anyone with training?" she called.
"Anyone who needs medical attention?"
A few hands went up.
Martha turned to the man who'd let her in. "I need to clean up. I'm no good like this."
Without a word he led her to a cramped bathroom, seperated from the main room by a thin door and no lock. It was a stinking mess, but she did the best she could. She took her filthy clothes off and called through the door. She wasn't sure if they'd have spare clothes, in which case she wouldn't know what to do, but the man pushed a plastic bag under the door and it contained underwear, a shirt, two pairs of trousers and a jumper, as well as a very worn pair of trainers. None of it fitted her, but she was glad just to be clean again. She left the bathroom.
"Now," she said, kneeling next to one of the women who'd raised a hand, "tell me what the matter is."
She did as much as she could. Without equipment it was difficult, but fortunately there were no truly bad cases. The man went upstairs and returned with a box of medicine, which Martha handed out appropriately. Finally, when she was finished, she sat in the corner, trying to rest.
The man came up to her. "You're a good doctor," he said.
"Thank you," she answered.
She slept for several hours. She dreamt of the Doctor lying motionless on the TARDIS floor, and Jack dancing with her until she got dizzy and was sick. She imagined her and her family walking by a lakeside, with flames licking at their feet for no reason and spaceships dropping from the sky. At one point she found herself underwater, kicking furiously, trying to find the surface. Then, before she could, she was suddenly with the Doctor, running through the streets of New York in the thirties.
She woke up only once, and blinked. She knew instantly where she was, even though she wished she wasn't there. She stared out at the gathered people.
The small boy who had spoken when she'd come into the room crept up to her. "Do you want to hear a joke?" he asked.
"Come on, Kevin," his mother whispered. "Let the lady sleep."
She slept for another three hours, and then woke up to find a woman placing a pot of some kind of soup in front of her.
"Thanks," she said quietly. She finished it within minutes, and she stood up and made her announcement, in the loudest voice she could manage.
"Could everyone listen to me for a minute, please? I have something to tell you."
She took a seat on the stairs and began her story. When she had finished, and her audience were staring up at her, she returned to her corner and lay down. Kevin, the little kid, crawled over to her.
"You're a doctor," he said.
"Yes, I am."
"Is the other Doctor magic? Are you magic?"
Martha smiled. "Yes. He's magic. I'm not."
"Yes you are. Mummy says nobody can go outside cos they'll die but you were outside." He said this as though he knew it to be the truth, and added, "Where is the Doctor? Did that man on the TV..." He trailed off.
"The Doctor's being held prisoner by a very, very bad person. But I'll save him," she whispered. She was still very tired. "I'm going to sleep some more now. You come and wake me if anyone is hurt or ill or anything, right, Kevin?"
"Right," he said, and hurried back across the floor to his mother.
Martha closed her eyes once more and slept almost right away. In her dreams she continued to run with the Doctor, and Rose danced out of reach just ahead. She walked through her parent's house and through a fairground with her brother and sister and her friends and her niece, and the Doctor took her hand and ran through smoke and fire with her until finally she let go, and she fell into the sea and swam to the surface, safe and unafraid.