Five Times Martha Should Have Whacked the Doctor Upside the Head and One Time She Really Did
Written for Merlin Missy as a memorial for her natal day.
by Amy L. Hull
"This is gorgeous!" Martha stared at the piles of fruits and pastries.
"They do know how to set a feast on Flibbin," the Doctor said, popping a lumpy, cobalt-blue thing into his mouth.
"And none of it is poisonous?"
"Not a thing. Flibbin's very good about that. So much of the population of this galaxy is human-based or humanoid or human-like. They make sure that the Welcoming Table is safe for the species most like to visit."
"So I can eat anything?"
"Yep." The Doctor took a huge bite of something that looked like a puce-coloured bun with little maroon berries.
Martha shrugged and began munching. The lumpy things were mild, dry, and chewy, with slight differences in flavour among the various electric hues. The grey cubes were surprisingly light and sweet, and the things that looked like bunches of polished black grapes were tart and crunchy. The pink wafers practically dissolved and spread a cool sensation across her tongue and through her mouth. She reached for one of the orange ones and the Doctor leapt toward her.
"Ah-ah...you might not want those."
"I just had a bink one...whus habb'ning?" She tried licking her lips but her tongue felt wrong.
"They sometimes cause a localised anaesthetic effect similar to--"
"I cab't feel my wips," Martha said, bringing fingertips to her mouth.
"--novacaine. But," the Doctor added brightly, "it's not dangerous or poisonous and it totally wears off." He grinned, nodding encouragement. "Entirely. Completely. And in the meantime you can eat anything and it won't taste bad!"
"How wong?" Martha demanded.
"No more than three...days. A week, ten days at most."
"Let me get this straight. You travel in time but don't know anyone in 1969."
"So you do know someone!"
"Several someones, to be exact."
"Then why can't we ask them for help?"
"Because most of them haven't met me yet. UNIT can't find out that I can change until after they've seen me change--or, really, changed--once. That's sometime in the next few years, depending on which version of the timeline we're in."
"What about former companions? Certainly some of them are about in this time."
The Doctor looked slightly up, nodding as he muttered his way through a mental list. "Not born, not in the UK, not on Earth, hasn't, no, too late, too early, um...yes. Well, no. Not exactly."
"What does that mean?"
"No one I know who currently knows me is present in 1969 in this region."
"Nope!" The Doctor wrapped an arm tightly around Martha's shoulder, grinning as if this were the best news of the day. "We'll get to figure this out all on our own!"
She felt her upper lip trying to curl. "We," she said flatly.
"Yep. Just you and me."
"And that's why you want me to get a job."
"Of course. I mean, you humans tend to like to eat and have a place to live..."
"And you couldn't possibly get a job, I suppose?"
"If I did that, how would you expect me to work out the time issues?"
"You never sleep! You'd still have plenty of time--" He had severed eye contact again, hands in his pockets and trainers scuffing the floor like a five-year-old. "What?"
"Well, it's just that..." He actually looked...sheepish, almost embarrassed.
"Spit it out, Doctor."
"I don't know how--I mean, I'm not very good at--I, ah," his words tumbled forth like an avalanche, "don't have any marketable skills that are applicable in this time period."
"You can't do anything normal or useful, in other words."
The Doctor looked stricken. "Well if you're going to put it like that--"
Martha couldn't help bursting out laughing, holding up a hand to stave off the Doctor's offended look of protest. Minutes later she managed, "Oh, great and powerful Time Lord who can't wash dishes--" and bent over laughing again. "Fine, fine. I'll apply at shops tomorrow. But I swear to you, if you make one crack about stone knives and bearskins, buster, we are going to have trouble."
"Um, Martha, maybe I should have said. You, ah, may not want to have mentioned that you are..." The Doctor trailed off, prodding the circuitry on a component he'd removed from a console that looked like it had been modelled on a Salvador Dali painting.
The Doctor's eyes flitted to her and then returned to his task. "A trained medic," he muttered.
"I'm more than a medic," she began but realised the Doctor's shoulders had relaxed slightly. She narrowed her eyes at his typical misdirection. Of course he wanted her to quibble so he wouldn't have to discuss the seriousness of the situation.
Several minutes of silence later and Martha prompted, "Are you going to tell me why is that important here?"
"This planet is, well, a kind of inter-galactic Peace Corps. Anyone who announces their skills is presumed to be volunteering two years' service."
Martha blinked. "And you forgot to mention this?"
He glanced at her again. "Um...yeah. Sorry about that." The sonic screwdriver whirred and he pointed to a spot. "Can you hold this steady? I think I have it and then we can slip away quietly before your conscription begins."
Martha scanned the clutter for something that was both long and durable enough to work. Grabbing a grimy pipe, she picked her way back through the debris toward the Doctor's voice.
"Just a little something here, and this just so..."
"Will this do, Doctor?"
"It'll do just fine," he muttered, not even glancing up from the carefully-balanced blocks he seemed to be soldering together. He pointed the sonic screwdriver at a green plastic-looking cube, which burst into flames. He blew on it, slapping the flames out quickly and coughing as he waved at the plume of black smoke.
Martha pursed her lips to avoid laughing.
"All right, let's get--"
The Doctor was interrupted by an ear-splitting, prolonged whistle, and they both turned to look for the source of it. Martha felt a vibration in the pipe. She turned back and saw the Doctor cringing and rubbing his head.
Martha dropped the pipe and the whistle stopped. "What was that noise?" she asked, rushing to where the Doctor was crouched.
"Probably an all-clear."
She peered at the growing lump above his ear.
"An all-clear for what? And hold still!" She checked him over. "You look all right except for the lump."
"But...you hit me!" he groused, touching the spot gingerly. "What'd you do that for?"
"What? You stood up and put your head right into--never mind."
They stepped through the doors and into something that most resembled a neon technicolour Botanical Garden.
"It's...amazing," Martha breathed, looking at the large-petaled alien flowers and the strangely knotted vines that seemed to be knitting themselves in to a purple lace pattern. She reached to trace the pattern with a fingertip and felt a slight hitch in her breathing.
"These?" The Doctor inspected and sniffed the velvety, green flowers surrounded by bright yellow leaves. "These are only slightly different to your Syringa protolaciniata bushes--lilacs--crossed with a large Zephinwidian hibiscus-like blossom."
Martha nodded, trying to look interested. He did love to rattle off Latin classifications with the most ostentatious pronunciation he could muster.
"These others here originated in a more swamp-like setting, and the ivy, well the ivy is truly amazing. It's rather akin to a wisteria cum kudzu crossed with a species halfway between Plantae and Arachnida by your point of reference." His wide eyes and smile were alight with glee when he glanced behind, presumably to see if she was still attending his info-session.
Martha smiled a bit weakly, feeling as if there was a bubble in her throat, and held up a hand to get his attention, but he missed it as he rushed off for further botanical adventures with something to do with irises and wild carrot crosses and the soups one could make with the garden's flora.
Martha tried to call his name, but, though she could feel herself breathing, the bubble feeling in her throat persisted, and no sound came. She chased after the Doctor, catching up to him just as he uttered a loud greeting and headed off again. Martha rolled her eyes and followed.
"You must meet the curator," the Doctor enthused, shaking the hand of the grey-haired woman he had rushed toward. "This is gorgeous, just gorgeous. Say hello, Martha," he said, nudging her with an elbow.
Martha opened her mouth but there was still no sound and she tugged at the Doctor's sleeve, pointing to her throat.
"Poor dear," the curator said, "It looks like you're having one of those rare allergic reactions to the combinations of plants we have."
The Doctor glanced at Martha as she mouthed, "I can't talk," at him.
He shrugged. "Oh, don't mind Martha, Curator. She's just human. Happens all the time when I visit here."
The Curator pursed her lips and gestured for them to follow her. "I'll just make us all some echinaceatosum tea."
"Yes, tea!" the Doctor said, looking around at the garden once more before following the women. "Just the thing. I'm sure Martha and I will love that. Then we can all talk botany."
Martha thought it was a lucky thing for him she couldn't speak at that moment.
The Doctor practically skidded to a stop just ahead of Martha as he slowed to turn the corner of the corridor. "Over here!" he shouted.
"Doctor," Martha called, "I think this might be--"
"Martha, just get to the plant manager," the Doctor said, adjusting his sonic screwdriver to get through the security doors. "This whole area's going to flood and that retaining wall can't withstand that kind of pressure."
"But this sign says--"
"Not now, Martha! We don't have time!" He slipped between the doors and out of sight.
The handle moved easily, revealing a mass of what looked like metal wheels for submarine doors or bank vaults. Martha took in the carefully-labelled diagram of the system and began to crank the wheels rapidly. "Let's hope this planet's screws are righty-tighty, lefty-loosey as well," she said to herself.
When she caught up with the Doctor, he was staring at a damp channel filled with absolutely no roiling water whatsoever. "I don't understand," he said. "The collapse was imminent."
"I found the water main shutoff." Martha enjoyed the feeling of smugness.
The Doctor stared with an expression of utter disbelief. It was a long moment before he said, "Okay, well, that's taken care of then, eh? Let's see if there's anything else we can do." He headed back toward their entry point without another word.