Martha felt something give in the pit of her stomach as the Doctor's eyes rolled back under their lids. It couldn't be over, not like this.
Despite her training telling her otherwise, she shook him, realizing for the first time how weightless his skinny little body seemed to be.
Martha shook him again. "Doctor!"
She sensed Jack kneel down beside her and slip an arm around her comfortingly. His expression said he didn't know whether to hug her or try and help her somehow. They both seemed so powerless.
It wasn't fair, it just wasn't.
How could the Universe do this after all the Doctor had done for it over the past nine hundred years?
"There must be something we can do…" Jack looked from the prone Time Lord to Martha and there was genuine understanding instead of his usual quirky flippancy.
Martha didn't have the answer.
"Well…since you put it like that….a bag of fish and chips would be brilliant! Plenty of salt! Salt stimulates the old enzymes, you know…" The Doctor opened his left eye and peered at Martha, his face spreading into a grin. "Don't you know it's rude to shake people, Martha Jones? Especially sick people!"
Martha opened her mouth and then quickly snapped it shut again, trying to gather herself after the initial surprise of his miraculous recovery. "Oi! Don't you ever…" She whacked him lightly, still unsure what effect the Rift had had on him, even if he was well enough to joke. "You're not regenerating, so what were you sorry for?"
"Oh that!" He finally opened his right eye and sniffed. "Well, we never did get you to Gettysburg!" He winked and then sighed, letting his head fall back on Martha's lap.
Before she could question him further, he'd snuggled into a ball, using her as his pillow.
Within seconds, Martha Jones and Jack Harkness were privy to just how loud a Time Lord could snore should they ever actually sleep.
Martha decided it was a good thing that it didn't happen all that often.
* * * *
The project room was silent now, the sound from the pulsing Rift no longer echoing from its walls.
Martha had heard stories about how quiet the Nazi concentration camps had been when Allied soldiers had liberated them during WW2. Unnaturally quiet.
Was this the Universe's response to mass, pointless deaths?
She looked over, watching as the Doctor picked over the room's contents as if he were at some scientific car boot sale. He seemed subdued, vacant almost.
He's feeling the weight of all the deaths here on his shoulders, just like he always does.
The Time Lord appeared to sense her thoughts and glanced up from prodding a dead console to smile at her. Even the width of that toothy grin was short – definitely forced.
He was blaming himself for all the people who had been turned by the Rift's energy – people who since its sudden closure had vanished, apparently into thin air.
The Doctor had surmised that the 'zombies' had, in fact, been sucked into an alternate reality, perhaps even the void itself. Or maybe they were still here, trapped in some alternate plane of existence.
Martha felt a cold chill pass over her at the idea, and she wrapped her arms around her upper body, hugging herself. Suddenly, even the icy drifts she'd encountered in the past were warmer than Montauk.
"What will happen here now?" She joined the Doctor. "I mean, we can't…"
"We can't stay," he finished for her, wafting back his overcoat and stuffing his hands in his trouser pockets. "I just need to make sure none of Tesla's technology is left for the wrong hands to get their um…hands on…and then it's off home to Merry Old…"
"And him?" She bobbed her head towards Jack Harkness.
The Time Agent was oblivious to their conversation, instead focusing on prying at Tesla's contraption with a pair of pliers. He seemed hell bent on retrieving his somewhat erratic vortex manipulator, and nothing was going to stop him.
When the pliers proved useless, he tossed them over his shoulder and picked up a small hammer. Clattering noises ensued, along with several curse words from the Captain.
The Doctor beamed roguishly. "Never changes does he? Bit of an odd bod that one…and that's why…that's why I have to make sure he stays that way."
Martha's forehead furrowed and her eyebrows shot up in puzzlement. "You have to what?"
"I have to make him forget, Martha. Jack has to forget everything that happened here – not just us – but everything since his arrival. He can't know he's never going to die…not in the normal sense…" The Doctor took down a long breath. This was his serious mode and it meant he was hating every minute of what he was being forced to do. "If Jack remembers us, remembers that he's immortal, the timeline will be altered forever…"
Martha's gaze automatically shifted to the still-struggling Time Agent. He was now sitting on the floor kicking at the machine with his heavy boot heels. The macho show of force wasn't getting him anywhere.
"He once told me the Time Agency wiped his mind of two years of his life, but he never knew why. But it wasn't the Agency, it was us then?"
The Doctor nodded sombrely. "I don't have any choice…" From the corner of his eye, he saw movement and clamped his jaw squarely shut.
The young soldier that had fought Martha and Jack at the generator room scurried towards them, but now, he was working with them instead of against them.
Approaching the Doctor, he snapped off a perfect salute and then stood stiffly to attention. "U.N.I.T. have confirmed your identity, sir. They're dispatching a clean up detail immediately to help contain the situation."
The Doctor rubbed his hands together. "Molto Bene! The cavalry are on their way! Faster than a speeding light bulb! No, wait, that's not quite right…" He shook his head, forgetting the stray thought. "Just one thing, though…" He looked dubiously at the soldier. "No more salutes, please. Makes me feel more important than I am. Not that I'm not important, just not that important. Although…"
The airman squirmed, unsure how to react to the Doctor's over-zealous babbling and Martha almost felt the need to rescue him. She glanced at his nametag. It was always better – less formal – if you had a real name to put to a face.
The name, coupled with the man's Bronx accent, made her almost choke and she had to stop herself from staring at him to the point of being rude. Sanchez. But not the Sanchez she had served under in U.N.I.T. surely?
She blinked, taking in his features again, and the more she scrutinized, the more she realized this really was, or would be, Lieutenant General Sanchez of the 82nd Airborne Division – the man who would one day give his life to the Daleks so that she might escape with the Osterhagen Key .
How or why he seemed to have transferred military organizations was a mystery, but in the future, he would be a hero.
Sanchez obviously couldn't miss her strange stare, and he frowned as if he had committed some sin. When he suddenly began to apologize, Martha realized his expression wasn't focused on her after all.
"Sir," he addressed the Doctor again. "I'm also very sorry to report that Miss Rattigan has escaped our custody. We don't know how she got out of the cell but…"
The Doctor pulled a face that definitely gave the impression he had trapped wind. "Who??" He questioned rubbing his brow as if the answer would just pop into his head.
"He means Amy, the nurse," Martha offered helpfully. "We have to find her, yeah? It's not like we can let her go running around in the past like she owns the place, right?"
The Doctor shook his head wearily. "That's exactly what we're going to do, Martha Jones! Now that Tesla has gone, little Amy-wamy has no power here, no influence, no techno toys to help her get the upper hand. Besides –" he cocked his head and smiled. "U.N.I.T. are on their way with a big old mop and bucket to clean up what went on here. Plausible deniability and all that…"
Sanchez looked from Martha to the Doctor and almost saluted before turning tail and marching back into the nearest corridor. He obviously thought they were both barking mad and wanted no further part in what was occurring at Montauk.
Martha watched him go, knowing, remembering his last words to her as she'd donned project indigo.
"You know what to do, for the sake of the human race. Dr Jones, good luck…"
If only she could warn him of his fate.
"Oi, you fancy him then?" The Doctor smirked. "Haven't taken your eyes off him in minutes!"
"I know him…will know him." Martha explained, careful to omit the fact that Sanchez would be another casualty of the Daleks. "Anyway," she swiftly changed the subject. "What's with you not going after Amy? We never usually leave loose ends like that."
The Doctor's eyes narrowed and he brushed back his long overcoat again, taking long strides towards Jack Harkness, who still had his back to them. "No time," he offered. "I've no time at all…"
Martha hastened after him. "But you're a Time Lord!"
The Doctor didn't answer, instead tapping Jack on the shoulder, causing the young man to spin around instinctively. For a second, Jack's pupils widened as he saw the Doctor's hands heading swiftly to either side his head.
"Hey, I thought you said you didn't swing that wa…"
As the Doctor's fingertips touched his skin, he relaxed, dropping into an almost instant trance.
The Doctor concentrated, letting his mind touch Jack's, wiping away any memories, any last vestiges of their presence in his subconscious. There could be no trace of the last two years, no trace of anything or all would be lost.
When he'd finished, Jack slumped forwards into the Time Lord's waiting arms, seemingly fast asleep.
"Now what do we do with him?" Martha asked, wondering if this is how it had been with Donna.
The Doctor looked up, still taking the weight of the Time Agent, even though the effort seemed to drain him. "We take him home to the 51st century," he stated simply. "We take him home, Martha."
In that instant, Martha saw a deep longing in the Gallifreyan she'd never seen before. Sure, he'd talked about Gallifrey, mourned it in some ways even, but this look, this yearning was something more.
Instinct, perhaps, to return to his birthplace before…before what?
Slipping an arm around Jack to help the Doctor carry him to the TARDIS, Martha was beginning to suspect she had some of the answers.
And she didn't like the equation they were adding up to.
* * * *
The blue police box coughed and wheezed like an old man who'd been off his nebulizer too long, and yet still it always seemed to materialise in one piece.
This time, the ancient time machine blurred into existence in Martha Jones'
home and became eerily silent.
For once, Martha was first out the familiar wooden door, almost walking into her sofa with a huff. "Your parallel parking gets worse!" she grumbled, only just getting her balance in time to avoid falling flat on her face.
"Well…I never really was one for taking lessons. Pull a few levers, press a few buttons…see what happens next! That's my philosophy. 'Course," he scratched absently at his chin, "I've had a few near misses in my time…and then there was last Christmas when I accidentally ran into the Titanic…although, strictly speaking it wasn't really the Titanic…"
"You fancy that cup of tea now?"
Martha was already heading for the kitchen when the Doctor's face became sombre again and he shook his head.
"Sorry, not really got time for tea. Need to be going…"
Martha stopped in her tracks and turned, arms folded. How could he drag her to an ice planet full of bodies, then into the seventies to be chased by zombies and rogue Time Lords, and then expect to dump her again as per usual?
She was about to tell him as much when she paused, realizing just how different he looked. How hadn't she noticed it before?
Those eyes, usually so full of mirth and the spark of life, now dull and clouded, tiny bags hanging beneath them making him look old.
All nine hundred years old.
He'd always been skinny, but now, he looked fragile – as if she could snap an arm with just the pressure of her thumb and forefinger.
"No time," he offered. "I've no time at all…"
With horror, Martha re-evaluated those words and came to a terrifying conclusion. A conclusion she refused to accept even though the cold hard truth stood before her, struggling to stand upright.
"You didn't regenerate back in the project room because you couldn't, could you?" The sentence came out clipped and harsh sounding, even though she'd never intended it that way.
"Too much damage on a cellular level," he admitted with a sigh. "Maybe it'll work tomorrow…or the next day." He wasn't pulling punches now, and that scared Martha even more.
"And if you still can't?" She didn't really need him to tell her the answer. She just hoped he had another option – because the Doctor always had options. He could do anything with a sonic screwdriver and a piece of string.
The Doctor put a hand on her forearm, and when he spoke it was as if he'd already accepted his fate. "I'm a Time Lord, Martha. I see everything. What is, what was, what could be, and what must not be. Maybe…maybe if I can't regenerate then it's the Universe's way of saying it's finally my time…"
Martha sucked down a breath, stifling back the wealth of water pooling in her eyes. This wasn't fair, and it wasn't right, but of all the things he wouldn't want her to do, it was cry.
"Stay here. You shouldn't be alone…"
For some reason he visibly brightened. Maybe it was just for her sake.
"Me? Alone? What, with all those aliens out there just begging for my autograph…? Well, mostly its autographs, although, I get the impression there's a few Carrionites who wouldn't be pleased to see me…" He took a breath then looked over his glasses at Martha. "I can't stay here. If I don't regenerate, I have to make sure the TARDIS is somewhere it will be safe forever…"
Martha couldn't stop the tears, not any longer. She reached forward and let her arms fall around him, hugging the skinny Time Lord until she thought he would break.
She expected him to pull away or yell 'Geroff!'
But he didn't.
They simply stayed that way until Martha's faint little sobs had died into muted hitches.
Eventually, she dared to look up into those captivating, mysterious eyes of his, and for the briefest of moments she thought she saw a familiar glimmer there. "You can't die," she whispered, and then more forcefully. "You WON'T."
The Doctor grinned. "'Course not!" he exclaimed with a wink. "Just making a few contingency plans, that's all! Gallifreyan last will and testament or something…I, Sir Doctor of TARDIS, being of sound mind…um, well, mostly sound mind, do bequeath all my um…other worldly goods to…"
She punched him then. Just a small punch, but enough to stop the blathering before it went too far.
"I won't see you again, will I? I mean, not…"
"No," he admitted, letting his eyes drop to the carpet rather than face her still-reddened features. "If you see me again, it won't be me. At least, not this version of me. Pity really, I was rather partial to the teeth." He ran his tongue along the bottom of his top incisors to make the point.
Even now, he had to have the last quip.
"Anyway…not to worry!" He took the bottom of Martha's chin, lifting her head so she could see his smile. "Even if I can't be here, I will be here, one way or another…" He winked again cryptically and then trotted over to the TARDIS. At the police box door, he waved and grinned. "I mean, can't leave you humans on your own now, can I? Never know what you'll get up to next!"
In a second, he'd bobbed inside the time machine without so much as a goodbye.
Martha waited for the usual hiss and whirr that said the time rotor was warming up, but it never came. Instead, the Doctor suddenly darted back out of the TARDIS with a thickly bound book in his hand. He pressed it into her palm, then backed up.
"Never did get you to Gettysburg! Have a gander at that instead! Personal journal of Lincoln's bodyguard." He pointed with a finger as if he could magic the book open in her hand. "Photos and everything! Just um…be careful where you leave it…it's not actually been discovered yet…" He moved to dart back in the TARDIS. "Oh and look after that Tom of yours…he's a good man." He winked. "For a Doctor…"
Martha wanted to say goodbye. She wanted to give the lonely Time Lord some words of comfort – some assurance that this wasn't the end.
But she couldn't.
The Doctor had never really been any good at farewells, and suddenly Martha realized why.
She fingered the journal, watching as the police box door closed and it finally began to pant and groan. The light on the top started to flash wanly, and abruptly its solid edges began to turn opaque.
Across the room, Martha's new DAB radio suddenly turned itself on. She told herself it was some kind of interference from the alien machine in her living room, but then the digital tuner began to flash too.
Nothing like this had ever happened before, and the police box had inhabited her home on more than one occasion.
As the TARDIS grew more indistinct, the radio finally settled and Martha could hear the haunting lyrics of Snow Patrol's 'Run.' It was funny, but she still preferred this version to Leona's cover.
You've been the only thing that's right
In all I've done…
And I can barely look at you
But every single time I do
I know we'll make it anywhere
Away from here
Light up, light up
As if you have a choice
Even if you cannot hear my voice
I'll be right beside you dear
Martha rubbed at her still-bleary eyes, sensing fresh moisture there.
To think I might not see those eyes
Makes it so hard not to cry
And as we say our long goodbye…
And then the TARDIS was gone. A ghostly apparition that had been exorcised from her presence forever by its master. As the last vestiges of its outline had vanished, so had the radio's power supply.
The music ceased to fill her ears and Martha succumbed to the hurt, to the heartache, slumping back onto the sofa. Was this the end of everything? And what had he meant by 'Even if I can't be here, I will be here, one way or another...'?
A stray tear dribbled down her cheek and landed on the book still in her grip. It was all she had of him now, she should at least look at his last gift to her.
Tentatively touching the letters etched into the hide, she read out the inscription. "Ward Hill Lamon 1863." The name meant nothing to her, but it was obviously someone of importance during the American Civil War.
She opened the cover, careful not to soil the aging pages further with her tears. Inside, the entries were faded, the purist handwriting almost intelligible in places.
Martha thumbed through to the middle were she found several tin type photos wedged into the spine. She pulled them out, instantly recognizing President Lincoln in several.
The larger of the pictures was obviously from the Gettysburg Address.
And she was seeing it all through the eyes and words of a man who had not only been there, but had been at the President's side.
Martha squinted at the blurred picture in her hand, unsure if her weary eyes were playing tricks.
But they weren't.
As impossible as it seemed, she recognized someone else in the picture, seated to the right of Lincoln as he signed the historic document.
It couldn't be…and yet….
Martha's hands began to shake and she almost dropped the photograph.
Somehow, Nikolai Tesla, or whatever his real name was, had found his way through the void back into the past. He hadn't been trapped. He hadn't suffered the same painful fate as the Doctor.
And with the Doctor gone, there was nothing she could do to stop whatever he chose to do there…
Dårlig Ulv Stranden, Norway
The empty TARDIS shimmered into existence, sinking into the soft sand as its dark blue exterior melded seamlessly with the raven cloak of the night.
Waves lapped at its base, water rippling over the wood and up to the doorframe, but the moisture never seeped inside – it, like unwanted intruders, was kept at bay by an unseen forcefield.
This was the time ship stolen by Tesla, and set free by the Doctor.
It was like a restless pet, seeking out an owner who had moved away to another town, another dimension and forgotten to take it along for the ride.
It was a machine, and yet it sensed, it felt, it knew that part of it was here.
He was here.
Apart they were like two pieces of a puzzle, and together, together they were the perfect symbiosis of Time Lord and living vehicle.
In this world, without him, it was nothing.
The TARDIS needed power, strength from its own world, and that power was rapidly fading as the Rift began to shrink and destabilize. And yet, he could save it, could make it whole again, even though he was not its real master.
Or was he?
It sensed, even this far away from him that he didn't share the DNA of Gallifrey. This one was human, and it had been sent out into the void to seek him out.
And yet his consciousness was that of a Time Lord.
Its Time Lord.
The TARDIS remained still as a high bank of clouds was gently blown southwards, allowing the moon to illuminate the bay and its angular wooden structure. High limestone walls surrounded it, hiding it from view, at least until morning.
The TARDIS didn't care. It could wait a thousand years if need be, perception filter set to maximum.
And one day, one day he would come for it, and the deceptive blue box with its earthly shape and unearthly magic would be ready.
(Author's Note: After David Tennant's announcement, I decided I wanted to carry on writing his version of the Doctor, I guess this is my way of seeding the way to do that while allowing for a new Time Lord as well. That is, of course, if you, the readers really want to know what happens next…)