Chapter Seven

Martha had heard the cloister bell chime from the TARDIS' innards two seconds before she'd heard Rose Tyler scream.

And Rose never screamed, not even if she was about to be devoured by some enormous alien entity or was trapped in a different dimension.

Martha hadn't been sure which sound alarmed her the most.

The cloister bell was a portent that something bad was about to happen, and Rose's gut-wrenching cry signalled it already had.

Ignoring the butterflies' frenzied attempts to escape from her stomach, Martha had turned and run to find Rose kneeling on the floor, her petite body stooping over the Doctor where he had apparently fallen.

It was an action replay of the scene in the Hub only half an hour earlier, and yet Martha had been sure there was no playacting involved this time.

And Martha had been right.

That had been six hours ago now, and although the human Time Lord hadn't been dead at Rose's feet as she'd first feared, Martha was afraid it was only a matter of time.

She sighed at her own wording.

Time…

Why did everything in her life revolve around it?

Martha glanced across the darkened Torchwood interior to where Rose was sitting, her face tear-streaked, and her eyes puffy and red. She could more than imagine what the other girl was going through.

On the outside, Martha appeared unaffected by what was happening; but on the inside, she felt the blonde's suffering every bit as badly. Probably even more so, because as a doctor she saw the awful truths more plainly than any layman could.

But should she tell Rose? Should she kill any hope the girl had? Or should she let nature take its probable course?

It wasn't hard to see, really, if you put all the facts together.

The Doctor had collapsed at Rose's feet, and for the first few hours his heart had raced at an incredible pace, blood pounding through his veins like he was running a marathon.

But then, ever so gradually, it had begun to slow until Martha could barely feel a pulse.

He was dying, and despite running every test known to man, and then a few others, Martha could find no physical reason for his condition. The Rift didn't seem to have left any residual traces in his system, and there didn't appear to be any nerve damage left by the electrical currents he'd been subjected to.

She'd found no reason for the coma he'd apparently slipped into – not until she'd begun to think outside his 'human' physiology.

Outside the 'box'.

Just not the little blue police one….

Yes, this Doctor came from the same gene pool as everyone else on Earth, his cells contained exactly the same amount of chromosomes, but his mind held the vast knowledge of a Time Lord.

It was then that it had hit Martha what the problem was.

Like Donna, his body was far too frail to contain the whirlpool of information swimming through it. She had no clue why he'd lasted longer than the temp before the effects had become apparent, perhaps she'd never know.

But unless his mind could be cleared of some of the clutter, he'd die, consumed by his own knowledge.

And there's no Doctor to help him, not like there was Donna…

Martha looked upwards, even though all that she could discern were a few odd shadows and a brief flutter of wings.

Somewhere above her was the glistening silver fountain that seemed to ooze hope and serenity in the heart of Cardiff.

Why didn't it give her that hope now?

Why were there no definitive answers to anything?

What had happened to the real Doctor after he'd left her home? Had he gone on to regenerate and start again, or had Montauk been the last true Time Lord's swansong?

The simple fact that he had not appeared now, when Earth needed him, didn't bode well for his chances anymore than his 'human' counterpart's.

Martha felt a tinge of moisture begin to cloud her eyes and she rubbed at them, willing herself not to cry. Neither Time Lord would want that.

This could be it, both of them gone…and I've no way to stop it happening this time anymore than I did at the Airbase…

Martha closed her eyes, reliving better days, days she couldn't return to ever again, not even with the TARDIS. Inside it was like part of her was dying too – like the world around her was slowing, coming to an end with every last breath the human Doctor took.

When they'd first met, she had doubted him, been suspicious of him even; but now it was too late, she knew he was her Doctor, always had been.

She opened her eyes and realized that she'd begun to cry despite her earlier attempts not to.

If thinking he'd been shot had been hard, even for the briefest of periods, then this was unbearable.

She rubbed away the wetness from her cheeks and smiled. "You just have a blue suit, not a brown one," she muttered to no one in particular. "But you're still very much the Doctor…"

A cup of coffee stood on the table before her, and she picked it up, taking a sip, only to realize the sludgy brown liquid was cold. How long had it sat waiting for her since Jack had brought it over?

A hand squeezed her shoulder, and Martha forgot the drink as she turned to stare into Rose's devastated eyes.

The blonde looked at her for a moment.

"He isn't going to wake up, is he?" she asked, voice quivering as if the room temperature had dipped well below zero.

Martha froze, unable to confide her suspicions to Rose. It wasn't fair to tell her, was it?

"It's all right, I know," Rose offered, her gaze shifting towards Torchwood's sickbay, even though she couldn't see the Doctor from here. "What happened to Donna, it's started to happen to 'im, hasn't it?"

Martha's stomach lurched. "I don't know…"

It wasn't a lie. She didn't know anything, but she suspected.

Rose nodded as if her friend had confessed all anyway. "Can I see him? He shouldn't be alone when…"

Martha didn't know what else to say, so she simply nodded and lead Rose across the underground chamber to where she had left the Doctor. At least he'd looked peaceful when she'd left him, she thought. Rose wouldn't have to see him suffer.

Rose stopped dead in front of Martha, and Martha almost stumbled into her in surprise. Had he worsened in the few minutes since she'd last checked on him?

Brushing past the blonde to look down into the medical area, Martha found her own legs abruptly stalling as she caught sight of the scene that lay below.

The Doctor had somehow vanished from the bed, only to be replaced by Donna Noble. The temp was curled snugly into a ball and had been covered by a familiar blue jacket that rose and fell with her peaceful slumber.

As both girls gawked, Donna seemed to sense the intrusion, yawned, and then blearily looked up.

Becoming acutely aware that she was the object of two dumbfounded women's attention, she glowered. "Wot now? Can't a kidnapped girl even get a kip around 'ere?"

"Wh…where's the Doctor?" Rose stammered, the fear in her voice intensifying as she seemingly began to think the worst.

"Good old skinny ribs? Well, he's not 'ere, obviously. I found the bed, finder's keepers and all that." Donna sniffed. "Actually…I think he went to play with that kettle…"

"What kettle?" Martha and Rose both chimed in incredulously and in chorus.

Donna yawned again and let her head slide back to the pillow on the bed. She looked annoyed, but mostly exhausted. "The one he was playing with, of course…"

And with that her heavy lids slid closed and she let out an almost instant snore.

Rose and Martha looked at one another and then both launched into a sprint for Jack Harkness' office. It was the nearest place that had any kind of tea or coffee making appliances, and there was a light glowing on the Captain's desk that signalled someone was 'home'.

Rose bounded in first, only to balk at the ridiculously loud sound of someone munching.

Sitting in Jack's chair, oblivious to the stir he was causing, was the Doctor, a half-eaten biscuit in his hand. "Hello there! Garibaldi anyone?"

Rose couldn't contain herself.

She ran at full pelt across the room, grabbing him so tightly the biscuit in his hand was squashed against his chest, disintegrating in a thousand annoying crumbs down the front of his shirt.

"They're not that bad," the Doctor exclaimed, hugging Rose back whilst taking a second to look at the remains of the biscuit. "'Course, Jack nicks all the chocolate ones and stashes them in his top drawer."

"I so do not!"

Everyone paused, realizing that Jack had now joined them too. He was grinning happily at the sight of the Doctor alive and well as he leaned on the Hub's innards.

"But you were…" Martha shook her head. "We all thought…"

"We thought you were dying…y'know, like you had the same thing Donna had when she got downloaded with all that Time Lord stuff," Rose finished for Martha. "We didn't know what else to think…"

The Doctor took her hand and held it tightly as she turned to stand by his side. "Nah," he explained breezily. "My neural pathways were built for the extra load. Not like poor old Donna, she was stuck with the noodle she was born with, but I was born with the extra noodle I'm now stuck with, if you see what I mean?"

Rose grimaced. "I'm not sure I ever get what you mean, not completely, anyway."

"So if you're not… ya know, dying." Jack winced at the very thought. "What the hell was wrong with you back there?"

The Doctor opened Jack's top drawer, grinned at the sight of a packet of unopened Mcvities chocolate digestives and then took down a long, sobering breath. "Well…I wasn't the one dying…"

"But you felt it," Martha's elation dissolved. Her initial reasoning for his sudden coma had been way off the mark, but now? Now she knew the cause of this Doctor's pain.

It was evident in his most recent expression.

Evident from what had been happening to him over the last few hours.

"Is he…dead?" Martha dared to ask, her voice catching in her throat.

"Is who dead?" Rose wasn't getting it.

The Doctor put the biscuits down, his eyes glistening with moisture in a rare show of emotion. "She means the other me. The real me."

"After Montauk," Martha explained. "The Doctor was sick. I mean really sick because of the wormhole energy he'd been exposed to. He took me home and then left, and somehow, one way or another I knew I'd never see him again."

The human Doctor looked up, the wetness in his eyes at least allowing a little of the old spark to show through. "We're connected you see. I'm connected to my TARDIS, he's connected to his…and um, I suppose that makes us connected to one another. I feel what he feels and vice versa. The psychic link between the four is just too comparable, alike, similar…" He stood, pulling at his earlobe in thought. "Like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito in Twins!" he declared.

"They were nothing alike," Jack pointed out helpfully.

The Doctor scowled. "Picky! Why do you always have to pickety pick pick?"

"So the other Doctor?" Martha wasn't sure she wanted to know the answer, and from her expression, it looked like Rose didn't either.

But there was no going back. Either the Universe had just lost its last true Gallifreyan, or it hadn't.

"Well…he's alive," The Doctor muttered. "But he's not me anymore. Totally different teeth and everything. And these were good teeth. Always wanted to keep these teeth in my next regeneration…"

Rose's shoulders sagged and Martha had to wonder what she was going through. To lose a loved one, but still have them like this was a totally new concept. Had Rose loved both Doctors in different ways?

Would part of her still love the 'new' Doctor as she had after his last regeneration?

The human Doctor appeared to come to the same conclusion. Taking Rose's hand he squeezed it, looking into her eyes with his own mesmerizing deep brown orbs.

"Maybe you should go to him now. You don't need a bad copy when you can have the real McCoy." He shrugged trying to be jovial. "'Course, by the looks of him, me, oh whoever…he might be busy auditioning for a boy band or something, but…"

"Why would I want him when I have you?" Rose's eyes didn't flinch as she made her answer.

"Well…" The Doctor rolled the word off his tongue and scratched his head as if he actually had to think of a valid answer. "He is a bit of a toy boy! Floppy hair and everything!" His voice deepened, becoming more serious. "But he's the real Time Lord, not me. I'm just a mistake, an anomaly that should never have happened…an error, a gaffe, a bloomer…"

"You might be all those things." Rose nodded, her face cracking into a wide smile. "But I love my Time Lord just the way he is." She reached up, putting her arms around his neck and pulling him into a kiss.

Jack sucked down a breath. "Typical," he bemoaned. "Why is it I never get to lock lips with anyone remotely interesting…"

Rose finally stepped back from the Doctor, leaving her arms wrapped loosely around his neck. She didn't let her gaze stray from his. "Just remember," she said. "He may be able to regenerate, but you have one thing he can never have…you'll never be alone…"

The Doctor sucked down a breath and stuffed both hands in his trouser pockets. "Yeah…" he agreed matter-of-factly. "But he's got the overcoat. Always loved that overcoat. Wanted to cry when it got frizzled." He looked at Rose. "Do you think he might fancy giving it up? I mean, he's not gonna want it now he's a new man and all that…"

Rose chuckled. "I s'pose you'll have to ask him!" She cocked her head cheekily looking at her man. "He's not ginger is he?"

"Nope," the Doctor confirmed. "Never been a ginger me…well, not unless he buys a wig..." He smirked wickedly. "Imagine that! Me in a big old ginger wig! Or maybe not…" He paused. "Still…he is a bit intense looking. Might have to have a word with him about that if we ever meet…"

"I'm sure you will." Martha couldn't help but smile. "You two always end up at the wrong place at the wrong time."

"And heaven help us all when those two get together again," Jack agreed.

"So what will you two do in the meantime?" Martha wasn't sure she really wanted to know, because whatever the Doctor and Rose decided, it would probably mean she wouldn't see the Time Lord again for awhile.

He had a life now with Rose – a real life.

And I have one with Tom, I have to remember that…

The Doctor shrugged, apparently not sensing her pain at the thought of losing him again. Or if he did sense it, he masked the knowledge well. Still, that was something he'd always been good at.

The Doctor rubbed at the light growth of stubble on his chin. "Well…I was considering growing that beard back! Don't want anymore people like Colonel Mace thinking I'm an actual Time Lord and trying to salute me!" His face spread into a wide grin.

Martha knew he was teasing and decided to return the favour. "What? You two not planning to have kids then?" She craftily winked at Rose just before the Doctor's face had chance to transform into a look of complete terror.

He never flinched while fighting the harshest of ancient alien enemies, but he cowered at the thought of parenthood, apparently.

"No thanks. I'm too much of a kid to actually have kids," the Doctor offered. "And besides! I can shave a beard off if it gets annoying! Can't say the same for a kid! Nope…definitely not ready to be a Doctor Daddy just yet!"

"He does have a point," Jack cocked a brow in agreement. "Although lemme tell ya, Doc, you can have a whole lotta fun trying…"

The Doctor didn't answer and Martha wondered if just a little bit of Jack was rubbing off on him. Either that, or he'd given up on the despicably lewd Torchwood boss.

Before Martha could deliberate which was most likely, a mobile phone began to warble an ancient tune it actually took her valuable seconds to recognize.

"Calling occupants of interplanetary craft, calling occupants…"

Eventually, Martha realized it was The Carpenters 1977 cover version of the Klaatu classic.

And it was emanating from a phone.

In the Doctor's pocket.

The Time Lord fumbled to find the device, his face a picture of utter embarrassment at the absurdity of the jingle given his occupation. Eventually, he pulled the red Sony Ericsson free and handed it over to Rose.

"Awww…Jacqui's been messing with the ringtone again!" he groused.

Rose scowled back at him. "Well it's better than that Argolian stuff you're always listening to! And anyway, if you ask me, you and mum both have terrible taste in music. The pair of you are tone deaf!"

She stopped mid-sentence remembering there was actually an incoming call. Pressing the phone to her ear, she smiled at the voice on the other end of the line. "Hi, Dad."

Everyone in the room relaxed just a little. When the Doctor received any kind of call, it was usually an emergency from halfway across the galaxy. Knowing it was just Pete Tyler, probably complaining about being stuck on the lost moon of Poosh with Jacqui Tyler, lightened the mood.

Pete and Jacqui were definitely the odd couple who were bizarrely made for each other.

Rose's head bobbed up and down as she took in the details she was being given from halfway across the Universe. Eventually, she looked apologetically at the Doctor. "I think we gotta leave," she explained worriedly. "Mum's gone missing..."

"Probably shopping," the Doctor mumbled just low enough for Rose not to hear him. "Never seen a woman take so long to choose between a beef lasagne and a curry in all my life. And um…that's saying something, given the length of my life. Or at least, the memories I have of the other me's life…" He took a breath. "Or something…"

"Dad says Mum found this strange looking brooch and started acting all weird." Rose looked at the Doctor expectantly. "Well?" she prodded.

"I suppose we better leg it back to the lost moon and do a spot of mother hunting, then! Nasty things in the wrong hands!" the Doctor smiled, "Brooches, I mean!" He added, and no-one quite knew whether to take him seriously or not. "Just imagine the damage you could do with one of those pins…"

The smile widened and he bounded towards the TARDIS door, only stopping briefly to make sure Rose was following. "Come on then!" He beckoned. "We might just make it back before Boxing Day!"

Rose dived inside the time ship after him and the little blue box's door closed silently behind them. The light atop the TARDIS began to slowly flash, and everyone in the Hub took a step backwards, but before the familiar shape had chance to start to dematerialize, the door suddenly popped back open.

The Doctor bobbed his head out and threw a handful of snow into Torchwood's interior, giving no clue how he'd acquired it. His smile grew into one of his outrageous grins. "Almost forgot! Merry Christmas everyone!"

He waved, and then vanished back inside just as the ship began to wheeze and groan.

Jack laughed and, shaking his head, grabbed something off his desk, making a quick dash for the TARDIS door before it had chance to completely fade away.

Martha squinted, just managing to see what the unruly captain had done.

Slapped waist high across the TARDIS door was a bumper sticker that read, 'My other car is a DeLorean!'

"He's going to kill you when he sees that," she laughed, some inner part of her wishing she was the one inside the police box instead of Rose.

Jack folded his arms and chuckled mischievously. "Nah, he loves my ass…"

"Just not as literally as you wish," Martha pointed out, taking a seat on the edge of Jack's desk.

Jack shrugged, the glint of amusement still in his eyes. "I can but dream." He looked at Martha, choosing his next words more carefully. "So, Martha Jones, what now? You gonna go back to your playmates at U.N.I.T.?"

Up until this point, Martha realized she hadn't even really thought about her future. Any plans she'd recently made had gone up in smoke the minute Mace had recruited her.

"I don't belong there," she finally admitted. "Maybe I'll just go back to my civilian life."

"It'll never work, you know that right? C'mon, you and I both know that once you've spent time with the Doctor, the world, hell the Universe, never looks the same. We're a special breed, Martha…"

"This is your way of offering me a job again, yeah?"

"Well, when you put it that way, I do kinda need a medical expert who's seen it all and then some…"

Martha stared at Jack, unsure how to answer him. He was right. Once you'd travelled with either Doctor you were tainted for life, unable to settle back into normalcy.

But could she join Torchwood full time and still have a life with Tom?

"I've seen it all and then some, and you're not offering me a job!" Donna's high-pitched voice broke the awkwardness of the moment as she barged her way into their midst.

She stopped dead in front of Jack, eyes boring into his like she could shoot acid spikes from them.

"So, Captain Whatsyourface! You gonna offer me a job or not? You'd be amazed how good I am with handcuffs and all that kind of stuff." She winked and Jack actually blushed.

Or is he actually scared of her? Martha wondered to herself. Finally, a woman Jack Harkness can't cope with. Amazing…She couldn't stifle a small smile.

"No, seriously, you ask Rose," Donna continued. "I can get myself out of a tight situation, I can! And I can type a hundred words a minute! Fastest temp in Chiswick, that's me!"

Jack groaned, rubbing a hand across his mouth as the lengthy sermon carried on at full pelt without Donna even taking a breath. Eventually he looked at Martha pleadingly.

"It's Christmas. Can't someone save me for once?" he begged.

Martha folded her arms and slowly nodded. "Alright. I'll take the job," she conceded.

"And you'll take Donna home before my ears burn up from the noise?"

Martha sucked down a breath conspiratorially. "Oh, I'll do better than that." She turned to the ginger temp. "Donna, you're hired!"

Jack screwed his eyes closed as if he'd been hearing and seeing things and the sudden lack of senses would make all the badness go away. When he took a peek out of his right eye two seconds later and both women were still in front of him, he finally broke down in uncontrolled laughter.

If you got one thing on every mission with the Doctor, it was variety, total absurdity, and fiercely independent women like these two.

And who knew what the New Year would bring next?

He waved an arm, gesturing he wanted the office to himself. "You two, go home, have a drink, eat yourselves silly, and I'll see you bright and early when the holidays are over."

Martha turned as she was leaving. "Unless you pick up any alien activity in the meantime, right?"

"Right, "Jack conceded. "Oh and…Merry Christmas…"

"I'd just settle for a normal Christmas," Martha sighed.

"Maybe someday, "Jack conceded. "But until then, there's always the Doctor and us…"

The End