"Why exactly do we have to come back? Again?" The Doctor folded his arms in front of his chest, looking rather like a little boy who was told he had to clean his room.
"Because we own a flat and have friends and a post box I'm sure is overflowing with junk and all that normal stuff," Amy replied, ignoring his petulant pout. Rory knew to make for the door rather than try to argue.
"Yes, but I don't see how that's relevant at all," the Doctor shot back. He pretended he didn't care that Amy and Rory were leaving by fiddling with the console.
"And, thanks to you, remember, I've got a Mum and Dad who'd like to be visited once in a while." Amy strapped on her backpack and walked up next to the Doctor
"Well, you think they might be grateful and not so demanding," he muttered, hoping Amy hadn't heard. Of course she had.
"Shut it, Doctor," She stepped beside him and bumped her shoulder against his with a smirk. "We'll only be gone the afternoon. I'm sure you can find something to do."
Martha Jones sat idly stirring her tea and watching the people pass by. She'd decided that she deserved to use a few vacation days and was enjoying doing nothing. She sighed heavily—out of contentment rather than sadness or frustration—and went back to her novel. All that running around for so long she had only just gotten to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. A few chapters in and she hadn't cried yet. Well, she did get misty when Hedwig…
"Wait a tic, Martha? Martha…Jones, innit?" The voice was familiar but not immediately recognizable. She turned toward the sound to see Mickey. She couldn't remember his last name, but it was hard to forget his first, especially when Jack kept calling him Mickey Mouse. She smiled at him.
"Hi. It's Mickey, right?"
"Yeah, Mickey Smith," he smiled back and stopped in front of the café, leaning on the railing between the sidewalk and the patio. Martha didn't feel too badly forgetting Smith, of all names, though she supposed Jones was just as common. "How're you?"
"I'm fine, thanks. You?"
"I'm good. Still at UNIT, then?"
"You remembered I work for UNIT?" Martha was a bit shocked. It had been almost eight months since what had been dubbed "Doomsday 2" and she hadn't seen Mickey since. They only talked a bit that day. They had been quite busy, after all.
"Oh, not every day a pretty girl threatens to blow up the world to save it from the Daleks," Mickey smirked and shrugged. Martha blushed a bit at that. "Plus, I work with Jack from time to time and he mentions you whenever we butt heads."
"Really? He would." Martha laughed at that. She could see Jack using her name as a weapon. She remembered Mickey seeming nice and decided it might be nice to talk with someone who understood that part of her life. "Hey, what are you up to now?"
"Now?" Mickey checked his watch and looked to either side. "Well, nothing, really."
Martha smiled, shoving her book into her bag, and gestured toward the empty seat across from her. "Why don't you join me for tea?"
The Doctor tried not to mope around the TARDIS. He really did. He stepped out and wandered for a few moments around Upper Leadsworth but found it rather dull. So he returned to the TARDIS and managed to avoid moping for precisely fourteen minutes and twenty-nine second. It was just that he rather liked having friends around and too much time alone in the TARDIS caused him to remember too much. When he was jumping around, taking new friends on adventures, it was easy to forget the old friends he'd lost. Maybe they died, maybe they outgrew him, maybe they were trapped across the void. Alone with the TARDIS, the memories came unbidden, unwelcome. He would run through the corridor to find a bob to adjust the console and end up in front of Sarah Jane's room. On the way to the kitchen for tea, he would walk past the conservatory where Donna loved to read. In the kitchen, he would remember the time Rose almost set the kitchen on fire and how they fell to the floor laughing while the TARDIS seemed to chastise their carelessness. The music room where Susan liked to play. Tegan's room, Ace's room. Romana or Martha in the library. Jack "accidentally" walking out of that particular bathroom naked. With company and imminent adventure, it was easy for him to ignore the ghosts. Alone, they became almost tangible.
He walked into the console room. The console room was as full of memories as the rest of the ship, but it was so saturated with faces and moments the loss became less acute and specific, changing into a white noise of nostalgia. He could handle nostalgia. He patted the central column of the console and adjusted a few of the controls. "How about a quick trip to London? Just to pass the time."
Mickey offered to walk Martha home after tea. She insisted that she didn't need to be walked home, explaining it was a long walk. Mickey asked if she minded if he walked with her in the general direction of her home while she walked home by herself because he liked long walks. She couldn't refuse that. It was a crisp autumn day; a strong breeze blew through the city streets with the scent of burning leaves and chilly nights. They shared small talk: work, friends, what each thought of such and such football team or television program. After a half an hour, they fell into an amiable silence.
Martha had underestimated Mickey Smith. The little she had heard of him led her to believe he was a bit of a lovable dope. She realized during the Dalek invasion that there was more to him than the stories implied. Now, chatting with him, she was able to piece together bits of his history. He had been in the parallel universe fighting the Cybermen. He had been with the Doctor on Doomsday 1 and again on Doomsday 2. He was a bit tired of fighting alien threats, but didn't know what else to do. She knew the feeling. She was about to ask him about his personal life—namely, to find out if he was seeing anyone—when she heard it. At first she ignored it, thinking it must have been in her head, triggered by resurfacing memories. When she turned to look at Mickey, though, he was looking around frantically.
"So that wasn't just me, then?" Martha asked him. He stopped, and looked at her, a smile spreading across his face.
"Nope! I'd know that sound anywhere. It's the TARDIS! Nearby! I think…This way!" He grinned, and Martha couldn't help but smile in return. Her relationship with the Doctor had been complicated, but in the end she wouldn't have traded her travels with him for the world. She didn't realize how much she missed him until the sound of the TARDIS engines rang in her ears. Before she made sense of the complex web of emotions vying for dominance in her head, Mickey grabbed her hand and started running.
"Ah, London!" The Doctor stepped out of the TARDIS. "Westminster, Green Park. Plenty to do here!" He looked around, licked his finger and stuck it in the air. He deduced it was in fact the same day, only moments after he left Upper Leadsworth. He felt a bit of pride in such a precise landing, and patted the TARDIS before stepping out into the park.
Mickey rounded the corner and saw the familiar blue box. He slowed down, but held onto Martha's hand. He found some strength in their physical connection. His relationship with the Doctor was complicated to say the least, but at the bottom of it all he loved the mad alien. Mickey knew that the Doctor made him a stronger man, taught him to fight for what was important and when to let go of the past. He was proud of who he had become—and he could never imagine being proud of himself five years ago—and his current state was due in large part to meeting the Doctor. The Doctor had a way of tapping into people's potential and letting them see who they could've been all the while. He was a bit surprised at the thrill he felt when his eyes caught the deep blue above the shrubbery. He always felt the thrill, but the pain and jealousy that used to accompany it were years away.
"Doctor!" he called. Martha let go of his hand to cup them around her mouth. She called out as well. When no one appeared, they walked toward the TARDIS. As they grew nearer, Martha let out a small gasp. Mickey looked at her, but didn't ask her why.
"It's…not quite the same?" She half-asked. Now in the clearing, they had an unobscured view of the TARDIS. It was cleaner, the shape subtly stouter. But Martha knew it was the same machine. The crackle and hum in the back of her mind was too familiar. Mickey tilted his head to each side, took a step back.
"'S got a bit of a facelift," he responded. "But it's still the same, yeah? I mean, not usually Police Boxes in the park anymore?" He walked around to the front and called again for the Doctor. Martha walked around the TARDIS opposite Mickey, surprised by how familiar the smooth wood feels under her fingers.
"Doctor?" Martha called, and couldn't help but wonder if he was off on some adventure. She heard a knocking around the other side of the box, and came around the corner to see Mickey pounding on the TARDIS doors.
"You don't still have the key, do you?" he asked her while smirking.
"I do, but not on me. Besides, I don't want to know what happens to people who try to break into the TARDIS," she laughed.
"True enough. Well, looks like the Doctor's not at home," Mickey hoped the disappointment in his voice was not obvious. "Wanna wait?"
"For a bit," Martha replied. She began to look for a nearby bench or ledge to when she caught sight of a lanky man walking directly toward them. She punched Mickey's arm and pointed. Mickey squinted.
"Who's that?" he asked her.
"Don't know, but he's coming right toward us. Is the perception filter broken?"
"No idea," he replied. The man seemed to stop and look directly at them, an expression of surprise appeared on his face. "Is that bloke wearing a…fez?" Martha tried to get a closer look when she saw the man's expression change to excitement and then his long legs broke into a run.
"Oh, this is Christmas!" the man called, grabbing at his fez when it began to fall away. He stopped a few feet in front of them and held out his arms as though he was taking in the sight of long lost friends. "Absolutely Christmas! I did not expect this. Doctor Martha Jones! And Mister Mickey Smith!"
Martha and Mickey stopped and looked at each other, then back at the man in front of them. He grabbed Mickey's shoulders and clapped him into a quick hug. Mickey was dumbfounded. The man then grabbed Martha, wrapped his arms around her, lifted her off the ground. It was then Martha felt it: two heartbeats. When he put her pack on the ground, she put her hands on his cheeks and stared at him; her eyes went wide. She pushed aside his longer, darker fringe.
"Doctor?" His eyes confirmed her suspicion. They were greenish and not mahogany, and under a very different brow line, but they were kind and frightening and centuries old: the Doctor's eyes. The man before her smiled.
"The one and only," he said as he hugged her again.
"What…how?" Martha began to ask. Mickey laughed.
"How come you keep getting younger, Doctor? I'd like a few hints with that," Mickey replied. The Doctor spun between them, looking from one to the other, and grinned. He pulled out his wallet and began to rustle through paper clippings and cards stowed in some secret pocket. "Martha, the Doctor, he don't die, he changes." Martha looked at them, confused.
"Well, regenerates. I thought I had mentioned it?"
"Not really," Martha smirked. "But I figured something was going on after we met Jack. Then we got kind of distracted," he smiled faded.
"Right," The Doctor's mouth thinned, though he kept the semblance of a tight smile. "Yes. I'm sorry, I thought you knew. I sort of…assumed."
"It's all right," she touched his elbow gently. She was a bit surprised that he stiffened in response. Gone were the spontaneous (and slightly confusing at the time) bear hugs of old.
"Yes, when something dramatic enough happens—a situation where I would otherwise die, I regenerate instead. Same memories, mostly same feelings, just the cells move about. Well, Mickey knew me before and before before," the Doctor's mood shifted quickly, still mercurial at least. He tapped Mickey's arm as though they shared a private joke. Mickey, meanwhile, pulled a photo from his wallet, showed it to the Doctor (who grinned in response) and then handed it toward Martha.
"That's what the Doctor looked like when me an' Rose met him. Big ears, daft grin." Martha took the picture from Mickey's outstretched hand. She recognized three of the figures—Mickey, Rose, and Jack—and she was surprised at how a few years had aged them so much. She realized Mickey was telling her the middle-aged fellow who had managed to grin and brood at the same time was the Doctor.
"What, the steel worker?" Martha gasped, laughing.
"Yes," the Doctor smiled. "Not my most glamorous incarnation, but still..."
"When I was talking with Jackie, I'd call him as the Grin and the Gob. What should I call this one, eh? The Geek?" Mickey chuckled. The Doctor raised an eyebrow in response. "Come on, tweed? What the hell is on your head? Bow tie?"
"Bow ties are cool," the Doctor responded immediately.
"You rock the bow tie, Doctor," Martha replied, the Doctor grinned in response. "Though I'm not sure about the fez, either. But, Doctor," her voice became a bit shaky, "You died? Are you all right?"
"Oh, I'm fine now. But, yes, I…Oh." He stopped, looked at both of them, then down at their hands. "Oh. Yes. Well, no spoilers."
"What're you talking about?" Mickey asked. "Spoilers?"
"Timey wimey," he looked at Martha and smiled. "I've seen you since last time, but you haven't seen me yet."
"With…your old face?" Martha asked. The Doctor nodded. She looked troubled, then brightened. "Well, I look forward to seeing you again." The Doctor smiled sadly, but didn't respond.
"Going so soon? How about I give you a tour of the TARDIS? It's changed a bit," the Doctor pulled open the door.
"Well, last time I just went in to visit we ended up going into the far future where a newly born civilization made a daughter out of your skin sample," Martha responded. Mickey was already through the door and making impressed sounds. She laughed and followed the Doctor through the doors. She looked around. "Still bigger on the inside, though," she was surprised how the changed interior made her a little sad. The Doctor spun as he walked toward the console, shooting a smile at her.
"I like the upgrades," Mickey walked up beside the Doctor at the console. "Very Spock." The Doctor checked some of the screens, fiddled with buttons and levers, with one eye on Martha as she walked around the Console Room. "So, Doctor," he said as he realized the Doctor was ignoring him. "Where's Rose?"
She'd met Rose, she liked Rose, admired her. It's hard not to like someone who zots across parallel dimensions and risks falling into the void to save the multiverse. She understood now what Rose meant to the Doctor, and she could see and feel what the Doctor meant to her. Martha knew she was being a bit childish about it, but she couldn't help it: she cringed a bit when she heard Mickey ask about Rose. He was another cute bloke who couldn't get over Rose. She was going to respond kindly, because despite it all she was also keen to see Rose, when looked over at the Doctor, then, and was shocked by his expression. He was blank. She looked at Mickey and saw his expression change from giddy to deadly.
"Doctor. Where. Is. Rose?" Mickey walked toward the Doctor, who uncomfortably looked to Martha. His Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed, and he looked at the ground.
"Mickey, I assume it's rather obvious that she's not here," the Doctor replied quietly. Martha gasped when Mickey Smith—calm, goofy Mickey—exploded.
"You promised you'd keep her safe! What's happened? She wouldn't ever leave you if she could help it! What happened Doctor?" Mickey grabbed the Doctor's tweed lapels and shook him.
"Mickey," the Doctor responded quietly. The authority in his voice made Martha shiver. Mickey stepped back, shaking. Martha walked over to the Mickey, put her hand on his back. She felt him stiffen, then relax. "Mickey, I promise you, nothing bad has happened to Rose. She's alive. Safe. Happy."
"Doctor, look," Martha said, staying beside Mickey. "I don't know Rose as well as either of you, but it was pretty obvious on the Crucible that she wasn't ever gonna leave you again if she could help it. So something happened, yeah?"
"Clever, clever Martha Jones, the Girl who Walked the Earth. You never miss a thing." the Doctor smiled weakly. "Yes, something happened. But nothing bad."
"Care to share?" Mickey spat. The Doctor looked up at Mickey, his eyes betraying his attempts to hide hurt and guilt. The Doctor sighed heavily, then leant against the railing.
"Remember on the Crucible, when Martha was about to deploy the Oesterhaagen Key?" He looked at Mickey, who nodded. Martha looked down. "Martha, you wouldn't have even threatened it if there was any other way. Don't blame yourself for something you didn't do. In any case, just as that discussion was happening, my TARDIS reappeared and out popped Donna and another me."
"You called him a meta-something, yeah?" Mickey replied, his eyes still hard.
"Human Time Lord Biological Meta-Crisis. Indeed. Completely unique in all the universe! Quite something. Rose is with him," the Doctor began to walk toward the Console, as though his answer was completed. Martha looked at Mickey, who looked back at her completely dumbfounded.
"Doctor," Martha called after him. He stopped and turned toward her. "Care to…elaborate?"
"Isn't it obvious?"
"No," Mickey replied.
"Oh," The Doctor shoved his hands in his pockets and began to rock back and forth on his heels. "Human Time-Lord Meta-Crisis. Time Lord brain in a mostly human body. We were the same being until I put my regeneration energy back into my extra hand." At the mention of the hand, Martha grimaced a bit. "Yes, that hand. Sorry, Martha. But it came in handy," at that he squeaked a laugh. Martha and Mickey groaned and rolled their eyes.
"So, not a clone, then? Cause you do that regeneration thingy you were talking about earlier?"
"Precisely! I was shot by a Dalek about twenty minutes before we got to the Crucible. He was sort of a half-regeneration. Extreme heat and energy of the Crucible, regeneration particles, Donna's huon particles and just a touch of human DNA to fill out the missing bits, and, voila! Human Time-Lord Meta-Crisis. You can see why it's so rare as to be unique."
"I'll pretend I understood that," Martha smiled at him.
"So, Rose?" asked Mickey.
"Were you always so doggedly single minded? This universe didn't need two of me. I was taking Jackie back to Pete's World anyway. So…"
"So you left Rose and the Meta-Crisis in that world," Martha finished.
"Yes." The Doctor turned back toward the Console and fiddled with a knob.
"But Doctor, Rose…if there's one thing I learned in all of this, she wouldn't just leave you. She was never gonna leave you. I was there when she broke open the TARDIS before you came back with a different face. I was there when she volunteered for the Dimension cannon project…"
"Mickey," the Doctor sighed. "She didn't leave me. I left her. With me, and her family."
"What makes you think you can make all the bloody decisions for us, Doctor? Supposing she didn't wanna stay with the other you?"
"She made it quite clear she wouldn't mind," the Doctor replied. Martha saw his expression cloud with pain. "Besides. It would be better for both of them. Human body, Time Lord brain. Me, in a human body."
"Oh," Martha gasped. Her mind flooded with memories of the Family and 1913, and despite herself she felt tears begin to prick her eyes.
"What is it, Martha?" Mickey asked, his anger at the Doctor quickly shifting to concern for her.
"It's…I get it. No regeneration, so human lifespan. He did something like that once before," she said to Mickey. He shrugged, then she turned to look at the Doctor. He looked so sad, but at the same time, she felt relief and radiating from him. "The one adventure you couldn't have."
"Quite right, Dr. Jones. Thank you." the Doctor replied, smiling sadly. Martha threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly. Mickey turned and walked toward the walls of the Console Room. "Anyway, last I could tell, they were happy. Married. And, though I don't think they knew yet, expecting."
"Wait, I thought you couldn't cross the Void?" Mickey asked
"I can't. But I am, regardless of form, very clever. They figured out that the even if the universes are secure, the walls are always thin at Bad Wolf Bay. You remember that beach, I presume? Time Lords have a psychic link, you know. Not strong enough for anything specific, but they visit from time to time."
"And what," Mickey laughs, the threat gone from his voice, "they think really hard at you?"
"Actually, Mickey, something like that, yes."
"Wait," Mickey had been wandering way, but turned on his heels. "Expecting?" The Doctor ignored him.
"Sometimes you're too good to everyone else, Doctor. Too cruel to yourself."
"Oh, Martha, trust me, you of all people should know that I deserve what I get. Besides, I'm not so cruel to myself. I've been travelling with some wonderful folks. Amy and Rory! You should meet them!" The Doctor jumped up and began to push buttons and pull levers.
"Doctor…" Martha threatened. Mickey couldn't help but smile and grabbed onto the railing, hoping this Doctor had a bit more skill than the Grin or the Gob.
"Not to worry, Dr. Jones! Mr. Mickey Smith! Smith and Jones, how about that?" He grinned at Martha, who laughed despite her earlier tone. "Just a short hop to Upper Leadsworth! The Ponds await!"
"Ponds, Ponds, Ponds! I have a surprise!" The Doctor danced out of the TARDIS doors, spreading his arms out to cover both Amy and Rory's shoulders, then pulling them tight, he kissed their heads and let them go with a spin. Rory re-messed his hair.
"Uh, Doctor? You've been gone over an hour longer than you said," the Doctor ignored him, jumping back in the TARDIS doors. Rory turned to Amy, who wore a confused expression similar to his own. "We were gonna yell at him about that. He did it again. Again!"
"If he's got a surprise, it's not like he's gonna listen until we've seen it," Amy smirked. "He's a bleeding six-year-old in nine-hundred-year-old alien's body." As if to prove her point, the Doctor stuck his head back out the TARDIS doors, grinned and gestured inside. Amy shrugged, grabbed Rory's hand, and followed the Doctor into the TARDIS.
Amy and Rory walked into the TARDIS to see the Doctor positively bouncing. Behind him, a man and a woman looked as resignedly confused as they felt. The woman, pretty and professionally dressed, smiled nervously and waved. The man, more casual in jeans and a t-shirt, nodded and shrugged. The Doctor stepped around behind them and put his arms over both their shoulders. Amy could swear she heard him giggle.
"Amy, you're always asking about what I did before we met. Here's the answer!" He pushed the couple forward toward Amy and Rory. Rory, despite his best efforts to keep a straight face, laughed. The man slapped his own face with his palm. The Doctor looked at Rory and back at the man, confused.
"River would've loved that one, Doctor. Field day," Amy laughed. The Doctor's eyebrows raised.
"Oi, keep your dirty old minds out of the gutter. I was going to finish that sentence when you lot started giggling like inappropriate teenagers."
"Changes his whole face and this whole living spaceship, but some things never change. Dense as ever," the woman stepped forward and held out her hand to Amy. "I'm Martha Jones. I travelled with the Doctor a while back."
"Oh!" Amy began to shake her hand, "Really? Come 'ere! Any friend of the Doctor's might as well be family." Amy pulled Martha in for a friendly hug, which Martha returned. Rory held out his hand, Martha shook his with both her hands.
"I'm Rory, that's my wife, Amy," Rory smiled. Mickey coughed, the Doctor slapped his back and pushed him forward.
"This is Mickey Smith!" The Doctor called, looking like a little boy proudly showing off his toys. "He's known me even longer than Martha!" Mickey waved sheepishly, then stepped towards Amy and Rory to shake their hands.
"So, you and she are?" Amy asked, her teasing tone sneaking through.
"Oh," Martha laughed. "No, we don't even know each other all that well. He was with the Doctor before me. It's just lucky we ran into each other today." She didn't see Mickey's face fall a bit at her dismissal. Amy did.
"Well, 's not that I really travelled with the Doctor like Martha did. She was a proper companion. I just tagged along a bit when the Doctor was with Rose."
"Rose? Who's she? She here, too?" Amy asked, looking around behind the Doctor. Martha's jaw dropped. She turned back toward the Doctor, who tensed. Mickey did, too.
"Who's Rose?" Martha asked, incredulous. The Doctor could tell Martha was angry, but wasn't sure what he had done. She rolled her eyes and leaned in toward Amy, who looked confused in response. Quietly, Martha said, "You're lucky. She was all he'd talk about when I was with him. Rose this, Rose that."
"Do you mean River?" Amy asked. It was Martha's turn to be confused. Amy's eyebrows raised in response.
"Maybe we need to have a woman-to-woman about this git." Martha responded, turning toward the Doctor. She and Amy made an intimidating force.
"No question," she looked piercingly toward the Doctor. He squirmed.
"Mickey!" He called out suddenly, and louder than he initially intended. Mickey jumped.
"Why don't you pull out those photos! That might be interesting. They've only known me as the Geek!" The Doctor pushed Mickey back toward Amy and Rory, then stepped back to lean against the TARDIS railing.
"Oh, uh, sure." Mickey pulled out the photos from earlier. Amy and Rory stepped closer, curious. Martha did the same, even though she had seen them earlier. She was interested to see the new companions' reactions. Mickey started with the photo of him, Rose, the Doctor, and Jack.
"That's me, obviously. There's Rose," he pointed at each face. Rory looked impressed, Amy poked him. "That's Jack, still see him around sometimes," this time Amy was impressed and Rory offended. "Don't worry, mate, he has that effect on everyone. And that is the Doctor, what he looked like when I first met him."
"What?" Amy practically shrieked with laughter. "You're kidding me! Lookit you all broody and leather-y!" The Doctor pretended to ignored them.
"Yeah, and he sounded Northern, too, then," Mickey laughed. "So imagine our surprise when Rose brings him back at Christmas looking like this," and with a flourish he produced the second image.
Amy gasped. She recognized Rose and Mickey from the last photo, and surmised the older woman was Rose's mum. The Doctor looked younger than before, more alive. It was a candid shot, not posed, and everyone looked jovial and friendly, wearing cracker hats and eating pudding. It was downright domestic. But what made her gasp wasn't the change between the Doctors (though she would use that as her excuse) it was the look between Rose and the Doctor. They were sitting at the table, leaning in toward each other, sharing a private joke. Amy instantly understood why Martha was surprised the Doctor hadn't mentioned this Rose. She held the image in her mind, wanted to remember this very personal moment the Doctor actually suggested Mickey share with them. She looked up at the Doctor, who was watched them, a dark look passing over his face. She smiled, filing away that discussion for later. "You were a bit of all right here."
"Excuse me," the Doctor looked offended. "I'm always a bit of all right."
"Bowtie, mate," Mickey laughed, stuffing the pictures back into his wallet.
"Bowties are cool," the Doctor replied immediately and emphatically, adjusting the object in question.
Several hours after Amy and Rory went to bed, the Doctor strapped himself into his swing to work on the wiring below the TARDIS. As usual, he had no specific plans, but he was sure he could find something to tinker with. He heard the soft padding of Amy's bare feet coming down the hallway. He sighed, raking his hands over his face. She was going to want to talk.
"Hey," she said, rolling a stool from the upper level of the console room to the lower level where he tinkered. She couldn't resist spinning a bit on the stool top.
"Hello," he replied. He was going to be gruff and silent, but she was Amy. Her presence had a way of making him feel softer and more at ease. If there was one thing he took away from his meetings today, it was this: he has the very best friends. No, Sarah Jane was right—he has the very best family. And Amy was clearly his charming but sometimes annoying little sister. "Weren't you supposed to be asleep?"
"I was, but I woke up. I've been doing that a lot lately. Wake up for an hour or so, then I fall back to sleep. Some sort of insomnia or something."
"Huh," the Doctor looked concerned. Insomnia is odd and a symptom of several serious conditions. He scanned her with his sonic. "No toxins or parasites."
"Just insomnia, Doctor. Happens to the best of us," Amy twisted back and forth on the stool, fiddling with the belt of Rory's robe, which she had tossed over her nightshirt. In that moment she looked incredibly young, but the Doctor saw something deeper in her eyes, something wise in the wrinkle of her eyebrows. "So, right before you came back the first time, Rory and I'd gone on a few dates. I had just told him that I didn't think it would work. Truth is, I was so scared that I'd end up losing my best mate if we really got together. That's what always happens, right? You can't laugh at movies or play darts or just sit around anymore after you get together with a mate. So I broke it off. After you left, I went on a few dates with some other guys."
"Not Geoff, I hope," the Doctor answered without looking over. She saw him shake his head, clearing away a mental image.
"No, not Geoff," she laughed. "Funny thing was, after every date I couldn't help but compare each one to Rory, and nobody stacked up. Maybe they were better-looking or better dancers or made better money but there was something about him'n me that clicked. When we got together again, it was funny. We still played darts and sat around and laughed and made fun of bad movies. "
"Love is friendship set on fire, said an old Bishop," the Doctor couldn't help but smile seeing Amy's expression. "Best description I've heard, based on my experience."
"Yeah. Sounds about right. Right before my wedding, I got scared again."
"Obviously," the Doctor lifted an eyebrow. "But I thought we were never going to mention that again."
"So you remember that Dream World? The Dream Lord guy with the birdsong and all that?"
"Yes, I remember," he replied darkly. His jaw twitched. He pushed up his goggles and set down his wrench, looking to Amy, whose eyes were trained on his.
"When Rory died, I didn't think. I just chose the freezing TARDIS. But it wasn't just because I couldn't live without him. I'd survive. I'd be broken, I'd never forget him, but I would heal. But I couldn't live without him then because he didn't know how much I loved him. And until that moment, I didn't even realize how much I loved him. Sharing that love, with you and with him, it gave everything before and everything after meaning."
"Isn't that the way? We often don't realize how important something is until it's gone." Huon particles and Spider Queens. Decrepit and chained to a doghouse. Talking aloud to an empty console room. He returned to his work with a heavy sigh. "You were very lucky, Amy, to have a second chance."
"Not a day goes by I don't realize it, Doctor." Amy smiled at him. "So…"
"So?" The Doctor didn't look down from the wiring.
"Tell me about Rose," Amy fixed him with a glare that could burn through a lesser being's skin. He was going to resist; he knew this was coming. Too many memories, so long buried, had been unearthed today. But he couldn't pretend she hadn't seen the photos, he was so tired from the effort of suppressing those images. He sighed and slipped his wrench in his pocket. He looked into the distance (time and space) for a moment before turning toward Amy with a small smile.
"Rose Tyler said no the first time I asked her to come with me," he started, though his voice cracked. "So I came back and told her I could also travel in time…"
The Doctor dropped them off right in front of Martha's flat. After another round of hugs, she and Mickey stepped back and watched as the TARDIS fade from view. Martha turned toward the door, blinking rapidly. A deep breath later, she managed to avoid tears. Mickey was still with her.
"Mad as ever," he laughed tightly. She turned again to see him, still watching the air where the TARDIS had been just moments ago. She could see his fists clenching until he finally shoved them in his pockets. Martha stepped beside him and touched his shoulder, gently gliding over his back from side to side. He relaxed.
" 's good to know he's all right. Hundreds of years old but he still needs lots of caring for," she sighed, dropping her arm. Mickey exhaled at the same time.
"Yeah, that's how Rose made it sound," he answered, shaking his head. Martha caught a strange mixture of resignation and fondness in his tone. She tugged his shirtsleeve, pointing toward the bench across the street from her flat. He sat first, while Martha carefully planned her distance; she didn't want to be too close to insinuate herself into anything or too far to seem uncaring or uninterested.
"You travelled with him, too, you said?" turning towards him.
"Nah, not really. Was around for a few adventures," he made air quotes with the last word, grinning. "Went on a few trips. But it was always her 'n him, really," he smirked and shrugged. A few cars passed.
"Doesn't sound that different from how it was when I was with him," she muttered with a scoff.
"Oh-ho! That's a bit of bitterness!" Mickey's eyebrows rose sharply and he bent over his knees, clearly trying not to laugh. Despite the slightly embarrassed blush warming her cheeks Martha couldn't help but chuckle in response. When he recovered, she felt the need to explain.
"I'm not, though, really. Not anymore. To be honest, I kinda knew it'd be that way from the first day I met him," she shrugged. "Still."
"Well, I hope he didn't give you some sort of complex," Mickey's smile softened.
"What do you mean?"
"Once, I called him her boyfriend, yeah? Rose says to me, 'He's not my boyfriend, Mickey, he's better than that.'" Mickey grimaced. "I was still kinda her boyfriend then. Before we'd really broken up." Martha's mouth dropped. He smiled and shrugged, mimicking her earlier gestures. Martha nodded and raised his call.
"'You're not replacing her,' he said the first time we met. The first trip, I'm sitting there asking what the plan is and he says, 'I wish Rose were here, she'd know what to do.'"
"So, complex, then?" Mickey leaned in and bumped her shoulder with his then patted her knee.
"A bit," she laughed. His hand left her knee; she wouldn't have minded if he kept it there. But instead he snaked his arm around her shoulders across the back of the bench. He sat back and his gaze turned toward the road in front of them, the flats beyond that, and somewhere in the past.
"But I don't blame either of them anymore. When you find your happiness, you shouldn't let it go," he said, quietly. "I couldn't hate her, not ever, we were mates since we were kids. And he's bloody brilliant, damn him."
"Yeah," Martha looked toward her own distance, past and future, space and time and memories. "See, I realized there's lots of kinds of love and they're always complicated, but they work best when two people have the same kind of love for each other. Got to a point where I knew I couldn't travel with him full time anymore, not until I figured myself and my own worth out," she sighed, looked down into her lap. "So I got out."
"That's the trick, innit?" she felt the pressure of Mickey's hand squeezing her shoulder. "Same here. In that other world, I finally figured out I was good enough on my own. I needed the distance." A silence settled between them once again, comfortable and warming, like low hanging clouds on a chilly autumn night. His arm still rested along the back of the bench, against her back, too. His thumb moved slightly, she felt it against her shoulder. With a sigh, he spoke again, "But damn him if I didn't realize I was a badass on my own for knowing the both of them."
"So bloody frustrating! Martha laughed, shaking her head and dropping into her hands, "My God, it's good to hear you say that. I feel mad sometimes. Completely nutters."
"Well, that's the other effect he has," he responded with a slow, wide smile. She felt a heat rise to her cheeks again, though this time not from embarrassment. He was definitely not a dope. Lovable, yes. Dope, no. She noticed the light changing around them, turning slightly orange and remembered her dinner date with her brother.
"Oh, damn! What's the time?" she asked, standing up. Mickey pulled his phone from his pocket and showed it to her. "D'you mind if I use your phone real quick? I have a dinner date with Leo and his family and…I'm gonna be late now. If I can just shoot a text…" Mickey shrugged and handed her his phone.
"What, don't have one of your own?" he asked, standing beside her. He shifted from foot to foot nervously.
"No, I do, but…I left it at home today. Didn't want to be bothered," she smiled and handed the phone back to him.
"Hope I weren't a bother."
"Are you joking?" she laughed and pulled him into a hug. "You've been lovely, Mickey Smith," she whispered into her ear before kissing his cheek. She stepped back, smiling at Mickey, who appeared paralyzed. He grinned, and in that moment did look a bit dopey. He couldn't help himself. Martha reached out and squeezed his hand, then turned and jogged—or was she skipping?—back to her flat. His eyes lingered.
Mickey realized he was still standing with that lame grin, and shook himself. He shoved his hands into his pockets and rocked on his heels before turning and walking toward his own flat. It would be a bit of a walk, but he had plenty to think about.
He hadn't travelled ten steps when his pocket buzzed. He pulled out his phone and smiled.
Now you've got my number. You should use it. xoMartha.
Martha ducks around the corner across from Mickey, breathing heavily. She winks quickly and he shoots her a smile in return, flattening against the wall. "I told you to stay behind." There is no malice in his accusation. They were both out of breath, chests rising and falling in time with their gasps.
"Yeah, well, youlooked like you needed help. Besides, you're the one who persuaded me to go freelance," Martha smirks, resting her head against the wall. They both laugh, tired scoffs more than anything else.
"Yeah," Mickey retorts, "But we're being fired at by a Sontaran. A dumpling with a gun," he peeks over the wall to check for the dumpling in question. "And this is no place for a married woman."
"Well, then," Martha grins back. He knew that would get a reaction, but he couldn't resist. Nor could she: "You shouldn't have married me." Her tongue pokes out and Mickey gestures to her to join him. She steps across and he pulls her to him, squeezing her into a tight hug before pulling out his map.
"If we go in here," he points to a spot on the map that is about 200 yards north of their current position "and down to the factory floor and down past that corridor, then he won't know that we're here." Mickey looks around again. Martha knows the Sontaran is on the move, and they are open to attack if he's anywhere to the North. Suddenly, the hairs prickle up her arms and neck. She looks north and up and sees the Sontaran. She is about to cry out when he she sees that he's falling over and behind him…
"Mickey," she whispers, slapping his shoulder. "Mickey." He's scared by her tone and looks to her, then follows her gaze. It's the Doctor. Not the Geek, though, the one they saw in Green Park on the day they met again. It's the Gob, the one Martha travelled with; the one Mickey carried up to Jackie's flat while he was still in the Grin's clothes. The one they both helped on Doomsday 2, who guided them as they piloted the TARDIS back to Earth.
Mickey calls out and steps forward, but Martha grabs his arm, holds him back. Something is wrong. He is sad, alone, broken. Gaunt and hollow. She can tell, and so can Mickey. He gazes at them for a few moments, then turns and walks away. They stand, unmoving, as the sound of the TARDIS dematerializing echoes in through the abandoned factory. They pull for each other, simultaneously, grasping and burrowing into each other. He has taken care of the Sontaran for them, they have the luxury to grieve.
Later, when they are home and safe, she lies beside him, fingers running along his bare chest. He breaks the silence between them.
"That bastard!" His voice is full of mirth. Martha pulls back and sits up.
"What?" She asks, brow furrowing deeply.
"Sorry, babe. Didn't mean to startle you," he smiles that lazy smile and she relaxes. "But the bastard didn't give me a heads-up. He knew and he didn't even give me a bloody clue!"
"What are you talking about, Mick?" she shakes her head at him.
"Coulda saved me a little anxiety is all, but no. He'd seen us together. So when we met him in the park, he'd already known we'd get together."
"Oh," Martha shrugs, buries her smile into his shoulder. "Well."
"Well, what?" he asks, snuggling closer. "He knew!"
"So did I," she smiles and rolls on top of him, lips meeting his in a flurry of sheets.