And here's the proper chapter. Get ready for one helluva time.
I made a cover art for it. If anyone wants to see, check the WSITW tag in my blog (wintermoth)
Natalie was late to work.
Natalie was never late to work. She had punctuality down to an art. She'd only been sick once in the entire time Rose had been there and she'd given notice before Rose had even woken up. But today she simply wasn't to be found anywhere. Their supervisor tried to get ahold of her but she didn't answer so they called in one of the guys who usually worked the evening shift. His name was Duncan and she'd spoken to him briefly sometimes when they changed shifts but she didn't know him well.
Rose text Natalie several times throughout the morning to no avail and called her when she got a chance to go to run to the bathroom. No answer. While she was on her lunch break, she gave Aiden a call to see if he knew anything but he hadn't seen her. He offered to come in and work the rest of her shift.
"No, no, they called in Duncan." Rose assured him.
"Yeah. Well, I don't know if he's from Texas, but he's got a thick accent."
"Yeah, that's him. Blonde guy. Nice guy until you give him a few beers then he's kind of an asshole. A drunk man's words are a sober man's thoughts so keep an eye on him at all times."
Rose smiled. Aiden really was a great guy and she had the feeling he'd do well with intergalactic travel. She ought to check on him whenever they got around to taking Martha home since aliens were becoming general knowledge by then. "I will. But could you swing by Natalie's house and see if she's there? I'm getting worried."
"Ta. Call me when you find her. Bye." She slid her phone shut and set it down on the table. She sighed propped her chin on her fist, staring down at her food. She still had fifteen minutes left before her break was over and if she didn't eat now she'd be starving by dinner but her appetite was gone. Life with the Doctor, however, had taught her that it was best to eat when given the opportunity because you never knew when you'd be on the move again.
Like this is anything like our other adventures, she thought irritably as she picked up her fork and stabbed it into her taco salad. She wouldn't be running for her life anytime soon, especially if she didn't find the watch.
She was highly considering bringing the scanner to the hospital with her and refining the search. Maybe there was a mode that would lead her right to the nearest source. No, wait. It would probably lock onto her artron signature rather than the watch unless…maybe she could somehow program the scanner to not track her signature. Ugh, this really wasn't her area. The Doctor always did the technological work.
Rose was still mulling it over when someone sat down in front of her. She looked up, expecting to see Martha since she was the only one who she ever ate lunch with, so it came as quite a shock when she saw Natalie sitting across from her. Her fork clattered to the plate.
"Oh my God! Natalie! Where the hell have you been?" she exclaimed louder than she meant to. Glancing around to make sure no one was staring, she leaned closer to her friend. "Are you alright?"
Natalie stared at her for a second, sniffed rather loudly, and then smiled. "I'm fine."
She narrowed her eyes. "You. Prat! I've been sittin' 'ere for five bleedin' hours, worried about you! Thinkin' you were in hospital as a patient or lyin' dead in your flat! I just sent Aiden lookin' for you! An' now you tell me you've been perfectly fine this whole time? So what? Just thought you'd skive off work? Is that it?"
It was only after she was finished ranting that she realized she'd slipped so deeply into her normal accent and vocabulary that it was like she'd never left the estate. Since she'd been here, Rose had made an effort to lean towards a more posh accent at work so people could understand her and she'd been using the terminology she'd learned from Aiden and Natalie. It'd been getting easier, too. Until now, at least, with the lack of sleep weighing heavy on her and the wave of anger coursing through her.
"Couldn't be arsed to pick up your phone, either, eh?" she added through her teeth.
"You mean this?" Natalie produced her phone from her pocket. "It has been squawking and beeping all morning."
Rose stared at her for a few seconds. "Uh…yeah. That was all of us trying to get ahold of you. Are you alright?"
"I told you I'm fine."
"Right…" she said slowly. "Hang on a tick." She picked up her phone and hit redial. It rang twice.
"Aiden that's not even from the right set of islands."
"Really? Huh. Who'd a thunk it?"
Rose rolled her eyes. "Shut up, you. I found Natalie."
"She's sitting right in front of me in the cafeteria. She just sat down, calm as you please. Says she's fine."
"…Yeah. I'm calling bullshit on that."
"Agreed. I'll let you know."
"You do that. Bye."
Rose hung up and looked at the woman across from her critically. Her brown hair, usually smooth and straight, was mussed, what was left her makeup was smeared, her eyes were strangely intense, and she was still wearing her jacket.
"Natalie, there's something you're not telling me," she said.
"I think I could say the same about you." Natalie countered.
"Why are you here? I mean you clearly didn't want to come to work this morning."
"I wanted to eat lunch with you," she replied with a too sweet smile that didn't belong on her face. "So we could talk about all that traveling you do. I'm very eager to hear more about it."
Rose swallowed and forced herself to smile. "S-shall I go through the line for you? They're serving pickled veal and deep fried jam."
Natalie leaned forward. "Sounds great."
You're not Natalie. Her hands clenched around her phone as she stared into her friend's eyes. Something dark and sinister stared back at her from behind them.
Rose had watched the video the Doctor left behind over a dozen times. She knew every word, ever pause, every smile, every frown. Every single fact he'd told them about the Family of Blood's species zipped through her head at light speed. But the biggest one, how they survived, stuck out from amidst it all: they took over bodies and used the owner's memories to make their way.
Rose stood up and grabbed her purse. "A-and I then I want to tell you about the film I saw at the cinema last night." She still half expected her terminology to be corrected. She forced herself to remain steady as she tucked her mobile into her pocket. "Oh, by the way, I saw Jim Carrey earlier. He said to tell you hello."
"I'll be back in a mo. Watch my tray please?"
The thing using Natalie's body nodded and folded her arms on the table. Rose turned and headed for the direction of the food as quickly as she could without it seeming like she was trying to run. The moment she was around the corner she took off running, grateful she'd worn flats today. She had to get away and get away now. What happened in Cardiff had proven that they would attack in public with no care about bystanders being harmed in the process.
She didn't bother waiting for the elevator, flying up the stairs as quickly as she could. Her muscles ached from disuse and this damn skirt was not meant for running in. Bursting through the door to the fifth floor, she forced herself to slow to a brisk since this was the pediatric floor. She had no idea where Martha was, of course, and she could run into John at any minute. Though she wasn't sure the latter would be a bad thing at this point. If the Family was here then they needed to get the hell out. Of course they couldn't do that without finding the bloody watch first!
She managed to gasp out a question to a few med students and they pointed her in the direction of the patient's lunchroom. Sure enough, Martha was in there. So was the blonde woman named Violet that had somehow captured John's heart and Rose made a point to not look at her.
"Martha!" she called.
Martha's eyes widened when she saw Rose coming and she glanced at Violet quickly.
"Hi, Marion!" one of the children shouted.
Rose stopped in front of Martha with her hands on her knees. Martha put her hand on her shoulder and whispered so the children couldn't hear, "Rose, what—" she glanced at Violet again "—what are you doing up here?"
She looked up. "They're here."
She didn't even need to elaborate. Martha's eyes widened and her face drained of color. She swallowed and cast her eyes across the room. A lot of the children were staring at them and she figured Violet was, too. "Are you sure?" Martha muttered.
"One of them took Natalie," she hissed back. "She didn't show up to work and wasn't answering her phone but then she just showed up in the lunchroom and—I know Natalie. I know 'er. That wasn't Natalie. It looked like her but it weren't."
Martha nodded, squaring her shoulders. "Do you know where the locker rooms are? Wait for me there."
"Hell no. We're sticking together."
"Fine. Wait by the door." Martha gave her a nudge in the right direction then headed over to Violet. Rose leaned against the wall outside of the room, glancing this way and that for any sign of Natalie. There were three other people in this town under their control and if the thing inside Natalie had figured out who Rose was then it was probably safe to assume they all knew as well.
Martha emerged from the room and motioned for Rose to follow her. They stopped down at her locker so she could get out of her coat and grab her things. She handed Rose the spare jacket she kept in her locker and told her to put the hood up. Then they headed down the back stairs and out the ER entrance. They waited across the street from the bus stop, keeping their heads down until the bus arrived and then they ran across and boarded quickly.
"Rose," she whispered when they took their seats in the very back of the bus. "Do you have your deceiver on?"
Rose pulled back her sleeve to show her the thin, silver bracelet that would hid her scent. "You?"
"Ankle. No jewelry allowed at work."
"Good. So they can't track us, at least."
"Does Natalie know where you live?"
Rose's eyes widened and she thought back, trying to remember if she'd mentioned that to Natalie. "N-no. I don't think so. I don't think I've told anyone, actually. You?"
They kept their eyes on the other passengers but no one was paying any attention to them. Martha pulled the cord when they were close and the moment the bus stopped they were out the doors and running for their flat, weaving through the people and casting glances over their shoulders, and didn't stop until they were safely inside.
If inside could even be considered safe.
"We need to get the hell out of here." Rose said. "Start packing. We'll drop stuff off at the TARDIS, get something we can fight with if the Family track us down, and find that bloody watch even if we have to tear the hospital apart."
For the first time in weeks she felt something through her link to the TARDIS. It came in waves. First, curiosity, then fear strong enough that Rose shivered, and finally a rush of pure unadulterated rage that made Rose dig her fingers into the wall and hiss through her teeth.
"TARDIS," she spit out. What's happening?
The answering image was dim and a bit blurry since the TARDIS was still on emergency power, but she recognized Marc, the homeless man that lurked in the alley where the TARDIS had parked, standing in front of the ship with four figures wearing all black. The image faded followed by a flash of mauve.
"Something's wrong," she managed. "There are these…things in the alley with Marc and the TARDIS. Then I saw mauve."
"That means danger, right?" Her eyes widened in horror. "Oh, oh no. They took him, too! That's how Natalie knew who you were! I mean, they know there's three of us, and think of what Marc knows about us? Once they realized he'd been living next to the TARDIS it would've been easy for them to figure out it's us. They know our faces, our scents, and now they have our ship! What are we gonna do? " she shouted, sounding slightly hysterical.
"Martha, calm down." Rose ordered, seizing her friend's shoulders.
Martha buried her face in her hands and her body shuddered. A few seconds passed and Rose realized she was crying. She hugged her tightly and patted her back. "I'm sorry," Martha apologized. "It's just all happening so fast and Marc—Marc was my friend and…"
"Natalie was mine. Hey, Martha," she leaned back to look her in the eyes. "There might be a way to save them. The Doctor will know just as soon as we get him back. And we are gonna get him back."
Martha nodded and wiped her eyes. "Right, yeah. We also need to guard John. Marc saw his face when he first left the TARDIS. I don't think it'd be too hard to find that memory if they start looking. Which they will since they're after him," she added.
"Does he work tonight?"
"No. But he is going to that charity dinner they're holding for the hospital at the convention center with Violet, I overheard them talking. Did you hear about it?"
"Mm. Well, then, looks like you're going to dinner, Martha, and I'm going to the hospital."
They hid in the apartment for the rest of the afternoon. They got their personal items packed and carried into the living room and worked on trying out refining the scanner. They managed to get it into a setting that pinged when in proximity to artron, automatically disregarding the wielder's arton signature. Around six, Rose made dinner for herself and they watched the news. There was nothing in particular that stood out. No missing persons reports and she wondered who the other two members of the Family had taken as hosts. After the news was over, Martha disappeared into her room to get ready for the dinner.
Rose, meanwhile, changed out of her work clothes into a red long sleeved t-shirt, a black jacket, jeans, and a pair of trainers. Good to run in and she wouldn't stand out from the crowd. She also wiped off her makeup and reapplied it in a less professional way, adding on amounts of eye makeup she hadn't bothered with for months and a light pink lipstick. She brushed her hair out but otherwise left it alone. She didn't wanting anyone to recognize her unless they got close enough to look.
She tucked the scanner and a pair of plain blue scrubs into a drawstring bag and placed the sonic and the psychic paper in her pockets. Then she waited in the living room for Martha.
When she finally emerged from her room, she was wearing a short-sleeved black party dress that fell to her knees, with black boots that didn't quite go with the dress but they'd agreed when picking out the outfit they weren't going to take any chances. She had to be able to run fast just in case. Besides, she could always say it was the current fashion in London. Her hair was pulled up into a ponytail, she wore her olfactory deceiver on her wrist, and her TARDIS key around her neck.
Martha nodded, Rose smiled tightly, and they headed out. They rode the bus together to the hospital. Martha would continue on to the hub in the middle of the city and switch busses to reach the convention center.
"Call me when you find it," Martha ordered.
"Call if you run into trouble," Rose countered.
Martha watched her go until she was inside the hospital and the bus had moved on. She silently prayed to whoever may be listening that this would work.
Half an hour later she was walking into the convention center. She was directed to Hall A by a kind woman in all black who's smile was too kind for her to be possessed. Rose had described the dark, almost wild look behind Natalie's eyes and the way she stared intently.
Immediately upon entering the hall she started scanning the crowd for John or Violet. The room was nicely decorated, she noted. White lights hung from the ceiling, twinkling merrily. At least fifty tables were placed orderly around the room with white tablecloths and deep crimson napkins. There was a stage at the front of the room with a podium. A cheery orchestral track played overhead while a slideshow slowly flicked by onscreen showing the faces of healthier patients, happy children at play, smiling doctors, the hospital logo, and a few shots of doctors or nurses with patients, along with positive quotes and testimonies.
A few of her peers that were attending said hello and a few obviously rich people eyed her simple dress with something like distaste. After walking around the room for a minute or so she finally found them sitting together at table 10.
Violet had her blonde hair pulled into a low bun and she wore a sleek blue one-shoulder dress. John had on a black suit. They were quite a pair Martha had to admit. And of course they had eyes only for each other. She'd been in doubt about whether or not they were in love yet (and it was a matter of if, not when, she'd known for a while now) but she was quickly realizing just how far gone they both were. That made what had to be done so much harder. She didn't want to hurt them.
She steeled herself then headed to their table. "Any empty seats?" she asked with a hopeful smile.
They tore their gazes away from each other and their eyes widened in surprise at the exact same moment. It was comical. "Martha!" John exclaimed. "I thought you were dealing with an emergency?"
"I was," she sank into the empty chair next to him, propping her elbow up on the table, and leaned her head into her hand. "My flat mate's boyfriend got himself in a spot of trouble and he was hurt. I had to go help him."
"He couldn't come to the hospital?"
She shook her head. "He's got no insurance. The American healthcare system is rubbish like that."
"Is he alright?" Violet asked.
"He will be, yeah, and he'll be with us again after tonight."
"I'm glad to hear." John replied.
"Thank you so much for covering for me."
"No trouble at all."
Martha licked her lips and looked away from him, staring down at her plate. "Except…"
"I won't be here much longer."
"We're leaving, me an' my friends. Very soon."
"But—but you're in the middle of your studies!" Violet protested. "You can't just leave."
Martha looked up at them both sadly. "I've got to. They'll be going and I've gotta go with them."
"No, no you don't." Violet argued. "John, switch me seats."
John was surprised but he did as she asked. She leaned close to Martha, with her hands in her lap. "Martha…" she began quietly. "The way you've talked about them. They're happy so you're happy. One of them was in trouble so the other one came and dragged you away from work to help. Now they're leaving so you have to as well? Tell me the truth. Do they… are they making you go with them?"
Martha's eyes had been steadily growing wider until she was sure they were about to pop out of their sockets. "No! Oh my God, no! No, no, no, no. It's not like that at all. I'm perfectly fine."
"So they haven't got something on you? You're not being forced?"
"No, " she replied. "I want to go with them. It's like…. When you were a kid, did you ever imagine about running away to somewhere fantastic, just for the fun of it? Just for the adventure? Or just because it was out there and you could? That's why I'm with them. They offered me the entire world and beyond. How could I say no?"
"But I don't understand." John interrupted. "You make it seem like you've been travelling with these friends of yours for a while now. Aren't you in the middle of school?"
Martha looked down at the salad on her plate. "Yes and no. It's a bit…complicated. I… Oh, where do I even start?" she said helplessly to the lettuce. "We always planned to do this together and I'm not even sure how to on my own. I like you both and I want you to be happy. I do, I really do, and I wish you could be."
Violet sighed, annoyed now. "What the hell are you talking about?"
Martha looked at them again. She had to tell them. As soon as Rose showed up with the watch they had to be able to get up and go, that was the plan. But she had no idea how to even go about this. At best they'd think she was a nutter.
"John, you know those dreams you have?" she began.
Suddenly several of the doors around the room burst open, smacking against the door with bangs that resounded through the room. There was a sound like laser fire and people started screaming. Martha leaped to her feet and looked around for the source of the fire. At least thirty figures covered in black from head to toe swarmed into the room like shadows, cutting off escape. People fled from them, crawling under tables and dropping to the floor. The laser went off again, firing a shot at the ceiling, and the music cut out.
"EVERYONE. WILL. BE. SILENT." A man's voice roared and Martha followed the sound to a group of people standing in the doorway wearing clothes not at all suited for a banquet. One of them was Marc.
Martha rounded on John. "Get under the table!" she hissed.
"I SAID SHUT UP!"
Martha reached into her small purse and pulled out her phone to call Rose. No signal. She cursed under her breath. All around the room, people were ducking behind and under tables for cover. Martha lowered herself to the ground and joined John, Violet, and an elderly couple under the table. The couple were clinging to each other in terror and the older woman seemed to be fumbling with an inhaler.
For a moment, it was utterly silent except for the faint terrified whimpers of the guests.
"JOHN SMITH, SHOW YOURSELF." Not-Marc roared.
Martha looked at John fearfully. He was pale and clinging to Violet desperately. "M-me?" he whispered to no one.
She nodded. "I'm so, so sorry. We tried."
"SHOW YOURSELF NOW OR WE WILL START KILLING PEOPLE." An adolescent voice added. "IT DOES NOT MATTER TO US IF THEY ALL DIE."
John exhaled shakily and clung tighter to Violet.
"VERY WELL, THEN."
Something banged loudly and a few people screamed in fear. A few laser blasts followed and the screaming abruptly ended. The sudden silence was even more horrifying. There was another bang and more screaming and desperate pleading and John shoved Violet away from him, lunging out into the open.
"Stop! STOP! " he cried desperately. "I'M HERE!"
Martha took a deep breath and crawled out from underneath the table and stood next to him. John tried to nudge her back down but she remained firm, glaring venomously at the Family of Blood. Marc, Natalie, a teenage boy with short brown hair and baggy clothes, and a little Asian girl with a purple backpack walked towards them, each holding a strange looking gun, with a few of the black figures accompanying them.
"Well, well, well," the boy chuckled when they came to a stop. "Look what we have here. You were right, Father of Mine. And look, he has one of the females to guard him."
Not-Marc sneered at Martha and her glare hardened. "What happened to Marc? Is he gone?" she demanded.
"Oh, yes," Not-Marc chuckled. "And his body is mine."
Martha closed her eyes for a moment and fought back the rising wave of sadness. Poor Marc. Killed for his knowledge with his body left as a meat suit for his killer. But there wasn't time to mourn now. The sadness morphed into anger and she clenched her fists. They would pay for this. They would not take the Doctor.
"We have a few questions for you, Dr. Smith." said the boy. "Or…should I just call you Doctor? You took human form, how clever of you."
"Of course I'm human!" John sputtered. "What is going on? Who are you people?!"
"And a human brain, too!" the boy was amused. "Simple, thick, and dull."
The little girl laughed once.
"He's no good like this," hissed Not-Natalie.
"We need a Time Lord," Not-Marc—or, rather, Father, agreed.
"Easily done." Stepping forward, the boy (Son?) raised his gun and pointed it at John's head. John recoiled. People watching gasped and Martha stiffened, ready to defend him. "Change back, Doctor."
"I don't know what you're talking about." John protested.
"I literally do not know—" he started to shout.
Not-Natalie (Mother?) moved too quickly for Martha to respond. She hooked one arm around Martha's throat and pointed the gun at her head. Martha screamed in surprise and struggled. "GET OFF ME!"
"She's your friend, isn't she?" Mother demanded. Doesn't this scare you enough to change back?"
"I don't know what you mean!" John shouted at her. "Change back into what?!"
"Wait a minute," Father interrupted. He closed his eyes and his skin seemed to glow with a strange green light. "This body has memories of a conversation…about John and a woman called Violet."
Violet gasped quietly underneath the table and Father lunged forward, flipping the table with his hand. The old woman screamed as the three of them were suddenly exposed and her husband threw his arms in front of her protectively. Father seized Violet by the arm and hauled her to her feet, pulling her away from John. She struggled the entire way.
John looked between his two trapped friends, terrified, his chest heaving. Most people had taken shelter around them, listening to the scene, though a few brave souls had peeked out to have a look. Dozens of them were undoubtedly trying to call for help and waiting to run but the black figures still guarded the doors.
"Have you enjoyed it, Doctor? Being human?" Son asked. "Has it taught you wonderful things, are you better, richer, wiser? Then let's see you answer this: which one of them do you want us to kill?"
Martha gasped and started struggling again but Mother tightened her grip.
"Med student or doctor? The alien or the human? Your friend—or your lover? Your choice."
He looked between them both desperately. Amidst her struggles, Martha gazed at John sadly. She knew who he'd pick and it wasn't her.
"Make your decision!" Mother sneered.
"Perhaps if that human heart breaks the Time Lord will emerge," Son mused.
There was a loud bang across the room along with a few screams and the sounds of scuffle. Martha briefly glimpsed a table being overturned and a few men wrestling with some of the figures near the door. Mother's grip loosened and Martha flew into action. Remembering what Rose had taught her, she elbowed Mother in the gut with her right elbow, grabbing the gun out of her hand with her left, and then reached up and grabbed her arm. She ducked underneath, twisting the arm behind Mother's back, and held the gun at Family.
"RIGHT!" she shouted. "One more move, and I shoot."
"Oh, the alien girl is full of fire!" Son spat.
"And you can shut up!" She snarled back and fired the gun at the ceiling. People screamed.
"Careful, Son of Mine," Father cautioned. "This is all for you so that you can live for ever."
"I'll shoot you down." Son raised his gun and pointed at her.
Like that was supposed to scare her off? "Try it," she dared. "We'll die together."
Son stared at her, assessing. "Would you really pull the trigger?" he wondered.
Martha pursed her lips. Could she? She'd killed before on their travels out of necessity. She'd killed things that had been human and things that had never been human but only when it was life or death. She did not remotely enjoy it but she had learned that sometimes it had to be done. If not for her sake then for the sake of everyone, like in Manhattan with the Pig Men. It was the Family or everyone here.
"Looks too scared," Son decided.
"Scared and holding a gun. It's a good combination. You wanna risk it?" She challenged, pointing the gun at his chest.
Son stared at her, then he looked over at John for a long moment, and then he lowered his gun. The other members of the Family did as well and Violet yanked herself away from Father and skittered back over to John.
Martha glanced at them. "Get everyone out through the kitchens. Go now."
John stared at her in fear, still reeling from all that'd happened in the span of a few minutes. Violet, though she was afraid, squared her shoulders and raised her voice. "EVERYBODY OUT!" she shouted. "OUT THROUGH THE KITCHENS. GO NOW."
No one needed to be told twice. Dozens of people emerged from under tables and chairs, some from the restrooms, behind the bars, and one man from behind the podium. The distinct lack of police sirens outside made Martha wonder if they hadn't done something to the phone service so no one could call for help. It would make sense but how far did this new air pocket stretch? Just the building? A few blocks? The entire city?
John was moving finally, ushering the terrified elderly couple from table 10 towards the doors. It took about a minute to get everyone out. Martha, meanwhile, was in an intense staring contest with the Son. He continued to asses her with his piercing gaze, smirking slightly. She scowled determinedly and dug her nails into Mother's arm, causing her to wince slightly.
When most of the humans had escaped, John stood on the other side of table 9, presumably to make sure she got out as well. Her heart went out to him but she couldn't lose their only advantage until he was safe.
"And you," she told him, still staring at the Son. "Go on. Just shift."
"What about you?" he asked.
"I know what I'm doing, John. Get out with Violet."
He looked between her and the door for a moment, torn, before he swallowed, nodding, and ran. When the last of the people were out and it was just Martha, the Family, and the fifteen figures, she started edging towards the door. She pulled Mother with her as a shield and they followed her slowly. When she was away from the tables and close enough to run for it, she let go of Mother, shoving her at her family. Father immediately raised the gun but she leveled it at Son once again, this time with both hands.
"Ah, ah! Don't try it. I'm warning you, or sonny boy gets it." She continued to inch back.
"She's almost brave, this one." Son sneered and they continued their advance.
"I should've taken her form," Mother agreed. "Much more fun. So much spirit."
"I will kill you," Martha warned. "The last few months are all because of you four. All those people in Cardiff that you killed, the hearts you've broken. And these four you took over. Mar was my friend."
"Mar," Father sneered. "You know why this body is mine? Because he came to us! He wanted to protect you and repay you for kindness. Foolish creature. He wanted to be a hero, just like you. Now you'll pay as well."
Martha was seized from behind and she screamed, jerking her head away from the hand trying to cover her mouth. Son shouted something and the gun was snatched from her hands. She shoved against the black figure and made a run for the door.
Bursting into the kitchens, she was grateful for the boots Rose had insisted she wear as she weaved amongst the shelves, counters, and carts, leaping over fallen utensils and food. She wasn't sure if they were following her as it was difficult to hear over the humming of the machines and shrieking of finished timers. She looked back once and didn't see them so she could only hope they hadn't deemed her worth the effort at the moment.
She was already working on a way to track down John when she emerged from the kitchens and found him standing there with Violet and a few other stragglers in the parking lot.
"Don't just stand there! MOVE!" she screeched at them, John in particular. "God, you're rubbish as a human! Come on!"
She took off running and, thankfully, John and Violet followed her. "We have to get far away from here, now!"
"Wait! We can take my car!" Violet called. "This way!"
She veered off to the side, pulling John with her. Martha swerved around, easily catching up with them. Violet unlocked the doors and they piled inside quickly, Violet and John in the front and Martha in the back. But she could hear panicked shouting and laser fire and knew the Family had emerged and were attacking. The police would undoubtedly be arriving soon. Guns and police versus lasers and a small army of aliens.
They made it out of the parking lot with surprisingly little difficulty. Apparently most people had opted to leg it rather than try for their cars. Martha ordered to keep the windows up and the heater off. "They're hunters," she explained. "They track through scent and now that they have yours, they'll be able to find you. You too, Violet."
"And you?" Violet asked.
"No, I've got this—oh!" She gasped and slipped the deceiver from her wrist. "John, give me your hand. Now!" she barked when he hesitated.
He twisted in the seat and held out his arm. She slipped the silver deceiver onto his wrist. "It's called an olfactory deceiver. I've been wearing it since we arrived. It literally cancels out my scent. God, the amounts of perfume I've had to wear. You wouldn't believe just how sensitive our noses actually are. It weirds people out when you don't supply information to all the five basic senses."
Already it was mildly unsetting to be near him.
"Mad," he said.
"No…no I can…" Violet trailed off and licked her lips. "I think I know what she means."
"A little nagging in the back of your head, right?" Martha asked. "Something telling you he's not quite right?"
Violet pressed her lips together, glancing at them out of the corner of her eye, and nodded. The ride continued on in silence for a minute.
"What…was…that?" John finally whispered. He swallowed thickly and continued on, his volume rising. "Who were they? Why did they want me? What have I done?"
Martha gulped. She had to explain now.
"You know something," he accused harshly. "You were about to say something before they burst in. The things they said to you… They called you an alien."
"I…I'm human," Martha said. "Those hunters are alien parasites. They sought out hosts when they landed and one of them, the man, was a friend of mine who thought I was an alien. He wouldn't believe us when we tried to tell him we were human so we just stopped trying."
"Why? And what did they want with me?"
"I… It's difficult to explain." she licked her lips. "First, though, we need to find a place to hide. Some place safe."
"My flat?" John offered.
Martha shook her head quickly. "No. They may not be able to track you now but they trace your scent back to your flat. And your house, too, Violet, since he was just there. Anywhere you've already been they can find. My flat's going to be the safest."
"Where is it?"
"Two blocks East of John's. So head there and I'll tell you how to go from there."
Violet nodded and turned left at the next light. Martha sighed and leaned back into her seat, closing her eyes, and worked on calming her racing heart. The adrenaline was tapering off finally, but her limbs tingled with energy and she was ready to move at a moment's notice. She pulled out her phone to call Rose again but there was still no signal. Did they kill all the phone service in the city?
John's voice broke the silence. "How do you know where my flat is?"
Martha inhaled slowly through her nose, exhaling through her mouth. She took her time putting her phone away and zipping her purse. When she couldn't put it off any longer, she clasped her hands in her lap, and spoke as matter-of-factly as she could. "We've been monitoring you since day one. We had to know where you were going to be living and working and all that so we could protect you in case those aliens came after you."
Violet laughed derisively. "So are you from the government or something? Are you Agent J? Or, no—Agent M?"
"I'm not from the Men In Black." Martha rolled her eyes at the irony of that. "Let's just start at the beginning, okay? I think that'll be easier for all of us."
"Fine. From the beginning, then." John said.
"Alright. My name Martha Jones and I'm a companion of the Doctor."
John blinked. "I'm sorry, what?"
"I…know about the dreams you've been having. I'd suspected and Violet sort of confirmed it without meaning to. The Doctor left behind a video of things to watch out for, general rules, and information on the process. He mentioned there would be some knowledge left behind, hidden away in the subconscious. Something as powerful as that, I figured it'd manifest in John's dreams."
"What are you talking about?" he demanded.
"Do you ever get the feeling we're old friends?" Martha asked. "Something in the back of your mind that says you can trust me? That I should be around you?"
John opened his mouth and closed it almost immediately. He swallowed. Nodded.
"He called it 'residual awareness' and said you'd have enough of it left to let me in. You're not John Smith. You're the Doctor."
Violet swerved the car sharply over to the curb and slammed on the brakes. She put the car into park and twisted in her seat. Both of them stared at her with a mix of incredulity, disbelief, and anger. Martha, only slightly intimidated by their gazes, lifted her chin and sat up straighter.
"I'm the Doctor's companion and your guardian. It was my job to protect you so we watched you for the first week. Then we settled as close to you as we could without being in the same building and we got jobs in the hospital near you."
They stared at her in silence. She looked between them calmly and waited for them to react.
"We?" John finally asked.
"You said 'we.' Who else is in on this?"
"I-In on? No one's in on anything!" She slapped her forehead with her hand. "Damn it, John, I'm completely serious about all of this! You saw what happened back there! You think that was a hoax?! People died! You heard them! The Family—those four people with the guns—they kept calling you Doctor, remember? Not the title, the name. They're after the Doctor and if they find us we're dead so keep driving, Violet!" she snapped.
Violet jumped in surprise but turned around and did as she was told. Martha exhaled sharply through her nose and leaned back into her seat.
John exhaled loudly and rubbed his temple. "You expect me to believe that my dreams—the Doctor, the sonic screwdriver, the ship, Daleks, Cybermen, all of those companions—they're real? All those things actually happened?"
"So if the story's real then what does that make me?"
"Don't you dare," Violet growled suddenly. "Don't you dare say he's just a story."
Martha shut her mouth so quickly that her teeth met with an audible click. Time to try something new. "They're called the Family of Blood. They're hunters. They found us at a medical convention a few months ago and they've been after us ever since. We had the option to run or hide. We tried to run but they found us again so we had to hide. The Doctor used a machine called the Chameleon Arch to rewrite his entire biology, transfer his consciousness into a fob watch, and create a human persona to fill its place: you."
"No," John whispered. "N-no. It can't be. I can't be… I'm human! I'm real! I-I remember growing up! I remember my childhood!"
"The TARDIS—that's what the ship's called—it found a place for you in time and created the appropriate background for you. Don't ask me how because I have no idea."
"No! I was born in Nottingham, I lived there until I was ten, then we moved to London for my mother's job."
Martha shook her head. "You were created ten weeks ago in the console room of the TARDIS. I watched it happen."
"From start to finish, I watched it all. I removed the watch from the Arch when it was all over and I could feel him in there."
"And you were lying on the floor with your head in her lap and—"
"I said stop!" he shouted. Martha fell silent and simply stared at him. John turned away, shaking his head, and stared out the window at the city.
Martha sighed heavily once more. "Turn left here, Violet."
The rest of the ride was tense and silent. When they arrived at their apartment complex, she instructed Violet to park at the opposite end of the street. She exited first, looking around for any sign of the figures hiding in the shadows, before motioning for them to follow. She led them through the cars and buildings and then down the hall to the flat. She bolted the door behind them quickly and ushered them into the living room.
"Have a seat if you want. But keep the lights off." Martha rummaged through her suitcase and pulled out a shirt and a pair of jeans. "Violet, you should change clothes. I can't hide your scent but if you wear something of mine, it might blot out yours just enough to confuse them. Bathroom's the second door on the left."
Violet accepted the clothes wordlessly and headed for the bathroom, leaving John and Martha alone in the room. He sat stiffly on the couch, looking around the room slowly.
"You're packed," he noted after a minute of tense silence.
"We were planning to run tonight. But then something happened to the TARDIS. We can't get to her. We were hoping the Doctor would have a plan."
He hid his face in his hands. "I don't want this. I'm John Smith. That's all I want to be. Why can't you just let me be him?"
"I'm sorry." Martha sank down next to him. "Believe me, I am so, so sorry. I never wanted to hurt you. You're my friend. You, John. Not just him. But we need the Doctor and in order for him to come back—"
"I have to go, right?" John buried his face in his hands and his entire body trembled. He jumped to his feet abruptly and rounded on her. "So what am I then?" he demanded loudly. "I thought he was the story but if he's not then that means I am, right? RIGHT?"
Martha stared at him sadly.
Violet returned with her clothes and shoes. Martha beckoned her into the kitchen and ordered her to place them in the sink. She plugged the drain then pulled the bottle of bleach from underneath the sink. "Sorry about this," she said before pouring the bleach all over it. "I've got to kill the scent on this as best as I can."
She used her hands to knead the bleach into the fabric. Violet stood nearby, watching wordlessly. She seemed to be deep in thought. "So you're a time traveller."
"Where are you from?"
"London," she replied, "circa 2008."
"But that's that so close!" she exclaimed.
Martha smiled shrewdly and turned around, holding her arms up so bleach didn't get on her dress. "Thought I'd be from the far future or something?"
"Well, yeah, I guess so. But what about the present-you—or, I mean, younger-you. Oh, man, this is hurting my head."
She laughed. "Oh, don't I know it! The vocabulary alone is enough to do your head in. I get what you mean, though. The younger-me that belongs in this year is right where she should be. As long as we don't physically touch each other, it's fine."
"What happens if you touch?"
"A paradox. I've been told those are incredibly bad. I'm trying to save the world, not get it destroyed."
Just like that, what little bit of humor that had been formed was sucked from the room, leaving the two women in tense silence. Martha turned around and resumed her work on the dress. Violet sighed heavily and Martha heard a creak as she leaned against the counter.
"You're going to take him from me." It wasn't a question.
"I have to. Besides, you're not the only one that loves him."
Violet swallowed. "Are all of the dreams true?"
"Should be. It'd be easier if I knew what was in that journal."
"So…that means she is too?"
Martha froze and slowly raised her head. This was the part she'd been dreading most with Violet. "Remember those friends of mine I mentioned? The ones I helped get to admit their feelings properly?"
Violet's mouthed opened into a little 'o' of understanding and she quickly covered it with her hand. She looked like she was going to be sick. She took a minute to compose herself and Martha went back to the bleach. In the living room she heard John turn on the telly.
"Where is she?"
"The hospital. Oh, which reminds me. I need to let her know where we are." She washed the bleach off her hands and returned to the living room.
She dug her phone out of her bag. Still no signal. Violet's had no signal, either, and they had no landline. Well this is just great. Now she has no idea where to find us!
John was watching the news. They were talking about the attack at the convention center. In the last twenty minutes, things had dissolved from an isolated attack to an all out war in the streets. The black figures were spreading throughout town, attacking everyone in sight. The police had mobilized and were fighting back. Unsurprisingly, some citizens were fighting along with them with everything from guns to bats.
All the cellphones were down and many of the landlines, too, although radios were still working but who knew how long that would last?
They cut to a reporter near the convention center who gave details she'd learned from someone who'd been inside at the dinner. All of a sudden, her words trailed off into a scream and she dissolved into thin air, revealing the Daughter behind her.
Martha's hand flew to her mouth. Violet gasped.
"Come out, Doctor!" the Daughter shouted at the camera. "Come out, come out wherever you are!"
Then she raised the gun and fired. The cameraman screamed in pain and the screen went dark for a moment before the now pale-faced anchorman was back.
"Turn it off." John rasped. "Turn it off now."
Martha seized the remote and pressed the power button. Walking over to the window, she peeked out between the blinds. The fighting hadn't reached here yet but she could see a few people running in the opposite direction of the convention center and more than a few cars racing down the street.
"I have to go back." John said suddenly. "If I give myself over to them then all this will stop."
"No!" Violet grabbed his arm. "You can't!"
"I have to." He cupped her face in his hands. "Don't you see? If I don't they'll just keep killing and killing."
"Do you really think they'll stop killing once they're all powerful?" Martha asked scathingly. "The only way you can help is by becoming the Doctor again and getting us the hell out of here."
"So is that it, then? I'm supposed to just lay down and die for your precious Doctor?" He spat furiously.
Martha swallowed and inhaled shakily. She was dangerously close to crying now. "Do you want to know one of the first real lessons I learned back when I first started traveling? It was when I was at home after a few trips with them, still deciding if I wanted to go with them as a proper companion." John looked away but she could tell he was still listening. "It was at this dinner reception at this place where my sister worked. A scientist playing around with de-aging and stuff had accidentally mutated himself into a monster. The Doctor told us to get everyone out while he distracted Lazarus. I was ready to run with my family but Rose wouldn't go."
John's head swiveled sharply the name.
"She said she was going back for him. I told her she'd get herself killed. But she didn't care. She said she had to, because that's how things were. That her death wouldn't be meaningless so long as he lived. Because the Doctor has to survive, even if we don't, because our lives mean nothing next to his. So, yes, I guess I always have expected you would just lay down and die for him." She paused, swallowed. "Then Violet came along and she gave you a reason to live."
John looked down at Violet who smiled tenderly at him. She let them have their small moment before continuing on. "But the universe needs the Doctor more than she needs John."
"She's right." Violet murmured. "Remember all those things you told me? All those monsters out there that the Doctor defeats? All the times he's saved our world and countless others? I'm not more important than them. I'm only a pediatrician."
John looked stricken at Violet's sudden siding with Martha. "So what now?" he asked with a note of hysteria in his voice. "Are you going to make me him again whether I like it or not?"
"When the Doctor became human, he took the alien part of him and stored it in a fob watch. Once we open it, he'll be released and he'll…reclaim his body, I guess."
"And what becomes of me?" She shook her head helplessly. He laughed bitterly. "I see. Well, where's this blasted watch, then?"
She looked down awkwardly. "I, um, I don't have it," she mumbled. "It was stolen a few days ago but we know where it is!" she added quickly. "It's still at the hospital. We have this scanner that lets us track artron energy and we figured out from that. It won't be long."
John was quiet for a long minute, staring at Martha. Finally he sank onto the couch with a heavy sigh. "I don't want this," he whispered to Violet as she hugged him. "I just want to be John Smith, with you."
She ran one hand up and down his back, cradling his head with her other. "I know. I want that, too, but…you have to do it."
"Aren't I enough?"
"Yes, you are, for me. You're the most wonderful man I've ever met and not because you've saved worlds and travel through time. But because you're you."
The doorknob rattled and they both fell silent immediately. The three of them looked at each other fearfully.
"Have they found us?" Violet whispered.
"I'll…check. Stay here."
"Is there another way out?"
"The window, but you'd have to break it and they'd hear that." She crept into the hallway as the doorknob rattled again. She glanced back into living room and motioned for them to get down. They did, John sliding his body around so he was between Violet and the door.
She heard the lock slide free and the door opened. The chain held firm, effectively halting the door. She tensed, expecting the door to be blasted off its hinges any second. Then she heard a familiar voice through the crack in door. "Martha, you there? Let us in, quick!"
Martha flew for the door, removing the chain. "Oh you scared me to death!" she cried as she threw open the door. Rose stood there, sonic screwdriver in hand, smiling in relief. "I thought you were—"
She trailed off when she realized Rose wasn't alone. Standing in her shadow with his arm around her leg, wearing her red t-shirt for warmth, was Elliot Hunter.
*kicks feet happily*
Well, you lot know the drill. Review!
I'll say it one more time, anon, just in case it wasn't clear: enough with the "make 10 stay" messages. Oh, and while you're at it, leave Ky-Sta alone as well. Thank you.