Martha was one of the hardest characters I've ever tried to write. I hope I did her justice.
In Martha's dreams:
That bloke Shaun, the one Vicky was in love with, unbuttoning Martha's blouse and kissing her sloppily. She kisses back, even though she's got no idea what Vicky sees in Shaun, Shaun who'd rather play World of Warcraft than socialise with a human, much less a girl, but dreams are funny that way: you don't get to pick and choose who's in your fantasies, fanciable and repulsive alike have an equal shot, and tonight must be Shaun's turn.
* * *
"You've got your TARDIS key, real member of the crew now, eh? All right, then, where do you want to go next? Anytime, anywhere, just say the word." The Doctor is almost vibrating with energy this morning, bouncing on the balls of his feet as he flashes Martha his best lunatic grin. She loves him when he's in this mood, exuberant and expansive, so eager to show off the universe that she feels, however temporarily, like the centre of his world.
"I'm not ready to go back to Earth yet," she says. "How about another planet? Somewhere you like, but maybe without a giant living sun this time?"
"Picky, picky. Next thing you know, you'll be asking for places where I haven't been arrested. Or haven't blown up a building, or overthrown a government, or had any fun at all, really."
"You're right. We'll end up stuck in the TARDIS for weeks."
"Nah, I've got into plenty of trouble in here, too," he says, winking at her and making her breathe a tiny bit faster, even if she realises he's not really flirting. "Hang on, I know just the place." He fusses with a dial, spins a handwheel, and flips a lever, and they both grab hold of the console as the ship lurches right, then left, then zooms backwards through the Vortex.
They wind up in a marketplace on Ventrakis IV, where Martha notices an unusually high number of shops selling boxes. No cheesy T-shirt shops for the tourists, hardly any knickknacks, but stacks and stacks of boxes — cardboard, wooden, bejewelled, ones she thinks might be woven from some kind of spider-veined leaf or satiny thread.
The Doctor tells her about the Ventraki tradition of box-giving as mode of communication. Much like the Victorians treated a stamped envelope as having its own secret language, the Ventraki use boxes to declare love, level insults, spark a friendship. The knot, colour, and tilt of a ribbon can suggest everything from playfulness to indifference, Martha learns.
She also learns, as always, that the Doctor loves the sound of his own voice, but strolling through a shopping district thousands of light-years from London, surrounded by aliens from ten different worlds, makes up for that.
As Martha is getting ready for bed that night, the Doctor knocks softly on her door and presents her with a marquetry puzzle-box she has to tilt at just the right angle to open. "Puzzle-boxes are given to friends and family as a sign of trust," he says. "You're supposed to store something precious in it to show that you trust me for giving you something private I might not know how to open. Though of course I can open it, me being a genius and all."
"Of course," Martha replies, trying to hide how surprised she is by his thoughtfulness. "But I'll find something important to keep in it anyway." She hugs him quickly and a little awkwardly as thanks, and he smiles, self-satisfied, and saunters back toward the console room.
Martha's most carefully guarded possession will never fit in the box. Her love for this strange, maddening man came on so suddenly, and brings her frustration and joy in the same measure. She settles for protecting the next best thing, and before going to sleep that night, she swaddles her TARDIS key in a silk handkerchief and hides it in the box.
* * *
The Doctor, moving rhythmically above her, his long fingers mapping her breasts, Martha's hands wrapped in his shaggy hair and her knowing, at last: mine, all mine, not hers.
(When they finally do have sex, once, in 1969, they are both so drunk that the Doctor can barely keep it up and Martha doesn't even remember later whether she came. They agree to call it a mistake. Martha privately calls it false hope.)
* * *
Martha's only been back at the hospital for three days, but finds the routine comforting after a year spent wondering whether she could possibly live up to the Doctor's expectations before a psychopathic metal sphere — or the psychopath who let them loose — vaporised her.
Routine is what she clings to now to keep from going mad herself. Martha, always the peacemaker in a family full of squabbles both petty and significant, has had to add therapist to her list of job titles, attempting to heal her family's emotional wounds, to scar over the fear and abuse they suffered. She is training to be a healer anyway, and the role comes naturally to her, but she wonders sometimes who will soothe her own nightmares of devastation, hunger, and loss.
If she can save the world, surely she can save herself, she decides.
She finally finds a moment to check her email during the fifteen minutes she's snatched for a lunch break of a granola bar and a cup of cherry yoghurt. There are eleven messages: eight offering to enlarge her nonexistent penis or enhance her nonexistent sex life, two updates to her rotation schedule, and one from the man she likes to think of as Public Enemy #3.
The message is short, but leaves her heart racing:
I thought I'd give you a little while to settle in with the family before writing you about this, but I'd like to talk to you about coming to work with us here at Torchwood once you pass your exams.
Give me a call this week, or whenever you're, you know, lonely.
P.S. Just kidding about the "lonely" thing.
P.P.S. Not really.
Martha starts dialling before she even swallows her first spoonful of yoghurt.
* * *
Jack Harkness, and it's always good then, god, better than good, fucking terrific, even though Martha assumes in reality, he must have her filed away in a cabinet marked "off-limits — property of the Doctor." When it's Jack, she can never tell how many hands, lips, tongues are touching and tasting her, and she's jolted from the dreams, slightly off-balance from having climaxed in her sleep, and a bit regretful.
* * *
They agree a job interview would be pointless, since the first thing Jack does when Martha arrives at the Hub is show her the desk she'll have once she completes her medical training. She instead spends the afternoon meeting the team (including the pterodactyl, who catches a catfish she flings high into the air) and swapping stories with Jack about their time spent with the Doctor. Martha's heard some of them already via Tish, who was closest to Jack during that missing year, but the stories are much funnier — and filthier — in their original form.
Eventually there is only one more story Martha knows she'll have to tell.
"So," Jack says. "You left him."
"I had to," Martha says. "You know what it's like. He looks at you with those big doe eyes and offers you the stars, literally, the stars, and of course you can't say no. And you don't mean to fall for him, but he's so ... him ... and you just can't help it, even after you figure out he's never going to see you that way."
She swallows some coffee and rests the mug on her knee, warming her hands with it. 1969 feels very far away now, and not worth discussing. "It was for the best. My family needed me, and I was going to have to take my exams sometime."
"Doesn't sound like it was any better when you were with him," she adds.
Jack tilts back his head, stares at the ceiling for a moment. "I wasn't exactly his favourite person when I came on board. And even after we became friends, I still wasn't Rose."
Martha smiles ruefully. "Neither of us is, obviously."
"Don't let him get you down like that, Martha." Jack leans forward and looks directly at her, and Martha steadies herself in her chair, concentrating on him. "He cares about you. And about me. And, if I learned anything from snooping around the TARDIS, quite a few other people besides."
Jack reaches across the desk and takes Martha's hand. "I think the real problem is ... well, I think most of the time he doesn't see anybody that way."
* * *
A blonde woman she's never met, only recognises from photographs Jack reluctantly shared with her. The woman's mouth glides down Martha's belly, lower, lower still, her fingers dipping inside Martha, and she looks up when Martha moans, giving her the same mischievous half-smile from the photos, and says "We're never really just passengers, any of us." Martha wakes, nervous and unsatisfied, but too guilty to finish herself off.
* * *
Martha's scalpel leaves a single bead of blood in its wake as she makes the Y-incision on the weevil's chest. She peels back the flaps of skin, revealing the creature's extensive musculature, and begins to carve her way along its ribcage.
"Not bad, considering it's your first weevil," Owen says. "This is how I like 'em best — dead and not biting."
"They do have some teeth on them, don't they?" Martha peers at the weevil's head and pries open its mouth. "Those canines have got to be at least an inch long, and this jaw" — she presses her fingers gently against it — "much, much stronger than a human's. Must be like being bitten by a wolf."
Owen winces and rubs his sternum. "Yeah, must be. Keep going already, will you?"
Martha catches his discomfort. "What, you've been bitten by one of these before? My god, you're lucky to still be alive if it did. Let me see." She reaches for his shirt, but Owen leans away from her.
"Lucky, that's me," Owen says. "And we can play doctor after you buy me a drink." He gives Martha a long look up and down, and now she's the one who feels uncomfortable.
"You done with those chest incisions yet?" Owen continues. "I could have been down the pub by now if you weren't so bleedin' slow."
"All right, all right. No need to get impatient. It's my first alien autopsy, and I want to do it properly." Martha works away at the ribcage with the cutters and lifts it out, dropping it carefully on a metal tray.
The weevil's organs are now fully exposed, and she can see large yellow-grey lumps of what look like fat covering its heart and major pulmonary veins and arteries. She pokes a lump carefully with the scalpel, and it quivers, then unexpectedly starts slithering into the body cavity.
"Oh my god!" she yelps. "What the hell is that?"
Owen reaches in with a pair of forceps and snags the wriggly blob, pulling it out and waving it in Martha's face before dropping it into another metal tray. "Weevil heartworm," he says. "I suppose I could have warned you, but I wanted to see if it'd make you scream." He pours a stream of ethyl alcohol over it, and the worm begins to shrivel, releasing a wisp of smoke before curling into a small, solid comma of dried fat. "Bit disappointing, that little shriek of yours."
Martha grabs the forceps from Owen and nimbly removes three more worms from the cavity, adding them to the corpse in the tray and smothering them in alcohol. She looks straight at her colleague, and folds her arms across her chest. "I went to medical school just like you, Owen, and had surgical training, just like you. You think because I'm a woman I'll run screaming the first time I cut open something disgusting? You must be joking."
Owen backs away, his hands in the air. "Just playing around, hazing the new girl. No harm done."
Martha's voice is suddenly hard and cold. "If you had even the slightest idea of what I've seen and done, Owen Harper, you'd know it takes a lot more than an oversized slug to make me scream. And if you think you're going to be the man who does it" — Martha gives him the same appraising look he'd given her, then shakes her head, smiling a little sadly — "you are very, very wrong indeed."
* * *
Owen Harper, and she curses herself for not having broken open that seed pod under a ventilated hood, and is grateful Jack was there to separate them, even if she had been enjoying that little toad's supple tongue as he wrapped it around a nipple. Fortunately these dreams are rare, at least for her, though she suspects not for Owen.
* * *
The weevils in containment have been logy, listlessly crouching in their cells with dulled eyes. Occasionally one of them moans, low and long, almost like a whale call.
Martha's been taking blood samples, running tests and growing cultures, trying to work out the problem. Owen drops by the lab periodically to poke at the petri dishes and grumble that a more experienced physician would have figured it out by now.
"You're welcome to have a go yourself," Martha tells him. "Or don't you think you qualify for the job?"
Owen narrows his eyes and walks back to his desk.
Near the end of the day, with all her observations meticulously logged on her laptop, Martha stops at Tosh's desk to check on the infection modelling program she said she'd write. Tosh is muttering to herself in Japanese, her eyes glued to a display that is outputting line after line of the phrase "UNEXPECTED EOF (0)." Martha strongly suspects the language she's hearing contains some very un-Tosh-like words, but before she can ask for a translation, her mobile rings.
"Martha, it's Tom. Tom Milligan, from Royal Hope?"
"Tom! Of course I remember you," Martha says, though her strongest memories of him are ones he'll never recall — the stench of a crowded tenement in Bexley, and a yellow beam streaking past her, striking him down. She closes her eyes for a moment, shakes off the vision. "I think you still owe me a new shirt from the time you left me to handle that ten-year-old with the fractured femur."
"It's not my fault Admissions didn't log his egg allergy."
"The nurse brought him an omelette for breakfast. That blouse cost me fifty quid."
"You'll never let me live this down, will you?"
"Nope. Too much fun listening to you squirm."
Tom laughs. "Look, the reason I called is that I'm joining a medical practice in Cardiff, and Julia reminded me you'd moved there, working in a think tank or something like that."
"Right ... something like that, yeah."
"And I've had a long day out hunting for a flat, so I thought it might be nice to have a couple of drinks and catch up."
"Do I have to choose between a vodka tonic and a new shirt?" Martha looks over at Tosh, who is trying and apparently failing to concentrate on her debugging, given the amused expression on her face.
"Tell you what," Tom says. "Have a drink with me, we'll go for a bite afterwards, and if you're still feeling uncompensated, I'll take you shopping tomorrow and buy you the nicest shirt we can find."
"You've got a deal, Doctor Milligan." They settle on a place and time, and Martha shutters her mobile.
"That sounded ... interesting," says Tosh, still paging through her code. "Ah! It's always that one curly bracket I forget to close." She types the missing character and saves her file. "All set now. I'll run the analysis overnight, you can go meet your boyfriend, and we'll have the results in the morning."
"He's not my boyfriend, Tosh," Martha says.
"Not yet," Tosh replies.
* * *
And finally Tom: earnest, sweet Tom, kissing his way down her breastbone, hurried and frantic, laughing the way he did the first time, the two of them sixteen hours gone pitching in at A&E during the Weevil Flu Epidemic, desperate for a break and so loopy from exhaustion they don't even notice at first when a janitor steps into the broom closet they've forgotten to lock and extracts his mop and bucket.
Martha sighs and curls closer to her lover. There may yet be dreams of others tonight, but in the morning, there will be Tom, and no one else.