Martha sighed wearily: her feet were sore, her back was aching and the bag of groceries she carried seemed to have gained ten pounds since she'd left the shop where she was working to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads while the Doctor fiddled about with his 'timey-wimey' device. Being stuck in 1969 was turning out not to be a laugh-a-minute as the only place they could afford was tiny, and it turned out that being stuck in a small flat in one time and place with a manic alien who rarely slept, was far more exhausting than running away from monsters and bad guys.
Martha rounded the corner and walked smack into a body. Strong arms caught hold of her, saving her from falling as she stumbled backwards from the impact.
"Steady," said a warm, kind voice. "Are you all right, my dear?"
Martha looked up into the face of a man who was even taller than the Doctor. It was a craggy face with a large nose and bright blue eyes, and was crowned by a mass of white hair, but what really caught her attention was the man's improbable clothes: he was wearing a long velvet cape over a velvet jacket and a frilly-fronted shirt.
"I'm fine," she managed, too tired to be offended by his 'my dear', and too used to it from the customers, well, those who would actually talk to her.
"I'm afraid you can't go up this street for the moment," he told her, his gaze intent on hers.
She leaned past him and saw that the street was blocked off. "Has there been an accident?" she asked immediately, forgetting her weariness as her instincts and training kicked in. "I'm a doctor."
"So am I," answered the tall man.
She looked up at him again, startled. "Not — No, never mind," she said hastily.
He gave her a thoughtful look, then answered her question. "No, there hasn't been an accident. There — "
Whatever he was going to say next was lost in the sound of a high pitched scream from a few doors along the road.
Martha didn't stop to think, she just dropped the bag of groceries then raced up the road dodging between two haphazardly parked jeeps full, she belatedly noticed, of soldiers, and ran to the house from which the scream had come. She reached the house, which had its door flung wide, and pushing open the gate, made her way up the path. Reaching the doorway, she saw a young, dark-skinned man kneeling on the floor beside a large pile of dust, weeping silently, while an older man, leaning on a walking stick, watched impassively from the kitchen doorway at the end of the hall.
"Carefully now," a soft voice said behind her.
Martha glanced over her shoulder to find the tall, white-haired man had followed her. She knelt down beside the weeping man. "What happened?" she asked softly.
"It was him," he gasped, pointing at the older man. "He just — he spat some sort of green gas at her and turned her to dust - his own daughter!"
"Eknodine," said the white-haired man behind Martha.
"What?" she asked, puzzled.
"They're a race of parasitic aliens who can inhabit humans' bodies, which keeps the human host alive for a very long time."
She noticed that the man said this very calmly and quite as if he expected to be believed. "Who are you?" she asked warily.
"I'm the Doctor," he answered, giving her a dazzling smile. "And you, my dear, don't really belong here, do you?"
"Not really," Martha said, "but is this the time?"
He shook his head, smiling. "No, it's not. May I ask your name?"
"Martha Jones," she answered, rather distracted as the older man had begun to make his way down the long hall towards them; his mouth opened and she was startled to see a green eye-stalk appear, which hissed.
She got to her feet quickly, pulling the younger man up with her, then pushed him behind her, so that he was out of harm’s way. “What do you want? ”she asked the older man warily.
“You can’t stop me,” droned the older man in an inhuman voice.
“Oh I wouldn’t be too sure of that, if I were you,” answered the Doctor, his tone calm and casual. “You see, I’m not from around here, and I am not easily intimidated. I’ve seen a lot worse than you.”
The Eknodine screeched angrily, and the Doctor reached past Martha, sonic screwdriver in hand, and aimed it at the old man. As the sonic buzzed, the old man clapped his hands to his ears, then collapsed to the ground.
Martha started forward towards the man, but the Doctor clasped her arm firmly and held her back. "Don't," he said quickly.
He turned her and the younger man around and got them out of the door into the neat little front garden, where a straight-backed, immaculately dressed soldier with a swagger stick tucked under one arm was coming through the gate.
"Ah, Lethbridge-Stewart, good. We've found one of the Eknodine. Get your men to bring him back to HQ, will you, and I'll talk to it, find out what it's doing here and how many of its fellows are on Earth."
The soldier raised one eyebrow in response to this lordly command, then obviously caught sight of Martha. "Who's this civilian?" he asked tersely.
"Martha Jones, a friend of mine," answered the Doctor, rather brazenly, Martha thought, considering he'd only just met her.
The soldier frowned, and Martha guessed he was trying to work out how to classify her.
"Come along Dr Jones," the Time Lord said, striding off.
Martha gave Lethbridge-Stewart a helpless shrug, then set off after the Doctor. She belatedly remembered the bag of groceries as they strode down the street, but before she could worry about what had become of them, she spotted a slim, redhaired woman in a brown mini-dress and knee high leather boots, leaning against a bright yellow car, with Martha's bag of groceries at her feet.
"Dr Martha Jones, this is Dr Elizabeth Shaw, who is my assistant and a physicist. Liz, Dr Jones is a medical doctor, and she's not where she should be."
Liz greeted this remark with a raised eyebrow, but when the Doctor didn't elaborate, she gave a half shrug, as if she were used to his lack of explanations, and held out her hand. Still, Martha reflected, if he's anything like the one I know, explanations are always promised for 'later', but are rarely forthcoming. She gave a slight shake of her head as the Doctor moved away around the front of the car, and caught Liz's eye in time to see the redhead was striving to hide a smile, which immediately endeared her to Martha.
"Get in both of you," the Doctor said as Martha reached for her bag of groceries. She straightened up, giving him a puzzled look.
"Me?" she asked.
"Of course," the Doctor answered, a trace of impatience in his tone. "I need to talk to you. I want to know what you're doing here when it's clear to me that you don't belong here."
"Doctor!" protested Liz, clearly appalled by his apparent rudeness.
"I don't mean it like that!" he said, the impatience more noticeable by now. He lowered his voice as he spoke to Liz. "I mean Martha has been displaced from her timeline."
"I can explain that," she said hastily. "But I really need to get back home. My friend, the person I'm sharing a flat with, will be wondering where I am." Well, probably not, she thought ruefully, aware that the Doctor was more than usually oblivious to her presence when he was working on his timey-wimey thing.
Before the discussion could go any further, the soldier called Lethbridge-Stewart joined them.
"Oh good, you're still here," he said to Martha. "I'm afraid, Miss, that we'll have to debrief you before you can be on your way."
"There you are, Dr Jones, I said we'd need to talk to you," said the Doctor, sounding just a little triumphant.
"But — " began Martha.
She was interrupted, however, by a loud cry of anguish, then a young woman rushed into the street a few doors along from the house where they'd seen the Eknodine. She was followed shortly afterwards by an older woman who moved surprisingly fast, considering she was supported by two walking sticks.
Martha felt relieved she hadn't picked up the bag of groceries yet; she turned and raced back up the street, ignoring the shouts from the Doctor and Lethbridge-Stewart. She reached the young woman, who appeared to be only a few years older than Martha.
"Come with me," she said, grabbing the woman's wrists in a gentle grip, and pulling her away from the tottering older woman who had almost caught up with them. The green eye-stalk in the old woman's mouth screeched and hissed angrily at being baulked of its prey.
The Doctor suddenly appeared beside Martha, aiming his buzzing sonic screwdriver at the older woman until she, too, collapsed to the ground like the old man had done.
Martha held the young woman, who was sobbing hysterically and babbling almost incoherently. Eventually Martha understood that the older woman had killed her grandson, turning the little boy into a pile of dust, just as the older man had done to his daughter.
"Doctor, what's going on?" asked Martha urgently as a pair of soldiers came up and carried the old woman away, placing her in the back of one of the jeeps, next to the old man. "And how do we stop it?"
He looked worried, which surprised her. "I'm not sure. The Eknodine are usually a very peaceful race. They're an ancient species, and very proud. Normally they don't cause any sort of trouble." He rubbed a finger along his top lip. "I think I'd better speak to one of them here, rather than going back to the lab. We need to find out how many more of them are here."
"Can they be persuaded to leave the humans without harming them? Can they even live outside of their human hosts' bodies?" asked Martha worriedly.
"I don't know if they can leave the host bodies without causing harm," the Doctor answered, "but we can try to persuade them to do so." He turned and walked over to the jeep where the old man and the old woman lay side by side on a tarpaulin on the floor of the jeep.
Martha watched as he got two of the soldiers, one of whom wore the sleeve stripes of a sergeant, she noticed, to hold the old man between them, then woke him up. The soldiers' grip was firm and although the old man struggled for a moment, he quickly stopped as the creature inside him realised the futility of trying to resist their grasp.
"I am the Doctor, and I want you to tell me how many of your kind are here on Earth."
"We are few," droned the inhuman voice. "We were exiled from our home planet."
"Why are you attacking the humans?" put in Martha. "What have they done to you?"
The creature screeched and hissed before answering. "They are young, we are old."
She looked at the Doctor, eyebrows raised. "Seems like a feeble excuse to me," she muttered.
He nodded, then turned his attention back to the old man and the Eknodine lurking inside him. Martha listened with half an ear as the Doctor tried to negotiate with the creature, she was largely thinking about the fact that this alien race lived inside other creatures, and remembering how horrified she'd been by the movie Alien, which wouldn't be released for another ten years.
"If you don't leave this planet willingly," the Doctor was saying when Martha focused again, "my people, the Time Lords, will be forced to interfere — and they will make things much harder for you."
The creature hissed and screeched wildly for a moment, then droned an agreement, to Martha's immense relief. There was a flicker of green light, then the old man suddenly sagged in the grip of the soldiers, like a puppet whose strings had been cut.
* * * * * *
Martha spent the next hour going house to house with the Doctor and Liz, checking that anyone who'd been inhabited by an Eknodine was not adversely affected by the departure of the parasitic creatures. They found two more houses where a pile of dust was all that remained of a family's child, and she fought down anger and nausea as she realised that four children had been lost today.
"The only consolation," said the Doctor, "is that it was very quick. And I admit it's not much of a consolation."
Martha, Liz and the Doctor returned to his car, while the UNIT soldiers went from house to house, requiring the residents to sign the Official Secrets Act. Martha was just about to collect her groceries and continue on her way home when a familiar figure came running up the street.
"Martha!" exclaimed her Doctor. "Where have you been? I've been waiting ages for you. There's nothing to eat at home."
Before she could answer, the other Doctor stepped forward, blocking his other self's path, and her Doctor stumbled to a halt, a shocked expression on his face.
"Dr Jones has been assisting me," said the white-haired Doctor. "We are extremely grateful for her valuable assistance; she showed great courage and strength of mind. And you're bleating because there's no food in the house?"
To the astonishment of everyone, the white-haired Doctor raised his hand and delivering a stinging clip around the ear to the brown-suited Doctor.
"Ow!" He clutched his ear, and both Martha and Liz stifled grins.
"Come with me." The white-haired Doctor grasped the younger looking Time Lord by the elbow and marched him away from the onlookers.
"That's your Doctor?" asked Liz, smirking.
"Yeah," sighed Martha, not at all dreamily, as she might once have done.
"He's a bit skinny, isn't he?"
Martha laughed. "Yes, he is."
"And you two are really living here?" Liz pursued.
Martha nodded, then explained briefly about the Weeping Angels taking the TARDIS, and the packet of information they'd been given by Sally Sparrow, warning them of what was to come.
"Interesting," said Liz.
The two Doctors returned, Martha's Doctor looking remarkably chastened. "Thank you for all your help today, Dr Jones," said the other Doctor. "You have been invaluable to us."
Martha felt her cheeks flush with heat. "It was a pleasure to work with you. You too," she added, turning to Liz.
"It was nice meeting you," Liz said, then ignored Martha's offered hand to hug her.
The white-haired Doctor also hugged her, murmuring in her ear. "Don't let him take you too much for granted. It's a bad habit of mine."
"I'll try," she answered quietly.
"Good girl." He straightened up, clasping her shoulders, then nodded. "You'll do. Come along Liz." He turned away and Liz gave a little wave, then climbed into the bright yellow car.
To Martha's surprise the Doctor picked up the bag of groceries, then took her hand in his free one, and led her up the street towards home.
"I'm sorry I've been such an ass," he said quietly after a few minutes. Martha gave a shrug, unsure how to respond. "My younger self said you were brilliant today, and I told him you always are."
They reached their flat and the Doctor put down the bag of groceries, then fished out the key. Martha followed him inside, wondering how much of a difference his encounter with his younger self would make.
"Sit down," he said. "I'll make dinner."
She raised an eyebrow at him, and he said, defensively, she thought. "I can cook."
Martha smirked. "All right," she agreed.
* * * * * *
Later, after they'd eaten, the Doctor had washed up and Martha watched the news, fighting a losing battle with her weariness as she yawned extensively.
"Why don't you go to bed," the Doctor suggested. "I've run you a hot bath."
She blinked up at him from the sofa. "A bath? Can we afford the hot water?"
"Yes," he answered simply.
Before she could answer, he bent down and scooped her up, startling her, then carried her through to the bathroom. He set her down on her feet again outside the door, then clasped her shoulders, much as his younger self had done earlier.
"You were brilliant today," he said simply. "You always are." He ducked his head and brushed a brief kiss across her lips, then turned away. "Goodnight."
He disappeared back into the kitchen, leaving Martha surprised and thoughtful as she got undressed for her bath. She wondered just what his younger self had said to him; somehow she was sure that he wouldn't tell her, even if she asked.
She shook her head, then climbed into the tub, hissing slightly at the heat of the water, then sank down into the bubbles. Whatever the other Doctor had said, she was grateful to him if it meant her Doctor wasn't going to take her quite so much for granted. Maybe living in 1969 wouldn't be quite so unbearable after all.