The Savage Beast

by Shivver [Reviews - 1]

  • All Ages
  • None
  • Action/Adventure

It was a warm, sunny afternoon, and as she stepped out of the TARDIS, Martha shook her fingers through the hair splaying out of its bunch, high on the back of her head. It was still quite damp, but that wouldn't last long in this fine, dry weather. A shower had been just what she needed, after a full day of hard work. She had changed out of the soiled work clothes, into some nice jeans and a tight vest, and now she felt ready to face the evening's festivities.

The past three days had been the most fulfilling of the adventures the Doctor had taken her on so far. They'd landed here, on a planet newly-named as Trenna - after the co-founders and leaders of the colonisation expedition, Trent Nelson and Anna Rosinski - and joined in helping construct the colony for the larger human ship that would be arriving in a month. With only the temporary habitations and service buildings built so far, out of panels from the spaceship itself, Martha had chosen to assist with establishing the medical facility and help the colony's doctor treat the injuries that would be common during a period of intensive physical labor. The Doctor worked with the technicians on dismantling the ship's computer systems and setting them up in the command center. It was exhilarating to be doing some tangible, lasting good.

Alien bird-like creatures sang in the trees as Martha strolled down the slight rise towards the fledgling colony. Anna had told her that since the colony was going low-tech, they'd chosen Trenna because it was the most Earth-like of the available uninhabited planets, with very similar animals and plants, needing no terraforming and requiring them to bring little in the way of diverse agricultural stock. They had brought a few species to start off food production right away, but the plan was to cultivate indigenous animals and plants. The weather, of course, was less controllable. The area was currently in the late stages of its spring and was perfectly pleasant, but in general, it was expected to be colder and rainier than the colonists had wanted. The original touchdown spot had been in a more temperate zone, situated in a basin on a wide, navigable river surrounded by hills rich with ore, but the pilot had fumbled the approach and placed them in an orbit that made that landing impossible. Without enough fuel to break orbit and re-enter, they'd had to settle for their fourth-choice landing spot, near the mouth of a river in a colder zone and a bit far from ores and materials. On the plus side, this spot had better hardwoods and, after clearing some forest, had far more and better land for agriculture.

This was the tenth day after the establishment of the colony, dubbed New Austin after Trent's hometown, and with the successful planting of the first crops (perhaps a bit late in the season, but with a 423-day year, the resident biologist, John, believed it would work out fine), the workers were ready to celebrate their progress. To supplement their freeze-dried foodstuffs, they'd caught a good number of fish, or at least what passed for fish here, by stringing nets in the river, and Martha could see the thin streams of smoke from the cooking fires drifting over the gray metal huts. Every drop of fuel that was left in the colony ship's tanks was worth more than gold, so they were cooking the very old-fashioned way.

On the outskirts of the colony, Martha wandered among the flags and strings that stretched among the bushes and grass of the landing site. Trent and Anna had set them up to mark out the future locations of streets and buildings. They had designed the initial layout and further expansion to keep the settlement efficient and beautiful as the population grew. Martha had seen the computer simulation: it was planned out to a population of one million - decades, centuries in the future - and it amazed her. She'd never known any humans to be so forward-looking.

As she approached the wide circle of huts that surrounded the main cooking and socialising area, Martha spotted Nick, the head engineer, taping socks on the top edges of the metal doors to give everything a bit of flapping colour. In fact, everything was more colourful. The colonists had changed out of their heavy beige worksuits, into comfortable clothing of many hues. It had surprised Martha that these people, who lived far in the future of her own time, still wore jeans, tees, and collared shirts, but the Doctor pointed out that basic forms never changed, especially when they have the advantage of simplicity and practicality.

"Hoy, Martha!" She spun around to find Yulia, one of the other engineers, waving to beckon her over to one of the cooking fires. "Come over! You've got to try this!" She pointed at the pot she was stirring.

Martha picked her way over the logs that had been rolled into the area as makeshift benches and knelt by the woman. Peering into the pot, she couldn't help but wrinkle her nose at the thin, murky gray liquid. "What is that?"

"Better than it looks, actually," Yulia replied in her pleasant Russian accent. "It's one of those fish things that Jacob caught. You've got to try it. John's tested it and says it's safe." She caught a bit of meat and broth in her spoon and held it for Martha to try.

Blowing on it to cool it and delay the attempt for a moment, Martha swallowed with a grimace, then allowed Yulia to spoon it into her mouth. She was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. It wasn't fishy, as the meat tasted more like chicken with the consistency of very tender beef, and it made a passable broth that would probably improve with a bit more salt and proper seasoning. "Hey, this isn't bad!"

Yulia nodded, her eyes brightened by her eager smile. "Beats the dried pork packets any day. Trent's trying to make grilled fillets over there." She jerked her head toward the colony leader, who was tending some pans over the largest of the fires. "We'll have a great meal tonight."

"Can't wait!" Having eaten good meals in the TARDIS during their stay, Martha had to imagine that these colonists, who had already spent months travelling here, were tired of prepackaged and recycled food and were not only eager to finally have something fresh to eat, but also excited to sample the fruits of their own labor.

Yulia returned to stirring the soup. "Is the Doctor going to join us, do you think?"

Martha shrugged. "I suppose he will. I don't see why not."

"Well, he doesn't eat, does he?"

Martha cocked her head at her friend in surprise. "Everyone has to eat. Where'd you get that idea?"

Yulia gestured with her free hand as if it was obvious. "Well, no one's ever seen him break his work for a meal, even when you go back up to your box. He doesn't seem to sleep either."

"Ah." Martha had forgotten about that. The Doctor's odd habits were second-nature to her now. "Well, he does both, just not very much. But I know he'll join us tonight. He loves a good party."

“Good!” Yulia smiled with relief. “He’s done so much for us. He never stops working! I’d hoped he’d relax a bit with us.”

With the food nearly ready, the colonists, twenty-eight in all, began gathering, settling in groups among the log benches, the happy cacophony of their chatter accented by the smoky scent of the fires. Martha sat with the medical team and simply listened: all of the talk, which was mostly about either all they had already accomplished or their plans when their families finally arrived, was infused with a heady sense of optimism which drew Martha in and made her wish that she could join them on this great adventure. Of course she couldn't, with her real life and family hundreds of years and light-years away, but she resolved to ask the Doctor if they could stay for a while.

Trent's announcement that the first batch of the fillets were ready brought the whole group crowding around him to see the first of the meals that would sustain the colony in years to come. The excitement quickly turned to laughter as the meat did not look particularly appetising, having turned a very dark gray, but almost everyone was game, and the people who received the first samples were pleased with the results, though they found it rather bland.

"It's the first ones, people!" Trent called out as he served them. "We've got all the time in the world to experiment on these and figure out how to season and serve them."

Over the course of a leisurely evening, everyone ate their fill, with more and heavier food than they'd been used to. Martha found herself called upon to tell them about some of her travels, and she was happy to comply, painting pictures of some of the more beautiful worlds she'd seen. She'd never had the opportunity to tell anyone of her adventures, and whilst she wasn't sure of her powers as a storyteller, her audience listened with rapt attention. Of course, they were all explorers, too, leaving their homes to travel to a new world; these were just the people who would want to hear about what she'd seen.

Off in another circle, the Doctor, unconsciously as usual, commanded the attention of everyone around him, though she noticed, when she wasn't talking herself, that he deftly deflected all questions put to him, turning them around and encouraging others to tell him their stories, rather than telling his own. Martha smirked to herself: as always, he was so interested in the lives of everyone else, whilst keeping himself hidden away. She felt honoured to be one of the few to whom he had revealed a tiny bit of himself.

As the daylight waned, the cooking fires died down and the colonists gathered around the big central fire, building it up into a small bonfire. A few of them brought out musical instruments from their personal effects - three guitars, John produced a fiddle, and Anna a flute. Nick declined to pull out his trumpet, claiming that it wasn't much of a campfire instrument, but, with Yulia, found some empty containers to turn over as drums. With such accompaniment, the party turned into a songfest, with most of the colonists joining in the singing at one time or another. Of course, Martha didn't know most of the music and was content to listen and laugh, but she was pleased to learn that "Bohemian Rhapsody" had survived so long as a crowd favorite, though bits of the music and most of the lyrics had evolved into something completely unrecognisable.

In the middle of a thirty-second century folk song, John's cry cut through the chorus. "Look there! Out in the darkness!" Jumping up, he pointed out beyond the nearest huts, where three hulking shapes with eyes glinting with reflected firelight stared back at the group. Terri, who sat nearest them, spun in her seat and, at the sight of the unknown creatures, screamed, high and shrill.

With a low guttural cry, the closest creature launched itself at her. Emerging into the inner circle's light, it was a blur of sharp horns, slick scales, and powerful legs. Nearest to Terri, Nick dove at her to tackle her out of the way of the charging beast, but too late: he took most of the force of the headbutt, and with a fluid motion, the animal tossed the two of them into the air, and they both landed in crumpled heaps.

As the humans screamed and sprung up to flee, the other two creatures roared. "Run! Run!" the Doctor urged the colonists as he jumped up and stepped towards the lead animal, waving his arms to get its attention. "Over here, you magnificent beast. Come on! Look at me!" Martha could barely hear him over the noise.

Martha ran to Nick, as he was closer to her than Terri, and miraculously, though he suffered a gash on his shoulder, he was still conscious. "Can you get up? We've got to get you out of here." She looked up to see the leader of the pack eyeing her. Now that it was still, she got a good look at it. Covered with bluish scales, its quadruped body was shaped like a low-slung cat, with strong, graceful legs for running. It had a long snout, two sharp forward-pointed horns, and oversized perky ears splayed out on either side of its head, its eyes just forward of them.

"I... I think so..." As he began to push himself up, Martha moved in to support him. "Argh!" he growled as he doubled over. "Cracked a rib."

"I hope it's that little. Sorry for this." She slung his good arm around her shoulders and pulled him up, wincing at his agonised grunt as she jostled him. "It's not far. Sorry," and she supported him out of the circle of huts.

As the Doctor began jumping up and down in front of the beast, he noticed the two other animals each lock on to two of the fleeing, screaming people and tense for the lunge. Anna sprinted toward one of the fires, probably to grab a kettle to throw, but she would be too late and probably ineffectual. Pulling out his sonic screwdriver, he aimed it at the roof joint of the hut nearest the two beasts and fired. As the joint came apart and the wall fell outwards, slamming against its neighbor and effectively blocking the beasts’ path, the leader’s head whipped around and it roared at the Doctor, baring its teeth in a ferocious snarl.

“Oh, now you see me! Come on, over here.” He began backing up, beckoning to get the beast to follow him, and it did. Noting that the two others had begun circling around the hut, he motioned to Martha to indicate to her where they were.

His companion had deposited Nick behind a shadowy tree and bade him to stay quiet and motionless, then scrambled back to the campfire circle to see the Time Lord facing down the animal. “Doctor!” she cried, but cut off as he held up one finger to his lips, then jerked his head in the direction of Terri, still frozen and terrified on the ground. Nodding, Martha crept as silently as she could behind the beast to the girl.

“Come on. This way. That’s a good boy.” As he continued to back up, the Doctor kept coaxing the beast to follow him in a sing-song voice. It snorted at him, and its fellows joined it, warily watching the Time Lord. The initial yells and panic had died down, and in the relative quiet, he heard the telltale click of a readied weapon. “No!” he called in the same voice and held up a hand to his side, eyeing the shadow from which the barrel of a rifle extended. “Don’t do that. Hold on. Just wait.”

Kneeling next to Terri, Martha whispered, “Are you okay?” The woman was dazed but outwardly unhurt. At her quick, trembling nod, she replied, “Come on, then. Go back this way. You’ve got to shift.” Pointing out into the darkness, she tugged at her, and Terri scrambled and stumbled away.

Keeping low to the ground, Martha assessed the situation. The colonists had either fled or were hiding in the shadows watching the Doctor, who still commanded the attention of the animals. It’s odd, she thought, these things aren’t afraid of the fire. And they aren’t attacking the Doctor. Three on one would be an easy kill. Unless… unless that’s not what they want. There’s still plenty of nice aromatic food sitting around that they’re ignoring. They’re not hunting. That’s not what they’re here for…

“Doctor?” Martha called softly.

The Doctor answered her in the same casual, melodious tones that he was using to coax the animals; the words he used didn’t matter to them. “Keep quiet, Martha. They seem to like the sound of my voice.”

Martha’s eyes grew wide. That’s what it is! That’s why they’re here! Glancing around the abandoned campsite, she first spotted the remains of one of the guitars, smashed by the animal’s initial charge. There! Lying almost hidden by one of the logs was the flute. She dashed over to it and picked it up. Oh, let’s hope I remember how to do this. It took her a moment to find the right places to position her fingers, then she lifted it to her lips and blew a rather foul note. She tried again, producing a much sweeter tone on the second attempt, then started playing a slow, awkward rendition of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, really the only song she could remember from her abandoned attempt at playing in her school’s band, over ten years ago.

At the wavering sound of the music, all three animals turned toward her, their ears twitching. One of them crooned low in its throat.

The Doctor stared at her with shining eyes. “Oh, Martha Jones. Brilliant!” Smiling with the tip of his tongue pressed to the roof of his mouth, he circled around the beasts to her. “It was the music!”

The colonists began emerging from their shadows as her song ended. “Doctor? I don’t know any more. I didn’t play flute for long,” she hissed, then started through the same song again.

“Here. Let me.” She deposited the flute in his hands, and he immediately launched into a leisurely, folksy tune, eliciting more pleased grunts from the animals. Catching Martha’s gaze, he flicked his eyes at the animals. With a hesitant grimace, she stepped slowly toward the closest one and, reaching a hand out, stroked its head. When it didn’t object, she became bolder, and, experimenting a little, found that it really enjoyed a scritch behind its ears.

. _ . _ . _ . _ .

"A bit of a long walk, this time."

Following a seemingly-endless TARDIS corridor, Martha trotted to keep up with the Doctor, his long legs and buoyant energy carrying him along faster than usual.

"You love this, don't you?"

"What's not to love?" His hands in his pockets, the Doctor almost skipped along, brimming with excitement. "Magnificent animals, they were! Entranced by the music! It's those big ears, you know. See, Martha Jones, everyone understands music. Universal language, it is. Well, unless you can't hear, but even then, you can feel the rhythm, and it speaks to you. Colours your life. There's this planet, Herrelel, it's called. The people there, their eyes are their ears, too. To them, sounds are bursts of hues with texture, out of your mouth when you're speaking, like that. To them, music is an always-changing riot of colour. Can you imagine seeing the universe through their eyes?"

Martha couldn't help but bounce along with him; his high spirits were infectious. "I'm amazed enough seeing it through my own."

The Doctor flashed her a pleased grin. "And there's so much more out there."

"Only if you don't keep trying to get yourself killed.” She admonished him with a light punch on the arm. “How'd you know it wasn't going to attack?"

He pursed his lips with nonchalance. "Oh, I didn't."

"What? But you just walked right up to it."

He shrugged. "Had to get its attention, so that you could get Nick and Terri out. That poor thing was terrified, what with all that screaming in its sensitive ears. And then I had to go and use the sonic right next to it. Stupid, stupid Doctor!" He threw his hands up in disgust at himself. "I'm surprised it didn't trample me right there." He flashed her another smile. "But then you were brilliant as usual! The music's the thing!"

"Yours, maybe. I barely made a note on that flute. You're a regular Pied Piper."

“Actually," the Doctor drawled, “it was a triphasic sonic lure, but I suppose it sounded like a pipe. And they were a Golsanian surveying team, assessing the planet for a new colony. Not rats. Don’t know how you could even think that. They had a blunt snout and their tails were completely different, and cheese made their fur fall out -"

Martha stopped dead in her tracks. "Doctor? Are you saying that..."

"The 'pied' adjective was apt enough, though," he mused as he paused, then clapped his hands together. "But everything is molto bene." He started off again, and Martha ran to catch up. "The colonists have made some new friends, I damaged only one of the huts, and Nick's arm and ribs are only superficially hurt. He should heal up in no time."

"And all at the cost of two guitars and a fiddle."

"Which we're here to rectify." He cocked an eyebrow at her puzzled glance. "Oh, didn't I tell you? Well, never mind. Just in here." Stopping at a double door, he pulled one open and invited her inside with a gallant gesture.

Martha's jaw dropped as she stepped into an aisle that led down between rows of seats to the vast stage of a huge auditorium. Plainly decorated and illuminated only by the stage lights, it could easily accommodate two thousand people, with seating on the floor and three rings of balconies. The Doctor came up behind her as she gaped, and she sputtered a bit before she found her voice.

"You have a theatre here in the TARDIS?"

"Apparently." A hint of cheekiness tinged his voice.

"Why do you have a theatre in the TARDIS?"

"Why not? Come on." He took her hand and led her down toward the stage. "It's not like I chose it. It's always been here, as far as I know." They climbed the short stair on the side of the stage, then ducked backstage, threading their way among mounds of props and sets, into a back corridor. "It's a bit of an adventure in itself, getting back here. I keep meaning to have a new door built directly here."

Throwing open a door, he led her into what was obviously a rehearsal room, its walls covered with sound paneling and its floor covered by a deep red carpet. Though it was big enough for a large orchestra, most of it was occupied by instruments of all kinds, the smaller ones depending from brackets on the wall or mounted on stands on the floor. At least Martha assumed they were all musical instruments, as she could only identify about a tenth of them as coming from Earth. Chairs and music stands were scattered around the room, and sheet music sat in messy piles all over the place.

Martha walked among the clutter, whirling to take in the entirety of the collection. "These are all yours? I had no idea you played music until today."

"Well, I don't have much occasion to." Wandering deeper into the room, he plucked a recorder from a music stand and blew a few notes. "I used to play this when I was younger."

Martha shook her head with wonder. "Is there anything you can't do?"

He replaced the recorder back on the stand. "Oh, I can't play most of these. I dabble. Try a bit here or there. But you know how it is. You mean to practise, but something always gets in the way."

"Well, your flute-playing is brilliant, at least."

"Oh, no. It's just passable." He strode over to the wall. "Ah, the guitars. I'm sure these will do. And there are a few violins over on the other side." He removed two acoustic guitars from their brackets and moved to deposit them by the door.

Martha walked among the instruments, inspecting them here and there. "There's so many different ways to make music, isn't there?"

"Oh, yes. Every culture has their own musical tastes and traditions." He picked up something that looked like a number of ceramic pipes bound together. As he drew his hand down the surface of one of the pipes, it emitted a haunting, wavering tone. "The Janiptids have three arms. Can't play this one with only two."

Martha sat down at the grand piano. "Always wanted to try one of these. My mum had an upright." Stretching her fingers, she launched into "Minuet in G", and the Doctor strolled over to listen. For a few seconds after she finished, he stood there, motionless, staring off into nowhere, his eyes sparkling, and it seemed to Martha that for a very short moment, the loneliness that always lurked behind his facade of excited cheer was gone.

As his eyes found hers, a fond smile spread across his face. "Martha Jones. That was brilliant."

"Oh, no way. I haven't played in years. My mum forced lessons on me when I was a kid." She took another look at the room full of instruments. "So, if you don't play all of these, which do you play?"

"Oh, this and that." He picked up another odd instrument, something like a recorder mouthpiece attached to a long rubber tube. Blowing into it, he stretched and bent the tubing to change the pitch. "I never understood this one at all. To the Olvans, the shape of the instrument is as important to the performance as the music. Did you like the grand piano? Feels completely different from an upright, doesn't it?"

Martha gazed into the body of the piano, at the strings stretched across its frame, and at the cover propped open above them. "It makes even my playing sound good." She stole a sly glance at the Doctor. "I bet it would make yours sound glorious."

"Oh, you don't want to hear that." He spun and strode off. "Here’re the violins. Got a few to choose from, but I think I'll keep the Stradivarius."

Crossing her arms, Martha cocked her head to one side. "Doctor."

He stopped and turned back toward her. "You're not going to drop it, are you?"

"No, I'm not.” She pursed her lips. “Come on, Doctor. Show off a bit."

"Er..." He hesitated, his shoulders twitching, curving just slightly as they always do when he's about to change the subject. Then his eyes met hers again, and he straightened. Unbuttoning his brown jacket, he slipped it off and draped it over a nearby chair; it immediately occurred to Martha that she'd never seen him in just his shirtsleeves. Well, once in his pyjamas, but he was pretending to be someone else at the time, and once he was done, he was back in his jacket, trousers, and tie in an instant. Otherwise, he always wore his full suit, even in the hottest weather or when he was working deep in the TARDIS mechanics.

He meandered around the room, and she wondered if he was trying to feed her anticipation by selecting his instrument slowly. After a half a minute, he paused by a harp and ran his hand along its gleaming, polished frame. Sliding onto the stool behind it, he adjusted his position and pulled the harp to his shoulder, then, twitching his fingers, he plucked out a smooth arpeggio which floated on the air for moments after he finished. Flashing a shy smile at Martha, he positioned his hands on the strings and, closing his eyes, launched into song.

Opening with sweeping runs, he settled into a passage that sounded Baroque, his left hand picking out chords to accompany the jaunty melody from his right. A transition, and the new passage reminded Martha of the kind of music she'd heard in movies as background to springtime in a forest - bubbling notes for streams and brooks, trills for birds singing in the treetops, set against a curtain of warbling tones for the shimmering greens of the forest canopy - and she closed her eyes to imagine it all. The medley concluded with a final set of cycling arpeggios, up and down the entire range of the harp.

The end of the song, the sudden silence broken only by a handful of notes fading away, pulled Martha back to reality, and she found herself staring at the Doctor, who was leaning into the harp, a very rare expression on his face: peace. "That..." Her voice sounded harsh after all that swirling music and she swallowed before she continued. "That was wonderful. Is that Time Lord music?"

His eyes opened, but he saw nothing. "Oh no. Human. More or less. Bit of this, bit of that, some improvisation." Pulling himself back to the present, he idly inspected the harp, caressing its frame and rubbing at imaginary blemishes. "Time Lord music is rubbish. They just never felt it. You can't make music like that. Now, the Gallifreyans forms, those are just stunning. Haven't heard those in centuries."

Martha wasn't sure what he meant - she knew he was a Time Lord from Gallifrey, so it made no sense to her that he referred his culture's music separately - but she resolved not to ask, at least not now. If the Doctor was in the mood to talk, she wasn't going to ruin it. "Play something from Gallifrey?" Her request was tentative, as she knew he rarely cared to disclose anything about his home.

He shook his head. "Can't. Gallifreyan music is based on a twenty-three-note scale, not a thirteen-note scale like human's. This harp isn't designed for that. Don't know if I have any Gallifreyan instruments here." He looked around the room, but Martha could tell he was lost in thought, probably in his memories.

"Well, that was just beautiful. Thank you for playing for me." Martha's words were soft and sincere; this moment of sharing something so personal with the Doctor meant more to her than all of their travels. The Doctor glanced at her in surprise, then favored her with a fond smile.

"Music is always better shared."

"Agreed." She ran a quick scale on the piano in front of her. "You surprise me every time, though. I thought you were all wandering time traveller and science geek. I never thought you'd play music, and certainly not the harp."

"Well,” he drawled, throwing his head back with dramatic emphasis, “music is as much a science as an art. You're calculating frequencies and marking time, experimenting with formulas and mathematics to produce meaningful sequences of sounds. You just do it all intuitively with your ear, rather than on a chalkboard with numbers."

"That's not what I meant."

"I know." He turned back to his instrument, gazing at it with tenderness. "Sometimes, music is more important to me than others. Like I said, I used to play the recorder. All the time, but that was hundreds of years ago. The harp, I also picked up a long time ago. I come down here often enough, to play a bit, but... It just doesn't fit easily into my life anymore. I’ve changed a lot since then."

“Like anything else, you have to make the time.”

The Doctor laughed. “You’d think I’d know that by now.” He jumped up from his seat and strode over to his jacket, picking it up and shrugging it on. “Come on. We’ve guitars and a violin to deliver.”

. _ . _ . _ . _ .

Brushing his fringe out of his shining eyes, John inspected the violin, sighting down the bridge to verify its alignment and testing the hold of its keys. He felt along the smooth wood, then plucked the strings a few times. "This is an excellent instrument. Professional quality. Or better." He frowned at the Doctor. "Are you sure? I don't think you know how much this thing is worth."

"Oh, it was just -" the Doctor began, but Martha cut him off.

"He knows exactly how much it's worth. It's worth everything to him for you to have your music." She glanced at the Doctor with a look of "This is how you give a gift graciously."

The Doctor cleared his throat. "Oh, yes. Martha is better at this than I am." He held out the bow for John. "Go on. Give it a try."

The biologist looked uncertain, but he took the bow and, setting the violin under his chin, knocked out a few measures of a jig. "Oh, this fiddle flows like water! Thank you so much!" Transferring the bow to his left hand, he shook the hands of both time travellers in turn. "I will take the best care of it, always." He hugged the instrument to his chest.

"Play it in good health."

Flashing one last delighted smile, John turned to join the rest of the colonists, who had regathered to extend the festivities into the night. They were singing again to the chords of the three guitarists, accompanied by the low croons of the three beasts sitting nearby.

"Lovely." The Doctor turned toward the TARDIS and his companion fell in beside him as he walked.

"Not going to rejoin the party?" Martha's question was more of a statement, betraying no disappointment on her part.

The Doctor's eyes were turned up towards the stars. "Not tonight. I've some things I want to do in the TARDIS. You're welcome to stay, of course."

"Not me. I think I've had enough excitement for one night. I'm craving a good book and a warm bed. I haven't had a relaxing night in a while." She breathed a happy sigh.

"As you said, you have to make the time."

The Doctor produced a penny whistle from his pocket and played a merry melody as they strolled up the rise. Finishing the song at the door of the capsule, he dropped the whistle back in his pocket and fished out his key. As he unlocked the door, he glanced over to see Martha grinning at him.

"What?" he asked, suspicion on his face as he held the door open for her.

She shook her head as she walked up the ramp to the console. "Nothing bad. You've chosen a new instrument. Again, it's not one I'd picture you playing."

Latching the door, he strode up next to her. "Well, I can't very well carry a harp around. Even my pockets aren't that big."

With a fond smile, she stepped forward and threw her arms around him in a brief hug. "Good night, Doctor," she murmured, then disappeared down the corridor to her room.

The Doctor watched her retreat, then, spinning back to the console, sniffed, smiling to himself. Pulling the whistle out again, he reached up and stroked the time rotor, then began a song for his other constant friend.