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Doctor Who/Thor crossover: In the Loop (1/3)

December 6th, 2017 (09:15 pm)
aggravated

feeling: aggravated

Title: In the Loop (1/3)

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

A/N: I wrote this ages ago for a dear friend. This is mostly unbeta’ed. Set during Thor 2 and season 2 of Doctor Who.

Summary: Family was complicated. It made time travel look pretty damn easy in comparison.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three



-o-

Martha woke up to the TARDIS.

Literally.

The ship veered sharply left, dumping her out of her bed. She groaned, pushing herself up in time to feel the craft shimmy and straighten.

Groggy, she looked around to get some sense of the time.

Time.

The thought was actually a little comical. The TARDIS didn’t exactly have windows, and what time could they even keep on a time machine? She could sleep for three hours or ten and the rest of the universe wouldn’t care.

“I should use this thing to study,” she mumbled, sitting up and looking around. This was her room, now. She’d been here long enough. And she had a key to the TARDIS. This was as much hers as anything. It was small and eclectic, piecemealed like the rest of the TARDIS. It was comfortable, but not decadent. Strange, but familiar.

Not home, but hers.

She could get used to that.

She was getting used to that.

Standing up, she pulled her phone out her pocket. It said 7:44 PM, not that that mattered much. She couldn’t remember the time it’d been when she’d fallen into bed the night before. After her call with her mum, she hadn’t wanted to look at her mobile at all.


She would have to deal with it eventually, she knew. She’d have to explain all of this to her mother, and sort through all the mess with her father and his girlfriend. She’s have to help Tish and Leo and keep them all together. It seemed to be her job, anymore. She wasn’t the family doctor; no, she was the arbitrator who somehow managed to keep them all from loving each other to insanity.

Family was complicated. It made time travel look pretty damn easy in comparison.

Going through her bag, she put her mobile aside and pulled out a fresh pair of clothes. Family could wait.

The Doctor, she thought with a slow smile, couldn’t.

-o-

Decided as she was, Martha took her time. That was the lovely thing about it all, really. There was so much time. She could take 10 minute showers and she was never late. And the TARDIS had remarkably good water pressure.

By the time she got out, she was nibbling on a bit of food and smiling.

The Doctor was at the controls, flicking a few switches. He grinned at her. “Hello, there!”

She finished off the rest of her breakfast. “Hello,” she said neatly after she swallowed. “Did you even sleep?”

He raised his eyebrows. “Oh, sure,” he said loosely with a broad shrug.

Martha snorted in amusement. “Really? Where’s your bedroom, then?”

“I’ve got five,” he told her, grinning stupidly. “My favorite is the one past the library, right next to the coffee lounge.”

“There’s a coffee lounge?” she asked.

“Best in the galaxy,” he told her with a wink.

She chuckled. “Now I really don’t believe you.”

“About the coffee lounge?” he asked. “Or the bedroom.”

“Both, maybe,” Martha said. “Though I do hope you’re telling the truth about the coffee.”

“There’s always one way to find out,” he told her.

She sighed, rolling her eyes. “Maybe later,” she said. “You looked busy.”

“Not really,” he mused, fiddling with another control. “Just getting a sense of how things are going.”

Idling closer, Martha scanned the controls but it all still looked like random gadgets to her. “We going anywhere in particular?”

“Depends,” he said. “Anywhere you want to go?”

Martha lifted her eyebrows. “You taking requests?”


“Considering how the last one went, I probably owe you,” he said.

It had been a close one, she wouldn’t deny him that. But then again, they were all close. “Almost crashing into the sun really wasn’t so bad,” she said. “Though I think my mum suspects something.”

The Doctor shrugged again. “Well, we can always go back--”

“No,” Martha said a bit too quickly. She blushed, chuckling a little. “I mean, I’d rather not.”

“But they’re your family!”

Martha laughed at that. “I know,” she said. “Trust me, I know. And, don’t get me wrong, I love them, but…” She shrugged, not sure what else to say. “It’s complicated.”

His look was hard to place, but the Doctor was good at that. He was good at knowing things he shouldn’t know, at picking up the things no one ever wanted to admit to. The Doctor just knew, and what he didn’t know, he was always so close to figuring out.

Which was also so very complicated. Martha was trading one complication for the next, but her family would always be there.

She might just have one chance with the Doctor. If she let him go, she knew she’d probably never get him back.

And she wasn’t ready for that.

“Anyway,” she said. “Enough with family. And enough with work. Can’t we do something fun?”

“All work and no play…”

“Exactly!” Martha said. Then she stopped. “I mean, that’s okay, right? I mean, time doesn’t need to be constantly sorted out does it?”

“Well, no,” the Doctor said. He looked apologetic. “But sometimes I find that the universe isn’t too good about giving me what I ask for.”

Martha’s shoulders slumped. It felt selfish, sometimes; to be disappointed when she was getting the chance to travel through time. It was amazing, after all. There was no reason to want more.

Even if she did.

Then, the Doctor clapped his hands together. “But this sounds like the perfect time to try,” he said, beaming anew. “And I happen to know of this massive party on the planet Destra.”

“A party?” Martha asked, not sure if she was missing something there. A party sounded so normal. A far cry from crashing into the sun or meeting Shakespeare or being on a hospital on the moon.

The Doctor’s eyes twinkled. “A Destra party,” he said with a provocative air. “The entire planet is like a nightclub. Literally, the entire thing. And it just never stops! Music, drinks, food, dancing--”

Martha grinned. It sounded unbelievable, but in her time with the Doctor, Martha had learned that the unbelievable was more tenable than she’d ever thought. “You’re serious?”

“Am I serious? Am I ever serious? But the party, now that party is serious,” the Doctor said with a round scoff. “Which is the point, I think. You said you wanted to have fun.”

She bit her lip, starting to smile. “I could go for a Destra party.”

“Wonderful!” the Doctor said, pressing a few more buttons. “Destra it is!”

“Great!” Martha said, feeling her hope buoy up. There had been moments all along, ever since the beginning. The times she’d saved his life; the times he’d saved hers. Those fleeting moments when he looked at her, really looked at her.

What she wanted was something that didn’t have them running for their lives; something just the two of them. Something to give them a chance.

The Doctor turned a knob, and the TARDIS engine purred. He winked at her. “Nothing can stop us now!”

-o-

Nothing, as it turned out, lasted two seconds.

Because two seconds into their trip, the TARDIS started falling.

At first, the sharp turn seemed normal. Even the second and third one weren’t terribly disconcerting. And then an alarm blared and the Doctor yelped.

“Is this how you get to Destra?” Martha asked, holding tight to a rail as the TARDIS dipped wildly.

“No!” the Doctor said.

Martha’s stomach flipped. She tightened her grip. “Is something wrong?”

“Oh, no, of course not,” the Doctor said, straining as he frantically flipped switched. “Unless you count falling out of the sky, plummeting uncontrollably through time wrong!”

“Um!” Martha said, adjusting her grip as they shimmied again. She wanted to be surprised, but given all their adventures so far… “But it’s going to be okay, right?”

“Yeah, sure,” the Doctor said. “But, you know, just in case -- hold onto something.”

Martha made a face. “What?”

The engine roared. The TARDIS spun. The Doctor yelled.

Martha wondered if she should have called her mother again after all.

-o-

Then, it was over.

Breathing, she realized she was fine. Her knuckles hurt from holding onto the railing so hard, but she was no worse for wear. They’d just crashed out of the sky, but she was fine.

Blinking, she looked up.

Across the way, the Doctor was looking around in wide-eyed surprise.

Tentatively, she stood. She was new to this still, but not that new. “I take it we’re not on Destra?”

Still gaping a bit, the Doctor straightened, starting to push buttons again. “No,” he said. “Definitely not on Destra.”

“So much for fun, then,” Martha mused, moving closer to him. She wasn’t sure if she should be worried. Yet or ever.

“Well, the universe isn’t great about giving people what they want,” the Doctor rambled. Then he made a face. “But this doesn’t make sense.”

“Well, does it ever?” she asked, because of all that she didn’t know, she knew this much to be true: nothing with the Doctor made any actual sense.

“Yes!” he said, brow furrowed. “Usually it all makes a lot of sense, but these readings--”

“Wait, something that doesn’t make sense to you?” she said, debating whether she should be concerned or amused. “That’s different, right?”

“Different,” the Doctor, still more focused on the controls than her. He pounded something and it bleated at him. His expression turned positively confounded. “And wrong. This is just wrong.”

“Well, it’s always wrong,” she said, trying to see if she could sort some pattern to the buttons he was pushing. She kept thinking she’d figure it out, but it was all gibberish to her. “So how is this any different?”

“The readings,” he said. “They don’t even make sense.” He slammed a panel. “I can’t get a clear lock on our location.”

Martha raised her eyebrows, still trying to work out what he was even looking at. Sometimes it looked like a viewscreen, showing the outside. Other times it read like a computer panel, with text in another language. “You have a time machine that can’t tell time, you mean?”

It was funny.

The Doctor didn’t laugh. Instead, he looked up at the working parts of the TARDIS. “It’s like she’s more confused than I am,” he said. “There’s obviously some sort of temporal disturbance--”

“Disturbance?” Martha asked, sobering somewhat. “And that’s why we crashed?”

The Doctor tapped a keypad. “More like we were dragged out of the time stream,” he said. Something blared at him again and his frown deepened. “But none of it even makes any sense. Time is...off. Like it’s starting to fray.”

Starting to fray -- that was a new one. Martha’s grasp of temporal physics was sketchy at best. The Doctor had all the answers, but he wasn’t always keen on providing them. And too often, when he did answer questions about the how’s and why’s, he was so caught up in the wonder of his explanation to realize that he was only vaguely making sense to the common person.

To her, namely.

“How can time fray?” Martha asked, hoping she didn’t sound as utterly clueless as she felt.

The Doctor wrinkled his nose. “Well, it’s a bit complicated--”

“Oh, and what isn’t?”

He acted like he didn’t hear her. “But time has predictable patterns and a natural flow. And it can change and give and take, but all within a certain fabric of the universe. This, though. It’s like a string has been pulled out and someone keeps pulling and pulling…”

Martha eyed the panels skeptically. “And you get all that from your screens?”

“No, I get all that from the fact that the TARDIS fell out of the sky and can’t tell me where we are,” he said. “I get all that because I’m a Time Lord and I have an impeccable sense of time.”

“But you never end up where you say you’ll be,” she protested.

“Because I always know where I need to be instead,” he said.

Martha sighed, not sure if she was disappointed or intrigued. “So it’s not about what we want,” she concluded for him. “It’s about what we need.”

He looked up, seeing her for the first time since they crashed. He looked somehow reassured as his eyes brightened. “I think maybe you’re right,” he said. “You wanted to go to a party.”

Martha shrugged, venturing uncertainly, “But we needed to crash instead.”

“Because there’s something outside we’re suppose to see,” he said, squaring his shoulders and reaching for his trenchcoat. He smiled broadly. “And I’d very much like to find out what. I know it’s no party...”

Martha smiled back. “But who knows,” she said, letting herself be hopeful. That was why she’d come with him in the first place; because she’d believed that things could be more than they were, that there was always cause to hope. “Maybe it’s even better.”

-o-

It wasn’t better.

Not even close

One step outside, and Martha shuddered. The landscape was bleak with long stretches of dark gray stone laid out against the dull, overcast sky. The ragged mountains were foreboding, and the wind that swept across them made her shudder.

She’d seen incredible things; she’d seen magnificent things. She’d seen things that made her question her understanding of the universe, that entirely redefined the very nature of her existence.

This, though.

It was a barren wasteland. It was bleak and void. The TARDIS had landed, just slightly askew on the uneven ground, situated on what appeared to be a high plateau. The sky stretched with an unsettling emptiness that touched her deep inside in a way she couldn’t quite explain.

She’d been to the past; she’d been to the future. Martha had never felt farther away from home than this.

Stepping outside, she slowed her pace, squinting at the bleak horizon. “Where are we?”

Following her, the Doctor looked less disconcerted but no less confused. He shook his head, taking in their surroundings again. “It can’t be.”

He was doing that thing of his. That thing where he was so absorbed in the things around him that he hardly remembered she even existed. He was desperate for company, but acknowledging her presence often seemed optional to him. Sometimes she felt like he just needed someone about so he didn’t talk to himself.

But Martha was no wilting flower. “Can’t be what?” she pressed.

He turned again, brow wrinkled. “I think it is.”

Martha waited, but didn’t bother to be patient about it. “You think it is what?”

He turned back out toward the horizon, eyes on the jagged cliffs against the gray skyscape. “Svartalfheim.”

It wasn’t like she expected to recognize the name. Traveling through the galaxy, she’d got used to that pretty quick. What bothered her, though, was that he always told her things like she should know already. “Excuse me?”

This time, he looked at her, as if remembering she was there for the first time -- or really, as if remembering who she was. “Svartalfheim,” he repeated. “One of the Nine Realms, as they’re called out this way.” He looked out over the landscape again. “Not too far from Earth, actually.”

Martha made a face. “Never heard of it.”

“Well, far is relative,” the Doctor said with a small grin. “Once humans develop advance space flight--”

“Yeah, sometime not in my life,” Martha reminded him. “What’s so special about it here anyway?”

“Nothing, really,” the Doctor said, putting his hands in his pockets as he looked around curiously. “As far as the Nine Realms go, this is one of the least appealing one, second probably to Muspelheim, unless you’re partial to fire. Under the care of Asgard, though, if I had to guess. The Dark Elves used to live here, but they were wiped out -- a few millennia ago. No way to know for sure, but given the alignment of the sky, I’m willing to wager that Odin is in charge.”

Now that was a name she recognized.

Not for any good reason, though. She scoffed. “Odin,” she repeated.

The Doctor nodded, kicking at a stone experimentally. “Odin,” he confirmed. “The great All-Father, as he fashions himself.”

Martha laughed. “Odin,” she said again. “Father of Thor? As in, the god of thunder?”

He turned back toward her, giving her a curious look. “You sound surprised.”

“Well, yeah!” she said “He’s a myth! They both are.”

“Oh, wait!” the Doctor said. “That’s right! You haven’t met him yet. He doesn’t crash on your planet for another year yet.”

She shook her head. “What are you talking about?” she asked. “I learned about Odin and Thor in literature class. Legends and stuff.”

“Sure!” the Doctor said. “And all legends are based on facts. Or. most of them anyway, though most of the time they hardly live up to the expectations.”

“Well, I did meet Shakespeare,” Martha reminded him.

The Doctor looked at her, eyes twinkling. “Yeah, he sort of lives up to his name, though.”

Martha shook her head. “So Thor and Odin -- they’re real?”

“Oh, very real,” the Doctor said. “And you’ll find that out soon enough. But, for the record, you’re better off avoiding New York for a bit. And honestly, if you can move out of London--”

“What are you talking about?” she asked, incredulous.

He waved a hand through the air. “History! And the future! And the Avengers!”

“The Avengers?”

“Don’t worry,” the Doctor said with a coy smirk. “You’ll quite like them. Can’t decide which one you’ll go for the most, though. Iron Man has the snark factor, but you might be charmed by Captain America’s patriotism. Even if he’s American, he’s a soldier of principle, first, which I always quite fancied.”

She wanted to groan. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

He rolled his eyes. “Nothing, nothing,” he said. “A bit ahead of myself, I’m afraid. Or behind myself, if I’ve got my timing right.”

His explanation did nothing to assuage her confusion. If anything, the more he talked, the less she understood. “So I still don’t see what any of this has to do with...Svartal…”

“Svartalfheim,” the Doctor provided for her, starting to move up one of the ragged embankments. “And it doesn’t really have anything to do with it, as far as I know. This is an abandoned planet, mostly. A scourge of the Nine Realms.”

Martha followed him, treading cautiously as the rock shifted beneath her. “Then why did the TARDIS bring us here?”

The Doctor pulled himself up, steadying himself on one of the rocky tips in order to reach the closest summit. She came up beside him, getting her footing as she looked out over the expanse.

From here she could see a long valley. It was just as barren, the black rock stretching as far as she could see. More mountains were silhouetted against the horizon, and jagged foothills came up from the ground around the edge of the steep decline.

And there, to the left, a strange looking ship, dark and ominous against the sky.

To the right, three figures on the crest of another hill.

She glanced at the Doctor.

His eyes widened. “Oh,” he said, realization dawning on his face. “Now, I see.”

Martha looked back out. “I don’t.”

The Doctor looked a little awed, a little surprised. Completely enthralled. “The Battle of Svartalfheim.”

That caught Martha’s attention. She looked at the Doctor, eyebrows raised.

The Doctor grinned at her. “One of the smallest battles ever.”

“So why’s it important then?”

“Because,” the Doctor said, turning his gaze outward again. “It changed the fate of the universe.”

-o-

It sounded dramatic, but then, the Doctor had a thing for dramatics. In the short time Martha had been with the Doctor, she’d come to realize that a lot of things could change the fate of the universe.

Which was all well and good. It was probably something of an occupational hazard, as far as time travel was concerned. And as much as she’d been looking forward to a bit of downtime, that wasn’t why she was here.

She came for the Doctor. She’d hardly looked back. Her sister was back, probably trying to get a new job. Her brother was working out what he wanted to do with his life. His father was fighting with his too young girlfriend, and her mother -- well, Lord only knew what her mother was actually doing besides trying to control Martha’s life from afar.

If only her mother knew how far.

Martha was nothing if not committed at this point. That was in her nature, to make decisions and stick with them.

Moving closer to the Doctor, she followed him as he sneaked around the crags, finding a more stable spot just beyond the action. He was being stealthy -- which was a bit different than normal -- so she pressed close and followed suit.

“It’s not like you,” she said as the bitter wind picked up again.

“It’s not?” he asked, tilting his head as if trying to gauge the angle of the sun in the sky.

“I mean, what’s this wait and see business,” she said, nodding out toward the spaceship again. “Aren’t you going to just go over and say hello?”

“Well, that would be friendly,” the Doctor said. “But I don’t think it’d be appreciated.”

She huffed in bemusement. “And you think it ever is?”

He craned his neck to look back at her. “Martha Jones,” he said. “I do believe you just insulted me.”

She shrugged coolly. “Well, you are standing me up,” she reminded him. “This is no party.”

“No,” the Doctor agreed. “But this is a precarious moment in history.”

Looking out, nothing seemed to be happening. “Precarious?”

“Yes,” the Doctor said. “I mean, no one actually knows what happened here. We know it did happen, but the details are kind of a blank.”

“Something you don’t know?” she asked in genuine disbelief.

The Doctor appeared hurt. “Keeping track of the whole of time is rather a lot.”

Nudging him, she smiled. “Well, you hide it well.”

He appeared somewhat mollified. “That is the thing, though,” he continued, lifting his chin to look out more closely. “There are no records of this battle. We just know it happened, and that it was a precursor for what is to come.”

“Which is…?”

“Which is probably not the point,” the Doctor said. “I mean, we got dragged out of time for this moment, and this moment alone. That means it must be more important than anyone realized.”

“So, wait,” Martha said. “You think we got pulled here for a reason?”

“Well, the TARDIS doesn’t usually make mistakes,” the Doctor said.

“I’ve sort of yet to see her get it exactly right,” Martha mused.

“Oh, well, you’ll have to pardon her since she’s parsing through time and space in mere seconds,” the Doctor said. He shook his head. “But there’s something here. Can you feel it?”

Martha felt the wind; she felt the tepid sunlight; she felt the bleakness deep inside. “Not really,” she admitted.

“No, no, of course not,” the Doctor muttered, chewing his lip. “And why would you. And why should I? We’ve got the elves and the sons of Odin and oh, look--” He pointed with a smile. “Jane Foster.”

Martha followed his gaze. “Who?”

“The girl,” he said. “Jane Foster. Scientist. Brilliant mind. I met her once, back when she was in school, told her about the stars and she’s been studying them ever since.”

“Is she human?” Martha asked, squinting to see. Jane looked unsteady, maybe a bit ill.

“As much as you are,” he said. “But right now, she’s being inhabited by something rather unpleasant.”

Her concern was piqued. She’d been traveling with the Doctor for a while now, but she hadn’t forgotten her oaths in medical school. “Does she need help?”

“Not the kind you can provide, I’m afraid,” the Doctor said. “She came into contact with aether. Which is why everyone is here.”

“Aether?” Martha asked.

The Doctor flitted a hand through the air. “It has supernatural powers and gives people the ability to do all sorts of crazy things to the universe. Malekith -- the funny looking one who owns that ship -- wants to use the aether to bring eternal darkness to the universe so his people can thrive again. Very dark. Very apocalyptic.”

He said it like it was the most casual thing in the world. To him, it probably was. Though he didn’t usually approach it so flippantly.

Martha stared at him for a moment. “Maybe that’s why we’re here.”

“No, no,” the Doctor said, intent on the scene again. “They handle the aether just fine.”

Martha sighed. “Then why are we here?”

He looked thoughtful, fully engrossed now. “That is the question now, isn’t it?”

The ship seemed to dock and one of the doors opened, lowering to the ground. “And do we have an answer?”

“Still working on that, I think,” the Doctor said. “We’ve got an event that is literally a footnote in history. Important but not that important. And it’s a total void, but it’s got some of the most epic players imaginable. I mean, Malekith, he’s not exactly a nobody. And the Dark Elves -- that’s a race you don’t want to mess with. And this is Thor. And Loki. I mean, Thor and Loki! It’s a footnote, but it’s an epic footnote!

He actually sounded excited, in the way only the Doctor could.

It was endearing.

And frustrating.

Martha shrugged. She’d done this just long enough to know better than to pretend. “And that’s supposed to mean something?”

“Ugh, right!” the Doctor said. “It hasn’t happened yet, not for you. I have to admit, that puts a damper on the whole thing. Being a fan boy is better in pairs.”

“Well, sorry,” Martha said defensively. “It’s not my fault.”

“I know, I know,” the Doctor said. “But you should be able to put some of this together. Because Thor and Loki!”

“I was more into the sciences,” Martha admitted with a shrug. “You’re lucky I remember this much.”

“And that’s why I support a well rounded education,” the Doctor said. “Every student ought to be exposed to everything. Classical literature, advanced maths, quantum physics--”

Martha pinned him with a look.

“Right, off topic,” he said. Then he gestured broadly, his attention back on point. “Thor and Loki; they’re brothers. The mythology is sort of all over the place with that one, but that’s how it is. They’re both the sons of Odin. The only sons, actually. Not sure where Baldur came from, but he is a nice bit in the stories--”

Martha raised her eyebrows.

The Doctor seemed to remember himself, pulling back from the tangent he was dangerously close to veering down. “But Thor and Loki. Raised as brothers, and Thor always thinks of them that way, but Loki’s got a bit of an identity crisis.”

“Identity crisis?”

“He found out that he’s actually the son of his father’s sworn enemy and that his entire childhood was based on a lie and that he was really a spoil of war. And worse, that he’s literally the monster that every child is taught to hate on Asgard. Just your typical soul crushing, mind binding, identity shattering stuff.”

Martha’s mouth hung open. “And I thought I had it bad.”

“Oh, don’t feel too sorry for him,” the Doctor said. “He’s a bit of a prat about it.”

Martha had a feeling that was an understatement. The Doctor had a habit of telling the truth -- but rarely in its proper context. “A bit?”

“Or completely,” he said. “Loki tries to kill Thor on a semi-regular basis. And that’s when he’s not trying to humiliate him or steal his birthright or the like.”

Martha looked again. Jane was flanked by two men. A blonde and a thinner brunette. It had been a long time since she’d studied the mythology, she was pretty sure which one was which.

The hammer, after all, was sort of a giveaway.

“But they’re working together now,” she observed from their positions next to each other. There were two sides to this battle, and they were clearly on the same one.

“Yes,” the Doctor agreed as the apparent bad guys approached the ridge where Thor and Loki drew closer together. “A rare moment indeed.”

Martha watched, trying to think of some appropriate way to transition them toward the action. Or away from the action. If they were going to be here, she would rather it be for a reason or she’d rather just leave altogether.

“So, they’re getting along,” she said. “It sounds like we’re not needed here at all.”

That was the moment Loki turned on Thor, pulling out a blade and plunging it deep into his stomach. Thor faltered, pitching forward as Loki half-threw him down the cliff front, following after him at a brisk pace while Jane cried out and stumbled down behind them.

“No,” the Doctor said soberly as Thor hit the bottom with a thud. Even from a distance, Loki’s smirk was impossible to miss. “I think we’re very much needed here after all.”

-o-

By nature, Martha was proactive. She was never one to ignore a problem, and she found unfinished business to be frustrating. This was why everyone in the family complained to her -- she was the only one who had the common sense to address their issues head on.

It was why she wanted to be a doctor, too. Her straightforward attitude didn’t take to being idle. Without this determination deep inside her, she never would have followed the Doctor in the first place.

“So,” she said, feeling the energy start to build in her toes, her entire body ready to make a move. “What should be do?”

Loki had reached Thor, following up with a vicious series of kicks that sent Thor sprawling across the terrain.

The Doctor was frowning, fully engrossed.

“Doctor,” she said again, most insistently now. The group from the spaceship was rapidly approach Thor, as Loki continued his dominance. “Doctor, please.”

But the Doctor furrowed his brow. “Just wait…”

Thor howled, lifting his hand to call out for his hammer

And that was when Loki lashed out, neatly slicing Thor’s hand off as the larger man roared in pain.

“Doctor!” Martha hissed.

He looked confounded, but he shook his head. “This isn’t right--”

“So why aren’t we stopping it?” Martha demanded.

Because there wasn’t any time. Loki went back a few steps, wrenching Jane forward, and Martha’s stomach twisted as she was lifted into the air and a red mist came out of her. It was a strange, suspended moment, and the entire company was transfixed, almost as if afraid to disturb the process

“Doctor!” she cried, almost jumping out on her own.

The Doctor didn’t move, though, face creased in the utmost concentration. “There’s still time,” he muttered, mostly to himself. “Time and tricks and--”

His eyes widened right as Thor rolled to a sitting position as Jane fell, glancing to Loki before reaching his stump out. Loki shifted and the illusion dissipated, and Thor’s hand was whole and strong as the hammer flew right toward him this time.

There was no time to react -- no time to do anything -- as Thor got to his feet, lifting the hammer high. The skies swelled in response, and Martha flinched as lightning surged. The energy cackled and before the aether could continue its path, Thor directed the power right at the mist.

The electricity crackled, and the sky seemed to come alive. The mist hardened and then--

It shattered.

Martha turned away instinctively, ducking her head even as far away as she was. When she peeked out, Thor was standing, as were the elves. Loki, for his part, was crouched over Jane protectively.

For one moment, it seemed to have worked.

“But I thought you said the real battle was in London,” Martha hissed.

The Doctor frowned. “It is….”

Then, the ground shook. The shards of red began to rise, coming together in the sky--

And going right into Malekith.

“Well, that’s how Malekith gets out of here,” Martha observes. “Maybe that’s it?”

The Doctor shook his head. “No,” he said as Malekith started to retreat. “I really don’t think so.”

“But, they lost,” Martha said.

“Thor doesn’t surrender,” the Doctor said.

“But Malekith has the aether,” Martha protested. “What’s he going to do?”

“What a big man with a hammer always does,” the Doctor observed. “Start hitting things.”

That was when, down on the valley below, Thor let loose his hammer.

And the fight truly began.

-o-

Though Martha liked to be proactive, she wasn’t outright suicidal. She had willingly faced danger, but an actual battle was a bit beyond her purview. Malekith boarded the ship, but the other elves descended, back toward Thor and Loki.

Thor approached them, using his hammer to down the first wave easily. As the others approached, someone threw something. It beeped like a grenade but its blast was different, dark and roaring before sucking up the rocks and anything else around it.

Anyone else.

Still poised to protect Jane, Loi had nowhere to go. Caught up in the blast, he was sucked back.

Martha gaped, ready to look away.

“What is that?” she asked.

“Black hole grenades,” he said. “Nasty things.”

There was no need, though, not as Thor came thundered up to him, sweeping him from the brink. Focused as he was, there was no time to pause, and he hurled his hammer at the ship again, as if in a desperate attempt to stop it.

It didn’t work. Malekith still boarded.

But the other one -- the larger one with horns -- turned back and glowered.

Her heart skipped a beat as the largest fighter, hulking and fuming. “And what’s that?”

“The Kursed,” the Doctor said. “Not someone you’d want to take home for Christmas dinner, though I doubt he’ll live that long.”

“Well at least he’s appropriate named,” she mumbled as the Kursed attacked Thor, his sheer strength sending the other man sprawling back into the far cliffside. It was all she could do not to duck as Thor’s hammer slammed through the air, hitting the ground hard enough to rattle them up on their perch. “Are you sure about this? That we should really do nothing?”

“Sure?” the Doctor asked as Loki handled the other elves and the Kursed tore loose a piece of rock and hurled it at Thor. “No, not even close.”

“Then what are we doing?” Martha spluttered, watching helplessly as the Kursed advanced on Thor, swatting the hammer away before Thor could call it fully to himself.

“Well, so far nothing’s happened that is obviously a problem,” the Doctor said. “We can’t go around changing things willy nilly.”

“But the TARDIS brought us here,” Martha reminded him. “We should do something.”

“But what?” the Doctor asked. “This is the Battle of Svartalfheim. All the right people are here; Malekith has the Aether; Jane’s still alive; Thor’s still fit and able--”

“Really?” Martha asked as the Kursed advanced, pummeling Thor relentlessly into the ground.

“Well, and Loki--” The Doctor paused at the name, tilting his head.

“What about him?” Martha asked.

“Loki is full of surprises,” the Doctor said. “I mean, he’s selfish, self-absorbed, mean-spirited, devious, cunning and entirely untrustworthy.”

That was when Loki surged forward, running a sheath through the Kursed.

The giant beast stopped, but didn’t stagger. Instead he turned toward Loki, grabbing the smaller man and yanking him close.

Until the blade pierced through Loki and straight through to the other side.

It looked like it was over.

Thor was on the ground, still dazed.

Loki was stabbed straight through.

But then the black hole grenade on the Kursed activated. With no time to react, the beast was violently consumed, pulled out of existence and into nothingness even as Malekith’s ship started to rise.

Martha watched, stunned as Thor cried out, collecting Loki into his arms. “He just saved Thor’s life.”

The Doctor looked vexed now. “Loki, as the hero of Svartalfheim?” he asked. “That’s unexpected.”

The entire situation was unexpected, but Martha didn’t bother bringing up that obvious and probably somewhat petty point. There were certain things that came with the territory, and Martha’s ability to accept that was one of the few things that kept her from going completely mad.

The Doctor stood, nodding. “Okay.”

Martha eyed him curiously. “Okay?”

“Okay,” the Doctor confirmed, looking down at Martha. “Now we intervene.”

Martha looked at him; she looked down where Thor was grieving. “A bit late now, don’t you think?”

“Oh, please,” the Doctor said. “Time machine!”

That was always a convenient answer. But she’d been with him long enough to know when it was nothing more than an excuse.

“Besides,” the Doctor said, more seriously this time. “Everything else that has happened -- makes total sense. But Loki doesn’t die here.”

“And you’re sure of that?” she asked.

He smirked. “With Loki, it’s hard to be sure of anything.”

Martha sighed. “I still don’t understand why the TARDIS brought us here.”

“Then, by all means,” the Doctor said, gesturing grandly. “Let’s go find out.”

-o-

From their spot at the top of the incline, there was no easy way down. Thor and Loki had gone straight down, but it hadn’t looked all that fun. The Doctor at least had the common sense to find a less arduous path, but Martha was still breathing hard by the time they made their way to the valley floor. Worse still, the sky was gathering darkly, the overcast sky turning more ominous with every passing moment.

That was really the least of her concerns, though. When they arrived, she was promptly struck by the fact that they were too late.

“But they’re leaving,” Martha protested, nodding up toward the incline where Thor’s large figure was retreating.

“I’d hope so,” the Doctor said, glancing up toward the sky. “There’s weather on the way. And they’ve got a bit of a timeline.”

“Well, so do we!” Martha objected, treading carefully among the wreckage from the battle, trying not to feel the brusque chill on the wind as it picked up.

“We don’t know why we’re here,” the Doctor said, stepping lightly across the ground and skirting the body of a pale faced alien. “But I’m pretty sure changing the course of the Battle of London would be a bad go.”

Martha stopped at that. “Wait, Battle of London?” she asked. “Is that different from the other alien encounters we’ve had?”

“Oh, yes,” the Doctor said. “The Battle of London was cataclysmic. We’re talking about the entire universe hanging on the brink of total darkness.”

Martha’s mouth fell open. “Well, shouldn’t we go to that then!”

“The TARDIS didn’t take us there,” the Doctor pointed out.

“But the universe hanging on the brink!”

“And gets pulled back, thanks to Jane Foster’s brilliance and Thor’s hard headed Asgardian tenacity,” the Doctor explained, as though it was all entirely obvious.

And it probably was. Being a Time Lord and all, he just knew things like that. He knew everything.

Except sometimes, the most frustratingly visible things.

This wasn’t the time for that. She wasn’t sure what it was actually the time for, but her wayward pining was probably fairly low on the list.

It was just like her -- to have a crush on the one man in the galaxy who could validly use the excuse that he had more important things to do than talk about feelings. And to think -- he was still easier to deal with than her mother.

“Then, I really don’t understand,” Martha said. “Why would the TARDIS bring us here? This is just a precursor, from the way you tell it. And there’s nothing left.

The Doctor paused, looking ahead intently. “Oh, I don’t know about that.”

Martha came up alongside him, following his gaze. The sky was turning from gray to black now, but the dark-clad figure was still easy to see on the ground. It was Loki, his long cloak rustling in the wind, and his stark features upturned toward the sky, still and frozen in death.

Martha had seen death, even before she joined the Doctor in the TARDIS. She recognized the look, the lifelessness and stillness, when there was nothing left, when the body was nothing but a shell. Such reminders of mortality were simple to her, more solidifying than they were unsettling. But the Doctor defied all that; he’d made her question everything.

The Doctor rocked back on his heels, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Something tells me the show is about to begin.”

Thunder rumbled across the sky. The clouds coalesced. A chill ran up Martha’s spine. “How do you figure?” she asked, raising her voice as the wind started to whip about her ears.

The Doctor nodded. “Loki,” he said. “The god of mischief.”

Martha looked out again, perplexed.

And then, the figure on the ground twitched. His fingers constricted and then he took a ragged breath. Then he opened his eyes and sat up sharply, hand pressed experimentally to his chest.

The Doctor smiled, as if he’d known all along. “The only thing you can count on with him,” he said, “is that you can’t count on anything at all.”

-o-

Martha’s instincts were to rush forward, to render aid and assistance. Even if Loki was alive, she’d just seen him get stabbed through the chest. She didn’t know how many hearts the man had, but her training as a doctor was hard to ignore.

But even as she made the thought, the Doctor held out a hand to keep her back.

She scowled, but he didn’t seem to notice as he stepped forward. “That was a neat trick.”

On the ground, Loki looked up. His eyes passed over the Doctor and settled coldly on Martha. “I have no business with you,” he said, getting to his feet. He wavered, just for a moment, but the color was already returning to his cheeks as his lips pressed into a thin smile. “I suggest you leave before I decide to create business with you.”

“Oh, we wouldn’t want that now, would we?” the Doctor said, as casual as he pleased.

Loki inclined his head, eyes narrowing just slightly. “Do I know you?”

“Me?” the Doctor said. “No, I don’t think so.”

Loki approached, coming to full height as his gait steadied. “I think perhaps I do,” he mused, coming closer to the Doctor. Martha found herself flinching, ever as the Doctor smiled. “You are neither Aesir or Midgardian.”

“True and true,” the Doctor said.

“And you come from none of the Nine Realms,” Loki continued.

“My history is not really the issue here,” the Doctor said. “Though if we’re going to have a contest on who’s had it worse, I’m afraid I’d win.”

Loki’s face darkened, the curiosity turning bitter. “You may not be a petty creature, but you are far too flippant around me.”

“At least you’re not wanting for a lack of self-confidence,” the Doctor said cheerily. “Daddy issues, self-loathing, identity in flux, psychopathic tendencies, sure -- but you are fascinatingly assured of your own superiority.”

Martha had to think sometimes Loki wasn’t the only one.

She said nothing, but Loki’s eyes still turned toward her. “And you travel with her?” he asked. “Midgardian. I do not understand the fascination with creatures so small and insignificant.”

“Hey,” Martha objected.

The Doctor inched just closer to her. To keep her from talking; to protect her. “Small and insignificant does not always mean less valuable,” he said.

“They are so fleeting, though,” Loki said, looking at Martha as if he were disappointed in her very mortality.

“Makes you realize what matters,” the Doctor said. “Like here. Svartalfheim. Saving a life?”

Loki’s lips turned into a smile again, this time his eyes twinkling darkly. “My own, if you must know,” he said.

“That’s not what your brother thinks.”

“He’s not my brother!” Loki exploded, just briefly, the intensity making Martha jump. He swallowed primly, forcing another smile. “You speak as if you know of it.”

“I know you saved his life,” the Doctor replied.

“We saw it,” Martha added.

Loki’s expression turned totally bemused. “A simple trick, like you said,” he explained. “Using his emotion against him has provided me with ample opportunities to do what I must.”

“And what is that, exactly?” the Doctor said. “You didn’t beat the Dark Elves, and you’ve left Thor and Jane to fight the Battle of London. I assume you’re about to go and take over Odin’s throne?”

Loki stepped back, almost impressed. “We do know each other, then,” he said. “I am almost intrigued.”

“You’re a bit more than intrigued,” the Doctor said. “And you’ve done something -- I don’t know what -- but I’m going to find out -- because you’ve done something. And it’s not just tricking Thor, and it’s not just simple illusions, and it’s not just going after the throne -- it’s something else--

Loki smiled widely now. “So smart,” he said. “And still, so far from answers.”

He was cool and calm and totally collected. As if he had everything figured out.

And the Doctor, for once, was just too far behind to catch up.

Loki raised a hand. “Now,” he said. “If you’ll excuse me--”

Martha wrinkled her nose; the Doctor opened his mouth to protest.

Loki snapped his fingers.

And lightning clashed and the world went white, fading into nothing.

-o-

Nothing, as it turned out, lasted two seconds.

Because two seconds into their trip, the TARDIS started falling.

At first, the sharp turn seemed normal. Even the second and third one weren’t terribly disconcerting. And then an alarm blared and the Doctor yelped.

“Is this how you get to Destra?” Martha asked, holding tight to a rail as the TARDIS dipped wildly.

“No!” the Doctor said.

Martha’s stomach flipped. She tightened her grip. “Is something wrong?”

“Oh, no, of course not,” the Doctor said, straining as he frantically flipped switched. “Unless you count falling out of the sky, plummeting uncontrollably through time wrong!”

“Um!” Martha said, adjusting her grip as they shimmied again. She wanted to be surprised, but given all their adventures so far… “But it’s going to be okay, right?”

“Yeah, sure,” the Doctor said. “But, you know, just in case -- hold onto something.”

Martha made a face. “What?”

The engine roared. The TARDIS spun. The Doctor yelled.

Martha wondered if she should have called her mother again after all.

-o-

Then, it was over.

Martha stopped, though.

It was over.

It was…

Over?

Or had it just started.

There was always a strange sort of discombobulation when traveling with the Doctor, but this was more pronounced than usual. This was fundamentally different, as though she’d lived this exact moment before.

Then, she wondered.

Craning her head, she looked up at the Doctor.

He looked back.

“Is it just me,” Martha said, getting to her feet. “But have we already done this?”

The Doctor was already on his feet, leaning over the controls, hitting buttons like mad. “It’s not just you,” he said, making a face. “We have done this.”

Martha moved closer.

The Doctor slid a dial. “We’ve done exactly this,” he said. “It’s not even possible.”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure you said that already,” Martha said.

“But it’s not!” the Doctor said. “Because time’s not just starting to fray!”

“It’s not?” Martha asked.

The Doctor ignored her, abandoning the console as he jogged to the door. He flung it open, and Martha followed. The sky was overcast and gray, the jagged rocks dark against the horizon as they moved their way toward the edge of the small plateau where the TARDIS had landed.

Below them, Malekith’s ship had landed. Across the valley, Thor and Loki stood at the top of a precipice.

“No,” the Doctor said, just a little grim. “It’s repeating.”

-o-

Martha had been in the future. She had been in the past.

But this was new.

“How is that even possible?”

The Doctor closed his mouth, watching as the Dark Elves descended from their ship and Loki attacked Thor. It was just as impressive this time when the trick was revealed and Thor fought side by side with Loki, but it was much less of a surprise.

“It’s not possible,” the Doctor said. “Not really.”

Martha watched as the fight unfolded identically. “Okay…,” she started. “Then what is this?”

“It’s not natural,” he said. “And it can’t be a repeat. It just can’t!”

“But it is,” Martha said. “You haven’t seen something like this before?”

“History doesn’t literally repeat itself,” the Doctor said. “People are prone to making the same mistakes, and even if you go back, you can’t literally relive it. You’re just making a different imprint on the same moment. But the outcome will be--”

Loki twisted out of the way, just in time for Thor to finish off the elf before it could stab Loki through. The elf was sucked back into a black hole, screaming all the while, leaving Thor and Loki standing together.

Whole.

Martha was used to being at the top of her class, but being with the Doctor never failed to make her feel a bit out of her league.

The Doctor, though -- he just grinned. “Well,” he said. “Now that’s more like it.”

-o-

Finding their way down was easier this time -- having done it before and all -- but Martha was just as winded this time around. Frowning, she followed after the Doctor, who made no attempts at stealth or waiting for her. Instead, he barged ahead, striding across the rock with a grand smile, even as the storm clouds gathered.

“Hello!” he said, waving as Martha hurried her pace behind him.

Loki’s look was reserved, but knowing. If they were reliving this, so was he.

Thor, however, looked perplexed. “Who are you and how have you come to this place?”

“It is a bit out of the way for sightseeing,” the Doctor agreed. He looked up at the sky as thunder started to rumble. “But I think the weather might be better if not for current company.”

It was a joke -- it was always a joke -- but Thor did not appear to be ready to laugh. “You are unsafe here,” he said. “If you come with me, I will take you to safety along with my brother.”

“The universe is on the precipice of disaster,” Loki hissed. “And do you not care how they came here?”

Thor looked at Loki. “We have greater concerns,” he said. “Which is why I offer you the choice again: come with me to stop Malekith or I will return you to Asgard.”

Loki stiffened. Behind them, Jane tottered forward uncertainly, looking dazed.

Martha moved forward. “Can I look at her?” she asked. “I’m a doctor.”

Thor looked uncertain. Jane moved past him, rubbing her arms as she looked curiously at Martha. “Are you...from Earth?”

“London,” Martha told her, smiling slightly.

Jane stumbled a bit. “But--”

Martha stepped forward, supporting her. “It happens when you follow eccentric and attractive aliens.”

Jane chuckled.

Thor shook his head. “What is your purpose here?” he said again.

“I wish I knew,” the Doctor said. “I suspect we’re here because you’re here.”

Thor gathered a breath, clearly in an effort to keep his temper. “I have pressing business, and I have made many sacrifices,” he said tautly. “I ask you to speak plain, are you allied with the elves?”

“The elves?” the Doctor said. “Oh, no. But I’m not really the one who needs to confirm their allegiance now.” His eyes flitted toward Loki. “Am I?”

Jane’s skin was cold, her complexion pale. Martha could feel her still working on gaining her breath. Whatever the aether had done, it had taken its toll on her.

Loki belied nothing.

Thor’s hand tightened on his hammer. “You know nothing of what you speak.”

“Don’t I?” the Doctor said. “Thor and Loki. You know you shouldn’t trust him…”

“He did save my life,” Thor argued.

“And now what?” the Doctor said. He nodded around. “What’s after Svartalfheim?”

“We go to stop Malekith,” Thor said decidedly. “It is the only way to stop the darkness from descending.”

The Doctor nodded. “And Loki?”

“My business is my own,” the dark hair man said.

“He is under my authority,” Thor said curtly. “If he will help, then he will accompany me. And I have not asked Loki for any account. His actions are self explanatory.”

“Oh,” the Doctor said. “Nothing is self explanatory with Loki.”

“You say you are not an enemy, but you have done nothing but delay our purpose,” Thor said, his aggravation rising.

The Doctor held up his hands disarmingly. “Somehow I don’t think it’s me,” he said. “Usually, sure. But this time--”

Thor narrowed his gaze. He looked from the Doctor to Martha. Then he settled his eyes on Loki. “We fought together,” he said. “There are no tricks in that. Come with me, and we will continue our fight.”

Loki smiled mirthlessly. “And to what end?”

“To save the realms!” Thor insisted.

“So I can be returned to my cell?” Loki asked gruffly. “So you may receive honor and the throne while I rot away?”

Thor gritted his teeth. “Your sacrifice will serve you well--”

“No,” Loki said. “You estimate the All Father too highly.”

“I am not able to undo the crimes you have done,” Thor said. “This is how it is.”

“No,” Loki said, lips turning up into a cold, knowing smile. “I’m afraid it’s not.”

Before the Doctor could move; before Martha could blink; Loki lifted his hand and snapped his fingers.

The lightning crackled.

The thunder roared.

And nothing--

-o-

Nothing, as it turned out, lasted two seconds.

Because two seconds into their trip, the TARDIS started falling.

At first, the sharp turn seemed normal. Even the second and third one weren’t terribly disconcerting. And then an alarm blared and the Doctor yelped.

“Is this how you get to Destra?” Martha asked, holding tight to a rail as the TARDIS dipped wildly.

“No!” the Doctor said.

Martha’s stomach flipped. She tightened her grip. “Wait,” she said, her memory tripping. “This isn’t right--”

“Oh, no,” the Doctor said, straining as he frantically flipped switches. “This isn’t right at all.”


“No, I mean, we’ve been here before!” Martha said, her voice pitching as they shimmed again.

“And we’re about to go again,” the Doctor said. “Hold on!”

The engine roared. The TARDIS spun. The Doctor yelled.

Martha still wondered if she should have called her mother again after all.

-o-

When it stopped, Martha looked at the Doctor.

The Doctor looked at Martha.

“It’s still repeating,” she said. “We’re in a time loop.”

The Doctor snorted, scrambling to his feet. “Time doesn’t repeat! It can’t! A time loop doesn’t exist,” he said. “At least, not in the way you’re thinking.”

Martha followed him as he made his way to the door. “Then in what way are you thinking?”

The Doctor opened the door and marched out onto Svartalfheim. “You’re about to find out.”