Summary: Martha Jones doesn't die for their sins, she lives with them. Four months after the Year That Never Was, Martha Jones meets Torchwood-- again. 6067 words.
Fandom: Torchwood/Doctor Who
Spoilers and/or Warnings: Character deaths that undo themselves. Spoilers for Torchwood upto 2x06 "Reset", and for Doctor Who 3x12 "The Sound of Drums" and 3x13 "Last of the Time Lords"
Original story: Forget About Us by raisintorte
Author's Note: This story is for my Beta Reader, neifile7. Without her sharp insight, patience and consideration, this would not be the story that it is. Her criticism was, without overstating the matter, invaluable. I cannot thank her enough.
Persistence of Memory (The Lives of Saints Remix)
Who will depict a child just as it stands? – place it
within its constellation, give it the measure of distance
into its hand? who make the death of children
out of grey bread, which hardens like a stone,
or place it in the cherry mouth as it were the core
of a shiny apple? Murderers are
easy to fathom. Only this: to take on death
completely, before even life begins,
contain it lightly and without complaining,
that is indescribable.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
It takes four months for Martha Jones to call Jack Harkness, but actually, it's Jack that who calls her first in the end. “Miss Martha Jones,” he purrs over the UNIT telephone line, not caring that her bosses were probably recording the call. “Are you wearing your uniform right now?”
“Shut it, Harkness,” she says, keeping her voice stern even though she’s grinning. “I’m a nearly-married woman now. Ring on my finger and everything.”
“You sly little minx. Who’s the lucky guy? How did you meet?”
Martha’s eyes flick to the flashing red light on the dialler. “Let’s say we met when I was-- travelling.”
There’s a brief silence on the other end of the line, and the sound of someone sitting up a bit straighter, maybe leaning forward. “Is he a good man, Martha?”
“Better than even he knows.”
“He’d better be,” is all Jack says about that, but then he rustles some papers over the line and clears his throat. “Martha,” he warbles warmly. “How do you feel about Cardiff in the spring? I’ll throw in expenses if you wear the red beret.”
The military airfield is on the outskirts of the city of Jaipur, just about connected by the ring road but far enough out that it’s dark and level as far as the eye can see. The Pink City is a dark blasted grey; they fly over the sandstone ruins of Hawa Mahal, built to make music out of the city’s wind-currents. There’s a man waiting just beyond the landing area, and when Martha steps out of the helicopter he grins with half his mouth. “Miss Jones, I presume?” He says, straightening his tie a little bit, looking for all the world like a high-end chauffeur picking up some businesswoman up at the airport and not like he’s standing alone in the middle of an airfield at 2am two months after the world ended. Martha can’t help the laugh that forces its way up her throat at the absurdity of it all, and his expression flickers. “Are you all right, Miss Jones?”
“I can’t believe you’re wearing a suit,” is what comes out of her mouth instead of an apology. Martha smacks her forehead. “I’m sorry, it’s been--,”
“No apologies necessary,” he interjects smoothly. “I’m Ianto.”
“Welsh?” She asks, giving her pilot a nod and a smile.
“I’m from Cardiff. Nothing quite so homey as a rift in time and space.”
Martha raises an eyebrow. “Keeps you on your toes.”
“You’re Torchwood, then.”
“One part of Torchwood,” he amends, showing no outward sign of surprise that she’s mentioned their secret alien-hunting organisation. Maybe this is what being a legend is all about; people just assume you know things. People just assume you should. “We like to keep our fingers in everything,” he wiggles them, for emphasis, “You know, defenders of the earth and all that.”
Martha makes a face. “Nice work if you can get it.”
Ianto gives her another half-smile. “Not really.”
“No,” agrees Martha. “Not really.”
Martha has had a lot of practice at keeping a straight face when she runs into people she did but now doesn’t know, and she’s read the UNIT dossiers on Jack’s team, so she’s prepared. Which is why her smile doesn’t waver when she walks into the tourist office and sees Ianto Jones in a perfectly turned out suit. It’s why she waits until she’s introduced to the rest of the team before using their names. It was not always so easy: Martha spent the first month after the world rewound and righted itself trying very deliberately to forget, as if it could be achieved through force of will. But all she really managed was to pretend not to remember. And that’s just about enough, most of the time. Martha isn’t sure whether Tom Milligan represents her adjustment or her dysfunction.
Ianto leaves abruptly the first time Martha starts talking about the Doctor-- a reaction that startles her so much that Martha follows him out after exhausting the others with her stories. He’s sitting on the balcony underneath the rigged up anti-surveillance measures. The windows and balconies of inner buildings of the slave-quarters are covered with a silvery fabric attached to an alien device, which affords them some small measure of privacy in an increasingly monitored world.
“I miss the stars,” he says, without preamble, when she steps out. “No travelling at night, of course. And it barely seems worth looking up during the daytime. Either a sky full of round metal bastards or just-- emptiness.”
“And the Doctor. Jack too,” Martha adds. Ianto nods, expression inscrutable. “You didn’t stay to hear me talk about him.”
He loosens his tie and settles back in his chair, the most at ease that Martha has ever seen him even though he looks exhausted. “You love him.”
“Yes,” she agrees, much easier with admitting this to strangers after the end of the world than she ever was when he was right in front of her.
“Is that why you’re doing this?”
Martha tilts her head slightly. “It’s not the only reason. But--,” and Ianto smiles at her hesitation. “He gave me a mission.”
“He gave you meaning,” Ianto clarifies, and even though Martha doesn’t quite get why, the quality of the silence between them changes.
(Ianto never will actually stay when she tells her stories about the Doctor and saving the world, but he will listen when she talks about everything but-- and sometimes, that will be exactly what she needs.)
"They're calling you a saint, you know," he says, with just the right amount of irreverence. "Saint Martha who walks the earth."
Martha makes a face. "Saint of what, exactly?"
"Saint Martha was the sister of Lazarus and Mary Magdalene," he tells her, almost absently, a jarringly genteel recititation straight out of Sunday school. "The embodiment of faith in action. The patron saint of-- ah, servants and travellers."
They catch each other's eye and both start to laugh. "That's just bloody wonderful," Martha mutters. A week later she slips a piece of the TARDIS round his neck. When he tries to stop her she says, “I can give you fifteen minutes. Go and see the stars.”
When they’re alone in Jack’s office Martha leans across the desk and asks, unblinking, “So why did you really call me? I could have explained the necessary tests to Dr. Harper over the phone.”
And Jack, to her surprise says, “I missed you, Martha Jones.” And then he grins, big and wolfish.
His honesty catches her off-guard, as does the sudden clutch of sadness squeezing out her heart. She blinks. “I missed you too, you great big twit." Martha smiles back and his own dims a bit, becomes more genuine. “Next time, don’t wait for a string of murders to give me a ring, alright?”
“It’s a deal.”
Jack makes jokes and brings up the Doctor like they're gossiping about an ex, filling the silences of the things they don't say with an efficiency that borders on the ruthless. He hands her tourist booklets about Cardiff and gives her advice on wedding gowns and takes her to a cafe by the bay that serves "chocolate cake that will change your life, Martha Jones," and holds her hand when they're walking down the street.
There is something heroic about the way he pits himself against every moment with nothing but his coat and charisma, like he can charm the universe into submission. Maybe he has: time and space warp around Jack Harkness, converging on him like a lover. A cruel one; Martha remembers Tish telling her about the first time she'd had to feed Jack his breakfast after watching him die. He'd smiled kindly at her shaking hands and said, "It's all just moments in time to me, darling," and then given her a wink.
Martha thinks: they might have loved each other once, but that moment has passed now. (Just like they all will, to Jack.)
Instead: they eat ice-cream on the Plass and swap stories about all the different skies they've seen.
She’s been in North India two weeks, and that’s the longest she allows herself to stay in any one place. Long enough to talk to the right people, but not long enough to really let her body settle. Not long enough to soothe the itch in the back of her brain that tells her to keep walking (keep running, and never stop). “Sometimes, people walk with me,” Martha says to Ianto, after she tells him. “You could. For a while, at least.”
The silence stretches for a few long moments before Ianto puts a warm hand on her shoulder. “My friends,” he says carefully. “They called. I’ll be leaving in an hour.”
“Oh. Something good?”
He looks at her sharply. “Yes. I think so,” he nods, looking thoughtful. “Aberdeen, this time.”
“The very wilds.”
“Indeed,” he smiles, turning slightly to meet her eyes. “Martha-,” he begins, but she cannot take it. Cannot take another goodbye. Martha actually prefers it when she does the leaving, which is screwed up on so many levels but she’ll just have to deal with that later, like everything else.
“I’ll see you around, Ianto,” she says, instead of goodbye. Ianto bites his lip and then nods once, decisively. “You take good care of yourself. Save the world if you can, yeah? Take some of the pressure off.”
“Wouldn’t want to step on your toes,” Ianto replies mildly, standing up. He turns as if to leave but hesitates at the door. “Martha, you don’t have to do another damn thing, you know. You’ve got nothing to prove.”
Martha’s eyes flicker upward and she shakes her head. “I do, though,” she murmurs; Ianto’s lips thin but he keeps his mouth shut, and turns. Martha watches him walk away. He’s still wearing a suit, but the shirt is a sort of grey, the sleeves of his jacket are tattered and she can just see slices of mismatching socks as he walks away. His suits are really an irredeemable mess, but Ianto Jones keeps on wearing them.
"So you and Jack?" She asks, with a delighted grin on her face. Ianto startles and then goes self-satisfied, smiling a half-smile that is somehow more whole than the other ones that she's seen from him. Later he gives her a measuring look, not stopping until she reaches out and pokes him in the side. He looks surprised, like people don't often take liberties with his person. Martha's willing to bet he'd phrase it a bit like that too. "What?"
"I'm not sure why I keep telling you things, Martha."
"I have a very trustworthy face," she tells him solemnly, laughing when he rolls his eyes. "Maybe it's because I ask?"
"You're using your wiles on me, Miss Jones. It's dastardly of you."
Martha grins wickedly. "I wouldn't dare. Not with-," she tips her chin towards Jack's office, and then leans forward a bit. "He's the sort who'd fight dirty. I bet he's a biter."
Ianto flushes quickly. "Oh, you don't have to speculate," he mutters, fiddling a bit with his sleeve. "In any case," he adds, with deliberate casualness. "I think he'd be quite happy to share."
He's not stupid, and so Martha's fairly sure he'll be able to read her sincerity when she says, "Methinks the Captain doth protest too much." She gives him a pointed look before changing the subject to spare his embarassment. "You know, Ianto. I've always wanted to see you drunk." He whips his head up and raises one eyebrow in consternation. Martha laughs and laughs. "Come on," she says. "Let's get drunk enough to see stars."
Martha Jones meets Gwen Cooper for the first time in Kobe, Japan. She holds out her hand and helps her off the boat, a little skiff that’s just come off the trawler still out on open water. “I like your gun,” is the first thing Martha says, a smile on her face.
Gwen smiles back, and Martha feels deep down in her stomach the awful weight of how much their smiles are costing them. “Oh, you know Torchwood. Nothing but the best.” The city around them is ruined. Shattered glass and structures that are just steel spires rammed into the earth. “We’ve been waiting a long time for you.”
“I get that a lot,” Martha says lightly, even though her footsteps are tired.
Gwen does not say: it must be so hard, I’m so sorry, please, give us hope but Martha sees it all there on her face. She can read the stories on them like an index card. But Gwen doesn't tell Martha about the slave camps, about leaving Ianto and Rhys unburied in a warehouse near Aberdeen, about running for months with her only hope being that she didn’t know for sure that Owen and Tosh were dead. Martha can tell that Gwen just wants to fall on her knees in front of Martha Jones and pray to her to save them all; she's prepared to stiffen her back, take her confession. She's prepared to bear the weight of all their sins, and forgive them for it. But instead, Gwen thumbs on her shortwave and makes sure Aoi and Rolf have double-checked their path to the safehouse. She marches her there with a singleminded intensity: there is no bloody way Martha Jones, defender of the Earth, is dying on my watch.
That’s exactly what she says less than a week later, pulling Martha roughly through alleyways and buildings that rush past in a haze. “I have a concussion,” Martha self-diagnoses, feeling warm blood trickling down the side of her face. Gwen stops short, gives her a quick look, and then drags them back into action. They don’t stop until they’re at the very edge of docks, a different landing spot to last time. Gwen fishes around inside her jacket and pulls out an oblong, clearly alien device. Gwen’s shaking it, muttering “shit, shit, shit” under her breath as the sky starts to go dark and hum.
Martha cocks her head, recognising the sound through the head-wound and blood-loss. She’s wrapping her arms around Gwen, tightening even as Gwen is trying to wriggle loose. “Stop, Gwen, the perception filter. It might cover both of us if we stick close--”
Gwen yelps and looks up at the rapidly filling sky. “That’s your plan? What if it doesn’t?”
Martha makes a determined face, and she’s about to say something stupid and heroic, like: then we’ll both die here, standing up but the device in Gwen’s hand starts to glow orange and Martha hears the distant whirr of a motor coming from the far side of the docks. Gwen presses a series of keys and peers in the direction of the sound. “What is that thing?”
She scrutinises Martha’s face before smiling so wide it must hurt her cheeks; Martha thinks its the first time she's seen Gwen smile for real, and it's sweet and pure and gap-toothed. “You still have miles to go, Martha Jones,” she says earnestly, before wheeling her arm back and landing an impressive right hook to the side of her face. Martha crumples into her arms, dimly conscious as Gwen slides the device to the front-pocket of Martha’s jacket and pushes her over the edge.
(There is no splash.)
Martha wakes up a period of time later; it feels like days, but it’s most probably hours. Her cheekbone feels tender but not quite broken, and she has a clotted, throbbing gash from her earlier run in with a girder. She finds herself on a small boat that’s hovering about an inch from the water, engines emitting a soft pulsating orange glow in time to the central dial of the remote control she fishes out of her pocket. She levers herself up: the coast of Japan is just visible in the distance, and it is burning.
Gwen is wary in a way that catches Martha off guard until she gets that Gwen is sizing her up, and that might just include her shoes. Gwen obviously decides she's all right and draws her aside for girl-talk whenever she spots her alone in the Hub. "We should all go and get cocktails, dress up. Leave the boys behind to monitor the Rift, yeah?" Gwen asks, with a childish, bubbling enthusiasm. "Oh please," she wheedles, before Martha even has a chance to reply. "I've been trying to convince Tosh to for ages. She'll go for it if it's you. First round's on me, alright?"
"Alright, alright. Go on then," she makes a big show of giving in even though she's been convinced ever since Gwen turned her big and pleading eyes on her. "So Tosh and Owen..."
"Nope," she shakes her read at Martha's incredulous look. "No, don't ask me why. Owen probably doesn't even realise. Also, thank god you've noticed. Ianto pretends he has no idea what I'm talking about when I bring it up."
"He's having you on." Martha catches the glint on her ring-finger when Gwen reaches 0ut for her cuppa and Martha squeals. "Oh my God. Gwen Elizabeth Cooper! You're getting married!"
If Gwen thinks it's silly for a near-stranger to get so excited about her impending wedding (or that Martha knows her middle name) she doesn't show it. She preens a little and holds out her hand. "His name's Rhys," she says. "He's lovely."
"Oh, I'll bet he is!"
"Oi, missy. You've been spending too much time with one Jack Harkness, you have," she says affably, swatting Martha on the arm.
"It's the jawline," Martha imitates Jack's American drawl with a lift of her eyebrow. "Once seen, always yearned for."
Gwen falls about laughing, and from across the Hub Owen gives them a suspicious look. They never do go on their girl's night out but they do manage to get these little giggling, frivolous moments in the Hub. Of all of them, it's Gwen that surprises her the most. This laughing, silly, open Gwen is almost unrecognisable and that makes it a lot easier; she never knew this girl, but she can now. She gets a second chance; they all do, thanks to her. This is what Martha Jones is actually patron-saint of: second chances and ones-that-got-away. She leads armies of ghosts, and they trail behind her everywhere she goes.
Martha just happens to be in Johannesburg when she hears about a work crew that found and salvaged a Toclafane downed by lightning. It's 566 miles to Durban, and it takes Martha about twenty days to walk it. She could have made better time but she stops along the way to tell her story. The itch in the back of the brain tells her to run, but Martha never forgets that she isn't running away from something, she's running towards it. She's keeping her arms open. She's tearing pieces off herself and planting them in the ground that the Master so arrogantly believes is his. Martha's staking her claim in blood, metaphorical and literal. She's walking the length of her land and measuring it in footfalls while the Master never descends from his flying machine. His feet never touch the ground and he takes pride in this. (Eventually it is Martha Jones who forces him to walk upon the Earth; that little reversal is not lost on her.)
She makes it to the work camp just outside the outskirts of Durban and is greeted by a tall woman with brown skin and dark curly hair. "I'm honoured, Martha Jones," she says, with that pressed-up-together South African-Indian accent that third generation kids pick up. "I'm Preethi." She fills Martha in on the structure and rules of the camp as she shows her where she'll be bunking. "No moving about after dark, that's same as everywhere else. Oh, and really, boss, Durban isn't like anywhere else on this God's not-so-green Earth. The work-camps bring in workers for the factories, and the port's even busier than it ever was. But we've still got gunrunners and scum and drifters. Have you got a gun? You're going to need one," Preethi continues smoothly. "I'll get you something good, boss, don't you worry. Oh, Sizwe's the toppie here, ah? And you'll be using Mandisa's ID for roadblocks and night-time roll-call."
Martha doesn't ask what happened to Mandisa-- pretty girl, a bit younger than Martha but with a similar smile. Preethi doesn't volunteer the information. "So how did you find the sphere?"
Preethi raises her hands. "Our resident supergenius rigged up a monitoring field. And no, don't ask me how or what. I'm a shopgirl, not a techie. Come on, I should probably take you to them anyway. They wanted to know the moment you arrived. Of course I have nothing better to do in life than cater to their every whim," Preethi grumbles and mutters. Martha masks her surprise, and follows Preethi across the encampment, darting between hastily rigged up, heavily lived-in tents. "I should warn you, ok? Better be careful. If you disturb her, her gora will slap you one, Martha Jones or no."
"Er. Right," Martha says faintly. Before she opens the tent-flap she smiles. "By the way. Preethi? I have it on really good authority that a shopgirl saved the universe once. Just so you know." Preethi looks halfway between incredulous and awed, so Martha gives her a quick nod, takes a deep breath and enters the medical tent.
It's very white inside, surprisingly sterile given the conditions of the camp. There's technology everywhere. Half-dismantled laptops, salvaged spark-plugs and copper wiring, artifacts clearly alien in origin that flood the room in vaguely violet light. There's a bed in the centre of the space. A skinny white bloke wearing dirty jeans is hunched over it. Martha takes another step in and catches sight of the woman in the bed-- small, Asian, very pale. She's wearing a mask that's taped to the sides of her face, and it's flecked with blood. She can't help it; she gasps, and the skinny bloke jumps up. "I'm Martha," she says softly. "I think you were expecting me?"
The woman in the bed sits up and gives her a surprisingly chipper wave. "Yes, we were," she says firmly, reaching for a laptop. "I'm Toshiko Sato. This is Owen Harper. And we're Torchwood, but you've probably guessed that already."
"You really do like to get your fingers in everything," Martha says, wiggling her fingers with a lightheaded grin.
Something a bit like recognition or perhaps pain flicks across Tosh's face and Owen clears his throat and places his hands on his hips to distract her. "That's Doctor Owen Harper. Medical doctor, thank you very much," he sneers. "And this one's a doctor too. Just in something fancy."
"Electronics and Engineering," Tosh challenges, mildly. "Sorry about the mask. Looks a bit silly, but it's for the best. TB, you know. It's a bit contagious. Wouldn't want you dying before you saved the world!" Tosh's laugh is a bit too high to take the sting out of her words.
"No. That would really suck," Martha agrees, with a wry smile.
It's clear that Martha makes Toshiko nervous somehow. Martha catches her quick glances when she shares in-jokes with Jack, manhandles Ianto, laughs with Gwen, flirts lightly with Owen. She always takes an unconscious step or two back when Martha enters her personal space, turning her body or fiddling with equipment so that Martha's impression of Toshiko is pieced together from sides-of-faces, a sliver of forehead over a laptop screen, the stretch of neck between her hairline and shirt. She remembers Jack's welcoming embrace in the Hub, and Toshiko's unsure look when he introduced her, the way her smile dropped off even as Martha slid her eyes away. It doesn't matter that Martha goes forward and back in time with Jack, his team is his family and right now she's the other woman. The mistress being introduced to the kids, and Tosh isn't about to be won over with a smile and a bag of sweets.
"Miss Jones," says Toshiko.
Martha starts, looks up from her laptop and gives Tosh a warm smile.
"What's it going to take for you to call me Martha, Toshiko?" She asks, in perfect if slightly Kyoto-accented Japanese.
Tosh's eyes widen. "You speak Japanese!"
"A very clever woman I knew taught me. A long time ago now."
"I-- see," she looks like she wants to question further, but instead glances at her PDA when it's clear that Martha isn't going to elaborate. "I'm just working up the results for you. Takes a little while. Not as much as your average lab, but still. The wait's always a killer, isn't it?"
"Oh, you have no idea," she laughs.
She hesitates a bit, fussing over her laptop screen and generally avoiding Martha's eye. Martha takes a breath. "Owen's a blind man," she grits. "Just so you know."
What she wants to say is: don't wait for the end of the world to take what you want, or maybe just, don't waste time.
Tosh doesn't actually reply, but when she hands her the results of the blood-tox analysis, she smiles.
Three days later, after the fourth coughing fit she's witnessed personally and no sign of any kind of medical intervention, she finds Owen. He's smoking something they make locally that approximates a cigarette, inasmuch as it can be lit and inhaled. "Owen," she says urgently. "Toshiko-- she needs treatment. It's obviously gotten into her organs and--,"
"There aren't any antibiotics," he says harshly, cutting her off. "Don't you think I don't know she needs treatment, Martha bloody Jones? I'm sitting here watching her die of something that's completely curable in the 21st century. Completely manageable. All I need are some measly antibiotics. They'd just be lying around in store-cupboards in the hospitals I worked in before this and now--," Owen grunts and smacks his hand hard against the table. "So I bloody know, all right?"
Martha nods mutely, some detached part of her frightened of just how much rage Owen had built up, coiled up just underneath his skin, nestling between the joints of his body. But his anger subsides almost as quickly as it comes on and he offers her a smile that's bitter but not accusing. "So, not enough being a living legend, you fancy yourself a bit of a doctor as well?"
"I'm a bit of a Jack-of-all-trades." Martha's grin falters a bit when Owen blanches visibly. He shakes off her arm and she swallows back her concern. "Sorry, bad phrase to use."
"Can't ever escape Jack bloody Harkness. Not even at the end of the world. How is the great big tosspot anyway?" He asks abruptly, swinging-- Martha thinks-- like a child, between resentment and surly curiosity. Owen's the first one of Torchwood to actually vocalise the question, and she's not so surprised. Owen's brash and crude and willing to stomp in where angels would fear to tread. As far as coping mechanisms go, it's not so bad.
"He's on the Valiant. The Master's-- got him."
Owen's jaw works silently for a little bit before he deflates, like a breath blown out, and he runs a hand over his eyes. "On the plus side, he'll get some great stories out of it." Martha doesn't reply and Owen obviously takes her silence for disapproval because he snorts. "Come off it, Martha. You know that's all this is to him in the end. Stupid bloody stories he'll tell down the pub in a hundred years. If we're lucky. So yeah, excuse me for not sparing a thought for oh Captain my Captain. He can throw his own pity-party. This one's mine." He crosses his arms and looks at her mulishly.
"Nice speech," Martha says drily after a few long ticks of silence.
Owen cracks a smile, and it's surprisingly sweet and diffident. "Yeah, yeah. Get a move on, will you? Tosh should be up by now."
The thing is: Toshiko deteriorates in fits and starts, in sudden downswings rather than gradual declines. Martha watches as Owen cajoles and rages at her to get better in turns, and watches as Tosh accepts his begging and his screaming with equal grace. Owen's obviously pulling double-duties as the only doctor on site, and Martha sits in with Tosh whenever he reluctantly leaves her bedside. The first few days they don't talk very much, working together in an amicable silence but on the fourth day Tosh looks up from their work and says, "I heard-- that you were the only one to make it out of Japan when it burned." Martha swallows thickly, and nods. Tosh makes a small noise of acknowledgement and drags her eyes back down to her work.
She doesn't bring it up again directly, but when their simulations are running in the background Tosh tells Martha little details about her summers in Kyoto as a child, teaches her the rudiments of the language, scribbles down the recipes to the favourite foods she never did get around to making for herself. Owen watches them sometimes, but largely leaves them to it. Martha thinks he's probably grateful that she's there when he can't be, but it's never articulated beyond a quick look-in to her bunk when he's on the way out to deal with some sort of medical emergency and a lack of surprise when he comes back, hours later and sadder, to find her still there.
The machines around them beep, announcing the results of their latest simulation just as Owen pulls aside the tent-flap. Tosh waves him in and points to the screen, including Martha in the gesture."We've gotten all the data we can here," she says, tapping away at her modified data pad from the bed, hooked up to the makeshift IV that's pumping nutrients into her bloodstream. "You need equipment. Power if you're going to try and recreate the conditions to get your hands on a live one," she shares a look with Owen. "Only one place I know for sure. One person."
"Out of the question," Owen snaps. Martha clears her throat and he rounds on her. "Tosh's been hacking in to the Archangel transmissions whenever we scrounge up some spare power. This contact-- she's a sympathiser, but she's been compromised. They've got her kid. Not to mention," he glances at Tosh reproachfully, "Professor Docherty's not exactly conveniently located."
"She's in England?" Martha asks, something clicking into place. "That's good-- that's-- perfect actually."
"Are you mad? Britain's a fortress. Docherty'll give you up in a heartbeat."
"Maybe it's just the right time to get caught."
Owen opens his mouth to make a loud protest when Tosh snakes a hand round his wrist. "Leave it, Owen," she whispers, and he turns to her, the anger falling away from his face. He settles at the edge of her bed and kisses her nose, her cheek, a reckless kind of intimacy that Martha's seen so often on her voyages through this ravaged Earth. People clinging to each other in the ruins and the dark. "We'll do whatever you need, Miss Jones."
"Really, Toshiko, what is it going to take for you to call me--," Martha never gets the end of her sentence out because there's a bright flash of light and her hearing drops out. She blinks, slowly, and looks up into the barrel of a gun. She can smell cordite in the air, and her skin is tingling-- a bomb? Several of them. Martha pulls her eyes back to the soldier holding the gun and one hand closes around her perception filter but it's not working. He's looking directly at her, he wants to see her, he knows she's there. She can't hear anything but the silence reverberating in her ears and she takes a step forward, her arms raised to convey that she isn't a threat but there's something in the soldier's eyes. He's scared, he's so frightened and Martha says, "Look it's all right, okay?" but at the sound of her voice his gun jerks and--
Owen steps in between her and the man with the gun, and falls to the floor and--
Martha can’t save him; his blood ends up all over her shirt and her hands can’t hold his life in.
(Tosh doesn't yell, "Just go! Go!" pressing a CD full of data into her backpack with the camp exploding all around them.)
When Martha’s alone with Owen in the autopsy bay, before she switches her on her microphone, she picks up a scalpel and hurls it with very deliberate force across the room. The metal clangs against the tile and the sound reverberates around the industrial walls and empty spaces of the Hub. She considers screaming but she’s spent so long staying quiet, staying silent, moving in the shadows, that screaming just isn’t an option any more. Instead: she brushes the hair from Owen’s face and asks, voice low and level, “Why would you do that for me, Owen?”
Owen doesn’t answer. It’s one of the things she’s never liked about corpses.
“You stupid bastard. You arse. You sanctimonious little shit. Come on, tell me, why did you do it? Because I can tell you that I’ve really had about as much as I can take of people dying for me. But no. You just couldn’t bloody help yourself could you? Throw yourself in front of a bullet for Martha Jones-- was there a voice in the back of your bloody thick skull telling you to do that? A fucking drumbeat?” her hands have tensed in his hair, and she’s not so sure that her voice is quite so level any more. She feels a droplet of water fall on her wrist and realises with a start that she’s crying, has been for some time. “Oh, bollocks,” Martha sobs. “Bollocks. Owen. Sorry, I’m sorry--”
Then there are hands on hers, big warm hands that can only belong to Jack Harkness, and he lifts her up, off the floor. She’s just floating with her toes two inches off the ground, weightless. It only lasts for a second or two but each one of those moments lasts a long white and blank eternity, like she’s been lifted clean out of the stream of time and the past is dripping off her like water. Her feet touch the ground again and she begins to shake. Jack turns her around and her face presses into his coat. He’s murmuring things into the top of her head but so quietly that she can’t make out the individual sounds.
There, hidden in the dark, soft fabric, with her eyes pressed tightly closed, Martha feels the words welling up in her throat and spilling out of her lips like her body can't contain them any more. She tells him about the way her eyes burned with dryness as she sailed away from the coast of Japan. About breaking in her boots and walking through blisters the size of a child’s fist. About washing her knickers in rainwater, and turning away from the Geiger counter they wave over her body after her first day in the Radiation Pits outside Budapest.
And finally she tells him about his team-- about Ianto, Gwen, Owen and Tosh-- how they all died for her in one way or another, just another four bodies that paved the path she walked that year. Saint Martha Jones who walked her way to salvation on the bloated backs of corpses.
Her voice is scratched raw when she asks, “Do you hate me now, Jack? You probably should.”
He tips her chin up and looks right at her with those old eyes of his and then presses his lips to hers. His left hand is a warm pressure against the skin of her hip, underneath her labcoat. Martha stiffens for a second before wrapping her arms around him and accepting what he gives her: a profane benediction, absolution for a fallen saint.
"It's all just moments in time," he says, and for the first time in four months, Martha believes.