(Cardiff, Earth, 2009)
It's a slow night at the Hub. Gwen and Tosh are out investigating a minor disturbance in the bay that's probably nothing but a confused whale, Ianto's doing paperwork, and Owen's slouched in his chair, spinning around idly and eating a bag of crisps. Eventually Owen and then Ianto clear out; Gwen calls to make her report, rather tiredly, telling Jack that the thing in the bay looks like it might be a baby kraken and they're bringing it in. Jack laughs and suggests they turn it into sushi if it causes too much trouble, then flips off his headset and goes to make himself a cup of coffee.
He sits down at his desk and stares at his mobile for a long moment. Then he picks it up and calls Martha Jones.
"Jack!" she says happily when she picks it up. There's no noise in the background tonight; sometimes when Jack calls he can hear something that sounds like a family dinner, but today he guesses she's at her own apartment.
"Hey," he says. "Listen, do you have crazy Friday night hospital work tomorrow or are you free?"
"Depends," Martha says; he can nearly hear her grin. "What do you want, mister?"
"Well, if you've dropped that Milligan guy yet, I was wondering if you wanted to come on a date."
Martha laughs. "Didn't you know? I've sworn off immortal blokes. And yes, I'm still dating Tom."
"How's that working out for you?" Jack asks, grinning.
"I'll come on a date," Martha says. "But it's gonna be a strictly no-shagging date, got that?"
"Yes ma'am," Jack says, and so he finds himself meeting Martha in front of the Hub the following afternoon. He's got a slowly fading tentacle-welt on his left arm and, even though he took a quick shower before going up to meet Martha, he feels fishy and vaguely annoyed.
"You look great," Martha says by way of greeting, mouth twisted into a wry grin. She looks great, anyway: boots, skirt, hair down. Jack briefly regrets agreeing to a no-shag date, but he's a gentleman.
"So do you," he says. "Sorry-- Gwen and Tosh managed to catch a baby kraken out in the bay yesterday."
"Can I see it?" Martha asks, looking impressed.
"After our date," Jack says, offering Martha his arm. "How was the drive?"
"Long," Martha says. "Next time you want a date, you're coming to London."
"Be happy to," Jack says cheerfully. Maybe the next date will be a little more hands-on.
This date is pretty great too, though: they wander along the waterfront for a bit, then find a pub Jack likes and have a cheerful informal dinner together. Martha has some really funny secondhand stories about Tom Milligan and the crazy things that happen in pediatrics; she has even funnier, and sometimes touching, stories about working in the general hospital. ("I can't tell you the number of times I've had people say I should be a psychologist too," Martha says, looking half pleased, half exasperated.) In return Jack recounts for her a few of Torchwood's latest finds; the kraken, a lot of funny junk that scans as extraterrestrial so they're keeping it in storage, Owen's slightly hilarious encounter with an alien whose secondary systems meant it squirted him with neon teal fluid when they'd thought it was quite dead and he'd tried to dissect it. They both laugh in exactly the right places and bounce off each other wonderfully and Jack honestly can't remember the last time he felt so damn happy.
"I'm going to say this every time," he says, as they leave the pub and walk back down the waterfront. "But seriously. You should consider working for Torchwood."
"I know," Martha says. "But-- there's just so many brilliant things I can do with my life. And-- Jack, I know your team are wonderful, but I've seen the world. I've seen so many people capable of really amazing things, and I want to find them again. I'd love to do stuff with you and with Torchwood whenever you need me to, but I've got a job, and a life, and--"
"And you repeat that every day," Jack says quietly. "So if he ever turns up again, you can say no."
Martha stares out over the water. "That too," she says.
"Have you called him?" Jack asks.
"A few times," Martha says, and looks back over at Jack. "He seemed fine. I mean, a bit on the manic 'everything is fine!' side of fine, but-- all right. Says he met Eleanor of Aquitaine a bit before I called."
Jack laughs. "How 'bout that."
"Queen Elizabeth chased us out of the Globe and back into the TARDIS once," Martha says, grinning. "Anyway, you've got a squid thing to show me."
"So I do," Jack agrees. They go down into the Hub.
It's empty, which is a bit weird: it's only about six in the evening. Usually his team is still in, well into the night. He shrugs; maybe they went out for curry or something. Martha follows him to his office, where the baby kraken is sitting, burbling to itself, in a tank in the corner. "Bit adorable, isn't it?" Martha says, going over and peering down at it, but Jack freezes in the doorway. Martha looks back up. "What is it?"
"My vortex manipulator," Jack says. "I keep it on the desk. I just-- I always keep it on the desk. It's not there."
"So maybe it fell off or something," Martha says, frowning. "Anyway, what's the problem? The Doctor made sure it didn't work."
"Yeah, but who knows, maybe a sonic screwdriver fell through the Rift and one of them worked out how to use it."
Martha props her hands on her hips. "How likely is that?"
"I don't know," Jack says, and presses his headset. "Tosh? Come in, Tosh. Toshiko?"
"Owen?" Jack tries. "Ianto! Gwen! Anyone there, guys?" He drops his hand and turns to Martha. "They knew I'd be back soon. They wouldn't all just take off without leaving their headsets on."
"So the conclusion you've reached is that they've fixed your vortex manipulator and gone off somewhere with it," Martha says.
Jack weighs the options for a moment. "Yeah, pretty much."
"Right then," Martha says, and digs into her handbag, coming up with her mobile. "Just a sec, then."
"Wait a second," Jack protests, "you can't go calling the Doctor for this!"
Martha pauses in the process of opening the phone and looks up at him. "We can wait a bit, if you like," she says. "Maybe they got lucky and just got jumped to-- to Swansea this year or something, and they're just out of range, and they'll be calling in a minute. Or they could be on the Rift a thousand years ago. Have any other way to time travel?"
"Got the message," Jack says, holding up his hands. "Go ahead."
"...Sorry," Martha says, and proceeds with her call. "Hi! --No, actually, I know, I'm not just checking in. ...Yeah. Um. Jack and I were out having dinner and he thinks his team got his vortex manipulator to work again. --I know! I know that, but Jack thinks they must have." She rolls her eyes and tosses the phone to Jack.
He catches it. Heart suddenly thumping very hard, he raises the phone to his ear. "Hello, Doctor."
"What do you mean, your team repaired your vortex manipulator?" the Doctor asks without preamble. "That's impossible. Only Time Lord technology could have got it back into working order."
Jack's eyebrows go up a little. "So maybe some Time Lord technology got through the Rift," he says. "Look, Doctor, all I know is they're gone, and so is my vortex manipulator."
"Give the phone back to Martha," the Doctor says.
Jack sighs and tosses it back over.
"Yeah?" Martha says. "Well. Yeah. It's our best guess anyway, isn't it? ...Doctor!" She laughs. "No it isn't, thank you. Just a quick stopover, honestly. We'll find them in five seconds and you can be on your merry way. --Um." She turns to Jack. "What time is it?"
"Six fifteen," Jack says.
"Six fifteen," Martha says. "Yeah, we'll meet you up top. Thanks." She snaps her mobile shut and turns to Jack. "And back we go."
"Great," Jack says, a bit flatly.
They take the paving stone to the surface.
"Time for a mutual agreement," Jack says abruptly, as they step off the paving stone. Martha gives him a questioning look. "I won't kill him if you won't."
"I won't," Martha says, but she wraps her arms around herself and stares into the distance. "The Doctor hasn't talked about him," she says after a moment. "But it's the Doctor. I can't imagine him leaving anyone just-- caged for ages. Not if he cares about them."
Jack opens his mouth to reply, but he's interrupted by a familiar noise, and despite his concern for his team, despite the knot of furious trepidation in his belly at the idea of meeting the Master again, that sound and the sight of the blue police box fading into view makes him grin widely. A glance at Martha tells him she's doing the same. They walk over to the TARDIS together.
A moment and the Doctor pokes his head out. He sees them and breaks into a grin. "There you are! In, come on."
"How exactly," Martha asks, as Jack closes the door behind them (and they both relax a little in the familiar hum of the control room), "are we supposed to find Jack's team? I mean, they could be anywhere, right?"
"Oh, sure," the Doctor says, looking unconcerned, "but it shouldn't be difficult to trace, sloppy time-travelling like that." He frowns in concentration and pulls his glasses out of his pocket, settling them carefully into his face. A few moments' fiddling with things on the console, and, "Aha!" he says, and presses a button. The central column starts to move; he grins up at Jack and Martha. "Only jumped back about ten years. Should be easy to find them."
"Great," Jack says, leaning back against what seems like it's probably a safe bit of the console. "So how're you doing, Doctor?"
"Fine, fine," the Doctor says absently, frowning back down at the readings.
"And your passenger?" Jack asks pointedly.
The Doctor glances back up. "Fine," he says again. "He's fine, he's-- watching Teletubbies or something, I don't know." He reads the look on Jack's face correctly, because he says, "Isomorphic controls on the TARDIS. He can't do anything."
They land with a bump.
"Right!" the Doctor says. "End of the last millennium! --Oh no, hang on." He darts back to a screen on the console and hits a couple of buttons. "That can't be right. It can't, it--" He looks up. "Jack, don't they know not to press something twice if it takes them somewhere unexpected the first time?"
"Maybe they thought they could get back that way," Martha suggests, shrugging.
"Oh, yes, good, that's true." The Doctor grins at Martha. "Well, in their haste to get back home, they jumped off to-- 2217 China! Imagine that. Off we go!"
What follows is a somewhat dizzying series of leaps. Each time they land, the Doctor says, "Nope!" and keeps going, following what Jack figures is probably some sort of time-travel footprint. Further and further into the future they go, going by jumps of decades or centuries; around 3200, they leave Earth and start in on a whirlwind tour of the galaxy. The longer this goes on, the more anxious Jack feels and the more cheerful the Doctor becomes.
"Someone fixed your vortex manipulator brilliantly," he says.
"And when I find out who it is, I'm giving them a good punch," Jack returns grimly.
"I'd like to talk to them first," Martha says, coming up to the console and peering uncomprehendingly over the Doctor's shoulder at a readout. "Ask how they did it." She looks sideways at the Doctor. "And nice to see you again too."
The Doctor looks confused for a moment. "Of course it is!" he says. "I mean, obviously it is, but we've got Jack's team to rescue, and--"
Martha smiles in a long-suffering sort of way and gives him a hug. After a moment the Doctor's face breaks into a grin and he hugs her back enthusiastically. It makes Jack feel weirdly like an intruder, and it also makes him feel even angrier with the Master for being here and getting in the way of the Doctor and Martha continuing on around the universe together. He knows it's irrational and that it was the only thing to be done with the Master and that, in a way he can almost understand, the Doctor sort of needs the Master around. He knows Martha has a life to get back to and wouldn't have stayed for long anyway. He knows they're both trying their damn best to move on from the Doctor. But it's still weirdly unfair.
"Oh, here we are!" the Doctor says, one arm still around Martha, peering down at the console. They land with a bump. "--Yes, they haven't moved yet. And we're..." The Doctor's eyebrows go up. "We're at the Rirhath B Galactic Crossings. Lovely place. Big, though. Quite the spaceport." He removes his glasses and folds them into a pocket in his suit. "Let's go see what it's like out there." He lets to of Martha and springs to the door, Jack following.
The door opens onto a breathtakingly expansive spaceport. The white floor stretches out into the distance in every direction, and Jack has to crane his head back quite a bit to get a good look at the ceiling, which is so far away that various patches of weather are getting in the way of his view of it. Holographic signs hovering some twenty feet from the floor are indicating the arrival and departure times of spacecraft; one of the holographic signs is being rained on, and keeps flickering sullenly. Jack can see a few food kiosks in the distance; closer to are a number of faintly glowing squares into which people (mostly very alien, non-humanoid people) are appearing and disappearing, closely monitored by what looks like a giant purple centipede.
"Ah. Well," the Doctor says quietly.
Another giant purple centipede is flowing in their direction; in a moment it's right in front of the TARDIS, and rears up a little so that its eyestalks can examine the Doctor and Jack closely.
"Your spacecraft had not been cleared for landing," it says, its mandibles clicking. "This is the seventeenth time, Doctor."
"I know," the Doctor says. "I'm sorry, truly, but you know I'm always in a bit of a hurry. --And speaking of unauthorized landings, have four humans teleported in here recently? Friends of mine."
"They had a vortex manipulator," Jack puts in.
"Yes," the centipede says, legs further down its body making a rustling noise like a sigh. "The vortex manipulator has been returned to the Time Agency, and your friends are in custody. This is going to be a lot of paperwork, Doctor."
"It always is," the Doctor says. "All right."
"Come with me, then, both of you," the centipede says.
"What about--" Jack starts.
"We have enough paperwork already," the Doctor says firmly, taking Jack's elbow, and shuts the door of the TARDIS firmly behind them.
Jack sighs and follows him.
Here we go again, Martha thinks, and sits down on the edge of the console, swinging one leg idly. The whole of time and space and I get a hug and then he runs off to rescue Jack's team while I sit here in the illegally parked spaceship and wait for them to fill out five thousand forms.
Good thing I'm well over him, then.
She grins to herself.
"I don't think it's a very good idea to sit there," someone says behind her.
Martha springs to her feet and whirls around. The Master's standing on the other side of the console, looking rather bored and mildly amused. He isn't wearing a suit jacket, but he is wearing a tie.
"You see," he says, "if I sat on the console, nothing would happen. He's made very sure of that. But if you touched something by accident... Who knows."
Martha says nothing. As long as she keeps the console between herself and the Master, he can't hurt her. But he wants to; it's absolutely plain in the way he looks at her. He's also plainly enjoying the caution and the fury he can see in her face.
"Oh, don't be like that," the Master says, pulling a pout. "I'm a better man now. The Doctor's sweet do-gooder ways are having a nice positive effect on me. Any day now I'm going to start rescuing puppies from trees. Sorry. Kittens. Kittens from trees and puppies from sacks in the river. Don't believe me? No?"
I tricked you, Martha thinks, looking at him steadily. I tricked you and I made you see the fob watch and I wish I'd left you at the end of the universe to die in peace.
"Oh dear," the Master says. "And now you're pitying me. It would have been so much better for everyone if you'd just left the professor be. Is that it?"
"Yes," Martha says.
"Then allow me to disillusion you," the Master says coldly. "Your precious Doctor told you to go around the world and tell everyone to love him as you do. And you did what you said. Because you love him. How does he repay you? He replaces you with me."
"He had to," Martha says, quite steadily.
"No no no," the Master says, raising a finger to his lips for a moment. "No. If it was out of mercy-- if he didn't want to kill me-- if he didn't want to be responsible for killing the Time Lords again--"
Shock flares in Martha, but she doesn't move.
"But he didn't tell you that part, did he?" the Master asks, mouth curving into a horrible smile. "I'm guessing he told you the Time War was a terrible battle that resulted in mutual destruction. He just... forgot to mention he did it. Burned Gallifrey and killed them all."
"No," Martha says, very softly.
"The point is not that you believe me, Martha Jones," the Master murmurs. "The point is that you know. You know that the Doctor could have got rid of me any way he liked-- stranded me in some backwater time on some backwater planet, frozen me in time, thrown me into a sun-- and he didn't. He didn't because I am a Time Lord, and because I am a Time Lord he loves me." The Master's lip curls. "Just as much as you love him. Let's make you a Time Lord, Miss Jones, and let me be human again, and all our problems would be solved."
Martha has no reply to this. Her throat has closed up and she's not quite sure whether it's from pity or horror.
"Well now," the Master says, smiling again. "I'm glad we had that little talk."
He saunters out of the room.
Shaking a little, from unspent adrenaline, Martha goes down the walkway and sits with her back against the TARDIS doors, ready to spring up in case the Master comes back in. He doesn't. She stares unseeingly at the console and thinks very hard and decides, although it's difficult, that she won't ask the Doctor. Maybe she won't ask him because it's cowardly; maybe she doesn't want to see his eyes slide away from her and his face close off and know that the Master was telling the truth. (Which truth? That he'd burned his own planet? That he loves the Master? Maybe both. Maybe it doesn't matter.) But even if it is the truth, the Master must have twisted it. He's done it before: he's done it to Martha's mother. He should know better than to try the same trick on the Jones women twice.
Some interminable time later, when the Master hasn't turned up again at all and Martha has actually started to relax a bit, the TARDIS door is flung open unceremoniously and she falls out onto a white floor and finds herself staring up at a gathering thunderstorm in the ceiling.
Luckily in the ensuing flurry, in which three pairs of trainers, a pair of heels, a pair of polished dress shoes, and a pair of combat boots all do their best to avoid stepping on Martha's face, the centipede who was escorting Torchwood back to the TARDIS completely fails to see Martha, and they manage to get away without filling out any more paperwork.
"Thanks," Jack says, shaking the Doctor's hand, and begins ushering his team back towards the Hub so the Doctor and Martha can have a moment to say goodbye. She catches up with Jack as they pass the fountain; she has a frowning, worried sort of look on her face, but when she sees him glancing at her she smiles. Jack knows the smile a bit too well: it's the Patented Torchwood Nothing Is Wrong smile, and it doesn't reassure him at all.
They all get into the Hub, and collapse on various office chairs and couches. Jack stays standing.
"What the hell was that?" he demands.
His team won't look at him.
"Someone gave me a sort of funny screwdriver," Gwen says at length. "Me and Tosh, when we were out with the kraken. Said it was good at fixing broken things and getting things unlocked."
"So we came back," Tosh says, "and-- and we decided we'd have a go on that broken watch you have. The-- the thing that turned out to be a teleportation device."
"Vortex manipulator," Jack says, crossing his arms. "So when you'd fixed it, why did you decide to press it?"
"To see if it worked," Owen says, as though this should be obvious.
"More than once," Jack says flatly.
"Er. That would be me," Ianto says. "I thought-- perhaps it took you to some fixed point and back again."
"And then we panicked a little," Tosh says, looking embarrassed.
"I'll say you did," Jack says. "All right. Now that's out of the way, who was this someone, Gwen? And I'll be wanting that funny screwdriver."
Gwen bites her lip, fishes in her pocket, and pulls out a sonic screwdriver. She tosses it to Jack, who pockets it. "Well?"
"Er," Gwen says, and glances at Tosh. "A-- a woman."
"Yes, definitely a woman," Tosh says, nodding.
"And?" Jack prompts.
"With-- long hair. I think. A white woman." Tosh frowns. "I'm sorry, Jack, she just-- wasn't remarkable."
"Can hardly remember her at all, really," Gwen says.
"Perception filter," Martha puts in grimly. "Just wonderful." She looks at Jack. "How did I manage to go twenty-three years without any excitement?"
Jack allows himself a grin. "No idea." He shoves his hands in his pockets. "Well. No lasting harm done, and I've got myself a sonic screwdriver. Congratulations, team, you've met the Doctor and traveled the universe. Now go on home."
They dissipate, and he sinks down onto the couch next to Martha. "Are the doctors you work with like this?"
Martha laughs. "Not usually. Sometimes the patients are, though."
Companionable silence. Then: "Jack!" Gwen calls, in some alarm.
Jack sits up straight. "What?"
Gwen's face, pale with shock, appears above the catwalk. "Jack," she says. "All the stuff we picked up this last week. The alien trinkets and that."
"What about them?" Jack asks, with a sense of foreboding.
Gwen bites her lip. "They're all gone."
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