A/N: Written for the 2lineschallenge using the lyrics:
a thousand miles seems pretty far/
but they've got planes and trains and cars.
-plain white t's, hey there delilah
Thanks so much to the mods for such a fun challenge.
Afterwards, it seemed almost anticlimactic to take her exams and actually start working in a hospital.
They told everyone that she'd been kidnapped for a week – the week that she'd been gone, traveling with the doctor the first time. Her mother filled out the paperwork and explained that they hadn't called the police because it was a ransom situation. They'd just paid the ransom and Martha had come home.
Martha didn't even have to act traumatized: she was traumatized.
In her dreams, she was still walking through a city, empty or almost empty. Everyone looked out through boarded up windows and she could feel their eyes on her.
At home, she wasn't the legendary Martha Jones who walked the world, she was just plain Martha Jones, medical student.
She changed her focus to surgery because the hours were longer and the job was more rewarding. In the overhead light, as someone else mopped her forehead, as someone else handed her tools, Martha had her hands wrist deep inside someone else and held a beating heart.
"Adrenaline junkie," Trish said.
But when Martha looked up, Trish wasn't laughing.
So it went.
Martha started using floss again, and it was shockingly normal to spend an hour just cleaning her teeth. When she grinned in the mirror, there was blood in her smile.
She shopped for groceries and paid with cash instead of bartering away something for the food.
Even though they were out of season, she bought berries and oranges, and sat on the floor of her tiny kitchen, eating them straight out of the basket. For two months she had survived on a backpack full of rations that she'd found in a Russian military outpost.
Real fruit was almost holy, and she spent an hour on the basket of oranges, licking the juice off her fingers.
Torchwood was different than the hospital, it was meticulously clean, but there weren't any patients, at least not ones that she was used to.
She liked the archives, beneath the floor. The hallways were poorly planned but the filing system was organized to perfection. She could run her fingers along a set of files and already know what would be in the next drawer.
Ianto would bring her tea – never coffee, not after the year that wasn't – and she'd smile politely and thank him, but his eyes were always on her fingers, scarred and calloused and as unlike a surgeon's as she'd ever seen. He never said anything, but he didn't have to.
"I was an active child," she said, easily. Lies were becoming more familiar than the truth.
Nodding, he went to deliver coffee to Jack and left the pink elephant alone in the Hub with her.
When a man started growing his organs on the outside, she worked with the doctor in residence, an irritating man named Owen who seemed to take pleasure at her inexperience. After she amputated a heart right off their patient's leg and didn't flinch, Owen coughed and said, "Where'd you go to school, then?"
It turned out that their patient had to do with alien stem cells and a plot to kill the government.
Martha injected the last member of parliament with the antidote and grinned at Jack.
Her hands were more steady when she was working, and Jack always watched her like he wondered if she might fall apart, but she never did. He wore an old World War II trench coat and she didn't need to ask if he'd gotten it in World War II. After all, he never asked if she'd had her steel nerves before the year that wasn't.
"Just like old times," she said.
His smile was brilliant. "I think I know a job you might like."
Martha rediscovered skirts at a classy shop that Jack took her to. He said, "Don't worry, company credit card."
She shrugged: it seemed a little petty to argue about money when in the end money meant nothing at all. It just meant power, and power was something that a well timed bullet could take out.
Jack watched her with cool eyes as she tried on skirts, a twisted scar across her shins from where she'd gotten tangled in barbed wire. Bending, she moved to hide it and his hands were as warm as a human's on her arms.
When she looked up at him, she could tell from his half open mouth that he sometimes wished he could scar, that he'd have some trace of death after death after death. She didn't have the heart to tell him that someday, he would.
"Ready to meet the PM?" he asked, releasing her, offering over an elbow.
The two of them walked the same, with a delicate step, like they thought this innocent world they'd bled for would break with too much pressure. She had no idea what type of man he'd been before the year that wasn't, but they both breathed the Doctor the same way they breathed air.
He'd reshaped them into new people without even trying, chipping away at who they'd been with casual words, with casual slights and praises and they'd become Galatea under his hands.
She curtsied low and asked, "Do we curtsy to the Prime Minister?"
He laughed, like she was kidding.
The second time that Martha Jones went to Atlantis, it didn't involve a TARDIS at all. It involved a rather large space ship (by far not the largest that Martha had ever seen) named, rather ineptly, The Daedalus.
"I believe the Americans think they're having a bit of a... joke. I think they even considered naming it the Titanic," Harriet Jones had said. She was sharing a rather nice chardonnay with Martha and Jack, her gaze slightly distant. "You will be careful, of course."
"Of course," Martha said. She thought that the PM had to remember something from the year that wasn't, just from the way the world hung on her shoulders, the sad knowledge in her eyes.
The first time everyone had voted her in because she showed up on television and said, "Everything is fine now." The second time, Martha thought they all voted her in because she said, "Everything is rather cocked up, but it we can make it all right."
Jack nodded, and said, "Have you talked with the president?"
"Slimy little man," Harriet Jones said. "But he agrees that giving the situation more people is for the best."
The lamps were all turned low, half light and the whole room looked very British with its fireplace and armchairs. Spending a year in Russian basements and American attics and African kitchens had made Martha appreciate a British room.
She put down her glass, the wine was not as good as Atlantean, and all that reminded her of was the first time she'd been to Atlantis.
The walls of the Daedalus were grey metal and she thought that more than a few of the people on board were getting a little bit stir crazy with it.
"Go fish," she told one of the off duty marines. The game was tiring, it reminded all of them that they were stuck on a boat.
That's what the Air Force men called it, ‘A boat.' With a weird emphasis, because they thought it was funny.
The rest of the scientists were stuck in training, from the sounds of it, the sixteen hour linguistic course assigned by Doctor Daniel Jackson. Martha fingered the key around her neck, bit of the TARDIS still attached, and wondered what they all thought of how quickly she picked up Ancient.
The marine beat her, and she shrugged, "Good game."
Her quarters were a small bunk room that she shared with two scientists and a nurse. She spent a lot of time staring at the cell phone that had arrived on her front porch the day before she left for Cheyenne, Colorado.
There hadn't been any note, but it had been a different phone than the one she left with the Doctor, and there was only one number in it, her old one.
She'd put her mum's number in first, then Trish and Dad and Leo. She put in Jack's mobile, too, because you could never tell when you'd need to talk to an ex-Time Agent, and supervisor of Torchwood. Her old phone used to have upwards of 80 people and she wondered if it was the Doctor or the end of the world or maybe just passing her exams that made her feel like she didn't need anyone else.
They were transported in during an emergency, the type of emergency that was usually all screams and shattering glass, blood on the floor.
It didn't count as a flashback if she was still living it.
Without needing to be asked, Martha looked for the nearest bleeding person. Dropping her duffel on the floor, she said, "I'm Doctor Jones."
She no longer choked on the word, no longer paused on it as though he was going to come up behind her and say, "That's my line."
Everyone in scrubs was busy, their gloves bloody, their hands sure through the strain. Of all the people in the world, Martha understood the set of mind that let someone work through chaos with a clear head, with steady fingers.
"Marine," she called. Someone appeared at her shoulder, his camouflage pants a green blur in her peripheral vision. "I need gloves and a suture kit."
When they had treated all the soldiers and either sent them to the infirmary or their quarters and when all the villagers had been treated and were being guarded in a long room filled with cots, there was finally a chance to assign all of the new personnel rooms.
A woman with short hair glanced over all of them, and Martha was rubbing lotion on her hands, but she didn't miss the pause before the woman gave them a speech about Atlantis and hope and opportunities.
"Welcome to Atlantis."
Her rooms were dark when she stepped into them, and when the sergeant showed her how to use the control panels, she smiled and thanked him.
The lights lit the room brilliantly and music started playing. It was the old music of the city, from her first visit, a deft melody that played on the geometry of waves. The sound made her sit down on the bed, lay back and laugh.
The city remembered her.
The first time, she'd been there long enough that she'd almost developed a taste for Atlantean cuisine. The Doctor hated it, though, and when they'd found what was causing the temporal distortion, they'd left almost too quickly. She barely had time to grab a few bottles of Atlantean wine.
In her dreams, Martha spent hours searching for the wine cellar that they'd procured the bottles from the first time, and found it cold and dark. The lights resisted turning on, and she shivered in the near darkness. The wine was no good, nearly turned to ash in her mouth and she shrugged.
It was a pity.
Doctor Weir had scheduled meetings with all of the new personnel, and Martha had hers in between breakfast and the medical team's briefing.
Atlantis was all gentle colors, grays and blues and glass with memory of the ocean. When she'd looked out a window, she'd been surprised to see so much damage done to it.
"That's new," she said, to herself, and pulled on the uniform that medical personnel wore. Her room was small, but it faced the morning sunlight and the wall full of windows more than made up for the sunset darkness. The previous occupant had left behind only faint traces: a setting preset on the shower, a pack of matches under the bed.
Martha brought barely anything with her to Atlantis: a photo of her family, the mobile.
The rest was just stuff, clothes and toiletries. Her roommates on board the Daedalus had complained about not being able to bring more things. Even before the Doctor, Martha hadn't needed stuff, at least not like that, the desperate clingy sort of need.
The second time that Martha met Doctor Weir, the woman had been half way through a stack of new personnel folders and barely glanced at her before she began asking questions that Martha thought should have been asked before the spaceship ride.
Yes, she handled stressful situations well. No, she didn't mind extended absences from her family. She was good at teamwork, but wasn't up for offworld missions.
Then, Doctor Weir had taken a second glance at her resume and made a soft sound. "You're Harriet Jones' pick."
Martha wasn't sure what to say to that, so she waited.
"I don't know what you were told, but here your loyalty is to the Atlantis expedition, Doctor Jones," Weir paused and Martha knew, just knew that Weir thought Martha was a spy for the Prime Minister.
"I understand," Martha said, her lip twisting.
"Make sure you do," Weir said. "We don't have any room for dual loyalties here."
Martha looked at the woman hard and wondered if she realized exactly how insulting that sounded. It seemed ironic that an American was the one asserting that loyalty should be to the mission only.
Her mum called first, during a slow shift in the infirmary. On her break, Martha found a deserted closet and locked herself in before calling her mum back.
"Oh, good," her mother said. "Leo's gone off the deep again."
"Mum," Martha said. "I'm in another galaxy."
"Well, that never stopped you before."
Sighing, Martha said, "Alright. What's going on?"
It turned out that being so far away was a lot like being at home, except that her mother felt more free to call whenever she wanted because, "God knows what time it is where you are."
Trish got a new job and called in the middle of a meeting to ask Martha what she should wear to her first day.
The phone was on vibrate in her pocket, but everyone at the meeting looked over at Martha anyway.
"Sorry," Martha said, fumbling with it. "It's an alarm I have for medication purposes."
After the meeting, she called Trish back to tell her that the blue suit looked good, but it made her seem like someone trying to sleep her way to the top.
"Hey," Trish said. "I'm not."
Her voice was just this shy of off and Martha shuddered suddenly, alone in the supply room. They had all talked, but Martha didn't really know what had happened during the year that wasn't when she wasn't around.
"The black, then," Martha said, quietly.
Trish made a soft huffing sound and said, quietly, "Prude."
Someday, Martha promised herself, one hand on a shelf full of wrapped syringes, they would all sit around and laugh about this. It hadn't come yet, but someday it would be just a family joke. That time that they were all kidnapped and tortured by an insane Time Lord.
She'd watched Japan die, one foot already on a new continent, her heart miles above the planet.
"Mum still upset about what Leo named the new baby?"
"Completely bonkers," Trish said, her tone amused.
After she'd hung up, Martha stayed in the closet until someone came in, startling when the person brushed by her.
"Sorry," she said. It was a major, and she asked, "Someone get hurt?"
The expression on his face had been faintly embarrassed and he held out his hand where she could see a finger sliced as though by a knife.
While cleaning it she said, "How'd this happen, then?"
Which was how she got roped into a knife game, and she still remembered how to use a knife to touch exactly in the gaps between her fingers. It involved perfect control and practice, being able to know where to put down the tip because you'd done it ten thousand times before.
Someone else was better, faster at it, but she had a flashback to an American base, learning how to play with a group of privates that were trying to get her to Canada. Even at the time, she'd laughed because of how dangerous it was for a doctor. Then, she remembered that she didn't even know if it would work, if the world would ever be right again. Playing the game with the privates had reminded her what it meant to laugh over something fun.
She hadn't seen any of them yet – young boys and their energy. It would be good to see them alive and breathing, to replace that with the memory of their corpses buying her ticket across the border.
When she looked up, the Lieutenant Colonel was staring at her, arms crossed. She flipped the knife up and offered it over. Shaking his head, he made a gesture to the group.
"Ok, guys, I think the mess tables have been abused enough for one day."
There was a sensibility in what they thought she was. Of course Great Britain would want its own spies in Atlantis. Atlantis was a base with unimaginable technology in another galaxy fighting a war that might bring life sucking parasites to Earth.
But, the problem was, she wasn't a spy and knew that Sheppard and Weir thought she was.
She wished sometimes that she had psychic paper to prove who she really was. Something to wave and say, "See? I really am just ordinary."
Calling Jack felt almost normal. She looked out over the water and held the phone to her ear.
"You ever been to Atlantis?" she asked.
"Once," he said. "Before it submerged."
The line was clear, even over billions of miles and the thousands of years it took light to get from Earth to Atlantis. Sometimes she looked up at the sky and thought that she was looking at light from before she was born. Once, she looked up and shivered, wondering if the light she saw was from the year that wasn't, if somewhere out there, Japan was burning and being restored.
"Half of it's been destroyed," she said. "It's a bloody mess."
"When did you see it?" Jack asked.
"A long time ago," she said, because honestly, she didn't remember what year the Doctor had said it was, just that at the time it had seemed a long, long, time ago in a galaxy far, far away. "The Doctor tricked the computers into thinking we had the gene. The computers still remember."
She laughed a little, and Jack did, too. It was a tired sort of laugh.
"Do you miss him?" she rarely asked anymore. The first few times, it had seemed important, but now, it was too long later and she realized that she didn't miss him. At least not in the way she missed her mum or new episodes of East Enders.
The farther she got from him, the less she remembered about who she'd been before him, before the year that wasn't.
"Sometimes," Jack said. "So. Did they figure out the problem in the lab?"
On her late night shift, two scientists came in with severe burns and Martha just reacted. For a moment, she was back in the field, treating one of the Resistance. By the time she managed to get the more severely injured one stabilized, Rodney McKay came in, cradling his hand like a child.
"Can I get some help here or are we too busy holding the hands of the idiots who nearly started a chain reaction?" His sneer made her shiver because it reminded her, suddenly, of the Master's sneer, of his snicker on television when he replayed Russia being slaughtered like it was a bloody football play.
There were other doctors, but Martha was on call and the shifts had been longer since they lost two doctors to an interstellar virus. So, she put on fresh gloves and took over a suture kit.
"Let me see," she said, holding out her hand. The cut was barely deep enough for a bandaid and she gritted her teeth and asked for a bandage while she started cleaning it.
"Ouch," he said, trying to draw his arm back in towards his body. "Be more careful, you elevated voodoo priest."
Martha stared at him, and then dropped his hand, picking up a syringe. Calmly, as calmly as she took to being a maid, as calmly as she reacted when she worked in a shop, she said, "I'm going to numb the area."
The Lieutenant Colonel came in as she was easing Rodney down onto the bed.
"I sedated him," she said.
"Oh." He scratched his head and frowned a little. "Was that necessary?"
Once upon a time, Martha had turned and run when she saw the enemy coming because she'd thought nothing could stop the Toclafane. Nothing. And she'd run and left the others to run as well, because if she died then no one could spread the word, no one could explain how everyone on Earth could save the world.
"Yes," she said. "He called me a voodoo priest."
Her life had always been someone else's. Her family's, med school's, the Doctor's, and, eventually, the world's. It was time, she sometimes thought at night in the dark, to make it her own.
She'd stopped being scared of things in the dark a long time ago. She'd stopped being Martha Jones who walked the world. Now she was just Doctor Jones, and if Doctor McKay thought that he could be nasty and be racist, he'd never met her.
"He does that to everyone," the Lieutenant Colonel said, settling into a chair near the bed.
"Well, not everyone will take it," she said. She finished bandaging the wound. "I'll check on him during rounds."
On her break, she pulled out the phone and her finger hovered over the call button until she had to snap the phone closed and go back to work.
She started exercising again. During University, she'd run every day, but during med school there wasn't time.
Walking the world had made her too thin, too emaciated to push her body any further. When she'd gone in for a check up, the doctor had looked at her strangely. She was anemic and had an ulcer, her body reacted like she'd been through a war.
"I was kidnapped," she said, and stuck to her story.
In Atlantis, with the Wraith able to catch her at any moment, she started running. It was nights, mostly. She ran alone, taking long laps around the quiet hallways. Without anyone else around, she could hear herself, feel her heart pounding in her chest.
She met Ronon because he came in after a mission, bicep torn open. When he caught up to her at night, his pace slowing to match hers, she didn't mind. He was quiet, and she'd heard about his planet.
It sounded like what the Toclafane had done to Earth.
Sometimes it was nice to have someone who understood without having any idea at all.
"Is he hot?" Jack asked, laughing.
"Shut up," she said. "Is this why you sent me out here?"
In the background, she could hear the street noise of Cardiff, cars and people. Movement that she never saw in Atlantis. The chaos there wasn't due to impending doom, just life.
That had taken some getting used to. For a long time, she'd forgotten how imperative life felt when it wasn't.
"No," he said. "But it's nice to know, right?"
"That other people've had their whole planet destroyed right in front of them?" The sun hit the waves and she blinked away, looking at her white sheets instead. "Yeah."
It hadn't been her first choice to go off-world, but Doctor Sawyer had gotten the flu, of all things, and she'd been pushed into his slot.
For all that they were a 'peaceful expedition', medical rarely went off world to exchange techniques or treatments with other cultures. The sort of ethnocentrism involved in that made Martha roll her eyes. It wasn't the prime directive from Star Trek, it was colonists looking at the natives and saying, "How backward."
The mission was to trade medical supplies for rice and Martha went along with it, showed the doctors how to use the antiseptic, how to use the bandages and medical tape.
When a rival village started firing, she took cover with the rest of the soldiers and fired, gun kicking back in her hands. It had been too long since she'd used one, but her aim was still good.
Back at Atlantis, the Major in charge of her mission said, "Good work."
Martha shrugged, this wasn't who she'd used to be, but she'd forgotten how to be anyone else.
Halfway through her run, when even Ronon was beginning to sweat, she asked, "You ever had to kill a person?"
"Yes," he said. But the sound was as cold as she felt.
After so much death, it was hard to remember that it mattered.
Ronon went on the next mission with her, to give a birthing class to midwives in a feudal society. She wasn't even surprised that the Wraith showed up, their ships blocking the gate, blowing a hole in the lord's building.
"All right," she shouted. The Atlantis team was busy defending what villagers were left and Martha remembered how this went. The Toclafane used to sweep down from the sky the same way.
Inside, she remembered what it meant to stand up and lead because everyone else was scared out of their minds.
They got the children out, scattering so that the Wraith wouldn't have a single group to go after. The men that wouldn't listen to her stayed with the Atlantis team and she didn't even look behind her when she grabbed a toddler and sprinted for the trees.
"Thought I was done with this," she said to the kid.
"You did this before?"
Ronon's voice startled her and she tripped, twisting so that she didn't fall on the child. Before she could get up, he'd already taken the child, reached for her arm.
They ran and it was louder in a forest than it was in the Atlantean hallways, but it was easier, too.
"The team?" she asked, after a few minutes.
"Culled," he said.
Briefly, something in her stomach dropped, but then she shook her head. Even if she had stayed, even if she had been someone else, she couldn't have saved them.
That night, neither of them slept.
They traded watch, and she cradled the little boy on her lap. He was too scared to cry, eyes wide in the darkness.
Somehow, she forgot what it was like to be that afraid.
At daybreak, Ronon looked at her. "We have to go back," she said.
Watching him, she could tell he wanted to argue, wanted to tell her that he knew the Wraith better than her, but she knew survivors and they'd all go back to the town, try to regroup.
He still made her walk behind him and she did, because it had been nearly two years since she had to walk the world on her own.
The Wraith destroyed the gate and Martha wasn't even a little surprised because she knew that the Wraith had seen the Atlanteans there with their guns.
After two days, there were about a hundred survivors and there wasn't any contact with Atlantis. The weather was hot, oppressive, hanging over them like a reminder that there weren't enough people to till the fields, there weren't enough adults left alive to care for the children.
Martha pulled out her cell phone and turned it on. There was barely any battery left and she didn't hesitate before dialing: there were children's lives in her hands.
"Doctor? I need a pickup." She exhaled.