Chicago's just another ruined city, a dark blot in the middle of the United States. It's become the perfect hub for more than one group; Martha's contacts in the resistance tell her there are thousands of people, maybe millions, within a day's walk. Most have been forced into work camps in the old steel mills and shipyards along the southern curve of Lake Michigan, but the resistance is there too, using the old highways and waterways to reach into Canada and the central United States. When she stops in the outskirts of the city, Martha has access to an eager audience, beginning with a group of resistance fighters who gather in an abandoned petrol station to hear her story.
"You've done a good thing," the leader, a grim older man named Matthews, tells her when she's done. "Lotta people around these parts need to hear what you have to say. Let me get someone to take you around."
Martha doesn't want an escort. She has the TARDIS key to keep the Toclafane from noticing her movements; there's no sense putting anyone else in danger. But Matthews insists. "Luisa knows this area better than anyone. Girl's like a cat, the way she gets around." He looks over Martha's shoulder, out the long-broken front window toward the dark, crumbling skyline. "And I'd rather have her with you than fighting traitors and Toclafane." In another life, Martha thinks, Matthews and her mother could team up and teach postgraduate courses in motivation through guilt.
Luisa is sixteen years old, earnest and quick and a little bit star-struck. "Wait 'til I tell my brother I met you!" she gushes. She shakes Martha's hand with both of her own. Her jacket gaps, and Martha sees a handgun tucked into the pocket of her jeans, where she no doubt carried a mobile or an iPod a few months ago. "I mean, that story--your Doctor--it's brilliant, isn't that how you say it in England? This is going to be the most brilliant thing since--" Her smile cracks for a second, but she pulls it together and gives Martha's hand another firm pump before releasing it. "Totally brilliant."
Matthews raises an eyebrow, and Martha swallows back a sigh. "Brilliant."
As it turns out, Matthews is right about Luisa knowing the area. Even better, she has a knack for finding groups of people tucked into all manner of nooks and crannies. In three days' time, she slips Martha into apartment buildings, schools, and department stores that have been converted into dormitories for workers and hideouts for the small, but growing, resistance. She's never lost, and she keeps them well away from the worst of the factory smoke and smog. They move through what used to be a network of suburbs and small towns, and as they walk, Luisa tells Martha tidbits of their histories. "Someone has to remember," she insists. "One day, we're going to build it all back."
She steers them around the city itself, explaining that once it was stripped clean of usable steel and other building materials, the citizens--those who were left alive--were rounded up and taken away to the camps. Martha doesn't need to see the devastation close-up; by the end of the third day, she's sure the story of the Doctor has taken root. It will spread through the area on its own, though Luisa will no doubt help.
"You change it every night," Luisa says the fourth morning, as Martha braces herself to tell the girl good-bye. They spent the night resting in another resistance outpost, one that used to be an office of some kind. Now it holds a two-way radio, a few guns, rows of sleeping bags, and a makeshift kitchen where they sit on the floor eating stale boxed biscuits for breakfast. "I mean, it's always about the Doctor, but every time you tell about different things he's done--different ways he's saved us."
Martha nods and passes their thermos of tea to Luisa. "Lucky he's done it loads. Saves me boring myself." She smiles, but there's an uneasy flutter in her stomach. She isn't bored, that's not the word for it, but she is...tired. Tired of following the Doctor's instructions blindly; tired of wondering if the hope she's giving people like Luisa is only a temporary dressing on a wound that won't ever heal.
She's been collecting names and stories since she started this journey, and she spent last night running down her list over and over again, from Jorges Azales, an ex-librarian who's organizing the resistance in Mexico City by sneaking post-it notes in picture books passed through the refugee camps, to a woman named Yancey who teaches songs with coded subversive lyrics to children in Australian work camps. It's a long list, and it steadies Martha when her faith wavers, but there are nights that her fear for every single person on it keeps her awake.
Luisa has her eyes fixed on Martha even as she gulps down tea, so Martha keeps the smile pasted on her face. "Luisa, you've been a wonderful guide, but it's time I moved on. Can you tell me--"
"No." Luisa puts the thermos down so hard the tea sloshes out. The other people in the room, a couple who look to be around Leo's age, glance over at them. "You can't go, not yet."
"I have to keep going, you know that." Martha doesn't say where she's going, not even in which direction. If Luisa's ever taken for questioning--she pushes an image of Luisa aboard the Valiant, Luisa in the Master's hands, out of her mind. It's much better if she doesn't leave a trail that can be followed. She brushes crumbs off her hands and gets to her knees, ready to stand, but Luisa reaches over and grabs her arm.
"Please," she whispers. Just then, the man and woman get up to leave, murmuring good-byes to Martha. Luisa waits until they leave the room to go on, and even then, her voice is pitched low. "There are people in the city--where the city used to be. People who are hiding from the work camps and the roundups because they wouldn't survive them and they can't run from them. No one's supposed to know. I wasn't even sure I could take you there, not until I knew you, but now I know you won't tell about them. They need your story." Luisa looks younger than ever--or maybe it's just that Martha feels decades older.
"Please, just one more time. It's--" She gulps. "My brother's there."
Martha knows better than to waver. If she gives in to every plea for just one more night, just one more story, there will be no hope at all of the Doctor's plan working. But she's tired, and Luisa is right here in front of her. The Doctor is not.
"If we can do it quickly, I suppose I could spare--"
Luisa jumps to her feet. "We can go right now. There's no one else left in that part of the city. The Toclafane don't even bother with it most days."
Martha picks up her bag. "One day, Luisa. That's all."
* * * * *
Luisa's right about the center of the city being deserted. By the time they reach what used to be Chicago's downtown, they haven't heard vehicles or seen other people for hours. The buildings are marked with graffiti, but those who painted all the curses and exhortations for the Toclafane to go home have long since gone away themselves.
"They tore down the skyscrapers right away," Luisa tells Martha. "Said they needed the steel. They cleared almost everyone out, then they punched out the windows and made it rain glass. They even pulled up the L tracks and most of the bridges along the river. What do they want all that metal for?"
Surely Luisa's heard the rumors. "Rocket ships, maybe. Missiles." Martha isn't sure, and doesn't want to know. Her job is to thwart the Master's intentions, not understand them. Her boots crunch glass, and she stares at a hole in the ground where a building used to be.
"My brother Max, he was one of the ones they made work on the bridges. He didn't know anything about construction--or destruction, I guess it was." Luisa keeps up her brisk walk as they skirt a block of knee-high grass and saplings, a city park grown wild. "One day he stood too close to someone with a saw. I had to look in three hospitals--that was back when we still had some of the hospitals--and when I found him, his leg was gone. They said he'd have to go to the special work camp, the one for people who are disabled. They said the work would be easier there, but..."
Luisa trails off, and Martha looks sidelong at her. A little over a month ago, she went along on a resistance attempt to liberate one of the special camps. She'd hoped she could put her medical training to good use. But when they arrived, the camp was empty, just a handful of ramshackle buildings and damaged medical equipment.
"I couldn't let them take him," Luisa says, facing straight forward and blinking hard. "He's all that's left of my family. One of the doctors told me about the tunnels, so I took him there."
"There are freight tunnels under the city. No one's used them, not in a hundred years, maybe, and some of the resistance set up--" Luisa flashes a lopsided grin. "--actually they got talked into setting up--a place for people like Max. He's not useless. He just needs a crutch to get around, but the way they talked about those camps scared me. We did a Holocaust unit in school a couple years ago." She shoves her hands in her jacket pockets and her glance darts to Martha for a second, then forward again.
"No one comes home from the special camps," Martha tells her. "You did the right thing."
"I know," Luisa says, "but Max misses the sun." She leads Martha around a corner to another street of empty buildings that ends at a river, or perhaps it's two rivers--one bends and flows into the other, forming a Y shape. "You'd think it'd be the worst place on the planet, but the thing is..." Her steps slow, and Martha doesn't know if she's trailing off because she's trying to find the next turn on the route, or because she's not sure how to finish her sentence.
"The thing is, Max is alive, and so are the others. And you're right--they need to know about the Doctor." Martha makes her tone a little teasing. "But you could have told the story yourself."
"I can't tell it nearly as well as you do." Luisa heads for a graffiti-covered building. She traces a white symbol, a small plus sign--or maybe it's a cross--inside a circle, then turns right, into a narrow alley. "Besides, I thought you'd want to meet Max and --well, all of them. I know they'll want to meet you." Halfway down the alley, she stops. "They're here."
Martha doesn't see a soul, not a sign that a living person has been down this alley in weeks. "Luisa, what--"
Luisa pulls two torches from her backpack and hands one to Martha. Even in the shadowy alley the beams are barely visible, until Luisa directs hers into a gaping manhole. Like all the others, it's missing its cover. "This way."
* * * * *
Marissa adds more water to the pot of canned soup, wondering when their stores will run out. She wonders, too, how much longer the generator that keeps the hot plates running will hold together; it's been rattling all morning, and not in a comfortable, rhythmic way. It makes her even more jittery than usual; she jumps at familiar sounds, like the clomp of Crumb's boots across the dining section. A chair scrapes the concrete floor, and he plops down next to her stove with a sigh.
"Lunch'll be ready soon," she says. "But it won't be much, and we had those three new arrivals last night, so--"
"Don't worry. It'll be enough."
It's been their refrain to each other since this whole thing started: "Don't worry. They must be alive somewhere"; "Don't worry. It's bound to get better"; "Don't worry. I'm gonna get us someplace safe"; "Don't worry. Gary will find us when he can"; "Don't worry. No one'll bother to look for a band of misfits like us."
Don't worry, because worry doesn't change a thing. But they do it anyway. Worry's about the future; the past is too painful to think about. Worry's the only currency they have left.
"I'll send a couple kids up to raid the Jewel on Wabash. There were still a few cans and boxes there, last time I checked." Crumb hesitates, then adds, "But we've got to move camp soon," proving that he's worried, too. "There's too many of us, and we're getting too comfortable. Someone's gonna notice all the stores around here've been stripped of candles and flashlights, and one of the traitors'll remember the tunnels and figure it out."
Marissa doesn't stop stirring the soup, but she grips the ladle so tight her knuckles ache. "How much longer do we have?"
"Dunno. A week, maybe a little more. The guys in the resistance think we have longer before anyone finds us, but I don't want to cut it too close."
"Whitney's baby is due within the month. If we're going to settle in somewhere new, we should go before she has it." The last thing she wants is the Toclafane, or any of the people who've sided with them out of fear or something darker, something she doesn't want to even name, to come through the tunnels while they're preoccupied with Whitney's labor. Saxon, or whatever his real name is, has as little use for newborns as he does for people who are less than perfectly able to do his gruntwork.
"We're not settling anywhere for long," Crumb reminds her, as if she needs reminding. "But yeah, we'll find a place to keep her safe while she's--you know. There's a cave-in about a mile from here; if we can break through it, we might be able to find a space that's big enough for this crew of yours."
It's not just her crew. It's both of theirs, all of theirs. But Crumb insists on calling it hers, and she's not sure if that's because he's trying to build her up, or because he doesn't want the responsibility. She knows it's at least in part because he doesn't like to admit, especially to himself, how much he cares.
It's almost time for everyone to troop in for lunch; they have to keep a schedule down here, or time will stop meaning anything at all. She has to ask the question while they're still alone. It's part of the ritual, just like "don't worry", strict mealtimes, and assigning chores.
"When you spoke to your resistance friends, did they say...did you ask..." She swirls the ladle through the soup, faster and faster, until Crumb reaches over and touches her wrist.
"Nothing new," he says, and his voice is weirdly gentle, the way it always is when they try to talk about Gary, or about any of the dozens of people who should be here and aren't. "Marissa, maybe..."
He won't say what he thinks, that Gary must be dead, or they'd have heard from him. She stiffens, and he pulls back. But then he says something that isn't part of the routine. "He'd be proud of you, you know."
It isn't funny, but it makes her laugh and shake her head. "He'd be up above with the resistance, getting himself shot at or worse. And I'm not doing this to make anyone proud. We're all just down here trying to survive until..." She trails off, because there's only one end she can imagine to all this. Crumb must be so uncomfortable; he hates anything emotional, but there's no one left for her to talk to about it all.
"Keep fighting," she whispers, and finally sets the soup ladle down. She has to, to brush tears off her cheeks. "That's the last thing he said to me."
He'd shown up at her house in the middle of the night. The paper had come early and he'd said it was covered with half-headlines and dire warnings. "It's more than just the president, Marissa, but I think it starts with Saxon killing him," he'd said. "If I can stop that, maybe the rest of it won't happen." She'd tried to talk him out of going to the Secret Service--they both knew President Winters's government would take Gary's warnings as threats. But he didn't see any other way to stop what was about to happen.
"I promised if he didn't come back in a few hours, I'd find him," she tells Crumb--as if he doesn't know, as if he wasn't right there with her trying to find Gary at the moment everything changed. "He said, 'You just keep fighting, whatever happens.' And instead I'm hiding down here with a pot of watery soup."
"There's more than one way to fight. Listen--" Crumb pauses, and she hears the nearing voices and shuffling feet. Lunchtime. "You're keeping them all alive. That's nothing to sneeze at."
"And what is it you're doing here, Crumb?"
"Who, me? I'm just in it for the grub."
Marissa forces a smile. "I thought you were sweet on Mrs. Harvell."
"That old bird could run rings around me. She's gonna outlive us all."
Ban Eng and Drew come over to help serve the soup. Marissa's about to join Crumb at one of the tables when someone taps her on the shoulder.
"Luisa's here," Max says. "She's brought someone. She wants to talk to you."
Marissa swallows back a sigh. She unfolds her cane, already running down a mental list, trying to figure which of the alcoves they've set up as sleeping rooms has a free cot. "Just one person this time? Luisa's slacking."
"No," Max whispers, an edge of excitement in his voice. "It's not that. I told them to wait in your room."
He follows her away from the dining section, toward the curtained-off area that's been her sleeping space for nearly a month now. "Why the secrecy?" she asks as they tap their way down the tunnel, she with her cane, he with his crutch. Luisa wouldn't bring anyone down here who might be a danger, so she can't imagine what's going on. They're twelve steps from the door, ten, eight--
"Because it's her," Max bursts out in the reverential tone he might have used for a movie star a year ago. "I never thought she'd come here, but Luisa talked her into it."
"Who?" Marissa finds the shower curtain that sections off her sleeping space and pulls it aside.
"Marissa!" Luisa's right there, and she gives her a hug. "You'll never guess who's here."
"Apparently not," Marissa says. There's a warm laugh from just to her right. "Maybe one of you could tell me?"
"Right," says Luisa. Oddly, her voice is tinged with a new accent--or maybe an affectation--that's almost, but not quite, British. "Marissa Clark, I'd like you to meet Martha Jones. She has a story she wants to tell everyone, but I thought you'd like to meet her first."
Martha's handshake is as warm as her laugh. "It won't take long, I promise," she says, and Marissa understands why Luisa sounds like she's been watching Masterpiece Theatre.
"Why not?" Marissa's still not sure who this person is. "We could all use the distraction."
Luisa gasps. "It's more than a distraction! Haven't you heard of Martha Jones?"
"I don't get out much." Marissa turns to the new arrival. "I don't mean to be rude, Miss--."
"It's Martha, and you aren't. Trust me, I'd rather I wasn't so well known."
Marissa's even more confused, but the soup's getting cold. "Martha, then. Come have lunch with us."
* * * * *
The dining room--really just a section of tunnel crowded with mismatched tables, benches, and chairs--is lit with candles. Martha follows Luisa to a table full of children and a young man brings them soup. Max sits with them, folding paper airplanes from pages he rips out of an old magazine. The children keep chattering at them long after all the adults in the room have fallen silent, staring at Martha.
Not quite all the adults. Martha watches Marissa Clark make her way to the back of the room with the help of a cane that can't properly be called "white" any longer, as it's held together with three different colors of duct tape. There's an older gentleman back there, tinkering at a generator with a single screwdriver. If only it were sonic, Martha thinks, and it's a long moment before she can swallow her soup again. Over in the corner, Marissa says something to the man, and his gaze darts to Martha for a split second. He shrugs and goes back to work, saying something that Martha can't decipher. Whatever it is, it makes Marissa grin, and she sits down on a bench against the back wall.
Before long, two teenagers start clearing the dishes, but no one gets up to leave. "Are you ready?" Luisa asks. Martha just has time to nod before Luisa's calling for everyone's attention and leading her to a place near the front of the room.
There must be at least four dozen people: children perched on tables and laps, elderly men and women, one girl not much older than Luisa who's so pregnant, and making such odd faces, Martha starts a mental review of everything she knows about obstetrics. There are a few who, like Max, are missing limbs, and several who have wheelchairs or walkers. A small group gathers around the boy who sits directly in front of Martha, translating her story into sign language.
Still, the reaction is the same as always: the upturned faces, the initial disbelief when she starts to tell them about the Doctor, the dawning hope that stills the whole room. Max even stops folding his paper airplanes and rests his chin on his hands to listen. It's only when she's near the end, when she says, "He's saved you over and over again without your knowing it. He never stops, he never stays, he never waits for anyone's thanks," that the afternoon veers off script.
There's a muffled sound from the back of the room, followed by a clatter, and Martha hesitates for a split second. Marissa's dropped her cane and has one hand over her mouth. Her eyes are wide, as if she's trying to see Martha, or something past her. Martha's about to ask what's wrong when Mr. Fix-It walks over to the bench. Luisa nudges Martha, and she picks up the story where she left off.
"I've seen what the Doctor can do, and I'm here to tell you he does care. He cares so much he's come up with a way to stop this, but he needs your help. He needs you to believe, and I know it sounds impossible, but it's going to work. You just have to believe that he'll come through." She goes on, the words she's spoken hundreds of times coming out of her mouth of their own accord while she watches Marissa cover her face with her hands and crumple into a tight wad of shock or misery or...whatever it is she's feeling. Mr. Fix-It doesn't hug her, doesn't even hold her hand, just sits close enough for their shoulders to touch.
Martha may not have completed her medical rotations, but she knows what's happening, even if she doesn't know why. She's watching scar tissue, barely healed, being ripped open all over again. And it's her words that are doing it.
Mr. Fix-It knows as well. The scowl he directs at Martha lets her know this is all her fault.
When she finishes her story, there are handshakes and hugs and a cavalcade of words. It all washes over Martha, the wave of gratitude and newfound hope. Usually it's the best part of her day, but this afternoon she's more interested in the one thing that's not routine.
It isn't that no one ever cries when she tells the story. People cry for all kinds of reasons; hope after too many long, dark months can smash through defenses and numbness like a wrecking ball. But no one's ever reacted quite like Marissa Clark. When almost everyone is gone, Martha looks toward the back corner. Marissa seems to have pulled herself together. She's standing, talking quietly to Mr. Fix-It, who sees Martha watching and shoots another daggered glance her way.
"Martha?" Luisa's at her elbow. "Should we set off?"
"Not as soon as all that," Martha murmurs. At Luisa's confused look, she adds, "Would you like to spend time with Max before we leave? I know if I could see my brother right now I'd--" She winces to hold in a tide of longing. "--I'd want to make it last."
"You're the best!" Luisa goes off in search of Max, leaving Martha to approach the pair in the back of the room on her own. Most of the candles in the room have flickered down to nothing or been taken away, but the one on the table nearest the generator gives off enough light to see that Mr. Fix-It still doesn't trust her, enough to see Marissa square her shoulders and settle her features into what's probably supposed to be hospitality. But she has the swollen eyes of someone who's been holding in far too much for far too long.
Martha clears her throat. "I'd like to apologize," she says. "Not for the story, because I have to tell it, but it's upset you--I've upset you--and I'm sorry for that."
"No," Marissa cuts her off. "Don't be sorry. I hate that word."
Mr. Fix-It snorts and rolls his eyes.
"It's true, Crumb--"
"Oh, believe me, you've told me. More than once. But she oughta apologize, coming in here when every Toclafane on the planet is looking for her. You've practically led them to our doorstep--"
Martha reaches for the TARDIS key dangling from its cord around her neck. "No, I didn't--"
"--just so you could tell some cockamamie story about a guy who knows what's gonna happen. Tell me this, if he's so smart, why didn't he stop all this in the first place?"
"Crumb, don't." Marissa's voice cracks. "He tried. He must have tried, just like--" She turns to Martha. "He did try, didn't he?"
"Of course he--yes. He tried." Martha's spent endless hours trying to convince herself the Doctor did the right thing, that somehow, in the grand scheme of things, letting the Master kill all those people and take the Doctor, Jack, and her family captive was a better option than just killing him outright when they had the chance. Much as she trusts the Doctor, she hasn't quite reconciled that one for herself.
But these people don't know all that. They must be talking about--or around--something else. Marissa puts a hand on Crumb's arm, and when he looks at her his scowl melts. "Martha didn't do this to hurt anyone, least of all us," Marissa says. "She's trying to help. She did help. She just doesn't know about--about what we know."
"It's not like we know anything anymore anyhow," Crumb grumbles. "Not like I ever knew what it was I wasn't supposed to know." Somewhere in that tortured syntax there's a message, but for the life of her, Martha can't imagine what it means.
"You're telling the truth, aren't you?" Marissa asks Martha. "About your Doctor--he--he knows how to help."
So she was listening, even at the end, Martha thinks with no small amount of relief. Whatever caused the breakdown, at least she didn't totally fail in the storytelling. "It's all true, I swear it. If you only knew him--"
"Actually, I do. We do," Marissa says. She stands straighter, sets her jaw. For one half-second, Martha wonders if she's somehow another companion, like Jack. "Not your Doctor exactly, but someone who does the same kinds of things."
Martha has to laugh at that. "No one's like the Doctor."
"No one's like Hobson, either," Crumb says. "For which I was always grateful."
Martha doesn't miss the wince Marissa makes at the "was". "Hobson?"
"He's--" Marissa begins, but stops when a scream echoes down the tunnels.
Martha starts toward it, Marissa and Crumb at her heels. A woman who has to be at least eighty years old hobbles down the dimly lit tunnel. "It's Whitney," she calls over another scream. "Her baby's coming. Says she's felt funny all day, but she didn't want to interrupt the story."
"I thought you said she had a month," Crumb growls, as if a teenager going into labor is a personal affront.
Marissa shakes her head, and for the first time Martha sees fear. "Maybe she's early. I don't know--"
"She's asking for you, Marissa," the old woman says. "Get a move on."
Martha touches Marissa's arm. "I have medical training. I can help."
"Thank God," Marissa says, and sounds as though she truly means it. "Crumb, it might get loud down here."
He's already backing away. "I'll make sure we've got people stationed at the entrances."
The old woman chuckles and hobbles toward a shower curtain decorated with yellow ducks. "Just us girls, then!"
Marissa follows, sweeping short arcs with her cane. "She's only sixteen," she tells Martha under her breath. "They nearly worked her to death in one of the steel mills, even after they found out she was pregnant. It's a wonder she survived at all."
Martha should check herself for whiplash; she's gone from guilty to almost giddy at the thought of helping to deliver a child. For once she's not being asked to fix someone who's horribly broken. "Even the Master can't stop babies from coming. Let's you and I make sure this one meets its mother."
* * * * *
Whitney's daughter is tiny, but alive. Marissa cleans her off with hands that still ache from being crushed for hours as Whitney struggled not to scream. The baby makes up for it with a wail that must be echoing through every tunnel in the system. For once, she pushes away her fear that they'll be heard; joy is so rare, and so many children have been lost--
--she can't think about that, not with this life in her hands. She wraps the baby in a flannel blanket, which Luisa swears came from a store raid and not someone's home, and hands her to Whitney. Martha comes to stand beside her. "Congratulations, Mum."
Whitney makes a sound that starts out like a laugh, but hiccups into tears.
"What's wrong?" Marissa asks.
"She's just so gorgeous," Whitney sobs. "And tiny, and p-perfect, and how am I going to take care of her d-down here?"
Marissa kneels and soothes Whitney's hair while Martha gives the pep talk: women have done this for thousands of years, Whitney has more help than many of them ever did, babies are so much more resilient than they're given credit for...
Every once in a while the baby kicks Marissa's arm with her tiny, blanket-wrapped foot, and it's almost more than she can bear. Despite Martha's assurances, she isn't sure any of them are going to last until the Doctor's countdown, not unless it comes tomorrow.
"Marissa?" Whitney asks sleepily. "Can we really do this?"
"Of course," she says around the lump in her throat, and hopes she looks more confident than she feels. She rubs the bottom of the baby's foot with her thumb. "We've lasted this long, haven't we? What's her name?"
Whitney doesn't hesitate. "Galadriel. Tim made me promise, before they took him away." She's on the verge of tears again, but so is Marissa. "I know it's silly, but he loved those books. I have to give her something from her daddy."
"It's beautiful," Marissa tells her, even though she thinks it might be a bit much for such a tiny girl to carry. "And brave, just like her mother."
They help Whitney give Galadriel her first meal, which, short as it is, wears them both out. Mrs. Harvell offers to stay in the room and watch over them while they rest.
The hallway is quiet, though surely no one is really asleep. Marissa wonders who took care of the evening meal and cleanup, but for once, it isn't her problem. "Martha--thank you. If you hadn't been here, I don't know what we would have done."
"You would have figured it out," Martha says, and she sounds more relaxed and confident than she did when she was telling her story. "As I said, women have been doing this for thousands of years. The Master can't take that away from us."
"I won't call him that." Marissa leads the way into her little room. "Does he have a name of his own?"
"No idea," Martha says.
"Crumb has a few choice ones for him." So does Marissa, though her grandmother would come up from her grave and scold her if she said most of them out loud. But she doesn't want to think too much about the man who put them all here; she just held a newborn baby in her hands, and she feels... light. Almost happy, if that's even possible. "Would you like to sleep here tonight?" she asks Martha. "It's just a cot, but you're welcome to stay."
"I couldn't take your bed. And I'm not sure I can sleep. This is the first time in months I've done something other than hide from the Toclafane, tell stories about the Doctor, and patch up wounds. It's all rather...wonderful. That sounds strange, doesn't it?"
"Not at all." Marissa wraps her arms around herself. It's always the same temperature down here, but when she knows it's nighttime, it feels colder. "Would you like some tea? Or maybe something stronger?"
"How much stronger?"
Marissa smiles. "I know a great bartender."
* * * * *
Of all the reasons Marissa's found to be grateful to Crumb for sticking with her since that first awful day, the fact that he was somehow able to sneak most of McGinty's inventory into the freight tunnels has never been high on her list--until now. He's always claimed he thought they'd want it for medicinal reasons, but none of the adults in their group is above diving into the stores when the reality of their situation hits them with its sledgehammer. This is different, though; it's the first time she's had anything to celebrate.
She finds him at the entrance to their section of the tunnel, hovering over the pair on watch. She's pretty sure Jill and Darrien are relieved when she pulls him away to ask for what she needs. A few minutes later, he's in her room, mixing drinks.
"Really, a glass of wine would be fine," Martha says.
"Wine's for later," Crumb tells her. "You need something better for a real toast."
"Let him work. He knows what he's doing, and he doesn't get to do it very often." Marissa sits on the edge of her cot with Martha, waiting for treats like two little kids. "Kind of like you delivering babies."
He puts plastic cups in their hands, and they toast Whitney and Galadriel. The drink is not what Marissa expects--it's sweet and hot, like the tiny cinnamon candies her mom used to set out for Valentine's Day, and the finish is fruity.
"Cinnamon schnapps and apple vodka?" she asks.
"Might be. Then again, it might not." Crumb's been putting up a front, grousing about all the trouble a baby's going to cause, but Marissa doesn't miss the teasing note in his voice. It reminds her of the nights she'd sit at one end of the bar trying to reconcile McGinty's accounts while he tested new drink recipes on her. It was their game: she'd try to guess the ingredients and name the drinks, and if he was in a good mood, he'd tell her if she was anywhere near the truth.
"A bartender never gives away his secrets," she tells Martha.
"Damn straight I don't."
"It's lovely," Martha chokes. "A little strong, but lovely. It reminds me of the rain on this planet I went to with the Doctor--"
"Wait." Marissa hasn't been out of this tunnel section in weeks; even a walk along Navy Pier would be an exotic vacation. "A different planet?"
"One of many. This one was called...something I can't pronounce, actually. But it was fantastic going around tasting the rain and snow and sleet, especially after I'd had to spend weeks working in a shop in 1969. All because he couldn't cobble together--what is it?" she asks when Crumb snorts.
"Geez, even Hobson's shtick sounds like chump change compared to your yarns. Nothing personal, of course."
"Of course," Martha says, and then, more cautiously, "I've done so much talking today. Maybe you should tell me more about this friend of yours."
Marissa takes another drink. Where to even begin? It's been so long since she's had a chance to talk about anyone or anything from before. It probably isn't psychologically healthy, but with everyone left on the planet a mess of loss and trauma, ignoring the past is the only way they can keep going. "I shouldn't have--this afternoon, it just hit me. Your story's so much like--"
Why is it so hard to say his name? Even Crumb can get "Hobson" out. She takes a deep breath and squeezes the cup. "We have a friend. Gary." It doesn't hurt as much as she'd thought it would; it's more like unlocking a messy closet. All the words want to tumble out at once, but she has to control them. "He knew what was going to happen, some of it at least. He always knows, he always stops bad things --" She gulps down more of the candy apple drink, hoping the alcohol will hit her system soon. "He tries to, anyway."
"Yeah, and look where it got him," Crumb says, in that way of his that's not quite for the whole room, but not quite under his breath.
Marissa would rather not go down that path. She scoots back, leaving her feet sticking straight off the edge of the cot. She tips her head back against the wall and tries to let go of everything but her glass, this room, this moment.
"Does your friend have a police box?" Martha asks.
Maybe the alcohol is having an effect, because all Marissa can imagine is a file cabinet. "A what? Crumb was a detective, but--"
"Blue box, like a telephone booth? Bigger on the inside?"
"No." Marissa latches onto the one part of that she understands. "Gary's not Superman, he doesn't change in phone booths."
Martha giggles, but Crumb lets out another grunt. "All right, that's my cue to leave."
As if he doesn't know by now--as if he didn't always know. "Crumb, no, you don't have to go."
His voice softens. "I'm an old man, I gotta get some sleep." He rattles a couple of bottles on the plastic tub that holds her clothing and Braille books. "I left some rum and some wine over here, and a corkscrew. Enjoy your séance."
"Séance?" Martha asks as Crumb walks out.
"We're conjuring ghosts, aren't we?"
* * * * *
They settle onto the cot like teenagers at a slumber party, and before Marissa has time to think it through, she tells Martha about Gary, Cat, the paper, and everything leading up to the day the Toclafane came.
"Crumb and I were headed for the Secret Service offices to find him when it happened. That's why we were together, why I wasn't with my family when--" She drains her glass. "We tried to find them, everyone we knew. But they must have ended up in the camps if they weren't killed."
Martha doesn't bother with the standard, "I'm so sorry," which makes Marissa like her even more. Instead, she takes Marissa's empty glass. "I think we'd better open one of those wine bottles, don't you? Or should we go straight for the rum?"
"Rum," Marissa says, "so long as it's spiced."
Bottles clonk, then Martha asks, "Captain Morgan?"
"Good old Crumb."
Martha fills their glasses and sits down again. "My family's up there on the Valiant. With the Master and the Doctor. My mum and dad, and my sister."
Marissa waits for her breath to come back, after the stabbing pain that always comes with thoughts of her family. She's built a new family down here, she reminds herself, and no one's going to take them away. "Are they alive?"
"Yes," Martha says without hesitation.
"You really believe in that Doctor of yours, don't you?"
"I do, but in this case, it's more what I know about the Master. If he kills them, he'll make sure I know."
Despite the warmth of the rum slipping down her throat, Marissa shivers. In the first few weeks after the attack, when the work camps and dormitories were being organized, Crumb went looking for their friends, her family, any survivors at all. There hadn't been a trace of anyone but Gary, and even then, it was only a file folder with his name on it in an interrogation room in the offices of the Secret Service. But all the searching hadn't been in vain; it led them to the resistance, and to the people who've joined them in the tunnels.
"I think Gary's alive, too," she tells Martha, remembering all the times in the past she's insisted on this and been right, all the times her belief kept him alive. "I would know if he weren't. I just don't know if it's a good thing. Last we heard, what was left of the government stashed him in a prison in Wisconsin the day after everything happened. Then--well, then there wasn't anything left of the government, and we had to come down here, and I just can't imagine what he's gone through since. Maybe it would be better if he were dead."
"You don't really believe that."
God help her--because she knows for a fact that dying isn't the worst thing that could happen to someone in Gary's position--she doesn't. "You don't, either. About your family, I mean. Or your Doctor."
Martha knocks her glass against Marissa's. "Touché." They both drink, and then Martha asks, "Do you love him?"
Marissa knows what she means, but it's been a long time since anyone asked. "He's my best friend. So yes."
"But do you fancy him?" Martha's question is too careful, and Marissa knows this isn't really about her and Gary.
"Romantically? No. Not that it would be wrong, but we knew each other before his wife divorced him. Gary's more like the brother I never had."
"I already have one of those." More quietly, Martha adds, "The thing is, you'd think a man with two hearts would be able to love more than one person, especially if one of them is a ghost."
"If one of them is you, it shouldn't even be a question." Marissa gets up and fumbles around with the bottles until she finds the rum. She's none too steady on her feet, and for once, it's a good feeling.
"Thanks," Martha says with a wry chuckle as Marissa refills her glass. "I mean it, thank you. For the drinks and for--well, this. I bet you never heard that very often, if your Gary Hobson is anything like the Doctor."
"He thanked me once in a while." It's...nice...to sit back down. Marissa grips her glass with one hand, and the edge of the cot with the other. "Not as often as I used to think I needed to hear it, but I'd rather have him here not thanking me than--than this."
"Does he ever do that thing where he complains so much about having to do it all himself that you start to feel invisible?"
Unbidden, a giggle escapes her. Not so much because it's funny, but because she's relieved to hear someone else put it into words. "Only every other day. Worse than that is when he asks me to do all his chores for him, or wants me to tell him where he left his wallet or his shoes, as though I'm his maid."
Martha bursts out laughing. "No, no, it's not you," she gasps. "It's just--I literally was his maid. At a boys' school. In 1913!"
Marissa shakes her head, but Martha's laugh is infectious. Or maybe it's the rum. "Oh, Martha, no..."
"Oh, yes," Martha counters. "And there were scarecrows, and this--this nurse--it was all so tragic! I don't know why I'm laughing. You're never going to believe it."
"I'll believe yours if you believe mine."
They trade stories until the rum's nearly gone. Martha's tales top anything Marissa can offer. Alien planets and time travel, sentient suns and men turned into pigs, William Shakespeare, for heaven's sake. Even Gary's dealings with terrorists and triple-rewind days don't measure up.
"It sounds like you're doing at least half the work," Marissa finally says. Somewhere in all the storytelling, they've both slumped back against the wall, sitting shoulder to shoulder. "Especially now, walking all over the planet to spread his message."
"There isn't much choice; no one else to do it," Martha says. "The Doctor certainly can't."
Marissa's more than a little fuzzy-headed at this point, but it's important to get this across. "You're the one they believe in, you know. If the whole world's standing around saying, 'Doctor,' when that countdown comes, they're going to be thinking of you, not him."
"Doesn't matter, as long as they believe it."
"But it does," Marissa pushes herself upright. "You're amazing, traveling all over the world when that man and those things are looking for you, and then you came down here because Luisa asked you to." Which, now that Marissa thinks about it, is exactly the kind of thing Gary would have done. "Whitney and her baby are alive because of you. You didn't have to stay for them, but you did."
"You would have figured it out."
"I'm not so sure about that. There's a reason you were here tonight, out of all the nights you could have come. I believe in reasons."
"You'd pretty much have to, down here."
"Gary always wanted reasons. Something would go wrong--an explosion or an earthquake or a shooting he couldn't stop, and he'd blame himself, and then he'd want me to tell him what the reason was." She drops back again; even the wall's having trouble holding her up at this point. "If he's alive, he's blaming himself for this."
"He shouldn't." Martha's voice slurs, and Marissa isn't sure if the rum's affected Martha's speech or her own hearing. "If the Doctor couldn't--and he couldn't--" she adds, as if she's reassuring herself. "--then no one could. Fixed points in time," she adds. "Like, I dunno, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, or the shuttle explosions, or--or worse things. They can't be changed, even by a Time Lord."
Marissa bristles; it sounds like a copout. "And the Toclafane destroying everything, killing all those people, that was a fixed point in time?"
"I don't know yet. I don't know how the Doctor plans to stop this. I think he could have killed the Master, right before we all went up onto the Valiant, and he didn't. I still don't know why."
"I'm not normally in favor of cold-blooded murder, but in this case--"
"No." Martha puts a hand on Marissa's arm. "No, if he didn't do it, there's a reason. I have to believe that. I do believe it. I really do."
Marissa wonders if Martha is the lady Shakespeare mentioned, the one who protested too much. "Is there a reason for all this? For everything we've lost?"
Martha doesn't answer for a long, long, time. "I don't know what it is," she finally says, "but yes, there's a reason. There must be, even though it's difficult to believe."
"I believe you, Martha Jones." Marissa drains the last of her glass. "But then, I've had a lot of practice."
* * * * *
Martha sleeps late the next morning, and wakes to the sound of a crying newborn. Luisa brings her thin tea and bounces on her toes, ready to go above ground.
Marissa offers her food, water, alcohol, but Martha doesn't take anything. "You need every bit of it to keep them going," she says. "I'll stumble across what I need when I need it."
The good-byes are quick and clean--Marissa's is a hug, Crumb's is a nod--and before long she's standing in the ruined city, taking in the shock of sunlight and crying gulls.
"It was worth it, wasn't it?" Luisa's smile is just this side of anxious. "For the baby and all?"
"Of course it was," Martha tells her, and they fall into step, headed for the lone rickety bridge that's left intact, headed north, headed away from Chicago. "She's a beautiful little girl."
"Little is right. We have to find a nickname for her until she grows into 'Galadriel'."
Luisa's faith in the future catches against Martha's fear for the baby, for all of them, for everyone she's left behind over the past months. Martha bites back the urge to make Luisa promise that she'll stay down in the tunnels, where she might be--well, certainly not safe, but possibly safer. A gentle nudge might be more effective. "Just be sure she sees the sun once in a while."
Luisa nods. "And when she's old enough, I'll tell her all about you and your Doctor."
Martha reminds herself that she came here to plant a seed, and she's succeeded. That should be enough. Tonight, when she tries to sleep on some floor or in some field, she'll recite her list again, and she'll add new names.
For Luisa, she manages a grin. "And I'll tell the Doctor about you."
* * * * *
Weeks later, Martha's snuggled into a nest of hay in a barn in southern Ontario. Perhaps "snuggled" is the wrong word; it isn't a room at the Dorchester. It is, however, the first chance she's had to sleep in days. The voices of her resistance escorts, who, as usual, refused to believe her when she told them she'd be fine on her own, carry to her from their post near the door. They're wondering about the Doctor and her story, the usual conversation people have when they think she can't hear them.
Outside, a thunderstorm sends rain pattering on the roof; occasional flashes of lightning illuminate the barn's windows. Martha's giving in to sleep, her list splintering into a haphazard mix of names, places, and heroism, when a pounding louder than thunder crashes into her drowsing. Her escorts, Ryan and Trent, jump to their feet and point their guns at the door.
"Get out!" a man calls between thunderclaps. "You all need to clear out of this barn right now."
Ryan hurries over to Martha and helps her out of the hay.
"Come on, you gotta get out of there!" The man sounds desperate. By Martha's estimation, he's from somewhere south of here; there's none of the Canadian lilt in his voice.
Next to Martha, Ryan relaxes. "Him again."
"Who?" Martha asks, but he just shakes his head.
Trent opens the door and the man pushes past him. He's carrying a lantern and dressed in dark clothes, as they all are.
"What is it this time?" Trent asks.
"I'm telling you, you gotta get out--" The stranger stops short when he sees Martha brushing straw out of her hair. "Are you--you're the storyteller, aren't you?" He reaches for her hand and pulls her toward the door. "You must be the one I'm supposed to save."
Trent blocks their way, pointing at Martha. "You can't just drag her around, Hobson. It's raining out there."
Still drowsy, Martha frowns at the name. She's heard it somewhere before.
"I don't care," he says. "There's something--something's going to happen." He turns to Martha. The lantern sends light and shadows swinging across his face. She's not sure if he's crazy or desperate, but she nods at Trent, and he shrugs and steps out of the way.
"What, you've been talking to your cat again?" Ryan asks as he follows Martha out the door.
"Cat?" Martha asks. They step away from the barn and its sheltering trees, and the rain hits them full in the face. As if she's conjured it, the lantern beam catches a drenched tabby waiting on the graveled driveway. It yowls at them and streaks toward a weed-choked field. The man holding Martha's arm tightens his grip and starts to run so fast she can barely keep up--and she's gotten used to running with the Doctor.
"Hobson?" she half-gasps, half-shouts. "Gary Hobson?"
He stumbles to a halt amid the flattened wheat stalks and stares at her. "Who--"
Lightning strikes a huge oak near the barn with a crack that splits the night--and the tree--in two. Half the tree crashes through the barn roof, right into the corner where Martha had been resting.
"Holy crap, Hobson," Ryan says.
Martha gapes at the man--the ghost--in front of her, who's looking wildly from the barn to her and back. "How did you--"
"Where's Trent?" Hobson lets go of her and sprints toward the barn.
She runs after him, Ryan at her heels. "Every damn time! How is he always right?"
Trent's escaped the worst of the collapse, but his leg is caught in the debris. The three of them pull him out and Martha takes a look at his leg. It's criss-crossed with lacerations, but none are deep enough to be dangerous.
"I can stitch him up. I have med supplies in my pack." She starts into what's left of the barn, but Hobson catches her arm.
"It's not safe in there. I'll dig it out."
Martha bites her lip and goes back to her patient, hoping she won't end up with two of them. While she rips the lower leg off Trent's trousers, Ryan cobbles together a crude shelter from some of the splintered boards, just enough to keep the rain off Trent.
Trent lets out a groan, and Martha wishes for the bottle of liquor she refused on her way out of Chicago--anything to numb the pain the guy's going through. "It'll be okay," she soothes. The cat pushes itself between Martha and Trent, curling up against his side as if it's trying to help keep him warm.
Martha presses a strip of the trousers onto the wound to slow the bleeding. She looks up at Ryan, who's scowling in the direction of the barn. "What did you mean, 'every time'?"
Ryan shrugs and wipes rain off his face with his cap. "He's always making these crazy predictions, and he's always right, and he won't say how he knows. Hardly talks to anyone except that cat. Takes on every suicide mission that comes up."
"Yeah, you know, going after supplies guarded by the Toclafane, raiding ammo dumps, that kind of thing. There are lots of guys who do that, guys with nothing left to lose. He's the only one who's lasted this long. He never seems too happy about it."
Gary Hobson. Who predicted a lightning strike. And brought his cat. There can't be more than one, and on a global scale, she's not all that far from Chicago. But why isn't he there? If the Doctor were to make his way free of the Master and not come to find her--which she can actually imagine him doing--she's not sure she could forgive him. And she's forgiven the Doctor quite a lot.
Trent moans again. Ryan kneels down and puts a hand on his shoulder. "Hang in there, buddy."
"Hobs--" Trent mumbles. "Damn 'im."
"Wasn't his fault you didn't listen." Ryan looks over at Martha.
"He'll be okay," she says. "Soon as I stitch him up."
From the depths of the barn, wood creaks and something clatters, but Hobson calls out, "Almost got it!"
"He's from the States, you know," Ryan says. "Buncha guys busted out of a prison when their government abandoned it. Most of them disappeared or got killed trying to outrun the Toclafane, but he survived. The guys who came up here with him said he was in some special wing for terrorism suspects. You know what they used to do to terrorists down there, back when they had a government?"
Though she keeps the pressure steady on the wound, Martha's hand shakes a little, remembering what Marissa told her, how Hobson had known what was coming. "There's no telling what they would have done to him," she murmurs. In the faint light of Ryan's torch, the cat looks up at her with unblinking eyes.
There's a crash, more of the barn caving in. Ryan stands, and Martha holds her breath, but Hobson's lantern wobbles out of the wreck. The cat lets out a satisfied "meow".
Martha has Ryan take over the job of keeping pressure on the wound while she digs supplies out of her bag. Hobson stands over her, watching. "You got this covered?"
She looks at the cat, who hasn't moved. Trent is her first priority, but there's no way she's letting Hobson leave. "No. I need you to hold the light steady." He gives her an odd look, as though he knows what she's up to, but she turns her attention to Trent, and Hobson crouches just behind her. It takes fourteen stitches to close the worst of the gashes. The light never wavers.
It's not until Trent's taken care of, and she's standing away from the little shelter, holding out her hands to let what's left of the downpour wash them, that Hobson speaks.
"You're Martha Jones, right, the one with the crazy story?"
She shakes the rain off her hands and turns to face him. He's left the lantern with Trent and Ryan, but the sky's starting to lighten, showing her a scarred cheek, dark hair, and stubbled chin. "And you're Gary Hobson, the one with the cat. I heard stories about you a few weeks ago." She watches his face for a reaction, but it may as well be stone. "When I was in Chicago."
His jaw works for a few seconds before he says anything. "I haven't been in Chicago in months, not since--"
"Not since the day you tried to stop the Master from killing your president. Not since the Toclafane came." She remembers the mix of despair and faith on Marissa's face as she told that story; on Hobson's, she sees only the former. It makes her angry. "You couldn't stop it, but that doesn't mean you ought to be in hiding like this. It wasn't your fault."
"I'm not hiding, lady," he says, but his glance darts away. "I just saved your butt--"
"And you have yet to ask how I know about you. What are you afraid of?"
His voice goes flat. "I'm not afraid of anything anymore." When she doesn't flinch, doesn't even blink, he sighs. "All right, fine, how do you know about me?"
"I told you, I was in Chicago--"
He shakes his head. "There's nothing left of Chicago. They showed me video, those first few days, when they thought I could tell them how it all happened if they broke me. Those--those things went into my bar. They went into the houses of everyone I ever knew. When I got out, I went back, just to make sure. I walked from one end of the city to the other." He scowls down at the cat, who's butting against his boot, and rubs a thumb over the back of his other hand. The two middle fingers of it are crooked, broken bones that grew back wrong. His voice is little more than a whisper. "There's no one left."
"That isn't true." Martha isn't sure how much to tell him; she has no way of knowing whether anyone in those tunnels is still alive. But as she hesitates, the cat gives up on Hobson and winds itself around her ankles like a furry, purring snake.
She takes a deep breath and stares at Hobson until he finally meets her eyes. "You know," she says, "if you tell someone to keep fighting, you ought to trust her to do it."
* * * * *
They're on a tiny fishing boat, headed across Lake Michigan. Martha's compass says their path should land them on the beaches that frame Chicago's lakeside, but they'll have to wait for morning to be sure. She's holding the cat in her lap and looking up at the clear, starry sky. A slow blinking satellite crawls through the constellations, and she wonders if it's the Valiant. There's no way to be certain, but she decides it is, and follows it until it goes out of sight.
She turns in her seat to look at Hobson, who's steering the outboard motor. In the bluish dark, she can see the straight set of his mouth. He hasn't said more than a handful of words to her since she gave him the hope that seemed to hit him like a bullet and let her talk him into this trip. He's said even less than that to the resistance fighters who have helped them on their way. She feels like she's chattering when she tells him about the community his friends have built in the tunnels, but he never tells her to stop. He watches the people in the camps and dormitories with hungry eyes while she tells her story, but he usually turns away when he catches her looking at him.
Now, though, he raises his eyebrows. For some reason, this makes her laugh--maybe it's because it's the first time he's looked anything but angry. And scared, she reminds herself, because that's what's underneath it. It's what's underneath all the belief she puts into her stories; it's what makes everyone who listens so desperate to believe them.
"What?" he asks.
"Your friends didn't say anything about you being the strong, silent type." She lets a note of teasing creep into her voice, the way she would with Leo. "Strong, maybe, but not silent."
He shrugs. "Sorry. I don't have a lot to say. Usually it's just Cat listening, anyway." He rubs at his face with his free hand. "I may be more than a little crazy at this point."
"No doubt that would make two of us." She's pretty sure there's a map of her recent travels in the dictionary next to the word "insanity". She doesn't have time to backtrack. But she needs to know this is possible. She needs to believe happy endings still take place, even here, even now. With the Doctor, she's created dozens of them, all over the universe and all through time. They never come without cost, but they are possible. That's what she believes in, as much as she believes in the Doctor himself. She just needs to see one again; it's been too long."Far more than two, actually. More like the whole planet."
"And you think this story of yours can heal it?"
"I think the Doctor can, if we give him a way in through the Archangel Network."
"Huh." He steers them into a wave, but it isn't a big one, not like when she's crossed oceans. There's a rumble of a much larger boat somewhere in the distance, and she guesses these ripples are what's left of its wake.
"Huh," Martha echoes as they bounce over the waves. "Eloquent, persuasive...I can see how you were able to convince all those people you helped to let you into their lives."
"Yeah, well, I'm not much help to anybody these days, am I?"
"What do you think happened back at that barn?"
He takes a deep breath, and seems to blow out the bitterness, as if he's waking up. "That was just Cat bugging me until I followed him."
"I thought you read about the future in your newspaper."
"Nobody's putting out newspapers these days. Once in a while Cat yowls or nips at me, and I follow him, but it's not like I know exactly what's going to happen. I used to think the paper didn't give me enough clues, but Cat on his own is even worse."
So he does have a voice, and the ability to string sentences together. "Marissa said you used to complain about them both--your prophetic newspaper and your cat."
"Yeah? What else did she tell you?" There's a faint note in his voice, another crack in his façade--but a good one, a hungry one.
"That you were good at helping people," Martha says, "and that she's always worried about what would happen to you if you couldn't."
He doesn't even grunt at that, just stares straight ahead as if he's willing the skyline to come into view.
They both know it won't.
"She said there was a reason Luisa brought me to them. She thought it was the baby, but now I wonder if it was more than that."
"A reason?" His voice is so soft it's nearly lost in the motor's drone. "Sounds like her."
"I think she was right. And I think there was a reason I was in that barn, a reason your cat led you there."
"Yeah, so I could save the life of the famous Martha Jones."
"Maybe." She's not sure she should come out and say that she doesn't think the tree would have fallen if Hobson hadn't been around to warn them. There's destiny carrying her through this journey, but that's not something she likes to talk about, not when everyone she meets has lost so much. "Maybe it's so I could save yours."
The cat mewls as if in agreement, but Hobson shakes his head. "If they're gone--if anyone found them--what am I supposed to do then?"
It will destroy him. And she'll have to leave him there and go on tomorrow, no matter what. She has entire continents left to cross.
The waves lap at the boat for a long time before she answers. "If they're gone," she finally says, "you'll find another reason."
* * * * *
Hobson's confused by the missing buildings and they hit the shore too far to the south. They run into a Toclafane patrol one block off the beach. There's a lot of running and shouting, too much for Martha to explain about the protection she wears around her neck. Hobson takes off after his cat, pulling Martha through streets littered with debris. A few blocks on, they duck into what once was a restaurant, racing through the wrecked dining area and into the kitchen. They stop to catch their breath, crouching between two huge prep tables still bolted to the floor. The cat slips under the low shelf, the only one of them small enough to really hide.
It's only seconds before Martha hears a Toclafane whir through the space where the front door must have been. Hobson starts to stand, but she pulls him down.
"What are you doing?"
His jaw's set, rock hard. "Drawing their fire."
She remembers what Ryan said about Hobson and suicide missions, and realizes that sacrificing himself has become second nature. But not here, not when they're so close. "Don't be an idiot." She draws the cord that holds the TARDIS key out from under her shirt, takes his hand, and presses the key into his palm. "Hold this."
His whisper's just as fierce as hers. "What are you doing?"
Martha meets his hard gaze. "Marissa believes you're alive. I'm doing my best to keep you that way." She puts her hand over his, sandwiching the key between. "Now hold on." She doesn't know if it will work for two people or leave them both exposed, but the cat's tail thwacks Hobson's ankle, and he tightens his hand around Martha's, and the key.
The Toclafane whizzes into the kitchen. Hobson doesn't let go of the key, but his other arm goes around Martha's shoulders. He pushes her head down, covering her with his own body and shaking so hard she's afraid he's going to vibrate right out of the protective field.
Martha doesn't breathe, trying to keep still enough for both of them. The humming sound is right over their heads for a second, an hour, a lifetime, until she's ready to scream--and then it's fainter and finally it's gone. Still, Hobson doesn't let her up until the cat yowls and bats at their legs. They unfold and stand, and he fixes her with a look that goes right into her, a look that sees her, the kind of look no one's given her in a very long time.
"Who are you?"
It's a fair question, but Martha's not sure she knows the answer. "Just a storyteller," she tells him, keeping her voice even, "who's trying to bring you home."
He looks through the gaping holes that used to be doorways, to the ruin of a city. There's a hollow note in his voice, one that takes her back to an alley in New New York, where the Doctor told her about Gallifrey and the Time War. "That's not Chicago. It's not home anymore."
For the first time since she left the Doctor, she wants to slap someone and hug him at the same time. "Maybe you have to make it into a home again. But you can do that."
To her shock, he nods, and his expression softens into a different kind of fear. "If they're alive--will she even know me?"
Martha's had the same thought. If she ever sees her family again, will they recognize who she was in the person she's become? Will the Doctor? But she's done what she's had to in order to survive; they all have. "Of course she will. I knew you from her story, didn't I?"
He slumps against a table, rubs a hand over his face. "Yeah, I'm a story. It's like none of it was real, what came before--before they showed up."
"It was real." Martha tries to believe the words that are coming out of her mouth, so that he'll believe it, too. "One day soon, it's going to be real again."
* * * * *
They wait until nightfall to travel any further into the city, hoping the Toclafane patrol has moved on. By moonlight, they make their way toward the middle of the city, to the river and its sunken pillars that stick up like drowned stone trees. Once she finds the right spot--"The Franklin-Orleans Bridge used to be here," Hobson tells her, but Martha recognizes the Y-bend in the river--she finds the building with the white graffiti, the cross in the circle that marks the alley Luisa showed her.
Down in the sewer, she uses her torch to find the same white symbol every few hundred meters; it marks the way through the turns Luisa seemed to know by heart. Martha can't shake the feeling that it's far, far too quiet, nothing more than dripping water and their cautious footsteps--she can even hear the cat's paws as it pads along next to them. She tries to tell herself that it's just because she's accompanied by Hobson's tense silence instead of Luisa's chatter, but the farther they go without hearing any sounds but their own, the more her heart sinks.
It drops to her toes when they come across a pile of plywood, and she recognizes the boards that delineated the sleeping alcoves and the dining room. The shower curtains are gone, as are the ramshackle tables and chairs, the stove and the generator--everything. Every sign of them, except for the white cross in the circle on one wall, and a few broken boards.
"I'm sorry." She can't bear to look at Hobson, but she has to. "I'm so sorry, they were here--"
He turns in a circle, taking it in. The light from his lantern catches a paper airplane, and Martha picks it up. It's been stepped on and its nose is crumpled, but she recognizes Max's work.
"They're still alive," Hobson says, but without a shred of hope. "Or at least they were when they went away. I've seen hideouts raided by the Toclafane and there's a lot more--there's a lot more left than this."
"You're right. The food supplies are gone, the furniture--maybe they just moved on."
Hobson sets his jaw. "Or maybe they were rounded up for the camps."
"Not without a fight, not that lot. They went somewhere on their own." She runs the torch beam over all the walls, looking for a sign to tell where they went. "We need to find a resistance outpost. They might know what happened, especially if Luisa's around."
"I've had it with mights and ifs." Hobson swoops down and scoops up the cat by the scruff of its neck, dangling it in front of him so their noses touch. "Listen, you flea-bitten sack of fur, I'll never make another kibble run again, ever, unless you show me where they are. Got it?"
The cat swipes at his nose, and he drops it. Without a backward glance, the cat heads off toward the end of the tunnel, then turns down a side tunnel so low Martha has to duck to get through it. "You really believe your cat knows where they are?"
Behind her, bent nearly double, Hobson swings his lantern so the light pours into the turnoff. "Just follow the meows."
* * * * *
It's long past the middle of the night, and Marissa can't sleep. These new quarters are dank and musty, so far underground that she half expects they'll find magma on the next level.
The fact there may not be a next level for them to go to is part of what keeps her awake. Crumb's snores through the thin particle board that sections off their rooms don't help.
She checks on the watch stationed at the entrance. It's Max and Jill tonight. They offer her cold tea and black humor about how many Toclafane it takes to change a light bulb.
"Five," Max says. "One to hold the bulb, and the rest to buzz around until the room starts spinning." Marissa tells him to keep working on it.
There's a candle burning in Whitney's room; she's just finished feeding the baby. Marissa takes Gaddy for a walk, singing "You Are My Sunshine" into the top of her sweet-smelling head until her breath evens out and she relaxes, a warm weight on Marissa's chest. But when she tucks Gaddy back in with Whitney for the night, she's no closer to sleep herself than she was at noon.
She settles on her cot with a Braille copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It's silly and strange, but the last library raid came back with just four Braille books, and this one's the longest. So much for all those lists of desert island books and music she made with her friends over the years. When she really is exiled, it turns out she's just glad to have something, anything, to read.
She's finally dozing off, tracing the word "expelliarmus" over and over and wishing it was worth the risk to send someone for a complete edition of Shakespeare's plays, when voices drift back to her--Jill, then Max, alarmed at first, and then quieter. She can't make out exactly what they're saying, but there's another voice mixed with theirs, a female voice. Max's laugh eases the tension out of her shoulders. It must be Luisa.
She's surprised when footsteps start down the hall almost immediately; she's on her own feet when they stop outside her curtain.
Not Luisa at all. She pulls the curtain open. "Martha? What are you doing here?" There's someone else just behind Martha: male, ragged breath, shuffling feet. She fights panic. "What's wrong?"
"Not a thing," Martha says, and there's a note in her voice that's almost joyous. "I found...a friend. Of yours," she adds.
In that moment, Marissa knows, and she can't breathe.
The direction of Martha's voice changes. "Go on, say something."
The noise he makes is inarticulate, guttural. There's a limp in his step that wasn't there before. The arms that wrap around her are too thin and shaking, and God only knows the last time he used the soap and shaving gel, the toothpaste and laundry detergent, that once made him smell like himself.
But it's Gary, and he's alive, and for a moment it's as though time turns in on itself and they're back at the beginning, back before he woke her up in the middle of the night to tell her to keep fighting, no matter what happened to him, back before everything went wrong. They're in the space where it's just them, and everything they know about each other, and it's all that matters.
"Or do something," Martha says wryly. "That works just as well."
When Gary's hug eases, just a bit, she reaches up and touches his stubbled cheek, feels him wince when her finger traces the too-smooth skin of a scar. "You're alive."
"Marissa," he croaks, so broken it splinters her heart. "I didn't know--they said--I thought you were gone."
"Don't worry," she chokes. "You're home now." Outside their little bubble, she hears a footstep backing away. She reaches out her hand. "Martha Jones, don't you dare leave."
"But I shouldn't--"
"Oh, yes, you should." She can't let go of Gary, so she pulls Martha into their hug. "Thank you. I don't know how, and I don't care, just--" She has to force the words past the lump in her throat. "Thank you."
Warmth wraps around her ankle and a purr vibrates up her leg. "Cat?"
Crumb's there, too, muttering about the noise--then he must see Gary, because he lets out a string of sailor's curses. And that, of all things, breaks the dam that's held her together for months, and she's laughing and crying, both at once. They all are.
For a tiny space of time, everyone she has left and everything she believes is in her own hands and arms. The moment won't last, but it's enough that it exists at all.
* * * * *
Martha moves on early the next morning, but not until she's pulled Marissa aside and told her what little she's heard of Gary Hobson's last few months. "He probably won't be the same person you knew for a long time, if ever."
"None of us are the same," Marissa says. "But you gave us a reason to believe. We'll figure the rest out from here."
Martha hugs her. "I know you will."
This time, Martha takes the bottle of rum that's offered. This time, when she leaves Chicago, she doesn't look back.
* * * * *
When the countdown starts, they make their way up from the tunnels with the rest of the survivors. Marissa isn't sure where they are, and no one tells her. The pavement is pitted and cracked, crumbling under their feet as they walk. Even Gary's careful steering can't keep her from stumbling, but he's stumbling, too--over Cat, if the indignant "meows" are any indication. Just behind them, Crumb lets out a curse every now and then.
It hardly matters, though, because after so much time in the tunnels, fresh air is a balm. Chicago doesn't smell like itself, doesn't sound like itself, doesn't feel like itself, but the breeze carries the scent of water--lake or river, she can't tell--so deep and new it's almost textured. She breathes it in as they walk to wherever it is they're going and tries to ignore the booming commands from the sky.
Gary pulls her to a stop in what feels like an open space--an intersection, maybe, or a parking lot. She can hear Max, Luisa, and Jill chatting. Gaddy cries. This is all too overwhelming and new for the baby, and for once no one tells Whitney to hush her up. It doesn't matter anymore. There's more than just their tunnel group, though Marissa can't imagine where they all came from, where they've been hiding all this time. It isn't only the command from Saxon--or whoever he is--that brings them together. Something's about to happen, something that's been coming all this endless, awful year.
And Martha told them what to do.
"Can't believe we lasted," Crumb mutters. "Took her long enough."
"It isn't Martha's fault." Marissa tells him, and he takes her hand.
"Got that right."
"Why?" Gary asks, sounding as scratchy and bitter as he did when he first came back."What was the reason for any of this?"
She can't tell him it was worth it. Nothing's worth the cost of their family and friends' lives. Nothing's worth the hell he's lived through, that they've all lived through. Nothing's worth the destruction of this city and so many others.
But there was one moment in the past year that wasn't awful, and it's what she clings to now. "Because we have to be here now, together. Because we have to believe."
Gary wraps his arm around her shoulders, and the murmur in the crowd around them swells, takes on the shape of a single word: "Doctor. Doctor." Crumb squeezes her hand to the rhythm of the chant, and a howling wind bears down upon them.
Marissa turns her face so Gary can see she's smiling when she says, with all the faith that's in her, "Martha."
"Martha Jones," Gary echoes.
The wind rips the world open, but Marissa doesn't let go.
* * * * *
After the Doctor goes on his way, after her parents and Tish relax enough to sleep for a few hours, Martha wanders through her mother's house. She's been walking so long, she doesn't know how to stop. She moves from the kitchen to the sitting room and back, pausing every now and then to watch the television news or click through online reports.
"Martha Jones, you saved the world," he said, but she has to keep reminding herself of the truth of it. The prime minister killed the president, Lucy Saxon killed her husband, and as far as the world's concerned, that was the end of it. The Toclafane never descended. Japan exists, Moscow is intact, rain forests grow in Costa Rica, and there are still, at least for now, elephants in eastern Africa. The big things are still there, and so are many of the small ones, including the people who were heroes and will never know that about themselves. Most of those she remembers, those on the list she recited to herself so she could hold to her faith in the human race, have receded back to obscurity. No one remembers Martha Jones either, and that's the way it should be.
She's clicking through the BBC News site, barely reading the half-truths and rumors that blur before her tired eyes, when one story stops her. It's a report about the new president of the United States and his history of going to great lengths to stop terrorism--lengths that make the United Nations and a dozen other world agencies decidedly uncomfortable. The video that accompanies the story shows him just after his swearing in, red-faced and shouting about vengeance for his murdered predecessor.
President Winters died. He still died. Time reversed itself and wiped out the year she'd walked Earth--but to the moment after his death. "A fixed point in time," Martha whispers. The new president is saying that Saxon didn't operate in a vacuum, and his administration will pursue every lead until they wipe those responsible from the face of the planet.
Leads, Martha thinks. Sources of information. Like a man who knew what was going to happen ahead of time.
She finds news sites from the states, specifically from Chicago. No one is naming names, but the headlines scream about conspiracies and traitors in their midst and finding out the truth by any means necessary.
The Doctor's gone, and so is the TARDIS. Her family needs her here, with them. But it isn't as though she has to walk to Chicago this time.
She rings up Torchwood, and Jack answers immediately.
"Martha Jones! Couldn't go a week without me, could you?"
"It seems not."
"Not many could. Turns out it's a good thing I'm so incredibly versatile--"
"Versatile and virile--"
"Jack!" she says, laughing in spite of herself. "Listen, I need your help."
* * * * *
Marissa reaches for her watch--again--before she remembers--again--that Agent Bowers took it from her, along with her cane, her cell phone, her jewelry, and her bag, when he escorted her into the conference room.
More like dragged her in. More like an interrogation chamber. She's not under any delusions about this; she hasn't been from the moment she walked voluntarily into the Secret Service's field office and demanded that someone tell her what had happened to Gary. Never mind that it was the British Prime Minister who assassinated President Winters; the Secret Service, the FBI, and the CIA are tracking down every whiff of a lead, and agents from each every corner of the government have been in to question her. They've expressed a great deal of interest in her and in what she knows, though her only connection is that she knows someone who came to them two days ago trying to tell them what Saxon was about to do.
She knows little more than the nothing she's told them. The paper warned Gary with the same streaky, even-earlier-than-usual headlines it sent when Marley tried to assassinate President Tyson. "But there's something more," he said when he woke her up to tell her he was going to the Secret Service. "More than just the president. Something worse, something horrible. I think a lot of people are going to die, but it starts with Saxon killing the president. If I can stop that, maybe the rest of it won't happen." She'd tried to talk him out of it; as far as the federal government was concerned, everyone was a potential suspect these days. But Gary'd said this was more than the local police could handle.
"You just keep fighting, whatever happens," he'd said, and he'd gone, and as far as Marissa could tell, whatever the "something worse" had been, it hadn't happened to the rest of the world--just to Gary. President Winters died live on global television. Gary didn't come home, and within an hour he'd vanished from every record Crumb could access.
Crumb brought her here, grumbling all the way, then went to see what his contacts in the police department could tell him. Agent Bowers took her things, sat her down, and interrupted her questions with his own and his colleagues'. It went on for hours; they gave her bathroom breaks and a sandwich, but when she said she wanted to make a phone call or have an attorney present they lectured her about the Patriot Act. Then, what seems like another hour ago, they left her alone in this small room with its metallic furniture and close walls.
She wonders if she's going to disappear, digitally and otherwise, just like Gary. At this point, she's almost too frightened to consider what might have become of him.
"He wanted to stop it," she yells to whoever's listening. Somebody must be listening. "Locking us up now won't change the fact that you should have believed him in the first place!"
There's no answer. She pushes away from the table and gropes her way to the door. It's metal, solid, and locked. She gives it a frustrated kick, but no one comes. She slumps into a chair on the agents' side of the table and starts singing under her breath as a way to mark time and keep herself grounded, pop songs and church songs and anything that comes into her head. Halfway through "Summertime", the door slams open.
That voice does not belong to any of the previous agents. It's too young, too cheerful, too--
He sweeps down on her, a swish of wool and really expensive cologne, and kisses her hand. "What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?"
--far too cheesy.
"Captain Jack Harkness at your service." She wonders who he's really addressing; his voice must be broadcasting clear down the hall, where she can hear the agents murmuring. He gives her hand a tug and she stands. He whispers, "Torchwood. Martha Jones. Ring any bells?"
She shakes her head, wondering if this is all some new interrogation trick.
"Doesn't matter." He puts on his theatrical voice again and hands her a cane--her cane. And her purse. "By order of a higher authority than anyone in these parts, I've come to take you away from all this."
"But--where--" Is this a trap? She pulls her hand out of his. "I'm not going anywhere until someone tells me what's happened to Gary Hobson."
"Hobson? Hobson...hmm..." He actually snaps his fingers, playing this for all it's worth. "Got it. Tall, rugged good looks, dark hair? Oh, wait, that's me. But there is a guy waiting outside who keeps asking about his cat. These gentlemen--and ladies--are done with him, and with you." He takes her hand again, tucks it into his elbow. "Come on, let's blow this popsicle stand."
She shouldn't trust him. He's more smarmy than Chuck at his Hollywood worst. But there's something solid under all that bluster--and he knows about Gary, and Cat. She'd rather follow him into the unknown than spend another minute in this room. So she goes with him, down to the first floor and outside. The city-tainted air feels downright fresh after so many hours in the interrogation room, though the breeze makes her shiver.
Captain Jack Harkness is a horrible guide, pulling her along with an arm hooked through her elbow without a word of description or warning and tripping over her cane when she tries to check the path ahead. "What are you a captain of, exactly?"
He laughs. "Not a whole lot, these days. You can call me Jack."
His non-answer, and the way he's dragging her toward a rushing cacophony of traffic, scare Marissa back to her senses. She stops and pulls her arm free, fully aware of the pedestrians behind them and cars in front of them--they must be right at the curb of some busy street, but she doesn't know which street and she does not know this man. "Who are you?"
"I told you," he says with overtones of both amusement and disappointment, "Martha Jones sent me."
She jumps back when a car door swings open, so close she can feel the swoosh of air. "But who's--"
"Marissa?" Gary gives her quick hug, then shakes her shoulders. "What are you doing here?"
She hasn't caught her breath yet, so it comes out in a gasp. "You--trying to find you. Are you all right?"
"He's fine." Jack draws out the last word, and Gary's fingers go stiff on Marissa's shoulders. "Got him out in one good-looking--and incredibly uptight--piece. And we should get out of here, before someone in that building remembers to come looking for you two."
"Why would they forget?" Marissa asks, but doesn't get an answer.
"Cab's right here." Gary guides her in with a familiar touch and gives the driver McGinty's address. "You shouldn't have come," he says in a hoarse undertone, but he weaves his fingers through hers and squeezes tight.
"What did you expect me to do?"
Gary scoots closer with a grunt, until Marissa's pushed up against the door. "You could sit up front, you know," Gary says.
"This is cozier, isn't it?" Jack says from the other end of the seat. "I'm guessing you don't want the driver to hear when you tell me all about that newspaper of yours."
"Uh..." Gary begins, and Marissa would laugh at how hopelessly lost he sounds, if she didn't feel just as confused herself--and if she wasn't convinced that Jack is enjoying this far too much.
"Don't worry," she tells Gary. "We're going home."
* * * * *
"Knew you'd get him out." Crumb puts a cup of coffee in front of Marissa and slides one in Gary's direction.
"It wasn't me." Marissa tilts her head toward Jack Harkness, who's having an animated phone conversation a little ways down the bar, something about databases and terrorism watch lists and...yetis. Cat's down there, too, purring so loudly she can hear him.
"Still," Crumb grouses, "there's something weird about that guy. How'd he cut through that much anti-terrorist red tape? Not that the two of you are terrorists, but you know what I mean."
"I don't know." Marissa sips at the coffee, which is laced with cream and Bailey's. Trust Crumb to get it right. "He just waltzed in and pulled me out."
"Waltzed?" Crumb lets out a snort. "Figures, with that one."
"They were talking Guantanamo," Gary mutters, "and then they--they stopped, and he put me in a cab."
Marissa gulps and reaches for his hand. "Gary, they wouldn't have--"
"Winters is dead." He's sitting too still, and there's that awful, half-gone note he gets in his voice when he can't save everyone he reads about in the paper. She wonders how long the recovery will take this time. "There's not a whole lot they wouldn't have done."
"Well then, thank God he showed up, whoever he is."
"Actually, you can thank Martha Jones." Jack is suddenly at her elbow. "What's your oldest Scotch? Neat," he says when Crumb clonks a bottle on the bar.
Marissa's tired, confused, and angry that her own country's responsible for what she's been through, what Gary's been through. She wants answers from someone about something. "Jack, please, who's Martha Jones? And for that matter, what's Torchwood, and what does any of this have to do with yetis?"
"Ah, well, Martha Jones, she's..." Jack gulps his drink loudly. "She's the head of an international...humanitarian organization. Spends a lot of time saving the world. Started out as a doctor, from what I hear tell." He chuckles, but none of them join in. "Anyway, as I said, you can thank her. Literally!"
Marissa hears him pushing buttons on his cell phone. She's pretty sure Jack doesn't do anything quietly if he can help it.
"Martha Jones! Yes...well, yes, of course...ah, I see Tosh called you first. Nope, smooth as silk, and she'll clear up the computer records. Those guys aren't going to come looking for Hobson again. Someone wants to say hello." He presses the phone into Marissa's hand.
At Marissa's uncertain greeting, a warm British voice comes across the crackling line. Cell phone connections have been a mess since the Archangel Network went down. "Marissa, is that you? I've waited a long time to hear your voice."
"You have? I mean--thank you. Captain Harkness--"
"Jack!" he stage-whispers at her elbow. This conversation is too crowded. She slides off the bar stool and heads for a corner table.
"Jack said we can thank you for getting Gary and I released."
"I'm merely returning a favor," she says. It's possible she's someone Gary's saved, somewhere along the line, but Marissa's sure she'd remember this voice, this person Jack Harkness so obviously wants her to remember. "From what I understand, Gary Hobson needs his friends. Especially you."
"Doctor Jones." She doesn't sound offended; in fact, Marissa would swear she's laughing, and déjà-vu tickles the back of her neck. It only grows stronger when Cat jumps into her lap, purring and butting against the hand that's holding the phone. "But Martha's even better."
"Martha. It's just--this is all very strange. Jack won't tell us a thing--not about anything that matters. He keeps changing the subject."
"Flirted with you already, has he?"
"And Gary. Possibly the cat." She tunes in to the conversation going on across the room, adding, mostly to herself, "I hope he knows better to try that on Crumb."
"Now that I would love to see," Martha says with another laugh, as if she knows Crumb.
Maybe it's because she's so worn out; maybe it's because every instinct is telling her to trust the mysterious Martha Jones. Whatever the reason, Marissa blurts out, "You should come see it. You're welcome here, any time you like."
"In a few months, maybe. I'd like to see Chicago again, but I have people to take care of here. I know you understand."
Again? Marissa gives up on trying to figure out any of this. "When you do come to Chicago, drinks--everything--is on me. On us. It's on the house." Even their eighteen-year-old St. Magdalene Scotch is worth it, if it means Gary's just behind her, laughing nervously with Jack and Crumb, instead of in prison, or worse. "You will come, won't you?"
"I'll be there. You can count on it," Martha says, and Marissa believes her.