It doesn't compute. You stand on the lip of the hole in the ground that used to be Torchwood and peer over the edge... and your brain just won't take it all in.
They didn't call. Everything that happened and they didn't even call you. And sure, you were on your honeymoon, but they had to have known you would have dropped everything and come running.
You were in your hotel room in Egypt, standing on the little balcony with a hot, sweet coffee in your hand, laughing as you explained to Tom that the Sphinx lost its nose to general wear and tear whereas the missing right earlobe was a much more interesting story. You were halfway through telling him about the alien race who had persuaded the ancient Egyptians to build the pyramids (which actually doubled up as parallel vortex generators, which would have been very bad news for the structural integrity of the Earth's crust if they'd ever been activated) and how a mistimed disintegrator blast saved the day but destroyed an earlobe, and why it's very, very important to drop instantly to the ground if anybody ever yells "Duck!" in the middle of a fire fight... when you glanced down at the street below and noticed the children.
They'd all stopped.
You switched on the TV and read between the lines. The children were all speaking in English, repeating those awful words, over and over. You knew you needed to get home. You knew it was bad, really, really bad, because there are some things worse than the end of the world.
There are some things that can tear people apart from the inside.
You expected your phone to ring, shrill and insistent, calling you home. You expected to be busy with flights, hurried discussions and barked orders, and a whole lot of telling Tom not to worry, but the phone stayed silent and your calls weren't getting through.
All flights were grounded. Flashing your UNIT and even your Torchwood credentials did no good. Neither organisation held sway with the Egyptian government, and there was nobody pulling strings for you on the other end to get you home.
Nobody had the time to listen to an English tourist, and you got lost in the crowd. You were left watching from the sidelines, half a world away, a lead weight in your stomach and a German voice repeating over and over in your head, telling you sometimes you can't win, no matter what you do.
You and Tom did what you could on the ground to help, and you made a difference, you know you did, even in the dark days, in the face of mass panic, but you never quite found it in your heart to forgive them for not calling you home.
You wait, and it isn't long before Jack leaves. You know what happened, you read the official report, and somehow it was worse seeing it like that, spelled out in black and white. You've seen Jack low before. You've seen him miserable and bloodied and even dead, but you've never seen him broken.
He says his goodbyes and he hitches a ride to the stars. It feels like the end of the story, but you know better than anyone else that Jack goes on. You know how his story ends.
Gwen is heartbroken. Rhys isn't happy about it, but for once he lets her grieve without voicing his displeasure at being on the periphery of yet another crisis with Jack Harkness at the centre of it. You can see that the way Gwen feels about Rhys has changed. It's matured and mellowed and she loves him with her whole heart, but that doesn't mean she doesn't love Jack, too.
You're in their flat when her waters break. There's a lot of shouting and swearing trying to get Gwen out the door and into the waiting taxi. She's in labour for twelve hours and you're there for every minute of it. When he first lays eyes on his son, Rhys can't speak. He opens and closes his mouth but no sound comes out. You hold his son in your arms and you tell him his daddy looks like a goldfish. Rhys laughs and cries and laughs some more. He and Gwen hold hands and smile at their son and it feels like the beginning of a new story.
They name him Ianto Jack Owen Williams and ask you to be godmother. He's tiny and wrinkled and he doesn't have the first clue how amazing and terrible his life is going to be. You don't hesitate for even a second before saying, "Yes."
You wait, and you live your life. You travel and you work and you do all the things you promised yourself you'd do before you turned forty. You do them all with Tom and you're so glad you found him, even if he doesn't remember the day you first met. It's the one story you're never going to have the courage to tell him.
Tom is a good man. He's sweet and strong and patient and sometimes you can't stand the sight of him.
"Here," you say, pointing at the paper. "Mel Gibson's Hamlet is on. We could order in. Have a night on the sofa for once."
"You want to watch... Hamlet?" He laughs and your jaw tightens because condescending isn't a good look on him. "No, Martha. It's pronounced Hamnet."
You hate him a little bit inside that moment, for all the things he was and isn't any longer, for all the things he'll never know, and for the man he can never be. You hate the Doctor more, because for all the adventures he promised you, all the good and wonderful things you did when you stood at his side, you can count the number of times you actually had fun on one hand.
Having Shakespeare flirt with you, that was one of the few.
You still wonder what on earth it was that you or the Doctor could have said to make him change his mind about the name of his most famous play.
Tom brings you a cup of tea and you gulp it too quickly, burning the roof of your mouth, and you think that maybe you deserve it. Tom sits beside you on the sofa, puts his arm around you, and hands you the remote control.
Tom is a good man. He's innocent and forgiving and he worries about you, and sometimes you love him so much you can't breathe.
You wait, and you work with UNIT for a while, trying to improve them from the inside, because somebody has to do it. Torchwood is gone for good. The official word is that it's been shut down, but you know better. Torchwood might go on under another name, they might be a little better at actually managing to be a secret organisation this time around, but you're sure that they will go on.
There's too much knowledge there, too much history, too much at stake to leave the planet defenceless. People understand that now. Everyday people, the world over, just trying to their lives, and they've all seen it. That can never be undone. You just worry that they've only seen the horrors that live out there in the infinite universe. That they have no perception of the wonders and the beauty that there is and has been and has yet to come, balancing out all that black despair.
You get promoted. You get promoted again. Your paycheque is obscene and you know eight of the ten greatest secrets kept by Downing Street. Everybody calls you ma'am and they keep trying to salute no matter how many times you tell them not to. You still don't carry a gun, but everybody else does.
The day you realise you can't remember what it felt like not to carry this terrible weight on your shoulders, you quit. You're a doctor. You want to heal people. So you get a position at a hospital. Something with long hours where the bulk of your job is actually working with the sick. You walk the halls thinking about humanoid cats and a hospital that could cure any disease. You think about the surface of the moon, and every once in a while you let yourself think about genetic transfer and what an incredibly crap excuse it was for a snog.
You're there when the cure for cancer is discovered.
Unfortunately the cure involves cannibalising alien technology that requires a traumatic and ultimately fatal procedure where the life force is sucked out of one of the patient's immediate family members and used to resequence the patient's DNA.
You destroy the research and you watch as the facility burns to the ground. The doctor who'd been secretly working on the project leaves you with a black eye and a cracked rib, and the indelible memory of his test subjects lined up on gurneys in his lab, their faces hidden under white sheets. You left him inside the building, locked in the lab, so you figure you're even.
They don't manage to pin the fire on you, but the board decides you are no longer fit to carry out your duties and you lose your job anyway.
You never work as a doctor again.
You wait, and you can feel your body growing older, year by year. Tom is sixty-two when he dies in his sleep. It's cancer that takes him.
You never had any children, so you're alone in your house the evening after the funeral. You don't let anyone stay with you. You don't cry. You keep to your routine.
Tuesday evenings you go to bridge club. It's a bit of a jaunt to get there, but you can afford the taxi fare and it's always worth the trip. One of the other members has long, red hair shot through with grey. She has a big mouth and a bigger heart and you know that she was once the most important person in all of creation, even if she doesn't.
Wednesday evenings is the weekly phone call with Gwen. Rhys is always half in and half out of the conversation, sometimes on the extension in the other room, sometimes just butting into the conversation when he feels he's being talked about. Ianto's baby is due any day now. They're expecting a girl this time, and Gwen is over the moon about being a grandmother for the third time. Rhys complains about his wallet and his knees and all the babysitting they're going to end up doing, but you know how much he loves his family and he loves being a granddad more than anything.
Thursday mornings you go online and chat with Mr Smith for an hour or so, keeping an eye on the latest incarnation of a certain unnameable secret organisation, separate from the government, outside the police, beyond the United Nations, and hell-bent on protecting the Earth from any and all alien threats.
Sunday afternoons you go to the park and sit on the little bench by the pond and feed the ducks. It was always fun before, but doing it by yourself just makes you feel old and foolish, and after the second week, you stop taking the little bag of stale bread with you.
Tuesday and Friday mornings is a trip into town to do the shopping. You keep buying too much food for one person and end up having to throw half of it away.
Everybody asks you how you're doing, if you're okay. You tell them all that you're fine. You're doing just fine.
Three weeks after the funeral, you're standing at the sink, washing Tom's favourite blue mug and it slips out of your hands, smashing at your feet. Your vision blurs and you fall to your knees. You cry until you think your chest will crack open.
You wait and you wait and you wait, and when you finally hear it, you're sure your ears are playing tricks on you. Your heart thumps hard and fast against your ribs, and it's joy, it's fear, it's hope.
The TARDIS appears right in your living room, tucked neatly in the corner, not even rucking the carpet. It flashes into existence, the door opens with a creak, and there he is.
"Martha Jones," he says.
"Doctor," you reply, and you can't help it: there are tears in your eyes and your smile is so huge it hurts.
"You look just as beautiful as ever."
"Don't talk soft. I'm an old woman. And look at you in your bowtie and your new face. I could be your grandmother."
"And what an interesting quirk of time and genetics that would be," he grins.
"Why are you here?"
"Ah," he says. "I find myself in need of a doctor."
Suddenly it's all too much and your smile wavers. You're too old; you're too used to being sad and having everything you fought so hard to hold onto disappear like sand through your fingers. You've been alone such a long, long time.
"Now, now," he says, coming closer. "None of that." He touches a knuckle to your cheek and lifts away a tear.
"You're too late," you say, feeling like a bitter old woman, but you feel like you're holding your entire life -- everything you are, everything you've ever done -- in the palm of your hand. It's your whole life and it's almost over and he's just too late. "You weren't there when I needed you, and now you've come just to say goodbye, just to make yourself feel better."
You're in your armchair by the window where you like to sit in the afternoons so you can look down over the park. He crouches down to your level and his eyes are soft as he looks you over.
"That's not true," he says. "And I'm certainly not here for goodbyes. I know a place that can help you, if you want. It's far, far away." He smiles gently, and you know he's teasing you, just a little. "Run by cats, if you please."
It stirs up memories so bright and sharp it stabs your chest with phantom pain, but it's all so far out of your reach that it feels like another life. The old you would have pulled a face, waiting for the punch-line. These days you know better. You've known better for longer than you care to remember.
"You wouldn't," you say. "Giving me a do-over, that's cheating. Kind of like messing with your precious rules of time, isn't it? Besides, what if I don't want to?"
"Oh, but you do," he says, and it's with that look on his face. The one that fills you with joy and dread. The one that makes him look older than any man has a right to. "Besides. I need you. It's important. I wouldn't ask otherwise." He holds out his hand. "Will you come with me?"
It could be absolutely anything. It could be an intergalactic war. It could be the end of time or the beginning of it. It could be running through the streets of London with a bow and arrow, hunting leprechauns. It could be an every-virus that was never meant to be. It could be a city that covers an entire planet. It could be flying whales that sing their songs under the light of two suns. It could be dinosaurs, skyscrapers built by Daleks, or it could be the inherent evil of man. It could be the most impossible, illogical thing in all of existence.
It could be all of these things or none of these things, but the Doctor said it was important.
He said he needs you.
You take his hand, and he smiles that huge, glorious smile of his, and it makes your heart swell. It makes you young again.
"I'll come," you say. "But no running."