The Year That Never Was: Five

It took a year.

The Master pursued Martha around the world, following traces of her but always one step behind. She was his target, always in his mind and sight, and he forgot that there were others that would move against him.

With Ianto's help the plan had worked. Martha walked while they worked behind the scenes. The tech he had left them kept them safe and hidden as they moved against the Master.

At times Owen unfavourably thought of them as pawns on a chessboard that Ianto had already moved into position before he left the game, leaving the remains of Torchwood Three to win the game on their own. He thought this on the days when Gwen or Tosh (or Gwen and Tosh) shivered through the dark nights with illness and tears.

Ianto may have protected them from discovery but he couldn't protect them from the elements, from disease, from their own human frailty. Gwen had been wounded, one small cut from a Tolcafane as they tried to move a group of refugees out of Cardiff, and it had become infected. Seeing the way they cut down people without discrimination made Owen worry, wondering just what was lurking on those little blades.

And, as he watched Gwen get sicker and sicker, he thought that maybe a quick death would have been better.

But he never forgot, not totally, those who had worked with his so, those Torchwood people who were guilty of far greater crimes then standing against him. Harkness paid daily, hourly, with blood and burns and screams at first, and later with silence. But even as he slated his thirst for revenge with the freak the Master did not forget.

After Gwen died, buried shallowly in tilled earth, Tosh and Owen separated. Neither truly wanted to, both wanted to cling to what they had left, they knew that it was more dangerous to be together than to separate.

Tosh was smuggled out of the country, moving towards Japan, where a group of other tech geniuses were gathered with diagnostics of the Valiant, intel on the rocket sites, and plans were being made of how to bring them all down. It would have worked, the people brilliant and the ideas sound, and Tosh would go and bring the word of the Doctor to them. She arrived in Japan safely.

But the Master knew. The Master was waiting.

Saxon, in all his glory, flanked by an army of UNIT soldiers and Tolcafane had waltzed himself into their bunker. In all swaggering glory he waved an arm and his little friends cut down the scientists, shredded flesh and electronics until the room was blanketed in a red haze that was equally of iron and flame.

Tosh, untouched, stood in the middle of the massacre and faced the Master squarely.

The Master's most prized possession was sitting in the chair when Japan was torched, it was whispered. Rumours were that for the first time in weeks the small face showed emotion; that for a moment there was a flinch that not even another viewing of Harkness's death could produce anymore.

When their Master returned to the Valiant, jaunty smile on his face and the scent of blood and smoke trailing him, that little face turned towards him.

When the larger knelt before the smaller, handing him a small cylinder object, metal and worn and still dripping with red, those little eyes welled with tears.

When the elder leaned in and whispered, "I wish I could she died with dignity and honour, blah blah blah, but really no one is dignified when they're dying," a small sound escaped from the child.

Those watching later whispered about the tears that ran down the elderly man's face as he observed it all.

Owen had stayed in Cardiff, hidden in the beacons at first, then later (after Gwen, after Tosh) he didn't care. He returned to the city. He returned to the Hub. Let them come, he thought. Let them come because he had nothing left.

Out of all of them Owen was the one who survived the longest. It wasn't for lack of trying. Death never seemed to come for him. Fucking irony.

It was there that he met Rhys Williams and Andy Davis.

Ianto had sequestered them, gave them instructions on how to get into the Hub (the same way he smuggled Lisa in) The Master had never come, after taking Ianto away. He hadn't needed a reason when all of Torchwood had fled. They needed a doctor, they told him, and while he may have laughed and cursed bitterly, it felt good to be needed again.

To be useful again.

It was from there that they aided Martha, helped her get back into Britain when the time came, when time was ticking down (soon, soon it would be finished one way or the other) and it was Owen that went to set the final pieces into place.

A fallen Tolcafane. A weapon finally ready. A spy with the right information.

It took a year for all things to come together, for the word of the Doctor to gather strength and pass from person to person, to reach all edges of the earth. It took a year for Martha to spread her message, to leave and return home, and finally to face the Master. It took a year of agony and fear, or tears and despair, and finally of hope to end it.

All that remembered that time thought of it as The Year That Never Was.