Persistence of Memory

by ChristinaK [Reviews - 8]

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  • All Ages
  • Swearing
  • Crossover

Author's Notes:
See Chapter 1 for disclaimers and spoilers.

July, 2007:

"Don't go looking for her," Missouri cautioned Sam over the phone. "Don't go looking for a way to find her, neither. She found you. If she needs to, she'll find you again."

"I just want to know how she knew about this," Sam protested, pacing out the edge of the 7-11 parking lot. "I have to know if the informant is on our side, Missouri. I can't take this on faith. It's too important."

"I tried looking for you. But whoever, or whatever's behind this… You don't want to know about it." As ever, Missouri's voice got steely when challenged. "You can't unknow what you'll find out if you go looking. And it won't make a difference. Either the ritual is real, or it isn't. The source doesn't matter."

"What do you mean, I don't want to know? Come on, Missouri. I'm not some little kid. You can't protect me from knowing there are things that go bump in the night. I'm way too old for that and I know too much already." He grimaced, shielding his eyes against the glare of the sunlight off the asphalt of the parking lot.

"I'm saying that this whole chance might be compromised if you go looking, Sam. 'Cause something might look back at you." Her sigh traveled down the phone wires like a finger down his spine. "Someone broke a rule for you. For good or bad. That's all I'm getting, no matter how hard I look. And that the results are none too solid. But if that gets noticed, the whole thing disappears. Do you understand?"

"I'm not sure." He frowned, stopping at the edge of the road. "Are you saying…what? It won't count? The ritual won't work, if I draw attention to this? Or I'll forget it, and the book will disappear somehow?"

"Something like that," Missouri confirmed. "Wish I could tell you more, hon. But I know better than to poke at soap bubbles. They just pop." She shook her head. "Dean hasn't caught on?"

"Not yet. He still thinks I'm looking. I had another fight with him about this yesterday, and he didn't act like he had a clue." Sam turned to look back toward the convenience store, and saw Dean leaving it, arms full of junk food as he headed toward the car. "Okay. I'll let it go. For now. But if you hear something, if you see something, and it won't mess this up--"

"I'll be calling," Missouri confirmed. "You keep that brother of yours out of any more trouble, you hear?"

"Like that's ever easy." Sam smiled as he walked to the car, though. "Take care of yourself, Missouri."

December, 2007:

"Miss Jones? Can I speak with you? Privately."

It was the taller, much less flirty Winchester, Sam. Martha resigned herself to one of Those Conversations, and said, "Certainly. Lead the way."

Those Conversations were inevitable when you had a bunch of skeptical people together. The scared ones living on the fringes, just getting by, they grabbed onto her plan like a life preserver in a hurricane. The ones who were fighting back, and thought they had a better idea, well.... It wasn't even that some of them didn't have good ideas. But if Martha were to enact every single one of the plans other people had come up with, she'd need at least fifteen copies of herself to send back to the *Valiant*. Just impossible.

This was her plan: walking and teleporting and traveling the world to spread the message. She could only do what she was qualified for. She wasn't a hitwoman, a soldier, or an aeronautics engineer. If other people beat her to defeating the Master, so much the better. But that was their lookout. She wished it was time to leave already, that the boat to Panama had already arrived. No such luck.

The least she could do, though, was repay them with the courtesy of listening. Maybe pass along a message down the line to someone else who could make a different plan work better. That's all she ever committed to during these chats.

So she followed Sam Winchester down a corridor, and up a rickety staircase leading to a metal landing the size of a very small room, one which he and his brother must have appropriated as their own. Two sleeping bags were rolled up and shoved against the edge of the platform, and other small essentials were arranged with military precision around the edge. By contrast, one corner was a mess of papers, photographs, and binders. A lantern hung above them, and Sam moved over to light the oil wick, then carefully replace the shield, hanging it from a hook on the wall of the shaft just over his head.

"What d’you want to talk about?" Martha asked, leaning back against the railing, trying not to feel defensive. It got old, this. But it was better to agree to listen and avoid alienating anyone who could help.

Now that they were alone, Sam didn't seem to want to start. He leaned against the railing across from Martha, face shadowed by the light from the lantern. He couldn't meet her eyes, and kept glancing downward to the corridor below them. Sound echoed strangely in the shaft, and she could hear Dean's voice talking to someone in the distance, but couldn't make out the words.

"You said," Sam said abruptly, one hand fidgeting with the corner of his jacket, "that there was a possibility that this year would be erased. Because of the paradox machine. No guarantees, but it might happen. If it does, won't everything start over again?" He jerked his gaze up to hers finally, shoulders tense. "If we get a re-set button, what's to stop the Master from trying this again?"

"The device he adapted into a paradox machine won't be easily changed to do this again. Once we break the modifications, the Toclafane will be gone. And he gets arrested for murdering the President of the United States on live television, if he's not shot while trying to escape." Martha met his eyes with all the reassurance she could give him. "After that, he's the Doctor's problem."

"Won't we all forget, though? All this--" He swept his hand in front of him in a violent curve, and Martha was suddenly aware of his height, the muscle lying underneath the slouch. "All the death, all the devastation. Does that just go away?"

"Maybe?" Martha shrugged helplessly. "I hope so. If it doesn't, we have to rebuild the world from scratch. But if it does... well. Isn't that the best thing?"

She'd learned so much in the last year. Some of it she'd give anything not to know. But she wasn't sure she meant it, that she wanted to lose it all. She couldn't think about that, though, because it was out of her hands. Saving the world came first. Saving her sanity and memory, and everyone else's, came second.

"Is there even a chance that you'll remember?" Sam asked, looking away again, voice tight with intensity. "Or anyone will? Your friend the Doctor, will he remember, if all of this gets undone?"

"I don't know. Maybe." Martha frowned. "I'd guess yes, but there's no way to know before-hand. Why do you ask?" Sam's jaw set; whatever was bothering him seemed to be only slightly less important to him than the defeat of the Toclafane and the Master. "Sam?"

"Dean's going to be dead in five months." Sam closed his eyes for a second, then opened them to watch her reaction. "Whether we win or not."

"I'm sorry." Martha winced, feeling the huge inadequacy of the words. Wondered again where Leo was, and if he was all right. Couldn't bear to think of the rest of her family, not in public, not where anyone could see. "So sorry."

Sam nodded, crossing his arms and hugging himself. "The thing is, if anyone remembers this, there might be a way to save him. I know one person's life doesn't mean much compared to the whole world, but--" He stopped, swallowing hard. "He's my brother. It's my fault. And it's more than his life, it's his soul."

"How d'you mean, his soul?" Martha shivered, and stuck her hands under her armpits, feeling the chill of the passageway more sharply as Sam spoke. "And how can it be your fault he's going to die?" She'd thought he'd meant cancer, or AIDS; something untreatable in the post-Valiant Earth, even if Dean was without symptoms now. But the grimness of Sam's expression went beyond thoughts of illness and slow death.

"I got killed seven months ago." Sam's eyes were fixed on her with unnerving seriousness, maybe waiting for her to object. Martha stayed silent, waiting. "Knifed in the gut. I was dead for more than half a day, and then Dean made a deal with a demon." He pushed a hand through his hair, jaw clenching. "His soul for my life. Payable in one year.
The debt comes due at the end of May. Then they come for him, and he goes to Hell." His hands tightened into fists again; wanting to punch something, Martha guessed, feeling sick. "Unless someone stops it."

"I don't-- I wouldn't even know what to do, even if it all worked, and we could reverse time--"

"I wouldn't expect you to," Sam broke in, leaning forward. "I already know what I'd need to do to make it work. I just can't do it now, when we're stuck running and hiding every minute of the day. But if I had a do-over, and a year to fix it--" He spread his hands, then let them drop. "You've got family. You know what it's like." He took a breath. "Please. If you remember, can you just… call me? Or send me a letter, let me know so I can figure it out? If this year starts over, maybe I'd have the time, but never find the clues to solve the problem before the deadline. I know you've got a lot to think about, a lot to do, but...."

"Hell. The real Hell." Martha stared at him, rattled to find there were still some limits to her imagination. "You really believe that something would take Dean off to fire and brimstone and all that."

"It happened to my dad." Sam turned away, fiddling with the lamp to hide whatever expression was on his face. "He made a deal to save Dean's life. He ended up there a year, and then a gate to Hell was opened, and all these demons escaped. And so did Dad. We got to say good-bye...." He leaned on the railing, his back to her. "I just want the same shot at saving Dean."

Martha's first instinct was to say 'of course'. Because it wouldn't cost her anything, because whether it was true or not, Sam believed it, because she still didn't know if her own brother was dead or alive. She opened her mouth to agree, then stopped, remembering the Doctor, the first day they met.

Crossing into established events is strictly forbidden. Except for cheap tricks.

"Hang on. It might...." It might be wrong. It might mess up the timeline. It might undo all the good that fixing the Master and the paradox would create.

Martha looked at Sam's face, seeing a different desperation from the kind she was used to, but desperation all the same. Worse, even. Life was one thing. Eternal life was entirely different. She didn't know what she believed any more, but she wasn't going to
second-guess anyone else's certainties while her own were so tenuous.

She'd just have to be careful. Figure out what she could do, and exactly what she could say. And maybe that wouldn’t be much, but… no reason to tell him that.

"Might what?" Sam was studying her with hope just beginning to start in his eyes.

Martha shook her head. "Nothing." She looked up at Sam. "'Course I will. July, 2007. Day after this whole mess started. I'll be giving you a call. You just tell me what to say before I go, and I'll pass it on."

"Thanks," Sam whispered. "Miss Jones-- Martha, just... thanks." He leaned against the railing, almost swaying with sudden relief. "We're going to spread the word. Push it for all we're worth." He paused, looking down on her, dimples showing around the edges of his mouth. "I'll believe in you, even if I can't believe in this Doctor guy."

"He's worth believing in, really he is." Martha smiled back up at him. "Keeps me going, knowing that."

"Are you and he...?" Sam quirked an eyebrow, and Martha laughed before she could stop herself, then shrugged, putting up her usual front.

"Nah. We're not like that. Friends. Best friends." She could hear Dean's voice more clearly now, telling Jo to be careful on patrol; Jo's response was only a blur of amusement from behind a wall. "I miss him."

She could ignore how much she wanted her Mum and Dad most of the time, and how scared she was for Tish; she never talked about them. But every time she gave her
speech, she had to think of the Doctor, trapped in that old man's body, stuck with the Master tormenting him for fun, and wonder if this was the day the Master got bored, and finally ended the game.

"I'd imagine. You've been doing this for months." Sam's voice was gentle, and Martha bit her lip as she looked away. No tears. No breaking down. "The boat you're catching tomorrow. Where’s it headed?"

"Panama. Then across the Suez, to Venezuela. Cross the continent, get picked up in Chile when I double-back." She sighed, then tilted her head. "Hell of a way to see the world. Anything I should look out for down there?"

"Outside my expertise," Sam said, studying her face. Martha had to wonder what he saw. Probably not the real her any more; some mix of the stories and reality, if she was lucky. "You might run into La Llorona."

"La Llorona. Who's that, then?"

"The weeping woman." Sam's voice took on just a hint of lecturing tone, as if he'd told this story before. "She was a poor woman who killed her children when her husband, or lover, abandoned them. To save them from a life of poverty or for revenge, stories vary. And now she wanders the world, looking for them, because she can’t get into Heaven without them." He smiled a little. "Kind of like Demeter, looking for Persephone." Another hint of dimples. "Or Martha Jones, trying to save the world. You're starting to turn into a myth, you know."

"I'll be happy not to be known at all if the world's still here when I'm done. Especially if the last year just... disappears."

Footsteps down below, and Martha looked over the railing to see Dean. "Sammy! Quit bogarting the hot chick! We got dinner. Bring her down so we have someone to look at who doesn't have a ZZ Top beard."

"Yeah, yeah," Sam said as Martha snickered again, and headed for the stairs.

August, 2007:


“This is your fault!”

“My fault? *My* fault?! You psychotic klepto, you’re the one that tripped the switch!”

Sam rolled his eyes and jerked his head, trying to keep the pouring rain out of his eyes as he kept pushing with the crowbar at the door of the crypt.

“You’re the one who didn’t keep the door open!”

“You’re the one who just haaad to take that one last thing, didn’t you? Didn’t you!”

Briefly, Sam thought of how nice it would be, locked in a dark crypt with either Dean or Bela, instead of out in the rain trying to get a 200-year-old concrete block to move back into position.

Yeah, he was still better off out here, even if he couldn’t feel his toes or fingers now.

“Freak!”

“Bitch!”

“Proud of it!”

“Yeah, well… Your mother!”

“Don’t you dare bring my mother into this! I’ll bring your mother into this!”

“Oh, don’t even start with that…”

As entertaining as a mutual double homicide would’ve been at that moment, Sam was still glad to feel the door finally give, just a little. “Guys?”

“–I am taking a shower after this, just to cleanse myself of the effluvia of near-contact with your breath!”

“Nice, princess. You weren’t saying that when you were using me as a decoy two months ago.”

“I never--“

“Guys!” Sam had just about had all he could take, and thankfully, so had the crypt door. The edge crumbled and finally gave way, creaking open with one last blow to the crowbar. “You’re clear! Come on!”

“About bloody time,” Bela said, stomping by him with a shove to the mid-section. “Why do I ever work with you amateurs?”

“Amateurs? Hey, you wouldn’t have anything to show for this mess if it wasn’t for us!” Dean was stomping right after her, still yelling.

“You’re welcome,” Sam muttered under his breath, dropping the crowbar in the mud. He glared up at the sky in a why-me? moment, then turned to follow them. One of the small bags of stolen loot buried in the crypt by a rogue voodoo practitioner had fallen out of either Dean or Bela’s clutches, and Sam stooped to pick it up, checking the contents briefly. Mostly ivory charms, a few jet stones, and–

Oh, he couldn’t get this lucky. Could he?

An amethyst scrying stone, one he recognized from one of Bobby’s intermittent lectures. Bela had said that nothing like that was in this haul, but then, Bela lied when she breathed. Without even thinking about it, Sam shoved the amethyst into his pocket, and hurried to catch up to his brother and Bela, his heart pounding. A stone like this could help you find lost things. Lost keys, lost money, lost friends…? Maybe. It was a stretch, because technically, nothing was lost. Or misplaced. Or stolen. But he did need to find the informant, and ask her what was up, so....

“Here.” He lobbed the bag into Bela’s arms, avoiding looking at Dean. “One of you dropped this.”

“Did your brother get all of the family manners?” Bela sniped to Dean, not even looking at Sam. “As well as the height?”

“Sam, think we can shove her back in that crypt with the rest of the zombie queens?”



"I can not believe that bitch," Dean came back into their hotel room from the shower, still fuming. "Calls us desecration specialists and walks away with a centuries' worth of magic objects like she was shopping at Wal-Mart."

Sam had taken out the amethyst to study it while Dean got cleaned up, contemplating what he was going to do next. The difficult part was that he had no idea how the crystal worked. Another puzzle to figure out. Every time he got a little close to a sure answer in this mess, another riddle popped up. But this one shouldn't set off any alarms with anyone who was interested in them.

He quickly stuck the crystal back in the pocket of his jeans, and leaned back on the headboard of his bed, arms crossed. "What really happened while you two were stuck in the crypt together? You were real quiet there for a while, then you started yelling."

"Nothing!"

Sam stared at Dean like he was trying to claim he was Santa Claus.

"Don't give me that look! I sure as hell didn't-- and anyway, I wouldn't, 'cause she spikes the crazy-bitch-meter like radioactive waste. No matter how much--" Dean finished dressing, and finally seemed to hear what he was saying, then wrapped his towel around his hands, yanking it in two directions at once as he growled.

"Yeaaaah," Sam drawled. "I could tell."

"Shut up, bitch."

Hiding his smirk, Sam pulled out his laptop and started a search on scrying crystals. "She said you were cute, you know."

"Hey, I am way more than cute."

"Mmm."

"Christ." Dean yanked on his jacket, then picked up Sam's and threw it at him. "Come on, I need a drink. You can geek out in the car tomorrow."

"I really need to..." Not give Dean anything to worry about. Resigned, Sam pulled on his jacket and followed his brother out the door. "Right. Later."

They found a poker game that went until well past midnight, and Dean's mood improved proportionately. Enough that he let Sam sleep in the car the next morning, the music low enough to lull him into half-sleep.

"Sam! Get down!"

Sam dove off the pier after Dean, ducking under the water as the spheres zoomed overhead. The screams from above drifted down to them, along with strains of “Voodoo Child”, and the whir of spinning blades. And giggling. High-pitched, metallic, excited giggling.

He surfaced next to Dean, shaking, and clung onto one of the supports for the pier. "What the hell are those things?"

"Dunno." Dean was gasping for breath, and the whites of his eyes were visible even in the dark under the boardwalk. "I mean, dude, what the fuck, they killed the President, and now--"

"Down!" Sam hissed, and they both dove again, bubbles rising above their heads as they hid from the maniacally attacking spheres. Toclafane. Aliens.

Monsters.

By the time the spheres left, there were bodies in the water. Sam staggered to the beach, and tried not to throw up as the tide tossed the remains of a woman-- he thought it was a woman-- wearing a yellow shirt up onto the sand.

Dean choked at the sight, then straightened, looking down the strand. "Right. They're gone. For now." He looked back at Sam, expression wild. Fury and fear and disbelief. "Sam? You okay?"

Sam closed his eyes, then opened them and stared at the incoming waves.

"Sam?"


"Sam?"

"Gah!" Sam shuddered awake, one hand going to the Impala's car door, the other slamming into the roof. "Christ."

"You okay?" Dean was staring at him, and Sam wondered what kind of noises he'd been making in his sleep.

Missouri had warned him. He should've listened, probably. "Yeah. Yeah." He closed his eyes, then opened them. No flying spheres. No blood coming in on a night tide.

"What, was it a premonition?"

Sam stared out the windshield, and shook his head, licking his lips. "No. Not the future." He took a breath, and let it out. More like a memory. "Just a dream." He laughed, but couldn't look at Dean. "Just like anyone else." He stuck his hand in his pocket, feeling the crystal digging into his palm, and wondered. "Dude, the day the President got assassinated...."

"Yeah?" Dean was still watching Sam carefully, waiting for his brother to manifest some new and crazy weirdness, probably.

"We were at Santa Monica pier, right?"

Yup, he'd just confirmed Dean's belief that he was nuts. "Yes," Dean drew out the word like Sam was brain-damaged. "The pier, near the carousel, watching the whole thing on that big-screen." He stared at Sam a moment, waiting, but Sam stayed silent. Dean shook his head, looking back at the road. "Right. Let me know when you're back on planet Earth, Sammy. Aliens aren't our problem, remember?"

"Yeah." Sam scrubbed at his face, feeling his heart finally start to slow. "I remember."


December, 2007:

"Ready?" Dean asked, spinning the keys of the dune-buggy around his fingers.

"Set," Martha agreed, hopping into the shotgun seat.

Sam slammed open the cargo door guarding the entrance. "Go!"

Dean turned the keys and the dune-buggy zipped out of the shaft, up into sunlight, temporarily blinding Martha as they headed toward the rapidly approaching sunset. Fifteen miles to the coast, where the boat would be waiting for her. Fifteen miles, thirty minutes, and who knew what in between.

The first explosion behind them-- Sam and the others setting off dynamite to draw the spheres away from them-- echoed over the dunes, and Dean chuckled, turning the buggy sharply as they careened down the hills. Another sounded from the opposite direction, and Martha chanced a look over her shoulder, seeing the Spheres buzzing toward a blazing fire.

"You sure this will work?" she shouted over the screaming engine.

"Trust me, they're scary with the knives, but damn stupid. They'll get sidetracked by the fires and the sand, and then they'll give up when they can't find anything," Dean yelled back, swerving down onto a dirt track. From here, Martha could finally see the beach, and sun descending into the waves. And the ship that had come to pick her up, the Luna. "We'll get you where you need to go. Stop worrying."

She'd been more worried about the people who were risking their lives for her, but the mission was important too. "Don't want anyone getting killed."

"Way too late for that, sweetheart." Dean slowed the buggy down as they hit a flat plane of beach, then let it roll to a stop as they approached the area near where the ship was anchored. He stood up in the dune buggy, and flashed the mirror he had with him in the pre-arranged code. Three flashes back, and Martha got out of the buggy.

"Looks like this is my stop." She smiled up at him, and held out her hand. "Thanks, Dean Winchester. Wish me luck."

Instead of shaking her hand, he kissed it, with smoothness that would do Jack Harkness proud. "Hey, you don't need it, right? You're Martha Jones."

She laughed, muttering, "Unbelievable," under her breath, then turned to wade into the water to meet the rowboat that they were sending for her.

"Hey, Martha?"

She turned around and looked back at Dean, who was squinting into the sun. "Yeah?"

"Forget what Sam told you."

She froze in the water, waves lapping around her ankles. "What?"

His eyes were still on the rowboat, and his tone of voice was casual. But his posture, one arm hugging the top roll-bar, foot braced on the frame of the buggy, was anything but relaxed. "I know he talked to you. About the deal. Let it go. You got enough on your plate."

She stared at him, mouth working, hearing the oars hitting the water behind her. "Why? You can't be serious. Why wouldn't you want any help?"

Dean rolled his eyes, then finally looked at her, jaw set. "I did what I did. I don't regret it." He frowned. "You gotta see things through, you know? And I don't want Sam to pay for it." He slid down back into the driver's seat of the dune-buggy, jerking his chin toward the boat approaching behind her. "Save the damn world for my brother. That's all you gotta do."

Martha stood there, not responding to the person saying, "Miss Jones? Are you ready to go?" as Dean drove off up the dunes, feeling like she couldn't catch her breath.

Bastard. He couldn't have expected her to -- he *did* expect her to just....

Right, Sam. Saving your brother. So you can wring his bloody neck.