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Author's Note: Written as part of the Tenth Doctor Ficathon for gloryliberty, who wanted non-sappy Ten/Rose/Jack, various rooms in the TARDIS, and a ficus tree. I may have completely failed on the sap front. Beta'd by the always lovely Larakailyn. Originally posted 8 August 2006.
by Tara LJC O'Shea
The first, of course, had been the worst.
Barbara had said nothing, when the door had vanished without a trace. Ian had followed her example, though he could tell he had been angry at being cheated out of his own chance to bid farewell as every trace of Susan had vanished. But he had not been able to bear the idea of being ambushed by something so simple and potentially dangerous as a bottle of familiar scent or a scrap of silk hair ribbon. His hearts ached at even the thought of coming across a maths text resting on the corner of a table, her place marked by a turned down corner despite how she knew abusing books in such a manner sent him into fits.
He was, truth be told, crap at good-byes. Always had been, since the very beginning. The TARDIS knew it and in her own way, took pity on him. Rooms disappeared, or were barren and transformed when he finally set foot in them again. Clothing found its way to the wardrobe, books to the library, and personal effects seemed only to magically appear when he could easily bear the reminders fondly, and without pain.
By the time Vicki had asked where she was meant to sleep, it was simply another door of many.
For Tegan and Nyssa's sake, the Doctor told himself, Adric's room was left as it had been. If asked, he would have vehemently denied it was a shrine of any sort. But that didn't stop him from standing outside it, during the sleep cycles when Nyssa and Tegan were tucked up in their beds and the TARDIS had dimmed her lights. Didn't stop him from lingering in the doorway, just staring inside at the neatly made bed, Nyssa having taken it upon herself to set the room to rights. A spare tunic was folded neatly across the chair, the stacks of advanced maths texts in neat square towers rather than strewn about every surface as the Doctor could see in his mind's eye so easily. And the dark head bent over their pages was just a ghost of memory, but enough of a presence that he could never quite seem to cross the threshold.
As the weeks and months went past, Tegan leaving and rejoining them, bringing a much-missed sparkle to Nyssa's eyes, the Doctor no longer stood at the threshold. He no longer paused in reverence while navigating the corridors between the console room and the wardrobe. The ghost faded until the shrine just became four walls.
By the time Turlough had asked where he was meant to sleep, it was simply another door among many.
There was a ficus tree in Jack's room.
It had been somewhat completely illegally removed from a 24th century office complex during a daring adventure that involved, as best he could remember, liberating a large number of highlighter pens, two service androids (whom Rose had named Ant and Dec for reasons only clear to Rose), and a confidential file containing the locations of cryogenically frozen 22nd century celebrities.
They had been after those clever little packets of soup that, when reconstituted with boiling water, resembled cups of salt water with tiny noodles that tasted like cardboard. The 'droids had been quite happy to remain on the Silver Star luxury liner, en route from Mars to the New Melbourne colony. Jack had kept the tree, despite the fact that it dropped leaves if he even so much as looked at it sidewise.
After Satellite Five, the tree had appeared in the Cloisters, where it continued to drop leaves for weeks until one evening the Doctor found it had grown 5 feet in height, and was suddenly covered in glossy purple leaves. He rather suspected some cross-pollination with the Elosian ivy had occurred when his back was turned.
The highlighter pens were still in a drawer, next to Jack's sonic blaster (battery depleted), three identical white tee-shirts from the Top Shop, and an autographed photo of someone named "Lola".
By the time Mickey had asked where he was meant to sleep, it was simply another door among many.
No-one had stopped him as he'd walked across the hangar to where the TARDIS sat on a flat, unmoved by the maelstrom that had surrounded her. He'd worried, when he'd first looked down and seen the grey-green swirls of void-matter floating around his hands. Worried for a flash of a second, when the lever had locked in place and Daleks and Cybermen alike had gone screaming into eternal darkness, that the TARDIS would be sucked through right along with them. But she was still there, his TARDIS. Waiting for him. All he had left that was his.
He'd stepped through the deceptively battered blue doors, and closed them, leaning his forehead against them for a long moment while the engines groaned to life and London, with its chaos and its long rolls of the dead, disappeared around her. He'd made this world. As surely as Satellite Five had become the Gamestation because of his actions, Torchwood had grown into existence from the seeds he'd planted in ignorance. He'd railed at Harriet Jones, but she hadn't opened the gates between two worlds and allowed the monsters to come through.
Less than an hour after he'd left Torchwood behind, with its thousands of shattered panes of glass and lifeless bodies stacked like cordwood, he'd just stood in the centre of Rose's room.
There was no sense of her presence—it was just a room, filled with clothes and furniture and souvenirs from a hundred worlds and times. He breathed deeply, but the air was just air, recycled by the TARDIS and carried no memory of scent. It was Rose' room. But Rose was Rose, and she was gone. And now it was just a room. Four walls, and ghosts of his own making.
He'd stood there, trying to believe that it was all right. Rose was with her family. The mother she'd left behind to travel with him amongst the stars, the father she'd never had and who had never known what his daughter might have become had his Jackie been Rose's Jackie, and the fates had been a little less kind. Even Mickey—no longer Mickey the Idiot now, but a hero in his own right. Rose would be fine, he told himself, needing to believe it as surely as he'd needed to believe Susan deserved a life with David Campbell oh so long ago. Rose would go on, and grow up, and live a life he couldn't give her.
He made a final good-bye, and like all the others, it was, frankly a bit rubbish. But he'd tried to learn, from first to last. He hoped he'd learned at least something, in 900 years of phonebox travel.
By the time Martha had asked where she was meant to sleep, it was simply another door among many.
They all were.
Or so the Doctor told himself.