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Laying the Ghost

by

HonorH

"I want to meet her."

The Doctor's expression went from "gobsmacked" to "confused" to something darker within seconds, but Martha wasn't backing down.

"If I'm going to do this--come with you again--I need to meet her," Martha said, clarifying her statement. "I spent so long resenting her last time around, and . . ." She looked away from the Doctor. "I want her to be more than just a symbol of your past. I want her to be someone I've met, someone I could've been friends with."

"Rose is gone. She's in another universe," said the Doctor, and Martha heard the hard note under his voice. "I couldn't take you to her even if I wanted to."

Martha wasn't backing down. "You have a time machine. Just take me to a place and a time where I can bump into her. It's not like I'm going to walk up to her and say, 'Hi, I'll be replacing you on the TARDIS in a couple of years. Oh, and there's a ginger bird, too.'" She looked into the Doctor's eyes. "Please."

Donna, fortunately, was visiting her parents. Martha had purposely waited for her and the Doctor to be alone before laying this on him.

For the longest time, he just looked at her, expression inscrutable. Then, finally, he turned to the controls of the TARDIS, and it trembled to life. When the Time Rotor stopped, the Doctor went to the doors, beckoning Martha to come with him.

It took a moment for Martha to get her bearings as she stepped out of the TARDIS. The reason for her disorientation, she suddenly realized, was that they were directly across from Henrik's Department Store, which hadn't existed for almost four years now.

"Bloody hell," she breathed.

"Rose will be working in women's wear today," said the Doctor. "Nineteen years old, long blonde hair, red hooded sweatshirt. Mind the shop dummies." With that, he withdrew back into the TARDIS.

Martha took a deep breath. Well, this was what she'd wanted, right? She squared her shoulders and made her way across the street and into the store.

She was more nervous than she thought she'd be. In her mind, she rehearsed the opening line she'd prepared while looking around for a blonde head and trying not to be too obvious about it.

And finally, over by a display of jumpers on sale, Martha spotted Rose Tyler. The first thing she thought was that Rose was shorter than she'd expected, about of a size with Martha herself. Her second thought was that she wasn't really that pretty. Odd face--jaw too wide, features just off of symmetrical, lips a bit too pouty, and she definitely wore too much makeup, and who was she fooling with those dark eyebrows, anyway? Definitely no match for, say, Tish.

Shaking off the thoughts, Martha forced herself to make her approach. "Excuse me, Miss, do you work here?" she asked when Rose looked up at her.

"Yeah. Can I help you?" Rose asked. Her teeth weren't terribly straight, either. Martha shut her brain up again before going on.

"Could you show me to lingerie?" she asked.

Rose finished folding the jumper she had in her hands and smiled. "Sure."

With that smile, Rose was suddenly lovely. Taken separately, her features shouldn't have worked together. Yet somehow, with her personality to animate them, they added up to something beautiful.

Martha fell into step just behind her as Rose headed toward the lingerie section. As she did, she put together what little she knew of Rose Tyler.

It hadn't been too hard to find out a few things about Rose on the Internet. At first, after Martha returned home, she hadn't wanted to even think about anything connected with the Doctor. After all, she'd just spent a year thinking about nothing else. More than that, actually; ever since she'd met the Doctor, he'd been on her mind almost constantly.

Soon enough, though, she got curious. She determined that if she was going to get her head turned around straight and her heart untangled from him, she needed to process the things that had happened--and Rose Tyler.

Therefore, she'd done a little research. What she'd found was an obituary. Rose Marion Tyler, born in 1987, died in 2006, predeceased by father Peter Tyler, died at the same time as mother Jacqueline Tyler, survived only by friends, Ms. Tyler loved her mother and traveling, etc. There was also a record of a missing person's report when Rose had disappeared for a solid year at nineteen. Martha thought perhaps the Doctor had something to explain there.

There were no records of A-levels or university, or of Rose having lived anywhere but the Powell Estates. Jackie Tyler's records were similar. They were the sort of people, Martha realized ruefully, that her own mother used as cautionary tales to keep her and Tish and Leo in school.

And yet this girl had won the Doctor's hearts.

"Here we are," said Rose, pulling up next to a display of bras. She patted it and flashed her smile at Martha again. "If you need help with anything, my mate Mindy should be around. She knows where everything is around here. A'right?"

"Thanks," said Martha. She didn't want Rose to go just yet, so she said, "Just got a new dress, and I need a strapless bra before I can wear it."

Rose cocked her head. "Got a party to go to?"

"Reception for the new interns in my program," said Martha. "I'm going to be a doctor."

"Must take a lot of work," said Rose. "Me, I never even got my A-levels."

There was something in Rose's tone that made Martha think she regretted that. "Well, you never know what the future'll bring," Martha told her in a noncommittal tone.

"Think I probably do." The words were said so quietly Martha almost didn't hear them, and as she looked at Rose's face, she saw something she'd missed before. In her focus on Rose's looks and what the Doctor saw in her, Martha hadn't seen the little bit of death in Rose's eyes--the quiet despair of someone who's looked at her future and seen nothing but survival from year to year, working just to get by in the hopes that maybe she can make something more of her life than the people around her have.

In a flash, it was gone, and the bright smile was back. "Got all you need here?" Rose asked.

"Yeah. Thanks," said Martha. She watched as Rose walked away, suddenly wishing she could tell her that her future would be beyond imagining.

She'll know soon enough, thought Martha, and the thought was strangely satisfying. In a little while, the Doctor would sweep her away from her ordinary life and to the stars.

Realizing she'd gotten what she came for and smiling a little, Martha turned around to leave--

--and ran straight into a man. She made a surprised noise and looked up as a stranger caught her elbow to keep her from losing balance, and she took in several things at once:

First, the man was quite tall, about as tall as the Doctor.

Second, the way he caught her made her think his reflexes were twice as fast as anyone else's she'd seen, save for the Doctor.

Third, he was holding the sonic screwdriver.

"Sorry," said the man with a Northern accent, flashing her a quick smile and tucking the sonic screwdriver away into his pocket. "I was just looking for--er--" He looked around, apparently just realizing where he was.

Martha blinked, looking at his face. Regeneration, she realized. This was what the Doctor had looked like when Rose met him: a bit older, raw-boned, blue-eyed, striking.

She couldn't help but smile at his expression as his eyes landed on a dummy in a bra and knickers. "Lost?" she asked.

"Lookin' for jumpers," said the Doctor with that same crazy grin that apparently transcended faces.

"Ah," said Martha. "Well, if you need directions, there was just a shopgirl here, and she went off that way." She indicated a pathway to the left. "Cute blonde, red hoodie--can't miss her."

"Lovely," said the Doctor. "Nice runnin' into you, then." He set off again, and Martha watched as, a few steps away, he fished the sonic screwdriver out of his pocket again.

Martha chuckled to herself as she left the store and crossed the street back to the TARDIS. She let herself in.

"Well?" asked the Doctor, fiddling with something on the console and not looking up.

"Nice running into you, too," she said.

Something flickered in his eyes, and he broke into a grin. "Ah, yes. Now I remember. Very cheeky, Miss Jones." He flipped a couple of switches. "So, did you get what you wanted?"

"I did." Martha stepped a little closer to the console, to him. "You saved her life."

"Well, yes, late that night. Autons. Terrible bother."

Martha shook her head. "That's not what I meant."

The Doctor looked up, meeting her eyes fully for the first time since she'd broached the subject. "She saved mine." He was silent a moment before flipping moods with familiar swiftness. "So, Martha Jones, have you given any thought to where you'd like to go once we fetch Donna?"

"I thought the 51st century," said Martha. "I've got to know if Jack was telling anything close to the truth."

"5040, then, the city of Juno in the New Roman Empire," said the Doctor. "Just don't blame me if you get sucked into a semi-public orgy. Donna's parents' place first, though. Watch her mum; she'll want to feed you. Always thinks I'm too skinny, for some reason."

"I can't imagine why," said Martha, laughing. She moved to help with the navigation, if needed, saying a silent goodbye to Rose Tyler's ghost.