Author's Note: I just watched the finale for the first time and I'm feeling a little depressed right now.
Summary: It just lays there. Like it always has. Discarded, but not forgotten. He doesn't even know how long it's been there any more- years, he guesses. Since she was taken from him. And that jacket has been his one constant amongst the sea of changing currents in time and space and the ever changing faces that have livened up the halls of his TARDIS over the years.
Her Denim Jacket
It just lays there. Like it always has. Discarded, but not forgotten. He glances at it, every time his hand grazes the rail as he bounds out of his TARDIS and towards a new adventure. He looks at it, every time he pushes open the doors and walks past it. He stares at it, every time a new person joins him. He ignores it, every time that person leaves him.
He rarely touches it. It's still exactly as she left it. One sleeve is hanging down, nearly touching the floor, threatening to topple the whole thing over. Every now and then, however, he gives into the temptation to touch it. To feel just a bit closer to her for a second. And those days he lets his fingertips graze over the denim, and, if he thinks hard enough, he can smell the soft fragrance of her perfume, the fruity scent of the herbal essence shampoo she loved so much.
He doesn't even know how long it's been there any more- decades, he guesses. Since she was taken from him. And that jacket has been his one constant amongst the sea of changing currents in time and space and the ever changing faces that have livened up the halls of his TARDIS over the years.
Some of his new companions ask him about it. They wonder if there's someone else on board that they haven't yet seen or whether they'll be picking up another member soon. Some wonder if they shouldn't maybe pick it up and put it away somewhere. And even others dare to ask who had thrown it there before. And then some don't even bother to notice- or, if they did, they never mention it.
But he never really answers them- how could he? And so he leaves it there, letting them know that they are just another in a long line, that they are just there to fill a void.
And there is a void, a gapping hole in his existence and no matter the number of people he brings with him, or the noise he fills the halls with, or the adventures he occupies his time with, he can never fill it.
It takes a fit of grief for him to pull the jacket to him. He buries his face into the material, and for the first time he lets it all go. All the grief, all the pain, all the love and sorrow and anger and rage that he has carried with him for all these years. And after the tears dry up and all his energy is spent, he just sits there, breathing in her scent, letting her presence soothe him.
He remains alone after that, travelling for months without even thinking of letting anyone join him. And the jacket remains on the railing, arranged neater than the sloppy way she had tossed it over the rail in her unintentional haste.
Until Marlene comes into his life. This ball of energy with a wicked smile and a flare for adventure and a curiosity that could not be sated or denied. She makes him smile in a way he hasn't in a long time and she makes him feel alive once again. She never asks about the jacket, but he notices her looking, wondering. She's the first that he doesn't want to feel like a second string.
So he tells her one day when her eyes have strayed over to the aging garment. She nods and she even hugs him, and she seems to know that her words can do nothing to soothe the pain but she says them anyway.
And, after a few days, he picks it up again, studying it. Thumb runs over the pink-lined collar. Fingers flatten out the folded lapel. Palm strokes down the length of its side. Slowly, he folds it and holds it to his chest as he walks through a forgotten corridor. After she left, he never went down there. He warned his new companions away from it. But it's still there. Her room, exactly as she left it. A pair of trainers are laying off to the side, as if she had kicked them off in a hurry on her way to the shower. Her pyjama bottoms are still resting skewed over the foot of her bed, waiting for a bedtime that will never come. Her sweatshirt is on the back of her desk chair and a book is sitting on the desk, book marked half way through. The last towel she had used to dry her hair is plopped on the floor. He has the urge to pick some of it up, organize the empty room, but he can't bring himself to. He just sets the jacket down and closes the door behind him.
Marlene doesn't comment the next morning when she notices the jacket is gone, but she does squeeze his hand and give him a soft smile. He knows she's leave him one day too and he knows that it's going to hurt, but he smiles back anyway because Rose would want him to move on.
And he does, kind of. He still looks at the spot where her jacket had been every time he rushes to the door. He still stops and thinks about her whenever he's burst through the door, gasping for breath after running from danger and giggling with Marlene at the near miss.
Time passes slowly for him and he hardly notices how long the gaps are between each time his eyes pause on the railing. But he does notice that they're getting longer. And he does notice that Marlene is getting older- wiser. And the day comes finally when she leaves him, nothing half as dramatic because it was time. Because he enforced the notion that there would be a time.
He lets the emptiness stew for a little while before he seriously considers looking for someone to fill it. He does eventually in the form of Beth, another wide-eyed, curious girl ready for whatever adventure he has to throw at her. He likes her too, not as much as he immediately liked Marlene, and no where near as much as he liked Rose, but she grows on him.
And the TARDIS grows on her. He doesn't know when it started, but after a few weeks with him, she gained her confidence there. The first time he saw it, he nearly cries. After stepping back inside the TARDIS from a calm trip to Earth's twenty-third century, Beth simply peals off her jacket and tosses it over the rail, as if she had been doing it for years. He just looks at it, seeing not the red windbreaker, but the denim jacket that had held that place for so long. Beth shakes him, her smile bemused as she teases him about getting used to her messiness. He doesn't look at her right away, but after a pause, a smile creeps into his eyes and he lets her know that he likes messy. Messy is good. Messy he can deal with.
And he does. Because, true to her word, Beth is messy and she tosses coats and shirts and scarves and hats over the railing and when they finally find another to travel with them, she introduces the railing to their new companion as the "anything rack".
He still looks at the railing some times as he's walking out the door and some times he sees the denim jacket that Rose had left behind, assuming that she could grab later. But most of the time he just sees Beth's messiness and the random items she's forgotten there.
And eventually even Beth will leave, because they always do. Because he makes sure that they always will. But another will come to fill the void and another voice will be added to the emptiness and whoever that person is will inevitably pile a coat or two on top of the railing.
He'll still miss her, he always will. Just like he misses everyone. But, eventually, he won't feel as empty and, eventually, he won't look at the railing with longing or pain or sorrow. Eventually, he'll look at it and remember all the smiles and the teasing and the curiosity and the love. Eventually, he'll heal.