Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me.
AN: Sorry. I usually post on a Saturday, but I'm suffering from a distinct lack of the internet at the moment.
The Doctor was off somewhere in the depths of his ship, trying to find whichever broken circuit was responsible for sending the temperature in the TARDIS plummeting. Martha, at his insistence and invitation, was sitting on the captain's chair in the console room, swathed in various blankets of all colours and sizes, trying to figure out how the television on the control panel worked.
Thus far, she'd had little success – unless, of course, you counted producing an annoying bleeping noise and managing to tune into what looked like some sort of Martian version of QVC as a success – but she remained stubbornly undeterred, intent on finding something to watch or freezing in the process. It was just beginning to look as though the latter was the more likely option when she finally found a button that allowed her to flick through the channels, hopefully without blowing things up in another part of the ship (the Doctor had already warned her about multi-functional switches).
At length, and after several successive futuristic French documentaries about rats, Martha finally stumbled across something that made her stop and frown. Curious, she leaned in closer to the screen, pulling her blankets around her shoulders.
The sound quality had dropped, and the picture was zooming in experimentally on what looked like a plate of Christmas dinner. The familiar sound of knives and forks clinked and mingled with a sudden explosion of unrestrained laughter, the view shaking slightly as the anonymous observer behind the lens laughed along too, pulling the camera up to reveal a middle-aged blonde woman and a young black man snorting into their sprouts.
Home video? she wondered. Funny. The Doctor didn't seem the type.
And then she heard the name.
"Come on, Rose, sweetheart," the blonde woman said, shoulders still shaking slightly with suppressed giggles. "Put it away. We're trying to eat."
Martha could almost imagine the pout on the invisible camerawoman's face, the vague image she had long held in her mind once again beginning to form. If only someone else took the camera, then she'd be able to see… She resisted the urge to lean to the side as through trying to peer around the corner of the screen.
The lens swung around and landed smack in the middle of some very familiar features. She knew the line of that nose, the amused curve of those lips. She was sure she'd know the eyes, too, the freckles and the hair, if only the person holding the camera hadn't been sitting so close to her target that she had practically knocked his nose off simply by turning around to face him.
The angles went wonky and Martha was awarded a full view of the ceiling for a minute as Rose scrambled backwards, getting a better picture of the Doctor into frame. "What do you reckon, Doctor?" He shoved a mince pie into his mouth, a paper hat balanced precariously in his hair. "Keep filming or not?"
Before the Doctor had the chance to reply, a pair of heavily ringed hands reached out and grabbed the camera, unceremoniously switching it off, which Martha supposed answered that question.
A picture quickly returned to the monitor. It was a day later, judging by the date stamped across the bottom in square digits, and someone unknown seemed to have taken reign of the camera because, right there in the middle of the screen, was the Doctor and – well. There was no-one else it could be.
There she was, after all this time. The famous Rose. Finally, Martha's first real glimpse (a few fingers here and there obscuring the lens hadn't counted) of the girl the Doctor had spoken so much about, the woman she felt she was constantly competing with whether she knew it or not.
Except… to Martha's mind, she didn't look quite so much like the vortex-absorbing Goddess the Doctor's words had painted.
She was young, certainly: no older than her early twenties, possibly even a teenager, with almost shoulder-length peroxide-blonde hair pulled into two short, loose plaits. She was dressed in an oversized Winnie the Pooh nightie which made her appear even younger than she probably was. Her accent, Martha knew from the previous section of film, was a mild cockney, and though she was pretty, she didn't measure up the majestic picture of beauty Martha had let build up in her mind.
In short, she didn't look anything like the sort of girl Martha thought the Doctor would fall in love with.
She knelt near the Doctor's feet (Martha noted that even his pyjamas were pinstriped) while they both removed decorations from a big white Christmas tree. Fairytale of New York belted out of the radio. Rose hummed along, singing a few words here and there under her breath and tapping her hand against her knee slightly out of time with the music. The Doctor, never one to be outdone, passed her a reindeer-shaped ornament before straightening up and singing along at full, wobbly volume in an inexplicable but nonetheless passable attempt at an American accent.
"Sinatra was swinging, all the drunks they were singing…"
Rose laughed and joined in. "We kissed on the corner then danced through the night," she retorted, decidedly more in tune than him. Encouraged, he reached down and grabbed her hand, yanking her up to stand before him. She leapt obligingly, and they proceeded to perform a series of messy, spontaneous steps and twirls about the room, the Doctor having far too much fun yelling out, "You're a bum!" at the appropriate moment. They nearly tripped over each other more than once, spinning and springing around in very great danger of landing in a big tangle of Doctor, Rose and tree.
The song was still in full swing when the anonymous filmer decided to reveal themselves with a cough, causing the two dancers – if they could have been called that – to misjudge their footing mid-twirl. Eyes on the camera, Rose slammed into the Doctor and he, frozen in the middle of his own pirouette, was sent flying backwards onto the sofa.
"Take it it'll be a while before the tree's finished, then," a female voice commented dryly from behind the lens. Even through the slight pang of envy and sadness – she had never borne witness to the Doctor as he had been in that video – Martha couldn't help but laugh.
The screen flickered and hissed once again, coming back so dark that Martha was certain for a second that the tape had finished. She blinked and, inside the screen, someone flicked on a lamp amidst whispers and giggles. The dull orange glow lit up the room just enough for a huddled lump on the sofa to become visible. The TV was on, throwing out further quiet murmurs and muted colours into the room, neglected and forgotten by whoever had been in the room last. Martha saw from the date that she was looking at footage from early on New Years Day, 2007, guessing from the position of the sofa that whoever was filming, they weren't in Rose's house anymore.
"I thought she went home to bed after he zonked out down here?" a male voice behind the camera asked – apparently a little too loudly, because someone female shhed him, still gesturing wildly as she passed into the view of the lens, creeping closer to the settee.
This was someone new, a girl who could have been about Rose's age or perhaps a little older, with dark brown hair to the middle of her back. She reached the sofa and clearly stifled a giggle, her hand to her mouth. The cameraman inched closer.
"She did," the new girl whispered. "Must've snuck back in again to see him. An' she tries to tell us there's nothin' going on!" She snorted.
And then the camera finally caught up with the human eye and Martha saw what they had both been able to see for a while. The Doctor – presumably still weak after his regeneration, if this was the Christmas he had been referring to when he told her about his last change – was snoring away on the sofa, mouth slightly open and glasses wonky where his face was pushed into the arm. A smaller figure cuddled into his side was almost completely obscured by a combination of him and his coat, but her mop of blonde hair and her small hand resting on his side made her identity more than obvious. They were not beautiful or perfect, but they fit together like the parts of a two-piece jigsaw.
For a long moment, there was silence. Then: "Do you reckon he'd wake up if I drew whiskers on his face with my eyeliner?"
The next time the screen flickered back to life, the picture was focussed on a big, four-poster bed with a rucked-up blue duvet and several items of clothing strewn across the top. Someone behind the camera wandered about the room, their footsteps and muttered words just about audible.
The picture was a little wonky, as if the tripod had been set up by someone a long way from being an expert, and there was an odd, green hue to everything, a sort of backlight that reminded Martha of the light from the TARDIS console room. Still cold, she pulled her toes in under the blankets and tried to focus on the screen instead of the continually dropping temperature.
A hand came into view, small and definitely female, rings on one finger and the thumb. Not the Doctor, then. The bodiless limb swiped a couple of crumpled items of clothing off the bed, presumably clearing a space to sit. Sure enough, less than two seconds later, Rose herself popped into view and sat cross-legged on the bed, smiling slightly nervously at the camera.
Martha blinked and leaned back a little, unnerved by the eye-contact the younger girl was holding with the camera. Rose tugged at the hem of her over-large night-shirt.
"So I know Mum gave us this for fun and sending her messages back and stuff, but I reckoned it was time I used this thing properly. If you were thinkin' about the future and recording messages like that Emergency Programme One thing, maybe I should too. 'Cept I didn't really think it through before I turned it on and now I don't know what to say." She laughed, embarrassed and amused. Martha wondered if she had been this impulsive, this apt to jump in without thought or consideration, in every aspect of her life. She would certainly have been a match for the Doctor if she had.
Having dropped from the camera, Rose's gaze shyly, almost defiantly, flicked back up. "But I s'pose I wanna say thank you. For everything." She sniffed slightly and nodded, as though confirming to herself that this was the right thing to say. "Whatever happens to me, I wouldn't've missed this for the world. So…yeah. Thanks. And I hope you never have to watch this on your own."
Rose looked at the screen for a moment longer, the tiniest of fond smiles lighting her sad eyes. I love you. Martha could see every syllable written across her face, but the words never came. A little teary and attempting to cover it up, Rose grinned and blew a kiss at the camera, then stood. A few seconds of fiddling, the screen filled with the stripes on Rose's night-shirt, and then there was nothing but the crackling hiss that signified the end of the tape.
The console room had never seemed so quiet.
"Where did you find that?"
Martha jumped so hard she almost fell off the seat, realising only too late that the temperature had begun to rise again. The Doctor was stood in the doorway, leaning to one side, his face a careful blank. He folded his arms, looking at her steadily. "Well?"
"I – it was just on there. I was trying to find something to watch, like you said, and it came on. I wasn't looking for it." Perhaps she should have switched it off, perhaps she should have thought about how he might consider this prying, but she wasn't going to apologise for wanting to find out more about the woman whose place he was so insistent she had not taken. Not when he himself revealed so little.
For a second, his eyes were all thunder and she knew he was thinking what had only come to her too late. Then he unfolded his arms and stepped over to the console, his eyes sadder and his voice quieter, softer. "I'd forgotten all about this…" The Doctor pressed a button and a small, modern-looking tape popped out of a slot a little further along the console. He took it, examining it carefully as if he could view its contents without having to use a screen.
While he was staring at the tape in his hand and she didn't have to look him in the eye, Martha took her chance. "Doctor, what happened to her? Why'd she walk away?"
He shifted his gaze back to her, but no words came. She should have known she wouldn't get an answer.
"Sorry, I shouldn't have – "
"She didn't," he interrupted, voice closed and stilted, bordering on harsh, though for once she felt the edge in his tone wasn't directed at her. When he continued, it was softer and a little lost. "Whatever you think of her, don't think she chose this. Neither of us did."
And he pocketed the tape and walked away.