Summary: There's something tragic about their love. Tragic like the little black box with the simple golden ring that he never intended for her to find.
Note: Well, I sat down to write a simple fluffy TenRose piece, and you know what? That was too complicated for my frustrating muse, and this . . . thing popped out. Not fluff, but not quite angst. It's a confused little bugger.
It's the year 333 on a small planet orbiting an indigo sun when the Doctor saves the Acharian race from a rogue band of egg laying nomads. It was a horrid affair really, she finds herself wanting to forget the more sordid little details of the endeavor, but unable too – when she signed up for time traveling she didn't read the fine print that said she'd have to deal with three meter tall aliens who laid eggs the size of her fists for a twisted little reenactment of the Gremlins.
Her saving grace and subsequent motivation was the knowledge that Rose would have done it. Rose would have stayed by his side without whimpering or flinching. Even that had barely been enough for Martha to do her part in the hastily concocted plan, that, as usual; was more of a running improvisation than anything really thought through.
In the end they liberated the planet – illegal breeding grounds, breaking intergalactic rules on a gamma planet with a level two coding – or something like that. It sounds much more official when he said it, if not a little off of the top of his head. Spur of the moment, he has said. Whatever it was, it had worked.
She walked away unscathed, and he merely nursed an arm with a rather nasty looking gash from wrist to elbow. He had moaned and groaned good naturedly – and good Lord, didn't he have anything in his plethora of Time-Lordy powers to help with superficial scrapes?
Unfortunately, he couldn't think of anything, and with a well meant sigh and cheeky retort about his lack of tolerance for pain, she's off to find a first aid kit. A simple endeavor normally, she's soon lost in the TARDIS' endless labyrinth. The living ship was humming quite merrily underneath her, and showed no inclination of helping. That was nothing new, and Martha once again fought back the nagging little voice that said that this would never completely be her world.
When she was ready to turn back and petition the Doctor's help a storage closet appeared on her left. With a long suffering sigh she turned and dutifully riffed through it – passing up a tin full of little metal weather gadgets from Tarain IV; a strange collection of bottle caps; and a novelty mug from Las Vegas in the year 5677 – she'd have to ask the Doctor about that one, she thought with a smirk. She's reaching up for a white case with an unmistakably bold crimson cross on it, when her searching fingers came across it.
From the metal clasps to the dusty trinkets, she was not expecting this new texture. Velvet played across the tips of the fingers, and she found herself bypassing the medical kit in favor of this new item. Frowned prettily, she stood up higher on the tips of her toes to grasp the foreign object.
Or not so foreign as she thought, she realized as she came back down on the flats of her feet. Her curious cinnamon eyes searched the small black box with dawning clarity, while her other hand came up to lightly touch the cool fabric.
It looked like a jewelry box, she thought as a small lump started to form in the back of her throat. Her mind instantly provided a dozen scenarios where the Doctor – or a previous companion, could have bought this on Earth, and each and every one was more lucrative than the last – each one trying to steer her away from the painfully obvious answer.
A full minute passed before she could convince herself to thumb the box open, When she did it was with shaking fingers, and suddenly all of her little silly fantasies were rebelling against her as she stared at the proof of the wedge that would always remain unacknowledged between him and her.
And there it was.
It was a ring.
Horrible. Absolute. Final.
She couldn't help but smile as she reached out a finger to touch the smooth gold band. This isn't normal gold, she realized as she pressed a little harder. Where she touched little lights flickered and burned, bathing the metal in a soft glow. When she looked closer she can see small, very small gems laid into the ring. They were not diamonds, but something infinitely more priceless. She looked at them with awe, wondering what world could produce something so beautiful.
The glow seemed to seep into her skin the longer she held it, filling her with such a warm feeling of contentment. Memories flicker across her mind – of sultry carnival breezes and warm spices of far away open air markets. Cotton candy on her tongue and her arms linked through his in an easy, natural pose. She blinked away the thoughts that were not hers and snapped the box shut, overwhelmed by the ring's effect on her. Sure, she's seen stranger on her travels – will there ever be a time when she will stop being surprised? But this is different. This is – beautiful, heartbreaking, awful.
She closed her eyes, trying to shake her thoughts away. The other girl's memories. The previous girl – the untouchable one whom he has built both his hearts into shrines for. Deep down where even she refused to look she knew that this was the reason that she would never completely belong. This was the reason his smile wouldn't reach his eyes, the reason he would stare emptily into space for hours at a time. This was the reason he would always bring her lilies – never roses, always the funeral flower in a false act of kindness.
This was the reason that her dreams were just that – dreams. Ash and ember where once stars and time had twinkled and burned
"Did you find what you're looking for?" It's not a question as his voice rang out behind her – cheerfully bright, and slightly guarded. She rolled her eyes as she snapped the box closed before reaching up to grab the first aid kit. Of course, he always knew just what was going on on his ship.
"Yes. Jus' a sec," she said, coming back down. She couldn't bring herself to face him just yet, so she didn't, turned away instead on the pretense of fiddling with something or the other.
It didn't matter one way or the other. "Where did you find that?" he asked abruptly, his voice cut through the silence and now there was no false cheer. Just a low tenor that she has always associated with him addressing tyrants and mercenaries with.
She squeezed her eyes shut, still not wanting to turn and see the flicker in his eyes that said that he was fighting the memories away. Instead she steeled her resolve and dropped the ring into her pocket. She held up the first aid kit with a false little flourish, and this time it's her voice that's bleached with false humor. "This? I found it in the closet. An' that was hard to do, let me tell you. S'practically impossible to find anything in here, y'know that?"
He's not smiling, Martha found it hard not to fidget, after all, it wasn't her fault she happened across it – it wasn't as if he had hid it. More like he had merely hoped that no one would ever find it. Not even himself.
The TARDIS' humming in the background had quieted, and the air took a chill as she reflected her master's mood. She found herself fighting off a glare as jealousy once again lodged, thick and ugly, in her chest. "It was by the kit," she told him, defeated, as she slipped the jewelry box out of her jacket pocket.
She held it out to him, and all of the fight seemed to leave his eyes as he looked at the deceptively small black box. It took him a moment before he reached out and took the box from her. The stiff set of his shoulders and the edge of flint in his eyes melted away, and she found she prefered him hard and defiant rather than broken and lost.
Desperate to break the silence with anything – even with the bitter rush of memory, she blurted, "Was that for her?" She doesn't need to elaborate, he knows.
The one word had an edge of almost happiness about it, and Martha found herself shrinking in on herself again. Tears prick at her eyes, but they won't fall. She'll never let them.
"Oh," she said, and wanted desperately to leave. But she knows she won't – she never would, and that was the pretty little curse etched into her heart with acid. "I'm sorry," she offers anyway.
"Don't be," he whispered, and she wonders for a moment if he even knew that she was there with him. There was such a far away look in his eyes – such a forever kind of look that has her wondering just what had torn her from him and him from her.
He thumbed open the box in an almost reverent move. When he touched the band it flickered brighter than it had for Martha, as if it was welcoming him home again. A small smile touched his thin lips, and she wondered if the same memories she had glimpsed earlier were racing through him. "What are they?" she found herself asking, encouraged by the awe racing in tiny circles through his eyes.
He looked up at her, almost surprised that she had spoke.
" 's not gold," she clarified, uncomfortable.
"No," he said, "close enough though. Amber from Serevin III – it's the closest thing to Earth's metal that I could find."
Martha nodded. "And the stones? They're amazing, I can't tell you what I . . ." her voice flickered, what I felt when I touched them. She remembered the feeling of home and warmth that had washed over her when she pressed her fingertips against the cool band. What would it feel like to wear it?
The Doctor nodded anyway, he understood. "From Severin too. Some of the best jewel smiths on any planet or any time can be found there – in my humble opinion, anyway. Those are heart stones - they're close enough to diamonds, only they're partially sentient."
"They're alive?" Well, she wasn't expecting that.
He shook his head. "Not in the way you and I are – more like the consciousness of a plant. They carry emotion – hence the name. For that reason alone they are coveted by many for . . ." his voice faltered too, like he couldn't bring himself to actually say it, and once again she's struck by how tragic their love is.
She won't make him finish, and the jealousy high in her breast faded as a weariness rose to take its place. She wants to know more, of course - call it morbid curiosity, call it a yearning for him to open up like he rarely ever does. She doesn't push for more, and when he shuts the box something is lost – a moment, a chance, a lifetime; she doesn't know.
He put the box in his pocket, and she knows that he will pull it out again latter. But that's a private grief – a special grief that she will never be privy too. It's a private and holy thing that made her interference border on sacrilege.
The words were spilling out of her mouth before she can reel them back in, "She would have loved it." The broken whisper seemed to jar something deep down inside of him, and a smile – a real, beautiful smile that lit up his eyes and warmed the room, crossed over his face.
"Yeah," he said finally. "I think so too."
But now we'll never know, she hears the unspoken words, and when she looks up she isn't surprised to find that he's not even looking at her. This moment was his – his and hers. And she finds herself not wanting to find a place amongst his grief.
So, she is the first to leave, placing the first aid kit down next to him, even though she doubts he even notices it. The gash on his arm has long stop bleeding, and he doesn't feel it's sting anyway – she reckons that he feels little besides pain of memory for now.
Her footsteps echoed down the coral halls until she was out of his sight, and then she slumped over, letting the burning tears slip past her eyelids unfettered. In her mind she could see her Doctor standing tall and proud, a smile like earlier on his face and a gleam in his eyes. She imagined bright sun and unending sky while a simple girl dressed in a fairytale gown twirled round and round with him towards forever. She imagined a human ceremony – a simple thing that he'll scoff at (isn't binding anywhere past Orion's Belt, he'll say maddeningly, and maybe the bride will punch him playfully on the arm) and yet no amount of rolling his eyes while a priest binds them together will hide how simply happy he is.
She imagined him in pinstriped black, a rose peeking out of his jacket's pocket – and Rose, a beautiful bride dressed in summer white while on her ring sentient gems glow like suns with the happiness flowing through her.
For a moment, Martha understands, and for now, that is enough.