Lost and Found
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine.
She's in his room fetching his coat when she finds it.
She knocks over a bizarre, humming alien trinket on her way out of the door, and, bending to pick it up, spots something just out of reach on the floor.
Unthinking, Martha reaches under the bed and pulls out the crumpled piece of paper, supposing it has just fallen out of his coat and that he might want it back there. She smoothes the creases out so it will be easier to fold back into his pocket and, half-expecting to see some sort of shopping list or complicated sum in a language she doesn't understand, freezes when she takes in the contents of the paper.
It's an ink sketch of a girl. She is lying asleep in the midst of some rumpled covers that are partly wrapped around her body like a dress – only her bare arms and shoulders are visible. One hand loosely holds the covers in place as she sleeps. The rest of the sheets pool in a pile towards the bottom of the bed, slowly rolling off the side nearest the front of the drawing.
She's not perfect – her hair is a mess over her face and her mascara is blotchy and flaking – but the definite, clear strokes and the attention to detail go a long way to making her so. Every line is indicative of an artist who both knew her well and was relishing in such an opportunity to study her.
Martha sits on the bed, frowning down at the paper in her hands, a little stunned. She won't lie to herself. It hurts, finding pictures of another woman in his pocket (and somehow this is more intimate than finding a photograph or a snapshot), unwilling to admit but knowing all the same that her successor is unlikely to find similar pictures of her in a few months' time. Her natural curiosity dampens the sting of jealousy, though, and she finds that she can't quite take her eyes from the picture.
There's nothing in the drawing to put a definite label on the relationship between artist and model – no colour to match with the sheets in the real bedroom, no discarded clothes or misplaced glasses, but Martha can still clearly imagine the Doctor sitting cross-legged in the chair opposite the bed, marking out lines and staining his fingers with inky splodges without ever looking away from his subject.
The drawing is almost innocent in its simplicity, but there's something indefinably sensual about it – not in the bed or the sheets or the girl herself, but in the markings themselves, the very lines on the paper and the intention and feelings behind them. The girl's free hand is palm-up and a fair few inches away from her side, her fingers positioned as though she was holding someone else's hand only a few short minutes ago.
It's not hard to guess who she is. Martha suspects she would have known even if she hadn't seen that sketch in John Smith's journal.
Martha shivers to think of another girl, now gone, once sleeping on the same bed where she's sitting now. It's almost like bringing a little bit of the ghost that follows her around the ship to life. She's always here, in her mind if not the Doctor's, but lying in this room, being drawn by the Doctor, sleeping away in the very same ship somehow makes her past that little bit more real. She's not some unobtainable, unknowable mystical being anymore, but a human, as fallible and imperfect as the rest of her species, with an identifiable face and crumpled bedclothes and messy hair.
She tells herself that the girl in the drawing is gone and that the Doctor only cares about the here and now.
It's a mark of how bad she is at convincing herself, then, when she dumps his coat on the captain's chair and hands him the drawing two minutes later.
"It's her, isn't it?"
She's as gentle as she can be, but she's determined to get some real answers out of him one day.
The Doctor is silent, his expression carefully guarded behind his eyes, which she takes as encouragement to go on.
"It's not just me being nosy," Martha insists, and it's really not. "But it fell out of your pocket and I thought you might want it. I thought perhaps you'd forgotten it."
"No." He's trying very, very hard not to look down at the picture that had been thrust into his hands. He swallows. "No, I hadn't forgotten. Well, I'd forgotten it was in my coat – not sure how it got there, actually, or how I haven't found it before, but then I do have a rather large amount of pockets, an almost infinite amount in fact, but of course that's impossible because – no. I hadn't forgotten drawing it."
There's a short silence in which Martha doesn't know what to say.
"It's not how I remember her," he confesses a moment later, unsure whether it's screaming and dying or laughing and smiling that forms his predominant memory of Martha's predecessor, "but yes. That's her. She looked like that. Looks like that, I should imagine."
Martha ignores the latter comment, well-used to cryptic references when it comes to any of his history before her.
"She's pretty," she offers, a little reluctantly and perhaps with even the slightest bit of resentment, her tone carrying the slightest edge of, she would be, wouldn't she? as she looks over his hands at the drawing. She'd sort of been hoping the other girl was hideous. Right now, though, getting him to open up is more important than her own issues, so she swallows it down and waits for a response. She still only knows snippets, and quite apart from curiosity and her own desire for him to talk this woman out of his system, bottling this all up can't be good for him.
"Yes, she was," he concurs, "beautiful, even. But that's not why – "
That's not why I loved her, he was going to say. She knows.
"What does it say?" Martha asks, taking her chance while he's being so responsive. She indicates some complicated symbols scrawled messily and inexpertly across the bottom of the page, clearly the same language as those on the post-it notes scattered on the console screen and, sometimes, the fridge.
"Rose," he admits eventually, finally looking down at the paper. "It says Rose."
Martha looks away from the shaky symbols, clearly a practise-run of the fridge messages, and glances up at him. "You taught her?"
"Yes, I did."
"Can you teach me?" Martha asks, genuinely interested by the thought of being able to speak an alien language. As a scientist, words have never really been her forte, but she's always been a learner and she's up for anything as long as it's a challenge.
He doesn't say anything for a long minute, and she mentally kicks herself for jumping so quickly.
"Doctor?" she asks. He blinks twice, rapidly, clearly coming back from a long way away.
"Maybe," he says, quickly, as though the conversation never paused, as though he had been considering it all this time. "One day."
The Doctor watches Martha's face fall and scratches his neck to try and loosen the guilty feeling in his stomach. He's not sure he wants to share his language with her, not sure he's ready yet or that he could even concentrate on teaching Martha the Gallifreyan alphabet when all he can hear is Rose sounding out his name for the first time, mixing it up completely and putting in a random "ool" sound that has never existed in his language and hopefully never will.
He can't deny Martha the chance to learn though, he reasons, just because he had previously taught Rose. He'd be denying every new companion an awful lot if he lived by that philosophy. Besides, they'd be learning for utterly different reasons – Martha out of a genuine love of and thirst for knowledge and Rose out of the desire to know everything there is to know about the man to whom she'd promised forever.
"Yes, alright, then," the Doctor concedes abruptly, the rapid change of mind making Martha blink in confusion.
"Right, okay," she laughs. "I'll hold you to that."
And why not? It's a way of keeping his planet alive, isn't it? It doesn't diminish his intention behind teaching Rose the same thing, nor does it devalue either of their wishes to learn.
Maybe he's learning after all.
"You're kidding. Tell me that thing hasn't been in there all this time."
The Doctor shrugs, holding the small plastic bag at arm's length. Inside, a goldfish swims around in perfectly contented little circles, blinking in the sudden light.
Donna doesn't even want to know where he found a goldfish that blinks.
"I suppose it has," he says eventually, tugging on his ear with his free hand. "Sorry about that, little fella." He plops the bag down on an unusually flat part of the console and Donna winces, half-expecting it to burst. "Better find a home for you later. Nice big tank. With… fishy things. Like stones. You like stones, don't you?"
The fish doesn't reply. Donna rolls her eyes.
"Tell it, Donna. It won't talk to me."
Donna does no such thing and instead takes to perusing the other random objects scattered about the console room.
This had all started when he'd sat down a little too enthusiastically and something inside his coat had made a rather ominous crunching noise.
They'd spent half an hour emptying his seemingly never-ending pockets trying to find the offending item (it eventually turned out to be a green umbrella complete with frog's eyes and a smiley face. The Doctor had been distraught to find it snapped in half until Donna pointed out he could mend it with the sonic screwdriver) and another half an hour digging through his remaining pockets for a laugh. The funfair fish in a bag was the most recent discovery, hot on the heels of seven yo-yos, the Complete Works of Shakespeare, one trainer and several mouldy jelly babies.
"Aha!" he cries, triumphantly pulling out what is unmistakably, despite the alien markings, a box of fish food. "Must have been intending to keep Mr Fishy at some point, then…"
"Look," says Donna, watching him pull a candlestick and a toothbrush out of his inner jacket pocket, "if we're gonna keep that thing, we've gotta give it a proper name. I'm not goin' round calling it Mr Fishy."
The Doctor looks up at her, bemused. The candle hangs loose between his fingertips. "You won't have to go around calling him anything. He hasn't got legs."
Donna throws a tiny pencil sharpener shaped like a globe depicting the Milky Way at him. It hits his head with a rather satisfying clunk.
"Ow! What was that for?!"
Donna just raises her eyebrows, which seems to get her point across. The Doctor mumbles sullenly under his breath and exaggeratedly rubs his head like a petulant child.
"Are you pouting?"
"Time Lords," says the Doctor, drawing himself up to his full, sulky height, "do not pout. Ooh, look, a paperclip."
"You are! You're pouting." Donna laughs raucously and pats his head fondly. "It didn't hurt that much, you great big baby."
The Doctor decides that examining the paperclip is a much more interesting pastime than being teased by Donna and swivels around in the seat so he is no longer facing her. Unfortunately, he manages to choke on the paperclip in the process, and Donna ends up having to administer several sharp whacks to his back to get it out (but not before threatening to turn him upside down and shake him up until the clip dislodged itself if he didn't let her do the former).
He's not entirely sure he wants to keep going through his pockets after that, but all the activity has woken something wriggly up, and he should really find it before it finds him at some unexpected and inappropriate moment.
What he finds next, though, drives the mysterious wriggling creature completely from his mind.
The Doctor holds the tiny object between two fingers, watching it glint in the light of the time rotor. He'd shove it back into his pocket again with an awkward cough and a quick change of the subject, but Donna's already seen it and he knows she'd never let him get away with that.
Donna's laughing expression sobers immediately and she becomes uncharacteristically quiet under the green glow of the central column. "Rose?" she asks gently, not knowing what else to say.
He nods, not quite able to make himself any more articulate than that, and puts the ring in his palm where he frowns down at it silently. He'd had no idea he was still walking around with this in his pocket.
It wouldn't have been a proposal. He wasn't going to get down on one knee in the dust and ask her to wear a big white dress and throw flowers at her family – and he knew she would have understood that. It would never have been a symbol of anything more than what they already had. It was just a ring, an acknowledgement in itself rather than a promise of things to come.
He was going to give it to Rose the day she promised him forever, but the second that word had come out of her mouth, he knew he couldn't ruin it. They didn't need such human proof of attachment. Rings were so human, so ordinary, and he couldn't bring himself to give it to her as though it were a weak echo of and follow up to her words. He couldn't taint such an organic, unexpected moment with a planned one. After forever, what could it even mean?
Perhaps he would have done it if she'd said anything else or given him just a few more seconds. Without ceremony or fuss or questions, he could have simply got it out and slid it onto her finger – but she'd turned her head to look back at the sky, and the moment was lost.
It didn't matter. He was still smiling. They had all the time in the world. He'd try again tomorrow.
"Do you wanna talk about it?"
The Doctor looks up, finding Donna still opposite him, brilliant and patient and empathetic.
He sniffs slightly, jerkily, in that way he does when he's trying to change the subject but can't quite do it effectively. "No," he says, abruptly but not unkindly. He's not denying her personally – he just would genuinely rather not talk about it, and he hopes Donna understands that. He had felt so much younger then, foolish and in love, starting to believe Rose's promises of forever, and he didn't like to admit that his loss had been doubled by his own recklessness with time.
"No," he repeats, as though confirming to himself that silence is the best decision to make. He slides open a nearby drawer full of paper petals, bits of wire and an instruction manual for the Martian toaster in the second kitchen. He drops the ring inside and shuts the drawer, gently but firmly, nodding once to himself. "She's not coming back."
Behind them, the screen flickers.