Author's Notes:
Written for the 100 Themes Challenge, prompt #11 - Memory.

Went a bit AU, and totally un-beta'd.

Vestri Diligo Eternus

“Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.” - Kevin Arnold


The Doctor sat alone in the console room, allowing his thoughts to drift as the TARDIS hung in the vortex. Martha had just left, for good this time. She’d rattled off a laundry list of complaints while he was setting the coordinates to drop her at home, but the Doctor suspected that being imprisoned by the Astralarians and spending a week in a moldy and rat-infested cell had been the proverbial last straw. His driving had been off, again, and instead of landing at the height of the Great Astralarian Empire of Ferezius the Fourth (excellent dancing, and their chips weren’t half bad either), they had landed during the reign of Belandaro the Terrible, who hadn’t reacted well to Martha’s rejection of his advances.

Although, really, it was a little bit her fault; most people would have the common sense to know that telling a brutal dictator to sod off and comparing said dictator to various types of mollusks was generally not a wise move.

All in all, though, they had parted on good terms; Martha hadn’t hated him, she had simply not been up to the running anymore, and wanted to get back to her studies. She had even hugged him and told him to take care of himself, which was a better ending to their travels than had happened with quite a few companions that he could recall. Then again, quite a few had never gotten to say goodbye at all, for many reasons. Oh, Adric…

No, what was bothering him wasn't that Martha was gone. It was time, after all. What bothered him was one of the many grievances she had aired while he was piloting the TARDIS back to her home.

"Y'see, Doctor, I can't compete with all these ghosts you gather around you. Especially Rose. I understand that you've lost things, and you mourn them. But how do you honestly expect anyone to relate to you when you refuse to let go?"

Okay, maybe he had been unfair to Martha, comparing her to Rose and letting it be known that Rose would have handled the situation differently. Not that Martha wasn't as good as Rose, or Jack, Sarah Jane, Peri, Jaime...

No, it wasn't fair. But Martha didn't understand, not really. There was no competition between Martha and Rose in his mind. Rose had been so special, so very alive and warm during times when he couldn't summon the mercy and humanity (oh, the irony of that word) of which the Time War had robbed him.

Martha was a good mate, but Rose had been... he couldn't even find words to describe what Rose had been. Companion sounded so sterile now. Best mate was shallow, and girlfriend was puerile and inaccurate. Even the romantic cliches, like soul mate, were wildly insufficient. Calling her his better half was close, but still lacking. She was his plus one. She had saved his soul.

And he had promised her that he wouldn't do what he'd done before, that he would talk about her after she was gone. That he would let his next companion know that Rose Tyler had graced his ship with her brilliant presence (that's not what he'd said to her at the time, but he was thinking it, and that was far more important in his mind). He had broken so many promises in his 900 years, but he would never, ever dream of breaking that promise to Rose, that he would remember her to others. But his own words come back to haunt him.

"Never say never ever."

And with a jolt, memory of their goodbye surfaced. He'd said that seeing her again was impossible. When it came down to it at the end, it hadn't been her saying "never, ever", it had been him. Oh, that wouldn't do at all. She would be so disappointed in him once she realized that he had given up, and nothing pained him so much now as the thought of disappointing his Rose.

The Doctor leapt to his feet, and began a frantic dance around the console. Perhaps he would finally check on Jack (he had been putting that off for far too long, really), or go to Barcelona. Only now, he'd be looking for that way to get her back that he had been so adamant about not being able to find before, and the memories of Rose would no longer be bittersweet, but his driving force. Until he had her in his arms again and said to her the things he had been foolish enough to leave unsaid before their parting, he would remember his Rose, and he would go on.