Rose wandered through a disused part of the TARDIS. She wasn't snooping, there had to be a better word for it than that: a more polite, less nasty word. She was snooping.
Meeting Sarah-Jane at the school had left her with a deep curiosity. She was always being amazed by how little she knew about her companion, even after close to two years of travel and living together, and this time it was worse than usual. Others before her. She had suspected in a way, but had never asked. Something had told her it was a taboo subject with "DO NOT TOUCH THIS" written on it in big red letters.
With Mickey by her side for support she had finally breached the subject and had been given various vague answers.
"There were, a few," the Doctor said, closing his eyes. He tried to remember. More than a few. He didn't remember the exact number. Fifty? Sixty? Hundreds...? There was Ace with her nitro-9 and devil-may-care attitude. Dead. And Lucie, dear Lucie who hadn't really wanted to come along in the first place. Also dead. Beautiful Romana. Dead. Adric. Dead, dead, dead. Or like Sarah-Jane, abandoned without a goodbye, all connections burned, and then there were the ones who had abandoned him. And then those others, lives he had touched only for a few days, or moments. They were all burned onto his memory. He opened his eyes again. "A few."
Mickey had laughed at that.
"Didn't you notch your bedpost like a good boy? See now Rose I was always telling you he was just the same as any other bloke."
And she had stalked out of the console room.
Mickey had turned to the Doctor.
"No hard feelings right?"
And the Doctor had left, not to follow Rose, but to stalk the TARDIS and get away from Mickey, and maybe, if he was fast enough, his past.
Mickey sat on the railing, not overly surprised at being left alone. He looked at the softly glowing console.
"Just you and me then."
Rose pushed open a door that felt like it hadn't been used for ages. So far she had found various strange places: a room full of cricket gear, a gymnasium sized closet devoted to boots, and a empty room that had seemed innocent enough until crazed green laser beams had started shooting out of the walls — she had shut that door awfully quick.
This room though, it looked promising. It was pink, even pinker than her own, and that was very pink. It had frills everywhere and seemed more little-kiddish than Rose would ever have tolerated in her own sleeping quaters. There were pictures on the (pink) bureau, and like a true snoop she looked at them.
Quite a few were of various fuzy animals and she ignored them. One was a group shot of several military figures. She peered at it. Their uniforms reminded her of something. She snapped her finger as she got it: UNIT, those people the Doctor had met with when the Slitheen were invading Downing Street. She wondered how many of them were dead now. The picture seemed quite old, yellowed at the edges.
Standing beside the military men, not quite away from them, but not with them either, was a man who Rose could only describe as a six-foot light bulb in a dinner jacket. A young woman with a bouncy expression was fawning beside him. Not Sarah-Jane, though Rose hadn't been thinking that: from their brief meeting she figured that pink wasn't her style. She bit her lip and put down the picture.
"They might not recognize me. I've changed a lot since the old days."
He looked as old as the days Rose thought. She opened a bureau drawer and was confronted with a locked diary.
"Might as well," she mused.
She turned the simple lock with a hairpin. The first page was covered with 'he loves me, he loves me not's.' Rose slammed the book shut, unwilling to think of the similarities to her own journal. She stalked out of the room.
And found another. With a wallaby on the pillow and a notebook who's author couldn't seem to decide whether she wanted to kill the Doctor or snog him. Rose could sympathise.
And another. This one filled with a chemistry set, some suspicious looking test tubes, and an impressive collection of eighties rock next to a large and very out-of-date boombox. A baseball bat was laid across the black-sheeted bed. Thankfully there were no smut-filled diaries. There was a picture though, of a smiling teenage girl with braided hair and bomber jacket. There was a candle beside it, and a rose.
Rose wondered at her namesake flower for a moment. Then she left. She felt almost dirty prying into other people's bedroom's like this, but she had to know. How many had there been?
She wandered deeper and deeper into the TARDIS, further than she had ever gone before, way past the point where the green faded to white, the point where she usually turned back. There was no dust or spiderwebs. Everything looked pristine. But she knew in her gut that no one had come this way for centuries.
She found a doorknob, turned it, and stepped into a darkened room. Her eyes gradually adjusted to the dim light. This room also had candles, but they were lit. Rose wondered at that. If no one had been here for centuries, then who — ?
She was cut off mid-thought by a noise, and she prayed it wasn't the Doctor. He was the last person she wanted to run into right now.
It wasn't him. It was an old video machine, she didn't know the name for them, playing its way through a reel of sounds and black and taupe images, and projecting them onto a wall. It was a girl, younger than her, with short-cropped hair. Rose was reminded of a picture in the wallaby girl's room, but it wasn't the same person.
This girl was at a Beetles concert laughing wildly. A man and woman, much older, middle age? and looking very much infatuated with each other, jived beside her.
"Grandfather, stop fiddling with that thing, come have fun."
"Hmmm, just recording a bit of history, never know what you're going to forget."
"Forget history, live in the moment!"
The older woman's hands swept towards the camera and the film stopped only to re-start in an endless loop of itself.
Rose felt a lump in her throat. She remembered what the Doctor had said after she had tried to save her father, when the reapers were flying around outside, and he didn't have a plan.
“My entire planet died. My whole family.”
She backed out of the room. This was wrong. She had no right to go through his memories, and he had every right to keep these things to himself. She finally understood the moods he used to go into when she would try and pry answers out of him, finally knew why those big red letters were there.
She went back to the console room, it took some time for her to find the way, and found Mickey balanced on the railing holding a one-way conversation with the TARDIS.
"…'Course now she's found her match. She'll go after anyone, never mind she already has someone, and he's obviously had a few and then he just dumps them. She doesn't care about that because long term relationships aren't her thing…"
She poked him in the back.
"Oi!" He looked at her like a puppy who had been caught doing something naughty. "You didn't hear did you?"
The puppy just about whimpered, but held back.
"And you were right on every word, about me, but not him."
Mickey's mouth opened but she hugged him before any words could come out.
"They whither and they die."
"Oh Mickey, he's so alone."