But they're always there. Untouched, pristine. They haven't been altered or entered since their occupant left. Should he pass a room, he knows that within there won't be dust on the mantle with Jo's perfumes, or a fiber moved from where Turlough would toss his schoolboy tie across the bed. He knows they're there. He just never enters. He never looks.
"It's like you're collecting them," she says, running her hand across a marker sign that says MICKEY'S ROOM, DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.
"What?" he asks. He's seen the door to the room so often he can almost walk by it without remembering.
"All these rooms. All your companions," she says. "Martha says we're like stray dogs. Is it like that?"
He shrugs and aims for flippancy. "Well, you all could use a bath."
"Oi," she snaps. "You know what I mean, Spaceman. My mum used to collect these little ceramic houses. They all looked the same to me and Gramps, but she kept collecting new ones."
He sighs. "This…has a point?"
"Yeah, because after a while, she collected so many they stopped mattering. She couldn't tell the difference anymore." She looks back at him. "These doors are all the same, but they're a little different," she says, unaffected by his attitude. "How are any one of these rooms different. Any of us that different to you?"
"It's not the same," he says. He puts his hand on a white door. Behind it, he knows the room was long-ago jettisoned to keep his memories at bay. "You're not my collection. I don't keep you around to look at you and let you collect dust."
"Then why do you keep us around?" she asks.
He considers the answer for a moment. He wants to answer Because I want to! in an irritated tone and storm off. For Rose, that answer would've been enough. For Martha, that answer would've been an answer in itself and she'd have picked and analyzed it to no end. For her, that would've probably resulted in some form of a slap.
So, for her, he takes his time answering. Considers what she means. Considers the long hallway of companion rooms that are collected along this walkway. It's not the rooms that matter, he thinks. The rooms, they're there for sleeping and collecting personal things. They're not important.
"Because someone once told me I need someone," he says, turning back to her. "To show the universe to. To stop me."
She smiles. It's a small, thin smile, one that better fits her age than the boisterous attitude she often gives him. She's very wise in her own way. She's grown so much since she started traveling with him.
"And the rooms?" she asks. "Why keep them, when they leave?" There's no we in her voice. She never wants to leave, ever. He's perfectly all right with that. He never wants her to go.
He looks back at the rooms, each untouched and private, even long after his companions have gone. Each one kept as though they'd just walked away. Why collect them? Why keep them for so long?
"Because," he says. "One day, they might come back."
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 559