Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact.
But maybe everything that dies
someday comes back.
Bruce Springsteen, Atlantic City
Rose woke up with a funny taste in her mouth.
She was naked, and in bed. There were a few drops of blood on her pillow, half-dry and still sticky. She winced and reached for her mobile.
Mickey picked up after two rings. “About time you phoned. I was just about to come ‘round and make sure you weren’t dead of alcohol poisoning. Did you sleep all day?”
“No,” she said. “I don’t know. Maybe.” She pressed two fingers to the inside of her wrist. “Mickey, I think you should.”
He sighed. “Are you still hung over?”
“No,” she said, “I think it’s a bit more serious than that.” She paused, touching her fingers to her throat. “I think I might be dead.”
Twenty minutes later, the doorbell rang. Mickey and Jake stood in the doorway. Jake had two bottles of O-Neg; Mickey had a wreath of garlic.
“That smells terrible,” Rose said.
Mickey gave Jake a smug grin. “Told you.”
Jake looked pained. “It’s garlic, Mick. Of course it smells terrible.”
“It’s making me sort of hungry,” Rose said. They both turned to stare at her. She frowned, her forehead creasing. “No, hold on. That’s not the garlic.”
Jake held up a bottle of blood. “Is it this?”
“No,” Rose said slowly, her eyes fixed cat-like on the quickening pulse in Mickey’s throat, “I don’t think so.”
“Shit,” Mickey said.
Rose sat on one side of the glass, and Mickey sat on the other. The chairs were plastic, but very comfortable.
Torchwood plans ahead for this sort of thing.
Mickey held up a card with a drawing of a house on it.
“Safe,” Rose said.
He placed that card face down on the table, and then held up a card with a picture of a fox on it.
“Clever,” Rose said.
He placed that card on the table, and then held up another. It had a picture of a man on it.
“Dinner,” Rose said, and grinned.
“I would feel a lot more comfortable,” Pete Tyler said, “if we were dealing with something alien.”
“You and me both,” Rose said. Mickey sat across the table from her, twitching slightly. She smiled at him, and only just managed not to lick her lips.
Jake cleared his throat. “We don’t know that we’re not. We’re still looking for the man who infected her.”
Rose sat back in her chair. “The man who killed me, you mean.”
“That too,” Jake said.
Pete frowned. “And we don’t think he was an alien?”
“Well, Pete,” Rose said, “we’re pretty sure he was a vampire.”
“Stop staring at my neck,” Mickey said.
“I don’t remember much,” Rose said. “I know he looked a bit like Billy Idol.”
Mickey’s face went a little purple; it made her stomach grumble. “And so you thought you’d just take him back to your flat and let him chew on your neck for a while?”
“He had a black leather jacket,” Rose said, as if that explained everything.
Jake was the only one who would sit with her while she was drinking.
“What’s it like?” he asked, nodding at the mug of microwaved cow blood in her hand.
“It’s like pancakes,” she said.
“Really?” he said.
She wiped her mouth, smearing blood on her sleeve. “No,” she said.
Mickey wasn’t very happy.
“I don’t get it,” he said, propping his feet up on the coffee table. “Why me?”
Rose shrugged. “I don’t know. You just smell better than everyone else.”
“Do you think it’s because I’m your soul mate and you secretly can’t bear the thought of an eternity spent without me?”
Rose thought about this for a moment. “No,” she said. “I think I just want to eat you.”
“Oh,” he said. There was a silence. “Well, can we at least shag first?”
“Seems only fair,” Rose said, and took off her top.
Jake knocked on the door of her flat in the middle of the night.
“Mickey came to see me,” he said when she opened the door.
She nodded. “I thought he might.”
The corners of Jake’s mouth were still red. “It really doesn’t taste like pancakes,” he said.
“I know,” she said, and let him in.
Torchwood was the sort of place where people worked late. It wasn’t unusual, before, to find scientists hunched over in their labs long past midnight, or field operatives in a briefing after a late night mission.
Now everyone left before sunset, and Rose always woke to an empty building.
“I think,” she said, “that we’ve let ourselves get a bit cliché.”
Mickey’s drawer slid open with a metallic click. “Why?” he said. “Because we sleep in the morgue?”
Jake was washing his face in the autopsy room sink. “Coffins are cliché, not morgues.” He turned around. “Mickey, have you been squeezing the toothpaste from the middle again?”
“No,” Mickey lied. “You know you still have dried blood stuck in your teeth, right?”
“Where?” Jake turned to look in the mirror, then scowled. “Very funny,” he said.
They didn’t have reflections. It made getting ready in the evenings a bit of a chore.
“I mean it, though,” Rose said. “Mickey, when was the last time you wore anything but black?”
“I look good in black,” Mickey said. He wasn’t wrong.
Rose ran her fingers through her hair; it fell perfectly into place. “Jake, last week you wore a cravat to dinner.”
Jake shrugged. “It’s a classic.”
“It’s cheesy,” she said. “We’re cheesy. We go out every night into the, whatchamacallit, the throng of humanity, we seduce attractive innocents with the promise of eternal life, we eat them, and then we’re home before the janitorial staff comes in for the first shift.”
“Unless they’re early,” Jake said.
“Unless they’re early,” Rose agreed. “Then we eat them, too.”
“Hold on,” Mickey said. “Did you just say ‘the thong of humanity’?”
Rose sighed. “I don’t know why I bother. Forget I said anything.”
“‘Cause I don’t know what that would entail, exactly,” Mickey said, “but it sounds uncomfortable.”
Jake threw the tube of toothpaste at his head.
The truth was, Rose was bored.
She missed saving the planet. She missed their van, and travelling, and lukewarm mugs of tea in the middle of the night. Ever since she’d died, life had been pretty dull.
“Stop sulking,” Mickey said. “You’ll get wrinkles.”
“I won’t,” she said.
“Fine. You won’t.” He stood in front of her. “Is my collar straight?”
It wasn’t. “Yes,” she said. “It’s perfect.”
He kissed her cheek. “You sure you want to stay in tonight? It’s Jake’s turn to pick, and we’re going to a gay bar.”
She smiled. “You get all squirmy. It’s adorable.”
“Shut up.” He took a step toward the door. “Last chance, babe.”
“Go,” she said. “And stay safe.”
He grinned at her, fangs glinting in the florescent light. “Yes, ma’am,” he said, and left.
Something in the basement was beeping.
Rose stepped out of the lift. The lower floors of Torchwood Tower were chock full of unidentified alien tech, of failed experiments and abandoned inventions. Something had just switched itself on, and it was her job to switch it off again.
Not that she had a job anymore. Technically.
Her footsteps echoed as she walked down the corridor, following the faint, infrequent sound. She came to a locked door, and paused. Pressed her ear to the reinforced steel and listened.
She kicked the door down.
The room was long, rectangular, and empty. Empty but for one hulking piece of machinery hidden beneath a white sheet. She grabbed a fistful of sheet and pulled.
It was the dimension cannon, and it was working.
“Well, now,” she said. “Isn’t that interesting.”
“Let me get this straight,” Mickey said. “You want us to help save the universe.”
“Multiverse,” Rose said.
“Fine, the multiverse. Whatever.” Mickey scratched the back of his head and exchanged a look with Jake. “I just — aren’t we evil now?”
Rose gave him a hard look. It was very convincing.
Mickey sighed. “Where do we start?”
There were a lot of universes. Some of them were a little strange.
“Dinosaurs!” Mickey said, for the fifteenth time. “I just — I can’t — Dinosaurs!”
Rose brushed the dirt off the seat of her trousers, then did the same for Jake. He was still laughing softly to himself, his eyes unfocused. “Yes, Mickey,” she said, in something like a soothing voice. “We all saw the dinosaurs. They were very pretty.”
Mickey refused to be soothed. “You stabbed one! With a tree!”
She rubbed a hand over her eyes. “Had to, didn’t I? It was going to eat Jake.”
“Trees are like flowers,” Jake said. “Flowers made of wood.”
Mickey patted him on the shoulder. “Well said, mate.”
Jake curled into Mickey’s side, tucking his face into the other man’s neck. “I bit the big lizard,” he murmured, “but it was only a tiny bite.” He lifted his head and smiled. “It tasted like sunshine.”
Rose arched an eyebrow. “He drank from a dinosaur?”
“Well, yeah,” Mickey said. “But not ‘cause I dared him to, or anything.”
“Hamsters,” Jake said, and collapsed.
There was a flash of light, and Rose fell to her knees on the concrete basement floor. The dimension cannon buzzed for another moment, then went quiet.
Mickey and Jake sat in their lawn chairs, sharing a beer.
“Welcome home,” Jake said. “Your hair is on fire.”
Mickey grinned. “Jumped into direct sunlight again, did you?”
“Shut up,” Rose said, and dunked her head in a bucket of water.
It was funny, until it wasn’t.
“This doesn’t have to end in violence,” Rose said as she backed away slowly, her hands raised.
“It really does,” Mickey said, scowling.
They’d walked into a pub in what seemed to be a perfectly normal parallel London. When Jake had stepped up to order their drinks, the barman had pulled out a crossbow and aimed it at Jake’s heart.
“If anyone’s interested in my opinion,” Jake said, “I’m heartily in favour of the violence-free ending.”
The barman spat on the floor. If his hands hadn’t been full of crossbow, Rose was sure he would have made a sign against the evil eye. “You’re monsters,” he said. “Vermin.”
Rose tried to smile. “We have our moments.” She took a small step forward. “I know you have no reason to believe me, but I swear — we’re not here to hurt anyone. What’s happening here, the stars going out–”
“The darkness,” the barman said.
“Yes,” Rose said softly. “The darkness. We call it that too, where we’re from.” She took another step. “We’re trying to stop it. We might know the only person who can.” She risked a glance at Jake. “If you let us go, I promise you won’t see us again.”
“Please,” Jake said.
A bead of sweat rolled down the barman’s forehead. “I don’t listen to dead things,” he said, and fired the wooden bolt into Jake’s heart.
When the light faded, Rose and Mickey stood alone in the basement.
“I’m not staying here,” Mickey said. “When this is over. I don’t know where I’ll go, but I’m not staying here.”
“Yeah,” Rose said. “Okay.”
Rose sat in Jake’s lawn chair and used her sleeve to clean the last of the barman’s blood from her lips.
One evening Rose woke up and found a white cardboard box waiting on the autopsy table. Inside was a blue jacket, and a note. It said:
Don’t wear black. It makes you look like a corpse.
It was in her mother’s handwriting.
Rose saw an ambulance in the distance, and she ran.
There was a red-haired woman at the scene, gawking. “What happened?” Rose said. “What did they find?”
The woman shook her head. “I don’t know. Bloke called the Doctor, or something.”
Rose’s heart nearly started beating. “Where is he?”
“They took him away.” The red-haired woman shrugged a little. “He’s dead.”
He wasn’t dead.
He wasn’t dead, or regenerated, or a ghost, and with her arms wrapped around him and his chest pressed against hers, she could almost remember what it had been like, before. Her heartbeat.
“I can’t quite put my finger on it,” he murmured into her ear, “but something’s different about you.”
“New haircut,” she said.
“That must be it,” he said, and held her tighter.
Donna died. Jack died.
Dalek Caan wriggled in ecstasy. “This I have foreseen, in the wild and wind. The Doctor will be here as witness at the end of everything — the Doctor and his precious Children of Time.” He giggled. “And one of them will die.”
Well, Rose thought. That's what all the cool kids are doing these days.
She’d never seen so many people in the TARDIS at once.
One Doctor was leaping around the console, wittering on about TARDIS pilots and showing everyone which buttons to push.
The other just stood there, smiling at her. She leaned toward him, and their shoulders brushed. Blue against blue.
“You smell really good,” she said.
His smile widened.
He didn’t say goodbye.
The TARDIS faded from sight, and he took her hand. She looked at him, and found that he was already looking at her.
“So,” she said. “You’re not really married to that ‘grow old and die’ plan, are you?”
The Doctor cupped her cheek with one hand, his thumb brushing over the curve of her mouth. Then he swiped his thumb past her lips and pressed skin against fang until he drew blood.
“I’m flexible,” he said, and licked the blood from his hand.