Remember That You Are Mortal

by Roach Patrol [Reviews - 6]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • Character Study, Vignette

Author's Notes:
Written for the whoverse_las challenge [character's] birthday on LJ.


"Well, I'm finally shut of my twelfth period," Rose says, one morning. "That makes a year. A whole year of time and space."

"Not if you're counting by a lunar cycle," the Doctor says, though he's somewhat impressed she's been keeping track. "Human women from your time have their menstrual cycles every 28 days, on average--"

"No moons on a time machine," she says, her tongue between her teeth. "Unless you've got one stashed away 'round back of the zeppelin hangar. No suns either. Just me, and I say it's been a year. Come on, let's have some birthday cake-- I'm twenty now. Or twenty one, if I aged through that year you skipped us over. 'S very quantum, innit?"

He sits at the kitchen table and watches her rummage through the cabinets.

"Did you put the microwave back together?" she wants to know, pulling out cocoa powder, pulling out sugar and milk and two glass cups.

"Ye of little faith," he says. "It's on top of the ice box. You're going to microwave cake?"

"Secret Tyler recipe," she says, mixing things into the glasses. "Handed down through the generations."

"Microwaves were invented in--"

"Hush."

They watch the two cups revolve in the microwave, orbiting each other around a fixed, invisible axis. There is something about things in microwaves: they are a good deal more interesting than anything not in a microwave. The Doctor suspects it's something to do with the spinning, or the cooking, or the being-in-a-box . He'll have to ask Schrodinger, next time he sees the bloke. Or his cat. Chatty little thing, it was, though a bit of a know-it-all.

"You said you were nine hundred," Rose says. "Is that like alien twenty-nine-not-thirty, or are you nine hundred and one now?"

"I'm nine hundred and one," the Doctor decides.

The microwave dings.

"Take us somewhere nice to eat these," Rose says, scooting the hot glass cups out of the microwave with sharp, practiced little pecks of her fingers. "Somewhere with a view. And get me birthday candles."

"Anything else you'd like, Duchess?" he asks, almost entirely sarcastic, but not quite as entirely as he means to be. But she only laughs, used to his sharp tongue-- twelve months, has it been anywhere near that long?-- and grants him leave to slouch away.

On a whim, he takes her to the moon, Earth's moon. Her moon. In nine million years the imperceptible shifting of the lunar dust will have erased the rectangular mark his TARDIS is now pressing into the surface, and a little tin can with three curious apes inside will touch down and impress an entirely different sort of mark into the gray powder.

Earth is rising on the horizon, and the blue-green light it throws into the console room is the exact shade the console room is throwing back out. Shadows meet each other at oblique angles, fading around their centers, spilling from the smooth gray regolith outside to the smooth gray cement inside. If he were a poet...

Rose comes into the console room with two cup-shaped cakes on saucers, and sits down in the doorway.

"Candles," she reminds him, and he fishes them out of his pocket. She sticks one into each tiny cake, and passes the Doctor's over to him. "Light," she says, and the Doctor hands that over too, a faded red book of matches. Hellfire Club, it says on the cover, a little memento mori from a man he used to be.

"Let there be light," he says, his fingers against her elbow, his head bent over her shoulder.

"Happy birthday to we," she says, and strikes the match.

They watch the candles flare and dance for a long moment, setting the shadows to spinning. Then the Doctor leans forward over his cake and blows his out with one careful puff.

"What did you wish for?" she asks him, her eyes alight with mischief-- cheeky girl, this is one of her own traditions, and she knows she's not supposed to ask. But then, that's part of the tradition, too: temptation, denial. Share a piece of your soul just to lose it.

"That would be telling," he says, completing the ritual.

She grins, and presses her own candle to the TARDIS's threshold, and then through it. The moon's stern vacuum suffocates the flame, and she touches a fingertip to the flash-frozen wick. Even after a year her smile is just the same: a joyous, wondering delight in the way things are exactly the way they are.

"What did you wish for?" the Doctor asks.

She glances over at him, a flash of dark eyes, a hint of pink tongue, and behind her head, the Earth, rising.

"That would be telling," she agrees.