|We Watched The Sun Go Down On Scotland (I Watched The Moon Come Up Over You)
Rose says, "Sometimes I think it's all monsters."
"Mmm," he says, not because she isn't right but because the start of the Torchwood Institute wasn't the first time he was labeled a monster. It was just the time that stung the most. He's always wondered how it happened -- why Scotland, why then. He's almost sorry he knows, now. His whole life has been built on a sense of mystery, and that wasn't the last secret he didn't know, but it was the biggest. The one he was never quite sure he did want to know.
"I mean," she says, "don't you? We find more monsters than we do other things."
"It's not all," he says. They're sitting in a café in Paris in 1924 with rain pouring down outside, and Rose's hair is dripping wet, sliding raindrops down across her nose. "Not everything is monsters."
"More than I thought," she says, and pushes a piece of damp hair out her eyes. "I'm not saying it's bad, I'm just saying it's how it is. It's all monsters, when you get down to it. Even people are monsters."
He can't decipher the inflection in her voice; he thinks of the way she stood, frozen, in the hallway, staring the beast down. Her wary silence after they were safely barricaded into the room, and the relief in her voice when she smiled, said, I tell you what. Fear and wonder, all mixed up together, and if that hasn't been his life -- well.
"Would you change it?" he says.
The waitress brings them a pot of tea, steam curling up into the air, and the stream shrouds Rose's face in the dim light. He thinks that Hemingway is sitting in a corner, papers spread in front of him on the table, and it's 1924, so if it is Hemingway, it's The Sun Also Rises. But it's dark outside, clouds dimming all the light even though it's mid-afternoon, and dark inside, lamps not lit yet. He can't see anything clearly.
Rose hums, and through the steam he sees her push the same piece of hair away from her face. "I don't think so," she says thoughtfully. "People are still monsters."
"Universal truth," he says. Some of the people he's met have been more monsters than the monsters. Some of the monsters have been more people than the people.
He still doesn't know where the wolf falls; it's been four days and Rose has dropped bits and pieces of her conversation with it -- with him -- before the moon rose. Mostly wolf, he thinks, and mostly monster, and he's inexplicably saddened by that. But the voice that asked to be let go, to be destroyed, was a human voice, a human realization that there was no other way.
It never gets easier. Another painful realization, one he's had a hundred thousand times over whenever he's lost someone -- never gets easier.
"We laugh too much," she says. The cup is warm underneath his fingers, and outside the window, a lamplighter standing in the rain sets the street lamp afire. Rose has turned her face away from him. She's been with him almost a year -- first when he was in his old body, and now in this one. He knows her silences as well as he knows the sound of her bare feet in the winding hallways of the TARDIS. She's haloed between the streetlight and the steam.
"It's kill or be killed," he says, and Rose glares at him.
"I want to think better of people," she says, and her face is wide open in a way that it hasn't been since before he had this body. Since before Bad Wolf, since before she opened the heart of the TARDIS and stared at the universe.
"Everything you've seen, and you still want to think better of people," he says. It isn't a question. He's asked it, said it, before.
"If it has claws and teeth, is it a monster?" she shoots back.
"It was then."
"Would it be now?"
The universe is infinite, almost. He's watched the end of the world on a hundred different planets, and it's different every time. The cups of tea she makes in the kitchen of the TARDIS are different than the cup of tea he's drinking now.
"Nothing stays the same," he says to her, and Rose sighs, a great heaving breath that he can see in the way her shoulders relax, and slumps back in her chair.
"I wish it would," she says. "I wish it could."
She chews on a fingernail and watches him. He can feel her gaze on the side of his face, but he's watching Hemingway in the reflection on the glass, the rain streaming down the window. "Do you think," he says, watching Hemingway tapping a pencil on the table, "that you would rather not have stepped through that doorway?"
"Which doorway?" Rose says.
"Any of them," he says. "Any of the ones with monsters, or the ones without."
"They all have monsters," she says. In the glass, her hair is falling in her face again.
"Universal truth," he says again. "Pick a door, any door."
She smiles, radiant in the darkness. "I pick the one that says Police Call Box."
"There are monsters behind that one," he says. He thinks about everything that's fallen down onto her London, things she wouldn't have been able to explain if he hadn't pulled her out of that life. Monsters in her city, monsters in his dreams.
There are people -- creatures, monsters -- in the universe who would call him a monster.
Rose has never done that.
"Can't be an adventure without a monster or two," she says.
"Why do I feel like we're back at the beginning of this conversation," he says, "only now we're on different sides?"
"Two sides to every story," Rose says, and when he turns to look at her she smiles again, blinding bright, a reminder in the darkness that there are reasons to fight the monsters. "Two faces to every monster."
"Some of them have more," he says. "Did I ever tell you about the one that had 17 faces, and spit -- "
"Yes," she says, and shudders. "Please never mention it again."
"Better or worse than the monsters under your bed when you were small?"
"Worse," she says.
"Do you dream about them?"
"I dream about my mum, and Mickey," she says. "The day we saw the Earth end. My father. Sometimes, sometimes I dream about the monsters. What do you dream about?"
"Stars," he says, and thinks home, space, time, you.
The waitress sets a candle on their table, and Rose shines like the stars, like the Earth from orbit, in the light.
author's notes: title and summary from the mountain goats, "going to scotland". maggie and t. did beta duty and the axis and sid very patiently listened to me talk about how i needed to rewatch this episode so i could write this story for almost a month straight before i actually did.