It had been a few years since Rose had returned to her universe with Penelope, the metacrisis Doctor. Near as they were able to figure, Penelope was physically somewhere in her 30’s these days, but there was no good way of knowing for sure. Officially, her birth date was 1975, mostly because Penelope insisted that she had fond memories of that year-- “I saw Elvis,” she had said, when they were getting all the paperwork sorted out. “He knew who I was. I didn’t know why. Nice guy. Returned my mobile phone, which was very confusing at the time. ‘Course, that was when back I was a man.”
(Rose had raised her eyebrows at her until she had turned to the clerk they were talking to and said, “Just kidding! I was a baby. Couldn’t have met Elvis. I’m just a fan.”)
So now she was 36, officially. She had been living in the parallel universe with Rose for about three years, and she had officially settled down. She lived in a flat with her wife and their cat, worked a job with fairly regular hours (never mind that the job was best described as “alien expert”), and picked up chips on the way home. She had gone domestic, something that she had once sworn to Rose that she hated and would never do.
Rose laughed about it, sometimes, and usually Penelope laughed with her. Rose had never minded the idea of domesticity; she had just always seen it as something for later, if she was ever done traveling. She loved her life with Penelope. She loved falling asleep next to her wife every night and waking up every morning to kisses or to the smell of something cooking or to the sound of something in the house being taken apart and put back together again into some futuristic version of itself.
One Saturday, Rose woke up to a mostly dark room. The clock said it was about 7 in the morning; Penelope was nowhere to be seen. This in itself was relatively normal. Penelope had never gotten into the habit of wasting her time sleeping in when she could be-- well, taking things apart and putting them back together again, mostly. But Rose didn’t hear the telltale clanking that usually accompanied Penelope’s constant maintenance, so she got out of bed and, still clad in her flannel pajamas, walked out to the dim living room, looking around for her wife.
She found Penelope sitting on the floor by the window, fully dressed, sitting with her knees to her chest while she watched the sun rise through the glass.
Rose padded over.
“Mind if I sit?” she asked.
“Not at all,” Penelope said. Her gaze remained fixed completely on the sunrise.
Rose sat cross-legged next to her.
“Is everything all right?” she asked.
Penelope didn’t answer. Rose didn’t press the question; instead, she turned her gaze to the sunrise, soft shades of pink and orange and purple seeping through the clouds.
“Sunrise is nice,” Rose said. “Good day for it.”
“I’m dying,” Penelope said, with absolutely no lead-in.
Rose started, turning her head to look at Penelope.
“Sorry, you’re what?” she asked.
“Dying,” Penelope said, looking back at Rose, her eyes wide. “I’m dying, Rose.”
“Well, what is it?” Rose asked. “When did you find out?” Her mind was racing. When would Penelope have had time to go to a doctor without Rose knowing? What could have happened to her? What was going to happen to her?
“See for yourself. Look.” Penelope pulled at one of her hairs, stretching it in front of her face, and Rose leaned in to look. It was gray, but wasn’t that supposed to start happening around now?
“It’s just a gray hair,” Rose said, far more relieved than she let on. “Nothing to be scared of.”
“Means I’m dying,” Penelope said. “I could have as few as thirty years left!”
Rose almost laughed, but she stopped herself.
“Penny,” she said, “that just means you’re human.”
“I don’t like it,” Penelope said. “I never used to get gray hair before.”
“Yeah, but you’ve had gray hair before,” Rose said. “You must have, at least once.”
“Yeah, I’ve been old,” Penelope said. “But I’ve never gotten old. And I don’t like it.”
“It’s just another adventure,” she said. “Like how getting a job and finding a new flat were adventures. Remember? You said that.”
“I like those adventures, but I want the other adventures back,” Penelope admitted. “Where we go to six alien planets in one day and get ourselves banned from four of them, and where every time I die I just turn into another version of me.”
“For most humans, this is all they get,” Rose said. “Just one version. I used to be sad about it. Back before I met you. But-- it’s sort of beautiful, really. We get all this time just to live , and we use it.”
“I suppose,” Penelope said. “I do love humans.” She looked back at the sunrise. “Maybe it’s okay that I’m dying. Even if it’s happening much faster than it used to.” Her head turned back to Rose, looking at her with the intensity and urgency Rose loved. “But we should still go on more adventures.”
Rose laughed, stretching her legs out in front of her.
“Maybe we will,” she said, tilting her head to the side. “We could on a plane to a random country. Maybe even to space, someday. I bet we could get Torchwood to send us on more international missions. Come on, Penny. We’re not anywhere near dead yet.”
“Speak for yourself,” Penelope said. “You’re younger than me, you know.”
Rose laughed again.
“Not by nearly as much as I used to be,” she said.
Penelope rested her head on Rose’s shoulder.
“I guess it’s all right, then,” she said. “As long as we can go on more adventures.”
Rose smiled into her hair.
“That’s right,” she said, taking Penelope’s hand. “Lots more.”
In front of them, the sun rose. They made pancakes. Penelope started tinkering with the oven. It was just like any other day.