AN: Fits with 'Customer' drabbles, but can be read on own. Also fits with future fics 'Halted' and 'Haunted'.


Tell Me a Story by Alexannah

The kitchen light was on.

Shareen stopped in her tracks, staring up at the block. Yes, it was definitely the Tylers' flat.

Her blood boiled. Rose and Jackie had only been gone a couple of days, and already someone was going through their things. It wasn't right. Before she knew what she was doing, she was charging up the stairs towards number 48.

It couldn't be family, she thought as she ascended. They hadn't had any. She had been Rose's best friend, she should know. Maybe it was a burglar. Well, they'd better look out.

No, a burglar would be using a torch, they wouldn't turn the light on. Shareen turned onto the final flight. And if whoever cleared out people's homes when they died was clearing theirs out—wouldn't they be there during working hours, not at nine in the evening? So who on earth was it?

Had Mickey come back? Jackie had never said he was dead, she'd just said he was gone ... Or ... was Rose or Jackie back? After all, no bodies had been found ... could they be alive after all? Stranger things had happened ...

Shareen banged on the front door, and heard the sound of breaking china inside the flat as something was dropped in surprise. After a moment, the door opened, and Shareen deflated in disappointment.

"Yes?" the man asked. "Can I help you?"

He was tall and gangly, dressed in a crumpled brown suit and even in the poor light Shareen could see he looked exhausted.

"Er—sorry," she said awkwardly. "Um, who are you?"

He frowned. "You came here, who are you?"

"I'm Shareen—I—I was a friend of Rose's."

His eyes widened. "Shareen! That's you?" His mouth opened and closed soundlessly for a moment. "Er ... did ... did your mum give you the message?"

"Yeah, she did," Shareen replied. "That's why I'm here, I saw the light on and thought ... Sorry, you didn't tell me who—" She paused as the realisation struck her. "You're the Doctor, right?"

He nodded. "Come in?"

"Thanks."

Inside the flat was filled with half-filled cardboard boxes. A lot of Rose and Jackie's possessions were missing from their usual places; presumably packed away.

"Um …" the Doctor was shifting awkwardly, hands in his pockets. "Tea or something?"

"Yeah."

Silence fell between the two strangers as the kettle boiled. The Doctor busied himself rifling through the cardboard box next to it, labelled 'KITCHEN'. Shareen looked down at the paperwork spread across the table.

"That looks ... thorough." Jackie's usually somewhat disorganised collection of anything that came into the house on paper had been divided neatly into several piles. Bills paid, bills outstanding, receipts, tax ... the list went on. Several physical lists were lying on the table as well, with items neatly crossed off, a paper recycling box and a shredder stood on two of the chairs.

The Doctor poured the now-boiled water into two mugs retrieved from the box, and handed Shareen one. "Someone's got to sort it out."

"True." Shareen hesitated as the Doctor took a sip of tea, his eyes not on her but on an empty corner of the room. "But ... I don't understand why you're clearing all their stuff. All of it. They could still be alive out there. What if they come back?"

"It's not going to happen," he said quietly, with such finality Shareen wondered whether he was trying to convince her or himself.

"You know what happened to them, don't you," she said.

"Yeah." The Doctor finally met her eyes. "They're not coming back, Shareen."

"Tell me."

He looked at her, saying nothing.

"Doctor. Rose was my best friend since playgroup. Please, tell me what happened to her. I deserve to know."

"How much …" he hesitated. "How much did Rose tell you. About me, I mean; about what we did together."

"Not much," Shareen replied. "She said you two travelled all over the place, but sort of clammed up when I asked for details. She said once that you were …" she struggled to remember. "Uniquely travelled, I think it was."

The Doctor gave a faint smile. Shareen waited. Finally he gave a little nod.

"If I tell you something, would you be able to just accept it and move on?"

"Depends what it is."

"If I told you Rose was alive and well, but unable to come home."

"Why?"

"Shareen," he said quietly.

"Is Rose alive and well?"

He paused; possibly the longest silence of Shareen's life. "Yes."

Shareen's heart was hammering. "What about Jackie?"

"Her too."

"So where are they?"

"Far away. Very, very far away."

"Doctor, tell me."

"You really want to know?"

"How can you even ask me that?"

"The Cybermen came through to this world from a parallel world," he said.

Shareen gaped. "What?"

"That's how they initially appeared as ghosts, they were pressing in from another universe. Rose and I sent them into the void, the space in between the worlds. But she got trapped on the other side. In the other world, with her mother and Mickey."

Shareen stared at him for a long time.

"Do you believe me?"

"No."

"All right," he said, shrugging slightly. "I'm lying. Or mad. Take your pick. If it's easier for you to believe, Rose is dead. But either way … she's never coming back, Shareen."

Shareen very calmly set her hardly-drunk tea on the bench, turned her back on him and walked out of the flat.

The End