Daniel's Punishment

Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me. Except Daniel Todd. But then, I'm not too fussed on him, anyway.

Author's Note: For anyone still reading this (after about 100 years!), and who hasn't given up all hope; thank you! I'm sorry it has been so long since my last update. The last review I received caused the guilt to kick in; resulting in the following 23 pages; so thank you for sprurring me on! :) Because it has been a while, I'm really uncertain about this, so more than ever I need your views and opinions-just so I know how I'm doing. Whatever you think of it, let me know!

Oh, Rose knew that look.

Her mouth twisted up into an amused half-smile, half-smirk as she looked at the Doctor, trying to compress her laughter. It was the 'look' she'd seen on his face when he'd told her that her mum had slapped him after he'd brought her home an entire year late. A cross between mortification that he'd been put in his place by a human, (and one who thought that Aberystwyth was in Scotland at that) embarrassment that he'd been told off in the first place, when usually he did exactly what he liked and refused to answer to any form of authority, and wounded pride.

It was fair to say that one of Jackie's infamous slaps had dented his self-assured ego, and he looked just as bemused and slightly horrified now as he had done then. Except this time, his pet lip and sheepish expression weren't gracing the features of a rugged man with shorn hair and electric blue eyes, but one with chiseled, angular cheekbones, a straight nose and fantastically floppy dark hair. Lovely, soft hair, mused Rose, her thoughts straying slightly as she remembered fiddling with it the night before as he'd carried her back to the TARDIS…

Yes, she decided, her lip curling at the furrow in his brow as he frowned; same expression; same man; different face. He looked the same as he had done when they'd been banished from the British Empire by Queen Victoria, as if he were recovering from being splatted across the face with a wet kipper.

"She was," he began in a low voice, shaking his head darkly, his eyebrows knitting together.

"Hard work?" suggested Rose, smiling with her tongue poking through her teeth. "Bolshy?"

"Terrifying," he admonished, emphasizing the 'T' and rubbing the back of his neck.

Rose laughed, tipping her head back at the sky and rolling her eyes.

They were sitting side by side on a low brick wall outside Rose's block of flats. Green, furry moss grew between the cracks in the bricks, like sponge and large yellow dandelions poked up at the base of the wall. Loose bits of gravel, tiny shards of broken glass from shattered bottles and cigarette stubs were heaped on the ground beneath their feet. It was where the estate's rougher teenagers gathered at night to swill stolen beer and swap the stuff they'd shoplifted.

Rose remembered that the wall always used to be covered in scratchings and pen scrawlings like, 'Harra woz here 1995.' She looked down at them now, reading the swearwords and rude lyrics beside her legs; she recognised most of them, actually. She used to play hide and seek behind the wall and read what was written, giggling quietly whilst she was all curled up in a ball, determined not to be found. That was, until her mate Shareen fell and got glass stuck in her palm and it became all infected.

Now, however, after being shooed out of her neighbour's flat like pestering children, the Doctor and Rose had hurried down the smelly staircase, hardly daring to say anything until they reached the entrance hall and burst out of the double doors, tittering and exchanging guilty smiles as they emerged outside into the late afternoon sunshine and perched themselves on the wall.

"What?" said the Doctor, looking wounded and confused as Rose continued to laugh at him, tickled by his expression. "What's funny?"

"You!" she admitted, pursing her lips to stop herself from giggling, but still a small smile tugged at the corner of her lips. "You walk around as if you own the universe; as if nothing can frighten you, and yet here you are; intimidated by June!" she teased, putting her elbows on her thighs and leaning forwards to rest her chin on her hands, looking sideways at him.

"She waved a dishclothat me!" protested the Doctor. "No wonder she's mates with your mum-they're as mad as each other!"

Rose blinked and raised her eyebrows, only half-pretending to find this insulting.

"Oi," she said curtly, narrowing her eyes at him. "Leave off my mum."

The Doctor grinned at her in a manic sort of way and kept quiet. When it came to Jackie, Rose was fiercely protective, and the Doctor knew better than to push it.

Although she found her mum's and the Doctor's bickering quite funny, she made it clear that there was a line between them which neither of them were allowed to cross and thankfully, they both adhered to it. Which was just as well, really.

"I'm not saying anything," the Doctor promised, trying to feign innocence, yet Rose still looked half-stern,

"And June's really not that bad, you know," she continued, absent mindedly running a fingertip beneath her lower lash line, which felt tight and crusty, her lashes still damp. "She doesn't always think before she speaks but she's fine; her bark's worse than her bite and…she really used to look after me," she finished wistfully, craning her neck round to look back at the block of flats.

The Doctor's eyes softened at her tone and he too, took a quick glance back at the flats looming behind them; grey, rundown and uninteresting.

"Used to?" he repeated quietly, detecting a trace of gloominess in her voice and looking at her inquiringly.

"Yeah; she moved over to Canada when I was twelve," said Rose flatly, rubbing the tips of her thumb and first finger together to try and shift the black residue that her mascara had left behind. "Went to live with her daughter; there was nothing for her, here," she said despondently, remembering with a pang that she'd once told Mickey exactly the same thing.

Oh, it had been ages ago; when the Doctor had sent her home from the Gamestation. She'd been frightened at the time. Her hands had shook, even though her voice had been firm and resolute; she'd felt sick with anxiety; desperate to get back to the Doctor, even though she knew that doing so could ultimately lead to her dying.

Of course, she had convinced herself that she was going back to save him…but deep down? She hadn't allowed herself to hope that absorbing the Time Vortex would work; she'd just been hedging her bets. No…deep down her reasoning had been that she was going to die at some point, and that she would rather 'go down fighting' with the Doctor; rather die happy and at the side of man she…well, yeah…loved, than old and miserable in her bed at eighty-six. Or whatever. She just…couldn't let the Doctor die on his own. It was better with two, it really was…

The look on Mickey's face as she'd said it…she'd broken his heart. Her words had killed him. She'd seen it in his eyes; the accusatory hurt, bitterness, disappointment, betrayal, like that of an abandoned child; the agonising realisation that he would always be second best, that no one could ever matter to her more than the Doctor…

Rose's stomach gave a squeeze of guilt and she inwardly cringed with shame, before dismissing her thoughts, forcing herself back to the present.

"She had a son, called Rory," Rose explained at the Doctor's questioning glance, her cheeks still faintly pink at the emotions her memories had evoked. "But he's inside," she finished, shrugging, as if it were not a topic she wanted to linger on.

"Well he is now," she said as an afterthought after a short pause, looking around at the ugly buildings either side of her. "In 1997. He's only been in a year. Dunno where he is now, though," she mused, reaching up and toying with the silver hoop dangling from her left ear. " I mean now…now. My time," she gabbled, letting out a short sigh of frustration. "My real time," she elaborated stiltedly, clearly getting annoyed with herself, as if she couldn't pinpoint exactly when…what year she was really from…

"All right, don't hurt yourself," chided the Doctor, looking amused at her efforts.

"Timey Wimey!" they said together, although whereas the Doctor grinned enthusiastically into the words, his voice going high, as if he were bringing up an old shared joke they had once found hilarious, Rose said it with a sort of bored, long-suffering,'Timey-Wimey-is-your-answer-for-everything-but-you're-so-endearing-with-it-that-I'll-indulge-you' sort of way.

They smirked at each other, though Rose's faded as she blew out air through her cheeks. "Nah," she mused after a while. "He's probably back in, knowing him." She stretched down to pick up a sharp, chalky stone from beside her feet and began scratching the wall with it, lightly.

"What do you mean 'inside'?" said the Doctor, looking confused. "Inside where?"

"Inside, inside," said Rose pointedly with a raised eyebrow, as if she thought the Doctor was being particularly slow.

"In the clink," she embellished, seeing that the Doctor continued to look at her blankly. "On holiday at Her Majesty's Services?" she tried hopefully.

The Doctor's expression was as if someone had just told him that the consumption of bananas had been made illegal.

"He's in jail," said Rose impatiently, emphasizing the word 'jail' loudly, as if she were speaking to someone who didn't understand English.

"Ohh," said the Doctor, light dawning in his eyes. "Just say that, then," he grumbled mutinously, like a child who had been teased.

Rose laughed again, shaking her head at him before she dropped her gaze and returned to her task at hand again; frowning slightly in concentration as she scratched letters into one of the rust-coloured bricks.

The Doctor watched her for a moment, her head bent, scratty-looking blonde hair with dark, brassy roots falling as a curtain over her face.

"That's vandalism," he pointed out dryly.

Rose looked up at him, tucking her hair behind her ear, a mischievous glint in her eye.

"Then report me," she challenged him, chucking the stone away and grinning up at him with her tongue between her teeth. "Detective Inspector."

The look on the Doctor's face was priceless. His mouth fell open, as if he were not entirely sure how to respond to this, or even, if he'd heard her correctly. But then, an equally playful twinkle sparked in his eyes and he shot her a disarming, full-watt grin.

"I would have expected an officer of the law, such as yourself, PC Lewis, to show more respect for public property," he quipped, gently knocking her with his shoulder.

Rose elbowed him back. "Sorry, Guv." She bit her lip, her eyes full of laughter. "You going to arrest me?"

The Doctor winked at her. "Oh yes, I should think so," He grabbed both of her hands and hauled her up. "Full police escort and everything."

Rose stood and brushed dust and muck from the wall off her jeans before taking his proffered arm. They walked in companionable silence for a few minutes as the Doctor led them round the side of Rose's block of flats, dodging litter and dogs' poo, back in the direction of the TARDIS.

"So, what did her son do, to end up 'inside,'" asked the Doctor curiously, saying 'inside' in a perfect imitation of Rose's Cockney accent.

Rose smirked and pointed at him. "Watch it, mister," she said mock warningly. "I dunno all the details," she confided hesitantly, staring at the ground as they walked. "They were really careful about what they said in front of me, but from what I did hear," she pressed on thoughtfully, "He apparently held up some taxi-driver bloke with a kitchen knife and demanded he gave him his money," she said quickly, as if she thought it would be better for the Doctor to hear everything all at once.

She had been about eight or nine when she'd come in from playing Bulldog outside with the rest of the children her age on the estate, to find a red-eyed, sniffling June sitting at the kitchen table with her mum, shaking so badly that the cup of tea in her hand had been in danger of toppling over. Both women had looked up, startled as Rose had burst in through the door nattering on happily about Shareen's new Tamagotchi.

Her mum had looked so worried and distressed, yet sympathetic at the same time, covering June's hands with her own, and June herself had been terribly pale, looking absolutely beside herself with grief and shame. Rose remembered the prickle of fear that had risen in her stomach as she'd walked in on them; a horrible, anxious feeling that something really bad had happened…

"Rose," her mum had said gently, giving her a reassuring smile that did not quite disguise the too-shininess of her eyes. "Why don't you go round to Mickey's grandma's and I'll come and pick you up after tea, yeah?"

Rose had nodded mutely, looking unsurely from her mum to June, like a scared little mouse, before running as fast as she could out of the flat. That night, as her mum dried her hair for her after her bath and tucked her up in bed, she'd lingered a little longer than usual, playing with one of Rose's soft toys; twisting the button nose of a fluffy tiger round and round in a preoccupied fashion.

"Sweetheart," she'd said, sighing softly, as if she didn't know how to begin. "June's son has had to go away for a little while and she's a bit upset. You're a big, brave, clever girl now and I'm very proud of you so I know you won't…but just in case. When you go round, I don't want you to ask her about it, or mention him, ok darling? Not unless she tells you. All right?"

Her eyes wide and subdued in the dark, one arm curled around her pillow, feeling a slight dip in the mattress where her mum was sitting, Rose had nodded and mumbled 'Right,' not understanding, but not wanting to know, either. Not if it would upset June or her mum, and she never wanted to upset either of them…

Her mum had leaned in and kissed her cheek, her hair tickling Rose's forehead, smelling of perfume and cooking and just so…motherly and safe. At that point, Rose had been unable to even imagine her ever leaving her mum. It had caused a painful lump to build up in her throat, and a wet, salty tear to run silently out of the corner of her eye and soak into the pillow as her mum snapped off her bedroom light and closed the door over softly…

"He sounds charming," said the Doctor pleasantly, his shoulder brushing hers as they walked.

"What?" asked Rose distractedly, her mind a million miles away, stuck firmly in the past. "Oh…yeah," she said hurriedly, trying to pretend that she had been listening. "Yeah, I didn't know him that well, but June always reckoned that he was wrongly accused, I think…S'why she doesn't like police officers; could you tell?" she probed, smiling wryly as she thought of June's sheer tactlessness.

"Well she was just so discreet…"

"No one round here likes the police, though," reasoned Rose loyally. "Never have, never will," she said, ignoring the Doctor's sarcasm and blowing out air through her cheeks.

They cut across a near-empty gravel car park, where a man who appeared to be in his early twenties lay on his back underneath a battered looking car, the left hand door of which was blue, a completely different colour to the rest of the red bodywork.

Rose cleared her throat and tapped the Doctor's arm urgently. "Detour, I think," she said quietly, causing the Doctor to do an about-turn as she pulled him quickly and forcefully in the other direction, their footsteps grinding into the gravel.

"Why?" asked the Doctor keenly, peering over his shoulder as they retreated from the car park and headed back towards the main blocks of flats.

"He's not very nice," said Rose darkly, looking back over her shoulder as well, as if to check that they weren't being followed. "Rather not walk past him, thanks."

The Doctor puffed his chest up, looking indignant and quite ruffled. "He didn't pick on you as well, did he?" he said dangerously, whipping his head round to glare at the man, as if he would have liked nothing more than to march over to him and re-align the neurons of his brain with his sonic screwdriver.

"No, no, nothing like that," Rose assured him quickly, rubbing his arm, touched at his chivalry. "He's just…a bit of a druggie. Quite violent. Keeps a gun under his car," she muttered.

The Doctor raised his eyebrows, as if to consider this, and exhaled. "Well," he reasoned. "He's just lying there. He's not actually doing anyone any harm...I think it would be rude to disturb him, yeah."

Rose laughed as the Doctor rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably.

"Weird that the psychic paper told her we were police officers though, isn't it?" pondered Rose, thinking aloud, the thought having just struck her. "I mean if she doesn't like the police..?" she trailed off and swiped back a bit of hair that had worked itself into her mouth.

"Mmh," agreed the Doctor, pulling the psychic paper from his pocket and giving it a quick glance before shoving it back in, stroking it absent-mindedly with his thumb. "I don't know what else it could have shown her…how else we could have explained why we were bringing home a younger version of your rather brilliant self," he admitted, tapping her on the nose, fondly. " Producers from Trisha, perhaps?" he said, grinning cheekily.


They turned a corner so that they were directly behind Rose's block of flats, towards the edge of the estate. If she looked up, Rose would probably be able to see her bedroom window. She used to look out of the window when she was little, when she should have been asleep. She used to sit, crossed-legged on her bed in her pyjamas with her duvet wrapped around her shoulders, watching all the fights and joyrides, peeking out whenever she saw blue flashing lights which shone in through her window.

That had been before she'd read Roald Dahl's the BFG and became so frightened that she was going to be snatched from her bed by giants, that she never sat by the window at night again, nearly suffocating herself nightly, by burrowing completely under the covers with her pillow clamped over her head…

Rose chewed on the inside of her cheek, her eyes pained and preoccupied as she walked. An image of June; untidy looking, boisterous and shrill, yet so caring kept popping up in her mind's eye, brandishing a dishcloth. She'd spoken to her so harshly; snapped at her, even, and she'd never done so before. True, June hadn't realised that it had been her beloved Rose in front of her, albeit a grownup one, but it had left Rose feeling…quite shaken, like a child who had been told off, as if she were still ten years old.

Her words were still ringing through her ears, banging off her skull.

"Had Jackie round here in tears the other day! She blames herself; the poor love; says it's all her fault and that she should've taken better care of her!"

She felt a bit sick; her stomach was in knots, with the sort of nervous energy you get before a big exam. Early summer though it was, she felt quite chilly and shaky, and there was something caught at the back of her throat that no amount of swallowing seemed to be getting rid of. Her cheeks felt uncomfortably warm and there was a too-familiar prickle beneath her eyelids.

She hadn't known, how could she have known that her mum had blamed herself? That her mum had thought that it was all her fault that she had been bullied? That she'd felt like a lousy mother? Why had she thought that? How could she have possibly thought that? Had she been carrying this feeling of guilt, guilt that she had no need to feel for all these years?

When the bullying had stopped, Rose had just carried on, had just tried to forget about it; blocked it up at the back of her mind and had pretended that everything was fine; she had never spoken about it to her mum. What had that done to her? Her mum must have been just as upset as her, and yet she'd never even given her a second thought…She felt utterly terrible.

"Rose?" said the Doctor, sounding slightly wary as he looked over at her, no doubt noticing that she was staring resolutely to her right as they ambled along the chewing-gum covered path, with weeds in between the paving slabs, her head turned completely away from him.

The Doctor too, looked to the right, searching for whatever held Rose's fixed attention, but there were only graffitied walls and boarded-up windows of obviously empty council flats. She either couldn't bear to look at him, or she was trying to hide her face, and since he couldn't think of anything he had done (well, recently) that might cause her to be upset with him, other than his being rude about a dear family friend…he assumed that it was the latter.

"I'm fine," said Rose calmly, at the same time as the Doctor asked her if she was all right. It was as if she'd felt his concern, pre-empted his question. There was an awkward pause, and Rose still didn't turn her head round.

The Doctor, very quietly made a disbelieving noise but said nothing, knowing that she had an inability to keep quiet when something was really bothering her.

"It's just," she said hesitantly, proving the Doctor to be right, her voice wobbling slightly. "I never knew that my mum blamed herself. I never realised that she felt it was all her fault," she said quietly, sounding both horrified and ashamed.

"You heard what June said," she accused him, sniffing, coming to a standstill beside a smelly, overflowing bin. She could see the remains of a McDonalds Happy Meal lying on top of a stained copy of The Sun. " She said that my mum had been to see her in…in tears and I didn't know! I didn't think to check if she was ok," she squeaked furiously, her voice breaking and she blinked back angry tears, willing herself not to cry again.

"I can't believe she thinks she could have taken better care of me!" she protested, gripping the sleeves of her denim jacket, tightly. "She always looked after me…she's such a good mum…I should have picked up on it…I should have asked her…I should have realised," she implored him, her eyes wide, shining and helpless. She looked extraordinarily young and vulnerable.

"Rose," began the Doctor, interrupting her self-directed rant, but she paid no attention to him, continuing to berate herself, staring moodily at the ground as if she wished it nothing but ill, pulling at the cuff of her jacket with tears in her eyes. Until the Doctor grew tired of waiting for her to be quiet and pulled her to him in one fluid motion, his arms going tightly around her, and lifting her off her feet.

Rose gave a short intake of breath, for a moment taken aback at being so abruptly stopped. The Doctor had rendered her literally speechless, but she ignored any weak feelings of indignation and wrapped her arms around his neck, secretly pleased. He swung her once from side to side before setting her back down on her feet, but did not let go of her.

"Quite enough of that, thank you very much," he chirped good-humouredly in her ear, his breath tickling her neck.

"What? Talking?" tutted Rose, pressing her cheek against his shoulder, which felt very warm, even if the fabric of his coat was rough and coarse.

"Blaming yourself," he corrected her gently, rubbing her back. "It's against the law," he said matter-of-factly, and Rose could feel him smiling as he said it.

"Whose law?" she whispered, grinning too as she turned her head slightly and deliberately fluttered her eyelashes against the Doctor's jaw, tickling him. She giggled as he squirmed and let go of her.

"My law," he said authoritatively, holding her by the shoulders, attempting to look stern and imposing, but his eyes were crinkled.

Rose smiled. Her make-up desperately needed reapplying; there were tear trails down her foundation; the paler colour of her skin peeking through the beige powder, and her mascara had smudged, leaving dark, wet rings around her blood-shot eyes. It was evident that she had been crying, yet her pained expression had melted.

The warmth in her eyes was completely genuine as she gazed intently up at the Doctor, thanking him in a mere look and a curve of her lips for cheering her up in the way that only he knew how. He didn't have to use overly dramatic gestures and long reams of empty, artificial words for her to know that he cared about her. It was the little, quirky details, like grabbing her in a hug to shut her up and his gentle teasing that really mattered to her.

And she adored him for it.

The Doctor nodded once in simple acknowledgement of her look of gratitude, seemingly quite pleased that neither of them had had to say anything. He quirked one eyebrow up at her and held out his hand.

Rose took it and they grinned at each other happily.

"I don't quite believe I'm about to say this," said the Doctor carefully, as they carried on walking, sounding both equally amused and full of dread. "But then, I couldn't believe it when I began a sentence with 'It is a truth universally acknowledged,' and directed it at Jane Austen….and look how that turned out," he said distastefully, wrinkling his nose.

"Now she was a scary woman and a half," he said adamantly, baulking at the memory. "What?" he asked defensively, his voice going all high-pitched again, seeming to quail under the sardonic look Rose was giving him. "I was going through a pompous phase," he said indignantly, as if that excused him somehow.

Rose laughed. "And by 'going through' you mean got there and decided to stay, yeah?" she said innocently, digging him in the ribs to show she was joking.

"Haha," he said sarcastically, rolling his eyes at her. "No, what I was going to suggest," he pressed on, looking pensive. "A trip back to see your mum, what do you reckon?" he said seriously.

Rose had the sudden urge to both throw her arms around the Doctor and to burst into tears. She felt a warm tingle of relief and contentment, like sinking into a hot bubble bath, settle in her stomach, and a jolt of excitement leap in her chest.

She reached across her body with her right hand to squeeze the Doctor's arm, just above their joined hands. "Yeah," she said softly, a beam plastered across her face.

She briefly rested her head against the Doctor's shoulder as they reached a clump of garages, where the estate's dodgier characters temporarily housed their stolen goods. They smelt strongly of oil and urine, and she's been told to stay well away from them when she was younger. "Yeah, go on, then."

The Doctor flashed her a dazzling smile as they rounded the corner, obviously pleased with himself. They turned onto a wide back alley. On both sides were the backs of houses; industrial-sized bins pouring out onto the back lane.

There was a child's plastic outdoor playhouse at the end of one garden, and an expensive-looking stunt bike abandoned outside another. The tinkling of advert music on the TV came drifting out of one of the open windows, yet all the houses were identical. The same dirty brickwork, dilapidated state and cramped layout. It was like walking down a street in 1960's Birmingham.

Then, just ahead of them, from around a high wall with a trim of barbed wire across the top, ambled four boys, jostling each other as they walked, two by two. They were wearing black shell suits, all of them. All looked dozy and oafish; more brawn than brains. Especially the chubby, gorilla-like boy lolloping at the front with a pudding-basin haircut and a nose like a lumpy potato…Daniel Todd and his friends.

"Oh no," breathed Rose, clutching at the Doctor's hand, sounding extremely uneasy. "Not again. Let's just leave it yeah? Don't say anything," she said desperately, under her breath. She felt sick with trepidation. One encounter in one day had been more than enough. What if they recognised her from the shop? They were children; horrible children, yes, but that didn't mean Rose felt any more comfortable facing them now than she had been when she was ten. There was nowhere for either the gang of boys or the Doctor and Rose to go; they'd have to cross each other's paths. No…

Ashen-faced and shaking, the cuff of her sleeve balled into a fist in her free hand, chewing on her lip nervously, Rose looked from the clump of boys to the Doctor, quite plainly uncomfortable; her eyes darting backwards and forwards.

The Doctor opened his mouth to argue; as to tell her in no uncertain terms why it would be categorically absurd for the most talkative man in the universe to stay quiet when faced with the four hard-faced louts who had so severely hurt his best friend, to the extent that she was still afraid of them, even as an adult, but he soon closed it again.

The boys were staring at the Doctor, their mouths hanging open in silent horror. All four of them looked paler than they had done in the park; every single sneer and shred of cockiness and spite had gone. They looked scared. Of the Doctor. They were staring at him as if they were looking at a ghost, in stupefied recognition and utter disbelief. As one, they looked over their shoulders back in the direction they had come, back at the wall and then at the Doctor again, as if double-checking.

"C'mon," muttered Daniel gruffly to his friends, never taking his eyes off the Doctor in a look of the utmost dislike, mistrust and reluctant awe.

The Doctor glared at them, his face severe, like a stone statue of an angry, scorned god. Rose, on the other hand, breathed in as they brushed past her, hardly daring to make eye-contact with them, and did not let out a long, shaky breath until they'd all gone. It was as is she was fruitlessly trying to blend in with the scrubby brickwork behind her.

She looked around at the boys, who were scarpering away, almost tripping over their feet in their haste, and at the Doctor, completely perplexed.

"What did…?"

But her words were cut off by a loud pop, like a cork being released by a champagne bottle, followed by four strangled cries and shouts of four-letter expletives.

Rose whirled around to see Daniel and his three troll-like mates lying winded on the ground, groaning and swearing as they attempted to stagger back to their feet. All were completely covered in a white, chalky powder.

It clung like plaster dust to their hair and caked their coats; it was all over their hands and wrists and the ground around them; smeared across their faces. Everywhere except their eyes; their faces were stark white, like painted clowns, except for a clear strip across their eyes, which made them look devilish and inhuman.

In spite of herself, Rose let go of the Doctor's hand and strode forwards, towards the nearest boy, who was crouching, panting, as if he'd been kicked in the ribs.

She stared down at him indifferently for a moment, taking in the white clumps that were scattered across his pudding-bowl haircut and all down his unkind face, and the glimpse of orange and red paper peeking out of his hood, before sighing and crouching beside him.

"You going to shout for your mummy?" she said flatly, repeating what he had said to her so many years before. Except she did not sound taunting and cruel like he had; she sounded quite toneless; tired and disappointed, but there was a coldness to her voice, which even she didn't expect to hear.

Daniel's muddy brown eyes stared sullenly back at her, showing no sign of recognition until she raised her eyebrows at him disdainfully, and they widened like saucers.

"Tyler?" he gasped, matching the brown eyes of the unflinching, beautiful woman crouching in front of him, with the scared, fearful eyes of the ten year old he'd been taunting mere hours before. He stared at her, as if he'd just been hit over the head with a hammer.

"Yeah," she said shortly, before reaching into his hood and drawing out an empty Sherbet Fountain packet; all crinkled and caved-in on itself. She paid it no more than a disinterested glance before tossing it away to the side and, quite forcefully, grabbing Daniel by the shoulders and wrenching him to his feet. "I'm sorry," she said dryly, her eyes sarcastic as she kept a hold of him for a second, to prevent him from losing his balance. "I've ran out of tissues," she told him, gesturing at his ruined, white-stained coat.

Calmly, with one last piercing look at Daniel she turned on her heel, her trainers scuffing the ground and marched back over to the Doctor, who had not moved, watching the scene in front of him with a sort of surprised resignation.

He looked closely at Rose's face as she re-joined him, gauging to see if she seemed angry or upset. She at first glance, seemed unmoved, yet there was a slight shine to her eyes that suggested that she felt oddly triumphant.

"That was…unfortunate," said the Doctor mildly, looking back over his shoulder as he said this. All four of the boys had got to their feet and were staggering, drunkenly round the corner of the back alley.

"Very unfortunate," agreed Rose, looking not at the boys but at the Doctor, with an unreadable expression on her face. A cloying, awkward silence, not unlike the ones that usually followed when they discussed the Doctor's past companions, or Mickey or Rose's mortality, fell between them.

They ventured further down the back alley, grimacing at the litter and broken glass and musty, rotten scent of congealing food that seemed to cling to their nostrils, before they caught sight of a very familiar and welcoming wooden blue box, standing proudly on the street corner, beside a newly-painted lamppost.

"So," said Rose in a rather forced voice, as if she was talking purely for the want of something to fill the silence with. "How did you do it?"

The Doctor, who had taken hold of the sleeve of Rose's jacket as they crossed the road, looked at her quizzically and pulled on his ear.

"Do what?" he asked, drawing the key to the TARDIS from his coat pocket as they reached the police box. However, he did not use it; he merely twirled it round and round on his finger before crossing his arms and leaning back against the TARDIS, surveying Rose quite neutrally.

Rose raised her eyebrows at him in an "Ok-you-can-stop-pretending-now' sort of way and stood in front of him, shifting her hips so that her weight rested on just one leg.

"That thing with the Sherbet Fountains. They had sherbet all over them," she said suspiciously, her eyes narrowed, but she didn't sound accusing; just curious, as if she genuinely did want to know how he'd done it. Because he must have done. They'd had Sherbet Fountains nestled in their hoods, and the Doctor had bought four of them, and somehow he'd created some sort of…sherbet explosion. Somehow…she'd bet her mum's flat on it.

The Doctor laughed, his eyes glimmering. He held up his hands, his mouth curving into a smile. "Honestly," he said, waggling his eyebrows to punctuate his point. "I didn't do anything."

Rose looked at him skeptically and the Doctor's grin widened at her expression. "How could I have, when I've been standing right next to you?" he said lowly, taking a step towards her so she could hear him properly. He held her by her elbows, gently, his dark brown eyes intense and full of humour and contained laughter as he returned her challenging gaze.

"Did I ever leave you, Rose?" he continued, just as quietly, the gleeful merriment in his eyes and his close proximity to her causing heat to rise in her cheeks.

"N-no," she stammered unsurely, searching his face for the source of whatever it was that he evidently found so funny. "But…"

"No," the Doctor finished for her with a wink, still smiling. He plunged his hand into one of his coat pockets and pulled out the pink and white striped plastic bag from the newsagents.

Out of it, he plucked out four heavy Sherbet Fountains; their outsides covered in a slight dusting of sherbet, but their twisted tops with the sticks of liquorice poking out, still very much in tact, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, expecting applause. He handed them to Rose, still with a maddening smile on his face, who took them with limp fingers, handling them gingerly as if they were made out of porcelain.

She gazed down at them mistrustfully, her teeth tugging at her bottom lip, her eyes preoccupied. The Doctor could almost hear the delicate whirring of her mind as she attempted to piece together her broken thoughts and half-wild assumptions.

He sniggered and turned around, fiddling with the TARDIS' lock and holding the door open for her, ever the gentleman.

Rose walked into the console room dazedly, frowning down at the Sherbet Fountains in her hands, and, seeming not to notice where she was going, stopped in the middle of the grated ramp, staring round at the Doctor in confusion

"But you," said the Doctor winningly, shrugging off his coat and laying it over the railing before running a hand through his hair, scrunching it up in a manic sort of fashion. "Have given me a rather brilliant idea," he announced happily, hands at her waist as he gently pushed her towards the centre column, and then gave her a quick hug from behind.

His gestures wild an over-the-top, he hammered down a load of buttons and pranced around the central column like a proud, excitable schoolboy in his absolute element. He grinned over at her from the other side of the time rotor as he pulled down an aerial and flicked at what appeared to be a doorbell.

Rose, still holding the Sherbet Fountains as if they were hot-wired, put them down carefully on the Captain's chair and smiled uncertainly back. Her eyes crinkled up and she let out a raucous laugh, her grin becoming genuine as the Doctor began whistling something that sounded suspiciously like 'Wannabe.'

The Doctor stopped suddenly, realising what he had been whistling and wrinkled his nose as if there were something particularly smelly underneath it. His expression was comical; he looked absolutely disgusted with himself, as if he'd just inadvertently criticized the banana. He looked up at Rose in mock-horror, pointing an accusatory finger at her, a roguish glint in his eye as his hand hovered teasingly over the 'Airlock' button.

The Doctor's self -berations and Rose's shrieks and squeals of laughter as he childishly chased her around the middle column, rang out through the console room, bouncing off the golden-hued, humming walls as the TARDIS was propelled into the Time Vortex.

To be continued, of course...!

I want to get one of my stories finished quite soon, (hopefully, two by Christmas) and, if it suits everyone, I'd like to finish Sherbet Fountian first, then Call him Johnny, because they're shorter than Miss Cooper and a bit less complicated! Is this ok? If you have any preferences, please do let me know!

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