Living with an absent daughter

Disclaimer: Nah. Nothing's mine.

Author's Note: Dr. Who tomorrow! Woo! Presents are wrapped, Gavin and Stacey is finished...nothing else to do now but upload a new chapter! I vaguely recall saying I'd have this story finished by Christmas. Oops! I hope you enjoy this; please review and let me know, either way! How's my Jackie? And the Doctor and Rose? Ok? I think some of you may have worked out what the Doctor's next move may be...he's a very clever man! Hope everybody has a good Christmas holiday ;) For those who have January exams...don't work too hard! Thanks for reading.

From the radio, through in the kitchen, where it was stood on the bench beside the biscuit tin, an old Bryan Adams song came drifting through into the living room, causing Jackie to give an audible groan.

"Thought we'd seen the back of this song," she tutted, squinting at a section of hair she held between her fingers before chopping off the dry, split-ends with her scissors.

"It was around for ages, wasn't it?" replied Heather, trying to keep her head still as she talked. "Number one when my niece was born and ooh, she's fifteen now. What film was it from, again? Braveheart?"

Jackie closed the blades of her scissors and shifted all of her weight onto her left leg, one hand on her hip as she thought. "Err. No, no; I know the one you mean, though. It had that bloke in it. Kevin Costner."

She frowned down at the carpet, as if it could tell her the answer, chewing her lip.

Men. Longhaired men with trees and bows and drunken monks…

"Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," she said quickly, the title coming to her in a rare flash of movie-trivia brilliance. She clicked her scissors together for emphasis and smiled broadly, giving herself a mental pat-on-the-back.

"That's it, yeah!" said Heather happily, in a 'Argh-I-really-should-have-known-that' sort of voice, nearly shaking her head, but remembering just in time, that it would not be a good idea; not unless she wanted wonky layers.

She wasn't actually one of Jackie's regulars; she came to her every seven months or so to get her hair cut and re-styled, yet she was going to some sort of posh work 'do tonight and so had arranged an appointment in her lunch-hour for a quick trim and tidy-up.

An assistant manager for a company that made batteries, Heather was in her late thirties; tall and brown-haired, carrying slightly too much weight around her tummy and hips, (though she disguised it well) and periwinkle blue eyes. Both her smile and loud laugh were highly contagious and she could jabber on about the TV, celebrities, sales, men and her nieces and nephews with the best of them.

Needless to say, she and Jackie got on like a house on fire, cackling away as Jackie worked her magic with a pair of scissors and foil wrappers. Jackie always felt a bit deflated after Heather left, dashing off to a conference or training course, leaving Jackie on her own in the empty flat as she vacuum cleaned up bits of fallen hair and rinsed out used mugs.

Underneath her ready smile and bubbly manner, Jackie felt…slightly lonely, without Rose. She missed her. It was just the little things, like Rose telling her off for not re-stocking the biscuit tin, or bringing her a cup of tea in the morning, or sitting on the end of her bed for a girly chat. It made her feel like a little bit of her was missing; Rose's possessions and photographs were still strewn all over the flat, and yet she wasn't there.

She knew it was perfectly normal to feel so forlorn; the thing about having children was that they were always going to grow up eventually. Sons and daughters left home all the time; off to university, to new jobs, to get married, to start families of their own…yet with Rose it was different.

If she was honest, yes, she knew Rose wouldn't be living with her forever; she knew she'd move out at one point, but Jackie always thought that it'd be with Mickey.

The pair of them, getting married and getting off the estate, finding good jobs…Not anything too fancy, though. Mickey was good with computers and could find a job in IT and Rose, well, she had her GCSE's, hadn't she?

She could start her own business, or work in an office; be a receptionist or something. Scrape and save to buy a proper house in a nicer area, but not too far from the Powell Estate, so that they could still come round for dinner every Thursday and Sunday, and drop in for cups of tea after work. She could help look after their children; Rose would make such a good mum…

But then, things hadn't quite gone exactly as Jackie had imagined them to. Rose wasn't Mickey's girlfriend anymore. She wasn't with him, tucking into beans on toast in front of Big Brother.

She was living in a blue box, racketing around space with a nine hundred and whatever year old alien. No matter how much she missed her, Jackie had sworn to herself that she'd never tell her; never make her feel guilty or shame her into making her stay, because whenever Rose did come home, a slightly awkward-looking Doctor just behind her, she was full of beans; eyes dancing, smile wide, looking beautiful, confident and achingly happy.

A motherly instinct kicked in, making her realise exactly why Rose was so happy, even if she, herself hadn't quite worked it out yet.

Giving a small sigh, Jackie combed through Heather's hair with her fingers, checking to see that her layers were even and that there were no straggly bits. " So, have you got a new dress for tonight then?" she asked brightly, filling the small silence that had lapsed between them.

"Yeah, I popped into Monsoon the other day," she replied, smiling. "I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it'll fit!"

"Ooh, very posh!" remarked Jackie, moving round so she could cut the sides of Heather's hair. "They've got some lovely stuff in there."

"Well, Henriks used to be my usual haunt," confided Heather. "Whenever I was going out and needed a last minute fix, but after it closed down…"

"Mmmh," retorted Jackie darkly, keeping her eyes fixed on angling her scissors. That had been the Doctor's fault, too…

"Actually, speaking of Henriks; that reminds me," said Heather, glancing at a framed photo of Rose on top of the TV. "How's Rose these days? She enjoying herself?"

"Haven't spoken to her in a while," admitted Jackie, hesitantly, looking at the photo, too. "Last time she rang she was in Rome."

Jackie obviously didn't elaborate and explain that she had in fact been in ancient Rome, taking a statue of herself that would one day end up in the British Museum, to some rich man's villa.

She always told her friends and neighbours, and anyone else who asked, really, that Rose was off traveling with her friends.

She didn't bother telling the whole truth because she didn't fancy being forced to see a psychiatrist, thank you very much. Of course, a few years ago, if someone had told her that their daughter was out saving the world with an alien who liked tea and bananas, well she would have laughed and scorned, too. Not now, though.

"Ahhh lovely," gushed Heather wistfully. "I'd love to go there, ooh, lucky her. All those yummy Italian men! Get her to bring one home!"

"Pfft-I'd prefer it if she brought two!"

The pair of them burst into gales of high laugher, tickled at Jackie's mischievousness.

"Ah well, you're only young once," reasoned Heather, giving a little titter.

Jackie murmured in agreement and walked round so that she was in front of Heather, bending slightly and smoothing down the hair hanging down both sides of her face, checking to see if it was even, a look of utmost concentration in her eyes.

Her eagle eyes picked out a long bit in her fringe, which she got rid of and stepped back to look at her handiwork. She reached for a purple plastic bottle amongst all of her serums, shampoos, scissors and straighteners on her trolley beside her and sprayed a vanilla-scented mist over Heather's head, after instructing her to close her eyes.

"That's you done, love," she said cheerfully, putting the bottle down and beaming proudly, as Heather stood and checked her appearance in the mirror above the fireplace, dusting the hair off her sharply-creased work trousers.

"It's fabulous, thank you," said Heather admiringly, running both hands through her newly-chopped hair like a preening little girl. She stood still, letting Jackie remove a thin, grey cape from around her shoulders and then bent down to retrieve her handbag.

"Well, you look gorgeous," complimented Jackie, giving the cape a quick shake to get rid of the excess hair before folding it and laying it carefully over her trolley. "The men from payroll will be falling over themselves tonight!" she teased, smiling knowingly.

Heather snorted. "Oh, I wish! Most of them are married, or divorced and going bald with a beer gut! Or spotty, skinny things just out of university!"

"A nice toy boy, then?" suggested Jackie innocently, but with a wicked twinkle in her eye.

"Don't!" protested Heather with a laugh, going red. "The poor boy who's been sniffing round me hasn't even reached puberty yet, by the looks of him. Makes me feel old! I could be his mum!"

She fumbled in her handbag for a thick leather purse, rifling through it to extract a handful of notes. "How much do I owe you?" she said, still laughing gleefully and shaking her head.

Jackie pulled her top down over the waistband of her jeans awkwardly, because dealing with the money side, was an uncomfortable reminder that she was working; doing a job, doing business, rather than just having a chat with a friend.

The wall of politeness and professionalism was back between them; a stark reminder that Heather was a client and Jackie was merely her hairdresser.

"Three fifty," said Jackie, trying not to sound embarrassed. For some reason, asking for money always made her feel self-conscious and she nearly always fluffed her way through it.

Heather raised a heavily plucked, crayoned eyebrow at her, skeptically. "It's more than that, Jackie; don't be soft!"

"I only gave you a dry trim!" insisted Jackie, waving away Heather's proffered five-pound note like a particularly indignant mother hen.

"I know, and that's fine!" said Heather sincerely. "So take this and keep the rest as a tip, yeah?" she held the five-pound note out to Jackie, stubbornly. "And if you don't take it, I'll go somewhere else!" she promised her, only half-serious.

Jackie had enough common sense to know when to give in gracefully and so she sighed, though good-naturedly and took the note from her, looking only mildly disapproving.

"If you're sure," she said doubtfully. "Thanks."

Heather nodded; looking satisfied that Jackie seemed to be behaving herself and slung her handbag over her shoulder in a business-like manner. Slowly, she made her way over to the front door, Jackie following politely to see her out.

"You have a good time tonight, yeah?" Jackie told her, wedging the door open with one hip and watching as Heather made her way down through the concrete walkway

Heather called back her thanks, waving cheerily and Jackie closed the door, sliding the chain into place.


Sighing, and trying to force herself into a better mood, Jackie shuffled back into the living room and picked up the large, bleach-stained pink towel that was laid on the floor around the hard-backed chair that Heather had been sitting in.

It was littered with tufts of dark hair, like fallen leaves. Balling it up and tucking it under her arm, she carried it into the kitchen; empty tea mugs in her other hand, and shook the excess hair off into the bin before stuffing the towel into the washing machine.

She actually really liked tidying up; swiveling tins round so that the lables were the right way, never leaving empty bottles in the shower…it was just as well, really, as Pete had been messy and Rose. Well, Rose had definitely inherited Pete's untidiness gene.

Back in the living room, she put away her scissors in their leather pouch and wheeled her hairdressing trolley into the walk-in cupboard, out of sight, humming along to an incredibly old Take That song now being played on the radio. The station must be doing a 90's thing…

She was wiping down the coffee table, when the letterbox went; there was a loud band of the metal flap shutting against the door as a rolled-up newspaper was shoved through. Abandoning her damp cloth, she crossed to the hallway and stooped to pick it up. It was the local community newspaper; not that big on major news, really but the adverts in it were good.

One of her mates had bought a kitchen table after seeing the advert in the local paper. There was a lot of rubbish advertised too, of course. Old videos and cassettes. Really, who had a video player these days? Jackie had the sneaking suspicion that she'd probably forgotten how to use one.

It had been the same when CD's were brought out; people were adamant that they'd stick to their record players and walkmans, but they hadn't. Even now, CD's were on their way out. Everyone had i-pods, didn't they?

She unfurled the paper in the hallway and leant against the wall as she flicked through it; dismissing article after article on the environment and finances and cake stalls, until a half-page piece caught her eye.

There was a picture of the Manager of Blockbusters; the DVD rentals shop around the corner, grinning up at her.

He was a small, stocky man with a dry sense of humour in his late fifties. Not that she went very often, but whenever she did pop into Blockbusters he was always very friendly; didn't stand for any nonsense. A few weeks ago, though, there'd been an armed robbery at the shop. Three men had stormed in balaclavas with kitchen knives and handguns. Scarpered off with the entire contents of the till and gave the poor Manager concussion.

The police hadn't found anyone, either; that had been the really worrying thing. Shopkeepers were being extra cautious. More cautious than usual, and that was certainly saying something, as Jackie didn't exactly live in a lovely area.

Now though, the newspaper was sating that three men had been arrested and sentenced on fresh, unshakable evidence…

"Serve 'em right," remarked Jackie, approvingly.

But as she continued reading, her stomach gave a squeeze of recognition and her breath hitched. The men had been named; Daniel Todd, Kevin Robinson and Niall Shelding.

Slowly, Jackie closed the paper, swallowing and dropped it on the hall table, walking into the kitchen in a bit of a daze. Those names…

The names 'Kevin Robinson' and 'Niall Shelding' hadn't had much of an effect on her until she'd read the name 'Daniel Todd.'

She rummaged for a biscuit in the biscuit tin and sat down at the table, chin resting on her hand. She felt…angry, yet strangely triumphant at the same time. Happy that the three men had been caught for robbing Blockbusters; that they'd finally been caught out. For once, they hadn't been able to get away with it.

But that was just one crime, though, wasn't it? How many pensioners had they mugged in the Post Office? How many people had they threatened and beaten up?

They'd been menacing people since they were children, and their crimes had increased in seriousness, as they'd grown older. Gone from bullying to dealing; to setting fire to cars and stealing TV's. They were the boys who had picked on Rose when she had been younger.

Reading their names had acted as a sort of mental trigger, and Jackie could remember Rose coming home from school in a right state, crying at being called names and being pushed over in the corridor. The shock of sympathy, heartbreak and anger that had coursed through her as she'd sat Rose on her knee and cuddled her in close, attempting to comfort her; stroking her hair and pressing kisses to her cheek, promising that she'd sort it out…

Except she hadn't been able to, had she? She'd spoken to the Head teacher, but she'd been absolutely useless.

She'd told the boys off, but it hadn't stopped them. If anything, it had made things a million times worse because they'd started on Rose for being a 'snitch' and telling on them.

She could remember sitting in the dim living room late at night, in this freezing cold flat, having put Rose to bed, crying quietly as she finished her last cup of tea. She'd had to pull her sleeves over her mouth to stop Rose from hearing her as she sniffled, feeling helpless and furious with herself. Furious with the boys, too, for making her Rose so scared and upset that she didn't want to go to school anymore, but annoyed at herself because Rose was her little girl, and she couldn't stop her from being bullied, and so…what sort of mum did that make her?

Jackie sniffed, realising that her eyes had welled up, even though it had been so long ago; even though her daughter was all grown-up and traveling round saving the universe. There were some things mothers just didn't ever forget and get over…

It had stopped, eventually; the bullying. After the incident with the algae and the Sherbet Fountains, the boys had never ever taunted her again. The day after, Jackie sat on the settee waiting for Rose to get in, fiddling with her nails nervously, ready to jump up and go and slap someone if anything had been said. But Rose had come in more relaxed than she had been in years, if a little nonplussed.

"They didn't say anything to me, mum," Rose had said breathlessly, giving Jackie a tight hug. " They wouldn't even look at me in the line!"

That had been it, oddly enough. Two years of non-stop bullying, then…nothing.

There had been four of them, but if Jackie remembered correctly, the littlest one had walked out on the other three not long after the Sherbet Fountain incident.

Decided his loyalties lay elsewhere; turned over a new leaf. Left school at fourteen but then went to catering college and turned out…not too badly. Last Jackie had heard, he'd had a baby with his girlfriend and was working hard to support them.

Shame the others hadn't followed his example; they were obviously just as awful as they'd always been, but at least now they they'd been caught…it would be a while before any of them shoplifted again. Good!

Lost in thoughts and memories, Jackie sat there at the table for a while, until a small niggling voice at the back of her mind reminded her that there was still washing to sort out and put away.

She got to her feet and tried to put the newspaper article to the back of her mind, because otherwise she'd end up all low and teary. It had made her miss Rose even more than she had before.

She just wanted to give her a hug and make sure that she was still all right; to let her know that, even though Rose didn't need any parental looking after anymore, she was still just as precious to her as she'd always been. But then, getting all weepy and sentimental wouldn't bring Rose home any sooner…

Jackie unloaded the dryer into the cracked plastic washing basket and heaved it through into the living room, where she always sorted out the washing.

Working on autopilot, she made a pile of bed sheets and towels, then clothes that needed ironing, then a pile of things that just needed to be put away into drawers; stuff like socks and pyjamas. There was already a clothes-horse sagging under the weight of freshly ironed jeans, hoodies, tracksuit bottoms and t-shirts that she'd been fussing over before Heather had arrived. She felt like a washerwoman at times.

Jackie took everything down from the clotheshorse and piled it up, pausing only when she recognised a familiar velour pink zip-up top. It wasn't hers.

It was Rose's, and for a second she felt confused, frowning down at the soft garment as if it had no right to be there, Rose hadn't been home in months, so why had her top been in the wash?

Then she remembered. Last week, she'd been in town and had got absolutely drenched in the early March rain, and having been unable to find something wardrobe, she'd delved into Rose's, knowing that she wouldn't have minded.

It had still smelt of Rose's perfume; the one she'd bought for her when she was fifteen, that she'd liked so much that she just bought her more of it at Christmas or on her birthday; whenever she ran out. Burberry something.

Of course she used to filch sprays of Jackie's posh Coco Mademoiselle whenever she was going out with Mickey, or out clubbing with the girls, or any other special occasion, really. Since Rose's last visit home though, her Coco Mademoiselle had mysteriously vanished… and Jackie would bet her months wages that it had ended up in Rose's bedroom.

In the TARDIS. Cheeky madam.

Jackie picked up the large pile of washing, tucking it under her chin so she didn't drop it like an old woman, and carried it through into her bedroom, dumping it on the bed with a half-hearted promise that she would put it away later. From the bottom of the pile, she collected Rose's top and took it into Rose's room, remembering with a slight pang how she used to sit on Rose's bed whilst she got ready to go out; giving her opinion on outfits and matching jewelry.

"Are you saying I look like a tart?" A memory of an eighteen year old Rose standing with her arms crossed self-consciously across her chest with her blonde hair crimped and hair sprayed to within an inch of its life, wearing metallic glitter blue eye shadow and too much Touche Éclat crawled across her mind's eye as she sat down on Rose's bed, with a creak of bedsprings.

"No, sweetheart…all I'm saying is that less is sometimes more," Jackie had soothed her, backpedaling furiously as she waved a hand at what Rose was wearing; dark, boot-cut jeans, silver high-heels and a low-cut, skin-tight halter-neck.

"Yeah, and what's the difference, then?" Rose had shot back, sulkily, shaking off Jackie's placatory hand and turning round to glare at the rails of clothes in her wardrobe. She'd wrenched a ribbed blue vest top with sequined straps off its hanger and worn that instead, grumbling. "Honestly…I'd just rather you just came straight out with it…"

Jackie gazed around at Rose's room. It felt weird, being in here when she hadn't been in for so long.

It was tidy, for one. Rose always managed to leave her room in a state, even if she'd just come home for a flying visit; though she tried, bless her; tried to put things into some sort of order…she was just naturally a bit all over the place.

The Doctor seemed to be the same. His suits were always just a bit rumpled; Converse dirty and hair wild; never standing still for too long. They were like each other in that respect, she supposed.

She looked at the pink walls. They were bare; no posters littered them anymore.

Oh, she could remember when Rose used to sit cross-legged with her tongue sticking out, cutting out posters from Smash Hits and Girl Talk, and then stand on her bed with a thick ball of Blu Tac, sticking them all up.

There had been pale pink bordered posters of puppies, kittens and dolphins, then posters of Steps, 5ive, Westlife, Spice Girls, B*Witched. Rose had loved them all.

She'd grown out of them, though. Before she'd left to travel with the Doctor, her bedside table and chest of draws had been cluttered with framed photos of a sixteen year old Rose and her friends on the last day of school before they sat their GCSE's, writing all over their shirts; half-laughing, half-crying; of Rose and Mickey cuddling each other at someone's twenty-first; of Rose and Jackie at a wedding, with identical bleach-blonde hair and wide smiles.

The same photos still stood in the same places, though they'd been joined by a few new ones. Rose huddled between Jackie, Mickey and the newly regenerated Doctor last Christmas; then one which was obviously her favourite; it was beside the photo of Rose with her mum in a handbag-shaped picture frame on her bedside table; a silver-framed photo of the Doctor and Rose, taken a few months ago when the Doctor had brought Rose home for Jackie's birthday.

She was stood slightly behind the Doctor, leaning over his shoulder to look at him properly, whilst the Doctor had turned his head to laugh at her. Both sets of brown eyes were crinkled; both smiles were wide and happy. Rose's cheeks were slightly pink, as they'd been captured mid-hysteria and neither of them were looking at the camera. Jackie could remember ticking them off, crossly, but what had they been laughing at?

"Oi! You two! You're not looking!" Jackie had screeched at them.

"Where am I supposed to look?" the Doctor had asked, feigning stupidity and squinting up at the ceiling, wearing an expression that suggested that he was being awkward on purpose.

"Over here!"

"No. I can't. I'm allergic to camera flashes," he'd said solemnly, his face deadpan.

"Oh my Gaawd, are you?" Jackie had panicked, flustering.

"No, he's not!" admonished Rose, giggling.

"I am! Look! It makes my eyes go all twitchy!" the Doctor had insisted, looking to the left with one eye and at the floor with the other, using his 'superior Time Lord physiology', causing both Jackie and Rose to squeal in horror.

"Stop it," Rose had said, elbowing him in the ribs. "You're like that woman from…"

" The Red Zusak!" they'd chimed together, in excitement, pleased that they'd both had the same thought.

"'I can seeee youu,' she goes," mimicked Rose, laughing and flailing her arms about. "'I can seee you're there…and then she trips over her chamber pot and falls flat on her face! D'you remember?"

"She put a dent in the floorboards!" the Doctor had said incredulously. "Mad old bat!"

Jackie tore her eyes away from the photo, a smile still on her face.

Maybe that was how they always were. She'd seen them together; fighting against aliens and monsters; despairing over moral decisions; totally in tune with each other, stubborn as anything, fighting tooth and nail…but when they weren't saving solar systems and caught up in serious stuff, they just seemed to laugh all the time.

It was bewildering, but at the same time, quite funny and heart-warming.

On first glance, it may have seemed that the room's occupier wasn't absent at all, but on closer inspection, Jackie could pick up on the tell-tale signs that Rose hadn't been using the room, like pieces of a jigsaw that had been taken away.

Her make-up, perfume and hairbrush had gone from in front of the mirror, and there was an absence of glossy magazines on the floor beside Rose's bed, which she liked to read before she went to sleep, and of course, her wardrobe was a bit more bare.

Not by much, though, because Jackie still bought Rose clothes she thought she might like if she spotted them whilst she was walking through New Look or Primark. They hung pristine and unworn, still with their tags on in the wardrobe, in wait of Rose's return, like Jackie herself. Waiting.

Jackie reached for a battered blue teddy bear sitting on Rose's floral pillow; soft, limp and ratty through wear and care.

Mr. Tedopoulos.

It had been Rose's favourite soft toy when she was little. Never went to sleep without it tucked safely under her arm, the tag between her small fingers...

A loud knocking at the door gave her a fright, and she dropped Mr. Tedopoulos as if it had scalded her, feeling as if she'd been caught doing something she shouldn't.

She replaced the bear so that it was sitting up properly, with its paws crossed and hurried out of Rose's room towards the front door.

Consciously, she tucked her hair behind her ears and adjusted her top, pulling up her jeans, as the knocking grew more insistent. She wasn't expecting anyone.

It was bound to be some interfering woman pushing house ware catalogues or self-help books; stating one hundred reasons why she needed one. Well, Jackie could think of only one reason, and that was to whack the seller over the head with one.

Cautiously, Jackie made sure the chain was in place before opening the door a fraction and peeking out. She caught a glimpse of a tall man in a brown coat and a blonde woman huddled into her denim jacket as if it were a blanket, before she flung open the door and threw her arms around her.


She squeezed her daughter tightly, like a drowning person clinging onto a life raft, before noticing over her shoulder that the Doctor was trying to be as inconspicuous as possible and sneak in unnoticed.

"Oh no you don't, Mister!" Jackie trilled, throwing an arm around the Doctor and pulling him into a crushing hug, whilst still keeping a hold of Rose, so that she and the Doctor clashed heads. "Come here, both of you!"

She kissed Rose and then the Doctor on the forehead, a smile stretched from ear to ear. She felt deliriously happy and excited and overcome…oh, only five minutes ago she was brooding and sniffling over Rose, now here she was! At home!

The Doctor, taken aback, pulled a face and patted her back awkwardly.

"Hello Jackie," he said dryly, disentangling himself from her and rubbing his head. "Still as shy and reluctant as ever."

He had gone faintly pink, like an uncomfortable schoolboy, though he smiled fondly at the two hugging women.

"I've missed you, madam!" said Jackie, holding Rose at arms length so she could look at her properly, before kissing her again on the cheek.

"You're freezing!" she yelped, putting a warm hand to Rose's face, which felt like an ice cube. "Where's your coat?"

Oh goodness, how old was she now? Seven? Nagging her about her coat as soon as she walked through the door? It was a wonder she didn't turn straight back round again. But honestly, she was only wearing a little denim jacket; dressed as if it were summer! No common sense, her daughter…

"Yeah well…it was early July where we were before…what month's it now?" Rose asked off-handedly, as if thousands of others suffered the same problem every day, and squeezing past Jackie to warm her hands on the radiator.

"It's March!" said Jackie indignantly; looking mistrustfully at the Doctor as if she didn't believe he really knew what he was doing with a…time machine.

The Doctor held his hands up, and blinked incredulously in a 'What-on-Earth-have-I-done-now?' sort of look and traipsed off into the living room with his hands in his pockets.

Jackie turned her attention back to Rose, who was now standing with her bum against the radiator.

She still had an overwhelming urge to hug her tightly for about half an hour and then sit her down with several cups of tea and lots of chocolate biscuits and listen to whatever it was she'd been up to… but something about the way Rose was standing made her pause.

She looked her up and down, carefully; taking in her messy hair, oily complexion, baggy, blotchy eyes and streaked make-up.

It seemed that she was holding on to the radiator not only for warmth, but also to keep herself upright. Her eyes were half-closed with fatigue, and looked suspiciously as if she had been crying and her lips were chapped and bleeding.

She looked absolutely worn out. She hadn't come home looking this bad since they'd left Mickey in a parallel universe. Even then, she'd just been upset, but this was something else entirely; she appeared to have no energy or vitality left whatsoever…

"Rose?" began Jackie concernedly, eyes full of care and worry, in the sort of tone that suggested that she was ooh, about three seconds away from launching into full-blown mother-hen, panic mode.

Rose gave her a look that plainly said. 'Stop-it-stop-it-now-don't-you-dare-make-a-fuss-I-really-can't-be-bothered,' but before Jackie could continue any further, the Doctor stuck his head round the side of the living room door, smiling like a lunatic.

"Jackie!" he cried, as if he'd only just spotted her. "You've got a new carpet!"

His head disappeared around the door again, and Jackie and Rose could hear him marveling at the navy blue swirling pattern.

Rose frowned at Jackie looking nonplussed. "What was wrong with the old carpet?" she asked, going over to peer through the doorway.

Jackie gaped after the Doctor, as if his head had fallen off. "But I haven't got a new carpet!" she insisted, mystified as she followed him into the living room and stared at him.

He was stood in the middle of the room, all tall, gangling six foot whatever of him, making the room appear about three times smaller, grinning down at the carpet as if it were Aladdin's…

"Have you not? I thought you…oh no; that's right. You haven't. Sorry. Just looks a bit…well, actually no, it's not different at all," he gabbled, rubbing at the back of his neck.

Rose too, stared at him. Then at the carpet. Then at her mum.

The Doctor raised his eyebrows at her.

Jackie looked between Rose and the Doctor, with a weird sense that she was missing something.

"Oh…oh," said Rose, looking slightly flushed, fiddling with the cuff of her denim jacket.

She shot a wordless, grateful glance at the Doctor, which he acknowledged with an amused, understanding tilt of his head, before deciding that it was high time to change the subject, unless they wanted Jackie to start accusing them of inhaling strange moon gases…again.

"Mum!" said Rose quickly. "I could murder a cup of tea!"

Jackie, who looked like she'd been hit over the head with a heavy object and whose mouth was hanging open at the pair of them, seemed to wake up as if from a daze and brightened considerably. Not even the Doctor could affect the normality of tea.

She announced cheerfully that she would go and put the kettle on at the same time as the Doctor blinked at Rose in astonishment and piped up, "What did a cup of tea ever do to you?"

Jackie heard Rose jokingly telling him to shut up as she bustled into the kitchen and set the kettle away, whilst at the same time rootling through the cupboards for biscuits and chocolate mini-rolls.

Rose loved chocolate mini-rolls, and so she made sure she always had a packet tucked away at the back of the cupboard for whenever she came home. She'd had them at tea parties when she was younger; with pink party rings and cocktail hot dogs, and then, when she used to come in from her nights out with the girls at half-past four in the morning with a serious case of the munchies, she'd binge eat half a packet and then be sick on the floor…

The Doctor would eat anything, of course. The last time, he'd nearly cleaned her out of custard creams. It was as if the pair of them forgot to eat whenever they were off saving members of the Beatles from getting eaten by eight-foot tall black plants, or something.

Treated her flat like a tea shop…

Jackie found a packet of squashed mini-rolls underneath a nearly full packet of porridge oats that she'd bought on a whim a couple of months ago, in a bid to eat a bit healthier; skip the buttery toast with sugary tea for breakfast and have fruit and cereal instead…She hadn't managed it.

She tipped the entire packet onto one of her best plates and tried to arrange them into some sort of presentable shape, like a pyramid, but the slippery foil wrappers weren't the easiest to…arrange with.

"The kettle's just boiling," she breezed, carrying the plate carefully into the living room and plonking it on top of her pile of Glamour magazines. "I need to get a new one, really- the spout drips when…"

Jackie trailed off.

The living room was empty.

"Rose?" she called, sounding panicked. "Doctor?"

Her face felt uncomfortably hot and her chest was pounding, like a mother who had lost sight of their toddler in a busy supermarket, (incidentally, Rose had wandered off a couple of times when she was younger. Left her side to go and look at the children's books or the sweets. Good at wandering off, she was), even though she knew it was irrational.

Where were they? Oh no. No more funny stuff in her flat! No more aliens (apart from the Doctor, of course) and dodgy trees. They could take that sort of stuff elsewhere!

"Through here," Rose called quickly, from the hallway for some reason. What was she doing out there? Re-melding the front door with his sonic…whatever? Zapper thing?

Jackie followed her voice and found both Rose and the Doctor hovering beside the front door. The Doctor was leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets, looking very animated about something, and Rose was standing in front of him with her arms crossed; the picture of disapproval.

"Oi! Get off my wall, you! You'll wreck my wallpaper!" she shrieked indignantly to the Doctor, clicking her fingers and pointing at him.

Rose snorted at his flabbergasted expression and pulled him off the wall by his wrists.

"How long for?" she asked him, looking at him severely, carrying on as if Jackie hadn't interrupted them. She shot Jackie a small smile to say 'Tell-you-in-a-minute.'

The Doctor sighed and pulled on his ear, going back to lean against the wall again before Jackie made an angry noise of warning. Sparing a preoccupied glance at Jackie, the Doctor began delving into his many pockets, talking as he did so.

"Dunno. Long as it takes, really. Look," he brought out a pink and white plastic bag and handed it to Rose. "Give her a Love Heart or something to keep her quiet. The pair of you can do…girly stuff," said the Doctor, pulling a face as he searched for inspiration, as if he could imagine nothing worse than doing something 'girly.'

"Like plaiting hair and talking about me," he cajoled, smirking at Rose, who tutted back and rolled her eyes, smiling.

Jackie, was again, feeling as if she was missing something. It sounded like the Doctor was going somewhere…but that was ridiculous because wherever he went, Rose followed and there was no way she was letting the Doctor drag Rose off again. Not after only five minutes. She'd throttle him first…

"Where you going?" she demanded of him, giving him her best glare, and bless him, to his credit, he seemed a tad reluctant to meet her gaze. "You're not taking her anywhere! Honestly, you bring her home, looking like a dish rag and then drag her off again without even a cup of tea!"

"Mum," began Rose soothingly, at the same time as the Doctor began to protest his innocence. "The Doctor is leaving me here."

She shot a weighted look at the Doctor, which suggested that this certainly wasn't her idea and she was less than thrilled about it. "Even though…"

"Rose," he said warningly.


Jackie, recognising at the same time as the Doctor, that Rose was in the sort of mood to argue until the cows came home, decided that it would be far better to step in before she got herself too wound up.

"How long for?" Jackie asked the Doctor, echoing Rose, hardly daring to get her hopes built up too high, but unable to keep the excitement from her voice.

The Doctor looked between Rose and Jackie, lingering on Rose's tired eyes and tatty hair. "Overnight?" he suggested, looking back at Jackie.

Jackie saw Rose swallow, half-torn between crying and hugging him. Jackie knew how she felt. She wanted to do the same…in fact. She was going to.

"What the…?" The Doctor squirmed as Jackie threw her arms around him and wetly kissed him on both cheeks.

"Thankyoooouuu! Oh! Oh! You're lovely! Yes, you are! Lovely man!" she burbled happily to him, hugging him tightly. Nothing on him though…thinnest man she'd ever had her arms around. Like a rake. Oh, she'd have to give him a biscuit or something, else he'd snap in two.

"All right, Mum!" giggled Rose, raising her eyebrows at her mum's unexpected and over-the-top display of affection. "Let him breathe."

Looking as if he had been mauled by a bear, the Doctor grimaced as Jackie let go of him and scrubbed at his cheek, turning to Rose.

"Are you sure?" she asked him, looking relieved, yet pained at the same time. "I don't like…"

"Rose," he said pointedly, cutting her off. "You said yourself that you missed her," he said lowly, as if half reluctant to let Jackie hear, but not wanting to block her out. "And after everything today," he said gently, placing a light hand on her arm. "Rose Tyler needs her mum…whether she's ten or not."

Rose muttered something unintelligible, so quietly that Jackie didn't hear, but whatever it was, the Doctor grinned and gave her a quick hug. Jackie pretended to be studying the wallpaper behind him for scuffmarks.

"No. It's all part of my elaborate plan so I can go and fly kites with Benjamin Franklin," he answered her seriously, snapping her a wink. "Course I'm going to come back."

The Doctor gave a mock salute to Jackie with one finger, as if sloppily addressing a General and grinned at Rose as she opened the door for him and he marched out.

"See you later," she said hesitantly, leaning out after him. She said it in such a way that Jackie could tell that it held more than one meaning.

It was as if she was telling him to be careful, to hurry back and that she would miss him…all at the same time. No standing on ceremony and goodbyes for these two. Perhaps they didn't need them, considered Jackie thoughtfully as she joined Rose at the door.

Turning on his heel to face her, so that he was walking backwards across the concrete walkway, the Doctor waggled his eyebrows at Rose.

"Not if I see you first," he quipped back, with a full-watt beam that could shatter a lightbulb.

In the kitchen, the kettle clicked to signal that it had boiled, and the Doctor disappeared down the stone steps with the rusty railing, his long brown coat flapping behind him.

Jackie looked sideways at Rose, expecting to see her look like an abandoned puppy, but to her surprise, she saw that she seemed remarkably calm. More resigned than anything else.

Sighing softly, Rose closed the door. There was a small silence.

"Where's he off to, then?" Jackie couldn't help but ask, her natural curiosity getting the better of her.

Rose ran a hand through her hair and shrugged. " I dunno, really!" she admitted with a laugh. "I've got a vague idea but…" she waved a hand dismissively and didn't finish, blowing out air through her cheeks to that she ruffled her hair. "Anyway, what about that tea, then?" she said, sharply changing the subject. "And to go with it…"

She shook the pink and white plastic bag that the Doctor had given her at Jackie. "Guess what I've got?" she said in a singsong voice, as if she were teasing a small child.

Jackie furrowed her brow and looked at the bag uneasily. "With you two…could be anything," she said, wrinkling her nose, as if the bag contained a head or something.

"No, mum! A Wispa! Look!" enthused Rose impatiently, bringing out one of the thick, blue-wrapped chocolate bars and holding it under Jackie's nose.

Jackie blinked down at it as if she'd been offered a winning lottery ticket.

"Oooooh a Wispa!" she squealed, sounding like a giddy teenager. She took it from Rose and held it up, examining it closely as if checking for a watermark. "I thought they'd stopped doing them! Oh it's been aaaages since I've had a Wispa!"

Jackie looked at Rose, who was smiling proudly, as if she'd just presented Jackie with a particularly good school report, looking extremely pleased with herself.

"Where d'you get it?" she asked, skeptically, looking a mite anxious. "It is edible, isn't it?" She tore the wrapper off and gave it a cautious sniff. Smelt like chocolate. Mmh.

"Nah, it's poisonous," joked Rose, laughing at her. "Really. It's fine," she assured her, linking her arm through Jackie's and leading the way into the kitchen.

"I dunno, Mum," said Rose, mock-despairingly, as she got down two mugs from the shelf, and Jackie reached for the tea bags. "Everything I've brought back for you…moon rock, Marilyn Monroe's lipstick, that thing that makes your washing smell like grass…and you start wetting yourself over a Wispa."

"I love Wispa's, me. Lovely with a cup of tea. Goes all melty. D'you remember doing that, love? With chocolate biscuits?" said Jackie wistfully, an image of Rose sitting cross-legged in front of a video with chocolate all over her face, dunking her biscuits into her tea, popping up in her mind's eye.

Jackie remembered that she used to fuss and moan about getting crumbs at the bottom of the cup and leaving a sheen of oil and grease on the top, but she hadn't really minded. It had been one of their little mother-daughter quirks, like Rose sitting on the toilet with the lid down, reading Girl Talk whilst Jackie was in the bath, or Rose creeping into Jackie's bed after she'd had a bad dream.

Rose, who had been pouring hot water into both cups, put the kettle down with a soft, dream-like smile on her face, her eyes sparkling with fondness and longing, as if she wanted to be little and child-like again.

Jackie opened her mouth to speak; to idly chatter about the state of the cups, or the tidiness of the kitchen, or her journey, but stopped, startled when Rose silently came and wrapped her arms around Jackie's waist and pressed her face against her shoulder.

So she did remember, then.

Making a soft, 'aah' noise, Jackie held Rose tightly and rubbed her back in small circles.

It was how Rose had hugged her when she had been younger; when she'd been too small to clasp her arms around her mum's neck and so had hugged her round the middle instead. If was as if Rose was six or seven again. She was taller now, obviously…but it didn't feel any different.

Jackie rested her chin on top of Rose's head, smelling perfume; her perfume, actually; fresh air, the smell of the city and something else too, that was uniquely Rose. A scent that made fresh tears of love well up in her eyes and a dull ache in her chest.

Her Rose. She was home.

She was exhausted, and she had something on her mind; you could tell that just by looking at her. It was there, behind her eyes and in the set of her mouth.

She needed a good night's sleep in her own bed. She needed a good cry and comfort food, and a hot bath, and a hug on the settee and…oh.

The Doctor. He'd seen that, hadn't he? That was why he'd wanted her to stay behind, thought Jackie, realisation slowly dawning as she continued to hug Rose.

Rose had been oblivious, but the Doctor hadn't. Oh, he was talkative, charming, flirtatious, rude, funny, intelligent; arrogant…he strode around saving the universe; nine hundred and seventy or however old he was, but there was one thing that the Doctor could never be. He could never be Jackie.

Jackie smirked to herself and made an approving noise before muttering, "Good on 'im for cottoning on."

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