Back to 1997

Disclaimer: (To the tune of 'Here come the girls') I own the booooys!

Author's Note: Double update, yeah? Sorry, it's been a while. A-levels still rule my life, but Doctor Who takes up most of my head. There's a bit of a slump going on at the minute, isn't there? No Torchwood, not promise of Doctor Who returning in March. Or does Easter count? Oh, I suppose. You know what I want? Ooh dear, I sound like the Doctor in one of the earlier chapters of this...but what I really, really want is a new set of BBC books. With Rose and the Doctor in Pete's world. Because if they can write a story about Martha (honestly isn't as good as it sounds), then why not? Just a thought I had today. On with the story, yeah? Ooh, actually, does anyone know of any good Twilight/Doctor who cross-overs? I'm in that sort of a mood, yeah. Feel free to let me know about what you think of the latest two chapters.

Today; Wednesday July the 2nd 1997 had the potential to be as fragile as the day Pete Tyler died in 1987. The balance of time and criss-crossing events was just as precarious. Weaker than a dieter's resolve in a chocolate shop.

He was leaving messages to his past self and crossing timelines all over the place, though he was being extremely clever about it. With a bit of jiggery-pokery he'd lightly 'sonic-screwdrivered' the Sherbet Fountains, (which Rose had thankfully left on the captain's chair) so that the sherbet would expand and accelerate at the speed of a bullet once they came within a one-mile radius of another sonic device-after they'd been activated, of course, but he'd do that later. Which was good, as he and Rose had brushed extremely close to the boys in that grotty back alley a few hours ago. He'd been carrying his Sonic Screwdriver in his pocket. He'd made the Sherbet Fountains explode. Well…a past-self/future-self combination Doctor had. Funny, confusing, mind-bending thing, fiddling with Time.

He'd parked the TARDIS a street away from the park where the boys had ambushed the younger Rose, about an hour after their original landing in 1997. His past self and Rose would have been making strained small talk with June, at that point.

In the park, the four boys had been grouped together, exchanging shifty looks, looking uneasy as they shared a cigarette between them-grey spirals of thick, nasty-smelling smoke hovering above their heads. He'd felt his insides turn to stone, felt repressed fury shiver behind his eyes as he'd walked past a large wet patch on the concrete path beside the pond, stained with brilliant-white mounds of damp sherbet and slimy green algae, like rank entrails where the little Rose had been attacked.

It had felt like a crime scene to him. Fright and distress hung in the air-invisible but there and he could once more hear the echoes of Rose's high-pitched shrieks and pleas; hear the slosh of the algae as it was fished out of the pond; feel Rose's hand squeeze his so tightly it was almost painful.

The Doctor had been surprised to find that the boys had dumped their coats in the grass whilst they'd smoked; he'd imagined that thuggish boys like those would have an almost uniform-like attachment to their coats. Or perhaps they were just thick. On closer inspection, though, he saw that they were fleece-lined and heavy, and though England rarely saw scorching-hot summers this side of 2056, it was still rather warm.

It had been a good few centuries since he'd planted evidence, but he'd calmly managed to hide a Sherbet Fountain in the hood of each coat; simply by ambling past and crouching down, pretending to tie his shoelaces. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. Another thing he'd have to remember never to say-or think, again.

He hadn't been worried about the boys discovering them, purely because he'd seen for himself that his desired intention would work successfully and the boys would be caked in sherbet, not unlike the little Rose had been, and because he'd had an inkling that these oafish boys weren't particularly attentive to anything they couldn't vandalise.

Now, he stood leaning casually against the mouth of a murky alley hidden behind a high wall with a trim of barbed wire snaked around the top-seemingly more for menacing decoration than anything else. It really was very narrow; two people wouldn't be able to walk side-by-side comfortably, and he was more than blocking the exit. Well, his stance was casual; hands in his pockets, ankles crossed, but his eyes were alert and hard, like granite; his teeth clenched together so tightly that it was making his jaw ache.

Only another two minutes, three seconds and twenty-seven nanoseconds and they'd be here…

Sure enough, he heard stupid-sounding guffaws and crude, crass jokes as four pairs of feet neared the alley, trodding on bits of broken glass and kicking plastic bottles out of the way before the boys appeared at the dank, opposite end of the alley to him.

They were thickset boys; boorish and hard-faced with terrible hair cuts and ugly smirks. They smelled, too; of greasy hair, unwashed bodies, bad breath and smoke. They were a lot bigger than Rose had been when she was younger; it was easy to see why she had been terrified of them; why they still held some sort of manipulative hold over her, even now. Human childhood fears weren't especially easy to outgrow and sweep under the carpet, no matter how many years passed. Considering the horrifying, awful torment Rose had been subjected to, he really couldn't blame her for running away. It was her human instinct; not cowardice or weakness, which, if he knew Rose, (and he most certainly did,) is what she would undoubtedly be berating herself for.

The Doctor's eyes bristled. These boys had given Rose scars that were still tender even now. And they'd made her cry. That was reason enough, he decided. He didn't like seeing Rose cry. Angry, afraid, sulky, tired and grouchy he could deal with; a cup of tea and a good reel of nonsensical banter and a hug or two would normally sort her out, but crying? Oh no. It made him feel…strange. Set him panicking. Mortified. Worried. Useless; a bit like Mickey the Idiot. Because Rose was always so bubbly and contagiously happy; cracking smiles all over and laughing at anything and everything; it was one of the things he enjoyed so much about having her traveling with him; the way she mad him feel light-hearted. Watching her crumble made him less sure of himself; ridiculously inexperienced.

It made him feel…human.

So, to say he was displeased was an understatement. And a half.

He stared resolutely at the mud-encrusted ground, with cigarette ends and shards of glass clumped together at the sides; a late-afternoon breeze ruffling his hair and sending his coat flapping out behind him.

He did not look up even as he heard the footfalls draw nearer and slow to an impatient stop. Nor did he shift his gaze when a familiar, impertinent voice said, "You're in our way." It was a statement of annoyance rather than anything else, as if the boy were pointing out something that was aggravating him. He was evidently not foolhardy enough to try to intimidate the Doctor; whether it was because he was an adult, or because he was so tall. Or perhaps it was the expression on his face which clearly said, 'Really-don't-bother.'

"Am I?" asked the Doctor, mildly, looking up from the ground, quite unconcerned. "Sorry."

He did not move.

The boys stared at the Doctor, wrong-footed, but then their expressions grew more gloating; eyebrows raising in incredulity, as if the Doctor were a teacher who had attempted to tell them off-one they'd give no end of hell as a result.

The leader, Daniel, exchanged a smirk with the rat-faced boy directly behind him before throwing the Doctor a dirty look.

"You wanna move, mate?" he asked rudely.

The Doctor pulled a face and rubbed the back of his neck, as if giving this some consideration. "Well…no. Not especially."

The boys were quiet for a moment; gaping at him, each with the expression appropriate to catching flies, stupidly, like under-grown, fleshy gargoyles. It was clear that no one had ever answered them back before. Oh well, first time for everything.

The boy on Daniel's left; one with yellowing teeth and a cheap-looking gold stud in his ear pointed a grubby finger at the Doctor.

"'Ee's the geezer from the shop in'ee?"

The Doctor simply smiled, pleasantly, as if the boy had wished him a 'good afternoon and ignored him. And not just because he sounded like a toothless gorilla attempting to speak. If Rose were with him, she would have instantly recognised that he was only ever this calm when he was extremely angry, and she would have done her utmost to placate him; chatting nineteen to the dozen to take his mind of things, to side-track him. Good at that, she was. But Rose wasn't here, he reasoned and so, his calm mask never flinching, he delved into his jacket pocket and brought out his Sonic Screwdriver, holding it up for Daniel and his cronies to see.

They stared at it as if he'd just produced a lawnmower out of thin air.

"You know what this can do now?" he said brightly, grinning at his Sonic Screwdriver proudly, like a science teacher about to give a demonstration on something he was particularly enthusiastic about to a class of disinterested pupils.

His grin faded and he gave the Sonic Screwdriver a small twist. "Resonate concrete."

There was a rumble of crumbling brickwork and an almighty crash, like a drum kit being dropped from a great height, as a small section of the wall; a good distance behind the boys came crashing down in a thick cloud of dust. It fell in a pile at the other end of the alley, effectively preventing the boys from retreating the way they had come.

Though the brickwork had fallen nowhere near the boys, (the Doctor had at least, made sure of that) they all got a shock and jumped about a foot in the air, as if they'd been electrocuted-shouting and swearing indignantly.

They gawped at the Doctor in disbelief. Unsettled. Suspicious. Clearly, they'd never seen a tall, thin stranger cause a wall to fall down with a silver torch…thing. Not many people could say they had, actually. The littlest boy, standing at the back, wearing the grotty, wooly QPR hat wheeled around at the pile of bricks and back at the Doctor, looking awed.

The Doctor frowned at the mess of rubble, dissatisfied. "Hmm…bit messy, that," he remarked, peering closely at his Sonic Screwdriver. "Not bad, though for a first…And you can be quiet," he ordered severely, interrupting himself as Daniel began to say something derogatory.

He glared at Daniel in acute distaste. Daniel promptly shut up; shocked.

"Better," approved the Doctor. "Right then, Mr. Todd, Mr. Shelding, Mr. Robinson, Mr. Coxon," he addressed them all by name with a dip of his head and a grimace, sounding rather bored but urgent, as if he were running short on time. "I'm only going to say this just the once so un-plug your ears and pay attention…ta."

There was a series of loud gasps and angry noises, and all the boys' stares became beady and hostile. Apparently they didn't like the fact that the Doctor knew their names.

"How d'you…!"

"What the…?"

"Who the fu…"

"Same way as I know it was you who nicked Kevin's brother's Walkmanyou who wrecked his bike and you who told the McNally brothers where he keeps his stash of Lambrini..okie-doki?" reeled off the Doctor at break-neck speed, expression lazy, as if they'd asked him a particularly stupid question, pointing backwards and forwards at each of the boys.

There was a crackle of growled threats and shuffling as the Doctor implicated each boy, letting slip details they'd been keeping quiet; details he'd learnt from having a quick nose around their timelines, as one might normally read a newspaper…

Four pairs of scowling, mistrustful eyes were trained on the Doctor, like a pack of wolves assessing a possible threat, but he couldn't help but notice that their shoulders had slumped slightly-they'd lost some of their bravado. He sighed as he caught the gist of their wounded, angry mutters and half-formed insults, as he'd been right in the middle of saying something and they'd interrupted him. He didn't like being interrupted by people he wasn't fond of. Now he'd lost his thread…where?…oh, yes…

"Oi!" he raised his voice, crossly and glowered at them, his knitted eyebrows making him look very fierce. "I hadn't finished," he said leisurely, by way of explanation, making no apologies.

He glanced up at the sky as if checking his watch, before tugging on the lapels of his coat, sharply. "Right then," he chirped. "Can't stand round like a bottle of milk all day, so I'll just get straight to it, shall I? Good," he said stoutly, without waiting for a reply, and he narrowed his eyes at them, lowering his voice. He could shout at them, of course he could…but he had a feeling that he'd get his point across much better if he was quiet-that was usually the case, anyway. Nine times out of ten.

"Rose Tyler," he announced flatly, without preamble. A ripple of recognition passed through the group of boys. The pale, wiry boy in the QPR hat looked uneasily at Daniel for his lead, and even the chubby boy with the yellow teeth began to pull on the back of his gold stud.

"Oh, you've heard of her, then? Ah, that's good," grinned the Doctor, feigning delight. "Leave her alone," he said in the same breath, not missing a beat, the grin still plastered on his face. His face hardened, and became serious. "Completely alone," he finished, sharply. There was a storm brewing behind his eyes…

"We ain't done nothing to her," retorted Daniel, and it was obvious that he was trying to be his usual, threatening; lumbering self-but he didn't sound nearly as cocky as before.

"Dunno what you mean, Mister," added the chubby box next to him.

"Not got nothing to do wiv' you though 'as it? 'Oo you, then-'er dad?" chipped in the rat-faced boy with a scabby chin.

The little QPR-hat-boy kept quiet.

The Doctor rubbed beneath his eye, uncomfortably. He had expected them to deny it; no doubts there; it was the sort of typical, cowardly behavior of boys like them. No; that wasn't what he was most bothered about. In fact, he wasn't sure what he was most bothered about; their horrific grammar or their implications that he was Rose's…dad. Eurgh. Hypothetically, metaphorically…his feelings for her; not that he did have feelings for her…well of course he did have, you know…not that he didn't…whatever he did feel…and he wasn't saying that he did because…oh dear; he was burbling, even inside his own mind. Anyway…the point was that he held no fatherly affection for Rose…so there. Now…time to close down that particular web of thoughts and emotions before he let them get out of hand. Not that there was anything to get out of hand. Or should that be 'head'? Whatever. Grammar, grammar-their grammar was atrocious…concentrate on that!

The Doctor regarded them appraisingly and wrinkled his nose, as if he could smell something unpleasant.

"You know," he said thoughtfully. "At the risk of sounding like Henry Higgins, I really can't understand why so many English people can't speak English properly… "'Not got nothing' is a double negative," he tutted in exasperation. "What on Earth do they teach you at school? Besides how to torment other children?"

The steel in his voice was back again. "Because I know," he went on coolly. "I know what you did to Rose Tyler, what you've been doing to her for years. I've seen it."

The back alley was suddenly deathly quiet, and although the Doctor was speaking in barely more than a murmur, the boys could hear every word he was saying, and there was absolute power and authority leaking out of each one. They had no choice but to listen; they couldn't help but listen.

"And it stops. Today. Right now. Because I say so," said the Doctor harshly, his voice low and chipped, like ice. His eyes held none of their customary kindness; they weren't shining and youthful. They were hard and unforgiving. "Don't call her anything. Don't insult her. Or her mum. Don't touch her; don't talk to her; don't even look at her!"

The Doctor was surprised at how fiercely protective, even possessive he sounded of her. It unnerved him; he hadn't thought about her like that before; he hadn't thought he was capable of seeing her like that, yet all of this had just spilled out of his mouth like a torrent of water; unconsciously, unthinkingly, yet he knew that his words were absolutely and completely genuine. They meant something, even if he wasn't sure why.

The boys listened in rapt, unshakable attention; eyes wide and mouths slack. All pretence had gone. Maybe they really were listening.

"Because anything, anything you do to her, will happen to you," he told them matter-of-factly, unfeelingly, even.

There was a long, stiff silence as the Doctor glowered at them, but then his anger seemed to melt. He raised his eyebrows at the boys up to an almost comical height and twisted the Sonic Screwdriver with an elaborate flick of his wrist.

"Now…they're all 'sonicked-up.'! So in about ooh…three minutes? I'm going to prove myself right. Good, eh?" he chirped brightly, looking immensely pleased with himself. "What was it you did to her today?" he asked them, pretending he'd forgotten; screwing his face up in an effort to remember. The boys looked at him, blankly.

"Oh, that's right!" he enthused, triumphantly. "Yeah, you covered her in sherbet, didn't you? Yeah…" His tone was cheerfully and very purposefully ironic as he nodded, as if to clarify this. "You're not that fond of those coats, are you?" he asked offhandedly, as if double-checking a minor, insignificant detail. Before they could even register the Doctor's impromptu change of topic, he tapped the side of his nose, importantly, grinned like a lunatic, then barged through the tiny gap between Daniel and his chubby friend whistling, 'I've grown accustomed to her face.'

The Doctor waited, at the bottom of the alley; it was shadowy and dank and smelled like a public toilet, listening as the boys decided to carry on walking and rounded the corner, walking right into Rose and his past-self. Three seconds later, there was a loud pop, and he knew that the boys had found themselves knocked to their feet covered in white, scratchy sherbet. He squinted up towards the main estate; the ugly, pebble-dashed grey blocks of flats, run-down garages and open areas of cracked tarmac.

Rose was there, somewhere, lying tucked up on a squashy pink settee being fussed over by a nightmarish yet kind-hearted old neighbour, in a makeshift nightie, probably watching cartoons, nibbling on biscuits. She was also, possibly dozing off on Jackie's shoulder in front of a horrifically girlie DVD, a plate of egg and chips balanced on her knee. The younger Rose they'd rescued in 1997 and the older, tired Rose he'd left in 2006. Oh, and another one. Just around the corner, a suspicious Rose was giving his past self a 'Jackie' stare, demanding to know how the boys had ended up with sherbet all over them; surprised and disbelieving.

Three Rose Tylers, and not a single one with him. Time he was off. Back to Rose. Well…later. Soon. He still had something to check.

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