Mother knows best. Sometimes.

Disclaimer: Doctor Who is property of the BBC. Any shops, brands, products or magazines you may recognise aren't mine either.

Author's Note: I must apologise for abandoning this story for years. No reason for it, just lots of excuses! I found this on an old memory pen and just couldn't get it out of my head. I want to finish it! So...if you were reading this years ago, sorry and thank you for your reviews. If you're reading this for the first time then, hiya! *waves*

After what seemed like half an hour, Jackie finally let go of her daughter and Rose smiled back at her gratefully, her eyes misty, mouth wobbling. She was attempting to keep her composure.

Jackie pretended not to notice and reached out to pick something off Rose's shoulder. The movement caused her bracelets to rattle together and the scent of vanilla lingering on her fingers to waft up towards Rose's nostrils. Sweet and synthetic; it was the smell of the setting spray that she used; she must've had a client in today…

Rose glanced down, expecting to see her mum brushing off a stray crumb or a leaf or something but instead she was holding up a tiny, fraying section of her hair for inspection. She felt a tug on her hair as her mum leant forward and Rose wrinkled her nose, inwardly cringing away from a tongue lashing. She could half-guess at what her mum had spotted.

The pet-hate of all hairdressers. Split-ends.

Jackie let Rose's hair flop back into place with a dismissive flick of her wrist and then ran the pad of her thumb over her parting, sighing through her nose at the sight of her roots, her face the picture of disapproval.

"Right," she said shortly, tapping Rose's shoulder twice, with the air of a no-nonsense woman on a mission. "Your roots I can live with. Your split-ends, I definitely can't. Bathroom. Now."

Rose thought about arguing the point. She did. She'd been thinking longingly of sinking into the squashy sofa and just sitting. Not having to move, not having to think, just letting her aching arms and legs have a rest but then she thought about how scruffy she felt.

Her two-day old hair was scraped back and untidy; it felt dry and itchy. She thought about the breakout of spots on her forehead, the sheen of grease on her nose, rolled her eyes at her mum and dutifully trundled in the direction of the bathroom.

It had been months since she'd been here. Her stomach gave a happy jolt as she remembered the creaking floorboards that she hadn't realised she'd forgotten about. Jackie was at her heels, chivvying her along and grumbling something about a hairdresser's daughter having roots and split-ends as being like a dentist having rotten teeth.

She knelt down, with her head tipped forwards over the side of the bath as her mum washed and conditioned her hair for her with the shower head attachment. The coiled metal tubing used to unnerve her at one point; it reminded her of some sort of metallic snake.

Oh, she had forgotten how uncomfortable getting your hair washed like this was; it made your neck ache, cramped your knees, and she had soggy patches on the knees of her jeans from the damp, cork-tiled floor!

When she was younger she used to complain that her mum was too rough when she washed her hair; scrubbing her knuckles into her scalp, wrenching on the tangles, lathering up with so much force that her head bobbed up and down with the movement. Realising, as the shower head was turned off and Rose climbed to her feet, stretching her head back like a tortoise to get rid of the stiffness in her neck, that her mum had still grown no gentler was strangely reassuring.

"Is it just me you try to scalp, or d'you do it to everybody?" Rose asked in teasing wonder, reaching blindly for a wad of toilet roll to dry her wet face, as Jackie wrapped the towel around her head, tucking the ends in neatly.

Water rivulets streamed down Rose's face into her eyes, further smudging her already ruined eye makeup, and so the effect of her sarcasm was rather ruined by her ridiculous appearance.

The day's mascara had stained the delicate area between her lower lash line and the bottom of her eye socket. She looked like she had very dark, ghoulish bags under her eyes.

"Oh, stop your whining, you," Jackie tutted in her best mock-reproving voice, batting Rose on the shoulder with the back of her hand. "I'm not that bad!"

"S'like you were trying to shear a sheep," Rose insisted flatly, nodding her head in a falsely patronising manner; the way one does when trying to placate a less than sane person. She'd had plenty of practice at that…

Jackie, who had reached down to put the plug in the bath and turn the hot tap on, straightened up and raised her eyebrows at her.

"Shear a sheep?" she repeated incredulously. "I dunno whether the Doctor's been gallivanting round farms with you, or what, but Rose…how the hell would I know how to shear a shee-hee-hee-hee-heep?" she demanded of her, amid a gale of laughter, bending over with her hands resting on her knees, the word 'sheep' almost indistinguishable.

She laughed loudly, in the same way as she normally ever laughed at a Carry On film, leaning against the bath for support, her shoulders shaking.

Rose felt the corners of her mouth twitch involuntarily, as she watched her mum fan herself furiously with her hand, trying to suppress her laughter because it was getting in the way of minor things…like breathing. Still though, she gave her mum a slight frown; it hadn't been that funny, had it? Had her sense of humour changed that much?

But then…slowly, she'd got it. The mental image of her mum trodding gingerly across a farm in her best heels from Warehouse, attempting to shear a sheep with hair clippers, scissors and hairspray…it was completely stupid and ridiculous, but then, of course, so was the simile Rose had made. Where she'd got 'shear a sheep' from, of all things…

"Dunno," she admitted, with a titter, shrugging her shoulders. "Pet Rescue?"

Her face was deadpan as she said it, her tone purposefully serious, purely for comedic effect because she had known it would set her mum off again. Sure enough, Jackie collapsed into a fresh wave of laughter, and Rose snorted, shaking her head at both herself and her mum, before joining her.

"Pet Rescue? How many people d'you know who've got sheep as pets you daft girl? Actually, don't answer that." Jackie half-ranted, half muttered to herself, still breathless with laughter as she pulled a large white towel, and a smaller dark blue one off the towel rail and folded them and put them on the floor beside the bath.

"Mmh," Rose agreed quietly, going over to the toilet, putting the lid down and sitting on it, just as she'd done so, so many times before. She tried wiggling her eyebrows up and down to see if the tightness of the towel had lessened any, but it apparently hadn't and she still felt as if she'd had a facial peel.

"Ooh, one minute!" Jackie instructed her, pointing at the air, looking quite excited about something, as if she'd just had a little brainwave. "I'll tell you what I've got…"

Rose grinned after her, one hand pulling at the bit of the towel that was cutting off the blood circulation to the top of her left ear, as her mum bustled out of the bathroom. She unfastened her boots and pulled off her socks one-handedly, surveying the cupboard-sized bathroom, happily.

Her room on the TARDIS had a bathroom of its own, and it was…fine in its own little way. There was nothing really wrong with it; it was full of cosmetics that she'd picked up from various different centuries: very strong toothpaste that she'd bought at Jack Harkness' persuasion; liquorice and mint stuff that actually re-built the enamel on your teeth and whitening varnish that made it chemically impossible for plaque to build up on your teeth. Rose had better teeth than most 21st century dentists.

Then there was her make-up, of course; a Maybelline mascara from 2019 that was nothing short of a miracle-worker and definitely something she'd rush back into a burning building for, given half the chance. Eye shadow she wasn't too fussed about, she could get by with her tricolor palette from her own time, but she hadn't been able to resist a tiny pot of midnight-black powdered moon rock, (which, oddly enough, could be used as both a cosmetic, and a seasoning in foods) or a china box of fine, jasmine-scented face powder from 1834, and a waxy, foul-tasting lipstick from the 20s.

It was just…it didn't seem to hold as much as this bathroom.

There were two, flaking holes in the wall to the left of the toilet from where the wooden toilet-roll holder had once been attached. It had fallen down at some point, and her mum had just never got round to putting it back up and so the damaged wall had been hastily painted over. Rose used to be able to poke her little finger into the holes, and she would gaze at them in vacant interest, forming pictures from the chipped paint and crumbling plaster as she sat on the toilet or stood brushing her teeth. Now, Rose tried half-heartedly to push her little finger into one of the holes, half-hearted because she knew it wouldn't fit.

It didn't. She could just about get the tip of her nail in.

There were ornaments sitting on the side of the bath, too, on the opposite side to where the shampoo and conditioner stood. Terracotta ornaments of ducks and hens that Jackie had bought on the cheap from Ikea. They had no purpose, really, they were just there. Two ducks and one hen with a chip in its wing.

Rose had given them names; 'Emma', 'Victoria' and 'Melanie,' after the Spice Girls, of course. They were pointless. They weren't pretty. They got in the way, because she'd always been afraid of knocking them over if she flailed and splashed her arms about too enthusiastically when she was playing mermaids, and you used to have to pick them up and clean underneath them when you were doing the bath…and in that, they illustrated the main difference between this bathroom, and her one on the TARDIS.

The one on the TARDIS didn't have tacky clutter on the side of the bath for no reason. That was what a 'home' was, though, wasn't it? Somewhere crammed full of things you didn't need and bought for the sake of it. What did that make the TARDIS, then? If her bathroom on the TARDIS was decidedly terracotta-duck free, was the TARDIS not her home?

Her thoughts were interrupted as she heard the thwack-thwack of Jackie's approaching footsteps coming back into the room again.

'Keisha's been working in that Lush shop in Covent Garden,' Jackie told her with an impressed nod, as if she thought it was a far wiser choice than space and time travel. 'Says she loves it.' She held out a black and yellow paper bag to Rose. 'Help yourself.'

Rose took it, a strong mixture of floral and citrus smells assaulting her nostrils as she peeked inside. Round, orange-sized ballistics; some brightly-coloured, shimmering iridescently, others pale, pastel-coloured with petals and rosebuds scattered through them. Then there were triangular wedges of soap of all different sizes; a custard-coloured one with an amber honeycomb on the top; a multi-coloured one that looked like it was made of wine gums and a sugary-pink one the exact colour of a marshmallow…it was like a treasure trove for a cosmetic junkie.

'Keisha sent you all this?' asked Rose, momentarily surprised and slightly touched. The thought of someone thinking of her mum warmed her heart. Obviously she knew how lovely her mum was and wanted to spoil her, but the fact that Keisha thought so, too…well it was just nice to think that her mum was so highly thought-of and that she had such caring friends. 'That's so nice!'

'I know, isn't it?' said Jackie. She glanced up at the towel on Rose's head and shook her head dolefully. 'Right, I'm going to go and put the dinner on and prepare to do some major hair surgery. Sausage and Mash sound all right?'

'Like heaven,' grinned Rose.

Jackie looked pleased. 'Good. You take your time, darling, OK?'

She trailed a hand down Rose's arm and with a last beam, left her to it.

Rose had been in the bath for a good half an hour, sat with her knees bent to her chest in cloudy, pale-yellow water, the exact same colour as old-fashioned lemonade.

It was the same way she had been sitting earlier today against a tree in the park in 1997.

When had thinking like this become like second nature to her? There was a time when thinking of the fact that she'd been in another decade merely hours before would have given her a headache. Not now, though.

She squinted at her legs appraisingly. They hadn't been as toned as this…well, ever, really. She secretly felt a bit thrilled; running for your life every other day had its benefits after all.

Leaning back against the side of the bath, she let her arms float up weightlessly by her sides. She let her mind wander over the events of the day. Typical; she'd felt so miserable, felt like sobbing her heart out at so many times and had held it in.

Now, when she was finally alone, when she could let herself cry the tears just wouldn't come. She thought about trying to force a few out, just so they were out of her system, but the hot, steaming water had instantly relaxed her to the point that she just couldn't be bothered.

She felt her eyes glaze over. She saw the faces of the boys; full of hate and menace that jarred against their youthfulness. In her mind's eye she watched June tend to her fragile younger self with all the devotion as if she were her own flesh and blood. She saw the Doctor's stony face; angry and pitying as she'd admitted that she had once been bullied and remembered how safe and contented she had felt as he had wrapped his arms around her; how she never wanted to leave them.

She sighed and shook her head in annoyance with herself and swirled the citrus water around herself with cupped hands, trying to make as much noise as possible. As if the splashing water could drown out her thoughts…

More to distract herself than anything else she reached for the bag of Lush goodies, drops of water dribbling down her arms and dropping down her fingertips and picked up a block of soap that took her fancy.

She proceeded to get washed with a bubblegum-pink bar with white stars shot through it which smelt like candy floss. It felt like she was lathering up all of today's hurt and rinsing away her humiliation.

The thing is; she could take today and let it get to her, let it shake her; allow it to make her feel weak and pathetic. She could sit here in this bath, which was gradually becoming more lukewarm, feel sorry for herself and dwell on what had happened and then go and let her mum comfort her back to her bright, bubbly self. What was stopping her, really?

Already, she could almost sense the disappointment that would flicker in the Doctor's eyes if he knew what was going through her head. Or she could put this to bed right now, put it all behind her and move on.

In the decade and a bit that had passed since the awful events of today had actually happened she hadn't given them that much thought. Was she really going to let it affect her now? Was she not stronger than that? She could just accept that, yeah, she'd been tormented as a child and it had been fairly awful, but then so had a lot of children. At least she'd been picked on by kids and it had been juvenile stuff. Hurtful and destroying, yes, but it could have been so much worse, couldn't it?

She shuddered, thinking of the unbelievable horror stories about children that made the newspapers…

No. Oh no. She had been a victim when she was a child, she was definitely not going to let this bring her down now; the Doctor had taught her far better than that. She was so much better than that. Better than all of those boys put together!

She felt a faint blush of embarrassment creep up on her cheeks. She half-thought about berating herself for being a bit of a softie, for letting it get to her, for needing her mum. That was ridiculous, though, she told herself, firmly. She had been tired. As much as she loved travelling with the Doctor, she couldn't deny the fact that it was exhausting; it was exhilarating and mad and exciting 100% of the time. She was entitled to a moment of weakness, anyway, when things got a bit much.

"M' only human,' she reasoned to herself out loud.

In one fluid motion, she pushed herself to her feet and clambered out of the bath inelegantly, getting water all over the already-damp floor.

She'd had enough of reflecting for one day; she was going to try and not think about it anymore, she was going to refuse to let this spoil her few precious hours on home-leave with her mum. Not when she had much more important things to think about. Like her mum's amazing Sausage and Mash.

Rose was staring at a grainy, poor-quality photograph of a stone statue taped to the kitchen cupboard, taken with a mobile phone. A tiny bit of the corner at the top left had become unstuck and a crumb of something or other had become lodged in the gluey residue that had been left behind. It was a photo of a Fortuna statue, the Roman goddess of luck, which currently resided in the British Museum, albeit with its right wrist missing.

A statue with more than a passing resemblance to Rose, herself. Identical, actually.

A while ago, on one of her impromptu visits home, a self-satisfied Mickey had shown them the stone Fortuna at the museum, where he'd reluctantly admitted that he'd been doing some volunteer work. Of course, the Doctor had been delighted to discover that this meant that they would be visiting Rome at some point in the near future and Rose, who'd loved doing about the Ancient Romans and their roads and baths in primary school had matched his enthusiasm.

Only Jackie had had misgivings, which had turned out to be quite right. Among other things, Rose had, perhaps foolishly agreed to be a model for a celebrated sculptor, flattered by his praise of her youth and beauty. There had just been this very slight snag in that everything he touched turned into stone…and so a cup of drugged wine and one touch later, a very human, flesh-and-blood Rose had become cold, hard granite. Hardly a roman holiday. The Doctor had saved her, though, eventually. Not that she'd told her mum about it, of course.

The last time the he had brought her home hadn't been an appropriate time to talk about anything, really. He'd taken her to see her mum immediately after their return from the parallel world and Jackie, like Rose had been too shell-shocked and teary at the loss of Mickey to think about anything else.

She'd chewed her freshly painted nails off over the course of one evening, shunned her usual pre-bedtime cup of tea in favour of a glass of wine and had had her first cigarette (or three) since becoming pregnant with Rose, on the balcony overlooking the front of the estate, huddled in Rose's parka against the cold night air.

When Rose had joined her and had remarked with surprise that she didn't know she smoked, Jackie had replied bitterly, that there were lots of things that Rose didn't know…

As for Rose…well it wasn't just sorrow that she'd had to comfort-eat and cry out of her system; there was a fair bit of regret and guilt, too at how she'd treated Mickey, how things had been left between them. Things she should have said and done.

Of all things, she'd realised, with a pang, as she drifted through his abandoned flat, that during the time in which he'd been on the TARDIS, she'd never once played 'Rock, Paper Scissors' with him over whose turn it was to make the tea, and that was something they'd done all the time before she'd started traveling with the Doctor. Then again, he'd long ago stopped pulling her hair by way of greeting, and he'd done that since they were children.

It wasn't just Mickey she'd cried at and for, either; there had still been small chasms of hurt left over that had been hurriedly tidied away from the Doctor changing, from Jack…Sarah-Jane…Madame de Pompadour, and their ordeal in the parallel universe had simply brought it crashing to a head. Saying that, it had also enabled her to finally let it all go. A Mickey-and-the-Parallel-World-shaped turning point…

Now, though seemed as good enough a time as ever to tell Jackie about her trip back to Ancient Rome, if she was interested. Jackie had already brought the subject up, anyway. Whilst making another round of tea, she'd mentioned that she'd had to make up some rubbish about abstract art when the man who'd come round to look at the central heating had been a bit too observant for his own good.

"That photo you took of that Lay-whatsit planet," Jackie had chattered, not hearing Rose's correction of 'Laylora', as she'd set the kettle away and rinsed a teaspoon under the tap. "I had to tell 'im it was from the Seychelles, and that one from that planet with the orange sand,' she vaguely pointed in the direction of the cupboard door, where she'd tacked up all of Rose's photos and postcards.

'On the back you wrote about that fish-man stealing your shoe, yeah? Well, I said it was a concept image from an unreleased Bowie album, and that one of you all trussed up as a goddess…said Dennis had fiddled around with it on that Photoshop lark of his."

Jackie had paused for a breath, slopping milk in their rinsed-out mugs, that still bore faint traces of brown around the rim, before carrying on, whilst Rose had sat at the kitchen table with one leg tucked up under her, a wide smile stretching her cheeks as she listened.

"He must've thought I was a right sad baggage, but then he couldn't have said anything, could he? Because he was wearing white socks and black shoes and that my girl, is only acceptable if you're-,"

"John Travolta!" Rose had finished for her, with a cringe, at the same time as Jackie had said 'Danny Zuko', slapping her palm on the bench to emphasize her point.

Both of them had laughed girlishly at their similar trains of thought, and Jackie had joined her at the table, producing a packet of Jammy Dodgers from somewhere or other to munch on whilst Rose told her about a missing boy and a slave called Vanessa.

Tactfully, Rose had so far managed to avoid that she'd actually been turned into a stone statue herself for a little while, whilst in Rome, otherwise her mum's high-pitched shrieking would have shattered the windows and the possibility of going anywhere further than the end of the street with the Doctor would be definitely off-limits.

The watered-down story she'd spoon-fed Jackie sounded as if they'd simply gone back to Ancient Rome, met a girl from the future, and whilst they were there, the Doctor had spontaneously decided to make a statue of her. Thankfully, Jackie had been more taken aback with the revelation of the artist's identity than concerned with the whys and wherefores.

"He's made you very beautiful," Jackie decided at last, standing half-risen from the table to see the photograph better as Rose finished her tale. As if she didn't smile fondly at it every time she opened the cupboard to get the teabags out.

She'd been looking from the photo to Rose every so often, comparing them, looking for any faults, like playing spot-the-difference, whilst Rose had been talking, head tilted on the side.

At this, Rose's eyes widened slightly in alarm and she raised her eyebrows at her before making a small noise of disbelief. She shook her head.

"Nah, he's just good at sculpting," she insisted loyally.

Jackie tapped her thumb against the handle of her mug, her thumb-ring making a chinking noise, looking entirely unconvinced.

Rose smiled, embarrassed, down at her own mug. It was pale yellow with tiny forget-me-nots in two different shades of blue swirling around the handle and up towards the rim, like a delicate climbing vine. She'd adopted it as 'her' cup, when she was about five, because the colour and pattern was more or less identical to a thin, floaty summer dress that her mum had bought for her in the Next sale to wear to Keisha's fifth birthday party.

Ah, that birthday party. Running riot on the soft-play at the leisure centre in the stifling heat because there was no air conditioning, sitting down to eat tiny hot-dogs, pink party rings and those smelly white pickled onions that no one ever touched with a red face and a sweaty fringe…

She loved being home. Loved this kitchen.

The citrus-soap suds sitting in the sink from the washing-up; the smell of fresh washing powder and fabric conditioner that hung in the air from the last washing load; the washing machine that was making a racket as it finished its cycle, vibrating slightly in the corner; the wobbly table and ever-spotless linoleum with a chip in it from when her mum had dropped the iron; the frayed tea towel with the potted plants on that was scrunched between the handles of the cupboard beneath the kitchen sink.

Most of all, though, her mum. The slightly-too-big jeans that she had to keep on hitching up, because she'd bought them during a fat-phase a couple of years ago; her Primark tops and immaculate hair. Her mum always wore exactly what she wanted; didn't see the point in wearing anything out of the ordinary; she dressed for herself and not her clients; worked from home, dressed to stay in.

Her make-up though, was another thing entirely. She could be dressed like a right slob, yet still have caked-on foundation and elaborately shaded eye-shadow.

Rose used to love watching her 'put her face on' as her mum called it, when she was little. She'd lie on her stomach across her mum's bed and play with her blusher brushes, bronzing beads and lipstick as her mum sat in front of her dressing table. It was no surprise then, really, that Rose by-passed the gentle breaking-in period of using tinted lip balm and clear mascara, and was wearing serious make-up by the time she was thirteen.

There was just something about sitting across the table from her mum, with cups of after-dinner tea between them. It made her feel warm and relaxed.

They always used to have a cup of tea together when Rose came home from work; sometimes Jackie would have a client and Rose would join them through in the living room, perching on the arm of the settee, or Jackie would be flicking through the T.V magazine or something, and they'd catch up before Rose would head out somewhere with Mickey…the pub, Mickey's flat, the cinema, the park and well…that was it, really. Rose frowned as she thought about how she felt, what was it? Safe and content, here with her mum.

Not that…she wasn't happy with the Doctor, traveling with the Doctor, she meant, because she was, of course she was; so, so happy that she honestly couldn't put it into words; horrible incidents like today were just one of those things, but it was a different kind of happy. Different kind of safe, too.

A lot of the time, she wasn't safe and out of harm's way when she was with the Doctor, and that was one of the things that scared her mum most of all, she knew that, but she knew, she believed that somehow or other, no matter what might happen to them in the meantime, the Doctor would always get them alive, if a little shaken, back to the TARDIS.

He'd always save them, save her, so that she felt that…if he was there, at her side, his fingers wrapped around hers, then nothing, nothing in the entire universe could ever truly hurt her.

She couldn't put her finger on exactly why; it was just the sort of presence he had, something that sparkled in his eyes as he grinned at her, or shouted at a head-case alien, hackles raised. He was the Doctor.

Safety with her mum was another thing entirely. It was creeping into her room in the middle of the night after a bad dream when she was little; stumbling home after her first big night out to find her mum had fallen asleep on the settee, whilst trying to wait up for her to make sure she'd had a nice night; it was the large bucket and bottle of water that were waiting on her bedside table after all her nights out following that.

Knowing that there was absolutely nothing that she could ever do that would make her mum think any less of her. She could cause a paradox the size of Wales (well, hopefully she wouldn't) and her mum would just shout at her for a bit and call her a daft cow, but ultimately, there was nothing that her mum wouldn't forgive her for. Now, that thought was as shaming as it was reassuring.

The Doctor's forgiveness…she wasn't so sure about, and to be perfectly honest she didn't want to have to find out, really. Sometimes, and she knew it was probably selfish, but it was sometimes so easy to forget, well no, not forget but overlook the fact that he wasn't human.

Beneath the geeky charm, the close hugs; kind brown eyes and non-stop gob was an ancient alien. She'd seen him in full-blown, powerful Time Lord mode; watched from the sidelines as he judged, told off and tried to rehabilitate races she'd never even heard of, and it always made her feel so inadequately human and ordinary.

So small and timid. She didn't want to have to experience the Oncoming Storm directed at her, thank you.

That was it, though, wasn't it? The contrast of her mum and the Doctor. Her old life and her new one. One comfortable, the other exhilarating. She loved both; it was as simple and as impossible as that.

Rose frowned, looking down at the slivers of the sticky, black chargrilled bits from her sausages on her otherwise clear plate. It was a good job her prospective future was in flux and 'as changing as the weather' according to the Doctor.

What was the point in stressing about how her life was going to end up when, even if she were able to make a decision, circumstances would probably change within the resulting 24 hours, anyway?

She got to her feet, picking up her mum's plate as well as her own and took them over to the sink, her stomach feeling pleasantly full. 'Dinner was gorgeous, Mum, thanks.'

She began to re-fill the sink with hot, soapy water, but not before crossing back over to the table to press a quick kiss of appreciation on Jackie's cheek.

'Oh well, I got the sausages out of the packet myself,' joked Jackie, with mock-pride. 'That Jamie Oliver can eat his heart out.'

'Definitely,' answered Rose with a smile. She sighed, the smile falling off her face as she caught sight of her reflection in the window above the sink and rolled her eyes at the state of herself.

No make-up; the spots on blemishes on her face might as well have been neon and flashing, they were that noticeable and she was clad in her comfiest tracksuit with her towel-turban was still perched on her head. Attractive…

'Pack it in. You look fine,' came Jackie's voice from just behind her.

Rose spun around, a dishcloth in her hand to see her mum leaning against the table with her arms folded, a long-suffering look on her face. 'Pack what in?'

'Picking faults with yourself,' said Jackie shortly, coming over to join Rose at the sink and pulling a tea towel from the cupboard door-handle. 'I can see you doing it. Any minute now you're going to complain about your forehead being shiny or your nose having a miniscule blackhead on it or something.'

'I just noticed I've got acne on my head, that's all,' admitted Rose, but she couldn't help but laugh. Her mum really did know her far too well.

Still, it was nice to have someone there to shoot down her insecurities-it was what her mum did so well, after all. She could look a right mess and her mum would still tell her she was beautiful.

Jackie merely tutted and raised her eyes to the heavens. They worked in a comfortable silence; Rose washing the pans, plates and utensils that had been used for dinner and Jackie drying them. It was such an ordinary, menial task but Rose loved it.

She was thrilled at the familiarity and the homely, domestic simplicity of it all. Except it had become out-of-the-ordinary, hadn't it? The only reason she was enjoying it was because she hadn't had to do it in such a long time. Rose Tyler, enjoying doing the dishes…well there was a first time for everything, she reasoned.

Within another ten minutes, the kitchen was back to being spotless, and Rose was sat in a hard-backed chair in the living room having her hair combed. Well combed…pulled-out, with her mum, what was the difference?

'Ow,' grumbled Rose, frowning as Jackie attacked the tangles and knots in her damp hair. 'Mum!'

'Shh,' she ordered, looking down at her, sternly. 'Don't start that again, madam. I don't know how you always manage to end up with hair like a bird's nest.'

'Probably because my hairdresser doesn't know the meaning of the word 'gentle' when she washes my hair,' muttered Rose under her breath, mutinously.

Jackie ignored her and carried on combing Rose's hair, though admittedly with slightly less force. When she was seemingly satisfied that she was finished she prodded Rose in the shoulder with her comb.

'Shall I just give you a trim, then, sweetheart?' she asked, coming to stand on Rose's right-hand side with her hands on her hips, one perfectly drawn-on eyebrow raised at her.

Rose, who had been daydreaming, staring out of the window at the darkening, early-evening sky, snapped her eyes back to her mum and shrugged.

'Yeah, please. Just whatever you think needs doing, really.' she answered, smiling at her. 'Seriously though, Mum, thanks for doing this.'

Jackie waved her hand about, flippantly, nearly dropping her comb as she did so. 'Oh, like I mind,' she said, as if Rose was being silly.

She ran her fingers through the dark brass-coloured layers of Rose's wet hair and clipped it up into sections. 'I'll have to take a good half an inch off, though. Your ends are dreadful,' she reminded her with a small sigh.

'Yeah, that's ok,' said Rose, brightly. 'I trust you,'

She shuffled backwards so that she was sat up completely straight and tried not to move her head. She could feel the cold metal of her mum's scissors against her head; feel the plastic teeth of the comb scraping her scalp as she set to work. She listened to the scissors clicking away quietly beside her ear and let her eyes roam around the living room, trying to see what, if anything had changed since she was last here.

Same carpet, she noted, a smile pulling at the corners of her mouth thinking about how the Doctor had accused Jackie of getting a new one to distract her from giving Rose a Mother's Inquisition.

The same fireplace, same TV, same Marie Claire magazines piled up on the coffee table, though probably more recent editions. It was as if time had stood still whilst she had been away, as if her mum's life didn't change, didn't evolve. Like a museum or a shrine…just waiting for Rose to come back.

'So then,' said Jackie in her best hairdresser's patter, once her combing and snipping had settled into a natural rhythm so that she was doing it almost organically.

'Have you been anywhere nice on holiday recently?'

Even before the words had left her mouth, Rose could tell that her mum was trying to hold back a laugh. She'd said it with a massive smile on her face, her voice lilting up at the end. Rose tittered obligingly, dragging her lip through her teeth and rolling her eyes.

Jackie giggled, like a naughty school, far too pleased with herself and her daft sense of humor for her own good. This only made Rose start to laugh properly…then Jackie joined in and Rose found herself quite unable to control her girly hoots of laughter whilst her mum cackled and cackled like a peroxide-chav witch, her scissors dangling loosely from her fingers, leaning against the back of Rose's chair for support…

For the first time in a very long while, two sets of laughter bounced off the walls and filled the living room, just like old times.

Two voices. Not just one.

At last, the flat didn't feel so desperately empty and quiet.

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