To Jackie Tyler there was no sound so equally welcomed and dreaded as the sound of the TARDIS materializing. If asked, she would have described it as the sound of reality being ripped by a rusty pipe organ, but no one ever really asked her opinion on it. All that mattered was that when that sound came, so did her daughter.
As it was, she did not bother to describe it, instead choosing to glare at it as it was coming to form in an alley in front of Tesco. It became solid after a moment and her expression set into a firm scowl. That man had had her daughter for months since the last visit, and she was more than a little suspicious of his placement. If he’d thought to make this nothing but a grocery run he was about to learn a few important lessons. Her arms folded across her chest, and slowly her foot began to tap angrily against the pavement. He, she was quite determined, was going to regret this particular tea-and-milk stop.
The door opened, Jackie opened her mouth to berate — and froze.
"Who're you, then?" she demanded.
A man with thick curls and a rather ridiculously long scarf turned and for a moment looked startled at the confrontation — but a grin quickly worked its way across his face as he moved to reply.
Jackie did not give him time, quickly writing off his identity as unimportant as she began to shake a finger at him. "Where's the Doctor? An' Rose, what's he done with my Rose?"
The man in the scarf wisely said nothing.
"Alright then," Jackie said, narrowing her eyes. "If he's not comin' out, I'm goin' in." She brushed past him without another glance and pushed her way in to the transdimensional spaceship. The crisp, clean and sparklingly white interior made her pause only briefly — who was she to question the taste of a man who wore the same leather jacket and jumpers every day of his life?
The waifish blonde at the center of the room did, however, bring her up a bit short. For half a heartbeat she thought it was Rose, but only just; the girl standing at the console was petite, small-featured and wearing a jaunty pink beret atop her long, fine locks. "Hello," said the girl, watching Jackie curiously.
Jackie blinked at her. "Who're you?"
She smiled brightly. "I'm Romana," she said.
Jackie looked between the pair suspiciously. "Where's Rose?"
"Do we know a Rose?" the man asked the girl, looking somewhere between confused and entertained.
"Don't be stupid, this box belongs to the Doctor an' he's got my Rose holed up in it somewhere."
Romana giggled and looked at the man. "Have you?"
"I don't recall holing up anyone, well, not lately." He grinned again. "But that's not to say I won't again."
Jackie rolled her eyes. "If you're coverin' for him 'cause he's off shaggin' my daughter, don't bother -- as if I don't know my girl well enough to know what she's on about!"
The man in the scarf choked on a gasp. "What?" He turned wide, shocked eyes to Romana. "Have I hit my head? I seem to be experiencing some sort of terrible hallucination."
"Forgive the Doctor," Romana beseeched Jackie. "I'm afraid he's a terrible representative of our people. It also seems that we've crossed his timeline — that's the Doctor there. A younger version, I imagine, than the one you know. As far as I know he's not, er, 'shagging' anyone."
Jackie gave him a suspicious look. "You're the Doctor?" she asked.
He still seemed to be in a bit of shock, but nodded. "Years do change things," he said.
"Well, I wondered about the décor," she said, sighing heavily. "You can change what you look like?" He nodded. She scoffed. "That means you chose that nose and those ears? Hmph. Aliens. So you're sayin' you haven't got Rose in this stupid box?"
"Not as far as I know, though of course there are rooms I've never seen."
"'Course there are. Just bloody mad, you are. Time travellin’ ship that's bigger on the inside but you can't land on a date to save your life. Useless." Jackie kicked the console and folded her arms. "Don't even bring my daughter home to see me."
The Doctor frowned and turned to Romana. "This, you see. This is why my assistants don't go back to see their mothers. They burst into my TARDIS and kick her."
Jackie glared. "Assistants, eh? That girl there may be an assistant but you call my daughter that an' the last slap I gave you will seem like a love tap."
Romana giggled again. "I think I like her, Doctor. We should bring her with us."
"And you! Who're you?" Jackie demanded. "What sort of name is 'Romana'? You some sort of alien he picked up somewhere?"
"Well, not to him," she replied. "To you, I suppose so. It's Romanadvoratrelundar, technically. I'm a Time Lady from Gallifrey."
Jackie started to say something and stopped. She frowned. "You're one of his people."
Romana smiled. "As I said, please don't judge us by his foolishness. The rest of us are rather more sensible."
"Right, I'm off, then," Jackie said. She held up a finger. "But just so you know, next time I see you — proper you, that is — you're gettin' a slap. My daughter's twenty years old, an' you don't meet my eyes when you say nine hundred so I'm bettin' you're older than that. You're a dirty old man, an' I'm not afraid to say it."
"Madame," he said, in his most stately tone of voice. "I have had many companions within my TARDIS, and I assure you, I have never had any sort of...inappropriate relations with any of them."
"Time Lords aren't really like that," Romana explained, doing her best to support him. "I understand that romance is important to humans but we generally don't function in that manner. Friendship, affection, respect, of course we experience those, but not romantic attachment. Sexual attraction is practically nonexistent on our planet."
"Say that all you like," Jackie replied. "But I know what I've seen an' it's not affection, alright?"
"Really," the Doctor repeated. "I promise."
She gave him a Tyler scowl and pulled out her mobile. She pressed the speaker button and a loud ringing echoed through the room. It continued. "You've reached Rose Tyler, I'm probably runnin' for my life or somethin', leave a message an' I'll get back as soon as I can!"
"Oh, she sounds pleasant," the Doctor said, grinning at Jackie. "I think I'll like her."
"Right, a second opinion then." Jackie pressed another button and again ringing filled the room.
"It's really unnecessary —"
"Is this Sarah Jane Smith?" Jackie asked, pleased to see the blood drain from the Doctor's face.
“Yes,” she replied. “May I ask who am I speaking with?”
“Jackie Tyler, Rose’s mum.”
"Mrs Tyler?" Sarah Jane's voice took on a decidedly worried note. "Is everything alright? Rose and the Doctor?" She paused. "Do you have me on speaker?"
"Yeah, just want your opinion on something, eh?" Jackie waited until a hum of agreement came over the line. "You've seen my girl with that stupid alien. Shaggin', aren't they?"
"Well, I don't know that they were when I saw them," Sarah Jane said, and the Doctor brightened. "I generally prefer not to gossip about someone in their absence." She paused. "But if the way he looked at her was any clue, I would imagine that the time is approaching soon, if it hasn't yet."
"Hah!" Jackie crowed. "See, even your friends think so!"
"Mrs Tyler, where are you?"
The Doctor cleared his throat. "Hello, Sarah Jane," he said. "Mrs Tyler seems to have, ah, stumbled into the wrong TARDIS."
A much longer pause. "Doctor?" She let out an awkward-sounding laugh. "That is — my Doctor? Teeth and curls and scarf?"
"It's quite a brilliant scarf," Romana interjected. "Mind you, he lost the good one somewhere in the wardrobe room and the TARDIS won't give it back. He's got a red one now."
"This one is nice too!" the Doctor replied, giving her a dark look. "It matches my new coat."
"Looks like someone bled on him," Jackie said. "Startin' to think I like leather an' jumpers. Point is, he figured he'd never think of a human that way an' you agreed he's wrong!"
"Oh, yes," Sarah Jane replied, though her voice was not quite as strong as it had been. "I have no doubt that he is in love with her."
"How are you, Sarah?" He decided, apparently, to completely ignore the topic. "You sound lovely."
"I'm quite well, thank you," she replied primly. "Fortunately, the Brigadier was good enough to arrange a train ticket for me."
He glanced at the two blonde women, neither of who were showing any intent of interfering. "A ticket? From where? To where?"
"To London. From where you left me. In Aberdeen."
He winced. "Right...well...just to show, you can do quite a bit of brilliant travel here on Earth, Sarah."
She let out a breath. "I've had this all out with the new you," she said. "But don't think I'm not still angry with you for leaving me, for never telling me that you weren't coming back. You — you can be horribly cruel, Doctor. And if you ever dare do that to Rose, the cosmos won't be big enough to hide you from the repercussions."
He blinked. "You like her so much?"
"She loves you that much," Sarah replied shortly. “You won’t have half so easy a time leaving her as you did me.”
Jackie nodded firmly. “Last time you tried we chained a truck up to that thing there —“ she gestured toward the console. “An’ opened it up so’s she could go after you. Don’t think she wouldn’t do it again.”
“You what?” He looked horrified. “What in the world am I getting up to?”
“Trouble, as per usual,” Sarah Jane said. “I’m sorry, I have to go. Thank you for calling...and I do forgive you, despite everything.”
“Farewell, Sarah.” He gave the mobile a long, fond look as the call ended.
“There!” Jackie said cheerfully. “Believe me now, do you?”
“I hardly know what to think anymore,” the Doctor replied, shaking his head. “Apparently I’m going to be very strange in my old age.”
“Yeah, well, I probably shouldn’a told you that much. Paradox or some such. Rose is always on about these things.”
“Oh, you needn’t worry, I’m quite good at forgetting inconvenient things.” He smiled in what he hoped was a comforting manner.
“Don’t I know it.” Jackie gave him a long, baleful look. “You just remember this — you take care of my girl. She chose you over everything she’s ever had; you better make sure you’re worth it. An’ don’t think you can just stop by Tesco an’ run off — you bring her home to visit me next time!”
He cleared his throat. “I will do so,” he promised solemnly. He ruined the effect with a sudden grin. “I do hope she’s like you. It will make life so very exciting.”
Despite herself Jackie smiled. “In all the best ways,” she agreed. She waved politely at Romana before turning around and leaving, shutting the door behind her with just a little more force than needed.
The Doctor turned to Romana with a slight cough. “Perhaps we should do our shopping in Aberdeen?”
She laughed, and a minute later the box was dematerializing, leaving Jackie alone on the pavement outside.
The Doctor was lying on his side, enjoying the brief moment calm and quiet as Rose slipped slowly into slumber. His arm rested over her waist, holding her close to him. These times never lasted, it wouldn’t be long before boredom and restlessness drew him from bed, but for now he enjoyed the warmth of her skin against his, the smell of him on her — and really, he enjoyed that a bit too much for a superior and lordly Time Lord.
He blinked, hazy memories clearing in his mind. ‘I believe these are for you,’ he heard in his mind, his own voice — one long past — as they came into sharp focus. He sat bolt upright, filled with a sudden horror.
Rose jumped, startled from her sleep. “What?” she asked, looking around the room with instant suspicion. “What’s wrong?”
He turned to her with wide, terrified eyes. “Your mother just broke into my TARDIS and accused me of shaggin’ you,” he said.
“What?” Rose pushed herself up into a proper sitting position. “Doctor, are you havin’ weird dreams again?”
“No.” He shook his head. “She went into the wrong one. Centuries ago, memories just resurfaced; I had them hidden until relative time for your mother. We’d stopped for biscuits and milk and she burst in shoutin’ at me. She called me a dirty old man!”
Rose laughed at his indignation. “You do remember that I’m here in your bed, yeah?”
“She even asked Sarah Jane’s opinion!” He continued. “Your mother and Sarah Jane Smith discussing my sex life! With me!”
“Discussin’ mine too,” Rose pointed out, tugging her sheet up to cover her chest. “How would Sarah Jane know?”
“Matter of opinion, figured I’d accept it from Sarah,” he replied, shaking his head. “In front of Romana even, bet that’s why she’d snigger at me whenever I insulted humans. That does it — we’re not goin’ back to London anytime soon.”
Rose didn’t bother asking about ‘Romana’. “I thought we were goin’ there tomorrow?”
“That doesn’t count,” he replied, rolling his eyes. “Your mum kicked my TARDIS ‘cause it’d been two months since she saw you — think I’m ready for the slap if it’s five years? We’re not goin’ anywhere near the Powell Estate, Rose Tyler, tomorrow’s the Olympics!”
She yawned. “Alright,” she agreed as she lay back down. “Tomorrow’s 2012, couple weeks ‘til 2006.”
He couldn’t help but smile at her. He let himself follow, wrapping his arm around her waist once again. “I didn’t believe them then,” he said softly, holding her close. She hummed a question. “I couldn’t imagine you. Havin’ somethin’ like this, someone like you.”
“But you do now,” she murmured, snuggling into him.
“I do now,” he whispered across her ear. “Rose Tyler. How long are you gonna stay with me?”
Her response was little more than a breath. “Forever.”
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