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Hot Chocolate

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Sitting on a bench at the side of the playground, Rose watched her friends run and play.  A few days earlier she had twisted her ankle, and it hurt to move on it; she'd only come outside to get some space from her mother.

Swinging her legs, she paid no attention to the woman who sat down beside her until she spoke.

“Are you all right?”  The woman sounded funny, like she was from the north, very different from the London accent Rose was used to.

“Yeah,” Rose sighed sadly.

“Why aren't you playing with your friends?”

Rose looked up with narrowed eyes, evaluating the stranger.

“I hurt my ankle,” she eventually admitted, and the woman frowned.

“What?  What'd you do that for?”

“It wasn't on purpose,” Rose rolled her eyes in exasperation, making the woman smile.  “Mickey an’ me were walking home from school when a dog started chasing us.  We ran, but I fell.”

“I'm sorry to hear that,” the woman said genuinely.  “Did Mickey help get you home?”

Rose snorted.  “No, he never looked back.  The owner caught up to us, got the dog under control.”

Sounding far angrier that warranted, the woman all but growled, muttering curses under her breath.

“He'll get better someday,” she finally promised, making Rose shrug.

“I'm not holding my breath.”

“So you're just going to sit here and watch them play?”

Rose shrugged again.

“Aren't you cold?”

The girl bit her lip, but didn't reply though she was clearly shivering.

“Right,” the woman said abruptly, getting up and walking away.  She only made it a few feet before turning around and pointing a stern finger at Rose, ordering, “Don't wander off.”

She stalked away, leaving Rose alone again.

-

Just when Rose had given up, the woman reappeared with two styrofoam cups and a basket of chips.

“Here,” the woman thrust the chips and one cup towards Rose as she settled beside her again.

Mouth watering, Rose stared in delight at the chips before her expression fell.  “I can't accept these,” she sighed, trying to hand them back.

“It’s chips and cocoa,” the woman stared back.  “Drowned in vinegar, hot and crisp.”

“Thank you, but I'm not supposed to accept things from strangers,” Rose said politely.

The woman hesitated before saying, “Actually, I'm a friend of your dad's.”

Rose's eyes narrowed in suspicion.  “My dad's dead,” she said bluntly.

“I know, I was there,” the woman said softly.  “He was a wonderful man, who loved you and your mother very much.”

As far as Rose could tell, she seemed genuine, and she knew Shareen would notice if she disappeared.  “Thank you,” she said politely, before diving into the chips with gusto.  “So, why’re you hanging out in a playground?”

The woman laughed.  “I was just passing through, and you looked like you needed- a friend,” she finished haltedly, making Rose suspect that wasn't how that sentence was supposed to end.

“Thank you,” Rose settled on, not knowing what else to say.

“You’re welcome.”

They sat in companionable silence as Rose ate her chips and drank the hot chocolate.

“Oi!”  Rose and the woman looked up to see Jackie marching towards them.  “What’d you think you’re doing?”  She demanded of the woman, coming to stand between them.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I-” the woman started to stammer, pausing in confusion when Jackie gasped.

“It’s you!”

“Sorry?”  The woman’s brow furrowed, staring at Jackie like she had two heads.

“I know you – you set me up with my husband!”  Jackie exclaimed, eyes wide.

“I did?”  Rose thought it was funny how the woman didn’t seem to know that, despite claiming to have known Pete.

“Yes!  It was in a chip shop – you were waiting behind me in line and pointed out Pete, that he kept staring at me; you encouraged me to introduce myself, cause you thought we were already a couple.  Blimey, you haven’t aged a bit, though.  You look exactly the same,” Jackie explained in awe.

“Oh!  Yes, of course, I remember,” the woman said, though her face suggested she didn’t.  “Anyway, I knew Rose here was Pete’s daughter, and I was just passing through and wanted to make sure she was all right.  It was fantastic seeing you again, Jackie, take care.”

The woman strode briskly away, leaving two confused Tylers in her wake.

“Ready to go?” Jackie asked her daughter, still staring after the woman.

“Okay,” Rose agreed, and hand in hand they headed back to their flat.

-

“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” the Doctor muttered, all but running back to the TARDIS.

“Hey!”

They froze, the voice snapping into place what had felt wrong about being here.  It wasn’t the potential to screw up Rose’s timeline; it was-

“Jack,” the Doctor sighed, turning to face their friend.

“Yeah, listen – hang on, how do you know my name?”  The Captain walked up, inspecting them carefully.

The Doctor merely crossed their arms and looked at Jack waiting for the shoe to drop, which it quickly did.

“Oh!  Holy – really?”  He exclaimed in delight, wrapping his arms around them.  “Doctor!”

“Hi, Jack,” they said tiredly, patting him awkwardly on the back.

He pulled back suddenly to frown and accuse, “You abandoned me.”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”  The Doctor bit their lip, having vague memories of Jack not knowing what had happened until they landed at the end of the universe.

“Jack…”

“Right,” he huffed, smiling bitterly back towards where Rose had disappeared.  “Did something happen to Rose?”

“Yes.”  It was the simplest answer, and the truth.  “She was all right in the end, but it was close.  I regenerated.”

Jack nodded slowly.  “I’ve been looking for you.”

The Doctor shrugged.  “You’ll find me, when it’s time.  Still got a few years left, though.”

The former time agent lit up.  “I will?”  The understanding settled.  “We’re out of sync, aren’t we?”

“I’m sorry,” was all the Time Lord could come up with.

“Right.”  Jack ran a hand through his hair before sighing.  “Then I guess I’d better go, huh?”

“Goodbye, Jack.”  The Doctor said, holding out their hand for him to shake, which he did gratefully before pulling them in for another hug.

Letting go, Jack turned and made it a few steps before turning back.  “Any chance-”

“Goodbye, Jack,” the Doctor repeated firmly, waiting for him to start walking again before heading for their TARDIS.

Once inside, they headed straight for the console, hoping the TARDIS would take them where they needed to be.

“What’re you doing?”  Rose looked up from her magazine at the sound of the door.  “And where’ve you been?  You went to get me chips ages ago.  And didn’t, I see,” she noted the Doctor’s empty hands.

“Technically, I did,” they retorted.  “Only I gave them to you early, then I saw Jackie, and now I’ve got to go set them up apparently.”

“Wait, what?  Start at the beginning,” Rose instructed, coming to stand next to her spouse.

“I was going to get chips, saw you as a little girl sitting by yourself, sat down, one thing led to another, I got her chips and hot chocolate and then Jackie showed up, talking about how I apparently encouraged her to introduce herself to Pete, which is where we’re going by the way,” the Doctor babbled, flipping switches and setting coordinates.

Rose started laughing.

“What?”

When she only laughed harder, the Doctor grew more defensive.  “Rose, what?”

“Can I just say,” their wife gasped, “that I love our life?”

The Doctor scowled.  “Fine, make fun.”

Still giggling, Rose came up and wrapped an arm around the Doctor’s waist.  “I love you.”

“Yeah, yeah.”  They sighed.  “I love you too.”

With that, they pulled the dematerialization lever, off to set up Rose’s parents.

Another day in the life.