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Torn apart

Chapter Text

Rose Tyler in this story is the same age as Alec, making it that she was born in 1971, a month after Alec. Based loosely on David Tennant's childhood but then follows Alec Hardy's story. No disrespect or intrusion is intended. Dates may not be the same as in the series concerning Sandbrook and may contain some elements of my other stories on the Sandbrook subject including 'No witness protection' where Rose's friend Shareen leaves the estate with her mother to live with her boyfriend.

This is very sad in parts as Rose makes friends with Alec and he and his dad begin to realise how Rose is unhappy at the flat she shares with her mother and her mother's boyfriend and Alec's dad thinks Rose is being abused, maybe not physically but mentally and it's tearing a young Alec apart to see her like that. There are no mentions of physical abuse but readers should be warned it may or may not be Rose who is involved as her mother never allows her to spend any more time with Alec than after school and holidays while she is out at work.

~~~~{ silversurfer60 }~~~~

 

It was the last day of school and thirteen year old Rose Tyler couldn't wait to stop wearing her uniform and go around in her jeans and t-shirt again for six weeks. She'd seen Mickey Smith on the way home, he'd left school last year, being four years older than her and he was a trainee mechanic.

"School's out for summer?" Mickey laughed as she passed the garage where he worked, talking to her friends.

"Why ya bothering with him?" Shareen asked her, pulling her chewing gum out of her mouth, twisting it and putting it back in, which even Rose thought was disgusting.

She'd been trying to convince her friend it wasn't a cool thing to do but to no avail.

"Hello to you too Shareen," Mickey joked, getting him a scowl from Rose.

"Mickey Smith, don't think we're gonna spend the whole six weeks hanging around here," Rose warned him.

She heard laughing in the background as the other men saw them.

"Smith, get back to work," Stan, the foreman warned him. "You girls, take notice of your friend there," he pointed to Rose, who was turning a bright shade of red. "Don't let me see you lot hanging around all summer unless you want to work and I doubt very much you'd want to get your hands dirty and break your fingernails."

"Bloomin' cheek," Charlene, one of the other girls remarked, checking her own fingernails where Miss Walker in hygiene had made her scrub off the pink nail varnish Shareen had passed to her, who hadn't been the one to get into trouble over it.

"Go play with your ponytails," one of the men laughed, making Mickey turn.

"We haven't got them," Rose retaliated. "Are you blind or what?"

That made the others giggle, patting her on the shoulder.

"Come on Rose, you're wasting your time with him," Keisha laughed. "Thought you fancied my brother?"

"What?" Mickey asked, since he thought the now teenager had a crush on him.

"Stop it Keisha, I never said I fancied Jay. Take no notice Mickey," Rose replied, since his boss had gone back to what he was doing – reading the paper in the corner.

"Well tell your friend there to keep her mouth shut," Mickey replied. "See you later when your mum goes out? She still seeing that bloke, what's his name?"

Rose wished her mother, Jackie Tyler had never met 'Scottish' Bob as everyone called him. He was part of the firm renovating the estate, which Rose thought was a bit of a waste of time and money since the kids, well not her age would just 'redecorate' the brick walls and chalk on the pavement with slogans amongst other things, some unreadable.

"Leave it Mickey, if she wants to see him, there's nothing I can do about it," Rose replied sadly, not liking the fact she was sent to her cousin's flat most nights and had hoped she could be trusted to stay in on her own. "They're almost finished though, the scaffolding was coming down this morning."

"Good job," Shareen laughed, Rose seeing the disgusting chewing gum again. "Otherwise all the younger kids will be playing on it all summer and that security guy couldn't catch a tortoise."

That made the others laugh and agree. Mickey stared after them, Rose would never agree to go out with him and he'd have to wait another two years at least. Even then she was out of his league and her mother would slap him into another universe if he dared to even suggest it. Well maybe she would have done but would she still be seeing the Scottish builder if he was leaving?

Leaving her friends, Rose took the stairs to their flat since she didn't fancy getting stuck in the lift if someone had been messing about with it and wondered if her mother was in. Jackie Tyler was a hairdresser who partly worked from home but often went around the estate to those with young kids and the older women who would gather in two's and three's and Jackie would get a bonus.

"Are ya home Mum?" Rose called out as she locked the door behind her and threw her school bag on the floor of her bedroom, not that there was any more room on the floor than there was elsewhere, something her mother had expected her to stop now she was a teenager.

Rose had just thought her mother had forgotten what it was like to be a teenager but now she was seriously thinking since she had six weeks of trying to get to her bed when she wanted to be alone, she may do something about it. Little did she know when her mother popped her head around the kitchen door, she was going to have very little choice.

"In here sweetheart, come and say hello to Bob."

Rose hated saying hello to Bob and what was he doing there, since men were still finishing off in the courtyard?

"Guess what Rose?" her mother asked, Rose getting some juice out of the bottle and filling the glass with water.

"What Mum?" she asked, praying her mother wasn't suggesting Bob moved in with them but considering how much time they spent together, wouldn't be that surprised if he was.

"Just tell her Jackie love," Bob told her in a thick Scottish accent and leaning over to put his arm around her waist.

"Rose, Bob and I have been talking and we've made a decision," Jackie started to tell her.

"Is he moving in with us Mum?" Rose asked cautiously.

"No Rose, he has to go back to Glasgow, well just outside Glasgow. The job here's almost done and he only came down to replace someone, the head office is based there," Jackie replied.

Rose had a feeling there was more to this and wondered why the council hadn't employed a local firm to do the work or maybe they'd saved some money?

"Get on with it Jackie," Bob told her, getting up and helping himself to another pot of tea but Jackie took it off him, smiling at him.

Rose thought it was gross the way he mauled her mother, what he did when they were alone, she dreaded to think. She wondered if her mother did everything for him and he was just letting her. She'd no idea where he'd been staying but was just glad it hadn't been with them.

"Okay Bob. Rose, we're moving love. Bob asked us to go with him, back to Glasgow, well just outside," she repeated. "He has a two bedroom flat, you get your own room as long as ya keep it tidy," she continued as Bob pulled her onto his lap as he'd sat down again.

Rose wondered what he'd been doing in her room but it served her right for leaving the door open she supposed. It wasn't her fault she had girls magazines with pop stars on the front or records her friends had left when they'd been over scattered across the floor, there should be more storage.

Rose reached for the nearest chair and sat down.

"What?" she asked, thinking she'd heard wrong. As if thinking Bob was moving in with them wasn't bad enough. At least they'd get to stay on the estate. "Why are you just telling me?"

"Don't be cheeky to your mother Rose," Bob warned her.

"Rose, we only talked about it last night. His job finishes on Tuesday, he's going back to get the flat ready for us then we go next Saturday. Going now gives me chance to get you into a school, I'll have a lot to do sweetheart and I'll have to give notice here. I'll have to tell my cousins, they can look after what I can't take with us and Bob's mate he made here has a lockup so we'll have the furniture taken there until we can arrange to get it up there, he'll only charge me a fiver a week."

Rose couldn't be more stunned if she tried, she was trying to take it all in, forgetting about getting something to eat, which she probably couldn't manage anyway with the feeling in her stomach.

"Well say something Rose?" her mother urged her.

"I have to go Jackie, I'll see you in the pub later love," Bob told Jackie. "I'll leave you two to talk about it but it's not up for debate Rose. Your mother and I are going to live together and since most of my firm's work is in the Glasgow area, it's not very often I work so far from home. She'll tell you what to expect."

Rose couldn't believe this, what did her mother have to tell her? That he had three kids who lived with him from an ex wife or maybe three ex wives or maybe they were ex girlfriends? Shareen knew all about that, well so she claimed.

Rose got up and ran to the living room when Bob grabbed hold of her mother again. Jackie was going to run after her.

"Leave her Jackie," Bob told her, kissing her neck as they stood. "She'll get used to the idea, it will be better her growing up in Paisley than around here."

"She's managed so far," Jackie smiled. "Yeah, I expect it'll be different for her but she'll soon make friends."

Bob let go of her. "About that Jackie, she has to pull her weight helping you around the flat, you can't let her get away with doing nothing, like she seems to do here."

"Yeah Bob but I brought her up on my own, I had no-one until I met you," Jackie reminded him, nudging for a kiss.

"Well that's all changed Jackie. I expect her to do as she's asked," he replied.

"Well can we make it look like it's coming from me?" Jackie suggested. "I mean if I ask her, she'll take it better, won't she?"

"Well I suppose so but she does it or I'll have to get involved. We also have a few more things to discuss."

"I know. So you'll give me the names of the schools up there so I can make some calls before we move?" Jackie asked him, knowing what he'd meant and if that's what it took then so be it.

"You'd be best trying the grammar school, she's too old for the other one, schools are different up there," he replied.

Jackie wondered if he was just saying that, did he actually know? Bob left, them planning to meet later and she'd agreed to let him stay over the weekend for Rose to get used to seeing them together and she went into the living room to find Rose trying to watch the older kids programmes but thinking they were stupid, as if anyone wanted to come home and watch a drama about being at school.

Didn't the programme makers think they saw enough of school?

"He's coming back later Rose, he's staying over until he goes back on Tuesday," her mother announced. "Rose, we did only actually decide last night but he's been asking for a while now."

"It doesn't make it any better Mum," Rose replied, trying to hide a tear in her eye. "I've hardly seen him before today."

"He makes me happy Rose. For the first time since I lost your dad and I know we keep talking about him, we always will but I have to move on. I've had thirteen years on my own, it's time to move on."

"I don't even know his name," Rose continued, seeing her mother had her mind made up.

"It's Johnson, he's got a good job Rose, he has a nice flat in the better area of the town and there's two schools close by but he reckons the grammar school will be the best one, I'll give them a call on Monday and see how to get you enrolled. Just think Rose, it's only eight miles from Glasgow, we'll be able to go on shopping trips. He reckons I'll easily get a job in a hairdresser's shop and you already let yourself in after school."

"Mum, what about the school holidays?" Rose asked, thinking she'd wanted to be on her own but maybe not all day.

"Oh. Well for now you'll have to manage but you'll make some new friends and spend some time with them. You'll have to help around the flat though and he only knows about your room because I wasn't expecting him coming over and I didn't have time to close your bedroom door. Really Rose, you have to tidy it now and throw everything away you're not taking with ya. We're gonna be busy for the next week so you'd better not have anything planned, like hanging around that garage with that no good Mickey Smith."

"I've already been told by his boss to stay away, geez mum, I was only passing by on my way home, he stopped me," Rose complained, picking up the TV remote and wishing there were more channels.

"I don't know what happened to him, he was such a good kid before he started hanging around with that Jimmy what's his name but at least he got a job, if he manages to keep it. He'd better hope Jimmy doesn't get any ideas about getting Mickey fired or turns the place over, Mickey will get the blame."

"Yeah, well Mickey's old enough to know better Mum, even I stay away from Jimmy Stone. Charlene said he's thinking of starting a band, as if any of his mates even know what a guitar is let alone play it," Rose replied.

"Well we'll see, if they get a record to the top of the charts," her mother joked.

"I'll have to tell my friends, it's not like I'm just moving a few streets away. It's a big thing Mum, you dropped a real bombshell on me."

Meanwhile, in the town of Paisley in Renfrewshire, just eight miles from Glasgow and which the town housed one of the city's airports where thirteen year old Alec Hardy used to like to go plane spotting with one of his few friends in the summer evenings, he had just got home from school and was clearing out his school bag as his dad got his tea ready.

"All done with then Son?" James Hardy asked him.

"Yes Dad, I don't know what I'll do all summer while you're at work though," Alec replied, looking a bit sad.

"I know it's not easy for you and I've talked to your aunt Mary. She's agreed you can spend some of the time there, I know you're only used to a week at a time but it's the best thing to do. I'm sorry I can't take you away this year though, it just wouldn't be the same."

Alec wondered what that was supposed to mean? It was less than six months since his mother had died and all they'd done on holiday was leave him to fend for himself on a beach somewhere on the south west coast of England last summer while they'd sat 100 yards away arguing.

Now she was gone and the house was quiet and all his dad did was try to make up for it.

"Maybe next year Alec eh?" his dad asked him, getting Alec's tea out of the oven.

James Hardy, or Jim to his few friends was a postal worker and worked early mornings, something his supervisor had encouraged him to do in order to be home when the then twelve year old Alec was devastated over his mother's death, which had been quite sudden as no-one knew she had a bad heart.

Alec knew his dad felt partly to blame for not seeing the signs but the hospital had told them it was no-one's fault. He couldn't help but think his dad thought he'd caused it as at times his mother wasn't an easy person to get on with. He accepted his tea and sat up straight.

"I know Dad, it wouldn't be the same without her but I'll be okay at aunt Mary's, me and Stuart were talking about going plane watching."

His dad ruffled Alec's spiky blonde hair that was beginning to turn brown underneath.

"Face it Son, you only go to see if any spaceships in the shape of a blue box land there by mistake," he joked. "Tell me you stopped writing those stories?" Alec had a guilty look on his face. "I think you should concentrate on other things Alec, maybe start taking an interest in girls instead of science fiction," he suggested.

Alec put on his best smile and thought he'd maybe just not say anything. It was going to be a long summer and when he finally got back to school, he wouldn't have as much time to think about his mum. Being a teenager now didn't make him feel any better and she'd not got to see him become one, the school counsellor had tried to help him as much as she could but even after six months, it didn't go away.

He just hoped after the holidays he could start pulling himself round and take more interest and join a few clubs to take his mind off it. He also hoped maybe the new term would bring new students but if they were girls, he would forget it, he wasn't ready for that, especially with the likes of Kristin and Moira, who had tried to smother him when it was announced in school assembly that Alec was to be given the school's sympathy and they were all asked to be nice to him, which all but a few miseries had done and he'd become clever at dodging the head bully who had no mercy for anyone, not just him.

So as Rose and her mother were talking about what to take and what to leave, Alec went to his room, the last photo of him and his mother on the window ledge, he wondered what the next term would bring and he could always hope he could try to make a new friend.

Chapter Text

Rose had a week to break it to her friends she was moving away - a long way away and she wouldn't be able to get on a bus from another part of London to meet them on Saturday morning, which meant no more trying to dodge store detectives when being cheeky and one of them asking an assistant for their size in a dress they couldn't afford and them all sneaking in the dressing rooms and taking it in turns to try it on.

That had kept them amused for a while and the poor Saturday girl whose job it was to make sure every item was returned to the rail was kept busy getting another size if one of the friends found it didn't fit. She would miss that more than anything, they'd been doing it since they were twelve and a half, well that and lurking around the men's department and looking for cute boys looking embarrassed their mothers were buying them t-shirts and school shirts.

So when they'd had enough the following day when they'd all got their spending money and tried to fool the bus conductor they all had bus tickets, they went to the kiosk and bought two cans of soda to share and had gone to sit outside Hendrik's Department Store after swearing several months back when they'd mostly all turned thirteen they were going to get jobs there when they left school.

Shareen was sipping on a straw after Rose offered the can of orange to her after taking hers out.

"So, where did ya say you were going?" she asked Rose, who was looking at a cute boy following his mother out and carrying two bags.

Shareen nudged her, the others giggling.

"What? Oh some town near Glasgow I've never heard of. Mum's getting all giddy over it, she's already planning shopping trips there every Saturday but I'd rather be hanging around with you lot."

"Face it Rose, you'd rather be looking at the cute boys," Charlene laughed, nudging Keisha, who was taking too long taking a drink.

"Yeah, I guess I'll miss that too," Rose laughed. "Anyone want my red bike?" she offered, knowing one of her cousins would probably claim it and wishing now she'd never asked for it.

She'd asked for the red bike for her twelfth birthday to join some of the other kids even though her mother couldn't really afford it but there it was, outside on the balcony and her mother had claimed she had no idea where it had come from and Rose knowing she didn't want to admit she'd gone without something to pay for it.

Now, she had better things to do and the bike was forgotten about.

"Think I'll give that a miss," Shareen laughed, handing the can back to Rose and Rose shaking it to see if it was worth sticking the straw in again or just finishing it off. "So you'll be starting a new school then?"

Rose thought that was rather obvious and felt like saying no, she'd be getting the bus every morning.

"Yeah, some posh grammar school by what mum said, Bob reckons schools are different up there," she replied.

"When was he at school then?" Keisha laughed as Charlene scowled at her for finishing the drink. "Was that in the dark ages?"

"Probably, I don't know what mum sees in him, he's worse than Jimbo and Howard put together. I think he must have charmed her on the way to the shops. I bet it all started that time the washing machine stopped working and she went to the launderette when the repair man said he'd have to go back with a part for it, I mean Bob had to do his laundry, right?"

The others nudged her.

"Yeah, betcha he saw her going in so he took his shirt off and stuffed it in the dryer just to chat her up," Shareen laughed.

"Yeah, then I bet she asked him for change even though there's a change machine," Keisha joined in.

"How do you know there's a change machine, thought your mum had a washer?" Charlene questioned her.

Keisha tried to bluff her way out of it.

"I went in once with my gran," she replied, knowing they'd never go for it.

"Whatever," Shareen huffed, trying to aim the empty can at the rubbish bin and missing. "Hey Rose, betcha anything your mum flashed her knickers at him when she took them out of the washer!"

"Shut up Shareen," Rose blushed at the thought but that could explain why her mother had suddenly started getting all defensive where she was going.

She'd never worked out why Bob had started calling for her mother and her being told to go over to her cousin's flat. Now, he was taking them away from their friends and family and her mother was willing to do it.

"Well he must be some bloke then?" Charlene suggested, sitting on the back of the bench as people walked past looking at them. "I mean to follow him all the way to Glasgow. Where is it you're going?"

"I think she mentioned Paisley," Rose had to admit, trying to forget about it.

"Where they make the shirts?" Keisha laughed.

"What would you know about shirts?" Charlene prodded Keisha's shoulder from behind. "Oh, does your brother wear fancy patterned shirts?"

Rose had to smile at the thought. She was beginning to like Jay but he was older and probably had half a dozen girls lined up already and she'd just be in a long line of them. She wished Mickey Smith had a long line of potential girlfriends so he wouldn't want her to hang around with him, which she was always trying to avoid.

She also wished they didn't have to go past the garage he worked at on the way back from school. She had been thinking of ways to avoid him all summer, now that wasn't going to be a problem.

"You with us Rose?" Charlene asked her, nudging Rose with her leg. "You daydreaming again?"

"Yeah, Earth to Rose," Keisha laughed. "Bet there's different stars up in Glasgow?"

"Do ya even know where Glasgow is?" Shareen teased her.

"Yeah," Keisha huffed indignantly. "It’s in Scotland – duh!"

"You only know that 'cos Rose said," Charlene joined in. "You've gone quiet Rose. Come on, let's go get two lots of fries from the takeaway, anyone got any spare money or we'll all be walking home."

Once home and saying she'd see them all on Monday, just after five, there was a knock on the door, Rose dreading it was Bob coming back with his belongings as he'd just gone back last night with an overnight bag but that was probably all he'd brought with him. It was Mickey, which was almost as bad. Her mother just had to pop her head around the kitchen door as she was preparing tea.

"What's he doin' here? What do ya want Mickey?" she shouted. "Rose is too young ta be hangin' around with you."

"Leave him Mum, you never bothered before," Rose protested, not knowing why she was defending him. "I'm going out for an hour."

"You'd better be back in an hour, we're not waitin' for you to come back to eat, yours'll be in the oven young madam," her mother replied. "Well you won't be hangin' around with him for much longer, just you remember that."

Mickey was about to ask what that meant when Rose grabbed his arm and pulled him outside.

"What did she mean by that?" a confused Mickey asked.

"Nothing, which did ya mean?"

"Both. Is she still seeing that bloke, they'll all be gone by Monday, then she'll be upset," he replied. Then he saw the look on her face. "He's staying?"

"Not exactly," Rose admitted as they walked down the steps.

Mickey stood in front of the door when they reached the ground floor.

"She'll be upset when he goes, won't she?" he asked as Rose tried to get past him. "Answer me Rose, is he staying or going?"

"Chill Micks, he's just staying with us until Tuesday, then he's going home," Rose replied.

"And?" he questioned her. "You mean she's just gonna forget about him? Huh, I can't see that, I've seen them coming home from the pub."

Did he have to remind her? She'd gone home and straight to her room so she didn't catch them in the living room.

He moved out of the way and they walked across to sit on the concrete bollards, Rose taking up two as she put her legs up and rested her feet on the side of the next one.

"Okay Rose, what aren't you telling me?" he asked, seeing her staring at the ground.

He'd come to know when she was avoiding something.

"No! Hang on a minute. She's going with him? I mean you're both going with him, to Scotland, wherever he comes from?"

"Mum said he's from Paisley," Rose replied quietly. "We're leaving Mickey, next Saturday."

Mickey looked lost for words, for a change Rose thought.

"That's a bit soon," he finally said after five minutes silence.

"Tell me about it, how do ya think I feel? I have to leave school and my friends."

"Can't you stay here with your cousins?" he wondered.

"Yeah, great idea Mickey, I'll just share a bed shall I? You know what my mum's like when she gets an idea in her head as well as I do," Rose replied.

"Well if you ask me, it'll never last," Mickey suggested.

"She'll do it just to prove a point, trust me," Rose told him.

While they had been talking, she'd seen Bob go towards the front of the block of flats then seen him walk along the balcony. She didn't like him much, he was a bit too smug with himself and she wondered why on Earth her mother had picked him up. She'd had to smile to herself that her friends had been right, about picking Bob up in the launderette.

"I'd best go Mickey or mum will let my tea dry up in the oven and her cooking's not brilliant to start off with though I think she's got a cookbook stashed away from the library lately."

"Come by the garage before you leave?" Mickey asked as she got up.

"I was told to stay away, remember?" she reminded him.

"Yeah, sorry. Guess I won't see you before you go then?"

"Guess not unless you call and you saw what mum was like?"

"Yeah, thought she'd have lightened up since she met that bloke," he grinned, not knowing what else to say. "Just for the record, I mean if you don't come back, I was gonna ask you to be my girlfriend when you were sixteen."

"You were? You seriously thought I'd agree?" Rose teased him.

"Well we hang around together, I thought, you know?" he muttered back.

"I was teasing ya, you 'nana. Still, it's a long way off, you might have found someone by then anyway, don't wait for me Mickey."

"So what's all that with you stopping by the garage every night then?" he wanted to know.

"I'm not going out of my way to get home Mickey, I used to go past it before you started working there ya know?"

Mickey looked disappointed but tried to laugh.

"Yeah, if you say so Rose, see ya around then, I mean maybe before you go?"

"I don't wanna go to Scotland ya know? It's not like I have a choice."

With that, she ran off and put the code into the door to get back in.

While she'd been out, after Jackie and Bob had made out, as Rose would have called it, he reminded her of a few things.

"So you agree then?" Bob asked her.

"Well she'd get most of that if she had a dad I suppose?" Jackie admitted. "About the rest though?"

He put his arms around her and kissed her neck.

"You're not backing out on me are you Jackie?" he asked.

"No, 'course not, it's just, ya know? She's only thirteen," she reminded him.

"That's why we came to our little arrangement Jackie love," he reminded her back.

"Sorry Bob, I just have to get used to it," Jackie replied, trying to rescue their tea.

"Well consider the alternative?" he asked as he heard the door open.

Rose walked into the kitchen, Bob sitting on one of the wooden chairs.

"You could have shouted hello when I passed you," Bob told her as she went to wash her hands.

She glanced at her mother.

"Yeah Rose, you shouldn't have ignored him," her mother agreed.

"I thought it was rude to shout over to people across the courtyard?" Rose asked.

"Don't be cheeky to your mother," Bob reminded her yet again, how many times, Rose had lost count.

"Well say sorry to him," her mother told her, dishing up what Rose thought was maybe one recipe she could actually manage not to spoil.

"Sorry Bob," Rose said quietly, wishing she dare add that next time, she'd lean over the balcony and do it.

"That's better, best get used to being more respectful to your elders Rose," Bob grinned at her mother as she put his plate on the table. "This looks good love."

Rose was dying to say wait until he tried the rest of her cooking. Actually, maybe if she herself sabotaged his food, he may go off on Tuesday and tell them to stay here. She had no such luck though as he left for work on Monday morning, Rose having gone over to Shareen's the previous afternoon to escape watching yet another repeat of a James Bond film, one with the Scottish version, surprisingly.

"Bye Jackie love," Bob was saying as Rose was deciding what to do that day before her mother had her packing or taking things to various friends and relatives when she decided what they were leaving.

"Yeah, see ya tonight Bob, we are going out?"

"Yes love, we are, then an early night, I have a train to catch tomorrow morning. Don't forget to check the times on Saturday and book your tickets."

Rose wondered where her mother was getting the money from to pay for them, she was giving up her job as a home hairdresser. Rose had heard her cancelling appointments for next week. She was about to give Bob time to leave when her mother asked where she thought she was going.

"Just to Shareen's, why?" Rose replied.

"You can forget that madam, go down to the shop and see if ya can get any cardboard boxes before someone beats ya to it. Cousin Mo's taking your dad's trophies and some of the ornaments and any clothes we don't want you can help me take them to the charity shop. Oh, Bev said she'd take that bike for Vicky if ya don't want it any more. I mean there it was, on the balcony when you went to answer the doorbell, despite me telling ya not to answer the door then a year later ya never go near it."

"Mum, come off it, I know you bought it for me. What did ya have to do without to pay for it or did ya take extra clients?" Rose asked her.

"What ya talking about Rose? I keep tellin' ya I've no idea where it came from and then we were tripping up over it in the hallway. Well get goin' then or they'll be no boxes left and we'll have to carry them over a few at a time."

Rose shook her head. So where had the bike come from? Bikes just don't appear out of thin air, no matter how much you wanted one and she'd lost count of how many times they'd passed the bike shop and she'd stopped to look at it and her mother had to go back and drag her away.

Had it been her dad watching over her and somehow, a total stranger had been prompted to buy it and leave it outside on her twelfth birthday? No, it had to be something else. She set off to the shop and began to wonder how they were going to choose what to part with but there would be no room in their cases for anything except necessities. It wasn't like they were going down to Southend and staying in Jimbo's run-down caravan that smelled of damp and she'd gone back with a chest infection.

She swore she'd never go in a caravan again.

Alec had gone off to his aunt's, her fussing over him ever since his mother had died.

"What's wrong with you this morning Alec?" his aunt Mary asked him as he took his notepad out of his shoulder bag.

"Nothing, I just miss my mum during the holidays."

"Sorry. Are you going swimming with your friends later?" she asked as she saw the towel.

Alec nodded. It would be the first time he'd been allowed to go on his own, he was meeting a few of the other boys he actually talked to who didn’t think he wasted his time writing stories.

"Tell you what, tomorrow, why don't you pick some flowers from the garden and we'll take them to put on your mum's grave?" she suggested, patting his shoulder.

Alec smiled. He'd not been able to accept his mother had gone just like that, even though she'd been ill but she'd covered what had really been wrong with her. He'd always thought she'd recover when she'd been taken into hospital but she was gone, the surgeon saying she'd never admitted to her own doctor she'd been having heart problems.

He'd never even got to say goodbye to her properly, his aunt had been with him while his dad had laid on her, holding her hand, even after they'd argued for the past few years that he'd been aware they'd been arguing. Now his dad was trying his best to make up for it.

"Well go on then, use the dining room table if you want to write," his aunt smiled at him.

"Where's Peter?" he asked about his older cousin who had been off at university.

"He was staying in Edinburgh a while longer with his friends though I expect that's his excuse and he's got himself a girlfriend," his aunt smiled. "Not got a secret girlfriend of your own then Alec?" she teased him.

"No, I'm not interested in girls yet," Alec smiled back as he got his pencil case out.

"Well that'll all change soon enough, trust me," she replied as she went back into the kitchen. "Maybe you want to be a writer when you get older?"

"No, I want to go to college, I want to join the police," he replied.

"Really? You never said before Alec. What makes you say that?"

"I just want to help people. I've been thinking about it for a while," he told her.

He'd never get his mother off his mind but he could join the police and help other kids get over losing theirs by finding out how they'd died. He couldn't bring his own mother back but now his aunt was offering to go to the cemetery with him, maybe he could say goodbye without his dad seeing him getting upset.

By Friday, after Rose had seen her friends to say a final goodbye, their furniture had been taken to the storage unit and they were staying at Mo's for the night then heading for the station for the train to Glasgow. She was hoping that every time the phone rang or her mother called Bob, they were going to call it all off, though it would have been hard getting all their things back and her mother was handing the keys in to the council office after taking their things across the courtyard.

Rose had guessed Bob had given her mother the money for two one-way tickets to Glasgow, where he was meeting them so she supposed he had a car and had chosen not to drive down to London. She'd heard her mother saying how they were looking forward to it but she wished her mother wouldn't speak for her.

It had been hard the last few days, trying to cram everything into their suitcases and cart the rest to the charity shop in black bin-liners, her mother smiling at the woman behind the counter and saying they were having a clear-out. Rose thought her mother was fooling no-one, she'd bought most of them from the shop next door.

It was when she was laid on the sofa trying to sleep that it finally hit her. She had to start all over again, making new friends, settling into a new school and trying to hide the fact she was English to save being picked on. She'd already been given several ideas from her friends and was deciding which one to go with and may settle for Shareen's idea of losing her voice but that wouldn't last long but maybe long enough for her new classmates to accept her.

If her new teacher knew where she was from, maybe she'd get away with admitting it. Maybe she'd find someone to confide in who would help her break the news and who would stick up for her? Well she could but hope as she drifted off to sleep and tomorrow, her and her mother would be starting a new life but something was worrying her.

All the quiet phone conversations all week, her mother trying to keep her voice down but she'd heard a few things and couldn't work out if they were about her or not. It was too late now though, they were committed to going, the flat was empty where she'd spent the last thirteen years of her life and they would be living in Scotland. She'd been to the library, much to Shareen's dismay as she had a library ticket but she'd just looked at a book at the large table while Shareen was pulling faces and chewing her gum, less the disgusting part of taking it out of her mouth.

The next morning after a quick breakfast and saying goodbye to cousin Mo and her younger second cousins, they got a taxi to the underground station which took them to their train station and struggled between them with their luggage. Then as they were let on the platform for their train to Glasgow, she glanced at her mother, who seemed a lot happier about it than she did.

Chapter Text

"Come on Rose, we ain't got reserved seats," her mother called as other people were still getting off, some just waking up by the look of it Rose was thinking as they made their way to a doorway where no-one was coming out of.

Jackie was putting their luggage in the rack, pointing for Rose to grab the first two sets of seats with a table in the middle so she could keep an eye on their cases and Rose was trying to put the rest of their things including two shoulder bags on the overhead rack and getting in the way, a man stopped to help her.

"Thanks," Rose grinned at him as people were squeezing past.

"No problem Miss, they seem quite heavy," the man replied as Jackie sat herself down opposite as she didn't want to go backwards all the way to Glasgow as it made her feel sick.

She'd made a point of noting where the restroom was when walking down the platform and how she did it, Rose had no idea but she'd done the same when they'd gone down to Jimbo's caravan. Rose was sure her mother had crammed most of the remaining trinkets and other junk into the shoulder bags, explaining why they were so heavy.

Rose sighed as she sat down next to her mother and hoped whoever sat opposite wouldn't try to spread their legs out but being so near the front, people were forgetting about the seats and walking past, thankfully. As the guard blew the whistle as he slammed all the doors shut, Jackie motioned for Rose to sit opposite, getting two bottles of soda out of her large handbag.

Rose smiled, dragging luggage from home hadn't been her idea of fun, especially when she'd not wanted to move in the first place.

"Might as well save it for later," Rose told her mother. "How long does the train take to get to Glasgow? We don't have to change do we?" she asked, hoping not and that Bob, no matter how she disliked him would be on the platform at the other end to meet them.

"It's a long way Rose, it's gonna take a while sweetheart, I did warn ya. We can start making our plans for when you start your new school. Bob said I can apply for a grant to get ya a school uniform and I called the grammar school, you'll have to take a test so I hope you were paying attention last term and not messin' around," her mother warned her.

"Great Mum, now I'll have to hope it'll be enough to get me in. Is that the only school then?" Rose asked.

"No but it's the best one so Bob said," Jackie replied.

Rose was already fed-up at Bob said this and Bob said that, she already wanted to strangle him before they moved in with him.

"Well when we get settled, we'll get you a library ticket and you can get some books out to catch up," her mother continued.

After the conductor came round, followed by two women with a trolley of tea and coffee and snacks, Jackie splashing out and getting something then moaning to Rose about the prices, Rose was looking out of the window at where they were passing then the train had a longer stop when it got to York, Rose wishing she could get off and stretch her legs but a woman with a small boy was looking for a double seat so Rose got up and let them sit where she had been, smiling at what looked like a two year old.

"Thanks love," the mother told her as she settled the boy, him putting two toy cars on the table. "Not many youngsters would bother moving. Mind you, not many adults would either, I came from the carriage in front and men were spread out talking to each other across the tables and leaving the outside seats."

"Tell me about it," Jackie spoke up. "It was the same last time we travelled by train, remember Rose?"

Rose had no idea what her mother was on about, she'd only been on two trains in her life – on holiday and back and not being well on the return journey, after the damp caravan.

The train carried on, stopping at Newcastle Rose thought the platform sign said and thought it seemed like they'd been on for days, not hours. The train had got busy, some people were standing in the doorway and between the carriages, glaring at Rose but her mother told her she'd paid for two seats and the people staring had only just got on at the last stop.

The conductor called out for those who had just got on, Rose seeing a man in the doorway say something to him and the conductor looking at Rose. Jackie saw them.

"He'd best not ask ya to move or they'll be trouble," her mother told her.

A man and a woman were now sat opposite as the woman with the boy had got off at Newcastle.

"Children are expected to stand and give up their seat to their elders," the snooty looking woman wearing a hat said to no-one in particular.

"I've paid for her seat," Jackie replied to the woman as the conductor was waiting for the man with her to show their tickets.

"Madam, I already pointed out to the gentleman over there that the young lady is not a child," he smiled at Jackie, making the other woman look up as her husband nudged her. "If you ask me, it's the men that should give up seats if ladies are standing but there's no manners left in the world."

"Well my husband's not standing, he has a bad leg," the other woman spoke up.

"It's fine dear, if there are any ladies standing, I would let them have my seat," her husband replied.

Rose was quite amused, geez, if she ever got married, she wouldn't show her husband up like that, well unless it was Mickey Smith, then she might make an exception. She'd not dared tell her mother Mickey had dropped that bombshell on her and told her if she'd stayed, he was going to ask her out when she turned sixteen. Great, that was something to look forward to – not, she thought.

It had taken a drastic move by her mother to drag them to Scotland to get her out of it though, maybe her mother had already had a premonition and was trying to prevent it? The woman opposite was still glaring at Rose and her mother, Rose dying to pull a face but then the man with her might take his wife's view and demand the conductor made her stand up regardless if a woman was standing or not.

Finally, Rose losing track of the time, the train was pulling into Glasgow, the conductor shouting as he walked down the carriages. Rose wished someone would invent a sign that told you what the next stop was or a map like the underground, she could ride that with her eyes closed.

It was just like her mother to guess which platform the train would pull into and they'd be sat on the right side, Jackie watching out for Bob and waving madly when they passed him as the train pulled to a halt, rather abruptly Rose thought, glad she'd remained seated as people were gathering to get off.

Then Jackie turned her attention to the luggage rack, a few more cases piled on top of theirs and people pulling them off.

"Rose I'll get the bags off the rack, you go help Bob with the cases when everyone's got off," her mother suggested as people were making their way off.

Rose wondered if her mother thought the train was there for the remainder of the day. Bob was soon able to get on but went to help Jackie pull the bags off the overhead rack, leaving Rose standing by their three cases, two large ones and one smaller and wondering how the hell they'd managed on their own earlier. Bob put one of the bags on his shoulder as Jackie nudged him to lift the cases off.

"Hey, sorry Rose, want some help?" he joked.

Rose knew better than to say something sarcastic back to him but was considering making an exception. Instead she just nodded. He took the cases down, Rose grabbing the smaller one and getting off before he had chance to object and stood back on the platform to let some stragglers off including her mother and Bob.

Bob led then through the barrier, having got a platform ticket and Rose not working out how they had the cheek to charge people for greeting friends and relatives off a train when at smaller stations they could just walk on. He had parked his car in a short-stay car park and put the cases in the back, Rose had been wondering what type of car he drove and was surprised how big it was.

He drove them out of the city and through the suburbs until she saw a sign for Paisley with a 'Welcome' on it. Then it finally hit her – they were here to stay, not just for a few days. Bob drove on and turned down a reasonably decent street and pulled into a driveway of a block of apartments, Rose quickly counting there were eight floors and hoped there was a lift and they were not on the top floor if there wasn't.

She thought it was a far cry from where they'd just come from, there were separate balconies every other window or so, some next to each other as Bob stopped the car in what she assumed was his parking spot, a large notice saying 'Residents only' on it.

Once they got the luggage out, Bob showed them both the code to get in and told Rose not to forget it.

"I've got you two keys," Bob told them as they rode up in the lift to the third floor. "Don't lose yours Rose."

Rose wondered what her mother had been telling him but she'd had a key since she was twelve and never lost it but maybe he'd had to pay to have the keys cut or the landlord had charged him for them. Once they carted everything inside, both Jackie and Rose stood in the entry-way looking around.

"You never said your place was so posh," Jackie joked as she put the case and shoulder bag down, Rose still convinced she'd brought things they didn't need with them.

"I'll show you around then?" Bob suggested.

He led them to the kitchen, about the same size as their old one but a slightly different shape, then the bathroom, considerably larger then a storage cupboard, half empty and Rose laughed to herself he'd expected her mother not to leave much behind. Then he opened a bedroom door containing a single bed and wardrobe, plus a set of drawers and a desk.

"This is your room Rose, I expect you to keep it tidy," he told her.

They left the door open and he led them to the lounge, nicely decorated and not cluttered like their old one had been but if her mother kept her old habits, that would change. There was a nice TV, not like their old one Rose had no idea who had claimed it, a hi-fi on a black unit along with some records and a rack containing cassettes and some ornaments and vases amongst other things then Rose noticed he'd put a picture up of him and her mother that must have been taken in the pub.

"Come on Jackie, I'll show you our room," Bob suggested, going to put his arm around her.

Rose guessed she wasn't invited so she went to get the smaller case and trusted her mother would unpack the other two and hand her the things she'd had to cram into one of them. She closed her new bedroom door and sat on the neatly made bed and tried to take it all in. Her mother had told her before they'd left London that Bob would have a list of rules she was expected to follow and they weren't up for debate but he'd already made that much clear.

She expected one of them would be if she managed to make new friends, she wouldn't scatter things over the floor but that had been her having more things than there had been room for before. Now she had a larger wardrobe and behind the door was a built in cupboard so she really had no excuses she supposed.

Her mother knocked on the door.

"Rose, Bob's going to the takeaway for some food, then tomorrow he'll show us a round the town."

"Yeah, fine, guess I'll have to know my way around? How far is it to this school I'm supposed to go to?" Rose asked.

"I think it's in walking distance, I'm not sure though but you'll get a bus pass. First ya have to get accepted."

Rose wished she hadn't been reminded. So after being shown around the next day and finding out where the local library was, she went to get a library ticket and got the books out she was going to need when her mother called the school the day before to ask about an entrance examination, hearing her mother's end of the conversation.

~~~~{ silversurfer60 }~~~~

Even after a week of the holiday, Alec was already bored. He'd been with his aunt to the cemetery and she'd left him on his own to cry when he'd put some flowers in the vase and she'd taken the others away and she'd told him it was okay. So the following Tuesday, he decided to meet one of his friends at the library and spend some time there as they'd been told what subjects were coming up the next term so they'd met outside.

"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea?" his friend Jamie told him as the library seemed fairly full but they were going to the reference books after they'd been to the desk to alter their tickets, since they now qualified to move up from the junior library.

"Well it will give us an advantage," Alec was trying to persuade his friend.

"Maybe but maybe you came here to watch the girls Alec," his friend grinned as two girls were sat in a corner pretending to read something.

"You're as bad as my aunt," Alec replied, running his fingers through his too long hair and seeing the girls hide their grins behind their books.

"What about her over there?" his friend nudged as Alec tried to find one of the books on his list.

Alec turned and looked at a blonde-haired girl sat at a table on her own. He wasn't that interested in girls, he was shy in that department but he could talk to the girls in his class when they didn't tease him about his spiky hair, especially when Kristy did it, egged on my her friend Moira.

"I don't think she's from our school," Alec replied, turning back to the shelf and trying to convince himself and his friend he wasn't interested.

"She's probably from the local comprehensive school," his friend surmised. "As if we'd want to been seen with one of them."

"Don't be so stuck up Jamie," Alec told him. "Just because we passed our exams, they can take them later and still get in our school. She might be here studying."

"I suppose so. Let's hurry up here and go down to the river," his friend urged him.

Alec wasn't so keen. It reminded him of family days out when his mother would pack a picnic and they would walk a mile or two downstream.

"Let's go hang around the park instead?" Alec suggested, not that that didn't remind him of his mother pushing him on the swings but it wasn't as bad.

"Maybe we should ask her to come with us," his friend teased him, looking at the girl who seemed not to have noticed them.

Alec thought the girl was probably tired of boys trying to pick her up, especially if they didn't go to her school.

"Leave her alone, she might go to a better school than we do," Alec replied, going to check out two books he thought he may need.

Rose had seen two boys around her own age but had taken no notice, what would they want to do with her, she probably wouldn't get into the grammar school, which was probably where they went. She saw them get up and leave, she'd probably see neither of them again but the one with blondish spiky hair seemed cute.

She thought back to Mickey's revelation he'd been going to ask her to be his girlfriend when she was sixteen but she didn't think she'd actually agree, there was more to life than the estate she'd grown up on and now she was getting to experience it. While Rose was at the library, her mother was having an interview at a hair studio a ten minute walk from where they'd gone to live and she was showing the owner, Marlene her portfolio she'd made of her clients posing and some with Rose, whom she'd often roped in to show off her skills.

"Well Jackie," the other woman began after looking through the dozen or so pages with 'Hair by Jackie' on the fancy cover. "Is that your daughter?" she pointed to a photo of Rose.

"Yeah, she's thirteen now, this has been a big move for her," Jackie confided.

"I can imagine. Well you seem to have the experience and the certificates, how do you feel though about confining yourself to a salon?" she was asked.

"Well, I have to start somewhere, it's a big move for me as well," Jackie admitted. "That's all I ever did really, after my first job I decided it would be easier for my daughter if I worked around her, she's old enough to fend for herself now."

"Including school holidays?" the woman asked her.

"Oh don't worry about her, she'll make friends and she'll be out all the time. She's gone to the library to study for her entrance exam to the grammar school."

Jackie was trying to impress her potential boss.

"Well Jackie, I think then that you'd fit in here rather well, shall we give it a try? If you're sure your daughter will be okay on her own? What's her name?"

"It's Rose, she can get her own lunch, she's done it before and she's got a key," Jackie replied.

"So what made you both move here?" she was asked.

"My boyfriend lives in the town, we met when he was working near where we lived in London, we hit it off right away," Jackie smiled.

Her working hours were arranged and she was to start the following Monday, having Wednesday off when she assured Marlene that Rose could make her own breakfast and get herself off to school after the holidays. Well she hoped her daughter could and so far, she'd managed to keep her room tidy but it was early days yet.

Jackie set off back to her new home. Bob had said they needed to talk and she wasn't looking forward to it now they were actually living together. When he'd been just visiting and staying over the odd time or two, it had been different and when he'd suggested before he'd left that he wanted to take the role of Rose's father, she'd been keen at first until they got to the finer details, which were still under some discussion.

Now she knew this 'talk' was about those discussions and she knew he was capable of throwing her and Rose out if she didn't comply or came to a compromise, which she hoped he'd accept. She was doing it for Rose, she had convinced herself. Rose had done well so far but she was a teenager now, she needed a father figure as she'd seen the way the other girls on the estate were turning out without someone to keep them in line and she'd not wanted her daughter to turn out like them.

She was determined though that Bob was not going to get all his own way but from what he'd been saying, it looked like he'd get most of it but there was one thing that was going to be made clear – that they stuck to their initial agreement about Rose and that was never going to change.

Chapter Text

A few weeks had gone by, Rose trying to adjust to having someone who wanted to play the role of her dad, since she'd managed quite well without one all her life. Jackie was settling in at the salon, Rose sometimes waiting for her at lunchtime when they'd grab a sandwich and find somewhere to sit down and Alec was trying to get used to spending the summer going to his aunt's instead of being at home with his mum, who had been a totally different person when his dad wasn't there.

He'd often wondered why they argued, it never seemed to be over him or anything in particular and now, his dad was totally different, trying to be both parents to him but he'd seen some of his friends change in the last few months, their attitudes towards things in general and he was scared he would become like them as their parents had divorced or separated. He couldn't talk to his dad though but his aunt knew there was something wrong.

She sat opposite him one day when he was thinking about a story he was writing.

"Alec, I know there's something wrong. Can you tell me?" she asked.

Alec shook his head.

"Then why don't you write it in one of your stories? Why don't you write about the last time you went on holiday before you lost your mum?" she suggested.

"I can't Auntie Mary, they argued all the time. I had to go sit under the cliffs so I couldn't hear them," he replied sadly.

"Where was it you went again?" his aunt smiled, feeling sorry for her nephew.

"Somewhere down south, Dorset I think dad said. I'd rather not think about it."

"Alec, you have to remember the good times, that's how we get over the loss of someone we loved. Write a happy story then. What exactly do you write about, you never say anything," she asked him.

"Mostly about that TV programme I like, I pretend I'm him and have adventures," Alec admitted.

Only his two best friends knew why he carried his notebook around with him and never let anyone catch him writing in it when he got an idea.

His aunt smiled back. "There's nothing wrong with dreaming of being an adventurer Alec, maybe just not one with a blue box that's a time machine eh? Sure they're not about John? Don't let me put you off though, if it takes your mind off things. Not doing anything today?" she asked since they'd just had lunch.

"I might go to the library, see if that book I wanted has been returned," he replied, putting his notebook away.

His aunt watched him. She felt really sorry for him and there was no sign his cousin Peter was coming back, it seemed he was having difficulty leaving. Peter's older brother John though, who was away travelling around the world on one of his fact-finding missions for his research was tall, thin (no matter how much she tried to fatten him up) and always wore a blue suit with brown stripes and a purple t-shirt underneath and red or black Converse trainers on his feet. She had despaired at him but being in his early twenties, he had the girls following him everywhere, especially when he flicked his out of control hair.

She had constantly tried to get John to have it cut on his visits home, his last one being for Alec's mother's funeral when he'd tried to cheer young Alec up for a few days before he'd gone back to travelling. It was then she and Alec's dad had noticed Alec was growing to look more like his older cousin in appearance, unlike Peter. She thought no wonder Alec wrote stories about travelling, he would look forward to hearing about them when John got back.

"Alec, why don't I try calling Peter and ask him when he's coming home?" she asked him.

Alec nodded and got up. "I wish John would come home, he makes me laugh. I'll be back in an hour or so, unless you want me to stay out longer?" he asked.

"I want no such thing Alec, I told your dad I would look after you during the holidays. You can go out or stay in as much as you want. I can make the spare room tidy, if you'd like some time on your own? I'll ask your uncle to put everything in the loft and we'll get you a single bed and things, would you like that?"

Alec hadn't wanted to impose on his aunt.

"Yeah, thanks, if it's not any trouble?" he replied.

"Of course it's no trouble, I'll get him to sort it over the weekend. You go to the library then, you never know, you might make some more friends there?"

Alec had thought nothing else about the blonde girl he'd seen a few weeks ago. She may not even have gone back in but there again, she could have borrowed the book he'd wanted. Rose wasn't there when he arrived though, her mother had left her a list of things she wanted doing, including a trip to a new supermarket that had opened nearby and had thought it would save some money.

One thing Jackie Tyler had not got over since their arrival in the town was everything was cheaper than in London, she had a regular job and Bob had just received a promotion so she could afford to shop locally. It was just her not being able to let old habits go.

Rose entered the new supermarket, warily and took a plastic shopping basket but she'd smiled when it was the same name as one that had opened nearby before they had moved. For thirteen though, she did look older and got away with not being questioned by any of the staff as if she should be shopping on her own.

She was glad though that Bob was out all day, she'd still wondered why they would talk quietly in the kitchen and why they were being so secretive then it dawned on her as she got back from the supermarket. Why hadn't she seen it? She bet they were planning on getting married and Bob adopting her, that was the only explanation. She waited for her mother coming home, having started preparing tea though why she never got the credit, she didn't know.

She could only assume her mother wanted Bob to think her cooking skills had improved. Well just wait, if they were planning on getting married, she would conveniently forget to make the meal preparations and Bob would see he was wrong. It had only been a few weeks and she missed her friends, hanging around with them and maybe getting Mickey into bother with his boss now and then, not enough to make him lose his job though.

She and her friends found it easy to wind up Mickey, it was sometimes just too easy but when he'd started hanging around with Jimmy Stone, she'd tried to avoid the pair of them. She jumped as the door opened and her mother shouted her.

"Hello sweetheart, had a good day?" her mother asked her, looking on the kitchen counter.

"Mum, are you and Bob getting married?" she came straight out and asked.

"What? Where did ya get that idea from Rose?" her mother wanted to know. "No, we haven't even talked about getting engaged, we'd tell ya if we were. Honestly Rose, I don't know where you get your ideas from, you don't even hang around with Shareen any more, I could understand it then, her mother had a different bloke every week."

Rose thought her mother had a cheek to say that before she'd met Bob. Now she wished things had stayed like that and Bob had remained here and never taken over the job on their estate.

"Mum, what about all the things I'm expected to do when I start school?" Rose asked her.

"We don't expect ya to do everything Rose," her mother replied as she put the prepared meal in the oven. "Bob thought it would be good practice for ya to do things on ya own, I agreed with him."

Rose thought how much her mother had changed in the time she'd known Bob.

"Anyway, what makes ya think we're getting married? Do ya think he wants ya to start calling him 'dad'?"

The thought had crossed Rose's mind.

"I don't know Mum, maybe? It's taking some getting used to just living with him," was all she could reply.

"Well we're here to stay Rose so ya better had get used to it. For the first time since your dad died, I found someone who doesn't just want me as a friend or just the odd date. You're too young to understand that."

"I'm thirteen Mum, I've seen what my friend's parents are like. Anyway, I was thinking about spending some time in the library, if I pass that test, I'll have to catch up. When will ya get to know?" she asked.

"Soon I hope, we'll have to get ya a uniform. They said if ya didn't pass, the education authority would allocate you another school, hopefully nearby. I never realised that ya would need to get a bus, sorry. Bob made it sound like it was close by."

Rose thought trust him to get it wrong and just why did she have to pass a test to be allowed in the school, a posh one at that?

"So from Monday, can I get some time to myself?" Rose asked.

"I expect so, it's just working in a salon all day now, I don't get time to sit down and chat like I used to. I'll stay a while longer then see about starting out on my own again but my boss won't like it if I steal her clients."

Rose didn't think she would. Still, it wasn't fair all this had been put on her when she didn't even want to be here. The Friday morning though, a letter came for her mother, with a stamp of the grammar school across the top and she knew her fate had been decided. There were only just over two weeks before the term started and it would be a rush to get the uniform and she'd been warned short skirts were not acceptable so she couldn't even get away with her old one, if the school colour still included grey.

She knew they wore blue blazers and blue jumpers and she just hoped her mother wouldn't pull her out at the last minute if she couldn't afford the recommended uniform shop. Her mother finally got home, Rose having returned a book to the library and seen the boy from the other week, whom she noticed hanging around the 'Just returned' books the librarian had taken a pile of and placed on the trolley.

She wondered if he went to the grammar school then?

Alec had thought it was worth his while going back to see if the book he wanted had been returned and he'd been rewarded when the female librarian had wheeled a small trolley piled with books, sorted them out and he'd been the first to spot it. He had seen the blonde girl across the other side of the library and wondered if she'd been the one to return it?

Rose was waiting anxiously as her mother checked her other mail, making Rose wait. The letter was finally opened, quite a thick one Rose thought but it could have been the thickness of the posh paper she supposed. Then she saw there were two other sheets her mother held separately.

"Rose, sweetheart, you didn't quite pass the test," her mother announced, Rose thinking why all the sheets of paper then? "You did get a high enough score to qualify for an assisted place though, they have to take so many, it's the law here. They've sent a list of clothes and equipment you'll need and a grant towards the cost. Well try to look pleased love."

Rose was trying her best but at the words 'didn't pass' she thought now she'd have to see what other school she'd been offered, which could be ten times worse than the one she'd been at.

"We'll go into town tomorrow and find the best place to get your uniform, there's a list of places that take the grants, then we'll get the rest of the stuff ya need. Aren't you excited love?" she asked, forgetting putting dinner in the oven and Rose hoping it wouldn't be ready when Bob got home.

It would serve him right for dragging them both up here. She thought her mother would opt for the cheapest uniform store and get as much as she could out of it for the money. She knew her mother was used to a tight budget and that would never change.

Alec was also having to go with his dad the next day to get anything that needed replacing, since he seemed to find his blazer sleeves were a little short and his aunt had tried her best with it using her sewing machine.

"Sorry Alec," his aunt had apologized that morning. "I just can't do anything with it, tell your dad. I have some good news for you though, well two lots. Peter's staying where he is for now, he got a part-time job and he's staying with one of his friends but John's coming home for a visit, before you go back to school. That should cheer you up?" she asked him.

Alec thought maybe it just would, he could get some ideas for his time-travelling adventures. The next day, Alec and Rose had arrived at different shops to look for uniforms though Alec wondered why he hadn't been taken to the department store where his friends went, it wasn't like the clothes lasted any longer. His dad though had said that was where parents who got a grant shopped and since he could afford to pay for it, they should not get anything from there in case someone who needed it more than Alec couldn't get their size.

Alec wondered if it wasn't something else though, maybe it was because his mother had frowned at the 'discount' clothes store as she called it and she didn't want any of the other mothers she had in her circle see her shopping there. His mother didn't appear to be stuck-up but he didn't know how she was with the mothers of his friends, whose parents all had good jobs. Had she considered his dad's job as good? He was just a supervisor at the postal depot but had now taken a different job to get better hours.

As Rose managed to get as much as her mother said they were allowed, she'd made sure she had a spare jumper, just in case but had hated trying the blazer on, it being the most expensive item and her mother frowning she had to put her own money towards it.

"That had better last you Rose," her mother warned her as they went down the escalator to the ground floor to find the shoe department, something else she was going to have to pay for.

"Mum, we could come back for the shoes and the gym shoes," Rose tried to insist.

"I'm not coming back just for those," her mother replied. "Bob was so pleased you got in there. Do ya wanna know why he insisted you went there?"

Rose wasn't that fussed about knowing but her mother would tell her anyway.

"He didn't want to let on he used to go there, he was trying to play it down by pretending he didn't know much about it."

Rose bet he did – not. It was easy for him to fool her mother, who usually saw through any deception but Bob had her good and proper on that score. If he'd convinced her mother about that, what else had he convinced her of? She'd never listen to a bad word against him, there was no use trying to convince her of anything. Rose was sure he was hiding something but maybe she was just being paranoid?

Soon, the next weekend was looming and it was back to school on the Tuesday, which Rose thought was a bit odd to say the least. She got everything else she needed on the Saturday, her mother opting to buy things in the market and Rose was trying to pretend she wasn't with her mother and hoping anyone she met at school hadn't seen them going in.

She spent the Monday in the library again, just reading a few things she may need, Alec was with his friend Jamie at the other end but Jamie had seen Rose.

"That girl's back Alec," his friend nudged him. "Go say hello to her. My older brother may beat you to it if you're not careful, she looks older than us."

"I expect anyone looks older than us," Alec disagreed. "Your older brother goes to college this year."

"Yeah, lucky him. What happened to your cousin?"

"He stayed there, he never came back for the summer but John came back, he should have come back last week but he got delayed. I won't see much of him but we went around yesterday."

John Smith had arrived back home on the Saturday before and hired a car at the airport. His mother greeted him and told him Alec had been disappointed at his delay.

"Sorry Mum, you know how it is?" John grinned as he planted his holdall on the kitchen table. "How has he coped without his mum?"

"John, you don't have to put on that English voice with me you know?" she scolded him.

"I only do it when I'm abroad, sorry. Otherwise no-one would understand me, would they? Should I go round and see Alec?" he asked.

"They're coming round tomorrow, go say hello to your dad, he's in the garden shed. Shame you didn't come back the other week, we did the spare room out for Alec so he'd feel at home."

"Aw, that's nice Mum, I bet he liked that?" John grinned.

"Your hair has got wilder," his mother reminded him. "How did you cope with it in that heat?"

"It wasn't that hot where I was, I didn't go anywhere exotic Mum. Is Alec still writing his stories?"

"Yes and I know what they're about now John. He's not writing about that TV programme, he's pretending to be you."

John looked surprised. "I did wonder sometimes but I didn't want to brag," he smiled, flicking his hair and stubbing his Converse shoe on the chair leg, getting him another scowl from his mother.

"You knew what he was writing about?" she asked him.

"He asked me not to say anything, he told me after his mum's funeral. I promised him I wouldn't, after he was already upset."

So while Alec and his dad went for their visit, John took Alec out into the garden and they sat on the garden swing.

"So Cous, looking forward to going back to school?" he asked Alec, who was hoping now he was getting older his hair wouldn't get that wild so maybe he should get it cut?

"Yeah, I expect they'll be new kids in my class and in the first year, I don't envy them," Alec admitted.

"How's the stories then, still basing them on me?" John grinned.

"You wish," Alec laughed.

"Aw come on Alec, admit it, that programme is just that you know? At least I've really travelled, just not in time."

"Yes you have, what about through time zones?" Alec insisted.

John scratched his head, making Alec smile. John didn't mind his young cousin made fun of his choice of making a living, doing research for any travel company who would employ him after he tried to make a good impression.

"Weeell, you got me there Cous," John laughed, patting Alec's shoulder. "Your aunt doesn't like me using an English accent."

"I like it," Alec smiled. "How long are you staying?"

"I don't know Alec, I can stay for a while, I'll have to convince another travel company they need my services. So, got a girlfriend yet?" John teased him.

"Promise not to say anything?" Alec asked quietly. John nodded. "Can I trust you?"

"Alec Hardy, I'm surprised at you," John pretended to be shocked. "Who else can you trust? My younger brother's not here in case you'd not noticed? You'd trust him over me?"

"I trusted you when I was six John, you told my aunt I wanted to be a writer."

"Alec, you were six, then when you were nine, you were writing stories on scraps of paper. Still want to be a writer?" John asked him.

"I don't know, maybe not? I think I might want to join the police?"

"The actual police or the band?" John joked. "Sorry. That's very commendable Alec. No-one ever told you how your mum died so quickly, right?" Alec nodded. "Your dad will tell you when you get older but she didn't want to leave you Alec, you do know that?"

Alec nodded again. "Yeah, I know John, it was just really hard, losing her."

John tried to change the subject. "So, you never finished why you wanted me to promise not to say anything. You have got a secret girlfriend?"

"Not exactly John. I keep seeing this girl in the library but I don't know her from school. Jamie thinks she goes to another one," Alec admitted.

"Do you want to find out who she is?" John asked him.

Alec wasn't sure and he had no-one else to go to for advice, certainly not his friends.

Chapter Text

Rose hadn't been able to sleep all that Monday night, thinking what was going to happen with her new classmates, well the entire school when they found out she was English. Surely though there would be others but they would have either already been accepted or had their own little 'club' or circle of friends she may or may not be invited to join should she be an outcast.

It was something she'd not really thought about until that day and she doubted her mother had considered it, things were different for adults, it didn't seem to bother them. It was probably the fact that Bob had a Scottish accent that made him stand out while he was working on their old estate that got him her mother's attention in the first place.

She'd no idea how they'd met, it just seemed to Rose like it had happened and there had been nothing she could do about it. Her mother was hardly going to give up a good thing when she saw it because she'd not taken her feelings about it into account.

As she tried to sleep, she thought about that boy she'd seen again, whom she knew must keep hanging around the library to try to talk to her but even when he'd been there on his own, he'd not attempted to do so. He'd been with another boy, the same one she'd seen him with the first time and he'd looked like he was trying to encourage his friend but maybe some other girls had been sitting behind her at another table and they hadn't even meant her?

Before she'd gone to bed, her mother had questioned her.

"So, have you got everything for tomorrow Rose?" she'd been asked.

"Yes Mum, you've asked me a dozen times," Rose had replied.

"Don't be cheeky to your mother," Bob had warned her, yet again.

"It's okay Bob," her mother had defended her, for a change Rose thought. "I don't know how many times I used to have to remind you, you always told me on the Sunday before you were going back that you needed a new pencil case or some gym shoes. What was I meant to do?"

"Mum, that was years ago and this time I wasn't starting school on a Monday. How come it's different here?" Rose asked, thinking Bob would tell her off again.

She couldn't even have a conversation with her mother any more without Bob butting in, he was a real spoilsport.

"I expect it's just how it is, you're not back in London any more," her mother replied.

Did she have to keep reminding her, Rose wondered. She was hoping her mother had got fed up by now and taken them back home, not that there was anywhere to go, they would have to depend on relatives but it wasn't like her mother to just take off in such a hurry after a bloke. It had been bad enough when Howard from the market had stayed over on a Saturday night though at least they'd not had to move, hundreds of miles away.

"Yes, Rose, remember that," Bob agreed. "You'd best stay quiet for a few days, your accent will stand out."

"Great, just what I need, a new school and I can't talk to anyone," Rose thought to herself. To Bob she just said, "Why, what will they do?"

"Just be warned," he replied, looking at her mother.

"Just pretend you've lost your voice Rose," Jackie suggested. "I'll write you a note to say you've got a sore throat, there's some lozenges in the bathroom cabinet, put them in your school bag."

Rose didn't think she had much choice, her classmates would pick her out and make fun of her at least, goodness knows what else. Surely her mother would have pointed that out to the headmaster but wouldn't there be more pupils there that weren't native to Scotland? Maybe her new teacher would make her stand in front of the class, well she hoped not.

She had escaped to her room, wondering if the two boys she'd seen at the library went to the grammar school but she was only interested in the blonde haired one. He'd look kind of sad, she'd thought, like he didn't want to be there anyway and considering he'd snapped up the book she'd only just returned, it was a safe bet.

Alec was reading the book eagerly, at his aunt's house, which made her smile.

"Some last minute studying Alec?" his aunt had asked, John in the other room watching TV.

"I tried to get it before, it's only just come back in," Alec admitted, though not that he'd bet the blonde haired girl had it and he'd been watching for her to return it.

"Good thing you went then?" his aunt smiled, relieved he was actually reading a book and not writing one of his far-fetched stories she was still convinced he based on his older cousin.

John had come back into the large kitchen, grinning at his young cousin reading a book. Going up behind Alec, he ruffled his hair.

"Trying to catch up?" John asked him, going to the cupboard looking for a snack.

Alec was just glad his cousin had dropped the subject as to if he liked the girl he kept seeing in the library though he'd be bitterly disappointed if she wasn't actually going to be at his school. If she was though, he just hoped Jamie wouldn't tell the whole class that he'd been staring at her or looking for her every time he went in.

His aunt went off to do something and John sat opposite Alec.

"You never answered my question yesterday Alec," John reminded him.

Alec had got away without answering the awkward question his cousin had asked him when his dad had come looking for him.

"I don't know John but if she goes to my school, I'll see her then," Alec replied.

John grinned at him. "Seems there's more to it then just seeing her in the library, Cousin," he teased Alec.

Alec knew this would happen sooner or later, he'd seen John tease his younger brother Peter many a time over a girl at school or the youth club they used to hang round but he'd stopped going when Peter had, it was no fun without him causing mischief.

"There's nothing else to it John, she was just a girl in the library," Alec tried to deny anything else.

"Who was just a girl in the library?" his aunt asked as she came in from the laundry room with a basket.

Alec knew he'd never get out of it now. "Nothing Auntie Mary, Jamie and I just kept seeing this new girl and we wondered if she was going to our school," he had to admit.

"Well, you'll find out tomorrow," she replied, glancing at John, whom she knew was making more out of it than there actually was, she'd seen him doing it with Peter. "Still, it'll be nice for you to make new friends, not like that Kristy and her followers."

Alec wondered how she had remembered the school showoff. You were either in Kristy's little gang or looked down on and anyone who had any sense stayed away from her and Moira.

"Those two still bothering everyone?" John laughed.

"I just stay away from them, they're not worth it," Alec replied, knowing he wouldn't get the book finished now.

"Good for you kid, who needs friend like them?" John replied, his mother despairing he wouldn't drop his adopted English accent even though it seemed like he'd come home for a while, unlike Peter had done. "You'll make some new ones, maybe that girl eh?" he grinned and nudged Alec.

"Stop teasing him John," his mother told him.

"It's okay Auntie Mary, Jamie does it as well," Alec had to admit.

His aunt went off again and John wanted to know more.

"Seems you may have a rival then?" John asked him. "If you don't do something, someone else will snatch her up."

"I'm not ready to go chasing after girls John," Alec replied.

"Oh come on, who are you kidding?" John wanted to know. "Everyone has to start somewhere, have their first crush. Go on admit it, she's yours."

Alec wasn't ready to admit anything.

"So does Jamie fancy her?" John continued.

"I don't think so, the way he goes on but he said if no-one made a move on her, his older brother would. Besides, she looks older than me."

"Aw, anyone looks older than you," John teased him, reaching to ruffle Alec's recently cut hair. "What happened to the spiky look?"

"Dad make me have it cut," Alec replied, not looking too happy about it.

"Well you look more grown up now, maybe that girl will take more notice of you?" John told him.

Alec just hoped he was right but was he ready to take notice of just one girl when he was surrounded by them at school? So he'd gone home, talked to his dad for a while and gone to his room to try to finish his book.

"All ready for tomorrow?" he asked Alec. "You look much better with flatter hair you know?"

"Mum liked it like that," Alec reminded him.

"I know Son but she's gone now and you're getting older. You don't want your friends making fun of you."

Alec thought maybe his dad did have a point? As he tried to get to sleep later, he laid awake thinking of the blonde girl – why was he even bothering? What would someone like her want to do with him? As to Jamie though, he acted more grown up but that was maybe because he had an older bother, on the other hand, so did his cousin Peter but John acted more like a kid out of the two of them.

Both of them were up early the next morning, Alec's dad was just getting ready to go to work, Alec being trusted to lock the door and get himself to school, getting the early bus to avoid the rush. Rose on the other hand had got the times of the buses and figured the one that got her there fifteen minutes before school started was the best one since she had no-one to hang around with.

That was half the problem, her old mates would have gone back yesterday and she would have been hanging around, maybe calling by the garage to torment Mickey on her way with Shareen just to get him going and they would have been laughing about it all day. Now she had nothing to look forward to, getting made to pull the extra stitching out of the hem of her school skirt by one of the teachers to make it longer and the others giggling at her being caught and chewing gum and making a mess when told to spit it out in class.

She smiled to herself as she got her breakfast, her mother fussing as usual to make sure Bob had his packed lunch, leaving Rose's on the counter top then them sneaking into the hallway for some groping, Rose imagined it was groping anyway since they could hardly keep their hands off each other. She usually heard her mother calling out to him that she'd see him later then act all coy and get her own breakfast.

It was a far cry from Rose remembering her mother not getting up until the last minute and still not dressed when she had gone out. She wondered if things would ever have changed so drastically if her mother had never met Bob? Rose did not know the conversation that had been taking place in their bedroom though.

"Bob, I told ya, I don't expect Rose to do everything when she comes home," Jackie had protested as she'd sat at the dresser. "She'll make some friends and want to hang around with them, then she'll have homework to do."

"I know that Jackie but don't let her stay out too long, make sure she's home when you are," Bob had told her. "Remember what we agreed?"

Jackie remembered only too well what had been agreed when he'd found out she had a thirteen year old daughter. What had started out in their agreement had changed over the weeks they'd been together and she was so gone on him by now, she had no choice but to agree. She watched Rose get her lunchbox and handed her some bus fare.

"You'll have to ask about a bus pass Rose," she reminded her.

"I hope I qualify for one then? It's not very far though," Rose replied.

"Yeah but it's too far to walk though and you don't know your way. Go on, don't miss the bus and be late on your first day. Have ya got that note?"

"Yeah but I don't know Mum, I'll be deceiving everyone," Rose hesitated.

"Well what else can ya do other than let the whole school know?" her mother asked.

"Well the bus conductor will know," Rose protested.

"Well just mumble or whisper, then those getting on will already know you have a sore throat," Jackie suggested.

"Well I don't have much choice then, do I?" Rose asked. "Bye then, see ya tonight, I might not come straight back if I make some friends."

"Well Bob said for ya to be back the same time as me, I'm agreeing with him," her mother replied.

Rose half expected as much.

"Rose, can't you call it home?" her mother continued as she got ready for work.

"You know I can't Mum, this isn't my home," Rose replied sadly.

"Well we're here so make the best of it sweetheart. Go on or you really will be late."

Alec was setting off to the bus stop at the end of the road, which was the next one up from where Rose would be getting on but he was half an hour earlier. He met Jamie at the corner and they saw there were only two or three others from school already there in the bus shelter, thankfully Kristy and Moira lived elsewhere or it would be a nightmare.

"Are we having a bet then?" Jamie asked as he sat on a wall instead of in the bus shelter, Alec just leaning against it so the person whose wall it was wouldn't protest.

"About what?" Alec asked, not that he didn't already know.

Jamie nudged him. "You know what about. Today is the day you find out if that girl goes to our school or not so I bet you a pound she does."

"I have better things to do with my pocket money Jamie," Alec replied, pretending not to care.

His friend laughed. "I was telling my brother, he wants to go to the library with us next time," he teased Alec.

"Is that meant to bother me?" Alec asked, trying to act tough.

"Well I told you he would if you were too slow Alec," Jamie warned him. "What would your mum have said? She'd have told you not to mess around and do something."

"Stop it Jamie, my mum's not here, is she?"

"Sorry. The bus is late or have they changed the times?" Jamie wondered, knowing he'd hit a raw nerve. "I didn't mean anything but she would have done, she always encouraged you."

"Yeah she encouraged me to let my hair get spiky but dad said I had to grow up," Alec replied as he saw the bus come around the corner.

"Well all I'm saying is if she's new to the school, she should be warned about Kristy and Moira," Jamie said as they went to board the bus. "Let's sit upstairs and she if she lives around here?"

Alec doubted it, it wasn't a small town where everyone lived in the same area. She could live anywhere and may still not be going to their school but whoever she was and whichever school she was going to, some other boy would snap her up, maybe even someone like Jamie's brother.

"Come on Alec, cheer up before we get to school. If she's there, she's there but if not, we can go to the library when we get out," Jamie suggested. "I was only messing with you about my brother."

Alec wasn't so sure about that, Jamie's brother Alan was well known for talking to the girls, he was almost as bad as John. As they got off the bus, pupils were already gathering in groups, some whose parents sent them off early and some who got there to avoid the over-crowded buses, they saw Kristy and her gang were already trying to get new recruits for the new term.

Jamie steered Alec towards a few boys they were friends with but before they got there Jamie stopped.

"Still writing your stories Alec?" Jamie asked him. "Best not say anything, you're never going to get away with it."

"I know, I won't get my notebook out while they're around, okay?" Alec replied.

"Still basing them on that time traveller?" Jamie grinned.

"My aunt thinks they're about John. I suppose they could be," Alec admitted.

"Are they?" Jamie wanted to know. "He does actually travel Alec, even if it is only by train or plane. At least his travels are real. How long is he staying at home?"

"Who knows with John?" Alec wondered. "Until he gets another assignment I expect but he'll be writing his reports up for the agency who sent him. He said something about it the other day."

"Did you tell him, about that girl in the library?" Jamie wanted to know as the other boys were talking.

"I've not got an older brother to talk to about things like you have and Peter never came back, John is all I have," Alec replied.

They went to join their friends, some of them noticing Alec's haircut and wondering if they maybe should have done the same.

Rose had been waiting at the bus stop, not being able to get in the shelter and hoping the bus wouldn't be full when it got there. She cringed when the bus did arrive, some of the girls looking at her as if to ask who she was and that they'd never seen her before. She listened as the others gave the amount of their bus fare and whispered the same as the bus driver issued her ticket and she thought maybe she'd not say the following morning, he seemed used to it.

She had to go upstairs, seeing a few empty seats but teenagers kneeling backwards to talk to their friends so she took a chance and sat next to one of them. The other girl suddenly turned.

"I'm saving that seat," the girl huffed in a broad Scottish accent. "Hey Annie, this girl thinks she's going to take our friend's seat," she continued.

If Rose hadn't been warned about speaking with an English accent and risk getting strung up, she would have told the girl not so politely that it was a likely story. Instead she just shrugged her shoulders and remained where she was.

"Did you not hear?" the girl turned back to her. "Hey, I think she's deaf or something."

The two girls behind them were already giggling and Rose, having grown up on a rough London council estate knew when someone was winding her up, she was an expert at winding poor Mickey up. She had to put on an act though of pretending to ignore them so the girl next to her purposely took more room up than she needed but Rose just nudged back. Despite the girls referring to her, she managed the next few stops, no-one wanting to sit there and got up when she saw others doing the same.

She followed them across the road and through the gate and that was when it hit her. This was it, she wasn't in Kansas any more. There were no friends waiting for her to catch up with, she was alone and she dare not even talk to anyone. She had no idea where she was going, she'd been sent a timetable and what class she was in so she wandered inside the building to see if there was some indication where that was but came out again at the size of the place.

Everyone was gathering at the entrance, waiting for the bell to go as a teacher came out. Rose followed them all in, stopping another teacher and showing which class she was in and being pointed to the next floor. Alec and his friends had gone inside and upstairs and were about to go in for registration as Alec saw Rose coming up the stairs. He nudged Jamie.

"See, she is here after all," his friend told him, Alec remembering something about betting she wouldn't be on the way there.

Everyone was going into the classroom, Alec holding back as his friend shook his head. Alec saw his chance as Rose was looking around, the teacher having pointed to the floor but not the classroom number. Thinking about just giving in and asking someone, Rose recognized him – the boy from the library.

"Hi, are you lost?" Alec enquired as others passed him, taking no notice.

Rose couldn't break her silence if she was going to carry this off for a few days until she got up the courage to admit she was not native to Scotland. Instead she just nodded.

"Well if you're in the third year there's more than one class," he replied as two teachers were talking outside the next classroom.

Rose showed him where she should be, holding out the piece of paper she'd scribbled it down on from the letter her mother had got.

"Right, it's this one," Alec replied, as a few stragglers passed them and the teachers were splitting up.

Rose just smiled at him, Alec wishing she'd done that in the library, not as they were about to go in the classroom.

"Why are you two still out here?" the female teacher asked.

"Sorry Miss, it was just she got lost and didn't know which was her classroom," Alec tried to explain, Rose just nodding in agreement.

"Well that's very commendable of you Alec but you need to take your desk," the teacher told him.

Rose nodded and followed Alec and the teacher inside, Alec cursing himself he still didn't know her name. As the teacher read out each name, Alec was waiting for the girl he kept seeing in the library to raise her hand and finally, the teacher, Miss Robinson got to the 'T's"

"Sandra Taylor," the teacher called out as a redhead raised her hand, Alec hoping it was Rose's turn. "Rose Tyler," the teacher continued as Rose raised her hand slowly, unaware Alec had been waiting as another twenty or thirty names were called out, all of the others he already knew.

There, he had her name, it had been bugging him since the first time he'd seen her in the library and she also now knew his name, Rose thought as Alec had raised his hand, since he was sat in front of her slightly but he'd turned around as two more names had been called out. His friend smiled to himself and nudged Alec's arm.

Alec knew he would get teased more than ever now he had her name but he just hoped Jamie wouldn't tell the whole class that he'd spent most of the summer holidays wondering who she was or he'd never hear the end of it. Rose was also glad she had a name for the boy who'd been waiting eagerly for her to return that book and whom she'd seen talking to the boy who was sat beside him.

Now all she had to do was hope she'd get away with being quiet until everyone got used to her and would accept who she was but her hopes were dashed as the teacher made an announcement.

"Class, we have two new arrivals with us this term, Sandra Taylor and Rose Tyler, who have transferred from other schools. Rose, please stand up and introduce yourself."

Rose's heart leapt as everyone turned to look at her – including who she now knew was Alec Hardy.

Chapter Text

Rose remained seated, those in front of her beginning to chatter and the teacher telling them to hush.

"We're all waiting Rose," the teacher reminded her, in a soft Scottish accent.

Alec was also trying to turn around but suddenly put his hand up.

"Yes Alec?" the teacher asked him.

"Please Miss, I think she has a sore throat," he suggested, the others starting to giggle.

"Quiet," the teacher told the class. "Yes Alec, I think it's that or she is just shy. Rose, do you have a sore throat?"

Rose managed a nod, she was already in too deep to back out of her mother's suggestion and she had to play along, for now.

"Very well, rest your voice and no sucking throat lozenges in class. Your mother should have sent a note."

Rose fumbled in her desk and brought out the hastily written note her mother had scribbled last night, she'd almost forgotten.

The teacher allowed her to get up and pass the note.

"You maybe should have stayed off?" the teacher suggested, glancing at the note, Rose thinking she'd never get away with it.

She also thought she was glad she hadn't stayed off, she'd finally got to know the boy's name and the one next to him was called Jamie.

It had been a double lesson since it was the first day so they had one more lesson before break time and Rose hung back, following everyone else to the next classroom. Jamie was nudging Alec.

"Bet she's not really lost her voice, she's having us on," Jamie told him as they went through the door.

"Leave her Jamie, we don't know that," Alec replied.

Jamie sat next to him and nudged him as Rose sat next to a girl called Marie, who had less friends than they did.

"Maybe? See how she gets on when she meets Kristy and Moira?"

"Then I'll have to keep them away from her, if she can't talk back, you know what they are like," Alec replied as the teacher put his briefcase on the desk in the science room.

"Good morning class," the teacher spoke up. "I'm your substitute science teacher, Mr Brown is unable to join you. My name is Doctor John Smith," the tall thin man grinned, putting his glasses on and picking up a piece of chalk to write on the blackboard.

Alec noticed at least he had the attention of all the girls, unlike last term when Mr Brown was there. Rose was paying attention, the man had an Estuary English accent and she wished now she'd never gone along with her mother's idea of how to keep quiet to avoid being picked on.

"So, anyone else here from London?" the teacher asked, looking around.

Rose was not going to admit anything and he was probably only here for a few days anyway. He seemed to be getting away with the accent but he wasn't a thirteen year old teenager who everyone would turn on. Alec saw her paying attention and began to wonder if she was covering something up. Had he been right? Was the sore throat just her playing along because he'd suggested it? What note had she passed earlier though?

He'd been thinking more about what he'd told his cousin John, whose double could be standing in front of the class but his cousin was no science teacher and was not from London, though he liked to act like it now. He'd told John he may want to join the police and since his curiosity always got the better of him, maybe he should?

The teacher was asking him a question, since he must have looked miles away.

"What's your name?" he asked Alec, everyone, including Rose looking at him.

"Alec, Sir."

"Then Alec, let's see how much you learned last term shall we," the teacher grinned, making the girls giggle.

Then it was Rose's turn as a few more answered questions.

"I've been told there are two new pupils this year? Would you raise your hands?"

Rose reluctantly raised hers, as did Sandra, who was sitting next to Kelly.

"So, what's your names then?" they were both asked.

"I'm Sandra, that's Rose, she lost her voice," the other girl replied, Rose being thankful but had the feeling Alec had been about to tell the teacher anyway.

"Well, never mind eh Rose? Bad luck on your first day," the teacher grinned, something Rose thought he seemed to do a lot of, when he wasn't coming out with words that sounded like he watched 'The Fonz' all day.

The lesson was almost over, Rose being relieved she'd got away with it so far but if this science teacher was going to be here again, she may go confide in him, if not, she would have to tell her class teacher, who should have already been informed. Rose bet Miss Robinson did know and chose to keep it quiet and had guessed why she'd been reluctant to speak.

The bell went for break time and everyone gathered their school bags and headed for the exit but the teacher held Alec back.

"You seemed to have all the answers," he asked Alec. "Do you know the new girl?"

"No Sir," Alec replied as everyone else left.

"I just wondered, she kept glancing at you. You were also looking at me a lot, any reason?" Doctor Smith asked, Alec thinking he should have been asking the girls that, not him.

"Sorry Sir, it's just you look a bit like my cousin, he has the same name as well," Alec explained, hoping Kristy and Moira weren't going around looking for new victims.

"Ah, no wonder then. So is he a teacher?" he asked Alec.

"No Sir, he's a travel writer, he does reviews of holiday destinations for travel agencies," Alec admitted, hoping to catch up with Jamie, or maybe Rose.

"Interesting job? Well don't let me keep you Alec, well done. That girl though, Rose. She seemed a bit lost."

"She was, when she arrived but I've seen her in the library a few times, she's been in town a few weeks, our teacher said she'd transferred schools," Alec replied, trying to be helpful if it got him excused.

"Right, that explains it then. Well off you go," Doctor Smith grinned at him. "Are you going to make friends with her?"

"I was going to try Sir, may I go now?" Alec asked, thinking this was the longest conversation he'd ever had with a teacher.

The fact the teacher looked a bit like his cousin was a bit strange, especially when his aunt thought he himself was beginning to look like John.

He got outside and went to find Jamie, who was talking to some of their other friends, well the ones who weren't trying to get in Kristy's gang, she wasn't really bothered who joined but she seemed to have lost a lot of followers, Alec thought. Maybe the old ones had come to their senses?

He looked around for Rose and saw her sitting on a bench under a window. Jamie was discussing where he'd been on holiday, Alec already having heard about it and it put him off because they'd been nowhere with just losing his mother several months ago and it wouldn't have been the same, well not for him anyway.

Since there were only just over five minutes left, Alec crossed to the bench and stood in front of Rose, who was trying to keep the sun out of her eyes but not wanting to move.

"Hi again, what are you doing on your own?" Alec asked her. "Not made any friends, not even the other new girl?"

Rose shook her head.

Since she wasn't talking, Alec decided to try and get a few things out of her by the process of elimination, something he was good at.

"So, you transferred from another school? Out of town?" he asked. Rose nodded, hoping she wouldn't try to correct him. "A long way maybe?" he continued. Rose nodded again. "The Outer Hebrides?" Alec grinned, making Rose smile. "Well maybe not that far then?" he smiled back. "Maybe Aberdeen or Inverness?"

Rose shook her head. He was about to get his notebook out and suggest she wrote it down when he saw a teacher at the doorway and he'd have to remember to use the other end of the pad anyway, he wasn't ready to show the new girl any of his stories, well not yet anyway.

"Did you bring a packed lunch?" he dared ask her. Rose nodded again. "Me too, my mum never approved of school dinners. Maybe we can talk later?"

Rose nodded and got off the bench, Alec thinking that was a daft thing to say but surely she could try and talk a little? She'd not ever tried or cleared her throat but he'd seen her take something out of her bag while he'd been walking over and assumed it was something she took to help. He followed her to line up to go inside, getting a look from Kristy and Moira, who nudged him from the next line.

"No good asking you, is there?" Moira asked, since she was the mouthy one out of the pair.

"Leave him, he wouldn't know what we're about anyway," Kristy told her friend.

Rose could see the two other girls were not so friendly and assumed she'd be best staying away from them.

After the next lessons, everyone was either going to the school canteen to line up to get their lunch or find a place to eat what they had brought with them, Rose having been used to a separate area in her old school but no-one seemed to be bothering. She found a table but assumed she'd not be alone and sure enough, the two lead troublemakers made a beeline for her.

"You're new here, want to join our group?" Moira asked her.

Alec could see they were trying to get Rose on their side.

"Leave her Alec," Jamie nudged him as he watched the other two girls sit either side of Rose. "She'll have to learn about them."

"What's so interesting about her then?" one of the other boys asked.

"She's new, she doesn't know about getting involved with their gang," Alec replied, trying to eat his chicken salad sandwich.

"Have you met her before?" another boy asked him. "You stuck up for her earlier."

Alec was going to try to deny it. "She just looked lost," he replied.

"Aren't you going to tell them?" Jamie grinned. "She was in the library a few times."

Alec was going to thank his friend later.

"We never saw her," another one replied.

"Maybe because she was in our local one?" Jamie laughed. "Not the one in town."

Rose wasn't having an easy time and Alec knew what they were like when a new victim came along. The last two years, pupils had joined them and got tired of getting into trouble because of them and had the sense to leave. He was hoping Rose hadn't fallen for their tricks.

"Don't you talk or something?" Moira was asking her as Rose tried to ignore them by eating.

"Bet she's lost her voice," Kristy laughed, not seeing Alec walking across as he'd been unable to stop himself.

"Leave her alone you two, she's new," Alec called out to them.

"Well if it's not Alec Hardy," Kristy laughed. "Been hanging around the library all summer being a swot?"

"Yeah, nothing else to do while everyone else went away?" Moira joined in as Alec stood there, his bag over his shoulder.

Rose wanted to tell the two girls to get lost but it would just give the game away. She would have done and her friends from her old school would have made short work of the pair.

"Aw, I forgot, he'd have been at his auntie's since his mum's been gone," Kristy mocked.

"You leave my mum out of this Kristy Roberts," Alec almost lost his temper.

Rose wanted to say that was uncalled for. She thought he'd looked sad in the library, his mum must have either left home or passed away.

"Go find somewhere else Alec, we're talking to the new girl," Moira carried on.

"No, you're not, now back off," Alec warned them. "Go back under the rock you both came from. You don't get the fact no-one wants to join you this term, who can blame them when they get into trouble for what you two do?" he asked, trying to give Rose a picture of what they were like.

Rose had already got it, she wanted nothing to do with them, she didn't want to make friends like them even though at her last school, she'd caused most of the trouble herself but she'd not been desperate to get anyone to join her.

"Come on Moira, we'll get to her later," Kristy told her.

"No you won't, if she wanted to join you, she would not have ignored you, would she?" Alec asked them.

"So that was what she was doing?" Moira asked as she got up, a teacher approaching and Alec noticing it was the science teacher. "Thought she'd got a sore throat or something."

Kristy turned around and almost collided with Doctor John Smith.

"What are you two girls doing?" he asked.

"Nothing Sir, just talking. We were just leaving," she replied.

"Were they bothering you?" he asked Rose as Alec sat opposite to try to finish his lunch.

Rose shook her head.

"Alec, is that right?" the teacher asked him, Alec assuming he'd been watching and he was on dining room duties.

Either that or he'd been waiting for something to happen, going around looking for signs of trouble and the two who had just left would give him plenty.

"They were trying to get Rose to join them, they're the troublemakers around here, Sir," Alec replied, knowing he'd find out sooner or later – the other teachers already knew.

"Then stay away from them. If they bother you again, tell one of the teachers," they were both told.

"Yes Sir. Finish your lunch Rose," Alec suggested as she looked in her lunchbox and brought out a carton of yoghurt.

"I'll leave you to it then?" Doctor Smith asked them.

When he walked off, Rose looked over at Alec, wanting to thank him but if she spoke to him, she'd have to speak to everyone, unless she could trust him to keep her secret – that she was a very long way from home, further than the Outer Hebrides, which Alec had suggested and had made her smile.

Instead, she looked around and since everyone was occupied, she reached to touch his arm. Alec got she was trying to thank him.

"It's okay Rose, just ignore them again, they'll get the message. They soon get tired and try someone else. They'll have a go at all the new ones first then go back to the rest. Have you enjoyed the lessons so far?" he asked her.

Rose nodded, taking a drink out of the carton of juice.

"The new science teacher kept me talking after class because I was answering all the questions," he admitted with a bit of a grin. "I never intended to."

Rose thought then maybe he'd not intended to speak up for her at registration or got rid of those two girls for her.

"You would not have liked the last science teacher as such, he was boring but this one made it more interesting," he continued.

Rose was thinking if all the science teachers looked like that, she'd have taken more notice last year but he didn't sound like he belonged here and had already admitted it, she wished now she'd taken no notice of Bob or her mother and Alec didn't look like he'd be bothered if she was English. She decided to keep quiet for now and in a few days time, she'd try whispering or muffling her voice and see how she got on.

Well that was if she didn't confide in the boy she'd kept seeing in the library, who had rescued her more than one that morning. Everyone was starting to go outside, she wished she was back with her old friends plotting how they were going to wind Mickey up on the way home and if she was going to make her skirt shorter again. Now, there was none of that – she was the new girl and there were already two troublemakers in her year and she was glad she wasn't in their class.

She'd not been really surprised to find the boy from the library had been outside the classroom she'd wanted nor that he'd stuck up for her. He must have wanted to know who she was as much as she'd wanted to know who he was. All through the holidays, she had wanted to meet him properly and there he had been.

"Coming outside?" he asked, interrupting her thoughts. She managed a nod. "You finished that book then? I was waiting for it taking back to the library," he admitted, thinking she had probably already noticed that since he'd pounced on the shelf the moment it had been put there.

Rose had to smile – she already knew that by how keen he had been the day she had returned it. She was dying to ask him why he wasn't joining his friends as they went to sit under the window again in the far corner.

"So you like reading?" he asked, sitting a bit further away. "I like to write my own stories, about travelling," he told her, not wanting to say too much. "My cousin is a travel writer, I suppose I get my ideas from him," he had to admit, though he still insisted they were about a man from another galaxy.

When he thought about it, his cousin John could be the time traveller, well maybe not look like him but the way he acted and moved around, not staying in one place for long. He thought he'd best not mention his cousin looked like the new science teacher – well maybe not yet anyway.

"You must live near me then, I mean if we go to the same library?" he asked, hoping she may break her silence if she was just pretending to have lost her voice, something he was thinking more and more was the case.

Was she protecting herself from something? Her real accent perhaps? Maybe she was genuine though and just a little overwhelmed. Alec continued the one-sided conversation, Rose nodding and smiling now and then, unaware Alec's friends were watching them.

"Seems we've lost Alec this term?" Billy was asking no-one in particular.

"You should have seen him in the library when she was there," Jamie laughed. "He told me he wasn't interested in girls, guess I should have known? I wonder why he never went to talk to her though?"

"Maybe he did, when you were on holiday?" another boy asked.

"No, he would have said something to me," Jamie insisted.

"Maybe not? Maybe he didn't want us to know?" Billy asked.

"I'm telling you, I'd know," Jamie insisted. "He may have told his cousin though? John came back a few days ago and I thought that was him in the science lab."

"His cousin looks like the science teacher?" one of them laughed.

"Never mind the science teacher. What are we going to do about Alec?" Jamie wanted to know.

"Leave him to it?" two of them laughed.

"Be serious," Jamie replied, now a bit worried for his best friend. "I've only seen him talking to the girls in school."

"She is in school," Billy joined in the laughing.

"Well I'm going to find out later," Jamie insisted. "I'm not going to lose a friend to a girl. I was only teasing him a few days ago that if he didn't talk to her, I'd get my older brother to pay a visit to the library. You should have seen Alec's face."

"So there's more to it then?" Billy asked. "You can find out what it is, Jamie."

Chapter Text

Jamie was now wishing he had never said anything as he looked across to where his best friend was trying to get Rose to talk. He hadn't thought that by Alec talking to the girl from the library that their other friends would take any notice.

"So Jamie, you're in then?" Billy asked him.

"What?" Jamie asked, coming back to reality suddenly, breaking his stare to where Alec had got half a smile out of Rose. "Right, I'll see if he'll tell me anything then? Funny how he said he didn't like girls."

"My cousin said it comes to all of us," Billy replied.

"I hope not," the others disagreed, pulling faces and pointing across to Alec, who had been tempted to get his notebook out again and see if Rose would tell him what was wrong.

Rose was trying not to laugh at Alec's attempt to get her to talk, letting herself smile slightly, which he had noticed.

"So, Rose, want to tell me what happened to your voice?" he asked, his cousin John always telling him the direct approach was best and since he wanted to join the police, he may as well make a start.

Rose shook her head, she was already too deep in this and it was only lunchtime on the first day. She'd only last another day at most before not only the other pupils would begin to question her but so would the teachers, including that dishy new science teacher. If only he'd have been at her old school, it would have given her and her friends something else to talk about other than making Mickey look an idiot in front of his workmates.

"How about you write it down?" Alec suggested, making Rose panic as to what she could say so she shook her head. "Well I think you are just shy," he smiled, withdrawing his hand from his schoolbag.

Rose took his arm and indicated for him to go back in.

"You can write in my notebook, at the back. I don't get this notebook out for anyone else, it's personal, well not personal, just my stories, no-one else knows about them except Jamie. He's the friend who was at the library with me. Here, write down how you lost your voice. Is it a sore throat?" he asked, thinking he could practice and maybe skip being an ordinary policeman and become a detective.

Rose smiled this time as he passed her a pencil and opened his notebook from the back. Jamie was watching with interest, Alec never got his story notebook out for anyone, in case they told Kristy or Moira, who would make fun of him. She looked at him, he seemed nice, he'd tried to make her feel welcome and talked to her plus he'd stuck up for a few times but so had the other new girl.

He'd also been subject to being picked on by two other girls who thankfully weren't in their class and they'd better watch out when she decided to end her silence, she made mincemeat out of girls like that in her old school, without any help from her friends and by the look of things, they were the school showoffs who wanted others to join their gang to make fools out of anyone who got in their way. Well that wasn't going to be her or anyone she made friends with and that now included Alec Hardy.

She had to get settled first though, establish that she'd been dragged to Scotland against her will but maybe not mention her mother had followed a bloke, well she might tell Alec, who was looking at her for her to begin writing. She smoothed the page and wrote 'Promise not to tell anyone else?' Alec nodded. 'I've not lost my voice, I'm just shy and different.'

"What do you mean by that?" Alec asked her, knowing he was right, she was hiding something.

Was she willing to tell him just yet? 'I'm not from around here' was all she was going to admit but Alec had other ideas.

"You moved to the town? From where, a long way?" Rose nodded. "So a bit further than Aberdeen but not as far as Inverness?" he asked since she'd smiled at his suggestion of coming from one of the islands. "Fort William?" he suggested, Rose smiling and shaking her head.

Jamie was leaning on the side of the bench the others were sitting talking on, though he wasn't listening. He wondered why Alec had decided to go talk to her, he'd seen her in the library nearly every time they'd been in and never even tried. She was very pretty though, his older brother had said it was only a matter of time before he started noticing girls but he never imagined Alec would beat him to it. None of the other girls in their class or any of the others were as pretty as she was and Alec had beaten everyone to her.

He thought though they were prime targets for Kristy and Moira but he'd seen Alec fending them off earlier. It was almost time to go back inside, others were wandering towards the door and both Alec and Rose were taking no notice. Rose was just writing 'No, not there either, try further south,' trying to give him a hint and thinking if he guessed, he wouldn't make fun of her as he probably would if she just wrote it down.

"Jedburgh, somewhere on the borders?" he asked, thinking that was still quite a way. Rose shook her head, seeing some of the other pupils wandering past, taking no notice of them, thankfully. He was running out of places, then thought it was more than likely the west of Scotland, naming a few places, most of which Rose had never heard of and would have to go back to the library to look them up on the map.

Then Alec began to think he was right, she was hiding the fact she wasn't from Scotland at all then? "I give in if you're not from Carlisle or Newcastle," he smiled, Rose offering the notebook back as it was obvious the bell would be going soon and she'd escaped for now.

Alec had other ideas. "You can tell me later then, we have geography this afternoon, I'll watch your reaction."

Rose had to smile and got up, Alec putting his notebook away. So, he wrote stories and didn't want anyone else to know about them? She could use that to her advantage, confess where she came from and make sure he didn't tell anyone until she regained her confidence and began talking, then everyone would know. They began to get in line, Alec allowing Rose first and Rose hoping no-one had been taking any notice of them apart from who she knew was Jamie and a few other boys Alec had been talking to before he'd been trying to find out where she was from.

Suddenly, Moira decided to nudge Alec's arm. "What were you talking to the new girl for Alec?"

"Mind your own business Moira, she would have talked to you if she had wanted to," he replied, Rose hearing them as they were about to go inside.

"We tried to talk to her, you butted in," Kristy decided to join in, Alec wondering who exactly was in charge, since everyone thought it was her but maybe they were wrong.

"We all know your way of talking," Alec replied as those in front started to move.

Rose turned around and gave the two girls a stare.

"What are you looking at?" Moira asked her.

Rose was so tempted to say her for showing herself up but Alec gently nudged her arm to move forward.

"Don't think we'll forget," Kristy called after them but the teacher was watching them.

"McColl, quiet," Miss Robinson told her as the two girls passed her, making Rose smile as she heard.

Moira tapped her friend on the shoulder and whispered, "They are not getting away with that are they?"

Kristy shook her head as they went to their classroom.

Rose had history first, hoping she'd learn a bit about Scottish history but guess who was the teacher? She looked as she saw John Smith getting some books out of his battered leather briefcase. Alec went off to sit next to Jamie, thinking he'd never get away with sitting next to his new friend and Jamie must have something to say about earlier, both in the dining hall and out in the playground. Jamie nudged him as the teacher was writing something on the blackboard while making a scraping sound that was making Rose cringe.

"So what did you find out about her?" Jamie asked Alec.

"I wasn't spying on her Jamie. She's new here, I was trying to find out what was wrong with her voice," he replied.

"Did you?" Jamie wanted to know as John Smith turned around.

"So, who can tell me about the battle of Bannockburn in 1314?" he asked, looking around the room and settling on Alec, who to him seemed like he had all the answers earlier. "Alec?"

Rose wanted to ask where that was and how an English teacher knew about it but maybe he didn't, since he was asking the class. She thought he must have known he was being sent here, to have looked up Scottish battles, well the place sounded like it was Scottish anyway.

"Sir, it was the first war for Scottish independence," Alec replied, wondering how the teacher from England knew about it, since he'd not seen the man in the library.

"Very good Alec. Anything else you can tell me?"

Rose was suppressing a smile, who needed to go to the library when they could ask a native of Scotland. Alec though wasn't aware the old history teacher had also gone missing without any explanation. Where else was this new teacher who looked too much like his cousin going to turn up?

Alec gave a few more answers since they'd already been taught a little about it, hoping to impress his new friend, who he now suspected came from over the border and talking about battles nearly 700 years ago between the Scottish and the English wasn't going to help, especially if he said any more and gave no-one else a chance. Rose would think he was a show-off – or would she? He could score a few points in his favour if he seemed to know enough.

If she was from over the border, she would need all the help she could get but maybe that was why she had spent as much time in the library as he had during the holidays but what was she doing in Scotland, in Paisley of all places? He had room to talk though, since he wasn't from here originally but he barely remembered where he had been born, his mother had wanted to move nearer to her sister, who had got married and moved here.

"Right, someone else," the new history teacher told everyone as they shuffled things on their desks, a classic sign they didn't want to be asked. "How about one of the new girls? Rose, have you found your voice yet?" he grinned.

Rose could only shake her head, hoping to get away with it before he found out she had no idea, they'd not taught Scottish historical battles at her school, well not that she remembered anyway. Maybe if they'd had a teacher like him, she would have actually paid attention.

"I hope you're not staying quiet to get out of answering?" he carried on, making the others laugh.

Rose shook her head again, hoping he wouldn't keep asking her. She'd been embarrassed when he'd come up to her and Alec earlier but at least those two horrible girls had gone off, not that she couldn't have handled them herself but if she did that, Alec may not want to be friends, since he'd drawn the teacher's attention in the first place though he was trying to rescue them.

As the bell went and they were all leaving, John Smith stopped her.

"Rose, are you having a problem with those two girls who were in the dining room earlier?" he asked her as she put her bag on her shoulder. Rose shook her head. "If you are, tell me or your own teacher, okay?"

Rose nodded her agreement.

"Good 'cos if they are causing trouble, I'll be having words with them. Go on then, don't be late for your next class, I think someone is waiting for you? Maybe he's making sure you don't get lost eh?" he grinned.

Rose smiled. "Thank you," she mouthed without speaking.

"You're welcome, I hate those who bully others. It may not be bullying as such but it's intimidation non the less. Don't make the both of you late."

Rose nodded and walked off, Alec now around the corner.

"Come on Rose, I'll show you where the geography room is, I want to find out where come you from unless you want to tell me?"

Rose wanted to ask him where his friend was but she saw the other boy going into another room. When they got inside, Alec turned to her and said he'd see her in the playground and went to sit with Jamie, who nudged him. Alec was hoping the science/history teacher hadn't followed them.

"Be careful Alec, you were waiting for the new girl again," Jamie warned him.

"So?" Alec asked his friend as he got his geography exercise book out of his bag and dared glance across to Rose, who had sat next to Sandra, though the other girl hadn't made any new friends either but at least Kristy and Moira had left her alone. Rose thought they would probably get around to her eventually.

Sandra was trying to get Rose to talk as everyone settled down.

"I saw you at lunchtime, who were those two girls?" she asked Rose.

Rose thought she had best be careful and shrugging her shoulders mouthed 'Trouble' to which Sandra smiled.

"You seem to have made a friend with that Alec then?" Sandra continued. "Have you come from far away?"

Rose could only nod in agreement, since it wouldn't be fair to break her silence to anyone other than Alec. He'd tried in a nice way to find out where she was from, no-one else had talked to her really, apart from Sandra speaking up for her and talking to her now. Rose had realised the geography teacher was their class teacher and she was pulling down a map of the region after handing out some map books.

She then started asking questions about the coastline, Rose noticing Alec was keeping quiet as someone else answered with details of how it was made up and was thankful she'd not been asked this time but spoke too soon.

"Sandra, how many miles of coastline does Scotland have?"

"Miss, does that include the islands?" Sandra replied, Rose trying to keep a straight face, unlike the rest of the class, which included Alec. She finally replied then the teacher turned her attention to Rose.

"Rose, which is the largest of the Scottish lochs?"

Rose knew that one and raised her hand. The teacher indicated for her to write it on the blackboard, Rose writing 'Loch Lomond' after reading it in a book in the library when she had first arrived. She'd also looked up other facts in case she was ever asked but hadn't thought at the time she'd go along with her mother's idea of faking the loss of her voice.

"Very good Rose. Can you write down which is the largest Scottish island?"

Alec knew that was a trick question. "Miss, there isn't one," he answered as he stuck his hand up and she said his name.

"Yes Alec, you are right, it's actually two islands close together counted as one, which are called?" she asked him.

Rose was glad he'd come to her rescue again, since she didn't know that one. Alec answered as Rose went to sit down, daring to glance at him. He didn't get any clues as to where Rose had come from and she was glad the teacher had never bothered asking her as they left the classroom. Once in the playground after she'd been in the girls room, she saw Alec talking to Jamie and went to sit down, avoiding the two troublemakers, who had cornered someone else. She and her friends at her old school never had to bother gaining new friends, they all stuck to their little groups of four or five of them and only got together when sides were being picked over an argument.

Sandra had seen her chance to talk to Rose but Alec beat her to it, Jamie following him.

"Hi again Rose, you remember Jamie, from the library?" Alec asked her. Rose nodded. "I told Jamie I was trying to guess where you came from."

"Aye Rose, Alec says he can't figure it out but I bet I can," Jamie grinned.

Rose thought he'd never guess in a million years until she actually spoke, which wouldn't be for a few more days or unless she really had to.

"I bet she won't admit it even if you guess right," Alec replied, grinning at Rose as if to say she had better not, before she told him.

Jamie went through a few areas, since she knew the answer to the largest loch included that area but Rose shook her head.

"What was she writing earlier then?" Jamie wanted to know.

"Nothing, the bell went," Alec reminded him. "I asked the same places as you did and she shook her head. "So where do you live?" he asked her.

"Like she's going to tell us," Jamie laughed.

"We get the number 54 bus," Alec told her, wishing Jamie would stop. Rose looked up, she had got that one. "You do as well?" Rose nodded. "We never saw you this morning but my dad goes to work early. He used to take me to my aunt's first but he trusts me to get the bus on my own now."

Rose wanted to know why his mother didn't see him off but she herself had got the bus on her own and she used to walk with her friends to her old school.

"Tell her why we get the early one Alec," Jamie hinted.

Rose could guess.

"We could get the same one home," Alec suggested, ignoring his friend and knowing Rose may have found the bus rather full since they had to get the normal one as the bus company withdrew the special.

He supposed the bus company thought thirteen year olds could cope with the regular one

Rose had to nod her agreement, he was only trying to be helpful and some company would be nice, even if his friend was tagging along. She didn't want to make the two of them fall out though so she'd have to be careful and if Alec had his friend tagging along, she had to agree to it.

"Right, we'll show you where to get it, unless you have somewhere else to go?" he asked Rose.

Rose shook her head but if she wasn't careful, she'd suddenly say something and give the game up. She suspected Alec already knew she was putting it on though, he had hinted at it and maybe tomorrow, she may admit it but just to him by writing it in his notebook. She was dying to know if he was willing to show her the stories he was writing, he had surely shown them to his friend Jamie though, who was now giving her a funny look.

The bell went and they made their way back inside, Jamie catching Alec's arm.

"Did you mean that?" he asked Alec, trying not to let the two troublemakers hear.

If they did, they'd never hear the end of it, only the older boys kept company with the girls, whether the same age or not and he'd noticed a few of the older boys pay attention to Rose, more so than the other new girl but he himself had noticed a change in a few of their female classmates. Why couldn't Alec have picked one of them? Why did it have to be the mysterious girl from the library who Alec had been staring at for weeks?

More importantly, why had Alec not done anything about it then instead of in front of the class by sticking up for her? He'd only teased Alec about his brother, Alistair already had his eye on a girl from the college he went to. Still, he thought as he joined Alec in the maths class, surprised Rose hadn't gone to sit next to him while she had the chance, it was only the first day and the novelty would soon wear off – he hoped.

Alec had avoided answering Jamie as he'd followed Rose inside. She had waited for him to indicate where the classroom was but he had meant it, she'd been lost in school, he should see she got the right bus home at least and maybe get to find out roughly where she lived. She couldn't live that far away if she went to the local library and not the main one in the town.

Neither Rose nor Alec were picked on since the teacher never mentioned Rose or Sandra were new but Rose noticed the female math teacher with ginger hair had some odd things on the walls amongst different charts, including several male Scottish actors and singers. She knew she was going to like this class, though she'd not taken much notice before. There again, science and history had never been her strong points either but they may be now.

The bell went and Rose wondered why they'd not been in their own classroom all day, maybe she should ask Alec when she started talking? Maybe they'd get to be in it the following day, it must be used for another subject. She was looking forward to gym class though, she was good at that, she'd even got the bronze for under sevens. She'd show the others that even though she wasn't talking, that she may not know Scottish history but she could beat them all on the ropes.

The bell was ringing as everyone were either heading for their lockers, which Rose now wondered how you got one or the girls room, where she herself was going and hoping Alec wouldn't desert her and she'd have to find the bus stop on her own. He had seen her heading off but went outside to wait, thinking it was less conspicuous than making it obvious he was waiting for a girl and he knew Jamie wouldn't be seen dead waiting for a girl, especially if Moira and Kristy were around.

While Rose was in the girls room, she thought about going back to an empty flat, she had no homework with it being the first day and her mother had told her to have tea ready for her to put into the oven but now, she was going to tell her mother she'd made a friend and if Alec wanted her to hang around, she didn't want to make up any excuses why she couldn't. Now though, it was hitting home that her mother wouldn't be there to greet her, she and her friends wouldn't be getting Mickey all hot and bothered on the way home or hanging around with Shareen.

She now seemed to have only one friend, since Jamie didn't seem that keen on Alec talking to her and she and Alec were from different backgrounds. She just hoped he wouldn't be put off by firstly she was English and where she had grown up but if he wanted to be her friend, it shouldn't make any difference to him.

Chapter Text

Alec was waiting outside in the playground, wondering if he should wait for his new friend or join the others as they headed for various buses. He had ten minutes to wait for his anyway, the bus company must have had complaints from adult passengers so before the end of last term, it had been changed so it arrived outside the school five minutes before any pupils who wanted it came out and only the sneaky ones had caught it but he wasn't too bothered.

He had the choice of calling at his aunt's house or going home and wait for his dad getting back at four thirty and thought maybe it was time he grew up and do that but with John being back, it may be worth calling to see him. Now, if Rose happened to live near him or got off at the stop before him, he could get off and offer to talk to her while seeing where she lived or maybe she could stay on and go to his house, if her mother was at work.

Rose was taking her time since she'd heard the mouthy Moira and her side-kick Kristy, whom she'd not heard say much and hadn't decided what name to give her yet were in the cloakroom as she was in a cubicle. She listened with interest as the two girls were talking, probably admiring themselves in the mirror, she thought.

She was in no rush to get back to an empty apartment and get the evening meal ready so her mother and Bob could 'make out' later while she tried to watch TV, something she was finding even more gross as she got older.

"Kristy, we weren't good enough today," Moira was saying as she pouted and got her lipstick out she'd 'borrowed' from her older sister and was trying to apply it as Moira leaned on the sink beside her.

"I'm doing my best Moira," Kristy replied, wondering who was in the two closed cubicles she could just see through the mirror as she turned around.

"We hardly cornered anyone today, thanks to Alec Hardy. I mean, we had new victims and one of them we couldn't get anywhere near," Moira complained, making a face to even out the lipstick, having watched her sister Gloria doing it when she was getting ready to meet her boyfriend Angus.

"Yeah, that's not like him, he was a real mouse last term but he'd just lost his mum," Kristy reminded her.

"Feeling sorry for him?" Moira asked her.

"Give him a break Moira, how would you like it?" Kristy asked her, shaking her head as she was offered the lipstick. "Anyway, in case you forgot, I'm supposed to be in charge so what's with you taking over today?"

"What?" Moira asked, Rose now just leaning on the cubicle door, waiting to leave.

Now she'd never catch the same bus as Alec, she was going to maybe catch him on his own and admit she was faking the lost voice. Now she'd have to wait until tomorrow or maybe catch the earlier bus and see if he was on his own but he probably met up with his friend Jamie. Since when did she start making friends with boys in her class?

"Come on Kristy, I'm the brains around here," Moira laughed. "Don't you forget it either unless you want me to find someone else?"

"I never said that Moira but everyone thinks it's me. Anyway, be careful what you say, others might be listening."

"Don't be so daft Kristy, no-one's in here but us. You know everyone likes to close the doors to make others think there's someone in, it would have been the new kids, goodness knows where they've come from. Come on or we'll miss the bus," Moira told her.

"Okay then but maybe tomorrow you might give the impression I'm in charge, we don't want the new girls getting the wrong idea," Kristy told her.

Rose heard the door close, then as she opened hers, the other one opened and it was Sandra, who just burst out laughing.

"I knew there was something about those two," she spluttered as she washed her hands, Rose doing the same. "I've been watching them all day, it's my hobby. I like to see who thinks they are the boss but it seems everyone got the wrong idea about them. Come on Rose, say something."

Rose nodded.

"I get it, if you're shy and don't want to talk but you won't get away with it forever. I think Moira was a bit annoyed Alec stuck up for you, more than once. Be careful Rose, at my last school, it didn't go down well if the girls made friends with the boys, unless they were older. We can be friends though, since we're both new?" she suggested.

Rose nodded again and held her hand out, once she'd dried them.

"Great. Well I have to go find where my bus goes from, see you tomorrow then and we can sit together in classes, if you want?"

Rose nodded again, picking up her school bag. She was glad someone else was wanting to make friends with her and together, once she decided to talk, they could bring the two school show-offs down a peg or two or whatever the phrase was in Scotland. There again, she couldn't talk to Sandra before she had spoken to Alec but neither of them may take too kindly to her trying to fool them but they had both hinted they suspected why she'd chosen to stay quiet.

They walked out together and into the playground, where Jamie had given up trying to persuade Alec not to wait for Rose coming out, reminding him that girls liked to take their time.

"How would you know?" Alec had asked him before Jamie had said he was going to the bus stop and that they'd miss it.

Jamie had declined to answer, just shrugging his shoulders.

"If you miss the bus, I'll see you in the morning, unless you were planning on walking down to the next stop to meet Rose?"

"I'm only making sure she gets the right bus," Alec tried to explain, seeing Kristy and Moira coming out and nudging each other.

He hoped they'd not been taunting poor Rose.

"Waiting for your girlfriend Alec?" Moira teased him.

"Him, having a girlfriend?" Kristy laughed, trying to give the impression she really was the leader.

"Leave Rose alone, she's new around here," Alec tried to defend her. "Where is she, have you been trying to get her on your side again after I warned you?" he asked them.

"Chill out Alec, we've not even seen her unless she was hiding in the girl's room," Moira laughed. "Come on Kristy, he's not worth missing our bus over."

Alec knew they'd seen Rose, why else was Rose late coming out when she didn't know anyone?

"Something wrong?" an English voice asked from behind Alec.

"No Sir, I was waiting for Rose Tyler coming out, I was asking these two if they had seen her," Alec replied, not used to making up excuses on the spot but he'd been doing it all day, since he'd first found out Rose was the girl from the library.

"You're all going to miss your buses at this rate," Mr Smith told them. "You don't have to keep calling me 'Sir' all the time, you can address me as just 'Doctor' when not in class. So, where is she?" he asked the two troublemakers as he considered them to be.

"Why ask us Sir?" Moira spoke up, confirming to him she was in charge.

"Weeell," he prolonged the word. "Seeing as you are both girls and have probably been applying lipstick in there, you may have seen her in there. Are there no rules about wearing lipstick in school? I'll have to look that one up."

"Sir, I mean Doctor, school's finished for the day," Moira tried to correct him.

He could see they were going to make life difficult for him but that was what he was there for, teenagers were more of a challenge than five year olds but he would maybe have to have a rethink once they got to sixteen.

The teacher looked at them instead, then saw Rose approaching, Rose hoping they'd not been talking about her but of course they were talking about her, she was the new arrival and Alec was waiting for her!

"Ah, there you are Rose," the teacher stated, giving the other two girls a frown and he'd not even had them in any of his classes yet. "You two girls, haven't you got a bus to catch?" he asked Moira and Kristy.

They both went off, nudging each other, Rose staring after them.

"Are you okay Rose?" Alec asked her, concerned the pair of them had confronted her.

"She's fine Alec, aren't you Rose?" the teacher asked her. Rose nodded. "I reckon you can look after yourself eh?"

Rose wished he wouldn't speak for her, she didn't want Alec to be put off defending her until she was ready to start talking and even then, it was sort of sweet of him to be concerned for her.

She looked over at Alec, hoping he wouldn't be disappointed once she did start sticking up for herself. The teacher though was just doing his job, unlike those at her old school who left the pupils to sort out their own problems most of the time.

"Come on Rose, if we hurry, we'll just catch the bus," Alec suggested. "Thank you, Doctor Smith."

"You’re welcome Alec. Making sure she gets home?" the teacher asked, as Rose started going towards the gate.

"Yes Sir, she gets the same one as me and my friend, well I think she does," Alec replied.

The teacher watched him run to catch up with Rose, shaking his head. It seemed the boy had a crush on her and heaven forbid if anyone upset her, by the way he'd been defending her now and earlier plus answering for her in the classroom.

"Hey Rose, wait up," Alec was calling after her as she tried to remember which bus she had to catch.

She knew she'd maybe have to rely on him at least for tonight as he grabbed her arm and hurried towards a bus where pupils were still getting on, thankfully. Now Rose was panicking that he'd hear her saying how much her fare was but he knew it was the same as his, his stop was the last one before it went up in price.

"Have you got your money out?" he asked as the boy in front asked for his.

He stepped up to the driver and asked for two of the same fare, Rose passing him her money. He looked around, not seeing Jamie and indicated for Rose to go upstairs, thankful only two or three from their class got that bus and they were too busy hanging over the seats at each other to notice as he let Rose go first, just as the bus set off. Rose glanced as she went to the stairs, it was just as bad as it had been that morning but maybe since Alec was there to talk to her, it wouldn't be as boring, though he'd be doing all the talking.

She saw an empty seat, having noticed Jamie talking to someone else a few seats further back and assumed Alec would just go to join them but he sat beside her.

"Do you know where to get off?" he asked her. Rose nodded. "Well let's see if you get off before me then?"

She just hoped she did remember but she'd made a note of a few things and once the bus joined the route the one into the town did, she'd be okay.

"So will your mum be at home?" he asked her, hearing some laughing from behind them and if was about him or Rose, he'd have something to say about it.

One of the other boys was asking why Alec wasn't joining them, trying to get Jamie to admit something.

"How do I know?" Jamie was protesting and turning back to see Alec sitting next to the new girl.

"We saw him talking to her earlier," one of them opposite told him.

"So, it doesn't mean anything," Jamie was saying, wondering why now, he was defending her as well as Alec was.

He wondered if she had that effect on everyone, well except Moira and Kristy.

"Take no notice of the laughing," Alec was telling Rose as she tried to turn around. "So will your mum be in?" he asked her again. Rose shook her head. "Is she working? My mum was always in when I got home, now I have to wait for my dad getting back but he said I can wait on my own, I used to go to my aunt's just around the corner. We've no homework tonight but tomorrow, well maybe you can come round and we can do it together? I mean until you get used to the school's way of doing things?" he added.

Rose had warned her mother if she made friends, she'd stay out a while but she couldn't use Alec as an excuse though. There again, she would have been out with her mates getting into trouble had she stayed in London. She nodded her agreement, giving him half a smile and nudging him.

Alec was hoping she'd break her silence but maybe tomorrow, she'd get around to writing something down? Rose recognized where she was and knew there was one more stop before hers as the bus set off again and indicated to Alec by putting the strap of her bag on her shoulder.

"Is yours the next one?" Alec asked her. Rose shook her head and held one finger up. "Next but one?" he guessed.

That was the one before his. "Want me to walk you from the bus stop?" he suggested. Rose shook her head, she wasn't ready to tell anyone where she lived just yet. Alec was persistent though as they approached the next stop. "I can get off there, I only go to the other one because it's a bit nearer and in the mornings, not as many get on there. We can talk for a while, if you want?"

He hoped that once away from school, she may admit something. As the bus set off again, Rose indicated for him to let her up. He did so, picking up his school bag from the floor and getting up, surprising her by walking to the steps as she followed him.

"Why is Alec getting off here?" one of the boys asked Jamie, who turned around to see Rose disappearing down the steps.

"He gets off here to go to his aunt's," Jamie lied but he knew either stop would do for the both of them really and Alec had got off there before the summer holidays. "Don't you remember?" he added.

Alec had rung the bell at the top of the steps even though others would be getting off but he hoped they wouldn't be paying any attention just the same as when they'd got on. Once the bus stopped, Rose thought she was going to get trampled on as everyone got up at the last second and descended on her and Alec, including some almost falling down the steps.

Once off, Rose went to stand behind the bus shelter until everyone had gone off.

"It's okay Rose, they're always like that. Have you never got on a school bus before?" he asked her as she saw they were alone. She shook her head. "Neither did I until I started at the grammar school, it's a bit daunting. I used to go to a nearby school. You used to walk home with your mum or your friends?"

Rose nodded, indicting to cross the road and hoping he wouldn't follow.

"I only live down the next but one street but my aunt lives just down on this side, the next street. She might be expecting me but my dad mentioned to her I was going to try going back on my own. It's not the same, going back to an empty house. Sorry Rose, I never meant anything."

Rose scrambled in her bag and brought a notebook out, then found a pencil she'd not put back in the case.

She wrote 'Moira was making fun of you in the girls room. Kristy stuck up for you, saying something about your mum not being at home. What happened Alec?'

If he couldn't trust her, who could he trust at school but the bit about Kristy defending him surprised him.

"Kristy defended me?" he questioned her. Rose nodded. "Rose, my mum died a few months ago, my aunt insisted I went to her house every night until my dad got back. Now he says I only have to go if I want to. I was going during the holidays instead of being on my own when Jamie wasn't around."

Rose patted his arm, still leaning on the wall and hoping someone wouldn't tell her off but she wasn't tall enough to climb on it. Alec could see she wanted to sit on the wall though. Instead, she began writing something.

'I'm sorry you lost your mum Alec. I never knew my dad, he died when I was a baby. Alec, do ya promise not to get mad at me?'

"What for?" he wanted to know as he read it.

Rose thought about it. Should she say anything just yet? Maybe she should wait but he was looking at her now. She decided to write something else instead, to just give him half of it.

'I'm not from Scotland at all, sorry I mislead you.'

"Rose, you never mislead me, I did mention a few English places," he told her. "So you're not from the north of England then?"

Rose decided she had to give him something, since he'd been nice to her all day. She was about to write again when he stopped her.

"Rose, would you like to go to my house maybe?"

Rose thought it would be better than getting tea ready and being on her own for two hours.

'Sure your dad won't mind?' she wrote before putting her notebook away.

"He says I spend too much time with Jamie, he'll be glad I made a new friend. We could go to my aunt's?" he suggested.

Rose thought maybe that would be better but she'd get asked all kinds of questions. She shook her head.

"Okay, it's this way then," he indicated.

Rose followed him, dropping her pencil into her bag and trying to keep up with him as they crossed the road. He walked across the next street then in the distance, she could see the other bus stop and supposed he could really use either but as they approached where he lived, Jamie was waiting on the corner.

"You two took your time," he told Rose and Alec. "I had to cover for you when you got off back there Alec."

"I never asked you to Jamie but thanks. Rose was going to be on her own, her mother is at work so I invited her back. Are you coming?" he asked Jamie, surprising Rose.

So he invited everyone back then or was he trying to make her feel better by not making her think he had a habit of inviting just girls back? She gave him the benefit of the doubt.

"No, I should get back, see you in the morning? Are you going to be at this bus stop or the one you just got off at?" he asked Alec, already knowing the answer.

Now he was going to have to cover up for his friend and he was going to get his nose pushed out by the way Rose was looking at him. He'd never known Alec defend anyone before and he was covering for a girl of all people. When did that happen? He waved to Rose and set off home, it was no different to when Alec had lost his mother and gone to his aunt's every night he supposed but he'd been hoping to hang around for a while or call later on and go to the park or somewhere.

Alec could tell his friend was disappointed they weren't hanging around with each other but Rose knew no-one else in the area and now, he had a load more places to guess where she had come from.

"This is my house," he told Rose as he stopped in front of a driveway, wishing his mother was waiting in the kitchen for him. What would she think about him bringing a girl home with him though?

His aunt would find it amusing and so would John, since they'd both teased him. He got his key out and went to the side door, allowing Rose in first. She stepped into a fair-sized room, the other door leading to the living room half open and Alec indicated for her to put her school bag on a chair and went to the fridge, getting out a bottle of juice. He indicated to Rose, who nodded.

"So, what time does your mum get home then?" he asked, hoping she wouldn't have to leave early, he wanted to introduce her to his dad because he had a feeling there was more to Rose Tyler than she had so far let on. Why had she moved to Paisley of all places was one question he had to ask, if she would talk to him and why was she pretending she couldn't talk? He knew she was shy but he had to get her to talk to him before someone beat him to it.

Rose sat at the table, Alec switching the radio on and going to hang up his blazer. He offered to take Rose's as she took it off.

"Does she work until six maybe?" he asked, thinking he may as well ask questions and get some practice in again. Rose nodded. "Well how long can you stay?"

Rose wanted to say until her mother got home but she was expected to have everything ready but she could safely stay until after five, it wouldn't take her that long and from tomorrow, she was going to tell her mother she'd made a friend and that they were going to do their homework together. She just wasn't going to admit her friend was a boy called Alec so maybe she could say it was Sandra instead? Her mother wouldn't know any differently until she was ready to admit it and Sandra had said she wanted them to be friends, she could use that to her advantage.

Rose got her notebook out, then changed her mind.

"It's okay Rose, I know you're pretending that you've lost your voice, I won't tell anyone, I promise. I get that you are shy on your first day, you can't hide it forever. So, tell me why Rose, I hope we can be friends, that we can get to know each other. Can we be friends?" he asked her.

Rose took a drink then nodded. He hoped she would make a start soon.

"If it's meant to be a secret, why you're here, you can tell me. I told you my secret, well part of it. I like to write stories but not about things I know," he admitted. He saw her looking up. "Rose, I write stories about travelling but not around the world. I write about going to other planets, like that programme on TV. I never told anyone except Jamie, they'd all laugh at me. My aunt thinks they're about my cousin who does travel reviews. Do you think that I'm wasting my time?"

Rose shook her head. He had a secret and so did she, he trusted her with his and she had to trust someone.

'Alec, I'm from London and my mother dragged me up here to live with her boyfriend and I don't want to be here.' she wrote in her notebook.

Chapter Text

She had almost broken her silence before she'd scrambled for her notebook. Alec was staring at what she had written – he'd been right, she had been hiding something but it wasn't what he had expected. She had turned the notebook towards him but he picked it up.

"Rose, it's okay, please talk to me. I know why you were hiding, it was because of your accent, I won't tell anyone."

Rose looked around like she was expecting the whole class to be there or someone listening but there was just the two of them. Alec moved his chair and put his hand on her arm.

"Please Rose, I know you were scared to talk in school, that's why I spoke up for you and answered the questions so you wouldn't be forced to talk. No-one would have bothered, well maybe except Moira and Kristy but if Kristy stuck up for me, that means she's no longer in charge, if she ever was. You know, don't you?" he asked her. "They were talking in the girl's room?"

Rose nodded again. She couldn't keep pretending to be shy or she may drive him away so she just wrote 'I'll only talk to you, outside school, okay?'

Alec nodded his agreement. He knew his dad would be home soon so what could he say?

"Rose, when my dad comes home, talk to him, he's not going to tell anyone, is he?"

Rose supposed not. She took the last of her drink to clear her throat, since she'd not spoken all day except to ask for her bus fare that morning, then she'd mumbled it. She knew Alec was concerned for her but she'd never had to confide in a boy before as she'd always had her friends. She put her glass down and leaned her head on her arms she had folded on the table, Alec waiting for her to say something.

"You still can't hide it forever Rose, you have to talk to a teacher, go see Mr Smith tomorrow, he's concerned about you, he was asking why Moira was wearing make-up," he smiled.

Rose knew they had been up to something in the toilets.

"Did Kristy really stick up for me?" he wanted to know, thinking he'd give her time to come round, now he knew why she'd stayed silent all day.

She'd talk when she was ready but he now wanted to know what she sounded like. This was all new to him, making friends with a girl and he was risking his friendship with Jamie for her but surely Jamie would understand and he was sure he'd heard his friend saying it happened to all boys eventually, they started taking notice of girls but he'd no idea what that actually entailed.

"Do you want to wait until my dad gets home?" he asked her.

Rose shook her head, she had to do this.

"No," she replied, trying to keep it to a minimum for now.

"Was that so bad?" Alec asked her. "See, I could hardly tell you are not from Scotland. So, what did Kristy say about me?"

"That you'd lost your mother, I'm so sorry Alec."

"That's okay Rose, you were not to know. Was Moira saying something about it?"

Rose nodded, Moira was being a right cow but she didn't want to repeat what she'd heard.

"It was about you sticking up for me, she was complaining she'd not had chance to get me on their side. If she thinks I'm gonna hang around with them, she can get lost. My old friends would have made a right meal out of them."

That made Alec smile.

"Alec, Moira's in charge, she reminded Kristy she was the brains and that she was only letting everyone think Kristy was the leader."

"I knew that all along, it was looking that way last term, a lot of the other girls began leaving their side. So Moira thinks she can win you over?" he asked her.

"Yeah, fat chance. Alec, I'm sorry, I just didn't know what else to do, in a strange school, I thought everyone would pick on me and it usually doesn't bother me but I don't want to be here, I wanted to be going back to my old school."

"It's okay Rose. Maybe you should talk to my dad?" he suggested.

Rose didn't want to bother anyone but it was him or Mr Smith. Maybe she would see how far she could get with him.

"Want to hear something funny?" Alec asked her. Rose nodded. "Mr Smith looks like my older cousin and they've got the same name."

Rose giggled, covering her face.

"You're kidding?" she asked.

"I thought it was him, he's been away for months, he writes for travel companies, does reviews and that. My aunt thinks I base my stories on him."

"Do you?" Rose asked.

"Maybe? Maybe it's just a coincidence he decided to travel the world, just not in a blue box?"

"Then are ya sure the teacher isn't your cousin? How can there be two of them looking alike?"

"Well he never said anything to me and Doctor Smith never did either. I've got another cousin but he's away so he wouldn't know. It can't be him Rose, why keep it a secret?"

"So it wouldn't look like he was favouring you?" Rose suggested. "Did he give any hints?"

Alec looked at her. "Now I think about it, maybe? He's just got back from a trip Rose."

"Does he come home during holidays?" Rose asked him, beginning to relax a little.

"He was late back this time but he comes and goes but if he's the new science and history teacher, how's he managed that? My aunt never said anything. Mind you…. Rose, my cousin pretends to be English when he's travelling and now he won't drop the accent. My aunt's given up trying to get him to go back to his Scottish one."

"There ya go then Alec. It has to be him then. If it's not, then how did a teacher from England know about Scottish history, besides looking it up. He's been winding ya up Alec, he's been training and he just got lucky, getting your school and he didn't want anyone to know. Surely he'd have told the head teacher though?" she asked.

"No, he's my cousin on my mum's side though how his mother ended up being a Smith, I was never told. Rose, does the head know you're from England?"

"I had to take an exam, I just barely passed it. The thing is though, why didn't our class teacher say anything?" she wondered.

"The same as you said Rose, not wanting to say anything. I'm going to ask my dad about John when he gets back, they were talking on Sunday when we went round, I bet now that John asked him not to tell me."

"I bet ya right, think about it Alec, then everyone would be getting you to do favours for them. Are ya mad at me?"

"What? No, I'm not mad at you Rose but why pretend to have a sore throat?" he asked.

"It was my mum's idea, I don't think she gave it a thought when she dragged me up here."

"So she's at work and leaves you to go home on your own, in a new place? What does she do?" he wanted to know, forgetting about John.

"She's a hairdresser, she used to have her own home business. She met a Scottish bloke and she followed him up here just as school broke up for the summer. She wanted me to go home early and start making tea, he thinks she does all the cooking but she just puts it in the oven or warms it up, I do it all to make her look good. I hate him Alec and she won't listen to me, she makes me do as he tells me."

Alec looked seriously at her. "You have to tell my dad, he can maybe help you," he suggested.

"I can't let ya get involved Alec, I'd made up my mind I wasn't gonna make any friends."

"Yeah? Well tough Rose, you have a friend and I want to help you. Wait until he gets back but why does your mum make you do as he tells you?"

"I think he wants to marry her and moving up here was a test run. She doesn't make me call him 'dad' but it's heading that way and I'm not sure I like it. They whisper when they think I'm not paying any attention. Do ya think it's my imagination?" she asked him.

"Rose, if it is, you have a better imagination than I have. Want to see some of my stories?" Rose nodded. "I'll go get them, I started a new one, the others are in my room, you can borrow them if you want?"

"Can I just read them here? I told my mum that if I made some friends, I wouldn't be going straight home but I have to be back before six, Bob gets in around seven or so."

"So he's your mother's boyfriend?" he wanted to make sure.

"He's a jerk, he never leaves my mum alone. Even before we moved, well he was working on our estate, that's where they met and she started going out with him. The next thing I know, he's staying over the odd night or two and she tells me we're packing up and moving. I wish I'd been older, I could have stayed with a relative."

Alec was thinking no wonder she'd looked so far away when he'd seen her in the library, she was catching up about where she'd moved to and if she'd just passed the entrance exam, seeing what was different.

"Can I ask you something Rose?" he asked as he got up to take the glasses to the sink. "When I saw you in the library, you were trying to find your way around and trying not to make it look you were not from here?"

"Yeah, bet I was rubbish at it?" Rose grinned. "I'm sorry I never spoke to you then."

"Jamie was daring me to go over and talk to you," he had to admit, rinsing the two glasses under the running water. "It's okay Rose, I know now and I won't tell Jamie, not until you're ready to tell everyone else."

"I was gonna tell Sandra, she guessed I was faking it as well but I couldn't tell her before I told you," she replied.

"You made friends with her?" he asked. "You did not have to wait until you had told me Rose."

"Yeah, I did Alec, you were nice to me today. Sandra was in the girl's room when Moira and Kristy were talking, she thought it was funny how it came out Moira was in charge. Ya should have heard them Alec," she smiled. "Are ya friendly with all new arrivals?"

"Not really," he admitted. "You looked lost and I had seen you in the library and wanted to know who you were. So you think the new teacher is my cousin? Why would he do that?"

Rose was sure he'd already asked that.

"Ask your dad then. Alec, I should go before he comes home," she insisted.

"Rose, I want to help you, if you will let me?"

"No-one can help me Alec, I'm stuck here and I mean no offence against the town, it's a nice enough place, I just wish I was back home."

"I wasn't born here Rose but I was young when we moved here so I've known nowhere else. It must be hard on you?"

Rose nodded. "I miss my friends, I miss walking home with them and annoying this guy we know who lives on the estate and seeing how much I can get away with in class. I'm not usually so quiet but yeah, I felt lost when I entered the school."

"You looked more than lost Rose," Alec told her. "I'm going to get changed, promise you won't leave?"

"Yeah, I promise, what do I have to go back to but an empty apartment and get tea ready for my mum to take all the praise? If I leave it, with a bit of luck he'll kick us out and we can go back home," she replied as she flopped her head onto her arms.

"Don't say that Rose, you still might not get home, you might get stranded here and have to go into a hostel. Did you give up your home before you left?"

"Yeah, we had a flat, I grew up there Alec. You're probably right, she'd maybe get us back to London, then what? She'd have to get a relative to put us up. Sorry."

"Don't be sorry Rose. Still, maybe you can stay out a bit longer?"

"Only until six, my mum's home just after that but maybe I could go straight home, get everything ready and we could meet later, if ya wanted?" she suggested.

Alec considered it, was she offering to keep him company every night? Jamie wouldn't like that but if she went home for an hour, he could do his homework with Jamie then they could call for her before tea-time. That was if Jamie agreed, which if earlier was anything to go by, he wouldn't.

"What about your homework?" he asked her, picking up his school bag. "I'll get changed and bring one of my notebooks down for you to read, the first one."

"How long have ya been writing Alec?" she asked him.

"A few years, I was sick and laid in bed with nothing to do so I started thinking. Then mum brought me a notebook and pencil when I told her I wanted to write them down. That was before she got sick herself. No-one knew she was ill though, she never told anyone."

"Sorry Alec. I grew up without my dad, I know what it's like. So these stories are about that programme on TV? I like that one, he wears that cricket gear all the time but the other one, I got one of my aunts to knit me a scarf like his, I had to leave it behind."

Alec didn't want to say anything but his aunt has knitted him one. Should he offer it to Rose? Maybe at some point, if she didn't start hanging around with the other new girl. Still, it wasn't up to him, she could spend her time with whoever she wanted and have as many friends, it sounded like she'd had a lot before moving here.

He went upstairs to get changed and hoped he wouldn't hear the kitchen door slamming before he got back down again. She only had to go to the end of the road and she'd know where she was. He somehow didn't think she'd leave though, she'd stuck pretty close to him all day but had given him the chance to talk to his friends.

Rose was sat listening to the radio, feeling nervous about meeting Alec's dad. What would he think of her? She didn't think Alec had brought a girl home before after school and hoped he wouldn't take it the wrong way but she couldn't tell him she was worried about things at home. Maybe she could talk to the teacher, or was he really Alec's cousin? Why pretend though? Was it really to save Alec the embarrassment or didn't he want the head teacher to know they were related? Surely though he would have gone to the same school and some of the teachers would remember him?

Over the road at Alec's aunt Mary's house, John had got home, trying not to feel guilty for pretending Alec wasn't his cousin but it had been a last minute decision for him to fill in for two teachers who were absent. The agency had called him after he'd seen his young cousin and he'd not even told his mother where he was going, he'd just told her he was filling in somewhere. Hell, he'd not even told her what he'd really been doing, training in Edinburgh inbetween doing odd writing jobs but his talents were wasted on that and he knew it.

It had only been a matter of time before work dried up so he'd taken advantage of doing two part-time courses in science and history and hoped he'd get qualified. So he'd put his name down at the agency the education department used and crossed his fingers and admitted to his mother after Alec and his dad had left on Sunday. To say she'd told him off had been putting it mildly.

"Really John, why did you never say anything?" she'd asked him as his father glared at him.

"Sorry Mum. I just wanted to do something with my life and the travelling was good for a while but I'm sorry Mum, I had to keep up the pretence. Did you not notice when I was coming home?"

"Why would we John?" his dad asked him. "Why were you so late back this time?"

"Ah, I got the chance to add another subject so I took it, not that they need me for english at present, they've got a perfectly good english teacher but you never know when one might be needed. The thing is though, what if I end up at Alec's school?"

"Is it against the rules to teach at a relative's school?" his mother asked him.

"I'm not sure about that but it could make things awkward," he had grinned.

"So that's what the accent's for?" his dad had asked him.

"Yep, I had to have an excuse for working part time and then take the extra course. Still, I reckon the kids might think it's a laugh and try to wind me up. I can still take writing jobs inbetween, just cut them short if I have to. So, it's the life of the substitute teacher for me then," he laughed. "Blimey, if I get Alec's school, I'd best not give myself away. He said you and his dad think he's gonna look like me when he gets older – poor kid!"

So when he'd got the call asking him to fill in for the science and history teachers at the grammar school, he hoped no-one remembered him and asked any awkward questions but he'd been fine until Alec had walked into the classroom. He'd seen the way Alec had defended a new girl and knew instantly she had to be the one from the library. This was going to be a very interesting assignment.

He thought though maybe he'd given the game away when his first subject was a famous Scottish battle and Alec saying he wanted to be a detective, would soon get to the truth and had expected him to be waiting but he'd then thought either Alec would be being brave and fending for himself or he'd invited Rose to his house. Maybe he'd gone a bit far telling his cousin to call him 'Doctor' though, he still had to take his doctorate in science so he may as well take the history one as well.

Something was troubling him about the girl though, not just the fact she was refusing to talk. Something was very wrong with her, she either felt out of place or she had something to hide, maybe both but he knew his cousin would maybe forget about writing his stories and do a little investigating, since he was determined he wanted to join the police.

So when he'd seen those two troublemakers going after her at lunchtime, he'd felt compelled to do something then after school, take the two of them down a peg or two because he instinctively knew they had something to do with why Alec was anxiously waiting in the playground. He bet anything Rose lived near Alec and he was offering to help her find her way home.

Now he was waiting for Alec to figure out it was him, who had decided to keep an eye on them, tactfully of course but he hoped if Alec discovered the truth, he wouldn't take advantage and tell all his friends though Jamie may work it out. Would Jamie think he was having his nose pushed out if Alec made friends with Rose, which it seemed to him he had and all that from Alec himself who said he wasn't interested in girls had gone totally out of the window on the first day back at school because his young cousin was definitely having his head turned by Rose Tyler, whether he knew it or not.

Chapter Text

Rose was debating whether to make a run for it before Alec's dad got home but if she did, she'd not only be going back to an empty flat but she would lose Alec as a friend. Alec had talked to her within a few minutes, he'd rescued her from those two obnoxious girls and defended her several times so she reckoned she at least owed him for that. Yet though he'd not had the courage to talk to her the several times they had been in the library together so why had he changed his mind?

Was it that his friend Jamie was teasing him? Maybe so but now the whole class knew he had stuck up for her, even those two girls would have figured that out. She had meant to ask him what had been going on in the playground after school but she could guess.

Should she make excuses not to stick around when his dad got home? She also had to decide where she was going to do her homework but it may be an advantage doing it with someone rather than ask Bob about local history.

Alec was changing into his corded jeans and a t-shirt then he went to his drawer to retrieve his notebooks. It was very rare he showed them to anyone and his early stories were from before his mother had died. Rose seemed to understand what he was going through, if she'd lost her dad, which was more than anyone else in the school. He went back downstairs before his dad was due back, he dreaded to think what his dad would say finding a girl sitting at the kitchen table.

If that had been John at school, Alec thought he would be laughing at the way Rose had been defended all day. John though had decided to come clean with his mother.

"You mean you never let on to Alec all day?" she smiled as she did the ironing.

"Yeah, he'll soon find out though that I've had a secret life for the last few years eh?" John laughed back.

"Really John, you should have said something instead of letting your cousin's imagination run riot, writing all those stories."

"It was his choice Mum," he reminded her. "I'll tell him tomorrow, I just wanted to see the look on his face when he walked into the classroom."

"Yes, well you've had your fun John, remember, this is the first time he's gone up a class since his mother died," she reminded him.

"Yeah, I know, sorry. She was my aunt, we all miss her but I thought if I finished my studies and got qualified, just maybe I could help him get through it? I'm sorry I never told you but all that time you thought I wasn't doing anything, I was studying. It paid off though, I mean come on, what were the chances two teachers being off?" he asked. "One is a coincidence but two's an intervention," he grinned.

"Maybe your aunt is watching out for him?" his mother suggested. "Still, he has Jamie, he's been a good friend to Alec. Did he make any new friends?"

John smiled to himself.

"Ah, yes, he did actually," he told her.

"Some new boys started?" she asked.

"Well no, two girls I think, well I know one was a girl. You are not going to believe this but Alec stuck up for her at lunchtime when two other girls were making trouble."

"That would have been Kristy and Moira then? I thought they would have gone easy on him?"

"Oh, he didn't need any help Mum, he saw the two of them off," he grinned, raising a finger. "Then I saw them hanging around when school was out and since the new girl was missing, I figured they'd been trying again in the girls room."

"So Alec was waiting for her?" his mother smiled at the thought. "Who would have guessed Alec would be waiting for a girl?"

"Yeah, I know," he laughed. "Mum, I think she's the girl from the library, she has to be. Why else would he stick up for her on the first day? Do you know what the interesting part is though?" he asked her. His mother shook her head as she carried on ironing. "She either lost her voice or she's pretending she had and my bet is on the latter. If she's new to the area, she may be shy?"

"Then talk to Alec about it. Still, Alec making friends with a girl, who would have known it?" she asked.

"I know," John laughed. "I think he was waiting to make sure she got the right bus and she lives around here somewhere. He was on his own when I saw him talking to those other two girls. They seem a right pair, one of them had lipstick on. Since when did thirteen year old girls wear lipstick?" he asked.

"How would I know John?" his mother asked him, wishing he'd go back to his own accent. "Did anyone make fun of your accent today?" she wondered.

"No," he replied defensively. "Actually, they all believed I was from London, well maybe all except Alec? I wonder if the new girl Alec was defending isn't from around here? What if she's from somewhere in England and doesn't want anyone to know just yet?"

"Yes, maybe? Well Alec wants to be a detective, maybe it will give him some practice?"

John raised his eyebrows, something his mother was noticing Alec was starting to do the same.

"I'm sure it will Mum," he grinned. "Mind you, Alec did mention he thought I looked like his cousin."

"Well he's onto you then," his mother warned him.

"Yeah, I think my first mistake in history was asking about a famous Scottish battle," he grinned.

His mother shook her head and went to pick up the pile of ironed laundry.

Alec had got back downstairs and handed his notebook to Rose.

"Why don't you read it out loud?" Rose asked, in case she couldn't understand his writing or some of the words he used.

He went in his school bag and brought out a glasses case. He was sure Rose wouldn't make a fuss about him wearing them, he tried not to need them but sometimes he got a headache. With it being the first day back, he'd not bothered but he knew he'd have to start tomorrow so she may as well get used to him wearing them.

He went to sit beside her and opened the thick notebook, which was only thick because of all the writing in it.

"So, what's the story called then?" Rose smiled as he put his glasses on.

"Adventures in time," he replied proudly.

"Is that part one?" she teased him.

"Actually no, I called it that as it was the first one."

"So how many chapters does it have?" she wanted to know.

"Ah, I think this one had three. I wrote it when I was poorly. We only have about fifteen minutes before my dad gets back though."

"Well stop wasting time then," she grinned, moving her chair to face him.

Before they knew it, the kitchen door was opening and Alec put his notebook down. Rose almost fell back with the chair as she tried to move it away.

"Hi Dad," Alec greeted him as he closed the door behind him.

"Well, who's your friend Alec?" he replied.

"This is Rose, Rose Tyler. She just started today. She had a bit of a sore throat earlier, is it better now?" he asked her.

Rose had to admire her new friend, he was devious to say the least and he was trying to impress her. She nodded, not wanting to make a liar out of him so she tried to sound a bit croaky as she cleared her throat.

"Yeah, a bit. Nice to meet you Mr Hardy."

"Well it's nice to meet you too Rose. So, new school eh?" he asked her, going to fill the kettle. "I hope Alec's been looking after you? Alec, no homework?"

"Not today Dad, I was reading Rose my first story."

"Were you now? Is that right, Rose?" he asked, not quite convinced as Alec never read his stories to anyone.

"Yes Mr Hardy, his first one, it's really good do far. I should be going," she replied.

"Will your mother wonder where you are?" Alec's dad asked her.

"Not exactly, she won't be home yet," Rose told him.

"She leaves you to fend for yourself?" she was asked. Then he realised he did the same to Alec.

"Dad, you leave me," Alec reminded him.

"Yes but you could go to your aunt's. Have you no-one to stay with until she gets home?" he asked Rose.

"No, I'm new here, I don't know anyone, apart from Alec. He said from tomorrow, I could do my homework with him, since it's a new school," she replied.

Alec looked at her. Maybe she'd decided it would be better than trying to do it on her own?

"Is that okay Dad?" Alec looked at him.

"What about Jamie?" he asked Alec.

He couldn't believe his son would give up his best friend to befriend a new girl.

"I was still going to ask him Dad. Anyway, I'll walk Rose home, she doesn't live far away, do you?" he asked her.

Rose shook her head. "No, not far but I can find my way back."

"I'm sure he's only making sure you don't get lost, if you've just moved around here?"

Rose expected he was right. Alec had looked after her all day and she might disappoint him if she refused to let him walk her home.

"Well okay then, just to the end of the road," she relented.

"What time do you have to be back?" Alec's dad asked her, looking in the cupboard. "Will you join us for tea?"

"I have to be back for six, my mum expects me to be making tea for her and…" she stopped, looking at Alec. "We live with my mum's boyfriend, he says I have to help out with my mum working."

"Really?" Alec's dad asked. "What about homework and spending time with your friends?"

"Rose has only made a few friends today, haven't you Rose?" Alec butted in.

"Alec, let Rose speak for herself. Well Rose?" she was asked.

"I just made friends with Alec and another new girl. Two girls were showing off, tryin' to get me to join them but I refused. Why would I want to go around with them?" Rose replied.

"Sounds like you met Kristy and Moira then?" Alec's dad replied. "Take my advice Rose and stay away from them, right Alec?"

"One of the teachers told them off today. Shame you missed it Rose. They were trying at lunchtime but Rose just ignored them, didn't you Rose?" Alec told his dad. "We got a new history and science teacher today, the teachers are off sick and I'm sure it's John."

His dad stopped what he was doing.

"What makes you say that Alec? Are you sure it's not someone who happens to look like him?" Alec shook his head. "He would have said something if he had become a teacher."

"He's been travelling a lot but Dad, what has he been doing when he's not had a writing job?" Alec wanted to know. "Can you call and ask Auntie Mary?"

"I'll call her after tea. Why don't you take Rose into the living room?" his dad suggested. "Sure you don't want to eat with us?" he asked Rose again. "You have time. So what exactly are you expected to do after you get back?"

Rose knew this was a big mistake, people asking questions about the arrangements her mother had made and she didn't even know half of them.

"I have to tidy the flat and start getting tea ready. Her boyfriend gets home around seven," she just replied, wanting to keep it to a minimum.

"So you're on your own until six every night?" Alec's dad asked her. "What have you been doing during the holidays?"

"Keeping the place tidy, shopping and going to the library. I used to see Alec there but I didn't know who he was," Rose explained.

"He told me he used to see a girl there. Well go on Alec, take her into the other room, I'm sure she doesn't want to see me making something to eat if she has to wait almost another two hours? Would you just like a sandwich?" his dad offered.

Thinking it would be rude to turn him down again, Rose nodded. Why had he pointed out she had two hours to wait until she could eat, then she had to make it herself.

"Yeah, thanks Mr Hardy, I am a bit hungry but mum expects me to eat with them."

"If you come round most nights, why not ask her if you can stay out a bit longer?" Alec asked her. "Then we could meet Jamie and go to the park or somewhere?"

He knew she'd already said she could go straight home and go out later but he now didn't like the idea she had homework, housework and tea to make.

"I don't want to be a nuisance," she replied.

"You are not being a nuisance, Jamie comes around sometimes but goes home at five for his tea," Alec told her. "Then he comes round again and we go out. Come with us Rose?"

Rose looked across at Alec's dad. She'd had no-one to tell how unhappy she was with her mother's arrangements but she'd just met Alec, it was too soon to confide in him about her problems and by the sound of it, he had his own.

"It won't do you any good being at home on your own," Alec's dad told her. "Go get some fresh air for an hour?"

"Well okay then, if Jamie comes round?" she agreed.

Rose went into the living room with Alec and he put the TV on. His dad brought some juice and a sandwich in for her as he called Alec to the kitchen table, leaving Rose sitting on her own.

"Well Alec, what happened to you not being interested in girls?" his dad smiled.

"She's just a friend dad, I only met her today properly," Alec blushed.

"Your aunt told me you spent a lot of time at the library, any particular reason?"

"I was waiting for a book coming back in. I didn't know Rose had it then I saw her returning one and it was what I wanted."

"You do know if you make friends with her, you may drive Jamie away?" his dad warned him.

"I don't think he'll mind," Alec replied innocently. "She just goes to school with us. I had to rescue her today when she arrived. She didn't have a sore throat Dad, she was scared of what the others would say about her."

"I suspected that Alec. Well if you want to be a detective, find out more about her. She doesn't seem keen on going home."

"When we got off the bus, she didn't seem like she wanted to be on her own. I got off at the other stop with her, she lives two streets away, almost opposite auntie Mary's street. I think she's hiding something Dad."

"What makes you think that son?"

"Well whoever the teacher was who looks like John, I thought if she was faking the sore throat and he was using an English accent that she might give in and talk?"

"Hold on, the new teacher looks like your cousin and speaks with an English accent?" his dad asked to make sure he'd heard right. Alec nodded. "Well in that case, why was he hiding from you? I think I'd better call him, don't you?"

Alec had thought it would be more fun to play along if his older cousin was playing games with him. Surely John knew he was onto him and how had his cousin managed to get to teach two subjects? He also wondered why he'd stuck with the English accent and done a lesson on Scottish history? Surely that had been asking for trouble?

Alec helped his dad clear the dishes and went to see how Rose was getting on. She looked around when the door opened.

"I was just gonna bring my plate in," she grinned at him.

"That's okay Rose. My dad's calling my cousin, he didn't know after all but I'm surprised John kept it all secret."

"He's probably keeping it quiet to save everyone picking on ya? What if it is him, watcha gonna do Alec?"

"Pretend I'm not related to him?" Alec suggested.

"Good luck with that," Rose laughed. "Alec, can we go for a walk, I feel a bit out of it."

"Sure, leave your bag here if you want?"

"Nah, I can go straight home then. Are ya calling for Jamie?"

"I'd best do, I think he was a bit mad at me earlier, for getting off at your stop," Alec replied.

"Alec, I'm not trying to stop ya being friends with him," she tried to assure him.

"I know that Rose. I can have more than one friend at a time."

"I had lots of friends but I only hung around with one or two when I got home. What if Jamie doesn't like me hanging around? What do ya normally do anyway after school?" he asked him.

"We sometimes go to the park or walk on the river path or sometimes we just meet at the library. What did you used to do after school?"

Rose was embarrassed to say her and Shareen would walk down to the shops and watch the boys cringe as they watched them or they'd go back and annoy Mickey again if they'd not got him riled enough on the way home. Sometimes they'd sit on the concrete posts and wait for him getting home from work and tease him. Then she wondered why he'd been going to ask her to be his girlfriend when she reached sixteen? Why couldn't he have picked Shareen?

Well he wouldn't be spoiled for choice now, would he?

"Girl stuff," she just smiled at him and walked off into the kitchen, leaving Alec looking puzzled.

What was that supposed to mean? How did he know what girls did after school? Did they go to each others houses and do their hair and pinch their older sister's or mother's make-up? It seemed Moira had sneaked some into school anyway, it had made her look cheap like someone dancing around on a pop music show on TV.

Alec's dad had just got off the phone with his nephew, who had admitted he was the new teacher at Alec's school.

"Why didn't you say something John?" he asked him.

"Sorry Uncle but I'd no idea they'd send me to Alec's school. He sussed me then?"

"You know he wants to be a detective John, what do you think?" he was asked.

"Did he tell you about that girl who started today? They call her Rose."

"Yes, he brought her home with him," his uncle replied.

"Well who would have believed it?" John laughed. "My little cousin bringing a girl home with him? Mind you, he's been looking out for her all day. Has she said anything?"

"Plenty," his uncle replied. "She claimed to have had a sore throat but I suspect she was just nervous. She sounds like she comes from London."

"Ah, I thought she was putting it on and didn't want anyone to know. Trust Alec to get her to talk though. I wonder if she'll settle down tomorrow and say something?"

"Maybe but what are you going to do about Alec being in your classes?" his uncle asked him.

"Keep up the pretence, I have no other option and he'll have to pretend as well, not going around bragging. Still, you should have seen him hanging around waiting for her after school."

"Was he now? That's not like him," his uncle told him.

Ten minutes later, Alec was knocking on Jamie's kitchen door.

"Alec, I can go home if ya want?" Rose offered.

"No, it's okay Rose, unless you don't want to hang around with us?" he asked her.

"It's just I don't want to be in the way," she replied as they waited.

Jamie opened the door, since he figured it would be Alec, who had finally got rid of the new girl but his face dropped when he saw Rose.

"Hi Jamie, coming to the park with us?" Alec asked him.

"Not tonight Alec, I have some reading to catch up on. See you in the morning? Which stop will you be at?" he asked Alec but looking at Rose. "Are you still getting the earlier bus?"

"There's an earlier bus?" Rose asked him. "Is it less full than the other one?"

"Yes, it gives us more time when we get there," Alec replied to her.

"Maybe I'll get that one? I had to wait around after my mum went out, I can set off before her."

Jamie thought that was all he needed, as if Rose being on the bus coming home and Alec sitting with her, then getting off the stop before their usual one hadn't been bad enough.

"You should catch it then you won't be in a rush," Alec told her.

"I'm still here," Jamie reminded them. "See you at school, if you're going to the other bus stop?"

"It's about the same distance Jamie. Why do we go to the other one anyway?"

"To get our money's worth out of the bus fare?" Jamie joked, making Rose splutter.

They said goodbye to Jamie and walked towards the park but by now, Rose only had about half an hour before she'd have to go home. They sat on a bench just inside the park instead.

"See if you can stay out longer from tomorrow?" Alec suggested.

"I might not be able to Alec. I want to hear some more of your story though," she smiled at him.

"You do? You thought it was good?" he asked.

"Yeah, when ya did the different voices," Rose nudged him as he sat on the back of the bench. "I couldn't have read it in my head like that, you reading it out loud was much better."

"It was?" he replied.

"Well yeah, it brought it to life. Do ya wanna be an actor when ya get older?"

"An actor? No, I want to be a detective, Rose. When my mum died, no-one would tell me what happened to her. I want to help people and other kids to find out why their friends and relatives died."

"Wow, I bet ya'd be good at it too," she smiled. "You didn't believe I lost my voice and ya were right about that. You got me to talk, ya'd be great at interrogating suspects."

"Would I? Really?" Rose nodded. "Well when I go to college, that's what I want to do, go to the police academy. What do you want to do Rose?"

"Be a hairdresser like my mum but I may change my mind before then," she replied.

"If that's what you want to do, don't give up Rose," he encouraged her, putting his hand on her shoulder.

"Yeah? I might just stick to it as long as you promise you'll be a great detective one day?"

Alec didn't know what to say. Ever since the day his mother had died and no-one would explain how she'd got sick so fast, he had been determined others would be able to find out, no matter how old they were.

"We could go to the same college," Rose was continuing.

That all depended how long her mother was going to be infatuated with Bob, they could be home before then, she hoped. The last few nights when he'd got home, Bob had been glancing over at her while he and her mother had been engrossed in something and she didn't like it. It was like he was playing games with her.

Alec was getting off the back of the bench.

"Come on, I'll walk you to your street or you can show me where you live?"

Rose wasn't ready for that yet as they made their way back, past Alec's street and they stopped on the corner.

"So are you getting the earlier bus then?" Alec asked, leaning on a garden wall.

"Might do. I think I upset Jamie though?"

"He'll get over it. Don't forget to tell your mum, about staying out longer?"

"Yeah, I'll try Alec but it's not gonna be easy. She expects me to get tea ready so he thinks she did it," Rose admitted.

"That's not fair Rose, why can't she do it herself?" Alec wanted to know.

"Bob says I have to do my share of the housework, mum thinks that includes doing the cooking. She'd be lost if I didn't do it. I can ask for another half hour though."

"Well ask then? See you tomorrow but are you going to talk?"

He was about to find out the next morning that Rose was going back to being shy again.

Chapter Text

Alec walked back home, now worried for his new friend. He'd only known her properly for a day after weeks of not knowing who she was as she'd been sitting in the library. Now he knew why – she had been left on her own all day and by what she had just said, even when her mother and her boyfriend were in, it didn't sound like fun.

At least he had been able to go to his aunt's house and John had finally come home but if he was the new teacher, this was going to be difficult. He was glad though he'd got Rose to talk but she'd never answered him as she'd pressed the code to get in the apartment block.

She seemed to have liked his story though, it had cheered her up a little at least. He got back home and his dad was waiting for him.

"So, you finally found out who the mysterious girl from the library was?" he asked Alec.

"Yeah, it was driving me mad and there she was, in the corridor and looking lost. She wouldn't talk though and sorry but she did not have a sore throat, I wasn't sure she'd speak to you."

"That's okay Alec, you were just looking out for her on her first day. So where exactly has she come from and what is she doing here?"

Alec quickly explained some of what Rose had told him.

"So her mother works, gets Rose to do the housework and cooking and this man she lives with thinks she does it?" his dad asked, to make sure he'd heard right.

"From what she said and I'm worried about her Dad," Alec replied.

"Sounds like you need to be, that's not right. Why did they move though? It must have been a shock for her?"

"She never exactly said," Alec told him. "I thought she was never going to talk to me. Did you talk to John?"

"Yes and you were right, he never even told your aunt and uncle, he was training and writing at the same time, goodness knows how he managed. That means you have to be careful Alec, no-one should know you two are related, understand?"

"Yeah but Jamie sort of knows about John, he'll ask questions," Alec replied.

"Well be careful Alec or John may be asked to leave even though he's only temporary. At least you'll have someone on your side? He said he was more determined to get qualified when your mother died, he thought it would help, if he got placed at your school. So, is Rose coming around often?" he asked.

Alec wasn't sure but she'd said about her homework.

"Maybe? I don't expect her to come over every night though but she's not made any more friends yet, she may do though, once she starts talking. John kept his English accent so Rose felt more like she can get away with it."

"Well let's hope so eh?" his dad asked. "If she's coming round after school, a few ground rules Alec, understand?"

"Dad, she's just a school friend," Alec insisted, remembering his cousin teasing him a few days ago.

"Yes and what about when you get older?" his dad wanted to know. "I know you are both only thirteen but no going to your room with her and if I think I can trust you both then maybe, when it starts getting dark early and you don't go out so much, I may consider it, then there will be a few more rules. Now, why don't you call your cousin and see how you are both going to avoid the fact you are related?"

Alec went to the phone and asked his aunt if he could speak to John, who had been expecting him to call.

"Sorry little Cous, I knew you'd figure it out, you're quite the detective, watch out Sherlock Holmes," he joked.

"You sort of gave the game away, the famous Scottish battle?" Alec laughed.

"Yeah, I knew that would give me away but only you caught on. So, your new friend, has she talked to you yet?" John asked him.

"Yes, she's from London somewhere and now she's heard you talking with an English accent she may start talking. She never asked why you had an English accent though."

"Just explain it to her but Alec, I had no idea she wasn't from here in Scotland. So, did you see her home on the bus?"

"She only lives two streets away, I just walked her back. She was going back to an empty flat until her mother gets home, I could not have just left her, could I?"

John smiled to himself – his little cousin had got himself a girlfriend!

"You be careful Alec, your other friends may take it the wrong way," John warned him.

"Well if they do, they are not my friends, are they?" Alec asked him. "They had better get used to it."

"Yes, they will. Now, remember to call me Sir at school but in class, I'll tell everyone they can call me 'Doctor' to make it easier for you, okay?"

"Thanks John," Alec replied. "Rose won't say anything, if she talks tomorrow but she wrote down earlier she would only talk to me. She talked to my dad though but John, I'm worried about her," Alec admitted.

"That she's on her own when she's not at school?" John asked him.

"Yeah and what about weekends? I think she feels alone even when her mother is there."

"Alec, all you can do is be her friend," John reminded him. "Try not to let it worry you eh?"

Alec thought that was easier said than done. He hung up and went to the living room, after picking up his latest story notebook and went to sit at the table by the window.

"You got sorted?" his dad asked him.

"Yes. Dad, maybe we can get Rose to start having tea with us, then she won't have to go back so early?" he suggested.

"Alec, we can't interfere with the arrangements Rose's mother has made, it's up to Rose to try and get around it. Give her time eh?"

Alec didn't want to give her time, his friends had mothers who worked and were only expected to keep their rooms tidy, not the whole house and do the cooking. He didn't however want to cause trouble for her but he knew he had to try to convince her to talk to her mother and say she wasn't happy doing it.

Rose had got in the apartment, tidied up a bit and was just starting to make the evening meal when her mother walked in.

"So, how was your new school?" she asked Rose.

"Fine, I took your advice and didn't talk, it wasn't difficult, I felt lost," she replied. "I made a couple of friends though, another new girl and a boy I kept seeing at the library and his friend."

"Don't start hanging around with the boys Rose, you never used to," her mother reminded her.

"Well I don't have a lot of choice since two girls are going around gathering support and I don't want to be a part of it," Rose told her.

"Sounds like you and Shareen," her mother replied. "Are they the school troublemakers then?"

"Yeah, ya could say that, Alec rescued me from them, twice 'cos I wasn't talking."

"Who's this Alec then?"

"I told ya Mum, from the library," Rose tried to tell her.

"You never mentioned anyone at the library. Is that why you went so often?" her mother wanted to know.

Rose knew now it was, though she had considered it was worthwhile going to see him being prodded by his friend to cross over and talk to her.

"Well if he has his own friends, he's not likely to give them up, is he?" her mother asked.

"He made sure I got home Mum, his friends were on the bus and his best friend Jamie didn't seem bothered. I'm setting off a bit earlier in the mornings, the bus gives me more time when I get to school and I won't have to wait around when you leave."

Rose was just glad her mother went the opposite way down the street to what she did. She wasn't quite ready for her to meet her new friend yet. Just before Bob was due back, Rose decided to bring up the subject of tea.

"What?" her mother asked when Rose said she wanted to stay out longer and had been offered her tea at Alec's house. "What am I supposed to do?" she continued.

"Mum you can cook, we used to manage when I was younger," she reminded her.

"Well Bob's got used to it, what if he complains?" she argued.

"Then tell him you're trying something different Mum," Rose suggested. "Besides, ya won't have to make any for me."

"No," her mother simply said. "Rose, I can't risk him throwing us out, can I?" she asked.

"Mum, he won't do that, will he?" Rose asked, thinking her mother was over-reacting.

"Rose, you don't know him like I do," her mother replied.

So that was it, Rose thought. Bob had been on his own and wanted to play house with them and her mother couldn't see it.

"Mum, ya never used to bother back home," she reminded her.

"That was before Bob and I were seeing each other. Ya can have an extra half hour out, that's it and ya will have to fit the tidying up in while you wait for tea to cook. I don't want ya disappearing at weekends either, you can come shopping with us or stay in."

"Can't I even go to the library?" Rose objected.

"Where ya will go meeting your new friend? Rose, you're too young to be hanging around with boys on ya own. You'll have to make do with seeing him after school, until you're fourteen, then we'll see, understand?" her mother asked. "Don't say anything to Bob that you're making friends with a boy."

Rose wondered what Bob had to do with it but she'd not been liking the way he kept watching her but that may be her suspicious mind.

"Well I'm not staying in all day Sunday with the two of ya gettin' cosy on the sofa," Rose protested.

"Then go to ya room," her mother suggested. "So are ya gonna talk at school tomorrow or not?"

"It was your idea Mum," Rose reminded her.

When Bob got home, Rose quickly ate then said she was going to her room to do some studying, wishing there was a lock on her door so she got the chair and wedged it under the handle, she was still suspicious of Bob.

Rose was up earlier the next morning, making sure Bob had already left and her mother was just getting ready to leave.

"So, is this Alec on the same bus?" she asked Rose.

"He only lives two streets away Mum. I'll be back around the same time as you but I may eat at Alec's."

"What does his mother say?"

"Mum, she died a few months ago, he's just got a dad," Rose replied, trying to get ready or Alec would think she had changed her mind. "Gotta go, I said I'd meet Alec there, bye Mum," she called as she grabbed her school bag.

That left her mother puzzled since Rose hadn't wanted to go at all yesterday and had half expected a call at work to say Rose hadn't shown up. Maybe she would settle in after all but she wasn't so sure about her daughter making friends with a boy, considering she used to torment poor Mickey all the time. She knew now that Bob would find out and he wouldn't be pleased so now she would just have to appease him somehow.

Alec had set off to the stop Rose got on at and hoped Jamie wasn't too mad with him but they could all sit upstairs together and have a laugh together, couldn't they? He looked up ahead and didn't cross the road until he was sure Rose was walking up her street, or down it, however she considered it. He had just got to the corner when she came out of the small driveway the flats were situated in and he waved to her.

"Alec, ya really didn't have to walk down, ya know?" she smiled at him.

"I said I would Rose. So how did you get on last night, asking your mum?"

"I got an extra half hour and I still have to tidy up but it's better than no extra time," she told him as they looked to cross the road.

They still had a few yards to the bus stop but Rose looked and made sure the bus wasn't approaching, it had just got to the stop before, she could just make out.

"Alec, I'm not talking to anyone but you so don't think I'm ignoring you, will ya?" she asked him.

"No, I won't, I understand Rose but John's got an English accent, remember? It is him, he admitted it last night after I walked you home. I know I can trust you."

They rushed to the bus shelter as the bus approached and Rose was relieved there were less getting on this one, not that she'd seen any of them from the previous morning in her class, thankfully. She didn't have time to ask him why his cousin had an English accent, that she'd forgotten to ask Alec last night. They went upstairs and saw Jamie and the other boys near the back and Rose sat in front of them and Alec, without thinking sat next to her.

Jamie turned around and tapped Alec on his shoulder.

"Come and sit here Alec," Jamie suggested.

Rose wanted to turn around and tell him to get lost and that Alec could sit where he wanted but she resisted. There would come a time though when she would tell him, Alec's friend or not.

"I'm okay here Jamie, it's rude to leave Rose on her own," Alec replied.

"Then maybe she'd be better sitting at the front with the girls?" Jamie asked him.

"She doesn't know them Jamie, they are in the class above us anyway, they are hardly likely to welcome her, are they?" he asked his friend.

"So are you two going to hang around all day then?" Jamie wondered, half-turning to the other boys, who Rose swore she could hear sniggering.

She thought just let them wait until she was talking, they would wish they had left her alone, she'd show them as soon as she got over being accepted as an outsider but Alec wouldn't desert her, that she was sure of.

Alec just ignored them and turned to Rose.

"Should be good today Rose, we have double maths," he grinned at her.

Rose hated maths but the teacher seemed okay, considering it was their class teacher.

"We have history again this afternoon," he added, hoping he wouldn't give the game away about his cousin and get John fired or moved to another school. He still couldn't believe John had done that, just for him but now John could also help Rose get over her shyness or was she just pretending to be shy like yesterday, to get his attention? The question was though, was he bothered she was only trying to get his attention? He'd been trying to get hers all summer.

Rose got her notebook out and wrote 'I'll only talk to you today during breaks if no-one's watching'

Alec read it and replied, "Okay Rose, save your voice," for the benefit of those behind them.

Rose was relieved he was willing to play along. They found a bench to sit on outside the school but Rose was still pretending not to talk and Alec was still worried about it, wondering why she was so reluctant. He knew she wanted to be back in her old school, was this a protest? Still, he couldn't tell on her but they were joined by John.

"Come on you two, nearly time to go in," John grinned at them. "How's the voice Rose?"

Rose just nodded, not sure if Alec had told him or not.

"Rose, it's okay, I know. Did Alec tell you I just put this accent on to get through teacher training?" he asked her. Rose shook her head. "You won't be the only one so give it a try eh?" he asked her. "Talk to her about it Alec and mind you don't say who I am," he reminded them.

Kristy and Moira had seen the teacher talking to them and were debating what to do about it.

"Seems they've got some protection?" Kristy asked.

"Forget those two losers, they deserve each other. Let's have another go at the other new girl in our year and if not we'll just have to have some fun going after year one," Moira told her. "Mind you, it could be fun watching those two? I bet she's putting that on to get attention?" Moira told her.

Rose was getting up after Alec, him waiting for her.

"Seems like she got it?" Kristy laughed.

"I think I feel sick," Moira replied. "If I have to watch those two every break I will be. Who'd be wanted to be friends with him, apart from the boys?"

Kristy patted her friend's shoulder as they walked towards the main entrance.

"Never mind Moira, we can have some fun teasing them," she suggested.

"And have that teacher onto us again? No thanks," Moira replied.

Kristy shrugged her shoulders and followed her friend up the stairs. They spied Sandra and went up behind her, putting a hand each on her shoulders.

"Hey, wanna have a bit of fun?" Moira asked her. Sandra just shrugged her shoulders as best she could. "We want to know if the other new girl has really lost her voice or she's faking it, we want you to find out."

"Get lost you two, I told Rose I'd be her friend," Sandra replied as she closed her locker.

"Well you might not want to be," Moira replied. "She was sat outside with Alec Hardy, all the girls were chasing after him last year," she lied. "We wouldn't want you to get jealous,"

They went off when the bell sounded, leaving Sandra wandering towards the classroom and just seeing Alec following Rose inside, whispering something to her. Were those two telling the truth or just winding her up, could she trust them after hearing them talking last night? She went into the classroom, Alec went to sit with Jamie, who seemed indifferent towards him and Sandra went to sit with Rose.

"Did you two arrive together?" Sandra asked her, nodding at Alec.

Rose nodded and scribbled, 'we get the same bus' on her notepad.

Sandra nodded back and went back to listening for her name being called, then in the other classes, she was going to see if Alec defended Rose again. If he did, then those two could be right, not that Alec or any boy in the class was worth a second look, she had only just begun to realise she liked older boys and had her eye on one she'd seen yesterday lunchtime playing football with some other year four pupils, not that he would have noticed her. She'd only been watching them because she'd seen Alec leave some other boys to go talk to Rose.

She raised her hand when her name was called and glanced at Rose, was she putting on the lost voice or not? She bet Alec knew the answer to that question. Throughout the rest of the morning, Alec only defended Rose once in a class they'd not had the day before, which had got a snigger out of some of the others and a frown from the teacher so when the lunch bell went, Rose was waiting outside for Alec.

"Not sitting with us then?" Billy asked him as he looked across at Rose.

Alec shrugged his shoulders, catching up with Rose who whispered, "Go join your friends."

Alec didn't know if he wanted to or not since they had done nothing but sneer all morning. Billy caught up with Jamie.

"Alec's gone off with the new girl again Jamie, what are you going to do about it?" Billy asked him.

Jamie knew what he wanted to do – Rose Tyler was stealing his best friend from right under his nose and he didn't like it.

Chapter Text

Emerging

A/N I couldn't resist it turning out the new teacher was actually Alec's cousin - sorry!

Alec was torn between catching up with his friends and throwing Rose to the wolves – namely Kristy and Moira but they seemed occupied standing with a group of first year's so she should be fairly safe, until the girls started walking off one by one, leaving the two ringleaders virtually alone.

"What?" Alec realised Rose was saying something else to him.

"Jamie's looking over," she whispered, looking across the dining room. "Shush, don't say I'm talking to ya, not yet," she reminded him.

"I would never do that Rose," he replied.

Didn't she trust him, he wondered.

"Alec, coming to sit with us?" Jamie asked as he avoided two first year boys tugging at each other's school bags.

"Jamie, Rose has been having trouble with those two over there," he nodded to the doorway where the two troublemakers were waiting for fresh victims to wander in. "They tried twice yesterday and Rose hasn't quite got her voice back yet, have you Rose?" he asked.

Rose shook her head in agreement but she knew it wasn't fair he was still covering for her. She reached over to whisper to him.

"Tell him if ya can trust him."

"Are you sure?" he wanted to know. Rose nodded. "Jamie, come and sit with us a minute," he told his friend.

They found a table and Alec hoped the noise would cover what he had to say.

"Jamie, Rose isn't from around here, she doesn't want to talk in case those two over there might make something of it and tell the whole school," he explained.

"When you say not from around here?" Jamie asked. "She's not from outer space is she?" he joked.

Rose wanted to give him a kick under the table for being a smart-arse.

Alec leaned closer, just in case as Rose continued getting her lunch bag out.

"She's from south of the border, more or less from the same place as the new teacher," he told his friend, not wanting to say John's accent was put on.

"No way," Jamie replied, looking over at Rose. "No wonder she's not talking but no-one seems to bother about the new teacher, you'd get away with it Rose. Hey, I'm sorry I was so hostile yesterday, both of you but you should have told me Alec. You won't get away with it much longer Rose."

Rose already knew that. Alec had been really good to her so far, she couldn't have him sticking up for her all the time once she started talking. If anyone picked on him, she'd be down on them like a ton of bricks, no-one bothered her friends.

"She knows that Jamie. Rose, will you talk to him?" Alec asked her. Rose shook her head, she didn't trust Jamie yet. "He's been my best friend since junior school Rose, he's okay, he won't tell on you, will you Jamie?" Alec asked him.

"No, I won't say anything Rose, honest but you'd better watch those two, if they get you mad, you may give the game away," Jamie warned her, seeing Kristy and Moira sitting a few tables away.

"I think Rose might surprise us," Alec grinned. "Eh Rose?" he asked her.

Rose gave him a smile back.

Billy and the rest of Alec's friends were wondering what was taking Jamie so long to come back.

"Seems we've lost him as well," one of the boys remarked.

"Yeah, you can't trust anyone," Billy agreed, going back to eating.

Kristy and Moira though were watching the three of them with interest.

"What are those three up to?" Moira asked her friend.

"I bet the new girl is seeing how many boys she can make friends with, just to show us up," Kristy replied. "We have to get that other new girl on our side, if she's supposed to be making friends with her."

"I don't need reminding," Moira huffed. "She's going to be trouble, just you watch, once she comes out of her pretending to have lost her voice."

"How do you know she's pretending?" Kristy wanted to know as Moira stared at her.

"Think about it," was all Moira said. "We have to be more careful where we talk in future, she might have been hiding last night, since Alec Hardy was waiting around."

"You think she heard us?" Kristy asked.

Moira wondered how her friend had managed to get the reputation she was in charge.

As everyone started making their way outside, Jamie decided to tag along. At least he wasn't actually going to lose his friend but it now seemed like he was sharing but he only had himself to blame he supposed. It was him who had goaded Alec in the library to go talk to Rose so he probably deserved it. They went to the bench where he and Rose had been sat earlier, just on the corner but Alec saw his cousin walking towards him. So much for keeping it quiet they were related.

"Well, what have got here?" John grinned. "The three Musketeers?"

Sometimes Alec wished they weren't related, especially since John had kept his accent but at least no-one now may believe they were cousins.

"Any more trouble Rose?" John asked her, since he'd decided if she was a friend of his little cousin, he'd watch out for her as well, without her knowing of course.

"No Sir, they've left Rose alone so far," Alec replied.

"Let her speak for herself Alec and I said you could call me Doctor, remember?" he asked his cousin.

"Sorry, Doctor," Alec corrected himself, getting a smile from Rose and a confused look from Jamie, who was perched on the end of the bench behind Alec. "It's okay Rose, you can talk to him."

"Yes Rose, you can talk to me. You're not from around here, are you, mmm?" he asked her. "Shall I let you into a little secret?" Rose nodded. "I just put this accent on to get through teacher training. I thought I might get away with a few things."

He wasn't sure about Jamie, he'd let Alec decide if he wanted his friend in on their little family secret but Alec must have mentioned that he had two cousins, well since Peter had disappeared, it seemed Alec now only had one.

Alec knew what those few things were, namely going off and doing travel reviews to fool everyone. He had thought John had been just trying to surprise everyone though and it had worked.

"Well, Rose?" John asked her.

"No Sir, no more trouble, thanks for the rescue yesterday," Rose replied as quietly as she could, making Jamie almost fall off the back of the bench but the wall stopped him.

"See, that wasn't so bad, was it?" John grinned at her. "Are you in one of my classes today?"

"Yes. We have science later, Sir," Jamie chirped in as he recovered.

"Good, see you all then and Rose, don't worry, take your time eh?" John asked her.

He walked off smiling, Alec's new friend was just being selective but he'd bring her out of her shell sooner or later but he was still worried about the two troublemakers.

"I'll leave you two then?" Jamie asked, getting down.

"Jamie, don't tell the others about Rose yet, will you?" Alec asked his friend while glancing across the playground.

"No but they expected some answers Alec, they want me to spy on the two of you but I'm not going to do it," Jamie replied. "I'll just tell them Rose was whispering to you and I couldn't hear from where I was sitting. Friends Rose?" he asked her.

Rose nodded then went for her notebook and wrote a 'Thanks'.

Jamie nodded back and went across the playground to the picnic tables on the edge of the grassed area.

"It's okay Rose, he won't tell on you but you have to start talking," Alec told her.

She knew he was right, then she could tell that Kristy and Moira they had some competition and they weren't going to walk all over her or Alec for the term. She had been so confident at her old school but she had Shareen back then and wasn't the odd one out in a new school plus now, she had Bob to contend with and what made it worse was her mother wouldn't listen or hear anything wrong about him. What possible hold did he have over her?

Billy was sat on the table as Jamie joined them.

"Well, did you find out anything?" he asked Jamie, the others looking at him.

"No, she was just whispering, I couldn't hear then the teacher came along and spoiled it. We'll just have to wait for her to start talking," Jamie replied.

"Yeah and by then Alec will have forgotten about us," Billy told him. "What's he want to make friends with a girl for?"

"My older brother says it happens to us all," Jamie reminded them.

"Seems like it's too late for Alec," one of the other boys laughed, looking in their direction.

They all joined in the laughing though Jamie was just pretending but still feeling a little jealous. He decided if he was invited back to Alec's house and Rose was going, he might tag along just to see how they reacted towards each other out of school. Maybe his older brother was right, Alec was just starting to prove that.

"You could have gone with him Alec, ya don't have to stay with me," Rose reminded him.

"They'll just be talking about nothing, I'm not missing much," he replied.

"And we're not?" Rose smiled. "Just wait until I find my feet, I'll show those two," she nodded to where Kristy and Moira were talking to some boys, having decided to try a new tactic as it seemed to be working for Rose.

Rose had to laugh when one of the boys pushed his way past Moira and she would love to hear what was being said.

"Be careful with them Rose," Alec warned her. "They caused a lot of trouble last year."

"Huh, they've not really met me yet, have they?" Rose replied. "I bet they think by going after the boys, they'll get some protection?"

"You think I'm protecting you?" Alec asked her.

"Aren't you? You were so good to me yesterday Alec, no-one stuck up for me at my old school, that was what made me tough. You have no idea what I'm really like, you thought you were helping me because I was shy and lost."

"You looked it Rose, admit it," Alec told her, not sure what he'd let himself in for.

He had felt sorry for her, after weeks of seeing her in the library. He'd never bothered watching out for a girl before, one he had no idea who she was and he'd finally found out and she needed his help but Rose was coming out of her shell and strangely enough, instead of it putting him off, he thought she was going to be fun to be with.

Little did he know Rose was putting on a tough act, even more so now she and her mother were living with Bob. Before she had left her home, she had been tough but the last few weeks living in a strange place and seeing her mother acting like a different person was beginning to take its toll on her.

Rose knew she needed a friend and Alec seemed to be it, even Sandra had still been a bit distant though she'd seemed okay in class. Maybe she was jealous of her being friends with Alec and was backing off? Still, Sandra didn't live near her like Alec did. Now it seemed Jamie wanted in and she couldn't bring herself to stop Alec being friends with him, it was his choice.

"So are you coming round to do your homework later?" Alec asked her as he sat on the top of the bench, something Rose had noticed he liked to do after yesterday in the park.

"Yeah, I can stay a bit longer but what about Jamie?" she asked.

"The kitchen table's big enough for three Rose," Alec laughed.

The bell went for end of lunchtime and science was their second lesson but Rose had decided to remain silent, well that was until John decided it was now or never.

"Someone other than Alec," John grinned, looking around the room, getting no other volunteers. "How about you Rose? How's that voice of yours? You seemed okay earlier talking to someone."

Rose was furious, he'd said take her time now he was tricking her into talking. Alec was glancing across to her and Sandra was nudging her.

"The game's up Rose, get it over with."

"Well Rose?" John was asking her. "Do you know the answer? We all know you're new around here, well I've got some room to talk, so am I," he laughed. "Are you hiding something, I'm sure we all want to know where you're from, don't we class?"

Rose thought if that had been Mickey, she would have decked him.

"I know!" John declared. "Let's all pretend this is the geography class eh? Who wants to guess where Rose comes from and don't anyone say Outer Mongolia or a parallel world," he grinned, looking at Alec for the last one.

Alec wanted the desk to swallow him but no-one was taking notice.

"Alec, you've made friends with her, want to take a wild guess?" John asked, trying not to give too much away.

Alec was trying to think what he'd asked her yesterday, trying to keep to this side of the border. He finally went just a little bit further.

"Carlisle?" Alec replied, making the class laugh and John think that was the end of the science lesson for today and he'd have to give them some homework instead.

"Is that right Rose?" John asked her. Rose shook her head. "Blimey, guess it's a bit further south than that then? Anyone else?"

He got no takers until Sandra put her hand up after some consideration. John pointed to her.

"Go for it Sandra."

"Sir, I think she may be from London and she's just shy."

Rose wanted to say thanks a bunch to her supposed friend, even Alec hadn't given her away and she would have rather it had been him. Still, if it had been Alec, everyone would think she'd told him, if they'd seen the two of them talking and Jamie definitely would.

"Well, well, well," John continued. "Want to say if she's right, Rose? Don't be shy Rose, in case you've not noticed, I don't sound like I come from around here, do I – Alec?"

Alec was trying to look away, what was John playing at? If he was trying to throw suspicion off them being related, he wasn't making a very good job of it, was he?

"No Sir, you don't sound like you come from around here," Alec agreed, knowing what his own voice sounded like.

"So, who thinks Sandra is right?" John continued as most of the class put their hands up, then Alec and Jamie joined in after Jamie nudged him.

"We're all waiting Rose," he reminded her. "We don't mind you coming from there, do we class?"

All of a sudden, everyone turned towards Rose and she thought she would never hear the end of it, all her fears of going there coming true as they chatted to each other.

"Hands up all those who think Rose should just be herself?" John asked them.

Rose was relieved all but one hand went up and that was Billy, who was still trying to figure out why Alec had made friends with her.

"Right, let's leave it at that shall we and your homework for today is the question I was asking which was: Two identical strips of nylon are charged with static electricity and hung from a string so they can swing freely. What would happen if they were brought near each other? I want the answer the next lesson," he told them as the bell went.

Thankfully it was break time and everyone headed outside but Alec was waiting for Rose, thinking she'd never talk to him again. He saw her coming out, trying to ignore Sandra who was telling her it would have come out sooner or later and now it was out in the open.

"Sorry Rose but it was easy to guess," Sandra told her. "So, say something."

Rose wanted to tell her to forget being friends but once Kristy and Moira found out, she'd need all the friends she could get.

"I don't blame you Sandra, I was just trying to hide it, I didn't know what to expect," Rose replied, seeing Alec.

"Go on, I'll let you off," Sandra grinned. "He can be a better friend that I can but I'm here if you need me," she nodded towards Alec.

Rose was going to walk past him but stopped.

"Happy now?" she asked him as they walked off. "I thought I could trust that teacher?"

"He did it for your own good Rose," Alec defended his cousin. "How long could you have kept it going?"

"Maybe a few more days," Rose protested as the sun hit her eyes and she shielded them.

"It's best to get it over with, now you don't have to hide it," he reminded her.

"Yeah? I told ya Alec, you have no idea. You don't know what started because of him," she replied, meaning John.

"Are you going to be mad at me?" he asked as Rose walked to the grassed area and claimed a bench.

"No. It's just you might not like me when you really get to know me. Alec, at my old school I did everything and my friends followed me. I was like Kristy and Moira only twice as bad, they're like a couple of two year olds compared to what I was like and do you know why I went shy when I came here?" she asked him.

"I'm your friend Rose, well I want to be. You can't have been that bad, those two are just getting into the swing of things," he replied.

"Yeah? Do they eat chewing gum in class and get into trouble for shortening their skirts?" she half smiled. "That's only the tip of it Alec, the rest would make you cringe."

Alec though wanted to hear more.

"No, it won't. So why did you go shy then?"

"Really? Try being dragged away from your home and your friends to somewhere that might as well be on an alien planet Alec, then on top of that, your mother shacks up with a bloke you hardly know and you go to live with him. He's creepy, he never leaves my mum and me to talk once he gets home, he expects his dinner on the table, my mum thinks her cooking's not up to his standards and…." She trailed off.

"Rose, I'm sorry," Alec told her. "You only told me part of it yesterday, why?"

"I'd just met ya Alec, why'd ya think? I could have lost the only person who was kind to me."

"No, you wouldn't have lost a friend Rose, I want to help you. I want to join the police when I'm old enough, to help people, I told you that. You could have trusted me to tell me the rest. I want to hear the rest Rose, really."

"Not here, I'll tell ya later but if those two start on me, you might disown me or get dragged to the head's office with me."

Alec almost burst out laughing, Rose was turning out to be a rebel and would give Kristy and Moira more than they had bargained for if they started on her. She was still troubled by her home life though, he could tell she was still putting on a brave front.

"Rose, then let me help you? I mean with home, tell my dad or John," he suggested.

"They can't do anything Alec, my mum's gone blind to it, she thinks it's the perfect life even though instead of working for herself, she works from nine to half five, five days a week and gets me to do the housework 'cos she's not used to it. It was his idea, he's on good money but I suspect he's not giving her any of it and she only agreed to work to keep me and herself. I wish she'd never met him Alec, I really don't like him."

Alec wanted to put his hand on her shoulder but everyone would see and it was bad enough they were spending a lot of time together. He wanted to help her, if she would let him.

"Then talk to my dad tonight Rose, he'll know what to do," he told her.

"Can he get me back home Alec?" she asked him.

"If you went home, I'd lose a friend," Alec replied.

"You have Jamie," she reminded him.

"He doesn't need help like you do. John keeps telling me to practice being a detective, you could help me and I could help you, if you want?"

The bell was going so they got up, Alec still waiting for an answer. Did she want his help? If she did, what could he do about it except get advice from his dad and his cousin? There was only one more class, Rose sitting next to Sandra but still not talking. She expected by the time school was out, the word would have gone around that not only was there an English sounding teacher, who was really Scottish but a real live English pupil and she was going to be out of her depth so the tough act it was going to have to be.

She just didn't want to drag Alec into it.

Chapter Text

Alec was grabbing his things as he saw Rose talking to Sandra.

"So where do you live then Rose?" Sandra was asking her.

"On the number nine bus route," was all Rose was prepared to say.

Sandra laughed. "Good one Rose, I don't say where I live either but I bet it's somewhere near your new friend?"

"It might be," Rose replied as Alec passed her. "How did you get a locker?"

"Just went to the secretary's office, got an application form for a bus pass too, you should go get one."

"Well Alec and Jamie didn't have one, we can't qualify for one then?" Rose asked.

"Well you should try, unless both your parents work," Sandra told her.

"I've only got my mum but she works," Rose admitted as they went out into the corridor. "Wanna hang in the girls room and listen to Kristy and Moira again?" she grinned.

Sandra grinned back and nodded to where Alec and Jamie were talking.

"Rose, you are going to be more trouble than those two girls put together and I think someone is waiting for you."

"I think he's just looking out for me but I don't wanna stop them being friends," Rose replied.

"That's down to him Rose. See you tomorrow," Sandra told her.

Rose was about to catch up with Alec and Jamie when she felt two hands on her shoulders and a look of alarm on Alec's face.

"Leave her Alec," Jamie was telling him and grabbing his arm. "She has to fight her own battles and from what I've seen, she's more than ready for those two."

"Get off Jamie, we can't throw her to the wolves," Alec replied.

"Well, look who's finally talking?" Moira asked Rose.

"Get lost you two or do ya wanna know how I grew up on a tough London estate where we ate girls like you for breakfast?" Rose asked them.

Kristy didn't seem so sure. "Leave her Moira, we have better things to do."

"Speak for yourself Kristy, I want to know why she's suddenly found her voice," Moira replied.

"Well you're gonna be in for a long wait then, luv," Rose told her, unaware Alec was just behind her as she'd turned around.

"Come on Rose, we'll miss the bus," Alec urged her. "They are not worth it. You two, back off, before the new teacher sees you again, he warned you last night."

Rose was wondering what they had been warned about, from whom she now knew was Alec's cousin. She would never give the game away though.

"Keep out of this," Moira warned him. "This is between us and her."

"Not where my friend is concerned," Alec replied, knowing he'd regret this if John caught him.

He'd seen the two of them go up behind Rose and on the spur of the moment decided now was the time to really practice being a detective. Now though, he wasn't so sure Rose needed any help, she was doing fairly well on her own, a different story to yesterday.

"It's okay Alec, thanks," Rose told him, ready to back off but not before she sent those two packing. "Just back off you two, Alec's my friend so go pick on someone else. You have no idea who I am."

"Someone who thinks she can come up here and boss everyone around," Moira laughed, Kristy tugging at her arm before this got ugly.

"What's going on here then?" John asked them, none of them noticing him creep up on them from his classroom door. "Haven't you two had enough?" he asked Kristy and Moira.

"She started it Sir," Kristy defended herself.

"Alec?" John started to ask him.

"They came up behind Rose and started talking to her, she just defended herself, Doctor," Alec replied, finding it difficult to call his cousin that but it was better than calling him sir.

"Thanks a bunch, Alec," Moira complained.

"Go catch your bus, all of you and you two, stay away from them," John warned the two troublemakers.

"But Sir," Moira protested, not wanting the new girl to walk all over them.

"What?" John asked her, knowing at this rate, Alec and Rose would miss their bus.

Moira thought better of it - for now.

"Nothing, Sir. Come on Kristy, this isn't over, Rose," she added as she walked off, followed by her friend.

"Moira Campbell," John called after her. "It had better be over, understand? I will not allow bullying of any kind or you'll find yourself in the office. Do I make myself clear?"

John waited until they had walked away and indicated Rose and Alec should also leave.

"Need a ride home?" he asked Alec.

"No thanks, we'll still catch the bus. Come on Rose."

"Sir, how do I get a bus pass?" Rose wanted to ask him.

"See the office in the morning. Go on, you have to get home," John replied, trying not to let on he knew where she was going.

Luckily as they hurried outside, the buses were still loading and Rose ran after Alec to keep up with him to their stop, seeing Billy and the others get on. Once upstairs, Rose didn't expect Alec to join her, after her little display and after she'd told him he didn't know what his cousin had started by getting her to talk. She sat halfway down the bus, a good few rows from Jamie and the others and was surprised Alec sat next to her, not caring what Jamie may be saying about them.

"So what was all that about?" Alec asked as he put his bag on the floor.

"Nothing. Ya wanted me to start talking, you got it. Now I don't suppose we're friends any more?" she asked him.

"Don't say that Rose," he replied. "I'm still your friend and yes, I thought you needed help yesterday but I can tell that's no longer true. No-one stood up to those two last term, that's all and you've changed that. Now, word will get round and you'll have more friends than you can deal with. They intimidate everyone who won't join them and those that do leave them in a few weeks."

"I'm not starting a fan club Alec," she smiled. "I just want a quiet life Alec, I may act tough but I still don't want to be here. Back home, my friend would have flattened those two."

"I'd like to see that," Alec replied. "Come on Rose, you stuck up for me back there and you said you thought I was protecting you," he teased her.

Rose nudged him, making him smile.

"Still friends?" he asked.

"Yeah though I'm not used to having a boy as a friend, all the boys at my old school were a waste of space. You’re not though," she added as he looked worried all of a sudden.

"Thanks, I think. Jamie's okay but watch out for Billy and his mates though," he warned her. "We can get off at the same stop again or stay on, it's not much different or are you going home?" he asked.

"I was thinking about it but if I do that, I'll just have to go home and back again so am I still invited?" she asked him.

"Yes, I've not checked what Jamie's doing yet though, I had to go break up a fight," he grinned.

"I never meant for you to get involved Alec, honestly," Rose tried to assure him.

"I know but word will get round you stood up to them, they'll be pretty mad tomorrow when no-one bothers with them," he warned her.

"Let them, I don't care as long as they stay away from us. Alec, I know you were trying to protect me, thanks."

"That's okay Rose, you don't need protecting, well not at school but what about home? We should go round and see John, he'll know what to do."

"No-one can help Alec, my mum won't hear anything bad about her boyfriend, I've tried and she won't take kindly to me telling anyone either. She thinks she got us a better life by leaving the estate but I felt safer there than I do now."

"In what way Rose, it's a nice area where you live," Alec told her.

Rose didn't mean outside but didn't want to worry her new friend.

"It's nothing Alec, I just don't like my mother's boyfriend, Bob gives me the creeps. Me and mum used the chatter away when I got home from school, then we'd have tea and I'd go find my friends but she never talks much now."

"Well if she goes out to work, maybe she talks all day?" Alec wondered.

"Yeah, maybe? Anyway, maybe she's still trying to settle in as well, she's not used to being out all day but she's okay when he gets home."

"Then what don't you like about him?" he asked her as they were two stops away from getting off.

"Everything. He wormed his way in Alec, my mum had been on her own and he came along, she just took to him. It's not like she didn't have any more male friends."

"She was maybe thinking of you?" Alec suggested as Rose's stop was coming up and he picked up his school bag.

Rose thought he was just letting her out but he went to the steps first, waving to an astonished Jamie, who had been complaining to the others.

"I did warn you," Billy was telling Jamie. "Maybe he just leaves her on the corner of her street?"

Jamie was wondering if he should admit Rose had walked to Alec's street and she'd called round with Alec later on.

"Who knows?" Jamie asked, not willing to say any more but feeling left out.

He thought maybe he'd just walk round and see if Rose really was going to Alec's house. As they got off the bus, Rose wasn't sure if she should go home or not but what was there? She could do the tidying up later and she wanted to hear more of Alec's story. Just how many had he written?

They walked to the corner of Rose's street and Alec looked disappointed she was going to go home.

"Okay then, we'll go to your house," Rose relented. "You have no idea what me and my friends used to do on our way home."

Alec thought she would be bound to tell him.

"So you grew up tough then?" he asked, since she'd told those two girls she was from a rough council estate.

"Yeah but I might have laid it on a bit, we weren't the violent type. We had more fun winding poor Mickey from the garage up on the way home. He lived on the estate, I've known him since I was little. Wanna know what he told me when I was leaving?" she asked Alec as they carried on walking.

Alec could see Jamie wasn't waiting on the corner for him tonight, despite him saying he was okay with Rose. Rose was looking at him.

"What did he say Rose?" Alec wanted to know.

"That he was gonna ask me out when I reached sixteen," she replied.

"Really? Were you going to agree?" he asked, wondering why he felt jealous all of a sudden.

Rose started laughing. "No way! He's okay for a friend but I don't think I'd go out with him. It's a long way off yet anyway and I'm here, aren't I?" she asked as they reached his street.

Alec just let them in the kitchen door again and Rose took her blazer off, hating wearing the thing and her mother had complained about paying for it.

"Best get our homework out of the way?" Rose suggested. "Your cousin's was a trick question though."

"Was it? So you know the answer then?"

"Yeah, I used to love science, any chance to blow something up," she joked.

Well Alec hoped she was joking. He was thinking she was completely different from yesterday but he thought she was maybe putting on an act at school. If she was unhappy at home, he felt he had to do all he could to help her, if she'd let him. Maybe when she'd gone home he would call and see John but would she thank him for it?

They got their homework out of the way and Alec had time to read a bit more of his story before his dad got home.

"You’re really good at it," Rose told him as they moved to the living room.

"It was just something to do at first. John was always travelling around, that programme was on TV so I just mixed them both together I guess?"

"So when did he have time to train as a teacher?" Rose wanted to know.

"I have no idea, no-one knew. He kept it all quiet but I wonder what made him decide to give up writing?"

"Maybe to keep an eye on you?" Rose suggested. "Alec, ya gonna have to be careful."

"I know, I've been warned. He'll probably get away with it, with that accent but everyone will know about you now, you stuck up to Moira."

"Yeah, well I learned that ya don't just sit there and take it Alec, you stand up for yourself and if other people do the same, then good. No-one will bother anyway, they'll be glad those two got what they deserved. I thought John was gonna offer us a ride home," she laughed.

So did Alec. Rose had agreed to a sandwich again but insisted sitting at the kitchen table with Alec and his dad.

"So how are you getting on at school now Rose?" Alec's dad asked her.

"Fine, some teacher gave the game away and got me to talk," she grinned, looking at Alec.

"Does Rose know about your cousin, Alec?" his dad asked him, since he'd not mentioned it last night.

"Yes Dad and he tricked Rose in the science class but everyone was okay with it, so far. He had everyone guessing where she came from. He also set us some homework and Rose knows the answer, don't you Rose?"

Rose wondered how she was going to get out of that one? Science had only been fun doing the experiments, not the swotting.

"Well I wouldn't want everyone to think I'm the class swot," Rose grinned.

She excused herself to find the bathroom and Alec was helping his dad clear up.

"Seems like Rose has come out her shell eh Alec?" his dad asked.

"Yes Dad, you should have seen her stand up to Moira, until John stepped in."

"It's his job Alec, he can't allow confrontation in the school. What happened?"

"I think Moira heard Rose talking to Sandra and decided to pick a fight but Rose held her own."

"Good for her, it's time someone took those two down but I thought Kristy was the leader?" his dad asked.

"So does everyone else but Rose heard them talking last night, Moira's in charge."

"Well it sounds like she has no-one to be in charge of to me Alec," his dad told him. "How's Jamie taking it, that you're friends with Rose?"

"He said he was okay but I don't think he likes it. We have the weekend though, Rose will probably be busy."

When Rose got back downstairs they both went to see if Jamie wanted to join them in the park, since Rose had a bit more time but he still refused to go with them. Rose started walking off but Alec asked what was wrong.

"You know what it is Alec, it's one thing me teasing you about her in the library but now she's friends with you?" Jamie asked, now wishing he'd never tried to get Alec to go talk to Rose when they'd seen her but it was just a bit of fun.

It seemed Alec had taken it seriously. Jamie nodded to Rose, who was sitting on the wall.

"Well are you staying or going off with Rose? You can't do both Alec."

"Why are you making me choose Jamie? We can all be friends," Alec replied, not wanting to choose but he had this strange feeling Rose was important to him, that she needed his help.

"Not now Alec, okay?" Jamie asked, hoping his older brother wasn't listening and tease him Alec could get a girlfriend and he couldn't because Connor had got out of him that he'd teased Alec in the library.

Alec went off to join Rose and they walked towards the park, passing the bench they'd sat on last night and walking towards the pond, sitting on the low wall around it.

"Jamie's mad at me," Rose stated.

"He's not mad at you Rose, he's mad at me but I told him not to make me choose, he'll come round. Rose, you really should talk to my dad, or John about home, if you're not happy."

"I can't Alec, maybe it's just me who doesn't fit in, not Bob. What am I gonna do though if my mum marries him or he wants me to call him dad?"

Alec knew she was still worried but she wasn't willing to get some help.

"Talk to your mum about it, before he gets home then," he suggested.

"I can't Alec, she can't see it, how it worries me. Just leave it, maybe it's just me?"

Alec somehow doubted that and what was the point of him joining the police if he couldn't help his friend? He walked her to the end of her street and said he'd see her in the morning but Rose said to walk her to the apartment block.

"I wasn't tryin' to hide where I live Alec," she smiled. "It was just if any of the neighbours saw us and told my mum but I told her I'd made a friend. Hey, you'll make up with Jamie, mum will expect me to go shopping on Saturday or I might go to the library."

Alec wondered if that was a hint but it wouldn't do him any good if he went with Jamie and she was trying to distract him. Rose knew she wouldn't be going shopping unless Bob wasn't going, which she doubted but she may sneak out on Sunday afternoon and wondered what Alec would be doing.

She set about hurriedly getting tea ready and getting the vacuum cleaner out and was just finishing when her mother got in, having not bothered with the extra time out.

"So how was school?" her mother asked her.

"Okay but I got tricked into talking by this new teacher, he's such a smart ass," she replied, not wanting to let on she knew who he was. "Mum, I don't think I can get a bus pass, some of the others haven't got one but I'll go ask in the morning. Did I tell ya about those two school bullies?"

"I don't remember Rose," her mother replied.

"Well I showed them up today, guess they'll lose their hold over everyone?"

"You and Shareen would have sorted them out sooner," she reminded Rose.

After John had got home, his mother had asked him how Alec was coping.

"Ah don't worry about my little cousin Mum, he's got a girl to stick up for him, well after he tried to stick up for her. It's the girl from the library, did I tell you?" he asked her.

"Jamie won't like that," she remarked.

John already knew there was going to be a rift called Rose Tyler between Alec and his other friend. He went to the phone and was just talking to his uncle as Alec walked in.

"John wants to talk to you," he told Alec as he passed the receiver.

"Well that was something earlier," John told Alec. "Seen Rose in a different light have you?"

"She was speaking up for herself John," Alec reminded him. "Promise not to say anything?"

"Alec, you know me," John reminded him.

Alec thought of course he did, he'd told Rose to take her time then showed her up in front of the class – very responsible of him.

"I think she's troubled at home John but I promised I wouldn't say anything," Alec told him, hoping his dad wasn't listening.

"I see. You're worried about your new friend little Cous?"

Alec wished John wouldn't call him that, especially if Rose was around.

"So what's she even doing up here Alec?" John continued.

"Her mother moved her up here so she could follow someone from the town who was working on their estate," Alec tried to explain. "She doesn't get on with him and John, I think she is scared of him."

"That's serious Alec, don't you think you should ask Rose if she wants to talk about it with me or your dad?" John asked him.

"I don't think she believes anyone can help her. I have to prove someone can John, if I want to join the police."

"Why don't you come round with her, see if she'll talk to me?" John suggested.

"I can try but she may not agree, you could meet us at the park maybe?" Alec thought was a better idea.

"Yeah, it might be a bit daunting, meeting your aunt," John joked.

"Thanks John, I hope she agrees," Alec admitted.

"Just go easy on her Alec, mind you, she wasn't going easy on those two girls," John laughed.

"I warned her she may have more friends than she can deal with," Alec replied. "Now someone has stood up to those two, others will follow and they won't like it. See you tomorrow then and why did you trick Rose into talking?"

"Sorry but it was for the best before someone started on her. Anyway, you joined in. Have you got the answer to that question?" John asked him.

"Not yet but Rose says she knows it," Alec replied.

John didn't have the heart to tell Alec that he'd looked up Rose's not so brilliant past and she had barely been accepted but that was up to her to tell him. He just hoped if Alec did find out, he'd still accept her.

Bob had got back, sitting at the table and being waited on, Rose hating it and wondered if she should carry out her threat of making her mother cook.

"This looks good Jackie," Bob said in a broad Scottish accent, Rose thinking he may not originate from the town.

"Yeah? I just prepared it before I left this morning," Jackie bragged, trying not to look at Rose.

"So Rose, how's school, made any girl friends?" he asked Rose. "You should invite them round, I'd love to meet them." Then he added, "Wouldn't we Jackie," for good measure.

Rose thought there was no way even if she did know any girls around here that she would ever bring them back here when he was around.

Chapter Text

Starting to worry

Alec had been concerned as he had talked to his cousin. Was he getting too deep into this and maybe seeing something that wasn't even there? John was right on one thing, his suspicious nature was beginning to show itself, the makings of a good detective, he hoped.

His dad asked what he'd been talking to his cousin about.

"Was that about your new friend Alec? I thought maybe you'd not told her about John?"

"I was undecided last night if it was him or not, before I spoke with him but he may have upset Rose," Alec admitted. "She wasn't ready to talk in front of everyone Dad. John told her to take her time, then he tricked her."

"I'm sure he did it for her own good Alec. Are you bringing Rose back every day after school?"

"I don't know yet Dad, she wasn't going to come round tonight but she has to go back to an empty apartment. We can't blame her for not wanting to, can we?" he asked.

"No Son but surely she will make more friends?"

"Only Sandra, she doesn't get our bus and the girls that do aren't in our class. Jamie's a bit off with her but he used to tease me about her in the library when I didn't know who she was."

"Maybe he never expected anything to come of it eh?" his dad smiled. "It's your choice Alec but if Rose is coming round every night, no going to your room with her, I've already warned you about that. Like I said, maybe when it gets dark early you can spend a bit of time."

"She may not want to Dad. She told her mum she made some friends but not that I was one of them. She came from an estate in London, her mum probably thinks all boys are like the ones Rose used to know. I'm worried about her though."

"Alec, she will settle in, it just takes time," his dad tried to assure him. "So her mother lives with someone?"

"Yes and she doesn't like him. All she will say is that she wishes she'd never been brought here. I think she's scared of him Dad."

"You don't know that for sure Alec. If she is, it's up to her to get help about it but she should talk to her mother first."

"She says her mother won't listen to her and that she won't hear anything against him. Now you know why I want to join the police."

His dad smiled at him, feeling sorry for him.

"You have to admit it Alec, you're starting to prefer Rose to Jamie, Jamie's not going to like it."

"I know Dad but Rose needs my help and she could also use another friend but Jamie won't hang out with us. Now, Rose has to worry about school tomorrow and what everyone will be saying."

"From what you said, everyone will be pleased she finally put those two girls in their place."

"Yes but they won't like it Dad. She even stuck up for me and I was the one sticking up for her yesterday."

"How does that make you feel Alec?"

"I should be mad at her, she thought I would be but I don't think I am. Should I be mad at her?"

"No. Maybe she was repaying you for yesterday eh?" his dad suggested.

Rose had gone to her room to escape watching her mother with Bob and there was nothing they were watching on TV that she wanted to see, even though there were now four channels to watch, Bob seemed to favour the one with all the boring programmes. She was just going to bed when there was a tap on the door and she saw the handle turn. She prayed it wasn't Bob.

"Rose," her mother called out as the door opened, Rose letting out her breath. "Are you okay only you left early."

"I'm fine Mum, I just didn't like what you were watching."

"We should start doing more together, the three of us. Watcha think?"

Rose would rather say no.

"Why don't ya come shopping with us on Saturday morning, to start with?" her mother asked.

"I wanted to go to the library, the big one in town. Maybe I can meet ya somewhere?" she dared to ask.

"Rose, do ya need to catch up on school work?"

"Yeah, the new science teacher gave us a question, I bet I can't find the answer in the local library," Rose replied, thinking Alec and Jamie may be there anyway and Jamie was bad enough towards her.

"I thought ya didn't like science?" she was asked.

"I don't but he makes it interesting, he gets everyone to join in. Mum, can ya ask Bob to put a lock on my door?"

"Rose, why do ya want a lock?" her mother wanted to know.

"I just think I should be allowed one, that's all. When Bob's friends come over, well I don't know them, do I?"

"Well I'll ask him, I dunno what he'll say though. Rose, you won't stop coming back early and getting tea ready, will ya? I mean if ya made a friend. Who is it anyway, someone who lives nearby?"

Rose wanted to say it was Sandra but her mother was bound to see her with Alec sooner or later.

"His name's Alec, he lives two streets away. He figured out I hadn't lost my voice. Mum, we're both on our own until you and his dad get home, that's all. His dad makes me a sandwich while they're eating but he invited me to have tea with them. I said I had to come back and make it for you and Bob so I never bothered."

"Rose, I'm sorry Bob thinks I do the cooking but ya know what I'm like?" her mother asked her. "He'll ask questions if ya don't eat with us."

Rose thought it was non of his business where she ate. She also thought now her mother knew her friend was a boy, she'd impose some sneaky restrictions.

"Mum, I don't mind but I would prefer to eat earlier, I mean I have a sandwich and I can still eat later, it's a bit late for me, that's all and after tea, well there's no time to go out again."

"To hang around with your new friend?" her mother asked.

Rose thought this was the longest conversation they'd had since they moved, well when Bob was there and wondered how her mother had escaped from his grip. If he was the one stopping herself and her mother talking, what chance did she have of convincing her mother she hated Bob?

Her mother left and Rose hoped Bob wouldn't be next to check on her, though why, she had no idea. She just had this feeling in her stomach that he might make a start. Maybe she should talk to Alec's dad or his cousin after all.

"What were you and Rose talking about?" Bob was asking Jackie as he was drying his hair.

"Just about her new school, that's all. She made a new friend but not around here," Jackie lied. "Rose was asking if she could have a lock on her door."

"What for?" Bob wanted to know as he combed his hair. "Does she not trust me?" he laughed.

"I don't think it's that Bob, she had one at our old place, well a small catch. She might be worried about when friends come over they might think it's the bathroom."

Jackie was hating the fact she was having to tell white lies but she had Rose to think about despite the arrangements they had made about her.

"Jackie, you are not backing out are you?" Bob asked her.

"No, of course not. She's a teenager Bob, ya know what they're like?" she tried to joke.

"Aye, we get enough of them causing trouble when we're still trying to work. At least she's not one of them but I'll think about it and you think about what we agreed. You want me to put it back, don't you?"

"I'm not saying that Bob. She'll do as ya say, I'll make sure but she may not be in much the rest of the summer, if she made new friends?"

"Well as long as there are no boys Jackie? Maybe she does need a bit more time though?"

"Yeah, maybe? She may not tell me though if she makes friends with any boys, she was one for flirting back home before she was even thirteen."

Jackie wondered if that was a factor in her new relationship with Bob? She shook the thought off, he was just being a father-figure to her daughter, Rose having grown up without one and now, she could use one.

Rose was getting ready for school the next morning, trying to avoid her mother's boyfriend who kept smiling at her.

"Have ya found out about a bus pass yet?" Bob asked as her mother got her purse out.

"No but the others around here don't seem to have one, I might not qualify but I asked a teacher, he said to go to the office," Rose replied, trying to cram her lunch into her bag and wishing he'd go to work.

Then her mother wondered why she'd spent so much time out at weekends. She wondered what Alec would be doing but it wasn't fair to impose herself on him when there was no school. She was faced with what she could do the next holiday, though that was a few weeks away yet she supposed and she'd managed before.

Alec had set off to walk over to meet Rose, having set off a few minutes early but then he had second thoughts in case her mother went out at the same time so he waited on the corner for her. He saw a man walking out and getting into a car but it drove off in the other direction, then he saw a blonde-haired woman and Rose was following her.

He stayed back, hoping Rose wouldn't wave to him but why was he acting like that?

"Bye Mum, see ya tonight," Rose was saying, trying not to look to see if Alec was waiting for her again.

Alec hadn't seen them both yesterday morning but he was a little early, not having any particular reason for doing so but he thought it would do no harm. Would Rose think anything of it?

Rose saw him on the corner and quickened her step to reach him.

"Hi Rose, was that your mum?" he asked as they looked to cross the road.

"Yeah, giving me another lecture not to be late back. She's terrified of doing the cooking though what she'd do if I weren't there?" Rose smiled. "Alec, why don't you have a bus pass?"

"My dad never bothered, I suppose I could get one though? Are you going to apply for one?" he asked as they got to the bus shelter and two boys were hogging the opening so Rose walked to the other one and pulled a face at them.

Thankfully they were first years and she wouldn't have to deal with them. She saw them whispering to each other and Alec turned around, Rose telling him not to bother, she'd had worse back in London. They got on the bus, avoiding Jamie and the others but Jamie went to sit behind them.

"You never bother any more Alec," Jamie reminded him.

"Hello to you too," Rose huffed.

"Leave it Rose. What do you want Jamie? You never wanted to hang around with us last night," Alec reminded him.

"I told you why Alec. So are we doing our homework together tonight?" Jamie asked him.

"Do ya homework with him Alec, I can go home," Rose told him.

"There's no reason we can't all do it together," Alec replied. "Jamie, I asked Rose round because she's on her own when she need not be, okay?"

"Fine, count me out then," Jamie huffed and went back to his original seat.

"He'll come round Alec, he was your best friend until I arrived," Rose told him.

"He wants me to chose Rose and I can't, I don't want to. He'll come round," Alec tried to convince himself. "I'll call for him on Saturday, he'll be okay by then. What will you be doing?"

Rose thought he'd already asked her once.

"Oh, ya know, me and mum shopping, it's what us girls like to do," she joked, wishing that was true but Bob would be there.

Still, she could get a ride into the town and meet them later, at least Bob had a car.

While they were laughing about it, Alec could almost feel the eyes on them from behind. Since when had it become a crime to make friends with a girl, he wondered. Jamie was not going to make him choose between his friends, he'd just have to talk to Jamie and say they could hang out at weekends and school holidays, if he wouldn't join himself and Rose.

Rose was thinking that Jamie shouldn't have been teasing Alec about her in the library if he didn't expect something to come out of it. Maybe he wasn't expecting Alec to take the bait? Could she step back so Alec and Jamie could be friends again? Judging by the laughing coming from behind them, it didn't seem like Jamie was that bothered and if Alec backed off, both herself and Alec would be on their own.

"Take no notice Rose," Alec told her, trying to ignore the others.

"I'm used to it Alec but I never meant for you and Jamie to fall out."

"I know. He'll be fine at the weekend," Alec tried to reassure himself.

When they got off the bus, Rose said she was going to the office to get a locker key, since some were open and no keys in them and to get a form for a bus pass.

"You should try too Alec or don't ya bother 'cos the others don't?"

"I never wanted to be the odd one out Rose but it looks like I already am?" Alec replied as he followed her inside.

Getting two locker keys was easy enough and being given two forms for bus passes and told to get their parents to sign and bring a passport size photo in at the same time was going to be difficult, well for Rose anyway. If it saved her mother some money, she'd be all for paying for photos.

"Hey Alec, we could go get the photos done together and save some money," Rose suggested as they went to find their lockers, the secretary thinking it was amusing to give them one next to each other.

Now Alec thought they would be seen together more often, he could expect more treatment like Jamie and Billy were already dishing out but funnily, he wasn't really bothered what they thought. As predicted though, Rose was already getting pointed to as the bell was going and they were going upstairs.

"Hey, you're the English girl, right?" someone asked Rose on the stairs.

"Leave her alone," Alec defended her.

"Geez Alec, are you her minder?" the girl wanted to know. "I was gonna say well done for standing up to Moira, no-one's ever done that before. Now we know it can be done, they won't be very popular."

Rose heard mumblings of agreement as they got to the top of the stairs.

"See, now you are not the odd one out, it seems Moira is," Alec smiled as he saw Kristy follow her friend instead of them both talking and everyone else avoiding them.

"Well she's not Queen Bee around here any more is she?" Rose asked as they entered the classroom, looking for Sandra but seeing she was sat next to Marie and Jamie had taken up next to Billy, leaving two spaces for Alec and Rose.

"I thought we had regular places?" Rose asked him.

"Seems not," he replied, sitting next to her.

"Class," the teacher addressed them. "This is the third day back, I hope you are going to settle in your regular places?"

So did Rose. It seemed though every classroom they went in, everyone was purposely sticking together and Rose wondered why Sandra had chosen to sit next to a girl who seemed more shy than she had been. She caught up with Sandra in the girls room at break time.

"What's going on Rose?" Sandra called from the next cubicle.

"Nothing, why?" Rose called back and hoping her two now enemies weren't hanging around.

"I saw Jamie go sit next to Billy, I assumed there was a reason?" Sandra laughed.

Rose opened the door and went to wash her hands, Sandra joining her.

"Come on Rose, have Alec and Jamie fallen out?"

"Not exactly, Jamie was being a bit funny this morning but he'll come round. Alec said they'd been friends for years."

"Maybe so Rose but what about now you've come along? Anyway, we can still be friends, I'm not the jealous type and Marie talks less then you did the last two days. See ya later."

Rose went back outside into the sunlight, shading her eyes and spying Alec talking to Jamie and Billy, thinking she should leave them to it but they weren't giving Alec an easy time and Alec didn't want to depend on Rose to get him out of it after Billy had marched him over to where they were all sitting at a bench and on top of it.

"So come on out with it Alec," Billy was telling him.

"What are you talking about?" Alec wanted to know.

"Don't act all innocent Alec, Jamie told us you've been calling for him with that new girl following you," Billy told him.

"Thanks Jamie," Alec told his old friend. "She has got a name you know? She's called Rose and she's new to the area, in case you were asleep in the science class yesterday?" Alec asked them.

"We know and she stood up to Moira, guess she's the school's new hero?" Billy laughed.

"Did any of you stand up to them?" Alec turned the tables. He saw them suddenly finding the grass or the table were more interesting. "No, no-one dared until Rose came along. Do you prefer those two get away with bullying everyone into joining them?"

"She's not bothered with the boys Alec," Jamie chipped in.

"Well she was yesterday, I saw her but they had the sense to walk away. It was going to happen when she'd run out of girls," Alec replied.

"Yeah and you making friends with Rose was going to happen, wasn't it?" Jamie asked him.

"Yes Alec, you don't spend time with us now and you even sat with her in the classrooms," Billy reminded him, getting agreement from the others.

"Well you went to sit with Billy," Alec told Jamie, wondering where the cause of all this was and hoping she'd stay out of it but did Rose ever stay out of anything, he wondered. "So what do you want?"

"Why should you care Alec?" Jamie asked him, looking at the floor.

"We can all hang around at weekends and I'm not stopping you hanging around when Rose is there either. That was your choice Jamie," Alec reminded him, Billy looking at him.

"That's not what you told us Jamie," Billy reminded him.

"Are we done?" Alec asked, since there wasn't a lot of time left.

He knew Jamie had some explaining to do now but just to show him he was disappointed in his friend, he decided he'd still sit with Rose, unless she was going back to sitting with Sandra.

They had history after the break, John trying not to grin that Rose and Alec had sat next to each other and he surmised Jamie felt he'd had his nose pushed out or it was self-imposed in protest?

"Right class. Who can tell me about the Highland clearances? Someone other than Alec," he added with a grin.

In the dining hall, John was watching from a distance as Alec went to join Rose and they were talking. He hoped his young cousin would get the bottom of why Rose was worried but if anyone could, it would be him since he wanted to join the police.

"Do ya think it was wise to sit next to me all morning?" Rose grinned.

"We can sit where we like within reason for the first few days. What about at your old school?" he asked, opening his lunch box after they'd been to their lockers.

He thought at least now they didn't have to wear their blazers all day and they'd both put their jumpers on.

"Oh, we just flitted around, the teacher didn't really care as long as we showed up and were weren't pushing each other," she teased him.

Alec saw she was joking.

"Not asking what I was talking about earlier?" he asked.

"It's nothing to do with me who you talk to Alec. Sandra's still friends with me but she's keeping her distance. See, not everyone's like Jamie who goes off in a huff, you can still be friends with him."

"I know. I'll call for him on Saturday morning, while you go shopping with your mum. He'll come round, don't worry about it. You are still coming round to do your homework?" he asked to make sure.

"Yeah but we'd best not call at Jamie's," she teased him, considering the alternative of Bob getting home early for a change and he'd find out she did all the cooking.

She wondered how her mother explained the weekends, when she insisted Rose went in to help her and that if he was really as clever as he made himself out to be, he'd have worked it out by now? Maybe he didn't want to?

John watched the two of them from where he was sitting and resisted the urge to cross over and talk to them but doing that too often would surely arouse suspicion or that they were the teacher's pet pupils. As everyone wandered outside though, he noticed the pair of them go sit in the same spot and everyone else seemed oblivious to the fact this was the third day in a row they had done so. Maybe no-one was bothered and he'd heard no incidents involving the two former troublemakers but maybe that was the calm before the storm and the storm was called Rose Tyler.

Chapter Text

Kristy was following behind her so-called friend who had on the first day shown her true colours and declared she was now the leader. Maybe she had been planning this right from the beginning of last term when they had both agreed those not of their standard should be excluded from their little club after being asked if they wanted to join and Alec Hardy had been one of them.

Since then though, Moira had declared girls only but now it seemed she had changed her tune since they'd tried most of the girls in their year and the year below and even Moira wouldn't dare try any of the classes above them. She stopped dead behind Moira, who turned to her.

"Tell me what's wrong with this picture Kristy?" Moira asked her.

"How am I supposed to know, you took charge," Kristy huffed, looking around to see if anyone was taking any notice.

"Don't tell me you're surprised?" Moira teased her.

"Well I say we did better on that score before you took over, we have no-one yet and it's the third day of term. Are you really going to try the boys?"

"Have you got a better idea then? That English new girl already has Alec on her side, this is war Kristy, she can't just waltz in here and get him on her side. If he joined us, the other boys would follow."

"We've no chance, they're as thick as thieves those two but we could try Jamie, he doesn't look too happy about it."

"Well come on then, if he joins us, that Rose Tyler will have a fight on her hands because Jamie was Alec's best friend until she arrived, Jamie must be really annoyed about that," Moira told her.

"Wonder what those two are up to?" Rose asked Alec as he was looking to see where Jamie was. "Alec, go join your friends if ya want?"

"What? No, it's fine, they don't seem that bothered. You could make more friends if you wanted to you know?"

"Like those two?" Rose laughed as Kristy and Moira were stood talking. "I wonder where Sandra disappeared to?"

"Go find her then?" Alec suggested.

"Why, do ya wanna add some more to your new story?" Rose wondered.

"Not here, I sometimes used to go around the other side to be on my own, Jamie used to keep me company sometimes."

"Well if I go round with ya, everyone will be talking more than they already are," Rose laughed.

Alec smiled at the thought.

"I thought you would have a crowd around you when the word got round?"

"Me? Alec, I acted all tough at my last school just to survive, it wasn't what I wanted. Looks like I may not have a choice here either?"

"Yes you do Rose, you can choose to stay out of the way and not make a fuss you upset those two," Alec replied.

"I can't let them just walk over everyone Alec. You have to stand up to them."

"I already do," Alec reminded her. "Let's just try to stay out of their way?"

"Yeah, long as they stay out of mine? Alec, I asked my mum if she'd get Bob to put a lock on my room door."

"That's good Rose. Do you think he will agree?"

"I don't know but if his friends keep calling, I don't want any of them wandering in, do I?" Rose asked him.

"Are you sure it's to keep his friends out?" Alec wanted to know. "Rose, you seem really scared of him."

"He just gives me the creeps that's all. I've no idea what my mother agreed to when she dragged us up here. I think I'm right Alec, they mean to get married or at least engaged and he'll want to adopt me. I don't want him to."

"Why are you scared of that Rose?"

"I just get these feelings Alec, like if he's watching TV that he's got one eye on me if I'm not paying much interest."

"That may be just you Rose," Alec smiled. "So do you go to your room then?"

"Yeah. Last night my mum came in and my heart pounded 'cos I thought it was him. What do I do about it Alec?"

"Speak to my dad or I can get John to meet us somewhere?"

"I don't know about that? John tricked me yesterday, remember?"

"Yes, I know Rose. You need someone to talk to though."

"I know, I've got you," Rose replied, wondering why no-one was taking any notice of them. "I'm keeping you from your other friends though."

"Forget them Rose, they'll get used to it. Why don't we both go over and talk to them?" he suggested.

"After the bus ride this morning?" Rose asked. "I think it'll take a while."

"Well we sometimes get together on Saturdays, can you get out?"

"Yeah but I was thinking of going into town this Saturday and visit the big library, the history teacher got me with the subject this morning, we didn't learn much of Scottish history at my old school."

"I can't imagine why," Alec teased her.

Rose nudged his elbow and they both started laughing.

"Just look at those two over there," Billy was pointing out.

"Don't make me look," Jamie told him, making the others laugh.

"Are you going to do something about it?" one of the others asked him.

"Yeah, ignore him the next time he calls for me and she's with him," Jamie replied.

"We've not let you off the hook yet for not telling us Alec gave you a choice last night," Billy reminded him.

"Would you have gone with them?" Jamie asked him. "Thought not. Even if he calls on Saturday on his own, I still might not bother."

"Well what else do you have to spend your time on?" Billy wanted to know. "Watch out, here come Kristy and Moira."

"Hey you lot, wanna let us join you?" Moira asked. "We could join forces and show that new English girl who's in charge around here."

"We don't need your help Moira," Billy hissed at her. "You two have no chance now, have they?" he asked the others, who began shaking their heads.

"That new girl has a lot to answer to," Moira huffed as they walked away and seeing Rose and Alec laughing about something.

"We have to do something then," Kristy agreed, forgetting she was annoyed Moira had taken over.

"I'm open to suggestions," Moira replied as everyone began making their way to the entrance.

It seemed everyone was still determined to keep Rose and Alec sat together during the afternoon lessons until the final bell went and they called at their lockers.

"Matching lockers as well?" Jamie teased Alec.

"Stop if Jamie, what's wrong with you?" Alec wanted to know.

Rose stopped as she was putting her blazer on.

"What do ya want Jamie?" she asked him.

"My friend back," Jamie replied as he walked off.

"Forget it Rose, he'll soon come round. Let's get to the bus early tonight?" Alec suggested.

They were about to leave when John caught up with them.

"Don't need rescuing tonight then?" he grinned.

Rose thought he was in the habit of catching them, did he want everyone to know who he was?

"No Sir, thanks though," Rose replied.

"That's okay Rose, maybe it wasn't so bad starting to talk after all?" he asked.

Rose thought that was his fault. She had been happy to stay as she was a bit longer.

They got back to Alec's house, getting off at the next stop but Jamie just continued to ignore them.

"I'm going to call round later and see if he will talk to me," Alec told Rose as he let them in.

Rose agreed he should and they set about their homework.

"What you were saying, about the history subject. I can tell you most of it," Alec told her.

"It gives me an excuse not to spend time with Bob, thanks though."

"I thought you were going shopping with your mum?"

"Yeah but he'll be there and I don't know if he'll go off on his own or not," Rose replied.

"Why don't I call John and get him to come round?" Alec suggested.

Rose shook her head, Alec wondering why she was so against it. After accepting a sandwich again, Rose and Alec went in the opposite direction to the park and wandered down to the river.

"Tell me what else bothers you?" Alec asked her.

"How long have ya got?" Rose joked.

"I know you don't want to be here Rose but you are, there's nothing you can do about it but try and make it better. My dad can help, he'll tell you how to feel safe, talk to him."

"Okay but not tonight, maybe tomorrow?"

"Then can I tell him?" he asked. "I told him you don't like being in on your own."

"Yeah, then he'll tell me to just put up with it."

"No he won't Rose, give him a chance? He helped me when my mum died. Did I tell you about our last holiday, before we knew there was something wrong with her?"

"No. I've never really had a holiday, except in one of mum's friend's caravans in Southend. I thought the thing was gonna tipple over, the floor moved every time we moved around."

Alec had to smile.

"We went all the way down to the south coast on the train, it took hours. We stayed in a caravan on a cliff top for a week though it was late when we got there. We had a long walk down this narrow lane to get to the camp site, then so we didn't have to climb back up it every day, we walked along a path and down onto the beach. Mum and dad were arguing about it because she thought the camp was right on the harbour but that was another one."

"Was it okay though, apart from that?" Rose asked as they threw pebbles in the water.

"It was okay, there wasn't a lot to do though. What was Southend like?"

"Busy and loads of seagulls trying to steal your food."

Alec let out a laugh and Rose nudged him. He thought she was making a habit of that. They walked back to where Rose was living, Alec being careful to walk off before her mother got home.

"She'll want to meet ya," Rose warned him before he left. "Stay around a bit longer?"

"I have to go see if Jamie will talk to me," he replied.

"I'm sure he will Alec, it's just me that puts him off," Rose told him.

"It would have happened no matter whoever it had been I made friends with. Promise not to laugh?" he asked her. Rose nodded. "Jamie's brother has a girlfriend and Jamie said he'd never get one in a million years but Connor said it happens to all boys eventually."

"Yeah but it happens to girls as well. Did I tell ya Mickey from the garage was gonna ask me out when I was old enough?"

"I think you did Rose. I think you said the same as Jamie."

Rose started laughing.

"Yeah, I think I may have done? See ya tomorrow and I hope Jamie talks to you."

Alec had just left but Rose's mother saw him leaving the driveway from a distance and asked Rose, who had got upstairs a few minutes earlier having stayed out a bit longer.

"Was a boy just leaving?" she asked Rose.

"Yeah, Alec walked back with me Mum, I told ya about him. Did ya ask Bob about that lock on my door?"

"He said he'll think about it. What do ya think's gonna happen?" she asked Rose, not wanting to say she'd covered for her last night.

"I told ya Mum, I don't want any of his friends wandering it, do I? What if I'm out and they decide to use it for more than putting their coats on my bed?"

"Rose, don't ask such questions. Bob trusts them enough to invite them so should you. I'll ask him if he's decided, it's up to him."

Rose thought that was all she was going to get.

Alec had gone back to Jamie's but his mother had gone to the door to say he was in his room and didn't want to go out.

"Have you fallen out?" she asked Alec.

"We may have done Mrs Stevens, Jamie's a bit mad with me because I made a new friend."

"Don't worry about it Alec but why doesn't Jamie also want to be friends?"

"He just doesn't," Alec replied, not wanting to say because it was a girl.

"Oh, it's not that girl you kept seeing in the library?" she asked him. "Jamie mentioned it to his brother. Does she go to your school?"

"Yes, she just moved here but Jamie was okay until I stuck up for her the first day. Now he hardly talks to me."

"I'm sure he will get over it Alec. Maybe he's a little jealous?"

"He wanted me to go over and talk to her in the library," Alec admitted.

Then it hit him, Jamie had wanted him to go talk to Rose because he was afraid to and was annoyed it had worked. Was this what it was like, to be interested in girls? If it was, Jamie would never come round now, since his older brother Connor had a girlfriend and Jamie had been denying he wanted anything to do with girls and his slightly older brother Alan always teased him.

So that's what it had all been about, the nudging Rose was giving him, the hints Jamie had been dropping in the library to go talk to Rose and then Rose not objecting to him helping her the first few days of the new term? Then there was John teasing him and trying to give him advice. They were only thirteen, weren't they too young to be thinking in the terms of boyfriends and girlfriends?

Rose had told him of someone who had she stayed in London was going to ask her out and now, she wasn't shy towards him, just everyone else. Had he just begun thinking of Rose as a future girlfriend? Well John had seemed to think so, it was a good thing Peter wasn't around then. If he'd had time he would have called to see John so it would have to wait until he and his dad went round on Sunday but could he admit to his older cousin that he'd been right?

Bob had got home and as usual paid compliments to what he thought was Jackie's cooking but Rose thought he already knew it wasn't.

"So Rose, your mum thinks I should agree to put a lock on your room door? Any reason?" he asked her, Rose thinking this was it.

"Well yeah, I'm old enough to be on my own, mum got a friend to put me a catch on my old room door," Rose replied, since her mother had admitted she'd had to cover the fact to Bob why one should be fitted.

"Well I will consider it one weekend but don't you trust us?"

Rose trusted Mickey more than her mother's boyfriend.

"Well like I told my mum, what if you have friends over? Can't I have one just for that reason?" she asked, hoping he'd go for it.

"Rose, what kind of friends do you think I have?"

Rose wanted to say the type who would either be nosy or want to use her room for something else and worst still while she was in it.

"I've not met many of them but they know I'm here," Rose replied.

"Bob, Rose just wants to feel safe when your friends have had a few drinks, ain't that right Rose?" her mother finally stuck up for her.

"Yeah, like my mum said, they might think my room is the bathroom," Rose replied, hoping that would work.

"Well I'm not planning on any of them coming round and drinking just yet," Bob told her. "I'll consider it, if I am inviting anyone around."

Rose knew that was all she was going to get out of him and just hoped he'd keep his promise. She went off to her room, thinking of jamming a chair under the handle just to prove a point and got one of her books out from the library. She'd not asked for a ride into town yet, maybe Bob would be annoyed enough to tell her to go to the local library but Alec and his friends may be there.

Why had Jamie got so hostile the last few days when she seen him nudge Alec from the other side of the library? Another question was though why had she told Alec twice that Mickey had been going to ask her out when she was old enough? Yeah, that was a great idea, she told herself.

"Jackie, you should talk to Rose," Bob was telling her.

"I've tried Bob but she's growing up. She'll soon be old enough to agree to what we talked about, ya said we'd wait."

"Yes Jackie but now you are asking me to put it off again and put a lock on her door? You are going to have to be very persuasive then I may consider the lock on her door but only a catch, she will have to be satisfied with that, if she had one before?"

"Yeah, whatever you say Bob. She grew up without a dad, she needs someone to guide her, I know that."

"Then I'm glad you agree Jackie. A lot of girls her age are not as shy, she seems reluctant to bring her friends home."

Jackie nodded, not wanting to say Rose had a friend who was a boy called Alec, whom she'd seen the back of as he'd neared the corner of the street. Maybe she shouldn't stand talking on her way out and catch him before he left? She already knew had they stayed where they were that Mickey would have made a play for Rose when she got older. Was what Bob wanted for her any different, to want to take responsibility for her? She thought he had good intentions towards her daughter, when she started 'dating' to have some rules that she herself wouldn't be able to impose and Rose needed that.

Then there was the fact Bob was already paying attention to Rose, unlike some of the men she had dated on their old estate. Yes, Rose definitely needed someone like Bob to set her straight for when she got older but him objecting they put it off until Rose was fifteen instead of next year was a bit unusual though. Then now, there was a new friend Rose had made, would that spoil things?

Thursday seemed to pass quickly for Rose, who had tried to tell Alec she didn't mind if he spent the breaks with his old friends but by Friday, they weren't even trying to get him to join them, unlike a few lunchtimes ago. They were sat on their bench when John joined them.

"Okay you two?" he asked them both, since Moira and Kristy had been lurking around.

Alec just nodded.

"Yes, thanks."

"Why don't I give you two a ride home tonight? It seems daft you going on the bus when I can drop you off."

"That's not a good idea," Alec replied, hoping no-one was paying any attention. "We'd be missed on the bus."

"Yeah, Alec's right, even though we get ignored," Rose agreed.

"Then all the more reason for not using it. You could always pretend to miss it," John suggested. "Think about it. Rose, anything you want to talk to me about? Alec said you had a bit of a problem at home."

Alec had told her earlier that he'd talked to his dad and he'd suggested Rose may confide more in John than himself. When Rose had gone home the night before, Alec had mentioned it to him.

"I know she's having a hard time Alec," his dad had told him. "Why don't you talk to John? He knows how she is at school, he sees more of her than I do. Any news on Jamie making up with you?"

"No Dad, he's not really talking to me but I think I know why. His mum thinks he's jealous and that getting me to talk to Rose in the library was really an excuse he wanted to. How can I explain it to him?"

His dad got up and sat on the sofa with Alec.

"Do you really need it explaining Alec? Unless you stop being friends with Rose and back off and let Jamie try to make friends with her, he's still going to be like that. You said his brother had a girlfriend?" Alec nodded. "Well it seems Jamie intended you to talk to Rose and then he got to know her when you backed off because you weren't interested in girls."

"Neither was Jamie, so he said," Alec replied.

"It seems the green-eyed monster has taken hold of him Alec. While you are friends with Rose, it will keep rearing its ugly head. Only you can decide, backing away from Rose may do the trick but it may affect her as well, if Jamie has been hostile towards her? What I'm trying to say Alec is that like it or not, Rose may consider you more favourably than Jamie and he's still not going to like it if she won't have anything to do with him, you can't win Alec, there's no easy answer."

Alec thought he already knew that. Even if he spent less time with Rose, the damage had been done. He'd taken Rose away from Jamie's grasp, despite his protest about girls and making it out he'd wanted him to go talk to Rose in the first place, then Jamie would have wormed his way in so why wasn't that the case?

Then he started to get it – Jamie didn't want to share Rose, he wanted her to himself but there was no way he was going to let that happen. Maybe they weren't too young to fall out over a girl after all, it seemed they had already done so but what would Rose think about it?

Chapter Text

Alec decided the next day he would get Jamie at break time and ask him what was going on before jumping to any conclusions they were fighting over a girl – namely Rose. That hadn't been his intention when he'd made friends with her on the first day of the new term but it had turned out differently to what he had expected.

He set off to meet Rose, he couldn't change that or she may think he'd gone off the idea of them being friends but Rose was worried about something she had overheard her mother and Bob talking about, they seemed to be making some kind of plan and she feared the worse. Maybe she should talk to John or Alec's dad because she knew for certain her mother wouldn't listen, since she had mentioned that Bob should be the one to offer guidance to her.

Alec waited on the corner as Rose came out with her mother.

"So is that him?" her mother nodded in his direction, seeing a tall boy with mousy hair and wearing a blue blazer.

"Yeah, that's Alec. He's just a friend Mum," Rose insisted.

"Well he might be but he's still a boy, a teenage boy so just you watch out Rose. I think Bob wants to talk to you, about a few rules so maybe he'll mention boys to ya?"

Rose hoped not. "What do ya mean Mum? Alec's not my boyfriend," she insisted.

"Well not yet but ya spending a lot of time with him," her mother replied.

"Can't I have any friends that aren't girls?" Rose huffed, thinking she would miss the bus and Alec would go without her. "I have to go."

She started to walk off, leaving her mother to watch as she greeted Alec.

"Mum decided to talk," Rose was telling him. "All of a sudden she's realised I'm friends with a boy."

"Is that so bad?" he asked as they crossed the road. "Rose, I think I know what's wrong with Jamie. My dad pointed out a few things last night so I have to talk to him later, okay?"

"Yeah, ya should talk to him Alec. We can all be friends if he wants, I'm not stopping him."

"I know you are not Rose, it's him, dad says he knows why. I'll tell you later, when I talk to Jamie. When I do though, you might not like it."

"Watcha mean by that?" Rose asked as the bus approached.

"You'll see when we go upstairs," Alec replied, paying his bus fare after Rose did and following her up the steps.

Jamie didn't turn around when they sat down a few seats away but Alec knew he was talking about them.

"He had the nerve to come round last night," Jamie was telling the others.

"Well he's trying to make up for going off with a girl," Billy replied.

"Well he's not getting off so easily," Jamie insisted. "I told my mum I didn't want to see him but not why."

"She'll find out," Billy told him. "All mums do."

"Yeah and brothers," one of the others laughed.

"Take no notice of them Rose," Alec was telling her.

"Ya think it bothers me?" Rose replied. "I never bothered about boys at my old school, why should I start now?"

Alec wondered if she meant him until she nudged him.

"Present company not included," she grinned. "Though I don't know about your friends back there."

Alec thought he should have known she didn't mean him, he'd become her friend.

"Jamie's just jealous," he whispered to her.

Rose burst out laughing, getting her a frown.

"Shush Rose," Alec tried to warn her.

"Of what?" Rose tried to recover, still grinning and Alec frowning at her.

"I called for Jamie last night and his mother said he didn't want to see me. I think he's jealous that we are friends."

"He doesn't have to be," Rose replied, tempted to turn around.

Jamie had heard Rose laughing.

"See, she knows she stopped me and Alec being friends and she's laughing," Jamie tried to convince the others.

"That's rubbish Jamie, you're letting her get to you. Do something about it if it bothers you," Billy told him.

"Yeah, tell him Jamie," the others joined in, making Jamie turn away.

Billy tapped him on his shoulder as they approached the school.

"Get him on his own and tell him."

"Why, he won't listen," Jamie replied, seeing Rose and Alec get up.

Once off the bus, Alec waited for Jamie, who was hanging back.

"See ya inside," Rose told him, to give him chance.

Alec took the chance but as Jamie caught up, John was getting out of his car. Seeing his younger cousin look towards the other boy, he decided to leave them but caught up with Rose.

"Giving them chance to talk?" John asked her.

"It's my fault Jamie won't talk to him," Rose admitted.

"No, it's Jamie's choice, don't blame yourself Rose. If it hadn't been you, it would have been anyone Alec made friends with and besides, it sounds like you need Alec as a friend just as much?"

"What did he tell ya Sir?" Rose asked him, remembering he was hiding who he was.

"Enough. Why don't I come round to his house tonight and talk to you or you can both meet me in the park?" he suggested.

"It doesn't matter. Alec needs to make up with Jamie, I'll probably go straight home," Rose replied.

"That's very good of you Rose but it won't solve anything," John told her. "Jamie is jealous of you."

Rose already knew that.

"Then I'll just stay out of the way," Rose replied.

"Then it will be Alec who suffers, not Jamie. I have to go but think about what I said eh?"

Rose was already getting the message that Jamie didn't want herself and Alec to be friends, that he wanted things the way they had been before her arrival. If that were so, why encourage Alec to talk to her in the library then?

"Go back to Rose," Jamie was telling Alec as they stopped just inside the school playground.

"She sent me to see what was wrong with you. Why can't we all be friends?" Alec wanted to know.

"You know why, you spend more time with her, she was out to stop us being friends from her first day here," Jamie told him.

"No, how could she be?" Alec asked him.

"The way she kept looking across the library. Ring any bells Alec?"

Alec shook his head. So his dad was right then.

"I get it Jamie. You were the one who was too shy to talk to her so you made it out that she was looking at me?"

"What?" Jamie asked him. "No, she was looking at you Alec."

"So that's what this is about?" Alec wanted to know.

"You know it is, why did you want to keep going back and pretending you were waiting for a book to be returned?"

"Jamie, I was waiting for a book to be returned and you kept suggesting we hang around the library. You are just mad Rose was there and wanted me to talk to her because you never thought she would talk to you," Alec told him.

"Go away Alec, that's not true," Jamie protested.

Alec knew differently.

"So you want me to stop being friends with her so you can talk to her? Admit it Jamie. Rose wants to friends with both of us but if you act like that, she won't want to talk to either of us. Is that what you want, for her to go off and make friends with someone else? Jamie, she's on her own in a strange town and her mother's boyfriend scares her. Someone has to help her."

"What are you talking about?" Jamie asked him as they walked towards the entrance.

"She's scared of him Jamie and she needs our help. Think what you like but don't ask me to choose between her and you Jamie, I can't just leave her. If you make me choose then you decide to be friends with her she won't be any different."

"How would you know?" Jamie asked him, seeing Rose going up the steps.

Jamie rushed past him and going into the classroom, went to sit next to Billy again so Alec saw Rose sitting down and remembered what the class teacher had told them the day before, going to sit next to Rose.

"Any luck?" she asked him.

Alec just shook his head. All through the day and at break times, Jamie avoided the pair of them, John seeing them but not wanting to interfere until the last five minutes of the afternoon break.

"How's things?" John asked Alec as he and Rose sat on what had become their bench. "Want a lift home?"

"That reminds me, I forgot about the form for the bus pass," Rose remembered.

"Come on, I can drop you both off," John reminded them.

"Why not?" Alec shrugged his shoulders. "Jamie won't listen to me any more."

Rose felt sorry for him and it was all her fault but backing off now wouldn't make any difference. John told them to let everyone get on the bus and he'd wait for them a bit further down and no-one would notice they didn't get on, well so he hoped so agreeing, they went off to their last lesson.

"Sure you won't get into trouble John?" Alec asked as he sat in the front when Rose got in the back of his mini, wondering how John managed to drive it with his long legs.

Alec let them in the house, John assuming Alec wanted him to talk to Rose.

"So Rose, want to tell me what's wrong?" he asked her as she got her homework out.

"Ya mean apart from gettin' dragged up to Scotland to live with my mother's boyfriend?" Rose tried to joke.

"I know about that Rose," John smiled. "So, come on then, why are you scared of your mother's boyfriend?"

"Where do I start? I hear them talking and I think they plan on getting married or something 'cos my mum said I need someone to put me right. I just don't like the way he asks me things as well."

"What sort of things Rose?" John asked her. "Look, I'll help you if I can but you have to tell me."

"I don’t know what else, they keep quiet most of the time but he wanted to know why I don't invite my friends round. I mean he doesn't get home until late anyway but I told my mum I'd made friends with Alec and she didn't sound so keen. Then she asked me about him this morning. Sorry Alec but she told me to watch out."

"What do you mean Rose?" Alec asked her.

His cousin started to laugh.

"I think we already talked about that Alec."

"Watcha mean?" Rose asked.

"Nothing Rose," Alec tried to tell her.

"Come on, you're both teenagers," John reminded them. "It's the time you start noticing things. Do I have to draw you two a picture?"

"Ya mean why Jamie's so mad with Alec, that he wanted to make friends with me and Alec did instead?" Rose asked him.

"I'm afraid so Rose. Jamie's mad Alec beat him to it and it won't be forgotten easily. He may get over it at some point I suppose but back to your problem Rose. What else have you heard eh?"

"The way he glances over at me then moves closer to my mum. I asked him for a lock on my door, he said he'd think about it."

"Blimey, you are worried," John told her. "Rose, just keep reminding him then but I hope I'm wrong about where you're going with this."

"What do you mean John?" Alec asked, seeing Rose's reaction.

"It may be nothing but he's concerned about you but if they're planning on marrying? He'll be your step-dad whether he adopts you or not."

"I heard something about putting something off or back, I didn't hear it all," Rose admitted.

"Maybe you're worrying over nothing eh? If you feel like they are talking about you, ask them. You can always talk to me or Alec's dad, okay?"

"Yeah, thanks John. Oh, should I still call ya 'Sir'?" she tried to joke.

"I'll let you off outside school. I should be going, you two finish your homework eh? Alec, have you shown Rose your stories?"

"Just the first one John. So what should I do about Jamie?"

"Blimey Alec, well, maybe let him see you want to include him in things? Best not call for him with Rose tagging along, see how it goes? Want me to pick you both up in the morning? Rose, you should hand that form in for a bus pass eh?"

"Yeah, I forgot. I got in the same time as mum last night, I have to tidy up and start making tea."

"Really?" John asked her.

"Yeah, she passes my cooking off as her own and she thinks he doesn't know but I bet he does?"

John tried to stifle a laugh.

"Sorry. Right, I'm off, see you both tomorrow and if you let the bus go, I'll watch out for you."

John left and they went into the living room.

"Did that help?" Alec asked her.

"A bit I suppose? Alec, do ya think it's my imagination?"

"No, I believe you Rose. I don't want us to stop being friends, do you?"

"What? No, I don't want to stop being friends Alec. It's up to Jamie what he wants to do. Was John being serious though?"

"About what?" Alec asked, wanting to tell her the rest of his first story.

"That we're teenagers and noticing things," she reminded him. "Alec, I am sorry that Jamie doesn't want to be friends with you."

"I know you are, it would have been over something else Rose if it hadn't been you."

After Alec's dad got home, they walked to the park and sat on the swings, surprised it wasn't busy. When Rose got home though, Alec was going to try to talk to Jamie again but thought he'd leave it a day or two but what was he going to do on Saturday now? Maybe he'd try going to the library and see if Jamie was there and if he was, show him he didn't hang around with Rose at weekends.

Rose had been hoping her mother wouldn't mention Alec to Bob, she didn't want to answer a load of questions but as they were both in the kitchen, mainly so Bob would think Jackie had been doing all the work, Rose was in for a surprise.

"Rose, it's not a good idea to spend all your time with one friend. Why don't ya make some more?"

"There's no-one around here Mum and I do have more friends," Rose replied.

"Well invite them over," her mother suggested.

Rose thought no chance.

"I could invite Alec around one night, if ya want?" she told her mother instead.

"Well, maybe? Rose, I don't want ya hanging around with him at weekends, Bob thinks we should be doing stuff together, like you coming shopping with us."

"I need to go to the library in town this week Mum, I have to find out the answer to a science question."

"Since when were you interested in science?"

Rose thought of saying since the teacher was Alec's cousin but she couldn't say that.

"Do I have to stay with ya? Can't I just meet ya after going to the library?"

"Well I suppose so? Rose, it's not a good idea to keep going on about you having made friends with a boy though, Bob won't think it's a good idea, he's only concerned about ya."

Rose thought yeah, too much by the sound of it. Alec was having no luck trying to talk to Jamie but at least he'd come when his mother told him to.

"Can't we be friends Jamie?" Alec had asked him. "What about weekends?"

"Won't you be meeting Rose?" Jamie asked him, not wanting this conversation.

"She'll be with her mum. Come on Jamie, think about it?"

"I'll let you know but I may just hang around with my brothers or go find Billy," Jamie replied.

"Well if you are at the park or somewhere with Billy and the others, we can meet up?" Alec suggested.

The next day was pretty much the same, Alec getting no response from his former friend and by home time, he wasn't holding his breath that Jamie would agree to meet over the weekend.

"So are you going shopping with your mum then?" Alec asked Rose on the last break.

"She wants me to tag along but I still plan on going to the library. What are you gonna be doing?"

"Trying to get Jamie to talk to me?" he replied.

"Alec, mum said Bob wanted us all to spend the weekend together but by Sunday afternoon, I'll be climbing the wall. Wanna sneak out and meet in the park?" she grinned.

"Rose, you are asking for trouble, do you know that?" Alec replied.

"Was that a yes then?" she asked as the bell went.

Alec supposed it was. After Rose got home though, Bob told her he expected her to join them on their outing into the town centre but when Jackie told him Rose had to get some information for a test, he relented and told her she had to meet them later. Rose did not enjoy the time she spent with her mother and Bob after she met them in the agreed place, she would have preferred he'd not insisted or just left her and her mum to shop on their own and wondered why he just happened to pick this week to start.

Alec had gone to the library but there was no sign of Jamie so he went by the park but ended up at his aunt's house.

"So how are you getting on with your new friend Alec?" his aunt asked him in the afternoon while he waited for John coming back from whatever he was doing.

"Fine but did John tell you about Jamie?" Alec replied.

"I'm sorry about him falling out with you Alec but it would have happened sooner or later, even if it hadn't been her."

"John tried to tell me that. What do I do about it though?"

"Alec, it's up to Jamie to see he made a mistake, you've done all you can. So, not seeing her over the weekend?"

"She was going to sneak out tomorrow but she never said what time," Alec told her.

"Well you and your dad will be here though, she's going to be disappointed if you're not in," his aunt pointed out.

He'd not thought of that, had he? What was he going to do, hang around on the corner of the street and wait to see if she could get out? Now he wished he had a phone number for her but he didn't think he would need it. She wouldn't wait around the park on her own for more than a few minutes, if only she'd given him a clue as to what time?

Then he thought maybe they had lunch the same time as his aunt made it so by the time they'd finished it was around three so he planned on saying he was going to see if she was there, there was no point in saying he was going to see Jamie, was there?

Rose survived the shopping trip and the Sunday morning, her mother making a show of looking busy in the kitchen as usual.

"Mum, I'm going out for a while after lunch, I get bored watching TV all afternoon."

"What do you wanna go out for?" she was asked.

"I was gonna meet a friend," Rose replied, since Bob came in.

"That's good Rose, maybe you can bring her around then?" he asked, Rose not liking the way he said it.

Rose looked at her mother, hoping she wouldn't give the game away.

"So does this friend have a name?" Bob continued, pretending to be interested.

"Yeah, it's Sandra," Rose lied, hoping her mother wouldn't remember she'd told her Sandra didn't live around here but her mother hardly remembered Alec's name so she was pretty safe for now.

She went out and hoped Alec would be home but he had mentioned to her they went to his aunts on Sundays but she didn't know where it was, just the street. Maybe she should look for John's car? She was about to try when Alec came out of the driveway.

"Hi, I wasn't sure where you would be," she told him.

"You could have looked for John's car," Alec reminded her.

"Yeah, I thought of that. Wanna go to the park or down by the river?"

John had followed his cousin out when he'd seemed all jumpy while his dad was talking and had to smile to himself when he saw the two of them walking off. He shook his head and went back inside, there was something else to those two being friends and it seemed neither of them knew it – well not yet anyway.

Chapter Text

Rose was too shy to go meet Alec's aunt and uncle and his older cousin, who was at college so she'd not met him at school. A few weeks went by, Rose always tagging along with Alec and getting a ride from John in the afternoons but not telling her mother, who was now giving her some pocket money after Rose said it wasn't fair she was coming home every night and doing the cooking.

Alec had never had that problem but his dad still insisted Rose ate something with them every teatime and had been relieved that Rose had told him she'd got Bob to put a catch on her room door.

"I'm glad to hear that Rose," he told her a week before the next school holiday was coming up. "Does that make you feel better?"

Rose looked at Alec.

"Yeah, thanks. I'd like to start help clearing up, for making me something to eat."

"You have enough to do when you get back," came the reply. "Alec and I can manage Rose. So what do you have planned for the school holiday you two?"

Alec was at something of a loss, he'd always spent them with Jamie and Jamie was barely talking to him, the last few Saturdays he'd gone to the library on his own as Rose had been dragged out to go shopping but she was still managing to sneak out on Sunday afternoons and she knew her mother would go crazy if she found out she was meeting Alec and not Sandra.

Fortunately, her mother seemed to have forgotten what Rose had told her but Alec still hadn't been to Rose's apartment with her and they decided to talk about it when they left his house and went down by the river.

"So what do you think your mum would say?" Alec asked as they threw some pebbles into the river.

"Well she's seen ya most mornings, why don't ya come down one morning and say hello?" Rose suggested.

Alec was getting more nervous about it though he wasn't sure why and he'd mentioned it to John the previous Sunday before Rose had called for him, who had tried to be sympathetic.

"Well Alec, you knew it was coming," John had told him. "It's only polite you should introduce yourself as Rose's friend. Does her mother still think Rose is meeting Sandra?"

"I think so John. What if she stops Rose being my friend?" Alec wondered.

"Alec, you're worrying over nothing," John laughed. "Don't forget she leaves Rose on her own, how can she stop you two being friends?"

Alec had supposed his older, wiser cousin was right. His other cousin though had been quiet about it, since he admitted that at seventeen he already had a girlfriend at college. Alec thought he had enough advice from John though John had not admitted he was currently seeing anyone. Alec remembered his last one and that had been a disaster, which should have put him off being friends with Rose.

So now, they were sat silently, each waiting for the other one to say something.

"So do you want me to say hello to your mum?" Alec asked, hoping to put it off.

"Well yeah, she won't bite ya," Rose smiled. "Let her think I've been meeting Sandra, she's not gonna know, is she?"

"You had best hope not," Alec replied. "That's only on weekends though? Maybe you could get out on Saturdays?"

"Don't ya see enough of me?" Rose laughed, nudging him. "Try and make up with Jamie."

"Is there no chance you could actually meet Sandra then?" he asked.

"We're not that close Alec, we just talk at school. Maybe I should admit it though, just in case?"

"That's maybe a good idea?" Alec agreed. "So what about the school holiday, will you be on your own?"

"Yeah but don't worry about me Alec."

"I do worry about you and I'm glad you got that catch put on your door. You've been quiet lately about that."

"Yeah? I just ignore him now, unless he speaks to me and he's been careful what he's said in front of me."

"What has he been saying Rose?"

"Being a detective again?" Rose teased him. "I sometimes think mum wants to tell me, then she changes her mind about it."

"About what he's said?" Alec wondered.

"I just get bits of it Alec, I already told ya. He'll whisper something to her and they both look at me. Why can't they just say anything?"

"I wish we knew," Alec replied, seeing it upset her. "You should talk to John again, or maybe my dad?"

"I bet John's getting tired of listening to me?"

"No he's not, he wants to help you, we all do. So about the holidays? I was staying in then meeting Jamie the last time but I went to my aunt's for lunch. John wasn't there though."

"Is he planning on staying around?" Rose asked.

"He may get a travelling job for the holidays, unless he's given it up? How are you liking my second story?"

"It's good so far Alec, those green bog monsters sound good, have they been in the TV show?"

"I don't remember, these are different though. They explode when you throw vinegar at them."

"Yuck, imagine cleaning it off the kitchen wall," Rose giggled into his arm.

"Thanks Rose, I won't get that picture out of my head now," Alec laughed.

"Hey, it would be even funnier if whoever threw the vinegar got covered as well," Rose continued to laugh. "It would be good if it was my friend Mickey from back home. We were always winding him up on our way home from school."

"You told me Rose. You said he was going to ask you to be his girlfriend if you'd not left."

Rose looked at him, was he getting jealous? She nudged him again.

"Well I'm not there, am I?" she reminded him.

Alec nudged her back. "So during the holidays, do you want to hang out with me?"

"Alec, ya should try going to see Jamie," she reminded him.

"He won't bother Rose. He does not want us to be friends, I tried to talk to him, remember? He wants me to stop being your friend."

"That's up to you Alec."

"I don't want to have to choose Rose. John said Jamie would get me to stop being your friend then he would try to make friends with you."

"I know what ya mean Alec, we've been through this before ya know? Why is he making us choose who we are friends with? He was the one teasing you in the library."

"I don't need reminding of that Rose. So what do we do about it?"

"Nothing, we stay friends unless ya wanna stop being my friend?" Rose replied.

"No, do you want to stop being my friend?" he asked, thinking Rose should be getting home.

"No, it's bad enough Bob's trying to find out who my friends are. I don't think mum even told him you call for me every morning yet."

"Has she not? Rose, you should stop saying you are meeting Sandra."

"Why? Let him think what he wants? I know why mum's denying she wasn't told Sandra doesn't live around here, she doesn’t want Bob to know."

"This is getting serious Rose. Okay, I will be early tomorrow for when you come out and I will say hello to your mum."

"Aw, ya don't have to Alec," Rose smiled as he got up and he held his hand out to help her.

Neither of them knew Billy and his friends were on the other side of the river a bit further down but had seen the two of them.

"Wait until we tell Jamie tomorrow," Billy laughed. "He's already mad with Alec."

"That should be fun," one of them laughed. "Look, he's even helping her up."

"This is too good," Billy laughed as he saw the two of them walk off. "Just wait until we tell Jamie tomorrow."

"He's gonna be upset," one of the others told Billy. "If you ask me, Jamie was too slow and Alec beat him to it."

"Yeah, it's getting stale," another agreed. "It's Jamie who has the problem, not us."

"Come on, leave it then," Billy replied. "If Jamie won't admit he's bothered Alec beat him to Rose, why should we?"

"So we don't have to listen to Jamie any more," one of them laughed.

As Alec walked Rose home, she asked if he meant it about arriving early the next morning.

"I meant it Rose. So why don't we hang out during the holidays? My aunt won't mind if you have lunch with us."

"I don't know Alec? I'd feel I was intruding."

"Rose, she knows all about you, she won't take no for an answer."

"Well okay then?" she gave in.

"Come round on Sunday and meet everyone?" Alec suggested.

"Wow, that's a bit more than you meeting my mum Alec."

He thought she was being serious until she started laughing as they reached the corner of her street and she nudged him, something she was getting good at.

"See ya in the morning," Rose grinned as he hesitated. "Don't forget where I live, will ya?"

He had seen her come out with her mother for the last few weeks, how could he?

"So are you going to mention me to your mum's boyfriend?" Alec wondered.

"Mum might do that for me," Rose replied. "Alec, I couldn't just come out and admit it to him you were my friend."

"What are you scared of Rose?"

"Him, watcha think? Geez Alec, he gives me the creeps sometimes, I don't know what he'd say. If my mum tells him, it might not be so bad."

Alec wanted to pat her shoulder but he wasn't sure what time her mother would get home or if the neighbours were watching, since he didn't normally stay so long.

"Well maybe not then? See you in the morning Rose, I can set off a few minutes earlier."

"Yeah, thanks Alec, see ya tomorrow."

Rose went inside, still with time to spare before her mother got back. She knew she had to get up the courage to say Alec was her friend who lived nearby, not Sandra but how would her mother react? She supposed there was only one way to find out.

"Hi Mum," Rose greeted her as she came through the door. "You know Alec, who waits on the corner in the mornings?"

"What about him Rose?" her mother asked as she made some tea, checking what was on the stove top.

"Well don’t ya think you should say hello to him?" Rose asked.

"He never leaves the corner Rose, why now?" she was asked. "He's been there the last couple of weeks now. When you said you go to his house, does he walk back with ya?"

"Yeah, why?" Rose wanted to know.

"I was just making sure Rose, it'll be getting dark early soon, watcha gonna do then?"

"Stay until it's time to come back, what ya think Mum? His dad's there anyway, he said I could stay. I asked Alec to come and say hello in the morning."

Her mother didn't reply at first.

"Why did ya let Bob think your friend was a girl?"

"Why do ya think Mum? You said he'd talk to me about boys, remember? I don't need him to, have ya known me to make friends with any boys before?" Rose asked.

"Well ya have now. Why him though?"

"He looked out for me on my first day against two bullies. I would have said something to them but I wasn't talking 'cos I thought everyone would pick up on my accent but the teacher tricked me into talking and everyone was okay about it."

"So ya let him think you'd lost your voice?"

"It was your idea Mum," Rose reminded her. "It went too far and by the end of the day, it was easier to go on with it. Alec was really nice, he made sure I got the right bus and invited me to his house and I decided to talk just to him. I did make friends with Sandra though, I just didn't want a lecture from Bob, he's not my dad."

Rose saw the look on her mother's face.

"Mum, are you two getting married?" Rose dared ask.

"What? No, we've not talked about it yet and when we do, so what? You need someone to take responsibility for you Rose."

Rose knew that but she would rather it not be him.

"Mum, Alec lost his best friend because of me and even if I stopped talking to him, Jamie wouldn't just make up with him. Jamie's jealous because when they saw me in the library, he tried to get Alec to talk to me but we think it was only 'cos it was Jamie who really wanted to talk to me."

"You're teenagers Rose, all boys get jealous over girls," her mother replied. "Either that or they want nothing to do with girls. Okay, I won't tell Bob for now but no more sneaking off under false pretences on Sunday afternoons 'cos sooner or later, Bob will expect you to come back with this Sandra. Then watcha gonna do?"

Rose wondered the same. "Would Bob get mad if I brought Alec back?"

Her mother seemed to be thinking about it, confirming Rose's suspicions.

"Maybe? Rose, I'm trying my best for ya, now you're a teenager, you need a father figure to guide you, to keep the boys away or at least make sure you're not bothered by them. I wanted that to be Bob's responsibility, I'm doing this for your own good."

"By trying to stop me seeing Alec at weekends?" Rose asked defiantly.

"You see him all week Rose, you need to make more friends."

"I don't need other friends Mum. So am I grounded at weekends?"

"I'm not saying that Rose but I don't want ya seeing Alec."

"Mum, what about holidays? Ya can't expect me to stay in all the time."

"Well I can't stop ya, can I?" her mother pointed out. "From now on, Bob will expect you to introduce your other friends to him."

That was what Rose was dreading and not in a million years would she invite any girls from her class to meet him.

"Well during the holiday, we'll be going round to his aunts," Rose told her mother as she turned the stove down.

"Is that a good idea?" her mother wondered.

Rose wanted to say she already knew his cousin but that would give the game away.

"He's already mentioned it Mum. I was gonna go meet her this Sunday."

"Rose, I told ya not to hang around with him on Sundays," her mother reminded her.

"Well I ain't stopping in watching soppy films all afternoon and Alec's got no-one since Jamie won't talk to him. Just don't tell Bob."

"Rose, he'll find out, trust me," her mother replied.

"How will he?" Rose wanted to know, checking the time and seeing he'd be back soon, then it would start all over again.

"He was mad over putting that catch on your door Rose, it took some twisting his arm to get him to agree."

"Geez Mum, it wasn't much to ask," Rose replied as she heard the outer door open.

Before she knew it, Bob was making a fuss over her mother and asking Jackie how her day had been, never bothering to ask her how school had been. Now she needed to talk to Alec over something else and he wouldn't like it so how was she going to get away with sneaking out at weekends after she got dragged around the shops on Saturday morning?

The last few weekends had been more bearable because she'd been meeting Alec and now her mother wanted her to stop. She had to plan something without her mother finding out. Maybe when she'd met Alec the following morning her mother may relent?

Alec had been quiet when he got home and his dad asked what was wrong.

"Rose wants me to say hello to her mother in the morning," Alec admitted.

His dad put his book down and smiled.

"It had to happen eventually Alec, don't worry about it eh?" his dad told him.

Alec thought that was easy for him to say. Did all boys have to say hello to the mother of a friend who happened to be a girl? Well he already knew most of his friends mothers, having all grown up together but Rose was new. Why was he getting butterflies in his stomach at the thought?

"So was that her idea?" his dad continued.

"She said I should. I have to ask aunt Mary if Rose can go round for lunch with me during the holidays."

"Do you now? Your aunt will want to meet Rose and since you go outside to meet Rose on Sundays now, how are you going to manage that?"

"Rose is going to knock on the door for me and introduce herself," Alec replied.

"She's okay with that?" his dad smiled. "It seems to me like she is keener than you are to meet her mother then? What about her mother's boyfriend?"

Alec didn't want to be reminded of that.

"Rose tells him she's meeting Sandra from school. She dare not tell him, she's scared of him Dad, remember?"

"Yes, I know she is Alec. We are all trying to help her where we can. Does Rose know what will happen if she is asked to introduce Sandra to him?"

"She could ask Sandra, she might agree. John's been bringing us home so Rose has saved the bus fare up, she could offer it to give Sandra the fare to get here and back to where she lives."

"She is getting too deep into this Alec, Rose can't keep up the pretence forever. Maybe once you have met her mother, it may make things easier?"

"I hope so Dad. When we were out earlier, I thought I saw Billy and the others on the other side of the river. Only Jamie knew Rose and I hang around together after school."

"So you are worried they will tell everyone?" his dad wondered.

"Maybe? They were on Jamie's side though."

His dad shook his head.

"Never mind Alec, they can't choose your friends for you and don't go letting them either."

"I know Dad, Rose is the only real friend I have unless I can talk Jamie into being friends with both of us."

"We already talked about that Alec," his dad reminded him. "If he sees you and Rose together all the time, he may take some persuading. So, you are introducing Rose to your aunt and uncle eh?"

Alec wondered what they would think of her but she got on with John okay though he hoped his other cousin would be out and his aunt wouldn't make a lot of fuss.

When Rose had gone to her room, Bob and Jackie were talking.

"So have you asked Rose to bring her friend round?" Bob was asking Jackie.

"I'm tryin' Bob, give her time," Jackie was trying to tell him.

"Well it's time we were meeting who Rose seems to spend all her time with. Does she come straight home from school?"

Jackie had been hoping he wouldn't ask her that.

"She never says Bob. It'll start getting dark earlier soon anyway, where else is she gonna go?"

"Well when it does start getting dark early, that does not mean I get to finish early love," Bob tried to joke, putting his arm around her. "Well maybe I can see if I can get home the same time as you though, unless you and Rose enjoy your mother and daughter chats?"

"Yeah but I won't object if ya get home a bit earlier Bob," Jackie moved closer to him.

That would mean Rose would have to get home earlier or she'd have to start cooking herself. Then she had an idea.

"Well I've been teaching Rose to cook, she's gettin' good at it as well. You wanted her to get more involved looking after the apartment?"

"That's good Jackie, mothers should pass their cooking skills onto their daughters. Maybe she can take over from you and you have a rest when you get back eh? What time does she stay out until, with her friend?"

"Oh, I'm not sure Bob but she's always just tidying up when I get back. Maybe she can put tea on then tidy up?" she suggested, knowing that was exactly what Rose did every night and now, she had to pay her for it.

"Then we'll see how well she does eh? If Rose starts doing the cooking every night, maybe she can show off to her friend and invite her round? I still don't want her bringing any friends here when no-one is in though."

"Yeah, I know Bob, you'd never believe how many of her old mates used to just call for her all the time. I think she said she'd be spending the holiday with her friend though, when she's not studying or going to the library. I did tell her she should start to stay in more with us at weekends."

"Good, she just takes off Jackie, that's not a good idea," Bob told her. "She'll maybe not want to once it starts getting cold and when it's dark early?"

"Yeah, that's what I thought," Jackie admitted, thinking if she could keep fooling him, he wouldn't find out her daughter had a possible boyfriend.

She decided she'd meet this Alec in the morning and lay down the law before Bob did that but weekends were now out, well maybe with the exception of this Sunday and if someone else wanted to feed Rose during the holiday, it would save her buying extra. She would make her mind up if she liked this Alec or not and if she didn't, she'd tell him to stay away from Rose in no uncertain terms before Bob really did find out, that would spoil Bob's plans he had for her well and truly and he'd get really annoyed about it, as if he already wasn't having got him to agree to put it off for a while.

Chapter Text

Alec had told himself he had to set off even earlier the next morning and his dad had noticed he look nervous.

"Just be yourself Alec, Rose is your friend, she's on your side," Alec was reminded.

"I know Dad but what if Mrs Tyler takes a dislike to me and stops Rose being friends with me?"

"Alec, how can she do that when she gets home late?" his dad wanted to know.

"Well what about Sundays? I want Rose to meet everyone this Sunday."

"I know you do Alec, they want to meet her as well you know, since you talk about her all the time. I can't promise your other cousin will be in though."

So Alec was leaving the house and he walked towards Rose's street, unaware that Jamie was out and was watching him and wondering why Alec was out so early when he and Rose had been getting on the bus at the next stop. Jamie had been annoyed over Alec choosing Rose over himself and it was no longer a case he was jealous because if Rose had wanted, she could have made friends first before she made friends with Alec or not bothered with him.

Why had Alec gone out of his way to defend Rose on the first day back at school anyway, just because they'd been having a bit of fun in the library but after Alec wouldn't go talk to her, he'd been thinking of doing it. Now he was watching who had been his friend and guessed he did go meet Rose every morning and not just at the bus stop.

Alec got to the corner and hesitated for a few moments. Should he go through with meeting Rose's mother, surely it was no different from meeting mothers of his other friends? He made himself carry on and had just got to the end of the short driveway as Rose came out, followed by her mother.

Rose waved to him. "Hi Alec, come and say hello to my mum."

Alec still wasn't sure it was a good idea, her mother would probably find faults with him.

"Hello Mrs Tyler, I'm Rose's friend, Alec. It's nice to meet you."

"Is it now?" her mother tried to object. "Why have ya been standing on the corner every morning then?"

"I was waiting for Rose to ask me to meet you," was all Alec could think of, apart from saying he was nervous about it.

"Yeah Mum, I wasn't sure if it was a good idea," Rose replied. "Come on Alec, we'll miss the bus. See ya tonight Mum."

Alec stood back to let Rose's mother past.

"Don't be late back tonight Rose," her mother called to her.

Rose wondered what was meant by that but hoped it didn't involve that creep Bob coming home early like she'd heard him mention, she would barely make it home if he did and she'd have to leave Alec earlier. She didn't like the thought of that as she watched her mother walk off.

"The bus Rose," Alec reminded her.

"What? Oh, yeah, sorry. Come on then," she tried to laugh, grabbing his arm and starting to run, Alec trying to keep up with her.

As they got to the road, seeing the bus down at the next stop and crossed the road, Alec let go of Rose's arm as they'd got to the corner. Rose noticed and thought maybe he didn't want anyone to say anything but those that were waiting weren't even in their class but they may know some who were.

They waited outside the bus shelter and Alec just said sorry to her. When they got on the bus, she asked what for.

"It doesn't matter," Alec told her, thinking she'd not noticed anyway.

"Yeah, it does matter. Was it 'cos I grabbed your arm?"

"Forget it Rose. Do I have to meet her every morning?"

Rose wondered if she should let him stew.

"No, maybe not every morning," she decided to tease him, giving him a nudge.

Alec saw her smiling and knew she was having him on.

"Why don't ya come back with me tonight for a few minutes until my mum gets home?" she suggested.

"Will she be mad?" Alec wondered, not wanting to get on her mother's bad side.

"No, why should she? She said she wouldn't let on to Bob that you're my friend, not Sandra but he still might find out though. You'll have to leave as soon as she gets in though, he said something about trying to get home early and mum had the nerve to suggest I started doing the cooking – cheek."

"Sorry, when you do all the hard work and she gets the compliments," he replied, trying to ignore the fact Jamie would be staring at them.

Why was Jamie still acting like that? Was it what his dad had told him, that Jamie wanted Rose to be his friend? They made it through the morning, one being John's science class and they all thought he'd forgotten the question he'd asked when he had tricked Rose into talking.

"Right, so who can answer that question from the other week, bet ya thought I'd forgotten about it?" John asked five minutes before the end of the lesson. "Anyone? Rose?"

Rose wondered why he'd had to pick on her again, just because she came from London.

"I tried to find the answer, Sir," she replied. "I went to the big library as well."

"Well at least you tried I suppose?" John replied, about to give in and tell them. "So did your last teacher not conduct that experiment with you?"

"No Sir," Jamie decided to speak up.

"Well, we'll have to see about a demonstration next lesson along with this question. I coil up a thin piece of microwire and place it in a glass of water. Then I turn on the electricity and measure to see if the water's temperature is affected. My question is this. How do I measure the electrical power going into the coil?"

Everyone stared at him, Rose wondering if Alec's cousin thought he was teaching the sixth form not the third. Alec was also wondering how his cousin expected a third year student to answer that and where had he got his questions from while he'd be travelling?

They got outside for a break and Alec could see Jamie sitting on his own, wondering what was wrong.

"Go talk to him Alec," Rose tried to encourage him.

"He won't talk to me Rose."

"Well ya don't know unless ya try," she replied, giving him a nudge, something Alec thought she liked to do.

Billy had caught up with Jamie before the start of school, thinking he'd have some fun at Jamie's expense.

"Want to know what we all saw last night?" Billy had asked him.

"I expect you'll tell me," Jamie had replied, seeing Rose and Alec talking.

"Me and the others were on the riverbank and those two were sat talking."

"Tell me something new Billy, they are always talking," Jamie told him.

"Alec got up and held his hand out to help Rose up, bet you didn't know that Jamie?" Billy laughed, walking off.

"Did you tell him?" one of Billy's friends asked him.

"What do you think?" Billy grinned as Jamie was looking daggers at Rose and Alec, Alec sitting on the back of the bench just behind Rose and Rose was laughing at something.

Jamie bet anything they were talking about him, that they'd seen Billy and the others and Alec had done it on purpose. No wonder Alec was out early, he was probably meeting Rose so they could hold hands on the walk to the bus stop. So Jamie was stood on his own when Alec walked up behind him.

"Will you talk to me Jamie?" Alec asked from behind.

"Go away Alec, I know Rose is your girlfriend," Jamie replied angrily.

"What? No she's not, she's just my friend," Alec replied.

"Don't deny it Alec, you were seen last night, Rose was taking your hand," Jamie replied, trying to keep his temper.

"I was just helping her up off the grass Jamie," Alec tried to tell him.

"So what were the two of you doing sitting on the riverbank then?" Jamie wanted to know.

"We go down there or sometimes to the park, you don't want to come with us," Alec reminded him.

"Why would I? You wouldn't talk to her at the library Alec, I thought you weren't interested in girls," Jamie turned to him.

"Jamie, Rose was lost on her first day, I just thought if she'd seen us in the library, she would more likely feel better. We know now why she was so reluctant to talk."

"That's no excuse Alec, go back to her then."

John could see the two of them talking but kept his distance, going up to Rose instead.

"Trouble?" John asked her.

"No Sir, I told Alec to try to make up with Jamie but I don't think Jamie wants to," Rose replied as Alec walked back.

"He'll come round. So, Alec said he's invited you to meet his aunt and uncle on Sunday eh?" John grinned.

Rose wondered if he should be talking about that in the school playground.

"Well?" Rose asked Alec as he climbed on the back of the bench as John walked off.

"He won't listen Rose. Billy saw us last night and told him we were sat on the riverbank and I was helping you up."

"What? So you were helping me up, big deal," Rose replied as the bell rang.

"My dad and John were right, Jamie's jealous."

"Yeah, seems so to me," Rose replied as they got in line and ignoring Moira and Kristy in the next line, Moira blowing bubbles with her bubble gum and Rose pulling a face.

"What's wrong with you Rose Tyler?" Moira goaded her. "Don't you have bubble gum in London then?"

"Yeah but we don't look stupid with it," Rose replied, getting her a scowl from John for talking in line.

Some of the others heard and started laughing, the one behind Moira giving her a shove.

"Not so clever now, are you Moira?"

"Shut up Amy," Moira replied as they got inside.

"You lot, get to class," John reminded Moira and the other girl.

"Sir, Rose Tyler started it," Moira replied.

"Stop blaming someone else," John replied, trying not to take sides but he was already sort of doing that though he didn't want to be seen, which was why he kept any talk in the playground to a minimum.

"I'll get that Rose Tyler back," Moira huffed to Kristy, who was wondering if she was now on the wrong side, since Rose had got more followers than Moira had and didn't make a fuss about it.

Kristy had heard everyone talking in the playground and the dining room that Rose was now the one to get friendly with.

"Are you coming Kristy?" Moira shouted as they headed to their next class.

Kristy was trying to get up the courage to say no.

Now Rose and Alec were getting a ride home, hoping no-one had noticed, Rose had time to talk to Sandra for a few minutes and caught her on the way out.

"Sandra, I have something I should tell ya," Rose stopped.

"What's that Rose, getting tired of poor Alec?" Sandra smiled as Alec was talking to someone.

"What? Oh, no. It's just, well my mum thinks you're the friend I see after school, or rather my mum's boyfriend thinks that, mum just remembered I told her about Alec. Sorry but he'll go crazy if I say Alec's my friend and we hang around after school. Are ya mad at me?"

Sandra just laughed.

"Well you asked for that Rose, so what do you want?"

"I just wanted to warn ya, if ya get asked. Maybe you can come and visit sometimes?"

"I live in the opposite direction Rose. Does he think I live nearby?" Sandra asked as they walked towards Alec and trying to ignore Moira staring at them.

"Yeah sorry. I hang around with Alec until my mum gets home. She knows about him but she's not told her boyfriend yet, he's a bit strict."

"Poor you. No, it's okay Rose but I don't think I can come round, sorry."

"Never mind then? See ya."

"Everything okay Rose?" Alec asked her as she got to him and they walked outside.

"Yeah, I was just asking Sandra to call round but she can't. I'll have to put Bob off for a while longer."

"Just tell him Rose," Alec suggested.

"Are you kidding Alec? Want to come with me when I do?"

"Sorry. Come on, let's go find John."

When John had dropped them off, Rose sat in Alec's kitchen, her head on her hands and resting on the table.

"Sorry for earlier Alec."

"I know Rose, don't worry about it. I know it's not easy for you."

"Mum's banned me from going out on Sundays."

"You were coming to meet everyone," Alec reminded her.

"Yeah, I can get away with this Sunday but I can't get out of shopping with them on Saturday. Maybe I can sneak out in the afternoon but I was starting to like meeting on Sundays."

"So was I," he admitted. "So what did Sandra say?"

"She thought it was funny, lucky for me. Best get our homework out of the way and what's with John, asking questions like that?"

"I've no idea, honestly, that last one though, does he think we covered the subjects before?"

"I think he's got the lessons mixed up and he's asking the sixth form questions we should be getting," she laughed.

Alec agreed as they sat opposite to get their homework done. After tea, they went to the park.

"Rose, sorry about Billy and his friends seeing us."

"Alec, it's not your fault, you were just helping me up, what's wrong with that?"

"Jamie thinks I want you to be my girlfriend," Alec admitted, sitting on the back of the bench.

"Seriously? That's what's wrong with him, he was the one who wanted to talk to me in the library, to ask me to go out with him?"

"Seems like it, sorry. Rose, if you want to be friends with just him, I don't mind."

"What? With Jamie, who's been acting like a two year old because you're friends with me? No thanks. Anyway, we're only thirteen Alec, we're too young to be thinking of boyfriends and girlfriends, aren't we?"

"Maybe in London?" Alec grinned.

"Shut up," Rose told him, knocking his leg. "Well come on, get that story with the green bog monsters then?"

Alec got the notebook out of his jacket pocket, since he'd brought it with him when they got stuck on their homework and it took a bit longer than normal. He walked her back to the apartment and Rose indicated for him to follow her.

"I'd best not Rose."

"Aw, come on Alec, ya can leave when my mum gets back."

"What if he comes back at the same time? You said he might start finishing early, what if he starts tonight?"

"He won't, come on up, I'll show ya what a good cook I am," Rose laughed as she put the code in the door.

Once in the apartment, Rose went to get everything ready then put a record on.

"Come and dance with me Alec. Why don't we ever dance at your house?"

"Maybe because you don't like my music Rose," he grinned as she held her hand out.

"I don't mind it but ya can't dance to it," Rose teased him. "Do ya think we're too young to be more than friends then?"

Alec held her at arms length, not used to dancing.

"You do. I don't know Rose, are we? Let's just be friends and we can do more dancing if you want but you normally listen to my story."

"Yeah but ya can read it at the park or by the river."

"Well I suppose so then? Would you have been friends with Jamie if he'd been the one to help you on your first day at school?"

"Well he didn't, did he? Shall I tell ya something?" she asked as the music stopped. "When I saw you both in the library, I was hoping you might come over, not Jamie. I had an idea you were wanting that book I'd borrowed."

"I didn't want to go over in case you told me to go away and stop staring at you," Alec admitted.

Rose nudged him again then went to put the record away.

"Alec, ya can go before my mum gets back, if ya want?"

"She's already met me now Rose. Don't let me stop you doing what you should be. Maybe I should go?"

"If ya want? See ya tomorrow then?"

"Yes Rose, see you tomorrow and maybe we will dance instead of me reading you my stories?"

"What? Alec, I still want to hear them, I can't wait to see what happens next. Does one of them explode on the kitchen wall?" Rose smiled.

"You will have to wait and see Rose," he teased her.

"Bye then, hope ya don't bump into my mum on the way down but she takes the lift, you'll be safe on the stairs."

"Thanks for the warning. Are you mad at me for saying you should have made friends with Jamie instead of me?"

"No Alec, I'm not mad at you. You were the one who helped me, not him."

"Yeah, I suppose so? I'd best go before your mother gets here, she might tell her boyfriend."

"Alec, I'm not tryin' to hide ya from him, it's just I'm scared of what he'll say. I told ya, I might not be able to get out on Sundays after this week and I hate the idea."

"Me too Rose and I am sorry what I said about Jamie."

"I know Alec, it's okay but you'd been friends a long time, he must be a bit annoyed about it."

"If he was really my friend, he wouldn't be," Alec replied. "See you in the morning Rose. Are you allowed to use the phone?" he asked, seeing one on the hallstand.

"I've not asked. Maybe I could call ya on Sundays if I can't get out?"

"Maybe? Bye Rose."

"Yeah, bye Alec."

When Alec had gone, him thankfully not bumping into Rose's mother but he thought he'd had a narrow escape as the lift door was just closing as he emerged on the ground floor, Rose was checking the stove and hoping Bob wouldn't beat her mother home.

When her mother was making a drink as she always did, Rose tried to plead her case against being stopped seeing Alec on weekends.

"Rose, I told ya, it's Bob," her mother tried to tell her. "He doesn't think ya should be missing all weekend, we hardly see ya Rose."

Rose wondered if that meant her mother or Bob?

"Mum, ya never bothered when we were back home," Rose reminded her.

"Well this is your home now Rose, you know that and I have to go by what Bob says but I'll try and get a bit of leeway but for now, after this Sunday, no sneaking out."

"That's not fair Mum, I'm in every night, I don't get chance to go back out like Alec does."

"Rose, you know what time I get home," her mother reminded her.

"Well I could have my tea at Alec's house and stay out later," Rose replied.

"When it starts getting dark early?" her mother asked. "Who's gonna do the cooking then?"

"Mum, I could have it all ready for ya to just put on. Why don't I teach ya?"

"You know what I'm like Rose, I don't want Bob to think I can't cook," her mother replied.

"Well if I have it ready, he won't know, will he?" Rose asked. "You did okay feeding me."

"I know but men are different Rose, you'll find out one day," her mother replied. "Maybe in a while but not now, I still want ya back for tea."

Neither Rose or Alec enjoyed Saturday, Rose getting dragged around the supermarket that was newly extended and various other shops and trying to avoid walking next to Bob whenever she could. Alec didn't feel like doing much so he went to see if John was at home, he knew Peter was never there and had thought he was at university but his aunt had reminded him he was only away at college.

"So, little Cous, what's wrong with you?" John greeted him as he opened the kitchen door. "Trouble with Jamie still?"

"Yeah, how did you guess? Is this what it's like to fall out over a girl?" Alec asked him.

"Yeah, we all find out the hard way sooner or later Alec," John replied, ruffling Alec's spiky hair which Alec was beginning to hate.

"I asked Rose if she wanted to stop being my friend and be Jamie's," Alec admitted as he sat down at the kitchen table.

"How did that go?" John grinned, sitting opposite.

"She didn't like the idea. Billy and some of the others saw us by the riverbank the other night and Billy told Jamie."

John tried his best not to laugh but still spluttered.

"Sorry. So what was it they told him?"

"It's not funny John. I was only helping Rose up of the grass."

"So let me get this right. You held your hand out to help Rose up and you were seen? You'd best get used to it Alec, she'll be finding all kinds of excuses now."

Alec went all quiet. Rose already had. She had grabbed his arm the morning after when she had insisted he said hello to her mother, she had done it after they went out the night before then even worse, she kept nudging him every time he sat on the top of the bench either at school or in the park.

"Alec, if you don't want her to, you have to tell her."

"No, I don't mind, she probably doesn't realise and thinks I'm one of her girl friends. She probably did it all the time with them."

"Alec, she's trying to tell you something," John grinned.

Chapter Text

Alec looked at his older and obviously wiser than he'd thought cousin. Why had John been hiding the fact he'd become a teacher and why decide now to put it into practice? It seemed though that John was the one to go to for advice about girls, since until he'd met Rose he didn't want anything to do with them and he didn't even have Jamie to talk to.

"Well?" John reminded him. "Do you want her to stop or not? If you do, you'll have to do it tactfully or she may fall out with you and go on to someone else."

"Well it's not going to be Jamie," Alec insisted, feeling uncomfortable all of a sudden.

He heard the room door opening and his aunt came in, probably to make some tea during a programme break.

"Hello Alec. How are things with you? Are you still expecting Rose to call round on Sunday? If so, we'll have lunch a bit earlier then she can have a bit of afternoon tea with us. Your uncle and I are looking forward to meeting her now."

That was something Alec was dreading. He'd met Rose's mother, at her insistence and had narrowly escaped after Rose had made him follow her earlier. John was looking at him with a grin on his face.

"Oh, no need to worry Mum, I'm sure Alec can't wait to introduce her to us, can you Cous?"

Alec wished his older cousin would stop teasing him about being friends with Rose but didn't really expect him to ease up.

"Yes, I hope she'll be able to come and see you Auntie Mary. Her mum's getting a bit strict though, Rose is going to try to talk to her."

"Well what else has she to do after school and weekends?" his aunt asked as she made some cups of tea.

John wanted to say the both of them sitting by the river but managed to stop himself.

"I think she wants Rose to stay in. The thing is though that Rose doesn't like staying in, her mother's boyfriend is a bit funny with her."

"Well I expect he's just trying to be a father to her? If Rose was brought up by her mother, it will be hard for her at first I expect?"

"Mum, Rose is really having trouble at home, isn't she Alec?" John asked him. "She was very shy at first but she feels more comfortable when she's out."

"Is that so?" John's mother asked him. "Time you should be going home Alec."

"Come on, I'll walk you home," John insisted, so they could continue their conversation.

"I'm fine John," Alec insisted, knowing what John was up to.

"We didn't finish," John reminded him with a grin.

Alec knew he wasn't going to get out of it. John would surely continue some other time. Alec followed his cousin out and they walked to the end of the street.

"Alec, there's no easy way out you know?" John asked him. "Rose is showing all the classic signs she wants to only be your friend and no-one else's. Is that what you want? Do you want her to be friends with anyone else?"

"I don't know John, I've never had a friend like Rose before, have I? Does she want to be my girlfriend then?"

John let out a laugh as they crossed the road.

"I think it's heading that way Alec. Sorry but all the signs are there and you can both ignore them for the time being but they won't go away until you both do something about it. Want my advice?"

Alec nodded, since he didn't have much choice.

"Just ask her what she wants but try to convince her to maybe wait a while? You're both only just turned thirteen yet, just be friends for now and you'll both know when the time is right, maybe when you're both approaching fourteen?"

"Yeah? Maybe, if Rose says anything but should I say anything to her?" Alec wanted to know as they reached the end of his street.

"Oh, I don't think so Alec, Rose will make it clear all by herself but be careful you don't scare her off, yeah? What's happening at home with her?" John asked, sounding concerned.

"It's her mother's boyfriend, Rose is really scared of him. She got dragged up here John, she didn't want to move. She managed to get him to agree to putting a lock on her room door, her mother told him she had one at their old flat. I get scared for her sometimes."

They had reached Alec's house and John patted his cousin's shoulder.

"Have you talked to your dad about her?"

Alec nodded. "Yes, I think he's also worried about her. John, what if something bad happens to her though?"

"You may be worrying over nothing Alec. If she says anything to you, you should tell me or your dad, we can help her but only if we know about it. What has she said exactly?"

"I can't say John, I promised her but I'll talk to her. So what should I do the next time she wants me to help her up or hits my leg in fun?"

John let out a laugh. "Really Alec? Help her up and if she nudges you, nudge her back. How are you both going to manage all next week eh? Have you been to her place yet?"

"Yes, earlier, she got me to go back with her. She wanted to dance."

John almost spluttered. "Alec, Alec, Alec. You just don't get it, do you? If I were you, I'd start paying more attention to her."

"I already do but she'd never suggested dancing before, maybe because she doesn't like my music?"

"Then let her bring some of her music round eh? Are you still reading her your stories?"

"We're leaving it until we go out but we won't be able to soon, when it starts getting dark early. I'm going to ask my dad if she can go up to my room for a while, he said before about it."

"Well I expect he can trust the both of you? Really Alec, don't push her into anything, just suggest it eh? Then see how she takes it. What about going to her place?"

"I just got out before her mother got back," Alec had to admit.

John had to laugh at the thought.

"I thought you'd met her mother?" he asked.

"Well yes but only to introduce myself and Rose said I didn't have to wait, if I didn't want to."

"Well next time, don't be in such a hurry to leave eh? Let her mother know you're not trying to hide from her. Maybe then, she won't stop Rose going out at weekends? Did Rose say anything to you?"

Alec shook his head. "No but Rose thinks her mother will ban her seeing me at weekends. I bet it's not her mother, it's him."

"Maybe so, if he wants to lay down the law? Just be on her side Alec, that's all you can so, she needs you to be her friend even more now and don't worry, you'll know when things change."

"Thanks John. So do I carry on letting her get me to help her up and whack my leg?" Alec smiled.

"Oh yes Alec, you just keep doing that and maybe give her one back eh?" John replied.

Alec let out a nervous laugh, as if Rose would let him get away with it?

"Thanks John, see you tomorrow?" he said instead.

"No problemo Cous, see you tomorrow. Look, why don't you wait at the end of my street and get a ride in?"

"We already get talked about for not getting the bus home, thanks anyway."

"I probably follow the bus you know?" John reminded him. "Does Jamie still talk about the two of you?"

"We try not to listen to him. The thing is though, he'd think we were ignoring him even more if we didn't get the bus every morning."

"Alec, face it mate, Jamie's not going to come round that easily, he's in denial that he's jealous of your friendship with Rose. I'd say right now, it may teach him that you're not playing his game. Every morning, you and Rose sit near him and every morning, you're both a reminder to him. Maybe not seeing you will make him realise you're not going to play along? I'll watch out for you in the morning then? See what Rose thinks?"

"Okay, I'll ask her when I call for her," Alec replied. "Thanks John."

"See you tomorrow and don't worry so much about her eh? I'm sure Rose's mother won't let anything happen to her."

"I hope not but it doesn't make it right Rose has to live like that."

"I know Alec, she's very lucky to have you as her friend. Jamie may not be so understanding and Rose may not realise."

"You mean, never mind," Alec stopped.

"Don't worry mate, she won't even think of Jamie being her friend, the way he's acting," John tried to assure him. "Are you going to let us in?"

"Yeah, sorry. Don't tell my dad you think Rose might want to be my girlfriend," Alec grinned as he put his key in the door.

"Aw don't worry little Cous, that's up to you to tell him, not me," John joked.

Alec's dad looked up when they went into the living room.

"Hello John. So that's where you got to Alec?"

"Sorry Dad, I wanted to ask John something. I think I'll go catch up with my new story."

John had to smile as his younger cousin went off. Rose had obviously taken over a big part of Alec's life to the point that his stories were no longer more important than anything else, especially since his mother had died. He thought Alec had sought some kind of comfort in them, an escape from dealing with his mother no longer being there when he got home from school.

He was glad though that he'd taken up his teaching studies again, at least Alec had two friends at school now. He was sure now Rose had come out of her shell, she would defend him against one and all. No-one now bothered about Moira and Kristy, they had faded into the background and Kristy wasn't bothering that much. Rose was the one to be seen talking to, when she wasn't sat on the bench or the grass with Alec.

"So John, anything to tell me about Alec?" his uncle asked him.

"No Sir, I'll leave that to him, he'll tell you, when he's ready. I'm just glad I could get a job at his school but Rose seems to have cheered him up. Only a few months ago, he didn't seem to be coping very well over his mother's loss."

"I know John and I was worried about him but I'm less worried now you're back in the picture, he looks up to you. As for Rose, I know he's now worried about her, at home but I don't know how he's dealing with it but knowing him, if he was bottling it up, he'll maybe talk to you or Rose about it. She's a very nice girl and once it's dark early and they can't go far, well there will have to be a few rules imposed."

"I know, I remember them well," John laughed. "Can't say about my brother though, maybe that's why he never comes home?"

"Have you not heard from him?"

"Not recently unless he phones mum. Right, best be off, see you both on Sunday and I hope Rose will be able to join us, Alec said something earlier. I think her mother's objecting to Rose spending all her time with Alec. I joked with him earlier he'd better watch out."

"Yes, I think he'd better," his uncle agreed. "That's what the rules will be about but I did warn him the first time Rose was here when I got home. Still, they're a bit young to be worrying about that yet."

"We'd best hope so," John had to agree.

The next morning, Alec suggested to Rose they walked to the corner of John's street and get a ride in and Rose had to agree.

"Yeah, I'm getting a bit tired of Jamie staring at our backs. Won't it make him worse though?"

"I don't think so Rose, John thinks it will stop Jamie thinking we are playing his game."

"Well I hope so. I thought we only just got away with sneaking into your cousin's car on the way home," Rose joked.

John stopped to let them in, Alec going in the front and making John smile.

"So Rose, how's things at home?" John asked her.

"About the same. Mum's trying to stop me going out at weekends except shopping with them but I think it's Bob's idea. I'm old enough now to decide what I want to do with my spare time."

"Yes you are Rose," John had to agree. "Maybe there's a reason for it though?"

"Yeah, as if I don't think Bob's creepy enough, she's tryin' to make me spend time with him at weekends. I can't do it though so I'll have to get mum to try to make him understand I'm not a little kid."

John could already see where this was going and Alec was right to be concerned about her.

"Rose, you can talk to me just as you can to Alec, you know that, right?" John asked her as they neared the school and seeing all the buses. "Right, you two sneak out while everyone's busy."

"Yeah, thanks John. Come on Alec, let's sneak to the shop, I have some spare money now."

"Rose Tyler, are you still getting bus fare from your mother?" John tried to sound shocked.

"Well, I have to get home if you're not there or your car breaks down," Rose defended herself but John saw her smiling.

"That's very sensible Rose. See you both later then?" he called after them as they headed for the shop but not being able to get in right away as the sensible shopkeeper only allowed four pupils in at a time, then only if they were buying.

Rose handed Alec some change.

"Might as well get yourself something for break time," she suggested.

"Rose, I don't need your money today. I can't do the same as you though, I told dad I was getting a ride home because John or my aunt would have said something to him."

"Well I can't tell my mum, she'd go mad. Well no-one seemed to notice us getting out of John's car."

Alec agreed, it had been better than trying to guess if Jamie was complaining to Billy and the others that they were ignoring him but hadn't the others got tired of him by now? How long was his former friend going to hold a grudge? If it was until Rose stopped being friends, Jamie was in for a long wait as Rose grabbed his arm and pulled him inside as two boys came out.

"Well if it's not Alec Hardy?" one of the boys sneered, Rose trying to get past them. "Missing your mum?"

"You oaf, leave him alone," Rose defended him, Alec trying to get past her.

"Need your friend from London to defend you?"

"Shut up Campbell," Alec replied. "You don't want to mess with her, didn't you hear what happened to Moira and Kristy?"

"It's okay Alec, maybe word's not got around to the first years yet?"

"We're not in the first year's," the boy replied as his friends watched.

"Oh, my mistake, you act like you're in the first year," Rose replied, trying not to laugh but his friends were dying to. "Sure you should be out on our own?"

The rest of them did start laughing, getting them a scowl.

"Come on Alec, we don't have time for the wee babies around here," Rose mocked, pushing past the offender.

"Shut up you lot," the boy complained as they all laughed as Alec pulled Rose into the shop as she was about to start again.

Rose went to the counter and got a bar of chocolate for later and Alec got a can of soda, figuring they could share.

"You're asking for trouble with them Rose, they are a year above us," Alec reminded her as they paid for their things.

"So? I've dealt with worse than them before and I'd say I have the advantage."

"What's that?" Alec dared ask as they left the shop but wouldn't have time to sit and talk like they usually did.

"I grew up on a tough London council estate," Rose grinned.

"Well they seem to have gone and even his friends thought it was funny, him being shown up by a girl. Even Moira wouldn't have gone up against anyone older, she liked to pick on the younger ones."

"Well I don't pick on anyone for the fun of it," Rose replied, putting the chocolate in her bag. "I just stand up for myself and my friends Alec, I don't let anyone walk all over me."

"Neither do I Rose and I don't go around making trouble either, I just stuck up for you," Alec replied. "Thanks anyway, no-one else has brought that up about my mum."

"Yeah, well that was low even for a bully, there was no need for that. It was different with me, I never knew my dad and no-one bothered, there were plenty single parent kids at my old school. Did he upset ya?" Alec shook his head. "Good, 'cos it's not worth get upset about, he's a big coward. Is Campbell his first or second name?"

"I don't exactly know Rose, I don't care either, I just remember him when he picked on Jamie once."

"Alec, I'm sorry I came between you and Jamie," Rose apologized, touching his arm as they went inside the school.

"It's okay Rose, if he'd not fallen out with me over you, it would have been someone else and it could have been me falling out with him, if he'd made friends with you or someone else."

Rose had to smile as they walked up the steps.

"So ya'd have got jealous if I'd made friends with Jamie?" Rose laughed.

"I know what you're doing Rose," he whispered, seeing her smile as they took their seats.

After school, Rose suggested they went to her place first and get some records.

"Are you trying to tell me you don't like mine?" Alec wondered as he followed her upstairs. "Anyway, maybe after the holidays, it will be getting dark early, you can leave them in my room, if you want?"

"Yeah, good idea. So I'll just bring a few for now or we won't get our homework done. Maybe your dad will let us go to your room when we have to stay in?"

"My dad was going to talk to me about that but we can still go out for now. I'll have to see what he has to say about it."

Rose already had an idea what that was going to be about, getting warned that his dad wouldn't stand any nonsense once they started staying in and she had figured Bob was trying the same with this not going off at weekends lark, which she was going to defy anyway, one way or another.

On their way to Alec's a bit later than usual, Rose decided not to say anything but Alec brought the subject up.

"So can't you come round any more on Sundays?"

"Bob thinks he's gonna stop me but I'm sure mum will talk him round. He can't force me to stay in but I think he's just trying to lay down the law. Anyway, we have all next week."

"Yes, we do, which is why you need to meet my aunt but we could have gone round one evening," Alec reminded her.

"Yeah but we wouldn't be able to go out then. Alec, the other evening by the river, was someone across the other side?"

"Billy and his mates, don't worry about them."

"They saw ya helping me up and made something out of it?"

"It was nothing Rose, really, they'll get over it."

"They didn't think it was nothing though, did they?" Rose asked him.

"I was only helping you up Rose, no big deal. Come on, we'll have to rush our homework now."

"Well maybe we should start doing it at my place?" she suggested.

"What if your mum or Bob get home early? Are you still using Sandra as an excuse?"

"It's not come up lately," Rose grinned as they reached his house.

Rose had been thinking about him helping her up from the grass and earlier, when they'd shared the chocolate and soda on their afternoon break. No-one had been taking any notice of them but she thought Jamie would have been, it was adding more fuel to the fire. Was she making more of it than Alec was though?

Chapter Text

After Alec walked her home again, having gone to the park, Rose was waiting to talk to her mother. Jackie though didn’t seem in the mood for talking, especially about Bob’s rules.

“Leave it a few weeks Rose will ya?” her mother asked her.

“Mum, I’m going to meet his family on Sunday, it’s all been arranged. I’ve already met his cousin,” Rose told her, not wanting to reveal John was a teacher.

“Well there’s no way I can stop ya this weekend I suppose?”

“Mum, you and Bob never get any time alone,” Rose tried to suggest. “I thought I was doing ya a favour by going out?”

Her mother let out a laugh.

“Well that might work with me but not him. He wants us to be a family Rose, what’s wrong with that?”

Rose thought nothing, it depended on what his idea of a family was.

“Mum, just tell me, does he want to adopt me, are ya getting married?”

“Rose, we’ve not even talked about it yet,” her mother insisted.

“But ya will, sooner or later,” Rose insisted, stirring the contents in the saucepan.

“Not just yet Rose and if we do, you have no say in it, it’s between me and Bob. If we do, we’re doing it partly for you, so you have a proper home.”

“We managed all that time Mum,” Rose reminded her. “Alec’s mum died recently, he’s gettin’ over it and I think I’m partly responsible. He had another friend but since Alec made friends with me, he backed off so if ya stop me seeing Alec at weekends, you’re taking me away from him. Please Mum, talk to Bob about it but don’t tell him about Alec, not yet.”

Rose heard the door opening and went quiet, hoping her mother wouldn’t repeat what had just been said.

“Jackie love, something smells good. Are you teaching Rose here a thing or two?” Bob laughed.

Rose was not happy, since she did all the hard work and her mother got the praise. Of course, Jackie took the praise as usual.

“Yeah Bob, she’s not doing bad,” she agreed.

“See Rose, we’ll make a cook out of you yet. Maybe on Sunday afternoons, you can take a few more lessons eh?”

Rose wondered what happened to spending time as a family.

“Actually Bob, Rose already had plans this Sunday with her friend,” Jackie replied.

“Has she now? Does that include bringing your friend to meet us Rose?” Bob asked her.

“She’s a bit shy,” Rose tried to bluff. “That’s why I’m going over to meet the rest of her family. Maybe if I spend a few Sunday afternoons with them, she might wonder what all the fuss is about?”

“Maybe so but remember what I told you? This week only Rose, then spend some time with me and your mum eh?” Bob replied, Rose thinking it wasn’t a request.

“Well can’t I go out later then?”

“Don’t push your luck Rose,” Bob warned her, putting his arm around her mother.

“Aw, go easy on her Bob,” Jackie encouraged him.

“We’ll see love, that depends on what we talked about,” Bob replied.

Rose dreaded to think what that was but it had to involve her. She’d not said anything to Alec about it but she was getting awful feelings every time Bob looked at her and staying in every Sunday would make things even worse. Maybe she should talk to Alec’s dad or John about it? She didn’t like where this was going one bit.

Before Rose or Alec knew it, the weekend came around and as Alec took her home on Friday evening, he asked if she could sneak out to the library when she returned from shopping.

“Alec, I’m barely getting away with meeting your aunt on Sunday,” she grinned as they stood outside. “Not coming upstairs?”

“Your mum might catch me Rose, I barely got away with it the last time.”

Rose took his arm and began running her other hand up and down it and Alec knew what she was trying to do.

“We have a while before she comes home and what if she does catch ya?”

“She might stop you meeting me altogether,” Alec replied, trying to get out of it.

“No she won’t, I’m off all next week and she’s at work. Besides, I’m tryin’ to get her to get Bob to not put a ban on going out on Sundays. Let me see how it goes, yeah?” she grinned at him and not bothering to move her hand from his arm.

Alec thought maybe John was right after all, she was starting to do things without even thinking about it.

“Okay, I’ll come up for a few minutes but if she catches me, you can do the explaining,” he relented as Rose finally let go to put the code in the door.

Luckily for Alec, Rose let him go with a few minutes to spare after she made an excuse to put yet another record on and he knew if she kept doing that, she’d keep all the slow ones here on purpose. He dreaded to think later on in the year when they had the school disco that she’d drag him along though he had escaped last year since Jamie hadn’t wanted to go.

Saturday morning, Alec had gone to the local shops with his dad and Rose had been dragged into the town centre, then when they got back and made some lunch, Rose tried to excuse herself to the library.

“You have all next week,” Bob reminded her as he found the football on TV.

“Well I’m off to my room then, it was bad enough that Mickey used to come round to the old flat and watch the match.”

Once she had gone, Bob turned to Jackie.

“So this Mickey she talks about?”

“They grew up together Bob, he’s older and used to watch out for her, until she was twelve and she started tormenting him,” Jackie had to laugh.

“Has she made any friends other than this Sandra at school?” Bob wanted to know. “You’d tell me if there were any boys she’s made friends with, wouldn’t you?”

“Yeah, ‘course I would Bob, she’s not mentioned anyone in particular though,” she tried to bluff. “She’s mentioned some she gets on the bus with.”

“Well it’s time we met some of them, especially this Sandra, I hope Rose isn’t making her up?”

“She’s had imaginary friends before Bob but when she was younger. She just misses her old friends she used to hang around with, that’s all.”

“Well if she mentions a boy, you had better tell me Jackie, don’t forget what we talked about eh?”

“I know Bob, you only want what’s best for Rose, she’ll see you’re right when the time comes. She asked me again if ya want to adopt her, she seems keen,” Jackie tried to bluff, leaving out the getting married bit, since they’d never discussed it.

“Good, I want her to be keen on what I’ve got planned,” Bob replied, going quiet as the second half of the match began.

Jackie sat back, she didn’t particularly like football but since Bob did, she had little choice. She knew Bob was still a bit annoyed at putting his plans back but what else could she do but to agree when the time came that Rose would go along with what she suggested was best for her regarding Bob. The only reason she’d put it off so far was for Rose to get used to having a father-figure around.

Little did Jackie know that Rose had two more far reliable men around to try to guide her in the form of Alec’s dad and his cousin John.

Rose was annoyed she couldn’t sneak out and was also annoyed that she used to get away with everything until Bob had come along and he was spoiling it. Now she had Alec as a friend, she wanted to spend more time with him and when going out on Sunday afternoons had worked, that was more time they got to go to the river or the park though Alec hadn’t said he was getting bored with the two places they stuck to.

Alec’s dad was keeping an eye on him as he sat at the dining table and pretending to think about his latest story.

“Stuck?” his dad laughed as he watched the sports news programme.

“A bit, I want to bring something Rose mentioned into this one, it’s sort of a re-telling of one of my old ones but she thought it would be funny and she was a bit disappointed it didn’t happen when I read the other one to her,” Alec tried to explain.

His dad had to smile. He’d been talking with John again and knew Alec spent all his time at school with Rose and he was no nearer making up with Jamie.

So Alec set about with his green ‘bog monsters’ as Rose called them and altered his original story but now had the idea to introduce a new companion for his main character and call her Rose, it would please her no end and maybe bring her old friend Mickey into it as the one who got covered with green slime. He did wonder if he should have her mother there for some reason and she got some of it but would Rose laugh or slap him? Maybe he’d make it that her mother thought Rose had got kidnapped and her mother wasn’t happy when she found out Rose had gone off with a time-traveller?

He wished though that Rose was calling round today but his time for writing was getting less and less, since they stayed out longer now she’d got him going up to her flat as well. He was thankful they’d not run into Billy and his mates, they were bad enough at school though they seemed to tease Jamie more than they did himself and Rose.

Sunday morning, Rose went to start lunch early, wanting to get away to catch Alec before he left for his aunts but since he’d said they ate there, she thought maybe she’d best leave it until around four as Alec had mentioned his aunt was inviting her to have tea with them.

“So, you can cook without being asked?” Bob mused as Rose headed for the kitchen. “You’ve taught her well Jackie.”

“Well she’s old enough now, aren’t you Rose?” her mother asked.

Rose thought her mother had a bit of a cheek really but answering back would only get her grounded for the afternoon and yesterday had been bad enough. She wondered if Alec had started his new story yet but he wouldn’t read it to her until he’d finished it, unless she did a sway in front of him or rubbed his arm like the other night, he seemed to have given in easily when she’d done that and meant to keep using it.

She had wondered why it had worked though and if she kept doing it he’d either tell her to stop of just let her carry on. She hadn’t told him that Sandra had given her some advice in the girls room as they had time now John was taking herself and Alec home. As she tended what was in the oven, she thought about what Sandra had said.

“Trust me Rose, my older cousin gave me some tips about boys,” Sandra had laughed as they stared into the mirror. “You can get Alec to do anything you want, did you try swaying at him yet?”

Rose had felt herself blushing at the thought of the effect it had on him the night before.

“See, told you,” Sandra had laughed. “Well don’t keep him waiting then. You’re not getting the bus, are you?”

“What makes ya think that?” Rose had replied, thinking they’d been found out.

“I heard Billy saying,” Sandra replied.

“Alec’s cousin works nearby and gets out at the same time, that’s all,” Rose admitted, hoping her friend wouldn’t work it out.

Alec was getting nervous though of introducing Rose to his aunt and uncle and if his other cousin had decided to pay a rare visit home, he’d never hear the end of it.

“Alec, don’t look so worried,” his dad was telling him as they set off.

“I’m only worried she won’t be allowed out Dad. She said she’s being made to stay in after today on Sundays.”

“I know you worry about her Alec, we all do but we can’t interfere unless it’s something serious. If she was really in trouble, John and I will talk to her about it but such as being made to stay in? Her mother must have a reason?”

“Rose said it’s not her mother who’s stopping her,” Alec replied as they crossed the road, him glancing in the direction Rose would come from.

His dad noticed. “It’s a bit early for Rose,” he smiled. “So how many times have you met her mother eh?”

“Only once Dad, I leave before she gets home, I don’t want to cause any more trouble for Rose,” Alec replied.

“That’s very considerate of you Alec but her mother has to get used to you, maybe if she does, she’ll let Rose out at weekends, I mean if she feels she can trust you."

“Maybe then?” Alec wondered as they reached his aunt’s house. “Next time she asks me, I’ll think about it.”

“Aye, you do that Alec,” his dad smiled as he knocked on the door.

It was John who answered, letting them in and stopping Alec.

“I’m surprised Rose isn’t early little Cous,” John laughed as he went to ruffle Alec’s hair and Alec wishing he’d stop doing that since he half expected Rose to start doing it, along with rubbing his arm and swaying in front of him.

Why was he even letting her do things like that anyway? John had mentioned Rose would show some signs but it was like she just did them suddenly, giving him no warning as to what to expect. He recovered slightly to answer John.

“She’s coming round later John, remember?”

“Take no notice Alec,” his aunt smiled as she checked lunch was almost ready. “You could have invited her for lunch I suppose?”

“I don’t think she would have been able to get away for lunch,” Alec replied. “Her mum said she can’t go out any more on Sundays after today.”

“Oh, that’s a shame then,” his aunt replied. “Maybe you should try calling for her, she might be able to go out then?”

“Good idea Mum,” John agreed, standing opposite Alec. “What do you think Alec?”

Alec thought it was bad enough calling when just her mother was there, let alone her mother’s boyfriend.

“I don’t think Rose wants her mother’s boyfriend to know about me yet,” Alec replied.

“That’s a shame Alec,” his aunt replied. “Still, the time will come, eventually.

“I don’t know about that Auntie Mary, he’s a bit off with her, Rose doesn’t feel comfortable with him.”

“I’m sure your aunt doesn’t want to hear Rose’s problems,” his dad reminded him.

“Well if she’s coming round with you next week Alec, I expect I’ll hear some of them,” his aunt disagreed.

“Rose is very unsure at the moment Mary,” Alec’s dad tried to explain. “She’s making the best of a difficult situation, John’s keeping an eye on her at school, thankfully and if he has any concerns, then we should try to help her.”

“You can count on our help,” Alec’s aunt replied. “Well come on then, Alec, set the table will you?”

John went to help him.

“Nervous little Cous?” John nudged him, which didn’t feel the same as when Rose did it. “So, anything to tell me yet?” he winked. “Did you nudge her back yet maybe?”

“Stop teasing me John. What you said, about her showing signs?”

“Well, has she, started showing signs I mean?” John tried not to laugh.

“I think she may be doing, like when she wants me to agree to something,” Alec had to admit.

“Really? Such as?” John wanted to know as they set the places on the dining table in the lounge, Alec wondering where his uncle was.

“She wanted me to go up to her flat on Friday evening and when I hesitated, she took my arm and started rubbing her hand on it.”

John almost dropped the remaining knives and forks as he spluttered.

“Alec, mate, I think she is definitely trying to tell you something,” he laughed.

“Then tell me what she’s trying to say? I followed her and she insisted we danced again, even though she took some records to my house.”

John tried to keep a straight face but was failing.

“Sorry Alec, you’ll just have to find out for yourself mate but let me tell you one thing though. Just go along with her but don’t give in too easily eh? If you give in too easily, it may put her off. So let her nudge you now and then and nudge her back and when she drags you by the arm or hand, try keeping up. She’ll start to tell you Alec, when she’s ready.”

“So I just wait then?” Alec asked him.

“Seems so Cous,” John smiled as the others came in.

Alec’s aunt had been wanting to know what to expect when Rose called for Alec and his dad had tried to explain the situation with Rose’s mother’s boyfriend, since Alec’s uncle also wanted to know.

“We’ll help all we can,” Alec’s aunt had assured his dad.

“Well she doesn’t feel safe where her mother’s boyfriend is concerned, she managed to get a lock on her room door at least but it’s the way she says he watches her and wants her around. It could be nothing.”

“Well if she tells me anything, I’ll let you or John know,” Alec’s aunt replied. “Best get lunch or we’ll be eating when she arrives.”

“Seems like our young nephew is pretty keen on her meeting us,” Alec’s uncle joined in.

“I think he feels better knowing someone else cares about what happens to her,” Alec’s dad told him.

“Aye, I think our Alec’s about to find himself being her boyfriend,” his uncle laughed.

Alec’s dad and his aunt joined in, it seemed so indeed the way Alec was seeking advice from his older cousin and his dad was just relieved Alec hadn’t found out yet because when he did, the fun would start.

Rose was also getting nervous, going to her room after clearing the dishes from lunch and watching the time. She was about to leave when Bob called her back.

“So, meeting your friend?” he asked her, Rose thinking it was a bit of a stupid question.

“Yeah, gotta go meet her, I don’t know how long I’ll be.”

“What about teatime?” her mother asked her.

“I told ya mum, I’ve been invited out for tea so don’t wait for me,” Rose replied.

“Rose, ask your friend to come back with you?” Bob suggested.

“I don’t know, she’s a bit shy,” Rose tried to bluff.

“Rose, you’re not trying to hide anything, like you are seeing a boy?” Bob asked her.

“I said I was meeting my friend, Sandra,” Rose sighed, thinking now, she’d have to rush but they wouldn’t expect her on time, would they?

Maybe Alec would get anxious and set off to meet her? She’d noticed a change in him the last few days when she had been trying to get him to do things. Was he playing at being shy or just the prospect of meeting her mother and Bob? Well with Bob, he was right to be worried.

She finally got out and rushed around to where Alec’s aunt and uncle lived, at least she already knew John but if Alec’s other cousin was paying a visit home, she’d also have to meet him. Alec was sitting in the kitchen, making everyone smile at his keenness to greet Rose.

“I already told you,” John was bragging as he glanced through the open kitchen door. “He’ll have to admit it sooner or later, since Rose is just the same when he’s around.”

“Well you have the advantage,” John’s dad told him. “You see them at school.”

“They’ll realise, eventually,” Alec’s dad agreed. “I’ll have to remind Alec of a few things, since she’ll be spending more time with him.”

“Surely they’re a bit young to be serious?” Alec’s aunt wondered.

“You can never tell these days Mary,” her husband replied as he came out from behind his Sunday newspaper.

“Well from what I’ve seen, I think Rose has already begun to realise,” John told them.

Alec was up like a shot when there was a tap on the kitchen door, more so than when she’d called for him before and he’d gone out. This time, he had to let her in and introduce her and he hoped he’d do it better than she had done introducing him to her mother.

“Hi Rose,” he greeted her, seeing her step back as he opened the door.

“Hi, am I a bit late? Bob decided to say something as I was leaving," Rose told him.

“No, you’re not late Rose, come in.”

It all went better than Rose or Alec expected as his aunt made a fuss over Rose and wanted to know all about where Rose came from and when she was growing up, which got her all flustered since Alec didn’t know some of it.

“So it was difficult when you were told you were moving?” Alec’s aunt asked her as Rose offered to help her make some sandwiches.

“Yeah, a bit, I miss my old friends. Did Alec tell ya we used to see each other in the library?” Rose smiled.

“Yes, I wondered why he was finding excuses to go,” his aunt laughed.

“I know his mum died recently Mrs Smith, I know that’s why he looked all sad when I used to see him. I grew up with just my mum, I know what he’s going through.”

“I know you do dearie, he’s been better since he made friends with you but it’s sad Jamie fell out with him over it."

“I told Alec I was sorry that happened,” Rose replied. “I wish I could get Jamie to see he shouldn’t make Alec choose between his friends.”

“Take my advice Rose, Alec chose to be friends with you, he thought you were all on your own like he was and Jamie could have remained his friend if he’d wanted to. Just carry on being his friend, that’s all you can do and Jamie will come round, if he wants to."

“Yeah, I suppose so? I just feel like if I’d not come here, they’d still be friends,” Rose told her.

“Well it seems to me Alec’s glad you came here,” his aunt smiled, picking up a plate of sandwiches. “What about now Rose, are you glad you came here and made friends with Alec?”

Rose wasn’t sure what she was getting at, first Sandra had given her some advice and now Alec’s aunt was smiling at the thought of her and Alec being friends. Was everyone suddenly getting the idea she wanted Alec to be her boyfriend? If so, what did Alec think about it and were they ready for that?

Chapter Text

More worries

Rose wasn't so anxious as she set off to meet Alec the next morning. They had agreed to meet on the corner, since her mother would already be out but she was planning on getting back reasonably early so he would be there when her mother got home, since they'd talked about it on the way back the night before.

"I'm not sure that's a good idea," Alec complained as they stood outside.

"She's not gonna bite Alec," Rose had grinned. "Ya don't have to wait for Bob coming home."

Alec had shuddered at the thought. So now, he was waiting for her on the corner when he saw Jamie and his mother going to the bus stop, the one he and Rose used to use. Jamie's mother was nudging him.

"Why aren't you talking to Alec?" she wanted to know.

"Because he made friends with a girl called Rose," Jamie admitted, making his mother smile.

Alec was glad to be avoided but felt himself smiling when Rose came around the corner. What was she doing to him? Now, he wasn't that bothered Jamie was ignoring him and maybe Rose was right, he should at least stop and say hello to her mother. He still missed his own but Rose was beginning to fill the gap.

As the week went on, Rose had found it easy to get along with Alec's aunt, offering to help with lunch and then they would go venture further than the park and down the riverbank. By the end of the week, Rose had somehow got him to hold her hand when no-one was around and even if they'd been spotted, Alec didn't think Rose would bother too much.

It was Friday afternoon and they were walking back to Alec's house and he was trying to find out if the ban was still enforced on them meeting at the weekend.

"I'm working on it Alec," Rose tried to assure him. "I hinted to Bob that if he wanted to meet my friends, I had to work on it."

"So what did he say?" Alec wanted to know.

"He's still arguing I should spend time with them. I'll have to stay in tomorrow but I'm gonna try to get out on Sunday. The thing is though, I'll still have to say it's Sandra."

"I don't like you having to cover up who you're meeting Rose," Alec told her.

"Then I'll have to tell him and see how it goes, are ya ready for that?" she asked him as they reached his house. "Maybe we should talk to your dad or John about it? So, am I allowed in your room again?"

"Dad says we had better be downstairs when he gets home," Alec reminded her.

Rose just grinned as she took her jacket off once in the house.

"Well we can always dance down here?" she suggested, doing her sway in front of him.

"So we dance again and I read my story later? I have a surprise for you, it'll be ready soon."

"A new story! Why didn't ya say?" she asked flinging her arms around his neck. "Wow, that's great. So why not tell me?"

"Well it's a surprise, since you gave me the idea?"

"I did? Really? Is it about those green bog monsters, what was their name?"

"The Slitheen? I can't tell you Rose but you'll like it. I made up a new companion as well."

"Wow, you really kept that quiet," she teased him, ruffling his hair and Alec wondering when she'd started doing that.

He knew what she'd been doing all week – exactly what John had predicted and last night, her mother had actually not bothered he was in the kitchen as Rose started preparing the food. She'd asked him why he'd not stayed before.

"So, Alec, I hope you're not just gonna stay once?"

"No Mrs Tyler, Rose just wanted me to say hello to you the first few times. Is there any chance she can come to tea at my aunt's again on Sunday?"

"I'll have to ask but she was supposed to be staying in."

"It won't be until late afternoon," Alec had tried to tell her.

"We'll have to see how it goes then," Jackie had told him.

So when Alec had reminded Rose, she was still waiting for an answer after her mother had mentioned it to Bob, hoping her mother wouldn't slip up and say it wasn't with Sandra. She'd been talking to Rose in the kitchen and Rose had pleaded with her to go along it was Sandra she was going to see.

"I know that Rose but he'll find out," her mother had insisted. "How much longer can ya hold off not bringing her around?"

Rose had thought that was never going to happen, well not with Sandra anyway, Alec might stand more of a chance but Bob would probably scare him away, then she would lose him as a friend.

So now, they were in Alec's room, Rose dancing around him to a catchy tune and him watching her while holding her hand.

"Aw come on Alec, ya don't have to just stand there," she teased him.

"Well you are making all the moves," Alec had to laugh.

"Want me to slow down?"

"I never said that," Alec replied, knowing she was teasing him. "Don't forget to ask your mum tonight, about Sunday."

"I said I'd try Alec. You've no idea how things would be if she told him my friend wasn't a girl. So are ya gonna go see John then?"

"About staying more than five minutes when your mum gets home? It was bad enough last night Rose."

"Aw, ya survived," Rose reminded him.

"Yes, just. I think Bob may have been going up in the lift as I used the stairs."

"Ya had a narrow escape then?" Rose laughed.

"What would he do, if he found out?"

"I dread to think," Rose replied, letting go and sitting on the chair.

Alec sat on the edge of his bed.

"Don't think about it Rose. What has he been saying?"

"Nothing, it doesn't matter. We'd better go downstairs."

Alec got up suddenly, standing in front of her.

"Tell me Rose, I want to help you."

"I know you do Alec but you can't."

"Don't say that Rose. You've not said anything about him for a while."

"I didn't want to bother ya. I'll try and go to your aunt's on Sunday, honestly."

Alec still stood in her way. "Tell me what's wrong Rose."

"Nothing." She saw the look on his face. "Bob wanted me to bring Sandra round, which I'd never do."

"Why are you so scared of him? Is he so bad?"

"I got him to put a lock on my door Alec, remember? You want to know? I hate being there and the thought of my mum leaving me with him, okay?"

Alec put his hand on her shoulder.

"Rose, you need to speak to my dad. What if she were to leave you?"

"I don't know Alec, maybe it's just me?"

"Maybe it's not? Would he object to me being your friend?"

"Ya can bet on it Alec," Rose replied, trying to get up.

"I'm just worried at meeting him, maybe I should try?"

"Then let me talk to my mum first, she's trying to still make him think I'm meeting Sandra."

Alec saw she was trying to smile at the thought. They went downstairs and waited for Alec's dad coming home, then Alec told him.

"Alec, you should wait and introduce yourself to him, prove that Rose really does have a friend. Rose, can you not get your friend Sandra to visit?"

"No, she lives at the other side of town. Now Bob will know I lied about it."

"Well, why not ask John to pick her up and bring her over?" Alec's dad suggested.

"She'd know John was Alec's cousin then, no-one knows. I don't want either of them to get into trouble over it."

"Then I will go with you, maybe next Sunday, what do you think Alec?"

Alec would do anything to help his friend.

"Rose, that would be a good idea," Alec agreed.

"No, I have to tell him the truth or say we fell out. She won't be keen on the idea."

"That's very brave of you Rose," Alec's dad told her. "What will he say if Alec introduces himself?"

"I don't know, let me tell him first before Alec meets him."

After they had eaten, they went for a walk even though it was almost dark.

"We should start staying in now," Alec suggested.

"Yeah or go to my place? Want to go now?"

"How many records do you have left?" Alec teased her.

"This is your chance Alec, to talk to my mum."

Alec wished she wouldn't remind him. Jackie seemed better around him so before he left, Rose tried to explain to her she was going to admit Alec was her friend, not Sandra.

"Do ya think he'll be mad?" Rose dared asked her as Alec was about to leave.

"Well, ya can try, I dunno what he'll say. Let me talk to him tonight, yeah? You should stay in this Sunday Rose, the week after, he might let ya go out a bit later, if ya tell him where ya really going."

"That sounds like a good idea," Alec agreed. "I'd best go now, see you on Monday?"

Rose didn't like the idea of that, having to put up with Bob all weekend. Alec knew she was worried. His dad noticed when he got home.

"Did you talk to Rose's mum?"

"Yes Dad but I don't think Rose can go out this Sunday. Her mother thinks if Rose leaves it this week, she might be able to the week after."

"That's good then. Alec, try not to worry too much eh? It could be nothing but Rose getting used to having someone around who wants to act like her dad."

Alec hoped that's all it was but it had got Rose worried. If Rose was worried, then so was he. While Rose, her mother and Bob were eating, Rose decided to test the waters, so to speak.

"I wanted to ask ya if ya'd changed ya mind about me going out on Sunday," Rose spoke up.

"Leave it Rose," her mother asked her.

"It's okay Jackie, let her speak. I'm doing for your own good Rose."

"All my other friends go out when they want and I spend all evening with the both of ya."

"She has a point Bob," her mother agreed.

"Well her friends should have more respect for their parents. I told you Rose, you can invite your friends over here."

Rose thought that was rather defeating the object.

"Well I don't think Sandra will want to but I've got another friend who's already met mum, haven't I Mum?"

Jackie thought she was supposed to be keeping that quiet.

"So, who's this friend, another girl?" Bob wanted to know.

"No, he's called Alec, he helped me settle in my new school."

"What are you doing hanging around with a boy?" Bob asked angrily. "Jackie, did you know about this?"

"Well yeah, I met him but Rose didn't say much," Jackie defended herself.

"Well I don't want you hanging around with a boy, understand? Jackie, I want you to make sure. Is that where you intend going this week?"

Rose started to get up.

"Answer me Rose. Was this Sandra just an excuse?"

"No, I do have a friend called Sandra. What's wrong with having a boy as a friend?"

"I don't want to hear any more Rose and no sneaking out at weekends."

Now Rose knew it was him and not her mother who had her grounded. She had hoped it was just her mother but the look on Bob's face told her differently.

"Jackie, we need to talk. Rose, go to your room if you don't want to hear," Bob advised her.

Rose was glad of the choice, she didn't want to hear their discussion.

"So Jackie, you knew about this boy?" Bob asked her.

"Well he had the manners to introduce himself," Jackie replied, not wanting to say exactly when. "She had friends at her old school, she just misses them."

"That's no excuse Jackie, we talked about Rose and boys," he reminded her. "You know I only agreed for one reason, why we waited."

Jackie didn't want to be reminded but she had gone along to a certain extent, having thought that at last, she'd found a man who was interested in her daughter's welfare but some of what they had discussed seemed a little odd. She had no idea what things would have turned out like if Pete hadn't been knocked down by a car that day at a friends' wedding.

None of the other men she'd dated wanted to take responsibility for Rose, not that she had wanted them to anyway but Bob was so different and Rose would just have to accept it. She had wondered if he was ever going to get around to mentioning marriage but it hadn't been that long really, maybe it was a bit soon? She had to still pretend Rose was keen on the idea, even though she'd just shown otherwise.

All she could do was try to keep Rose away from Alec outside school and weekends, she could do nothing about after school though and holidays, since it had saved her some money Rose going out for lunch every day. At least Alec had made the effort to introduce himself though but she couldn't be seen agreeing Rose could spend time with him.

"Yeah Bob, I know I agreed and I still do but she needs time and friends."

"I know she needs friends but she can see them at school and you talk to her, I want to hear no more about this boy, understood?"

"I'll try talking to her Bob, she didn't want anything to do with boys before, maybe she doesn't even realize?"

"I hope that's the case Jackie or I may have to have a re-think about what we talked about, you don't want that, do you?"

Jackie shook her head. She'd had no choice, Bob was giving them a new life away from the rough council estate Rose had grown up on. Rose had got into a better school, well barely and it would look better on her records than the comprehensive school she was already at, that didn't exactly hold any awards. No, life here was definitely an improvement and she had gained employment although it was hard work.

Jackie shook her head. "There's no need Bob, honestly. Rose will see we're doing it for her own good. So we still agree we wait until she turns fourteen?"

She saw the smile on his face.

"If that's what you think love and no excuses, right?" he asked her, going up to her.

Rose knew she'd made the right choice going to her room, Bob was far too smug for her liking and it showed when she emerged to go to the bathroom as she heard him saying her mother had agreed to something, though she dreaded to think what that actually was.

Now, she regretted admitting to Alec she was still worried because he wouldn't let it go and probably tell John over the weekend and he'd say something on Monday morning. Maybe if she told her mother she didn't need the bus fare, she might get Bob to go easy on her but if John failed to turn up or they somehow missed him, it was a long way to walk home.

Sandra was catching on though that they were getting a ride and it wouldn't take much for the others to do the same, especially Billy or Jamie and Jamie was in that frame of mind he may even report it. Things wouldn't have gone so well had John not got the job there, he was the best teacher in the school and she'd never paid much attention at her last one.

The weekend seemed endless to both of them, Alec going to the library and hoping to see Rose or even Jamie but saw neither and he'd sat in his aunt's kitchen all Sunday afternoon hoping Rose would knock on the door.

John saw how his young cousin was acting and went to join him.

"Want some company?"

"Not really, thanks. She might still call."

"Aw, come on Alec, why don't you call for her?" John suggested.

"I don't think so John. She was going to try telling him about me, I don't know how it went. It could make things even worse for her."

"Alec, it could also help her, if you're willing to show your face, think about it. Look, I know you're worried about her so instead of always going straight to your house, maybe call in at her apartment a few times?"

"I sometimes do John, she still kept some records, she likes to dance," Alec admitted.

John gave him a big grin. "Find out what else she likes doing Alec, it'll be getting dark early soon."

"I know that. I stayed behind the other night to meet her mother again."

"Really? Good for you. She didn't bite your head off then?" John teased him.

"I didn't stay long enough," Alec tried to smile, wishing Rose would knock on the door. "I'm still worried about her."

"We know you are and you're a good friend to her," John told him. "So, more dancing after school eh or are you both going to find some other after school activities to replace going to the park?"

"Join the chess club?" Alec tried to joke.

John just let out a loud laugh, his mother noticing.

"I'm glad John finally stopped travelling around," she told Alec's dad.

"He's been a big help to Alec and to Rose. I wonder what made him do so?"

"I don't think we'll ever know," John's dad replied.

"Well he's made a big difference to the both of them. So, what's happened to my other nephew?" Alec's dad wanted to know.

Rose had spent the afternoon watching yet another boring film and trying to stay out of Bob's glare, not daring to mention going out and hoping if she didn't, he may relent for an hour or so next Sunday. Back in London, she would have defied him and made him look a fool in front of her friends but she was hundreds of miles away and if he threw them out, her mother would never forgive her and where would they go?

Her mother had taken a big risk coming here, she wouldn't thank her for spoiling it all, would she? Rose made her excuses and went to her room, wishing she could sneak out but he'd hear then how would she get back in? Even if she wanted to go to the local shop, it wouldn't take her that long and how would she let Alec know? Maybe she should save some of her bus fare and get his aunt's number next week?

If she was only out half an hour, Bob wouldn't suspect anything but what would she say she was going for? Maybe she could purposely forget something next Saturday in the supermarket when her mother asked if there was anything else they needed? It may work once but what then? She could always say she fancied something different for her packed lunches she supposed.

She had wondered why Bob had never offered her any pocket money, what with helping keep the place clean and tidy plus cook all his meals that he didn't have a clue about. She heard her mother in the kitchen and went to join her.

"Mum, can ya ask Bob why I get nothing for helping around the place?"

"You never bothered before," her mother replied.

"Well yeah but I wasn't doing as much then. Do ya think he'll agree?" Rose asked hopefully.

"Agree to what?" Bob overheard.

"That Rose gets paid for helping me with the housework," her mother replied, Rose thinking she had a cheek.

"Planning on spending it on what?" Bob asked her.

"Well I can get some snacks for school," Rose replied, not that she didn't already. "Maybe I can save some for Christmas and birthdays, then I can get some presents?"

That was something, she thought. She had to start planning to get at least Alec something and his aunt for being so nice to her last week and accepting her.

"Yeah, I can give her some," her mother offered.

"Well that's up to you," Bob told Jackie. "You know she takes some keeping with her bus fares and school lunches."

"Yeah, I know that. Rose, I'll give ya extra money every Friday then?"

"Thanks Mum, I'll make sure I earn it," Rose replied, trying to hint she already deserved it, stopping her mother being found out she couldn't cook fancy meals to save her life.

Goodness knew what her mother would make of the ingredients she and Bob chose in the new larger supermarket in town. If only he knew or did he and chose not to say anything? Now she had that to look forward to, she would hide the money away and make sure her mother didn't find out she wasn't getting the bus to and from school but she was sure that wouldn't be a problem with Alec still calling for her every morning.

Once Bob left the kitchen, Rose turned to her mother.

"I was thinking of coming straight back here every night, with Alec now it's getting dark early. I mean I'd still go to his house later."

"Well you'd best not let Bob find out Rose, you heard him. I dread to think how he'll react if he finds out," her mother warned her.

So did Rose.

 

Chapter Text

Alec had gone home with his dad, disappointed Rose hadn't been able to call round. John had tried his best to persuade him to call round for her but Alec hadn't thought it such a good idea.

"You won't find out unless you do," John nudged him a bit later. "I'll go with you, if you want?"

"No, thanks John, if I go round, I have to do it on my own. Rose is worried Bob will find out her friend is a boy."

"Alec, that's the least of your worries mate. All boys have to meet their friend's mothers, especially if that friend's a girl. You're halfway there though, you've already met her. Stay a bit longer next time eh?"

"I can't John, I got out just in time the other night, before her mother's boyfriend got home."

"Alec, he can't be that bad, can he?"

"I don't know but Rose is scared of him finding out though. I'll let her talk to her mother about it, maybe it's not her mother saying she can't meet me at weekends?"

Alec couldn't remember if Rose had said so or not, there was so much going on at present.

"She was so happy to meet my aunt and uncle last Sunday," Alec recalled.

"Yeah, I know she was, it was a big step. They seemed to get on well last week, so mum said. Alec, you have to face it, Rose is becoming your girlfriend, you do know that?"

"Yeah, I sort of worked it out," Alec had to admit. "She started doing what you said she would, she takes my hand for no reason, when no-one's around and I bet it won't be long before she does it where there are others around."

"Yeah, I did try to warn you," John smiled. "Does it bother you?"

"No, not really. Should I ask her, I mean if she wants to be my girlfriend?"

"Leave it Alec, she'll work it out. Just maybe drop a few hints," John suggested, trying to remember being his cousin's age and having a crush on a girl called Sophia, who wouldn't give him the time of day.

That was until he'd got up the courage to talk to her. That had been at another school though, thankfully or he'd have been embarrassed teaching at his old school.

"Maybe she'd run away if I suggested it?" Alec wondered, leaning on the table.

"Nah, Rose wouldn't do that. You're all she has Alec. So this Bob thinks Sandra is the one Rose is friends with?" John asked him after he'd talked with Alec's dad.

"Yeah and she said she'll have to admit it sooner or later but I don't want her to get into trouble over it. My dad offered to go get Sandra to Rose's place, if it would help but Rose didn't want to. I hope Bob doesn't get mad at her when he finds out."

"Maybe she's worried for nothing?" John mused. "Seriously Alec, just why is Rose so scared of Bob? Would he actually do anything to her?"

"I don't know John. From what she told me, he gives the creeps. Maybe it's just his way? I mean Rose had no dad when she was growing up, maybe it's her not being used to it. I have to believe her though, that she's scared of him."

"I know you do Alec. From what she says, we're all worried as well but maybe it's not that bad? Couldn't you go round and at least see?"

"I'd best not John, it may make it worse for her. I really want to help her."

"Yeah, we all do Alec but until she accepts it, we can't do anything but be there for her. Promise you'll tell me if things get worse for her, okay?"

"I will, thanks John. I'll see if dad's ready to leave," Alec replied.

"Tell you what, why don't you and Rose find a way for her to sneak out next Sunday? Maybe she's already come up with something eh and all you have to do is go along with it? She's sneaky enough at school."

Alec had got to know how sneaky Rose really was, slipping her arm or her hand in his when no-one was around and it was only a matter of time now before she did it in front of everyone. She'd only started it the past week, once they got back to school, would she back off though? He doubted it really but Billy and his mates were bad enough already and it would make Jamie even worse.

It had still bothered him Jamie had crossed the road the other day and not even waved when he'd been with his mother, she must surely be wondering what was going on. He just hoped Jamie hadn't told her Rose was his girlfriend and that Jamie would love to take his place. He knew that was part of the reason, he'd already worked that out.

Jamie had wanted Rose to himself despite all that in the library and was a sore loser but how come he'd not just admitted it? Had Jamie been embarrassed that he'd realized he liked Rose and didn't want to actually admit it? Maybe Jamie was right to ignore himself and Rose, would he himself want to be friends if Rose did actually like Jamie more than she did him?

Well hopefully, he wouldn't have to find out or make Rose choose between them, Rose had thought Jamie was being childish about it but had she realized that was the problem? As Alec and his dad walked home, his dad hoped with Alec spending more time with his older cousin, it would make him feel better.

"Disappointed about Rose not calling then?" his dad asked when they got in.

"John said we should find a way for Rose to sneak out," Alec admitted.

"It's that bad then?" his dad had to smile. "Alec, you spend all week together you know, maybe you both need some space? Has Rose said why she's not allowed out?"

"She said her mother wants them all to spend more time together but maybe it's Bob who’s stopping her?"

"Sorry Alec, is she lives with him though, she has to go by what he says. If Bob is trying to make them a family, her mother will go by what he says as well. They are leading a very different life now Alec, remember that. I meant to say something else as well. I've been thinking and I know we didn't go away this year but with your mother being fresh in our minds, I didn't think it was such a good idea."

"I know dad, it wouldn't have been the same," Alec assured him.

"Why don’t I see about next year eh? Would you mind being in a caravan again, would it bring back too many memories?"

"Maybe a little? You mean during the long holiday?"

"Well I'll have to put in for leave early but yes, if you want to? If it helps, Rose can come with us, if she's allowed but maybe you should see how things go? She has to tell Bob you're her friend first."

"Maybe that would encourage her?" Alec asked hopefully. "I'd best get on with my latest story, she was excited about it the other day and I want to get it finished."

His dad ruffled his hair and let him get on with it. As Alec sat down to write another chapter, he thought how it would please Rose she was going to be in it, she'd get a real surprise. Then, if things went well, she could gradually tell Bob about him and he'd tell her about the possible holiday.

Rose had been bored in her room and ventured out at teatime and watched some TV but couldn't help notice despite Bob having his arm around her mother, he was sort of watching her as well. Then Alec wondered why Bob gave her the creeps when he'd asked her, how could she describe it?

It was back to school for them both the next morning. Alec decided to set off a few minutes earlier and say good morning to Rose's mother in an effort to help Rose to get her to talk to Bob and he hoped it would pay off. He also hoped Rose wouldn't go around the school playground grabbing his hand or his arm and that worked until Friday morning when she nudged him at break time as they sat down, putting her arm in his.

They had stayed in most of the week, it was no fun getting to the park and it was just about dark. They had called at Rose's apartment a few times but Alec had still gone back with her later and since he was in the kitchen, her mother had just looked in and left them. Alec thought he was at least making the effort and her mother would just have to get used to him being there.

Rose hadn't so far managed to persuade her mother to talk to Bob about Sundays so sneaking out it was going to have to be. Before her mother had got home on the Friday night, Rose told Alec her plan.

"You think you will get away with it?" Alec had asked her.

"I hope so, yeah. It won't work every week though but maybe mum will have talked to Bob by then? Anyway, you said your latest story will be ready on Monday, I can't wait."

"You are changing the subject Rose," Alec reminded her. "So, you go to the shop down the road that's open and I will be outside around four? How long will you get away with being out?"

"Ah, when I come back, I'll just say I bumped into Sandra and we were talking. What do ya think?"

"That's all well and good Rose but we can't stay outside the shop for half an hour, can we? Beside, if you are a long time, it may get you grounded even more."

He knew she'd not thought of that.

"Well have you got a better plan? I thought ya'd be pleased?"

"I am Rose but you have to think about it. I don't want you to get into any more trouble."

Rose took his arm and did that thing he was getting to like – that of stroking it with her other hand.

"Yeah, I know you don't Alec. Let's risk it this week, see how it goes?"

"Well okay then, I'll set off and meet you there, okay?"

"Yeah. So, tomorrow, you finish that story? What's taking ya so long?"

"I want to get it right Rose, I told you it was for you, I don't want to get anything wrong."

That was true, he thought, he didn't want to offend her but he also wanted to make her laugh by bringing her mother into it as he'd planned. He was having her mother go running to her friend Mickey when one of the green bog monsters was trying to get to Rose and Mickey would throw vinegar at it and it would explode over his kitchen wall. That would surely make her laugh?

The only thing holding him up was how Rose had begun travelling with the main character and that had suddenly come to him. He just hoped she would be pleased and appreciate all his hard work, that was when she wasn't delaying him finishing it by asking him all the time and mentioning things that he'd had to change.

So as her mother left them for ten minutes in the kitchen, they had agreed that if she couldn't sneak out on Sunday, he would just go back to his aunts and she would try again the following week until her mother got Bob to give in. She knew if she'd been back home she wouldn't be having this problem but then, she wouldn't have met Alec.

As he was leaving, she decided to tease him.

"Don't go bumping into Bob on the way down."

"Very funny Rose," Alec replied as he waited for her to move her hand and didn't like reminding her. "Maybe if I did and he didn't know who I was?" Alec wondered.

"Yeah, great idea Alec, he might either think you live in the block or you're just hanging around. Actually though, if he asks if I know who you are?"

"Forget it Rose, it was just an idea. I have to go now, I'll maybe see you on Sunday and don't worry if you can't get out."

"I'll try not to. See ya Monday if not and let's think about what we just said?"

Alec had just gone through the door to the stairs as Bob got out of the lift, seeing it closing and not thinking anything of it. Jackie had just gone into the kitchen to make it look like she was supervising what Rose was doing.

"Jackie love, I'm home," Bob called from the entryway.

"In the kitchen," Jackie called back, Rose hoping she wouldn't tell him Alec had just left and was praying Bob hadn't seen him yet, well not until they decided what to do.

"Still keeping an eye on the cooking?" Bob laughed. "Watch out love, Rose will be taking it over."

Rose thought if only he knew? Maybe if he did he'd throw them out but her mother wouldn't be happy. She'd thought a few times what would happen were he to find out but none of them would end happily. Now, she had to devise a way to sneak out and meet Alec on Sunday and gradually bring him into the conversation about her friends.

Maybe if Alec were to say he was just walking her home, he might get away with it but why would he be doing that? As far as she knew, Bob thought she went home after school or went to Sandra's but maybe she could pretend he was Sandra's brother? No, if he got caught out, it would just make things worse.

The only thing she could do was keep trying to find out why Bob was so against her making friends with a boy but did she want to know? Was it something creepy or something simple like he was just watching out for her? She had nothing to go by, her old friends didn't all have dads and those who did, they hadn't then been old enough to worry about such things.

Was this what it was like though and she was worrying over nothing? Maybe she should talk to Sandra about it, if she had an older sister or whatever. Over tea, Rose thought about bringing up the subject of Alec being her friend but Bob had said nothing all week, would it make things worse?

Her mother had said no more either despite Alec being there when she'd got home and he'd suddenly started calling for her every morning, though that had amused her and they'd walked arm in arm until they'd got to the street corner, then she had chickened out at the last minute.

She wondered if Alec had actually noticed though or if he'd just got used to it. They missed going to the park or the riverside though Alec hadn't been sure about dancing inside after their homework and after tea, Rose had been allowed in Alec's room for half an hour so he could read her his stories and he was running out of them.

Rose decided to find out where she stood this weekend.

"So can I go out this Sunday?" she dared asked when she had cleared up.

"Nothing has changed from last week Rose, why ask?" Bob wanted to know.

"Bob, why don't ya compromise?" Jackie suddenly suggested. "Why don't ya let her out for an hour, if she's back for tea?"

Rose wondered why her mother had suddenly come up with that idea. Maybe Alec calling round twice a day most days had made her realize he really was her friend?

"I'll think about it then, maybe next week but where will you go, it's getting cold now. Will you be going to this Sandra's house? Tell you what, why don't you take it in turns?"

Rose wondered how she was going to get out of that?

"She's still a bit shy, maybe if I go round more often, she won't be?" was all Rose could think of.

How was she going to bring Alec up now? She was getting too deep into this, she'd come unstuck and he'd find out and stop her. If she got to go to Alec's aunt's then it stopped, she was going to be disappointed.

"You’re not hiding anything from me are you Rose?" Bob asked her. "Jackie, have you met this Sandra?"

"No, I don't have time, I leave before Rose does, remember?" Jackie replied, trying not to let on Rose's other friend was a boy and was starting to call for her every morning.

"So Rose is on her own when you get back then?" Bob asked her. "Where do you get to after school then Rose?"

"Sometimes to my friend's or I come back. Sandra has to leave to get back for her tea before her mum gets home."

This was getting too complicated but also too easy to cover, Rose thought.

"Is that right?" Bob wanted to know. "Maybe you could invite her to stay one night?"

Rose thought there was no chance, even if Sandra lived nearer.

"I told ya, she's shy. I'll have to give her chance. I do have other friends but ya told me not to mention them."

"Don't be cheeky Rose," her mother warned her.

"Hold on Jackie, I thought you said you had met this boy Rose was on about?"

"Only for a minute or two Bob. Anyway, ya told her to forget about it and I've not seen him since."

Rose wondered how long they could keep this up before Bob found out. One thing she knew, if he did, it was a sure way of getting thrown out and they could go back to London but she didn't want to leave Alec behind now and didn't think he'd want her to go either. She just hoped Bob would come round and accept Alec as her friend. If he didn't, why was he so dead-set against the idea?

Then she had an awful thought but had to dismiss it. Why was her mother always on Bob's side and only half on hers? Why was she trying to keep the peace between them? Did Bob have some sort of hold over her or not or was her mother going along with it willingly? She hoped not or Alec would never be accepted by Bob but going by her mother actually not throwing Alec out every night, it had to be Bob had something on her or she was completely wrong.

Was Bob going to suggest they got married and adopt her, was that what this was all about? She hoped not. Bob snapped her out of her thoughts.

"I don't want to hear any more Jackie, I don't want him hanging around here, understand? Was he here tonight by any chance? The stairs door was closing as I got out of the lift. Well?" he asked both of them.

Rose decided to own up, at least she could get Alec out of it and explain where her records were disappearing to, if he'd actually noticed.

"He just came to borrow some records, that's all," Rose told him.

"Thought you'd not seen him Jackie?" Bob asked her.

"I was in the bedroom, he can't have stayed long," Jackie replied, also thinking this was getting way out of hand.

"That had better be all Rose," Bob warned her. "I'm doing this for your own good, you're too young to be thinking about having boys as friends."

Rose thought he could keep his opinions to himself.

"So how long do I have to wait then?" Rose dared ask.

"When I say so," came Bob's reply. "Next time, tell him to come later, when I'm here, understand?"

Rose knew it couldn't be that easy, could it? Would Bob want Alec coming round just to warn him off and if so, would that be the end? Would it put Alec off, especially since for a while now she'd got him to hold her hand and not bother when she stroked his arm when she wanted something.

"So if ya meet him, are ya gonna tell him off?" Rose wondered, thinking she may as well find out and why he'd suddenly changed his tune about her forgetting about Alec.

"I didn't say I approved Rose," Bob reminded her. "If you've made friends with him, you can do so at school but if he is going to come round, don't do it behind my back, understand? I still want to meet your other friend though, you are not making her up are you?"

"No, I'm not making her up but she really can't come round, she's the really nervous type," Rose tried to bluff.

"Well that may be so but don't think this boy can come around whenever he wants. No sneaking off to meet him and no having him round before I get home, understand? If I catch him going down the stairs, I will ban you seeing him even at school."

Rose wondered how he was going to do that but he may even go to the school to enforce it. That meant Alec had to either stop coming around or face Bob. Either that or go before her mother got home again so she may as well just stay at his house a bit longer, she'd still have plenty of time.

Was it really going to be that easy though? She somehow doubted it but it didn't solve her problem of going out on Sundays.

"So can I go out for an hour on Sunday then?" Rose dared ask.

"I told you, not this week so forget it and when I say you can, no meeting this boy. What's his name anyway?"

Rose thought she'd already told him once.

"It's Alec. He lost his mum a few months ago, we made friends on my first day because he thought I was lost."

"Well that's no excuse to spend time with him outside school. Jackie, make sure he's not here when you get home he'll have to come back when I'm here. Don't think it's going to be that easy Rose," he warned her.

Rose knew it couldn't be, could it? Still, it was something at least and Bob didn't know she went to Alec's every night and as long as she didn't admit it to her mother, he wasn't likely to find out either. Now she had something to tell Alec if she could get away on Sunday, if not she could tell him when he called for her on Monday morning.

Rose was quite pleased as she went to her room but she wouldn't have been if she'd heard the conversation between her mother and Bob.

Chapter Text

Bob had waited for Rose to leave.

"We have to talk about this Jackie."

"Yeah, I know Bob but I've hardly seen this boy she's on about. I had no idea."

"So she never talked about him to ya? I find that hard to believe Jackie. This is not going to spoil my plans, so don't think it will."

"Yeah, I know that Bob but keeping Rose in at weekends will make her more determined to get ya to change ya mind. Why not let her out for an hour or two?"

"I told you, I'll think about it. She has to understand the importance of family. You know what my plans are, don't you?"

Jackie did know what his plans were. She had nothing to go by, her friends back home not being prime examples as most of them were the same as her, a single mother. She had to go by what Bob thought best, Rose needed someone to set her straight. Still, would Rose having a boy for a friend really spoil Bob's plans for them being a family?

Rose was disappointed the next day, offering to go get something extra for tea but not being allowed. Her mother had tried to argue what harm it would do but it got Rose nowhere. Alec set off, John saying he hoped Rose would turn up but he was back after waiting for her and getting some funny looks.

"Never mind Alec, I'm sure she'd have been there," John tried to console his younger cousin.

"Yeah, she would have been. Maybe next week?"

"Alec, have you thought of just going and calling for her? You can only be told no when you use the intercom. Go back and see, it's not too late."

"Well maybe after tea, before we go home then?" Alec replied.

So as Rose was clearing up later, annoyed her plan to meet Alec hadn't worked, she jumped as the intercom went. Had Alec dared to come round and see why she'd not turned up earlier or was it one of Bob's annoying friends? She'd not met many of them, except when they were out they'd sat outside a pub with a few of them during the summer and some of them had worse accents than Bob had.

"I'll go see who it is," Jackie offered, wondering if Rose's friend had got up the nerve to call for her.

"No matter, I'll go," Bob insisted.

He pressed the answer button asking who it was.

"It's a friend of Rose," Alec replied, thinking no-one was going to answer and he was about to leave.

"Rose is not coming out today, I'll tell her you called," Bob replied.

"Can I talk to her?" Alec asked hopefully.

"This is not a telephone young man. If you call back next Sunday, I may let you in and you can introduce yourself."

Alec supposed he had to make do with that, it wasn't like the man knew he and Rose saw each other all week. Rose had heard and tried to hide her disappointment. Her mother went into the kitchen and put her hand on Rose's shoulder.

"Rose, I can't keep covering for ya."

"Yeah, I know Mum. I wanted to slip out and meet Alec, he must've realized and decided to come round. Do ya think Bob will let him in next week?"

"Your guess is as good as mine," her mother replied.

Rose could only hope so and now she had to say sorry to Alec that Bob wouldn't let her out or him come inside. Alec went back to his aunt's house, John letting him in.

"No luck?" he asked Alec. "Never mind, you'll see her tomorrow. I noticed the other day she slyly slipped her arm in yours. What I don't get is why no-one else noticed."

Alec shrugged his shoulders. "Maybe because you were looking for it?" Alec grinned.

"Your friends weren't? After they saw you on the riverbank that time?"

Alec would rather not remember that.

"Maybe they got used to seeing us?"

"You mean like Jamie? You'd best hope so."

John was right the next day. Alec called for Rose as usual, she grabbed his arm before her mother could protest.

"Hey, I'm really sorry about yesterday. What did Bob say to you?"

"To call for you next Sunday and introduce myself. What did he think I was trying to do yesterday?" Alec complained, hoping Rose would rub his arm in sympathy.

He knew he was getting to like it too much. When they got dropped off at Alec's house, Rose told him they'd best not go to her place too early. She had told him why she couldn't get out and he'd told her not to worry. She was though. By the time Friday came around, Alec had said he would call around three and hope Bob would let him in.

So Rose had suffered shopping on Saturday, still having to follow her mother and Bob into the pub and Rose being surprised she was allowed in but other younger children were in a corner room. One man she hated the most decided to talk to her.

"So, how old are you now Rose?" the man known as Angus asked her.

"She's thirteen now, aren't ya Rose?" her mother answered for her.

"She looks older," Angus replied.

Rose thought he could keep his opinions to himself. She was looking forward to Alec calling around the next day and hoped Bob would let him in. Bob though had something to say to Jackie when they got back.

"Why did your mate ask my Rose's age?" Jackie asked when Rose went to her room on their return.

"Just interested, they have kids of their own," Bob tried to explain.

Jackie had no reason to think otherwise.

"So, have you seen this boy again?" Bob asked her.

"He waits for Rose sometimes, he doesn't live far away, so she said," Jackie replied.

"Maybe I should have a few words with him, if he bothers to call for her tomorrow?" Bob replied.

"What sort of words?" Jackie wanted to know, hoping the boy wouldn't admit he'd been there most nights when she herself had got home and she'd left them to it.

Why would he though? More importantly, why were they wanting to meet on Sundays all of a sudden when they saw each other all week? Rose had shown no interest in boys before she'd met this one, had she? Well maybe except tormenting poor Mickey on her way home from school every night before they'd moved.

"Come on Jackie, you know what words?" Bob reminded her. "She's that age now, taking an interest in boys and I'm sure the one who called for her knows that? I told you, I'll not have my plans spoiled."

"I'm sure they won't spoil them," Jackie replied, wishing she understood what they actually were, since he'd been a bit on the vague side about them.

She'd agreed that Rose would do as he said and what he said was final, after he'd persuaded her Rose needed a father figure in her life after so long. He'd tried to tell her Rose would benefit by it when she got older but had insisted that she didn't interfere, if she trusted him. Jackie had been somewhat out of her depth and had said before she'd moved herself and Rose to live with him that she did trust him.

After all, who on the estate would be willing to take them on like Bob had come along and done? Certainly not Howard or one of the other men she used the frequent the local pubs with when Rose had a sleepover at Shareen's or some other friend for the night.

"So are ya gonna let this boy in tomorrow then?" Jackie asked him.

"If he calls but Rose stays away while I talk to him," Bob replied, going to put the remainder of the football on the TV.

Rose was in her room, hoping if Alec did actually call back tomorrow, he wouldn't blurt out he was there most evenings as her mother got home. How Bob would react to that, she had no idea. Why did it have to be such a secret though? What was Bob planning, keeping her in at weekends apart from when they went out, which was never on a Sunday, for some reason, even during the summer.

She had always thought it was her mother who had imposed her restrictions but she was already doubting that. Why did Bob have to come along and her mother drag them all the way up to Scotland? The only good thing to come out of it was meeting Alec. Now, if Bob didn't like him after they finally met, Alec could easily go off her and stay away even at school and she hated the thought of it.

Surely he wouldn't let Bob put him off though, not after so long? They would just continue as they were and have to accept Bob's reluctance of changing his mind to allow her out but surely after her next birthday, she'd be old enough to get out of it? That though depended entirely what plans Bob had long term and if her mother agreed with them. She wished now her mother had more influence though, why was she giving in to Bob's wishes? Had her mother thought she'd gone too easy on her when they'd been on their own?

The next day, Rose was nervous if Alec did actually call and see Bob. They'd talked about it on the Friday afternoon and Alec had told her not to worry.

"I won't let him put me off," he'd tried to assure her.

"Ya say that now," Rose teased him as they sat at his kitchen table before his dad had got home.

"I told my dad, he said just be myself and be polite," Alec had told her. "I'll be ready to read my new story on Monday."

"Great, I can't wait to see what happens," Rose had cheered up.

So now, Alec was nervous about two things and he didn't know which was worse – Rose not liking his new story which he'd altered so many times or meeting the man who thought Rose staying in at weekends was more important than her going out.

His dad had asked him on the way to his aunts how he felt about it.

"So are you nervous?" Alec was asked.

"I don't know, I should be. I just hope Rose's mother doesn't tell him I've been there most nights when she's come home, it wouldn't look good. Rose said her mother told him she's not seen that much of me."

"Well if it's only for five minutes, I suppose that's true?" his dad asked as they approached his aunt's house. "Just answer any questions he asks and just say you see each other at school. You don't want to get her into trouble if she's been saying she spends her time with someone else. That's up to her though."

"She only says that because she didn't want to get into trouble Dad," Alec reminded him.

"I know Alec, I know it's awkward for her and I can understand why she does it. It's just a shame she's had to."

Rose had done most of the Sunday lunch, her mother fussing around making a show of doing something, as usual and Bob saying it all smelled good then saying it tasted good as they ate. Rose had got to the stage where she knew her mother was never going to admit she couldn't cook anything fancy to save her life, even if it was only putting a joint of meat or a chicken in the oven and it not coming out like a burnt offering.

"So are ya learning from ya mother how to cook properly?" Bob asked her.

"She's eager to learn, aren't ya Rose?" her mother answered for her.

"Yeah, dead keen," Rose tried to sound enthusiastically.

"Well that's how it should be on Sundays, never mind going off with your mates. So is this boy, what's his name calling to see me?" Bob asked her.

Rose hoped so, if Alec hadn't gone completely off the idea or John hadn't told him he was wasting his time.

"His name's Alec," Rose corrected him, gathering the plates. "He lives with just his dad, his mum died a few months ago. I know how he feels, that's why we get on."

"Well you're not just with your mum now, are you?" Bob had to remind her. "You have me now and I have to make sure this Alec is a suitable friend. So what about this Sandra you say you spend time with?"

Rose was wishing she'd never dragged Sandra into it now but she couldn't have said it was Alec, not at first.

"Actually, I think she's got a new friend," Rose tried to bluff.

"Why's that then?" her mother had to go asking her.

Rose sometimes wished her mother would keep up with the fact she was covering Alec was her real friend, not Sandra. Maybe things had got too complicated for her, Mickey had tried in vain to show her how to work the video recorder and failed.

"I don't really know Mum," Rose tried to get out of it. "She never said but the last few nights, she seemed a bit off. If she has a new friend, I don't know what I'm gonna do, who else do I have to talk to about girl things?"

"Your mother," Bob replied, going to finish reading his Sunday paper that Rose thought he took all day about so why did she have to be there while he did?

Rose was already talking to Sandra at school, especially over personal things she didn't think she could talk to her mother about except the bare essentials and getting some extra money from her the last few months after getting her to go to the shop with her the first time while Bob was in the pub. Alec had been wondering what was wrong with her for a few days, until he'd confided in his aunt he was worried about Rose and his aunt had tried to explain to him it was what teenage girls went through and he'd better get used to it.

Luckily, the last time, he'd not thought she was being grumpy with him when she'd not wanted to do anything but sit and listen to some music the week before but he'd never said anything to her about it. It was a big change for both of them.

Rose went off to the kitchen, at least this week she didn't have to think of a reason to sneak out but she was getting worried Alec would back out, especially when she'd sprung it on him on Monday evening she was feel a bit 'off' again and not really wanted to do much. Even at school, she'd been excused from gym class, along with one or two other girls who like her, were only just getting used to the fact it was going to be a regular occurrence.

After his lunch, Alec was counting how long it was before he dared go call the intercom to Rose's apartment and get a gruff voice asking what he wanted again. Rose had giggled a bit to him when they'd got to school the next morning but when she'd felt some pain later, he'd just assumed she'd be worried he wouldn't try again the next Sunday.

He had thought about it but sooner or later, he had to face up to it if he wanted Rose to be his friend outside school even if she was going to be grumpy with him every few weeks. That was why he had been determined to get his latest story finished for her. John saw him watching the clock in the kitchen.

"Nearly time to go then?" John asked him.

"Yeah. John, you know about girls, right?"

"Ah, well, that depends. Boys and men can't always work them out you know," John laughed. "Is this about Rose being a bit off?" Alec nodded. "Face it Alec, you'd really better get used to it, it won't get any better."

Alec had no reason to doubt what his cousin was telling him so maybe next time, he'd try to be more sympathetic towards her and hope she didn't keep hitting his arm all the time, well unless she rubbed it afterwards. Then he didn't mind as much. Just after three, he set off, John wishing him good luck. He walked the short distance and got up the courage to call Rose's number on the intercom.

Rose jumped when she heard it and thought maybe Alec hadn't backed out after all. It was doubtful it would be any of Bob's friends at this time and her mother hardly had any, unlike back in London. Bob got up to answer it. He told Alec to come up and answered the door when Alec rang the separate doorbell.

"So, you're a friend of Rose?" Bob asked him, Alec wishing he'd been wearing something else instead of his jeans and jumper.

"Yes Sir," Alec spoke up, not sure what to call the man, since Rose had never mentioned his surname.

"Well you had better come in then."

Twenty minutes later, Alec was about to leave.

"So can I call for Rose next Sunday?" Alec asked hopefully.

"Will you be taking her to your aunt's house?" Bob asked him, since Alec had explained that was where he and his dad went on Sunday.

"My aunt invited her for tea. I'll make sure I walk her back home."

"You do that then but make sure she's back by six. Do you just see each other at school normally?" Bob then asked him.

What could he reply with, Alec wondered.

"We come home together and I walk her back sometimes," Alec replied, trying to stick to near the truth, omitting the part she spent time at his house and until recently, the riverbank and the park.

"Well if you walk her back, she's not allowed to let you in unless her mother is here, understand?" Bob asked him.

Alec just nodded. "My aunt invited her today, if she can go out?"

"Make sure she's back on time then. Jackie, call Rose and tell her she can go out but she's to be back by six."

All that time, Alec thought it had been Rose's mother insisting she never went out. Now he knew that wasn't the case. As Rose came out of her room, she had to resist greeting Alec until they got outside but once they were away from the building, Rose took his hand.

"Thanks for rescuing me."

"He's something else Rose," Alec had to admit. "How does your mother put up with him?"

"I've got no idea. Does your aunt know I'm coming round today?"

"Not really but she won't mind. Rose, I know why you were a bit off earlier in the week, my aunt sort of explained it to me. I thought it was just that once, a few weeks ago."

"Geez Alec, I wish it was, you think us girls actually enjoy it?" Rose teased him.

"How am I supposed to know?" Alec replied, thinking she was being serious, until she nudged him.

"So, all this time, you thought it was my mum keeping me in?" Rose asked him as they walked along.

"So did you," Alec reminded her. "You were right, he is a bit creepy."

"Tell me about it," Rose replied. "So are his mates and I'm dreading it when it gets to the party season they'll all be coming around. One even asked how old I was yesterday. I heard mum and Bob saying something about his plans, what the hell does that even mean?"

Alec didn't think he wanted to know. Whatever these plans were, he didn't think they were going to be good, well not for Rose anyway. Now he was getting even more worried and would have to talk to his dad or John again, they were just as concerned about Rose as he was. They walked arm in arm and Alec just hoped if Jamie was around, he'd see that despite them falling out, Rose wasn't interested in him. Was this what it was always going to be like?

Rose was made welcome again, thankful now she didn't have to say she was going to Sandra's house any more and hoped Bob would drop the subject. She was back on time, Alec walking with her and he asked if she was okay.

"Why are you worried about Bob's friends?" Alec wanted to know.

"Just the way they are, maybe it's just me?"

Alec was beginning to wonder if it was her or not. Maybe it wasn't?

Chapter Text

Girlfriends

The holiday week soon passed, during the day when it was fine, Rose would call for Alec then they'd go to his aunt's house and spend the afternoons walking on the riverbank or Alec showing Rose other places he used to go to. On the Friday, they were on the edge of some woods when Rose wanted to know where else he'd not taken her.

"Does it remind you of going around with Jamie?" she asked him as they sat on a bench.

"Maybe a little? I just didn't want to take you, in case he was there."

"Alec, it doesn't matter, does it? It doesn't bother me. I mean it's not like ya take me places ya used to take an old girlfriend," she teased him.

That got her a smile.

"I know and I can safely say, I've never had a girlfriend before. We haven't really talked about it, about our friendship. Maybe we should wait until we get a bit older?"

"About me being your girlfriend? We can be that when we're on our own, I mean you being my boyfriend. No-one else has to know do they?"

"I don't know Rose, everyone at school thinks we're boyfriend and girlfriend. You do know that's what's wrong with Jamie? He wanted you to be his girlfriend although he'd never said anything."

"So that's what it was all about? All that in the library of him nudging you? It was a funny way of getting me to be his girlfriend. Besides, it wasn't him I was wanting to see every time I went in."

"It wasn't?" Alec asked as Rose put her arm in his.

"No, you plum. I only went to see if you were there, you must have known that?"

"How would I Rose? I'd never bothered about girls before but John kept trying to tell me. He warned me about you."

Rose was about to let go of him but he caught her arm.

"What did he say?" Rose wanted to know.

"Rose, I didn't mean warn me away. I meant he tried to tell me you wanted to be my girlfriend. I didn't think I should say anything to you but it all started coming true, what he said you'd do."

"I don't know how to take that," she teased him. "Go on then, what did he say I'd do?"

"I don't think I should say," he teased her back. Rose nudged his elbow. "Well, that was one of the things."

"Huh? You mean me nudging your elbow?"

"Well that and swaying in front of me. He said they were all classic signs. Come on Rose, you must have known?"

"Well it was Sandra who gave me the idea. The putting my arm in yours was all my idea though. Did it work?"

"You know it did. Come on, I'll show you some place else, if you want?"

He got up and held his hand out to her.

"You could have given me a few hints as well you know?"

"I thought I was?" he grinned as he kept hold of her hand. "Your hands are cold Rose."

"Forgot my gloves. You could offer to warm them for me?"

They were about to walk back to his house when he decided to show her just inside the wood there was a small waterfall but no way across except to jump.

"They could put a large stone across," Rose complained, looking ahead at the path.

"Me and Jamie used to jump over. Come on, I'll go first."

He let go of her and Rose stepped to one side as he walked back. The gap wasn't really that big and he easily landed on the other side.

"Your turn Rose."

Rose was good in gym class though she had held back for fear of showing the other girls up, since she'd got a bronze medal when she was nearly seven in a competition at school. She walked back and taking a run, landed more gracefully than Alec had done. He just stared at her.

"Rose, what haven't you told me? So you weren't scared after all?"

"Never said I was, I wanted to see how you did it," Rose laughed.

"That wasn't fair Rose. Do you show off in gym class?"

"Are you kidding? Mind you, I might start to show off a bit. I was holding back, I came third in a competition when I was nearly seven and only got beaten because the rope I was climbing got twisted and someone else got higher than me. I'd have got the silver otherwise."

"You could have said something. Want to walk a bit further?"

"Yeah, okay then but is there a different way back?"

"Not up to jumping back over?" he teased her.

"Nah, I didn't wanna show you up again," she grinned, taking his hand.

Alec didn't think he'd mind if she did. There were other things he'd not yet told her and maybe it was time he did? He knew she made him happy when she was around and he'd got over Jamie not having anything to do with him though if Rose hadn't come along, they'd never have fallen out – or would they?

If it hadn't been Rose, it could have been another girl but in his mind, none of the other girls in their year came remotely close to Rose. She had seen off the two school showoffs like they were yesterday's news and everyone looked up to her and wanted to be her friend but out of all the others, he was her best friend and now it seemed boyfriend, though they'd sort of agreed to keep it to themselves.

He knew John suspected though but his older cousin wouldn't say anything, would he? They followed a path that double-backed to the start of the woods and Alec said they should set off back to his house.

"We should go there again," Rose smiled as she let go of his hand as they emerged from the woods. "Alec, I get what ya said, we shouldn't let on to anyone, while we're in the street. It's okay, it could take a lot of explaining."

"Let's wait until we get a bit older? Until then, we can be special friends, if that's okay with you?"

He let them in the house and Rose sat down.

"Yeah, special friends it is then? So come on, rest of your latest bog monster story," she grinned.

"You know you gave me the idea for it?" he asked before he went to get it.

"Well I guessed that but I want to see what ya did with it. When you've read it, maybe we'll have time to dance?"

He knew he was getting to like dancing with Rose more than reading his story to her but the way she paid attention and hung on every word, smiling at him - she was something else. He knew John was right, Rose was taking over everything and even when he couldn't see her on Saturdays, at least she could get out for a few hours on Sunday, even if he had to call for her and take her to his aunts house.

He knew he'd have to talk to John again since some of what he'd been told was coming true. So after he walked Rose home, a bit later since they didn't want to risk him being caught by Bob or her mother blurting out Alec had been there when she'd got home, he called to see John.

"So, what's up Alec?" John grinned over the kitchen table at him. "You and Rose had a good week off?"

"Yeah, fairly good. I've started taking her places me and Jamie used to go to and it doesn't bother her."

"Ah but does it bother you?" John asked him.

"It should do but no. She told me more about her past today. She's really good at gymnastics but she hides it."

"Alec, she's already out of place in school, she maybe doesn't want to draw any more attention to herself?" John told him. "Maybe she'll get more confident and show everyone and it won't make any difference? Anyway, back to you Cous. Have you asked her to be your girlfriend yet?"

"It sort of came up again but we were going to wait until we get a bit older. Should we?"

"Yes, if you've talked about it and she's not opposed to the idea – is she?"

"No, not really. We decided to be special friends but we're not telling anyone," Alec admitted.

John laughed. "Sorry Alec but I think everyone already knows, don't you? You got over losing Jamie as your friend though and maybe you'll make up one day but there again, when everyone is seeing you and Rose hang around the school together, it's not going to help. Did you tell Rose you think Jamie wanted her to be his girlfriend?"

"Yeah, she didn't say anything though, maybe we'd best just leave it?"

"Well Jamie's had to learn the hard way, it may take a while for him to accept it. It's his first lesson in the way of the world. You have to think how you would have felt, if he'd got Rose's attention."

"I don't think he would have, she told me I was the reason she kept going to the library. Anyway, I wanted to talk about something else as well. That Bob who Rose lives with, he's a real creep."

John laughed again. "He's put himself in charge of Rose, it's to be expected and don't forget, she grew up without a dad. Rose doesn't know what it's like Alec. I know you're concerned for her, we all are but maybe it's nothing more than that? It's difficult to say Alec and if Rose is getting really worried, she'll say something. Have you been to her place since?"

"No, I'm staying out of the way except to call for her on Sunday. Maybe you're right and it's nothing?"

John got up and ruffled his younger cousin's hair.

"Time to get that cut tomorrow or does Rose like it that way?" John teased him.

"Stop it John," Alec tried to joke. "Is this what it's like to have a girlfriend?"

"Yep, welcome to the club Alec. Want to know something? I quite fancy the girls' gym teacher but she doesn't seem to notice me. Maybe I should get Rose to drop a few hints?"

"You want me to ask Rose?" Alec smiled at the thought.

"Well yeah, I can't ask her, can I eh? Don't make a fuss about it though or the whole school might get to know you asked Rose to be your girlfriend?"

"You wouldn't do that?" Alec asked worriedly.

John just raised his eyebrows in reply.

Sunday morning came around for Rose, having gone out again the day before and Bob's creepy friends being annoying as usual in the pub. She went to start preparing Sunday lunch when her mother went in after her.

"What's up with Alec then?" her mother asked her. "He's not been around."

"I'm just staying out a bit longer Mum," Rose told her. "We thought it would be for the best, so if Bob asked, you wouldn’t have seen Alec."

"Are ya trying to say I'd tell Bob?" her mother asked her.

"Shush Mum. No, I'm trying not to get ya confused, you were having trouble last week, remember? Alec's calling for me again later so let's get on with making lunch."

Rose knew her mother would give the game away sooner or later so she hoped by Alec staying away, it would lessen the chances. Over lunch, Bob kept glancing at her.

"So is that boy calling for you again Rose?"

"Yeah, I got on well with everyone and I've seen his aunt during the week. I've been having lunch there with Alec. Mum knows about it."

"Is that right Jackie?" Bob asked her mother.

"Well it saved me leaving her something for lunch," her mother replied.

"Good thinking love," Bob had to agree, making Rose want to say something but thought better of it.

Rose had no idea what their financial arrangements were but she supposed now her mother worked, she paid hers and her own way.

"Well I might as well save some money, I'll have extra presents to buy for Christmas this year," her mother told Bob.

"Jackie, we will buy our friends' presents together love, they're your friends as much as mine now. You're not going to be on your own this year, like you and Rose have been. They'll be lots of parties to go to and we'll be holding some. That includes you Rose, when we have friends over and you're old enough to be left on your own while we go out. No calling your friends over though, understood?" he asked her.

"Well if you're gonna be out, I could go to Alec's aunt's house, I don't have to stay in by myself do I?" Rose dared ask.

"I'll think about it but no sneaking out when we have people coming around, we're a family now, they'll expect you to be here."

Rose didn't like the sound of that, not with his creepy friends. Rose began to gather the dishes and followed her mother into the kitchen.

"Mum, I need ya to talk to Bob for me."

"What about?" her mother wanted to know.

"I want a proper lock on my bedroom door, with a key. If his friends are coming round, I don't want any unwanted guests, do I?"

"Rose! Whatever do ya mean by that?"

"Shush Mum. You know why. I know he put that catch on but I wanna be able to lock my door properly. What if I go to the bathroom and someone goes in while I'm gone?"

"Rose, what kind of parties do ya think we'll be having?" her mother wanted to know.

"I don't know but I watch TV Mum, someone pretending they're looking for their coat or the bathroom. Just ask him, yeah?"

"Well I'm not promising anything. So are ya planning on being out when we get invited to a party?"

Rose was about to ask what did she think, until she heard Bob calling her mother.

"What are you two talking about eh? Mother and daughter stuff?" Bob laughed, patting his lap for Jackie to sit on it.

"Yeah, ya know what we're like Bob," Jackie laughed. "We used to go to lots of parties back home ya know?"

"I can imagine. Anyway, Rose is old enough to be around for the early part, best invite the neighbours so they don't complain eh?"

Rose cringed at the thought. Surely Alec had been seen going in and out, then Bob would get to know. Well tough, Bob had no proof other than they'd talked outside and Alec hadn't actually been inside so she'd have to warn Alec the subject may come up. Still, at least she could escape while her mother and Bob were out but she expected to be given a curfew for being home.

Now she just hoped she'd get Alec's dad and his aunt to put up with her on the occasions Bob invited his rowdy friends around. Alec called round and was told Rose would meet him downstairs, Alec thinking that Bob would have wanted to know where she was going but had got away with it.

Once back at school after the holiday, Alec tried to encourage Rose not to hold back in gym class as they sat on the back of their usual bench in the playground.

"I don't want anyone ganging up on me," Rose protested.

"No they won't, well not unless it's Kristy and Moira but these day, they don't seem to hang around as much together."

"Yeah, seems they've gone off each other?" Rose had to agree. "Hey, that wasn't a dig at me, splitting you and Jamie up was it?"

"What? No, it wasn't Rose. I'm over it, if he wants to be like that. If he wants to be friends, I'm willing to be as long as he doesn't try to get me to stop being friends with you."

"What if he gives you the choice Alec?"

"That's not fair Rose. If he does that, I'll just tell him to come back when he's not going make me choose. You think I would?"

"You've known him longer than you've known me. Well let's hope he doesn't ask ya then? Don't you go getting any ideas he's gonna come along and tell me I split you up. It was his choice to walk away."

"I know that Rose. Why have you even brought that up again?"

"Because I want you to be able to take me places you used to hang around with him. I don't care about it Alec. How many more times do I have to remind you, we're best friends, aren't we?"

Rose nudged him and he knew one day, someone would be paying attention and make more out of it. In fact, he'd been surprised they'd got away with it for so long.

"Yes Rose, you already know that. So you have gym class later?"

"Yeah. Wanna make a bet I'm gonna show everyone up?"

"Would I win?" he laughed.

"Well if ya don't hear everyone talking about me, then you have to write me a story where you're the main character and I'm your assistant."

Alec thought she had no idea how many times he'd been tempted. Now she was encouraging him, well more or less. He was actually looking forward to losing but even if she kept her word, he might still write her a story but then, she'd expect them all to be about the two of them going on adventures. Well if that was what she wanted, who was he to disappoint her?

When she got to the gym after getting changed, Kristy was again keeping her distance from Moira and Rose was delighted it was her favourite activity, the ropes and everyone stared as she took her turn. Sandra caught her afterwards.

"Wow, you kept that quiet Rose. What else are you good at?"

"You'd be surprised but I'm not keeping back any more. I'm stuck here so I have to make the most of it."

"You mean stuck in the school?" Sandra wanted to know.

"No, I don't mean any disrespect Sandra but I never wanted to move up here, my mother met a bloke and dragged me up here and do ya know what?" Sandra shook her head. "You and Alec are the only ones who make it bearable."

"Oh. Admit it though Rose, it's Alec that keeps you going more than I do. It's okay, I don't mind but you're going to have to admit it sooner or later that he's your boyfriend."

"Well I've gotta try and keep that information back a bit longer. I mean the next year up, some are going around with each other but not in our year. I don't fancy being the first and getting talked about all the time," Rose replied.

Sandra let out a laugh. "Rose, it may be too late for that after this afternoon so you and Alec may be the last thing everyone's talking about. So, I'm looking forward to seeing what else you've been hiding, besides Alec being your boyfriend."

"Shush Sandra, I may as well go shout it over the speaker system," Rose laughed.

When she met up with Alec, he already knew what she'd say.

"Okay, I'll start that new story then?"

"Nah, I was only kidding ya Alec, unless you really want to?"

"Whatever you want Rose. If you want us both in it but I was thinking you already know I base the lead character on myself?"

"Aw, thought it was about your cousin going travelling for his writing?" Rose teased him.

"It may have started out like that but lately, I'm not so sure. Rose, I want my next one to be about you, where if you say it's me, that I'm not in it much. What do you think?"

Before Rose could reply, they were getting into John's car and John grinned at the two of them as Alec got in the front seat and Rose directly behind him.

"Everything okay you two?" John asked them.

"Yeah, fine thanks," Rose replied. "I suppose you heard as well?"

"About what?" John wanted to know.

"That I showed everyone up in gym class today. I had to escape before I got asked any awkward questions. I don't know what Miss Evans thought about it."

"Ah. Rose, I was going to ask you to do something for me, if you will?" John asked her. "If you talk to her about showing off in gym class, maybe you can mention me?"

Rose spluttered. "Seriously? You fancy her then? Did you know about it Alec?"

"Well yes, John already told me but think about it Rose, you can get well in with her now you're her star pupil."

Rose knew the two of them were ganging up on her but she supposed it was her own fault for revealing her hidden talents.

"Well, I might be persuaded, I want something in return though."

"Now Rose, no blackmailing a teacher," John joked.

"Well, it has to be worth my while, doesn't it? What I was gonna say was stop picking on me to answer questions in science and maybe also put some English history in the lessons."

"Rose, do you want everyone turning against me?" John replied as they stopped outside Alec's house. "I barely get away with the English accent and if I did as you asked, I'd be asking for trouble. Maybe I can just go easy on you or give you some help with the answers, outside school. How about Sunday afternoons?"

Rose looked at Alec, who nodded his head.

"Done. So what exactly do ya want me to tell Miss Evans about ya?"

"Ah, well," was all John could think of, making Rose and Alec laugh.

"Don't worry, I'll think of something," Rose laughed as she got out of the car.

That was what John was afraid of as he drove off. Once he'd gone, Rose burst out laughing.

"Who would have known?" she asked as Alec let them in the kitchen door. "Want to know what me and Sandra were talking about?"

Alec just shook his head. What would two girls, one apparently his girlfriend possibly talk about except him? What was he letting himself in for?

Chapter Text

Alec didn't wait long to ask her what she and her other friend had been talking about and he was right, well almost.

"Were you two talking about me?" he dared ask.

"What makes ya think that?" Rose teased him.

"Admit it Rose, you may as well with what John's just been saying. It's okay, I just want to know."

"Well if ya have to ask?" Rose grinned. "Let's get our homework done first, then your new story. I can't wait to find out about it. So am I really in it?"

He could tell she was excited at the prospect.

"Yes Rose, you are really in it and I decided to keep your real name, if that's okay?"

Rose went up to him and threw her arms around his neck.

"Yeah, 'course it's okay. Wow, imagine me being in a story!"

If he'd known what reaction he was going to get, he'd have written one weeks ago and left the bog monster one but she'd got him to re-write his original one. What was she doing to him?

Over the next few weeks, Rose was pleased with the way the story had worked out and she had saved the main character several times in the process, which got Alec another neck hug. They had got bolder and teased each other at school, even though it was cold to sit around on what had become their bench and both John and Alec's dad had noticed.

One Sunday afternoon, Alec had gone to collect Rose to take her back to his aunt's house so his dad took John to one side.

"So, got any nearer with the gym teacher?"

"Nah, even though Rose has been dropping some huge hints, nothing's happened but the school disco's coming up soon, she might be persuaded to dance with me."

"Well good luck with that then," his uncle smiled. "I expect Rose will hog Alec all night? I've caught them laughing a few times, they seem even closer than they were a few weeks ago, did anything change that I missed?"

"Weell," John prolonged the word, "I know Alec made Rose the star of one of his stories and I think he's working on another. There's something about those two though, it's like she came along at the right time because right now, Alec would be moping around and missing his mum at this time of the year."

"I was about to say the same thing," his uncle agreed. "She has done him a lot of good. When his mum died and you were away a lot, he kept to himself and never really said anything. It's a shame Jamie fell out with him over her though."

"Yeah, I thought Jamie would have come round by now, it must be more than that. Alec believes Jamie wanted to ask Rose to be his girlfriend and was using Alec to get to her and it all backfired on him. I was going to ask Rose what she was doing for Christmas, has she mentioned anything about being worried at home lately about it?"

"Not to me," his uncle replied. "She may have spoken to Alec about it. Maybe I should mention it to your mother, since we'll be spending most of the holidays here?"

"I think mum was going to ask Rose today, it's only two weeks away. Alec asked me the other day what he should buy her, he's been saving up," John grinned.

"Then I might give him something extra, to buy her something nice," Alec's dad admitted.

Before Alec had got to Rose's apartment, there had been some discussion about the upcoming holidays and Rose was not pleased they had failed to tell her something. Once in the kitchen, Rose let her disappointment be known.

"So you're having a party here on Christmas Eve and you want me to be here? I was hoping to go to Alec's aunts."

"Rose, ya heard what Bob said, please don't argue with him sweetheart. It could have been worse, he could have banned you from going out at all, he said with Boxing Day being on Sunday, ya could still go out for a few hours after lunch."

Rose knew the reason for that, he'd still have a hangover. She was thankful he'd given in and put a proper lock on her door but had insisted on two keys but had got him to give the spare to her mother. She knew though that if he demanded, her mother would have to hand it to him. Alec and his dad had been relieved when she'd told them but it still didn't stop them from worrying about her.

So Rose thought she'd just have to think of a way of sneaking out on Christmas Eve to be with Alec, who had mentioned his aunt would be having a party and thought he'd drop a few hints to her about it. She felt like part of his family and she'd been happy enough last year when she'd been back in London but Alec was now making it more bearable for her.

Before Alec had left to go get Rose though, John had taken him to one side.

"Anything you want to tell me?" John had grinned at him.

"Should there be?" Alec asked.

"Neither of you are bothered about school, just why is no-one taking any notice of the two of you?"

"Maybe they got used to us?" Alec suggested.

"Come on, it's more than that and you know it," John replied. "Did she get that lock on her room door?"

"Yes, she told me she had, I hope she's not just saying that though. I'm still worried about her over the holidays, do you think my aunt may let Rose come round some of the time?"

John reached over and tried to ruffle Alec's hair but Alec stopped him.

"I'm getting a bit too old for that," Alec reminded John.

"Sorry Cous but you really should style it differently if you don't want me to ruffle it," John laughed. "You're not keeping it like that so Rose can ruffle it instead?" he teased.

He could tell that was exactly why Alec was so reluctant to have anything other than a trim at the barber's shop.

"Rose may like it like this," Alec had to admit.

"Aw, best not change it without her approval then eh?"

"Well I'm off to collect her. If she mentions the holidays, I hope my aunt agrees."

"I think she was going to ask but she wasn't sure Rose would be allowed. Has she had any trouble lately?"

"I would have told you if she had John," Alec reminded him. "She did mention Bob had got two keys for the lock but I think Rose persuaded him to give the other key to her mother."

"Let's hope it stays that way then?" John asked.

Alec hoped so too as he set off to call for Rose. He'd been surprised no-one at school had even teased them that they were spending all their time together, it was like they were taking no notice – well maybe except for Jamie, who was still avoiding them. He knew it should bother him but it wasn't but the test was yet to come. Would Rose make up for his mother not being here this year?

Up until he'd met Rose, he'd missed his mother so much but Rose had taken some of the sadness away by being there every evening after school, just like his mother would have been. While he'd not actually read any of his stories out loud to his mother like he'd done with Rose, she had at least asked him what his latest one was about and if it was still based on his eldest cousin.

Now though, he was basing them on himself and Rose and Rose seemed to love them. He rang the buzzer for Rose's apartment and waited for the door to be released once he'd said who it was. Rose was waiting with the door open.

"Hi, I'm all ready to go," she greeted him.

He noticed something was wrong though.

"Out with it Rose," he told her as they left.

"Bob wants me to stay in for a party on Christmas Eve, with all his rowdy friends."

"Sorry. See if you can get out of it, my aunt may be going to ask you to go round. What about Boxing Day though?"

"It's on a Sunday, I can still go out though I don't know why he agreed to it."

"Just be thankful he did," Alec replied as they walked arm in arm to his aunt's house.

John let them in, noticing they were still attached to each other and didn't seem all that bothered about it.

"Hello Rose, escaped again?"

"Geez, it feels like it," Rose grinned as she let go of Alec's arm. "Are ya having a party on Christmas Eve? I need rescuing."

"Ask Alec's aunt," John replied. "Having one at your place?"

"Yeah with Bob's annoying friends worse luck and to get out of any complaints, I think he's invited some of the neighbours. I swear I'm gonna lock myself in my room all night."

"Aw, poor you," John laughed. "So aren't you allowed out?"

"Nope, I have to be there, probably to serve party food or something equally stupid. I don't mind baking a few things but I object to being a serving girl for his mates. He expects me to be there yet he says I'm allowed out on Boxing Day. Sometimes I just don't get him."

Just then, Alec's aunt came into the kitchen.

"There you are Rose. Before you disappear with Alec, we want you to come to our Christmas party, on Christmas Eve, that's if you want to?"

"We were just discussing that," John told her. "Seems Rose has a bit of a problem, she's expected to stay in for a party they're having."

"Oh, that's a shame dearie. Can you not get out of it?"

Rose considered it. "Watch me, I'll get out of it somehow. Thanks Mrs Smith."

"You're welcome Rose and I hope you're still allowed out on Boxing Day?"

"Yeah, I was just saying it was funny I was allowed out for one and not the other. Bob keeps giving me a lecture on doing things as a family. I hope he's not planning anything for the new year though."

"I'm sure you're worrying about nothing," John tried to tell her, his mother agreeing.

"Well if they plan on going out, they needn't expect me to go with them."

"Oh don't worry Rose, you're welcome to come around here, at least until midnight and John will see you home both times with Alec."

Rose went to sit at the table and put her head in her hands, Alec's aunt going behind her and putting her hand on Rose's shoulder.

"What's the matter Rose?" she asked, seeing Alec wanted to comfort his friend as he went to sit beside her.

"You're all so good to me since I've known you. I didn't want to move here and I'm gonna miss all my old friends this year but you all make up for it."

"Well Rose, I know I can speak for all of us but you made a difference to Alec as well, didn't she Alec?" his aunt asked him.

"Yes Rose, you've got no idea. I still miss my mum but you make up for her not being here. I never thought about it before but I think she's watching over me and made sure I met you so I wouldn't be sad all the time."

Rose looked up, John and his mother backing away.

"You never said anything Alec," Rose told him.

"I was going to, John just reminded me. I mean I still do miss her but it's not as bad as before I met you. I think I'm right about it."

"Alec, you make being here not as bad as it would have been. I miss my friends but I've got you."

She leaned over and kissed his cheek, making him blush. He wondered what had come over her but he should have known really, now she was hugging his neck all the time.

"Sorry," Rose also blushed as she realized.

"Don't be sorry Rose, everyone thinks you're my girlfriend. We never really talked about it, did we?"

"I thought we'd decided we were too young?" Rose replied.

"Well you've been hugging me a lot lately, you don't mind being seen holding my hand or my arm and you just kissed my cheek," Alec smiled. "Maybe now, we're not too young?"

"Ya think so?" Rose asked, about to back away. "Then Christmas Eve, if I can get out, we'll decide. What do ya think?"

"Okay, we'll do that then? So if anyone asks us, we don't deny it?"

"Well I think that's what ya do," Rose smiled. "I've not had a boyfriend before. Maybe you should get a few tips from John? Will your other cousin be coming home?"

"I hope so, I've not seen him for ages. He's as bad as John used to be but at least now I know where he was some of the time. Peter's been away longer than John was, well it seems so. We are going to the school disco?"

"Well yeah, then everyone will know, won't they? Maybe we'll just have to admit it a bit earlier then?"

"I think so," Alec had to agree. "Really though Rose, I meant it, you've made a big difference, being my friend."

"You'd have still had Jamie, had I not come along," Rose reminded him.

"Maybe so but he's not a girl, is he?" Alec teased her. "He wouldn't be holding my hand or hugging me."

Rose started laughing and nudged him.

"Well I hope not."

"Stop it Rose," Alec tried to be serious but let out a laugh at what she was getting at.

John heard them both laughing as he read his dad's paper.

"They sound cheerful," his mother remarked as Alec's dad and his uncle were playing chess on the dining table.

"Well I think they've just admitted they're girlfriend and boyfriend," John suggested. "Now Rose will be more determined to come round on Christmas Eve but we should still be worried for her."

"That goes without saying," Alec's dad agreed as he made a move on the chess board.

"Well she seems a whole lot happier lately," John's mother told them.

"They're not bothered about being seen together anyway," John agreed. "Still, I wonder why she's not allowed out on Christmas Eve but allowed on Boxing Day?"

When Rose had gone off with Alec, Bob was reminding Jackie of a few things.

"Well Jackie?" he was asking her. "I said she could still go out on Boxing Day even though I would prefer for her to stay in, that's what families do."

"Yeah, I know that Bob but she never stayed in over the holidays much, I mean we both used to go to friends or relatives or they'd come over. Rose had a lot of friends back home."

"Jackie, need I remind you this is now your home?"

"No Bob, I was just saying."

"Well, just remember. You know why I want her to be here for the party, not everyone's met her yet, they're looking forward to it and I don't want her disappearing."

"You're gonna stick to our agreement, aren't ya?" Jackie asked him.

"Yes, you know that Jackie, I said I would wait but just remember, when it gets nearer the time, you'd better not try to put it off."

"But Bob, wouldn't it be better to wait a bit longer? I'm not sure even at fourteen? We won't have been living here for even a year then," she reminded him.

"You think that matters?" Bob asked her. "I'll think about it but you'd better not be trying to back out Jackie."

"No, 'course not Bob, it's just she needs time, that's all. I know you're only trying to make her feel like we're a family."

"Well she needs a few reminders, like being here when we have a party. Have ya told her about New Year's Eve yet though?"

"No Bob, I thought you would? I mean I know she can't go and that it's adults only at the pub. Maybe ya can let her go to her friends though? I mean leaving her in on her own?"

"I'll think about it Jackie but she's spending a lot of time with him."

"Maybe that's a good thing, yeah?" Jackie wondered.

Bob let out a smile, something rare for him Jackie thought.

"You may be right Jackie, having a boy as a friend? It just may be the thing she needs but not spending all her time with him. She has to see her own family comes first for my plan to work but just maybe this boy she's friends with will get her used to the idea?"

Jackie sat back, she knew Bob was only concerned for Rose, that he did want them to be a real family but why would Rose having a friend who was a boy spoil his plans one minute and help them the next?

Back at Alec's aunt's, Rose had persuaded Alec to go for a walk before it got dark and they went to the park, going to the playground and Rose sat on a swing, Alec pushing her.

"We'll get told off soon," Alec reminded her of the notice on a post for under thirteen's only.

"There's no-one around Alec," Rose called back as he pushed her away again.

He stopped pushing and got on the one next to her, Rose trying to slow down. He grabbed hold of the chain to try to stop her, the swing wobbling slightly. She stopped and was about to lean over to kiss his cheek again but he wasn't ready to be seen in public, not that anyone was near the playground but he was playing it safe.

"Aw, scared someone will come along?" Rose teased him.

"No," he lied. "It's just you only just started doing it today."

"Well I can get some more tips from Sandra," she giggled.

"That's not going to help Rose," he replied as he pushed the swing back, Rose going to do the same.

He was dreading what she'd come up with next. The kiss on the cheek had come as a surprise or had he been half expecting her to start doing something else after she'd started hugging his neck? He definitely needed some more advice from John as to what to expect but it had been a while since John had a girlfriend and he was having no luck with the girl's gym teacher so far.

"Come on Rose, we should be going," he announced, getting off the swing. "Just one thing. When it's the school disco, no cheek kissing."

Rose thought that was a bit unfair, since she'd taken a liking to it.

"Ya think anyone will notice?"

"Maybe, just because no-one's noticed so far but we'll be dancing all night."

"Hey, that can be our first real date Alec, what ya think?" she teased him as he walked her to his aunt's.

He thought now he was in real trouble. He'd never even thought about going out on 'dates' though he should have really expected it. When he finally walked her home, Rose kissing his cheek again, he thought he was just going to have to get used to it, she wasn't likely to stop but the disco being their first date?

"Bye Rose, see you in the morning?"

"Yeah. Alec, do ya want me to stop kissing your cheek?"

"What? I didn't say that Rose. Just try to limit them maybe?"

Rose just giggled. "Yeah, okay, I'll see if I can restrain myself?"

As he watched her go inside, he knew she wouldn't try too hard.

John let him back into his aunt's house and asked if something was wrong.

"No, not unless Rose saying the school disco can be our first date counts," Alec told him.

His cousin just burst out laughing.

"Sorry. So have you two decided if you're going as girlfriend and boyfriend properly then?"

"We must be, if she thinks it's our first date. What do I do John? I mean I know I'm supposed to call for her and escort her there."

"Ah, it's the English version of taking a date to the school prom. Don't worry about it Alec, just call at the shop on your way there or the night before and get her a box of chocolates or some flowers, then ask her if you can escort her to the disco. I'll pick you both up, don't worry about getting there and back."

"Are you going to try and ask Miss Evans to dance?"

"Well that was the idea, she can only turn me down," John smiled. "At least Rose is willing to go with you."

Alec already knew that but this was going to be the real thing. Everyone would see them dancing together as opposed to just hanging around in the playground and there were bound to be a few slow tunes but they danced most nights at his house to a few of the faster ones Rose seemed to like, would it be any different except almost the whole school seeing them?

"What about after the disco? " Alec asked worriedly.

"Ah, you have to see her home, tell her you had a nice time and ask her if she'd enjoyed herself and then kiss her cheek. Oh and don't forget when you pick her up to tell her she looks nice, will you?"

Alec wondered how he was going to remember all that and not make a fool of himself. Yes, they were most definitely getting to the girlfriend/boyfriend stage of their friendship and after the disco, if all went well, there would be no going back.

Chapter Text

It was the day of the school disco and everyone apart from Alec was looking forward to it. It wasn't that he didn't want to dance with Rose, he did but he preferred doing so at home and on their own. John had been dropping hints he had no-one to go with in the staff room and Rose was laughing with Sandra in the girls room that Alec seemed a little nervous.

"It's your first date Rose, sure he's going to be nervous," Sandra laughed at break time. "Just make sure no-one butts in while you're dancing."

"Yeah, let them try," Rose joked. "Mind you, I'm kinda worried that everyone will be watching."

"Rose, you sit together all the time, no-one will take any more notice," Sandra tried to assure her. "Just relax and be yourselves." She saw the look on Rose's face. "Come on Rose, out with it. What do you two get up to after school?"

"I'm not telling," Rose half smiled.

"Well I guess everyone will find out," Sandra teased her.

That was what Rose was worried about.

"You'll be fine, you'll soon forget about it," Sandra tried to assure her.

Alec was waiting outside for Rose to join him, sat on the back of their usual bench. John came over to talk to him.

"Looking forward to tonight Alec?" John asked him casually, trying not to let on he'd already asked his younger cousin that.

"Rose is, now I'm not sure it's such a good idea," Alec admitted.

"Everyone will be too busy to notice you," John tried to tell him. Then he leaned over so no-one could overhear. "Wait on the corner, I'll give you a lift back. Did you buy Rose her ticket?"

Alec had been surprised they were expected to pay for them this year but it seemed it had become the 'in' thing amongst schools in general lately, raising extra funds and they'd been told the proceeds would go towards the Christmas party.

"Yes, I paid for her though she's still taking bus fare from her mother, so Bob doesn't find out she gets a lift," Alec admitted. "Maybe she'll get up the courage to say something?"

"She's best leaving things as they are for now Alec. Has she said anything else about home?"

"No more than usual. She was a bit surprised he's letting her go but she says lately, her mum's been sticking up for her more."

"I heard Mr Peters got his son to do the music," John replied casually as Rose approached them, since he didn't want her asking if they were talking about her.

Alec noticed and got up.

"Wondered where you had got to," Alec grinned, his cousin smiling.

John knew they had it bad for each other and they were only thirteen.

He'd noticed nearly every Sunday when Rose came around that Alec would be quiet until it was time for him to call for her, then it had got that they didn't go straight back and he knew they must go to the park first, before it got dark. All his family liked Rose, his mother made a fuss over her and during the holidays, Rose would be spending time with them again. He wondered how his younger brother would react, if he were to come home for the Christmas holidays to find his younger cousin had got himself a pretty girlfriend.

He'd not had the heart to tell Alec that when Rose got older, she would attract a lot of attention from the boys and Alec would have his work cut out trying to keep her. He didn't think though that would be much of a problem, seeing the two of them sitting on the back of the bench as he moved away. He didn't think Rose would have her head turned, not by any of the boys currently in the school. Out of all of them, she'd chosen to be friends with Alec, when she could have all of them chasing after her.

Rose decided to go home early that evening, to get ready so she left after having something to eat. She was going to put her mother's and Bob's tea on early and be ready to go meet Alec. She just hoped tea wouldn't be ruined, her mother would blame her no doubt. Her mother came home as Rose was preparing to leave.

"Don't be late back Rose," her mother reminded her.

"It's fine Mum, we know what time to be back. How come Bob gave in so easily, when he was against me going to Alec's aunt's on Sundays? Do ya think he'll let me out on Christmas Eve then?"

"We've talked about that Rose, ya know he wants ya in when everyone comes around, lord knows why. I'll see what I can do. Is Alec's aunt having a party?" Jackie asked her.

"Yeah, some of his other family will be there, Alec wants me to meet them."

"Well Bob said ya can go out on Boxing Day, think yerself lucky."

"Yeah and tonight was a bit too easy," Rose admitted. "See ya later Mum."

She wanted to be out so Bob wouldn't confront her on his way in. Alec was waiting on the corner, praying Bob didn't go home that way, since there was another main road at the other end of Rose's street. He'd figured out which was Bob's car and hoped he'd recognize it if it passed him. He'd decided not to let Rose kiss his cheek, in case they were seen, then Rose would get grounded permanently.

Rose wondered why Alec backed off when she caught up to him.

"Rose, if Bob drives past, we are done for," he reminded her as she sulked she couldn't kiss his cheek. "Does he come this way?"

"I've never seen him drive past, have I? Are ya gonna avoid me all night?"

"What?" he asked as they waited for John. "Rose, it's not a good idea to keep kissing my cheek all through the disco. We'll barely get away with dancing slowly when the music is slow. I'll let you make up for it when I bring you home. You look very nice Rose and I should have actually called for you."

"Aw, it’s okay, Bob wasn't in but I know ya get nervous enough on a Sunday. Let's just enjoy tonight, our first date," she grinned at him as they saw John's car.

Alec wished she wouldn't keep saying that. If she told anyone there, it would be round the entire school in the morning and they wouldn't hear the end of it. Rose sat in the back as usual and when they arrived at the school, loads of pupils were either being dropped off or getting off various buses and Alec hoped no-one would notice him helping Rose out of John's car.

"You look very smart Alec," Rose smiled as he got the tickets out of his best jacket pocket.

"Thanks. Did I say you look very nice?" he asked nervously, trying to remember what John had told him, about paying her compliments.

Should he let her kiss his cheek just the once? Should he actually kiss hers for a change, seeing he'd not dared do so before. Had John told him to remember to do so? Maybe that came when he took her home though? He handed in the tickets, music already playing and they went to hang up their jackets, a teacher on duty to make sure everything was okay.

"Did ya come last year Alec?"

"No, Jamie didn't want to go but I don't know if we were even allowed, being in a lower class. They must keep changing it," he replied, seeing someone younger.

"So, just 'cos Jamie didn't come, you stayed away? Geez Alec, didn't ya do anything on ya own?"

"Rose, I do everything with you, well most of the time," Alec defended himself as they found a table around the edge of the room.

"That's different Alec," she tried to tell him.

"Is it? I'll go get us a drink, we get one included but I have some spare money, if you want another one later?"

"I've got some from today. I'll have to tell my mum I don't need it."

"You said you kept it, just in case, remember?" Alec asked, getting up. "Are you letting someone else sit here, if it gets busy?"

He was hoping the answer was no but it would look even more conspicuous if Rose was to tell anyone attempting to sit with them to get lost, which she would do, there were no airs and graces where Rose was concerned. Maybe that was why he liked her so much and why now, the school had seemed to accept her.

He'd just gone off when Sandra approached her.

"Hey Rose, on your own?" she asked, sitting at the other side.

"Alec's gone for drinks. Have you come with anyone?"

"Well, I was hoping to get Stuart from year four to ask me to dance, he's over there," Sandra grinned, giving the nervous older boy a wave and him giving one back.

"Well go on then, invite him to sit with ya," Rose encouraged her, forgetting Alec may be mad at her for doing so.

"I've got a better idea," Sandra grinned as the boy got nearer. "Do you mind if we take these two chairs?"

"Hello Sandra, would you like to dance with me later?" Stuart asked nervously.

"Yeah, okay. There's a table over there no-one's claimed, we can take these chairs," Sandra suggested.

Rose thought they were being rather obvious while herself and Alec were playing at being shy. Well, that was that then, if Sandra could get away with it, so could she so Alec saying kissing his cheek was out for the night, he had another thing coming. When she thought about it, it was all one-sided, it was about time he took a turn or two.

Alec came back, seeing the chairs were gone, thankfully she'd not invited any of her other friends to sit with them.

"Sandra took them," Rose nodded across to the corner. "Seems she got herself a date for the evening."

She could see Sandra waiting for her 'Date' to come back with their drinks and waved.

"Can ya believe, he came over and asked her to dance with him? I didn't even know she liked him that much, she's only mentioned him a few times. She was the one to suggest they sat over there."

Alec wondered why Rose was telling him all this. It seemed these days though, the girls were the ones to make any first moves. When he thought about it, Rose was the one to keep doing that so maybe it was time to up the stakes, so to speak? Right, when he took her home, he was going to kiss her cheek first, then she'd either slap his face or kiss his back.

He didn't think she'd be that surprised actually and maybe she'd been waiting? So tonight, they were going to enjoy themselves and if she forgot what he'd said, then did he really care? As they got up to dance, since the music was still fairly fast, Rose was laughing as she danced around him while he held her hand, just like they did in his living room at his house and no-one was paying any attention, well except John and Jamie, who had decided to go at the last minute but he had a motive for being there – he wanted to know how Rose and Alec reacted around each other.

John went off to find the teacher he fancied, who was talking to another female teacher and made her jump when he asked if she would like to dance. Rose had to smile as they got on the dance floor and she nudged Alec.

While they were enjoying themselves, Jackie and Bob had been enjoying some time on their own.

"This is nice Bob. Why don't ya let Rose go out more often?"

"I thought we'd agreed on that Jackie?" he asked her.

"Well yeah, I know ya want us to do things together, as a family but Christmas is coming up, she'll be getting invited to parties, with her friends."

"I already told you, I want her here on Christmas Eve Jackie. All our friends are coming round, I want them to meet her. What has she said to you about it?"

"Nothing Bob, just her friend Alec was going to a party at his aunt's, she wanted to go."

"She already spends every Sunday afternoon there now," he reminded her. "I said she could have a few hours out on Boxing Day, she can count herself lucky."

"Well, what about if she meets your friends, then goes off for a while? It's not a good idea when we'll all be drinking and she's not. Our friends may get a bit rowdy after a few drinks. Are we going out, to any parties?" she tried to find out.

"Yes, we've had a few invites," Bob admitted, thinking he was sure she'd asked him before but Jackie was a bit of a scatterbrain sometimes. "You think Rose will want to go out, while we are gone?"

"Well she might want to stay out a bit longer Bob, she might not want to be on her own. Will ya think about it?"

"I'll see Jackie but she'd best not get used to it. She can come out with us on New Year's Eve, I've already been asked if she will be there, by a few of my mates."

"Well, maybe she can get Alec to go with us?" Jackie suggested.

"That's not a good idea Jackie, they may think he's her boyfriend."

Jackie wondered what he meant by that.

"Oh, I don't know if she thinks Alec's her boyfriend," Jackie told him, though seeing them together, it was obvious to her, even if it wasn't obvious to them.

"He had better not be," Bob replied.

"Why, do ya think she's too young?" Jackie asked.

"Leave it Jackie," Bob told her, grabbing the TV remote and flicking through the channels, Jackie getting annoyed as she'd been trying to watch something before discussing if her daughter thought Alec was her boyfriend or not.

Why was he getting annoyed about it, she wondered.

Back at the disco, things had slowed down a little. John seemed to have managed to keep the gym teacher with him, they'd even found a table and had sat together, which had made Rose smile. Alec had bought them another drink each and some crisps though Rose had got the idea to share one packet at a time but he thought it had kept her happy.

"Have ya noticed Jamie's been watching us?" Rose leaned over to tell him.

"Yes, I don't know why, he never even bothered last year. There's only one reason he's here Rose, he's jealous of me, dancing with you."

"Yeah, I sort of gathered that," Rose smiled. "He watches us at school sometimes."

"He does? I've not noticed, I thought he had given up?"

"So did I and you're too busy wondering if I'm gonna start kissing your cheek during break times," she teased him.

"Are you?" Alec smiled at the thought. "I mean would you dare?"

"Is that a dare Alec?"

"I don't know Rose, is it?"

Rose let out a laugh. "Right, you so asked for that," she told him, leaning over and kissing his cheek.

"Well maybe I should start doing it back?" he teased her, trying not to go red.

"Here?" she snorted with laughter, making others around them who were still seated look at them, Alec trying not to look embarrassed.

"No, maybe I will torment you and you won't guess when?" he replied.

"You wouldn't?" Rose tried to stop laughing, the others going back to what they were doing.

"Just watch out Rose Tyler, I may have to start getting my revenge on you? Why, will you slap my face if I try?" he asked, thinking he'd best find out before he actually did it.

"Guess you'll just have to find out?" was all Rose would tell him.

John was keeping an eye on the both of them, as well as pay attention to the woman he was with.

"Why are you watching them?" Sarah Evans asked him.

"Ah, well, have you not seen them together in school?" John managed to ask.

"No, not really since I don't take boys for gym class. What about them?"

"They always have their heads together, I thought they may behave differently out of school," John bluffed.

"Doesn't seem like it," she replied with a smile. "They should be more careful they don't get talked about."

"Yeah, I know. I expect though everyone's just got used to them but from what Alec told me, his friend Jamie fell out with him over her, he was jealous. Seems Alec beat him to asking Rose to be his friend."

Sarah smiled at him. "Seems like it's more than a passing interest you have on them John."

"Can I trust you with something?"

"I don't have a lot of friends here John, if you want to tell me something."

He leaned over and whispered, "Alec's my younger cousin, shush, don't tell anyone."

"Really?" Sandra replied. "Why keep it a secret?"

"No-one knows, I never told the head. I got this job at the last minute, I was just lucky but Rose had a rough time, with just moving up here before the start of term. Alec's helped her a lot."

"She's very good in gym class, she shows the other girls up. I was thinking of getting her to help some of the others."

"She'd probably like that. Sarah, may I see you again, take you out somewhere?" he asked hopefully.

"I'd like that John. How about Saturday night, we could go see a film?"

John agreed, wondering why it was so easy but there again, how had Alec got Rose to be his girlfriend so easily?

"Watch out John, I think Jamie is going to confront Rose and Alec," she warned him.

"I'd best go over then, will you excuse me? May I get you another drink while I'm already up?"

"Thanks but I'd leave them for a while, it may be nothing," Sarah suggested.

Rose was teasing Alec again when he'd asked about him trying to kiss her cheek when they got back.

"John will be with us," Rose had reminded him.

"So? I will get out of the car and see you to the door Rose, since this is a date," Alec replied.

"So, you've been getting some advice on dates then?" she laughed. "Bet ya didn't find a book in the library, did John tell ya?"

"He mentioned it. Seems he's getting on well with your gym teacher Rose. Maybe we'll have to catch the bus home, I've spent all my money on drinks though."

"Aw, don't worry, I've got enough to get home Alec, we won't be walking. Watch out, Jamie's coming over. Why after all this time?"

They were about to find out as he reached their table and John thought he'd better be ready for it.

"Do you two have to flirt in front of everyone?" Jamie asked them, Rose holding onto Alec's arm, Alec thinking she was doing it on purpose.

"Get lost Jamie, who invited you?" Rose huffed. "Let's go smooch again Alec?"

Alec wasn't quite sure what exactly 'smooching' was but it was probably dancing slowly and her getting even closer to him, since she'd put her arm around his neck as they'd danced to a slow tune earlier.

"How can you show yourselves up?" Jamie wanted to know as John was approaching.

"Mind your own business Jamie," Alec warned him. "You had plenty of chances to dance with someone, if you'd wanted. You want to dance with Rose, well she does not want to dance with you."

"You've changed Alec," Jamie told him.

"Yes, I grew up and moved on Jamie, you should do the same."

"Trouble?" John asked as others were beginning to see what was going on.

"No Sir, Jamie was just leaving and I was just going to ask Rose for another dance, until Jamie butted in."

"Well Jamie?" John asked him. "You've ignored them all this time, why now?" Then it slowly dawned on him.

"Jamie, if you are trying to lure Rose away from Alec, it's not going to work. You want to start a fight with him, so he loses his temper and shows himself up, in front of Rose. How is that going to encourage her to go off with you eh?"

"Yeah Jamie, like I'd leave Alec 'cos you wanna pick a fight with him. Go away, I don't want anything to do with ya. Come on Alec, it'll be the last dance soon."

She got up and grabbed Alec's arm and whispered, "Now's the time Alec, to try to kiss my cheek."

Alec leaned over and kissed it, very briefly Rose thought but it was a start. Alec was pleasantly surprised he wasn't getting a slap. She dragged him onto the dance floor, still holding onto him.

"Hope ya gonna do that again later, properly?" she teased him. "Why haven't ya done it before?"

"Really?" he asked her. "Maybe because you never gave me an indication you wanted me to?"

"Well, I have now," she smiled as she tried to put his arm around her back. "I wonder what came over Jamie?"

"Rose," Alec whispered. "Did you mean what you said? That you wouldn't leave me for him?"

"You are a plum sometimes Alec. No, I wouldn't leave ya just 'cos Jamie wants to fight you for me. Unless?" she wondered.

"What do you mean Rose?" he asked as she leaned on his shoulder.

"Alec, what if Jamie wasn't jealous of you? What if he's jealous of me?"

"What?" Alec asked loudly, everyone turning.

"Shush Alec. Just think about it, he gets ya looking at me in the library, what if he was trying to hide something, pretending he's interested in girls?"

"Rose, are you being serious?" Alec asked, seeing what she was getting at. "I think I would have noticed."

"Would ya? You said you weren't interested in girls until you met me and all of a sudden, I take his place in school and afterwards. Alec, he's jealous of me, he has to be."

"We should talk to John about this, you may be wrong Rose."

"I don't think we are Alec. We asked him to stay friends and he didn't want to. He was only pretending when he was trying to get ya to talk to me in the library Alec. He was tryin' to see if ya took the bait."

Chapter Text

Should we be worried?

After the disco was over, everyone ignoring Rose and Alec as Rose had been showing off slightly, John made sure Rose got back home, waiting for Alec to say goodnight to her as he walked her to the door.

"Did you enjoy yourself?" he asked her as she was about to enter the code to get in.

"Yeah, it was fun. Alec, think about what I said, about Jamie. If I'm wrong then good but I don't think I am. Night then, see ya on Sunday?"

"Yes, goodnight Rose, it was good, getting to dance all night. I'd best go," he replied, suddenly feeling awkward and trying to remember what John had told him.

"Alec, ya can kiss my cheek if ya want?" Rose smiled.

He reached over and gave her a tiny peck on her right cheek, hoping John wasn't watching as he'd reversed the car. His cousin was watching though, smiling to himself as the two of them were in the doorway.

"Rose, you looked very nice tonight," Alec added, wondering if he'd remembered to say it earlier.

"Thanks. I should really go inside now," she reminded him.

"Of course, I'd best not keep John waiting. See you on Sunday."

John took Alec back home and asked if there was anything wrong.

"No, well Rose was talking about Jamie but I'll tell you on Sunday. Thanks for bringing us back, we thought we'd have to get the bus."

"Why?" John wondered.

"You were dancing with Miss Evans," Alec smiled.

"You were dancing with Rose all night," John reminded him with a laugh. "If you must know, I'm taking her out but I'm counting on you not to say anything Alec."

"Not even to Rose?" Alec tried not to laugh.

"Well if you must, night then, glad you remembered to see her to the door."

After that evening at the disco, Rose made a point of kissing Alec's cheek at least once a day at school, at first it was mainly as everyone went in and it made John smile when he was on playground duty but as it got colder, they would walk around to keep warm, arm in arm and when it rained or snowed, everyone would cram into the hall and they could hardly have any space to themselves.

Now, Christmas was coming up and this year, Rose was undecided if she was looking forward to it or not, since she'd learned of her mother's and Bob's plans to have their friends over and the more Rose talked about it to Alec, the more worried he got.

Two weeks before the big day, Rose had mentioned to her mother again about their party on Christmas Eve. Her mother had relented somewhat and had promised to try to talk Bob into letting Rose go out but Rose was still unsure as Alec's aunt asked her one Sunday afternoon.

Alec had been talking to John before he set off to call for her, it had been snowing and John had offered to take him.

"No, it's fine, Rose will be glad of the walk," Alec insisted. "I have to go get her a present yet, I don't know what I should get for her."

"Ah, don't ask me Alec, I've got no-one to buy for, well not female apart from your aunt of course and I really should get a little something for Rose."

His few dates with the gym teacher had come to nothing and there was no-one else he had his eye on but he'd not given up entirely, he was going to try again by inviting her out for a meal a few days before. So Rose and Alec were sitting in his aunt's nice and warm kitchen when his aunt came in.

"So you are coming round on Christmas Eve Rose?"

"I'm not sure Mrs Smith, I'm gonna try my best though, even if I've got to sneak out. If they make me stay in, I'm locking myself in my room all night."

"Well, that's what we are all worried about," his aunt told her. "Why are they making you stay in?"

"I've no idea, I hardly know any of them. I think Bob wants to show me off or something, that this year he's got a family, well at least I hope that's it."

"So do we," Alec told her, his aunt agreeing with him.

"Never mind Rose, I'm sure you'll be okay," his aunt tried to reassure her.

Rose just hoped she was right. The Saturday before Christmas, Rose had gone in a store with her mother and was looking for something to get Alec since she'd been saving her allowance. She'd reluctantly got something for Bob, her mother telling her she'd be best to do so and they had passed the stationery department when Rose had an idea.

"Mum, I think I'll just go back there," she pointed behind her. "I could get Alec a nice writing set with pens and everything."

"Does he do a lot of writing?" her mother wanted to know.

"Well yeah, he does. I'm sure he'll be pleased."

That sorted, there was just her mother to buy for. She'd seen her and Bob in the supermarket the last few weeks buying extra bottles of various wines or spirits for their friends who were coming to the party and thought it a bit pointless, if they were all bringing presents of bottles of something or other plus they'd been getting drinks and food for the party.

"So have you asked Bob if I can go out?" Rose asked hopefully.

"He's still not said anything," her mother told her. "You'd be best asking on the night, just stay a while and maybe he'll let ya go out?"

"Mum, Alec and his cousin were gonna call for me, I have to let them know," Rose protested.

"Well ya can phone them, can't ya?" her mother suggested.

She had Alec's phone number though she didn't know why so she'd have to get his aunts and hope for the best. The last day at school, they'd been allowed a non-uniform day and they were having a big party in the hall at two, then they would be allowed home early, if they wanted. Rose and Alec were walking around the playground, Rose all wrapped up and clinging to Alec's arm.

"So, last day?" Rose grinned.

"You are coming around tomorrow?" he asked.

"Yeah, why wouldn't I? Mum's still working but she's finishing early on Christmas Eve so I can't be too late back, I have to help her get everything ready. So, do ya want your present before then or shall I bring it to the party, if I can get there? I'll need your aunt's number or maybe I should just call your number, what time are ya leaving?"

"I'll write her number down for you later, try ours first though. I hope you can get out Rose."

"So do I. Is your other cousin coming back?"

"John never said but there are a few others I want you to meet Rose."

"I'm gonna miss all my old friends. Still, it won't be so bad," she told him.

"You're away from your home Rose."

"Yeah but I have you and your family. They make me feel at home. Come on, time to go in or would ya rather stay out in the cold?" she smiled.

The next day, Rose told her mother she was off to Alec's then his aunts.

"I'm going to the library as well, I have some work to catch up on, Alec's gonna help me. So, is all the shopping done then?"

"Just a few more things, I'll get them when I finish work, unless you want to go?"

"Leave me a list then me and Alec can go, he won't mind helping me."

"Well don't forget I need you back early on Christmas Eve Rose," her mother reminded her.

Rose wished she could forget about it, until she was sure she was able to go out. When she got to Alec's she asked him if he was spending most of the holidays at his aunts.

"I don't think me and dad want to be on our own," he told her as he sat at the kitchen table. "It will remind us too much of my mum. Rose, did I tell you, that making friends with you, it won't seem too bad, that she won't be here?"

"Aw, I think ya said something before but I'm glad ya think of it like that. I'm gonna miss my friends but you make up for them."

"You told me the other day," Alec looked up from his writing and smiled.

Rose thought he would be pleased with the present she had picked out for him, he had now started to do some of his story writing downstairs while Rose listened to his ideas.

"Rose, I hope you can go to the party, it won't be the same without you being there."

"I hope so too, if he thinks I'm staying where his mates are, he's got another thing coming," Rose replied. "I have no idea why he insists on me being there, unless like I said he's showing off."

"Maybe all his friends have families and he's been left out until now?" Alec wondered.

"Well he's not making up for it by showing me off," Rose replied, leaning her head on her arms.

"Do you want to go out, are you bored?" he asked her.

Rose looked up and gave him a smile. "No, you carry on, I'll bring a book and leave it here next time. I really don't mind you writing, you know I look forward to hearing them being read out."

"I never read them to anyone before I met you, not even to my mum but I think I've written more the last few months," he admitted.

"Because of me?" Rose wondered. "So am I in this one then?"

"You'll just have to wait and see Rose," he teased her.

Rose changed the subject.

"Do ya think John will get back with Miss Evans?"

"He said he was going to try, maybe it's because they work together, he's already keeping it a secret that I'm his cousin and he takes us to school and back."

"Yeah, I think it could be a bit difficult then?"

"I expect so. Want to go out?" he asked, closing his notebook. "We could go to the library and you could get a book to read?"

"I should get some school books on Scottish history and geography, I'm never gonna get a good grade on those subjects."

"I told you I would help you Rose, you should have asked. My stories can always wait."

They put their coats on and walked down to the local library and Alec helped her find the books she needed.

"Are you going to spend the holidays catching up then?" Alec teased her as she was checking them out.

"I'll have something to do while you do your writing. It'll also give me an excuse not to spend all my time watching Christmas specials on the TV with my mum and Bob. I already warned my mum I needed to catch up on some work. Alec, promise not to say anything?" she asked as they walked away from the desk. Alec nodded. "I only just got into that school, I'm not as clever as I lead other people to believe."

Alec looked at her, standing in the entrance.

"I don't believe that Rose, you are clever, in your own way. You got in, that's what's important."

"No it's not, I barely scraped in, I think they had to take so many who didn't quite pass the entrance exam and I got lucky 'cos I'd just moved here."

"I would never have known Rose, you didn't have to tell me."

"I was gonna tell ya when I got the chance Alec, I should have told ya before. You've told me things but I wonder if John knows, since he doesn't ask me a lot of questions and never says anything?"

"He has access to your school records Rose, he'll know and he'll not say anything."

"Does it bother ya?" she asked as they went back out.

"No Rose, you're my friend, it makes no difference to me. I would never have known, if you'd not said but I still think you are one of the cleverest people I know, you know plenty of other things."

"Thanks," she smiled, putting her arm in his. "Hey, did we just pass Jamie going in with another boy?"

"Where?" Alec asked, trying to turn around. "Was it someone from school?"

"I don't know everyone in school Alec," Rose laughed.

"Well we used to go in all the time, it's nothing Rose. Still think you are right about him?"

"Maybe? He seems to have got over it though. You two spent a lot of time together, I think we'd have noticed at school, unless everyone's too busy watching us?"

"Well even Billy and his mates leave us alone now Rose. It was like they just went onto something else. So, have you any last minute shopping to do?"

"Yeah, tomorrow and you can come and help me," Rose smiled as they walked off. "My mum's gonna leave me a list."

Shopping was not one of Alec's favourite things, especially at this time of the year but he knew he had to make an effort to help her.

"Where do we have to go, into town?"

"Yeah, to the supermarket, have you got the bus fare?"

"I can manage, I don't suppose I can let you go on your own?"

So, on the morning of the 24th, Rose had promised to be back early and Jackie had promised to try her best to let her go out that evening.

"Rose, ya know it wasn't me, stopping you going out, don't ya?" she asked Rose before she went out.

"I used to think it was you but now I know it's not, Mum. I suppose I was used to doing it back home?"

"I'm only doing what I think's best for ya Rose."

"Yeah, it wasn't easy to get used to it Mum but I know you're doing your best now. Maybe I can sneak out and he'll never even notice, if he thinks I'm in my room?"

"Don't let him find out Rose, for goodness sake. Let's see what he says when he comes home? He might be in a good mood? If not, just wait until his mates arrive and say you're going to your room, then just slip out. As long as you're back just after midnight, they'll be people still here, just don't get caught coming back. Rose, I'm trying to do my best for ya."

"Yeah, I know you are Mum. See ya later then? I'm gonna clean up now to save time later."

"Did ya get Alec to help with the shopping then?"

"Yeah, he didn't seem to mind. Don't be late Mum."

When they went to Alec's aunt's later, they were helping to put the decorations up and Rose offered to help get everything ready.

"You have your own to do later," Alec reminded her.

"Yeah but no tea to cook tonight, thank goodness. If I don't call ya, it means I'm gonna have to sneak out, I can get here on my own Alec."

"Well I'm just worried you will get caught," he told her, touching her arm.

"Yeah, I know ya are Alec, I'll be fine."

"He may stop you on Boxing Day though," he reminded her.

"Well, best hope he either lets me out tonight or he doesn't catch me sneaking out then?"

He walked back to Rose's and Rose just kissed his cheek, that was cold.

"See ya later, hopefully," Rose grinned, taking her glove off.

Alec hoped he was worrying over nothing as he watched her go inside, knowing her mother would be home early. When Bob got home, he noticed Rose had got changed, hoping she could go out.

"So, can I meet your friends then go to Alec's aunt's party? I know everyone there, not like everyone who's coming here."

"Aw, go on Bob, let her go, she's been looking forward to it," her mother spoke up.

"I told you Jackie, you know everyone wants to meet her," Bob reminded her. "What's wrong with her staying?"

Rose was about to say plenty but decided not to.

"I'll only stay in my room if ya make me stay," she protested.

"Not until you've said hello to everyone," Bob reminded her. "Just do as I ask."

"Then can I go out?"

"That depends when everyone arrives, doesn't it?" Bob asked her.

"Then can I call Alec and tell him I might be late?"

"You can tell him you may not be going," he replied.

Rose thought there was only one thing for it. She had been good at sneaking out back home, this was no different as long as she used the stairs and not the lift.

"So what are you going to do?" Alec asked her when she called him.

"What do ya think?" Rose replied, trying to sound cheerful. "I'm not staying in my room all night and watch everyone trying the door handle."

"What?" Alec asked. "Would they do that?"

"Chill Alec, they'll only either be looking for somewhere to put their coats or do their snogging," she tried to joke.

Alec hated the thought someone would try her room door for any other reason.

"Well, we'll be setting off soon, just go to my aunt's house," he managed to tell her.

"Gotta go, the door buzzer just went."

Both Jackie and Bob appeared, Rose hoping she'd not been heard talking to Alec and was about to go to her room, to get her coat for a quick getaway when Bob told her to stay where she was. Half an hour later, after Bob had made sure he'd introduced Rose to those they didn't see in the pub on Saturday and she was trying to hide in the kitchen, her mother said nearly everyone was there, including a few neighbours and the living room was already nearly full.

Rose was not going in there, it was already full of smoke and she wondered if they'd ever get rid of the smell, her mother usually hated anyone smoking in their old flat. Her mother came in the kitchen for more party food.

"Rose, if you're going, go now. I'll tell Bob you went to your room, go on. I'll take the blame if ya get caught. I'm trying to make up sweetheart, I know ya finding all this difficult."

"Thanks Mum, the next time someone calls up, I'll nip into my room while you're letting them in."

Over at Alec's they were setting off, Alec still worrying Rose wouldn't get to the party.

"So why is she not allowed?" his dad asked him.

"She said Bob wanted her to meet all his friends, I'm still worried about her."

"I know you are Alec but there's not much we can do about it, if she never says much. Just being her friend helps."

When John let them in, he asked where Rose was.

"Should we go call for her?" John asked.

"She called me, she may have to sneak out," Alec admitted.

"Well come on then, not everyone's here yet, let's see if we can find her?" John suggested, going through to the hallway to get his coat.

They had just got to the corner and Alec thought he saw her just down the road, waiting to cross. While Bob had been greeting the last of their expected guests, Rose sneaked back in her room, then waited a few minutes, hoping she wouldn't be seen with her coat. She knew she'd have to leave the presents until Boxing Day, there was no way she could sneak them out as well.

She quietly closed the door, after she put her room door key in her pocket with the front door key and headed for the stairs as she didn't want to tempt fate by someone getting out of the lift who was late. She was glad their apartment didn't face onto the street either as she set off, fastening her coat. There was no-one around, which didn't really bother her. She got to the corner and was about to cross the road when she saw two figures up ahead.

Not daring to think it was Alec looking for her, she debated staying on her side of the road and walk further up to cross over, since she knew some of those from school also lived around there but as she walked up, the two figures crossed the road and she panicked slightly, until she could make out one was taller than the other and it was probably Alec and John after all.

Then Alec waved, not wanting to shout. There was some ice on the pavement, it had got cold suddenly and Rose was watching where she walked as they approached her.

"Hi you two," she just grinned.

"We thought you were going to cross the road," Alec told her as she took his arm, making John smile.

"I wasn't sure who was walking down the road. Ya didn't have to come looking for me."

"Is that right?" John joked, raising his eyebrows even though a scarf covered his chin now he'd pulled it up a bit.

"So did you have to sneak out then?" Alec asked as they crossed the almost empty road, apart from a few cars that were parked outside driveways. "Don't get caught on the way back."

"I used to do it all the time when I was back home," Rose replied, wanting to hurry up and get back inside a nice warm house.

"Well worry about that later," John told them as they reached his house, another car now parked on the road.

Once inside, Rose was introduced to Alec's other cousin who had finally decided to come home and his girlfriend, then another aunt and uncle and a teenage girl, a bit older than her and Alec.

"Hi there," the girl went up to Rose as she was introduced. "Are you Alec's girlfriend then?" she smiled. "I never thought my cousin would get one though looking at him, yeah, I can believe it."

Rose wondered what that was supposed to mean. She'd told Alec and John she'd have to leave at midnight, so she wouldn't be noticed sneaking in and they'd promised to get her back in time. Alec's aunt Mary told her she had to try to come over for the Hogmanay and Rose said her mother was going out anyway. Just after eleven, everyone was laughing and joking, mainly about Peter coming back and the fact Rose and Alec wouldn't admit they were more than friends, Alec followed Rose into the hallway as she went to the bathroom.

"Sorry they are teasing us," he apologized.

"Yeah, it's okay, maybe next year we'll admit it? We've not talked about it recently."

"I know that Rose, maybe we should leave it a few more months?" he suggested, leaning on the bottom of the banister. "Look what John put up when he got home?" he smiled, turning to the doorway and Rose seeing a sprig of mistletoe hanging from the ceiling.

"What did he do that for?" she asked, since she always used the kitchen door.

"Well I don't think it was for Peter's benefit, do you?" he asked reaching his hand out to Rose, who was on the second step, having sat down.

They hadn't really held hands before, Rose was too busy holding onto his arm but she thought his hand felt warm, it was bigger than hers and as he took it, it was like hers fitted exactly as he squeezed it slightly and pulled her up and she let him lead her under it.

"So, what are we supposed to do now?" Rose thought she'd tease him.

"I think we're supposed to kiss under it and not just on the cheek," he teased her back.

"I know that, ya plum," Rose laughed, Alec hoping no-one was going to open a door and ask what they were doing but if John had planned this, he'd notice they were both missing and try to stop anyone.

"Merry Christmas Rose," he whispered, kissing her cheek.

Rose squeezed his hand for him to let go and since he was slightly taller than she was, reached up now she had her flat boots on and kissed his back. She put her hands on his shoulders and edged slightly forward. Alec thought she was going to just kiss his cheek back but a strange feeling came over him that he didn't just want her to kiss his cheek back, did he?

Rose was getting butterflies in her tummy, more than the first time she'd dared to kiss his cheek and he was clearly expecting her to just do it back but she looked up to the mistletoe above them.

"Merry Christmas Alec," then before either of them knew it, she reached forward and brushed his lips with her own then Alec leaned forward and did the same.

Chapter Text

Rose felt all giddy, like her head was spinning.

"Sorry," Alec apologized, looking at his feet, trying to steady Rose.

"Don't be sorry," Rose smiled. "I felt like I was doing back flips. You'd best go back in there, before someone comes looking for us and I have to go soon, before Bob catches me sneaking back in."

"Yeah, sure Rose. It was – 'erm, nice."

He knew they had been building up to this for a while, especially after the disco a few weeks ago. He'd bought her a nice toiletries set, he'd given in and gone into a store and asked what he should buy a teenage girl as a present and the older assistant had smile sympathetically at him and pointed him in the right direction.

"Yeah, it was kinda nice," Rose had to admit. "I was wondering what it would be like. I'd best go."

"Sorry, I'll see you back in there," he pointed to the sitting room door they had just come from.

He almost collided with his other cousin Katie.

"Is the bathroom free?" she grinned at him as he was on his own.

"Rose is up there," he admitted.

"Aw, my little cousin's gone all red," she teased him. "I bet she's just gone up there?"

"What makes you think that?" he asked, hoping he wasn't a bright shade of red.

"Even I don't take that long. So, is Rose your girlfriend then? Don't worry, I won't tell anyone."

He had visions of her going back in and shouting it out loud that he had a girlfriend.

Just then, the door opened, it was John.

"Having your own party out here?" he laughed. "Where's Rose?"

Alec pointed up the stairs, hearing a door closing.

"Ah, well we should be setting off soon, we don't want Rose to be in trouble, do we?" John asked him.

"Why would she be in trouble?" Katie wanted to know.

"Rose and her mother live with this bloke who's a bit strict, she sneaked out tonight," John told her.

"Oh. Poor Rose. Isn't she allowed out?"

"Well yes but there was a party there and she was supposed to be at it. Seems she preferred to be here, didn't she Alec?"

"I'd rather be anywhere than where my mum's having a party," Rose joined in. "Are you all waiting for the bathroom?"

"No, I came out to see where you'd all disappeared to," John laughed.

"I came out because I bet anything these two were under the mistletoe," Katie told him.

"Ha, I bet they were as well," John laughed. "Don't deny it."

"Geez, can't I even go out to the bathroom now?" Rose objected.

"Ah, well, that depends what else you were doing," John teased her. "Shall we leave, in case you didn't get chance earlier? I mean to kiss under the mistletoe?"

"We should be taking Rose home," Alec reminded him, thinking there was no way Rose would now go anywhere near it and that was their first and last kiss.

"Yes, maybe we should? Get your coats then," John replied, not that he was going to let this drop, it was too good.

They got their coats and Rose went back in to say goodnight to everyone.

"See you on Boxing Day," Alec's aunt hugged her.

"Yeah, if I don't get caught going back in. Sorry I can't stay any longer."

"Well we're just glad you were able to come tonight," she was assured. "You'll be able to stay longer for the new year celebrations?"

"Yeah, they're going out. Thanks for inviting me Mrs Smith."

"You're most welcome and why don't you call me auntie Mary?"

"Thanks, I'd like that. Night then and happy Christmas."

"To you too Rose, go on and don't get caught," she replied.

John let Rose and Alec walk behind him as they stepped out in the cold night air, Rose grabbing Alec's arm to try to keep warm as it had dropped a few degrees.

"I really hope you don't get caught Rose," Alec was telling her.

"Ah, I'm an expert at creeping in and out, don't worry about me," Rose joked.

She might have been confident outwardly but inside, she was dreading coming face to face with Bob, even if her mother had said she'd stick up for her. Would her mother back down though and deny it?

"I hope you enjoyed yourself tonight," Alec asked her, not knowing what to say after the brief kiss they had shared.

"Yeah, better than being on my own in my room or at their boring party, Bob's mates getting drunk. I'll have to use the stairs when I get back, in case anyone leaves early. I wish I could have stayed a bit longer though."

"Yeah, I know Rose. You can make up for it next time. Do you want to talk about that kiss?"

"Do you? What's to say? We both wanted to, well I did."

"So did I. I wasn't sure though, that you were ready."

"Maybe we'll get another chance on Boxing Day?"

"I hope so but Rose, do we need the mistletoe being there?"

"Alec, I thought we were going to wait, I mean about you being my boyfriend and me being your girlfriend?"

"We can, if that's what you want?" Alec asked as they turned her street corner. "You want to wait, until we're both fourteen?"

"I don't know Alec, do you?" she asked as John had stopped just ahead of them.

"Night then Rose, see you on Boxing Day?" Alec asked her as he walked her to the door, John seeing them pass him and smiling to himself.

He'd thought Alec would get her under the strategically placed mistletoe sooner or later and if he'd not, he wanted to know why.

"You mean tomorrow?" Rose smiled, hearing a clock chime it was midnight in the distance.

"Yes. Don't get caught Rose, please?" he asked worriedly.

"I'll be fine, I'll just say I went out to get some fresh air, he can't prove I've been anywhere else. My mum knows all my old tricks, trust me and she'll back me up. She said she'd tell him she gave me permission, she doesn't have to do everything he says. Mind you, sometimes I wonder what he has over her, leaving all the decisions to him," Rose mused.

"I'd best go, it's really cold out here. Night Rose."

He stepped closer and kissed her cold cheek but Rose turned slightly and caught the side of his mouth. He knew that was it now, the cheek kissing would be reserved for sneaking the odd one or two when they were out or in the school playground. No-one may have noticed them but they would if it were to progress and it had been a miracle so far no-one had tormented them over it.

He watched Rose go inside, praying she wouldn't bump into anyone leaving the party, goodness knew what sort of state they would be in and if they didn't know her, she may get hassled. John saw his reluctance to leave as Alec glanced back.

"What are you so worried about?" John asked him.

"Rose, getting back inside safely," Alec replied, seeing she'd disappeared.

"Relax Cous, anyone coming from the party will take the lift, they won't be in a fit state to take the stairs, trust me. So, did you make use of what I put up in the hallway then?" he laughed.

Alec didn't want to admit it but he knew why it had been put there, his cousin Peter and his girlfriend didn't need it, judging by what he'd seen earlier.

"Come on, let's get you back then I'll give you and your dad a ride home. We could have taken the car to see Rose home but I figured you two wanted to talk, about any kisses you may or may not have shared?"

Alec knew they'd just been seen in the doorway.

Rose reached their floor, standing by the door before opening it. Maybe if she heard the sound of voices and guests were waiting for the lift, she could sneak out while they were getting in? Well that was half a plan she supposed. That would mean more people were gathering in the hallway getting ready to leave though?

Maybe she could use that to her advantage, they'd all be too busy talking to notice her and the door would be opening, she could sneak by, the bathroom was the nearest door, she could dart in there until the coast was clear or into the kitchen, saying she was just getting a drink.

While she waited, thinking that was her best option rather than risk opening the door herself and coming face to face with her mother or worse still, Bob, she thought back to the short kiss she'd shared with Alec. It had been nice, he'd felt warm and had wanted to kiss her back, which had been a good sign otherwise he would have asked her what the hell she was doing and walked off.

She should have known that John would be sneaky and pull a trick like that, after he saw them kissing each other's cheeks often enough. She heard sounds and prayed any of the residents who'd been invited didn't want to go down a flight or two instead of getting the lift. She opened the door slightly, saw their front door open and Bob standing with his arms around two of his mates.

She'd have to wait until he turned away, maybe to go to some others, sneak behind him and make a run for the bathroom. Sure enough, he went back inside, the lift door opened and a few got in, then she heard voices shout for the door to be held, a few more dragging themselves out and Rose hoped they all had a taxi booked, they were in no fit state to drive, that was for sure.

The front door was still open as a few more dived for the lift, making the lift door reopen as probably those already in didn't know how to find the 'hold' button because they had drunk too much. She saw her chance, hoping the stairs door didn't make a noise and she held her breath, made a dash for the door and seeing the living room door open and Bob's back to it.

She thought he'd hear if she attempted to unlock her room door but she had her coat on, something she'd not taken into account while thinking of a plan to get back in so she hurriedly took it off and hung it on the coat rack and hoped he'd not notice it hadn't been there earlier.

She heard him talking louder in an even broader Scottish accent than normal and dived into the kitchen, standing at the sink behind the table, having kicked off her boots she'd changed into before going out and hoping he didn't see them in the corner.

She saw him with the last of his mates, going to the door, grabbed her boots, praying he was too far gone to notice her coat was there and ran for her room door, just unlocking it before he turned around.

"What are you doing Rose?" he asked her. "Where have you been all night eh?"

Rose was hiding her boots behind her back and thought she'd been caught out and he'd known she wasn't in there all night.

"Just the kitchen to get a drink," Rose replied as her mother was laughing with some of the women on their way out. "I told ya I wasn't joining the party."

"Here, Rose, come and say goodnight to Maureen and, sorry, I forgot your name," Jackie grinned.

"Have you been out Rose?" Bob turned on her.

"Leave her Bob, say goodnight to everyone," Jackie told him, Rose guessing she was putting most of it on for his benefit but her mother could drink when she wanted to.

So Rose took her chances, locking the door behind her and got ready for bed. She had to be up early to put the turkey in the oven, she couldn't trust her mother to do it and there were the vegetable to be prepared, wishing Bob would give in and buy some ready frozen ones to save time.

Meanwhile, Alec and his dad had got home and his dad asked if Rose had enjoyed the party.

"I think she did but I'm worried about her not getting caught," he admitted.

"She knows the risks Alec and she's prepared to take them. She is some friend, you know?"

"I know that Dad. It won't be the same tomorrow, with mum not being here but Rose, well she sort of makes up for it, I wish she could be there."

His dad patted his shoulder, knowing Rose had filled a big gap in Alec's life.

"I know Alec," his dad tried to assure him. "Rose was just what you needed and you're a good friend to her as well. Get some sleep eh? You'll see her on Boxing Day, are you calling for her?"

"I said I would, if she doesn't get caught going in tonight or she'll be grounded. She took a big risk tonight."

"I know, see what she's prepared to do?" his dad teased him. "I was keeping this as a surprise but remember I said we may take a holiday next year?" Alec nodded. "Well how about we book a caravan somewhere and we ask if Rose can go with us? She won't have to pay for anything other than any extras she wants."

Alec had hated their last holiday, down on the south coast somewhere because his mum was getting ill and hadn't told anyone.

"She'd maybe like that? What if she can't go though? How can I go off and leave her?"

"Alec, you can only ask her. It's up to her when she mentions it, it won't be until July or August anyway, she has plenty of time. We’ll get a caravan with a separate bedroom for her. What do you think?"

"Can I ask her then? Dad, I think Rose wants to be my girlfriend, do you think we're too young?"

His dad smiled as he switched the kettle on.

"Alec, I think we all know it's been heading that way for a while now. Do you both think you are too young? Rose can't think so, if she's been dropping hints. Mind you, if you both decide, you know how I expect you to behave while I'm not in?"

"Yes Dad, I know and we will. Can she come to my room though, while you're in?" he dared ask.

"Well, work up to that eh? There will be some rules though, such as I expect to hear you moving around, understand? No going up there until I get home though."

"I get it Dad. We did talk about it but maybe now, Rose thinks it's time."

"What makes you think that?" his dad asked as he made them some hot chocolate.

"John pinned some mistletoe up in the hallway," Alec confessed.

"So I noticed. Why would he do that then?" his dad smiled.

"Because Rose walks around the school playground with her arm in mine and she's been kissing my cheek for a while, since just before the school disco," he admitted

His dad let out a laugh. "Well no wonder then, she probably means business. I think your mum would have liked Rose. She's just what you need Alec, you seem to have got over losing Jamie as your friend."

"Rose feels guilty about it, she thinks it's her fault. She also thinks something else."

"Oh, what might that be?" his dad asked as they sat at the kitchen table.

"I don't want to say Dad but I've been thinking about it and maybe she was right."

"Then tell me Alec or it can wait," his dad replied, since it was well after midnight.

"Well, she thought Jamie wasn't jealous about me, being friends with Rose," Alec replied. "I never wanted to think otherwise."

"Oh, you mean he's jealous of Rose being friends with you? We already know that much Alec," his dad reminded him.

"No Dad, I don't mean that way, Rose means he wanted me to himself, not to share, which she thinks means something else."

"I see. Do you think the same Alec?" he was asked.

"I never saw any indication Dad but Rose reckoned when he used to dare me to go talk to her in the library, he was seeing if I was interested in girls."

"Well, you never said you were interested in girls," he was reminded. "You've only been interested since you met Rose, which I think rather proves a point, don't you?"

"That Rose made me realize I was? That being friends with Jamie wasn't enough?"

"You'll work it out Alec," his dad smiled.

Alec already knew he had. Rose had been right though he'd not wanted to believe that his friend was playing for the other team, as people would say.

"Do you think he would have admitted it?" Alec wondered, feeling tired.

"Eventually, at least until you showed an interest in girls. If it hadn't been Rose, it would have been another girl, maybe not just yet though?"

"So Rose proved to him I was interested in girls? I still want to think she's wrong about him though."

"I know Alec. Go get some sleep eh and don't worry about her, I'm sure she didn't get caught creeping back home, she's very clever."

"She doesn't think she's clever Dad, she wants me to help her with her homework, especially history and geography."

"That's to be expected Alec, she'll have learned English history and geography at her old school, won't she?"

"John's been going easy on her, he seems to understand and makes allowances for her but how will she get her grades if I don't help her? She got some books from the library, I was going to help her during the holidays."

"Good, I'm sure you will be a big help to her," his dad replied.

Alec just hoped his dad was right. Rose had admitted to him she'd not paid much attention at her old school but even if she had, it wouldn't have been much help to her. All he could do was help her get up to date on something he'd been learning for a lot longer but his dad was right on one thing – Rose was still clever.

He knew after their kiss earlier there would be no denying now he liked girls, particularly Rose and they would be no going back, she would make certain of that and when the subject came up again and she asked him, who was he to deny he was her boyfriend?

Rose was still up early the next morning, she knew her mother would be suffering from the booze last night but as she had put the turkey in the oven then gone back to bed, she heard her mother calling from the kitchen. Rose went back in.

"How did ya sneak in last night?" she asked Rose.

"Very carefully Mum," Rose grinned. "I thought Bob had found out."

"Well you were very lucky Rose, please don't try it again. Did ya enjoy yourself then?"

"Yeah, it was much better than putting up with Bob's rowdy friends. I met some more of Alec's family and his aunt told me to start calling her auntie Mary. So, happy Christmas then," Rose smiled, going to hug her.

"Yeah, you too Rose. I know you're missing all your old friends but I'm missing everyone too. You have to face it Rose, we're here to stay sweetheart. We have a proper home now, I could never afford to have a place like this."

"Yeah but ya have to go out to work Mum," Rose reminded her.

"It's no more than I was doing at home Rose."

"Mum, you're working longer hours now."

"I know but we're a lot better off and you're in a better school. You can't deny it Rose, if we'd not come here, we wouldn't be as well off."

Rose couldn't argue that, they did have a better lifestyle than they'd had before but at least she'd had the freedom to do as she'd wanted instead of a strict elder who expected her to do everything he said and had stopped her going out last night – well so he thought.

Jackie went back to her bedroom and Bob was awake,

"Jackie, did Rose say anything to you? Did she disobey me and go out?"

"I don't think so Bob, how would she have got out and back in again?" Jackie bluffed.

"She was in the kitchen when our friends were leaving, she was still dressed."

"Well maybe she thought she should put in an appearance as everyone was leaving?" Jackie suggested.

"I hope that's true Jackie? I have to explain to everyone now that Rose is just shy, I don't know what they all thought when she went to her room, they're going to be very disappointed. Maybe we should take her to the next one on New Years Eve?"

"Bob, you promised her she could go out, remember? She did as ya asked and stayed in last night."

"True but even so, everyone will be asking me why they never met her properly. They were all looking forward to it Jackie."

"Yeah, I know Bob but they'll be other chances," Jackie tried to tell him.

"You had better be right Jackie."

Chapter Text

Rose somehow managed to survive Christmas Day but only because she kept thinking about the brief but amazing kiss she had shared with Alec the night before. So that was what it was like, she wondered. That was what all the fuss was about, Sandra hadn't warned her how it would feel when she'd said it was only a matter of time before they kissed.

The day school had broken up for the holidays, they'd been talking in the girls room and Sandra had told her she'd noticed the two of them. Rose had thought she must be the only one apart from John who had, no-one else had tormented them over it so far. She thought they'd either been very lucky or everyone had got used to them.

Her mother and Bob seemed to suffer from the night before and were falling asleep on the sofa so Rose wondered if she dared to slip out but Alec would be at his aunt's and they may not appreciate her gate-crashing, even though she was welcome there so she went to her room instead, thinking more about what had happened last night.

Alec was getting teased by both his cousins, John having more sympathy because he spent more time with Rose and Alec and when everyone had eaten, John followed Alec out into the hallway.

"Take no notice of your other cousin, Alec," John told him, ruffling his hair as Alec sat where Rose had been last night. "It was going to happen, I thought I'd maybe just help you along?"

"I knew you had placed it there," Alec tried to smile. "There's no going back now, is there?"

"That's up to Rose but considering you walked her home and she kissed your cheek again, she's not mad at you."

"I thought she might have been but she leaned forward first. She said it was nice."

"Well, you're home and dried then Alec. It can only get better but take your time, don't rush things."

"I don't think Rose wants to rush things. We did talk about it before but we just left it. Rose thinks maybe it's best we wait a bit longer, well I think she does."

"Alec, I meant take your time, don't leave it altogether. I know you two are inseparable but if you don't let your feelings be known, Rose will think that you're backing off."

"She will? So how do I let her know I'm not?" Alec wanted to know.

"Just carry on with what you're doing, you'll both know," John advised him, with a grin on his face.

"You mean Rose will?" Alec grinned back.

"It's not all one-sided is it, on her side?" John suddenly realized.

"What? No, it's not, is that what you think?" Alec suddenly stood up.

"I had to ask," John replied. "I wanted to make sure it wasn't all Rose but I can see it's not. Just go along with what she wants, she'll show you and when you're ready, you won't need the mistletoe. I'm still leaving it up though."

The next morning, Rose was up early. All she could think about was seeing Alec later when he called for her. Her mother noticed as they got breakfast ready.

"Rose, I'm sorry you couldn't get out yesterday."

"It's okay Mum, leave it. Thanks for not telling on me the other night."

"Did you have a good time?"

"Yeah, I met some more of Alec's family. He has two more cousins though one's only back for the holidays and the other one lives in Glasgow. Mum, why did Bob insist I stayed for the party?"

"Leave it sweetheart. Bob's never had a real family before, that's all. He just wanted to show off to his friends, that's all. Don't worry too much Rose, he's only looking out for us."

"Then why do ya let him have the last say in everything?" Rose wanted to know.

"We live with him Rose. He got us out of the estate, you got into a better school, I could never have done that on my own. We have a better life here Rose, it's much nicer up here, for both of us. You have better friends as well, don't you?" her mother asked.

"What was wrong with my other friends?" Rose objected.

"Really? They distracted you Rose, you hung around with them when ya were supposed to be in class and don't think I never knew. No, we're certainly better off up here and at least ya have a father-figure now, someone to put you right."

Rose was about to disagree when Bob started calling for her mother. It reminded her they were here for all the wrong reasons and her mother couldn't see it. What reason did Bob want a family, with a teenager and not someone younger? She guessed she would never know.

Now she was counting the hours until Alec called for her but would he be mad she had made the first move the other night?

"Can I use the phone Mum?" she called after her mother.

"Don't be on long sweetheart."

Rose dialled Alec's number, hoping he'd answer but it was his dad.

"Hello Rose, do you want Alec?" she was asked. "I'll just get him."

His dad knew he'd been on edge all morning, after confessing what had happened the other night. He knew though it was down to them what they did about it, no amount of telling them to stay away from each other would do any good, since they were in the same class and Rose was like part of the family.

Alec was called to the phone, not that he wasn't already standing in the doorway, hoping it was Rose but not that she was telling him she couldn't go out later.

"Rose, is everything okay?" he greeted her, his dad going off and smiling to himself.

He knew Alec cared a lot about her and he'd seen it more-so lately.

"Yeah, it's fine. I wanted to sneak out early, are you going out yet?"

"No, I can come round now or meet you outside? Did you have a good day yesterday?"

"Not really, it would have been better if I'd have been back home or with your family. Bob was a bit of a misery," she replied, hoping he didn't hear or she'd be grounded until next Christmas.

Alec let out a nervous laugh. "I can come round, maybe in an hour?' he asked, since it was just after eleven.

Rose sounded disappointed when she replied with, "Oh, well maybe I can last that long?"

"Or were you hoping to come round now?" he asked, seeing where his dad was.

It was different when his dad was out, they came and went as they wanted during the holidays but despite him saying Rose was always welcome, he thought maybe his dad wanted them to have some time on their own.

"It doesn't matter Alec, I can wait," Rose replied, not wanting to cause any problems.

"Just hold on," Alec told her, putting the receiver down on the stand.

"I heard what you told Rose," his dad said as Alec got to the doorway. "Go get her or meet her, it's okay."

"She said she'd wait," Alec offered.

"I know how miserable she is at home, it can't be easy for her but Alec, we really need to talk about things, if Rose is going to be your girlfriend."

"Thanks Dad, I need to talk about it with Rose though, we never decided anything," Alec replied.

"I think you already have," his dad disagreed. "I'm not objecting Alec but you have to think about it very carefully. Go on, don't keep her waiting on the phone."

"Thanks Dad."

Alec went back to the phone, where Rose was waiting on the other end. Was she asking too much of him, spending time with his dad when she was unhappy?

"Rose, it's okay, I'm coming round for you. Will you be able to get out though?" Alec asked her worriedly that he'd get there and Bob wouldn't even let him talk to her on the intercom, let alone let him in the building.

"Yeah, just come round Alec, please?"

"Just wait, I won't be long."

Rose put the phone down and went into the living room.

"Everything okay Rose?" her mother asked, trying not to ask how the phone call had gone.

"Yeah. I've already prepared your lunch Mum, you only have to reheat it."

"Not joining us?" Bob suddenly asked, coming out from behind a newspaper he was trying to catch up on.

"Rose is going out, remember?" Jackie reminded him.

Rose thought he must still be recovering from the other night and the booze he'd had with his dinner yesterday.

"So what time are you going out then?" Bob wanted to know, since Rose had never mentioned a time, thankfully.

She might actually get way with this, since she knew how long it took Alec to walk round.

"Alec will be here soon," Rose replied, hoping she didn't sound too keen.

"A bit early?" Bob questioned her.

"I have presents to take round," Rose replied, glad she'd not sneaked them out the other night.

"Well be back before ten, understand?" Bob reminded her. "I still see no reason why you can't stay at home."

Rose thought he had to be joking. Why would she want to spend the day watching boring old films on the TV when she could be with friends?

What her mother had said to her, about them being a family, this was nothing like being a family, not from what she'd seen of Alec's. It worried her now what her mother was getting at, that Bob wanted to show his mates he had a family. Did they have families of their own? If not, maybe she had a right to be worried? She had to talk to Alec and John about this, the way her mother had thought it was normal.

Maybe in a strange way her mother did think it was what it was like to be a family? They'd had all that time being on their own before Bob had come along and then her mother had seen the chance of getting out and living a better life and had grabbed it while she could.

Well, she might have taken her feelings into consideration instead of springing it on her during the school holidays. Her thoughts were interrupted by the door buzzer and she was up like a shot, beating Bob to it.

"Is that you Alec?"

Alec wondered who else she was expecting, since he'd told her he was setting off.

"Yes Rose, are you coming down?" he replied, since the last few times he'd not gone up.

"I'll just get my things, won't be long."

With that, she was out and into her bedroom, the carrier bag of presents already on the bed. She'd saved all her bus fare and some of her allowance but she'd not got anything for Alec's other cousin, since she'd not known he was going to be there. She hoped she'd be forgiven.

Alec was waiting downstairs, trying to keep warm when he saw her coming out of the lift.

"Let me take that for you?" he offered, going for the large Christmas carrier bag.

"Yeah, thanks but no trying to get to yours," she teased him.

They walked arm in arm to his house, she knew there were still a few hours before they went to his aunt's house though and wondered what they were planning on doing. When they got there, she knew she needn't have worried as Alec went to get her present he'd bought her.

"I think I'll take it to your aunt's and open it," Rose insisted as he put it in front of her on the kitchen table.

"Then I'll save yours," he replied, leaving it in the carrier bag and then putting Rose's on top. "You got back in okay the other night then?"

"Yeah, it was easy, told ya I could do it," she smiled, Alec noticing she had her tongue stuck out of the side of her mouth.

Since when had she been doing that, he wondered and trying not to make it seem like he was looking. Maybe that was what she intended though? As if the arm and hand holding, the kisses on the cheek and now possibly repeats of the kiss from under the mistletoe without it being there weren't enough? What could she possibly come up with next? Was there anything else she'd just started and he'd not taken any notice of?

He snapped out of his thoughts.

"If anyone could, it would have been you. John admitted he put the mistletoe up by the way."

"Yeah, as if we didn't know that?" Rose had to laugh.

"You sounded upset earlier Rose, what's wrong?"

"Nothing," she replied. Alec wasn't satisfied and she could tell. "Ya mean apart from having such a boring day yesterday? Geez, I don't why he made me stay in, watching boring films, them both having a hangover from the night before and falling asleep halfway through a programme. I just left them to it."

"Poor you," Alec replied, feeling sorry for her. "You should have maybe sneaked out again?"

"I thought about it, trust me. I hardly saw them Alec, why did he make me stay in? If I hadn't thought about him catching me, I would have tried it but I wasn't sure that I should intrude at your aunt's, it being Christmas Day."

"What? How can you think you would have been intruding?" Alec raised his voice.

His dad heard and put down the new book he'd got from John and went to join them.

"Is everything okay with you two?" they were asked as Rose looked up from where she rested her head on her hands, thinking Alec was mad at her, probably for encouraging him to kiss her the other night.

"No Dad, nothing's wrong, is there Rose?" Alec asked her. "Rose thought she wouldn't have been welcome had she sneaked out and gone to aunt Mary's yesterday."

"Rose, how would you not have been welcome?" his dad asked her. "You spent the day on your own?"

"I may just have well have done for all the attention I got. There's Bob saying we're a family and he was getting over the night before. I wish I had gone out now, even if I got caught, I'm getting past worrying about what he'll say if he catches me."

Alec and his dad looked at each other, his dad nodding to Alec as Rose put her head down again. Alec pulled his chair over and put his hand on her shoulder.

"Please look up Rose," he asked her. "It's not so bad, really. You're here now and we'll make sure you're not late back tonight, won't we Dad?"

"Yes, of course we will. Rose, is there something you want to talk about?"

Rose shook her head without looking up but didn't try to move Alec's hand from her shoulder.

"Come on Rose, you can tell us," Alec tried to encourage her.

"There's nothing you can do about it Alec. We're here to stay, mum said so. She can't see anything wrong with Bob wanting us to be a family."

Alec's dad sat down opposite. He could see Alec's concern for his friend, who seemed like she'd suddenly become his girlfriend.

"You have to talk about it Rose, if it worries you," he told her. "It does help when you have someone to listen to you."

"You can't help me Mr Hardy, my mum won't leave him, no matter what. She said we could have never have a life like we have if we'd stayed in London. She doesn't get that I don't want a life like we have, she has no idea. She thinks I'm in a better school but she doesn't know I'm struggling to keep up."

"You do okay Rose, me and John help you," Alec told her, wishing he could hug her but maybe not in front of his dad.

"I screwed it up at my old one 'cos I wanted to act around and get all my friends into trouble for following me. The last few years, I hardly learned anything. I just bluff in class Alec, John already knows that."

"Has he said so?" Alec's dad asked her.

Rose shook her head.

"They'll help you Rose, we all will, won't we Alec?"

"I already told you that Rose, that's why you got the books, remember? Remember we talked about going to college together?"

"I won't get into college Alec."

"Of course you will Rose. Why won't you?" Alec wanted to know. "You're trying to catch up and you will, no matter what it takes."

"Alec's right Rose, you can't give up," his dad agreed. "You have an advantage Rose, John's on your side, remember?"

Rose managed to nod. "I feel like it's cheating."

"No, it's not cheating," Alec disagreed. "How can it be? Let us help you Rose, we're all here for you."

His dad got up, thinking they wanted to be on their own. It was now after one and they'd be walking around to Alec's aunt's soon.

"Want a hug?" Alec offered, trying to cheer her up.

Rose looked up. "I thought you'd be mad at me? I made the first move the other night."

"You just beat me to it," Alec smiled. "I knew it was there. Cheer up Rose, please?"

She knew he really cared about her.

"Sorry, it's just it gets me so mad, it's all so false and my mum can't see it. Alec, I don't think my mum knows what being a family is, there was only the two of us, she thinks it's Bob's version. Why does he want to show me off to his friends Alec?"

Alec had no idea but he was certainly going to find out, if Rose was upset about it.

"Come on Rose, go freshen up in the bathroom before we leave?" he suggested, seeing a tear in the corner of her eye.

"Have you put mistletoe out there?" Rose tried to joke.

Alec put his hands up in defense. "Me? No, that was entirely John's idea, he admitted it. He said it was bound to happen sooner or later and he was giving us a nudge. We didn't talk about it much, do you want to?"

"You mean about repeating it?"

"Well, yes, that was one of the things. I told you, I wasn't mad with you Rose. Maybe I'll get chance to prove it to you later?"

"Maybe?" Rose mused, drying her eye.

Alec leaned over and kissed her cheek, figuring she needed it and thought to himself maybe he should start doing that more often instead of leaving it up to her.

Rose leaned over and tried to put her arms around his neck, Alec moving to let her.

"Thanks Alec."

"That's what friends are for Rose," he reminded her as it turned into an awkward hug. "We should get ready to leave."

Despite being upset earlier, Rose soon forgot about it as she swapped presents near the tree, which was already lit up, reminding her of when there was just her and her mother until all their friends and family came around in the afternoon. She wished it was still like that but she would never have met Alec if she'd not come here and he was the best thing about it.

Even going out to the bathroom and expecting Alec to follow her, which unknown to her he was planning on saving it for later before they left, she felt better and even the thought of going home didn't seem that bad, well not for the time being anyway. She'd got some nice presents and Alec had surprised her but not half as much as she'd surprised him with her present to him.

"It's great Rose, thanks," he'd told her after they'd eaten.

"I hoped you'd like it, I was a bit stuck what to get. You really like it?" she asked as he looked at the case the pens and pencils were in alongside a small writing pad.

"I'll use the pad to write you a special story."

"Thanks. I really like the present you got me, no-one's bought me anything like that before, maybe because they thought I was too young before to want anything smelly. Did anyone help ya choose it?"

"Ah, I may have asked one of the store assistants," he smiled.

"You chose it yourself though?"

"Yes, I chose it myself. Rose, about earlier. I want to help you catch up with your work, it makes no difference you took no notice before, you're trying to make up for it, that's what really counts."

"You think so? I hope the teachers think that."

"Rose, they will have seen your school records you know?" he reminded her. "They can't be that bad or you would never have been accepted."

"I told you, I only just got in Alec. You’re so much more clever than I am."

"Don't ever say that Rose, that's not true. Don't put yourself down, not ever. During the holidays, you and I have a lot of work to do."

"Don't give up your time for me Alec."

"Well tough Rose, John may not be allowed to help you much out of school but I can and that's exactly what we are going to do until we go back in the new year. Besides, it's too cold to go anywhere, except to the library to get more books," he smiled.

"Don't ya hate going to the library?" she wondered. "Doesn't it remind you of being friends with Jamie?"

"Who?" Alec grinned, wondering why they'd been left alone in the kitchen again, which they seemed to make a habit of. "Jamie made his choice Rose, he doesn't speak for me. Besides, that was where I first saw you, remember? I was hoping when I first saw you that you were new to the area and you'd be going to the same school."

"You should have been hoping I wasn't," she replied.

"That's not true Rose, don't say that. It gave me an excuse to help you on your first day, remember?"

"Yeah. So ya wouldn't have helped me if you'd not seen me in the library?" she teased him.

"That's not fair Rose. I would have still helped you, you were lost and no-one else was taking any notice."

"Like they take no notice of us?" Rose asked him. "Maybe we should shake them up a bit?"

"Rose, what do you mean by that?" he asked worriedly in case she was planning on going around kissing him all the time.

This time, it was Rose who got up and moved her chair nearer to him.

"Do we need the mistletoe, Alec?" she whispered in his ear.

She looked at him, leaving him to decide. Maybe if she took the lead in everything, he'd change his mind about her and she couldn't bear to lose him, he was all she had.

"No, I don't think so, do you?" he asked, turning to her.

Just as they were about to have their second kiss, John was wondering what they were up to. It had become normal for the two of them to disappear when Rose came around but since they'd kissed under the mistletoe, would they sneak the other way and take advantage of it? He opened the kitchen door, quietly and saw them, smiling to himself. His plan had worked and though they both thought they were too young, they'd already figured it out.

Chapter Text

What next?

The next few days, with Rose's mother being back at work but Alec's dad having a few days off, Alec went round to Rose's place then they'd have lunch with his dad and go out, mostly to the library and squat in a corner with either a history or geography book as Rose was still panicking.

"You'll be fine, don't worry so much," Alec kept trying to tell her.

"That's okay for you to say Alec, you've been doing this since junior school," Rose sighed, trying to look at pictures of Scottish lochs, since she got caught out about them a few times.

"You can't just look at the pictures Rose," he smiled. "You have to learn how big they are and their features you know?"

"Huh? Yeah, I suppose I should? Let's have a day off tomorrow and go swimming?"

"You want to go swimming, with me?" he asked nervously.

She had never suggested such a thing before, even when the weather was warmer. It meant a trip into town, since there wasn't a pool near where they lived.

"Well duh, yeah, I want to go swimming with you. We should start doing things like that ya know? We'd not decided what we were gonna do before, had we? I've got a bit of spare money but I'll ask my mum for some more. She was giving me a lecture the other day about how much better off we are, now's her chance to prove it."

"Do you think you're better off?" Alec wondered, not that she looked scruffy or anything, quite the opposite.

He thought she looked good in just her jeans and jumper or t-shirt when it was warmer but most of all, she'd looked amazing at the school disco and had been surprised no other boy, the same age or not hadn't tried to steal her away from him. If they had done though, he was pretty sure he would have started a fight over her.

Looking at her though, he didn't think she would go off with anyone else, considering he didn't think he had any rivals. Those in their class hardly seemed to notice her and at break times, everyone carried on with what they were doing and ignored them. He still couldn't figure out though why that was, it was like they were invisible or something.

Rose looked up from the book on the table.

"A bit, yeah but poor mum has to go out to work, I've no idea if Bob gives her any money. She worked at home before, friends and neighbours, friends of neighbours would ring for her to do their hair and she'd sometimes go to them if they couldn't get out. She was always there when I got home and all I did was get changed and go out. I feel really awful about it now."

"I'm sure everyone else does the same," he tried to assure her, putting his hand on hers and hoping to be ignored like they were at school.

He had a theory about that and wondered what Rose would make of it.

"Maybe? Anyway, I don't see her for long before he gets home, then they're all over each other, it's sickening."

Alec had to smile. "You are all over me when we get to my house," he reminded her, since before the holidays, she had hugged him when they put their school bags down and kissed his cheek until he tried to get her off him and get his homework out before his dad got home.

"I never thought you objected Alec," she smiled. "I can always stop?"

"I never said that," he replied, not liking the idea and figured he'd miss it if she did.

He saw her smiling and knew she was just teasing him again. Rose knew he didn't mean that but she now enjoyed teasing him to a certain extent. She thought she shouldn't go too far though, just bit by bit to see how far he would let her. Now they'd shared their first kisses though, how often would he want a repeat? Well at his house, that was out of the question while his dad was there.

"Alec, there are other things we should be talking about ya know?"

"I know Rose, there's no going back now, is there? Things are changing."

"Yeah, I know that too Alec and I know we both thought we were too young but it seems we're not, are we?"

Alec knew she was clever in her own way, whether she knew Scottish history and geography or not.

"Seems not? We should get some advice from John, I can't ask my dad," Alec replied.

"Geez Alec, if I mention it to my mum, she'd go crazy. I'm afraid she'd tell Bob I have a boyfriend."

"He can't do anything about it Rose, he's not your dad," he reminded her as Rose closed the book. "Had enough?"

"I can only look at so many pictures of lochs Alec, I have enough trouble remembering not to call them lakes. Would I get mobbed if I did?" she smiled.

"I won't let them mob you Rose. Ready for a history lesson?"

"Okay, if ya promise to go swimming with me tomorrow?"

"I suppose so? We should still get in as students, if not, we'll have to go another time. No messing about though Rose or we may get asked to leave," he warned her, trying not to smile.

"Don't know what ya mean," Rose did smile at him.

He knew very well that she did, she was sometimes more mature than he was despite being slightly younger but when he'd mentioned it to John, he'd told him not to worry and girls were usually more forward than boys in general.

They left the library and decided to see if John was at home. He was and let them into the kitchen.

"So, you two then?" he just laughed at them as they sat down. "What do you intend doing about it eh?"

"What can we do about it?" Alec asked him. "We've not really talked about it yet, have we Rose?"

"That's why we're here. What do we do about it?" Rose wanted to know.

"Well, you need to discuss that yourselves but most of all, do you want anyone else to know? I know how you behave at school, though why no-one's said anything is beyond me, it's like the two of you are invisible or something. Really, I see you all the time with your heads together and laughing over something, Rose nudging you, Alec. What is it that others don't see?"

"I have an idea about that," Alec replied. "It's like in the stories I write."

"Really?" John asked, since Alec had never talked about them other than he wouldn't admit they were based on him when he used to travel around all over the place.

"Well yeah, I sometimes wrote that the transport that's used, that police box, not everyone can see it. Only kids and those looking for it can see it. It's like it's there but not everyone can focus on it."

"Ah, a perception filter!" John laughed.

"What's one of those?" Rose asked, not having heard Alec mention one and it had to be something geeky if John knew about it.

"It's there but you don't want to see it. It's like if you look at me, you see me, right?" Rose nodded, thinking he was crazy. "It's your perception of things, like if Alec sat next to me, who would you look at?"

Rose thought that was a trick question and was glad he'd not asked her that in class.

"Oh, I get it," Rose grinned. "I'd ignore you because Alec was next to you. I'd only see what I wanted to see. So when we're in the playground, everyone doesn't just ignore us, they don't want to see us?"

"Well something like that, it's hard to explain really, it just happens but getting the whole school to do it? That takes some doing."

"But the teachers never see anything either," Alec told him. "Well except you. Oh, you want to see us?"

John grinned at him. "Come on Alec, I'm on your side, remember? When I took that teaching job, well I could have ended up anywhere but your school, it was pure luck but now, I'm beginning to wonder about that. I never knew Rose would be there and you two would become best friends. It's really quite strange the way things turned out."

"In what ways?" Alec asked him, glancing at Rose, who was trying to keep up.

"Think about it? Rose moving here, getting into your school and me getting a job there and pretending not to know you on the first day," he grinned. "You knew it was me though, despite me trying to deny it but you'd not seen me for a while, with travelling around."

"Geez, Alec does base his stories on you," Rose suddenly realized.

"I think we all knew that Rose," John grinned. "Don't we, Alec? Rose, he's read you some, right?"

"I wrote some just for her, where she's in them," Alec admitted. "Rose, he's right. What were the chances your mother would move up here and you'd be accepted to my school? You said you only just got in."

Rose looked at him, did he have to remind her?

"Yeah, thanks for that, Alec," she told him, looking at John.

"I already know Rose and I can't figure out how they accepted you, unless they have a policy of accepting so many who would otherwise get sent to the comprehensive school? You must have had something about you though but what is it?" John wondered, Rose giving him a scowl.

"Geez, thanks for that John. That makes me feel better."

"He didn't mean anything, did you John?" Alec asked him.

John looked at Rose. "Sorry. Maybe like I said, they had a place left and offered it to you, with you being new to the town?"

"That has to be it Rose," Alec agreed. "So, we carry on as normal at school? I mean Rose and I? Maybe if we change things, everyone will start to notice?"

"Yes, maybe?" John had to agree. "So, no going behind the bike shed for a snogging session, got it?" he laughed.

Rose just burst out laughing, making Alec join in.

"Don't you two think that's funny," John told them off. "If you're going to, first don't get caught but maybe you should wait a while, until you get a bit older eh?"

"Ya mean until our next birthdays?" Rose asked him, trying to straighten her face.

"That might be a good idea," John agreed. "Just keep it quiet at school and when you're out and for goodness sake, not near either of your parents eh?"

"Dad knows," Alec confessed. "He said he was going to talk to us about it, sorry Rose."

"It's okay, I don't mind but I can't tell my mum. I used to think it was all her, when I couldn't go out and that but it's not, she told me it was Bob. He's trying to act like a dad to me, mum admitted it to me. I think Bob wants to adopt me, eventually."

"You mentioned it before," John reminded her. "You're not keen on that, are you?"

"How did ya guess?" Rose tried to smile. "I can't stop him, can I?"

"It would make him responsible for you, until you reach eighteen and even then, he'll still be your legal guardian, if your mother gives him parental rights. Sorry."

"Yeah, I know. They've not said any more but I dread to think what they're planning for me. It was like that party, Bob wanted me there to meet his friends. Goodness knows why."

John had a good idea but she wouldn't like being told. Maybe he should keep it to himself or talk to Alec's dad about it?

"Well, don't worry too much until it happens," he advised her instead. "It may never get to that."

Rose just hoped he was right. That still didn't help her and Alec though.

"Come on Alec, let's see what your dad wants to talk about?" Rose asked him.

John had a good idea it would be the old 'no messing about in your room' lecture he'd had long ago from his own father when in high school. It seemed his brother had got out of it by choosing to leave home and as far as he knew, Peter's girlfriend had stayed in the spare room Alec used from time to time, that was if she'd stopped there.

They held hands on the way back to Alec's house but were careful to let go as Alec opened the kitchen door.

"You said you wanted to talk to us Dad," Alec reminded him as Rose followed him into the living room.

"We need to talk with Rose here, it concerns her as well."

"I know Mr Hardy and if it's about me being Alec's girlfriend, then I know they'll be some sort of rules."

"You seem quite sensible, the both of you so yes, there will be a few rules and while I'm not in, I expect them still to be followed, understood?" he asked them.

They both nodded.

"Alec, Rose can go to your room, for not more than an hour, see how you get on but I expect to hear you moving around. I know you're both young and this is all new to you but it still applies. I expect you both downstairs when I get home or Rose on her way down if she needs the bathroom. I know about the mistletoe, I also know you'll be tempted when it's not there but keep in mind, the novelty may soon wear off. If it doesn't, I expect you both to behave in company, understand?"

"Yes Dad," Alec replied, thinking they'd got off fairly lightly.

"Rose?" his dad asked.

"Yes Mr Hardy, I understand. We've not really talked about it, have we Alec?"

"No, we haven't Rose, we need to. We have time before we go back to school though, when you're not catching up on your work."

"What do you need to catch up on Rose?" his dad asked her.

"Dad, she learned English geography and history at her old school. I'm helping her with ours," Alec replied for her.

"That's very commendable of you Alec. Rose is very lucky to have you."

"Yeah, I am Alec, I never told ya," Rose agreed, making Alec blush.

They went back to the kitchen, his dad knowing they still needed to talk about the subject.

"So, when we go back to school, are you wanting to go to my room or stay down here?" Alec asked her.

"I don't know? We always did our homework first," Rose reminded him.

"Well maybe we can change that, during the winter anyway when we can't go out? I'll get some money from my dad for tomorrow, if you want to go swimming?"

"Yeah, I want to go swimming, it can be our second date," Rose smiled.

"Our second one?" Alec asked, wondering if he'd missed something.

"Yeah, our first one was the disco, remember?"

How could he possibly forget that night? She had been amazing and she knew it. He still couldn't understand why no other boy had tried to get her to dance with them. She had stuck with him the entire evening and neither of them had wanted to leave.

The next day, they met later, Alec calling for her then getting the bus to town just after twelve as Rose wanted to catch up on a few things and it seemed like an age to Alec, who was sat trying to write down his new story for Rose. How it was going to turn out, he had no idea but he was keeping the main character out and making it mostly about her. Maybe he could make it so she rescued him for a change?

His stories had become more about them than anyone else and Rose seemed to love them. As they set off towards town, Alec just hoped Rose wouldn't run when she saw him in just his swimming shorts and he would surely be embarrassed when she appeared in her swimsuit. They paid to get in, saying they were still at school when the prices were for under 16's anyway and went off to their respective changing rooms.

It had been a while since Alec had been swimming, he and Jamie used to go with Jamie's older brother. He thought he had best not dwell on that, given what Rose thought about Jamie. He went to a locker and heard Rose behind him.

"Come on then," Rose called out as she went to the locker next to his.

They soon relaxed around each other, Rose proving to be quite a good swimmer, telling him that was something she paid attention to at school, to which he laughed. He did try to stay mostly under the water, trying not to let her see him too much out of the water. Rose though was determined to get him to come out, sitting on the side.

"So, I survived going swimming with ya," she teased him as they went to get changed. "So, we come again?"

Alec was hoping so now he had found it more enjoyable splashing around with her then Jamie trying to dunk him under the water all the time. He now wondered what she would suggest they did together next. During the warmer weather, would she suggest sunbathing together or swimming down by the river, on their own? Would she even suggest they went in the woods beyond the park, away from everything? Did he want her to?

She was doing all kinds of things to him that he knew he liked and would never admit it to anyone. They went back to Rose's flat first for her to put her swimming things to dry then walked to his house, since her mother had said she wasn't to bring Alec back for too long.

Rose took his hand as they walked along.

"Were you shy about today? I mean you, in your swim shorts?"

"A little, you never seemed bothered. I expect we'll have to get used to each other?"

"That was the idea Alec," Rose smiled as they reached his house.

Alec knew she would want to find any excuse now but maybe not until they got a little bit older? Rose though may have other ideas. They sat in the kitchen, glad to be warm again when Rose pulled her chair over.

"Alec, do you want us to, you know, get used to each other?"

"Well yes but maybe just swimming for now? I mean later we can, like in the summer maybe?"

"When we're both fourteen ya mean?" she asked him.

"Well yes, that's probably the best Rose but until then? We could maybe kiss now and then?"

"We don't have long before your dad gets home when we get back from school," she reminded him.

Alec wondered whatever for?

New Years Eve, Rose was getting excited as it was her first real party away from her home where it was just friends and family. Alec had told her there would be even more of his family for the party, some more coming from Glasgow and even further that Rose thought it was a good thing his aunt and uncle had a big house.

Alec and his dad were going to walk her home just after midnight then Rose was going to try to go to their house the following day in the afternoon providing Bob was too drunk to notice she was missing. The question was though, were they going to admit she was Alec's girlfriend or not? When she'd decided what to wear, her dress from the disco coming out on top, she waited not so patiently for Alec to call for her but it had been snowing most of the day. She was going to have to wear her boots and take her shoes with her, much to her annoyance.

John had rung Alec to see if he wanted him to go pick Rose up with him an hour before Alec was setting off.

"You won't get your car out," Alec told him as he'd looked outside.

"A good point Cous, I hope it doesn't stop the others from coming? Maybe it's okay on the main road though?"

"We'd better hope so," Alec told him, hoping Rose wouldn't be put off.

Ten minutes before Alec was due, Rose had her coat and boots on, a carrier with her shoes and was sat in the kitchen, not wanting Bob to go on about her forgetting what time she had to be back, not that they would be she expected. She had hoped they'd be going out before she did.

"Thought you'd be gone by now Mum," Rose told her as she left the kitchen and her mother was going to the phone.

"Just checking on the taxi, have ya seen it out there?" her mother asked.

"I know Mum but I don't have far to walk, Alec's coming over then he and his dad will walk me back. I hope his relatives don't get stuck on their way over."

The door buzzer sounded and Rose just beat her mother to it, thinking their taxi was early. Rose hoped not to be going out at the same time but it was Alec. Rose said she'd be right down and warned her mother to be careful getting to where they were going and back.

Stepping out into the snow, having been out to the local shops earlier when it hadn't been too bad, Alec greeted her and took the carrier bag from her. His dad had gone directly to his aunt's house, Alec saying he wanted to get Rose by himself. His dad had smiled as they'd parted on the road – his son was growing up fast and taking responsibility.

The party was going well, Rose being introduced just as Alec's friend to those who had made it there and there was no chance of them escaping until much later when Alec followed her into the hallway.

"Are you okay Rose?" he asked her as she put the stairs light on.

"Yeah. Great party, I'm so glad I was invited."

"My aunt thinks of you as part of the family, why wouldn't she invite you? John left the mistletoe you know?" he hinted, since they'd not had much chance to kiss again, with Alec's dad being at home before Rose left in the evenings.

They had at least agreed they wouldn't show themselves up when they were out. Alec took her hand and pulled her to the doorway, just below the mistletoe. Rose figured they deserved it as he leaned forward, before anyone came looking for them. Not even John would be able to hold anyone back if someone decided they needed the bathroom.

"Happy new year Rose," he told her, brushing her lips.

"Yeah, happy new year Alec, it's gonna be great."

Chapter Text

Lucky for them, no-one caught them as Alec went back to join the celebrations. John saw him but left him alone, thinking the two of them would figure it out and wondered if everyone at school would suddenly start to notice them? Maybe the theory he'd made up was actually right?

The next day, Rose had guessed right and Bob was out of it, she told her mother she was off to Alec's for the rest of the day, having prepared some food for later but she was getting tired of it and decided her mother needed cookery lessons.

"But Rose," her mother had protested before Rose had left. "It might have been enough for you but I can't keep up to Bob's standard."

"Yeah, ya can Mum, have some faith in yourself. Look, it's a new year, tell him you're trying a simpler menu, unless ya wanna admit I do it?"

"Well he did say for you to do more around the place but if you stop? What's he gonna say then?"

"Mum, the supermarket's bringing more simple meals out, just suggest ya try some? That way, I can stay out later."

"That's not fair Rose, I hardly see ya as it is. You coming in later, I'll see even less of ya. Why do you wanna stay out later?"

Rose knew if she told her mother the real reason, she'd get told she was stuck here and that she should be used to it by now. Alec was the only reason she was now putting up with it.

"Mum, I don't even eat here at teatime, I have mine at Alec's. I know ya go out to work Mum but I go to school, have to come home and tidy up then make you two something to eat. Then I disappear while you're eating, Bob doesn't even let me go back out. I want ya to talk to him for me, that when it starts staying lighter for longer, that I want to stay out longer. I'll come home first, tidy up and then go out."

"Rose, I don't know what he'll say," her mother replied, Rose thinking she would never even speak to him about it.

"Why did ya let him take over Mum?"

"Rose, I don't know what ya mean," her mother protested.

"Yes, you do Mum. Ever since ya met him, everything changed."

"For the better. I'm doing it for you sweetheart, ya know that? I want ya to have a proper family."

"You mean you wanna get married again?" Rose dared asked, finding herself not wanting to know the answer.

"I never said that. We may get around to discussing it but he won't ask for your opinion Rose, it's between us. All his friends are married with kids, he feels left out."

"Is that the reason he wanted me here for the party?" Rose asked, thinking she'd never get out at this rate.

"Well yeah, why else?" her mother replied.

Rose could think of one or two things, things she didn't want to know about.

"I'm not something to show off Mum," she reminded her.

"I never said ya were Rose. He wants to be able to join in, that's all, when his friends talk about their kids. Ya can't really blame him."

Rose disagreed, especially when she was the topic of the conversation.

"Well I'm off round to Alec's, if Bob asks, just say he never told me I couldn't go out today."

Alec was getting anxious, since it was after lunch and when he'd walked Rose home the night before, walking behind his dad, Rose all giddy about the kiss they had sneaked, she told him she'd go round when she could sneak out.

"Are you calling for Rose?" his dad asked as he put the dishes away after lunch.

"I don't know what time she's getting out, she'll have to wait and see. Can we go to my room for a while, when she gets here?" he asked, thinking he may as well take advantage and see what Rose really felt about their kiss last night.

"As long as you do as agreed?" his dad replied, knowing they'd just stay in the kitchen otherwise and they had to start being trusted.

"We will Dad. So about that holiday, can I tell her?"

"Well let me get the details first eh?" his dad smiled at his keenness. "Well okay, you can mention it and I'll get some brochures for camping sites then but maybe not where we last went with your mum? Goodness knows how she managed to persuade me to go all the way down there because she saw those cliffs in a TV programme."

"We didn't know she was getting ill Dad," Alec reminded him, waiting for Rose to knock on the kitchen door and trying not to make it look so obvious.

"I know Alec and if I'd known that – well? Maybe we would have all enjoyed it a bit better? We'll maybe still go to the coast though, maybe to Ayr? Just not to that big holiday camp, they have chalets not caravans and there's no room to move around let alone cook anything. Best tell Rose not to take over the cooking though eh?" he smiled.

"I want to talk to her about that Dad, she's doing too much."

"I expect she thinks she has to, if she's covering the fact her mother's not that good a cook? She may not have said so but that has to be the reason she does it," his dad replied.

"She said something about her mother not thinking she was good enough and so she got Rose to start doing it all. Then she said Bob had told her to take more responsibility around the apartment and now she's expected to do nearly all of it. I know I do things Dad but Rose does too much."

"Well, it's up to her Alec, we can only maybe mention it to her? Does she take over when you get home from school?" his dad smiled.

Alec didn't need to say anything.

"I can't stop her Dad, I had to start making sure everything was put away before I set off to school or she used to come in and start clearing up. I can't let her do it here then go home and do it. Anyway, I think she was going to talk to her mother about staying out longer, if she can talk her into going back to cooking."

"Well I expect her mother being out at work gave her the excuse?" his dad wondered. "That's still no reason to expect Rose to do it all, we all have to manage. She maybe just does it to keep the peace?"

Alec knew the reason Rose did it all, she was scared Bob would find out her mother couldn't cook and throw them both out, then what? Rose had wanted to go back to London since he first met her but recently, she'd never mentioned it, not after they'd talked about her being his girlfriend anyway.

Maybe now, she'd accepted she was here to stay and him being her friend, it now didn't seem so bad? Well he hoped so, he didn't like the thought of her leaving. Was he just being selfish though? He jumped when he heard knocking at the kitchen door, making his dad smile.

"Well don't keep her waiting Alec, go let her in."

Rose had got dressed up warm, unlike last night and had brought her shoes to change into. She'd half expected Alec to call for her but she'd told him she had no idea what time she'd be able to get out but now, she had the rest of the day. She'd got away without Bob saying anything and even if he had, she'd have argued he'd said nothing about staying in.

"Hiya," Rose greeted Alec as he opened the door. "Geez, it's freezing out here already and the sun finally came out."

"It should maybe be warmer then?" Alec replied as he helped her with her coat as she put the bag down. "We can go to my room, if you want? I mean would you rather stay down here?" he asked nervously.

A few months ago, he'd never be waiting for a girl to come round, let alone ask if she wanted to go to his room.

"Yeah, if it's okay? I mean your dad did say we could, for an hour. Besides, you need to catch up reading me the last story you wrote. Did ya start using that writing set I bought for ya?"

"Yes, I did start using it, to write a story mainly about you."

"Me? Why would you want to do that?" Rose grinned as they went upstairs.

She'd only ever been up before to go to the bathroom and she should feel nervous but she didn't.

"Come on Rose, I thought you would be happy about it," he replied, thinking maybe it was a mistake.

"Well yeah, I just never expected it, I don't deserve it."

"Yes you do Rose. I'm not telling you what it's about though," he teased her, opening his bedroom door and glad he'd tidied up a bit. "You'll have to wait until it's finished. I have something to tell you as well."

"More rules from your dad?" Rose teased him back.

"No, should there be?" he replied, considering now they'd kissed again.

Maybe he should have a few rules of his own but he didn't stand a chance against her if she wanted more and she knew it. He knew if Rose wanted more, she would get her own way by smiling at him and doing that little sway she'd suddenly started when she wanted him to read a story to her. When exactly had she started doing that or had he asked himself that before?

Rose went to sit on a chair and Alec sat on the edge of his bed. He thought it best, since this was all new to them and not just the kissing but the whole being allowed in his room, which was different than being downstairs whether his dad was in or not.

"Wow, your bedroom's bigger than mine."

"I expect when they moved here they wanted two double bedrooms but there's an attic room," he explained. "We use it for storage."

"I had noticed the other staircase," Rose smiled. "I've always lived in flats."

"Maybe one day you'll get a house?"

"Maybe I'm destined to live on one floor? So, are ya gonna catch up on the last story?"

"I thought we'd have other things to talk about, like that kiss?"

"Oh? Maybe we should? Maybe though we should leave them, since the holidays are mostly over, I mean until we get a bit older?"

"If that's what you want Rose? Maybe just the odd one though? Did you ask about staying out longer?"

"I asked mum to talk to him, she has to face facts that she won't always have me to cover for her not being able to cook."

"Yes, she does. Seriously though, she asks a lot of you Rose. I hate the thought of you coming here and offering to help then going home and doing it. Have you ever thought that's why Bob wanted you and your mother to move in with him?"

"What do ya mean Alec?"

"Think about it Rose. He goes to work on your old estate, meets your mother who has a teenage daughter then gets you to move all this way."

"I never thought about it," she lied.

"Yes, you did Rose, face it. That's why you are unhappy, that he's using the two of you."

"Don't Alec, don't go there. Have you been talking to John again?"

"I don't need to but you do, or my dad. They can help you Rose, it worries me. Why did Bob want you at that party? I'll tell you why, to show he has a family now."

"I already know that Alec but my mum can't see it, trust me. I don't know how many more hints I can give her."

Alec just hoped she wouldn't take them when it was too late. How could he tell Rose how worried they all were about her?

"Just keep telling her maybe? Leave it for now Rose, let's have some time thinking about something else?"

"Yeah? Such as?" she teased him.

"I think you already know Rose. Have you not noticed?" he asked as he leaned back on his arms.

"Don't know what ya mean Alec. Oh, apart from holding hands and walking arm in arm then maybe kissing each other's cheeks? Have I forgotten anything?" she teased him.

"Yes, nudging me all the time and the way you sway when you want something."

"Do I? Does it work?" she laughed.

"You know it does. Why else do you keep doing it? Rose, I would do anything for you, don't you know that?"

"Really? You don't say anything Alec."

"Do I have to? Rose, it worries me you take on too much, when you come round, we don't expect you to help."

"It's what I've always done Alec, it's what my mum taught me when we went to see friends or family. I can't help it."

"Then when you come around here, expect me to remind you to stop. I mean it Rose. If you can stay out longer, we can do our homework, have our tea then come up here for an hour. When it gets warmer, we can stay out longer. What do you think?"

"Sounds like ya have everything planned then? Still gonna have time to write your stories?"

"Yes, I'll have time for them. Afraid I'll stop writing them about you?" he teased her.

"I don't deserve for them to be written about me Alec."

He was now wishing she'd come and sit next to him. She'd either kiss his cheek or nudge him, maybe both? Was he starting to like it a bit too much? He should get John to tell him what else to expect, he'd not really thought about it but Rose was doing more and more every day. There was little chance she would stop any time soon, not that he'd even want her to.

"I had something to tell you anyway, not just about my stories. Dad told me we may go on holiday this year."

"Oh. Well I don't expect Bob will want to go anywhere, except to some tacky resort in Benidorm like my mother watches on TV, honestly, I don't know how she can stand watching stuff like that. Anyway, wow. So when's that? What am I gonna do while you're gone?"

He saw the look on her face.

"Rose, don't worry about that," he started to tell her.

"We spent the other holiday together, what am I gonna do on my own?"

"Rose, let me finish? Dad said you can come with us, if you want?"

Rose got up and went to sit next to him, which he'd been hoping she would do, flinging her arms around his neck, something else he'd not known her to do before now.

"Really? Well, what kind of holiday? I've not got a passport."

"You won't need one Rose, it's only a camping trip, well a caravan maybe, so dad mentioned. He's going to get some leaflets to look at, maybe near the coast?"

"Yeah, that's great. I just thought there were only the two of ya going? Alec, you're just gettin' over losing your mother, is that why ya didn't go anywhere this year?"

"Did I tell you that?" he asked her.

"You might have mentioned it. Didn't ya say ya went down south somewhere, when you were asking me if I'd been there?"

"I may have done. Mum saw these cliffs and a beach on a TV show and wanted to visit, dad finally gave in and agreed. Rose, we didn't know mum was getting sick then."

"Sorry. Well maybe with not going away last year, it'll cheer you both up? It's something to look forward to."

"Yes, as long as you can go? Do you think Bob will let you?"

"Well, I've got plenty of time to work on it," she smiled, rubbing her other hand on his arm, something else that was new.

Was she ever going to stop coming out with things? Did he want her to?

"If I ask now, he'll have time to come up with excuses to not let me go and even change his mind if he says yes now. If I leave it until the week before I might have a better chance?"

Without realizing, Alec took her other hand.

"That may be the best thing to do then? My dad will book it anyway but I won't want to go without you."

"Aw, ya can't let me not going stop ya but I'll feel the same, if I can't go. I might come up with a way before then?"

"What sort of way? Rose, you have to be careful you know?"

"Yeah, I know Alec. What if I can get my mum to suggest they take a holiday at the same time? I mean when your dad gets a date? They go off together and I'll say I don't want to go, I'll be old enough then to stay on my own or maybe say I'll stay at your aunt's or something?"

Alec wondered how she kept coming up with all these ideas? He would never have thought of that and she thought he was more clever than she was.

"That's a good idea Rose, do you think he'll fall for it?"

"I'll let my mum in on it though, it's not been her stopping me doing things Alec and I always blamed her. I'm sure she'll be able to talk him into it, just as long as he doesn't insist I go with them?"

"Then tell him you want to go with us?" Alec suggested.

"Alec, that's the whole point of not telling him," Rose smiled, giving him a nudge. "So, will we get told when your dad's booked it or will he ask where you want to go?"

"You can maybe choose as well Rose. Dad said we'll get a caravan with a separate bedroom for you and we'll sleep in the lounge. There might be some caravans with two bedrooms though? It doesn't matter if not, last time, there was a tiny area that was curtained off and I slept on the seating. I wish I could remember the name of the place we went to."

"Maybe ya don't want to remember Alec?" she asked him, stroking his arm again. "If it brings back memories of your mum?"

"Dad said she would have liked you Rose," he smiled.

"Me? Well I like your family Alec, they make me feel like I'm part of it. I know one thing."

"What's that?" he wanted to know, seeing she didn't want to let go of his hand for some reason and hoping they wouldn't get reminded how long they'd been in his room, since Rose had a habit of making him forget the time.

"Well last year, things were going okay then I got dragged up here without any warning. At least I won't have that this year?"

"I suppose that's one good thing then? I lost my mum last year, now I have you as my friend."

"Alec, I'm no compensation for you losing your mum," she reminded him.

"It's not as bad as before I met you though. This year's not going to be so bad after all."

"No Alec, it's not, is it?" she asked, suddenly leaning her head on his shoulder, Alec liking all these new things she was coming out with.

Then without warning, she reached to kiss his cheek.

"We'll have each other this year Rose."

"Yeah, we will, won't we? Do ya know what?"

He turned to kiss her cheek back. "What Rose?"

"I bet this year's gonna be great? We'll have all the holidays together, we can go swimming and down to the river as well as the park and you continue writing your stories. I know I have school work to catch up on but I will, with you helping me."

She realized all of a sudden that last year, she had nothing special to look forward to, now she had. Neither had Alec, he'd thought his mother was getting ill this time last year though she'd never admitted it and he'd had a shock when it was worse than they'd thought.

"Yes Rose, I never had anything either. Now I have a lot of things to look forward to, now you're here."

"Aw, ya'd still have been friends with Jamie if I'd not come here."

"Would I, if you are right about him? I should have seen all the signs Rose but you did."

"You would have realized Alec, if he started doing things you weren't happy about?"

"That's just it Rose, I never saw anything, even when he was trying to get me to go talk to you in the library. He was trying to see if I was interested in girls but not for the reason I thought."

"I could still be wrong?" she wondered, trying to put her fingers through his.

"No Rose, I don't think you are. Anyway, there's no point in going on about it. Rose, after our birthdays, we'll be old enough so we don't have to deny that you're my girlfriend."

"Yeah, I know Alec. If we keep saying anything now, people will think we're too young, won't they?"

He saw what she was trying to do with her fingers and get them between his so he moved them to make it easier. He'd felt before when they were holding hands that they just seemed to fit together and now, she had a smile on her face as he wrapped his longer fingers around hers.

"Let them think what they like Rose but we'll just keep it to ourselves, if you want?"

"Well, your dad and John know and I think your aunt's a bit suspicious?" she teased him.

"Well apart from them? So are we agreed? That we act like it when we are on our own?"

"Well yeah. Do ya wanna look it up in the library, what's involved?" she grinned.

"Do we need to?"

"Maybe we should make it up as we go along?" she suggested, feeling his grip tighten on her hand.

"I think you are already making it up Rose," he teased her.

"Then it's just the beginning Alec. You have no idea how much of an imagination I have."

"I bet you have, Rose Tyler," he smiled back as she leaned on him again. "We had better go downstairs before my dad calls us, it won't look good the first time we're allowed up here."

"Nope, it wouldn't. Yeah, I think we're gonna have a real good year, don't you?" she asked, trying to get him to turn as she went for his cheek.

He did and she went for a peck on the lips and he couldn't have agreed more.

Chapter Text

It seemed Rose was right, Alec thought as they got over the winter and into spring. So far, they'd had a good new year, never bothering about going out even on a few warmer days in March and opting to spend the time in Alec's room listening to Rose's music mostly as he'd grown to like a certain Scottish band Rose wasn't keen on but she was slowly coming round.

They had got bolder over the weeks, Rose lying on her elbows on Alec's bed as he sat on the edge, still not sure what Rose had in mind. Rose was still trying to talk her mother into telling Bob about the holiday Alec's dad had now booked on a caravan site even though Jackie had said she herself had no objections.

When Rose was certain the holiday had been booked and all she needed was some spending money if she and Alec wanted to go off or when they visited the holiday camp nearby, she had broken the news to her mother.

"Rose, ya know what Bob will say if ya ask him now," her mother had told her. "Best not tell him just yet."

"Yeah, I know Mum, that's what I told Alec. Bob's only just accepting I've not fallen out with Alec yet. Anyway, there's nothing to pay for, just I'll save my allowance up for spending money, I've got until August. If Bob says no though, I have a plan."

"Well you would have," her mother replied.

Rose told her to talk Bob into going away the same week, she would say she'd stay behind with Alec's aunt and Bob would be no wiser.

"Well it might work, I'd best mention it to him then?" her mother replied.

So now, Rose was waiting for an answer and Alec was asking her if it had all been sorted.

"Knowing those two, they'll spring it on me at the last minute," Rose replied, leaning on one elbow. "I just hope my idea works."

"I'm sure it will," Alec replied, leaning back on his hands. "Your plans always seem to work."

"Huh, I wish. I don't care if it does or not, I'm still going, nothing's gonna stop me."

Bob was discussing it with Jackie, who had enough holiday brochures ready when he'd got home, having used her lunch break to get some.

"Wouldn't it be nice, just the two of us getting away for a week?" she hinted.

"Won't Rose be coming with us?" Bob asked, picking up what he thought was the brochure for the cheapest holiday company.

Jackie did wonder what he did with his money, since she and Rose mostly lived off her wages except Bob paid the bills and for the groceries.

"I can't see her wanting to go and we'd have to get her a passport," Jackie replied, seeing which brochure he'd picked up and thought it was typical of him. "She can probably stay with Alec's aunt for the week, she spends most of her time there with him."

"Does she now?" Bob asked. "During the holidays? So she doesn't spend it at his house?"

"She never says much," Jackie tried to defend them both.

"She's getting older Jackie, she must know about boys by now?"

"Oh, I don't think she thinks of Alec like that," Jackie replied, not really knowing now Rose was staying out longer.

How she'd persuaded Bob to let Rose back later, she'd no idea.

"I wouldn't be so sure," Bob replied, a slight smile on his face. "So, when she reaches fourteen, is she intending making him her boyfriend?"

"Oh, she's not mentioned it but it wouldn't surprise me," Jackie replied, slightly taken aback.

"Maybe it's a good thing?" Bob wondered. "Give her some experience. It doesn't change my plans though, remember that Jackie."

"Yeah, I know Bob, ya already said when she's sixteen? What made ya change ya mind?"

"A few things, never mind about them. You could ask her if she wants to come with us, there's plenty of time to get her a passport, she would probably lie by the pool all day though?" he smiled.

Jackie smiled back, wondering why he thought there was any point paying for Rose to lie by the swimming pool all day.

So on the Saturday, before going shopping, which Rose was still being dragged along with them, Bob led them into a travel agency, Jackie having folded the page where Bob had agreed was a reasonably priced resort hotel that was all inclusive and departed from nearby Glasgow airport, Rose thinking he was a cheapskate if ever she saw one.

Before they had set off, he'd tried again to talk Rose into going, like he already suspected what she was up to, Rose thought on the way. She was somewhat relieved when he paid the deposit and refused the travel insurance and there was a special offer on the deposit, proving her point.

When Alec called for her the next day, once outside, she threw her arms around him.

"What's that for Rose?" he asked, not that he really objected now he'd got used to her being spontaneous.

"Bob booked them that holiday and he got the date mum suggested," Rose replied, as the day before, she had visions of him trying to talk her mother into a cheaper date but the week before and after was the same price and they had to wait until Rose broke up from school.

"So your plan worked?" Alec replied as she took his arm.

"Did ya think I couldn't pull it off?" she teased him.

"I had no doubts you could Rose. Want to go for a walk first?"

Once in the park, Rose led him to the swings, surprised there was no-one around so she sat on one and he began pushing her slowly.

"It's your birthday on Friday," she reminded him. "Are ya having a party next Sunday?"

"It's nothing special Rose. I never bothered last year, I was too upset about my mum."

"Yeah, sorry," Rose replied stopping the swing with her feet.

Alec stood at the side of her, hoping no-one would tell them they shouldn't be on there, then he sat on the next one, grabbing the chain of hers.

"It's okay Rose, I'm looking forward to this one."

"You are? Thought it was nothing special?" she teased him as she grabbed his hand.

"Well, you'll be here this year. My dad tried to cheer me up last year, John was away."

"Well he'll be here this year, I think ya should have a party."

"It doesn't matter Rose, maybe we can just have one for yours?"

"Mine's nothing special either Alec," she reminded him. "Well apart from you being here," she nudged him as she was about to twist the swing chains.

She made her mind up when they got to his aunt's to ask her if she'd get Alec a birthday cake if nothing else, even though it was a few days out. So when they got back and Alec was talking to John, Rose went to see his aunt in the kitchen as she got tea ready.

"I thought I told you not to help?" his aunt smiled.

"Yeah, it's just a habit. Can I ask ya something?" Rose smiled.

"Yes dear, you can ask me anything. Did you get permission to go on that holiday?"

"Well yeah but I sort of told Bob I was gonna stay with you, mum said it was a bad idea saying I was going with Alec and his dad. Sorry,"

"I see then?" his aunt replied, stopping what she was doing. "I should be mad at you Rose."

"Sorry Mrs Smith," Rose started to apologize, thinking she'd best not call her auntie.

"Was there any reason?"

"Well yeah, Bob would never have agreed to let me go, he's still a bit funny and how my mum got him to book the week I wanted to go away, lucky he did. I suggested to her she got him to take her on holiday and leave me behind. He might have said yes but what if he changed his mind just before I went? This way, he's non the wiser."

"I see then? Well, I'll let you off then, I can see the reason you were reluctant to tell him Rose but you shouldn't use other people as an excuse without asking first, okay?"

"Yeah, I'm really sorry, I didn't mean to take advantage, really. I should have asked you."

"Well no harm done but remember if there's a next time Rose. Was there something else?"

"Yeah, about Alec's birthday," Rose replied.

"Yes, on Friday and I hope he'll have a better time than last year when he lost his mother. Did you get him a present?" his aunt asked her, going back to what she was doing.

"Yeah, I've been saving up. I just wondered about getting him a birthday cake and having a little party for him?"

"That's very thoughtful of you Rose," his aunt smiled. "You mean have it here?"

"Well yeah, I thought maybe Peter would come back and his other cousin Katie? I know he didn't enjoy himself last year but he said he may this year so I thought maybe we could make it a bit special for him?"

"Alec's lucky having a friend like you," his aunt smiled. "I'll bake him a cake then? I can go out to the shops and see if I can get something to go on top, any ideas?"

"Thanks Auntie Mary," Rose smiled, cheering up.

His aunt knew Rose had been good for Alec, she'd been there when he needed a friend and Jamie hadn't been doing a very good job making Alec forget about losing his mother as Rose had done.

Alec was talking with John, wondering why Rose had sneaked off when she'd been told helping get tea ready had been banned.

"What's Rose up to eh?" John was teasing him as they sat at the dining table.

Alec shrugged his shoulders. "Who knows with Rose?" he smiled. "When I went for her earlier, she jumped all over me because her plan to go on holiday with me and my dad had worked."

John just laughed. "Alec, when are you going to learn eh? Rose nearly always finds a way when she wants something, you already know that. So, it's all been arranged then?"

"Yeah, she's saving up now. She said her mum got Bob to go book that holiday yesterday and luckily, they got the date Rose wanted. I don't know how she does it. I thought she'd get caught on Christmas Eve but she didn't. I still worry about her though."

"Yeah, of course you do," John told him. "You two care a lot about each other. So, when it's her birthday, are you both going to admit you're more than friends?"

Alec tried not to blush. "I think that's what Rose wanted?"

"Trust me Alec, she won't have forgotten," John smiled. "Maybe she'll keep reminding you nearer the time eh? So now it's a bit warmer, are you going out more?"

"Not yet, Rose seems to like listening to music though I've not got her to like that group yet," Alec admitted.

"Ah, she'll come round, just keep playing their songs. Tell you what, when they're in concert, how about I get you a couple of tickets? Why don't you find out if they're playing one near Rose's birthday? My treat."

"Yeah, thanks John, she may like them better if she sees them live. How will I find out though?"

"You want me to find out for you?" John laughed. "I'll ask around, since Rose attaches herself to you at school. When's her birthday again? Better watch out she's not got anything planned for you."

"I told her not to," Alec replied.

"Does she take any notice though?" John smiled as Rose came out of the kitchen.

Rose went to sit beside Alec, looking pleased with herself.

"You two been talking about me?" she grinned.

John got up, trying not to give anything away, Rose looking at him then Alec.

"Ask your boyfriend," John laughed, making Alec's dad turn away from the TV. "Don't look at me like that Rose Tyler," he added, raising his eyebrows. "It's only a matter of time, since your birthday's in a few weeks time. So, you're going on holiday with them Rose?"

"Yeah, just let anyone try and stop me, I got my mum to talk Bob into going away but trust him to go for the cheapest option. I haven't got a clue what he spends all his money on."

"Seems like he doesn't spend it on holidays then?" John grinned. "I'll leave you two to it but I'd clear the table if I were you."

Later, as Alec walked Rose home, he asked what she'd been talking to his aunt about.

"I had to admit I got my mum to tell Bob I was staying with your aunt. She told me I should have asked her first."

"Then why didn't you?" Alec wanted to know as they stood on the corner of the driveway.

"I wasn't sure it would work, then I'd have asked her for nothing. I said sorry to her, she was okay about it."

"She'll forgive you Rose, she knows how difficult things are for you. Were you talking about anything else?" he asked, afraid she'd mentioned his birthday.

"She asked me if I'd got ya a birthday present," Rose smiled, playing with his hand.

She didn't want to let on she'd talked his aunt into having a party for him. She just hoped John wouldn't tell him.

All week, Rose was looking forward to Alec's birthday just as much as he was, dying to tell him what she had bought him, a t-shirt with his favourite band on that she'd seen in a shop they had passed and since she now got some time on her own, went in a got it for him but she could only get a small men's size and hoped it wouldn't be too big on him.

She had decided on the day to get him to go to her place after school to get it for him, along with a card she had signed. So John dropped them at the end of the road and they walked down.

"I hope ya like the present I got ya Alec," she told him as she let them in. "Do ya want to open it here?"

"No, I can wait until we get back. I expect there will be a few cards waiting for me when I get home?"

"There might be a few presents as well?" Rose wondered.

"I leave before the postman gets there Rose," he reminded her. "It doesn't matter."

"Some may be have been small enough to go through the letterbox," Rose said hopefully.

"I sometimes get some money in the cards. Do you think you'll get a lot of cards Rose?"

"I don't know, mum left our new address before we moved, word will get round but I'll miss all my friends."

"I'm sorry Rose, I hope I can make up for them not being here?"

"Yeah. 'course ya do. Anyway, I'll get your card and your present. Shame it wasn't baking day at school, I'd have made ya a cake."

"The thought was there Rose," he smiled. "I don't really feel any older."

"Well ya won't, not for a while. I guess it creeps up on ya and ya start to feel different?"

"John asked me about you being my girlfriend when it's your birthday."

"Yeah, he would," Rose smiled back, holding the card and present out to him. "Let's see what happens? Anyway, happy birthday Alec."

Alec took the things from her and she kissed his cheek.

"You'll get a proper kiss when you've opened them," she teased him.

"Why are you always tormenting me Rose?"

"I'm not tormenting ya Alec. You know we save the kissing for when we're in your room."

"Well there's no-one here Rose, are you scared your mum might come home early?"

"It's not my mum I have to worry about Alec. I dread to think what Bob would say. I think I know what mum meant by him being a dad to me."

"I expect all dad's are protective of their daughters?" Alec wondered. "Have they said anything else, I mean about Bob adopting you?"

"No, thankfully. I don't want to be adopted, thanks. So, are we going?"

They got back to Alec's house, still having time to go to his room before his dad got home but he was used to them still being upstairs. Alec opened the card first, reading what she had put on it – 'To Alec, my boyfriend, lots of love from Rose xx'

"You mean it?"

"Yeah, it's only a few weeks to my birthday. I mean if ya wanna still be my boyfriend?"

"What?" he asked as he put the card on the bed. "Yes, I still want to be your boyfriend. So that means you still want to be my girlfriend?"

"I guess so? Well, open your present?" she beamed.

Alec carefully opened the flat package, wondering what she'd picked for him. He'd half expected another writing set but as he pulled the wrapping paper apart, he found a black t-shirt. Thinking it was plain and wondering why she'd chosen it, he saw her grinning.

"Well look at it," she encouraged him as he unfolded it and turned it around to see his now favourite band on the front in white.

"Rose, I don't know what to say."

"You like it?" she asked, thinking he was a bit disappointed she'd not got him another writing set.

"Like it? It's great, thanks. What gave you the idea?"

"Well I get a bit of time on my own when they go shopping and I was passing a clothes shop and I thought it would be perfect for you. I could only get a small men's size, is it too big?"

"I'll go try it on, if you want?" he offered.

"Just try it on here," she replied, the grin still on her face.

"Here?" he panicked at the thought.

"Geez Alec, I see ya in the swimming pool," she teased him.

He thought there was a big difference between that and taking his school shirt off in front of her, especially now she had agreed she was his girlfriend, which he'd not expected her to agree until her own birthday. He supposed she was right, she did see him in the swimming pool and always made a point of splashing him.

Thinking she must be ready to see him getting changed, he thought if this didn't put her off, then nothing would as he took his tie off without undoing the knot and began unfastening the buttons. He saw Rose was watching him.

"Sure you're ready to see me getting changed?" he asked again to make sure.

"Yep, you're not shy are ya?" she teased.

He knew she was doing it on purpose, to see how far he would let her go after they had established a few things. He stopped though as he was about to part his shirt, having stopped wearing a vest underneath as the weather got warmer. He suddenly turned around after he grabbed the t-shirt.

"That's cheating Alec," she told him as he undid the shirt cuffs. "Turn around."

"Rose, getting in the swimming pool is different," he tried to argue.

"You see me in my swimsuit," she reminded him.

"Rose, everyone there are in their swimsuits," he replied, thinking maybe he only looked at her, not everyone else since she wore a black and white stripped one and he swore she now looked different in it than the first time she'd got him to go with her.

Maybe it was him just noticing more about girls? He should ask John, he was not ready to ask his dad how he should feel about seeing Rose in her swimsuit.

"Alec, turn around," she repeated.

Slowly, he turned back around as he pulled his shirt off. Without either of them saying anything, he took the t-shirt and put his arms in it then pulling it over his head.

"See, what was so hard about that?" she asked him, thinking he'd made a fuss about nothing.

"Nothing I suppose?" was all he could think of replying.

That would be it now, he'd no longer be able to excuse himself to the bathroom when they got back from school, she'd want a repeat.

"Hey, it's not that big on ya," she decided, pulling it down at the back for him and walking around him.

What was she doing now he wondered. Since when did she make comments on his clothes and see if they fitted him?

"No, it seems fine," he had to agreed as Rose regarded him, her finger on her chin.

"Shame you've not got a camera, I could take a photo of ya. When your dad gets home, he might take one if we ask?"

"You want to start taking photos?" he asked nervously.

Rose was coming out with things at an alarming rate, he thought as he went to hang his shirt up. He picked up his jeans from a pile and thought he should make a hasty retreat to the bathroom before she had him change into them in front of her.

He heard her giggling as he went to the door.

"No Rose, I am not changing into my jeans in front of you."

"Did I say anything?" she laughed, enjoying teasing him and making him blush.

"Have you been talking to Sandra again?" he wanted to know.

Where else was she getting all these ideas from? She had some help, she'd had plenty of them lately. Did they talk about him in the girls room while he waited for her, since John always took his time and he swore she did it on purpose, making him wait as everyone headed out of the school gates, taking no notice of him. It was like they knew he was waiting for her and they left him to it.

"Should I have been? Maybe I need to get more tips? Go on, go get changed, then ya can tell me if ya like the card I got ya?"

"Yes Rose, I like the card. I will keep it in a safe place, since it's the first one you bought me."

"Yeah, I realize that Alec," she smiled. "When ya come back, I think I may have something else for ya."

"What?" he panicked.

"Well, since I said I wanted to be your girlfriend, I thought I'd give ya a birthday kiss maybe?"

"Oh," he realized, feeling silly now. "Well okay, if you insist?"

Rose giggled to herself as he went off, thinking she'd got him squirming by wondering what she was going to come out with next. She had talked to Sandra but only to see if she agreed with her methods and if they were too young for her to say she wanted to be his girlfriend.

"No Rose, if you feel you're ready, go for it," Sandra had encouraged her after Rose told her what she'd written on Alec's card.

"Yeah, I feel I'm ready and it's only a few weeks to my birthday. So, do ya think it's too much, what I told ya?"

Sandra had just laughed and said no and she was asking for trouble.

They finally went downstairs just as Alec's dad was getting back.

"Is that a new t-shirt?" he asked Alec.

"Yeah, Rose got it for me. Dad, can we borrow your camera? Rose wants to take a picture of me wearing it."

"I can do better than that," his dad smiled, going into a drawer and bringing a present out.

Alec opened it, Rose offering to help him and found it was a compact camera gift set with a film cartridge, a flash unit and batteries.

"Wow, thanks Dad," Alec smiled.

"I thought you may like it, especially for going on holiday," his dad replied as Rose was trying to help him get it out of the box and he was trying to push her hand away. He left them to it, smiling to himself as Rose was wanting to use it first to take a photo of Alec. He wondered if his son knew what he was getting into, now he was fourteen.

After their tea, Rose got him to take the camera to the park, when she'd insisted his dad took a photo of both of them in the garden. She made him sit on a swing and took another photo.

"Don't use the whole film up Rose."

"I'm not. Your turn to take one of me," she smiled, taking the camera to him and kissing his cheek.

"I never got my birthday kiss or was that it?" he teased her as he took the camera.

"Nope, I'll give it ya when ya take me home."

He wondered why he was looking forward to it more than he'd done before.

Alec's aunt had told everyone she was doing a party for Alec on Sunday when Rose got there and had invited Katie, who was only too happy to attend and said she hoped her cousin had finally admitted Rose was his girlfriend.

Saying nothing about it when they got there on Sunday afternoon, Alec went off as normal to call for Rose, who thought she'd delay him going back to give his aunt time to get things ready by insisting they went for a walk by the river.

"What are you up to now Rose?" Alec wondered as they sat down.

"Nothing, don't be so suspicious," she just laughed, nudging him and taking his hand.

He knew she was up to something, the way she kept glancing at him, he had every right to be suspicious, he thought to himself as Rose leaned her head on his shoulder. He was right when instead of John letting them in the kitchen door, he came from the back of the house, claiming he'd been in the hallway, which Alec only half believed.

Everything was ready to be taken into the sitting room, his aunt had put the right amount of candles on the cake, Alec's dad had brought his camera and the presents were in the kitchen for Alec to open. Katie had been dropped off, John saying he'd take her home.

"So has my cousin got his act together?" Katie had asked John before Alec and Rose arrived.

"Just leave that to Rose," John had laughed.

So he'd let them in, Alec wondering what his cousin was doing there.

"Thought I'd pay a visit for your birthday Alec," Katie replied, trying not to look at Rose.

"What are you all up to?" Alec asked, knowing something was going on.

"Okay, you've got us," John laughed, raising his arms in surrender. "Maybe you should have kept him out a bit longer, eh Rose?"

"I did try, trust me," Rose laughed.

"So whatever it is, you are in on it?" Alec asked her.

"Me? Yeah, okay. Actually, it was my idea and I'm glad you're wearing your new t-shirt."

She was disappointed though she'd not been there when he'd put it on. Alec's aunt came out of the kitchen and asked Katie to help her and soon brought all the party food out, leaving John to carry the cake when everyone was eating.

"Auntie Mary, you didn't have to do this," Alec told her.

"We all felt bad you didn't have a party last year but you can thank Rose, it was her idea."

"I should have known really. Thanks Rose."

So John lit the candles on the cake, Alec's dad taking a photo as Alec attempted to blow them all out at once, then Rose surprised him by helping him and sneaking a kiss to his cheek, the camera capturing them.

"Happy birthday Alec," she whispered to him as she did.

Alec thought it was now the best birthday he'd ever had and was sure his mum was smiling down on him. Now he was also sure she had sent Rose here, to help him get over his mother's loss.

Everyone sang 'Happy birthday' to him and when they'd eaten the cake, Alec dragged Rose into the hallway.

"This was your idea?" he asked as they sat on the stairs.

"Are ya mad at me? Seeing ya didn't want a party."

"No Rose, I'm not mad at you, just expect me to get you back on your birthday."

"Yeah? Can't wait then," she grinned and leaned over to kiss him.

Chapter Text

A few weeks and several films later, Alec finding somewhere in the town that gave a free film replacement because of the alarming speed Rose was taking photos of them, he was debating to get her a camera of her own but doubted she would use it.

John had laughed when he found out.

"She's got you now Alec," John was telling him a few Sundays later as he'd picked up the second lot of photos the day before. "So, how have things changed between you two?"

"I'm going to need some albums at this rate," Alec replied.

"Well, buy her a nice big photo album for her birthday and maybe a nice frame," John suggested.

"She could maybe choose her favourite photo so far," Alec agreed. "I wanted to ask you something else though."

"Well you may as well," John grinned, seeing his young cousin was looking nervous. "I saw those photos last week, she looked happy. How are things at home with her?"

"She's not said anything but it doesn't stop me worrying about her," Alec admitted. "What I wanted to ask you was, well, I think my feelings about her are changing."

"It's to be expected Alec. You are starting to change, both of you and you can expect even more. Are you still allowed to take her up to your room?"

"Yes but we only have an hour, Rose likes to dance or lay on my bed listening to her records. She also seems to like spending time kissing."

John let out a laugh. "Of course she does. Still going swimming?"

"Not until the next holidays. She's talking about when she goes into town she gets some time to herself and wants to meet. We've not arranged anything yet though."

"Don't worry, she'll tell you. Maybe she's not ready to be seen in town with you yet? I mean it's one thing at school and locally but it can be a bit daunting. Just work up to it eh? Why not suggest meeting her and getting something to eat?"

"Yeah, she might go for that. There is one thing as well."

John seemed to know what was coming.

"You prefer it when you're on your own, just the two of you?"

"Is that normal?" Alec asked, watching the time. "I was thinking a while back, she seems to like it that way, well except at school. There's something else but I don't know if I should really ask you."

"About how you feel? You can ask me."

"Why do I like seeing Rose in her swimsuit? She made me try that t-shirt on, in front of her the other week, then she said it wasn't a bad fit, to say she got a men's size and pulled it down at the back."

John laughed again. "Don't worry about it, it's perfectly normal. Has she made you get changed again?"

"No, I just go off to the bathroom like I always do when we get back, will she be disappointed? When I put that t-shirt on, I thought she wanted me to stay and change into my jeans."

"Alec, Alec, Alec, you'd better get used to it," John tried not to laugh at the predicament his cousin had got himself into. "She probably was disappointed you ran off after she got to see you putting the t-shirt on."

"She sees me at the swimming pool," Alec tried to justify himself.

"Well that's different, you can't go swimming with your clothes on, can you? She expects that but seeing you getting changed in your bedroom, well that's something entirely different. Maybe you should start by asking her if she minds you changing into your t-shirt? She might have changed her mind about it, since you've been running off."

Alec thought if only he'd be that lucky she'd completely gone off the idea but he didn't think she would.

"Oh, I get it," John laughed. "You aren't allowed to stay at her place? Doesn't she go home first, to get changed?"

"No, maybe I should suggest it or get her to bring something to my house to get changed into?"

"Well, maybe don't be so enthusiastic about it?" John chuckled. "She still might run a mile if you suggest her getting changed at your house. See what she thinks about calling in, I can drop you at her place easily enough."

"I'll maybe ask her then? She'll probably make me wait outside her bedroom."

"Yes, I would think so," John agreed. "Well at first?"

There were now only a few days to go until Rose's birthday. Alec had been out the Saturday before, got a nice album and a nice frame for her to choose a photo and choose which ones to put into the album. John had finally got a pair of tickets for the concert Alec wanted to take her to on the Saturday night over in Glasgow but John would have to stay in his car or in a nearby café since it was too far to go back for them.

Alec had told her he was taking her somewhere, Rose trying to find out where it was after John told him on the Friday before when Rose had agreed to meet him in a fast food restaurant at one in the town. They had got a table by the window and Rose was teasing him.

"So, is this another date then?"

"You mean after the school disco? I suppose so but you have to tell your mum we won't be back until late. Just say it's a birthday treat. Rose, why don't you start getting changed before we go to my house every night?"

"Yeah, I suppose so? Are ya tryin' to get me back for making ya put that t-shirt on?"

Alec almost slurped his drink. Rose saw the look on his face.

"Ha! Gotcha! I'm just messin' with ya. I don't mind if you get changed when we get to your house ya know? Ya don't have to keep sneaking to the bathroom just to change your shirt."

"Really? I thought it was just the once, for me to try that t-shirt on?"

"Yeah, well so did I but maybe now I'm your girlfriend, I mean properly?"

Maybe it wasn't that difficult after all, he thought.

"Ah, come on Alec, I see ya in the swimming pool," she reminded him. "Rather recently," she added since they had gone in the recent school holiday that Alec hadn't wanted to admit to John because he was liking Rose in her swimsuit more and more and he knew it.

He thought at this rate, by the time they went on holiday, he'd be a wreck if they went swimming every day. He tried to change the subject.

"Are you looking forward to your birthday now?" he asked her.

"Yeah, a bit more than I was, now I know you're planning something. Don't get your own back on me for springing that party on ya."

Alec already knew his aunt was making a cake for her but it wasn't an actual party as such. He just hoped she wouldn't be tired from the concert he was taking her to. Now he was having trouble keeping it a secret, Rose knew how to get him to admit something.

"Hey, this is nice ya know, getting to eat out on my own instead of being dragged for a pub meal with mum and Bob."

"Did you have any trouble getting out of it?" Alec asked her.

"Bob huffed a bit, going on about I already got time on my own but mum told him I was old enough now to eat out on my own. Actually, there was something I wanted to talk about tomorrow so when you call for me, can we go to the park first?"

"Sure, if you want? I picked some more photos up, want to see them?" he asked, since they were in his inside denim jacket pocket.

"Just leave them until tomorrow?" Rose tried not to blush as some were probably embarrassing of her kissing his cheek with her arms around his neck in the park or on the swings. "Are you meeting your dad?"

"Yeah, then I'm off to get your birthday present, no point in me getting it before, you would have been trying to see what it was."

He saw he was right as she just grinned at him. They went outside, Rose going off to where she had arranged to meet her mother before they went back and Alec to meet his dad,

"See ya tomorrow then?" Rose told him as they stood outside.

She just squeezed his hand and said goodbye, Alec watching her walk down the street. What was she doing to him? Had she been right and the fact he was another year older had suddenly caught up with him? He went off to meet his dad wondering what she wanted to talk to him about. Surely it wasn't the fact now they were talking about him getting changed that he was inferring he wanted her to do the same?

She'd never go for that, would she?

Sure enough, all the following week until Thursday, Rose's birthday, she was trying to get him to tell her what he'd bought her and Sandra was making her laugh trying to guess what it was the day before as they met as usual in the girls room.

"So you have no idea?" Sandra was asking her what Alec had bought her.

"Well I got him a t-shirt with his favourite band on it for his," Rose revealed, never having told anyone.

"Do you think he might buy something like that for you?" Sandra wondered. "Who's his favourite group anyway?"

"Aw, you know, those two brothers from Glasgow," Rose laughed.

"Oh, those? Do you like them?"

"He's trying to get me to, I'm not sure but their latest one's a bit catchy, he keeps playing it. Want to know something?" she asked Sandra, making sure everyone had left. Sandra nodded. "He says he's taking me somewhere on Saturday night."

"No way!" Sandra laughed. "Wow, is that like a date then?"

"Well, I suppose so? I mean it's one thing going to the school disco where we know everyone but where could he be taking me? Plus he said we'd be late back. I wonder if we're going to see a film or something?"

"Yeah, that makes sense, I mean you'll both be old enough to get in on your own now," Sandra told her, already passing her fourteenth birthday last week when Rose had got her a card and a bracelet. "Now I'm fourteen, I hope Matthew in the year above us starts taking more notice of me. He's a real dream. Mind you, you and Alec? They say he was so quiet before you came here, you really brought him out of his shell."

"Well he'd just lost his mum and that stupid Billy and his bunch of dumb apes were always on at him. They soon stopped when I put Moira and Kristy in their places and when I got Alec to stay away from them."

"Yeah and drove Jamie away," Sandra reminded her. "Not that it was such a big deal, he's better off without him, Jamie was always siding with Billy anyway. Remember when Jamie started to have a go at Alec?"

Rose remembered all too well and no-one picked on her friends, no matter who they came with. She had dealt quickly and swiftly with the former school bullies and no-one had dared take their places. Alec was waiting for her coming out, John already passing him.

"Where's Rose?" John asked him.

"Talking to Sandra, probably," Alec replied.

"Now Alec, she has to have other friends," John teased him. "I'll wait in the car. Still want dropping at her place? How's that going?"

"Stop it John. She's here now anyway. She'll be even longer tomorrow night, talking about her birthday."

"Then remind her you have a present for her before she goes off," John replied.

Alec somehow doubted it would make any difference. They'd gone to the park the previous Sunday, Rose still not saying what she wanted to talk about and she'd talked him into putting yet another film into his camera that anyone would think it was hers and how did she think they were getting paid for?

Rose knew she was liking Alec changing out of his school shirt more than she should do but he didn't seem to mind, she thought. He still left her though while he went to put his jeans on, which always got a sneaky smile out of her.

The next morning, having to leave before the post arrived, she got a card and present from her mother and Bob, saying she'd open them later but Bob had something to say about it.

"Open the card at least," he told her over breakfast, something Rose didn't have to prepare since her mother could manage scrambled eggs and toast without burning anything.

"It's okay Bob, she can wait," Jackie replied to him. "Hope you like the present Rose."

"I'm sure I will Mum. You did remember I'm going out on Saturday night?"

It was Bob who replied to her.

"How late are you going to be?" he asked Rose.

"Not too late, Alec has to get home as well. I've no idea where he's taking me, maybe to see a film?"

"Well make sure you have your key, your mum and I are going out to meet some friends. From next Saturday, I expect you to come with us."

"What?" Rose asked in surprise. "Where to, I'm not old enough to go into pubs at night."

"We know that," her mother told her, wishing Bob had kept quiet since they'd recently come to a compromise about some of his plans for Rose. "We're just going around taking it in turns to have a few friends getting together, they'll be others around your age, you've already seen a few at the pub. I'm sure we've mentioned it to ya before."

Rose had met the other kids and thought for their ages, they were still acting like kids, especially one boy who thought it was funny to order the younger ones around, though he'd left her alone after she bragged she'd brought her school's two bullies down. She also had tried to forget Bob had mumbled something about it a while back.

"Did ya mention it before?" Rose asked, wanting to be ready to leave.

"I'm sure we did," her mother replied, not remembering herself, since Bob's plans seemed to change on a weekly basis.

"You can get to know everyone better," Bob told her.

The company he kept, she didn't want to get to know them at all, they were all as bad as him after a few drinks in the pub on a Saturday afternoon, let alone in their own homes.

"Then I'd rather stay in, or in my room if they come around here, you can't just drag me along," Rose complained.

"Watch it Rose," Bob reminded her. "Don't think you are going to see that boyfriend of yours every Saturday night. Where did you get to last Saturday anyway?"

"Just to a takeaway, we just had lunch," Rose replied, washing her dish.

"Well Saturday lunchtimes are enough. You can go out this Saturday but if you don't come with us, you can stay in, no sneaking off, understand? When we have them over here, I expect you to show your face, not hide in your room all night like you did for the Christmas party."

Rose was relieved she had still got away with that. After Bob left and they were getting ready to leave, her mother gave her a warning.

"Don't go getting him mad by refusing to go out," her mother warned her.

"Sorry Mum but I am not going to a bunch of strangers houses for Bob to get totaled and show me off. What does he think I am?"

Her mother shook her head. "He won't let ya go to Alec's, you know what he's like?"

"Well if you're going out, he can't make me stay in, can he?"

"Don't be too sure of that," her mother replied as they left.

As they got in the lift, Rose wasn't letting it rest.

"Well I'll go round to Alec's for a while, I'll be back early."

"Rose, you're asking for trouble," she was warned.

"Well it's that or Alec comes round," Rose told her defiantly. "I'm not a little kid any more Mum."

Jackie knew Rose wasn't a little kid any more. She had grown up since arriving here and Alec was partly responsible. Rose greeted Alec when her mother had gone off, this time Alec kissing her cheek.

"Happy birthday Rose."

"Yeah, thanks, did ya leave my present at your house?" she asked, hoping he wasn't taking it to school.

"Yes, don't worry," he laughed. "We don't want everyone to know, do we?"

"Alec, they already know," Rose laughed, putting her arm in his as they crossed the road a bit further up than the bus shelter. "Hey, do ya know what would be an extra present for me?" she teased him.

"Rose, I'm taking you somewhere on Saturday night, remember?"

"I know but maybe tonight, just this once, well don't run off to change into your jeans," she giggled as John's car came around the corner.

"What?" Alec managed to reply, wondering if she was being serious or not.

Rose refused to answer him but he saw the smile on her face through the mirror.

"Happy birthday," John greeted her.

"Thanks. Did Alec tell ya he's taking me out on Saturday night?"

"Really? Well have fun then," John replied, wanting to give Alec all the credit and not knowing if Alec had mentioned he was actually taking them.

"Well I'm really looking forward to it, it'll be my best present ever, whatever it is."

"I'm sure it will be," John smiled.

A few others wished her happy birthday but it didn't mean as much to her as Alec saying it earlier. When they finally got to his house later and she opened her present, she flung her arms around him.

"Oh, they're just great. So, can I choose a photo for the frame?"

"Sure, maybe pick a few to start your album though I should have bought you a camera of your own. I decided not to, you'd still use mine."

Rose nudged him.

"Well, go get changed then? Want me to stay down here?"

"Stop with the teasing Rose. If you're coming up, we have less than an hour."

"Oh, does it take more than an hour for ya to get changed?" she teased him as she followed him

"No, should it?" he wondered, opening his bedroom door and going to the drawer to get a t-shirt. "Well, do I leave before I change into my jeans?" he teased her back, taking his time taking his school shirt off after he unbuttoned it and seeing she was taking more notice than usual.

He swore she'd said it took a while to adjust to being older but she was having no such difficulties. She watched him take his shirt off which to Rose seemed too fast, though Alec was taking his time he thought, then he went for his jeans.

"So?" he asked her as he stood near the door.

"I was being daft," Rose admitted, a slight smile on her face.

"It's your birthday Rose," he reminded her.

"Yeah but you might regret it if you stay," Rose admitted.

"I would do anything for you Rose, you know that," he reminded her.

"I know ya would. Well, maybe just this once?"

"No giggling, Rose," he warned her. "No taking photos either."

He saw the look on her face and hoped she wouldn't grab his camera from the desk by the window.

"Spoilsport," she laughed. "Ya said I could have any photo I wanted for my frame."

"I mean of me or the both of us. What am I going to do with you?"

"Give me a birthday kiss maybe?"

"I was going to, when I'd got changed."

"Well get on with it then, don't mind me."

"Last chance to let me go to the bathroom," he warned her as he unfastened his belt.

"Ha, you wish!" Rose just laughed.

"Are you sure you're not older than fourteen?" he asked as he put the belt on the chair.

"Nope, I'm waiting."

Alec stood still, wondering if he should be actually doing this.

"Well?" she asked impatiently as he delayed.

He made a start and just replied with "Happy birthday Rose."

Once Rose had got over it, teasing him he should have some cartoon shorts, which she teased him she was getting him some for Christmas, Rose picked a photo for her frame, the one his dad had taken in the garden a few weeks ago, she told him of the conversation that morning.

"Rose, he can't be serious?" Alec asked her, trying not to spoil her day but it seemed Bob had already done that.

"It's nothing Alec, I'm not going to be put on show with the other kids, I don't even like any of them. So when I find out what time they're going out, you can come round for an hour or so."

"I hate to think what will happen if they come back early," he replied. "What about when they're at your place? Don't risk sneaking out again, promise me Rose."

"Then I'll stay in my room. I don't know why he's doing this."

Alec had a good idea but she still wouldn't like it.

"Forget it Rose, I'll come round but there will be trouble. Just tell your mum, she can maybe make him go easy on you, I don't want him stopping us seeing each other at weekends, do you?"

"No. Come on, it's time to go downstairs, you owe me a birthday kiss," she reminded him.

Even when they met for lunch on Saturday, Alec was giving nothing away as to where he was taking her later, despite Rose's best efforts.

"Just be downstairs at six, okay?"

"Okay then, are we getting the bus into town?"

"You will find out," was all he would tell her.

As she was leaving later, her mother caught her in the doorway.

"Well have a good time. Don't be too late back."

"Don't worry about me Mum. I want to ask ya something tomorrow."

"Well I won't be up until late but yeah, we can talk."

"I'd best go, Alec will be outside soon, see ya."

Surprised John was also waiting as Alec greeted her, they set off towards Glasgow, Rose seeing the signs.

"What are we doing going to Glasgow?" she asked, seeing how many miles it was.

"We wouldn't need a ride if we were going into town," Alec replied as they both sat in the back, John keeping an eye on them.

John had decided to go see a film while he waited for them. He supposed he could have gone back but there didn't seem much point and he'd told Alec where to meet, since they'd probably be hungry after dancing around to the music.

"Well, this is where I leave you," John announced as he found a car park near to both places. "Don't you two go getting lost. Alec, meet where I told you and stay there if you get there before I do."

"I know, we will do. Come on Rose, we should get going."

"Are we going to see a film?" she asked, seeing the cinema.

"No, I had somewhere else to take you, it's not far."

Rose held onto him as they crossed a road and hoped he knew where he was going until they came to the town hall, with a banner outside.

"No way!" Rose told him as he led her through the gathering crowds. "How did ya manage to get tickets?"

"I asked John to get them for me, since he could get here and I couldn't. Rose, will you go to the concert with me?"

"Well yeah but they'd better play that catchy tune 'cos that's the only reason I let ya play their music," she teased him as they joined a queue to get in since they were a bit early.

"Oh, so that's the only reason?" Alec teased her, Rose's arm already in his.

As they moved slowly as people were being admitted, he saw the look on her face. Things were changing rapidly between the two of them and it seemed he was only just catching on. He was sure Rose already knew. What they didn't know was that John had arranged a little surprise for Rose as a song was being introduced, the one Rose wouldn't admit to Alec she really liked it, one of the brothers called out her name, making her jump when Alec nudged her.

"Go on Rose, stand up."

"I can't, look at all these people," she replied as the spotlight was searching for her.

"Don't be shy Rose, we know it was your birthday a few days ago," the other brother joined in, Rose thinking Bob's accent was difficult to understand at times.

"Rose, I had no idea John had arranged this," Alec was telling her as the spotlight hit them and stayed as they were both talking.

"Stand up Rose," she was encouraged again, everyone looking on a big screen behind the band.

Alec finally got hold of her arm and half stood with her, not letting her back in her seat.

"Well, happy birthday for Thursday," one of the brothers told her. "This song is just for you as we were told it's beginning to grow on you."

Rose knew Alec must have told John. He let her sit back down as the spotlight went off and the big screen went blank.

"I'm so gonna get you back for this," she told Alec as the band prepared themselves and a few nearby were turning round or leaning over to wish her happy birthday.

"You're welcome to try, I told you to expect payback for that party and now I have something else to pay you back for. Think back to Thursday night."

It was a good thing no-one saw Rose going bright red as she'd maybe enjoyed seeing Alec stepping out of his school trousers, throwing them on the chair then stepping into his jeans, which was when she had teased him about his shorts.

The song started off fairly slowly, as it gained pace then people were beginning to stand up and start swaying, so Rose grabbed Alec's arm, holding onto him as they swayed to the music and he even got her to join in when everyone else did, though with some difficulty at first.

As the concert ended and they made their way to where they were meeting John, Rose stopped him.

"Well, how are you going to get me back for that?" Alec asked, feeling pretty sure she'd find it difficult.

"Oh, just you watch out, that's all I'm saying," she replied. "Come on, I'm hungry after all that and you're paying."

They walked off arm in arm, John having already arrived and was sat by the window. He saw them both, Rose resting her head on Alec's shoulder as he'd seemed to have grown over the last few months. John was pleased with himself and hoped that phone call to the concert organizers had been taken notice of but as Rose and Alec entered the fast food restaurant, looking for John as they'd been too busy on the way in, he waved them over, Rose flopping into a seat opposite.

"So, how did it go then?" John asked, getting some money out of his pocket and offering it to Alec. "Did you get any special treatment?"

Alec went off to order.

"So it was all you?" Rose asked him.

"Rose, it was Alec's idea, I swear it was. I just set things in motion, since they'd take more notice of me. Trust me, Alec would do anything for you."

"I know, he told me. Promise me it was all his idea?"

"Absolutely. How could he have got to pick up the tickets eh?" John asked her, not wanting to say he'd given Alec the idea.

Rose sat back and thought about it, glancing over where Alec was about to get served, though she'd told him he was paying.

"John, promise not to say anything to him?"

"Something wrong?" John asked her.

"Well, we've sort of been teasing each other and I think I might have gone a bit far the other afternoon."

"Really? Is it anything to do with getting him to try that t-shirt on?"

"Yeah, I think I went a bit far, with it being my birthday."

"Don't worry about it Rose, Alec wouldn't have let you if he hadn't wanted. He asked pretty much the same thing, he's not too sure either. Just go with it Rose, you're both growing up but don't let it get too serious eh?"

As they made their way back home, Rose leaning her head on Alec's shoulder again, John was smiling at them through the mirror, Alec seeing him.

"So did you have a good time?" he asked her.

"That was the best birthday I ever had, thanks for taking me."

"So, can I play their records now?"

"We'll see," she teased him, taking his hand.

"Did you miss your friends, I mean on the day?"

"A little but ya know what? I had you, didn't I?"

Chapter Text

Alec had been pleased Rose had enjoyed the concert as much as he had done but he still wasn't sure he'd get away with playing the band's records. As he saw Rose home, John waiting for him, they had stood by the door.

"That was really great Alec, thanks for taking me. John said it was all your idea."

He knew John was just trying to make him look good in Rose's eyes and maybe he would have thought about it on his own.

"Well when I talked to him about it, I wasn't sure how we'd get there. He offered to take us," was all he could tell her.

"Well, it was the best birthday ever and don't think I won't get ya back next year. So, about you getting me back for Thursday?" she teased him.

"Forget it Rose, you know about it now, you'll be expecting it. Things have changed though, haven't they?"

"Yeah, I suppose they have really? When ya asked if I wanted to get changed at your house though?"

"It doesn't matter, it was just an idea and if you don't want to call home after school, it's fine, really."

"Well, I did think 'cos you started taking your shirt off in front of me," she teased him, putting her arms around his neck and hoping her mother and Bob didn't arrive in a taxi.

"Stop it Rose. I know what it sounded like and I'm sorry, I didn't mean anything."

"Yeah, okay. Maybe we should wait until we get a bit older, maybe next year?" she suggested.

"If that's what you want Rose, well for you anyway. I really don't mind getting changed, does it bother you?"

"Um, no, it was just me being silly though and I told John I'd maybe gone too far."

"Maybe not too far? We have to start somewhere Rose. We could leave it at that for now?"

"Yeah, for now anyway. We can't be sure neither of us will be tempted though, remember what I said, about not feeling any older and it may creep up on you?"

Alec remembered it only too well. Half-term came and went, them going swimming a few times though trying their best not to stare at each other, which Alec found the most difficult as Rose began to fill out her swimsuit even from a few weeks before or was it just him?

Rose was saving up for the holiday, stopping going in the shop every morning and sneaking things from home instead, until her mother realized and Rose made the excuse up they were to share with Alec at break time. They continued to meet on Saturdays for lunch, extending it to looking around the shops together and getting a few things for their holiday.

Bob had been in to pay for the rest of his and her mother's holiday and still complaining about Rose not going, Jackie thinking nothing of it and Rose had got out of going out with them on Saturday nights but only on the condition when the visitors came to them, she had to stay some of the time.

One Saturday night though when people began arriving, the boy who bullied everyone started worrying Rose so the next day, she talked to Alec about it.

"We should tell John," Alec suggested as they sat on the swings in the park.

"Maybe it's nothing Alec? It was probably nothing but his dad gives me the creeps as well."

"Well that settles it Rose, you need to tell someone. I know they only go round every few weeks but it's only going to get worse you know?"

Rose couldn't deny she already thought it was getting worse and the offender had only been twice. John agreed with Alec as they sat in the kitchen at Alec's aunt's house.

"You need to tell your mother Rose," John suggested as he listened to Rose's concerns.

"I told ya, she doesn't see anything wrong," Rose replied, leaning on the table, Alec's hand on hers.

"She has to start seeing how it makes you feel," John continued. "I could get involved as one of your teachers and say you came to me because you didn't think she would listen to you."

"No, I can't, she'd never believe it. The next time, I'll just storm out then if mum asks, I'll tell her."

"Rose, have you told us everything?" John wanted to make sure.

"Rose, if you missed something out, you have to tell him," Alec encouraged her.

"He makes rude comments, not just to me but to those who are a bit younger but there's no-one under thirteen there, I'm sure of that."

John raised his eyebrows, he didn't like where this was going.

"So, they all take it in turns going round each other's houses?" he wanted to know. Rose nodded, Alec with his chin on Rose's shoulder.

"Rose, you know what this is leading to, don't you?" John asked her. "I think your mother genuinely doesn't realize what's going on, she was on her own too long and thinks it's just a bunch of friends getting together. Has Bob mentioned anything else, any new rules?"

"No, not recently but mum says he goes on about me not going on holiday with them and she can't get why he wants to pay for me to go and sit by the pool all day."

Alec did, he did pretty much the same if Rose got out of the pool first to wait for him by dangling her legs in the water – it drove him mad and made him stay in longer on purpose. Rose had been right, he was growing up and it wasn't creeping up on him as gradual as he'd thought it would, it had only taken a few months.

John saw the look on Alec's face.

"Rose, you have to get her to see what's going on," John told her, making her look up at him. "Maybe she does know and thinks it's part of what families do together, if she's been on her own? I don't know, maybe I'm wrong about it?"

Alec didn't think he was.

"If anything else worries you, you know you can talk to me," John reminded her. "So, how long to your holiday eh?"

Rose thought not soon enough. They had a week off before going on holiday and on the last day of school, Rose was anxious about their exams.

"Rose, you'll have done fine," Alec was trying to tell her. "All that extra work will have paid off."

"Will it?" Rose questioned him as they sat in the playground. "Ya shouldn't have let me mess around."

"Rose, you never messed around when I was trying to get you to remember things. That was why we did it at the library, remember?"

"Yeah, only 'cos I'd get distracted at your house," Rose reminded him.

"You like seeing me without my shirt too much," he smiled as he nudged her.

"Yeah, well, that's entirely your fault for that. Maybe ya shouldn't have let me kiss you that time while you still had it off?"

Alec thought maybe he shouldn't have done a few weeks ago when he had taken too long picking a t-shirt. He supposed it was partly his fault she had gone up to him and put her arms around his neck and prompted him for a kiss. After that, he'd delayed the next time and Rose wasn't going to pass up the chance.

"Well, don't worry about exams until we come back from holiday. Rose, is it tomorrow night you have to stay in?"

It was and she was dreading it.

"I am not hanging around, he can forget it. I told mum he's just showing me off and do ya know what she said?"

"Yes, you did tell me. I know it's not right Rose, I only wish I could do something. Maybe I should turn up tomorrow night?"

Rose looked horrified. "No way Alec, I am not getting you involved. I can handle bullies, remember? If he starts, I'll give him a kick where it hurts, he won't dare say anything."

Alec knew he shouldn't encourage her by smiling but he couldn't help it.

"Just be careful Rose, you don't know what will happen. Do you want Bob to stop going out and you can't sneak off? You know I can't rest until I know you got back without being caught?"

Rose had no idea, since he'd never said anything. She touched his arm.

"You never said. Why do you worry about me so much?"

Alec thought she had to be joking.

"I told you Rose, I always worry about you, I told you I would do anything for you."

"That doesn't have to include getting involved with whatever Bob thinks is playing happy families," she told him sadly.

"Yes, it does, if I have to. One more week Rose, you be there one more time and then you tell him no more, that you don't want to be part of whatever they have people around for."

Rose looked at him. He was going to make a great detective one day. She knew he meant what he said.

"Alec, we don't know why they come round, since I don't go anywhere else."

"John knows but he won't tell me," Alec replied, leaning back. "I should insist he tells me."

"Maybe he got it wrong? If not, he doesn't want to worry you."

"Rose, you know John's right. Why no-one under thirteen eh? Why does he keep going on about his plans to your mother?"

"Stop it Alec. We go on holiday in a week, we can both forget about it."

Alec was more worried about when they came back, nothing would change. After meeting Alec the next day in town, Rose prepared to spend as little time as possible while Bob was greeting his friends. Then she saw the obnoxious boy she'd been avoiding by not going in the pub on Saturday lunchtimes and she swore he'd put a lot of weight on.

"Where've you been hiding then?" she was asked as everyone went into the living room.

"What's it got to do with you, moron?"

"You've not been going to the pub," he reminded her.

"Yeah, I had somewhere better to go, meeting my boyfriend. Get lost. Did I tell ya how I brought those bullies down at school?"

"You talk funny," the boy laughed.

"Well in case ya didn't notice, I'm not from around here, am I?" Rose pointed out and trying to get away. "Now get out of the way before I get my boyfriend onto ya."

"You, having a boyfriend? You'd best keep that quiet around here," she was warned.

"Whatcha mean by that?" Rose asked.

"I've said enough, you'll find out sooner or later."

Rose went inside, seeing Bob handing bottles out and her mother filling wine glasses, the kids helping themselves to canned drinks. Thinking she wouldn't be missed, she slipped out while the boy she thought was gross bullied another boy into handing his opened can over. She wished she had one of those mobile phones that were becoming more popular and that they would make them cheaper. Then she could call Alec whenever she wanted.

Alec had gone round to see John, asking him about their holiday.

"Do I do everything Rose suggests then?" he wanted to know. "We've only spent a week or two together before, now we have over six weeks."

"You should try to compromise," John suggested. "Any ideas what you're going to do?"

"Rose will have made a list," Alec smiled. "Should I tell her?"

"That's up to you Alec. You already spend a lot of time together. Alec, be careful. I mean it's okay now but what about when you both get older?"

"What do you mean? That she won't want to stay friends when we get older?"

"I'm not saying Rose will do that, just in general that well, teenage friendships get grown out of."

"Don't say that. Rose is here to stay, her mother told her to get used to it," Alec replied.

"What about all this business of Rose being worried?" John asked him.

"She is worried but she's clever enough to stay out of the way. I told her after tonight not to stay when her mother's and Bob's friends come round and to stay in her room."

John had to smile.

"So, will she take any notice of you?" John wondered.

"I hope so, she doesn't know how serious this is. John, there's something funny going on, don't you think?"

"Alec, we've always thought that since Rose told us. Maybe it's not that bad? It's the first time Rose and her mother have been in a family environment, remember? They don't know what to expect. You say others around Rose's age attend these get-togethers?"

"Yes, so she said. The only reason she gets out of going elsewhere is that she stays around when they're at their place. I warned her John, she's scared if she refuses, he'll force her to go with them next time."

"Well she'll get out of it the next two weeks," John reminded him.

"What then?" Alec asked him. "I wanted to go along but she went crazy when I suggested it. It's worrying me, what it's leading to."

John felt sorry for him.

"I know you’re worried but you being worried won't help her Alec. Going there could only make things worse."

"Then what should I do?"

"Trust her to stay out of whatever is going on, if anything. She got out of going on holiday," John told him.

"Her mother persuaded Bob that it would be a waste of money to take Rose just for her to lie by the pool all day. I'm sure Rose's mother doesn't know why Bob was insisting Rose went with them but I know the reason."

"The same as you, seeing Rose in the swimming pool?" John suggested. "I know it may look like that but it could still be he wanted a family holiday. What if Rose was right at the beginning and he thought he was missing out when all his friends had families?"

"What kind of families though?" Alec wondered.

"Alec, all we can do is tell Rose to be careful and going around when everyone else is there could only make things worse for her. They may not like anyone outside the families being there."

"John, that proves they are up to something," Alec replied.

"We don't know that Alec. Rose doesn't want you there, she doesn't want you getting involved."

"I know she doesn't but how can I stand by John? She hates the thought of being there."

"I know she does Alec, I know you're trying to help her. You'll make a good police officer one day. She's lucky to have a friend like you Alec and I know it upsets you when she won't let us. All you can do is be there for her."

"I already told her I'd do anything for her, what else can I say?" Alec wondered.

"Nothing Alec. She's never had a friend like you before, has she? She'll come round and let you try to help her."

"I hope it's not too late though when she does," Alec replied worriedly.

Alec went home, his dad seeing he was worried about something.

"You can talk to me about Rose," he reminded Alec.

"I know Dad but John sees how Rose is at school, that's all. She's looking forward to the holiday though, I wanted to ask John something."

"Fine. I know you look up to your cousin Alec, I'm glad he's been there for you. So, what do you two have planned for the rest of the holidays?"

"Ask Rose," Alec had to laugh.

His dad had to smile. This was a very different Alec than the same time the year before when he was trying to cope with the loss of his mother. John hadn't been around much but his aunt had made him feel at home by doing out the spare room for him and now it seemed he didn't need it since he spent every waking hour with Rose.

At least Rose had taken his mind off it and Alec had even admitted Rose had asked to visit the graveside when she'd finally got it out of him where his mother was laid to rest. He had also admitted it had been too painful at first but Rose had made him feel better about it.

"How did she get on with the exams?" his dad wanted to know.

"She's still worried about not getting a good grade. I tried my best to help her," Alec replied.

"I know you did Alec, it's all you can do. At least she admitted she needed help but all you can do is wait and see how she did. I don't think it will hold her back next year."

Alec hoped not, he didn't want her to be held behind in class. She'd admitted she'd only just scraped the entrance exam but had she? Had she been right and they'd taken her because they had to? He couldn't even ask John, he probably didn't have access to that information, it would be up to the head teacher.

When he went to meet Rose the next day, she didn't look too happy as he waited downstairs and he greeted her.

"What's wrong Rose?" he wanted to know as he took her hand.

"That big creep, that's what," Rose replied, just wanting to get away after the argument with Bob when he'd finally got up.

"That other boy?" Alec asked her.

"Yeah, he's so creepy, he had the nerve that he didn't believe I had a boyfriend. When I said so he said don't let anyone there find out."

Alec knew he'd been right – they didn't want any outsiders there.

"Please Rose, promise me next time you'll stay away from them all. You can't let them upset you."

Rose thought it was a bit too late.

"Sorry, I shouldn't bother you about it," she apologized. "Want to go down near the river?"

"I thought maybe you'd like to pick some flowers for my mum's grave?" he suggested, since his dad had been talking about it last night.

"Yeah, I'd like that, then we can walk back, we have time."

"Is something else wrong?" he asked, since she'd not flung her arms around his neck like she usually did and he had to prise her off him to move.

"I had a row with Bob."

"Rose, be careful. Was it about his friends being there?"

"Yeah, I went in for a few minutes, everyone was helping themselves to drinks and I just walked out. Then when I heard them leaving I left my room and went into the kitchen, hoping he'd think I'd been there," Rose tried to explain.

"Didn't it work?" Alec asked as they turned off towards the river, hoping some wildflowers would be growing somewhere.

Even though his dad went to the graveside once a month, a few more flowers wouldn't go amiss and it would take Rose's mind off things.

"Not exactly. When he'd sobered up a bit he told me I wouldn't get away with hiding in the kitchen all night."

"Well he told you not to hide in your room," Alec reminded her.

"I pointed that out, it didn't go down too well. He told me I was getting too smart and there would be consequences if I did it again."

"What?" Alec asked her, making her almost trip up as he stopped near a fence. "Rose, be careful, please. You don't know what he'll do. It could go back to how it used to be, not letting you go out and being home early every night."

"Don't remind me Alec. Why the hell does he want me there when I can't stand them?" Rose asked him as they went through the gate.

"Rose, we've been trying to avoid telling you," Alec replied, pulling her towards a tree trunk to sit on.

"Tell me what?" Rose wanted to know, Alec sitting next to her.

"Bob, wanting a family. Your mother's been on her own too long John said. She doesn't know what Bob's motives are."

"Hey, hang on Alec. Why has John not said anything to me about it?"

Alec thought he'd already tried?

"Rose, we'll talk to him later but he thinks he could be wrong about it, that Bob just wants to be like his friends and that he was missing out but I don't think he is wrong. That boy warning you last night proves it. Why don't they want to know you've got a boyfriend eh?"

"Geez Alec, what's my mum got us into?" Rose asked him, Alec putting his arm around her.

"Calm down Rose, we don't know anything for certain. It still could be all innocent but every time you tell me, it gets me more worried. Let's tell John when we get there? Things are changing Rose, you know that?"

"Yeah, I know. Alec, if he bans me seeing you at weekends, I'm running off."

"Rose, where would you go?" he asked her, thinking she was panicking, which she had every right to do, considering. "He'd only have to ring the police and your mum knows who I am. Please try not to do anything drastic. We could still be wrong."

"All of you?" Rose asked, trying to keep things together but knowing where this was going. "You all knew where it was heading when I didn't want to think it was true. I tried not to think about it Alec."

"I know you did and I'm sorry Rose, really I am. I tried to tell John, he said we could be wrong about it. Who knows why Bob's friends having a family made him feel like he was missing out? John's right, you and your mum never having someone else there and your mum having to do everything. Maybe she thinks that's what it's like?"

"Yeah, maybe? He has some strange ways though. Maybe he got taken in by his friends since he had no family before but why is most of it about me?"

Alec wanted to say something but if he and John were right, it would break her heart to find out. He'd hardly believed it himself, growing up in a safe family environment where he was cared for and being close to his aunt and uncle. Rose hadn't been fortunate enough to have that.

"Rose, let's find some flowers or we can leave it until we come back, if you'd rather talk to John?"

"No, we'll get the flowers Alec. So, you said your aunt sometimes went to the cemetery with you?"

"Yeah, last summer holidays, Jamie wouldn't go and I didn't want to go on my own. Having you to go with me makes me feel better about it."

"It's the least I can do for ya," Rose smiled," squeezing his hand.

"You've no idea how much you've helped me Rose."

"Aw, stop going all soft on me," she tried not to blush.

"Would you really run off if Bob goes back to how things used to be?"

"Yeah, I can't wait until I'm sixteen and can leave home though. If he thinks I'm staying a minute longer, he's in for a surprise."

"Rose, you’d have to leave school," Alec reminded her, getting up and holding his hand out to help her.

"So? It's not likely I'm gonna get into college, is it?" she replied as she let him help her.

"Don't say that? There are some subject's you’re good at. I bet you anything you'll get good results with your history and geography," he smiled.

"Only 'cos you kept on at me. I'm surprised ya didn't give up."

"I'd never give up on you. John asked me what about when we're older? What do you think Rose?"

"That you're stuck with me?" she told him.

"I mean if you don't get into college or you decide not to go? Will you get a job?"

"I'll have to do some training elsewhere, won't I?" she replied as they reached the riverbank and spying some wildflowers she didn't know the name of. "Alec, don't let me stop you going to collage, you're far more clever than I am."

"Oh, I don't know about that," he teased her. "Rose, when I said things are changing, I also meant with us. Have you not noticed?"

He took the flowers Rose was holding out from her.

"Yeah, I suppose they have? Isn't that what ya want? I mean we can go back to how things used to be."

"What? No, I don't want things to go back, when we were just friends. Do you? I meant maybe things can move on a bit more?"

"Really? I'm not snogging ya in the school playground Alec," she teased him back.

He tried not to look too disappointed but kissing when they were on their own was more than enjoyable. He'd not known what to expect that Christmas Eve when they were kissing for the first time but the more they did, he had found himself wanting to be the one to initiate it. That was when Rose didn't beat him to it.

Chapter Text

Jackie was fussing the following morning as they set off into town, asking Rose if she needed anything while they were away, even though she knew where Rose was really going. Rose supposed she was just putting on an act for Bob's benefit.

"Are ya sure ya don't need to take anything with ya?" Jackie asked her as Bob was parking the car in the town.

"I told ya Mum, everything's arranged, I don't need anything," Rose replied, wondering how many more times she was going to be asked.

"Well I don't want to seem rude by palming you off on someone for a week without offering," her mother told her.

"So do you spend all the holidays with this boy?" Bob decided to ask her.

"Yeah, my other friend moved," Rose tried to bluff, since she still mentioned Sandra now and then. "I'll have to meet her in town. Ya can leave me some spending money," she hinted. "I mean to get into town and go swimming."

Jackie had reckoned Rose had been saving up for a while but Bob didn't need to know that.

"Yeah, I'll leave ya some before we set off. I still wish ya'd come with us."

Rose saw Bob glance at her.

"I told ya Mum, I'd rather stay here. Lying on the beach or by the pool will be just about my limit," she replied, to see Bob's reaction.

She'd noticed the last few weeks that he'd looked annoyed because she wasn't going. Well she certainly wasn't going just for him to watch her swimming or sunbathing all day but she'd make an exception if it was Alec. She had also noticed when she went with Alec, he seemed to take his time getting out while she was sat waiting for him.

Now she knew he did it on purpose but who was she to spoil his fun? She would rather it was Alec than Bob any day and as for the big lump who was at the last party? She was beginning to wonder why exactly the teenagers were there, was it to watch the adults drink or something else? Still, she could forget about it until the next time.

She went off to meet Alec but as they were sat at the window eating, she saw the boy she didn't like stop in front of it.

"What's wrong Rose?" Alec asked as she stopped eating.

"That's one of them who goes to the parties. Told ya he was gross," Rose replied, the over-weight boy staring at them both now.

"Was he the one who didn't believe you have a boyfriend?" Alec asked, staring back as the boy stood pulling faces.

"Leave him Alec, he's not worth it," Rose replied, moving her chair so her back was to the window. "Have you got anything more to buy for the holiday?"

Alec shook his head. He felt like leaning over and giving her a kiss but they'd not yet done that in public and it may get them thrown out, since there were younger kids nearby. He already thought they stood out slightly, if there were any other teenagers there, they were sat in groups.

One more week and they would be on their way to the caravan park and they could forget about everything for a week. He didn't know who was looking forward to it the most, Rose or himself and he hoped where they were staying would be close to the beach. Not that he wanted to see Rose in her swimsuit.

He still didn't know how he was feeling about her, apart from being his friend and girlfriend, not that they'd admitted it apart from to friends and family. Now people would see them together in the holiday park and he thought it would bother him but it wasn't.

He already knew Rose was something else since the first day he saw her in the library, almost a year ago and thinking maybe he had been interested in girls after all the denials. He still had no clues about Jamie though, since they hardly saw each other, they'd spent the last long holiday together but things had changed.

"See ya tonight then?" Rose told him as she was about to go off. "When we get back from holiday, I'm gonna tell mum and Bob I want to start going home with you, not them."

"Rose, be careful tonight, don't get caught," he warned her.

"Aw, I'm an expert now at getting back before they do and what does Bob expect?"

"I still worry about you getting into trouble though."

Rose kissed his cheek and went to where her mother and Bob were, seeing them all sat at tables put together and the boy she'd seen earlier, wondering why he'd been out on his own. Then it struck her – he'd been out looking for her since she'd told him she went somewhere else with her boyfriend.

She wondered if he'd gone on his own there or he'd been sent.

"Rose, there you are!" her mother called out as she stood in the doorway. "We were just talking about ya."

Rose wondered why her mother had never bothered hiding her London accent when she herself had gone to great pains to hide hers last year at school.

"Rose, Jimmy here said he passed you when you were in a takeaway," Bob informed her, nodding to the offender she'd seen Alec having a staring contest with.

"So? He was spying on me, I chose to ignore him," Rose replied. "I'm gonna get the bus back home, if you're not ready to leave."

"Rose, sit down and join us, go get a drink," Bob told her, nudging her mother to give her some money.

"I don't want a drink and from when you come back from holiday, I'll go home with Alec."

"Rose, do as Bob says," her mother insisted, Rose wondering who all the empty glasses belonged to and should Bob be driving home with three empty bottles of some lager beginning with 'T' she'd never heard of in front of him?

She also wondered what her mother was trying to stop her from saying. Was that creep right not to mention the word 'boyfriend' in front of everyone?

"Who’s this Alec then?" one of Bob's friends asked.

"Just someone Rose goes to school with," her mother replied.

"He's not her boyfriend is he?" a woman asked Jackie. "Jimmy will be upset if he is, won't you son?"

Rose didn't even know the woman was the mother of this moron.

"What's it got to do with him?" Rose huffed, not even sitting down

"Rose. Don't be like that," her mother warned her. "Everyone's missed ya not being here the last few weeks. Jimmy wanted to know where ya were so he went to see if he could find ya, since ya said you were getting your own lunch."

"Yeah? Well I can go out on my own, thanks," she turned to the boy.

"She was sat with a boy, by the window in the chicken place," Jimmy told everyone.

"Well I don't need you spying on me so get lost next time," Rose warned him.

"Hey, don't you be rude to him," his mother defended him. "He was concerned which is why he went looking for you."

"Rose, apologize," Bob warned her.

"Huh, forget it, I'm going home, I'm not apologizing, I'm not the one who was spying. Did you send him?" she asked the boy's mother.

"Rose, I'm warning you," Bob starting to get annoyed. "You're hanging around with the wrong people."

"Ya mean Alec? No, I'm not, you want me to hang around with the wrong people and why do ya want me to go shopping with ya? It's not like ya get anything new and ya never ask what I want, not that I'm there all the time."

"You let her go out?" another man asked Bob.

"Blame her mother," Bob replied, going for his drink. "She won't be doing for much longer if she doesn't change her attitude so watch it Rose."

Rose thought Alec was right to warn her that she could be told to be back early.

"Anything else?" she asked, taking the money her mother was holding out. "I'll go for the bus then, see ya at home."

"Rose, that was for a drink," her mother told her.

"Well I don't want one, thanks, I don't like being spied on so he'd best not go looking for me again, it was all I could do to stop Alec going out and punching him."

"Huh, that skinny boy you were sat with?" Jimmy laughed.

"Ya wouldn't say that if you saw him in the school gym," Rose laughed, not that she'd seen much of him there, worse luck and wished the gym classes were still mixed.

She did enjoy watching the boys playing football or running when she gazed out of the window onto the playing field when she was supposed to be in domestic science class and trying to spot Alec. They both enjoyed sharing what she made in the class when they got back to Alec's house though.

"Enough Rose," Bob warned her. "You can't blame Jimmy if he misses ya being here."

"What? Ya mean that's why ya wanted me to go with ya on Saturday nights? Forget it, I'm not going to make friends with him, I've got Alec," Rose protested.

"Who's Alec?" the man who spoke before asked again, Rose seeing more empty beer bottles than in front of Bob and wondered why they didn't use glasses.

"Never mind Craig, I told ya he was just a friend of Rose's," Bob replied.

Rose felt like saying Alec was much more than a friend but saw her mother giving her a warning glance.

"Well I hope so," the man replied, taking a swig from his bottle and Rose wondering why her mother was having anything to do with them. "Jimmy could take it the wrong way."

Rose saw her chance to leave but Jimmy got up.

"Where are you going?" he asked Rose.

"To the ladies, wanna follow me?" Rose laughed, thinking he was a big girl anyway.

Her mother got up. "I could use a visit myself, won't be long Bob."

When they got to the entrance, Jackie grabbed Rose's arm.

"Rose, you're asking for trouble."

"So what? That creep was staring at us through the window, he's lucky I didn't grab Alec across the table and start snogging him."

"What?" Jackie asked.

"Ya think me and Alec don't kiss? We kissed under the mistletoe at his aunt's house, don't look that surprised Mum."

"Ya mean just the once?"

"Well at the new year party as well but it doesn't mean that was the only time," Rose replied, thinking maybe she should have warned her mother.

"Be very careful Rose, don't let Bob find out."

"Why? He wanted a family Mum, he's gonna have to deal with a teenager. Why did the others believe Bob, that Alec was just a friend? What the hell's going on Mum?"

"Nothing that concerns you. If ya going home, go now, I'll say ya must have slipped out while I was in the ladies. Be careful Bob doesn't make ya go with us tonight."

"We'll I'll lock my room door then until he's gone. Are that creep's parents expecting me to be his girlfriend?"

Jackie was guilty by her silence.

"Mum, this is creeping me out, what's Bob got us into? Can't ya see what's going on?"

"You'd best go Rose," her mother replied, putting her hand on the door to the ladies room.

Rose knew her mother was denying anything was wrong with the version of Bob wanting a family. She knew where the bus station was and thought she'd be best going there than trying to find the stop in the surrounding streets. She wished Alec had told her where his dad parked the car but they'd probably already left anyway.

Should she go home or to Alec's house? It was almost three anyway and she'd be going round after her mother and Bob went out so finding the right bus stand, she sat and waited and decided just to go home for now. She didn't want Alec asking her questions on how things had gone when she'd been to find her mother in the pub.

She knew he'd go crazy in view of that creep spying on them through the window but she wondered now what her mother thought about her admitting she'd already kissed Alec. Her mother had been on her side so far, would that now change?

On the way back with his dad, Alec was asked what was wrong, since he'd looked troubled.

"Come on Alec, another week and we'll be on holiday," his dad tried to cheer him up. "Something wrong between you and Rose?"

"No. Well we saw someone staring at us through the takeaway window and Rose said it was a boy from the parties Bob forces her to be there. I felt like going out to him but he's bigger than me but if Rose had asked me, I would have."

His dad smiled, knowing full well he would do anything for her.

"That put you off?" his dad smiled. "What did she say then?"

"To forget it, like she'd have anything to do with the big oaf. Dad, what if these parties Bob's trying to get her to go to are a way of introducing the teenagers?"

"Alec, I think that's hardly likely," his dad replied. "In what way though?"

Alec didn't want to say. "To get them used to each other and when they got older, well to all hang out together like their parents do."

His dad was thinking that may only be half of it?

"Well Rose is having nothing to do with them, is she? Don't worry so much, it seems Rose has no interest in replacing you as her friend."

Since he'd now seen the boy Rose had mentioned, why did he have to worry?

When Rose had left the pub and before Jackie had gone back in, Bob was being asked questions.

"What was all that about Bob?" he was being asked as the kids went off to amuse themselves on the video machines after being offered money to leave.

"Ah nothing Craig, Rose will get used to everyone," Bob replied.

"Why does she stay away from the parties then?" his wife wanted to know.

"She's not sure yet, give her a chance eh? Maybe your Jimmy can make a bit more of an effort next time you come round to our place?" Bob suggested, knowing Rose was already refusing to be seen but if he threatened her that she couldn't go out on Sundays, she'd have to comply.

"Well Rose has to make some effort too," he was reminded. "That was the reason you wanted to join in, remember? Watch out, Jackie's back."

"Did I miss anything?" Jackie grinned as they all went back to drinking.

"No love, where's Rose?" Bob asked her.

"Isn't she back?" Jackie replied, looking where the other teenagers were. "I bet she sneaked out before I got out."

"Yes, I just bet she did," Bob replied sarcastically. "She'd better not think she got away with it."

"Are you losing your influence over her?" another man asked him, blowing smoke in Jackie's direction and her wishing they would make pubs smoke-free.

"Think again. Jackie will make her see sense, won't you love?" Bob asked her, putting his arm around her neck.

"About still coming on Saturdays?" Jackie asked, wondering what she'd missed. "She'll get tired of getting the bus home when she has to get it from school every night."

"Why doesn't she go to the local comprehensive?" Jimmy's mother asked her. "I mean Jimmy's not seen her there, where does she go?"

"Ah, well Rose got herself a place at the grammar school," Bob admitted, Jackie thinking he was showing off.

"She must be clever then?" Bob was asked.

"We're proud of her at school, aren't we Jackie?"

"Yeah, we expect her to get good exam results, she's been working really hard," Jackie replied, not wanting to say Alec was coaching her every chance they got.

"What's she good at then?" Jackie was asked, Jackie trying to remember.

"Beside geography and history?" she laughed. "She's had to learn all over again about them, she learned English on those subjects. I think she'll do well."

Well at least she hoped so. She didn't want her daughter to be asked to leave or stay behind a class.

"I was just telling Sheila that Rose will get used to Jimmy," Bob told her.

"Yeah? Well I suppose she needs other friends?" Jackie asked.

"Come on Jackie, we talked about this," Bob nudged her, Jackie not recalling any such conversation involving Rose being anything other than friends with the other teenagers.

She saw the look on his face. "She'll come round Bob, give her some time."

"Well that could take forever if ya don't bring her to the other parties," someone else told her.

Everyone started laughing, a few men getting up and debating whose turn it was to buy the drinks. Jimmy came back over and stood by his mother.

"I won again Mum," the teenager bragged, holding out his hand for more coins.

"You're really good at that game son," his dad ruffled his hair. "You should challenge Rose next time."

"I could beat her with my eyes closed," Jimmy bragged.

"Maybe she'd take to ya better if ya let her win?" his mother smiled.

Jackie knew how much Rose despised the boy, who had his arms around his mother's neck and looking smug. Seeing Rose with Alec the last time he'd been there, it was no comparison the way Rose looked at Alec then at the large boy.

What had Rose meant though by what were they getting her into? It was just a bunch of friends getting together and if the teenagers wanted to make friends, well wasn't that a good thing? Rose needed more than Alec and this Sandra she talked about.

When Bob got home, Jackie herself wondering how he'd managed to drive but he'd told her not to give him a lecture and he always got them back in one piece, Rose was trying to avoid him.

"Stay right there," Bob warned her as her mother retrieved the groceries and Rose now knowing why there was never any frozen food. "Why did you leave without saying goodbye to everyone?"

"I never even speak to any of them," Rose protested.

"That's no excuse Rose, it's not polite to go off like that. Jimmy's trying to be your friend."

"What? Well he could have fooled me by standing staring at me and Alec through the window. How did he guess where we were? Was he going around looking for us?" Rose wanted to know.

She looked at her mother.

"I might have mentioned ya got lunch at the chicken place," she admitted.

"Thanks a lot Mum, now we'll have to find somewhere else."

"Your mother was asked where he might find you," Bob joined in. "What do ya see in Alec anyway?"

"Really? He's good to me, he helps me with my homework and he's not pushy like that big lump is. He was nice to me on my first day at school and he lost his other best friend because of me. He's also still getting over losing his mother last year. Ya think there's any comparison?"

"Well you had best start showing an interest in what we do Rose, if you are not very careful, I will make you go out with us every Saturday or you can stop seeing Alec on Sundays and Saturday lunchtime, understood?" Bob asked her. "I had to tell everyone he was your friend."

"Well he's more than my friend," Rose replied. "Nothing's gonna change that. Why that creep?"

"Rose, he's not a creep," her mother joined in. "He's older than you are."

"So, what difference does it make Mum?" Rose wanted to know.

Rose didn't like where this was going, her mother was never going to listen to her. Rose went off to her room, Jackie making some strong coffee for Bob.

"She has to learn Jackie," he told her as she handed him the mug.

"Yeah, I know Bob but Alec's her best friend, she'll never be convinced to make Jimmy her friend."

"She must have told Jimmy Alec was her boyfriend to make him want to know where she was," Bob replied, sobering up slightly.

"She may have said something last Saturday, they were in the hallway," Jackie admitted.

"She has to learn to keep it quiet then," Bob warned her. "She can't just come out with the fact that Alec's her boyfriend, Jimmy might have already told her that."

Jackie saw no reason why Rose couldn't say Alec was her boyfriend, wasn't that the whole point? She knew Bob would never agree to letting Alec join in, it all seemed very private between them and who had become her friends as well as Bob's. She also knew now how much Rose thought about Alec, if she'd admitted they'd had their first kiss.

Bob would have his work cut out for him if he wanted Rose to leave Alec and make friends with Jimmy or even one of the other boys, who were slightly younger than Rose but Bob only seemed interested in Jimmy for some reason, what, she didn't know but keeping it quiet Alec was also Rose's boyfriend was now also going to be a problem.

Once Rose came back from her week away with Alec and his dad, it would probably make their friendship even stronger and Rose would have to be very careful in front of Bob and the others not to say anything. She thought Rose had over-reacted earlier though, there was nothing wrong with Bob wanting to be seen being a father-figure to Rose.

Rose waited until her mother shouted they were going out and wondered if it was such a good idea they'd be drinking again after earlier but at least they were getting a taxi this time. She had an idea though they may come back early so she planned on being back herself by ten.

She walked around to Alec's house and he let her in, greeting her with a kiss on the cheek as she put her arms around his neck.

"What's wrong Rose?" he asked, seeing she didn't look her usual cheerful self as she let go.

"Those morons who are Bob's friends," Rose had to admit as they sat at the kitchen table. "They sent Jimmy to spy on us and my mum more or less told him where we'd be."

"What? Then we'll have to start going some place else," Alec replied, putting his notepad away he'd been jotting a few story ideas down on. "Why would they do that?"

"You want to be a detective Alec, you work it out. They seem to have this idea I should be friends with him."

"Why would you do that? Haven't they been told you have a boyfriend?"

"You're not getting it Alec, I told ya he warned me not to say I had one, remember? Geez, what's my mum and Bob trying to get me into?"

"Calm down Rose," Alec tried to tell her as she put her head in her hands and leaned on the table. "I'll go tell my dad."

"What?" Alec's dad asked when she repeated what she'd told Alec and Rose thinking the 'what' must run in the family, since that seemed to be John's favourite word as well. "They are trying to get you interested in that boy? Why?"

"I don't know Mr Hardy, they didn't say much in front of me, just the way they said it. My mum's still denying there's anything wrong though. What's going on?"

Alec's dad dreaded to think but from what Rose had told him, she was right to be worried.

Chapter Text

Rose was driving Alec crazy during the next week. They mostly went to the park or down by the river, even wearing their swimming things and going further down the river to where it was shallow and splashing each other. On the Friday though, Rose was getting nervous and Alec noticed.

"What's bothering you?" he asked her as they were in his room after they got back from the park, having banned Rose from using the new film he'd put in his camera.

"What if something goes wrong tomorrow?" Rose replied.

"You worry too much Rose, they set off before you don't they? We're not leaving until late, dad says it won't take us long to get there. Your mum will be long gone when I call round for you."

"Yeah, I hope so but their flight's at twelve or something though they have to check in before eleven, it'll be typical of Bob to leave the taxi until the last minute. I know my mum's gonna make a fuss about leaving me."

"Rose, you said it's the first time she's left you," he reminded her as she flopped onto his bed, Alec being careful to stay away from her.

Rose noticed yet again.

"Whatcha sitting on the end for?" she teased him.

"You know why Rose, every time I sit near you, you pull me down and start messing around."

"Aw, not every time," she smiled, leaning on one elbow. "Why don't ya put some records on and we can dance?"

Alec thought that was just as bad recently, since she'd started putting her arms around his neck and he thought she was going to start kissing it – or was she hinting she wanted him to lean over and kiss hers? How was he supposed to know, she was his first girlfriend and he'd no-one to ask, he couldn't just come out and ask John. He may have been better asking Peter but he was always away.

Maybe after the holidays, spending the whole week together may slow things down? His dad still wasn't sure what type of caravan they would get though he had booked one with at least one bedroom for Rose. He remembered the last time they'd been on a caravan holiday with his mum, there had been a curtain divider or was that the time before? He supposed they were all different, depending on how much you paid. Maybe by now they were all standard?

Before he knew it, Rose was off the bed and they were dancing to some songs Rose liked that had sort of grown on him and she was resting her head on his shoulder.

"Will there be some sort of entertainment on the caravan park?" Rose wondered.

"Dad didn't really say, I expect there will be something? So, how many days are we going to the holiday park? How much money have you saved up?"

"Enough to go a couple of times, if ya want? There must be something else to do as well?"

"We've not been there before, we'll have to wait and see? Maybe when we get there you'll stop driving me crazy?" he smiled as they stopped.

"Yeah, I bet I've been drivin' ya nuts all week?"

"Just a bit. It's okay, it's going to be different from just spending a few hours with each other so no kissing in front of my dad."

"Right, that would be bad? Just keep reminding me," Rose smiled, kissing his cheek.

He could tell that was the sort of person she was becoming but he didn't think his dad would appreciate him having to fend Rose off him all week. Without realizing, Rose had pulled him to sit on the bed and put her arms around him.

"We can when we're on our own though?" she asked him, fingering his cheek and feeling the dimple in it then going to kiss it again.

Alec wondered what she found so fascinating about it but he supposed it was a girl thing. He had no-one to compare her with though so he had to resign himself to getting used to it, not that at this present time he wanted to compare her to anyone else.

Rose eventually went home to pack what she needed, careful not to let her mother see even though she knew where Rose was actually going.

"You make sure you behave," Bob reminded her before she went to bed. "How did you get them to agree to let you stay?"

"It wasn't difficult, I get on well with his aunt and uncle," Rose replied, which was true, though his aunt had been a bit annoyed she'd told him she was staying there before asking.

"I hope you're not going until we leave?" her mother asked.

"No Mum, Alec's coming round to help me over there. So what time will ya be back next Saturday?" she asked, trying to make it sound innocent.

"Our flight's not until two, is it Bob?" Jackie asked him.

Rose was trying to work out how long it took to get back and the time difference. She had no idea what time she'd be back herself but it would be sooner than that, she hoped.

"Well if I'm not here, I'll probably be in town with Alec and his dad," Rose replied, getting a frown from Bob.

Rose supposed that was because of last week when she said she'd be going home with Alec instead of joining them in the pub.

"We still have to discuss that," Bob replied. "It's bad enough you were rude last week by arriving late then leaving without saying goodbye."

Rose wondered if he'd ever understand teenagers?

"Well it might be alright for the other kids but I'm not playing stupid video games, I'd rather be with Alec."

"You spend too much time with him," Bob told her.

"I expect she'll be spending all the holidays with him," her mother joined in, Rose silently thanking her for it.

"Will she now?" Bob questioned her. "What about your other friend?"

"I expect I'll meet up with her, she may have her own plans," Rose replied, not that she'd made any such arrangements with Sandra.

"Well maybe we can arrange for you to meet up with those you see on Saturday?" Bob asked her.

"What? Why do ya think I avoid them? That Jimmy's a moron to start off with and the others are scared stiff of him. You know he cheats on the video games and takes their money off them?"

"That's enough Rose," Bob warned her. "It's time you made other friends besides Alec."

"Well I don't need any more friends that are chosen for me," Rose replied defiantly.

"Be very careful Rose or you'll be coming with us on Saturday nights instead," Bob warned her.

"Bob, don't make her go, she's old enough to stay on her own," Jackie pleaded with him.

"Yeah, I am but if Alec came round or I went to his house, I wouldn't be on my own, would I?" Rose pointed out.

"I said you're spending too much time with him," Bob reminded her. "I'll think about it on the condition you show your face when everyone comes round. Then I may consider letting you go out as long as you are back when they are leaving. You had better get used to them Rose."

Rose went off to her room, Bob questioning Jackie.

"I thought we'd agreed Jackie?"

"I know Bob but she's getting older, she just doesn't like Jimmy or the others," Jackie dared reply.

"No-one's asking her to like them Jackie, she doesn't have to, to join in. You know what the others think?"

Jackie had no idea but she smiled and nodded her agreement. What had Rose said to her a while ago? Something about what was she getting her into? Bob just had different ideas, she tried to convince herself. Just because Rose grew up without her dad, she wasn't used to having one.

Rose had not given Alec a time to come round for her the next morning so she'd have to ask her mother if she could call him. She decided not to say anything to him about what Bob had just told her, well not until after the holiday and hopefully, Bob would have forgotten about it. She certainly wasn't going to attempt to make friends with any of them.

The next morning, Alec was anxiously waiting for Rose to call and his dad noticed.

"Alec, she'll call when she can," his dad smiled as Alec stared at the phone and willing it to ring. "Are you all ready to go?"

"Yes. Maybe I should just go round? Rose said she told her mother I'd be calling for her."

"Well go on then, if she calls, I'll tell her you're on your way shall I?"

"Thanks Dad, it's just making me nervous," Alec admitted.

"As if you've not been nervous since I asked Rose to go with us," his dad just laughed.

Alec felt himself go red. He supposed he had been but back then, they'd only kissed under the mistletoe and now Rose was initiating them for no reason and she was making him the same.

He set off just after ten, since his dad said they'd set off some time after twelve but as he got to the corner of the driveway, her mother and Bob were just getting into a taxi, their luggage being put in the back. Jackie saw him.

"You’re early Alec," she told him as Bob was fussing over something.

"Rose wasn't sure what time I should call for her Mrs Tyler. Enjoy your holiday and don't worry about Rose, I'll look after her," Alec promised, hoping it didn't sound wrong.

"I expect ya to," Jackie replied as Bob joined her.

"Come to collect Rose?" Bob asked him.

"Yes Sir, I was just telling Mrs Tyler I would look after Rose while you are both away."

"She should be going with us," Bob reminded him. "She's only staying for you, why aren't you going away?"

Alec wondered if the man was trying to catch him out.

"It's not been the same since my mum died, holidays remind us of her," Alec replied, which was true enough and he was sure his dad had only suggested it to get Rose away for a week.

He now intended to make her remember it. He pressed the buzzer, interrupting Rose on the phone to Alec's dad.

"He's already set off for you," Alec's dad was telling her. "He should be almost there now."

"Okay, thanks, I just heard the buzzer, it's probably him unless it's my mother reminding me yet again to switch everything off and make sure nothing will spoil in the fridge," Rose laughed.

Alec's dad knew Rose was just as nervous as Alec was but it would do them both good in a few ways. One to see how they got on being with each other all the time and two, to prove to Rose what being with a real family was like because he was certain that his ideas and this Bob's were two entirely different things.

John had called him the night before, saying he wished he was going with them but after seeing Rose and Alec at school every day, thought they needed a break from him.

"You should have said," Alec's dad had told John.

"Nah, it's fine, they see more than enough of me. Rose needs this more than Alec does, not that Alec doesn't need to get over missing his mum quite so soon but Rose does him the world of good."

"Yes, I know John and Rose does need this, a week away from what's been going on. She came out with something disturbing last week. I'll tell you when we get back."

"Then have a good time, take both their minds off everything, they help each other," John had told him.

So when the phone had rung not long after Alec had set off to get Rose, he knew it had to be her. Rose had ended the call and gone to the intercom, telling Alec to come up. She was already at the door and greeted him.

"I thought they were never gonna leave," she told him. "They'd better not miss their flight."

"Relax Rose, you may have got the times wrong, I'm sure your mother won't let them miss it," he tried to assure her.

"Well Bob probably wouldn't want to waste his money either but he was gonna waste it getting me to agree to go with them. What was he thinking?"

Alec still had the idea Bob wanted to just watch her by the pool, something he himself was looking forward to but had Rose sussed him out why he delayed getting out himself? If she had, she'd not said anything to him about it, maybe she enjoyed teasing him a little too much?

"Leave it Rose, are you ready to go? We have plenty of time, have you checked everything?"

"Did my mother tell ya to ask me that?"

"No. I saw them getting in the taxi though, she said I'd better look after you," he admitted.

"She knows ya will Alec, she was probably saying that for Bob's benefit. I'm just glad I got away with it."

Alec thought she was more than good at getting away with things but like everything else, it could all come to an end. Had Bob suspected Rose wasn't really staying at his aunt's house? When they got back to Alec's and put Rose's things in the car, they set off, Alec thinking he'd be best off sitting in the front seat and eying Rose though the mirror.

It reminded Rose of the trip on her birthday to see Alec's favourite group, which she wouldn't ever forget, he'd really managed to surprise her and so far, she'd not got him back. Maybe while they were away she would? When they arrived at the caravan park, Rose was eager to get out, making Alec smile.

"I'll go see if we can get the keys," Alec's dad told them as he found a space to park. "You both stay here for now."

Rose could see why as the office looked full.

"We could go find the beach later," Alec offered as Rose looked around.

"Are we near the sea?" Rose wondered, Alec having looked up the place on the map his dad had.

"It's not far, there may be a path to it. I think we're quite close to that holiday park though, we could maybe go tomorrow?" he suggested.

"Yeah, then maybe go back on Wednesday? We could get some leaflets and see where else there is to go," Rose replied eagerly.

Alec's dad had got the keys and a map of where they were going and they all got back into the car to find it and after a short drive he pulled into the side of theirs. Both Alec and his dad had to smile at Rose being the first out again.

"What?" Rose asked as Alec watched her looking around.

Alec shook his head as his dad opened the caravan door. They saw a kitchen area as they entered, a storage cupboard opposite the door and two doors to the left, one turning out to be the bathroom and one a small double bedroom.

They soon got organized, Rose making up her bed and letting Alec hang some of his things in the wardrobe, his dad telling her not to worry about the rest.

"Do you two want to walk back to the store?" he asked them.

When they got back and made something to eat, they all took a walk to the entertainment centre and Alec knew he was doomed if there was dancing later and she would show them up. Alec's dad had to smile when she dragged Alec up after the entertainers left the stage and put some music on. Alec was just glad the smaller children's entertainment had finished before they'd got there.

After a hot drink when they got back, Rose was about to go to her room when Alec followed her to the kitchen area while his dad was watching TV.

"You seemed to enjoy yourself earlier," he told her.

"Yeah, it reminded me of the school disco a bit. This is gonna be a great week Alec."

She kissed his cheek when they'd washed the cups, Alec hoping his dad wasn't taking any notice but thinking he'd best get used to Rose doing things like that. The next morning, Alec had to knock on her room door to get a clean t-shirt from the wardrobe.

"Come on Rose, I need to get in the wardrobe," Alec was trying to tell her as his dad was getting the breakfast things out of the cupboard.

"You should have left one out last night Alec," his dad smiled. "I thought she would have been up by now?"

"She's never late for school," Alec told him.

"Well we can make allowances for her, just keep the bathroom free for her eh?"

Rose had heard him while she was getting out of bed and wondered if he was going to be like that all week.

"I heard ya," she called as she came out to go to the bathroom, still in her pyjamas, making Alec turn away.

"I just wanted a t-shirt," he replied, gulping as he'd expected her to be dressed. "I'll remember to get what I need out tonight for tomorrow morning."

"Sorry, don't mind me," she just grinned at him. "I'm not used to anyone now, my mum gave up trying to get me out early and since I moved up here and have to go further to school, well I just thought I didn't have to get up early for a change."

"It's okay, really. I'm just used to getting up early. We could start a bit later tomorrow?"

"I don't mind, I'll get used to it. I try to avoid eating at the same time as my mum and Bob these days."

Alec could understand that, seeing she didn't like eating in the evenings with them either and more recently, Saturday lunchtimes.

When they were all ready, they set off for the holiday park and Alec's dad paid for them all when they were directed to the visitor's car park, Rose offering him the money.

"Save it Rose for when you come back, I'll drop you both off next time."

Rose thanked him and hoped he wouldn't do that all week or she'd be feeling guilty, since he wouldn't let her pay for the food or do the cooking. She thought the least she could do was keep her bedroom tidy, since she'd got used to it the last year or so and offering to go to the store with Alec and anything else she'd get away with.

They decided to go on the rides first, Alec taking a photo of Rose when she got on the carousel then climbing up behind her, Rose trying to waft him away as he gripped hold of her.

"I don't want you falling off," he laughed, putting the camera in his jacket pocket and Rose wondering what he was even doing wearing it.

So this was him getting her back for what he'd mentioned on her birthday? She thought he'd forgotten about it. He hadn't when he saw the opportunity to get her back and got behind her and made her jump.

"I'm gonna get ya back for that," Rose laughed as the ride began to move.

"You can try," Alec laughed back, his dad seeing them.

When they ran out of rides, they all went off to a fast food place to eat then Alec's dad said he would meet them after they went swimming as he thought it was too warm to go inside and sit and watch them. Rose was pleased there were a few waterslides and intended dragging Alec on a few times to get her revenge for the carousel where she thought he'd gripped her a bit tighter than he need have done but had sort of liked the feeling.

Alec didn't think it was too bad as a punishment for gripping her tightly on the back of the horse on the carousel as she made him go first down the slide and held onto his shoulders the first time then him trying to get her hands off his back the second time, making Rose laugh as they landed in the water.

"Just you wait Rose," Alec warned her as she was still laughing as they got out.

"Ha, we're even now!" she replied as she tried to get out.

"Really?" he asked, raising his eyebrows like John did, which Rose had only just noticed.

Maybe everyone was right and he was turning into his cousin? He often mentioned it to her and she had tried to tell him there was no way. She thought he looked kind of cute doing it though but she would never tell him.

Rose went to get her towel from the locker and Alec stared after her.

"Had enough already?" he asked her.

"Nope, just thought we'd have a rest before we did some actual swimming?" she grinned at him.

"Rose, there's no room to go swimming," he pointed out as there were young kids all over the place either in plastic rings or throwing beach balls to each other.

"Ah, good point then? Looks like it's the slides again," she teased him since young children weren't allowed on their own and a lifeguard was up there on duty and their parents didn't seem to be bothered.

Alec felt like saying as long as she went first this time but thought better of it. He tricked her though when they got back up by getting her in front of him.

"Your turn," he told her from behind, putting his hands on her shoulders to sit her down at the beginning of the slide.

Rose didn't think she should be enjoying it so much as he held onto her. They decided they'd had enough, which was just as well as Alec spotted what time it was and he was waiting for Rose to get out for a change. To him, the clock looked a bit blurry but he supposed it was just the water that had got in his eyes. He didn't want to say anything to Rose, just in case that was all it was.

They met up with Alec's dad, Rose teasing him the next time she was going down the slide on her own.

"You don't mean that Rose, where's the fun in that?" Alec teased her back.

"You two had fun?" they were asked as his dad joined them outside the pool.

"Yeah, come on Alec, let's go back on some of the rides?" Rose replied as his dad took their swimming bags from them and shook his head.

He knew Rose had his son wrapped around her little finger and he didn't seem to mind one bit as Alec grinned at him and let Rose drag him off. He was going to have to maybe lay down a few more rules during the rest of the school holidays. He'd seen them through the window as he'd gone to wait for them, Rose nudging Alec as they were coming out.

Rose got more revenge by insisting Alec sat on the front of the horse, putting her arms around him and trying to rest her head on his shoulder by leaning round. His dad saw them and took a photo of them, smiling to himself. Alec noticed and any doubts his dad was having that Rose couldn't forget about home for a week disappeared.

They got off the horse, Alec going first and helping her down the narrow steps that she went down sideways and Rose dragged him to what she called the parachutes because the tops of the ride were that shape and took his hands while they waited in the queue.

"Have you enjoyed yourselves?" Alec's dad asked as he stood on the other side of the barrier.

Rose nodded, putting her arm in Alec's.

"I just got a picture of you two on the horses, at this rate, I'll have taken more pictures of you both than you have Alec," his dad joked.

Rose tried not to look embarrassed, leaning her head on Alec's shoulder again as he tried to pull her forward towards the ride, his dad taking a picture as they pulled the safety bar towards them. After the ride, they went to get some cold drinks while his dad went to put their bags into the car as Rose wanted to go play crazy golf and his dad had left them mostly to themselves.

"Aw, he's been left out most of the time," Rose told Alec as his dad went off.

"He doesn't mind, I expect he's just missing my mum. She used to go on all the rides with me except the family rides. Did you see him taking that last photo?" Alec asked her.

"Yeah, I hope he doesn't show them to John," Rose laughed.

So did Alec, his cousin had already given him a warning before they'd set off. John had warned him to watch out now Rose would be away from home and she'd be herself and there would be no escape from her by her going home. Alec had just laughed and said he didn't really mind.

Even though Rose had never really played crazy golf before, she soon got the hang of it as Alec showed her how to hold the golf club properly, Rose grinning when she missed the hole going into the castle up a slope and the golf ball going down the side.

"How am I gonna get that?" she asked Alec as he was about to take his turn.

Alec just shrugged his shoulders, looking at his dad and getting his golf ball in one end and out the other.

Rose supposed she had to climb over to retrieve it, making Alec laugh and his dad smile as he completed his own shot.

"So are ya supposed to do it the first time?" Rose huffed as she saw others watching her go fish the ball out of the narrow space and Alec was grinning.

"Don't worry about it Rose," Alec's dad told her as she went to try again, swinging the golf club and the ball going all the way up the ramp and through to the other side, holding everyone up behind them.

She went to the next obstacle or whatever she thought it was called, catching up with Alec. When they had completed the course, Alec's dad counted up the scores, declaring Alec the winner with the least shots.

"Rose would have won if she'd not missed that ramp," Alec told them.

His dad knew he was just saying that as they went to hand in the equipment. They all got back into the car and were soon back at the caravan, Rose dying to be on her own with Alec to discuss their day out.

"Why don't you two go for a walk?" his dad suggested as he started to prepare their evening meal.

"We can go out afterwards," Alec suggested, glancing at Rose.

"Yeah and maybe tomorrow, we can hire some bikes and go exploring?" Rose wondered as they'd passed a shop on the way to their caravan.

"Well I was going into the town tomorrow to get some groceries," his dad told them. "Why don't you hire them for the morning and we'll go down to the beach in the afternoon?"

Rose was really hoping they could go on their own but supposed they had the rest of the week to do that, since they'd put their swimming things on the airer to dry and balanced it on the window ledge outside. After they had eaten, they had time to go walk around the camp exploring and seeing how much the bike hire for a few hours was.

"So, can ya ride a bike then?" Rose decided to tease him.

"I had one until I was nearly twelve but with mum getting ill, I never bothered asking for a bigger one. Did you have one? I mean since you lived in a flat?"

Rose wondered what he meant by that but knew he meant nothing personal.

"Yeah, I got one for Christmas when I was twelve. I always wanted one, mum kept saying no and there it was, outside the flat and she denied all knowledge about it. She said some of her friends must have got together, either that or it was left by aliens," Rose grinned.

"I bet you like to think it's the second," Alec teased her as they reached the swimming pool. "We could come here tomorrow?"

"Let's go to the beach first? This pool hasn't got any slides though."

Alec thought that would be a good thing but having Rose hold onto him had felt good. They went back to the caravan but Rose stopped near a building.

"When we go to the beach tomorrow, let's sneak off somewhere."

"What do you want to sneak off for?" Alec wondered.

Then she did that sway in front of him, the one that said she was going to get her own way.

"Do ya think I'm gonna go all week without kissing ya?" she asked him.

Alec didn't think she could but when he thought about it, neither could he. He was fairly sure there would be a lot of sneaking off during the coming week. He wasn't going to be wrong.

Chapter Text

They went off swimming the next morning when the pool opened, thankful their costumes were dry enough and actually managed to do some swimming before the younger kids came in. Alec noticed she was quite a good swimmer, since they usually just messed around and she beat him twice when she decided to have a race with him. As they were getting out, Alec holding out his hand to help her up the steps, she gave him one of her beaming smiles.

"Betcha didn't think I could swim as good as that?" she asked him.

"I was a bit surprised," he had to admit to her.

"We used to go every Tuesday morning in junior school. We'd get a bus to a nearby high school and use their pool. Others wanted to mess around but I wanted to learn."

Alec had thought she would have been the one to mess around, considering what she'd admitted about missing lessons and getting into trouble.

"Well I already know you are good at gymnastics, I hear the other girls complain," Alec smiled as they got to the locker area. "Want to go get a hot drink? My dad gave me some extra money."

Rose nudged him.

"Yeah, okay then? I wish I'd brought another swimming costume, we could have gone in the sea later."

"Never mind, you can borrow a towel and just wade into the water," Alec suggested, trying to dry his hair as he pulled the towel out of his locker.

Rose smiled at his more messed up than normal hair.

"What?" he asked innocently, being aware anyone could come into the same area.

Why was she looking at him like that these days?

"Don't ever get your hair styled differently."

"I will try not to but it won't stay like this forever Rose," he replied as she went to ruffle it while trying to dry her own, which he noticed was swept back.

They heard noises as someone was getting nearer and snapped out of staring at each other, Alec wondering exactly what had happened. They seemed to be doing that more and more lately, was it part of growing up, he wondered. If it was, it was all happening fast.

Alec's dad went looking for them when he'd got back from the supermarket in the nearby town and found them sitting in an outdoor area with paper cups on the table. He felt like leaving them there but knew they'd be getting hungry after their swim.

After a snack, they found the way onto the beach and Rose decided to tease Alec, making him chase her up the beach, leaving his dad shaking his head at them as he heard Rose laughing. He knew Alec hadn't known what had hit him when he'd admitted to John he and Rose had kissed under the mistletoe last Christmas, or had it happened long before that?

Alec had led her to a gap in the cliff a bit further up and stopped to grab hold of her, since somehow he was now chasing after her when she'd suddenly stopped and run around him, Alec trying to grab hold of her.

"Can't you stay still?" Alec asked, trying to get his breath back.

"Nah, you know me," Rose laughed as they sat in the shade. "There's no-one around Alec."

"Yes, I noticed Rose," he smiled as she leaned over, making her jump by pushing her back.

Rose began giggling when he started to tease her by making her reach up to kiss him, Rose putting her hands on his shoulders and him moving his head.

"Stop it Alec," she told him as he pretended to go for her neck.

"You have been teasing me the last few weeks," he reminded her.

"Have I?" she replied, trying to sound innocent and trying to go for his hair.

"You know you've been teasing me for the last year. You started in the library."

Rose wondered why he'd done nothing about it at the time.

"Jamie was holding ya back, wasn't he?" she asked him when he'd kissed her lightly on the lips.

"I didn't know what I felt Rose. I wanted to go talk to you but I thought Jamie liked you and if I did go over, you'd tell me to go away."

"You're a plum Alec, I wanted you to come and talk to me. Short of getting up and telling ya, I didn't know what else I could do."

"I thought I wasn't interested in girls but I was following Jamie. Now he's the one who doesn't like girls and maybe never will," Alec replied, Rose trying to reach his lips but put her little finger on them instead.

"Well ya found out and I'm sorry I had to be the one who made ya. You'd have figured it out on your own Alec, you want to be a detective."

"I've wanted to be one for a while Rose, before I admitted it. A few years back, dad took us up to Loch Ness and I wanted to be the one who actually saw the monster. I never even told them about it, or John."

"Wow, I'm honoured then? Mmm, what can I tell ya that no-one knows about me?" she teased him. "Remember we talked about that bike I had before I moved here?" Alec nodded, teasing her by kissing her finger that had remained where it was. "Well I didn't think it was really aliens that had left it but I didn't want to upset my mum by saying I think somehow, my dad left it for me."

"That's sweet Rose, he must have been watching over you? Maybe I should write you a story where you go back and see him?" He saw she suddenly went serious. "Rose, I never meant to upset you," he added.

"No, it's okay Alec, it's just, well it's nice of you to offer. Yeah, I'd like that, thanks. No-one ever said anything like that to me before."

"I told you I would do anything for you Rose," he reminded her, wondering if she'd really slap him if he went to kiss her neck. "You know I care about you, a lot?"

"I care a lot about you as well Alec. Let's enjoy the rest of our holiday down here, away from everyone?" she asked him, knowing what he wanted to do.

She put her hand back on his shoulder and tried to indicate she wouldn't slap him into next week for trying to kiss her neck.

"I spent the last holiday we had hiding under some golden cliffs because my mum kept having a go at my dad because she was getting ill and he didn't know. I wish I could remember the name of the place. We were in a caravan on top of a cliff, there was a steep path down to the beach and there was a line of boats all chained up. Dad wouldn't drive the car up and down the lane at night, it was really narrow and my mum kept going on at him to be careful."

"Alec, I'm sorry ya didn't know your mum was getting ill, until it was nearly too late," Rose told him, running her fingers through his hair instead of ruffling it.

"Thanks Rose, no-one really understood why she changed, not even my aunt. Why didn't she tell us Rose?" he asked, Rose seeing the look on his face.

"I'm so sorry ya miss her so much Alec. Come here," she replied, trying to pull him close and putting her arms around his neck. "Don't hold it back Alec, if it upsets ya, we'll talk about something else, yeah?" she offered.

"It's okay Rose, thanks. John keeps telling me it will take a while," he replied, enjoying the hug and resting his head on her shoulder as she did the same.

Rose tried to look at him.

"We should do this more often," she smiled.

"Things don't seem as bad as they were, since I met you. You think your dad left you that bike?" Rose nodded, putting her head back on his shoulder and wishing he wasn't wearing his blue t-shirt, that he'd got out the night before. "Well I think my mum sent you, so I wouldn't be on my own."

Now Rose wanted to join him in feeling sad.

"Aw, yeah, that's a nice thought Alec, though if mum hadn't met Bob, I wouldn't be here but it's funny, he could have chosen any of the women on the estate and he chose my mum."

Alec thought she would have to mention that, when he was trying not to get upset over his mother. Of course Bob had chosen her mother, she'd had a thirteen year old daughter with blonde hair, gorgeous hazel eyes and a smile that would melt a block of ice. Was that why he'd noticed her, well apart from not being able to tell what colour her eyes were from across the other side of the library.

He had promised his dad he wouldn't mention Bob or what they suspected about him while they were on holiday.

"Well you're here now and you thought you would never settle," he reminded her. "Just like I thought I would never begin to get over losing my mum."

"Yeah. Hey, stop getting all soppy on me," she tried to cheer him up. "We should have brought a towel but maybe we can walk back in the water?"

Alec looked up, Rose watching him.

"Maybe after we do some more kissing?" she teased him.

"What are you teasing me for?" he asked.

"I'm not teasing ya Alec, there's no-one around, I already told ya that. We should definitely do more hugging."

Alec couldn't have agreed more but kissing was better, the way her lips would tingle when they first met his own and not wanting to be the first to break it. Both were now kneeling on the sand supporting each other, Rose had to be the one to break, a smile on her face and giving him that look of hers.

"We'd better get back before the tide comes in," she told him as she was now facing the sea and it had got closer than when they'd arrived.

"We can both swim Rose," he reminded her, letting her lean on his shoulders to get up, then Rose reached her hands to help him.

"Not in our shorts and t-shirts," she laughed, now leaning on him to take her sandals off, Alec having carried his trainers earlier.

He thought maybe she had a point. Alec's dad spotted them walking back in the water, Alec also carrying Rose's sandals and holding hands. Rose had seemed happy the last couple of days and he didn't want to spoil things such as reminding her in less than a week, she had to go back and face reality. He needed to talk to John, Rose may take more notice of him, being closer to her age than himself.

The following day, Alec's dad drove them to a nearby attraction which Rose seemed to enjoy and then Wednesday morning just after ten, he dropped them outside the holiday park they'd been to before.

"I'll meet you two out here at five," Alec's dad told them, making sure they had money for drinks and lunch.

"What are you going to do dad?" Alec wondered as Rose held his arm.

"I saw some fishing trips going down the coast, I will go see if I can get on one. You two enjoy yourselves," his dad replied, noticing they only had one rucksack between them and Alec was holding it.

He knew Alec was getting very protective of Rose lately, doing things for her without her asking him to and Rose didn't seem to be taking advantage of it, thankfully. He didn't think she would really, she was always willing to help even though he insisted she did enough at home.

This Bob she and her mother lived with was taking advantage and her mother couldn't see it, just like she couldn't see where things were heading and there was nothing either he or John could do about it. He didn't want to drag is brother-in-law into the middle of it though John may have mentioned something to him and John's mother knew Rose was unhappy at home and despite being a little put out, had agreed to cover for Rose while she was away.

Rose wanted to drag Alec on the carousel again when they'd paid to get in, just getting away with not being accompanied by an adult. Alec had put the nylon rucksack on his back and let Rose drag him up the few steps of the carousel, stopping to take a photo of her as she climbed on the back of one of the horses.

"Next time we come on, we should find a coach to sit in," Alec suggested, nodding to where some smaller children were scrambling for seats.

"Well I'm not sharing with them," Rose laughed as Alec grabbed hold of her.

"I hope not," Alec whispered in her ear, making Rose tingle a little as his lips touched her ear, or was it her hair that was making it tingle?

They went round the various rides until it was lunchtime, going to the fast food outlet again then went to the swimming pool. Rose wasn't that bothered about actually swimming since the pool was full again and soon had Alec going down the slides, taking it in turns to sit in front and the lifeguard not even bothering when they were fooling around at first.

"Let's take it in turns Rose," Alec suggested the second time after she'd made him go first.

Rose pretended to consider it while waiting their turn, seeing his face and nudging him. He knew she liked to tease him but he could only take so much before getting her back. He did as Rose was climbing behind him by going without her and waiting at the bottom, catching her as he came from under the water, making her shriek, not that all the other kids weren't screeching or shouting so she couldn't be heard above them.

"You!" she laughed as he spun her around.

"I wonder if they will turn the wave machine on today?" he asked her as he pulled his goggles up, thinking at least he now had an excuse if he saw everything was blurred.

"Yeah, maybe the kids are too young though?" Rose wondered as they made their way out of the pool and up the few steps. "Go ask that guard over there," she pointed to a lifeguard with a whistle around his neck.

Alec went over to ask if it would be turned on.

"We only turn it on when someone asks, we then have to clear the area of those who can't swim," the lifeguard told him. "I'll see if I can get it switched on for you."

"See," Rose grinned at him. "Are we waiting or risking going back on the slide?"

"Let's just wait?" Alec suggested, thinking they should have a rest and going over to where there were some plants on an island.

Rose went to stand beside him, hoping they wouldn't get told off for holding hands as they leaned back. After twenty minutes of messing around in the waves, Alec was dragged for a last few goes on the slides then Rose wanted to go back on some of the rides. Alec knew now he had suggested getting in one of the carriages on the carousel, Rose would follow it around when it was about to stop to make sure they got one.

Sure enough, Rose was keeping her eye on one of the smaller carriages that wouldn't tempt a few parents with smaller children to try to join them and dragged Alec behind her trying to keep up as the ride came to a stop, Alec pulling her back to let people off. He couldn't really blame her for being keen and wished he'd suggested it before as Rose had the advantage of beating a woman and her two kids and climbed in, Alec trying to hold onto her.

"You're big enough to go on the horses," the woman with a broad Scottish accent huffed.

"Sorry, we were here first," Rose declared, trying to sound southern. "Maybe if ya hurry instead of arguing ya might get another one?" she suggested, Alec trying not to laugh.

Rose did start laughing as the two younger children were climbing on the back of a horse while their mother was arguing with her.

"Don't get us thrown off the ride," Alec tried to sound serious.

"Maybe she doesn't want to admit she doesn't like actually sitting on the horse and blames it on the kids," Rose replied as the woman was still fussing.

"You are wicked Rose, do you know that?" Alec smiled as the ride started and the woman tried to climb on a horse next to her two kids.

"I'll take that as a compliment?" Rose laughed into his arm, getting a sideways scowl from the woman, who Rose thought should be watching her kids didn't fall off instead of watching herself and Alec.

Rose realized what time it was and said they should head to the entrance to meet Alec's dad.

"I had a great time today," Rose told him as they waited near the guest car park.

"Yeah, so did I Rose, this week is going so fast. Can I tell you something?" Rose nodded. "Despite my mum not being here, I think this is the best holiday I've ever had."

"Really, why's that?" Rose asked innocently.

"Maybe because I'm spending it with you?" he replied as he saw his dad's car coming towards them, that he could see without it being blurred.

He knew he had to tell his dad, he'd thought it was just the other day coming out of the pool but it was more than that. As the car pulled up, Rose dragged Alec into the back, making his dad smile.

"Had a good day?" he asked them.

"Yeah, great and I managed not to drown us on the slides," Rose laughed.

"Dad, I need to talk to you when we get back," Alec told him, not thinking it was a good idea to admit his sight problem in front of Rose.

Rose questioned him.

"Nothing serious?" she asked him.

"No Rose, I just need to ask him something," Alec replied, seeing his dad eying him through the mirror though if he could see that, he may not be that bad.

After going out later, Alec decided to wait until Rose was going to bed, Alec delaying leaving the kitchen area as Rose was taking her time.

"Night then," she smiled at him and kissed his cheek. "I really did have the best day ever."

"So did I. About what I wanted to talk to dad about, it's not concerning you."

"I never said anything Alec," Rose replied. "You have family things to talk about, I get that. You're lucky you have a dad to talk to, I can't talk to Bob."

"I know that Rose, sorry. Maybe I should start that story when we get back?"

"Yeah, I look forward to it. You go talk to your dad then. I get you can't talk to me about everything."

"If dad thinks you should know, I'll tell you but you may find out anyway. It's just this time, I'd rather talk to him first. Goodnight Rose."

Rose glanced over to where his dad was watching TV and pulled Alec towards the doorway. She reached over and surprised him by giving him a kiss. He figured she deserved it, she had behaved in front of his dad the last few days.

"Alec," his dad called, realizing they were both taking their time.

Rose kissed Alec's cheek again and disappeared into the bathroom.

"What did you want to talk about? Is Rose being too forward when you are both out?"

Alec thought his dad had just seen them.

"She got in one of those carriages on the carousel so we could sit together," he admitted, not wanting to say she'd argued over it. "Then she was messing about on the waterslides but no, it doesn't bother me dad."

"Then what is bothering you?"

"When I came out of the water today and the other day, well I'd had my goggles on but things were a bit blurry. I didn't want to worry Rose about it."

"What things were a bit blurry?" he was asked.

"The clock and the last few days when I've been trying to read something."

"Well, we'd best make you an appointment for your eyes testing then when we get back. I'll try to get you one late on, you can meet me in town when I get out of work. Are you going to tell Rose?" Alec shrugged his shoulders. "Alec, she'll find out Son, best tell her now. Why don't you want to tell her?"

"I don't know Dad but maybe I'll only need something for reading?"

"Let's just wait and see eh? Tell her Alec, she won't run away."

"Well maybe not until we get home," Alec tried to joke.

That was half his problem. The other half was having to wear them in class but several others did in the classroom though they made sure they removed them in the playground. Maybe he'd get away with it but if Rose was on his side, she'd kick anyone's ass who went for him over it. Why was he so worried what she'd say?

After being on their own for the day, they went off into the town with Alec's dad and looked around the various shops, Rose getting some heather perfume for her mother and a floral drawer line for Alec's aunt to say thanks for covering for her.

"She doesn't expect you to buy her anything," Alec had to smile as she went to pay for them.

"She's been really good to me," Rose reminded him. "Hey, we should each get one of those t-shirts," she pointed to a rack in the corner with 'I love Scotland' on them.

Alec raised his eyebrows, doubting her choice.

"You did not want to come here," he reminded her in a quiet voice so as not to offend anyone.

"Aw, it's not so bad when you're here," she just smiled back, going to see what sizes they were, since she thought Alec needed a size skinny one.

"Really?" he asked, going to join her and thinking a black one wouldn't be too bad.

"No, you 'nana. You said I made losing your mum bearable, you make being here bearable Alec."

He picked two up in size small, Rose indicating she wanted a medium one as she liked them to be baggy. He decided to treat her to one, despite it being her idea. His dad had to smile as he saw them from the opposite corner of the store.

He still couldn't believe how Alec had changed in a year, well not even a year since he'd first brought Rose home with him that afternoon and she'd become part of the family. He'd been worried Alec spent all his time with Jamie and now he spent it all with Rose, a sign that he didn't have to be worried who Alec made friends with.

Now, there was only one more day to go as they got up the next morning, Rose and Alec finally hiring bikes while his dad tidied the caravan and put things in the car they wouldn't need, not daring to go into Rose's bedroom though. All too soon they were having their last swim in the pool and the last night dancing after the evening's entertainment.

"Alec, I won't ever forget this week," Rose told him as a slow tune came on.

"Neither will I Rose, it's been great. Maybe dad will bring us back next year?"

"Alec, I don't even know if I'll be here next year."

"Why do you think that?" he asked, stopping suddenly. "Your mum keeps telling you that you're here to stay. You said I made it bearable."

"You do Alec," she replied, getting him to move again. "What if Bob takes a job somewhere else?"

"Rose, I can't see that, can you? I know he took that job on your estate but he came back. He might go away for a few weeks but he'll be back."

"How can you be so sure?" she asked him.

Alec knew she wouldn't like the answer.

"Because now, he has someone to go back to," was all he could think of without saying her in particular.

"Yeah, I suppose so then? Sorry, I'm spoiling things."

"No Rose, you could never spoil things. Want to go sit outside by the pool for a while?"

They went back to tell his dad.

"Be back before it gets dark and no being late up in the morning eh Rose? We have to hand the key in before ten."

Rose wondered what he was insinuating. They walked the short distance to the pool, some tables and benches outside and went to the furthest one. They sat opposite each other, Alec reaching for her hands around the table.

"Rose, I wasn't trying to hide anything from you when I wanted to talk to my dad."

"Yeah, I know ya wouldn't do that Alec."

"Well I just wanted to tell him first that I may need to go get my eyes tested, things are getting a little blurry sometimes."

There, he had told her.

"Is that it? You are a plum sometimes Alec Hardy. Did ya think I would say something?"

"I didn't know what you would think Rose. Dad's going to make me an appointment next week, after he gets out of work."

"Want me to go with ya?" she asked, hoping he'd say yes or she'd be on her own.

"I'd like that Rose. You don't like the thought of being on your own?" he managed to joke.

"Alec, that's not funny. I hate being on my own, I'm on my own even when my mum and Bob are in, well it feels like it and I don't know how but Bob's trying to get me involved in something by telling me to make friends with the kids of his mates. What the hell are they into Alec?"

"Rose, we promised no talking about them, remember? Leave it for now, we can deal with that when we get home. Rose, let my dad and John try to do something, please?"

"They can't help Alec, Bob would never listen to them and if he did, he could throw us out, then what?"

"Rose, something has to be done, I hate to think what's going on. I had something else I wanted to say. You know I care about you and I would do anything for you?"

"Yeah, I care for you too Alec. I've never had a friend like you before."

"You mean Scottish?" Alec smiled, since they were both wearing their new t-shirts.

Rose nudged his knees with her own then he edged nearer.

"Rose, promise not to hit me?"

"What?" she asked, wondering what he was up to.

"I talked to John before we left, I told him something."

"Well? What did ya tell him?" she wanted to know.

As they'd been leaving his aunt's the Sunday before, John had stopped him and asked him how he felt about Rose, being with her all the time for a full week.

"Rose, he asked me if I loved you."

Rose let go of his hands, Alec trying to stop her tipping her chair over and trying to judge her reaction. Surely she'd known this was coming over the last few months?

Chapter Text

"Say something Rose," Alec was asking her as she flopped her head onto the table, something she seemed to do a lot of. "Have I upset you?"

Rose raised her head slightly.

"No. Why didn't ya say anything Alec?"

"He just came out and asked me Rose, then we were getting ready to go away and I didn't want you to miss out on the holiday because I came out and told you. Would it have spoiled things?"

"Well, what did ya tell him then?" she asked, seeing it was getting a bit darker.

"I said I think I do, well, I'm pretty sure I do, if wanting to be with you all the time and hating when you go home counts? This last week though, you thinking we would never survive being together all the time? We have survived it, my dad asked me about going away next year and I said maybe you wouldn't be talking to me when we get home."

"Alec, I said I may not even be here then," she reminded him. "Yeah, we have survived and do ya know what?"

Alec shook his head, hoping she wasn't really mad at him and he'd blown any chance things would change when they got home.

Rose continued. "I'm still here Alec, not just because I can't get home on my own," she tried to smile. "If like ya say, wanting to be with each other all the time? Then yeah, I do want to be with ya all the time, I hate going home."

"I know you do Rose. What you said though, about what Bob is trying to get you into, please be careful."

"I will, don't worry. Well the most he can do is kick me and my mum out I suppose? I don't think he'd do that though but I wish she could see what was happening."

Alec got up and moved his chair nearer.

"So do I Rose, maybe she will?"

"You have no idea Alec. She saw a chance at a better life and took it, nothing will get her to change her mind without any actual proof."

"Maybe she will if he makes a mistake though?" Alec wondered.

"Well he's not making it with me, is he? He's just gonna have to find out how awkward teenagers can be, isn't he?"

He held his hand out to help her up and they walked back to the caravan.

"Best go get packed Rose," Alec's dad suggested.

"Yeah, I wish we could stay a bit longer."

"I know you do. You have the rest of the summer though so make the most of it eh? One thing though, both of you. You've had this week where neither of you have had any time to yourselves so when we get back, there are going to be a few new rules, understand?"

Alec looked at Rose, then his dad.

"We only go to my room for an hour in the afternoons, when we get back from my aunt's or the park or somewhere," Alec insisted.

"I never said anything Alec. You are both getting older now and you have a few more weeks with no school, this time last year you had not met properly so you are going to be with each other a lot more than the normal one or two weeks. Just be aware that spending a lot more time together, well there could be times when it gets too much and one of you may want to back off a little."

"Well that won't be me," Rose insisted, doing that thing Alec had noticed lately where she inspected her fingernails and pretended she wasn't interested.

"I am not saying it will Rose. I don't want either of you to feel that it's too much and not give each other some space. As long as you both promise me you will not spend all your time in your room, Alec, then just be downstairs when I get home or just coming back from somewhere and we'll see how things go."

Alec wondered what his dad was getting at but he knew he'd find out sooner or later if Rose had anything to do with it. All too soon, Rose was being reminded to get a move on and Alec's dad used things up for breakfast while Alec put things they didn't need into the car, still waiting for Rose's things.

"Alec, call Rose again eh? She knows we have to get going."

"She'll just get mad with me Dad," he insisted. "She's already been out to the bathroom."

He went to knock gently on the bedroom door and asked if he could enter. Rose was sitting on the bed, the duvet and covers at the bottom.

"Come and get breakfast Rose, please?"

"Yeah, I was just taking the bedding off. I don't want to go back Alec."

"I know you don't Rose but you won't be on your own all the time, I promise," he replied, trying to get her to stand up. "Come and eat while I put your things in the car."

Rose went to put her arms around his neck, resting her head on his shoulder.

"I don't wanna go straight home Alec."

"I know, just drop your things off and I'll wait for you, then come into town with us. Won't your mother need groceries though?"

"She mentioned they'd be going out anyway when they got back, she never left me any extra money to get them. Come on then, back to the real world?" she smiled.

As they handed the caravan key in and prepared to go home, Jackie and Bob were sitting by the hotel swimming pool waiting for the coach to take them to the airport, Bob drinking from a pint glass even though it was only just after eleven in the morning.

"That was a great week Bob," Jackie turned to him.

"I suppose it was. It would have been better had Rose come along. We should have been more insistent with her Jackie."

"Well if she sees any sense, she'll come with us next time," Jackie replied, sipping her large fruit cocktail.

"Well there won't be a next time Jackie if she doesn't want to come," Bob told her.

"Can't we just have a week away without worrying about her?" Jackie wanted to know. "She's old enough to stay with Alec's aunt."

She wondered what his problem had been all week with just enjoying the sunshine, the drinks and the nights out, Rose wouldn't have been able to go in the resort club and bar with them.

"We need to go shopping when we get back you know?" she reminded him as he caught the attention of a passing waiter.

"You should have got Rose to do it Jackie, we'll be late enough in the pub anyway."

"Are we still going?" Jackie wondered.

"For one at least, then leave the unpacking, we are still going out tonight, we missed last week."

Jackie wondered what was so bad about that? She herself could take or leave going to visit their friends and could only be herself when they were being the hosts. The rest of the time she had to worry about getting Bob home without waking Rose for some assistance.

Once on the plane then getting a taxi home, Jackie questioned Bob driving into town when there was barely enough time to get groceries, let alone get yet another drink but he'd sobered up a bit on the plane, sleeping off what he'd had earlier.

When Rose had got back after spending the afternoon with Alec when they'd had a short visit into town, her mother and Bob were getting ready to go out.

"Coming with us?" Bob asked her.

Rose thought after a week away from him, he had to be joking.

"No, Alec will be calling for me later," she replied.

If he thought she'd change her mind, he had another thing coming.

The next day after getting to Alec's aunt's, his dad took John to one side while Alec went to meet Rose.

"So how did they get on Uncle?" John grinned.

"Fine, have you tried keeping them apart?"

"I gave up," John admitted. "You wanted to talk about what Rose said?"

"Yes, she said some very disturbing things and Alec admitted what she'd said to him. She asked him what this Bob was getting her into. I wonder that myself John."

"So do I. We can't do much if she won't let us," John replied.

"All we can do is be there for her and be on her side."

"Well she's no need to worry on that score, especially with Alec," John grinned.

"Well she knows she's not alone at least. Let's hope that's enough."

Just one week before they were going back to school, Rose was dreading her mother would get a letter to say she had to find another school but got away with it. So one afternoon down by the river, the two of them getting bolder with each other and Rose needing no excuses to start the kissing, they were laid by some trees on the riverbank, Rose in her shorts and a sleeveless top.

"Are ya looking forward to going back to school?" she teased him by ruffling his newly cut hair, thankful it was still spiky.

"Last year, well I wasn't so keen to go back, except to see if that was where you were going. When I first saw you in the library, I had no idea where you'd go."

"Yeah? I thought somehow you'd go to the grammar school. I didn't know if ya'd talk to me though? I saw what Jamie was trying to do, get you to go over to me but now, I know why he was doing it. He was seeing if ya'd choose between him or a girl."

"I know that now Rose. All that time he was pretending though, what was he expecting? Did he think I was the same way as him?"

"It doesn't matter Alec, ya made the choice, it just took him a while to let on. We could still be wrong?"

Alec didn't think they were and time would tell. The day before they went back to school, they had been out again then back to Alec's aunts and Alec had something to ask his dad after they had talked.

"I'm going to ask my dad if we can have a bit longer in my room, if you want?" Alec had asked her.

"Do ya think he'll agree? Ya mean when it starts getting cold again and we can't go out after tea?"

Alec wondered what else she thought.

"Yes Rose, maybe an hour or so before you go home? I could write some more stories, put some records on? What do you think?"

They had reached his aunt's house.

"Yeah, that would be great Alec. I'm glad ya got sorted with your reading glasses, they make ya look cute," Rose smiled, kissing his cheek as they reached the kitchen door.

Alec had been relieved that after his visit to the optician's he'd only needed then for reading and Rose had made a fuss of him but when they got back to school, he was going to follow the example of the others who had to wear them for class work.

Much to their relief, Alec's dad had said they could have a trial of going to Alec's room once it wasn't practical for them to go out on the condition he heard them moving around but Alec had not yet answered John's question and he knew Rose was being patient with him over it.

As they walked back to where Rose lived, she decided now was the time to bring up the subject of what John had asked Alec.

"We've not talked about it much," she reminded him.

"Well a few weeks ago, I thought that was what I was feeling, what about you?"

"Yeah, I think so too Alec, so what happens now?"

"Well, I guess we maybe tell each other?" he suggested as they stood at the end of the short driveway.

"Maybe we should have done that while we were out?" Rose smiled.

"Does it really matter? Rose, I think I love you."

He leaned forward and kissed her very lightly, taking her by surprise.

"Yeah, I think I love you too Alec, actually, I'm pretty sure I do."

"Then so am I, I guess this is how it happens?"

"I guess so. Maybe we need a bit of advice?"

"I can't keep relying on John to tell me I suppose? He's been really good though. We have to find our own way Rose, what do you say?"

"That we stop messing around when we get home from school by pretending we're thinking about it?" she offered with a grin.

Alec couldn't have agreed more. After school, they would do their homework instead of leaving it until later, Rose had taken a few things to Alec's house and would get changed in the bathroom but she still insisted he didn't do the same, which amused him she was still shy.

Since Rose no longer went to the pub with her mother and Bob, Alec thought she seemed a lot happier, now they spent most of the weekend together and both Alec's dad and John hoped it wouldn't all come crashing down on them by them spending too much time together. She had even gradually got out of being around when their 'friends' arrived, seeing the boy she hated had got even more obnoxious as she was going out.

He had however stopped her one night.

"Why don't you stay any more?" he more or less growled at her.

"Because I don't like you, you moron, now get lost, my boyfriend will be calling for me soon."

"I think you should stay," he tried to suggest, grabbing her arm.

Rose was having none of it as she twisted out of it and pulled his arm up behind him, making him yelp.

"Get it in that thick head of yours, I don't have to do anything you say, got it?"

He managed a squeal of agreement as she let go.

"What's going on out here?" Bob asked as he left the living room, Rose thought probably because she and this big lump were both missing. "Getting to know each other?" he asked, seeing the boy rubbing his arm.

"No way, he's a moron," Rose replied. "I'm off now, Alec will probably use the intercom, just leave it."

"Hold on the missy," Bob told her as Jimmy started to say something.

"I was asking her to stay and she went Bruce Lee on me," he complained.

"I've a good mind to make ya stay," Bob warned Rose.

"No way, he's gross and Alec will wonder where I am," Rose replied, wishing Alec would call on the intercom. "Why would I want to stay, looked in the mirror lately?" she asked Jimmy.

Alec was constantly telling her how pretty she was, especially when she let her hair out of the band she tied it up with for school and one side covered her eye most of the time, which kept prompting him to push it back and use it as an excuse to kiss her.

"Leave it Rose," Bob told her. "I want you back before everyone goes home."

"What? Why do I have to do that?" Rose wanted to know, since she'd not been getting back until around ten as Alec's dad had agreed to walk back with them now it was dark early.

It was coming up to bonfire night and they had all agreed to go to one being held in the park, John saying he would join them there and Rose wondering why there hadn't been one last year. Now Alec's family were getting closer than her own, as she didn't consider Bob to be family.

"Because everyone has been asking why you've not been here," Bob replied.

"Well let them miss me then, it's not like I know any of them," Rose told him, wishing she could escape and glaring at the boy who had prevented her from doing so earlier.

Now Alec would wonder why she wasn't downstairs waiting just inside the doorway for him.

"Well you would get to know them if you got back earlier."

"Why would I want to do that?" Rose replied as her mother came out.

"Do what?" her mother asked.

"Nothing Jackie, go back inside," Bob told her. "I was saying Rose should be back before our friends leave."

"Yeah, ya should Rose," her mother agreed. "Ya missing out on everything."

Rose didn't want to know what she was missing out on.

"What do ya mean by everything?" Rose asked worriedly, since Jimmy was watching her, more so than he'd done before. "Forget it, I don't want to know so I'm off."

Bob tried to grab her arm but she shrugged him off.

"You're still in my place Rose, I expect you to respect that," he reminded her.

"Well that shouldn't include making me stay when all your friends are here. Why do ya want me to stay?" she asked, hoping to get an answer so she could tell Alec's dad or John.

She knew they were up to something and desperate for her to join in but what the hell was it? She somehow doubted they were playing 'Trivial Pursuits' or 'Monopoly' junior editions.

"I'm not discussing this with you Rose," he replied as Jackie tried to get Jimmy away.

"I don't want to know anyway, I don't care what ya get up to in there but don't ask me to be a part of it," Rose replied defiantly.

"You just watch yourself Rose," Bob warned her. "You may be getting older but you are not going to spoil mine and your mother's evenings with our friends, understand?"

Rose wondered why the hell her mother was going along with this? What influence did Bob have other her mother and was trying to get her involved in as well? She heard the buzzer on the intercom as she had a staring contest with Bob.

"If that's your boyfriend, I've a good mind to tell him you're not allowed out tonight so watch yourself next time or I will. Be back before ten."

Rose felt he meant it and hurried before Alec buzzed again and ruined the fact she'd given him the code to get in as she didn't want Bob to know he could come in when he wanted to. Alec only did so during the holidays anyway as sometimes, he'd stayed and helped Rose tidy up for her mother. Rose had felt guilty leaving her mother to do the cooking but Jackie had got away with it so far.

"Rose, I was just going to buzz again," Alec answered worriedly when Rose said hi to him.

"Sorry, I'll be right down, I got held up," Rose replied as Bob glared at her as he went back into the living room.

As she heard laughing coming from the living room, her mother's being amongst it, she let herself out and thanked her lucky stars she had escaped. What the hell was going on now?

"What happened Rose?" Alec wanted to know as they greeted each other outside, since the landlord had installed security cameras in the entrance and Rose only risked waiting a few minutes for Alec usually.

"Nothing much, just that moron trying to get me to stay," she told him.

"Which moron would that be, Bob or that boy?" Alec tried to joke.

"It's not funny Alec, they're all up to something and I dread to think what it is. What the hell are they doing?"

"Calm down Rose," he tried to tell her, putting his hands on her shoulders and trying to ignore it was cold. "Tell my dad what went on."

"Alec, I don't know what's going on. It was something Bob just came out with and that moron Jimmy tried to stop me from leaving."

"He did what? You're right Rose, what is going on? How does your mother not know?"

"You tell me. Let's go, it's freezing out here."

"Yes, we should go. Whatever it is Rose, just tell my dad, he'll figure it out," Alec tried to assure her, taking her cold hand as she'd forgotten her gloves while trying to escape.

"Why do I need gloves when my hand fits in yours?" Rose smiled as they walked along.

"I think you forget them on purpose Rose. Don't worry too much, my dad will figure it out but what then?"

"Yeah, I know. Maybe it's just the way they are? I just don't like being there, they all give me the creeps. You wanna be a detective Alec, I know why now."

"You do? I want to help people Rose. People who have lost someone like I lost my mum and I didn't know why and now, to help someone like you who doesn't know what's going on with their family."

"Bob is not my family Alec, he never will be and if my mum marries him, there's no way I'm letting him adopt me. If she waits until I'm sixteen, he can't unless I agree."

"You had better hope so," Alec agreed as they reached his house. "Maybe we can start going places on Saturday night? We could get the bus into town and go bowling or something?"

"Yeah, we should. Thanks for tryin' to cheer me up," Rose replied, kissing his cheek as he was opening the door.

"You know I would do anything for you Rose, I love you."

"I know ya would and I love you too Alec. We don't have to tell your dad, about what just happened."

"Yes, we do. The more he knows, the more he can do something about it. Don't keep anything back Rose, please. We all worry about you."

"Yeah, I know ya do. You're all more like my family. Hey, I thought you were tryin' to cheer me up?"

After telling Alec's dad what Bob and Jimmy had been doing, he was thinking carefully as to what to try to do about it.

"Rose, you're old enough to understand where myself and John think this is going. I'm sorry Rose, you are doing the right thing keeping away from them but we have no actual proof it's what we think it is. I'm not even going to ask you to try to find out."

"I don't want to find out Mr Hardy, trust me," Rose replied as she sat on the sofa next to Alec, wishing they could hold hands but had decided a while back not to risk doing so.

"No Rose, you don't want to," Alec agreed.

"I wish I could do more, really I do. All we can do is be there for you Rose, we all are and you must tell me everything that goes on. If I tell John as well, that's two of us who believe you if we have to take it further at some point. You have over a year before you can legally tell Bob you don't have to do as he says."

"I know, I wish it wasn't that long," Rose told him, leaning back. "At least he's said nothing about adopting me and marrying my mother. I hope she has the sense to keep putting him off but he could ask her out of the blue and knowing her she'll say yes. They're still debating going away again next year but I'll be fifteen then, maybe I should just admit I'm going with you?"

"It may be best you do Rose, that will prove you can make your own mind up. What I don't get is though, they know about Alec so why are they making you stay in when their friends come round?"

"I wish I knew Mr Hardy but there's no way they're getting me involved in whatever it is."

After Rose had left, Bob got Jackie into the kitchen.

"Rose had a go at Jimmy," Bob told her. "He was rubbing his arm when I saw them."

"Bob, she'll have only been defending herself. Maybe Jimmy was trying something?"

"Maybe he was only trying to get her to stay?" Bob wondered. "Still, he shouldn't have done it out in the hallway, he knows better than that. I warned Rose she'd better be careful or she'll stay next time, whether she likes it or not. It's time you talked to her again Jackie. She'll be fifteen next year and you keep putting it off."

"Yeah, I know Bob but it's best she gets a bit older, don't ya think?" Jackie replied, trying to remember what the agreement was all about.

Jackie still didn't understand half of what he meant by Rose getting older. She wondered if it was so Rose would agree more readily to what Bob had planned but why did he keep changing them all the time and not telling her exactly what they were?

As Alec and his dad were walking her home, letting them walk in front, he had a pretty good idea what this Jimmy had been implying but Rose having her arm in Alec's, he thought whatever Bob was up to, there was no way any of his friends could entice Rose away. They'd not said anything in front of him and always behaved but he knew now they were already in love with each other.

He just hoped nothing would spoil it since Rose seemed to be on very shaky ground at home.

Chapter Text

After enjoying an evening at the bonfire in the park, John and Alec's dad leaving them to stand arm in arm, Alec had pointed out the shooting stars and cascades and Rose was looking at him. Knowing this was what it was like to love someone, they prepared to spend their second Christmas together, intending on making the most of the mistletoe John was putting up again, not that he thought they needed it.

Alec had bought her a bright coloured scarf and a heart-shaped pendant to put their photos in and hoped she'd like them. Now Rose wasn't dragged to the pub with her mother and Bob, she had more time to look for something for Alec but still couldn't decide. She thought about a jumper but couldn't find one and didn't want to get him a Christmas one with santas on so when Alec was busy a few Sundays before, she asked John's advice.

"Weeell," John began, something Rose found amusing when he did it in class. "Alec's a bit difficult to buy for isn't he? Let's see, he's got a camera, you got him a writing set last year and a t-shirt for his birthday, though the trip to see the band was a late birthday present for him I suppose?"

"Yeah and I still can't get over they called my name out, I must have gone bright red," Rose laughed.

"Yes, I bet you did," John laughed back. "Back to the point then? So you thought about a jumper?" he asked, just to make sure.

"I wouldn't know what to get really, I was lucky with the t-shirt."

"Yes and I've seen the one you both have, so they did size skinny then?" John joked.

"I don't know how he does it," Rose admitted. "This isn't helping."

John had to admit defeat as Rose kept turning down his suggestions one by one before Alec joined them. That left Rose one more Saturday to get him something, since she already had her mother's, which was something for her and Bob, another set of wine glasses. It was also the last few days at school and they were told their class teacher was leaving and they'd be getting a new one after the holidays.

Both Rose and Alec hoped John would take it on but they doubted it as they sat on their bench one break time.

"What if the new teacher splits us up in class?" Rose wondered, trying to keep her hands warm despite her wearing her gloves.

She preferred to keep them off and let Alec keep her hands warm most of the time.

"Well whoever it is may be new and try. I think everyone in school knows nothing will ever split us up."

"Alec, I don't think anyone can, do you?"

Alec shook his head. Even though having Rose as his girlfriend was amazing, at the back of his mind there was also the thought Bob would try at some point. He'd given up buzzing for Rose on Saturday nights and Sundays, he'd let himself in and Rose would join him downstairs but the Saturday before Christmas, Alec was a bit early and came face to face with the boy Rose detested, even more than she had done.

Alec was just letting himself in when a couple and the teenager came up behind him.

"Hey, I know you," Jimmy told Alec, then turning to his parents. "You took Rose away from joining us."

Alec stopped putting the code in, realizing who it was.

"Well are you going to let us in?" the teenager's mother asked him.

"No, sorry, it's up to them to let you in," Alec tried to reply politely. "I'm not suppose to give the code to anyone."

Jimmy tried to stand taller than Alec, which was a bit of an effort.

"What does she want you as a boyfriend for then?"

Alec wanted to say maybe because he was the alternative, whatever they got up to on Saturday nights.

"This is Rose's boyfriend?" Jimmy's mother asked. "What's so special about you then?"

Alec tried to keep his temper.

"You would need to ask Rose that," Alec replied, knowing Rose would come down to see where he was.

"We're asking you," Jimmy's dad told him. "She won't come to the pub or our gatherings because of you. She also had a go at Jimmy for wanting to know why she didn't stay."

"That's up to Rose if she doesn't want to stay," Alec replied, hoping Rose wouldn't open the door.

"She should do as she's told like the rest of them," the woman replied back.

It was now getting Alec even more worried. What did they do up there? Whatever it was, he was glad he knew Rose was with him. What was her mother thinking of, trying to get Rose involved? Did her mother actually know? He thought maybe not, that it was the rest of them being clever and not letting on and her mother not being used to a load of teenagers around.

The man gave in and pressed the buzzer and Alec knew he would complain about not being let in but it really wasn't up to him to let anyone in, in case they had all fallen out. How would he know if they had? The door had just been released as he saw Rose getting out of the lift. He supposed the three who had gone in were late, since he didn't usually see anyone.

"Where are you going?" the boy's mother asked Rose.

"I'm meeting someone why?" Rose replied, not remembering the woman's surname.

"You're meeting that boy outside. He was rude and wouldn't let us in," the woman complained.

"Well he doesn't live here, does he?" Rose asked her.

"Why aren't you staying?" Jimmy's dad asked her.

"I stay until everyone gets here, it's not my fault if someone's late," Rose replied.

She made her escape, Alec having waited outside.

"What was all that about?" Rose asked him as she greeted him.

"They asked me to let them in and I refused. Maybe you should stay one night and find out what they get up to?"

"Are you kidding Alec? No way am I staying there. Geez Alec, I wish my mother would realize what might be going on. What are they tryin' to do?"

"Stop worrying Rose. You are out of it, that's all that matters. They can't force you to stay."

"What if Bob tries Alec? What if they complain and he makes me stay next time? I know I'm good at sneakin' out but I've not had much pratice lately. I should tell your dad. Alec, what would I do if I had no-one to tell?"

"Well you have so stop worrying. We won't let anything happen to you Rose, I promise. If things get bad, you have our phone number, we can be round in five minutes. I hope it never comes to that though."

"So do I Alec, I'm so glad I have you."

"So am I Rose, I hate to think what things would be like if you had no-one. Maybe though you are worrying about nothing, they may not say anything?"

Jackie was laughing at something, Bob was wondering what since he hadn't found anything amusing as the teenagers gathered in one corner but Jimmy had been made to recall what had really happened a while ago when he'd confronted Rose.

"She did what?" Bob asked him, Jackie stopping to take notice.

"I only asked why she didn't stay and she twisted my arm," Jimmy was trying to tell him, not admitting he'd tried to grab her arm first.

"Rose wouldn't do that unless she was provoked," Jackie defended her daughter.

"Don't stick up for her Jackie," Bob told her.

"But Bob," Jackie protested. "I think I know Rose better than he does."

"Are you saying my Jimmy's a liar?" the teenager's mother asked.

"She's not saying that, are you Jackie?" Bob frowned at her, as if to say she'd better not be.

"He may not have told us everything," Jackie replied, knowing Rose would never turn on someone without a reason.

"She'll not spoil things Jackie," Bob warned her, Jackie wondering if everyone else knew what they were as well.

"She'd better not," someone else joined in,

"She won't," Bob tried to assure them. "Who wants a refill?"

After the last day at school, the class wondering who they'd get as a replacement teacher and John denying it was him to Rose and Alec, they had a few days to themselves before the big day, Rose still trying to get out of having Christmas dinner with her mother and Bob and Bob giving a firm no.

"It won't be so bad Rose, at least you got out of their Christmas Eve party," he reminded her.

"Yeah, that's something. I'd much rather spend it with you and your family," Rose told him when they'd been to his aunts, who had said she was more than welcome to join them.

Rose had thought Bob would put up more of a fight over her not being there. What was he up to? Would he make her stay in on New Year's Eve? She hoped not. She'd been told she was expected to help with Christmas dinner and she just hoped they'd not invited anyone round later. She didn't want to worry Alec about it though so she thought she should keep it to herself.

She knew he'd go crazy though if it turned out someone did pay them a visit. At least she was free to go out the following day. Maybe she should mention it though, just in case.

Alec noticed she looked a bit down as they went to his room. She lay on the bed while Alec put some music on.

"What's wrong Rose?"

"It's been too easy, getting out on Christmas Eve, what's he up to?"

"It may be nothing Rose, try not to think about it. It's better than last year."

Rose supposed he was right and she should be grateful.

"Alec, what if he's invited some friends round on Christmas Day instead?"

He sat on the edge of the bed, Rose reaching out for him.

He put his arms around her and pulled her up into a hug.

"Then just go to your room," he suggested. "He can only make you eat with them. If anyone turns up, just stay in your room until they leave."

"I have an awful feeling about it Alec. What if it's that Jimmy and his parents? Why are they making such a fuss 'cos I'm not there?"

Alec already thought he knew the answer. They were pushing this Jimmy and Rose towards each other but what for? He had an idea his dad and John already knew and weren't saying anything.

His dad had already had another discussion with John and neither of them liked where things were going.

"What do you think Uncle?" John had asked him while Alec was seeing Rose home the Sunday before.

"Well Rose not having to sneak out is one good thing but from what Alec told me, this one couple and their son are getting very pushy about Rose not staying in when they and others visit. I don't like it John."

"I know. Coming here and at school are the only places Rose forgets about it. You should see them at break time," John grinned. "Even when it's cold, there they are sitting on the back of the same bench and no-one even bothers them. It's like everyone knows they're they but they don't want to see them. I say they've got a perception filter around them."

"Well you would," his uncle laughed. "You mean it alters the way people look at them?"

"I think so. It's been over a year now and no-one's told them to stop. If they go around holding hands though, it may break the spell. They always seem to behave though but did you see Rose at the fireworks display?"

"Yes, I noticed John. They are totally gone on each other and as long as they accept they behave in my house, I'm not against it. The thing is though, they are getting older. I'm sure they will be sensible about it though. Back to Rose's problem though, we can't go barging in there and ask what's going on. Maybe you could express your concern as one of her teachers though?"

"She won't let me get involved, I've already asked her. Hopefully if it starts getting worse, she'll change her mind?"

His uncle just hoped he was right. Rose got out without any trouble on Christmas Eve, Alec waiting for her. When they got to his aunt's he told her she looked nice as she'd picked up a new top while shopping and hadn't let him see it.

"So we need to sneak off to the mistletoe?" she teased him as relatives were also coming round.

"Do we need to?" he teased her back.

"I hope not," Rose replied, wanting to sample the party food in the kitchen.

"You get enough kissing when we're on our own," he reminded her.

She reached over to whisper in his ear, "Never. We can never kiss enough."

Alec whispered back as he heard the door opening, "I know Rose."

"Come on you two, your other aunt and uncle and cousin are here Alec," his aunt told him.

Now he knew he'd get teased by his cousin after his birthday party and her asking if Rose was his girlfriend. A lot had changed since then, for both himself and Rose. Every day after school, they would spend time talking and kissing, Rose getting him to dance and them dancing even closer. He knew he loved every minute of it just as she did.

He was going to ask her in the new year what she wanted to do about it, when they got to be fifteen, things would begin to change even more, they were bound to but only if Rose wanted. The way he was feeling now, he knew Rose felt the same so he'd have to talk to John about it. He wondered though who Rose had to talk to about it. Maybe she confided in Sandra after school? She certainly couldn't talk to her mother about it, that was for sure and even if she talked to John, he wouldn't know things from a girl's point of view.

John agreed to walk back with Rose and Alec after the party. It was frosty compared with the year before with the snow and the two of them huddled together as they walked, making John smile.

"Hey, you two," John shouted, making them stop. "Been making use of the mistletoe again?"

"Nah, we don't need it, do we Alec?" Rose turned, still holding onto him.

"Things are getting serious between the two of you then?"

"Yeah, they are. I was going to talk to you about it," Alec admitted.

"Well I can maybe advise you both, if Rose doesn't mind?" John replied. "Rose, I know you really don't have anyone else to talk to. I'll do the best I can though."

"Thanks. I talk to Sandra a bit, she helps. I'd talk to my mum but if she talks to Bob?"

"I know, it's a bit risky. Something seemed to bother you tonight Rose."

"Yeah, these people mum and Bob mix with. Well Bob insisted I stay in tomorrow for Christmas dinner and I'm scared he's invited some of them round, those with that boy I told you about."

"You don’t know that for certain Rose," Alec reminded her.

"Rose, I'm sorry. Just try and stay out of their way after you've eaten eh?" John suggested.

"I'm gonna, don't worry. I wish I could spend it with all of you," Rose replied sadly, Alec trying to pull her close.

"Let's get you home, it's freezing out here," John joked. "Don’t take long saying goodnight."

After a few brief kisses, Rose went inside, John nudging his young cousin.

"Don't take long coming to me for that talk Alec," John told him.

When Rose got inside, her mother was slightly more sober than Bob. Rose guessed she'd be the one getting up early to start Christmas dinner then? Bob was just coming out of the bathroom and caught Rose.

"We're having guests for lunch tomorrow," he slurred, Rose looking at her mother as her worse nightmare was coming true.

"Mum, ya could have warned me," Rose told her.

"We're telling ya now," Bob replied. "Why do ya think we got extra food?"

Rose hadn't even been taking notice since she no longer went shopping with them and she hardly ate there herself. She'd taken the turkey out to defrost and went to check it, it being on a large dish and covered with tinfoil.

"Well I wish I was going out tomorrow, I thought it would just be us," Rose dared to answer.

She thought this was punishment for going out on Saturday nights when their friends came around and she could guess who their visitors were going to be. The next morning, being used to getting up early, she started preparing everything for dinner and was just getting her breakfast when her mother entered the kitchen, looking slightly worse for wear. Jackie saw everything was ready and the oven was on.

"Mum, why did ya have to invite anyone?"

"It was Bob's idea last night."

"It's that Jimmy and his parents. isn't it?"

"Yeah, sorry Rose, I know ya don't like him but Bob's been friends with them a long time."

"I know what Bob's up to Mum."

"What do ya mean?" her mother asked as she managed to fill the kettle and switch it on.

"You know Mum. He's trying to get me away from Alec and make friends with Jimmy. That's never gonna happen. Mum, I love Alec and he loves me, why would I want to leave him for that fat lump?"

"Don't be rude Rose. Jimmy's just a bit bigger and Alec, well he's so skinny, doesn't he get fed?"

"Yes, he does, he's just slim," Rose replied, not daring to add she thought he was quite fit when she saw him in the swimming pool and when he was changing into his t-shirt, her favourite part of getting into his room after school.

She was toying with the idea of getting him to go a bit slower and maybe do a bit of kissing before putting his t-shirt on. Well things were getting a bit tense lately or was that just her?

"Well don't go telling Bob what ya just said, he'll say ya too young to know," her mother replied, yawning.

"Well I'm not too young, I knew ages ago and not so long ago we told each other. I do love him Mum and I can't describe how he makes me feel. I'm sorry but when we've eaten, I'm not sticking around, I'll go to my room rather than be near that lump."

"Then Bob will get annoyed with ya. Rose, I know you don't like Jimmy but ya not giving him a chance."

"Huh? He's the one who grabbed me that time and asked why I didn't stay on Saturday nights. I should have told him he had to be joking while he was there but Bob interrupted me."

"His parents were complaining, I stuck for you and said you wouldn't have started it. You didn't did you?"

"No Mum, he started it," Rose yawned, thinking she'd never survive the day and missing Alec already and wishing it was all over. "I'm not gonna sit anywhere near him either. What's Bob thinking?"

"He wants to be like his friends, with a proper family. He'd been all on his own Rose, ya can't blame him."

"Well he can forget trying to shove me towards that Jimmy. Does he seriously think it's gonna work?"

"Is what going to work?" Bob asked as he came into the kitchen.

"Having so many people for Christmas dinner," Rose tried to bluff.

"You and your mother can manage, looks like you already made a start?" Bob laughed, sitting at the table and expecting one of them to feed him.

All was ready in time and Rose heard the buzzer, wishing it was Alec calling for her. It was her worse nightmare as her mother let them in.

"I hope she's not going to run off today," the woman told Jackie.

Rose heard her and thought that was exactly what she was going to do after she'd eaten. She had to sit opposite the boy she detested, him grinning at her as they ate.

"Are you enjoying the holidays?" Jimmy's mother asked her.

"I would be if I was with my friends," Rose replied.

"That's enough Rose" Bob warned her.

"Jimmy told us you had a boyfriend? I hope it's not anything serious? I mean if he's your first boyfriend?"

Rose wondered how to tell the woman to mind her own business without being cheeky.

"Yeah, he's the first decent boy I've met since I've been here but he's not my first one," Rose announced, hoping her mother would go along with it. "I had one back in London, his name was Mickey."

"You never said anything," Bob joined in.

"Well everyone else knew, didn't they Mum?"

"You never stopped talking about him," her mother laughed.

Rose was hoping that would put Jimmy off, if she'd had two boyfriends.

"I remember ya didn't want to leave," her mother added.

Well that was true enough, it just wasn't the fact she'd left Mickey Smith behind. That had changed the day she'd seen Alec in the library. Now she knew what that feeling had been when he'd stared at her across the room.

"Well it's not like I'd never had a boyfriend before but I'm not looking for another one, thanks," Rose told anyone who was interested.

"It's not good, sticking with one," Bob announced. "You spend too much time with him when you should be here."

"I don't think I spend too much time with Alec," Rose disagreed.

"Well you wouldn't," the woman huffed, helping herself to more potatoes left in the dish.

"What difference does it make? What are ya trying to say? It's up to me who I go out with, not anyone else," Rose objected, debating whether to just get up and take her plate into the kitchen. "You think I'm gonna leave Alec and go out with him?" she pointed to Jimmy.

Everyone went silent then Rose did get up.

"You must be joking. Tell me you're not serious?"

"Calm down Rose, that's not what they're saying," her mother tried to assure her.

"Leave it Jackie. Rose, if you don't forget about Alec voluntarily, I may have to insist you come with us every Saturday to the pub and to our other friends' homes. It's time you learned there are other people, not just Alec."

Rose pushed her chair back, almost knocking it over and forgetting her half eaten lunch.

"What? You mean him? He's rude and obnoxious and fat, you want me to forget about Alec for him? What the hell is going on here? You've met Alec, he's good looking, he's slim, he's fun to be with and I love him. What sort of game are you all playing? Oh, I get it. You have all those other teenagers hanging around and when they're old enough, you're all gonna try to do the same?" Rose replied, almost in tears.

"Sit down and finish your dinner Rose," her mother suggested.

"You go along with this Mum?" Rose asked her, tears on her cheeks.

"Rose, I already told ya, this is what families are like. They get to know people and well, their kids get to know their friends' kids," her mother tried to explain.

"Mum, what are ya sayin'? How can you go along with this?"

"Sit down Rose," Bob ordered her. "Don't be so rude to Jimmy. You do as you are told in my home, remember that. Jackie, talk to her after lunch that she has to respect I'm in charge here."

"Rose, please love, sit down. We're Bob's family now."

"Well you might be but I'm not. I don't care about what's expected of me, I'm not being a part of it so forget it. I'm going round to Alec's aunt's and don't expect me back until later and I don't care what you all think."

Rose stormed out and went to her room, locking the door. She heard knocking and Bob shouting for her to come out.

"Get out here now Rose, I mean it."

"Go away. I don't care what you expect from me but I'll never agree to it."

"You won't have a choice if my plan I told your mother happens," Bob replied.

"What plan? She never said anything to me," Rose called back. "Are you two getting married?"

"Married?" Bob questioned her. "We don't need to be married, your mother agreed to live here under my terms and that goes for you."

"Well when I'm sixteen, they won't apply," Rose called back, hoping that would make her old enough to do as she wanted.

"You are not going to spoil my plans Rose. I agreed to wait a while to let you get used to living here but I'm running out of patience with you. You may not have to obey me but you have to obey your mother. We'll discuss this further but come out and finish lunch."

"Not until they've gone, I'll warm mine up or I'll go to Alec's. How can you say I have to leave him for that gross Jimmy?"

"You will have to learn to lower your standards Rose, at some point. Are you coming out?"

"Only to take my lunch into the kitchen to warm up. You'll never get my mum to tell me to leave Alec and go out with him."

"We'll see about that," Bob replied.

Drying her eyes, Rose unlocked her door and went back in the living room as everyone was finishing. She took her plate and went back out silently to the kitchen.

"Jackie, go talk to her," Bob suggested. "She has to learn I'll not keep changing my plans just for her."

"I know Bob but ya just sprung it on her," Jackie replied.

"I thought you'd talked to Rose?" Jimmy's mother asked him while the teenager was getting extra Christmas pudding after staring at Rose taking her plate. "I thought everything was agreed?"

Rose didn't want to hear the rest but Alec's dad and John would want to know. What could they do about it though? Would they report Bob and his friends to a society who dealt with this kind of thing? What proof was there though that anything was going on? Bob was being very careful about it and it scared the life out of her.

Was he playing some kind of game with her? She needed to talk to Alec but she'd be caught leaving, though it may be worth a try. She didn't feel like eating as she warmed the plate in the microwave her mother had talked Bob into buying and looked at it. She still had a lump in her throat from earlier.

Now she knew what she was up against, she could tell Alec's dad and see what he thought but was Bob just saying things to upset her? Did they really want her to agree to go out with Jimmy or was it something else?

Chapter Text

The next day, Rose couldn't wait to get out. She'd gone to her room after clearing up the previous day, avoiding the stares and not wanting to know if they were talking about her.

Bob had something to say to Jackie though when their guests had left.

"What was all that about?" Jackie had asked him.

"You know what it was about Jackie. Your Rose not co-operating. If she doesn't start spending some time with our friends, she never will and she'll not spoil our plans."

"I thought they were your plans Bob?" Jackie had asked innocently.

"Well some of them are my own but my friends are concerned about the way things have been going lately. It was bad enough Rose stopped going to the pub but there was no point in her only staying five minutes."

"She's not interested in playing video games Bob," Jackie told him. "Besides, Jimmy cheats all the time, I've heard the other kids saying. We could try gettin' her to stay a bit longer when our friends arrive the nights they come here? We haven't told her we're the ones holding the New Year's Eve party yet, why not?"

"I'm going to spring it on her. She can forget going out and stay for a change."

"But Bob, she'll have arranged to go with Alec to his aunt's."

"Well she'll have to cancel, won't she?"

"Well what about if she brings Alec with her?" Jackie suggested.

"We can't let outsiders in Jackie, you know that," Bob replied.

"Well Alec's not an outsider really, she's known him over a year," Jackie reminded him.

"He's not one of us Jackie, you know the agreement. Well she can stay for an hour but then I want her back before midnight and what's all this about her having a boyfriend back in London? Who's this Mickey?"

"He wasn't really her boyfriend," Jackie had to admit. "She liked him and imagined he was her boyfriend. If we'd stayed, he would have asked her."

Jackie had no idea if that would have happened but Rose always talked about him, she must have liked him. What difference did it make anyway?

"Well she'd better stop going on about Alec in front of our friends and she's got to start spending time getting to know them, especially Jimmy."

"She won't go anywhere near him, you saw her," Jackie told him.

"Well that will have to change, won't it?" he replied.

So now, Rose was waiting for Alec to call for her as she was spending the rest of day at his aunt's and she had all her presents, having finally got something for Alec. Her hear skipped a beat when the buzzer went for her to either go downstairs or he would come up.

"Hi Alec, are ya coming up to say hello to my mum?" Rose asked him

Alec thought he'd best make an effort then.

"I'll come up, since no-one else is asking to be let in," he replied.

Rose opened the door to wait for him getting out of the lift, then went to hug him.

"I missed ya yesterday, it was awful."

"It wasn't the same with you not there. Last year, well I was missing my mum more but I missed you just as much. Ready to go?"

"Alec, I've been ready to go since Christmas Eve," she smiled back, grabbing his arm.

They finally got away after Jackie asked him a few things which embarrassed Rose and they talked on the way to his house as they were going to his aunt's a bit later.

"What did she mean by that remark?" Alec asked her after Jackie had asked him if Rose was going to be his only girlfriend, which Rose had been surprised at.

"Yesterday, well they were saying I spend too much time with ya and they were trying to tell me to spend time with that Jimmy."

Alec stopped. "What? Rose, were they being serious?" he asked her. "Please tell me you refused? You did, didn't you?"

"Yeah, don't worry, I told them to forget it and you were my boyfriend. I had to tell them I had one back in London but I never did, I just used to pass by a garage where Mickey worked and I used to wind him up, I'd known him since I was a little kid. I just wanted to put them off."

"It's okay Rose, you don't have to explain. I think you told me he was going to ask you out, if you'd still been there when you were sixteen."

Rose had told him almost everything she used to get up to before she'd moved and he'd sit and listen to her, never judging her for playing around in class and getting into trouble. He had though been surprised she'd been given a place at the grammar school, like John had said, the school board must have been obliged to offer it to her.

"Can we just forget about it? Let's get to your house, it's freezing out here. I hope ya like your present, it took me ages to choose it."

"I'm sure I will, I just hope you like what I got you."

After exchanging presents, they were choosing a photo that could be cut out to fit the locket Alec had bought her, which was one of the larger ones or he'd have to take a photo of her and Rose one of him from a distance. She put the pictures in carefully and Alec fastened it for her.

"You look very nice today Rose," he told her as she was wearing a purple thin turtleneck sweater that her mother had bought her.

Rose loved it when he paid her compliments. He'd been doing it more and more recently and she wondered if she should do it back, she had no-one to ask on that score though but he seemed content to be the one who did. As they got to his aunt's house, she felt like she was part of the family, more-so that at her own home, not that she considered it other than a place she lived with her mother and Bob.

She decided to leave telling Alec what had happened the day before, she didn't want to spoil things but she knew she had to tell him and his dad but when Alec and John took her home later, another couple were in the apartment with a boy just a bit younger than Rose, though Rose couldn't remember his name.

"Rose!" her mother greeted her, Rose knowing her mother had been on the sherry. "Come and say hello to everyone. That’s Craig over there and his mum and dad."

"Hello," Rose told them, wondering what was going on. "I'm tired Mum, I'm off to my room."

"You can stay a bit longer," Bob told her.

"So, where have you been?" the boy's mother asked.

"With my boyfriend and his family," Rose replied.

"You let her have a boyfriend Bob?" the boy's father asked.

"He's not really her boyfriend, she just wishes he was," Bob laughed, remembering what Jackie had said about this Mickey he'd known nothing about.

Jackie thought she'd best stay quiet. Maybe Rose would get tired of missing out on everything on her own?

Rose saw her chance to back away.

"Well if I think he's my boyfriend, so what?" Rose asked them, knowing she'd have some explaining to do to Alec if she told him. "The more time I spend with him, the more likely he will be."

"That's enough Rose," Bob told her.

"Fine, I'll just go to my room then?" Rose tried not to laugh.

"Not so fast," Bob told her, getting up. "Who was this Mickey?"

"She has two boyfriends?" the boy's mother asked, getting up. "You never even said she had one."

"Calm down Morag, I said he wasn't her boyfriend and neither was the other one, were they Rose?" Bob asked her.

Rose wasn't going to lie, how could she? She knew her mother must have told him about how she used to torment poor Mickey.

"I'm not answering that. What's going on anyway? You were trying to tell me to make friends with Jimmy yesterday so I say you're just as bad."

"Rose, nothing's going on," her mother tried to tell her.

What they hell were they into, Rose wondered.

"Well ya could have fooled me. Whatever it is, there's no way I'm getting involved so forget it. Who is he anyway, he looks like he's still in diapers."

"Don't be so rude," Bob told her. He's only six months younger than you."

"Ya could have fooled me. What the hell is this, a dating agency?" Rose replied.

Everyone went quiet.

"I'm out of here," Rose told them.

She backed out, going to the bathroom and locking the door. What the hell had she almost got dragged into? Were they all getting together for the purpose of introducing their kids to each other, even the younger ones to get them used to it? Well if they thought she was going to be part of it, there was no way. Now she really had something to tell John and Alec's dad.

She had no proof though so there was very little she could do about it but from a very early age, her mother had taught her if she felt unsafe, she should tell someone. How had her mother got them lured into this, her mother thinking this was what families did? Maybe they all thought it was perfectly normal. Well she didn't and never would do.

As for denying Alec was her boyfriend, he'd already said he was okay with it if it helped. She went back to her room and locked the door. At least the next day she could get back to normal until the new year and she'd be going to Alec's aunt's again. What would she do though if she had no-one?

Bob was going back to work the next day but her mother had a day off.

"I thought we could go shopping?" her mother asked as Bob left.

"I'm not in the mood for shopping Mum. Don't ya see anything strange about Bob inviting his friends and those two boys round?" Rose asked her.

"No, why?" her mother wanted to know.

"Geez Mum, that's his idea of being a family? Who's he tryin' to fool? Well if he's still hoping I'll change my mind, he's in for a long wait. Neither of those boys compare to Alec. What's he gonna do? Find more friends with boys my age and keep lining them up and hope I'll pick one?"

She saw the look on her mother's face.

"I'm right, aren't I?" Rose asked her. "Why are ya going along with it?"

"No Rose, I'm trying to give ya a better life than what we had in London. Bob's just lookin' out for ya. Look, I'll talk to him, yeah?"

"You'll tell him I'm serious about Alec and I'm not joining in whatever's going on?"

"I'll try Rose but he'd been feeling left out before, ya can't really blame him."

"Well I can Mum, he'd better stop it. You're not thinking of marrying him are ya?"

"Rose, it's nothing to do with you. We have a new life here, one we could never have before, just you remember that."

"Yeah, a new life and if I'd not met Alec? Well I don't even want to think about that. Okay, I'll go see Alec then come back and we'll go into town but I'm going back later."

Alec could tell something was wrong as soon as he let her in.

"What's been going on Rose?" he asked after they'd kissed.

"What do ya think? Bob again. Look, I have to go shopping with my mum this afternoon, she has a day off but I'll come back and tell you and ya dad, okay?"

"Sure but Rose, you have to tell us what went on."

After spending a while in his room, Rose wanting to make up in the kissing department, she reluctantly went back to meet her mother and at least she got a new top out of the trip to town, in the pre-sales. She hoped Alec would like it and compliment her again.

When she got back to his house, she made him wait for his dad getting home before she'd tell him anything.

"Rose, can't you tell me some of it?" Alec asked her.

"It's best I wait," Rose replied as they sat on the edge of his bed.

"Is it that bad?" he tried to joke.

"Yeah, I think it is. I think I know why he wanted us to move up here to live with him but my mum doesn't see anything wrong. I stood up to him last night Alec, I told him whatever was going on, I wasn't going to be part of it."

"Good for you Rose. I hate to think of you being there."

"Alec, someone else was there when I got back last night. Another couple with a teenage boy a bit younger than me. I asked them what the hell was going on."

"What? Rose, you should wait for my dad getting home and tell him everything, okay?"

"Yeah. So, what we gonna do for an hour before he gets home?" she smiled at him and putting her arm around him and her head on his shoulder.

"We'll think of something. I expect you already have something in mind though?"

When his dad got home, they were sitting in the kitchen talking.

"Whatever you have to tell him, it won't put me off," Alec was assuring her.

"Yeah, I know and I'm sorry this is going on. He seems to think the holidays were a good time to try palming me off with his friends' teenage boys."

"He tried again?" Alec asked as they listened.

"Let her finish Alec," his dad told him.

"It's okay Mr Hardy. I told him to forget it, I asked him if they were running some kind of dating agency. What are they doing? Am I right Mr Hardy?"

"Rose, I'm sorry but yes, it seems they have something going on between them, introducing their teenagers to each other."

"Some of them are a bit younger," Rose reminded him.

"Yes, you mentioned it Rose. It seems they all grew up together but what purpose does it serve? Surely they will all get older and meet someone anyway, why does it have to be someone they already know? You are fairly new though."

"Yeah, I don't get it then. So do ya think when he took that job in London, he was looking out for someone with a teenage daughter so he could join in?"

Alec's dad thought she was taking it very well, considering.

"Sorry but yes, though why he chose your mother? Maybe it was because she'd been on her own a long time?"

Alec got up and went to sit next to her.

"What can we do about it Dad?" Alec asked him.

His dad shook his head.

"I need to talk to John about this. Sorry Rose but there is no actual proof of what's happening. As far as anyone else is concerned, they are just friends and their kids getting together. All I can say is you did the right thing telling them you are playing no part in whatever is going on. The question is though, how have they got their kids to go along?"

"The younger ones, their parents involve them when they're younger and they get used to it?" Alec suggested.

"Yes, that could be it. Practicing being a detective again?" his dad smiled.

"He's gonna be a great detective one day," Rose agreed, also smiling.

"I told you why I wanted to be a detective, now I have another reason, to help someone like you, Rose."

"Aw, thanks Alec. Well, now he knows I'm having nothing to do with it, he'll have to back off won't he?"

Nothing was said about it the next few days. Bob was staying quiet and Rose just hoped he wasn't planning anything else he was going to spring on her. Alec was trying to keep her mind off it when they'd go for a walk on the riverbank, parts of the river being frozen over, then they'd go to his aunt's for lunch.

On New Year's Eve day, they were in Alec's room talking.

"I got mum to buy me a new top for tonight," Rose told him as she lay on her front, propped up on her arms.

"Another one?" he teased her.

"She bought me it for going shopping with her, it's ages since we've been out on our own. Then Bob had the nerve to say I spend too much time with you when they go out every Saturday and they expect me to tag along. So are ya calling for me tonight?"

"Don't I always?" he replied, wondering if he dare lie next to her on his back.

So far they had only kissed while either standing up or sitting on the edge of his bed. He was getting the feeling they should be starting to kiss in other positions but he supposed it could be his over-active imagination running riot?

He decided to take a chance and kicked his trainers off and put his feet on the bed, propping himself up on his elbows. Rose tried to move closer and Alec went to lay on his side.

"We've not kissed with us lying down yet," Rose teased him.

"I thought you might tell me to move?"

"Nah, I thought ya wouldn't want to, I mean not just yet? Guess it might be the right time though?" she asked as she tried to move onto her side to face him.

A good while later, they were getting up in time to be downstairs for Alec's dad getting home, since he'd said he would be early.

"That was nice," Rose grinned, her at one side of the bed and Alec at the other, both trying to get their footwear back on.

Rose scrambled over the top of the bed, putting her arms around his neck as he tried to fasten his laces.

"Rose, we have to get downstairs," he reminded her. "Yes, it was nice."

Alec had no idea how they were supposed to know what came next. They'd not had much contact while they'd spent a good while kissing from different angles, he'd tried to remain on his side when Rose had moved onto her back but he felt a few times she was trying to encourage him to move on top of her but were they ready for that?

"Hey, do ya wanna know something? Maybe in the new year, well when you're getting changed into your t-shirt after school, well maybe ya wouldn't be in such a hurry puttin' it on?"

"Really? Oh, so I put it on too fast do I?" he teased her, suddenly twisting round and making her fall back then him leaning over her and putting his hand on her arm to steady himself.

Rose grabbed his other hand.

"Yeah, maybe ya do?" she smiled at him.

He leaned over and kissed her again, trying not to fall over but she grabbed his arm.

"Sure you are ready for that?" he asked, still leaning over her and hoping his dad wouldn't be earlier than he'd said or they had some explaining to do.

"Well you'll find out, won't ya? Yeah, I think it's time, don't you?"

Alec didn't really have to think about it. It had been bound to happen sooner or later.

"Yes, maybe it is? We should get downstairs Rose, we can talk about this later and maybe make a start after the holidays? What time are you going to get changed?"

"After tea I suppose? You could maybe come in and wait for me?"

"That's not a good idea Rose, I mean I never do that."

"Well maybe ya should start? That way when they have their friends there, they'll know I'm not kidding. I think maybe they don't believe me, about you."

"Then I will be happy to show them I exist. Rose, there's a new year ahead, maybe it's time for a lot of changes, starting with you not feeling Bob is trying to get you to go out with his friend's boys. You made a start standing up to him, you should continue to do so."

"Don't worry, I will. You go downstairs, I'm off to the bathroom."

"Rose, dad will start getting suspicious, you're nearly always in there when he gets home," Alec laughed.

After they'd eaten, Rose wanted to make a move and go get changed.

"Come on up with me?" Rose suggested as she put the code in the door.

It was only six thirty, Rose had wanted to be there before Bob's friends arrived and be gone in as fast a time as possible. That wasn't going to happen as she opened the door and Alec followed her.

"I'm back Mum and I've got Alec with me. I'm just gonna get changed before I go out," she called out to her mother.

Her mother came out of the lounge, a stern look on her face.

"Alec had better go home, Bob says you have to stay," she told Rose.

"What? Since when? Is this some sort of punishment because I won't leave Alec and go out with one of those creeps?" Rose wanted to know. "Well forget it, I'm off to get changed and I'm leaving with Alec. What's he after, me agreeing to see one of those boys? I'm not changing my mind Mum. Alec, do ya wanna wait outside?"

Rose was wondering where Bob was.

"Where is he anyway?" Rose continued.

"He went out to get more drinks, he invited a few more friends over, I hope we have enough party food," her mother replied. "Rose, I want to help you sweetheart but ya know once Bob makes his mind up? Well don't stand there Rose, hurry up and get changed and if he says anything, I'll tell him you've not been back. If ya get caught leaving though, I can't do anything."

"Rose, grab your things and get changed at my house," Alec suggested, looking around to the door nervously.

Rose ran to her room and began rummaging through her wardrobe for the silver/grey top she'd got a few days ago and a clean pair of black trousers, since she was in her jeans. She stuffed them into a spare carrier bag, grabbed a pair of shoes and was out in less than five minutes.

"Thanks Mum and I know it's not your idea."

"Come on Rose, let's leave before he gets back," Alec suggested, thinking either Bob was going to stop them both leaving or just Rose but he bet it would be just her.

"Go on, get out of here but don't bring the clothes you're wearing back with ya."

"Mum, I can say I took them earlier, he won't know, will he?" Rose replied.

Once in the hallway, Alec suggested they took the stairs as if Bob was on his way back with drinks, he would be bound to take the lift. When they got outside, Rose saw Bob's car in his parking space and thought she'd just had a narrow escape. Jackie though was now having to face Bob.

"Is Rose back yet?" he asked as he put two carrier bags and a box of mixer drinks on the kitchen counter.

"No, not yet but when she went out earlier, she could have taken some more clothes with her," Jackie replied.

"We should have told her last night," Bob complained. "Have you got this Alec's phone number?"

"No, she never wrote it down Bob. She might come back to get changed?"

Jackie hoped he'd just have to accept Rose had got the better of him for at least tonight. She still didn't get why it was so urgent to get Rose to forget Alec and take up with one of the other boys. Rose had not been bothered back in London but she was growing up now and getting her to stop seeing Alec wasn't going to be easy. She expected Bob was keen to see Rose fitting in with his friends and didn't want her to feel she was missing out?

Rose and Alec had got back to his house, agreeing she could pick her things up the day after and they set off for his aunt's house. Alec had been planning a surprise for Rose though the following day. John had suggested he took them to the new year fair at the other side of town after she'd pointed a poster out when they'd been out the Saturday before.

While Rose was fusing over the food and trying to help his aunt, he got John to one side.

"So she got out then?" John grinned as his mother was trying to stop Rose.

"Yeah, only just though, Bob had gone out and he was going up in the lift as we used the stairs. Her mother told her she'd tell Bob she'd not been back. I know her mum's doing her best but it's really difficult for Rose."

"It sounds like it's difficult for her mother as well? Does Rose know where we're taking her tomorrow?"

"No. I thought it would be a surprise for her," Alec smiled at the thought.

"Well the wristbands are on me so don't worry, I'm sure she'll enjoy it."

"Are you going on the rides?" Alec asked, seeing Rose come back in the room.

"Oh, don't worry about me, I'll just tag along behind you," John grinned.

Just before midnight, it fell to Rose and Alec to let the new year in, them taking advantage of the few minutes they had to wait until John was opening the door for them when it was midnight but they heard a nearby clock begin to chime and Alec turned towards her.

"Happy new year Rose."

"Yeah, happy new year. I bet it's gonna be great and do ya know what?" Alec shook his head. "I'm not gonna let Bob get me worried, I'm gonna ignore him and make my mum see what he's up to."

"Rose, then she'll leave him and go back home," Alec replied.

"We can stay here," Rose replied, hearing the last chime and the door opening.

"Come on you two, break it up," John laughed as Rose threw her arms around Alec.

After they walked Rose home, John asked Alec how their friendship was growing.

"I'm not sure if we're going too fast, " Alec admitted.

"Alec, take my advice. If Rose is ready, then so are you. Just take it slowly eh?"

Rose was not having an easy time when she got back.

"Where did you get to?" Bob wanted to know as his friends were leaving.

"You knew I was going to Alec's aunt's," Rose replied.

"She told ya," her mother agreed as the last of the guests were leaving, the parents of last boy whom Bob had been trying to push onto Rose.

"She was supposed to have been here tonight," the boy's mother was complaining.

"Well I had somewhere else to go," Rose replied, thinking she should make a dash to her room.

"This isn't over Rose," Bob warned her as she got away.

The next day, Rose helped her mother with lunch then declared she was going out. Since Bob didn't now ban her going out in the afternoon except for Sunday, she was answering the intercom when Bob came out.

"Oh no you don't," Bob objected as Rose told Alec she would be right down.

"What?" Rose asked. "There's no reason why I should stay in, you're only watching TV."

Alec had let himself in and was about to knock on the door when he heard raised voices as Rose's mother had joined in.

"Ya only said Rose had to stop in on Sunday afternoon's" Jackie reminded him.

Rose knew he was outnumbered as she heard Alec knocking on the door. She meant to carry on doing things like that, why should she sit at home being miserable when she could be with Alec?

Chapter Text

"What was all that about?" Alec asked her as they went downstairs.

"Bob wanting me to stay in. He lost," she replied, going to hug him for the first time in the lift because now, she didn't care.

"Have you forgotten we don't hug in the lift?" Alec reminded her.

"Why not? If Bob doesn't know by now, well?"

"Rose, be careful, please?"

"Hey, don't worry. Alec, I told ya, I'm not gonna let it get to me. Can we go for a walk before we go to your aunt's?"

Alec wondered what had come over her. They went down by the riverbank, finding a log to sit on. There was no-one around so they took the chance to catch a kiss.

They finally got back to school, the first morning finding out who was going to be their class teacher, someone new. A few days later, they were about to take their seats for registration when the teacher spoke up.

"Alec, Rose, is there any reason you always sit together?" they were asked, since the teacher took geography and had seen them sit at a desk.

"Miss, our other teachers say nothing," Rose objected.

"Rose, I understand where you come from, it may be acceptable to always sit together but you should mix with the rest of the class."

Rose had no idea if it had been acceptable or not at her old school, she'd never sat next to a boy there, had she?

"I expect you to at least sit next to someone else in my class."

When they got outside at playtime, they sat on their bench.

"Rose, just sit next to Sandra in geography," Alec suggested.

"Yeah and who are you gonna sit next to?"

"Don't worry about me, there are some spare seats. It was bound to happen sooner or later Rose."

"Yeah, just as long as it's only in geography. Speaking of which, I think I'm nearly up to date with Scottish lochs and the Highlands," Rose smiled.

"You are doing really well with that and history Rose. You won't have a problem with them this year. Want to start on something else?"

Rose leaned over to whisper to him.

"Do they include kissing as a subject?"

"No, be serious Rose. You need to talk to Sandra, get her to sit next to you in geography. I don't mind Rose, it's just one class."

"What if our new teacher speaks to the others?" Rose wondered.

"Stop worrying Rose. At least there's one teacher's classes we don't have to worry about."

Rose just smiled and nudged his arm as John came towards them.

"So, how's your new class teacher?" John asked them.

"She says we shouldn't sit next to each other in geography," Rose complained, wishing she could warm her hands on Alec.

"Well it was bound to happen sooner or later," John replied.

"Yeah, now I have to ask Sandra if it's okay if I sit with her. I suppose she'll be glad not to sit on her own?"

Rose waited until after classes when she usually met up with her other friend.

"Hey, it's fine Rose," Sandra agreed. "How did you get on with Alec over the holidays?"

"Good. He bought me a really nice pendant as a present, I put our photos in. So, any luck with that boy you like?" Rose asked.

"Which one Rose, keep up," Sandra laughed.

"Oh so there's someone else?" Rose also laughed.

"Yes, I don't stick to one. How do you stay together?" Sandra wondered.

Rose had no idea why they spent every moment they could together except that she loved him. Telling anyone else though would be a big mistake, it could get around the entire school and the spell or whatever that made them virtually invisible would be broken.

"We just do, I can't explain it," Rose replied. "Alec says it's just for one class."

"Well he won't miss you then?" Sandra laughed.

Over the next few months, things were beginning to get intense for the two of them when one day during the holidays, Rose had still been teasing Alec she wanted them to kiss before he put his t-shirt on.

"Aw, come on Alec, I see ya when we go swimming," she teased him when they got back from his aunt's one afternoon.

"You really want that?" he questioned her.

Rose went up to him and fingered the hem of his t-shirt when he'd taken off his jumper.

"Want some help?" she smiled as Alec put his hand over hers.

Before either of them knew it, they had lifted the t-shirt over his head and Rose had put her arms around his neck as he'd tossed it onto the chair. Rose led him over to the bed after they kissed.

"Rose, are you sure about this?" he asked, since John had tried to explain to him Rose may become a bit more forward in their friendship.

Alec had asked John about it.

"Well Alec, if you feel you can be a bit more forward, then let her know," John advised him.

Alec hadn't been so sure exactly when Rose would want to be more forward but after he lost his t-shirt and they were on the edge of his bed? He knew this was what John had talked about. They both kicked their trainers off then Alec pushed her onto the bed.

"If I leave my t-shirt off I'm going to want something in return," he teased her.

"Hey, we can work up to that, can't we?" she asked, putting her hands on his shoulders.

"If that's what you want? Rose, this is starting to get serious."

"Yeah, maybe it is? Should we wait a bit?"

"I'll be fifteen before you Rose, we should wait until we both are?"

"Well, no harm in a little fun?" Rose teased him. "Maybe I'll get around to taking my t-shirt off when we get used to this?"

"Really? I'll look forward to it. Maybe you should come and lie on me?"

Despite his slim frame, Rose still thought he was heavy. After that, things changed between them rapidly. They now kissed on the bed after Alec took his school shirt off and eventually, Rose would unfasten one button at a time of her school shirt but nothing else until Alec's birthday.

Rose had got him a present and neither of them could wait to get out of school as Rose had promised him he could take off her school shirt as she still had a few buttons fastened when they made out on his bed, which they had both enjoyed.

Alec had planned they would get dropped off at her place for her to pick up his present then they would go back to his house and they would have just enough time. Now he was looking forward to it, especially after their last visit to the swimming pool where he had watched her get out, convinced his mouth was open.

When they got to Rose's place, she made him open his present – an ID bracelet with Alec/Rose on it in a blue felt gift box she had been saving for a while to get.

"Rose, I don't know what to say," he told her as he took it from the pad.

"I hope ya like it?"

"Like it? Yes, I like it, I'll wear it all the time when we are not at school. What made you choose it?"

"You have to ask? I wanted something you could wear and think of me when I'm not here and when we go out, people will see it. Alec you're fifteen now and in a few weeks, when I'm the same, well, maybe we can take things a bit further. Only if ya want to though?"

"Seriously? Yes Rose, I want to take things further if you do? I was a bit unsure as to ask you. I mean you did promise to let me help you take your school shirt off," he smiled, putting his present and card he'd glanced at what she had written into his school bag.

"Well, what are we still doing here?" Rose grinned.

They hurried back to his house, leaving their coats and school bags and hurried up to his room.

"Rose, you are not going to tease me are you?" he asked, just to make sure.

"Alec, I wouldn't do that to ya on ya birthday. Come here, a kiss first. Happy birthday Alec."

As they kissed, Rose was sure it felt different and felt herself melt into it, Alec feeling the same until they stopped for breath.

"Wow, where did that come from?" Rose wondered.

Alec didn't know himself.

"Rose, we can have more like that," he replied, fingering her top shirt button.

"Someone's in a hurry," she teased him but allowed him to unfasten it.

He stopped where they normally did, like he was asking her permission.

"Well, go on then," she encouraged him as he stared with his mouth open at her black bra.

Rose wished she'd had some more to choose from in her underwear drawer and now, she would soon be old enough to not feel out of place going to the more daring displays in the department store.

"You are beautiful Rose and you've been hiding yourself from me."

"Have I? I wasn't sure, ya know, that you'd like what ya saw?"

"Yes, I do Rose, now, want to take my t-shirt off for some more of those kisses before we run out of time?"

After that, they did the same every night and it was now approaching Rose's birthday and Alec was trying to think of a present for her.

John was trying to help him one Sunday before he went to call for Rose.

"You could always get her a bracelet to match yours?" John suggested.

"Well we always split up for half an hour when we go into town lately. The first time was for her to get my present but now, she likes to wander off and she just sneaks up behind me while I'm looking for her. John, do you think we're too young, I mean to be like that?"

"What? No, you're both perfectly happy with how things are, keep it like that but just be careful it doesn't go too far, you know, until you're both sixteen," John had advised him.

Alec didn't know though that Rose was trying to get up the courage to get her mother to take her to the local health centre to get herself covered in case things started to get out of hand, since it was obvious one of them was going to lose their skirt or trousers as they kissed. She enjoyed watching him change into his jeans but he always fastened them before they initiated the kissing, which was getting more intense.

Alec though had not suggested either of them should do anything but Rose had noticed his fingers were now also on her bra fastener and he'd snap one afternoon or she would just tell him to unfasten it.

They celebrated Rose's birthday, Alec thinking maybe they should have matching ID bracelets but got hers engraved with just Alec on it. That afternoon though, they finally gave in, Rose loosing her bra, well pulling it down over her arms and Alec decided it was time he didn't change into his jeans.

Rose was getting giddy as he teased her, going for his jeans.

"Well should I put them on Rose?" he asked, trying to look serious but failing.

"Are ya expecting me to take my skirt off?" she teased him back.

"If you're not ready for either, it's fine Rose, really."

"What? No, it's not that. Yeah, come here, without ya jeans on you plum."

"Well if you leave your skirt on, maybe you could lose the bra?" he asked hopefully.

Rose didn't look so sure about it though.

"Rose, I meant I'll undo it and maybe move it out of the way. I did not mean to suggest I actually saw you without it. If I did though, it would make me happy."

"Yeah, okay then and maybe we'll work up to that? I'm just a bit shy."

"Rose, you need not be shy with me. Shall we see where this goes?" he asked as he pulled her towards him.

It only took a few days as he got her to relax more and she sat up without trying to cover herself.

"Rose, I wish I could take a picture of you," he told her as he steadied her.

"I didn't want to disappoint ya."

"Rose, you could never do that. So, maybe think about losing your skirt or am I rushing you?"

"It's not that Alec, it was just something Sandra said."

"What has she been telling you?"

"Well, her older sister tells her things, ya know? She said once a girl starts to agree with things, well it gets out of hand very fast."

"In what way?" he asked, a bit confused as things seemed to be going well and he was now staring at her cleavage and wondering if she'd slap his face if he touched.

As they'd laid kissing, his hand at been just at the side, enough to make him think he'd liked to reach more.

"Alec, ya know I love ya? It was just that Sandra said once both of us got down to our underwear, well, nature would start taking over."

"Oh. Well yes, I expect it will but only if you want? I would never do anything that would make you feel uncomfortable Rose, you know me better than that, don't you?"

"Yeah, sorry. Sometimes it seems Sandra is the only one who understands. She said things can escalate very quickly and I don't know if I'd want to give in and let them."

"Rose, we should just take our time. Just take off your skirt or whatever you are wearing and see where it leads when you are ready?" he suggested.

Rose saw he was looking at her and if she didn't make a start, she never would. She took his hand and placed it in the middle of her chest.

"Rose, I meant it when I said you were beautiful."

"I know ya did. Maybe tomorrow, well, we'll make a start?"

"Oh. Well yes, I look forward to it even though then, we will have to wait until after the weekend."

"Well, I was gonna sneak off on Saturday and go around the underwear department. I got some money from my mum for my birthday so I'm gonna surprise ya."

"Then I can't wait to see you in it. Rose, will you slap my face if I were to kiss you?" he pointed to chest.

Rose shook her head, Alec thinking it meant no but she pulled him close and indicated it was okay. He kissed each side just once and looked up to see Rose smiling. He hoped now that would begin to lead to more because his feelings were all over the place and he knew he wanted a lot more than kissing her there but it was a pleasant start.

Saturday morning, Rose was sat eating her breakfast, Bob still in bed and trying to get the courage to ask her mother about the clinic. The day before, Rose had relented and taken off her school skirt and the feelings she had got as they kissed, almost touching below, had sky-rocketed that she had almost called out. Now she knew she definitely liked the feelings and wanted more.

Her mother came into the kitchen as usual in her dressing gown and Rose had to find the courage but didn't know where to start.

"Mum, ya know me and Alec spend a lot of time together?"

"Yes and Bob's forever complaining. His friends are pushing him ya know, for you to be here when they come round."

"Well they'd best forget it Mum 'cos I'm never gonna be here, not when I have Alec. Mum, don't say anything to Bob but I want ya to go to the clinic with me, ya know, the family one," she said carefully so if Bob was around he wouldn't hear.

"What?" her mother asked, Rose thinking that was it now. "Just how serious are you two? You're only just turned fifteen Rose."

"I know Mum and no, we've done nothing but kiss but now, well I want to be sure I'll be protected if things do go further."

"Well at least ya being honest with me I suppose? Rose, I'm sorry Bob's friends are like that but I can't do anything about it. Why don't ya come to the shop on Monday and I'll miss my lunch break to finish early? Marlene won't mind, I don't make a habit of leaving early. I think ya can just walk in that part of the clinic. You're being sensible about it, I'll give ya that."

"Thanks Mum, I've not said anything to Alec yet. Why do Bob's friends keep going on about me though when I've made it clear?"

Her mother didn't know how to answer. She'd got no response when asking Bob about it, just that it was how there were and wanted Rose to be there but after Rose had come out that they were running a sort of dating agency, Bob had been quiet about it and she dreaded to think now Rose was fifteen what would happen.

Should she say something about it to him? Just maybe she was wrong about it but Bob had not mentioned anything since the confrontation last New Year's Eve but what was he thinking?

Rose was also trying to get around saying she was going on holiday with Alec and his dad again in August but they were going somewhere different and Alec wouldn't tell her. She'd asked his dad and he'd just told her to wait and see but it was further than last year.

Alec's dad knew he'd always wanted to find the Loch Ness monster so they were going up to Fort William and would go exploring, including visiting the said location. Rose of course had tried various methods of getting it out of Alec but so far, she'd not succeeded.

"Rose, I'll try to talk to Bob and tell him you don't want to join in. Just be careful though if I take you on Monday."

"Take her where Jackie?" Bob asked, since Jackie was supposed to be taking him his morning coffee.

"It's nothing Bob, Rose just needs to go to the doctor's," Jackie replied, hoping he wouldn't want to know why.

He just shrugged his shoulders and picked up the mug Jackie had just placed on the counter.

"Women's stuff?" he asked casually.

Rose saw her chance.

"Yeah, I need mum with me to tell them I'm old enough to go on my own next time," Rose told him, finishing her breakfast and counting the hours until she could meet Alec.

Couldn't she go a day without seeing him? Not now she had all kinds of new feelings after the last time they had been kissing in his room and now, she liked almost touching him wearing nothing on top and them both in their underwear. It had come close, the way he had his arms around her so it was bound to lead to one of them wanting to lie on the other. If that were to happen, she wanted to be able to tell Alec she was covered.

Would that put him off though and think she was presuming too much? Maybe the subject would just arise naturally? Jackie had gone back into the bedroom.

"What was that about?" Bob asked her.

"Rose already told ya Bob. She needs my permission to be seen on her own."

"Well I hope that's all? We need to talk to her again, about not being here when our friends come around. You heard Jimmy and the other boy's parents Jackie."

"Bob what about those two girls? Why aren't they coming any more? They only join us in the pub."

"Because Rose isn't here Jackie, you don't get it, do you?"

Jackie wasn't sure she wanted to get it but she was probably taking things the wrong way. Bob continued.

"The boys have to decide Jackie, Rose not being there makes that difficult. The boys just come along to see if Rose stays."

"Well what difference does that make?" Jackie wondered.

Bob shook his head. He would not have his plans for what his friends talked about spoiled by Rose not complying.

"Jackie, we've already put it off, they could all cut us out of it and I had enough of that before."

"Ya mean before ya met us?" Jackie asked.

"Jackie, don't take that the wrong way. It's not what I meant at all. Yes, I missed out on meeting them outside the pub but when I met you and Rose, well I thought we could be a family and I envied my friends with theirs. You know how long it took before we started seeing them outside the pub?"

Jackie supposed that was a fair explanation.

"Why though is it important Rose is here? You've got a family Bob, isn't that enough? We still see them in the pub, why do we need to see them every Saturday night as well?" she asked him.

"Well we may not see them on Saturdays nights, the way they were talking. I'm not happy about it Jackie, you need to talk to her."

"She won't listen Bob, I've already tried, ya know I have. She's stuck on Alec, that's for sure."

Bob muttered something about he'd already given her enough time to talk to her daughter.

Rose wasn't going to mention where she was going on Monday except she needed to meet her mother so she broke the news to him over their normal Saturday lunch.

"Rose, it's fine, you go if you need to," Alec was telling her.

"It's just one evening Alec, we have somewhere to go. I'll come round afterwards."

"You don't have to explain. So, do I get my hair styled differently or not?" he wanted to know.

That was what she loved about him. He nearly always asked her opinion on something and they nearly always agreed.

"Well while you go do that, guess where I'm going?" Rose teased him.

"To the library on your own?" Alec laughed, the drinks straw a fraction from his lips and Rose trying to resist leaning over and kissing him.

She did lean over but not to kiss him, which Alec was hoping she would.

"You'll find out on Monday."

Alec was hoping he would. They went off on their own, Alec to the barber's now his dad trusted him to go on his own and Rose daring to browse the lingerie section she'd avoided before and finally picking out two sets she thought Alec may like to see her wearing.

When they met up, she was surprised at his haircut.

"Wow, look at you," she grinned as he stood there, wondering what was in the department store carrier bag.

Now Rose was wondering if she should cut her hair and not just have it trimmed by her mother at home.

"You like it?" he asked, thinking she'd never go for it.

"Yeah, it's great. Alec, let's go out tonight, see a film or something, yeah?"

"That would be good, my treat Rose, I have some money left over from buying your birthday present."

So later, they sat at the back of the cinema and Alec dared put his arm around her as they shared the popcorn and sneaked a few kisses.

"That was as good as last year Alec," Rose smiled as they had a hot drink where they usually went for lunch.

"Really? I thought nothing would be better than that?"

"Well it was because we were sitting holding hands or you with your arm around me instead of jumping up and down at a concert," Rose laughed.

"Yes but you never had your name called out this year," he replied.

"Alec, I didn't care about that. It was good, yeah but it was about us, sitting together and I know we've been before but it was even more special this year. I'm gonna tell my mum about the holiday and if Bob doesn't like it, well it's too bad. Nothing's gonna stop me going, I'll run off if I have to, what can he do about it if my mum gives me permission? Actually, I may not need it any more."

"We'll ask my dad tomorrow. Rose, where are you going with your mother on Monday then?"

"I told Bob it was for her to give permission at the health centre for me to be seen on my own."

"That's not the real reason?" he wondered.

"I can't tell ya yet Alec, I swear I can't but there's nothing wrong with me. I'll tell ya when it's time."

"Tell me what Rose?"

"Alec, it could spoil everything if I tell ya now."

"No, it won't. We tell each other everything, why do you think you can't tell me this Rose?"

"Yeah, I know we tell each other everything but it's girl stuff and I can't explain."

"Rose, we do biology. It's fine if you don't want to talk about it but I think I know, you being a bit off every few weeks though sometimes it's less."

"Ya think I don't know? Well I might be able to get something to help with it," she told him, hoping that would stop the questions and she didn't have to admit the real reason as it may send him running but she really didn't know how long it would be before they would give in and see how far they wanted to go since she didn't want to be the one holding back.

Chapter Text

Alec was looking at her.

"What do you mean by that Rose? Is there something wrong?"

"What? No, there's nothing wrong Alec. I'm all mixed up, that's all, I can get something to help, then I know where I am. Alec, whatever they give me, it helps with something else."

"I hear talk at school Rose. I did not want to assume, well that things would get to the stage when, you know, when we are kissing and you lie on me?"

"Alec, ya can say it," Rose smiled. "Maybe not here though? We can talk on Sunday afternoon before we go to your aunt's."

"Yes, that's a good idea," he had to agree, feeling a little flushed.

He was glad Rose had realized they were out though he thought a few times she was going to lean across the table to kiss him. They went home and got off at Rose's stop, Alec walking her to the door They had sat near the back of the cinema, Alec putting his arm around her, making Rose feel it was something special.

"We could do that again?" he suggested as Rose leaned on him.

"Yeah, well I could save the bus fare I get and my allowance, we could take it in turns to pay?" Rose suggested as he leaned into her neck.

"I can manage Rose, I want to be the one to take you out. It was okay though?"

"Yeah, it was. We need to really talk Alec, after school on Monday," she told him, trying to hold him tighter.

"Yes, we do Rose. All these feeling I get, well I need to ask how you feel."

"I think we need to talk to your cousin," Rose replied. "Yeah, I get these strange feelings, like now."

"Really? I thought it was just me?" he teased her. "I'd best let you go. Did your mother and Bob go out?"

"No idea, I left early, remember? I heard them talking earlier though, I think they may start to stay in a bit more."

"Is that because you told them you won't join in?"

"Yeah, probably, Bob's been quiet about it for a while, thankfully. Maybe whatever they're into, Bob's been kicked out again. Alec, he may tell us to leave."

"Don't say that Rose."

"Alec, if he wanted a family and he chose us, it may have been for the reason I was only just a teenager back then, maybe he thought he could introduce me and I'd want to join in?"

"Rose, I think that's pretty obvious, don't you? Maybe though, he's not given up yet?"

Rose shivered at the thought, Alec holding her tighter and going for a kiss.

While Rose had been out, Bob had got a bottle of lager from the fridge and tried to find some football on the TV. He'd had a phone call earlier and Jackie dare not ask what it was about.

"We could go out to the other pub?" Jackie suggested.

"You know I would rather be with our friends Jackie. That phone call, Jim suggested we don't go for a few weeks and it's all down to your daughter, that was the deal they made. I'm not happy Jackie, not at all so you need to talk to Rose."

"Bob, won't it be better she's older?" Jackie suggested, wondering, what all the fuss was about.

"I don't know Jackie, she should have been mixing with the others nearly two years ago, when you both arrived but it took a while for us to be accepted. You know I wanted a family Jackie, like the others so if all we are going to do is see them in the pub and them asking if Rose is going to stop messing around and join us, we have to talk to her."

"She won't go without Alec," Jackie reminded him.

She didn't see the smile on his face as he formulated a new plan – to let Rose bring her boyfriend along and get him so jealous he would leave her, then Rose would be grateful there were at least two boys he approved of to take his place. Well that was half a plan he supposed, he would never let on to Jackie what the rest of it was. That was why he had chosen her over others on the estate he'd been sent to work on nearly two years ago.

He'd been tired of missing out while his group of friends had teenage and younger kids who were all getting to know each other. He heard the door and knew Rose had got back.

"Rose, in here," he called out.

Rose had been giddy as she and Alec had kissed goodnight. She was having other feelings for him and the way he'd talked, things were going to change very quickly between them. Rose stood in the doorway, hoping the big stupid grin on her face had gone.

"I've been thinking and maybe you could at least be here when our friends come around. Maybe I can talk them into letting you invite your boyfriend along?"

"What?" Rose asked, thinking he had to be joking.

"I thought that was what you wanted?" Bob asked.

"Rose, think about it?" her mother urged, not wanting Bob in a bad mood about it.

"Mum, I don't even have to think about it, Alec would go crazy. There's no way we're joining in whatever's going on and we're gonna start going out on Saturday nights anyway, Alec took me to see a film tonight."

"You are very lucky I don't stop you going out on Saturday nights young lady," Bob told her. "I know you would just sneak out if I made you stay in so I am giving you an option. Think about it carefully, our friends won't wait too long for an answer."

Rose went to her room, wondering what the hell that had all been about so suddenly. Was it because she'd just had her birthday or was she getting too old and would work out what was going on? She was sure Alec's dad and John already knew and weren't telling her or Alec or did Alec know as well? He did want to be a detective when he was old enough.

The next afternoon, Alec called for her and they went down by the river. She quickly told him what Bob had said and Alec got up, Rose thinking he'd had enough and was going to say that was it.

"Say something Alec."

"What do you want me to say Rose? You are not considering it, are you?"

"What? I'm just telling ya what he said and I thought we were gonna be having a different conversation – about us and how we feel? Geez, ya think I wanna stay in with them when we could be going out, seriously?"

Rose got up and took his arm.

"I don't know what to think Rose. You know by him saying for you to invite me what that infers?"

"Yeah, he wants to make you jealous when those other boys are there. What the hell's going on Alec?"

He saw she was almost in tears, when they should have been talking about where they go next. He went to put his arms around her, holding her close and hoping no-one would come along the narrow path.

"Hey, it's okay Rose. He's trying to split us up but I know you would never consider agreeing. Don't cry Rose, please."

Rose was rubbing her eyes, still leaning on him.

"I thought you'd got mad at me?" she asked tearfully.

"Rose, that is never going to happen. Ever since I met you properly at school, I knew something troubled you but look at you? For almost two years you have stayed out of whatever Bob is planning. We went out last night, properly and we can do that every week from now on, if you want?"

"Yeah, I told him that. He is trying to split us up but he never will, we'll always be okay, you and me, won't we?"

"Yes Rose, for as long as you want but you are not sure about collage, are you? I already said I would help you to catch up."

"Alec, I know ya did but it's not enough to get me in, I'm still way behind, I barely scrape through, thanks to you. I won't make it Alec, face it and I won't stop you going to whichever one you choose. I want to stay with you, for as long as you want?"

Alec led her back off the path to where they had been sitting on a log.

"Rose, it will take a lot more than that to put me off. Forget about it, if he sees you are not going to comply, he'll back off."

"What if he tells my mother I go along with it or we leave?"

"I don't think that will happen Rose. Why don't you just pretend we are thinking about it? He can't say anything about that."

"Yeah but how long can I keep pretending Alec? If you come up for me and come in when they're already inside maybe it'll look like we're thinking about it?"

Alec pulled her close so her head was on his shoulder.

"I was right about you, you can be devious. How long can we keep that up though?" he asked her, kissing her forehead.

"As long as it takes them to get the message there's no way they are ever gonna split us up. They are never, ever gonna split us up."

Alec had to smile at the idea of them trying to fool everyone every time Bob and her mother were the hosts of whatever was going on.

"Come on Rose, we should go tell John and my dad. This is serious, they are trying to force you into leaving me and go along with whatever they are doing."

"This is so getting to be annoying. Does Bob really think it's gonna work?"

"Rose, all we have to do is keep annoying them by showing them it's not going to work. When is the next get together at your place?"

They went to his aunt's and told Alec's dad and John.

"We have to do something about it," John told them all.

"What can we do without any proof?" Alec's dad asked.

"Well if me and Alec show them it's not working?" Rose suggested.

"Rose, neither John or myself like any of this," Alec's dad told them.

"Yeah, I know Mr Hardy but you can't do anything when we don't know what it is," Rose told him.

"Your mother brought you up here Rose, she got involved with him," John reminded her.

"She can't have known what would happen," Rose replied.

Alec's dad knew exactly what was going on. This Bob had been looking for an instant family so he could join in with whatever his friends were into and Rose and her mother and had been the perfect targets. What with her mother being alone and bringing up a teenage daughter, who better to choose?

"Rose, we can try?" Alec suggested. "I want to join the police when I'm old enough, I can make a start. Let's do what you suggested and delay when I come to pick you up, see what goes on?"

"Alec, I don't want ya getting mixed up with it," Rose told him.

"It's too late Rose, I already am. You are my girlfriend, I care what happens to you at home. When is everyone next at your place?"

"It varies a bit, I never know until they start turning up. That means you'll have to come up every Saturday," Rose replied.

"Well I can do that, unless someone's late again and wants me to let them in," Alec joked.

"Alec, I don't want them asking you questions," Rose replied.

"I can handle them Rose. All that matters is you keep away from whatever goes on."

"Maybe they just talk?" John suggested, scratching his head that Rose found amusing as Alec was starting to do the same.

"Yeah but about what?" Rose wondered. "Hey do ya think they talk about whose kids are going out with each other? What for?"

"Who knows?" John replied. "Just don't start with them Rose, please."

"She won't John because I'll be there," Alec replied.

Rose put her arm in his and smiled.

"There you go then," John laughed. "Problem solved and Alec can practice his detective skills."

They went for a walk to the park later before Rose went home.

"Alec, I'm worried that now Bob's close to missing out, well he'll invite some of them round, one by one."

"Rose, do you think he would really do that?"

"I don't know Alec, would he, if he's desperate to be in on what's going on? What the hell are they into?"

"Stop worrying Rose. We will get back a bit earlier at weekends and I will come up with you, okay?" he offered.

"Alec, you don't have to." She saw the look on his face as he got up from the swing next to her. "Well okay then, you can always come in to say hello to my mum?"

Alec was wondering if it was worth it but he was doing it for Rose, the girl he was growing to love more. It was just as well as Rose let them in a while later.

"Mum, Alec came back with me to say hello," Rose shouted, since her mother hadn't seen him when he'd called for her.

Her mother came out. "Rose. What's Alec doing here, he ever hardly comes in these days."

Rose saw her chance.

"Yeah, that's why he's here, aren't ya Alec?" she nudged him, hoping he'd get the idea and her mother wouldn't think anything of him making a habit of it.

"Hello Mrs Tyler. I thought I would bring Rose back properly from now on, if you have no objections."

Bob chose that moment to come out after assuring his friends he would be back soon.

"She's usually back by now," Jackie had said five minutes before Rose had got back.

So as Rose had called she was back and Jackie had gone out, Bob had been asked where she had been.

"I told you, she goes out on Sunday's but she's not usually late back."

"Well we hope you're soon going to be able to join us again on Saturday nights Bob," he was being told.

Then he heard Alec's voice.

"What are you doing here?" Bob asked him.

"Bringing Rose back," Alec replied, since Bob had hardly spoken to him recently and he was no longer the thirteen year old the man had tried to intimidate.

"Well you did, you can go now," Bob told him.

"Why are ya being rude to him?" Rose wanted to know. Then she realized. "Are some of your friends here?"

"Never mind Rose," her mother tried to tell her. "Thanks for bringing her back Alec."

"It's fine Mrs Tyler, it was Rose's idea because she thought you didn't see much of me now. Rose, I'll be going then? Walk out with me?"

He led her outside.

"Alec, there's someone in there, I know there is."

"Shush Rose, just go to your room. They will have gone back to them, you sneak back in and avoid them. That was my idea."

"Yeah, good thinking, detective. Seriously, are they deluded or something to think I'd walk in and join them?"

"Probably. Rose just promise me you won't?"

"I promise. Night then, see ya in the morning, detective."

"Rose, are you going to keep calling me that?" he asked as she put her arms around his neck.

"Yep," she laughed, going to ruffle his hair. "Best get used to it. You can have a name for me, if ya want though?"

Alec couldn't think of one she would approve of. She was very pretty and why she stayed with him when the older boys would stare at her when they were going to classes, he didn't know. She beat all the other girls in their year by a mile and he'd been surprised he'd not had to tell any boys to back off.

"I can think of loads of names for you Rose but you would probably slap me. See you tomorrow then?"

"What makes ya think I'd slap you if ya tried?" she teased him. "Don't forget I have to go the other way after we get dropped off tomorrow?"

"John can take you, if you ask him," Alec replied.

"It's okay Alec, it's not far, just at the other end of the road. Alec, I never told ya the other reason I was going." She took hold of his denim jacket lapels and indicated she wanted another kiss. "Ya must know."

"You want us to take things a bit further?" he dared asked, his heart beating a little faster than normal but she did that to him sometimes and he wished it was every time.

"Do you? I mean I want to get something to stop my monthly being all over the place but, well, if ya think it's too soon to maybe go a little further?"

"Really? Well, when we're in my room, especially during the holidays then yes, I mean you have me down to my shorts," he reminded her.

"Yeah and it's kinda nice ya know? I know I've been a bit shy though but maybe you can help me with that? I wasn't sure, that you'd want me to see me?"

"Is that why?" he asked, hoping no-one would come out as they stood by the lift. "Rose, yes, I want to see you, I mean if you want? Just maybe start with taking off your school shirt or whatever you're wearing. Rose, you don't have to be shy with me."

"I'll try not to be Alec. I know what they're up to in there, one of those awful boys will be there and they'll be trying to get me to start going out with whoever it is. I can't face them Alec, don't they know how they make me feel?"

"Come here Rose," he told her, putting his arms around her shoulders, Rose leaning into him.

Alec thought if the camera wasn't there, he'd kiss her again.

"Want me to go downstairs with ya?" Rose asked him.

"It's fine Rose, just go to your room and forget them."

"Yeah, just for you," she nudged him with a grin.

"Do it for yourself Rose, please. I worry about you every time I bring you back, so do my family, though my aunt doesn't say much but I can tell."

"Alec, I know they all do, they're like a real family to me since I've been here. I still miss everyone back home but they've made up for it. What ya said before, well let's see how things go, if I can get something, yeah?"

"Yes Rose, see what they say? You do realize where this is going, if you are thinking the same as me?" he asked.

"Yeah, well no harm in what I suffer from serving two purposes? I mean I was gonna go see my local doctor about it but if I don't see a female one, I'd probably back out so going to the clinic's the best thing, mum actually agreed. Oh, do ya think she agreed because of those boys coming around? Geez Alec, what are they up to?"

"Rose, they could just be playing games with you, have you thought about that?"' he asked her, putting his hands on her shoulders. "I think they are Rose, maybe they are not trying to get you to actually go out with those boys?"

"Then what are they doing Alec? Geez, I wouldn't go near any of them."

"I know you won't Rose, try not to worry eh? They must get some kind of satisfaction out of it. Just remember, you have me on your side."

"Yeah, I know Alec. Well I'm off to sneak back to my room, see ya tomorrow."

After successfully getting to her room without being heard, she thought about what they'd said to each other. Things were getting more serious between them, though the laying down and kissing was nice but maybe it would be better if she could get up the courage to at least let him see some of her? He wasn't putting her under any pressure, it had been her decision to do something in case they did actually want to move forward in their relationship.

All the next day, Rose was nervous about going to the clinic and Sandra noticed.

"Stop worrying Rose, my sister said there was nothing to it. I'd go myself but I've not got anyone like Alec so there's no point really. I hope you get what you wanted."

So did Rose or Alec would be complaining she was complaining she never knew when she was going to be 'off' – not that he said anything when she didn't want to lie on him and she'd just lie on her side and he was tempted to part her school shirt and risk a black eye or something.

He didn't really know why she hid herself away, especially when he'd seen her in her swimsuit and had noticed a few things about her. He knew now it was up to her, if she was prepared to protect herself if they mutually agreed they wanted to move on. He would never suggest anything until she felt more confident though and the situation at home was putting her off.

He'd not said anything to his dad about what they thought was going on but as they got into John's car, he asked how things were going.

"Tell me where your mum works Rose, I can drop you off," John offered. "I hope it's nothing serious, going to the health centre?" he asked as that was what Alec had told him.

"Nah, just women stuff and my mum telling them I'm old enough to go on my own. It's just a bit awkward to talk about."

"Well okay-dokey, we'll just leave it at that then? How were things when you got home last night?"

"Alec went in with me, didn't ya Alec? They had visitors but I never went in the living room, Bob was complaining as usual. They can forget it, I'm not getting involved but I'm getting a bit scared."

"I wish we could do more Rose, really I do. They seem very reluctant to say what's actually going on but why is Bob so desperate to join in? Did they talk in front of him and it got his interest? Sorry Rose but it's quite apparent he went looking for someone and he picked your mother, because she'd been on her own so long."

"Yeah, I gathered that but telling her? She'd never believe me and it could make her tell Bob and I dread to think what he'd do. I don't think he'd tell us to leave, he's got it stuck in his head that's how he wants things. Besides, she's stuck on him, she'd never go for it."

"Like you're stuck on Alec," John joked. "Right, where am I going?" he asked as they passed Rose's apartment block.

John stopped a few doors down from where her mother worked and Rose gave Alec a quick peck on the cheek as she got out, saying she'd see him later. She waved to her mother through the steamed-up window and waited for her. They walked down the road and reached the health centre, the clinic entrance being around the side and they went inside.

Rose was given a form to fill in to register with them and told someone would explain things to her.

"Getting nervous?" her mother asked.

"A bit, yeah. Mum, there's nothing going on between me and Alec, I'm only being careful. I just don't want anything to happen and it'll help me know where I am with my monthly, I didn't know what had hit me when I first started with them and Alec thought I was being a grump."

"Well I don't suppose there's anything wrong with you being prepared. Just promise me Alec's not forcing ya into anything."

"Mum, he's not like that, really. Why does Bob invite his friends round with those boys?"

"He just wants us to be a family Rose and you won't even try to make friends with them."

"Yeah because they're both gross. I have Alec, why would I want to be friends with them? What's going on Mum?"

"What? There's nothing going on Rose, we're just friends gettin' together. What's wrong with that?" her mother asked as she finished off questions Rose couldn't answer. "We'll nip around to the other part when we finish here and tell them ya can be seen on your own."

Rose knew she was never going to convince her mother what Bob and his friends were up to, she was too far gone with what Bob was telling her it was what families did and her mother was a perfect target like John had said. There was no way her mother was ever going to realize it was Bob and his friends idea of what families were, not how like Alec and his family were like.

Chapter Text

Rose finally got what she had gone for at the clinic, being given a warning and being thankful her mother had waited outside.

"Now Rose," the sister in the clinic was telling her. "I hope you're not just using these to sleep around with boys?"

"What? No, I have a boyfriend and we've not got that far yet. I want to be prepared if we do, what's wrong with that?" Rose replied.

"Well at least you're being sensible then, you'd be surprised how many girls come in with an attitude. Very well, I'll start you on a three month supply, see how you get on with them. Follow the instructions carefully. They will also stabilize your system. Any questions?" the sister wanted to know.

"I don't think so. I'll read the leaflet. I'm not gonna be swapping boyfriends all the time, I've known him for nearly two years."

When they got outside, Rose told her mother she was going straight to Alec's.

"Rose, you're never home now," she was reminded.

"That's because I want to avoid Bob. Mum, I'm sorry but there's something about him that gives me the creeps. I've noticed it for a while. He's got a funny idea about being a family, that's all."

Rose knew now where he'd got the idea from – his creepy friends and she wanted nothing to do with them. Alec's family felt more comfortable since she'd been here but things had been better when it was just with her mother, before Bob had come along. She couldn't really blame her mother for not wanting to be on her own and had easily been taken in by Bob.

When she got to Alec's, she insisted they went out after they had eaten.

"I got what I went for Alec," she told him as they sat on a bench in the park.

"So, that means you won't get grumpy?" Alec teased her, getting a nudge.

"That and other things. Alec, we both know where things are going, I just wanted to do the right thing. I got a leaflet with them, I'll have to read it. Now, we have to see how things go."

"You mean when you get my t-shirt off?" he teased her again. "Sorry. I know, really and what we do so far has been okay but once you get over being shy at me seeing you, well, everything may change. Rose, we don't have much time after school so it may take a while before we are both ready for being more serious."

Rose knew he was right – she had to get over being shy.

"Yeah, I know Alec and I will. I just wanted to know what you thought about it, I mean seeing me."

"Rose, I told you, you don't have to hide from me. Just take your time and maybe to make it easier, we could just have a little fun, you could maybe tease me?"

"I can do that. I was just bit worried, ya know, that ya wouldn't like what ya see."

"Rose, I see you in your swimsuit, I had noticed the changes recently. You look great in your swimsuit. You could start by letting me see you just in your underwear, if you want?"

"Okay, yeah, it's nice, lying on you and maybe now, well maybe I'll let ya unfasten my bra. I got some new underwear sets but I can't wear them for school, I'll have to wait for the next holiday."

"Then I can't wait to see them. Rose, I promise, I won't be disappointed. I could never be disappointed with you, you should know that. So, it's nice when you lie on me?"

"Yeah. I know I get up a bit fast, so ya can't see me but I'll try taking my time. It's all new to both of us."

"I know. Maybe you won't have to turn around to take your skirt and blouse off?"

Now she really knew he wanted to see her, she made her mind up she could at least do that. Over the next few days, they both enjoyed their time more as first, Rose would take her skirt off without turning around, then crawl over to him and they would unfasten her school shirt and she would take it off by turning away but by Friday, he had persuaded her to let him help her out of it.

Over the next few weeks, Rose stayed away from Bob as much as she could and he'd noticed, talking to Jackie about it one Saturday evening as they still weren't invited to any get togethers of their friends.

"I'm getting tired of missing out Jackie," he reminded her. "This is not what I wanted."

"I know Bob, maybe Rose will come round? Why don't you ask that if she's thinking about it, we can start going again?"

"Will she think about it Jackie? They were not keen she brought Alec with her."

"Bob, I thought that was your idea? Why don't they agree? Maybe if they got to know him?" Jackie asked.

Bob wondered if they would go for it and if it was worth asking. His idea to get Alec jealous could still work he supposed. All he had to do was get back in favour and on Saturday night when Rose was going out, tell them they were both required to stay when it was their turn for their friends to gather.

That was going to go down well.

The first day of the holiday, they had gone out with Alec's dad for a visit to Edinburgh, looking around the castle grounds and other places of interest. Alec was taking photos, getting her to pose in front of the castle and a fountain and Alec's dad watching the way they looked at each other.

When Rose had gone home, Alec was talking to his dad.

"Alec, I know you and Rose are really close. I want you both to promise you'll be sensible. You know what I mean by that?"

"Yes Dad, I know. We are being sensible," Alec replied, not wanting to go into details.

"I mean it Alec, don't tell me the two of you are not tempted? When Rose goes up to your room while I am in, it had better be to listen to music or helping Rose catch up on her school work."

"Yes Dad, I promise. Rose is doing well with history and geography, she should do better with her exam this year."

"Good, I hope her studying pays off. Alec, I know you are both going to get curious but remember – you do as I say and remember you are both only fifteen, there will be time when you are older but not when I'm here – understand?"

Alec could only agree but he doubted either Rose or himself would stick to it when his dad was out but as long as he didn't suspect, he thought they would get way with it. Rose had taken a wise decision so it must mean she knew things were likely to change between them.

By the end of the week, Rose had gradually allowed him to see a bit of her, which pleased him, the just kissing had intensified, Rose lying on him. On the Friday afternoon when they had been to his aunt's, Alec wanted to go down by the river but Rose wanted to go back to his house to talk.

Alec insisted as they went to their usual place, sitting on the log.

"Rose, I know you wanted to talk. My dad said no messing around when he was in so we have to be careful. We have to agree and stick to it, so, if we are going to my room after school, we have to act normally when he gets home."

"You think I can't do that?" Rose asked him, trying to stop a grin.

She nudged him, Alec knowing she was teasing him again.

Before they both knew it, they were enjoying their time after school lying on Alec's bed and getting more daring that Rose was glad she'd been to get something as the sensations got even more intense and one of them was about to lose their last piece of underwear and Rose had already decided it was best it was her when the time came.

Rose had already reminded her mother about their upcoming holiday and Bob's attempts to lure both Rose and Alec into their activities when it was their turn for their friends to come over failed and Bob, he was still having to cover for them. The summer holidays were coming up and Bob was trying to get their friends to agree to wait.

"We've given you plenty of time," Bob was reminded by one of the boys' parents.

"I know, they've been going out on Saturday nights, Rose has been meeting him downstairs. I'm going to insist he comes up and they both wait. I can't understand why she does not invite him up."

"He has the code to get in, he was here a while ago and he refused to let us in," one of the mothers told him.

"So you told me at the time," Bob replied, thinking he would be out of their circle soon enough. "Let me get Alec up here, they may want to stay."

"We hope so," one of the others replied. "We only let you back in because you said you could get them to stay. We already told you the boys are getting inpatient."

Jackie wanted to say something but thought she'd best not. What was stopping the two older teenage boys from going out and getting their own girlfriends? She got that Bob wanted Rose to mix with the other teenagers, she had very few friends and neither had Alec, from what she could gather, since Rose only mentioned her friend Sandra at school. She did wonder why they were talking about excluding them again though.

When their friends left, Bob turned to Jackie.

"We have to talk to her Jackie, I mean it this time."

"Yeah, I know Bob. Why don't we take a last minute holiday? Ya can get them really cheap."

"Why ask now? Has Rose agreed to go?"

"Well no but last year was good and Rose managed okay," she reminded him.

"Jackie, is Rose going off with him?"

"What? I never said that," Jackie replied.

"She is and you already knew. Where is she going Jackie?"

"They're going with his dad. We can still go somewhere can't we?"

"Please yourself Jackie, you should have told me. So when is she going?"

"I'm not sure, she never said. She can manage even if we go at a different time, she's old enough."

Bob wasn't happy. Things were not going as he planned, what was the point? He was going to have to take drastic action at this rate. He'd thought Rose having a boyfriend would be an advantage, even having Alec being there was better than her absence. He was going to have to do something but not let on to Jackie.

Bob agreed to a holiday and Jackie said she would find out when Rose was going. He made his mind up he was not giving up and that choosing Jackie and her daughter had been the right thing to do. They were still welcome every Saturday afternoon and he would have to work on getting Rose involved – with or without Alec.

Rose was looking forward to going away, she spent more time at Alec's than she did in what was called home, it didn't feel like home to her and going out on Saturday night, they would delay in the fast food restaurant and get back as late as they dare. They would stand kissing outside Rose's door, not caring if her mother and Bob had friends round or not.

"We'll get caught one of these days," Alec laughed one Saturday night. "I was thinking, what would happen if you were to invite me into your room? Would they notice?"

"I don't honestly know but if I do, we'll have to get back earlier ya know? We never really tried, did we?"

"Well maybe we should try next Saturday, then other nights I walk you back? Well maybe not every night?"

"Yeah, we can try?" she had to agree, putting her arms around him. "I'm worried though. Bob's been very quiet and instead of going out, they've only had the odd couple or so round and they'd left before I got back."

"They must have got tired of waiting for you to join in," Alec replied, leaning into her neck.

"Yeah, they'll be in for a long wait. Even if they agree to let you stay, what then? Geez Alec," she tried to look up at him. "What do ya think would happen if we stayed one Saturday night?"

"Stop worrying Rose. We are not going to find out, we agreed. They can do what they like Rose, we are not going to be part of whatever he has planned. Now you know why I want to join the police, to protect someone like you from people like him. You've not said anything about applying for college lately you know?"

"Alec, how can I apply? It's easy for you, you know what you want to aim for, to get in the police training college. I've no idea what I want to do."

"Then think about it? See you tomorrow and think about inviting me in? Are you afraid what your mother would say?"

"It's not her I'm worried about," she replied.

It never seemed to happen as they broke up from school. They were just a week away from the holiday, Rose learning her mother and Bob were going away a week later so she really did have to fend for herself. Luckily, Alec's aunt said she really could stay with them in the spare room that had been made for Alec, since they never knew when his other cousin would show up.

"Of course you're welcome to stay," Alec's aunt had told her, the week before they were going on holiday. "We can't have you staying on your own. So, are you looking forward to your holiday, the both of you?"

"Yeah, Alec's looking forward to discovering more about the Loch Ness monster," Rose joked.

Rose was surprised her mother actually wished she had a good holiday as Alec called for her on the Saturday morning and Alec's dad had to smile when Alec sat next to Rose in the car.

"It's a fair way so we'll make a few stops," they were both told, not that he thought Alec would maybe want to sit in the front and spying through the mirror that they were holding hands.

When they finally arrived just outside Fort William, the caravan was a bit smaller than the one from the year before but had a double and a twin bedroom though Rose suspected they would have to leave the door open, since she'd got the double room. She didn't think his dad would appreciate Alec trying to sneak into her room though and the holiday and everything else could end badly.

After looking around the town the next day, over the next few they drove up towards the tip of Loch Ness, visited a museum about the legend of the monster and took a boat ride, which Alec insisted on sitting inside the craft to get a better view.

"Hoping you're gonna see it?" Rose smiled as his dad got some drinks from the small bar. "Aw, sorry."

"A lot of people claim they have seen it Rose."

"Hey, maybe when we get back, you can include it in one of your stories?"

"I may just do that then?" Alec replied, since he was leaning on the back of the seat and peering into the water.

Rose patted his shoulder as his dad put two hot chocolates and his tea on the small table.

She noticed he wasn't writing as much, since they had now got other ways of passing the time until his dad got home, like deciding if it was Rose who lost her underwear or not, since she considered it the safest bet should they get around to it. They hadn't actually got into Alec's bed yet though he'd found a spare bedspread and put it over them, since it was becoming apparent Rose liked being on top.

On the last day of their holiday, they went back into the town again, looking around the shops and taking a boat ride on the loch Rose couldn't pronounce the name of. All too soon, they were getting ready to leave, Rose was going home to wash her clothes and pack what she needed to stay at Alec's aunt's house.

Alec was sitting in the kitchen with her, since his dad had gone to get the groceries.

"We have a lot to talk about Rose."

Rose went to join him.

"Yeah, we have some decisions to make. Do ya think we should wait, to be more serious?"

"I don't really know. I mean we both like what we do so far, we have to both agree. This is something we can't talk to John about."

"Well, if we decide what to do, we have to agree it's not all the time. Alec, you should get back into your writing and we should go back to doing things like listening to music and dancing. I know we do some of that when your dad gets home but we should have two or three days we do normal things. We can still just lie on the bed kissing for a while. Whatcha think?"

The following Monday, Alec went round to his aunt's, Rose waiting for him in the kitchen as they had both decided to think about what they'd discussed. They went to the park and sat on a bench.

"If we make a commitment Rose, there will be no going back. You can back out, you only have to say, I won't be mad at you. It's a big step Rose."

"Yeah, I know. You know I love you? I mean if we go ahead, it may take a while, we both might lose our nerve."

"How about Fridays and Mondays?" Alec suggested. "The rest of the time we carry on with what we were doing and we'll only change it if we both feel it's not enough."

"Yeah, I can go for that. Should we wait until my monthly's out of the way?"

"You still have a week Rose. We could try later, if you want?"

"You won't get mad, if we stop?" Rose wanted to know.

"I said not Rose. We may both back off but if we don't try, we won't know. I love you too Rose and I want us to at least try. We have a week before your mum gets back and being away, Bob might have got tired of trying to get into what his friends are into. I'll look out for you Rose, I won't let anything happen to you, I promise."

"I know Alec but it still creeps me out. What if those boys start coming around on their own? They might try another way, if they're that determined."

"Don't think that Rose. I'll see you to your door and collect you, don't worry about that. If Bob lets them in before I get there, go back to your room until you hear I'm at the door. Do you think they really would go that far?"

"Geez, I hope not. It really does give me the creeps thinking about it."

"I know. At least we can talk to John about that, we should talk to my dad as well when he gets home. You know it may be building up to that?"

"Yeah, it probably is. He's not said anything else but who knows what he's changed his plans to. He may try anything to get back in with his friends. What are they up to? Why don't they come out and say something, like they actually want me to go out with one of them?"

"I thought they had?" Alec tried to joke.

"I don't know, I was tryin' to forget about it, thanks for the reminder," she tried to smile as she nudged him.

"Sorry. Rose, it's leading to something, we know that. Just stay out of it like you have been doing, that's all you can do."

"Easy for you to say," she tried to joke.

Should she talk to her mother when they got back from holiday? Her mother wouldn’t hear any bad about Bob but how was he stringing her along to agree with it?

"Alec, I just thought. Why is my mum going along with this? What is he not telling her?"

"Rose, she was on her own, everyone agrees she was an easy target for him. Who knows what he's told her and she knew no differently. He's got her to see his way of life and family and she readily agreed, since she only knows his friends."

"I wish she'd get to know your family Alec but Bob doesn't let her go anywhere. Look at the trouble I used to have with going out."

"Yes, I know and I'm glad it got easier Rose."

"Only because you stuck up for me. What would I ever do without you Alec?" she asked as she leaned her head on his shoulder.

"Rose, let's go back to my house?"

"To make a start?" Rose teased him.

"Well, it is Monday."

Rose had to smile.

When they got back to his house and he locked the door, he led her upstairs.

"Rose, whatever happens, don't get up and leave."

"I wouldn't do that Alec. Want to get under the cover before ya take those shorts off?" she almost giggled as he took his jeans off.

His hair had grown again and was spiky as she went up to him and ruffled it. She reached up, just in a vest top she'd put over her bra and her underwear and whispered in his ear.

"Ya don't have to though."

"I don't know Rose, we should get used to each other maybe? Do you maybe need some help?"

He realized what he'd just said as she giggled again.

"I meant with your bra fastener Rose, unless you really need help with your underwear?"

Rose went quiet. Was she ready for that?

"Maybe another time?" she just replied as she took off the top.

Alec was now used to seeing her but had not seen her in this new set of underwear she had bought.

"Wow Rose, where have you been shopping?"

"They're getting used to me in that shop, it was in the sale. So ya like it?" Alec nodded. "I could get something a bit more daring next time? I mean if ya want to start seeing me in it?"

Alec thought she had to be joking. How had things progressed so fast that she wanted to show herself to him? She had started by letting him unfasten the item but was she wanting him to take it off while they were standing there? He thought she just may want to as she did that sway of hers, her hair hanging over one side of her face.

He knew she may only be fifteen but she would be stunning when she got older. He wished he could encourage her more to enroll in collage, that he was going to have to choose soon, since they would be asked about it when they got back to school. She didn't think she was good enough though and she was.

"Yes Rose, I would like that. Want to turn around?"

Rose smiled and let him unfasten the clasp but dashed over to the bed, still clutching the item.

"Don't run away Rose."

She slowly took the item away and sat on the bed, leaning back on her arms. Alec crossed over to her and she scrambled over, Alec going after her, making her start to giggle.

"Don't hide from me any more," he asked her, leaning over.

"Okay, I was just a bit unsure. I mean what we were doing and this? Alec, I wasn't sure I was what you expected."

"What do you mean? That you're not good enough compared with models in magazines? They are not real Rose, they are made to look like that. I hear talk in the playground, girls like you thinking they have to be like them. Just be yourself Rose, even if that's only with me."

"I don't want anyone else Alec, you know that."

"Other boys will start to take interest in you," he replied, trying not to look unhappy about it and putting his hands either side of her.

Rose raised herself on her elbows.

"I don't care about them Alec. I spend all my time with you, when do I have time for them? Come here."

She sat up and put her arms around his neck so they touched. Then she pulled him back with her and she indicated where he should kiss her. He never hesitated, Rose moaning softly as it felt good, the light kisses seeming like they tingled.

"Geez Alec, why haven't we done this before?"

He stopped mid kiss. He wondered that himself. Rose was far more mature for her age but he had caught up, she though chose to hide the fact. Now he knew she'd never look at any of the other boys at school and certainly not those whom Bob was trying to force on her.

"I don't know Rose, maybe because you were hiding from me," he suggested.

"I'm sorry Alec. I'm over that now, I think."

"Yes, I can see that Rose," he smiled.

Now, everything was going to change between them.

Chapter Text

When they got back to school, every afternoon they would go straight to Alec's room and stick to Monday and Friday as they ventured into a sexual relationship, taking it slowly at first until they were both more confident. Alec had of course got nervous the first time they tried properly, making Rose giggle and telling him it was okay.

It was the last day of the late holidays, it was getting cold so their outings were cut down and Alec had got up to clean himself up, Rose scrambling back into her underwear.

"Honestly, don't worry about it," Rose was telling him as he used some tissues and thankful she was covered and he wasn't wearing anything. "You just got a bit carried away, that was probably my fault. We don't exactly have any experience."

"I know that Rose. You getting all excited did not help. Are you supposed to be on top?"

Rose giggled again as she put her vest top on.

"Um, I don't really know, it really was my fault for moving around I suppose? Are there any rules?"

"Be serious Rose," Alec replied, getting his shorts on and praying nothing had happened to the bedclothes in as such he'd need to wash them before his dad found out. "We can't ask anyone about it and don't believe everything you see on TV. Maybe next time, we should try with me on top?"

"Yeah and that way I won't get ya so excited? It was still okay though, wasn't it?"

Alec got back on the bed again, Rose sitting up and hugging her knees.

"Yes Rose, maybe I did get carried away? It won't put us off trying again though, will it?"

"What? No Alec it's not put me off. If anything, it makes me wish we didn't have to wait until Monday. Are we going downstairs?"

"Are you teasing me again? No Rose, we can go back to kissing, if you want?"

Rose leaned over and he pulled her down. He was about to help her pull her underwear down again when they both stopped suddenly when they heard knocking at the kitchen door.

"Are you expecting anyone?" Rose asked as she pulled her underwear all the way up and Alec was scrambling into his jeans.

"No, why would I be? Maybe it's John?"

"Why would he be calling round?" Rose wondered.

"How would I know Rose?" Alec asked as he put his t-shirt on, hearing more knocking.

"Just pretend we're not in," Rose suggested. "My mum was always doing that."

"That's not helping Rose. Are you getting dressed?"

"Oh, you're not coming back up then?" she teased him.

"Seriously, stop it Rose. Best hurry."

Rose huffed as Alec went out, closing the door behind him. She thought even if it was John, he was being inconsiderate.

John was about to give up when Alec unlocked the kitchen door.

"What took you so long Cous?" John greeted him.

"Rose had her records on loud," Alec offered, hoping it would work and that his t-shirt wasn't inside out.

"I didn't hear any music," John told him.

"One just came to the end and we heard knocking. Why are you here?"

"Where's Rose then?" John wanted to know.

"She went to the bathroom, you know how long girls take," Alec grinned.

"Yeah, I suppose so. I wanted to talk to the both of you. Alec, I know you're helping Rose with her homework and other stuff but this time, if she doesn't get a good grade, she could be out."

"I thought we would have got our results by now?" Alec asked him.

"Those exams were different Alec. You know you're going to be asked about college or university?"

"Yes and Rose is sure she won't be accepted. What do I do if I can't get in one near home?" Alec asked him.

"You mean if Rose doesn't get in? You have to face it Alec, you want to go on to the police collage, you'll be away from home then."

"Rose could move with me, I'll get some accommodation. She'll be able to get a job," Alec replied.

Rose was just coming down the stairs and heard him. So, he wanted her to go with him, when he was old enough to be accepted into the police? She'd not thought that far ahead and it seemed he had.

"Yeah, like he said," Rose joined in, going to sit at the table next to Alec.

"Rose, I came to offer you some extra tuition, if you've scraped through your last exams. I know you tried your best but I can help you with science. I know you pay attention but you missed out on a lot before you got in at the grammar school. You could find yourself having to change schools."

"It's that bad?" she tried to joke as Alec took her hand.

"We'll get you through this year Rose, won't we John?"

"We'll try Alec but I found out the criteria for those who were accepted under special circumstances, like you were Rose, is changing. They expect a certain grade and the last exams is the last of the old criteria. I was called to a meeting yesterday, I thought I should warn you."

"We do our homework," Rose insisted. "I take notice in class, unlike I used to do at my old school."

"I know you do your best Rose," John tried to assure her. "I can at least help you in two subjects. How about I come round twice a week, say Tuesdays and Thursdays?"

Both Rose and Alec were relieved it wasn't Monday and Friday. Rose accepted John's help and thought about where she needed to concentrate and when they got back to school, the exam results were published, everyone gathering around the notice boards to see what they had passed in.

Alec had got good grades when they got to the board and Rose had done slightly better than she thought, except in science and maths but was afraid next year, she wouldn't pass any of them. Alec tried to assure her she'd so okay when they got back to his house.

"They must do things differently in Scotland then?" Rose asked, thinking the results should have been back a while ago.

"You've been here two years Rose. Don't you feel like you belong yet?"

"I feel more at home here, with you. Going back every evening after leaving you, well I just wish I didn't have to."

"I know Rose. I was thinking, if I have to go away to college, you could come with me?"

"You said police collage Alec, I heard you telling John."

"Rose, I can't go to collage and leave you behind. I love you Rose, I can't just see you in the holidays. It works for my cousin Peter, it can work for us. His girlfriend already lived there though, she had her own place but we can manage."

"To share a tiny bed-sit or a flat? Well it would be better than me staying here with my mum and Bob. We have plenty of time to think about it."

"I just don't like the thought of you having to change schools next year. We'll get you through your next exam Rose, I promise."

Rose knew he would keep that promise so she was determined to do her part and do her best to get through the next exams. Now she wished she'd not messed around in her last school. Neither John or Alec had said anything about it or judged her but she supposed they figured she was at least making up for it and it was in the past.

As they got closer, sometimes breaking their initial plan of only being together twice a week and the rest of the time listening to music and dancing, Rose was getting home as late as she could on a school night and even later on a weekend night and avoiding Bob's friends when they were visiting but Alec got delayed one Saturday, Rose getting nervous.

"So, Alec let you down then?" Bob goaded her as she waited in the hallway.

"He'll be here," Rose insisted wondering where he was.

"Well, you can come and join us," Bob gestured to the living room, Rose hearing her mother laughing over something.

Alec had always told her if he was late, that she should go to her room but maybe it was worthwhile seeing what they got up to? She left her coat on and wandered into the living room.

"Rose!" her mother greeted her.

The other couple and the boy she couldn't remember the name of who had seen them in the takeaway all that time ago was lounging on the sofa. He looked up as Rose stood there.

"There's room here Rose," the boy spoke to her.

"No thanks I'll stand, I'm just waiting for Alec," she replied as the boy moved.

Was it just her or did he look even more gross?

"Why do you bother with him?" Jimmy asked.

"It's nothing to do with you, is it? Why do ya think I've been avoiding you and your friends?"

"Don't be so rude," Jimmy's mother told her.

"Oi, leave my daughter alone," Jackie defended Rose.

"Bob, you said you would get her to stay," Jimmy's mother told him.

"Rose, just sit down," Bob insisted.

If there was one thing Rose had learned, it was to avoid doing as Bob said, since she was hardly there.

"No, I'm off to wait downstairs for Alec," Rose replied, heading for the door.

Bob suddenly blocked her way.

"Do as I say Rose and go sit down. If Alec calls up for you, he can wait or go away."

"What?" Rose asked.

"You are going to go sit down next to Jimmy," Bob still insisted.

"Rose, just do as he asks," her mother tried to keep the peace.

"Mum, you can't agree with him?" Rose wanted to know, trying to get past Bob.

"Your mother has no say in it," Bob told her.

Rose knew her mother was just going along with whatever Bob wanted.

"Let me past," Rose stood her ground, hearing the door buzzer in the hallway. "You can't make me stay."

"You are under my roof Rose and my guardianship. I let you do as please, don't push me."

"Guardianship? Mum?" Rose asked as she heard the buzzer again.

"It's not formal," her mother replied. "It was just an arrangement we made when I agreed you and I would come and live with him."

Rose could hardly believe what she was hearing. Bob turned towards Jackie and Rose saw her chance to get past him. She ran to the door, since Alec had let himself in the building.

"Alec, let's just get out of here."

"Rose, what's wrong?" Alec wanted to know as Bob called for her to go back. "Wait a minute, why is he calling for you to go back?"

"I'll tell ya later, why are you late?" Rose asked him as they headed for the lift.

Alec had been talking to his aunt as he'd called in before collecting Rose. There were only a few weeks before Christmas and he wanted to surprise Rose by asking his aunt if she could stay there until after boxing day.

"Well Alec, if that's what Rose wants?" his aunt had asked him. "Are things so bad at home for her?"

"Yes, you know she's unhappy. I just wanted her to enjoy herself and not have to worry about going back. I wanted to surprise her when I go meet her, I wanted to tell her she didn't have to go back."

His aunt had smiled at him, feeling sorry for her nephew that he cared so much about his girlfriend he'd do anything for her.

"If Rose wants to stay, she's more than welcome. Go on, don't be late, John said you two go out on a Saturday night."

"Thanks Aunt Mary, it will mean a lot to her. She says she feels more at home with us."

He'd been about to leave when John had come into the kitchen.

"What are you doing here?" John laughed as his mother left.

"I wanted to ask if Rose can stay here over Christmas. I wanted her just for once to feel safe if her mother and Bob have their weird friends round."

"That's very commendable of you Cous, I'm sure Rose will be grateful, if your aunt agreed."

"Yes, she agreed. I should get going, she'll wonder where I am."

"Alec, it's a shame you're not old enough to get a mobile phone contract," John laughed. "I mean if you could afford one. Want to use the house phone?" he offered.

"No thanks, she knows to wait for me, she will probably make her way downstairs."

So now, they were waiting for the bus into town, knowing they would miss the start of the film they wanted to see and Alec was trying to get Rose to tell him what had happened.

"I went in the lounge." Rose began to tell him. "That boy, the large one, he was sprawled out on the sofa and I have to sit there," she admitted, thinking now, she'd throw a cover over the sofa before she sat there again.

"Calm down Rose," Alec tried to tell her.

"How can I calm down? He told me to go and sit next to him and I said no way or something like that. I just wanted to get out of there and Bob stood in my way, even when you rang the door buzzer. He wasn't gonna let me go Alec. He told me to sit down and more or less insinuated to sit next to that moron. What the hell were they expecting if I did?"

"Rose, I told you not to go in there," Alec reminded her as he saw the bus up the road. "You agreed to wait in your room for me. What were you thinking?"

"I was tryin' to find out what they were up to. Geez, I wish I'd not bothered. I thought just for a minute 'cos I'd heard them arrive while I was in the kitchen. I thought they'd just be talking, I heard my mum laugh at something."

The bus pulled up at their stop and Alec paid the fares, since their passes had long since run out. Rose went upstairs and sat down, annoyed with herself she'd gone in now to see what was going on. Alec sat down and Rose put her arm in his.

"Rose, I said to be careful, did I not?"

"Yeah, sorry. What did they expect, if I'd been stupid enough to sit down next to that moron?"

"I don't know Rose, you should have got out of there when you saw him on the sofa."

"I was just stunned, it was like he'd made himself at home. Geez, no wonder they kept asking where I was, what the hell was gonna happen Alec?"

"Rose, we have to tell my dad or John. It sounds serious when Bob would not let you leave. No wonder you were in a hurry to get out then? I'm really sorry I was late. I called at my aunt's and John caught me. I should have rung you to go and wait downstairs for me. I went to ask my aunt something."

"It's okay Alec, I should have gone downstairs, I don't know what I was thinking of but I'm glad Bob got distracted. The worse thing is, my mum was just sitting there, she didn't say much. I don't think she knew what was going on either, just that their friends were there. Is that what she thinks being a family is?"

"Probably, by the sound of it," Alec agreed, "Tell my dad tomorrow, tonight, just forget about it and we'll maybe just be in time to see the film, there will just be the film trailers and adverts first. My dad said at one time, there used to be two films on, now they just try to get as many people in as they can."

"Shame they changed it then. How can I tell my mum?"

"There's no easy way, she's being blinded by him into thinking it's normal," Alec replied. "I hate to think you even went in there when they were. Why is it always them who visit?"

Then he realised he'd been right but how could he tell her as she clung hold of his arm and he squeezed her hand. He did love her, he knew he did and he hated what might be going on. At least he knew she'd be safe over the upcoming festive holidays.

"Rose, I was late because I was asking my aunt if you could stay with them over Christmas."

"Oh. What did she say?" Rose asked, a bit surprised.

"What do you think Rose? She said yes, you can stay until the day after boxing day. What do you think?"

Rose would have kissed him, had they not been on the bus.

"Your family are the best Alec. Can I ask something? You have a spare room in your house, won't your dad let me stay there?"

"I never asked but I don't think it's a good idea. I mean I'd love for you to stay but it's too much of a temptation and my dad would think so as well. Rose, I just wanted you to feel safe, over the holidays."

"Alec, that's one of the nicest things you've ever done for me. I don't think I could face any of mum and Bob's friends over the holidays. I always see them as I'm waiting for you or just leaving. Come on, this is our stop, we won't have time to get popcorn now."

"You get the popcorn while I get the tickets," Alec smiled.

They showed their tickets and climbed up the steps to the back of the cinema and settled down, arm in arm, Alec sneaking a kiss now and then. They delayed their journey home, just sitting opposite each other by the window in the takeaway, Alec's hand on hers.

"Seriously Rose, stay out of their way next time. I hate to think what would have happened to you. Shall I tell you something?" Rose nodded. "All this time when I've been taking you back home, I hated leaving you there."

"Alec, I know ya did, you've been so worried about me. I would have gone crazy without you, what the hell was my mum thinking about, bringing us here?"

"I really don't know why she did Rose but we would never have met otherwise. When you are sixteen, you're old enough to leave home. I can ask my aunt if you can move in there, until we leave school."

"Alec, she's been like my aunt as well, I can't ask her that."

"Yes, you can, I'm sure she will agree, until we decide what we are doing. Your mum won't be able to stop you and neither will Bob. Until then, please, don't go near their friends again but now, I'm worried about what Bob has planned."

"It gives me the creeps Alec, then my mum wonders why I'm never in. When I have to be there, Bob's all over her, whispering things and she won't say anything. What the hell is he telling her?"

They got the bus back and Alec walked her to the door.

"I'll mention what happened to my dad, he can ask you about it tomorrow. Rose, you need to get out of there or be very, very careful."

"I'll just have to be careful then. Bob thinks he's some kind of guardian, goodness knows what my mum agreed to. She was too blind with him, with what he told her before we moved. She's not the same as she used to be and I've always hated the fact she has to go out to work."

"Bob must have forced her. Can't he afford to keep her? This place must be expensive?"

"I've no idea. Well, I hope their visitors have gone but I'm going straight to my room, I won't make the same mistake as earlier. What do ya think would have happened? I mean if Bob hadn't got distracted and I got past him?"

"Please Rose, don't think about it. I will see you tomorrow, just be careful eh?"

After they kissed goodnight, Rose entered the apartment quietly and went to her room but as she ventured to the bathroom, Bob caught her.

"Don't think you got away so easily Missy, you will make friends with Jimmy, whether you like it or not."

"Seriously? I'll see what my mum has to say about it first," Rose replied.

"You mother goes with what I say around here. I'll give you a bit longer but I'm running out of patience and so are they. I could send you and your mother back where you came from but I promised I would look after the both of you and she promised me something in return."

"Yeah? What did she promise then?" Rose asked.

"As if I would tell you, you live under my rules here and you've got away with far too much. I thought you having a boyfriend would make a difference. You may as well admit it Rose, you and Alec are having sex, are you not?"

"What? I'm not answering that unless my mother asks me."

"You don't have to. Be very careful Rose, you may not get away as easily as you did earlier the next time."

"You think I'd go back in there? You have to be joking."

Bob grabbed her arm, which Rose wasn't too happy about. He saw the look on her face and let go, thinking that wouldn't help his cause, which was to get Rose to comply. Rose went off to the bathroom, wondering what the hell had just happened, Bob questioning her if she and Alec were having sex, not that her mother didn't already know, with Rose getting her to take her to the clinic.

She'd since been on her own, she had been told she could stay on what she had been given until she got older. She had discussed it with Alec when she'd been told after the initial trial period after their first time, Alec had said he would take the responsibility if she had to come off them.

There was no way though she was going to admit it to her mother, let alone Bob. Why did he want to know anyway? Was it some kind of sick game they were all playing? She didn't want to think about it and at least over Christmas, she could forget about it. Now, she couldn't wait until she was sixteen and could leave home.

Rose enjoyed the Christmas holidays a lot better since she didn't have to go back home. Bob was complaining to her mother after Rose went off early on Christmas Eve.

"Where are you going with that bag?" Bob asked Rose.

"I'm staying over at Alec's aunt's for the holidays," Rose told him, hoping Alec wouldn't be late collecting her.

"Jackie, did you know about this?" Bob asked.

"Well yeah, what's the harm in it? We'd invited a few friends round anyway."

"You know why we invited them round Jackie," Bob reminded her.

"Hold on, you invited them round because you thought I'd be here?" Rose wanted to know. "Mum?"

"Well we thought ya would be here but it doesn't matter does it?" her mother asked.

As the door buzzer went, Rose just hoped her mother would be okay without her being there but this time, she had to think of herself – her mother had made her own choices with Bob and there was no persuading her otherwise. She had tried, after the incident where Bob was preventing her going out but Jackie had brushed it off and she had given up.

She had told Alec, who had assured her if her mother didn't want to listen, there was nothing she could do. Alec's dad had tried to assure her also, after the other incident that she was best staying away as much as she could and stay in her room until they had any proof what was really going on.

It didn't make Alec feel any better.

"Alec, we've done all we can," his dad had assured him as he prepared to collect Rose on Christmas Eve, after they had done some last minute shopping together in town. "At least you don't have to worry about her for the next few days and I hope you have a nice present for your aunt, since she's letting Rose stay? You know why we couldn't ask Rose to stay here? It was different in the caravan."

"Yes, I know Dad, I explained it to Rose, she was fine about it. I just did not want her worrying about going home during the holidays."

"That's very thoughtful of you Alec, I'm sure Rose appreciates it. Anything more about what happened a while ago?"

"No, she's said nothing. I told her how much I worried about her. I wish she could leave home and she will, as soon as she reaches sixteen, she promised me."

"Well, we'll have to discuss that later Alec, it all depends on what she's doing at school."

Rose was still trying to get away from Bob and her mother.

"When are ya coming back?" her mother asked her, as Bob looked annoyed and their friends would be arriving soon.

"After boxing day Mum, I may as well, I'll be going there anyway, she says it's okay. Hope ya like the present I got ya."

"Well have a good time then," was all her mother could think of.

Rose heard the door buzzer and picked up her holdall and the presents. As soon as she left, Bob turned on Jackie.

"You should not have allowed her to go Jackie."

"Well, like she said, she goes round anyway. We can still enjoy ourselves can't we?. So, who's coming round tonight then?"

He wanted to say they would all probably leave since Rose would be missing all the holidays and they'd invited people who were bringing their older teenagers. He'd been warned by a few of them they were getting tired of waiting for Rose to join in with them.

Rose soon forgot about what was going on at home as Alec's relatives came to visit, she felt part of a real family and hoped her mother would soon realise what was going on. As everyone was leaving, she got Alec out in the hallway after his other cousin teased them.

"Sorry about my cousin," Alec apologised.

"Aw, it's okay. Guess we don't need the mistletoe this year?"

Alec looked above the door.

"Oh, I don't know? I can't believe it's two years since our first kiss under it. This last year, well I hope next year will be even better."

"Yeah, so do I Alec. Whatever happens with school, if you want to go to college, I won't stop you."

"I can always go locally Rose, I'll still get into the police one but it's in Glasgow, I'll have to travel a bit further every day and who knows, you may get into the local collage with me?"

"I'm gonna try Alec, I promise. You know how hard I've worked to catch up."

"Yes, you have worked hard. Now all we have to do is wait until you can leave home, then I'll stop worrying what Bob and his friends are doing. I swear to you Rose, when I join in the police, I will find out."

"Alec, we have no proof except they're a bunch of weirdoes who drag their kids to the pub every Saturday afternoon. As long as I keep out of it but what if those kids have no idea what's going on either?"

"Rose, forget about it, I will find out, I promise. I'll see you tomorrow, I'll come round early."

"You don't have to, I'll be fine and I'll help your aunt get everything ready, if she doesn't throw me out of the kitchen," Rose smiled.

"Feeling happier about leaving her?" his dad asked on the way home.

Alec was a lot happier, now Rose didn't have to face any of Bob's friends who were delaying leaving in the hope of Rose going back early. Things were not going so good though as the guests were leaving.

"We're very disappointed," Bob was told as everyone got their coats.

"Yes," another one agreed, looking across at Jimmy and his parents. "I'm sure Jimmy and my Craig are disappointed.

"My Morag was disappointed as well," another woman complained, fussing over her daughter's scarf.

When they had all left, Bob turned to Jackie.

"See Jackie, we are going to insist Rose stays a while for the new year party."

"Is it our turn?" Jackie asked.

Bob shook his head, since he was too annoyed to argue with her and he'd get even more complaints and some of them would be he should have more control over Rose. Maybe he should be more firmer, though Rose acted older than she actually was, which would be an advantage if he could get her to stay.

All too soon, the Christmas holidays were over and Rose had to reluctantly return home, Alec walking her back and since Bob had gone to work, she invited him in.

"Rose, why doesn't Alec ever come in when Bob's here?" her mother asked as poor Alec sat reluctantly in the kitchen while Rose went to put her laundry in the washing machine.

"Maybe he's just tryin' to stay out of the way?" Rose turned and smiled at him.

Alec thought just how true that was, he didn't want to add to Rose's problems with Bob and get questioned as to why she was out all of the time. Rose got changed and they went back to Alec's house, giving in and Alec wondered why all of a sudden, the agreed two days a week of them actually having sex together instead of fooling around, which he thought was almost like having sex the extra days as Rose got all giddy with what they were doing, didn't seem nearly enough.

"We have to talk about this," Alec told her as they got dressed.

"Yeah, I think we do. I mean the rest of the time, it's good and we won't get that much chance once we go back to school. So maybe we can just see how we feel about it, when we're on holiday but we both have to agree."

"That makes sense Rose, let's agree that neither of us will get annoyed if one of us doesn't agree?"

"Okay then, we'll do that but you know I get a bit grumpy at certain times?"

"Yes, I know that Rose so that cuts it down. I promise not to get mad when you are a bit off."

With that agreed, Rose saying if he backed off, she wouldn't get mad at him and they would just enjoy what they normally did, the new year was approaching and they both knew it was crunch time to get Rose into the local collage and if Alec got a choice, he would hold back and hope he could still get into the police collage later.

They spent new year's eve day in the town, Rose getting a few bargains in the sale, Alec leaving her and saying he'd see her later and she was staying over at his aunt's again after it was suggested she may as well. Bob had an idea she would try going off early again to avoid their guests but Rose just wished they'd go out for a change.

As if Jackie already knew he was going to say something, she kept him in the lounge as Rose was leaving. There were trays of party food scattered around on various coffee tables in the spacious room, something Jackie liked, unlike their old flat they'd left behind.

"Jackie, this could be the very last time some of our friends agree to come over, you know that," Bob was saying.

"Well why don't we go to some of their homes?" Jackie asked.

"You know why, since we can't even get Rose to stay when they come here. We have to do something soon Jackie, she'll be sixteen next."

"Yeah, old enough to leave home," Jackie sighed, not wanting that to happen but she knew her daughter would choose to do so, maybe even off somewhere to college.

"Why do you say that?" Bob asked, unaware Jackie hadn't intended for that to come out.

"I'm not sayin' she will Bob. She'll have to get a job or get somewhere in the collage. She'll want to go to the same one as Alec."

"She'd be better staying locally Jackie, she lives here for free but I'll expect her to make some kind of payment when she's old enough," Bob replied.

Then he heard the door buzzer, Jackie standing in his way.

"Let her go Bob, we can't keep her here when Alec calls for her."

"I'm telling you Jackie, she had better change her attitude to staying here when our friends come round. She has until her next birthday, after that, well."

Jackie just shook it off and went to get more plates from the kitchen. If there was one thing she liked, it was having parties and while she missed Rose being there, she knew her daughter was where she wanted to be – with Alec.

Chapter Text

After another new year's eve together and celebrating Valentine's day, Rose and Alec's love for each other had grown and for some reason, in the school, no-one took any notice of them which proved John's theory somewhat that they were invisible to those who didn't want to see them though Rose had laughed at it.

It was now approaching Alec's sixteenth birthday and Rose was planning something, with a little help from John, who was still helping her catch up with school work and she was praying she would pass her exams so she could remain at the school and not have to either leave altogether or move to another.

It would be her last chance to apply for college and be accepted but she knew Alec wouldn't have that problem. Alec had already had some replies even though they had another year to go at school and he wondered why they'd had to apply so early.

John tried to explain it to them one lunchtime.

"Weeell," John laughed as Rose sat on the back of the bench with her arms around Alec's neck, since no-one said anything to them. "This is a grammar school, they have different ways of doing things. You will only be just over sixteen and not seventeen until it's the new term for college plus, for Rose, it's a chance to get more credits for her work. Don't worry Rose, I'll still help you and you didn't do too bad last time."

"I wouldn't have done it without you and Alec," Rose replied leaning her head on Alec's shoulder. "So, we apply earlier to make sure we'll get in? Alec's already had some replies."

"Yes, I know," John replied. "It doesn't mean you won't get any Rose, so don't worry just yet."

"I only just got by last year," Rose told him sadly, Alec trying to turn to her awkwardly.

"You will do better this time Rose," he tried to assure her.

"Yeah, well I hope so then. As long as you get in though, then ya can get in the police college."

"Rose, we talked about that," Alec reminded her. "You can come with me, I'll get a living allowance."

"Alec's right but maybe not the first year," John replied.

"I thought I would?" Alec asked him.

"You'll be expected to live in the college the first year or stay at home but it will be impractical for you to remain at home if you don't get in the Glasgow academy, you may have to go to one of the others."

"Geez, I hope not," Rose replied. "It'll be better if ya get accepted in Glasgow."

"Yes, then you will have already moved out of Bob's place. Rose, you still have to talk to my aunt about that," Alec reminded her.

"Well you'd best get around to it," John told her as he got up. "I can't ask her for you, it's up to you and it's only a few months."

Rose already knew that but she'd not got up the courage to ask Alec's aunt if she could have what had been Alec's room, before they had met. She had no means of paying her way unless she left school and got a dead-end job so asking if she could stay without being able to pay her way was a lot to ask.

Staying at what had become her home was getting her down and Alec and his family already knew there was something strange going on where Bob was concerned. Alec's dad had repeatedly told her to keep herself safe until Alec called for her on Saturday nights as Bob still insisted people came over and Rose was thinking about just going round for him but Alec was worried she would meet some of them on her way out. As John walked off, Rose sat beside Alec, taking his hand.

"Alec, how can I ask her? I mean she let me stay for a week at most, it's different me living there."

"Rose, she might let you work it off you know, by doing some housework and stuff. You won't know until you ask. It may not be as bad as you think. So, should I be worried what you have planned for my birthday this year?" he joked, squeezing her hand.

"You had better watch out, that's all I'm saying," Rose laughed, trying not to think what he'd do to get her back. "We went to the pictures for mine last year, remember?" she nudged him.

"Yes, I remember. Maybe we can do better this year?"

"Aw, I don't know, it was nice enough, then we started going nearly every week."

"Rose, you have to ask my aunt, maybe it should be this Sunday?"

"I don't know Alec. I mean I can't stay with my mum forever and she won't leave Bob, no matter how much I try and convince her to get a place of her own. I don’t know how much of her wages Bob makes her either spend on food and stuff, she might be able to afford a tiny flat or something, she won't tell me. We'd have a better chance if I left school and got a job."

"Rose, you can't give up easily after how hard you've tried to catch up."

"Alec, I can always go to college later and study in my spare time? Maybe that would be better anyway, if I can talk mum into leaving him but not going back to London. I think she misses our old life sometimes but obviously not enough. Did ya see anyone when you were calling for me last Saturday night?"

"Why, who was there to see Rose? We got out before anyone got there because I was early. Who was there when you got back?" he asked worriedly.

"Well that Jimmy was there with his parents and I heard them say it was his birthday in a few weeks, it must be around the same time as yours. Then while I was in the kitchen, I heard a girl's voice so that was a first time in a while. I hate to think what they'd been talking about."

"So do I," Alec agreed. "If my aunt says yes, you won't have to put up with it much longer."

"Geez Alec, do ya think something's gonna happen with them, when they get to sixteen?"

That was exactly what Alec was worried about and the sooner Rose got out the better.

"You have to promise you will do something Rose, I don't want you getting involved if something is going to happen," he replied as everyone made their way back inside.

"You're making me nervous," Rose tried to joke as they followed.

He thought she had every right to be as they went to the geography room for a double lesson, which Rose now didn't dread when getting asked to name Scottish locations. As the lesson began, Alec had to smile as Rose was the first to put her hand up when the teacher asked how deep Loch Ness was.

"Well answered Rose. How did you know that?" their teacher wanted to know.

"Miss, I went near there on holiday last year, we went to the museum," Rose replied.

She was just glad the teacher didn't ask who she'd gone with.

With it being a Monday, they dashed into Alec's house after school and up to his room, kissing when they got inside. Alec had something to tell her though.

"Rose, my dad mentioned something about changing his hours, now I'm older. He only did it to be here for me after school so he might be home later. If he is, well we can have more time together, if you want?" he asked worriedly.

"Oh. Well yeah, if you want to as well? If he does, well we should get our own tea, well I can get it ready, save him doing it. He's done it all this time for us."

"You, Rose Tyler, are something else," Alec replied, unfastening her school shirt as she lay on the bed, Alec just to the side. "Well maybe when we go away, we can do it as well?"

"Yeah, we should. Alec, he did do it for you, to make up for your mum not being here, it's time to give back and everyone's been so good to me."

"Yes, everyone knows how things are for you, they want to make up for it. If you could just get your mother to see what's going on and get her out as well but she's being fooled by him, what is he telling her?" Alec wondered as he reached to unfasten her bra strap.

Rose put her arms around his neck.

"Whatever it is, I'm out of it Alec. He can't say anything to me any more and he's deluded if he thinks I'm ever gonna join in. Geez, that time you were late was bad enough."

"Don't think about it Rose. You need to get out of there and I wish dad would let you stay here, in the loft but he'd never agree so my aunt is your best chance."

"Have you ever asked your dad?" she asked him as he got up to take his school trousers off, something he thought Rose seemed to enjoy, well that and him putting his jeans on and leaving them unfastened.

"Rose, he feels sorry for you but having you stay here is another thing, when there is an alternative. Maybe if my aunt says no but you have to ask her first. Rose, I have this awful feeling what will happen when every teenager who hangs around with their parents at your place and everywhere else they go, when they all reach sixteen."

"Yeah, so do I Alec and I don't like it any more than you do. They're being groomed, aren't they and Bob's annoyed he can't get me involved. That was his plan, so he could take part and he picked my mum because he thought he could groom me. What's he been telling my mum though?"

"Hush Rose, don't think about it. We don't have much time, remember?" he asked, going to kiss her top half and noticing how perfect she looked, with her hair fanned out across the pillow and her now smiling at him. "You are beautiful Rose."

When the weekend came around and they had spent Saturday afternoon mainly with Rose trying to get his birthday card and present, she was about to set off when Alec buzzed to say he was downstairs later on when Bob called after her.

"In a rush tonight are you?" he asked her.

"Alec's a bit early, we thought we'd get an earlier bus into town, so we don't have to rush to the cinema."

"Well, lately, you've been avoiding our friends and they are not pleased. Jimmy's parents said they saw you walking down the street last Saturday as they got out of their car."

"I have to go, Alec's waiting," was all Rose replied.

"Hold on. Don't think because you are older you will get away with it. All the others do as they are told young lady and you are spoiling things."

"You mean these plans ya keep going on about?" Rose asked him, thinking Alec would come up to see what was wrong. "Well ya never told me they included me. Does my mother know?"

"Do I know what?" Jackie wanted to know as she came out of the bedroom, all dressed up, Rose thought a bit too much.

"Nothing Jackie, I was just telling Rose about leaving before our friends arrive."

"Yeah, I noticed. Rose, ya know Bob likes ya being here when they arrive and all you've done lately is stay out of their way. They just want to see ya for a while before ya go out," Jackie told her as the door buzzer went.

Rose hoped it was Alec who'd got tired of waiting and not some of Bob's creepy friends she couldn't remember the names of, except the even creepier Jimmy.

"Mum, I don't want to see them before I go out. I have to check if that's Alec at the door."

Bob saved her the trouble as he answered it, seeing Alec standing there.

"You are keeping Rose from meeting our friends," Bob reminded him, Alec having lost count of how many times he'd heard it before.

"I waited downstairs for her," Alec replied, seeing her talking to her mother. "We agreed I would come up if she was late down."

Alec was hoping for a fast escape before Bob's friends began arriving but he heard the lift door opening behind him.

"You let them in?" Bob asked him.

"No, there was no-one behind me, the door must not have closed properly behind me," Alec tried to explain, since Bob's friends had argued with him over it once.

"We saw him going in Bob," Jimmy's mother told him. "Our Jimmy here caught the door."

Alec thought at least he was off the hook about it but he'd not noticed their car parked in the guest parking space, he would have made sure the door was locked. Alec looked at the other teenager, who was grinning at Rose.

"Well we are going out," Alec replied, taking Rose's arm.

He wanted to say there was no way either of them were staying any longer than they had to. When they got outside, Alec wanted to know why she'd not gone down.

"He caught me as I was leaving. Something's gonna happen Alec, I know it is so you'd better start coming up for me or else I start staying at your house when we get back from town."

"Calm down Rose. What did he say to you?" he asked as they went down the stairs.

"He's gettin' more insistent I stay until his friends arrive," she admitted as they emerged downstairs. "Mum was acting like there was nothing wrong with them wanting to see me. Geez, he's been brainwashing her all this time to think it was normal."

"Well your mother had nothing else to go on Rose, did she?" Alec asked worriedly, getting into the street and seeing a bus passing so they had twenty minutes to wait. "Rose, wait at my house from now on, something is going to happen and I have a feeling I can press your door buzzer all I want and Bob won't let me in."

"You're scaring me Alec. I'll lock myself in my room if I have to, before they arrive but I thought I'd be safe enough in the kitchen, seems I was wrong."

"Yes, you are Rose. I wish I was older, then I could join the police and find out what's going on."

Rose squeezed his hand. "Yeah, I know ya would Alec. I'm sorry you walked right into that."

"There is nothing to be sorry about Rose," he told her as they crossed the road to the bus stop. "I am always here for you."

They sat in the bus shelter, Rose with her head on his shoulder.

"I know Alec but sometimes it gets a bit much. What the hell did he mean? Why are his friends so bothered, why does whatever they're up to have to involve me?"

"Rose, think about it? You were thirteen, your mother wanted to get out of the estate you lived in and she thought she was giving you a better life. Bob saw his chance and the advantage was, your mother had been single so long, she would go along with whatever his plans were. We just need to know what they are."

"Being a detective again?" Rose teased him.

"I wish I already were Rose, then I could spoil everything. Try talking to your mum again Rose, get her to see there is something wrong."

"How do I do that Alec? Ya know I've tried but I can't just say we think the others are grooming their kids and Bob was trying the same with me. What if we're wrong?"

Alec didn't think they were as he rested his head on top of hers. He wished they were though. They went off to the cinema then got the bus back, Alec wanting to take her back upstairs.

"No Alec, if they come out, I don't want them saying anything to ya. If they can't get the message I'm not gonna stay then tough, that's their problem. They might have gone anyway, they seemed a bit upset."

"Yes, they did from what I saw," Alec agreed. "Just stay away from them when you get back, promise me Rose."

"Yeah, I promise," Rose replied as they got in the lift, hoping Bob's friends weren't waiting for it. "I'll talk to your aunt tomorrow, don’t say anything to her, I have to do it on my own."

"I'm sure she will agree Rose, after your birthday. You have nothing to worry about."

Luckily for Rose, she didn't get stopped going to her room, just hearing her mother laughing about something yet again. What did she find so amusing though? She wished Alec would call her when he got home, maybe it was time she started asking him? Did she want to stand in the hallway talking to him while everyone was leaving though? She thought if only the phone was portable.

The next day, she was keen to get to Alec's aunts to ask about staying there once she reached sixteen and could leave home legally. It didn't go quite as she expected as after Alec met her and they went straight there, she caught his aunt in the kitchen.

"You're early today Rose, any reason?" she was asked.

"Yeah, I wanted to ask something that I've been putting off. You let me stay that week when my mum was away and over Christmas last year and I can't thank you enough for that."

"You don't have to, we were glad to have you. What do you want to ask?"

"Well, you know how things are for me at home, not that I think of it as home," Rose began. "I'll be old enough to leave home soon and I was thinking of maybe leaving school and getting a job but I won't be able to afford a place of my own. I can't stay where I am and I was wondering if you would let me have Alec's old room you made for him. I'll help around the house, do my fair share."

She watched as Alec's aunt sat at the kitchen table.

"Have you talked to your mother about leaving home? I suppose Alec and John know?" she asked Rose.

Rose tried not to blush.

"I was a bit reluctant to ask you Mrs Smith," she replied, thinking she'd best not call her auntie Mary. "I can tell them at school I want to leave at the end of term, John said schools work a bit different up here or I could stay on and hope I get into the college Alec chooses, then if I can stay, I'll do the housework and stuff."

"I see then? You talked with Alec about it?"

"Yeah, sorry. I don't know what else to do really. I think something's happening at home, with those friends of Bob's, they're getting weirder, that Jimmy in particular. He was grinning at me last night, even when Alec was there and they'd followed Alec into the building without buzzing to be let in."

"Tell me Rose, what do you think they are up to? John and Alec don't say much else."

"Bob just keeps going on about me not spoiling his plans but I can't say much else, I have no proof. They scare the hell out of me after what I saw once when Alec was late. It's like they're playing some kind of game."

"I have a good idea what it is Rose. There is nothing anyone can do without any proof, to everyone else it seems like they are just friends getting together."

"Well Alec says when he joins the police, he's gonna find out, one way or another," Rose replied.

Alec's aunt smiled. "I have no doubt he will Rose, I know he loves you. Let me talk this over with Alec's uncle, it's a lot to ask. You know we all care about you though so we'll think carefully but if we decide we can do it, then we'll expect you to finish school, no leaving without trying to get into college, then you can apply for a grant. There's one thing though."

Rose had been expecting that.

"You mean me and Alec?" Rose asked. "We'll go by what you say Mrs Smith."

"That's not what I meant but since you have brought it up, yes, we would expect you to behave appropriately. What I actually meant was this Bob you live with, I don't want him coming after you."

"You think he would?" Rose dared ask.

"You'll be leaving home Rose and spoil whatever these plans of his are but surely he will realise you are too old now to go along with whatever they all have planned?"

"Too old?" Rose repeated.

"I think you had better get everyone in here to discuss that Rose, we all know where this is leading."

Chapter Text

Rose sat at the kitchen table while Alec's aunt went back in the sitting room.

"I think you all need to hear what Rose has to say."

"Where is she, has she gone?" Alec panicked as he got up.

"No Alec, she's still here," he was reassured, his dad grabbing his arm.

"Keep calm Alec, she wouldn't leave just like that."

"I'll bring her in then? She had something to ask me, which I need to discuss with your uncle," she told Alec.

Alec already knew what it was and John had an idea.

"She asked if she could stay here?" Alec's dad wanted to know, looking at Alec. "Alec?"

"She was going to ask when she turned sixteen, she wanted to leave Dad, she does not think of where she is staying as home, she never has."

His dad looked at his sister-in-law.

"I had an idea she would and Alec knows the reason she's not asked if she can stay with us. The both of you are too young, it would not be proper. I know she spends a lot of time with us and here Alec but staying is different. I will leave you to discuss it Mary."

"Is that what you want us to hear from Rose?" John wondered.

"No, it's something very disturbing. She can't stay there much longer, that's all I'm saying and I really do feel sorry for her, you know that, Alec?"

Alec nodded, wanting to get to see Rose. He knew when they were apart he felt sad and so did she. He also knew she needed some space from time to time but leaving her where she was living was getting him down. Every time he left her downstairs or outside her door, he just wanted to take her home with him, rather than her face Bob and his weird friends.

Rose rested her head on the kitchen table, wondering what the others would think of what Alec's aunt had just said. She knew things were getting serious at home, she dreaded to think her mother had been taken in by it all, to think it was normal, she knew no different. She sat up as the door opened. It was John.

"Rose, you'd better come with me. We've just been told what you and my mum discussed and we're all concerned about you. We all half expected it would come to this," he told her as he sat opposite. "As one of your teachers, I should report what's going on where you live."

"How can you?" Rose asked as she flopped her head on the table again.

"Rose, look at me," he encouraged her. "We want to help you. Things are getting more serious and you know it. How long have you been planning to ask if you can stay here when you're old enough to leave home?"

"A while," she admitted. "What your mum just told me though, could that be what Bob and his friends are up to? They think I'll be too old at sixteen so they're getting desperate?"

"Maybe? They are hanging around, waiting to see if Bob can persuade you to join in whatever they have going. They're wanting you to make friends with this Jimmy and you know why. They seem to think because you have a boyfriend you'll be more willing to go along with it. They want to get you and him involved with whatever they have planned."

"Yeah, I gathered that," Rose sighed, wanting to see Alec.

"They are already mentally abusing you Rose, with that alone I could raise questions with the authorities, as your teacher. Proving they are sexually abusing you and the other teenagers involved though is something else. Maybe that's their intention, we have no proof. Maybe they are trying to scare you so you'll give in?" John wondered.

"I want to see Alec," Rose looked up again.

"We're all in this Rose, come on, I think my mother has already made her mind up," John grinned.

Alec was on the edge of the chair, his dad watching him.

"Leave it to your cousin," he told Alec. "She trusts him."

Alec got up though when the door opened and Rose stood in the doorway.

"Come and sit here," Alec encouraged her as he got up.

His dad was sat in the other chair, his aunt and uncle were sat on the sofa so Rose took the seat and Alec sat on the chair arm, putting his hand on Rose's shoulder, which comforted her somewhat.

"I know what you're all gonna say," Rose spoke up. "John said Bob should be reported."

"Yes, he should," Alec's dad agreed.

"We all think so," his aunt spoke again. "Rose, all we could offer you is a tiny room we made for Alec a while ago. We never know when Peter is going to turn up but I'll speak to him about it, see if he's willing to give his room up."

"I don't want to cause any trouble," Rose replied.

"If he doesn't agree, well I know you spend a lot of time with Alec, it will only be a place to sleep," his aunt told her. "The main thing is though, you will be safe and at the end of the day, that's what we all want. How long is it to your birthday?"

"About a month after Alec's" Rose replied. "That means I've got about six weeks or so. Geez, what have they got planned, if they're running out of time?"

She leaned into Alec's side, Alec hoping no-one would say anything.

"It's okay Rose, we won't let anything happen to you," he tried to console her. "Aunt Mary, can't Rose just tell her mother she's staying here for a while?"

"It's not that easy Alec," John replied for his mother. "A week, then yes but we don't know how Bob will react. He could use her mother against her and she'll think nothing of it. Alec said you had trouble last night Rose."

"Don't remind me," Rose sighed. "Are they even serious? Like I'd ever join in with whatever they get up to. Mum will never say anything when I ask her. She just laughs and