5. The School Play

"You were fantastic!" squealed Rose, giving Joshua a big sloppy kiss on the forehead after his performance as the Artful Dodger in his school's rendition of the musical Oliver. He'd just got changed back into his jeans and jumper and met his mum by the hall exit. "I'm so proud of you!"

"Mum, it was just a school play. It's hardly like I've won the Nobel Prize for quantimising the cubic root of an anti-gravitational stabiliser."

"True, but I bet you could win that too – you just don't like to show off. Modest, that's you. You've not inherited your dad's 'look at me' attention-seeking-ness, that's for certain."

"That's because I'm not trying to impress anyone," replied Joshua. Then he glanced away shyly and gave a small smile. "Well, except you, Mum. But then, you'd be impressed if I simply recited the periodic table backwards, so..." He gave a shrug.

"Bless you for thinking that reciting the periodic table backwards is easy," Rose grinned, pulling him into a hug. She kissed the top of his head. "I wouldn't know where to start with that."

"You can't help it," he reassured her, hugging her around the waist tightly. "You've not got any Time Lord in you."

Rose muffled a childish giggle in his fluffy brown hair and mumbled, "Nope. I certainly don't."

"What did you think of the music-y danc-y bits?" he asked, looking up at her with a concerned expression. "Was it really embarrassing? I didn't actually want to do all that, you know, but...no one else would, um, play the role, so..."

"It was brilliant, Josh, I promise. Charlie would be proud. I -"

Joshua rolled his eyes. "Mum, don't tell me the story again. I've heard this one fifteen times since I told you we were doing Oliver. Yes, you met Dickens. Yes, there were ghosts. Yes, you gave him a kiss on the cheek. Yes, you thought you and Dad were gonna die in a basement in Cardiff. I've heard it all."

Rose poked him in the shoulder playfully. "It is a fantastic story, though, you have to admit!"

He smiled indulgently for his mum and nodded in agreement. "Yeah, it is."

Just as Rose and Joshua were about to leave, a stern-looking woman came up to them both. Rose recognised her as a boy called Tommy's mum. "Hello," she greeted her warmly.

But the woman was not quite so pleasant in her response. "Hmph."

"Excuse me?"

"This little brat of yours stole my son's part!" exclaimed the woman.

Rose's eyes widened. Beside her, Joshua muttered, "Uh-oh."

"How dare you call Josh a brat! And how dare you suggest he stole Tommy's part!"

"Well, he did!"

"No he didn't!"

"Yes he did!" The woman crouched down until she was eye-level with Joshua. "Didn't you? At least have the decency to admit it!"

"That's enough!" said Rose firmly, in her Defender of the Earth voice. Joshua hid his proud smile by looking at the floor. "I will not have you speak to my son like that!"

"Well you should teach your son how to properly behave, then! Going around stealing people's parts and then lying about it, honestly...it's unlawful!"

"What?" demanded Rose in disbelief. "'Unlawful?' Seriously? What planet are you on?"

"The truth is," Joshua began quietly, pretending to be upset. He knew his mum always saw through this immediately, of course; the fake tears were for the benefit of Tommy's mum. He chanced a peak up at her and saw she was paying attention to his acting. "Tommy was feeling really nervous, earlier this week. He told me, privately, that he wasn't sure he could do the performances. I already knew all the lines off by heart, so I offered to play his part for him. He agreed at the time, but I suppose...maybe he changed his mind, this afternoon, and by then I was already in the outfit and – and - " He squeezed a few more tears out and sniffed loudly. "And I'm sorry, I just...I so badly wanted to be in the play; the teacher wouldn't even let me audition before because she said that I wasn't right for the part, so I sort of ignored Tommy when he said that he'd decided he could play the role after all and..."

He looked up at her again. The woman's expression had softened.

Blimey, he's a good actor, if he does say so himself, he thought.

Tommy's dad came over then. "Glenda, you haven't made the poor boy cry, have you? Honestly, it's just a play! I'm so sorry, Mrs Tyler."

"Robert, it's Miss Tyler," mumbled Glenda, with a hint of gloating about her that Rose distinctly disliked. Still, at least she'd seemed to forgive Joshua for his...transgression.

"Oh," replied the man. "Right. I was actually just going to ask if Josh's father was around? I'd like to have a word with him. But...if he isn't...?"

Rose put on her brave smile, the one she always used in situations like these. "I'm afraid Josh's father is working abroad at the moment." She felt Joshua slip his hand into hers and squeeze it comfortingly. He always knew when she needed that. A hand to hold.

Robert smiled sympathetically and Rose winced, knowing what was coming next.

"That must be hard for you," he murmured concernedly.

"Not really," she replied breezily.

Joshua's hand squeezed hers tighter, and she swallowed hard.

"What does he do, then?" Robert asked.

"He's a scientist," Rose replied.

Glenda sniffed. "Of course."

Rose's eyes narrowed. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Now, now, ladies," inserted Robert. "Let's not get into a silly little catfight, eh?"

"Oh shut up," said Rose and Glenda simultaneously.

Joshua giggled. An awkward silence followed, until he then piped up, "Where's Tommy, anyway? I should apologise for the misunderstanding."

Glenda blinked down at him in confusion. "The way you speak..." she murmured. "What kind of child are you?"

Rose arched an eyebrow, very offended. Robert hastily nudged his wife with is elbow and muttered through gritted teeth, "Stop it, Glenda."

Joshua took her question in his stride, however, and quite possibly upset relations between him and his schoolfriend's mother once and for all with his reply, "Well, technically I am a part-homosapien, part-Gallifreyan child, but with your state of intelligence I hardly think you'll understand the first thing let alone the second."

Rose covered her mouth with her hand to hide her wide grin.

"Wh-what?" stuttered Glenda.

"Exactly," he replied. He tugged on his mum's hand. "Can we go and find Tommy? It doesn't sound as though his parents know of his whereabouts. Which, considering they were a bit annoyed about the acting thing, is a bit weird, don't you think?"

"I beg your pardon!" exclaimed Glenda.

He looked back up at her. "Well, you were very protective of him just now, but you don't even know where he is. Anything could have happened to him. Could've been eaten by a werewolf or something."

"There's no such thing as bloody werewolves!" shouted Glenda, who then glared at Rose. "What sort of horror stories do you tell your child?"

"It's not that implausible, really. Of course, strictly speaking werewolves don't exist. But Lupine Wavelength Haemovariforms do, so be careful. It's a full moon tonight, after all."

Rose smiled and ruffled his hair affectionately. "Besides," she chipped in. "Mummy's the biggest, baddest wolf of all, eh?"

Joshua rolled his eyes. "I'm still not convinced by that story, you know. Are you sure it wasn't just Dad's nickname for you?"

She burst into laughter. "Oh, you're so adorable. Now, say bye to the nice people and let's go and find your friend for them."

Joshua gave an irate-looking Glenda and a speechless, open-mouthed Robert a cheerful wave as he and his mum walked away from them. "Bye, Nice People."

Rose tugged him into a run down the school corridor, until they were giggling like loonies. "Okay, Sherlock Junior. Any ideas where Tommy's located?"

"From the way his parents behave I deduce that he's hiding very far away in embarrassment, Watson," Joshua replied. He sniffed contemplatively. "To the boys toilets!" he proclaimed, and therein solved the mystery.