The Eighth Doctor's companions had gathered at the gates of Newman Primary School to see Chloe off on her first day.
Being who and what they were, they were drawing some comment from the assembled parents.
Being who and what they were, they weren't paying all that much attention.
Anji adjusted Chloe's eyepatch, then stepped back. 'Is that okay?'
Chloe nodded. 'Yes, Mum.'
'Okay.' Anji said. 'You're sure you're okay with this?'
'Okay. Have a good day, and I'll come to pick you up in the afternoon.' Anji bent down, and kissed Chloe on the forehead. 'And if you have any problems, go to the teacher or call me - you've got the number.'
'All right, Mum.' Chloe said. 'You'll have a good day, too.'
Anji managed a smile. 'Thanks, Chloe.'
She sighed as she watched Chloe go off.
'The first day's always the hardest,' Trix observed from next to her. 'Then there's the second, then the third...'
'I'm just trying to make it through today.' Anji said. '_Then_ I'll start worrying about tomorrow.'
'...I _thought_ so.' Charley said abruptly.
'Hm?' Fey said.
Charley nodded at the playground. 'Look.'
The others followed her gaze.
The first thing that caught the collective eye was a mini-Eighth Doctor, engaged in what seemed to be a major discussion near the hopscotch squares.
The _next_ thing that caught the collective eye were the children with him.
One, a redhaired girl with her hair pulled back in a tight ponytail - the junior Compassion - was watching him with a bored expression on her chubby, freckled cheeks.
Next to her was a serious-looking child with short dark hair. From this distance, it was difficult to tell the child's gender; it could have been a boy or a girl - unless, like those watching, you knew the child was the young Fey.
Another little redhead, her hair falling to her shoulders - the little Grace - was discussing the point - whatever the point was - animatedly with the mini-Doctor.
A mini-Ice Warrior - the mini-Ssard, complete with miniature helm - was watching the discussion with what seemed to be a permanently ingrained frown on his face.
A small Pakistani girl, black hair reaching to her neck, a dead giveaway for the young Anji, was putting forth her own position with some degree of exasperation.
Next to her was a boy with straggly brown hair and a slightly overlong nose, rolling his eyes when he thought little Anji wasn't looking - all of which, taken together, rather suggested a little Fitz.
Holding yet _another_ point of view was a fish girl with yellow slitted eyes and what appeared to be short green dreadlocks, the image of Destrii in miniature.
A little blonde girl with chubby cheeks, the spitting image of Charley, was loyally backing up the mini-Doctor, although she didn't seem adverse to putting in a few comments of her own.
Another little blonde, recognisable as the younger Stacy, her hair cut close to her head, appeared to be considering the discussion intently.
Yet _another_ blonde, this one the junior Sam, was holding forth on her position with no small amount of forthrightness.
A fourth blonde - by elimination, mini-Trix - was standing back aways from the discussion, matching the little Fitz's eyerolls.
A Chinese boy, with short, curly black hair, easily identifiable as the younger Lee, was eyeing the hopscotch squares longingly, eliciting a rueful, understanding grin from the older Lee.
Rounding off the collection was little Izzy, a small girl with shoulder-length dark brown hair, who appeared to be enjoying getting involved in the discussion.
'...Oh my _Gawd_...' Fitz muttered, hand over his eyes. 'I was really, really hoping I wouldn't have to see that...'
'No such luck.' Charley said, not unsympathetically. 'Sorry, Fitz.'
Stacy scanned the playground. 'Anyone see little C'rizz?'
'He's over there by the wall.' Compassion said, indicating an area of wall that appeared no different from any other.
C'rizz grinned. 'Get out while the getting's good? Yep, sounds like me.'
'...How many alters does that make now?' Izzy asked.
'For the group in general?' Compassion said. 'Seven, including us - not counting those alternates specific to only one of us.'
'Seven?' Trix said, raising an eyebrow.
'Us, the baby us, the high school us, the "anime-esque" us, the Badlands us, the "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" us... and them.' Compassion said, nodding to the children. 'However, a few of those versions are alternates only of those of us who were there when they were created - so far, at any rate.'
'Why so many?' Trix asked. 'And why us?'
'Y'need to ask?' Fitz said. '_Him._'
'Ah.' Trix said.
'Yeah. One, he's one of the few authors out there who's followed _all_ of us, and two, he's got a mad-on for AUs - him and Allie both - so...' Fitz nodded at the kids.
'So why do we need another version?' C'rizz asked.
'I would imagine because it fills a space in the progression.' Compassion said. 'The baby us, the high school us, the _adult_ us... but there's been nothing to cover the primary school us, at least until now.'
'So should we be expecting the OAP us to turn up any time soon?' C'rizz said, crossing his arms.
'If someone wants to write it, then yes.' Compassion said.
Fitz winced. 'That's all I need - some old geezer telling me how easy it was when _he_ was travelling with the Doctor... even when _I'm_ the one who's actually doing it!'
'Mm. There is a certain risk of that...' Compassion said. 'Also, perhaps, something of a redundancy, too - and age, for us, would not add much in the way of experiences, but _would_ add something in the way of the OAP stereotype...'
'Hasn't stopped anyone before...' Fitz muttered.
'No.' Compassion said.
'...Hold on,' Charley said, frowning. 'For our Outside counterparts - you know, the babies, the teenagers, them -' she nodded at the children ' - do they lead the same lives we did? The same home lives?'
'Well...' Izzy said, 'they've got our parents - or, well, younger versions of them, anyway. Probably not the same home life, though, not 'round here.'
'...What about me?' Destrii said quietly, coldly. '/I'm/ the one who killed the bitch - does that mean /they're/ stuck with her?'
'It depends.' Compassion answered coolly. 'Whether they go for your family situation _before_ "Oblivion" or afterwards.'
'...Which means.what?' Destrii said, cold anger in her voice.
'It's either your mother... or your uncle Jodafra.' Compassion said.
'...Wouldn't there be school records?' Izzy interjected quickly, eyeing both Compassion and Destrii cautiously. 'We could find out from them.'
'School system would be on a local network.' Trix observed. 'No hacking, unless...'
'I'll take care of it.' Compassion said, walking into the school.
'Cam-!' Fitz began, before covering his eyes again. 'Oy...'
'Ahem.' little Stacy said, coughing politely.
The others didn't notice.
'Ahem.' little Stacy said again.
The others stopped and turned to look at the red-faced Stacy.
'Thank you.' she said. 'Um... those adults are looking at us -' She pointed. 'Those adults there.'
'...Hey, that fish woman looks kinda like Des!' little Izzy said. 'And that guy with the ridges looks like Riz!'
'...They _do_ look familiar...' little Cammy said.
Little Anji frowned. 'I don't know... I don't think that lady looks much like me...'
'I dunno 'bout that...' little Fitz observed. 'Looks bossy enough to me.'
Little Anji slapped him upside the head.
Little Sammy peered at adult Fitz, then back at little Fitz. '..._Is_ that Fitz? He doesn't look like him...'
'They've got the same nose...' Cammy observed.
'...Maybe, but look at his hair!' little Fitz complained. 'Goes all over the place!'
Cammy refrained from comment.
'Why're they looking at us?' little Lee said.
'Maybe they're the future us?' little Stacy theorised.
'Nah.' little Des said. 'Look too dumb to be that.'
'I think they might be a _different_ us.' Cammy said.
'So they might be us?' Sammy wondered.
The little Doctor shook his head. '_We're_ us. They're _them_.'
'Oh.' Sammy said.
'But could we end up being them?' little Fey said.
The little Doctor frowned. 'I don't know...'
Cammy shook her head. 'I don't think so. That's why I think they're a different us. We don't end up being them, and they didn't start as us.'
'...My head hurts.' little Fitz complained.
'Like _that's_ new...' little Gracie said wryly.
'Oh, come off it. Like that didn't make _your_ head hurt.' little Fitz retorted.
''Course not.' Gracie said, arms crossed.
'Yeah, like I'm gonna believe _that_...' little Fitz muttered.
Little Charley tore herself away from the discussion, and turned to the newcomer. 'Oh, hello there. I like your eyepatch.'
'Thank you.' the newcomer said. 'Mum gave it to me.'
'My name's Charley. What's yours?'
'Okay.' little Charley said. 'These're my friends - that's the Doctor, that's Cammy, that's Fey, that's Gracie, that's Ssard' - she stumbled over the double 's'. ' - that's Anji, that's Fitz, that's Des, that's Trixie, that's Sammy, that's Stacy, that's Lee, that's Izzy and...' She looked around. 'Where's Riz gone?'
'He's over there.' Cammy said, pointing.
'...Telltale.' Riz muttered, becoming visible as his skin returned to its normal colour.
'You've got a lot of friends.' Chloe observed.
Little Charley beamed. 'Isn't it great?'
'What's with the eyepatch, anyway?' Des stuck in.
'...Maybe not /all/ the time...' little Charley corrected herself.
Chloe lifted up the eyepatch, revealing the eye under it had been set a centimetre or so lower than the other.
'That's gross.' Des announced. 'Cool!'
'...Cool?' Chloe said, letting the eyepatch fall back into place.
'Sure!' Des said. 'That's what _we_ do - we gross the other kids out.'
'Not always deliberately...' the little Doctor murmured.
'Hey, if they can't tell when we mean it and when we don't, that's _their_ problem.' Des told him, before turning back to Chloe. 'Yeah, anyway, you're gonna fit in just fine 'round here...'
'And _not_ simply because you can gross people out.' little Anji put in, shooting Des a dark look. 'I mean, you /are/ new here, aren't you?'
'Yes.' Chloe said.
Des sulked. 'Spoilsport.'
'So why don't we show you 'round?' little Anji said, ignoring her. 'What year're you in?'
'Year 5.' Chloe said.
The miniature horde shared a look.
'Same year as us, then.' little Anji said. 'So if we show you 'round...'
'Thank you.' Chloe said.
Little Anji waved it off. 'No problem. We're all in this together, anyway...'
Anji turned to see a slightly harried-looking woman, dark blonde hair starting to frizz, who'd just come up next to her. 'Yes?'
'Um, are you from the, er...' The woman lowered her voice. 'The pub?'
'Yes.' Anji said.
'What gave it away?' Sam said, sotto voce.
'Oh.' the woman said. 'It's just, um, we don't usually see you around here...' She left the question hanging.
'My daughter's just started here.' Anji said. 'It's her first day.'
'Oh.' the woman said. 'Which one's your daughter?'
Anji indicated Chloe, who was chatting to little Anji. 'The little girl there - the girl with the long blonde hair and the eyepatch.'
'.../She's-/' the woman began, before calming herself. 'Sorry, sorry. Um... is she adopted?'
'No trouble.' Anji said. 'And yes, Chloe's adopted.'
'And, um...' The woman indicated the others.
'Friends of the family.' Anji said, poker-faced.
'Oh.' the woman said. 'Oh, forgot to introduce myself. Julie. Julie Lerner. My son Brian goes here - Year 4?' She indicated a worried-looking little boy near the swings.
'Anji Kapoor.' Anji introduced herself. 'Chloe's Year 5.'
'Oh.' Julie said. 'Only a year below, then.'
'Mm-hmm.' Anji said.
'And, um, your friends?' Julie said, craning to see.
Anji started ticking off. 'Charley, Compassion - she's just popped into the school for the moment, C'rizz - it's pronounced like "cerise" - Destrii, Fey, Fitz, Izzy, Lee, Sam, Ssard, Stacy and Trix.'
Julie blinked. 'All of you?'
'Well, Grace isn't here - she works over at H. G. Wells, she's the school doctor.' Anji said. 'And the Doctor's, um, on call at the moment.'
'...Um...' Julie said.
'It's a long story.' Anji explained. 'Short version: we met the Doctor first, he introduced us to the others and we... hit it off. Sort of.'
'You can say that again...' Fitz said, sotto voce.
Julie blinked as this sank in.
Finally, she said 'He, um, he must be good at making friends, then...'
Anji's mouth twitched upwards. 'You can say /that/ again...'
'So, um, will you be coming to the PTA meetings?' Julie said.
Destrii smiled, showing pointed teeth. 'Hmm... I think we could give it a shot, don't you?'
'Depends on our schedule.' Stacy put in, hurriedly.
Anji nodded. 'I'll check them out.'
'...All right.' Julie said, looking somewhat more frazzled than before. 'So...'
Compassion exited the school, heading for the gates.
'Okay in there, Cam?' Fitz wondered.
'I had a little trouble finding the toilets.' Compassion said, not blinking an eyelid. 'But it's sorted out now.'
Julie winced in sympathy. 'Ooh. I know how _that_ goes...'
Fitz raised an eyebrow.
The school bell rang, and the children started going in.
''Bye, sweetheart!' Julie called, waving. 'I'll see you this afternoon, all right?'
'Knock 'em dead, Chloe!' Lee called.
'Good luck!' Charley said.
'Have a good time!' Stacy said, waving.
'Indeed.' Ssard said. 'Have a good day.'
'We'll look after Jamais, don't worry.' Fitz added, wincing.
Julie glanced sideways at Anji.
'Chloe's dog.' Anji explained. 'Bye, sweetheart!'
'Bye, Mum!' Chloe called back, just before she disappeared inside.
'...She's teamed up with our mini-mes.' Fitz said finally. 'Is it just me, or does anyone else find that a little creepy?'
The others nodded.
'We are /so/ screwed.'
The others nodded again.
Fitz sighed. 'Just what we needed.'
Finally, the school doors closed, and Julie sighed.
'Well, I'd better be getting home...' she said, sniffling slightly. 'The first day's always the hardest, isn't it?'
Anji nodded quietly.
'So, um, see you around?' Julie said finally.
Anji glanced at her friends. '...Quite probably.'
'Hopefully not in a police chase on the six o'clock news.' Izzy murmured.
'All right then.' Julie said. 'See you!'
With that, she headed off.
'Well?' Destrii said, turning to Compassion.
'Jodafra.' Compassion said.
'That's something.' Destrii said, her mouth tight. 'Bitch...'
Compassion inclined her head.
The others carefully did _not_ say anything.
'I also have a good amount of information on your younger selves.' Compassion added.
'Bollocks.' Fitz said succinctly.
'I'm sorry?' Compassion said, raising an eyebrow.
'You were in there long enough to make the whole system sit up and beg.' Fitz said. 'Don't give me that "information" crap.'
Compassion shrugged. 'You never know when you'll need a backdoor - oh, and I might add that despite claims to the contrary, the day of the "paperless office" is not yet here. I have a good amount of information on the school, but not all of it.'
'Enough to make yourself a school governor?' Fey inquired.
'Mm... probably.' Compassion said.
Fitz raised an eyebrow. 'Joy. That'd be all we need.'
'...Just don't try it any time soon.' Anji said. 'I'd rather Chloe got a chance to settle in /before/ we start embarrassing her.'
'Did I say I /would/?' Compassion inquired. 'I simply said I had enough information to /probably/ make myself a governor.'
'...Uh-huh.' Fitz said. '/Real/ convincing, Cam.'
'Thank you, Fitz.' Compassion said, without a trace of irony. 'I try.'
'So what now?' Charley asked.
'Back to the 'Round, I think.' Anji said. 'See if the Doctor's got back.'
'And then?' Compassion said.
'The same thing we do every night, Cam!' Fitz declaimed. 'Try to take over Outside!'
Izzy covered her eyes. 'I _knew_ I shouldn't have given him my "Pinky and the Brain" videos...'
Disclaimer: 'Doctor Who', the Doctor, Stacy, Ssard, Sam, Fitz, Compassion, Anji, Trix and Chloe are the BBC's. Izzy, Fey and Destrii are Marvel's. Charley and C'rizz are Big Finish's. Grace and Lee are the BBC/Universal's.
Julie is mine.
AN: Okay, yeah, yeah, here we go again. Thing was, I sort of needed it: Chloe couldn't go to H. G. Wells or Look Who's Talking, and there was a space between LWT and TDTO - hence, Newman Primary, rounding out the set.
In case anyone else wants to use this setting, the best overall title I could come up with was 'Skool Daze' - 'SD'. If you come up with a better idea, feel free to go ahead and use it.
Ahem. Skool Daze concept by Imran, after Paul, after Imran, after Tyler, after Kielle.
Copyright 2003 Imran Inayat.