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Those By Her Side

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“Real life 1950s,” beamed Yasmin as she looked back to Ryan, “time travel is awesome!”

Ryan rolled his eyes at her as she skipped ahead of the Doctor, distracted by all the hats and fancy coloured dresses. He made eye contact with a woman in an ankle-length powder-blue dress and she quickly turned away with a flick of her styled hair.

His attention then found a couple who walked beside them. The man had his arm around the woman’s shoulder, and they chatted flirtatiously. Ryan saw one of the gloves in the woman’s hand fall to the ground and he leaned down to pick it up.

“Excuse me,” said Ryan as he picked up the neat white glove.

Neither of the couple acknowledged him so he jogged up to them, speaking louder in hopes that they would turn around.

“Excuse me,” he repeated as he walked up to the couple, placing his hand on the woman’s shoulder, “you dropped this.”

The woman cast her eyes down, her face upturned in disgust. The man’s reaction, however, was even stronger. He pushed the woman to one side and spun around, a hideous sneer on his face. He reached up, with seemingly all the strength he could muster, and slapped Ryan across the face.

The slap itself caused his face to sting, tingling from the impact even when the hand had been lowered. He was sure there was already a hand imprinted into his cheek, or at least a bruise had begun to form.

Ryan felt frozen in position, his face twisting angrily. He heard the panicked footsteps of the Doctor who whipped around to diffuse the situation. Her mouth hung open as she ran over to Ryan and the couple, tucking her sonic screwdriver away.

Ryan straightened himself up, just in time for Graham to wrap his arms around him to stop him from lunging forward. If it weren’t for Graham’s hold, Ryan probably would’ve given the man his own hand imprint, or maybe the print of his boot.

“Hey!” Ryan growled.

“Get your filthy black hands off my wife.” Snarled the man.

“Woah, stop,” said the Doctor, the shock still evident in her stern voice.

“Sir, please take a step back,” said Yasmin, with the same desperate struggle to hold back her own temper. She locked eyes with the man, challenging him.

“You okay, Ryan?” she asked.

“I was just trying to give her back her glove,” said Ryan, throwing the glove back onto the ground where he’d found it.

“I suggest,” said the man as he looked at Ryan, “that you tell your…sister to back off as well. I don’t hit women, unless they need to be put in their place.”

The Doctor’s hand tightened on Yasmin’s shoulder, though her anger seemed to have been replaced with fear. Ryan knew she’d been in situations like this as a policewoman, and he knew that she could tell when a threat was serious.

“What did you just say?” said Graham. In his surprise, his hold had loosened on Ryan.

“What was that?” said Ryan, stepping forward so that he was practically nose to nose with the man, which only made him angrier.

Another man came sprinting through the gathering crowd at the sound of the confrontation. His blazer and badge made it obvious to the travellers that the newcomer was some sort of policeman. Ryan’s heart began to race, and he knew the others shared his fear.

“What’s going on? Did you just attack this man?” asked the policeman to Ryan.

“What, no-” began Ryan.

The policeman stood in between Ryan and the man, holding his arms up to stop them both. He nodded respectfully at the man before turning to Graham, who held Ryan.

“Is this your boy?” asked the policeman.

“He’s my grandson, actually,” said Graham.

“Your what?” asked the man, his face drawn into a frown.

“My grandson,” repeated Graham, patting Ryan’s shoulder comfortingly.

“You ain’t from around here,” said the policeman, giving a curious look to each of the travellers. His eyes lingered on Graham and Ryan, as if he were confused by their relationship.

“We don’t want any trouble,” said the Doctor, her hands raised in defence, still standing close to Yasmin.

“I don’t know how it goes where you’re from, but your boy, he’ll be swinging from a tree with a noose for a neckerchief if he touches a white woman in Montgomery,” snarled the man.

A woman who had been stood behind the group pushed her way forward, “Is there a problem here, Mr Steele, Officer?”

She looked back to Ryan and Graham, ushering them backwards, “Step away. Go ahead, step away.”

“These friends of yours?” asked the policeman.

“No, sir,” answered the woman with a laugh, “just on my lunchbreak. Wondering if I can help out with any misunderstanding.”

She turned to Mr Steele, “Oh, I believe your suit will be ready tomorrow. The alterations are going to make it look just right, sir.”

“Thank you, Mrs Parks,” said Mr Steele as he placed his hat back onto his head, “Let’s go, Lizzie.”

“Wait, hang on, Parks?” asked Yasmin, the discomfort in her eyes momentarily being replaced by excitement.

The woman nodded, slightly confused, “Yes. Rosa, Rosa Parks.”

“No way!” grinned Yasmin.

Rosa tilted her head in surprise at the younger woman’s joy. She looked around between each of the strangers, who had the same awed, fascinated expression.

“You’re kidding,” said Graham.

“Brilliant! Rosa Parks! Lovely to meet you, Rosa Parks, big fan!” breathed the Doctor.

“Excuse me?” said Rosa.

“Big fan…of Montgomery,” said the Doctor, sheepishly.

“I think it’s time you explain why you’re all here,” asked the policeman, who had been watching their interaction with a bemused expression.

“I am…we are just visiting,” explained the Doctor.

“You’ve certainly gotten yourself into plenty of trouble for some visitors. Speaking of, boy, I need your name,” said the policeman, bringing a pen and notepad from his pocket.

The policeman eyed Ryan up and down; his expression mirroring the poorly hidden disdain that had been worn by Mr Steele’s wife. He narrowed his eyes worriedly each time Ryan moved, which was often as he shifted uncomfortably.

“Uh, Sinclair. Ryan. Why?” asked Ryan.

“I need to take you down to the station, there’s a holding cell waitin’. You have caused a public disturbance, and there may be charges of assault,” said the policeman.

The Doctor began to argue as gently as she could, pushing forward so that the policeman’s attention was put onto her instead of Ryan. The policeman pushed her back, and she stumbled into Yasmin.

“Sir, keep calm, we can talk about this-” tried the Doctor.

“That’s ridiculous! He was the one who got attacked!” said Yasmin, outraged.

“Be quiet, missy, or we’ll take you down too for threatening an Officer,” threatened the policeman.

“It’s alright, Yaz, it’s fine,” said Ryan.

“Let me go with the boy, sir. I can keep him in line until this misunderstanding has been dealt with,” said Graham, through gritted teeth.

“And myself, sir. I will keep them both actin’ in the laws of Montgomery,” added Rosa.

“Whatever,” said the policeman, “just hurry up.”

The policeman placed rough hands on Ryan’s shoulders, shoving him away from his friends. Yasmin and the Doctor watched on as the policeman forced Ryan into handcuffs, leading him towards the black-and-white Chevy Bel Air car that was parked at the bottom of the street.

Graham was instructed to sit at the front of the car, which made him visibly uncomfortable, while Rosa and Ryan were left in the back. Ryan squirmed in his seat, handcuffed hands in front of him. Rosa sat with her hands in her lap, staring out of the window.

“I trust you’ll have me returned to my workplace before my lunch hour is up, sir?” asked Rosa, readjusting her handbag.

“You’re the one who chose to come,” shrugged the policeman.

“It’s fine, there’s always the bus,” sighed Rosa.

Ryan nearly chocked and turned away to face his window. Graham caught his expression in the reflection and held back a smile. The smile didn’t last long though. Graham knew how terrified Ryan was, Graham had been told the stories of how young black men get treated by the police through Grace years ago. Even Yasmin hadn’t disputed anything, though both Ryan and Grace made sure she hadn’t taken anything personally.

“Rosa-” began Ryan.

“Boy, where were you raised? You are definitely missin’ quite a few manners. I’ll take a ma’am, thank you.”

Ryan rolled his eyes, “Rosa, ma’am?”

“Much better sir,” said Rosa, turning her body to face him properly.

“I haven’t really been arrested before. Is…is this gonna end badly for me?” he asked, quiet enough that Graham wouldn’t hear.

Rosa’s expression softened, “You must read the newspapers. You know what they did to young Emmett Till. He was on vacation from the north, couple of words to a white woman in Mississippi, and the next thing, they find his body in a river. He didn’t even bad mouth the white man, neither.”

Ryan gulped, “So, that’s a yes then…ma’am?”

“Not if you’re quiet, and you’re careful,” reassured Rosa gently.

“Yeah…that isn’t how it usually goes down in stories though, is it? I mean, ‘black man talks to white woman but he was nice so we let him go’ doesn’t have the same ring to it,” scoffed Ryan.

Rosa swatted him on the arm, “Being clever ain’t gonna help no one.”

“Quiet back there! Do not make me stop here and drag you all the way back to the station by your legs,” bellowed the policeman.

Rosa glared at Ryan as if he were a friend getting her in trouble with her parents. She turned to face the window and, for a moment, Ryan thought he could see her mouthing a prayer in the reflection of the window.

Eventually, the police car slowed to a stop outside a rectangular red brick building. Pairs of arched windows lined the entirety of the building walls. The car parked beneath a tall telegraph pole and Ryan waited for the policeman to get out and free him and Rosa.

Graham waited awkwardly for the policeman to pull Ryan out by the handcuffs. He began to march Ryan towards the large door opposite them, forgetting about the other two that were behind them. Graham walked around the car and opened the door for Rosa.

“Thank you, sir,” she answered, dipping her head.

Graham followed as Rosa stormed off towards the police station. Graham wondered what Grace would say if she saw him chasing after Rosa Parks, who was protecting Ryan from the 1950s police. He watched Ryan bite his tongue to prevent speaking out when the policeman pushed him roughly through the door, Rosa in tow. Graham shook his head and decided Grace wouldn’t say anything, she’d just smack him for being so careless.

He jogged to catch up with the others and felt as though he was stepping into another world. Ryan thought the same as he took in the, what he called, pretty tacky interior. He couldn’t focus on the green carpet when he saw four policemen looking up to greet him with expressions varying from disgust and nervousness. They all definitely looked angry though, and Ryan knew they definitely weren’t Yasmin-style cops. For one thing, they were all white.

“Who’s the boy?” asked the policeman closest to them all.

The policeman who had brought him in pushed him forward, rattling the handcuffs as if trying to show off his arrest.

“Name’s Sinclair; caught him harassing a lady and threatening good citizens,” said the policeman.

“Now, sir, that’s not exactly how it went down,” said Graham, though he was quickly shushed by the second policeman.

“We can’t have your kind messing up the streets now, can we? Take his details and put him in a holding cell, we’ll have to see if Mr Steele wants to press charges,” said the policeman who held Ryan.

“He didn’t do anything wrong!” said Graham.

“Right, that’s enough out of you. I only let you accompany the boy here so we could talk to someone with sense, but if you’d like to bring an attitude then you can wait for him to be released elsewhere,” said the policeman to Graham.

“Good sir, I don’t think that’s fair,” argued Rosa.

“Mrs Parks, my wife loves your work, but I will throw you out as well if I hear another word from you. Would you like to join this gentleman?” asked the policeman.

Rosa shook her head with a gentle, “No, sir,” as Graham was escorted out of the station.

“Graham!” Ryan called helplessly after him.

“Let him go,” mumbled Rosa from his side.

He watched Graham fight against the policeman who ushered him away but found that he stayed outside once the officer had come back inside. Ryan hoped he’d be smart enough to go back and find Yasmin and the Doctor, instead of trying to hatch a scheme that will only end with Graham in the cell next to Ryan.

“Mrs Parks, we cannot allow you into the holding cells. You’ll have to wait here by reception,” said the policeman.

Rosa nodded in compliance, watching as Ryan reluctantly filled out his details. Ryan struggled when they asked his date of birth, knowing that writing God-knows how many years in the future on a police report wouldn’t go down well.

“Alright, follow me,” said the first policeman, holding Ryan’s forearm.

Ryan shot one last look to Rosa, who gave him an encouraging nod, before he was led through a locked door with bars on the window. It wasn’t what he expected on the other side of the door; just two cells built into a cold, dull brick room. He squinted but was relieved to find that the cells were empty.

“I just don’t understand you folk,” said the policeman as he led Ryan into the holding cell.

“I could say the same, arresting someone for trying to return a glove,” said Ryan with a roll of his eyes.

“Did I ask you to speak?” said the policeman, a rough hand on Ryan.

Ryan bristled and furiously pulled his arm out of the policeman’s tight hold, “Don’t touch me.”

His tone, or his movements, turned out to be the excuse that the policeman was waiting for. He roughly pushed Ryan against the bars of the cell so his back and head collided with the metal poles. He winced at the pain but had no time to recover as he was pushed once again, this time onto the floor of cell.

“Don’t you dare speak to me like that!” he bellowed.

Suddenly, Rosa came running through the door, a policeman following closely behind her. Her expression was grave when she saw Ryan on the ground, rubbing his injuries with a scowl.

“What in God’s name is going on in here?” she asked with a gasp.

“I tried to keep her out,” shrugged the policeman who had come in with her.

“Parks, you need to leave now. Get out of our station, or we’ll force you out,” growled the policeman with Ryan.

Rosa huffed and stormed out of the door, and then through the door Graham had been kicked out from. Ryan felt a sense of dread as his second self-proclaimed protector had left him alone.

“What did he do?” asked the policeman who had been with Rosa.

The first policeman tutted, “Disorderly behaviour, verbal abuse, assaulting an Officer of the law. Typical.”

“Do we need to teach this one a lesson too?” asked the other policeman.

The policeman who, at this point, Ryan was getting quite well aquainted with, smiled a toothy, sinister smile. He didn’t once take his eyes off Ryan, and Ryan imagined it was because he enjoyed looming over him. Ryan felt another rush of anger as he thought about how smug both of the men were.

“I think it’s only right. Can’t have a young man leave us without learning a lesson,” agreed the policeman.

The next thing Ryan knew, he was being held up by the collar of his jacket, only able to stand on his tip-toes, as the first policeman grabbed him. He struggled in the other man’s grasp but he was in no position to fight. He almost preferred his treatment beforehand when he compared it to what happened next.

One policeman’s pale, hairy fist was slammed into his face, making his cheek tremble and sting in pain. It had already been attacked earlier that day, by the charming Mr Steele, and Ryan was still feeling the effects of that. The second policeman’s fist came into violent contact with Ryan’s stomach, causing him to hunch over with a grunt.

Even more painful, he found his stomach was targeted once again, but this time with the large black boot of the officer. Pain blossomed like it never had before.

“Please, stop,” he mumbled.

“What was that?” asked the first policeman with a sneer.

His pleads were punished by get another punch, this time to the chest, and a slap across the face. It was so powerful it had sent his head from one side to the other, blurring the cell in front of him. He saw stars in his vision long after the fists and feet came towards him.

The last cruel act, and definitely the worst, was when Ryan’s face was grabbed by the policeman. His thumb pushed into his cheekbone and his pinkie-finger onto the other. Before Ryan could figure out what he was doing, a force came from behind the hand and sent him flying into the wall. His head again hit the wall but then the man swung him around so that his forehead thudded against the wall with sickening force.

The two policemen left him to crawl onto the ground. He was too scared and in too much pain to even think about standing up, or about the two men who still posed threats. They had given up after a while though, once the blood and bruises had started to appear, as if that meant they couldn’t be blamed. Ryan assumed there was no one left in the station to care, though.

Bruised and broken, he curled up on the dirty ground, resting his head against the wall that was stained boldly with spots of his blood. He noticed his head was bleeding in two places, and his lip had been split open. The metallic taste in his mouth was sickening, but he tried hard to ignore it as he got as comfortable as he could.

He didn’t think he’d fallen asleep, but he did think he was dreaming when he opened his eyes and found Rosa Parks crouched down on the other side of his cell, extremely close to his face. Her gentle hand had reached through the bars and was stroking his face in a soft attempt to wake him up.

‘’M dreaming right?” asked Ryan when Rosa jumped to her feet to allow the policeman to open up his cell.

“No boy, but I wish I were. What, dare I ask, did he do to deserve this?” spat Rosa.

The policeman shrugged, “He was getting too bold, had to take him down a peg. You wouldn’t understand, women don’t work with criminals.”

The key in the lock of the cell twisted and the door swung open. Ryan scrambled to his feet, but he was incredibly unstable, even for him, and couldn’t find his footing. The policeman made no effort to help but Rosa offered him her arm for support.

They reached the reception, and the pair received even more strange looks than usual because of the state of Ryan.

“I take it,” seethed Rosa, “that Mr Steele didn’t press any charges?”

The policeman escorting them out shook his head, “He decided to give y’all the benefit of the doubt. I bet he’d just had enough of dealing with your lot for one day. I don’t blame him, neither.”

“I will report this,” threatened Rosa, though she knew it was empty as no one would fight their cause, other than them.

“Come on Ryan, we’ve got a car waiting. Lucky thing to, it’s not like you can walk anywhere,” said Rosa as she led him along a dirt path to a small blue car.

Rosa helped Ryan into the backseat, where his head immediately lolled onto the window. He looked on the verge of passing out, but his eyes remained open. Rosa took her seat in the passenger side, directing the driver to take him back to her house.

“Who’s driving the getaway car?” Ryan mumbled once he had gotten comfortable in the back seat.

He heard a deep chuckle from the driver, followed by a sigh from Rosa, “They knocked him around a bit. Bang to the head too, if that bruise is anythin’ to go by. Ryan, this is Doctor King.”

“Woah, like Martin Luther King?” asked Ryan.

“You heard of me then?” asked Martin.

“Oh, yeah, kinda,” replied Ryan, sinking in awe into his seat.

“That’s always nice. I’m sorry for what happened to you in there, son. It’s a harsh lesson to learn so young, and a tough one to live past too,” said Martin.

“I’m just glad I got out of there. Now I need to find my friends. I wonder where Graham went?” said Ryan.

“You’re coming to my place first, I need to take a look at you. You’re bleeding all over the poor Doctor’s seats, least we can do is clean you up before you ruin mine too,” argued Rosa.

Ryan drifted off for the remainder of the journey and was shook awake by Martin Luther King once they’d stopped. Ryan’s eyes opened wide when he saw the man. He was definitely grateful for the kinder face, too. Martin helped him out of the car and helped him limp over to Rosa’s front door, which she was already opening.

“Doc, you’ll get Ryan a cloth and an icepack, won’t you?” said Rosa as she sat Ryan down in one of her chairs.

“Of course,” said Martin, shuffling around the kitchen for anything that would ease Ryan’s pain.

Ryan had started to see double of both historical figures who were tending to him, and they didn’t come back into focus until Rosa had pressed a glass of water in his hand and an icepack to his bleeding head. He sighed in contempt at the numb relief.

“You feelin’ any better?” asked Martin when he had sat down in the chair opposite.

“Yeah, a little,” said Ryan.

He did feel better, but the pain in his stomach had become hard to breathe through, and his face stung worse than ever before. Ryan had gotten into fights all through school, but he had never come out of one this bad, or this shaken up.

Rosa gently took a wet cloth and dabbed at the dried blood on his lip and under his nose. He shuddered at the bloody water she squeezed out into a bowl. She wiped his face like she was his mother, which made him only slightly flustered, but left him alone when the blood had been washed away.

She walked back over to him with a fresh glass of water a few minutes later easing up on her lectures about manners when she saw how he was still shaking.

“The Doc managed to get a hold of your friends, they should be by soon. Why don’t you wait for them?” said Rosa, handing him a fresh cloth to replace the old one that was soaking up blood on his forehead.

Ryan, wobbling, left his seat and went to lean against a windowsill onto the main road. He stared out of Rosa’s window, seeing the people in the distance walk hand in hand, chattering mindlessly. The man tipped his hat to someone who passed them, greeting them cheerfully. Ryan sighed as he watched. He knew the difference, he knew why they weren’t scared to be loud, or friendly.

Rosa approached next to him, brushing down her dress, “You know they’ll never think we’re much of anything, right?”

Ryan’s eyes drifted from the people outside to another group. Two women and a man sprinted towards Rosa’s house, all breathing heavily as they made their way towards him. They received a few questioning glances, largely because of the woman who differed from the other two. Ryan felt the same bubble of anger that he had before. They spotted him in the window and shouted his name, relief and joy evident on each face.

“Not all of them,” Ryan smiled fondly as the group of three knocked obnoxiously at the door. Rose excused herself and reached for the handle, though the group were already half way through the door by then.

Ryan was immediately ambushed by one hug after another. Yasmin pulled him into a hug, resting her head on his chest, then the Doctor who wrapped both arms around his neck, and then Graham who gently held the back of his head and patted his shoulder comfortingly.

“Are you okay? Oh my god, Mr King-oh yeah! We need to talk about that later, anyway- he said you’d been hurt pretty bad. It looks bad, I can’t believe we let you go with them!” rambled Yasmin.

“Stop worrying, dork, I’m okay. Been nursed back to health by Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, try and beat that,” said Ryan smugly.

“We need to get you checked out in the TARDIS as soon as possible. Also, I am going to get those brutes shut down immediately,” seethed the Doctor.

“That’s one of hundreds, Doc, you can’t shut them all down. Earth can be a piece of work sometimes,” said Graham, though he looked just as furious as their alien friend.

They hadn’t realised that Rosa had been listening in, but she seemed more interested in Ryan’s welfare than the ramblings of time travellers. She didn’t question their conversation, but instead turned to them with a stern expression.

“I take it you all are gonna get out of Montgomery now?” asked Rosa.

“I think it’s about time,” said the Doctor.

“And you’ll take care of Ryan, won’t you?” she asked, her voice softer than the others had heard before.

“You like him, don’t ya?” asked Yasmin with a small smile.

“Less of that,” said Rosa, swatting at Yasmin.

The Doctor waited until Rosa stepped away from Ryan to scan him. He’d sat down again in the chair when his legs had gotten unsteady. She took out the sonic screwdriver and ran it from his feet to his head, ignoring the bewildered look from Martin.

“He’s got a concussion, and he’s going to need way more ice for the bruises. There’s no internal bleeding though, which is brilliant. It’ll take a while for you to heal, but really there’s not much to worry about, when we get the pain sorted,” assessed the Doctor.

“Stop waving that thing in my face, hurts my eyes,” complained Ryan.

“Sorry,” said the Doctor sheepishly.

“What is that thing? And how do you know all that?” asked Martin as he peered over the Doctor’s shoulder.

“I’m a Doctor too, you know. Yes, women can be doctors, which quite frankly is something I shouldn’t have to explain to people.”

“No complaints from me girl,” shrugged Martin, though still wondering what the sonic was.

The Doctor turned her attention to Ryan when he hunched over with a groan. The Doctor had detected a headache, and she assumed it had gotten worse. Her lips straightened into a firm line when she watched him worriedly.

“Can you walk, Ryan?” asked the Doctor.

“Honestly, I’m seeing like three of each of you right now. There’s three Doctors running round like in them cartoons,” grumbled Ryan.

“Right, that’s a no then,” said Graham.

“Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, would either of you mind helping us carry our friend back to our time machine?” asked the Doctor.

The faces of both Rosa and Martin made Yasmin and Graham burst out laughing, and the Doctor looked at them both innocently. Ryan grinned from where he had made himself comfortable on Rosa’s chair.

“I beg your pardon?” asked Rosa.

“Never mind,” shrugged Graham, “we’ve got it.”