24 September 2011
Ian walked into the mansion without knocking and with no small measure of trepidation. He’d had mixed feelings when Pete and Jackie separated. On one hand, Pete had once loved her, but on the other, even on the best of days Jackie had only tolerated Ian. And then the Cybermen had attacked and he’d been a shoulder for his friend as Pete mourned the loss of his wife. The same wife Ian now watched as she directed a maid who was carrying a large pot of pink flowers out of the back door of the mansion.
He hadn’t believed it when Pete had called to invite him to a vow renewal. He’d thought his friend had finally cracked when he’d gone on about Jackie coming home and how things were better than they’d ever been between them. But there she was, alive and well.
She turned, caught sight of him, and he prepared himself for battle as she made her way across the foyer to him.
“Hello, Ian,” she said smiling brightly. “How are you, love?”
His eyes widened as his mind raced. There was nothing of the woman he knew in front of him save her face.
“Jackie, how --”
“Ian!” Pete called from the top of the stairs. “I was wondering when you’d get here.”
Pete walked up to Jackie’s side as Ian gaped, unable to form words, and drew him into a hug, clapping him on the back. “Glad you could make it.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t have missed this.”
He watched when Pete released him and put his arm around Jackie who leaned into him for a second. Then she lifted up on her toes to place a kiss on his cheek and Pete’s arm tightened around her.
“I’ll leave you two to talk.”
“You don’t have to go, Jacks.”
“There’s so much left to do,” she plucked at the lapel of Pete’s suit jacket, “and I still have to get dressed.”
“Ian, good to see you again,” she said when Pete released her.
Then she hurried off in the direction of the kitchen and Pete slung his arm over Ian’s shoulder and guided him towards the study. One of the maids spotted him and crossed to the other side of the corridor, practically hugging the wall and scurrying past with her head down. Ian sighed. Word had gotten around amongst Pete’s staff that he was an unpleasant git. Which was true, he supposed, but the maids’ reactions seemed unwarranted, since he’d never said a cross word to any of them. He’d always suspected that fucking Jackie had egged on the rumors and speculation out of sheer spite, and had hoped they’d come around after she died. Apparently, that hope was gone now.
"What the fuck is going on here?” he asked as soon as the door closed behind them.
Pete hummed as he moved to the credenza and the selection of liquors on it, but Ian could tell his friend’s awareness had shifted.
“Completely ignoring the fact that you told everyone your wife died three years ago, Jackie hates my fucking guts. She’s never smiled at me like that before, not in nearly three decades.”
“She didn’t die.” Pete said as he handed him a tumbler of scotch. “She was, however, severely traumatized by nearly being cyberized. She’s been through a lot of therapy to get over it. It’s been an adjustment.”
He took a sip of the scotch. “I noticed. She actually seems to like you again.”
Pete gestured with his own glass. “She might like you, too, now. You never know.”
‘Love’, she’d called him, like they were old friends. He shuddered. “That’s fucking terrifying.”
They both laughed and Ian finally relaxed. “So, vow renewal?”
Pete shrugged. “It felt right. We’ve both changed.”
Ian would never have considered reconciling with Jenn once they’d gotten as close to divorce as Pete and Jackie had been, and he couldn’t imagine that surviving something like the Cybermen would have changed his mind. Pete had stood by him through his split with Jenn and the hellish months that followed until their divorce was finalized. The least he could do in return was be happy for his friend. Pete certainly looked more pleasant than he’d been in years.
He raised his glass. Pete smiled and tapped it with his own.
“Have a seat. We’ve got some time.”
They chatted for a while, mostly about their respective jobs, and it was nice seeing his friend comfortable and cheerful again. As soon as Pete drained his second glass he looked up at the clock. “I think it’s about time I made my way outside.”
Ian followed him out of the mansion and took his seat in one of the folding chairs that had been lined up in the garden. There were only a handful of people in attendance, but all of them were mutual friends or acquaintances. He nodded to a couple of them, raised his hand in acknowledgement once, but all told, he was ready to get this fucking show on the road so he could get the fuck out of here and away from Jackie. Pete had been steadfast in his claim that she had changed for the better and Ian had to admit, she did seem more pleasant, but he didn’t trust that she wasn’t going to revert right back to her old ways as soon as she had Pete where she wanted him again. He’d rather not be around to witness the carnage.
The music changed and everyone, including Ian, stood for the entrance of the bride. He turned around, as he was expected to do, and looked for Jackie but didn’t see her. Instead, there was a smiling young woman he didn’t recognize starting down the makeshift aisle. She carried a little nosegay of flowers and made eye contact with no one. Her hair was blonde and spilled to her shoulders, a single, sparkling barrette clipping her fringe back, leaving the rest of her hair to frame her frankly gorgeous face. The soft coral pink of the dress set off her peaches-and-cream skin perfectly, and he found himself craving to touch her.
He shook himself from that fucking ridiculous thought and looked at the unknown woman with more of a clinical eye. She was radiantly beautiful, smiling and appeared happy...but something was off, Ian could sense it. He didn’t know this woman at all, had never spoken to nor seen her before, but he could tell she was faking it. Her smile was brittle and forced, her eyes didn’t sparkle. They would, though, if she were genuinely happy. He was convinced of it, and he wanted to see it. More - he wanted to cause it.
It was probably a good thing she wasn’t at full wattage. He had a hunch that a legitimately bright smile and twinkling eye from her could bring a man to his fucking knees.
Something told him if that were the case, it’d be more than worth it.
She took her place off to the side, waiting patiently with the same smile until she and Pete were joined by Jackie, who was beaming like he’d never seen before. Ian paid virtually no attention to the bride and groom, though, choosing instead to focus on the young woman to the left of Jackie. As the ceremony wore on he watched her face change - very subtly, but he noticed. She looked to be fighting tears and her already-fragile smile cracked, becoming almost a parody of itself. It disturbed him to see her distressed this way; she should be happy all the time, he thought.
He wondered again what a genuine smile from her would look like, and decided he’d like to see that smile - directed at him.
When the ceremony ended, Pete and Jackie shared a kiss and then turned towards their guests, Pete’s arm slung low around Jackie’s waist.
“Jackie and I would like to thank you all for sharing this day with us. It’s not often life gives you a second chance, and I’m immensely grateful for this one.” He looked down at his wife and Ian swore he saw fucking rainbows spring out of their eyes before Pete looked back up. “There’s food and champagne inside. Please enjoy yourselves.”
The noise level rose as everyone stood and started to mingle. Ian took a step towards Pete but was stopped by another one of their friends. By the time he’d managed to extract himself, nearly everyone had moved indoors.
He went inside and spotted Pete, surprisingly standing alone, and walked over to him. “I remember you being a lot more nervous the first time around. You got her fucking name wrong.”
Pete chuckled and looked around the room for Jackie. Ian followed his gaze to see her talking to the blonde woman from before.
“Who’s the bombshell talking to her? I know everyone else here. She a friend of Jackie’s?”
It was almost unnoticeable, the way Pete straightened. “Our daughter, actually. Rose.”
Ian inhaled sharply. “Daughter? Wait - Rose? Rose was the name of your yippy fucking shithead dog!”
“Well, that started out as a joke...”
“Some fucking joke. Where the fuck has she been? You’ve been my best friend for more than a quarter century, Pete. I’ve never even heard of you having a fucking daughter.”
Pete looked uncomfortable, caught out. “We wanted to keep her sheltered from my rising fame. She deserved better than to be followed around by photographers all the time.”
“That’s fine, I understand that, but you could have kept her sheltered from the fucking paparazzi without hiding her from your best fucking friend!”
“I’m sorry, Ian, I truly am. I shouldn’t have kept you in the dark. I feel awful about it. If it’s any consolation, we kept her from everyone else, too.”
Ian was skeptical, but Pete seemed genuinely contrite, so he didn’t push the matter, and when he got lost in his thoughts Pete drifted away to talk to another guest. Now that he was looking for it, the girl looked exactly like a hybrid of her parents, so he didn’t doubt her lineage. But something about Pete’s story felt off to him.
A few minutes later he saw her walk out onto the terrace, followed by Pete’s lapdog, Mickey. Looking around, Ian spotted Pete and Jackie canoodling, which was a sight he was never going to fucking get used to. Shaking his head, he moved closer to the terrace.
Voices floated in on the cool breeze, and Ian stopped for a second to gauge whether he should walk away, or whether it was safe to step outside and get a little air.
“I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. It’s just...I wasn’t prepared for this. It’s a bit much, you know?”
“I can understand that, Rose, but I’m worried that -”
“There’s no ‘but’ to it, Micks, and no reason to be worried. I’m fine. You don’t need to be following me around like a really loud and obnoxious shadow.”
“I just want to make sure you’re okay. Your mum and I, we’re all you’ve got.”
“I’m fine, Mickey. I’ll be better if I don’t feel like I have to justify every action or reaction to you. Even my mother isn’t this overbearing.”
“Don’t call me ‘babe’. Those days are long past.”
Wait. That gorgeous woman had dated Mickey? The idiot? Ian cringed.
“Can I just --”
“You can go away, is what you can do. Stop pestering me.”
“I’m not pestering you!”
“You are. Go away. I don’t want to talk to you right now.”
Ian didn’t hear anything else, but a few seconds later Mickey came striding through the glass doors that led to the terrace, glaring at Ian as he passed, heading upstairs. Ian smirked. He’d never liked the boy. Seemed Rose didn’t much care for him right now, either. He waited a few seconds more and then stepped through the doors. She was leaning against the rail looking out over the garden. He could only see her profile, but once again he was struck by how beautiful she was.
“Spat with the boyfriend?”
She started and then straightened, turning to face him. There was a boldness in her eyes as she smoothed her hands down the skirt of her dress, a gesture that somehow managed to be self-assured rather than nervous. She wasn’t afraid of him, an interloper and an eavesdropper, and Ian was intrigued. "He's not my boyfriend."
"Seems to think he is."
"Yeah, he does that. Best to just ignore him.” She offered him her hand and he took it, noting how well it fit in his own. “I'm Rose Tyler."
"I’ve heard. Ian Docherty. Friend of your father's."
A muscle under her eye twitched, but she didn’t say anything.
“You know, I've known Pete longer than you've been alive.”
“Oh yeah?” She sounded disinterested and he immediately regretted drawing attention to their relative ages.
“Yeah, and I’m a little fucking insulted I haven’t met you before now.”
He smiled somewhat crookedly, stopping her thoughts from spiraling any further and she relaxed a bit.
“Too fucking right.” He smiled again and she couldn’t help but return it, it was so ridiculous. “So where have they been hiding you?”
“Boarding school, mostly, but I spent the last few years traveling.”
“Visit anywhere interesting?”
“Oh,” she laughed, “you have no idea.”
Ian raised an eyebrow and one corner of his mouth, and Rose took a moment to look him over discreetly. He was tall, a good deal taller than herself, and lean, with prematurely greying hair that somehow looked right on him. His best feature, she thought, were his eyes. They were blue, like her first Doctor’s, but this man’s eyes were so light a blue they were almost grey. She suspected that the shade may change depending on what he was wearing, perhaps his mood. All of Pete’s friends seemed to be rich, and Ian didn’t look like an exception. He was wearing a suit, like every other man in attendance, and it fit him extremely well. Rose felt sure that it had been professionally tailored. On his wrist was a watch that surely would have gotten him stabbed on the estates, and he wore no other jewelry. She kicked herself a little for looking at his left ring finger.
His Scottish brogue was light and pleasant to the ear. His face was angled, with sharp features, but she found him quite handsome.
From inside the mansion came the first few notes of the song her mum and Pete had chosen for their dance and she turned to see them moving towards the center of the room hand in hand. Her throat tightened at the smile on her mum’s face.
“Twenty-eight fucking years and I’ve never seen them like this before,” Ian said from behind her with a touch of awe in his voice.
“It’s taking some getting used to, that’s for sure.”
Another couple started dancing and Rose looked away - only to see Ian waiting with his hand outstretched.
“Want to join them?”
Rose blinked hard to banish the image of the Doctor offering her his hand in just that way. She’d managed to survive the whole day so far without tears, she wasn’t going to cry because someone asked her to dance.
There was something in Ian’s demeanor that belied the casual offer, but she couldn’t put her finger on what it was.
She smiled kindly. “No. Thank you, but no.”
He visibly deflated a bit, and Rose felt guilty for turning him down. The guilt didn’t make her any more ready to dance, though. She felt the need to explain herself.
“It’s all just -”
“A bit much?” he volunteered, putting his rejected hand in his pocket.
“Yeah. Seems I have an entirely new life in front of me. I wasn’t prepared for it, but I have no choice but to make the best. Everything just happened so fast, you know?”
Ian was looking at her with something in his eyes, an emotion she couldn’t quite place. But she did recognize the empathy.
“Another time, then?”
Rose smiled at him. “Of course. Sometime when I don’t feel like my head is spinning.”
“I’m going to take you up on that, Miss Tyler.”
“Rose, please. And yes, I hope you do.”
The two of them made conversation for a little while longer, pausing every now and then when a friend of Pete’s would come to speak to Ian. He always introduced her as Pete and Jackie’s daughter, and Rose had to repeat her new life history each time. But Ian didn’t leave her side the rest of the evening, even being rude to a couple of people who lingered longer than he seemed to like, and he snarked at Mickey almost immediately when he came back downstairs to talk. Rose had to bite her lip to keep from smiling at his antics.
He was gruff, sure, and he swore fluently, not caring about the propriety of his language. But there was something charming about him, something that made her enjoy his company. She wouldn’t mind seeing him at the parties Pete threw for however long she was stuck here. Maybe, if she was here long enough, she’d eventually hold to her promise and dance.
It was with a jolt that she realized that she had barely thought of the Doctor since he’d started talking to her. She had no idea how to feel about that.