|Current music:||What About Everything--Carbon Leaf|
Fic: Things Unsaid
Title: Things Unsaid
Fandom: Doctor Who
Spoilers: The first season ever, but come on, people, it's been out for forty-four years.
Word Count: 2400~
Summary: Ian and Barbara deal with an accident. Which perhaps wasn't so accidental.
Notes: Written for doyle_sb4 as part of the_chestertons' Ian/Barbara ficathon. She asked for a wedding and some aliens. They're both offscreen (though the aliens are certainly making themselves heard); I hope you enjoy it!
EDIT: Because I'm a moron: beta'd by the ever-wonderful eponymous_rose, who stayed up until a ridiculous hour with me to get it done. <3333333
Barbara Wright tumbled into the room and caught herself on a bedpost at the last minute, nearly barking her knees on the stone floor. Behind her, the mob of female Phraxas roared with laughter, then shut the door and—very emphatically—locked it.
She could still hear the laughter, though, and the singing. Bawdy songs, or alien variations thereof, she thought; at least that’s what it sounded like. Nothing fit for a young girl’s ears, anyway. She hoped vaguely that the Doctor had managed to get Susan safely away, sighed, and sat down on the bed.
At least she would be comfortable tonight. She smoothed a hand over the colourful quilt atop the bedcovers, admiring the work. It was circular, with six posts at regular intervals; big, and deeply plushed. Precisely the sort of thing she would expect in a room like this, a room sparsely decorated, with all the focus on the bed. In a room meant for…
She’d been trying to forget that.
Well, no hope for it now. It was over, and nothing for it but to make the best of things.
The lock clicked and whirred. Barbara got to her feet, hoping faintly that she’d been wrong and it was all some sort of practical joke, and they’d let her out now. She could go and find the Doctor and the others, and they’d all have a good laugh over how silly she’d been…
Or not. The door opened, letting in a bellow of laughter and song and a half-dressed Ian Chesterton, then shut.
Barbara sighed, and sat down on the bed again. Oh, this would not end well.
“Of all the bloody cheek!” Ian had managed to right himself without outside aid, and now was buttoning his open shirt indignantly. His sweater, tie and belt had vanished, along with his shoes. “Some of those… Barbara, did you hear what they were saying?”
As he turned towards her, she immediately pretended she hadn’t been looking. “Very clearly. No, I’m not hurt, thank you.” Though they had taken her cardigan and shoes as well, and played havoc with her hair. At least they’d let her keep her shirt shut.
Ian either hadn’t heard or chose to ignore her. He muttered something vaguely blasphemous and struggled with the collar button.
Men. “Here, let me,” she said, and stood, walked over to him. “Stop fussing or you’re going to choke yourself.”
He obediently stopped fiddling and let her button it. “And the Doctor promised us a quiet stop for once. I can’t believe I believed him.”
Barbara’s fingers were lingering under his lifted chin. She resolutely forced her hands down to hang at her sides, but left it to Ian to move away, and was quietly cheered when he didn’t. “Well, I don’t know. It’s certainly less life-threatening than usual.”
“Maybe.” He looked around the room, eyed the bed. “I will say this, it’s a more comfortable cell than the Conciergerie Prison.”
“Er.” She dropped her eyes. “I don’t think it’s a cell, Ian.”
“What? Of course it is. We’re prisoners, aren’t we? They took my shoes.” He lifted his bare right foot and shook it indignantly.
She suppressed a giggle of sheer nervousness, and felt a blush begin to spread across her cheeks. “I think that was meant to be a thoughtful gesture. For… for convenience.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, that’s…” Ian stopped, and watched her face for a moment. “Barbara, what are you saying?”
She must look a fright; her hair felt like a bird’s nest. “You must have noticed,” she said, her voice suddenly high with tension, and walked away from him towards the table behind the bed.
“Assume I’m thick,” he said, dryly, following her. He detoured midway to the other side of the bed and leaned on a bedpost, watching her closely and incidentally looking very handsome indeed. She made herself look away, and scrounged up courage from somewhere.
“I think we’re married,” Barbara said, relieved when it came out as calmly as it had sounded in her head. “Pass me that hairbrush, will you?”
Ian’s hand slipped off the bedpost, and he barely caught himself before he hit the wall. “We’re what?”
Oh, good, so she wasn’t the only one who squeaked when she was surprised.
“I think we’re married,” she repeated. “It seemed like a marriage ceremony, anyway, even if I couldn’t quite understand what they were saying. I suppose we’re lucky the Phraxas are used to humans, or we might have gotten something even stranger.”
He stared at her, his mouth hanging open. Rather endearing, even if it didn’t do much for his general looks. “You can’t be serious.”
“You heard the Doctor,” she said, trying very hard to ignore the sinking in her stomach. She’d hoped… “He said the Phraxas like to imitate medieval Earth customs. Putting the couple to bed is one of them.” She gestured at the door, where slightly muffled filthy songs still sounded. “So is the broken coin. When they gave that to us, I think that’s when it was official.” He was still staring at her, not saying anything, and she went on, frantically trying to fill the silence. “It’s symbolic, the coin, anyway. The bedding ritual is supposed to ensure fertility for the couple, I think, and help get them over their uneasiness… they were mostly arranged marriages, you see, and when you’ve only just met your husband that day you get a bit nervous on the wedding night…”
“I suppose,” Ian said, sounding as if he hadn’t actually been listening and had chosen an interjection at random. “Barbara, are we really…”
She shrugged, unhappily. “I don’t suppose it matters very much. They’ll let us out of here in the morning. I don’t imagine we’ll need to…well. And it’s not as if alien marriages are valid on earth.”
Ian looked away from her very suddenly, and when he looked back his expression was totally blank. “I suppose not. I’ll sleep on the floor, if you’d rather.”
“Don’t be silly, it’s solid stone. The bed’s more than big enough for the both of us.” Now just what had that been about, that face?
“Mm.” And again he was thinking about something else. He sat slowly on the bed, his eyes distant, his face still blank.
She left him to it this time, and went about fixing her hair as best she could, stewing in her own soft melancholy. She’d known it would turn out this way. She was a practical woman, or liked to think of herself that way; so why had she let herself hope that it wouldn’t? They were friends, nothing more, and if sometimes she saw, or wished for, a little more, then she was imagining it.
There was nothing to reproach Ian with, naturally. He’d always been the soul of decency, behaving towards her with strictest propriety. He was a gentleman. Precisely the sort of man she’d always wished for herself.
Which was rather the problem, wasn’t it? She sighed, and dragged the retrieved brush through her hair. At least he wouldn’t resent her for this mess—it wouldn’t ruin anything. She could hardly have stopped the ceremony, even if she’d wanted to.
“Hey,” Ian said, gently, and touched her shoulder.
She jumped, startled, and nearly hit him in the face with the brush, though he managed to jerk back in time. “Sorry!” she gasped, and put a hand to her chest. “Sorry, I was thinking.”
“I know.” He settled on the bed next to her. “Your face shows it. They didn’t look like very happy thoughts.”
Barbara shrugged again, rather uncomfortably. “I was a bit silly, that’s all. Nothing important.”
That was all he said, her name; it was really all he needed to say. But she didn’t want to explain, so she wouldn’t, no matter how many times he said her name like that. She remained silent and did not meet his eyes.
He waited a moment, then patted her shoulder again. “It’s not permanent,” he told her, obviously trying to be comforting. “You said it yourself.”
“That isn’t it,” she said, and shook her head. “Oh, never mind, it’s all right.”
Ian gave her a slightly worried smile. “They’re not going to hurt us,” he said. “It’s not so bad, after all.”
She did her best to smile back. “You’re kind.”
“Thank you, I think.” His forehead relaxed a little; the hand on her shoulder slipped down to her waist and stayed there. “You’re sure you’re all right.”
“Yes.” She hesitated a moment, then rested her head on his shoulder. “Just silly, that’s all.”
They sat like that in comfortable silence for a time. There was that, at least; they were always friends, and good ones, and Barbara doubted anything could change that. If nothing else, they had their time with the Doctor, and who at home would ever understand that? They would stay in contact if only to remind themselves that they were sane. So she would have that. It would be enough, she decided. She would make it be enough.
“Barbara,” Ian said, suddenly.
She lifted her head. “Hmm? What?”
He’d shifted, and was looking down at her with the oddest expression on his face, one she couldn’t even begin to read. “What is it?” she repeated, starting to get worried.
Ian opened his mouth, then shut it again and shook his head. “Nothing,” he said. “Nothing. I’m sorry.”
She blinked, but before she could say anything he’d dug a hand into his pocket and produced his half of the broken coin that marked their marriage. “Is this really an Earth custom?”
“Erm, yes,” she said, completely confused. “It’s a medieval way of marking a marriage. Two halves of the same soul, I believe.”
“I’m going to keep mine,” Ian said. He flipped it, caught it, and returned it carefully to his pocket. “A memento of the time I was married.”
Barbara laughed—she’d forced it a little, but it didn’t sound that way, at least not to her ears. “You’ll have a job explaining that if you ever get married back home.”
“I shouldn’t think I will,” he said, carelessly. “No one would be half so extraordinary as you, anyway.”
The words hung in the sudden silence; from the widening of Ian’s eyes, she guessed that he hadn’t meant to say that.
“Barbara,” he blurted, but she put a hand to his mouth, and he stopped talking, stopped even moving.
“Were you going to tell me that?” she asked him, and felt the corners of her mouth curl into a smile. “Ever?”
Ian shook his head, mutely.
“And why not?”
“I didn’t want to…” He trailed off, and shrugged, looking everywhere but at her. “I didn’t think you would… look, it doesn’t have to change anything. I can keep it to myself. I have kept it to myself. For months, now. Er.”
The worried wrinkles in his forehead were back. Barbara resisted the temptation to reach up and smooth them away. Instead, she kissed him.
When she’d finished, Ian was staring at her, his eyes wide again. “Oh,” he said.
She laughed. “Oh, indeed. You are thick, do you know that?”
“Yes,” he said, “but I think I’m beginning to get somewhere.”
Barbara woke up rather abruptly the next morning when the door banged open and the Doctor sailed in.
“There you two are,” he said, without any preliminaries. “Come along, we’ve places to be.”
She blinked at him, somewhat blearily. She wasn’t clear what time it was, since the room had no windows, but she would bet it was early, and she and Ian had been talking very late the night before. Talking, and kissing, and curling into each other; nothing more, they had agreed that they weren’t ready just at the moment. The Doctor didn’t look as if he believed that, though. Of course, he didn’t exactly look as if he minded, either, beyond his usual crankiness.
“Chesterton!” he barked, and beat one of the bedposts with his walking stick. “Wake up!”
Ian flailed awake in a flurry of confused words and movements, just as Susan appeared in the door. “Grandfather, I can’t—oh. Good morning!”
Barbara clutched the covers to her chest reflexively. “Good morning, Susan,” she said, managing a remarkably calm tone, under the circumstances.
“Doctor?” Ian hazarded, rubbing a hand across his eyes.
“Yes, yes,” the Doctor said. “Get up, quickly, we’ve got to go.”
“What happened?” Ian seemed determined to stay under the covers.
Susan giggled, and the Doctor scowled in her direction. “Absolutely nothing,” he said. “I simply want to be gone. Get up.”
In the interests of pacifying the Doctor, Barbara resolutely put the covers aside and set about straightening her clothes as best she could. After a full day and night in them, they’d need a thorough washing, but she could at least make herself respectable for the walk back to the Tardis. Speaking of… “Doctor,” she said, “they took our shoes.”
“Oh, I’ve got them,” Susan said. “Min’ami gave them to me. She’s really very friendly. Even Grandfather said so when he asked—“
“Hush now, child,” the Doctor said, and waved his stick at the shoes Susan held. “There you are then.”
Barbara had frozen halfway through doing up the cuffs on her blouse. Ian, who’d finally got out of bed and come to stand by her, turned and stared.
Finally, he managed, “Doctor, asked her what?”
The Doctor harrumphed, and said, “I simply asked her to see that you stayed out of trouble and were well entertained. Now hurry and straighten yourself up. I want to get off this place. Never liked the Phraxas; too cheerful by half.” He turned and wandered out of the room, muttering all the way.
Barbara stared after him, open-mouthed, then transferred her gaze to Susan, who merely giggled and skipped off after her grandfather.
“You don’t suppose…” Ian began, tentatively.
She caught at his arm. “Don’t say it. Don’t say it or he really did and I don’t want to know.”
To her considerable relief, he laughed. “No, I suppose not. I only wonder why…”
She shook her head, emphatically. “I think it’s better not to ask. Curiosity and all that.”
“Yes.” Ian left his cuffs flapping and offered her his arm, gallant as always. “Well. I suppose there’s virtue in leaving some things unsaid. Shall we?”
Barbara touched the broken coin in her pocket, and smiled. “Of course.”