It was laundry day at Jackie Tyler's flat, and the place was full-up.
Rose had brought her usual round of washing, and her two fiancés. Normally, Jack would stick around and visit, while the Doctor, after a perfunctory greeting (given following a prodding by Rose), would find some excuse (usually rather thin) to go wandering off for a few hours. Today, however, Mickey was also there doing his washing and, in trade, setting up Jackie's brand-new computer for her.
The whiff of technology had set the Doctor on point almost immediately, and currently all three blokes were jammed into Jackie's bedroom setting up the computer together. Either that or having a serious verbal dust-up. Or both. The dull roar that reached Rose and Jackie where they sat in the living room was a little hard to interpret.
Rose burst out laughing after a particularly loud crescendo. "You can smell the testosterone from here," she commented. "Just think, mum, you can tell Mrs. Thomas how y' had three noisy men in your bedroom all at one time."
Jackie laughed with her. "Gotta say," she told her daughter, "if you want to get a man's attention with silicon, forget implants -- get a computer."
The two of them giggled helplessly for a moment.
"And to think," Jackie said, "I just wanted it for the mail and the shopping. Sounds like they're settin' up NORAD in there."
"Better watch out," Rose teased. "Between the three of 'em, you might just get NORAD. Either that, or a computer that hooks up to the galactic Internet -- look what the Doctor did to my mobile." She grinned at the thought.
Jackie sighed and shook her head, before switching back to one of her favorite subjects.
"How's that wedding coming along?" she asked.
Rose groaned and flopped back in her chair. "It isn't. Findin' anyplace that'll do it is takin' forever. Jack's got a whole clipboard full of ideas that won't work, you should see it."
Her mouth snapped shut as she realized her mum probably shouldn't see it, given some of the options Jack had outlined. Fortunately, Jackie didn't seem inclined to take her up literally on the offer.
Instead, she sniffed disparagingly. "T' think, there'd be a day when I couldn't see my own daughter married, just because some people are all stiff-necked about it."
Rose had to grin at that. Once Jackie got it into her mind to be supportive, there was no stopping her.
"Well, it is to two blokes at once," Rose pointed out. Reflexively, her right hand went to the engagement ring on her left, rubbing the now-familiar shape of it on her finger.
Jackie caught the gesture. "Any luck, findin' somethin' for you-know-who . . .?" she asked shooting a quick glance towards her bedroom door to make sure they weren't being overhead -- though the general noise level could have told her that the room's occupants were otherwise engaged.
Rose understood immediately. "Nothin'. Jack an' I have been lookin, ever since he surprised us with these, but what do you get for someone like the Doctor? It's like shoppin' for Father Christmas. He needs something really special, unique . . ." she trailed off.
Jackie was bit her lip thoughtfully. "Wait a mo' -- I just had it out, lookin' at it an’ thinkin’ . . . and good thing, too, or I'd have to fight my way in there to get it." she nodded towards the bedroom.
She stood and rummaged in the drawer of the end table, and came up with something small that she handed to Rose.
It was a man's ring -- heavy gold, with a flattened facet on top that held two inlaid diagonals of deep-blue lapis, and a row of three tiny, faceted diamonds in between.
Rose, surprised, wondered where her Mum had gotten such at thing. Then she realized it was familiar, and then she recognized it. She'd last seen it when she held Pete Tyler's hand in hers, on a terrible day both long ago, and not long ago at all.
Her breath caught, and her eyes prickled with memory and understanding. "Mum . . ." she began.
"Y' recognize it then. Yeah, it was your Dad's -- just about all I have left of him, 'cept you, of course." Jackie huffed a little half-laugh, painful and affectionate at once. "I was always after him to sell it, when things were tight, but he wouldn't, said it was his 'talisman for a better future' -- whatever that meant. He was always popping out with things like that. But he thought sellin' it would be giving up, somehow, so he kept it. And now he's gone, and it's still here."
She was silent for a moment. "If you want it, take it. Used to be traditional for a girl to inherit her mum's engagement ring -- we can bend that to fit."
"Oh, Mum . . .!" Rose grabbed her mother in a tight hug. "It's perfect, thank you so much . . ."
Jackie hugged her back, pleased. "An' it's got three diamonds," she pointed out, smugly. "Hope the size is right."
"We can fix that if we have to," Rose said, firmly, pulling back from the embrace and closing her hand tightly around the ring. "I need to go show this to Jack."
Mickey, having been onsite first, had managed to keep the dominant position, seated in the chair in front of the computer, with his hand hovering possessively over the mouse. The Doctor was looming close over his shoulder.
Lately, when he wanted to keep his lengthening hair out of the way, the Doctor had taken to pulling it back into a tight, complex knot at the nape of his neck. He fastened it with a round-headed gold pin, inscribed with a now-familiar circle-and-figure-eight motif, that he'd produced from somewhere or other in the TARDIS. Rose had never been able to figure out how it worked; her own hair would be sliding loose from the slick metal of the pin in minutes. His stayed tight, except when he was working hard, or worked up.
Therefore, it was telling that there were a few long strands slipping loose to fall forward, in addition to the usual shorter locks of hair around his ears and forehead.
"Look," he was saying, in a tone of voice he reserved for idiots and the willfully dense, "I'm just sayin' if you configure it this way, it'll run ten times faster. . ."
"Yeah, and Windows'll be crashin' every five seconds," Mickey shot back, in a very similar tone.
"Is anyone interested in what the manual says?" Jack called, exasperated. He was lying sprawled on the bed, surrounded by a scatter of papers and software manuals, with an open book in his hand.
"No!" Mickey and the Doctor both shouted back in a rare moment of total agreement.
"Fine, be that way . . .! Oh, h'lo Rose."
Mickey and the Doctor both looked over their shoulder at her, surprised by the feminine intrusion. Rose almost laughed at how close their expressions were, but figured neither of them would appreciate it.
"Can I see you for a minute, Jack?" she asked.
"Since I'm largely bein’ ignored, yeah, I think I can be spared," he told her, with a dry look at the other men. He rolled off the bed and followed her from the room.
Ten minutes of quick explanation later, and Rose and Jackie were treated to the sight of Captain Jack Harkness -- former soldier, “retired” Time Agent, and conman extraordinaire -- on the verge of being a little misty-eyed.
"Yeah," he said, voice slightly rough, "I think he'll like that." The sentimental moment didn't stop him from giving the ring a quick heft in the palm of his hand, however.
"Fair amount of gold in that," he commented and squinted at the diamonds. "Seen better stones, though . . . Er." He broke off, remembering his audience, and then made a save by giving Jackie a dazzling grin, followed by a hug and kiss that made her remind herself very firmly that this man was her future son-in-law.
“Shall we?” Rose asked with a grin.
“No time like the present,” Jack replied with answering grin, just at the noise level peaked in the other room. Jack winced. “Hell, I think we’d better — sounds like they’re fighting over the mouse again.”
“S’cuse us!” Rose said loudly from the doorway.
Mickey and the Doctor, startled, both dropped the mouse and looked at her.
“Doctor, can you come here for a moment?” she continued. She was smiling, as were Jack and Jackie. The fact that all three of them looked like that made the Doctor suspicious (and it didn’t help that the link was giving him an impression of tightly controlled amusement and anticipation from both Rose and Jack), but he couldn’t very easily refuse.
With an inward sigh, he surrendered his position next to the computer, not even needing to look to know that Mickey-the-Idiot had immediately grabbed total control of the mouse again.
As he approached, Jack reached out to him. “Okay, Doc, give me your hand — the left one.” He wiggled his fingers.
With a sudden burst of presentiment, the Doctor extended his hand. Jack cupped his palm, and Rose reached out to slide something cool and smooth onto his third finger. The Doctor looked down and frowned — he knew he’d seen that ring somewhere before. Then his photographic Time Lord’s memory gave him the answer. He looked up at Rose, gaping.
She grinned full-out at that, tongue between her teeth. “Yeah, it was Dad’s,” she said, knowing he recognized it. "Mum gave it to us." She shifted her hand, so that his was pressed between hers above and Jack’s below.
“Gotcha,” Jack told him affectionately. “Figured it’d fit you if it fit me.”
Without warning, both companions found themselves swept up in a powerful, silent hug; suspiciously silent — Rose was betting the Doctor’s voice wasn’t all that reliable at the moment as she hugged him back. The link was awash with wordless emotions, though, and she laughed out loud as she sent back her own reaction in the brightest colors she possessed.
Jackie watched, as a smiling spectator, thinking how it was too bad Pete wasn’t here to see the happy scene when a long, leather-clad arm seemed to snake ‘round her out of nowhere, and pulled her into the happy tangle. She was shocked, but not for long, and not too shocked to hug back.
All too soon, though, the moment was broken as the sound of rapid-fire keyboard chatter penetrated the Doctor’s consciousness. He abruptly dropped his arms from around the others and spun to look back at the computer — where Mickey, taking advantage of the distraction, had been working furiously.
“Not like that!” the Doctor yelled, and headed back into battle, practically giving off visible waves of annoyance.
Rose, left with one arm wrapped around Jack and one around her mum, laughed and squeezed both of them tighter.
Jackie made a good-natured hrumphing noise in her throat as the setup bickering began again.
“An engagement settled in the middle of a family fight — he’s definitely a Tyler now,” she said, with an air of satisfied finality.