Six months to the day after Pete Tyler died, Jackie Tyler met a man.
She didn't plan on meeting a man; she was barely managing, holding two jobs and caring for Rose with the help of a neighbor, and she really had neither the time nor the desire to meet anybody, much less a man. There'd been no desire or yearning since Pete died, just loneliness that almost overwhelmed her sometimes. But Rose was still a baby, she needed a full time mom, now that her dad was gone, and even trying to find grown up companionship would just complicate things.
Jackie first met him at a mixer the big department store she was working in threw. He wasn't with the store, that much was certain. Too handsome, too charming, too…American, she decided, listening to him talk and laugh by the bar. He was one of the most handsome men she'd ever seen, movie star good looks, and when his eyes fastened on her she was sure it was some kind of mistake. But no, he introduced himself, made pleasant conversation, bought her a drink and expected nothing in return. Jackie found herself laughing at his jokes, for the first time in months. He looked and sounded genuinely sympathetic when she explained about Pete, and his main goal seemed to be to make sure she had fun. They parted with a handshake at the end of the evening, and she cherished the memory, never thinking they'd meet again.
Jackie Tyler felt better after that evening. She found she could laugh again, and things were just a bit easier to deal with.
A year after Pete Tyler died, Jackie ran into the man again, this time at the supermarket. He looked harried and flustered and delighted to meet her, enchanted with Rose who was walking and trying to talk by then, and in a fit of momentary madness, Jackie invited him to dinner.
Things were slightly better, by then. She no longer cried herself to sleep five nights out of seven, she had friends, she got a promotion at the department store that allowed her to drop the second job and spend more time with Rose, but she still wasn't looking for a man. She still felt lonely sometimes, at night, but stepping out into the dating world again scared her. Who'd want a woman old before her time, coming with the baggage of widowhood and a toddler, too busy to be the perfect girlfriend? She already knew she didn't want to marry again. No one was like Pete. No one was worth the kind of heartache that love meant, no one except Rose.
But, she decided, she could use a friend.
So she invited him to dinner, cooked pasta with sauce out of a jar and hot dogs, Rose's favorite food. He told jokes and funny stories, made silly faces that made Rose chortle, and brought pricey ice cream for dessert. Unlike most people, Jackie didn't feel he was judging her by her shabby, slightly messy apartment filled with toys and laundry, or by the fact that she hadn't had a haircut in months. He was entirely focused on her, entirely charming, entirely polite yet bold, even racy sometimes with a sly wink towards Rose and a 'let's hope she doesn't absorb my bad habits'.
He made her feel like a person again, not just a mother-of, an employee-of, the widow-of. A year after her husband's death, Jackie Tyler felt pretty again, desirable in her own right.
He made no excuses, and didn't hide his intentions. He told her that he thought she was beautiful, that if and when she felt ready again, he'd be honored. She smiled sadly, blushing and warmed inside, and shook her head. He nodded, kissed her hand and helped wash the dishes. He explained he worked all over the world, and had no idea when he'd be in London again. Jackie gave him her phone number.
Rose liked him, and that won him even more points in Jackie's book.
The summer after Rose turned three, Jackie came back to life, in a way. She even started dating again, carefully, but secure in the knowledge that she still had life in her, that she was still alive and young and deserved to be happy. She never lasted long with any man, finding fault in every one eventually. Many didn't like Rose, or she didn't like them; those never came back even for a second date.
And still, after months of boyfriends, Jackie still hadn't taken that final step with any of them. She was afraid, maybe. Worried that she'd forgotten how, or that no man could match what Pete had done for her. Maybe, also, she worried that they'd outdo him, and in that make him disrespect his memory. So she stayed aloof, played hard to get, started to get a reputation. Jackie Tyler, the tease, the ice queen.
She ran into him again that summer, walking by the Themes with Rose. He grinned, shook Rose's hand gravely and kissed Jackie on the cheek, said he was in London on business and dinner would be on him this time. Jackie, remembering what he'd said almost a year earlier, calmly suggested that Rose could stay with a 'sitter, and though the girl pouted he agreed, and promised he'd take her out for ice cream sometime.
That evening, Jackie made a real effort to look pretty. She knew it wasn't necessary, but this was as much for herself as for him. They laughed and chatted over a wonderful meal she never would've been able to afford, and he looked just as comfortable in the high-end restaurant as he'd been in her ratty kitchen. The funny thing was that his ease was infectious, and the waiters were all so kind that Jackie forgot entirely that he couldn't read French and hadn't the faintest idea what half these delicious things were. By the end of the evening, she was perfectly relaxed.
He'd have escorted her home and said a police goodnight. She suggested they go to his hotel room for a drink. He acted as if it was the most natural suggestion in the world, and maybe for him it was.
He was nothing like Pete. Unpredictable, mysterious, entirely comfortable in his own skin yet tense. There was always a sense of danger about him, except when he was with Rose. It drew Jackie like moth to a flame, but she knew this flame held no heat, and no danger for her. She knew that if they did anything, it would be a one time thing, and she may never see him again. Knowing what might happen, she welcomed that.
That night, the man reminded her how wonderful being a woman could be. He satisfied a deep desire she hadn't known was there, he taught her things about her body that she hadn't learned in 25 years of living it in. He eased her through it so smoothly, so gently, that when she finally thought of Pete when it was over she hoped her husband was watching, and knew how happy the man had made her.
"He knows you, Jackie." The man whispered. "He wouldn't want you to stop living just because he did. Think of what that'd do to a man's ego, to know you never even tried. Live. Be happy. He'd want this for you."
More importantly, now, she wanted it for herself. She wanted the physical love, even (especially) without the emotion of it. The companionship, the closeness, she craved them. He gave them to her, though that whole night. They talked for hours, while he recovered or she lay gasping. She told him all about her life. She shed her sorrow, finally putting it away where it'd keep, and stay forever, but not block her way anymore. When he smiled, she knew that he felt as happy as she did, having done this for her.
"You're too good to me." She whispered.
"It's my pleasure, Jackie. You deserve to smile more." And then, "I'm going away again tomorrow. I'm not sure…I might not be back, for a few years."
"That's alright. Rose will have to wait for her ice cream with her uncle Jack."
He dropped her home in the morning, and she called in sick to work and spent the day with Rose. The girl pouted for three days about her missed ice cream, but then forgot, as three year olds do. Jackie kept waiting for him as years went by, hoping for another visit. Sometimes she thought she saw his coat whirling around a corner, but he never came. Rose didn't remember him, and Jackie almost never spoke about him, and never by name. She knew he'd healed her, helped her through the grief, brought her back to life. Guardian angel with a twist. It was a private memory, and she held it close.
Nineteen years after Pete Tyler died, Rose Tyler was on a red planet light years away from her own home, at, of all things, an ice cream parlor, and Captain Jack Harkness watched her grin as she dove into a bowl full of red and blue frozen cream. The Doctor watched him watch her and kicked him under the table, making him jerk up sharply.
"You're thinking dirty thoughts again."
"I am not!" The Doctor gave him a flat look and he subsided.
Over a hundred years after being left behind, Jack Harkness dropped Jackie off at her place and drove away. He knew he couldn't come see her again- Rose would start remembering names and faces soon, he'd risked enough doing this. He could risk it, though, knowing he'd never meet Jackie again in her timeline, and she'd needed this. He was glad, very very glad, that he could do this for her. She deserved to be happy, and Rose deserved a happy mother.
"And whaddaya know, Jackie." He smiled to himself, "I took her out for that ice cream, after all."