Making up stories
"What are we going to say?" Barbara asked, once they'd got off the bus and found themselves becoming serious as they neared home.
Ian sighed. "I've been thinking about that." Although not hard enough when there were so many distractions in modern London. "Would your family believe that you'd gone away of your own free will without a word for two years?"
She shook her head. "I don't think they'd believe that all my letters were lost in the post either. Besides, we left your car in Totter's Lane."
"Yes," he said, thoughtfully. That would certainly look suspicious. "Maybe we should stick to something closer to the truth."
"I don't think anyone would believe that!"
Ian smiled fondly at her. She was right, but that hadn't been what he meant at all. "No, no. How about this: we followed Susan home and were just in time to see her being kidnapped. The kidnappers didn't want us to go to the police, so they took us as well, and kept us locked up."
"For two years?" Barbara didn't sound like she believed the story. Ian couldn't blame her - it did sound like the sort of thing that only happened in wild fantasies.
"The police investigation took that long." Ian shrugged. "Someone must have told the police we'd disappeared." He wondered whether they'd given up looking, especially since they couldn't have had any clues to go on.
"Well, in the absence of anything better, let's go with it."
They spent the rest of the walk home working out the details so their stories would match. It was only when they reached Ian's house that they realised two years was a long time and as far as anyone was concerned, he didn't live there any more.
The logical thing to do was for each of them to go back to their parents' houses. Ian was loathe to part with Barbara, but he reminded himself that this was home and nothing bad could happen to her here. Well, nothing aside from the usual crime in London in the 1960s. At least it wouldn't involve aliens.
Barbara had pointed out that their families would be worried about them and they should reassure them they were still alive. She was right, as usual, but Ian still hesitated as in stood in front of the familiar brown door. He wished he had Barbara with him for support, but having her here would probably only make his parents think something else had happened entirely. And he needed to test their story out on someone likely to believe what he said.
When he at last plucked up the courage, he was met at the door with a hug and a "Where have you been? I've been worried sick."
He smiled and said, "It's a long story." But he was glad his nerves had been for nothing and the sight of him had helped his mother forgive him for being away for so long. She even made him a cup of tea.
"I was kidnapped," he began.
"You were what?" She looked shocked and had to sit down suddenly.
Ian wondered if this had been a good idea - he hadn't meant to scare her. But Barbara was presumably telling her parents the same thing and he couldn't go back on the idea now. Maybe he should have let her think of something - she always was more level-headed.
The story, once he got it all out, took a while in the telling. Partly because his mother asked lots of questions - and Ian was glad he and Barbara had thought of them in advance - but also because she kept threatening to ring the police right there and then. Ian had a job convincing her there was nothing they could do about it now, what with the kidnappers being dead, hence his and Barbara's escape. He had an easier time when he asked for a bed for the night, and she agreed to let him stay for as long as it took for him to find another job.
Getting a job
"I can't give you your old job back."
"I know," Ian said. He'd rung Coal Hill school more on the off-chance than because he thought it would be a success. He had to start somewhere after all. "I don't suppose you know of anywhere needing science teachers?" He wanted to ask about history teachers too, but he'd heard enough rumours about what he and Barbara had supposedly got up to that he didn't want to call attention to their friendship. Even when people heard the kidnapping story they'd still wondered what the two of them had done, alone with nothing to do for two years. Ian couldn't blame them - in their position he'd probably have thought the same things. It's just that none of it was true and they really were just friends.
But he had to concentrate on getting himself a new job and forget about Barbara for the meantime. Which was easier said than done. He'd been used to seeing her nearly every day - and the days when they hadn't been together had usually been because one or both of them had been captured. So it had been natural to worry about her when they were apart. He had to remind himself that he knew exactly where she was and it was just as well she'd thought to give him her parents' phone number, just in case. He just hadn't had the courage to ring it yet.
He realised his attention was wandering - which wasn't a surprise when his old headmaster was telling him what a hard time they'd had having to replace two teachers at such short notice. Ian had a hard time feeling guilty about inconveniencing him because they hadn't chosen to roam about in time and space. Although they hadn't exactly spent the whole time wanting to get home.
Eventually Ian managed to get the headmaster to at least agree to give him decent references and a few phone calls later he had also secured himself three interviews.
"Do you still think coming home and leaving the Doctor was a good idea?" Barbara asked as he walked her home.
Ian was tempted to say no. As much as he'd missed pubs, parks and cricket matches while they were away, he missed Barbara more now they were back. "Of course not," he said. "It's bound to be strange at first, but I'm sure we'll get used to it."
"I hope so."
He frowned and stopped. "Barbara, is everything all right?"
She turned to face him. "Oh, it's just job hunting getting me down. I hadn't expected to be doing it again so soon. I liked Coal Hill school."
Ian nodded. He'd liked it too, although for more than one reason. His new school was just as good, it just lacked one essential element. But he smiled reassuringly at her. "You're a good teacher. It's just the wrong time of year to be looking. It'll be easier in the summer." He'd only got his job because the previous teacher had had a nervous breakdown. Which hadn't been entirely reassuring, but Ian hadn't been in a position to be picky.
"I suppose you're right." She sighed, not even responding to his compliment.
It was odd, he reflected. They had no shortage of things to talk about and yet not being on a different planet or in a different time made it hard to know what to say. Despite them now living in different parts of London he wanted things back as they were and he wasn't sure how to start saying it.
So they walked in silence. Barbara kept stealing looks at him, as if she knew what he was thinking and was just waiting for him to talk. But she didn't ask and so he didn't answer.
At her door he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. As he did, she put her hand on his neck and he wasn't so sure about moving away from her. When he turned his head a little he realised how close her mouth was. His heartbeat sped up as if he'd just faced down a Dalek and he was almost too nervous to move. But it was folly not to and it only took a slight bend of his neck to meet her lips with his own.
When he stopped she didn't quite let him go and he took that as a sign to pull her closer and kiss her again.
"Let's elope," she said one day when they were outside her door and he didn't want to let her go.
He frowned, taken aback by this sudden pronouncement. He was sure he was supposed to be the one to ask her about marriage, but Barbara never was one for doing things by the book. "Wouldn't you like a white wedding in a church?" Most women, he had found, seemed to think that no wedding was right without one. Since he couldn't see why it made any difference, he couldn't guess what Barbara wanted.
She shook her head. "I'm tired of being everyone's centre of attention. I just want to marry you and be done with it."
She hadn't asked him if that was what he wanted, he noticed. As it happened, he agreed with the sentiment wholeheartedly and he wondered how it was that Barbara always seemed to know his heart better than he did himself. "All right. Gretna Green it is." He smiled and bent to kiss her.
"I would love to," she said, ducking away from him, "but they have a three year waiting list."
"Oh." All thoughts of kissing her fled from his mind as he pondered alternatives. "We'll find somewhere."
"Just tell me what sort of clothes to pack."
He smiled at her faith in his planning abilities, but didn't question it. As he kissed her a final good night he wondered how far in advance you had to book somewhere in Italy. It would be a fitting place to get married.
Note: According to Face of the Enemy, Ian and Barbara eloped on the first anniversary of them getting home.