Chapter 2: Keeping Up Appearances
When Rose was eight years old, her class had taken an outing to Windsor Castle. Each student had to bring 15 quid to cover the cost of admission, transportation, and lunch. Jackie had promised to give her the money so that she could go with her friends. For two weeks before the trip, Mickey had regaled Rose with stories of what he'd seen on his class trip. Rose had talked of little else.
The night before the trip, Jackie had come home late after Rose had gone to bed. Rose awoke before her alarm went off the next morning, jumping out of bed and hurrying to wake her mum.
But Jackie had been invited to go to the pub with some friends and had forgotten all about going by the bank for cash. Rose had been proud of herself that she didn't cry as her friends got on the bus.
As she rode up the drive of a huge sandstone house in an antique Bentley next to the man who meant more to her than anyone, with her best friend in the backseat, Rose knew that every disappointment was worth it, because without them she might not have met the Doctor. And life with him was better than anything she had ever wanted growing up.
"Leave the bags in the car, Rose. Wouldn't do for you to be seen carryin' your own things," he Doctor said, opening his door.
Now that Rose thought of it, her mother had probably not even had the fifteen pounds. Rather than clue Rose in to the fact that even Mickey's gran was better off than they were (and she was on a pension) Jackie would have rather let Rose think she'd just forgotten. Keeping up appearances. Just like now.
"I told Dahlia you were Rose's guardian," Jack said, as he got out and the two of them stood in the open passenger side door. "I didn't want them to think she was just running around with a couple single guys."
"Just as well," Rose said with a resigned shrug. Jack could usually be counted on to try to get her and the Doctor as close together as possible, for reasons he had never adequately explained.
"S'pose," the Doctor said. He looked oddly disappointed about something, but Rose was sure it probably had something to do with the fact that he couldn't strangle Jack for this one.
The huge wooden doors to the house opened and the Doctor immediately shifted to his gentleman mode. Rose was handed neatly out of the car, and made quite comfortable on the Doctor's leather-clad arm before the two men who had come outside had even reached the car.
"Good evening, Captain Harkness," said the older gentleman who started forward first. "Mrs. Travers requested I show you to your rooms where you may freshen up before joining her in the drawing room." The man took the grips of some of the bags.
The younger, taller man with him, with the legacy-of-a-misspent-youth nose and the perfectly parted dark hair nodded to them all before he collected the rest of the luggage. Rose, struck silent by the awe of the whole thing, let the Doctor lead her as if she'd been born in this time period and expected it.
She'd collected herself, however, by the time the older gentleman had taken Jack and his luggage up one staircase. The younger gentleman gestured Rose to a separate, newer-looking stair, and then down a hall on the second floor.
"This room has been prepared for the young lady," the man said, opening the door and neatly placing Rose's suitcase and garment bag inside. "Miss Angela's room is just next door, so you will be in good company. Your room, Sir, is just back at the end of the hallway."
"Thank you," the Doctor said. "Didn't catch your name?"
The man gave the Doctor a startled blink, looked him over, and went a sort of shocked pale. Rose wondered if this meant he was actually only just now seeing the Time Lord clearly. The look on the butler's face seemed to indicate just that.
"Jeeves, sir," the man said, looking at the Doctor with his eyes quite wide.
Rose hid a snicker behind her hand as the Doctor introduced himself and Rose in turn. "Very good, sir," Jeeves said. "If you would care to join the Captain and Mrs. Travers in the drawing room, it is just down the stairs and to the right."
As the man walked away from them, looking something between horrified and agonized, Rose distinctly heard him say, "Leather jacket," as if it was a thing more evil than the Daleks. She gave up and giggled.
"This is my nephew, Bertie Wooster," the lady of the house introduced a young man who came into the drawing room just before the Doctor.
"What ho," the young man in question greeted cheerfully.
The smile the Captain turned on the young man made the Doctor wince. He just knew they were going to get thrown out. Jack was going to seduce everyone and the draperies and…
"Oh, there you are, Doc." Jack interrupted the Doctor's train of thought by beckoning him further into the room. "Everyone, this is the Doctor. Doctor, Dahlia Travers, who very kindly invited us, Mrs. Gregson, her sister, and Mr. Wooster, her nephew."
"Dr. Tyler," the woman introduced as Mrs. Travers said.
The Doctor twitched and then forced a smile. "Just the Doctor, thanks," he said. "Rose's father and I were workin' together when he passed." He let the rest remain implied, not wanting to bring Rose's father into the conversation too much, simply because it hurt her, but also wanting to divert the conversation from his name. "Thank you for having us."
Mrs. Gregson was staring at the Doctor like he was exactly what he was — an alien from outer space. Mrs. Travers smiled a decidedly forced smile. "What exactly do you do… Doctor?" she asked with that same strained tone.
"I'm a scientist," he said, filling his tone with apology. "By necessity a bit reclusive. Rose can't get enough of the social scene but I'm rarely able to bring her to England."
Mrs. Travers and even Mrs. Gregson to a much lesser extent suddenly shifted to full-on sympathy and interest. "Good lord!" Mr. Wooster exclaimed. "India, then, I dare say?"
The Doctor nodded amicably. "Some. Did a bit in South Africa as well. Ever been there, anyone?"
"I daresay I shall be sending all of my nephews there if the consistently deplorable behavior I've seen from them, one and all, does not improve," Mrs. Gregson said with a look of extreme distaste to one of the mentioned nephews.
Mr. Wooster flinched. "I say, Aunt Agatha," he protested.
There was a difficult silence for a moment and then Mrs. Travers said, "Tell us how you came to be in England this time… Doctor." She seemed to pause every time she addressed him, possibly because she didn't know what to make of his having a title for a name.
The Doctor shot a quick look that begged for help from Jack. "Met the Captain here in America. We go way back. Rose insisted on coming along with him. It's just as well we did." The Doctor really wished Rose would arrive, if for no other reason than that she was good at changing the subject very quickly back to other people and keeping it there. The Doctor couldn't remember ever having had that skill, not in social situations.
Mrs. Gregson gave the Captain an extremely dubious look, though the Doctor was starting to think that all of her expressions were dubious. "Are we to gather that there is some understanding between yourself and the young lady, Captain Harkness?" she asked grandly.
Jack gave a light laugh and his most fetching smile. "Oh, no. I've only one love of my life!"
"Himself," said Rose's voice lightly from the doorway.
"She's jealous," Jack confided teasingly, and then, like the gentleman he was decent at pretending to be, he took Rose's arm and led her forward to introduce her. The Doctor noticed with some surprise that Mrs. Travers and Mrs. Gregson both seemed to be looking her over as if considering a purchase.
"Dahlia, do excuse me," said Mrs. Gregson, filling up the entire room as she stood like a Field Marshall. "I simply must go draft a letter to Lord Yaxley."
"Of course, Agatha dear. Do tell George to arrive on time this year, won't you?"
"Absolutely," said Mrs. Gregson, and she walked off like a cat that's certain it's been offered substandard fare for the evening meal.
"Impossible woman," Mrs. Travers muttered, as soon as Mrs. Gregson could be safely believed to be out of earshot. "Honestly, there's no pleasing her." The Doctor wondered if the woman even realized she was speaking so about her sister at all. Then, she spoke up and he was almost sure she did not. "Bertie, do be a dear and show Miss Tyler around the grounds this afternoon, won't you?"
"Delighted of course," the young man said, and gave Rose a sunny smile, which was returned with a blinding one. The Doctor tried not to wince visibly.
Jeeves entered just then with a tray of drinks. "May I offer you refreshment, milord?" he asked the Doctor.
The Time Lord blinked at the butler incredulously. Guests were served first, by rank and gender. Rose would normally have been first, then Jack, then the Doctor, but apparently, Jeeves knew something he couldn't possibly do. The Doctor decided that questioning the man here and now would only result in questions about their background and therefore trouble, so he didn't refute it, merely took the offered glass of wine.
As Jeeves served, everyone else looked at the Doctor as incredulously as the Doctor had looked at Jeeves. "Don't usually advertise that, Jeeves," he said at last to forestall any questions.
"Yes, milord," the valet replied with a sardonic little quirk of a smile.
"Jeeves knows everything," Wooster said. Dahlia Travers nodded agreeably.
"Couldn't argue that," Rose agreed, still a little stunned.
"You're too kind, sir, Miss Tyler."
Wooster smiled brightly. "It's all the fish he eats," the young man asserted. "I'm quite sure of that."
"Ah," said the Doctor, and didn't quite know what else to make of that.