It happens with a handbag.
Considering how busy this side of the city usually is, with its constant mass of people in suits, with briefcases, the woman struggling with her bags just a few feet ahead isn't all too out of place in this setting.
She has quite a few things with her, though–a rolling suitcase on one side, a messenger bag against her other hip, and a plastic bag and a purse around that wrist. The purse slips from her hand too quickly for her to catch it, and she struggles to bend over and pick it up, attempting to balance everything else.
“Here, let me get it,” Ace finds herself offering, stooping in her slacks and suit jacket to hand the purse back. “There you go.”
“Oh, thanks–sorry, I've got so much stuff, it's just that I only just got home, been on a bit of an extended trip, and it's been...quite a mess, really.”
Ace, even around ten years afterwards, still recognizes that voice, and the mess of ginger curls before her.
She grins. “I'll bet it feels like you haven't even been on Earth, even.”
The woman pauses before taking her bag back, and her eyes widen slightly. “How did you–you!”
Mel, ten years gone, and at least ten years older than before, freezes, and throws her arms happily about Ace before she can object to the embrace. “You! Oh, the one with the...all of the explosives–Ace! I've missed you, I know that we hadn't talked for very long, but it's good to see you. It really is.”
“And the same to you.”
Though, Ace will admit, she herself had changed much in the time that's passed. She'd stopped the messy ponytails in favor of tight braids and high buns, and had traded the leather jackets and combat boots for dark slacks and blazers, instead. It's how it was.
Mel, on the contrary, hadn't changed quite as much. She was in her mid-thirties, by now (if Ace was doing the math right), but she still had the same bounce in her step, the same blush in her cheeks. Her hair, cut just a bit shorter, hung to just about her shoulders, and, though still curly, had lost most of the tight corkscrew curls that had been present before.
But, oddly enough, it feels as if they'd only just seen each other yesterday.
“Here,” Ace begins again, “Let me take some of those–just got home, you said? You've been running about out there this whole time? Must have gotten boring at some point–it's been ten years!”
“Has it?” Mel says softly, thinking quietly for a moment. “Yes, it has...funny, how things seem to just fly by like that–and you, look at you, all dressed up. What have you been up to?”
Ace laughs to herself, and wonders just where to begin. She could start after their departure on Iceworld, after they'd traded themselves out on the TARDIS, and gone their separate ways. So much running, fighting, shouting, laughing, and crying all at once–that's what Ace's adventures had been after that point.
And every single moment of it was absolutely wicked.
“Well...it might take some time to explain everything–let me make a quick call and say that I'll be out to lunch. Shouldn't be a problem, they can manage without me for an hour or two.”
Mel happily walks along beside her. “You run the place?”
“It's just a charity program right now–but it's coming along nicely. We're still working on a few flaws in the system, on expanding our horizons, you could say.”
“Sounds fun–maybe I could help sometime?” Mel suggests, with a bright smile.
“Maybe. But first, I'm taking you out to lunch.”
- - -
It happens with a leaf.
They remain in constant contact over the weeks that follow, and regular lunch meet-ups become a thing between them, as Ace works with managing her business, and Mel decides to take up a flat in town.
The dates become more than just little afternoon things–sometimes a movie here, or an idle afternoon there–and it feels like forever before they realize that they're falling love with one another.
It's suggested by other people–Mel's neighbor in the next flat over, by Ace's secretary and the man who works the counter at the coffee shop that they both stop by often–but they deny it furiously, with flustered words and flushed cheeks.
One cold October night develops into a huddle for warmth on a park bench below the trees, with a bag of leftover pretzels between them to snack on.
“Did I ever tell you about the time we got stuck in a gang-controlled flat division?” Mel says quietly, gazing up at the stars.
“No. Was that after the wrecked camping trip?”
“No, that was afterwards. Before was that whole scientific mess with the lizard people and the Rani.”
“Can't say that I met her. Do you know what happened to her?”
“Nope,” Mel sighs, taking another pretzel. “She wasn't all too pleasant, either. The Doctor said that she'd dressed up like me just to trick him. Stupid voice and crazy hair and leg warmers and all that. Apparently she was very convincing.”
Ace frowns. “I don't think that your voice is stupid. Never did.”
“Oh? My hair was a mess, though,” Mel admits, with a laugh. “Then again, it was the 80's. Those were a mess, believe me.”
“I always like your hair. All the curls.” Ace reaches over and takes a ginger curl–of course, not quite as bouncy as it used to be–and pulls gently, so that it bounces once or twice. “Still do.”
“You know, I don't think that I've ever seen your hair down,” Mel observes, reaching around Ace to untie the tight braid with tapered fingers. She plays with it a little, combing out the strands until they're nice and neat. “There. See, I think your hair looks nice, too.”
A breeze picks up, chilling them both, and the tree above sheds half of its leaves in that moment, sending a cascade of color down over them.
“Here. There's one in your hair.” Ace scoots closer and reaches to pull a yellow one from Mel's hair, close enough so that their noses are nearly touching.
Neither quite decided to initiate the kiss, but it happens regardless.
- - -
It happens with time.
Ace has had her own flat for some time, a tiny little two-room thing that she doesn't mind, because she doesn't quite need much more, but the one that Mel acquired is much more spacious, much more fun, and so she decides to move in.
There's not much to move, and so they don't decide to ask any of the neighbors for help, but halfway through a paint job for the living room, there's a knock on the door because the sweet old lady across the hall had decided to bring over some tea and cookies, knowing that the two would be too busy to make anything themselves.
And she even offers to help them paint, but Mel thanks her and promises that really, they're almost done, and the woman leaves with a knowing smile and a fleeting comment about how they were 'such nice girls' and how it's 'nice that they've finally realized a thing or two here and there'.
So they hold hands in the hallway, go out on proper dates, and kiss each other goodbye when they part in the mornings–though Mel has come along and agreed to work with her, she does most of the programming and technical problems, and therefore she's often running about between offices and floors most of the day–and everything is rather lovely, really.
“You know I love you, right?”
“As much as I did when we first met. Screaming, messy curls, and all.”
They become a part of each others' lives as if they always had been.
- - -
It happens with several empty milk bottles and a kiss.
When she decides to propose to her, just to get it out of the way–Ace didn't particularly care, but it was better done sooner than later–the second she dropped down on her knee, Mel had shrieked as if someone were dying.
This had drawn quite the crowd in the lobby of the building–mostly the secretaries, who practically existed just to be nosy, and several others, mostly close acquaintances. And then Ace's well-meant proposal turned into more of a public address, but she carried it off nonetheless, leaving Mel in the happiest of tears, who pulled her up off of the ground the second after she said yes, pressing a flustered kiss to Ace's lips.
The Doctor, they decide, has to be there–the only hard part is figuring out how to reach him.
After all, how does one reach a police box that could be anywhere in time or space?
Mel tries out her message-in-a-bottle technique–she rolls up a wedding invitation, puts it in a milk bottle, and with no other way to get it out into space, she opens up the kitchen window and throws it as hard is she can.
It lands with an unsatisfying crash in the alley below.
The second-best option is to set it up on the rooftop, right in the middle of the building.
In the morning, it's gone, and they don't need anything else to know that he got the invitation. They don't ask many others to come–there aren't any childhood friends to write to, and Ace doesn't think twice about calling her mother up. So it's a small occasion outside, on a warm day late in April when the flowers have just bloomed.
The Doctor is there for the reception, long enough to share a few stories and kind words, and to make a toast, accompanied by a drawn-out speech that no one else understands the context of, though Mel and Ace know–they know the references and the stupid metaphors, because they've been there, and they've seen it.
Ace makes a few confetti bombs in the milk-bottle flowerpots that line the walkway out of the reception hall without telling anyone–and when they go off without warning, Mel shrieks so sharply that someone's champagne glass shatters into fragile little pieces on the sidewalk. The confetti gets caught in her hair, and the streamers in her veil, and Ace has to pick each little piece out.
“Don't bother,” Mel says, combing her fingers through and producing a mass amount of colored tissue paper pieces. “It's a lost cause, I think.”
“Well, come on, then. Let's get out of here.”
Then, Mel has to try and gather her dress up nicely, because Ace had wanted a motorbike–and that's what had happened. She gets on the back, dress folded neatly about her legs so it won't get caught on anything, holds her veil firmly onto her head, and tosses her bouquet to the wind behind her.
With the countryside flying by them, minutes later, she places her arms around Ace's waist, and settles her head against her neck.
“Where are we going? I mean, after all of this. Any plans?” she asks sweetly, watching the fields that seem to stretch to the horizon, and even beyond.
Ace only smiles.
“We're going everywhere.”
Mel had always wanted an adventurous, carefree sort of life.
This, she thinks, will do just fine.