Under the shelter of a mighty tree, with leaves which smelt like fragrant apples, were a series of rocks that stretched out to the water’s edge. The rocks were glistening under the moonlight and the river beneath was tranquil and inviting, bubbling gently from underneath.
Ian and Barbara sat together, side by side, upon one of the boulders, the one closest to the soothing water gently rippling ever outwards. It was quiet and a well-needed break from running around all day with the Doctor and Vicki who were determined to see every sight on the new planet. All well and good of course, except that the teachers needed a momentary bit of peace, a short while to stop and mull over the day’s events. Leaving the Doctor and Vicki sampling alien cuisine at their lodgings gave Ian and Barbara the opportunity for some alone time.
“Oh Ian, this is idyllic,” Barbara said as she made herself comfortable on the rock.
Ian agreed, murmuring softly, but not quite managing to produce even a single word- the weather and location had somewhat rendered him speechless and utterly content.
“Ian, do pay attention.”
Finally, shaking from his trance, he looked at her. “Sorry, what was it you were saying?”
“Just how a moment like this is so refreshing after all the times we’ve been in danger.”
“Don’t say that, you might jinx it.”
“You don’t really believe in all that do you? I thought Ian Chesterton was a man of logic.”
“I’ve learnt never to take anything at face value.” He smiled at Barbara and then gazed at the water, taking in a deep breath and sighing. “What do you suppose the water is like?” he said, leaning forward to investigate.
Barbara joined him and sniffed the water. “It smells lovely like spring blossoms.”
“Wonder if it feels as good as it smells eh?” Ian winked, rubbing his chin and then nudging her playfully under the ribs. “So, what do you think eh Barbara, shall we…?”
Barbara didn’t let him finish his sentence and instead was folding her arms and tapping her foot.
“I hope you’re not suggesting we go skinny-dipping, Ian Chesterton, because I thought you knew me better than that.”
Ian laughed. “Well it says more for your mind, Miss. Wright, I was only suggesting our feet go naked!”
There was a little giggle from Barbara. “Oh well in that case I suppose I can be persuaded.”
She slipped off her sandals and then watched as Ian cast off his loafers.
“I feel rather naughty,” she said.
They laughed together as they held their bare feet above the aqua water and together lowered them slowly. Suddenly Ian stopped.
“Wait, what if its acid? We don’t want your lovely feet to be dissolved!” he said.
“Certainly not,” she replied as she lifted her feet from any possible danger. She sniffed the water again. “If it is acid, it has a very fragrant aroma! What shall we use to test it?” She looked at Ian’s shirt and frowned. “Oh, you’re not wearing a tie.”
“No thank goodness.” He glanced at her cardigan, a wicked smile appearing across his face. “Ah, what about your old cardi? It’s much too hot anyway.”
With a sigh, Barbara gave in and slipped off her cream cardigan, lowering it gently into the water and waiting. There was no fizzing, no bubbling or dissolving of any kind, just clear smooth ripples. She pulled out the cardigan.
“Think we might make it,” Ian said, tapping her arm, “one wet cardigan but otherwise nothing to fear.”
Resuming their previous action, they giggled as their feet make contact with the liquid, submerging into a warm and soothing lagoon.
“This is heaven for your tootsies,” Ian said, closing his eyes. It was at that moment when his toes grazed over hers and he felt a rush of excitement. “Sorry.”
Barbara blushed but didn’t reply, instead she took a quick look at Ian and smiled, stretching her feet under the water into a circular motion. Ian did the same and soon they were giggling and joking as their feet moved in synchronicity with each other. It was with surprise that the water started to change colour, pinks and purples, reds then blues, all dancing across the surface.
“Ian, look, it’s beautiful!”
“Yes, like a disco for our feet.”
Barbara grabbed his hand and squeezed it tightly, feeling all her tension ebb away. “It’s this part of travelling that makes it all worthwhile.”
“Worth the Daleks?”
She thought for a moment. “Even them.”
After a moment of silence and contemplation, neither of them quite wanting the evening to end, they were startled when suddenly a crowd of people burst through the trees, laughing and cheering, whooping and clapping. Ian and Barbara stood up quickly as though they’d done something wrong and placed their shoes on as fast as they could, looking at each other awkwardly.
“I’m sorry,” Ian said instinctively. “We apologise if you have rules about getting in the water.”
But one of the aliens was smiling at them, its grin so wide they could see many rows of pointy teeth. It then waved at them, some kind of welcoming hand gesture and with it, all the other aliens followed suit and one by one they began to bow.
“Is this some kind of ritual?” Barbara asked, both scared and fascinated at the same time.
The alien spoke softly and when it uttered the words, its voice seemed to echo. “Congratulations on your intertwinement of the waters.”
Ian and Barbara looked at one another. Ian shrugged his shoulders. “I beg your pardon?” he said.
“You are now intertwined,” the alien said, clapping, and then every alien behind also began to clap.
“Intertwined?” Barbara asked, beginning to feel queasy.
“You have chosen one another to spend your life with. A bond now cannot be broken. It is endless and eternal.”
Ian felt his cheeks flush. What on Earth had just happened?
“You mean, Barbara and I are sort of…married? Just by standing here?”
The alien nodded. “If you wish to use the word marriage then that is acceptable. Congratulations.”
Barbara brushed past Ian, hands on her hips. “But we didn’t do anything. How can we be married?” She could barely look at her friend.
“You performed a sacred union- circling your feet in the water.”
Ian sat down to steady himself. “That feet thing we were doing, that was some kind of ritual?”
“Oh, Ian if only you hadn’t suggested a quick paddle!”
“So, it’s my fault? All we did was play footsie for a few seconds and now you’re the wife!”
“Well it wasn’t exactly what I planned either. A wedding ceremony that lasted minutes.”
“Barbara, I’ve been married off without my consent.”
“Well same here!”
They both stared at each other for a few moments, enraged at the situation. Ian then sighed and rubbed her arm.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to take it out on you. It’s just when the day came for me to propose…to someone, I’d hoped it’d be our way…I mean, me and her.”
“And it still will be,” Barbara said, smiling politely at the group of aliens who were now laying petals by the rock they once sat upon. “This is another world. It doesn’t mean we’re married elsewhere.”
The alien smiled again. “You are bonded across all worlds.”
“Barbara and I, were already connected in a manner of speaking and we thank you for thinking of us but is there any way to be…unbonded?”
“You do not honour our tradition?”
Ian and Barbara looked at each other, embarrassment and guilt sweeping over them. They knew it was silly of them to worry about a rule they knew nothing about but they couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable with the idea, especially as neither had even broached the subject of what was to happen if they ever got home together.
The alien smiled. “A big gathering tonight to celebrate your union will be arranged. The Doctor and child Vicki must be treasured guests too.”
Ian and Barbara laughed nervously. This was the part they dreaded the most.
“A small slap on the back wouldn’t suffice?” Ian said. “I mean, there’s no need to interrupt their leisure time for this wedding lark.”
“Nonsense, they will be so pleased when you tell them the big news.”
The alien clapped and cheered, rushing away in eagerness to prepare the celebrations. Ian and Barbara were left alone as they had been moments earlier when they were friends and colleagues and not a newly-wed couple. How much can change in a matter of minutes?
“Well this is one for the diary,” Ian said with a sigh, trying not to glance at his new wife.
Both Ian and Barbara were dreading telling the Doctor and Vicki of the news and they nearly turned away before arriving at their lodgings. The old man was awaiting their arrival as though he knew something had happened and Vicki joined him on the terrace.
“There you both are,” the Doctor said, grinning, “our hosts say you have something to discuss with us hmm?”
“Sounds like something exciting, what is it?” Vicki asked.
Ian and Barbara glanced shyly at one another and Barbara pushed Ian forward. “Ian will fill you in.”
After a few moments of rubbing his neck and avoiding eye contact with the Doctor and Vicki, he cleared his throat. “Well there’s to be a party tonight.”
Vicki jumped up and down, squealing with delight. “Marvellous! What’s the occasion?”
Ian gulped. “Well, actually, it’s a wedding celebration for myself and…Barbara.”
Vicki immediately erupted into laughter and Barbara noticed the Doctor’s expression was still, trying to hold it together but she could see his body beginning to shake before he exploded with infectious chuckles.
“Your wedding? Oh, dear boy, I had no idea you had it in you to propose.”
Ian tried to respond but Vicki hugged him tightly. “Oh marvellous! Oh finally! I wondered how long it would take.”
“Now just a minute,” Ian said feeling his face redden. “What makes you think this is my idea?”
“Oh, then you proposed?” the Doctor said, looking at Barbara. “Probably a much safer idea if one wishes to do it right.”
Barbara grabbed the Doctor’s hand. “No, Doctor you misunderstood Ian. What he means is that neither of us proposed, it just sort of happened to us accidentally.”
“An accidental proposal eh?” the Doctor said with a chuckle of delight. “Happens to the best of us!”
“There you are, Barbara,” Ian said as he sat beside her upon one of the rocks by the water’s edge where their whole chaotic evening had begun. “I haven’t seen you since they cut that big dessert thing to toast our nuptials.”
Barbara forced a smile and continued to look out upon the beautiful water. “It all got a bit overwhelming.”
“I know what you mean. When the Doctor started doing his speech, I thought we’d entered some sort of parallel universe.”
“But this whole thing, do you think it really means we’ve committed now, to each other?”
“No, not in that way at least.” Ian found himself wondering whether he should ask what she saw of their relationship but he decided not to. They’d had enough shocks for one evening. “Just because they say we’re married doesn’t mean we are.”
“I just always thought if I were to marry I would choose where and when and who.”
Ian felt a tinge of disappointment. Did that mean that she wouldn’t have picked him? “They were right about the bond though eh? We’ve certainly bonded through all this with the Doctor.”
“Yes. It’s funny how things work out.” She looked at him as he glanced at the water. Would Ian have been a possible husband for her had they remained at Coal Hill? She wasn’t so sure but things had changed since then and she found herself wondering just what it was she really wanted.
Ian placed his arm around her shoulder. “It could be worse I suppose, I could be married to the Doctor!”
Barbara started to laugh. “Well that’s what I’ll think of then, whenever I’m feeling sad, I’ll think of you married to the Doctor.”
“I hope it isn’t the thought of being married to me that makes you sad,” Ian whispered.
Barbara nudged him gently. “No, don’t be silly, Ian. You’ll make a fine husband one day.”
“Just a day that we choose for ourselves, when we’re ready?”
Barbara didn’t respond and just let out a small smile. She looked at her reflection in the water, it was so uncertain. Her fingers hovered over the blue and she slowly lowered her hand to the surface. Ian held her back.
“Steady on Barbara, don’t go doing anything around that water. We might have to go tell the Doctor we’re pregnant!”