A/N: My first Doctor Who fic! (So be kind). A while ago, I re-watched 'The Unicorn and the Wasp'. It's a great episode, and the characters of Davenport and Roger Curbishley seemed really interesting. I felt, though, that their relationship was a little under-developed in the canon, and a little under-appreciated in the fandom, so here's my take on their relationship. Everything I know from this period is down to Julian Fellowes' Downton (if you've not seen it, do!)
I have, of course, used dialogue from the actual episode later on. Doctor Who and its characters are not mine, except for OCs (which are totally mine).
The first two chapters are my attempt at a backstory for Roger...
Reviews would be welcome!
Roger Curbishley was thinking. Deeply. He looked around the room, as if it could offer any answers.
He had gotten a telephone call from one of his dearest friends.
"Roger, my friend, would you be accompanying the boys and I to the Mapletree dance?" the voice at the other end of the line had asked, hope in the tone.
Roger wiped his brow and sighed. "What sort of dance is it, John?"
John cleared his throat. "I don't understand, Roger. It is a dance. Lord knows my knowledge of dancing is appalling!" He chuckled to himself.
Roger did not join in. "I mean, is it a ball? A festival?"
John sobered. "Just a ball, I presume."
Roger nodded his head slowly but did not reply.
"What do you say, old chap?" his friend asked.
He bit his lip in thought. "I shall think about it."
"Well, you had better think quickly," John quipped. "For it is this weekend."
Roger thought. It was Thursday now. "What time?"
John smiled to himself. He was coming. "Five o'clock, I believe. At least, that is what Lord Timothy told me."
"I will consider, John, you have my word," Roger decided, his collar suddenly tight.
John smiled. "Well, we may be unsure about your presence on Saturday, but we can be sure that there will be some handsome ladies there."
Roger's hand wandered to his hair; he raked it back. "Yes," he said uneasily. "As I said, I shall consider it."
"I hope you do attend, dear fellow," John said fondly. "Goodbye, Roger."
As the line went dead, Roger held the device for a few moments, then put the receiver and the mouthpiece back on their respective hooks. He stared at the piano through the door. He went over to it and flicked through the papers that were resting on the music stand.
He picked one, had a quick read through of the script, then put his feet to the peddles and his fingers to the keys.
"Roger!" a voice came down the hall.
He span around abruptly, leaving the last note he had pressed to ring. "Mother?"
"Roger, dearest," the woman called. "Pray, who was that on the telephone?" she asked.
He bent down to pick up a stray music score. "It was John, of course. John Merchant."
His mother nodded. "What was it that he was asking for?"
"He wished to invite me to a ball. You see, I spoke to him a couple of days ago, at the shooting range," he said plaintively.
She smiled, slightly raised an eyebrow. "A ball?"
"Well, more like a simple dance, I should think," he reiterated.
"Shall you be attending? When is it, Saturday?" she asked.
He nodded. "Yes, it is Saturday afternoon," he answered for her. "Whether or not I am going is a different matter."
She nodded. "I see. You should go, it would do you good. You rarely go anywhere besides to shoot or ride."
He nodded gracefully, but when she had gone, he sighed and went back to his piano playing. If it had not been for his previously broken finger, he would have been a world-renowned player, so his mother said.
When he was twelve, he had broken the middle finger on his left hand playing football at Harrow School. It had healed in the fifteen years since, but it still smarted to touch and hindered him in some things.
But he had not given up on his piano skills yet. He was the only one in the household who used the magnificent instrument. His mother found it adorable and sweet but failed to see its importance other than the skills Roger had for playing it and his father dismissed it as noise.
As the day dragged on, the summons to dinner came. Roger had spent most of the day preoccupied with his piano playing, but he had another thing at the back of his mind. The ball. The party. Whatever it was, he was not sure whether or not he wanted to go. He knew that he probably should go, but that went against his wishes. There was no point in him going if he would not enjoy himself.
When he had not been at the piano, he had walked in the gardens. They were exquisite: acre upon acre of lush green grass, bordered by a patchwork of flowers and fruit. In the centre was a magnificent fountain, displaying a statue of arrow-shooting Cupid. With a glass of wine and a cool breeze over him, Roger found it easy to lose himself in his thoughts this way.
He made his way to dinner, from the garden, having been called by a servant.
The dining room was large, but regardless of the amount of light sources, both artificial and natural, it always seemed to be dingy. The dark oak panels of the walls accentuated the effect.
He sat beside his mother, as he always did, with his father, Colonel Curbishley.
The servants came in, laying the food on the table. They lifted the tops of the dishes for the family to see the splendid meal. The butler stepped forward, an elderly man. He poured the three of them their wine and then bowed and continued with his duties.
Colonel Curbishley took a mouthful of the steak. "I say, this is good."
His wife agreed with a nod of her head.
Roger was sat sipping at his wine delicately.
"Son, what do you think?" his father asked.
Roger did not hear him, it appeared. Another asking of the question broke him out of his reverie. "I, uh, this is most agreeable," he stuttered.
His mother caught his eye. She frowned slightly. "Roger, dear, what is it?"
He shrugged his shoulders and continued drinking his wine, not touching his food. "Nothing, mother."
She sighed. "Roger, dear, something is troubling you. You look a bit preoccupied."
He shook his head and gathered that he should start eating. "No, I am quite well, I assure you."
"Have you thought anymore about this dance?" Colonel Curbishley asked him. "Your mother told me about it."
He sighed and tried not to roll his eyes. "Yes, I have. I will go," he said, his mouth a straight line, as if he did not care.
"Good!" she exclaimed. "I am sure you will have a grand time."
"That reminds me, Roger," his father added. "Perhaps some beauty will catch your eye. No doubt she will be well bred." He felt the disapproving glare of his wife on him.
Roger nodded and took a swig of his wine, calling for some more. "Perhaps," he said in a small voice.
He took the rest of the wine, drank it, ate all of his dinner. "I think I will retire now," he said, about to stand up.
"Now?" his father repeated. "It is-" He glanced at the clock on the mantlepiece. "Barely eight o'clock."
Roger nodded simply. "I know, father, but I went on a long walk today and I think that I could benefit from a good sleep."
"Goodnight, son," he said. His mother nodded. "Sleep well."
He retreated upstairs, dragging his feet behind him. He was tired. He had walked for a while. But that was not why he wanted an early night.
A servant prepared a bath for him. He stayed in it for longer than need be. He dried, changed, then lay down in the bed, closed his eyes.
It was the day of the dance, Saturday. Much like Thursday and Friday had, Saturday morning passed slowly and dully. Except Saturday morn meant that the dance was fast approaching. He had of course chosen what to wear. He would take the car, not the horse and chariot.
But something was at the back of his mind, eating away. His train of thought was broken when a telephone call came through. He went to answer it, brushing off any servant who tried to reach it.
"John?" he asked.
"Yes, Roger, it is me. You are decided about the dance?"
Roger nodded slowly. "Yes. You shall see me there promptly after the start."
"I look forward to seeing you there, old chap," John said. "I presume you will be taking the motorcar?"
Roger allowed a smile to crack his face. "Yes, I shall."
"I must invest in one of those," John said ruefully.
"They are awfully slow, John, if a little more comfortable than horseback," Roger said.
"I am glad that you are coming, or else I fear that the only source of company would be dear Timothy and Robert," John said jokingly. "Goodbye, Roger."
Roger put the telephone back and told a servant to tell his mother and father that their son was leaving shortly.
So he departed for the motorcar, a beautiful, black piece of machinery with red leather seats and wooden interior. Of course, it was not his car. It was his father's, but since he was wheelchair-bound, Roger had taken ownership of it.
He got into the car. The driver looked at him in the mirror. "Sir, where to?"
Roger told him the address. He looked anxiously at his watch. He had been to a party in years and could not remember how long they were. He did not want to spend any more time than necessary at the venue. He would be in and out in no time.
The car cruised down the sandy road, its engine humming loudly. They just about overtook a lad on his bike. As the Ford pulled up in the long drive, gravel crunched underneath it. The driver pulled the handbrake and waved his passenger to the destination. "Here we are, sir. What time will you be expecting me to call back?"
"I shall ensure that a telephone call gets sent to the house," Roger decided. He stepped out of the car and was escorted to the front door of the house by a servant.
"Roger!" John exclaimed as he caught sight of his friend.
He stood awkwardly by the fire. "John, I have come."
"You have indeed, my friend," he observed. "Come, I'll call for a drink for you." He waved over a butler, who poured some wine for the newest guest.
Roger took the glass and accepted the butler's slight nod of respect.
"I must say, your car really is spiffing," he said, smiling. "It must have been dear."
"My father bought it, but he has told me that he haggled the price." Despite himself, he smiled.
So did John. "Indeed."
"Is that Timothy Weatherington?" Roger asked his friend.
"Timothy?" John repeated, then followed Roger's line of sight. "I think it might be. Come, why don't we introduce ourselves?"
"It is good to see you," Timothy said, flanked by a few other gentlemen. "How are we?"
Roger nodded imperceptibly. John smiled. "Very well, thank you. And you, yourself?'
"Likewise, John," he said. He turned to his side. "Daniel, what are you looking at?" He smiled at the four young women stood at the other end of the room, gossiping. "Oh, yes. There are many handsome women here."
Roger retrieved another glass of wine, drank it.
"She, especially so," John observed, indicating the woman with red hair, on the right.
She lifted her eyes and smiled.
The men all turned to face one individual.
Roger glanced up from his glass. "What is it?"
"She is looking at you, Roger," John said.
Roger tried to ignore him.
"I think she must be Veronica Fairbrother," Timothy added. "Her father is very affluent, I hear. Her brother saved ten men in The War, earned a medal."
Roger cleared his throat. "I think I'll go, gentlemen. I do not feel quite right. Something I must have eaten."
"You haven't eaten anything," John observed.
Roger silently cursed John's watchfulness. "Earlier. Something I ate earlier," he clarified. He turned to leave. His cheeks heated up when he saw a dashing young servant approaching, serving drinks. Roger closed his eyes, waiting for time to stop. He opened them; the boy was gone.
"Veronica Curbishley," Timothy mused. "Has a nice ring to it, does it not?"
Roger felt his cheeks heat up. "Sorry, chaps, but I must press on."
"Surely you will stay an hour?" John asked. "Veronica never looks away from you."
Roger nodded waveringly. "But I will look away from her."
John raised an eyebrow. "Have you ever seen such a beauty? Well bred, too."
"I do not care for her," Roger muttered. "Nor do I for any other." He looked into his empty wine glass.
John sighed. He lead his friend away. "Come on, Roger. With your father unable to do much for himself-"
"What does this have to do with my father?" Roger interrupted.
John considered. "You may as well go and speak to the woman."
Roger shook his head. "It would be a pointless exercise."
"I would not be able to resist a woman such as Lady Fairbrother's daughter, Roger!" John admitted, chuckling. He watched his friend with confusion.
Roger ignored him. "Yes, well, as I said. I will be going now. I hope you gentlemen don't mind."
"I must protest, Roger," John said. "You seem troubled; is something wrong?"
Roger shook his head, looked away, only to see Veronica Fairbrother's pale, serene, expectant face watching him. "No," he said abruptly. "I am absolutely fine. I just feel a little ill. Perhaps it is food poisoning, a cold."
But John had known the man too long. He scoffed. "By God, man, what is it?"
"Not here," Roger said timidly.
John thought it odd. Roger was usually such a bright person, now he seemed rather unresponsive and preoccupied. "As you wish. Why don't we take a stroll?"
Roger nodded his head curtly. "Why not?"
They walked together into the gardens. They were smaller and less impressive than at the Curbishleys' house, but somehow tidier and more vibrant.
"Come on, out with it, man," John pressed him.
"I do not wish to seek an audience with, let alone marry, Miss Fairbrother," he said distantly.
John's eyebrows rose. "Whyever not?"
Roger shrugged and turned to the side.
"Why, I have never met such an odd man!" he exclaimed, but there was a friendly smile on his lips. "She is by far the most beautiful woman in the county, Roger. She has eyes for you. Why, it makes perfect sense, your mother's affluence, that of Miss Fairbrother's family."
Roger nodded solemnly. "That is what unnerves me." His voice was barely audible, sounding detached and dull.
John nodded slowly, frowned. He pondered his friend's answer. "I have known you since Harrow, Roger. I have never known you as one for riddles. Be straight with me."
He shuffled his feet. "You may not want to know me if I tell you."
His friend sighed, swirling the wine in the glass. He looked up and set a hand on Roger's stiff shoulder. "Come on, what is it?"
Roger would not, could not, tell him. Not if he wanted to save his and his family's reputation. "I think the cold has gotten into my head. I am not thinking, nor saying, the right things."
"I am a doctor, Roger," John said pointedly. "That was not going to fool me."
His friend's face was pure sympathy, compassion, kindness. Yet, Roger could not bring himself to reply. He could form the words in his head but his mouth could not say them.
"Do you ever speak to patients about issues regarding the mind?" Roger asked quietly, not looking at his friend.
John nodded. "Yes. Not often. We call them mental health impairments, now."
"Hmmm," Roger huffed.
"There was a reason for your asking such a thing," John said.
Roger bit his lip and nodded. "Yes."
John signalled for him to elaborate. "Do you think you are suffering from shock, depression, what?"
So he did. "I feel as though… as though." He paused. "The… Italian vice."
John let out a breath. He knew what that meant. Silence filled the air.
"I ought to be going now," Roger muttered, but his arm was caught by John. He looked over his shoulder. "John, let me go. I shan't speak to you again."
He sighed and shook his head. "I want us to remain friends, Roger. No need for such an extreme reaction. There are treatments for such an ailment."
Ailment. Roger swallowed hard.
"You look worried," John observed. "I shall not be telling anyone."
"Why ever not? It is wrong, disgusting. Why me?" He groaned.
"What other people think is immaterial. You are a man of God, Roger, aren't you?" he asked.
"Indeed. I am a good friend of Reverend Golightly," he replied. "I would never wish to shame God, yet I have. Even worse, I have acted on it."
John cleared his throat, evidently unsure of what to say.
"I have burdened you, I am sorry," Roger murmured. "It is late. I shall have to leave now."
John nodded. "I can't say I understand this, Roger, nor can you, I am sure. But the union of a man and a woman is second nature. You cannot be incapable of it. You'll see."
Roger turned on his heel, weaving his way through the crowds.
"Send a telephone message to Curbishley House, would you?" he said to the first servant that he saw.
The man turned his back. Olive-hued eyes, almond hair, intelligent face. "Curbishley House? Yes, sir."
Roger stepped back and waited, tapping his foot in agitation, as the boy made the telephone call. He returned. "It is all done. Your driver will be here shortly. Is there anything else?"
Roger blinked. The man was beautiful. "No. Not at all. That is quite enough." He breathed a sigh of relief as the footman went on with his duties.