Author – Kazzy
Rating – PG/K+
Spoilers – Uh, it's been 43 years. I think you're safe.
Summary – They've left the Doctor, but in many ways they're coming home to world that is as foreign as any they've been to yet. It's not easy to pick up the life you left behind.
Disclaimer – I own Doctor Who. No wait. I don't own Doctor Who. But I've always been a dreamer.
Notes – Recently I got The Beginning box set. I've been bugged by Barbara/Ian plot bunnies ever since. This one was a little insistent. Tell me what you think.
Beta'd by the stunning Paranoid Seat.
Barbara slams the front door knowing it's childish and beneath her. She is a grown woman, a teacher, a traveller of time and space, and here she is acting younger than one of her students, and far less mature than Susan or Vicki. But she'd forgotten how small minded her family can be, how blind and controlling her father is. The Doctor has nothing on Paul Wright when it comes to bull-headed stubbornness. At least the Doctor, once he was done with his bluster, was willing to listen to reason.
Her temper takes her to a nearby park, and she flops down on a park bench, staring moodily out at a small pond. Children are feeding the ducks, tucked up in jackets and scarfs, their father standing watching, rubbing his hands together for warmth. Once she'd have barely noticed such a scene, on the TARDIS she'd have given anything to see it again. Now it seems alien and unreal.
Someone sits beside her, and she looks up in fright. Two years with the Doctor and she's learned to be wary – there's always someone or something out there that wants to hurt you. You can never be too cautious, and in this world that is suddenly as strange and alien as any she's visited, it's no different. The people have cold, hard faces and angry voices, demanding: Where have you been? What have you done? Her father had all but accused of shaming her family by running off with a strange man, to have an illicit affair – what has she been doing these last two years?
She has no answers for anyone, not her family, not her friends, not the police. All she can do is deny their accusations, and hope they'll eventually leave her alone.
The person sitting next to her is the one person she can trust. The one person who doesn't see a loose woman, or a bad daughter, or an irresponsible schoolteacher. He knows who she really is, because he was there. She wonders what his family has said to him, whether they have accused him of the same things hers have – have they shouted at him for running off with her?
The pair spend several minutes commiserating over their families, because yes, Ian's are as angry and hurt as her own. They no more understand his reticence than her own do hers. But there's no way of explaining, as they will be declared mad, and locked up for their delusions. So they have to stay silent, deny the worst of the accusations, which include illegitimate children, theft, and kidnapping – they've been asked about Susan, too.
Before long, an hour has passed and Barbara knows they have to return home, because it isn't fair. They've been gone, made their loved ones worry, it isn't right to do it again. She knows, and Ian knows that from now on, they have to really come home. It's one thing to walk back into your old lives; it's another to be part of them, to live in them. There's no TARDIS now, no time ship, no escape. They have to be Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton, schoolteachers, rather than travellers. It won't be easy, but they have no choice.
She's not ready to walk away from Ian, though, because in this sea of foreignness, he's the only real thing to her, the only rock. Without him, she thinks she might go crazy. Just walking back to face her father yelling and her mother crying makes Barbara reluctant, and she can see Ian feels the same as her. That's what makes her say it, but the words feel right, and she can see from the way he relaxes that he agrees.
So they go home to tell their families a lie that will make them angry, but a lie they will believe, a lie that they will accept, and finally a lie that they can forgive.
There was a baby, and too ashamed to admit it, they had eloped, run away and married in a small chapel by a kind minister. When the baby had been lost, nearly taking Barbara with it, they knew they could not return home, so they had left to live in America, in New York, for a while. Eventually, they realised it was unfair to their families and so had come home. And as for Susan, Susan Foreman? Their student? No, of course they didn't know what happened to her. It was merely unlucky coincidence that the girl had disappeared the same evening as them, but wherever she was they wished her well.
Neither of their bank accounts have been touched, and so the next day they are able to move into a new apartment – as husband and wife. It is awkward at first, because their relationship on the TARDIS certainly never reached that level, but after a few uncomfortable nights where Ian sleeps on the sofa, they eventually reach an understanding.
Work is easy enough to find. Scandal prevents them from returning to Coal Hill School. Truthfully, Barbara knows she never wants to go back there, not when she knows she'd expect to see Susan Foreman in her class, strangely knowledgeable, but strangely ignorant. She's not sure she could cope with the ghost of the girl who was almost a daughter to her.
They find new schools, choosing not to work together to try and integrate themselves better into their new/old lives. It's difficult at first because Barbara has spent so much time in Ian's presence that she resents the separation, and knows he does too. Being apart becomes easier, but she never really settles back into teaching. While some students are bright and willing to learn, most couldn't care less, and she finds the job unchallenging and frustrating.
At Ian's suggestion, Barbara returns to university to study for her PhD. in history, and goes on to become a Professor. She enjoys that more. Her thesis is hailed for being insightful, but they don't know that just how much of it is first hand knowledge.
Ian sets his sights in a different direction, and becomes a school principal. He's young for the job, but it's a well-deserved position and he's good at it. But then Barbara always knew he would be: he certainly showed his ability to lead on the TARDIS. He was strong, and confident, but always aware of the needs of those he led. Most of all it seems to make him happy.
People criticise her for not being a proper wife. They tell Ian that if he doesn't keep her at home, she'll run off. After all, she's done it before, what's to stop her from doing it again with someone else, or even on her own. He doesn't respond, other than to say that they shouldn't speak of things they don't understand, and then he doesn't renew the acquaintance. In private, he tells her he's proud of her, that he loves her. She tells him the same.
One day, nearly five years after the return to Earth, she discovers a secret that makes her afraid, because it means that everything will change. She never expected this, and tells herself off for being blind. She wants to cry, but doesn't, because she's been back to the Stone Age, she's been an Aztec priestess, she's fought the Daleks, and she's so much braver than this.
On their fifth anniversary home, Barbara returns home late to find Ian smiling almost shyly at her. There's two bags sitting in the living room and he holds out two tickets to Majorca, and even through the newly realised tension and fear, Barbara can't help but smile. It's not a patch on some of their adventures, he tells her, but he figures they deserve a holiday, and she can't help but agree.
At the end of the week, he has a surprise for her. There's a small chapel with a kindly minister, and they get married. He slips a ring on her finger and says 'I do', she slips one on his finger and repeats the same phrase. Now they really are married, and part of their lie to their families becomes true. She's sad though, that there are some people who will never know. The Doctor might harrumph disinterestedly, but she knows he'd be secretly pleased, and Susan and Vicki's smiles would light the chapel for all the world to see.
Later that night, as she lies in her husband's arms, she tells him what she's afraid of. He kisses her deeply, his eyes shining with a light that she hasn't seen since they left the Doctor. His hands rest on her stomach, and he repeats the words they've so seldom said to one another, but always meant.
He whispers them again as she falls asleep, and she can't doubt him.
I love you.
Yes, they've come home. It isn't exactly the way she wanted, but she knows this is the way it's meant to be. And wherever they are, she hopes the Doctor, Susan and Vicki are as happy as she is.
Notes: Please review. I value your honest comments more than I can say.