The practice of drowning one's sorrows in cheap scotch is generally held to be a bad idea and most rational-minded people avoid it, but rational thinking was rather far down the list of priorities for the two women at the bar. A pair of complete strangers, perched side by side on their stools in the tiny London dive and united by nothing more than the simple, straightforward goal of getting completely pissed, they'd managed to strike a friendly accord without ever opening their mouths save to pour more liquor down. Sure, one of the stools rocked a bit and the other one emitted an annoyingly high-pitched squeal whenever its occupant shifted, and yes, the entire place looked questionable and smelled worse, but they had scotch and plenty of it, and that was really all that mattered.
Finally one of them, a young woman who seemed barely out of her teens and had been restless enough on her stool to fill the air with tiny squeaks, decided to break the silence. "Man trouble?"
"Yeah, me too. Bastards, all of them. God, I hate men sometimes."
The second woman twisted on her wobbly stool and peered blearily through a curtain of lank brown fringe. In the flickering fluorescent light her skin looked unhealthily pale. "Tell me about it. What did yours do?"
"Took it into his head that he was no good for me and left." Squeaky-stool startled at the loud clunk of a glass falling hard onto the wooden countertop; the greasy-haired man who'd served them slunk over to mop up the spill.
Wobbly, though, seemed far more fazed by what the younger woman had said than by the fact that her scotch was now soaking into a bar towel. "Go on then!" Her fist thumped the hard edge of the bar. "Mine did the same thing! Well, I mean, basically. He kind of had to go, it was a...a business trip...of sorts. But he fucking dumped me first."
Even slurred, the underlying tone of her words betrayed a slow-simmering anger and a misery that struck a chord with the woman beside her. "I'm...yeah, that's rough, I know. Here, take this." She shoved her own drink over and signaled for another. "Why do they always think they know what's best? We're big girls, we can handle ourselves, right?"
"Right. I could totally kick his skinny white arse any day of the week and he knows it, even if he is a-" Wobbly winced, having bitten down on her tongue harder than she'd intended.
Squeaky was well used to secrets and, catching the other woman's wary sideways glance, decided to let that go. "Yeah, same with mine. Well, no," a snort emerged, "he's a lot more...erm...dangerous than I am, but it's not like I'm afraid of him, not that way. I just...I never thought he'd leave like he did," she ended softly.
"Dangerous." The three syllables twisted and emerged as an insult. "That's something mine shoves at me all the time. Fucking hate it." The dregs of scotch disappeared in a swift motion.
"Tell me about it. And old. Do you know how bloody annoying it is to have your age shoved in your face every time you think you've made any sort of progress? Not like I'm stupid, I know he's a good bit older than me, but since when did that ever stop me from wanting to be with him?"
Wobbly nearly slid off her stool, attacked as she was by a sudden and violent bout of laughter. She grabbed a napkin and blotted her eyes once she'd got hold of herself again. "Ahh. I've lost track of how many times I've heard that one. Does yours try and use them both at the same time? In the same sentence even? I've nearly strangled mine for doing that."
That set them both off and they leaned shoulder to shoulder, giggling uncontrollably while the barman made a mental note to cut them off after the next round.
"To the idiots, and the women who are stupid enough to fall for them." Squeaky made a lurching grab for her glass and raised it in a salute.
"Ta." They knocked back the caramel-coloured liquid, let loose identical hisses at the sting. Wobbly sighed. "So, it's definitely over with your bloke, then?"
"Who knows. We were over in- Er, well, we ran into trouble with-" The younger woman frowned down at her lap, fingers nervously twirling the bottle-blond hair that spilled down over her shoulders. "It's...not really anything that I can go into, the whole thing's a bit...odd."
"Pfft." A careless gesture of dismissal nearly overset both their glasses. "I'm the Queen of Odd. You couldn't possibly top the stories I've got."
"Yeah?" There was a challenge implicit in the statement, and Squeaky was tempted to rise to it. Happily for both of them wisdom prevailed. Barely. "I'd take you up on that, but...what were we talking about?" She stared down at the empty bottom of her glass as if the answer lay there. Not finding it, she picked it up and shook it suggestively at the barman instead.
"You ran into trouble."
"Right. Trouble. And then he got it into his stupid, thick, big-eared head that he was going to get me killed at some point and whoosh! Took off."
Chocolate brown eyes met their lighter counterpart. "If I didn't know any better, I'd think we were dating the same bloke. Maybe they're related. Oh, sorry!" She reached out unsteadily to pound the other woman's back after she managed to snort an unhealthy amount of liquor up her nose.
"Not possible," Squeaky coughed, eyes streaming, "but I'm thinking they might be members of the same club. Royal Brotherhood of Gits or something like that."
They giggled a bit at that and gradually settled into a thoughtful silence; the blond let her chin come to rest on her crossed arms, ignoring the stickiness of the countertop. After several minutes, she felt a nudge.
"What?" she asked drowsily, tilting her head sideways.
"There's a bloke over there staring at you like you're the answer to all his prayers. I just thought he might be the one you were talking about."
Squeaky whirled around, her stool giving its trademark protest and upsetting itself in a final act of revenge, but by that point the tall man with the blue gaze intense enough to attract the notice of nearly every patron in the place was there to catch her.
"You came back," she whispered, blithely disregarding the fact that ten minutes earlier she'd been calling him names. The leather of his jacket creased under her clutching fingers.
"Yeah. Couldn't stay away. I was halfway to Antares before..." He shot a furtive look around the bar and swallowed heavily. "Rose, I made a mistake, I shouldn't have said what I did."
Rose bit her lip, caught between wanting to smile and letting loose a blistering response, when a poke on her shoulder saved her the trouble of having to decide which to choose.
"He doesn't look that old." The stage whisper carried halfway across the room, but the brown-haired woman didn't seem to notice or care.
"No, he, uh...he's...it's complicated," Rose amended desperately. She stared fixedly at the weave of his jumper, avoiding his eyes and the damnable hint of laughter she knew had to be lurking there.
"Been talking about me, have you?"
"Yeah, well, didn't have much else to do," she shot back.
He had the grace to look ashamed, but all he said was, "Come back with me? Please, Rose."
Again she didn't reply right away, but her eyes did lift to meet his, and he seemed just as caught in the flood of emotions cascading over her face as she was.
"You should go."
The suggestion inserted itself quietly into the fragile space between them, and both Rose and the man still holding her turned their heads.
"Go. It's obvious even to me that it's what you both want. Don't let pride get in way of that, life's too short, you know?" Wobbly didn't understand the odd look both parties leveled at her, but she smiled all the same when the other woman unexpectedly took two steps forward and caught her in a brief, fierce hug.
"Thanks. I think I will. And look," Rose drew back, "don't give up on yours. They might all be bastards, but I guess sometimes they come round, right?" An insistent hand on her arm began pulling her toward the door; she managed a grin and a wave before giving in.
"Who was that?" the man asked when they were far enough away.
"Dunno, I never got her name," Rose answered, glancing back over her shoulder. "But I hope whoever broke her heart changes his mind about it." She looked back at him and pursed her lips for a moment. "And speaking of changing one's mind, Doctor, you've got some explaining to do..."
Behind them, the pale woman with the dark, wistful eyes had turned back to the bar, ignoring the small jolt as the uneven stool leg hit the floor. Anyone watching would have seen her pull a photo from one pocket and tenderly smooth out the creases. Anyone watching closely would have seen what the photo was doing and possibly decided that one too many drinks had been consumed and that very possibly it was time to call a taxi and head home.
As for the woman, she was too far gone to care who might see her, content to simply sit and watch her own face laugh back up at her with eyes that held not a trace of sadness and hair that gleamed pink in the sunlight. The man standing over her in the picture was smiling as well, hands resting on hips before extending one to hoist her upright from where she'd tumbled in the grass.
Her fingertips brushed over the moving images. "Sometimes they do," she whispered.
A/N: I don't remember where this idea came from, other than that the Doctor and Remus both have a bit in common when it comes to guilt issues and how it affects the women they care for. Plus, Rose and Tonks make for awesome drinking buddies.