The first time Jackie Tyler made tea for the Doctor and Rose, she broke her favorite mug. She was still reeling from Rose being back and that weirdo being with her and Rose saying nothing more than that they were "travelling" when they burst back into the flat and the Doctor took over the telly like he owned the place. It made sense they'd be interested in finding out why a spaceship just flew over their heads, but she was angry, hurt, happy, and didn't have to admit nothing she didn't want to.
People were calling to come over and watch it with her, but no one had arrived yet. Rose wandered into the kitchen and put her arms around Jackie's shoulders, planted a kiss on her cheek.
"Mum, d'ya mind if I put a kettle on?"
"I'll take care of it sweetie," she replied, smiling because her daughter was alive and well and looked happy. Then she remembered Rose'd just swanned off for twelve months and turned toward the stove away from her daughter. "You just go back with him and watch whatever's going on." That part came out sharper than Jackie intended, cutting the tenuous string of affection Rose attempted as a reconnection. She almost jumped back, shuffling out to the living room with a mumbled response.
Jackie grabbed the kettle, jerked up the faucet to fill it with water, then dropped it on the burner. She looked out into the living room, eyes catching the movement of the telly. Aliens in London, blimey. Her eyes shifted to Rose, leaning over the back of the chair he where he had plopped himself. He cocked his head toward her, whispering something. Rose giggled then, pushed at his shoulder, and he smiled back. The kettle began to whistle. Jackie turned and opened the pantry doors, grabbing three mugs. She hadn't seen that look from Rose before. That awful Jimmy Stone, she looked at him like he was a god and she was nothing. Mickey was a dear, and she knew Rose cared for him but she couldn't see them still together in five years. But the way she looked at that berk—looking old enough people must assume she's the Other Woman, the young trophy, or something worse; damn him—and the way he looked back at her? Her hands shook as she pulled the wailing kettle from its burner. Rose might be back, but her baby wasn't hers anymore.
She clutched at the handle of her mug too hard and the ceramic cracked. She told herself she was crying over that mug. She loved that mug. She pushed the tears away, tilted the boiling water into the two remaining mugs and asked Rose to help her bring out the milk and sugar and tea bags. She pulled down another mug for herself, watching Rose and him as they doctored their coffee. Rose still liked hers white with one, at least, just like her. He liked his white with two. She may as well remember it for the future.
The second time Jackie made tea for just her and them, she forgot to ask how he liked his tea. Her rather eventful Christmas had come and gone, but there they were, even though it was three in the afternoon on Boxing Day. It was strange for them to hang about, but Jackie wasn't complaining. He'd swanned off for a few in the morning, but returned before Rose woke up around eleven. The two of them lazed about the flat all day; Rose didn't even change into day clothes until half past two.
Though Rose was being mum with details, it was clear he'd somehow died. Jackie could put the clues together, even if they made no sense. Things looked bad, so he'd sent her back to be safe like he promised. There was the whole thing with Rose going back that Jackie didn't like to think about too much. It meant she was complicit, had given approval to, whatever was going on between the two of them. But still, Rose felt responsible in some way for what'd happened. So he'd died saving her again and changed anyway. Jackie couldn't help but love him a bit for it. She brought three mugs of tea, fixed up proper, out to the table.
"Where's Mickey, then?" the Doctor asked.
"Oh, he and some mates got tickets to a match. They put in for a suite and everything, Christmas celebration, he said," Rose replied, sipping at her tea before it cooled properly and wincing like she always did.
"How long're you two gonna hang around, then?"
"Well, I was thinking perhaps we'd be off again later this afternoon, but…"
"But what?" Rose asked, impatience obvious in her voice. Jackie masked her sadness at that. She'd heard Rose slip and refer to the TARDIS as "home" at some point last night when they were all a bit tipsy and high on sugar from cake and pudding.
"Well, you made it sound as though Mickey wouldn't be back until later, so…" he sounded searching, as though he was looking for proof Rose still thought of him as the Doctor, though Jackie knew that had been solved pretty clearly for her daughter last night. She saw the way she looked at him as the not-snow fell. Poor, sweet Mickey.
"And…?" Rose replied, her voice laced with laughter. Jackie caught the flash of self-satisfaction on the Doctor's face. At least this one, all bounce and bubble and youthful vigor, looked less like someone she'd like to date.
"Well, then. Why don't you get packed up after tea? Brilliantly done, by the way, Jackie, just right," he flashed her a genuine smile. Jackie realized then she hadn't even thought about it. Her own head was still whirling, trying to figure out how this new face was still the same fellow from before, but Rose seemed to believe it (though it'd taken her a bit). She wasn't sure, but if he still liked his white with two, that was that.
Jackie wouldn't ever tell how grateful she was that this Doctor brought Rose around home more often. She didn't want Rose to feel guilty for living her own life. Still, she hoped to show how much she appreciated it by making a fuss every time they came around. Mickey always came by. Sometimes one of the neighbors would drop in, scolding Rose for leaving her mum all lonely. One time the Doctor brought along a lady who he'd travelled with a while back. At first Jackie wanted to punch her—you don't bring your ex back to your new girlfriend's mum's place for heaven's sake—until Rose assured her it was all right, and once she'd met Sarah Jane she understood. So though she saw the two of them much more often, the third time Rose, the Doctor, and Jackie had tea to themselves wasn't until after Mickey left.
Rose came in crying, and Jackie looked up to the Doctor for some sort of explanation. The Doctor looked sad and mouthed "Later." Jackie nodded, rubbing Rose's back, and walked her over to the sofa.
"I'll just make us all a cuppa and that'll help," Jackie practically sang, forcing as much everything-will-be-all-right-keep-calm-and-carry-on assurance into her voice as she could. Over tea, Rose explained briefly and with as few details as possible what happened with Mickey. Jackie got up to refill their teas. When she came back, Rose, puffy-eyed and pale from crying, was asleep on the Doctor's shoulder.
"You gonna tell me what really happened?" Jackie asked.
"Rose was pretty spot-on about it, actually," the Doctor shifted a bit, letting his hand drift down from Rose's shoulder.
"Yeah, but I know my Rosie. She was leaving something out."
"She's a terrible liar, isn't she? I keep telling her but she thinks I'm just being mean," his previously stoic expression slanted into a crooked smile. Jackie was a little uncertain how she felt about him knowing that. Rose could always trick Mickey. She felt like it was something only a mother could know, but apparently not. Mothers and lovers, she suspected. Well, clever lovers.
"Is Mickey going to be okay?" Jackie asked, forcefully interrupting that line of thought.
"I should think so. Have you ever seen a person experience a defining moment?"
"Yeah," she answered warily, remembering Rose telling her about a better way of living in a chippie on a cold November afternoon.
"It's not exaggerating to say that I saw him grow up over the course of a few hours. And like Rose said, his gran's alive there."
"Poor Mickey. He never got over that. It's good he gets a second chance," Jackie sighed and sipped her tea. She felt Mickey's loss acutely, he really was like a second child to her (barring the now-embarrassing year-without-Rose). But she knew things with Rose had been messy (more than Rose realized), and that the boy could do with a little purpose. "So you gonna tell me what she's holding back, or keep me guessing?"
"Mickey's grandmother wasn't the only difference in that universe. Pete was still alive, but that Jackie…" he replied darkly. His hand, formerly resting listlessly on Rose's hip, tightened. She wanted to be offended, but there was something so fiercely protective in the gesture she shut herself up. Then she realized what he meant.
She nodded, not wanting to talk about the implications of . The Doctor stood slowly, shifting Rose down softly. He picked up her legs and set them up on the cushions as well, then pulled his long duster off his shoulders and laid it over her without a word. He turned to Jackie.
"Look, she'll probably want to talk when she wakes up and I figure it'll be more of a mum-and-daughter thing. I'm going to do some work on the TARDIS. Just," he raked his hand through his hair, "However long she needs. I'll be in the TARDIS. Though if you do some sort of tasty dessert—something with bananas, say—do knock on the old girl."
Jackie was dumbfounded from the Doctor's tenderness. He tended to hide that side behind his mile-a-minute swagger. She thought she might be beginning to understand what Rose sees in him. He turned and stalked toward the TARDIS. As he opened the door, Jackie called after him. "Doctor?" He turned momentarily, eyebrows raised. "Thanks. For taking care of her."
"It's…to be honest, usually she's the one taking care of me." He smiled and turned back toward the TARDIS
"Oi! But you will come back out for supper at six o'clock or I will slap you into your next reng…reg…renduration or whatever the bloody hell you call it."
The fourth time the Doctor and Rose came for tea, they were three days late. They'd stopped by after the thing with Elton, and as they were leaving Jackie made a decision to stand up for herself and make them promise a proper visit soon. They planned to stop in Wednesday—Rose complained about her Mum being needy wanting to see them so soon until the Doctor grumbled something about how no one seems to remember the TARDIS also travelled in time.
Wednesday morning found Jackie in a lovely mood. After their promises, she cleared Wednesday of all her clients so she could tidy up and do a bit of shopping. She picked up this lovely little banana coconut tart, remembering how the Doctor was always nattering on about bananas and Rose liked any kind of tart. Around four she put the kettle on. At 4:15, she decided to just fix their teas ahead of time—Rose might not burn her tongue. By a quarter of the teas had cooled. At five thirty, Jackie dumped them out. Near six, voice cracking with sadness, she called for a take-away curry. She spent the night alone, not a few times thinking of calling Elton to say she'd heard about the mix-up and maybe she would like a friend after all.
Thursday morning Jackie threw the tart out, hardened and sour from being left alone so long. Friday, she began to worry something might have happened. She panicked, then remembered the Doctor's propensity for missing deadlines. Saturday at half-past three, the familiar whoosh of that damned blue box rang through the living room. But Jackie wasn't home to hear it; she had gone to have tea with old Mrs. Quigley from downstairs. Rose and the Doctor made themselves at home, brewed their own cuppas. When Rose flicked on the telly, she groaned. It was Saturday, not Wednesday.
Just past four o'clock, Jackie opened the door and saw the Doctor's plimsolls crossed and comfortably propped up on her coffee table. She gasped something between a strangled sob and a barking laugh. Rose heard her and jumped up, apologizing profusely for the Doctor's mistake between tight hugs. When Rose let her go, she stormed toward the Doctor, who raised his hand in an embarrassed little wave. She thwacked the back of his head then pulled him into a hug. He whinged and made faces, but she felt his arms tighten around her shoulders for a fleeting moment. She waved them towards the table and walked toward the kitchen. Pushing away her tears with the heel of her palm, she opened the refrigerator to retrieve the second banana coconut tart she bought that morning (just in case).
The fifth time Jackie made tea for herself, Rose, and the Doctor was an accident. The Doctor wasn't there. He was on Jackie's mind, understandably, and those thoughts were channeled into a third mug with two spoons of sugar and a splash of cream. Jackie didn't realize until she set down three mugs and Rose began to cry again.
"God, Rose, I'm sorry. I don't even…" Jackie realized there were tears in her eyes, too.
"No, mum, it's not your fault. Bloody hell…" She buried her face in her palms. Pete set them up in a small flat near the Estate, saying that Jackie and Rose might want some time to sort themselves out without the pressure and expectations of starting their strange new family right away. They were welcome at the Estate whenever they wanted, but this morning when they both rolled out of bed after a fitful night of sleep cursed with nightmares of loss and change, they were thankful to only have each other to face. The third mug, silent and untouched, pulled on their hearts like Jupiter pulls its moons. Day one of a new life. Jackie knew things looked good for her; she and Pete had a bit of a snog last night while Rose was in the shower and she forcefully suppressed her smile at that memory. But poor Rosie was so lost and broken, and Jackie was genuinely scared by that.
"I'm scared, Mum," Rose whispered.
"Oh, sweetie. Of course you are. 'S not like this makes any sense," she reached across the table and rubbed her thumb across Rose's knuckles.
"It's not…I mean, new worlds to face, that's kinda been my life. It's…"
"He's all alone; God, no one to hold his hand. He needs someone, Mum. He's so lonely and so hurt but he'll never tell anyone. He's so scared of being alone," Rose sipped at her tea, trying to ease her mind but only burning her tongue. Jackie tutted silently; some things never change.
"And I need him, Mum. I just want to tell him…"
"Baby, he knew. What you two had was something special."
"What did we even have? That's the worst part. We were going somewhere, I could feel it. But…"
"What?" Jackie practically shrieked. "You weren't? Never? I figured you two were shagging like rabbits every time I turned around."
"No, Mum. God," Rose rested her face in her hands, but Jackie caught a glimpse of a genuine smile. Rose sighed, pushing away new tears. "I wish. But that's what makes it worse. We never got the chance. I told him in lots of ways, how I felt. But I never just said it. And I'm scared, Mum. I'm scared I'm never going to get over him. I'm never going to be okay."
"Oh, you don't have to be scared about that. I can tell you right now, you'll be okay. It'll take a while. But you'll never get over him, neither," Jackie sighed. Rose looked confusedly at her, then looked down at the table. "Rosie, listen to you mother now. When your Dad died…" her voiced cracked. "Who knows how things'll work out with this new Pete, but I will never get over losing your Dad. I'm okay now, I can say that. But I'll never forget losing him. We shouldn't forget them. But in time you'll be okay. I promise."
Across the void, the Doctor sat at a familiar table staring at two orphaned cups of tea. He sonicked his way into the flat, grabbing a few mementos he couldn't bear to see binned when the state came to clean up after the dead and missing. Jackie clearly thought they wouldn't be long in their little excursion and set up tea before following them to the park. Despite being cold and a bit stale, through the salt of his tears the Doctor could tell his tea had been made just right: two spoons of sugar and a splash of cream.
Halfway through the sixth time the Jackie brewed tea for three, Rose walked out. Jackie sighed as Rose left. She was understandably emotional, and the surreal normalcy of the three of them just sitting down for tea was just too much. When she looked back to this human Doctor, he was staring intently as a knot in the table. She reached for his hand across the table; on contact he looked up, touched by her gesture.
"Things'll get better. Promise," Jackie said, and he smirked skeptically. Jackie huffed. "No one ever wants to believe me. Daft old Jackie."
"Sorry," the Doctor raked his hands through his hair. "I don't think you're daft. Well, most of the time. Well, you were brilliant yesterday."
"'Bout time somebody mentioned it," she smiled.
"Tea's just right, too, thanks," he nodded after a noisy sip.
"Oh, now the tea's all right. Last time it was 'not bad,'" she complained, exaggerating to lighten the mood. The Doctor mumbled an apology. The air between them grew still.
"Jackie, I just want you to know, if there was a way…What Rose did with that cannon was extremely dangerous. If they'd started too soon, if the Daleks and hadn't created that hole… But if there was a way I could've come back without risking cracking the fabric of the universe…I would've."
"I know, sweetie. She does, too."
"I always wondered how much risk I'd be willing to take. Would I risk a 40% chance? 20%? 5%? In the end I may have been a coward. I've travelled with other people, brilliant people, since, but your daughter was…Rose is…I love her."
"Obviously," she laughed.
"Not to her."
"You're the same man, sweetheart, and she'll get that soon enough."
"How can you be so sure?"
"What, about Rose? I've seen the way she looks at you when she's not busy being overwhelmed. Like she wants to jump your skinny bones."
"I'd…rather not think about you thinking about that. Though it's encouraging," he smirked mirthlessly. "But no, I meant, how can you be so sure about me? Truth be told, I'm not even sure about me."
"Well, love, you like your tea white with two. Like always, since you had big ears and looked like a steel worker. And you've been family since then, so…" He smiled at her then quieted, staring into his tea. Shaking his head, though still smiling, he looked up and raised his mug. Jackie did the same, silently toasting their new-new-new lives.
The seventh time Jackie made tea for just herself, Rose, and the Doctor—just the three of them—was also the last time. There were plenty more teas, to be certain, but with Pete and Tony and new friends, the family quickly outgrew their little threesome. This final tea-for-three was just a happy accident of timing. Tony wasn't home from school yet and Pete had to run to the office to put out a fire. The Doctor and Rose had taken the day off; they were leaving on holiday that evening and planned to stop by the Estate for tea before catching their zeppelin. Today, just like the first time they all had tea; this time Jackie broke her favorite mug.
When Jackie came back from the kitchen (she insisted on making the tea herself), Rose was leaning in toward him, whispering conspiratorially. She thought marriage would turn them into less a pair of giggling teenagers, but she should have known better. Two years later and they still act like it's their bloody honeymoon.
"What're you two on about?" Jackie asked, setting the mugs on the table and grabbing a scone for herself.
"Just making plans for our holiday," Rose sipped at her tea, burning her tongue. She set it down and reached for a bottle of water from her purse.
"Where are you going, then? I don't remember you telling me"
"We don't know!" The Doctor smiled. "Brilliant, isn't it?"
"How can you not know where you're going on holiday? Blimey, you're mad, the both of you."
"We're just gonna see what's open, you know, and surprise ourselves."
"It'll be an adventure!" The Doctor was grinning. So was Rose. They chatted, wondering about possibilities and Jackie making suggestions. The whole conversation was punctuated with their mooning at each other and smiling their we-know-something-you-don't-know smiles. After discussing the pros and cons of Vienna, the conversation paused. Jackie took her chance.
"What's going on?" Jackie she narrowed eyes.
"Whatcha mean, Mum?"
"You two are all smiley. Hiding something."
"I don't have any idea what you're talking about, absolutely baffled," the Doctor shook his head and shrugged.
"Fine, then what were you whispering about?" Jackie folded her arms in front of her chest.
"Where's Pete?" Rose asked, looking over her shoulder.
"Had to run in to Torchwood, probably'll be working late. Anyway, what's Pete got to do with it? Stop avoiding the question. You know I don't do well with shocks," her eyes widened and she stood, pointing a nicely polished finger at the Doctor. "You built a space machine, didn't you? That's what this holiday's about. Bloody hell, I'm never gonna see the two of you again, am I?"
"Space machine?" the Doctor managed between sputtered guffaws. "No, Jackie."
"We didn't build a space machine, Mum," Rose answered, biting her lower lip to avoid laughing herself. She looked over to the Doctor and raised her eyebrows. He nodded and shrugged. "Fine, we'll tell you."
"Such a sacrifice," Jackie quipped.
"We were just arguing you see," the Doctor said. "Rose thinks you'll be on her side. I think, despite all the historical evidence to the contrary, you'll agree with me. Perhaps you could just solve it for us."
"Blimey, this is gonna be one of those science-y or timey-wimey things I don't know nothing about and you just want an outsider's opinion, yeah? Fine," Jackie sighed and stood up to head toward the kitchen. "Ask."
"Well, Mum," Rose smiled, catching her tongue between her teeth. "I think you'll be thrilled."
"But I say, based on the evidence: namely, having an primary school child yourself, and still being so very youthful in appearance; that, while you'll certainly be happy, you'll think that you feel far too young to be a grandmother," the Doctor finished, grinning. Jackie spun on the spot, dropping her favorite mug, the one printed with a famous Van Gogh. She had them both in a vise grip before it hit the ground: a crash of ceramic, tea, and stars.