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DW Fic: Ladies Living Sequentially

Title: Ladies Living Sequentially
Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters: Liz Shaw, Jo Grant
Rating:  G
Summary: Liz Shaw wanted someone to talk about her old, odd world. Jo Grant was the perfect someone.
Author's note: This was written for 
[personal profile] ravenskyewalker , for the 2014 [community profile] fandom_stocking  fun. I've owed it to her for more than three months, and I hope she accepts my apologies for the delayed IOU. She indicated a fondness for the companions of the Third Doctor and, since he is one of my favorite Doctors as well, I thought I'd take a dip in the Classic pool. For those interested in chronology, this is after Death of the Doctor on The Sarah Jane Adventures and somewhere near the end of the Eleventh Doctor's tenure.
Edited by: The perspicacious dr_whuh, aka 
[personal profile] buckaroobob .
Disclaimer: As much as I wish it were otherwise, no Whoniverse characters are mine. They belong solely to the BBC and their respective creators. I intend no copyright infringement and take no coin. I do, however love them all and thank the BBC for letting me play in its sandbox.

“— I’m not sure any conversation between his companions would ever pass the Bechdel test.” Jo sipped at her green chai, then grinned.

Liz smiled slightly in return. “ I rather think they would, at least technically. After all, he’s an alien, not a man.”  

She felt slightly affronted when Jo guffawed in response and kicked back from the table, attracting the somewhat bemused attention of other couples in the cafe. Then she shrugged her shoulders; at least they’d been dining al fresco. Jo’s laugh could really have been overwhelming in the cafe proper. “Well, he is.”

Jo got herself under control and said, “Yes, but he’s an alien man.  And believe me when I say that he always took close notice of those ridiculous micro-minis and knee-high boots I used to wear.”

“Probably because they were terrifically inefficient whilst running away from whatever he’d set in motion,” Liz pointed out. 

“Well, yes,” Jo allowed. “But he always seemed disappointed when I wore my elephant pants and trainers.”

Liz couldn’t help it; she snickered. That, of course, set Jo off again, although this time it was a slightly more sedate giggle fit. Now the looks around them were visibly curious, and possibly annoyed. Liz knew what an entire dinner with Jo Grant Jones could be like, and decided she’d been right to stick to an afternoon chat instead. At her age, she prefered her social engagements to be more decorous than otherwise. 

Still, Liz couldn’t deny that it was lovely to talk to someone about the Doctor; especially Jo. 

With Alistair and Sarah Jane gone — once again she felt the stab of pain — she had no one she could really talk to. John Benton was about, of course, but they had never been particularly close and, after he left UNIT and started his car business, she’d never thought to search him out. 

And poor Mike Yates … while they had some shared interests when it came to art and politics, talking about the Doctor brought out something dark and bitter in Mike. Tom, who was very protective of the man he loved, asked her to stay away from most UNIT subjects and she’d complied. They still did dinner together three or four times a year, but there was an emotional distance there; Liz thought Mike knew she wanted to talk about the old days, and felt guilty about not wanting to do so himself. 

And she did want to talk about the old days, she mused, still surprised at her own desire to reconnect with that long-gone part of her life. 

She’d been happy without it for years. There had even been times when she’d almost convinced herself that she hadn’t liked her time with UNIT, generally after she’d got the fish eye from potential academic employers who looked askance at her military attachment. But the truth of it was that she’d probably never felt quite so alive as when she’d been dealing with the daily impossibilities with which UNIT and the Doctor regularly presented her ….

“Zoning out, eh? My students could learn a thing or two from you.”

“Hmm?” Liz shook her head slightly. The cobwebs gathered more easily these days ….

Jo’s smile was sweet, despite her teasing. “You were so far out in thought that you could have been meditating. Some of my students never managed to get that level of zen.”

“My apologies. Just —”

“ —thinking about the Doctor does that,” Jo said. Her own gaze grew a little foggy. “Thinking about the past, too. It was so many years ago, for both of us. Funny to think that, if he wanted, he could drop by and visit us right now, right this very moment, and it might only be a few weeks after he saw us last.”

She looked unusually sorrowful for the briefest span of time, and then continued with a return of her smile. “Or one of his newer selves could drop by, even older than he was when we knew him first.”

“That’s right.” Liz straightened slightly, ignoring the twinge in her back. Arthritis was such a nuisance. “You met his latest iteration. What was he like?” She held back all of the other questions crowding into her head.

“Young, for one thing. And a little shorter — do you remember how he used to loom over everyone? He doesn’t loom so much now. But he still has memorable hair, of the floppy, modern hipster sort.”

The Doctor as a floppy modern hipster was a ridiculous image. Liz considered it, recalling velvet opera capes and an aristocratic lisp. Perhaps not so ridiculous, then. She startled herself with the bark of a laugh, then decided to let some of the questions out. “You said he was younger; are you sure it wasn’t an earlier incarnation?”

“Oh, no, this wasn’t an early Doctor, I’m very sure of it; I’d talked to Kate about it,” Jo said. “He was the one who followed the one with the pinstripes, the thin-lipped fox-faced one. And that one followed … hmmm, Kate showed me some pictures … I think Foxface came after one who looked like a surprisingly handsome stevedore. So, no, this one may look like he’s 29 or so, but as far as Kate could tell, he’s over 1,000 of our years old.”

“Ah. Fascinating.” Liz found a position that was more comfortable and considered the subject carefully. She’d heard of his subsequent regenerations of course, from Alistair and the others. But she’d never seen the change, as Alistair and Sarah Jane had, and she had always wanted to observe it. She didn’t think any version of the Doctor would begrudge her her scientific curiosity. “Was his personality the same, or was it—”

“Oh, quite different … but still the same. It’s an odd thing, you know, to see the same person peering out of eyes and a face that you don’t recognize.” Jo tilted her head in thought. “He’s more deliberative, but he hides it all behind an extremely goofy facade.”

Which sort of presentation Jo would know a great deal about, Liz suspected. In the years since she’d met the younger woman, she’d come to understand that she was far more intelligent than she let on. It served Jo well in her life of activism, but it must have simultaneously frustrated and surprised the Doctor, she thought. 

“I remember that Alistair once told me the Doctor said that the process rebuilt him from the cellular level, but if it was that simple, you’d think he’d just regenerate into a younger copy of himself,” she continued, now musing aloud.  “I shouldn’t doubt that whatever happens to the Doctor might go far deeper, rewriting himself from the DNA on up ….” She narrowed her eyes, considering the logic of such an alien process.

“I hear the researcher in your voice,” Jo said. “You’d love to see him change, film it and study it and write reams about it, even if you weren’t able to publish what you wrote anywhere..”

Liz acknowledged the barb with a wry grin. “Can you blame me? Certainly you must have been a little curious yourself.”

Jo’s smile was as wry as her own had been. “Well, yes, I was always curious about the Doctor. But my scientific credentials are pretty non-existent, as you know.  Those A-levels are 45 years out of date now! No, I was far more curious about his life than about his body.” She sighed. “I never had much chance to ask him about himself while we were together, though. We were always pelting up and down corridors, racing around in that lovely old flivver of his, dashing about,  desperately trying to save ourselves or the world from the latest madman or alien. All the running was apt to keep one’s mind off trying to wheedle stories of his childhood out of him.”

If the idea of the Doctor as cool young man had struck Liz oddly, the idea that he had ever been a child left her almost speechless. That was no problem, since the waiter chose that moment to come over.

“Do you ladies want anything more?” He looked at Liz with that unbearably fond soft-headed gaze that told her he thought she looked a lot like his grandmother. She got that far too often these days, and if she thought it would do any good, she’d either give him a good talking-to, or scream. 

She was about to wave him off, but Jo was faster. “You know, I think I’m hungry. Do you still have any of those particularly lovely egg and cheese tarts I saw when I came in? Or maybe the quinoa and edamame bowl? No, not that, that’s more porridgey than I want, so yes, the tarts, do you have them? Oh, and look, it’s after 4 o’clock, which means that the sun is definitely over the yardarm, so I’d like a glass of your house red to go with the tart.”

The waiter stared at her, nonplussed at the torrent of words. “Erm … yes, I think we still have the tarts.”

“Wonderful! I’d like two of them, then, with the wine. Liz, what do you want?”

To her surprise, Liz realized that she was hungry, too. She’d meant to finish up the last of her very cold coffee and make her goodbyes, but the thought of going home to her very quiet flat abruptly seemed rather dull. “I’ll have a chicken salad sandwich and one of your small house salads. And a glass of chardonnay.” 

The waiter, obviously relieved that she was less precipitous than her table mate, headed off to start their orders. 

“I’m so glad you decided to stay and eat,” Jo said, looking, to Liz’s surprise, noticeably relieved. “I’ve been enjoying this so much, but I wasn’t sure if you weren’t bored to the bone.”

“Not in the least, my dear,” Liz said, pleased to know that she was speaking nothing but the truth. “This is the most fun I’ve had for quite some time. It’s good — very good — to be here with you. I have never, ever, been bored when I was with you.”

Jo smiled her thanks, and Liz continued. “It’s been so long since I could talk about those days. I know others who knew about our old, odd world, but for some of them, that time was something they wanted to forget. And others, like Sarah Jane, they were pretty clearly still living it. You found that out, of course. I just wanted someone who understood, and who had the time to understand with me.”

Jo nodded. “And of course, too many of our old friends are gone now.” 

They were silent for a while in shared remembrance, then Liz blinked, to clear her eyes of incipient tears. Time to think of something else.  “So  how long are you in England for? Are you heading back to South America soon?” Jo and the rest of her peripatetic family never seemed to let themselves get chained down, and despite being in her 60s, she might be off to the Amazon rainforest next week, or on one of her periodical trips to Nepal or almost any place, really. 

“I’m here for the duration,” Jo responded, to Liz’s very great surprise. “Santiago finally made his mind up; he’s going to buckle down and study, and he wanted to do it in what he called his ancestral home.” She shook her head, chuckling. “So he’s reading philosophy, politics and economics at Magdalen. After all the sun-filled climes, and foreign wonders we’ve taken in together, now it’s back to fog, more fog, and Conservative pettifoggery for yours truly. And he swears he won’t even miss swimming competitively. I do not understand young people these days.”

“And Cliff?” Liz had liked Jo’s botanist husband the one time she’d met him. 

Jo’s smile was a little lopsided. “He swears he’s not coming back, except for visits. I expect that to last about six months. We really don’t do well without each other. I’m giving him time to finish his latest projects; thank God, I’d finished mine up by the time Santiago decided to venture to the auld sod. Now I just have to find a flat for myself.”

“Up at Oxford.” Liz tried to hide her disappointment. 

“Oh, heavens no! Santiago’s quite happily settled in quarters up there, and he needs to stand on his own. I’m staying here in London. Once Cliff gives in and closes up our house in Brazil, then we can talk about moving closer to the grandson.”

Liz drew a deep breath. That was just what she’d hoped to hear. “Well, if you haven’t found a place yet—”

She hadn’t thought Jo’s smile could be any broader. “Of course. And yes, I accept!”

Liz became aware that her jaw had dropped. She shut her mouth with a quickness, and then she smiled back at the younger woman. “You’re a quick study, aren’t you?”

“Yes, and extremely cheeky; I have that on the best authority.”

They were still laughing when the waiter came over. “Ladies?”

They both looked up. He wasn’t looking at either of them with that fatuous “respect for the aged” look now. Instead, he looked more than a little shellshocked.  “There was a … I mean, the gentleman who paid your bill—”

They looked at each other. “What man?”

“ I mean, the men who paid your bills ….” He trailed off. Their intent gazes appeared to unsettle him even more. “Well, the first one, the young man, said he wanted to pay your bill, Ma’am—” He nodded at Liz. “He took off at a tear, after leaving way too much money, and then the, the … the extravagantly-dressed older gentleman in the cape came in and said he wanted to handle your bill—” This time a brief nod to Jo. 

“He seemed quite put out at the younger man. Maybe it was his son, he was oddly dressed, too, a sort of purple morning jacket, but he said … the older one, I mean … erm, he said ‘That fool forgot Jo. No one should forget Jo.’  And then he left. He didn’t leave quite enough, but his son left enough to make up the difference.”

The waiter probably had no idea he was babbling. The Doctor often had that effect on people, Liz thought, simultaneously delighted at knowing  who the mysterious men were, and furious that he — either of him — hadn’t deigned to come to the table and talk. 

 “You poor thing,” Jo exclaimed. “He can be infuriating, we know. Here, have my wine. We’ll take the sandwich and tarts with us, shall we, Liz? Or, no, why don’t you have them, or give them to staff for supper, we’ll fuel up a little later.”

 Liz cocked an eyebrow. 

 “Well, he — they — can’t have gotten too far. Perhaps we can catch him.”

 Liz started to demur — she was too old to go chasing after any Doctor — then stopped, and checked her shoes. Sensible flats. In that case … “ I think a little exercise is just what my arthritis needs.”

 They exited the restaurant with a speed that left their erstwhile waiter breathless. He wasn’t sure if he pitied the old man and his son, or envied them. 

 He was almost through his shift when the rasping howl from somewhere down the street briefly caught his attention. He cocked an ear, frowned in confusion, then went back to mulling the mystery of the sprinting old ladies. Honestly, the things senior citizens did!


This entry was originally posted at http://kaffyr.dreamwidth.org/352085.html?mode=reply, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. You can comment there or here; I watch both.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 25th, 2015 07:01 am (UTC)
Absolutely delightful! I love both Liz and Jo and it felt very true to them to have this chat! Love it!
Mar. 25th, 2015 01:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you - I am glad that both Liz and Jo ring true to you. I've seen them both in action, but it's been quite some time since that happened, and I had wondered whether time had blurred my memories too much for accuracy. Thanks for reading!
Mar. 26th, 2015 09:56 am (UTC)
Well, we always see character's from our own eyes and write them accordingly. :) But I could really see Liz being a bit afraid that Jo would wear her out and I suspect she will be a bit overwhelmed sharing house with her, but ultimately loving it. :)
Mar. 26th, 2015 02:15 pm (UTC)
she will be a bit overwhelmed sharing house with her, but ultimately loving it. :)

Heh, yes. Then again, she knows it will be only a few months, until Cliff gives in and moves back to England. So it will be an adventure, rather than something that lasts forever!
Mar. 26th, 2015 07:36 pm (UTC)
Yes, of course. Then she probably just enjoy it. :) I love sharing the summer house with my parents during summer and we get along wonderfully all year round, but I would not to live with them permanently. :)
Mar. 27th, 2015 10:42 pm (UTC)
It's so lovely to know someone enjoys one of my favorite Doctors; I wonder if I might friend you?

Edited at 2015-03-27 10:43 pm (UTC)
Mar. 27th, 2015 10:46 pm (UTC)
Oh, absolutely! :)
Mar. 28th, 2015 10:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks, and done!
Mar. 29th, 2015 12:20 am (UTC)
Mar. 31st, 2015 07:45 pm (UTC)
*claps in delight* Oh, this is just precious. Those lovely things people throw at me about the Three era these days, I swear, it's Christmas :D I've only just started watching the Jo days, but I really tremendously enjoyed seeing she and Liz together here. Their characterizations were very, very nice, very insightful. I love the opening line about the Bechdel test and the jabs about the clothing, the differences between them and Jo's more overwhelming personality, but all the layers there were to her beneath her apparent simple and loud ways, her insight and cheek, and how much Liz found herself enjoying her company. The parts about needing to think back on the old days, and how bittersweet it was that she had so few people she could do this with, were very nice as well, I love the insight about everyone from the crew. (Very curious about how it'll all turn out for Mike now…) Love Liz's thinking back on that part of her life, and Jo and her reminiscing about it, plus the talk about meeting older versions! And Liz's curiosity about regeneration, of course. They were both curious about very different things about him, but the bond was strong in both cases and they understood each other in a lovely way, despite the contrast between them. The ending was so sweet, with their connecting on a more personal level, the talk about Jo's life and their ending up living together of all things! ♥ Then with the Doctors paying their bill, the delightful humour about growing older, but how very sharp and bursting with life they still were. It was just so precious! I love them, and I love you for writing this ♥ It's awesome.

Just a few typos I spotted:
"She felt slightly affronted whenG Jo guffawed in response"
"Jo’s smile was a wry as her own had been."
"I never had much chance ask him about himself while we were together, though.": well, not being a native, I'm not sure at all about this one but shouldn't there be a "to" or something?
"If the idea of Doctor as cool young man had struck Liz oddly"

May. 15th, 2015 03:57 am (UTC)
This is truly far too long a time to wait before responding to such a lovely review; I'm so glad you enjoyed reading this so much! And once again, thank you and your eagle eyes for spotting the typos; I've made several corrections now.

(The only one that I actually wrote deliberately is that last one. Leaving out the "a" in a sentence like that signals that the idea is not about the Doctor as a specific young man, but that the Doctor is conforming to the image, or concept of "young man" - sort of the Platonic idea. If that makes sense ... it's a construction that I grew up reading.)
May. 19th, 2015 06:51 am (UTC)
No worries, I understand the delay—goodness knows you've had enough on your plate! And you're welcome :)

Ah, sorry, I should have specified—the missing "a" indeed felt rather meaningful for the reasons you explained, it was the missing "the" in "the idea of Doctor" that stood out to me ;) Sorry about the confusion!
May. 19th, 2015 01:59 pm (UTC)
*rereads; groans*

Augh - I see what you mean now! I'll go back and correct it. (Honestly, no matter how many times I read my own stories, such things inevitably escape my editorial gaze. Thanks!)
May. 22nd, 2015 08:47 pm (UTC)
I get you, the tiniest mistakes are the most terrible to spot!
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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