She hasn't changed that much since her wedding, she thinks.
Oh, she's older. Her shoulder-length hair is more greys and whites than blonde, her eyes are framed by laugh lines even when she's not laughing, and she's traded in the knee-high boots for capesio heels that don't bother her arthritis as much.
But underneath it all, she's still the same old Jo Grant. She still wears organic cotton dresses even though they're now long and flowy instead of mini, still has a natural rock rings on every finger. She'll always be that 23-year-old at heart, she thinks.
Of course, today isn't her wedding, it's her daughter's. She's so very different from her mother, in her pressed, corseted dress and expensive designer jewelry, but the way she looks up at her husband as they dance their first dance reminds Jo of the way she looked up at Cliff during their song.
She turns her eyes from the happy couple to him, sitting across the end of the reception hall with a proud smile on his face. He doesn't look much the same, either, but underneath the round face and balding head is the naturalist rebel she married.
A new song starts and a few people move to dance. A rather well-fed couple move to the floor and block Jo's view of the newlyweds. Her eyebrows knit together and she shifts, trying to get a better view.
"Don't worry, I only think they've got one song in them anyway."
She turns towards the man's voice that spoke to her. Standing next to her chair is a young, handsome man in a tuxedo. He can't be older than his late thirties, with dark brown hair that appears to be everywhere at once and freckles spattered across his face. His grin is a little startling, especially because it appears to be directed at Jo and Jo alone.
"Well, I wouldn't want them to stop their fun on my behalf. Still, it's not really fair that the mother of the bride can't have one of those lifeguard chairs to watch over everything. Seems only right after all, I paid for half this wedding I should be able to see at least half of it without interruptions."
The young man chuckles at that. "Well, you know, if you moved onto the dance floor you could probably out-maneuver them."
"Out-maneuver? That sounds downright military of you. Did Alistair send you over to keep me company or keep an eye on me? I know he's brought a bunch of his boys here to keep trouble out, he can't fool me." She tries to look for her old friend in the crowd. It was nice, seeing him and Yates and Benton again.
"Did they just skip the reception and go directly to the pub across the street? That would be absolutely like them, you know?" She snorts at that.
He nods. "That I do. And I think I did see Yates's partner running out the door after something. Still, they're losing out on all the fun! Out-maneuvering obstacles, strict diet of cake and champagne, leg exercising set to music! A wedding reception's rather military, I'd say."
"You sound like my father."
"I'll try not to be insulted." His voice doesn't sound anything but cheerful. "Up for trying a dance?"
She considers it a moment, and then shakes her head. "Oh, don't be silly. I've given up on being an out-maneuverer a long time ago. Right around the point I gave up dancing, actually. And with these shoes it's never easy, and besides---"
When she looks back at the young man, he has a hand extended to her and a smile on his face. "Come on, Miss Grant. Live a little."
Maybe it's the way his hand is extended to her, or the way he smiles, or maybe it's just the way he says 'Miss Grant' in a way she hasn't heard in a good 30 years, but she has the strangest feeling of déjà vu as she involuntarily reaches out and accepts his offer.
Come with me, my love
To the sea, the sea of love
It feels positively silly, following him out onto the dance floor. Still, there was never something too challenging for Jo Grant, even a room full of people staring at her dancing with a man who had to be half her age.
He doesn't seem the slightest bit nervous or cautious because of their age differences, however. He puts a hand to her hip and dances with her as if she was someone as young as he, which probably means----
"This is a joke, then? Mike set you up?"
"No, just dancing. Well, that and assisting with bridal viewing, it's a hobby."
"You have unusual hobbies Mr…"
"Don't tell me. John Smith?"
That makes Jo smile widely. "I knew a John Smith. A different John Smith. A long time ago."
The young man mirrors her wide smile with one of his own. She can't imagine why. "Really? Ruggedly handsome like me?"
She considers him, all legs and arms. He's a bit like Cliff was when they were younger. She thinks of her John Smith with his muscular arms and fighting style. He'd probably break this young man with his pinkie.
"More than a little different," she says.
I want to tell you
I love you
"Pitying the poor mother of the bride, then?" she asks.
"What makes you think I'm pitying you?" The way he says it, he sounds genuinely insulted. "I can't just want to dance? It's supposed to be a party, you know. And I think I'd be insulting the woman who paid for half of it if I don't at least attempt to have fun."
Jo rolls her eyes. "I'm hardly a cougar, Mr. Smith."
"And I'm not a cub." The muscles in his jaw tighten for a moment and he nods towards the chairs. "Besides, you've still got Cliffie Cliff Cliff. That means I said wrong, earlier, calling you Miss Grant. That's Mrs. Jones, isn't it? Blimey, I know a lot of Joneses. Can't keep up with them all. Keeping up with the Joneses! Ha!"
She shakes her head. "No, it's Miss Grant. Ms., actually." She puts extra emphasis on the 'Ms', making it come out more as a 'Mzz'. "Don't need every Tom, Dick, and Harry knowing I'm divorced."
His eyebrows shoot up to the top of his hairline. He has very expressive eyebrows; they remind her of her own John Smith.
"Didn't work out? I mean, I knew you two fell in love, got married…"
"Oh, I did love him," Jo says, looking back at the man sitting in the chairs again. "Part of me always will, but…things just…well, they didn't work out. We're still friends, though. We carpooled over from Cardiff, it's easier."
She and Cliff had been so good at first, but there came a time when she no longer cared about protein-infused mushrooms and he didn't want to hear about the Doctor and her adventures anymore. It is better this way; they make good friends if horrible spouses.
"So you're still in Wales, then?" the young man asks.
"Doesn't the Brigadier keep track of those things?" She raises an eyebrow and smirks.
He, in turn, shrugs. "I wouldn't be surprised. Retired or not, he's still pretty protective of his friends. I think he fancied you, you know."
"The Brigadier? When?"
"Back in your UNIT days."
"How old were you? Five?"
"I hear stories."
Jo chuckles and shakes her head. "The Brigadier? Fancy someone more than his guns? That I doubt. No, Cliff was the first one to have eyes for me back then."
The young man stiffens for a moment, looking oddly enough, hurt. The expression fades quickly and he turns to look back at the bride and groom again.
"I don't believe that for a moment Mzz Grant."
Do you remember
When we met
That's the day
I knew you were my pet
"Do you know the groom?" she asks.
"Um. Yes. That's…yes. Why I'm here." He sounds uncertain, which only furthers Jo's opinion that he must be one of the Brigadier's men.
"His name is Daniel," she explains with only a little patronization to her voice. "He's an heir to an oil company."
The young man makes a face. "Two naturalist parents like her and she's going off and marrying an oil tycoon? What's this world coming to?"
Jo laughs. "Well, he makes her happy. And since she's been with him he's changed the regulations for oil dumping, keeping the waters cleaner. Bambi says---"
"That would be the bride."
His jaw hangs a little loose. "You named your daughter Bambi?"
"She has doe eyes, don't you think?" Jo blinks up at the young man. "Is that so strange?"
He shakes his head. "No, that's…really actually perfect for you, Jo."
She raises an eyebrow. It's been a long time since anyone's called her Miss anything, and even longer since someone as young as this man has called her by her first name.
"Really, though. Miss Grant was flattering enough, you don't have to push your luck." She smirks into his shoulder. "Rub an electron a little bit and it'll be attracted, too much and it will repel."
"Mzz Grant, that sounded positively scientific of you."
"I took general science at A level."
He chuckles a little under his breath. "Did you really?"
"Yes, adult classes a few years ago."
He pulls back and looks down at her, his expression impressed but skeptical. "Did you pass?"
"I should be insulted, you know," she says with a laugh. "But no. I was so close to passing, though. Much better than when I was a girl."
He laughs as well and it feels a bit like an old joke, though Jo can't figure out why it would. She shouldn't feel so comfortable here, either. She should also be focusing more on her newly-married daughter and less on the young man talking to her.
I wanna tell you
I love you
"I'm assuming you and Professor Jones didn't set up the buffet."
That would be a no, of course. Daniel's parents had ordered a variety of Indian food, every single dish containing at least some form of meat. Jo's stomach rumbles a little at the smell of the spices, but she's been a vegetarian for 45 years, there's no way she'll break it now.
"Cliff's positively furious. They wouldn't use his famous mushrooms because they're worried about jungle poisoning or some such nonsense." Jo sighs. "I think the Brigadier had the right idea. I could probably get a salad across the street but I just don't want to leave just yet."
The young man smiles. "Well, you know what they say, you should always bring a banana to a party."
Jo narrows her eyes at him. "Either that is exceptionally rude innuendo or---"
"Or I could have a random piece of fruit in my pocket?"
"If that's true, I might have to kiss you."
He grins again, just as widely this time but it isn't as startling. It seems to suit him. He produces a banana and hands it to her.
"You're impossible, you know that?" she says.
"Nah, just a bit unlikely."
"I owe you a kiss then?"
"You did promise."
She wonders if it's all part of the joke that Mike and the Brigadier are obviously playing on her, but the young man looks strangely expectant. Oh, well, maybe he just likes older women.
She leans up as she kisses his cheek. He smells spicy and a little musky, just a hint of honey. It's an unusual aftershave and it makes the hair on the back of her neck stand up with its familiarity.
"What is that aftershave you're wearing?" she asks.
"Funny, that's the same aftershave my friend John Smith wore."
"Well, the prices on Venus for aftershave are fantastic."
She thinks about the other incarnations of the Doctor she's met and she wonders if they can age backwards, as well. Get younger as he gets older. She pulls back and looks up into his eyes. They're dark brown, just verging on black, nothing like the bright blues of the Doctor she remembers. But there, underneath all that brown is an incredible depth. Age. Impossible age. It's familiar. No, no, it's him.
"Doctor?" The word comes out in a surprised gasp.
He opens his mouth to say something, but it's obvious he doesn't know what. Things sort of click into place because who else in the universe would randomly arrive at her daughter's wedding to ask her to dance? Who else would notice that there wasn't anything she could eat at the buffet and ask her if she passed her A levels and smell of alien aftershave and have eyes just as dark as the Doctor's?
"It's you, isn't it?"
The music ends abruptly, switching to the upbeat Sie liebt dich by the Beatles. Jo continues to stare at the young man----the Doctor.
"Jo?" A voice is at her shoulder and she turns to see Cliff, smiling a little shyly. "Sorry, Sir. Do you mind if I cut in? I think it's been too long since this lovely woman and I have danced."
The Doctor shakes his head. "Please." He smiles at her and it's sad and regretful. No, he's not a young man, she can see that now. He's always been older than her, she's never quite been able to catch up.
The response is automatic. "Goodbye, Doctor."
Cliff takes her hand and the Doctor turns to leave and it feels like the past has repeated itself all over again.
Come with me
To the sea
The sea of love.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 2,306 not including lyrics from "Sea of Love" by Cat Power
Download song: Sea of Love by Cat Power