How It Is
The courtroom was filled with more than the usual amount of chatter while everyone awaited the jury’s verdict. Chatter annoyed him. The jury’s deliberation annoyed him. In truth, everything was annoying him that morning. He had poured over the depositions and various notes of the case, virtually every detail, well into the early morning hours. And yet, one clerk’s careless misstep almost brought his certain victory crumbling down around his feet. The defense attorney, Jack Harkness, had practically pounced on the oversight and nearly swayed the jury in his favor with his smooth talk and charming finesse. It sickened him, in a way, to witness it. But then his turn to speak came, and he stood with an air of unshakeable confidence and purpose. He had then systematically broken down the key aspects of the defense’s case, masterfully wielding his piercing words and brilliant reasoning ability. He could practically see the former resolve of the jury break, and in that moment, he knew he had clenched a guilty verdict. It was times such as this that everyone could see why Ian Smith had the reputation as “The Destroyer.” And though he didn’t appreciate the moniker, it did describe him rather perfectly. He sat down self-assuredly and knowingly smirked—he could practically feel Jack squirm in his chair.
It was that assuredness that fueled his irritation when an hour and a half later, the jury still had not returned with his decided verdict. He looked through the various files in front of him, overviewing them for the umpteenth time—anything to keep his mind focused. He felt a presence approach him, but refused to acknowledge it. Instead, he maintained his eyes on the papers before him.
“Can we have a minute?” Jack asked quietly.
“No,” he said shortly, still refusing to look at him.
“Look, there’s still time to reconsider. It was—"
“I don’t plea bargain, and you know that. No special treatment.”
“He’s just a kid,” Jack said, a touch of pleading in his voice.
“Who attempted to sell company secrets for a profit; what about that makes you think I would be interested in taking it easy on him?” he growled as he finally looked up to face Jack with an icy glare.
Jack’s face hardened as he struggled to keep from shouting. “Because it’s his first offense? Because he’s an only child who’s the sole support for his ailing mother? Because he—"
“I’m done talking about this. I have more important things to do, and you have an appeal to work on,” he spat, snapping his head away from Jack and back to his previous activity.
Jack clenched and unclenched his fist, trying to contain his ire. He swiftly turned around and walked back to his client. Ian glanced over at them from the corner of his eye. He could make out Jack leaning towards the young man, whispering something to him. The expression on the young man’s face became troubled as Jack continued to speak, his eyes becoming almost fearful. Ian quickly turned his eyes forward again. It didn't matter that the defendant was barely nineteen—laws were laws, and he had broken them. Simple as that.
Forty minutes later, the jury returned a guilty verdict. Ian smiled inwardly at his triumph and quickly gathered his documents together, securing them in his briefcase. He stood and turned to exit the courtroom, but was immediately arrested by the sight of the young man and his mother saying their final goodbyes. She was a small woman, chestnut hair streaked with gray, and darkened circles under her eyes that makeup failed to effectively cover. She shakily lifted her hand and cupped the young man’s cheek. Unshed tears shined in her eyes as she made an obvious attempt to be strong for her son, though it was painfully clear she was in a physically frail state. For a moment, Ian felt an emotion build within him; some would call it guilt, others would call it pity, but Ian called it irrelevant and crushed it before it could gain momentum. Steeling his resolve and tightening his jaw, he sailed past them and into the congested hall, not giving them another thought.
“Ian!” Jack called out over the mass of noises flooding the hallway.
He continued walking, having absolutely no desire to engage in a conversation with anyone, least of all Jack. But Jack was relentless, and pursued him. He quickly got ahead of him and put his hand out, stopping Ian midstride.
“What was that in there?” Jack demanded sharply, his eyes brimming and his jaw clenched in carefully restrained anger.
Ian met his expression with an icy one of his own. “That was me putting away a criminal,” he said and attempted to sidestep him.
Jack moved into his path. “Oh, come off it! That was just cruel and you know it. Granted, the kid broke the law and he deserved to be punished; but he did not deserve to have you crush him like that!”
“I did my job, Jack. Just because you couldn’t turn the jury with your sob story, doesn’t mean you can take it out on me. So, if you’ll excuse me…”
Jack remained undeterred. “This has nothing to do with winning or losing. This is about you showing zero compassion for a nineteen year-old kid who was only trying to pay for his mother’s medical treatment! Remember compassion? It’s that thing that shows you have a heart and care about people. It’s something you used to have. God, if Dad could see you now, he’d—"
Ian’s eyes flashed with rage. “Don’t you dare try to guilt me, Jack,” he snapped, cutting him off. “I’m well aware what kind of man my father was, and that has nothing to do with what happened in there today.”
“Our father would be ashamed of who you’ve become, especially considering what kind of man you used to be. I know I am,” Jack said, unable to hide the disappointment in his voice.
Ian stiffened as the words struck him. “Well,” he sniffed, “it’s lucky for me that I don’t care what you think.” With that, he quickly moved to the side and resumed walking away.
This time, Jack made no attempt to stop him. He just simply watched as the shadow of a man he once knew finally disappeared within the crowd.
“He’s a git.”
“Yes, he is,” Rose said absentmindedly, the tip of her tongue poking between her teeth in concentration as she delicately carved intricate leaves on the fondant before her.
“A stupid, stupid git.”
“Yep,” Rose agreed.
“But a bloody gorgeous git…”
“Donna, he sweet talked his way into your good graces just so he could swipe your recipes and give ‘em to that cow, Emme Racnoss, for her new restaurant…and she turned out to be his fiancé,” Rose countered, finally putting down her sculpting knife and facing her friend. “So I don’t care if he makes Ryan Gosling look like a steaming pile of dung—Lance Bennet is a cad and bloody wanker and I’m not gonna let you waste any more time pining over ‘im.” she said decidedly. Though her tone of voice was firm and somewhat direct, her eyes were affectionately warm with concern.
Rose Tyler was fiercely protective of those close to her, and Donna Noble was one of the closest. Friends since childhood, Rose and Donna were nearly inseparable and unswervingly loyal to each other. God help anyone who decided to cross one of them.
Donna sat on the empty prep table, gently swaying her legs back in forth as she mulled over Rose’s words. “Maybe he’s not that gorgeous…”
“No, he’s not,” Rose said, shaking her head as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“And he was kind of annoying.”
Rose grinned, encouraging the Lance bashing. “Absolutely grating. Like nails on a blackboard.”
Donna slid off the table, her face now tightening with anger. “And he always brought me the wrong coffee!”
“Bloody prat,” Rose giggled.
“That’s it,” Donna said, grabbing her keys. “I’m gonna over to that scummy little café and givin’ ‘im a piece of my mind,” she said determinedly.
“No, no, no…that’s not necessary,” Rose assured her, rushing up to her and grabbing her arm, halting Donna’s hasty departure.
Donna turned on her heel, her expression a mixture of confusion and annoyance. “Why not? Ya just stood there and trashed him, and now ya just wanna let it go?”
“It’s not necessary because I already took care of it,” Rose said, letting go of Donna’s arm and returning to her etching.
Donna’s mouth opened and closed a few times. “What do ya mean you took care of it? What’d ya do?”
“I mean, I took care of it,” Rose said, softly shrugging her shoulders yet never breaking her focus from her work.
“Yeah, I heard you, but that’s not what I asked…,” Donna said, tossing her keys onto the table and approaching Rose.
Rose remained silent and picked up one of the small brushes, switching from etching to color.
Donna put her hands on Rose’s table and leaned forward. “What did you do?” she asked pointedly, a slow smirk emerging.
Rose looked up at her, her brush in midair, and broke out in a broad grin. “I, uh, might’ve flooded his petrol tin with water.”
Donna’s face hardened, her eyes narrowing into thin slits. “Rose Marion Tyler, I can’t believe you!”
“What?!” Rose squawked, surprised at Donna’s reaction.
“I can’t believe you did that and didn’t include me!” she huffed, crossing her arms. “The two of us together could’ve really done a number on ‘im.”
Rose chortled at her; that sounded more like the Donna she knew and loved. “Yeah, and we probably would’ve landed in jail; and I don’t know ‘bout you, but I don’t want that to happen…again.”
“That was six years ago and we were only in there five hours,” Donna scoffed, blowing off the memory as nothing.
“Five and a half,” Rose corrected.
“Whatever,” Donna said, rolling her eyes.
“Don’t you need to head back? It’s almost 11:30,” Rose inquired, looking from the time on her phone then to Donna.
“Oh wizard!” Donna growled. “I didn’t expect to stay this long,” she said, hurriedly grabbing her purse and snatching her keys off the table. “I’ve got two newbies starting today, so there’s a good chance I’ll call you screaming at some point this afternoon.”
“Gotcha; looking forward to it,” Rose said, wiping her hands on her sugar stained apron, before hugging Donna goodbye.
“See ya later,” Donna called out as she hastily exited the bakery.
Rose wiped her forehead with the back of her arm as she loaded the last box into the back of her car. Normally she would use the delivery van, but this order was small enough it didn't warrant using it. Every Friday, Rose had a standing order of assorted pastries and breads to be delivered to Jones, Matheson, & Harkness—a prominent law firm in London. By the time she navigated through the noon traffic, she was about fifteen minutes later than her usual delivery time. Rose muttered under her breath, chastising herself for her tardiness. Though she had a good rapport with two of the main partners, Rose didn’t want to do anything that could jeopardize her business with them. Rose loaded the boxes into two carriers and entered the building.
The lift doors opened onto the twelfth floor, and Rose stepped out and hustled towards the employee lounge. To her relief, no one seemed to notice that was late. She quickly laid out the spread on the table along the far back wall. She carefully positioned the baked goods in such a way to make them aesthetically pleasing—the spread consisting of a variety of muffins, bear claws, chocolate croissants, sweet buns, and other delectable treats. Finally satisfied with her presentation, Rose quickly gathered her carriers and headed back towards the lift.
As she was walking, she passed by an open office door and the sight of Jack Harkness caught her attention. Immediately, she stopped and backtracked to his door. He was one of the partners she was rather friendly with, and the expression on his face tugged at her heart. His eyes were fixed straight ahead, but it was clear he wasn’t looking at anything specific. He was somewhere far away, lost in thoughts that were clearly troubling. She walked up to the open door and rapped her knuckles on it. The unexpected sound startled him, and his head snapped towards her.
“Sorry. I was just dropping off the usual and was walking by…thought I’d say hello,” Rose said softly.
Jack gave her a weak yet genuine smile. “Thanks, Rose,” he said before falling silent once again.
Though they weren’t really what could be considered good friends, Rose cared and knew enough about Jack to know that something was seriously troubling him, and it worried her to see the normally upbeat and charismatic man so distraught. She took a few more steps forward, stopping before she reached the edge of the door.
“Y’okay?” she asked softly, her voice infused with concern.
Jack looked up at her, and Rose could see a multitude of emotions race behind his eyes. She suddenly felt uncomfortable at her intrusion. She took a step back and quickly tried to backtrack.
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to be nosy. Just thought-..."
“No, no…it’s fine. ‘S just…just been a rough day,” he assured her rather solemnly. He stood up and walked over to her, giving her a quick side hug. “’Preciate you asking though. I’m gonna go grab a Pecan Braid before Frank finds out you were here. Talk to ya later, Rose,” he said with a small smile and heading towards the lounge.
“Later, Jack,” Rose said warmly, her concern remaining strong as she watched him walk away. She turned and continued towards the lift. She had just pressed the Down button, when her mobile started to ring. She reached and pulled it out of her back pocket. As promised, Donna was calling. Grinning, Rose hit Accept.
“So, how bad is it?” she asked knowingly, stepping into the empty lift and pressing Ground.
“It’s a bleedin’ train wreck. One of the newbies called thirty minutes ago and said that it was, quote, ‘too stressful’…today was gonna be their first day! They hadn’t even bloody worked yet! Then, the other one is so lost in the whirlwind of chaos we’ve got goin’ on, that I think she’s cried at least twice in the loo. I went over to the bakery to get you but you’d already gone—I assumed on a run. And I know you’ve got your own stuff to do, but please get over here before I go on a bloody rampage—and I mean that literally.”
Rose gave a quiet chuckle. “I’ll be there in ten, ‘kay?”
“I don’t care, just get here!” Donna pleaded before she abruptly ended the call.
Rose just rolled her eyes good-naturedly and pocketed her mobile.
After his verbal tiff with Jack, Ian went straight directly to his office and settled behind his cluttered desk, full intending to review his caseload. However, the events of the morning continued to weigh upon him. Jack’s words combined with the image of the frail mother and her child continued to poke and prod at his mind, preventing him from focusing on anything for long. Then there was the constant barrage of calls, all of which insisted it that it was imperative he speak with them. He’d become quite adept over the past five years at burying unnecessary emotion, but today…for some reason, today was a challenge. Putting a few essentials into his briefcase, he left his office, wordlessly passed his receptionist, and headed out.
Rendezvous was a quaint eatery not far from his office, and Ian was quite impressed with its savory cuisine, resulting in him regularly frequenting it. Normally, he would promptly order, eat, and leave, barely allowing himself time to enjoy his mean let alone the appealing atmosphere. But today, Ian was in need of the patrons’ idle chatter to divert his thoughts.
It was busier than usual when he arrived. Even so, he was quickly seated and given a menu which he halfheartedly looked through, already decided on one of his usuals. A young man came by and quietly filled his water glass. Ian pulled out a case file and began peering through it, aimlessly sipping on his water as he did so. A few minutes passed by before a figure approached his table. He looked up and his eyes locked with those of a young blonde, dressed in jeans and a white button down, her hair piled on top of her head in a messy bun, and beaming at him. He’d been eating there for months and was familiar with the wait staff, and he was certain she was not one of them. He immediately stiffened at the thought of being approached needlessly by a stranger, but then her smile caught him off guard, so warm and genuine.
Quickly collecting himself, his gaze hardened slightly. “Can I help you?” he asked in a clipped tone.
“I think that’s my line,” she softly chuckled, surprisingly not put off by his manner. “I’ll be taking care of ya this afternoon. M’ name’s Rose. So what can I get ya?” she asked, her smile remaining brilliant.
Ian felt himself fidget under that smile and turned his attention to the menu, forgetting that he’d decided earlier what to order.
“Do ya need a mo’? Coz I can give you a few,” she said as she motioned to go.
“No,” he said quickly, causing her eyebrow to slightly rise. “No, I’m ready. I’ll have the gnocchi and the Wild Harvest salad—and absolutely no pears. That’s it,” he said and unceremoniously handed her his menu.
Rose’s lips twitched as she tried to squelch the frown that threatened to surface. She reached forward and took the menu. “I’ll have it out to ya soon. Need anythin’ before I go?”
Ian looked at her a moment before promptly casting his gaze downward and shaking his head ‘no’ without further addressing her. Giving him another but unseen smile, she turned and went to the kitchen with Ian watching her out of the corner of his eye.
Rose tacked the ticket in front of Donna, who was midway through chopping celery. She had barely taken three steps before Donna let out a ridiculously loud groan. Rose turned around and looked at her, furrowing her eyebrows in confusion.
“What? I forget something’?”
“No, it’s the ‘no pears’…I know that bloke; he’s a regular,” she grumbled.
“And that’s a bad thing?” Rose questioned.
“He’s just a snappy prat. Always brooding and whatnot. He’s just-..."
“Rude?” Rose finished.
Donna turned back to face Rose, knife still in hand. “Did he say somethin’ to you? Because-..."
“Donna, put the knife down,” Rose said, putting her hand on Donna’s arm and lowering the knife. “He’s fine. He’s just a bit moody is all. No need to go butcher ‘im.”
Donna turned back to the celery, muttering under her breath as she resumed her chopping. Rose stepped just outside the kitchen doors and tried to discretely observe the man. Yes, he’d been a tad rude; but there was something about him that struck Rose. When their eyes had met, she had seen something—unfathomable sadness. His dark eyes held so much weight and turmoil that it almost pained her to continue looking at him. Watching him now, she could see he was so absorbed in whatever those papers before him were. It didn’t strike her that he was a “workaholic” so to speak. Rather, it was almost as if he was trying to bury himself away from everything and everyone. Her observations didn’t really have any solid basis—they were purely based on her feelings. Feeling that she was swiftly entering into creeper territory if she watched him any longer, Rose returned to the kitchen.
Ian had caught her out of the side of his eye watching him. Not that he had been consciously watching for her...not really. He’d been struck by her smile when he first saw her. But then his eyes had flitted upwards and met hers and that was when he felt the faintest stirring within him. He could almost physically feel the warmth from them, the kindness, the sincerity…it was nearly intoxicating. Ian tried not to look at her when she brought his food, but he felt it was beyond his control. His eyes briefly locked with hers as she placed the plate before him. Before he forced himself to look away, he noticed a faint streak of white powder across her forehead, framed by stray golden strands of hair.
Ian began to fiercely deride himself for all the abnormal thoughts and feelings that had assaulted him that day. He couldn’t afford to allow himself become an emotional soft spot. He’d allowed himself to be influenced by emotion before and because of that…... He stopped himself before those thoughts took him to a place he did not want to revisit.
He continued to sit there and review his files long after he’d finished his meal and his dishes had been cleared. Every so often, his eyes wandered around the room—just to see how alone he was, of course. On one such wander, he noticed Rose walking towards the entrance, her hair now flowing loosely between her shoulder blades. She was joined with a redheaded woman, the two of them animatedly chatting. They stopped just short of the door and hugged tightly. As Rose exited, he overheard the redhead say “thanks again,” and he found himself wondering if he would ever see her again—a thought that incited him to another round of self-derision. Once again, he forced himself to focus on his work.
It couldn’t have been more than ten minutes before a figure placed something on his table. It was a small red box with a golden wolf embossed on its top. He immediately looked from it to the person who brought it and was surprised to see that it was the woman from earlier. She was smiling at him again, her warm brown eyes fixated on him. He continued to wordlessly stare at her.
“Hello,” she said softly.
“What’s this?” he asked bluntly, pointing to the box with his pen.
“’S for you,” she said as if he should have realized it himself.
He narrowed his eyes at her vagueness. “Yes, but what is it?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Open it later and you'll find out. Well...see ya ‘round.” And with that, she turned and left again.
He stared after her till she passed through the door before looking back to the box. Dropping his pen, he moved the box close to him. Opening it, he saw a cupcake—golden yellow cake with smooth whipped frosting, crystalized sugar and caramelized banana slice resting on top. On the inside of the box was written “Smile” and signed with her name. He looked at it as if it was some alien relic. He wasn’t sure what to do with it.
Most people would just eat it said a snarky voice from within.
He picked up the cupcake and hesitantly took a bite. His taste buds were instantly struck with the melding flavors of moist golden vanilla cake, banana, cream and sugar. It was quite literally the most delectable thing he’d ever eaten, further proved by the fact he finished it in three bites. Though he immensely enjoyed it, he wasn’t sure what to make of the impromptu gift. He decided to do what felt natural and therefore, he shoved it aside from any further consideration. After a few more minutes, he gathered his belongings, including the small red box, and headed to his flat.
It was 10:30 P.M. and he was on his third glass of Lagavulin. He sat down on the edge of his bed and scrubbed his face, releasing a long haggard breath. The whole day had thrown him for a loop and he was overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions he could normally keep at bay. He looked at his nightstand where he had placed the small red box from earlier. Instantly, images of Rose, her brilliant smile and shining eyes, appeared before him. He scrubbed his face again, his attempt at erasing the image of her from his mind. Downing the rest of his drink, he turned off the lamp and settled into bed.
Sunlight peeked through the curtains and caused Ian to stir slightly. A persistent sound broke through the early morning quiet. He rolled over to silence the alarm only to find there was none. The sound persisted and, as his senses began to sharpen, he realized that the sound wasn’t an alarm—it was crying. A child crying. His eyes shot open as he laid on his back, frozen in confusion. He felt movement next to him.
“It’s your turn to get her,” mumbled a sleepy female voice.
Ian bolted upright in bed and looked beside him in a panic. A woman was lying next to him, blonde hair covering her face. He frantically stumbled out of bed and was immediately hit with the realization that he was not in his flat. The child continued to cry causing the woman to stir. She propped herself up on her elbow and pulled her hair back from her face. When he saw her, his jaw dropped open in shock.
It was Rose.
The sunlight reflected off of something on her hand and he realized she was wearing a ring. He scrubbed his face and felt a cool metal touch his skin. He jerked his hands away from his face as if he had been burned. He looked at them and saw a gold band on his left hand. He continued to stare at it in fear and bafflement.
“Ian?” Rose worriedly called to him.
He stumbled back a few steps as he felt the room start to spin. Despite everything flooding over him, one question continued to reverberate.