The man was looking at Jackie with confusion. “Pete, I’m afraid that I don’t understand. Your wife was Cyberized last year.”
“She very nearly was, yes,” Pete gently ‘corrected’ him. He inhaled deeply, steadying himself, preparing for the largest lie he’d ever told. “I can assure you, it’s been frightening for the both of us. To see your wife…” his voice broke at the memory of the screams as the original Jackie of his world had been converted into a Cyberman. “Truth be told, I don’t know what I’d do without her,” he squeezed Jackie’s hand.
“Pete,” the man began. “I don’t want to rain on your parade, I don’t think… Just,” he paused. “Tread carefully. That must have been a traumatic experience, I’m certain, but I’m worried that this will only be a short-term reconciliation. I know that you both have been having problems recently and –”
“And we have both recognized that we don’t want to live without each other,” Pete interrupted firmly. “Martin, you honestly haven’t a clue as to what my marriage to Jackie wa- is truly like. You’re not even married yourself.”
“No,” Martin agreed, “I’m not.”
“I love Jackie,” Pete continued. “We had some friction in our relationship for the past couple of years,” Martin raised his brow sceptically, “but I think that we’re better for it.”
“Pete, I don’t understand. You expect me to believe that Mrs. Tyler has undergone a complete personality change-”
“Which several psychologists, whom I daresay are more qualified that a businessman, have diagnosed as a symptom of PTSD, of which my wife rightly suffers from.” Pete scowled.
“And it doesn’t really mattered what happened, does it, when the only thing that matters is that Jackie and I are reconciled and we’re bringing our daughter home. She’s been away her entire life, at various boarding schools. Only the best for the Vitex heiress, you understand (Jackie’s words, not mine).”
“Your daughter?” Martin said in disbelief. “Not only has your wife become a different person, but now you have a daughter?”
“She’s twenty. Never been home once. We felt that it would be best-”
“Pete, I’ve been your best friend since we were kids! And now you’re telling me that you have a twenty-year old daughter whom I’ve never met?” Martin searched Pete’s face, throwing his hands in the air as he slowly concluded that the other man was telling the truth.
“Martin,” Pete was at a loss. “I expect you to believe it because they’re my family. And now I have a second chance to make it right. I love her.” God, he loved her. He’d lost one Jackie Tyler, long before there had been any Cybermen. “I mean, how often do you get a second chance like this?” The answer was, of course, never. Except he had gotten it. “And I’m telling you, and anyone else who has something to say about it, that we’re taking advantage of this. We’re happy.” He was happy. Happier than he’d been in twenty years.
“You know what?” Jackie finally spoke up, her eyes glinting with pent-up frustration. “I don’t think that I care much for what you think. Martin, was it? I might not have had a relationship with my husband for the past twenty years, but I love him and if you don’t like it you can sod right off, then.”
Martin looked as though there were several things that he wanted to say.
“I wouldn’t say anything, ‘mate’,” Pete advised him. “She might finally be happy with me, but she’s still Jackie Tyler.”
Martin looked from Jackie back to Pete. “I suppose I’ll let you be, then. Let me just repeat what I told you twenty years ago. You’re the one who’s got to live with her, mate.”
Pete barely refrained from rolling his eyes. “Yes I do,” he stroked his not-quite-his-wife’s thumb. “Matter of fact, I was planning on doing this a bit later but since you’ve sort of brought it up.”
“Jacqueline. Andrea. Suzette,” his voice strengthened as he mentally counted off each of her names, “Tyler.”
“What are you up to, now?” Jackie asked, bemused.
“I’m getting it right this time.” Pete slowly knelt to the floor. “Jaqs, I married you once in 1986. I thought that I’d lost you forever, but then that Doctor showed up and you were there and we had this new opportunity to be together.”
Jackie pressed her hands to her mouth, already knowing what Pete was going to say next. Her eyes widened as he pulled a ring box from his pocket.
“I already managed to say your full name, which was a feat in itself. Jaqs,” Pete felt himself at a loss for words. He opened the box to reveal the sparkling ring inside. “We’re different people now. What do you say we give it another try?”
Jackie swiped hurriedly at her eyes, holding out her left hand. “Oh, Pete,” she gasped, letting the tears fall as he slid the ring on to her finger.
“Is that a yes, then?” Pete laughed shakily, already guessing that it was as Jackie latched on to him.
As Martin watched his best friend propose to his wife, he knew that this was not the same Jackie Tyler whom he had know for years. Perhaps Pete was right.
“I suppose that this calls for a toast,” he opened the cupboard, knowing exactly where Pete kept the good stuff. He pulled out a bottle of French champagne, popping the cork.
Once there were three small glasses poured, he lifted his in a toast. “To new beginnings. Let me be the first to wish you happiness in your renewal of your marriage,” he shrugged, awkwardly stringing the phrase along as he came up with something to say before the moment was over.
“I’ll drink to that,” Pete said, smiling, kissing his wife once more.