Rose felt the beginnings of a migraine flare behind her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose while she counted down from ten.

three, two, one.

"Did you tell Tony the Virgin Mary was artificially inseminated?"

The Doctor froze, a steaming cup of tea halfway to his lips, and lifted his eyes slowly to meet hers. "Pardon?"

Narrowing her eyes, Rose stepped forward and snatched the latest article on the fluctuations of the gamma-ray background out of his other hand and ignored his indignant shout of protest. Hoping for a somewhat normal Christmas was a gamble, but it had never crossed her mind to worry about her six-year-old brother lecturing his Sunday school class – and explicitly at that – on just how a virgin birth could be possible. An unnerving surge of adrenaline crawled up her spine and begged to be released as she stared down at the Doctor. It did not help that his amusement at the situation lurked not-so-subtly behind his twinkling brown eyes, and her extremities begin to shake with the pent-up exasperation coursing through her body. Arrogant git.

"Rose—"

She closed her eyes and clenched her teeth. "He told Mrs. Rutherford and fifteen other children that Mary could not have become pregnant without someone there to shoot the necessary genetic material through her cervix with a turkey baster."

The amusement blinked out of his eyes with the shock of her revelation, and he at least had the decency to appear a bit mortified. His mouth opened and closed as he struggled with what to say, and Rose watched with hidden amusement when color flooded into his cheeks and then just as quickly disappeared as whatever he worked through in his mind turned a different direction. When nothing came to him he merely looked at her and shrugged his shoulders, taking a cautious sip of the hot tea without relinquishing eye contact with her.

She scowled. "Really? That's all I get? A shrug?"

"I don't know that there's really anything I can say to that other than I did not tell Tony that the Christ Child came into existence due to any assistance from kitchen equipment." He took another sip of his tea.

"Doctor—"

"Not my fault."

She stared at him, silently challenging him to choose his words carefully.

He lifted an eyebrow, unamused and unintimidated by her ire, and casually slouched back in the armchair. Cocking his head to the side, he unhurriedly crossed his ankle over his knee and silently returned her challenge, every so often bringing the tea to his lips.

Her scowl darkened a little more every time he did that.

He decided that she wore the anger beautifully and had no intention of being the first to give in.

Five minutes and thirty-six seconds passed in heated silence before he re-evaluated his commitment to winning and grew bored of the game. "Can I have my paper back?"

"No."

He rolled his eyes. "Why not?"

The image of a man with shorter hair, icy blue eyes, and a northern accent stabbed at her memory then and her eyes darkened. Seeing the affectations of the one she first loved break through the more genial shell of this him normally did enough to her heart to make her forget any frustrations and focus her attentions on other more agreeable sensitivities, but not this time. This time her little brother had used words like cervix and verbally desecrated a sacred religious belief all because an alien know-it-all chose to share too much with his impressionable young mind.

This time he wasn't getting out of it that easily.

She smiled then and casually observed her manicure. "Talk to me or talk to Mum."

He let out a growl of frustration then and raked his hand through his hair. Minx. She knew exactly what he would choose. Dealing with an angry Rose was one thing. An angry Jackie? No, thank you. He gingerly rubbed at his cheek imaging the slap that was sure to come his way after Jackie got back home with her overeager sharer. "Pete?"

She suppressed laughter at the hopeful tone in his voice. "Nope."

He glared a little when she popped her "p" in a sarcastic impersonation of his speech patterns, and Rose pretended not to notice. She also pretended to not notice the glare deepening when she filched his cooling cup of tea and took a long sip. Making a face, she returned the cup. Too much sugar.

Belligerently draining the remainder of the cup, he let it clatter down onto the saucer resting on the side table and stood. "Tony asked me earlier how a woman could have a baby without a dad. I simply relayed that there were methods available that made it possible. Whatever he attributed to the Christmas story is entirely due to his own imagination, the wonderings of which he did not give as the reason for his question." He stared at her pointedly. "So, again, not my fault."

Rose pursed her lips. "Explain it in detail, did you?"

"No, I did not."

"Turkey baster?"

He looked a little uncomfortable then and tugged at his ear. "Perhaps I could have been more cautious in my selection of imagery."

Rose snorted; he mumbled something about the lack of early education in humans.

"Cut it out, John."

His eyes widened slightly before turning to steel as heat rushed up his neck and into his face. John. That was it. He hated it when she used his human moniker. She knew he hated it. Usually when she did, it was her way of (not-so) subtly reminding him to get the emotions that ruled him a bit more strongly in this body under control.

Usually, it had the opposite effect.

Rose, ignoring the cold flint in his eyes by pretending to pay too much attention to a nonexistent chip in her nail polish, missed that he had left his chair until he was standing right there in front of her. Startled for just a moment, she suppressed her surprise and resumed her feigned nonchalance, looking up to meet his eyes. Dark, liquid metal bore into them when she did. She pressed her lips into a flat line, half to keep from laughing and half to resist the nervous swallow begging to be released. Maybe that was too far.

But instead of apologizing…

"Yes?"

He clenched his jaw. "Say my name."

"John Noble."

"Rose," he warned, his voice lowering dangerously.

"Smith."

He wondered if he had drawn blood yet with the way his fingernails stabbed into his palms.

"You know exactly—"

"Theta Sigma, Johann Schmidt, Donna?"

Another glare.

She paused, grinning at him like the Cheshire Cat, her white teeth glistening in the reflected light of the tree as the skies outside darkened with the falling night. "Oncoming Storm?"

She saw the flush in his cheeks spread downward to his chest through the open collar of his shirt, and her breath hitched as he moved closer, wrapping an arm securely around her lower back.

"Getting closer."

Rose closed her eyes and swallowed, her muscles slackening as he pulled her flush against him. The silk of her shirt rustled softly against her skin where his fingers danced a lazy waltz across her back; the sensation of his teeth grazing behind her ear sending shivers over her skin.

Oh, he wasn't playing fair anymore.

"Rooose." He dragged out her name, curling his voice sensually around the sound of it, his lips firmly pressed to her ear.

She swallowed again, her tongue darting out to moisten her suddenly dry lips. How did she end up on the losing side of this game? Her baser instincts begged her to just say his name and end the sweet torture. Experience told her to drag it out more so he'd make her scream that name later. Somewhere, the child that still lived within her said win this. With resolve she did not know she could muster under the circumstances, she tamped back her need and leaned back to look at him. A cheeky smile spread slowly lifted her cheeks.

"Who?"

Game point.

He dropped his arms from around her with a frustrated growl and spun away from her. "Really, Rose?"

She laughed, the lilting sound bubbling up as soft snickers at first and then turning into an uproarious guffaw when he pursed his lips with one eyebrow raised so high it was apt to disappear right off his face.

Just so completely the Doctor.

When his foot began a tetchy tapping routine against the ground, releasing just that little bit of Donna hidden under the surface, she laughed so hard that tears rolled soundlessly down her cheeks.

The Doctor reddened vibrantly then, knowing exactly what had set her off like that. "Two-way biological metacrisis."

Rose looked at him standing there with arms crossed petulantly across his chest, and her laughter lowered to a chuckle. Smiling brilliantly, her eyes still wet from her amusement she said one more name.

It was not the name he expected. When the foreign, melodic name that she had struggled for so long to learn how to pronounce spilled from her lips, his irritation vanished in an instant. A slow-spreading warmth crept up his spine before its soothing touched washed over his shoulders and swam through the rest of him. He smiled softly. "That's cheating."

She said it again.

He said her name as a warning then, a different kind of darkness entering his eyes as he stepped closer. Never before had he quite understood it when humans prattled on about the magic of Christmas. But the sight of Rose standing there, hands clasped coyly behind her back, the glow from the tree framing her body, and that tongue-touched smile grinning back at him…

...okay, he kinda got it now.

She was quietly singing carols under her breath when he wrapped his arms around her, that smile still on her face.

Gently cupping her jaw, he leaned down until his lips were just a breath away from hers. "Say it again."

Rose's eyes fluttered shut. His fingers stroked down her spine while those on her jaw reached up to brush her temple. A single heart hammered in rhythm with her own. She inhaled sharply under his touch, and the subtle scent of tannins and honey from the tea he had been drinking mixed in with the balsamic aroma of the Christmas tree saturated her senses. It was thrilling – the combination of the smell that was uniquely him coupled with the sensations his hand provided. The need to touch – to be touched by him – left her breathless. She ran her hands up over his chest, their journey pausing for just a second over the steadily increasing rhythm beating there and whispered the ancient syllables only known to her.

His lips seared into hers. Rose sighed, winding her hands into his hair as she sank into his touch. No matter how long she was with him, how many kisses they shared – every time her need for him burned through her, a raging fire that could never be quenched. Electricity lit through her body, completely and wholly surrounded by him. She gasped when his hands circled her under her bum and hitched her up, and he took advantage of the reaction to deepen the kiss.

His tongue touched hers, and Rose moaned, biting down on his lower lip as she circled her legs tightly around his waist. The sound of glass shattering on the ground as he walked her not-quite-carefully past the tree to press her into the wall was ignored, and if her body collided a little too harshly with the plaster, she did not notice.

She did notice the firm pressure of him pressing up against her as his mouth slid to her neck, his teeth seizing her ear before laving the sensitive spot behind it. Her hands found their way to his shoulders, squeezing tightly as he continued his torture along her neck. He bit down at the junction of her neck and shoulder just hard enough to send electricity through every nerve ending she had, and her nails reflexively dug into his back.

He hissed into her neck, the sound both pleasure and pain, before dragging his mouth back up to hers.

"Would you prefer a baster or just a good, old-fashioned room?"

Jackie. A still unhappy-that-her-baby-boy-said-what-he-did Jackie.

Rose froze and felt the blood rush though her cheeks. She had been caught in less-than-favorable positions by her mum in the past, but up against the wall in the living room of this enormous house, her skirt starting to inch up with a previously sexually repressed nine-hundred-year-old alien situated between her legs? Her mind quickly flashed back to the first week she and the Doctor had been reunited.

Okay, so it could have been much worse.

The Doctor, on the other hand, had no such experience in these things and yelped like a kicked dog as he tried to jerk back from Rose. Mid-jerk, he realized he could not really get away with her attached as she was, and his eyes widened as his balance toppled and they fell together through the end branches on the Christmas tree. The sound of more shattering glass accompanied the dull thud of their bodies hitting the ground. His head cracked against the floor as the force of Rose's body falling on his knocked the wind out of him, and he could have sworn he didn't just see stars but had whole constellations swimming through his eyes.

Right in the middle of the Pleiades stood an upside down, unhappy Jackie Tyler with a wary Tony at her side. The disembodied sound of Pete laughing carried in from another room.

Brilliant.

"Hello, Jackie." He tried to prop himself up on his elbows, groaning as he did. Reaching forward, he braced Rose as she tried to sit up as well. "Home so soon?"

"Obviously not soon enough." The woman glared down at the busted pair. She made a wild circling motion above Tony's head so the child would not see her pointing to him. "What were you two thinking?"

The Doctor just threw and arm over his face, falling back down to the ground, and refused to look at her. Rose mumbled some jumbled nonsense about no one was home and universe hopping rights.

"No," Jackie growled, pointing her finger at the pair. "You don't get to use the universe excuse. I don't care if there were four universes between you two. You still go to a room." Her eyes settled on the broken glass. "And look at the tree!"

Stepping over the tumbled pair, she began picking up the many shards littering the ground.

"Mum," Tony's voice whispered. He was still starting wide-eyed at the Doctor and Rose. "I don't think they need a baster."

The Doctor made a choking sound; Rose hid her face in his chest.

Jackie, one hand full of broken glass, reached over and pulled the Doctor's arm off his face, giving him a hard stare. "Guess who's going to straighten out that one?"

She did not wait for his answer. Snatching Tony by his hand, she dragged the child from the room as he continued asking uncomfortable questions, calling over her should that they needed to be ready and decent for dinner in half an hour.

Rose and the Doctor lay motionless on the ground, both a little beyond mortified by what had occurred.

"Can you move?"

The Doctor looked up at Rose's concerned face and smiled tightly as he shifted a bit on his elbows. Damn human genetics. He was going to be feeling this for a couple of days. "Might need a chiropractor tomorrow, but I think so."

Rose laughed. "Next time, Doctor, chalk it up to the stork, yeah?"