Disclaimer: I wish I owned a dating agency but not as much as I'd love to own these characters. A few dibs in the Channel 4 programme wouldn't be sniffed at either...
A/N: written and posted especially for blackbetsirose's birthday. Happy birthday my wonderful friend!


First Dates

.

"Hello Mum, I'm home!" Donna called out as the front door swung open and she extracted her key from the lock.

"Is that you, Donna?" a distant voice called out.

"No, it's the tooth fairy," she sarcastically replied. "Who did you think it was?"

"Trust you to turn up just as I've put on the dinner," Sylvia griped as she appeared in the kitchen doorway, drying her hands on a tea towel. "Will you be staying long enough to eat with us?"

"Only if you're offering. We're starving, and I promised the Doctor you'd rustle up a decent meal."

"Good evening, Mrs Noble," the Doctor cordially greeted her; following Donna's silent order to remove his overcoat.

"Yes, well," Sylvia huffed. "I suppose I could find something, if I look hard enough."

"Don't put yourself out on our account, Mrs Noble," he politely added.

"It's no problem," Sylvia commented, turning to return to the kitchen and for them to follow her. "And it's 'Sylvia'. I've told you that before. Makes me feel like you're on official business if you call me 'Mrs Noble'."

"Oh, he's official alright," Donna teased, and gained the exasperated look from him she had anticipated. "Anyway. What's new?"

"Nothing much," Sylvia admitted, heading to put the kettle on for a fresh cup of tea. "Your grandfather is still sneaking those pork pies of his that he loves. Wrappers all over the back seat of the car, I tell you. And he's been trying to sign me up with some dating agency."

"Really?!" Donna exclaimed in surprise. She collected the bottle of milk from the fridge to help her mother. "Did you join?"

"Of course not!" Sylvia chided, bustling about. "What do I need a new man in my life for? All they want to do is put their feet under your table and make you wait on them. Present company excepted, Doctor," she aimed the last bit in his direction as a token apology.

"Glad to hear it," he noted, moving around the coasters on the kitchen table to gain an optimum accessibility pattern. Having decided he had chosen correctly, he lifted his head to ask, "But wouldn't it be nice to have a bit of company?"

Sylvia carefully put the mugs of tea she was now carrying down onto their assigned coasters. "No, I'm passed wanting all that business at my age." Gesturing at them to join her sitting at the table, she continued, "It's a younger person's game. That's why I signed up Donna instead."

Donna was stunned. "What! What did you say?"

"She said she's signed you up instead," the Doctor rephrased.

"Yes, I heard that bit, you prawn!" Donna bit out. "What I want to know is why."

"Well, you…."

"Not from you," she interrupted him. "From her!" A digit was thrust in the direction of Donna's mother.

Sylvia merely shrugged and took a sip of her cooling tea. "You need a man more permanently in your life," she defended her action.

"I've got a man. I've got him!"

"I don't mean like that," Sylvia dismissed her daughter's words. "I mean a proper man. You won't want to be travelling with the Doctor forever. There are other things you'd need beyond friendship."

"Are you saying I can't offer more?" the Doctor demanded to know.

"Are you saying that you actually are offering more than friendship?" Sylvia commanded in return.

"No," he quietly admitted.

"Thought so," she triumphantly retorted. "That's why a couple of dates have been arranged. The first one is next week. I was going to phone you later to let you know, Donna."

"Thanks Mum," she said without any trace of gratitude.

~o0o~

"Why are you letting her do this to you?" the Doctor asked Donna later in the TARDIS; clearly puzzled why she was getting ready for a date.

"Because it is the only way to shut her up," she answered, stomping away from him. "If I don't do this I'll never hear the end of it."

He held his hands up in protest. "But it's your life, Donna."

"Tell me about it. Just twiddle the knobs on the console and take me there," she requested.

"I do not twiddle," he grumbled, but his hands were already rotating a dial to aid their flight.

~o0o~

Evidently all the dates arranged through this particular agency took place at the same restaurant. That way the agency could ensure a nice, safe, supportive environment for unaccompanied revellers late at night.

The Doctor had escorted Donna to the door of the restaurant. Of course he tried to pass it off as a moment of chivalry when in fact she knew he was desperately nosy about her potential date.

"How will you know which one is him?" he wondered, peering in through the glass.

"He'll be carrying a flower in a book. Apparently," Donna answered, casting her gaze over the patrons as well. "That's the signal this agency uses for their clients. With any luck he'll have a dandelion tucked up in the copy of the Beano annual and I can be home in time for the ten o'clock news."

He coughed and pointed towards the bar where a man stood with his back to them. "That might be him."

"Wish me luck," she begged, gaining a brief hug. She then smoothed down her dress, grasped her book a little harder, and strode into the restaurant.

The man at the bar turned a wide grin on her as she got nearer. "Are you Donna? I'm Jim," he greeted her.

She took his offered hand and shook it. "Nice to meet you, Jim."

He didn't seem too bad. A little older than she had been anticipating but he had all his own hair and no false teeth.

"What can I get you to drink?" he asked, pointing towards the bar.

The barman rustled up their drinks while Jim tried out his chat up lines on her. Okay, she might have been laughing more AT him rather than WITH him a few times, but she was enjoying herself and he was pleasant enough company.

Shame it all ended so soon. In hindsight, she should have anticipated the Doctor suddenly appearing at their table during dessert, waving his arms about like a lunatic.

"Quick, Donna, we have to leave!" he had insisted.

"Pardon," she had retorted. "What are you on about and why are you here?"

Exasperated, he restated, "We are needed elsewhere so you have to go."

"But where? In case you hadn't noticed, I'm on a date," she pointed out.

"Martha phoned saying we have to go there," he supplied. "Sorry, I didn't know you had other priorities," he pithily added.

"Sorry Jim, this is the Doctor, the idiot that I work with," she sort of introduced him. "He tends to be a little dramatic."

"Oi! I do not!" the Doctor denied; just as Jim attempt to politely greet him. So he stuck out a hand and shook Jim's. "Hello. Lovely to meet you. I'm the Doctor and Donna lives with me."

As Donna turned a beetroot red in embarrassment, Jim asked her, "Do you?"

"Well, sort of," she supplied. "We're more like housemates."

"Very good mates," the Doctor tacked on.

Now suitably mortified by the expression on Jim's face, Donna told him, "I'd better go. Lives to save, countries at risk, and friends to throttle. You know the sort of thing."

There was a yelp of pain about thirty seconds later from outside the restaurant when Donna slapped the Doctor; but it's best not to mention the incident again.

~o0o~

He got another one when Martha commented, "There was no hurry to get here. I only phoned to ask you both over for dinner and a quiet catch up."

"He made it sound like the end of the world was happening. Had me running and everything," Donna grumbled. "You try running in these…" She lifted up a foot wearing one of a pair of black stilettos. "It's hard enough for me to run as it is with these getting in the way." She then grasped her ample bosom through the material of her silk top.

Martha wanted to laugh at the dreamy expression on the Doctor's face as Donna did so. Was he aware how much he actually glanced in the direction of Donna's cleavage? Perhaps she ought to start a count and blackmail him with it? It would be sweet revenge after the pains he'd put her through in the last year or so.

"When's your next date arranged for?" she had asked Donna instead.

"Thursday night. They're more or less every other night," Donna supplied. "I've got three more lined up so far; and at the end of it all I get to choose the winner, as it were."

"Sounds possibly romantic," Martha tried to reason, "or at least a good laugh, with some decent food."

Donna nodded her agreement. "No doubt it was the thought of the food that had him come running in to interrupt me."

"I did no such thing," the Doctor denied. "But I'll admit the food in there was rather tempting."

"Perhaps you ought to try eating there yourself," Donna suggested.

"Perhaps I will," he agreed.

~o0o~

"When I suggested you trying the food out in here, I did NOT mean with you sitting at my table," Donna loudly complained.

"Then you should have stipulated that," the Doctor grouched in return. "It is inhuman of you to deny me sustenance like this."

She then turned to her date for the evening and apologised. "I am so sorry about this, Mick."

"Nick," the man in question corrected her. "Is he your brother?"

"Good grief no!" she exclaimed. "I'm not related to him at all. Not even by marriage."

"Then why is he eating off your plate?"

"Because it is tasty," the Doctor answered, taking a forkful to bite.

She smacked his wrist. "If you don't stop doing that right this second I shall withdraw your privileges," she warned. "No bedtime story, no Tubby toast for breakfast, and no bought jar of that special roddenberry or whatever it is jam you love so much."

"But Donna!" he whined. "You wouldn't be that cruel to me."

"Just watch me, mate. Now sit there quietly and behave yourself; I am trying to have a date here."

"Yes Donna," he meekly replied.

He smiled in gratitude when she scraped some of her dinner onto her butter plate for herself and then let him have the dinner plate with the lion's share of the meal.

Nick sat there watching all this feeling completely confused about what was going on. Especially when the Doctor then sat staring at him as he ate. "So, Donna," he attempted to have some conversation again. It had all rather stalled when the Doctor had turned up. "When you said that you take care of people I hadn't realised that you meant you were a permanent carer."

The stare from the Doctor went to an out and out glare that could kill at twenty paces.

"No, Nick," she carefully stated, "that is not my job and you have just insulted my best friend. He deserves more respect than that."

"It's very commendable that you think such a way about the disabled," Nick awkwardly complimented her.

She tried not to put her cutlery down in an angry way, she really did, but this Nick was proving to be a thorough berk. "Yes, it is," she tightly replied. "That's why I'm going to now take him home for a special treat. I think he's earned it."

"Okay," Nick forlornly murmured as Donna dragged the Doctor from his seat and headed for the door. "Will I see you again?"

"If you're lucky," she took great delight in saying as they left.

"What treat am I going to get?" the Doctor instantly asked once they were free of the restaurant.

"You get to be well away from that ponced up twit," Donna supplied.

He nodded his approval. "That is a very good treat to get. Carer indeed! I much prefer the term 'companion'."

"Funnily enough, so do I."

~o0o~

On the next date it was no surprise when the Doctor swanned in to inform her that there had been a smudge on the restaurant window, making him most concerned about the quality of the place.

"Actually," he whispered when her date disappeared to the toilets for a moment, leaving them alone at the table, "I was a little worried for your safety. Your date seems to be one of the dangerous type."

"Are you sure?" she wondered in disbelief. "Niall doesn't seem like that type at all. In fact, he's a bit weedy if anything."

"I know," he conspiratorially agreed. "But I've seen all the signs before."

Watching Niall return to his seat, Donna was still hard pushed to see him as a threat. He'd been nothing but sweetness and light so far; and rather good looking to boot. So the Doctor signalled that he would wander away for a few minutes and let the man show his true colours.

"Ah, alone at last," Niall sighed as the Doctor sauntered away. "While I've got the chance, I just wanted to know," he asked, leaning in far too close to her, "will this actually be going anywhere tonight? Like back to my place, if you know what I mean. I put clean sheets on the bed specially."

"Well, thanks," she gasped as the Doctor rejoined them, "but I'm afraid we have other plans. My toenails need cutting something chronic, and he needs…"

"…My ointment applied," the Doctor finished for her; causing her eyebrows to shoot up into her hairline. "Very catching if I don't sort it out."

"Extremely catching," Donna added. "Could prove to be fatal even, so we'd better go."

"Ew! Yes, do," Niall warily agreed. Yes, he was glad to well rid of this one and her weird friend.

~o0o~

The next one had Martha in fits of laughter when she found out about it.

"Your face!" she guffawed while the Doctor haughtily glared at her.

"This is not funny, Martha Jones!"

"But it is," she disagreed. "I'd have loved to have been there to hear Donna tell you off like that."

"Anyone would think I am not aware she is a big girl now," he huffed, "when I am only too aware of it. In some respects she is extremely big."

"You'd better not be implying that I'm the size of a house," Donna called out from the distant bathroom, "or I'll come and flatten you!"

"You certainly can't say that about your chest," he idly muttered before remembering Martha was still sitting next to him. "She's erm she's perfectly capable of looking after herself," he announced with a well-placed cough.

Martha giggled until Donna appeared back in the room. "So what was the real reason your date dumped you?" she asked her.

"His exact words were: I can't cope with your friend playing gooseberry," Donna revealed.

"Is that anything like playing cricket, because I might be rather good at it," he joked, causing all three of them to laugh.

~o0o~

He wasn't laughing so much during the next date Donna had when the man in question flat out refused to stay when the Doctor had appeared. He wouldn't have minded but the Doctor had gone to great lengths not to sit at the same table as them but had kept a discrete distance away.

"I don't understand what your problem is, Ben," Donna had complained.

"Sorry, I don't condone extra-marital affairs," Ben explained, holding up his hands to fend off some unseen attack, "so I'm off."

"What? We are not married."

"We are not a couple."

This mistaken marriage malarkey was getting beyond a joke now. But it still hurt the Doctor when Donna questioned, "Will I ever stop being taken as being married to you? Good grief. It's like a huge cosmic joke."

But she had a point, he had to admit.

~o0o~

The Doctor thought he'd got the pattern worked out now. He was sure the date failures had something to do with his timing. In particular, when he turned up at the restaurant to assess the merits of her potential life partner seemed to be crucial.

In light of that, he determined that, when the details of her next date was sent through to her, he would not only show up earlier than normal, he would be there from the very start. Donna hadn't been convinced at first; but after much arguing, cajoling and finally emotional blackmail, she had conceded defeat and allowed him to go with her to greet her date.

"Hello. I'm Donna and this is…."

She didn't get much further than that because her date had interrupted her introduction by stating, "Sorry, I don't do threesomes." And then he'd left.

To be honest, they'd both been too shocked to respond at first beyond the usual dance of denial; and they hadn't even been able to do that. The bloke had simply scarpered.

"Well, that went swimmingly. How wizard!" Donna had moaned.

"Do you fancy going elsewhere?" the Doctor had then offered. "Somewhere a little less… threesomey."

"Yes," she had instantly decided. "And if you are going to be mistaken for my husband by every Tom, Dick and Harry; you can pay."

"Yes dear," he deliberately mumbled.

~o0o~

"Doctor, you can't keep turning up unannounced at Donna's dates," Martha had testily informed him. "It isn't fair of you."

Fair?! What wasn't fair was the whole set up that was designed to take away his companion and leave him all on his own, again. In fact it was downright rude. It made him seethe. Not that he was going to tell her that.

"I merely vet her possible future life partners, Martha Jones," he had harshly replied. "It is not my fault that none of them are up to standard."

"Whose standard are you judging them by exactly?" Martha had then glared at him, causing Donna to laugh. "If I didn't know any better I would have said you are jealously guarding Donna for your own benefit."

"Honestly, my cooking isn't that good to even consider that," Donna had defended his actions. "He just means well. And I can't say I have been heartbroken about the men I've missed out on."

"So you don't think he wants you for himself?" Martha had queried. "You know, in a romantic way," she proposed, waggling her head denote her meaningful tease.

"Who him?" Donna sought to confirm with a vague wave of her thumb. "Nah! The universe may think we're a couple and intentionally rub that thought in our faces at every opportunity, but no, he'd never see me in that way. I'm sure of it."

"But...," Martha tried to reason.

"I said 'no'," Donna insisted, in a tone that brooked no argument.

So Martha shut up. For now. The smug smirk on the Doctor's face did him no favours either. He may have said one thing about being with someone when she was travelling with him, but his demeanour was completely different now that he had Donna as his companion. For a start, he had stopped moping about. And for another, Rose's name hadn't crossed his lips once. Had he finally moved on?

~o0o~

The next and penultimate one took the biscuit in trying Donna's patience though. I mean, when a person signs up with a dating agency you'd think they'd be sure what they'd asked for and what they'd be getting.

By now Donna was so used to the Doctor 'accidentally' turning up that she merely pointed to the nearest available seat and let him sit quietly; once she'd made her usual threat about what she would do if he tried to take over the conversation. Again.

"Hello. I'm Donna, this is my friend the Doctor, and you are…?" she had invited her date to introduce himself.

"I'm Paul," he proclaimed, squinting at them suspiciously. "So, which one of you two am I supposed to be having this blind date with?" he had aggressively asked.

"It was supposed to be me, but you can forget it now, Sunshine," Donna retorted.

"But I brought you flowers," Paul complained, holding up a straggly bunch of daffodils.

"The local council won't be pleased when they find out you've nicked them," Donna criticised. "Nor will the cemetery."

Paul slammed the flowers down onto the table. "You know what you can do. You can go sling your hook!"

"Yeah go on, go!" Donna yelled at his retreating back.

"I take it you weren't impressed by the daffodils," the Doctor idly commented. "He'd gone to so much effort too."

"Must have cost him all of £2.50," Donna remarked, "that's if he actually paid for them, which I doubt."

"Isn't it the thought that counts?" he pondered.

"If those are the sorts of thoughts he's having he can keep them," she determined. "Let's go home. I've had enough of this."

"Cup of tea and a slice of cake?"

"Yes please," she enthused. "You certainly know the way to a woman's heart."

His broad grin of triumph suggested that had been his intention all along.

~o0o~

"Go on, Donna. Try one more time," he cajoled her when she stated that she'd given up appeasing this hare-brained scheme of her mother's by going on all these blind dates.

"Alright, one more," she finally agreed in exasperation. "But this is the very last time. Have we got that clear?"

"Crystal. Definitely the last one," he readily confirmed.

So when she next sat at the bar clutching her Bridget Jones book with its sprig of lavender as a bookmark, she was not entirely optimistic.

"Sit at the far end with your back to the room," he had suggested. "That way his arrival will be a complete surprise. Bar none."

Of course she had adequately groaned at his feeble joke. He liked it when she did. Why she had followed his suggestion was beyond her. She must mad following his advice like that, but she did so anyway.

Not that she had made as much of an effort choosing an outfit or done her makeup as with the first blind date. There just didn't seem any point anymore. Each time had proven to be a disaster; although the Doctor had gone out of his way to make it up to her by organising a very pleasant meal afterwards to cheer her mood. The bottles of rosé he had rustled up had been really nice too. Very appreciated as they'd ended up giggling together, letting the alcohol weave its relaxing spell over them.

As her thoughts wandered down that path of Memory Lane, a book was placed carefully onto the bar in front of her. To her surprise it was a copy of Jane Austen's 'Emma'. And laid within the pages was a white camellia with a tinge of pink around the petals; meaning he thought she was adorable and perfectly lovely. That he desired her, she realised. Well I never!

Her eyebrows shot up into her hairline when the man that slipped on to the seat beside her was the Doctor. Normally he turned up a little bit later.

"What!" she exclaimed in disappointment. "Has he done a runner before I've even had the chance to see him? How wizard."

"No, you've got it wrong, Donna," he explained. "There has been no one running away from you tonight."

"But you've got his book," she argued. "Although, quite frankly, I wouldn't expect a man to read and enjoy that particular one, as a rule."

"He might if he knew it was one of your favourites, and if the scenario had a personal meaning," he countered.

Her mouth open and closed a few times. "I don't understand," she confessed after a few moments. "Did a bloke turn up or not?"

The Doctor merely shook his head in fond exasperation. "Donna Noble, I thought you were better than this at seeing the smaller picture and at noticing the finer details."

"Normally, yeah," she admitted. "But 'Emma' is about someone falling for the person who has been there all along… Oh my God!" she gasped in realisation.

"Yes, it's me," he stated; far too confidently for her sensibilities. "I'm your date."

"You? But… why? How?" she spluttered out her questions.

In answer, he brought out his sonic screwdriver and tossed it into the air before easily catching it again. "I have ways and means."

"That doesn't explain why you are willing or would even want to be my date."

"Doesn't it?" he nonchalantly considered. "Apart from you being brilliant and far too good for the bunch of losers you've met in here recently, I'm at a loss as to why." He then grinned widely and indicated towards a waiting empty table. "Why don't we eat together and find out?"

"Yeah, alright." She stood up to follow him to the table, not in the least upset about her situation. "If I find out Martha put you up to this, we shall have words."

"I'm sure you shall," he reasoned.

"But we're still not a couple," she insisted as he pulled her chair out to help her sit down.

"Definitely not," he conceded, pushing the chair closer to the table for her before he seated himself. "Merely two people who happen to go out together and live in the same abode."

"That makes us sound almost married," she pointed out.

"Yes, it does." He then lifted up the menu to hide a smirk behind. "How awful. However will we cope with that?"

Hearing his light tone, she couldn't help laughing. The thought of them as a real and proper couple was an amusing one after all the mistaken assumptions they'd endured. But who knew what could happen? She'd already seen weirder stuff in the universe.

"Somehow I think you are coping very well," she commented as he continued to occasionally grin at her in glee.

"You know, Donna Noble, you are completely right about that. Now, what do you fancy?"

That waggling eyebrow of his was back. Did he mean him or the food? And did it really matter?

"Surprise me," she breathily answered.

In that moment, she couldn't have cared less if he was being deliberately saucy or not. All she wanted to do was enjoy his company, for however long he offered it. This was yet another new adventure for them to enjoy.

~oO0Oo~


Lavender Loyalty, Love, Devotion
Camellia (General) Gratitude, Perfection
Camellia (Red) Unpretending excellence, You're a flame in my heart
Camellia (White) You're adorable, Perfected loveliness
Camellia (Pink) Longing for you
[Source: allflorists uk]