She was never sure why he kept returning. He knew so much; surely he knew that she would never change her mind? It was sweet, she supposed. Sometimes irritating, most times welcome.
Doctor Grace Holloway didn't make plans for New Year anymore.
On the thirty-first of December two thousand she had opened the door to her apartment, leaving for the hospital's New Year's party, to find him on her doorstep, in the snow, still in that ridiculous frock coat. Grinning.
"Happy New Year, Grace," he said, and leant forward to kiss her on the cheek as he pushed a wrapped present into her hands.
"Doctor..." Stating the obvious, she knew, but nothing else seemed appropriate. She had to go. She was late already. The expected her to make a speech. With jokes.
"Great timing, Doctor," she said.
"I know this is unexpected," he replied, moving past her and into the hallway. Eyes sparkling, but that was probably just the snow. Somehow. "But, when I realised where I was, I had to come..." He was trailing off, having finally noticed the expression on her face. "Grace, is there something wrong?"
There was her way out. Right now. All she had to do was say yes, I've a party to go too, and by the way, I don't want to see you ever again. Because, really, turning up after a year expecting to be greeted with open arms is something I'm not prepared to do.
But she didn't. She saved the world, after all, and the Doctor helped.
"No, no," she laughed. "Come in, sit down...and happy New Year, Doctor." She hugged him, and though he seemed surprised, he hugged her back, and inside her head she was mocking herself, because she could see the stars in the sky outside, and it was snowing and he was still as attractive as he was last year. How romantic, a voice inside her head scoffed, and she told it to shut up.
They shared a glass of wine and he told her all about the Eye of Orion and pleaded with her to come with him.
She laughed and opened his present.
A paperweight. But if you looked closely enough, you could see the stars, and galaxies and nebulae and a single comet, streaking through it all.
Terribly out of proportion, but she didn't particularly care.
"It's beautiful," she told him.
"We're all made of stars," he replied.
On the thirty-first of December two thousand and one she had no plans, because, on the day after Christmas, her boyfriend had phoned her from London to tell her he'd moved in with another doctor. A British one, and he was sick of the US and he wasn't coming back. Charming, she'd thought as she hung up on him.
The Doctor found her on her sofa, drunk, a half-empty wine glass in her hand.
She certainly hadn't expected that he'd come back again. And for the first few hours, she didn't even realise she was there. She knew someone was, and they talked softly and kindly and seemed sympathetic to her drunken ramblings as they sat her up and pressed a hot mug into her hands.
She choked when she realised she was drinking black coffee. But they wouldn't give her the wine back, so she found herself waking up at three in the morning on her sofa and screaming because a strange man was in the armchair opposite staring at her.
"Doctor," she said finally when he'd switched on the light and she could see properly.
"You needed to sleep," he said, his voice as soft as ever.
"Yeah, I know," she muttered, putting a hand to her head. "You couldn't get me a glass of water?"
Five gulps later and she felt ready to talk again. "Sorry about that," she said. "Bad week."
"I know," and he smiled.
Momentarily confused, realisation dawned with mild embarrassment. "My drunken ramblings?"
"Well, yes, you did mention a few things," he admitted.
She groaned. "Wonderful. And please, don't tell me what I said. I don't want to know." She kept her eyes on the water, but she knew he was watching her. It wasn't unpleasant, exactly, but she didn't know what to say to him. The obvious, she supposed, was a good place to start.
"Good year?" she asked.
"I've had worse." Way to keep the conversation going, Doctor, she thought. "I brought you something."
Oh, God, he sounded almost shy. Get a grip, Grace, this is the Doctor.
She looked up at him, eyebrows raised. "Another New Year's gift?" she asked.
He nodded enthusiastically. "He's waiting in the TARDIS."
Several things shot through Grace's mind at once. And none of them particularly good. Pick one of the innocent ones, Grace. Quick.
"You're not going to kidnap me if I step inside that thing, are you?" she asked, only half-jokingly. But the look that crossed his face showed her it was no joke to him.
"No, of course not," he almost snapped, but then the smile was back. "Grace, I promise you will like it."
She shrugged and stood up. "In that case, Doctor, I'm all yours."
'He' turned out to be Leonardo Da Vinci, and she was somewhat surprised to find out that he spoke perfect English. But then the Doctor explained how he communicated with different species.
And the he had convinced Da Vinci to paint her portrait.
It meant a longer stay for the Doctor. She sat in the console room for a few hours each day, the light levels set to Da Vinci's satisfaction, and after he had worked out how distracting the Doctor was to her, the inventor had sent the Doctor away, much to Grace's amusement.
For convenience, the Doctor rematerialised the TARDIS in her garden.
And there it stayed, most of the time. Occasionally it would disappear for a few hours and the Doctor would tease her with where he'd been. She was never quite sure whether to believe him or not when he said he'd been away for years.
When the Doctor handed over the finished masterpiece, Grace almost cried. But wouldn't because he was asking her to come with him, and if she broke, he just might convince her.
"I can't, Doctor, I belong here," she told him again, as he helped her fix the portrait above her fireplace.
On the thirty-first of December two thousand and two she was having a dinner party with half a dozen friends when the doorbell rang.
This time, he was expected, and was delighted when she offered him a place at the table.
"Red, please," he replied when offered wine, and she noticed how slowly he sipped it.
Somehow, despite being an alien, not having seen her for a year, and still wearing the same ridiculous coat, he fitted in. Of course, she already knew how intelligent and witty he could be, but watching him charm people who were complete strangers to him was fascinating.
And he stayed after she'd said good night (good morning) to the rest, and she knew what they thought. Except...except he's a Time Lord.
Do they even know what sex is?
"Cheers, Doctor," she said, clinking her glass against hers and finishing off the rest of her wine. She wasn't sure, but she strongly suspected he was still on his first glass. And she was...well, she was a little tipsy, anyway.
"You have lovely friends," he said. "Quite charming company."
"Really? I mean, yes, of course they are. But, we're..." Come on, Grace, stop babbling. One word at a time. "They...we are just ordinary people. We don't spend our lives travelling through time, saving the universe...isn't it a bit...dull?"
"You don't seem to think so," he replied, quietly. "After all, you don't think the universe has anything to offer you that you can't find here?" Was that bitterness? Or was that alcohol messing up her thoughts?
"That's not fair," she said, finally. "I have a life here. I do good."
"I know, Grace. I'm not criticising. I think it's wonderful." She raised an eyebrow, suspicious. "Really, Grace, I mean it!" he said, laughing. "Sometimes, I'm jealous, you know."
"Of what? My long hours? My bitch of a boss? The bit where I get to watch people die?"
He shook his head. "I'm still looking for something you've found," he said.
"I don't..." But he pressed a finger to her lips, and she almost jumped.
"Present time!" he declared excitedly. And she couldn't help smiling.
"I was going to offer you a trip to anywhere in space and time..." and she folded her arms, knowing perfectly well what she was going to say if he brought that up again. "...instead...." Well, that's all right then, she thought, relaxing slightly.
"I shall make you a perfect cup of tea!"
"Doctor, right now, there's absolutely nothing I'd like better," she said truthfully.
Curled up on the sofa, with a throw wrapped around her, she listened to the noises coming from the kitchen. There was a lot more activity than she would expect for one cup of tea. But then, it was going to be perfect.
She looked up when the Doctor popped his ready round the door. "Ready?"
"As I ever will be," she said, and he came through carrying one of her mugs rather reverently.
"Go on, take a sip," he said, holding it out to her.
As far as she could tell fro looking at it, it was a cup of tea. She shrugged and took a sip.
It might not have been prefect, but it was damned good and she sighed contentedly.
"Thank you," she said, taking the Doctor's hand in her free one.
"You're welcome," he said and kissed her on her forehead.
On the thirty-first of December two thousand and three, she made dinner for two, and set candles on the table. She took a great deal of care choosing her clothes and spent more time than normal on her make-up. She didn't forget that the Doctor seemed completely oblivious to how she looked. Didn't care. She wasn't going to end up drunk this time either.
"Happy New Year, Grace." He greeted her with a peck on the cheek and a wrapped gift.
She gave him his gift, and was delighted by the look on his face. "Happy New Year, Doctor," she said.
"Oh, Grace, thank you," he said.
"Well, open it," she said.
"Together?" he suggested.
She grinned and they raced to see who could take the wrapping off first. Hers was a plant. In a glass box. With a tiny delicate flower.
She held it up, tilting her head to see it better, and could see the Doctor grinning at her through the glass that protected the plant.
"It blooms a new flower every morning," he told her. "It's a symbol of hope."
"I'm afraid mine isn't quite so symbolic." And she smiled as he held up his gift: a brand new frock coat, deep blue crushed velvet. He shrugged off the old one and pulled it on.
"It fits perfectly!" he exclaimed, twirling around in it.
"I'm glad you like it," she said as she led him through to the dinner table.
"You've gone to a lot of trouble," he commented, as he sat down. And she shrugged and told him it was nothing, not caring if he knew she was lying.
She had managed to burn the chicken, slightly. The carrots were a little too soft and the soufflé had not risen properly, but the Doctor still declared it the best meal he had ever had. And she didn't care if he was lying.
They sat on the sofa after the meal and the Doctor challenged her to a game of Cluedo. She played Miss Scarlet and he took Professor Plum. And then they spent fifteen minutes arguing about how to play with only two people.
During the game, she'd subtly moved across the sofa, close enough to the Doctor that her legs now touching his.
"I think I've got it!" he declared, delighted. "Mrs White, in the library, with the candlestick."
"Well done," she said, not bothering to check the cards. "Doctor, it's almost midnight."
"Happy New Year," he said.
"Well, yes, but you do know humans have another tradition at midnight on New Year's Eve?" and his eyes didn't quite meet hers. "Oh, come on, Doctor, you've kissed me before, what's the big deal now?"
"That was...Grace, why now?"
"Because it feels right now, Doctor, because I want to, damn it. What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing. I just...I'm..."
And while he was stuttering, she kissed him.
A moment later, he was kissing her back and though their lips were pressed together, Grace still smiled.
When she pulled away, the Doctor raised an eyebrow. "Was that what you wanted?" he asked.
And Grace rolled her eyes. Really, why was he making her do this? "Partly," she replied.
"You do?" And she really, really hoped that he did.
"Well, it's not as though I haven't had sex before. Though it was a long time ago."
"You have?" Then thought perhaps it wasn't such a good idea to sound quite so astonished.
"Yes," he said. "It was quite an interesting experience." Grace wasn't quite sure what to say, but as she was considering, the Doctor leaned forward, and looked into her eyes for a moment before kissing her again.
"Doctor?" said Grace as she lay next to him on her bed, post coital.
"That was quite an interesting experience," and his face appeared above hers, smiling that beautiful smile, soft brown hair touched her face.
"I think it's time for breakfast," he said, pulling a sheet around himself.
When he asked her to come with him, it had never been harder to refuse.
On the thirty-first of December two thousand and four, the Doctor did not come.
She stayed awake for almost three days, waiting.
She fell asleep when she ran out of coffee.
Doctor Grace Holloway didn't make plans for New Year anymore.